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Moral duties

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eric picklesPickles: councils have a “moral duty” to freeze council taxes.

I guess it is seen as good politics to embarrass those council leaders who are turning down the opportunity of a central grant which will enable them to freeze council tax for a second year, I for one, along with thousands of others in South Tyneside, have welcomed this much needed relief. The big question remains, how will councils behave when the scheme comes to an end, and how will they see their “moral duties” when the central cash handouts are curtailed even more severely? I like his idea of proposing a referendum be held before councils can increase council tax by more than 3.5%, a far better form of consultation than that offered regularly by South Tyneside Council in previous years where we have been offered the option of voting for a range of increases, but never been given the option of a freeze or a reduction.

Local councils in England and Wales have had all sorts of additional moral responsibilities thrust upon them by a multitude of governments over the years, and in many respects are now no more than agencies for central government policing statutes and applying regulatory duties, and in some other respects have had to carry the burden of responsibilities once carried by individuals and families. In areas of social care for the young,  the weak, the vulnerable, and the elderly across all walks of life your local council is often doing the job that families used to do, the state has been forced by social change and social mobility to look after people from the cradle to the grave. Be it home care, residential care, leisure services, play schemes, nursery education, youth involvement, day care services, transport for the elderly etc. etc. your local council is doing what your grandparents would see as their own “moral duties” to look after their own family.

As we move further into the time and areas of austerity, which so far in South Tyneside and other areas has NOT been met by howls of protest, demonstrations, or riots in the streets, I wonder just how many of us may cast our minds towards our own areas of “moral duty” and start thinking again about what we can do for our families without having to resort to an arm of the state to undertake the task for us. Whilst the housing market will remain depressed for some time, I wonder if we may see households making huge sacrifices such as forsaking some comforts to bring in an elderly relative to provide care for them in a family environment? I wonder if we may eventually lose the desire to palm off some of our own responsibilities for our own children and youth to the local council as we realise that in tough times our councils may no longer be held responsible for their care or entertainment?

Some may view this as a regressive step, but surely a realignment of moral duties and social responsibility may lead to more rather than less social cohesion as the strength of the nuclear family increases, and allow local councils to concentrate on core demands such as education, housing, planning, waste management, and roads. If central government could manage to reduce the load of “moral duties” attributable to local councils then a reduction in local government spending could become more comfortable for households to accept, so long as we all know that we have our own moral responsibilities and duties to perform. We should all take a leaf out of the book of life of South Tyneside’s leaders, and keep our mothers firmly by our side!

Pickles apparently is a believer in localism and devolving more power and responsibility to householders must surely be one of his aims if local government is to become leaner and fitter for purpose. Alternatively you may believe the man is a fool who talks out of the top of his hat, and that his stance is completely at odds with hundreds of local councils who will revert to huge council tax rises as soon as central government brings the current “freeze” to an end.

Pickles at least is having some success in reducing the expenditure of his own department, the use of tax payer funded credit cards by his civil servants wining and dining at the best restaurants and hotels has been wickedly curtailed as Sir Humphrey and friends are now to be found visiting their local MacDonalds for lunch:

“Quarter pounder with fries to go please – and NO Pickles with that!”

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Written by curly

January 23, 2012 at 10:03 am

9 Responses

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  1. What about those without generous families, or any family at all? Where do they go? What about those families who simply can’t afford the burden of caring for a family member because your Tory party and their Lib Dem poodles are cutting Disability Living Allowance?

    The safety net is being cut and your misty-eyed speculation portrays it as an opportunity to rebuild the nuclear family. That’s about as detached from reality as it gets. There is no silver lining for those at the sharp end of the cuts.

    This is South Tyneside in the 21st Century, not Waltons mountain.


    January 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    • Brian, isn’t it because certain people view their elderly parents or relatives as a “burden” (you know, the ones who loved and cared for you when you were younger) that we are in a situation where people can happily forego any moral duties to try and look after them? Isn’t this one of the reasons why the welfare state (tax payers) are now having to take up the “burden”?
      I only have to look around South Shields to see people of a different culture working such long hours in order to provide for the whole of their families, and they see “the family” as being the safety net NOT the state. That is the reality for some people, whereas, sadly, for others South Tyneside in the 21st Century is a place to shrug off your personal responsibilities.

      Sandra D

      January 24, 2012 at 10:35 am

      • Sandra, caring for relatives is either a financial burden or it isn’t – tell me which it is. If families don’t have the income to care for elderly, disabled or terminally ill relatives, what do you want them to do?

        Also, are you trying to tell me that people from your stereotypical ‘different culture’ don’t claim benefits?


        January 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm

  2. Brian, does it ever occur to you that some of us may wish to fulfil our “moral responsibilities”, but we are prevented from doing so, not because of (so called) cuts in Disability Living Allowance or indeed any other benefit, but because our money is forceably taken from us (in the form of taxes), to fund those who are feckless.


    January 24, 2012 at 9:06 am

    • No it doesn’t Ken because your argument is absurd.


      January 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      • Absurd? That is an interesting view. Would you care to expand on that and explain to me why I should (willingly) work, then pay taxes to fund those who will not, thus having less money to spend on my own family? I have no problem with helping those who cannot help themselves, only a problem with helping those who will notbhelp themselves.


        January 24, 2012 at 8:38 pm

  3. Brian my mother was 92 years old when she died, she lived with us for the last eight years and passed away in hospital. Of course theres is a financial strain, but she carried the burden of looking after me and three brothers for nearly thirty years in Jarrow without half of the benefits available now. My “burden” was one of guilt, for ever thinking that I could have done more for her much earlier, I guess its a question of how much you really care, and how much you really want to give back.

    Looks like you accept the idea of some families just giving up on their own relatives and looking for a safety net that gets bigger and bigger each decade.

    Sandra D

    January 24, 2012 at 7:13 pm

  4. Ken, you’re suggesting that people can’t support relatives in difficulty because they pay taxes. That is an absurd straw man, when you consider that the whole point of having a safety net is to help people in difficult circumstances. You could just as equally argue that if it wasn’t for you having to pay tax for the war in Afghanistan, you’d be able to afford your own gun and air ticket to fly to Kabul and bump off some Afghans for yourself.

    Sandra, you haven’t answered my question, what do people do if they have no money to support relatives? Your anecdote was touching, but you can’t judge everyone’s circumstances by your own. And please don’t ascribe thoughts like ‘giving up on relatives’ to me.


    January 24, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    • Ah, an extremist, because I object to paying taxes to support those who will not work, I object to apying ALL taxes. That is not what I said.


      January 25, 2012 at 11:38 am

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