There are now 1,645,500 people employed by local authorities in England alone. Since that figure excludes teachers, the majority of the 1.6 million are bureaucrats. Some of them appear to do very little except prevent local people from organising local services in ways that they know will improve their own communities.
Everyone will have an example of local government incompetence, inefficiency and obstructiveness. I live in the London Borough of Hackney, a local authority that for decades has been a byword for incompetence, inefficiency and obstructiveness.
One revealing example of how local authorities can interfere with, and block, the desires of ordinary people to get involved in the community concerns a neighbour of mine named Rosie Jones. Aware that there were many elderly and disabled people living in our neighbourhood who needed help, Rosie decided she would volunteer to visit some of them. Because the local authority is responsible for organising social services and welfare, that required applying to Hackney's Community Resources Team (CRT).
As a result of contacting that organisation, Rosie began visiting a woman whom I will call Gemma. She is severely disabled - she cannot walk, leave her home or even wash or feed herself without help. On paper, the CRT provides Gemma with a carer who comes in twice a day for a total of six-and-a-half hours a week. In reality, a carer - Hackney contracts out Gemma's care to a private company - appears at Gemma's home for a maximum of five minutes in the evenings and often not at all. The official papers, however, say that Gemma receives care twice a day for six-and-a-half hours a week, and CRT officials believe it.
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