|Blackburn Town Hall (2008)|
Please be so good, dear reader, as to imagine that Mr Mustard works in Revenues and Benefits for Barnet Council, which given his skill set, he could do (senior officers are now in paroxysms of fear) and that if he wants to keep his job, and he needs the money, he has to move to Blackburn where he knows precisely two people and no-one else.
How will Mr Mustard's life change?
Just looking at this week alone Mr Mustard has a language lesson. He has had the same professor of French teaching him for 19 years, who is an expert in how people learn, and she would be very sad to lose one of her oldest and best pupils. Mr Mustard would also be sad.
Mr Mustard has 2 snooker league matches, one for the team which he has been a member of for more than a decade, possibly two, where the members of the team look out for each other and are obviously good friends. So that is 7 friends who it won't be possible to see very often, probably only once a year. The snooker league will need a new treasurer, for Mr Mustard has been filling that position for the last decade, and that will disrupt the smooth running of the league.
Mr Mustard likes French films. He sees these at the Phoenix, the Renoir, The Screen on the Hill, he plans to go to the Everyman very soon and there are other arthouse type cinemas that he has frequented in the past. Film choice in Blackburn will be much reduced to mainstream films.
Mrs Mustard isn't amused. She has a good job as a PA in Docklands. She would probably be able to transfer to a branch of the bank but it will be much less interesting work than in the risk management department and will pay about 50% of what she currently gets. She will have to be prised away from her friends at the bank who like to have an occasional girls' night out and will be 200 miles away from her sister and mnother who she sees every week.
Mr Mustard's motorbike club will be a member short. Sure he can join another one but having just spent an evening in the company of bikers he has known for years it will be a wrench to have to leave them behind.
Mr Mustard has 2 motorbikes. His friend and neighbour also has 2. So that is 4 bikes that they can use flexibly. It isn't everyone you trust with your high powered bikes. That arrangement will take years to establish with someone else if it ever is.
The street will miss the "blogger bus". The spare keys are available to any neighbour (vehicle insured for any driver over 25) to use the van for runs to University (3 different ones in October), to the dump, to move a piano (as it did last Saturday) and so on. In exchange Mr Mustard has access to a selection of cars to borrow. The camaraderie of the street took years to develop and may never be replicated anywhere else.
Mr Mustard is going to the BFI this week (The Man in the White Suit if you were wondering) Is there a branch of the BFI anywhere near Blackburn? Probably not.
Mr Mustard is also a member of an exclusive small dining film club in which each member serves dinner and then a film is screened (no TV at Mr Mustard's but a projector and screen). That will stop. How long will it take him to find new friends in Blackburn with the same interests?
The men of the street try to get to the pub once a month. Mr Mustard will be denied the pleasure of a visit to the newly developed Black Horse and takings at the Nelson will be down and the quiz team will be one member short. Of course there are pubs and quizzes in Blackburn but Mr Mustard likes the company and the beer in the ones he already goes to. Mr Mustard was in a cafe 5 miles away last week when a lady said "I know you, don't I" and she turned out to be a regular in one of the other teams. Barnet is such a small world sometimes.
Mr Mustard has spent 3 years getting the allotment he shares with 2 friends into shape. Here is the tree that had to cleared off the old one along with 2m high wall to wall brambles.
It took years to get this plot. They tend to be in short supply everywhere. Will he get another plot inside 5 years in Blackburn? Will it be in a right state and take 2 years to sort out? Maybe a kind reader in Blackburn could enlighten him.
Mr Mustard doesn't have children but he is familiar with the school run as he has done it, and is listed on the appropriate forms, for collecting friends' children from the school if the parents can't or if they have to come home in the middle of the day. That is 3 families who will need to find another helper. Mr Mustard's avatar was drawn by Fred aged 8 for whom Mr Mustard is occasionally the child-sitter. Young Fred is marvellous and corrects his mother when she arranges a baby-sitter pointing out that he isn't a baby anymore.
Mr Mustard takes motorcyling holidays in France. Moving to Blackburn will add 200 miles and 4 hours each way onto the journey and mean that the 4 day trips he currently goes on for short breaks will probably have to be 5 to make them worthwhile.
If he moved to Blackburn he would be one of only a handful of people who stick with Capita and he would be paid £25,000 a year and new staff will get £16,000. Will that make him popular with the new staff when the information inevitably leaks?
There are many other aspects to Mr Mustard's life that would also have to change and hundreds of other people and businesses would be adversely affected. He would need a new doctor, a new dentist (hard to find on the NHS at present) a new home etc etc. What a palaver.
Think about this Cabinet councillors. You are just thinking of the grubby financial aspects of the contract and not at all of people's lives, feelings, finances. Staff are not a commodity to be bought and sold. Many of them will have worked for 5, 10 or 20 years for the council. Has their loyalty been mis-placed?