Occasionally I stumble across a story which I simply fail to believe to be true. My disbelief derives not from the story its self but from the wider context in which that story is located, the grand narrative. With all good stories it is the wider context which is required to make the story either believable or unbelievable. It is for these reasons that authors, journalists and film directors spend hour after hour crafting their art that we the reader, viewer or even participant might not only believe the story but be thoroughly captivated by its truth. Dying from a lack of food is tragic but not that interesting, dying because one starves ones self to death as a final protest that ones rights, dignity and very personhood have been stripped away by the intolerable oppression of another; now that’s captivating. Apple’s falling from trees are not interesting until they lead to an observation which is not only true for the apple but for the whole universe and then that one apple takes on legendary status. A boat sinking in the Mediterranean sea is unavoidable damage until we hear the stories of every passenger on that boat; stories which bring us to the realisation that something has gone deeply wrong with the whole human story.
Citizens of the west live within a narrative of many complex strands, amongst that multitude there are strands which speak of an obesity epidemic so violently out of control that it stands to bring the most acclaimed health service in the world to its knees. There are other strands which speak of urban areas so heavily congested that the air within those communities is now so poor it registers amongst the worst levels of air pollution anywhere in the world. There are still other strands which speak of the billions spent on widening roads while local libraries close.
Now I’m not prone to simplicity and I appreciate that the world we live in is a complex tapestry of often competing forces but to manage such a space by the appeal ‘this is too complex' is absurd.
When my boys push their behavioral limits to the max I do not throw in the towel because child phschology is a complex field. I unpick the tiny details I can and appeal for something better.
So this weeks announcement that there is to be a reduction in the UK Driving Licence fee has left me a little speechless.
Lets just back up a moment.
I haven’t just said that the driving licence application fee is to be frozen but that it is actually going to be reduced. That means there is less money going into the treasury, less not more, less. How much less, well over the next ten years an estimated £80m in new applications and £60m in renewals. Although Danny Alexander appears to be the only man capable of making 80 plus 60 lead to his his announced £150m reduction.
So while we can’t afford to provide safe and effective cycle training for every child in the UK we can reduce the income from an activity which while deemed necessary is one of the single biggest contributors to the crisis gripping our health service, our quality of life and the productivity of our economy.
It is as if I’ve just observed my boys misbehaving, passed them a few more sweets and took myself out for the night.
You might also want to recall that both the government and the opposition are refusing to name £10 per head of population investment in cycling infrastructure as anything more than an ‘aspiration’. They tell us it can oly be an 'aspiration' because the budget may not allow it!
In her defense Transport Minister Claire Perry stated that:
‘The cost of driving can be very significant’.
Had I been within ear shot I might have pointed out that we know how significant it can be because we observe it’s significance every time we run the death trap of cars dropping kids off to schools less than 250 meters from their homes, we observe it’s significance when head teachers are forced to spend their budget on seats suitably sized for obese children, we observe it’s significance when productivity is zapped from a workforce who spend hours in traffic jams.
Poor old Danny Alexander then appealed for an easy vote stating that in reducing licence fees he’s, “giving money back to business”. He might like to remind them of that when half the workforce is snarled up in congestion thanks to his encouragement of motoring as the primary means of mobility.
There are some things which should cost us, because their cost offers us at least some microscopic way in which the scales of our story might be rebalanced. However much I fail to believe it , it appears, this, really is happening. Happy Halloween!