Ode to local government
I sit on the sofa during a visit to mum,
Through a copy of the local free sheet I thumb.
‘The bloody council, they’re all the same’,
From my mum comes this familiar refrain.
‘All the same, how so?’ comes my question in reply,
There’s so much people don’t know about councils, thinks I.
‘Well,’ mum continues, warming to her topic.
‘None of them seem to work with any logic.
The left doesn’t know that the right exists,
And I’m sure the customer service man I spoke to was pi55ed.
I had such a simple question when I called him last week,
By the time he had finished I felt like a freak
For not knowing which department or service I needed
That’s why I need help! In the end he conceded
The point and found someone I could talk to.
The trouble is they said sorry and passed me on through
To a nice young woman who tried hard to help,
But I could tell she was struggling, only a whelp
So after an hour I simply gave up
And had a hot coffee: I needed a cup.’
So what was the problem? I cautiously enquire
Worrying if the levels of ire will rise higher.
‘It’s the streets,’ she says back, ‘there’s loads to be done,
From the lights to the slabs to the road where they run
The number 15 bus; it’s warping the Tarmac,
It’s getting so bad I can hardly get my car back
Onto my very own driveway, I need a dropped kerb
And I’ve spoken with neighbours who don’t have the nerve
To mention the litter blighting our street
Nor the dogs mess that covers the shoes on our feet.
Why won’t they fix it all, what is so challenging
About sorting it out, they just aren’t managing
To justify my outrageous council tax
If they are so lazy, perhaps I’ll be as lax
When they send me my annual bill very soon
Maybe I won’t dance to their merry little tune.’
I give her a few seconds to blow off her steam
Then put down the paper and forward I lean.
‘Mum,’ says I, ‘how much do you know
About what local government works on below
The headline and obvious things that you see?
How much of their work’s not usually
Brought up, about the tough decisions they make
On a day to day basis, hard choices they take?’
‘You may think it’s simple to get some things sorted
But rarely is anything quite so straightforward.
The road just outside is TfL run,
So to them your complaint should really have gone.
And the number 15 is one for them too,
But of course that’s a fact you never knew.
Dropped kerbs may be easier for you and your car
But could be a decision with a few very far
Reaching consequences which will have to be considered
By highways and parking before they’re delivered.
The litter is something they try to keep under control,
But it’s like trying to dig a really big hole
On a beech and hoping the sand won’t blow in;
It does, just as rubbish blows right out of bins.
They’ve programmes to teach people not to drop trash,
But to do too much of this would be deemed to be rash.
There’s not enough funding to do this I fear,
Which means these are the things I constantly hear:
We should just pick it and take it away
With no thought of all as to how we’ll continue to pay
For the street sweepers and total bin collection bill,
Not to mention the rising price of landfill.’
‘The dogs mess problem is an ongoing fight
With both dog walkers and council claiming they’re in the right.
“Give us dog poo bins,” they dogwalkers say
“And maybe we’ll take our dog’s mess away
And pop it in bags to then put in receptacles”
As if this would be a universally followed spectacle.
But these days they can use normal ones
With no need to put it in special red drums.
If most people tidied up after their hounds
The council would have more money to spend hunting down
Persistent offenders for a penalty notice,
Which would also win over local voters
So councillors would approve of this work at the start,
So long as residents all did their part.’
‘We’re in this together, that’s what we’ve been told,
And if I may be a just a little bit bold;
How much of what I’ve said is something which possibly you
Or the neighbours could get together and do
Something about yourselves, working as a team
With each other, and on the council you could lean
Only when you needed a little more support
Instead of expecting them to do it all?’ I retort.
‘Well,’ thinks mum, ‘I suppose you’re right,
I could do some more and perhaps I just might
Speak to the neighbours and see if we can do a litter patrol,
Or sweep up some rubbish and dispose of it whole.
But one thing I just cannot condone;
Next time, can someone just answer the phone?!’