There’s a canal in a local community. It’s a tip – overgrown, used for dodgy purposes by some dodgy characters – not a place we feel safe. It needs to be cleaned up. So the Local Authority has two options:
a. Issue a tender notice for someone to contract to clean it up – and what you get is a a private sector company, let’s call them ABBS.co.uk which stands for ‘A Bunch of Blokes with Shovels’ who come and clean it up…then it gets dirty again, so you have to re-tender for either the same bunch of blokes, or another lot to come and clean it up or…
b. Give a grant to the Clean Up the Canal Campaign to pay for the shovels – and give them some money for their core costs to help them recruit and engage local volunteers to clean it up – and use it – and develop it – and care about it – and think of creative ways of getting others involved.
Which of these offers the best, long-term solution do you think? Clearly the latter – because what you get is an on-going commitment from people with a genuine interest in their local community and its local environment. . The former option, simply a transaction between the council and a company, locks both into a continuous cycle. ABBS.co.uk cleans the canal. After a while the canal gets dirty again and the dodgy characters return. So ABBS come back and do it again. The thing is that with each cycle nothing gets changed. No additional benefit is had from the canal as a public space and it just kind of sits there, full of potential but unused. The relationship between the council and the Blokes with Shovels is simply addressing the symptoms and not the causes.