As a skinny blonde nine-year-old, I received £1.50 a week in pocket-money from my Dad. The general idea was that I would learn the value of money, save some in my piggy bank and then be able to buy my family little presents at birthdays and Christmas time.
The general reality was that I would save exactly enough to be able to drag my mum into town. In town, I’d continue to drag her to Fenwick’s and up to the third floor, past the sports department. To the holy of holies. The sacred place. The toy floor.
Once I was there, I ran to spend my saved up pocket-money on whichever Star Wars figure I didn’t yet own. I had them all. Dozens of them. I even had a few duplicates just in case. Every birthday and Christmas brought me a ship of some kind. The Rebellion was played out in immense detail and with hundreds of variations in my little terraced house in Newcastle.
This reckless spending of my not-at-all-earned cash annoyed my dad. He worried about me not learning its value. Not having a habit of saving. So the pocket-money strategy changed.
Instead of an unconditional handout of £1.50, I had to earn my money. Household tasks were given a cost. 50p for washing and drying the dishes. £1 for washing the car. 20p for each room I vacuumed. 10p for making my bed. This obviously piqued my interest. Suddenly I had the opportunity to earn a lot more money. Instead of £1.50, I was making maybe £2.70. Even £3 on a good week!
But part of the deal was that I could spend money on Star Wars stuff and anything else I wanted, as long as I saved the same amount. And for that purpose, Dad opened a National Savings account at the local post office. And every week I put a pound or so in there and it was marked in my little blue paying in book.
When I got to about 12, I got a paper round. In fact, I got two. One in the morning and one in the evening. I earned nine pounds a week. I’d hit the big time. I saved each week and spent it on treats, birthday presents, holiday spends, all the usual. By the time I was 16, I’d changed to a student bank account with one of the high street banks. I moved my savings across and left £10 in my post office account to keep it open.
Then I went to university and pissed all my savings away on club-nights, text books, and tins of beans. I then lived for the next three years in my overdraft, graduated and started earning and saving all over again.
Over the years, I moved banks once or twice, got credit cards, cut credit cards up, and did what all 20-somethings do. Life was good, the economy was booming and I forgot about my £10 in the post office. It’s probably gained a few pence interest every year. I’m not sure how much it will be. No fortune I’m sure, but still my money. That’s the point.
At least it was up until today. Because today David Cameron announced he would be funding his Big Society from dormant UK bank accounts. The Big Society, remember, was Cameron’s big centre-piece idea from his manifesto. A centre-piece that none of the Conservatives could explain with any clarity, and didn’t enthuse the public at all.
The general idea seems to be that the voluntary sector will pick up the slack of
the ever-shrinking State. In fact, the Big Society launch was all about convincing us that cutting the size of the state is a good thing, despite all the negative economic announcements we’ve heard.
Cameron has described the Big Society as “a powerful idea” and his “personal passion”. But all he’s doing is cutting funded government services and hoping voluntary organisations will fill the gap. He then hides this behind rhetoric about devolution of power and giving people a voice. An army of volunteers is going to rise up suddenly and fill the void left from cut services like policing. As Cameron himself says
by releasing the data about precisely when and where crimes have taken place on the streets we can give people the power not just to hold the police to account but to go even further, and take action themselves
Now, I’ve no idea where that army of vigilantes volunteers is going to come from, but I know it’s not going to be funded by me. In the spirit of a Rebellion from a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I’m getting my bloody tenner back.