We’re often told by the left that we require the overwhelming state to provide nearly every public service in society. We simply cannot survive without the government – it is impossible and the retreat of the state in all its mighty glory will automatically equal yet another child in poverty.
I’m not suggesting the private and charity sectors provide every single answer to every single problem. There are things that frankly should never have been privatised and if I were in government I would nationalise for the good of the country without doubt. One example being prisons – awful decision to have privatised. Prisons exist to look after our most dangerous and vulnerable people, helping to rehabilitate them back into society. Financial targets should not go near them, nor the prisons they are inhabiting.
However, examples exist where the private sector actually excels. One very small example I have encountered on my village bike rides across Sussex is the library service.
Library services, much like a lot of local council funded services, have been stripped back to the bone and many population centres have seen these services entirely removed. This seems awful at first glance – how will local children take out books you might ask?
However, something of a phenomenon has been encroaching into the countryside. The telephone box, once a busy centre of community gossip, now lays empty and underused – if even serviced in this age. However, recently it’s come to change slightly.
No longer is the cast iron box empty of purpose, other than to provide cheap photographs for Chinese tourists who’ve accidentally walked out of London for 3 hours…
The box has been converted into a small library which I have been frequenting weekly for the past seven weeks. This box is not run by central government of any kind but entirely by local people: local volunteers who have kindly donated 100 books to this micro library which appears to be flourishing.
What this small example shows and represents to us is that the British public are capable of coming together, as a parish or even as a group of friends, to form a committee and provide what was once deemed only providable by Government with its great iron fists and doing something about a problem. It’s amazing what a few people can do over a coffee and some volunteering.
I can tell you, people exist in the community who can identify 1st: a problem, 2nd: a solution, and 3rd: actually have a lot of free time they could be using to help with that problem.
The phone box could be a book club to tackle loneliness, a scouting group to take kids off parents’ hands for a few hours, or a small library in a disused metal box.
I’m not suggesting that there aren’t services the Government must have a monopoly over, but lots could be run locally.