Friday 23 November 2012

Choice Cuts

I spent yesterday deep-cleaning the carpets in my house. The one recently vacated by the verminous tenants. I say verminous for indeed there was evidence of rodent infestation among the debris. Further intelligence from neighbours, the old lady in the corner shop and 'accidentally' opened correspondence reveals a tale of recreational drug abuse, children in trouble, others taken into care and lives lived in their entirety on the largesse of the state.

And despite that a large part of the population want to believe these people have no choice, the simple fact of the matter is that there is always a choice of sorts. You and I choose to go to work, pay our taxes and then choose how we spend what's left over. This means doing without some of the things we'd like in order that we can have more of the things we need. It means limiting our family size, our discretionary spending and our leisure in terms of both time and content.

We can choose to buy and cook and eat sensible food or pig out on ready-made obesity bombs and then complain about the consequences. We can realise that there is already way too much stuff to watch on Freeview and forego the Sky subscription, or we can bow to peer pressure and put two fricking satellite dishes and a cable feed into MY house, drill holes everywhere and mount boxes on MY skirting boards. We can decide to lead a clean and decent life and look after our kids, or we can invite in a succession of dodgy men and spend our days smoking dope in front of TV day and night. (None of this is conjecture. I learned a lot yesterday.)

My brother has recently started working as an electrician for a company which maintains local authority and housing association property. He has a list of tales that would make a tax-payers blood curdle. Whole legions of unemployable scum who scoff at the choices of decent people because when you're deemed 'vulnerable' (for which read: thick, lazy, degenerate, immoral, worthless bottom feeders leeching off the social funding intended for the genuinely needy) your choices never seem to involve consequences.

For instance, pay-as-you-go meters were installed for energy because of former unpaid bills, I learned. The choice there then, between paying your way or buying more skunk. I found the electricity meter to be over £50 into emergency credit, but when I called British gas they simply arranged for that to be erased. They have no doubt learned that there is no point in pursuing such people for payment so they simply pass the cost onto the rest of us, who choose to actually pay our bills.

There's always a choice, but isn't it interesting how the choices of decent working people are different from the choices of those we pay to maintain in their 'vulnerable' little lives. Oh yes, when the state picks up the tab for everything your choices are very easy indeed. (By the way, I am fully aware there are perfectly decent people struggling to get by and raise decent kids on pitifully low incomes. Those people are not who I'm writing about here - but they all know families like this.)

So... Don't civilise your children, that's what school is for. Don't bother cleaning, if it gets dirty enough they'll send in a clean-up crew. Don't worry about rent, council tax, Sky subscriptions, paying bills or fines; when you run out of credit just plead poverty and 'vulnerability' and somebody else will pick up the tab. Don't look after your health, that's what the NHS is for, innit? Oh and don't worry one bit about the shape of your daughter's fanny; the NHS will sort that out too.

All over the world, people get up and do what they have to do to survive. Indira, the kid in the picture below,  is seven years old and has worked at the local granite quarry since she was three. She works five or six hours a day and then helps her mother with household chores. She also attends school, which is 30 minutes' walk away. (You can read more in James Mollison's photo essay here.)

David Cameron is away today, supposedly negotiating the EU budget. Good luck, Dave, but when you get back have a good hard think about where previous governments choices have led us. And then think about the choices you need to make, with or without Europe. And when you've done that, give Iain Duncan Smith a slap on the back and tell him to cut, cut, cut...


  1. I've occasionally heard tales from two of parents' friends (my parents undoubtably having heard more), one of whom was a British Gas engineer and the other was a district nurse. To a bunch of middle-class professional types, they are hair-raising.

  2. Simple answer is to use a decent Letting agent, who uses professional referencing. stipulate that you will NOT accept any Housing benefit tenants, ensure your agent carries out proper inventories and check ins and check outs, and that routine visits are carried out. Arla registared agents are best. This rings very true with me too. (guess my profession....)

  3. Sadly, that's no guarantee at all. I have seen many properties wrecked by supposedly 'professional' tenants. Plus I have dealt with many l etting agents for whom incompetence was a by-word. Thankfully, that was in my own professional capacity and not as a landlord.