I started work in the voluntary sector as an unemployed single parent in 1980. All of those who worked on the project, the new city farm in Leeds, were similarly unemployed and I was the Project Manager; something I’d never done before.
Apart from emptying the portable toilet, one of the less enjoyable tasks I had was sacking people; not only the actual firing itself but the whole process of one informal and three formal warnings. These sacking rarely involved the foot soldiers as we regarded trying to keep them in work, so as to be more employable afterwards, as among our main concerns. For those in supervisory roles, however, it was a different matter. One of the main reasons for this was that, not only had they to be able to manage and motivate others, but that they had also had to be seen to be able to do so. My reluctance to pull the trigger in all cases can be gauged from the fact that, over a period of six years, I was responsible for over 200 people and terminated the contracts of, probably, five or six.
So, when I had the sack someone for the first time in my life, the exercise followed three, somewhat, sleepless nights. Yet, by the last time, I had learned how to deal with the situation, I thought, as well as is possible in these circumstances. I learned, in short, to be, somewhat, objective trying to take less account of my own feelings of subjectivity. Yet, I like to think that I was always aware of the possible effects of my actions. Hence, I would usually write a letter that the person concerned could take to the job centre to enable them to still claim benefits.
So, when I read, as I did earlier this week, that the Prime Minister, one “call me Dave” Cameron has written to the local authority within his constituency to say that he is “disappointed” by the Council’s proposal to make significant cuts in frontline service, my jaw drops. These cuts include those to day care centres for elderly people, libraries, museums and child care centres; yet he seems not to understand that these are a direct result of his government’s policies. Perhaps a few lessons in cause and effect might not go amiss for the holder of this highest of offices.