Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The longest day

Now the evenings start to draw in

Up here in the Northern Hemisphere, last night was Midsummer's Eve. It never really got properly dark all night. No situation for an insomniac with phantom tooth-ache!

Actually, it could be worse. Some years ago I experienced this night, in broad daylight throughout, in Tromsø, 400 km north of the Arctic Circle. Most of the town seemed to want to be up, I just wanted to sleep, but couldn't. Around 0300 I got up and walked across the road to the dock-front, where a cruise liner had just arrived. It was freezing cold out. I watched the cruise-passengers troop down the gangway to form an immediate huddle around the stall set up there, selling big, very expensive, chunky sweaters hand over fist. I have also been to Tromsø at the other end of the year and could see why the locals were so cheery about their brief summer. It would not be long till winter started setting in again, and their winter really is something else..

The Emergency Budget

Few people in the UK, some new-agers possibly excepted, seem over-occupied with thoughts of midsummer. Yes, it has been a glorious, late-June day, with the Brits out and about in those extraordinary states of undress that now pass as everyday wear at the drop of a meteorological hat. Wimbledon has started and the ubiquitous red-and-white flag of St George reminds everyone of England's latest sporting triumph (holding Algeria to a goalless draw – a national humiliation so pervasive as to penetrate even my consciousness).

But best show of all today was the annuncement to Parliament of the Emergency Budget which, as the wisdom of hindsight will so convincingly demonstrate, may or may not save our national economy and status from going the same way as Argentina's did all those years ago.

One advantage of reduced means is the reduced horizons that they bring with them. The Government has not reduced my free bus pass but how otherwise its new economic policy might impinge directly on my personal well-being it is too early to tell. This leaves me free to contemplate the possible effects on that other impoverished organism, Conductive Education.

Cuts and CE

So what about budget cuts at the social level? Certain 'protected' services will continue to enjoy expenditure at current levels. The Health Service is a Sacred Cow too sacrosanct to be touched (very little health money has ever gone the way of Conductive Education in the UK, so what happens here is effect-neutral). Remaining services are left bear cuts financial cuts of some 25% – as has been foreseeable for months now by all those willing to remove their heads from the sand. This means a 25% cutback, to some degree phased, in the expenditure of education and local authorities generally. How this will be apportioned in specific situations will emerge only as we go forward.

In that Conductive Education in the UK, in different proportions in different contexts, derives a proportion of its income from the public sector, then local priorities and political expediencies might mean a 25% cutback in Conductive Education's public-sector income, or 0%, or 100%.

What about charitable giving? Who knows? How will changes in taxation affect middle-income and  higher income givers? How might greater call on the voluntary-sector services generally impact upon charitable causes that might be regarded as a bit fringy? Again, there will be vast variation from centre to centre, and again one will have to await the wisdom of hindsight. It is also of course much more complex a matter than simply one of charitable giving: local-authority fees and contracts, bank loans and other factors, sometimes very specific to given institutions, will play their part in the fortunes of Conductive Education. One thing is certain, charitable money will be harder to acquire and sustain, and deep and genuinely felt local-community support and hyper-effective fund-raising capabilities might prove critical in deciding survival.

Winter is coming

Each day now dusk will arrive a couple of minutes earlier, and dawn a couple of minutes later. Imperceptibly but inexorably the days and the weather will change.

So too will our economic and social life. Along the way, of course, there will be sudden specific transitions, as services are withdrawn and people's jobs and incomes evaporate from under them. The overall effect will be downwards, and the watchword for all those who remain will be to do whatever it is that they do more cheaply than they do now.

Before we know it, we shall be living in a very different climate from today's.

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