Business Eye: Our kids will pay the price of today’s failures

Alex Pratt
Alex Pratt

This week’s column comes to you from Rome, an iconic living memorial offering many inspirational reminders of human creative genius and economic potential, as well as the clear lesson that a failure to stay competitive and allowing the arrogance of officialdom to take hold will cause even the greatest empire to crumble.

In 55BC Cicero penned prophetic words that should be resonating loudly in the ears of our leaders today:

“The Budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome will become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.”

I could hardly believe my ears last week when one prominent local politician suggested that their council’s focus needed to be on protecting the council.

It is apparently “unrealistic” to expect the council to invest in support of local businesses and their employees.

Apparently, the council’s own finances are what really matter.

The business people in the room sat quietly incredulous and aghast at this short-sighted view.

There seemed little point in explaining that every penny a Council receives is taken from the value added by the hard work of businesses and the workforce who work in them.

A council has no money of its own. Not a penny.

It is there to act as a public authority, trusted by us to hold some of our hard earned cash and to re-invest it in partnership with us, to work for and with us in providing essential services, and to help improve our prosperity and community well-being.

It is not a business but a Public Authority.

They are not the same thing.

Council budgets are being cut today because of failures to invest sensibly in our future prosperity yesterday.

The fact that our money routes to a Council via Central Government should not lead it to mistakenly believe it to be an island and more important than the people who pay for it.

Biting the hand that feeds is rarely a wise strategy.

There is, as ever a genuine underlying problem.

Too few of our taxes are directly received and spent locally.

In practice this means a poor council can get away with ignoring the needs and interests of its own business community.

Sadly, our kids will pay the price for this weak leadership.