Every now and again on my travels around the Royal Borough – and further afield – I run into people who claim that, apart from having their bins emptied, they don’t really use council services.
And for all I know it may be the truth. They may indeed live in splendid isolation untroubled by the strains, tensions and compromises characteristic of living in a big city. But it’s far more likely I think that those who claim they do not rely on the Council haven’t really thought it through.
For the Council actually delivers more than 600 different services all of which contribute to the quality of life in our borough. Our pavements are clean and even. The lights come on at night. Our parking team make sure you can park somewhere close to home and that vital deliveries can be made to our shops and surgeries. There are parks and playgrounds for our children and play schemes to keep them occupied during the holidays. We have pools and gyms and thousands of wonderful street trees. There are excellent schools and nurseries and affordable homes for the less well off. Our vulnerable residents of every age are looked after. Planners strive to conserve our beautiful borough for future generations. There are officers who make sure food is safe to eat in restaurants and that when you ask for a pint, a pint is what you get and that the noise of people enjoying themselves is bearable and finite.
And it’s not just the big service battalions that count. Who amongst us would want to do away with flower baskets say, pond dipping for children at the Ecology Centre, scooter training in primary schools or our archivists methodically and painstakingly preserving the history of this place and its people?
Of course things will sometimes go wrong. I myself was once at the spearhead of a bold initiative to end the chaos on our pavements caused by dog walkers loosely attached to half a dozen or more occasionally fearsome hounds. Don’t ask me how, but we ended up by ticketing entrepreneurial dog-walkers for walking the Shih Tzus and Bichon Frises of their cash-rich but time-poor owners.
It was not our finest hour. Nevertheless I think we should resist the tendency of pundits and bloggers to put the worst possible construction on our mishaps and to ascribe the basest possible motives to the hapless councillors and officers responsible for them. Because the simple fact is that in an organisation of thousands, doing hundreds of really worthwhile things, there will occasionally be operational failures and errors of judgement.
Administer reasonable chastisement by all means as that really does help to keep us on our toes, but in those moments of exasperation – rare I hope – do also try to keep in mind that each day a huge and mostly very effective operation is underway to keep Kensington and Chelsea a most wonderful place in which to live.
That’s how I see it anyway, but if you have found this all a bit rose-tinted, you are most welcome to supply a bracing splash of realism in the spaces below.