The following post first appeared in Patrick Butler’s cuts blog in The Guardian on line on 11 February. It is reproduced here by kind permission of The Guardian.
Being made redundant implies what you do is no longer needed. For many public servants its far more complicated. It’s not that there isn’t a need for what they do but rather there’s no money to pay for it.; You might be forgiven for wondering whether you are ‘properly’ redundant at all?
Worrying about semantics as you clutch your redundancy notice is not likely to be at the top of your ‘to do’ list though. Nor is trying to work out who is to blame. We are caught between the tectonic plates of national and local politics. The landscape we knew is changing rapidly before our eyes as institutions sway and collapse under forces beyond their control. We’re angry. Disorientated. And worried for ourselves, our families and the people we serve.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of rapid deficit reduction the political posturing and point scoring off the back of our woes is hard to bear. As if we care who has the best of those arguments. It’s like watching two street hoods arguing over whether it was one’s cosh or the other’s baseball bat that did for the hapless innocent bleeding at their feet. Whoever is right we will still be redundant.
As we worry about how to make ends there’s been the often surreal experience of hearing that – whatever branch of public service you’ve been involved with – the hole you leave can be filled with a bit of Dunkirk Spirit, gumption and voluntary pulling together.
That seems an unlikely proposition as both public and community organisations shed people. Even a fresh willing army of volunteers needs training, help and leadership. Those of us now clearing our desks wonder just how that might happen.
Recent rows about the Big Society and the cuts have prompted much grim humour on the frontline of deficit reduction. We’ve known for ages what the impact of wholesale staff and funding cuts would be but no one has been listening. The cutting now has a terrible momentum for public servants and local groups and charities. It all feels inexorable. The plates shifting beneath your feet.
A community worker told me recently about the withdrawal of funding for her team of women who work with vulnerable military families. All of them now had redundancy notices. Between them over a hundred years of experience in their community and understanding of how its social ecosystem works. All now going, going, gone.
‘How will we ever get that back?’ she asked. Her ladies have their own families to support so they would not be coming back to volunteer. The political Punch and Judy show over the Big Society and cuts has stopped being funny out here. We are living with the real, not the theoretical, consequences of it all. However redundant we may be the people who have relied on what we do still need help. But will enough of us have the time or energy as citizens to come back and plug the gaps we leave?