One corner of Paradise is looking distinctly less heavenly at present.
The innovative green wall on the Children’s Centre at Islington’s Paradise Park is now brown, although I for one hope that it is not dead, only sleeping. Certainly the wide coverage of the wall’s woes – in comment if not greenery – should shame the designers into sorting it out.
One of the critics of the wall is Tim Newark (currently representing the Tax Payers’ Alliance) who damned it as experimenting with public money. As Mark Pack argues, opposing public sector innovation per se is a difficult position for the TPA to sustain, given their whole approach to public spending is itself innovative.
I do sometimes feel that the Tax Payers’ Alliance are the spiritual heirs to the Islington Public Libraries Rejection Association who delayed the introduction of public libraries to our borough by 50 years with arguments such as “Personally I have a strong objection to have even a penny rate taken out of my pocket by force in order to provide Mary Jane with novels, or her friends with newspapers.”
Of course it’s right to scrutinise public expenditure, especially at this time of recession. The excellent mySociety team have a site sharing Freedom of Information requests, and recently highlighted this gem, about Royal Mail expenditure on rubber bands. So the next time you see red rubber bands scattered on the street, do pick them up and re-use them; after all, you’ve helped pay for them. But is the baseline peddled by the Tax Payers’ Alliance in their regular media appearances (hattip to MarkReckons) that almost any public expenditure is bad, generating any light along with the heat?
If you value public services, rather than simply cost them, then surely it’s best to propose savings from a basis of knowledge. The public sector has rightly been criticised for spending a fortune on bringing in consultants for endless reviews and reorganisations – an expensive trend that started under Mrs Thatcher and has flourished even more under new Labour – when frontline staff can often spot the best ways to cut waste. So I think Nick Clegg’s ‘In the know’ initiative, free consultancy from real experts, is a brilliant idea. Although possibly one too dangerously experimental for the Tax Payers’ Alliance to stomach.
To be fair to Tim Newark, even he says the green wall was a “wonderful” idea. And whether the Paradise wall survives or not, the idea of green walls is still flourishing in Islington.
Sophie Talbot and the Kings Cross Community Projects trust have been promoting a new greenwall on Wharfdale Road for two years now. They are seeking private sponsorship; so even the TPA should be happy. You can support the project with a donation here.