Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Lipstick on the pig

A conservative civil service and a Conservative government react to demands for change in one of two ways (sometimes both): introduce a new tax with an appropriate name, or set up a new ministry or quango surrounding it with a fog of PR presentation. Neither measure is designed to upset the status quo.

The proposed Office for Environmental Protection fits neatly into that scenario. Fossil fuel suppliers need not fear their future market. The truth is that ecological recovery will not come from a grand gesture at the top but from a series of local decisions. Received wisdom about "efficiency" and "rationalisation" needs to be queried. Every local school closure increases car use. (Wales has a more enlightened policy than England in this respect.) Every closure of a local hospital or clinic in favour of a central facility miles away may reduce the journey times of some specialists but increases the travel of nursing and other staff, not to mention patients and visitors. Cancellation of rail electrification schemes maintains our dependence on diesel and our exposure to particulates. One can list several other government departments and local authorities who have made similar regressive moves.

What we need is not more spin, but a general change of attitude throughout government, top to bottom.

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