Monday, February 09, 2009

Another day, another unfunded mandate. Say goodnight, Mr Burnham...

In the excitement following our various Olympic triumphs, the Government decided that we should encourage swimming as a means to improve the health of the nation. Free swimming for the under-16's and over-65's, that was the plan.

And now, surprise, surprise, we discover that the funding is only guaranteed for two years and is so paltry that 143 local authorities have decided that they cannot take up the offer because the resultant loss of income exceeds the proposed grant. Best of all, irony of irony, Mansfield, the home of double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington, is one of those opting out in the face of a £400,000 shortfall.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm entirely in favour of encouraging greater fitness and better health amongst the populace. However, this is yet another instance where the Government makes an announcement in pursuit of a cheap, favourable headline, without any real thought for the consequences. Their hope, it seems, is that local councils will take the rap - how many councils does Labour run now? - and the Government can walk away, regretting their unwillingness to cooperate.

Government is about taking hard decisions. It is also about honesty. When Government ministers forget these two self-evident truths, it's time to go. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport doesn't get that. Time to go, Andy...

1 comment:

Liberal Neil said...

Yup - just like the bus passes - they come up with a clever idea and then expect councils to pick up half the cost while reducing their grants in the name of 'efficiency savings' and capping the Council Tax rise.