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A Magazine for Sheffield
Council Axe

The Rhythm of Society

The state is the drum of our land. The rhythm. The standard. The law. The Council beats alongside the massed percussion of central government. The state is the structure around which the music of society plays. Along with the drummers of the state, there are the singers of the economy, from the biggest business to the smallest trader. Then there are the musicians of civil society, from global justice campaigns to Morris dancers. It's the beat of the state that holds it all together though. 1234. 1234. 1234. You need to listen to the beat, otherwise you get a shouting cacophony. But things are getting quieter around here. The drums are being outsourced, top-sliced and diced. It’s those singers of the business world who call the tune. And all right, I look at the Good Energy acapella or Triodos beatboxers and I understand the part they play. But then drunken Capita uncle comes along and says we should do Abba covers till the end of time. "Daaaaansinggg queeeeeeeeeen." Drunken Capita uncle says we should become more like him, but Councils aren’t designed to be private enterprises. Profit-making park keepers. Trading standards open for trade. Commercial social services. The staff who haven’t yet been fired get to enjoy cuts to pay and conditions along with massive conflicts of interest. "Yuuuurrrrrng nnn sweeeeeeeett." Telling local government to behave like the private sector is like telling a drummer to sing. It might go well, but it might go all Phil Collins - hot-desking where no-one actually hot-desks, an internal market where there is no choice, 17 different spreadsheets to fill in instead of doing frontline work. "Onnnnnny seevunteeeeen". Local government is not designed to sell stuff, it is designed to implement laws and rules. 1234. 1234. 1234. Yes, it might be dull and bureaucratic, but it stops drunken Capita uncle throwing up all over you. "Ffeeeeellll thur beeeeeet urthgh tammbourrrrrrwwwwuurrrggghhhh..." Now, you might not always appreciate the Council or government. Maybe you want to set up something that needs a bit of room from regulation, or do something that is a bit different. You get someone banging that state drum - BOOM BOOM BOOM - and you're like, 'Hey, hey mate, hey, HEY! If you quieted down we could set up something good...' But it's just BOOM BOOM BOOM and if you want to change the beat you have to submit three forms to the Department of Rimshots or take it to the European Court of Syncopation. So you're like, 'Stuff this, I'm going busking without any bloody drummers.' Having that unchanging rhythm really doesn’t help sometimes, but just as the drumming shouldn’t get too loud, it’s no good having all the singers going, 'Look at me, I’m sooo special, I’m sooo creative. You should give everything to me. It's all mine. Mine. MINE!' Rules and regulation help keep businesses on the right side of things, stopping people’s rights getting trashed for profit. In the same way, civil society can do amazing things - this magazine is one of them - but without structure and resources it gets messy. Without the rhythm, everyone starts playing over each other and someone's guitar gets broken and someone punches the lead singer in the nose and people are dying of scurvy and turning up at food banks and libraries close and the ill and the old are left wandering alone and there's no rhythm to it. No beat. Just loads of screaming cacophony. It's the same for the NHS, the BBC and all those other public services. The drummers are getting shoved out and the singers are taking over. That beat of standards and rules is being lost. We need to get the band back together. The drummers drumming. The singers singing. The musicians playing their music. We need each one - the state, the economy and civil society. That is how we make a beautiful sound. But for now it's Phil Council Collins on drums and drunken Capita uncle belting out 'The Winner Takes It All' with Charity desperately trying to make the whole thing sound not shit. Which it does. Because, you know, Phil Collins. Artist: Joe Magee )

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