Gratitude and Criticism from the Special Areas
By a Durham Miner.
The prospect of £2,000,000 being spent on the Special Areas has greatly cheered the workless in them. Primarily, it is hoped, the money will go to the provision of jobs, though there are some social services well worthy of financial assistance.
There is need, for instance, for more social centres such as the B.B.C. sponsors at Gateshead, for places where the unemployed can go for a game of cards or billiards, physical jerks, boxing, etc.—" Street corner clubs" a University lecturer called these the other day. There can be no doubt that they are often oases in the desert for workless young men and help to keep many out of mischief.
More money might also be spent on summer camps. The workless man needs a holiday and change of scene even more than the worker. Often a fortnight at the seaside, or in the country, gives him new hope and a new outlook on life.
In the matter of providing jobs it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of training centres. The attitude of young Northerners towards these centres is sometimes misunderstood. They certainly object to going to a training centre simply to pass the time away doing something " useful" while they are on the dole. Often they are incensed at the lack of liberty and the way they are treated at such places. But offer them training with the prospect of a regular job at the end of it and they arc always willing and eager to " stick it out."
Already some centres have done much good work. For instance I know a youth who after a very short course of training at one is now earning ket a week as a cabinet maker in a radio factory. He had done nothing previously except deliver newspapers. Another young fellow after six months training as a motor-mechanic at Watford has obtained a good job at a London garage.
There is said to be a growing short age of skilled labour in the engineering and allied industries. If Lord Nuffield's: bounty could only establish a few centres where workless youths could become proficient at such trades while receiving their ' keep." it would be a very good thing indeed. One can hardly imagine the trades unions interfering. but one feels' tempted to ask, " Must these centres always be in the South of England?"
There is scope for more allotments for the unemployed. The poultry scheme under, which men get about I-acre of land and 20 head of poultry was a little slow in catching on at first, but now at most Labour Exchanges in the North there is a long waiting-list of applicants for such plots and their number could well be doubled or trebled.
A few men who worked hard on poultry allotments have been settled on small-hold ings in Kent and elsewhere. They are highly satisfied with their new life. Scores of others as capable of making good on the land are eager to follow them. It may well be that an extensive scheme of land settlement would prove the best way of all of aiding the inhabitants of the Special Areas.
Work for the workless in their own locality is the big ideal, however. A little• non-profit-earning capital might establish
new light industries in many places. Especially as new trading estates are being built which will offer small modern factories at rents as low as El a week. (A great chance for budding Nuffields). Match making, fancy goods making and the manufacture of patent appliances are possibilities that come to mind. At Cleator Moor in Cumberland the Grail is showing the way.
A defect of these light industries, is that usually they provide work only for young women and boys—for whom there is already a much better demand than for ablebodied men.
Make Up the Roads
There is plenty of scope for relief work in the Special Areas. Many secondary roads, for instance, badly need repair. Most
of them are under the jurisdiction of impoyerished parish councils. One typical
council I know has two or three hundred workless inhabitants yet a penny rate only brings it £47. Naturally its roads are in a parlous state. Their only " mending " is an occasional cartioad of builders' rubble. Though sometimes when they become too bad the scavengers tip their refuse on them and roughly spread it out. Many streets badly need making-up and many footpaths are in danger of being lost through lack of
attention. Though everywhere there are plenty of men ready to work hard for £2 a week.
So much might be done for the Special Areas that it seems a pity that only meagre government grants and Lord Nuffield's £2,000,000 is available for them. How much better if the latter were the opening subscription of a big national fund whereby everybody in a job could give something to help to put everybody else in one.