In 2007 when I was first elected as a Borough Councillor, one of the first things that I did alongside my newly elected political colleagues, was to push our newly in control Conservative Group to overturn the Councils Standing Orders for its recently approved Recycling Policy. One that didn’t consider the practicalities of the service and worst of all, simply by-passed consideration of what would be the experience of residents as end users.
I recall the look of horror on the face of the Group Leader now. But as we had all campaigned and successfully won our seats with a pledge to introduce a Recycling Scheme that would encourage uptake by making it easy and practical to use, we made it clear that there was no going back from rejecting the Scheme that the last Administration had planned.
What was clear to me, right from when I first began running and designing services for public use – is when you are literally requiring people to change their behaviour – the service or product must be easy and make sense for them to use. More importantly still, it MUST offer a perceived improvement and benefit to the user in relation or comparison to what they already have.
One of the biggest mistakes not only politicians, but also many new entrants to business make, is to assume that just because ‘you get it’ and the way your idea works makes perfect sense to you – usually because you already have ‘the background’, that everyone else will simply ‘get it’ AND embrace it too, the very moment that it leaves it’s place on paper and then materialises into real life.
The problem is that people don’t just ‘get it’. And in this case I am only talking about the circumstances where a service is perceived as being ‘free’ to the public or end user. As such it has no directed or calculable financial cost to the end users involved.
The Government’s rapidly evolving policy that will force everyone to begin using Heat Pumps is very different. It certainly makes little sense.
Despite the aggressively optimistic timescale for implementation – which will be either positive or negative, depending upon the ‘green’ views you might have – the shocking reality is that this is a public policy set to cost households a minimum of £10,000.00 – that is itself likely to become ridiculously scalable by the time any law comes into force – and that’s before considering the cost-of-living crisis that people face today being involved.
At a time when the real impact of this Government’s Covid policy of forcing loans and debt onto countless small businesses to ‘survive’ Lockdowns has yet to manifest, it really is quite extraordinary and straight into the realms of the ridiculous for the Government to adopt a wholly idealistic, impractical green policy that is already unaffordable to the majority of the people who it will be forced upon.
Governments will never succeed by forcing through quixotic policies that are neither practical nor affordable for normal people, or do not offer an experience or resultant improvement in quality of life.
The Heat Pump plan is at best a leap backwards from the systems that we already have.
Imposing Heat Pumps at exorbitant cost, with technology that won’t keep people anywhere near as warm, and with practical or physical requirements that might mean the sacrifice of entire rooms – right in the middle of a housing crisis – goes way beyond the sacrifice that any sensible, realistic and thought-through public policy can demand of us.
With technology improving at the rate it is, it is well within reason to expect a Government working for the genuine benefit of the people to design and implement other policies that will not have such regrettable impacts upon the life experiences of others. It is likely that we will very quickly arrive at a point where people will willingly embrace and champion a greener alternative to what we have in our houses today, simply because it works properly, it doesn’t impact or intrude upon life any further than the time it takes to fit and learn to use, and it is something that even the poorest homeowner can afford.
It’s not as if this Government doesn’t have the means or the compunction to use nudges and behavioural insights to get people to accept changes that can be made without financial or lifestyle cost right now. ‘Save the NHS’ is all the evidence needed to understand that there are already seasoned specialists on the establishment payroll who could be using their skills to do something good for everyone in the long term – which is after all what their pseudo-science is supposed to be for.
Sadly, we do not have politicians or leaders in Government today who have the life experience that public representatives should have that would allow them to understand that how life should be and how life actually is are two very different things. There is a massive gap in time and space to be journeyed through between them both that contains a plethora of incalculable factors, impacts and consequences.
Imposing green environmental policy in this way is at its best demonstrative of a puerile view of the world. One that focuses on everything that looks wrong and demands immediate and radical change to address it.
Simply no allowance is ever made for the processes necessary to gain the real understanding of how different people in this Country live, even though it would result in politicians becoming better and more appropriately informed.
We should be able to expect more of our Government. But we are currently stuck with a whole political culture – spearheaded by the Conservatives, which has adopted idealism of one kind or another as part of a self-centred and selfish approach to public representation.
Our politicians have no respect for the laws of cause and effect or the realities of consequence. The Government has already been racking up disproportionate and unmanageable debts under the guise of doing what’s necessary to get us through the Covid pandemic.
Yet before we have even reached the point where normal people become aware of what this mismanagement will cost in the long term, the Government plans to saddle us with unnecessary and avoidable personal debt on the basis of an impractical whim that could end up making every aspect of life green. But equally something that the majority of us can no longer afford.