How councils behave in the face of spending cuts is crucial – all eyes will be on them to see how they deport themselves in this entirely new fiscal environment.
Some will embrace the need to be imaginative, creative and radical to find savings. Many more will probably do what is necessary in a more grudging manner. Some may even deliberately pursue cuts that will harm the public in order to sabotage the drive for deficit reduction.
What no-one foresaw, though, was that any of them would start publishing poetry about it.
Yes, you read that right. Nathan Elvery, Executive Director of Resources and Customer Services at Croydon Council, has published a poem in the Municipal Journal (where else?) about the fiscal crisis, entitled “Poetry in Commotion”.
Here it is in full:
EVERY night before I rest my head, see those dollar bills go swirling round my bed
You load 16 tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt
I’ve seen the future, I can’t afford it. Tell me the truth sir,
someone just bought it
(If you drive a car, car) – I’ll tax the street; (If you try to sit, sit) – I’ll tax your seat. (If you get too cold, cold) – I’ll tax the heat; (If you take a walk, walk) – I’ll tax your feet
Now my advice for those who die, (taxman) declare the pennies on your eyes (taxman) ‘cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it, Money for nothin’ and chicks for free
Money, you’ve got lots of friends. Crowding round the door. When you’re going, spending ends. They don’t come no more
Money, get away. Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay. Money, it’s a gas. Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
I know they’re stolen but don’t feel bad. I take that money, buy you things you never had. But outside of that, I’ve no use for dough.
It’s the root of all evil, of strife and upheaval.
You’ve got the brawn, I’ve got the brains. Let’s make lots of money. I don’t care too
much for money, money can’t buy me love.
But I’m certain, honey, that life would be sunny with plenty of money and you. She works hard for the money so hard for it honey she works hard for the money so you better treat her right.
Money makes the world go around … the world go around … world go around. Money makes the world go around of that we both are sure.
Now I can’t lay claim to being an expert in critiquing poetry. While I’m a big fan of John Donne, school rather murdered my enthusiasm for more recent verse by trying to encourage us to read Andrew Motion. Enough said.
However, even I could have predicted that this pastiche of song lyrics and observations was unwise. As a £155,000-a-year finance boss of a council who has overseen tax rises and is now embarking on the sensitive task of implementing spending cuts, it isn’t a good idea to start publishing poetry that bemoans the evils of money.
At best, it looks like Mr Elvery’s got a bit too much time on his hands. At absolute worst, it looks downright hypocritical and self-indulgent to complain about money when he’s on £155,000 a year. His life is a long way from the coal miner Merle Travis originally thought of when he wrote “you load 16 tons and what do you get, another day older and deeper debt”.
It’s safe to say this won’t go down very well amongst ordinary taxpayers. Robert Frost once said that “a poem begins with a lump in the throat”. Unfortunately for Mr Elvery, his ends with a sick feeling in the stomach.