In the English Midlands the leader of Birmingham City Council, the wonderfully named Sir Albert Bore, recently suggested a ‘citizens army’ be raised to provide services such as libraries that are being affected by budget cuts.
Bore’s suggestion is a response to his council cutting library services in the face of community anger and legislative obligations, to assuage both pressures it’s hoped local volunteers can continue to run and maintain the threatened facilities.
The bind Albert Bore and the Birmingham City Council find themselves in is a quandary all communities and governments are facing as an aging population causes tax revenues to decline at the very time the demand for government services increases.
Faced with cuts, many groups are going to have to take matters into their own hands to keep services running. Some communities will do this well while others won’t.
It’s also going to be interesting to see how this plays over generations with baby boomers being far more likely to volunteer than their GenX or GenY kids, something probably caused by more precarious job security in the modern job market and the need for younger couples to work harder and longer than their parents to pay their rent or mortgage.
Angry baby boomers demanding the ‘government ought to do something’ may well find the onus is thrown back onto them to provide the services they believe they’re entitled to.
What is the most fascinating part of this predictable situation is how governments around the developed world have blissfully pretended that this wasn’t going to happen as their populations aged.
Perhaps the biggest citizens’ army of all will be the voters asking why the Western world’s governments and political parties ignored obvious and inevitable demographic trends for the last fifty years. That would be a question worth answering.