Thursday 16 December 2010

There is no Undo button

You're not supposed to talk about emotions. But. This post does.

I deliberately haven't written about what it feels like to walk into a room, with the rest of your Department, stupidly missing the signals until noticing two union reps in the room and some very serious faces. The sinking feeling. The inappropriate laughter and jokes in the face of not quite knowing what else to do. The pin drop silence as the words arrive that you stupidly thought wouldn't be said. The numbers scrolling across the screen. The obvious discomfort of the person speaking. The desperate frantic effort of thinking of ways to mitigate the numbers, to do things differently, to avoid the inevitable.

I'm a girl. I don't cry easily. I'm a geek girl, we don't, I don't think. Sat in a room, a question asked, dangerously close to losing all composure.

I know, we know, we are the web team. A thousand words since from people who don't know the fragility of decisions within a Council trying to reassure, to rationalise, to comfort. Friends trying to understand and failing, I've been there before, I've made people redundant myself, why is it hitting so hard now when relatively it didn't then?

I got my 90 day at risk letter the day after. That was 3 weeks or so ago, now. Now I watch on Twitter as others are delivered the same news, sweeping waves of noticed presents for Xmas. Good people. Dedicated people. Committed people. I hear the whispers and the things I knew deep down would happen, now are. A sense of inevitability encapsulated in a moment as I think of all the people I have met who are good, so very good at their jobs, loved their jobs, could have been paid more somewhere else but didn't want to be, wanted to be where they are now. Friends. People I respect. People who have given freely support, kind words, laughter and received the same from me. In some cases, even surrogate dads.

How is it different? I don't know. But it is. I took voluntary redundancy shortly after making a man 30 years my senior redundant. It didn't bite me anywhere near as hard as it would have done him. And yet he took it with a grace and acceptance that I am failing to have.

I know, rationally, that there is 'at risk' and there is 'at risk'. I know, sort of, that should there be no place for me any more in our Department, I would find, somehow, somewhere else to be. So it is not for me, this shock or sadness. It is for others. If I am not permitted that, I think we live in a sorry world indeed. So forgive me my current irrationality, my ups and downs, the biting anger which shows through when I don't pay attention. It is the sheer scale of this thing. I would be the first, the very first, to acknowledge and accept that local government needed streamlining. I could have sat and explained to anyone who had asked, why and where. I could have and have suggested ways to mitigate that and some of those things, the practical suggestions have been implemented.

But, you see, it feels a little like a bulldozer to fix a problem which needed finesse. It has caused such sadness, anger, resentment and horrid words to be uttered. In some cases, the damage of this will never be repaired because some words said can not be forgotten. Situations like this bring out the very worst in people, as well as the very best, and I am not proud, not proud at all of the fact that I have veered wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other in the last 3 weeks - on the one hand it has motivated me to get off my behind and work as hard as I possibly can to tick off as many of my open projects as I can - on the other it has meant that some days I have done nothing but listen to others bile, resentment and anger.

Resilience is an often used word at the moment, as is emotional intelligence. Well, I know a lot more about myself than I did 3 weeks ago, I can tell you that for nothing. I'm not thankful for that, but I can acknowledge that. I have tried my very best to remain a credit to the Department within which are, frankly, some of the most inspiring and professional people I've ever worked with, and tried not to be an embarrassment.

I have failed. But in failing I have learnt a harsh lesson. I should have written this post 3 weeks ago. The cycle of acceptance says everyone deals differently. I was stupid - I missed the one thing which would have allowed me to coral my thoughts, vent my anger, and move on.

I work for Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. I am proud to work for Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. If I do not continue to work for Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, I will still be proud that I did. If I am permitted to remain working for Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, it will be a while, I think, before I can be proud again, but we will rebuild, we will reshape, we will absorb. It seems after todays announcement from our Finance Department, we have no choice.

But don't expect me to forgive this disproportionate bomb landing on a Borough which was just, only just, pulling itself out from the gutter. Don't expect me to rationalise it away. Don't expect me to forget, when the Borough in which I live, Hyndburn, and the Ward in which I live in, Scaitcliffe, are some of the most deprived areas outside of London you will see. As I walk out of my door each morning, opposite the house with its windows stoned in by the local 'youths', don't expect me to have a short memory. Someone made a deliberate conscious choice to ensure the people with nothing ended up in deficit. Anger does not come from seeing my friends made redundant, because they will find other jobs, because they are good at what they do.

Anger, sheer blinding white heat anger, comes from a financial policy which says exclusion will be compounded, that deprivation will be practically enforced and that neglect and abuse will go unchallenged and unnoticed. In a Council where shared services are already happening, where 8 Directors have been let go, where a Chief Executive post has been merged, where voluntary redundancies and early retirements have all already been cycled through, there comes a point, there really does, where you think, do they know the devastation they wreak? Do they understand what this will do on the ground? What happens if no one wants to run the libraries or the play centres or the creches or the thousands of other services which West Somerset, for one, will most definitely not be able to run any more?

I think the answer is no.

There's no Undo button.

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