We know that the powers-that-be can’t do joined-up thinking and come up with coherent policies.
The coincidence of two news items today illustrates this rather clearly:
- Congestion charging for Manchester.
- Social and Economic benefits of a much-improved broadband infrastructure.
Manchester’s proposed congestion charge will, at best, work like London’s. That’ll only happen if there’s consistent political will to make it work. It needn’t take more than one person in a key management position to scupper it, and turn it into an expensive fiasco. Think “Sir Humphrey”, though if he opposed a proposal he’d (one hopes) at least stop it before spending billions on it. But at best, congestion charging is a poor substitute for John Major’s fuel price escalator.
Coupled with the congestion charge will be a huge investment in public transport. That is, public investment: the state poking its nose in. We’ll pour billions of taxpayers money into providing more inefficient and polluting transport so we can move ever more heavy, reluctant bodies on their daily journey to the cubicle. Public transport should be less polluting than private, but that’s not automatic. Even if they get it right it’s a marginal improvement, and massive public investment is a great way to get it wrong.
Meanwhile, also today, the Broadband Stakeholder Group‘s report points to benefits such as flexible working, lifelong learning, and a big impact on social exclusion. Now that’s an altogether better way to invest large sums of public money. Instead of one city catching up with where it should’ve been maybe two generations ago (by European standards), the whole country can catch up with where it should be NOW!
Actually I don’t think public money should go into broadband either, except at the fringes to ensure universal basic availability. Let the market do that, and let it compete honestly with old-fashioned transport. With energy much more realistically priced than it has been for a couple of generations, efficiency will soon win. Sustainably.
Stop subsidising last century’s solutions!