Big thinkers… or thick blinkers?

“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favourite day,” said Pooh.

The fact that this is one of my favourite quotes will tell you that I’m a glass half full sort of person.

When people challenge me on why I keep battering away on  issues that will never (realistically) be resolved, I often quote Frank Sinatra’s song “High Hopes” where ants and rams are variously portrayed at attempting the impossible.

But it’s been an odd couple of months and my optimism has been sorely tested.

Take for instance, the Government’s response to the Dilnot report on paying for care.

Now no one thought that the Government would put forward a solution to iron out all the inequities in the care system in one swoop. But not only have Dilnot’s original figures been so watered down that only a very few (very well off) people will really benefit. On top of that there’s a very real chance that the quality of care in a great many care homes will be put at risk.

Dilnot had vision. This response is shortsighted.

We’ve also had a redefinition of “fuel poverty” – an excellent idea if it means that resources are channelled into helping those most in need. But there are no accompanying signals that proper money will be now be put into addressing the enormous challenge of our millions of under-insulated, inefficiently heated homes.

It’s tinkering with the issue, not tackling it.

It’s also great news that some 3,500 new homes are to be built for older people – with the Government actually recognising the benefits this will achieve in terms of enabling people to live independently, creating jobs AND freeing up homes for families. But 3,500? Put two noughts after that figure and we really would witness a sea change. Even one nought. But this is just one new home for 0.035% of the nation’s over 65s… So what?

And don’t start me on the Government’s response to Filkin. The Lords laid down a massive challenge: no more faffing about was the message. We’re running out of time. Big, bold action was needed on a whole raft of issues. The response was a mix of a few solid initiatives (on pensions especially) bolted onto announcements on small-scale projects and high-sounding promises. A curate’s egg would have more good eating in it.

Don’t get me wrong. I think we have some very good people in Government who DO see the scale of the issues, and the need for decisive action. But I feel that lurking behind them, pulling the strings, is a Treasury that just cannot, or will not, think big. Projects and initiatives are put forward that everyone knows will work… and they are then trimmed back to a point where they will make very little real difference.

Perhaps it’s having a wonky perspective. My formative years were the 60s, when we all thought the world could be changed if enough people wanted it that way. The last 45 years have been a sad disappointment.

In the words of that great writer, Unattributed, “It is said that nothing is impossible; but there are lots of people doing nothing every day…”  Me? I’ll keep thinking about the ant and his rubber tree plant, but it does test your patience…

And, a final note: a lady in Bath (Lin Patterson) has just ended her “sit in” at a local public loo which was threatened with closure as part of a city wide closure of 13 toilets to save £120,000 a year.  Are they mad? Yes, it will “save” £120,000 but has anyone in the city council worked out the collateral costs – condemning thousands of older people, mums and the disabled to stay at home… let alone discouraging tourism.

It’s another example of silo thinking. Small thinking. Short sighted thinking. We seem to be awash with it at the moment.

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