The Evil Imp

Gimme a “D”, Gimme a “C”

On the funding ladder of life, just one rung above Arts Council England (ACE), is yet another acronym. the DCMS, The Department for Culture Media and Sport. Although they recently added the Olympics in there somewhere the civil service appears not to have gotten the memo because they still call it the DCMS. But we digress.

We, here in TheLab™, thought it might be helpful to give you a brief insight into the thinking of the organisation that provides ACE with its funding so that ACE can, in turn, provide funding to the arts.

To do that we step away from the arts into the wacky world of swimming, folks paddling around in water to keep fit, have fun and generally minding their own business while they’re about it.

Our friends at the DCMS were running a programme that enabled people up and down the country to swim for free in any pool owned by their local authority. Sounds like a plan, if people can go swimming for nothing then they can keep fit and save some cash into the bargain.

Except, not so fast there chuckles. In a press release announcing the programme was being abolished the DCMS said this;

“The research found that although 18 million free swims were taken during the first year of the scheme, around 83 per cent of those aged 60 and over and 73 per cent of those aged 16 and under would have gone swimming anyway, even if they had to pay for it.”

The problem, according to the government’s haywire brainstorming, is that the wrong kind of people were going swimming.

It’s not enough to provide free access to swimming pools and all the health benefits that could encompass to people who really want to go swimming. What they have to do, like any other government project, is get people who don’t want to do something to go do it anyway, just because.

Apparently it never occurred to the boffins at the DCMS that the reason a lot of people may not go swimming is simply because they don’t know about the free programme, have no access to a swimming pool or they can’t bloody swim! To say nothing of the fact that people, evidently, loved the programme because they took advantage of it 18 Million times in the first year.

People using a government programme for their own benefit, how dare they!

Over the course of two years the programme was set to cost £140Million. The cost of the new aquatics centre for the Olympics in London is (drum roll please) 250 million of your English pounds thank you very much and good night! The free swimming project was of benefit to a lot more people than the aquatics centre and cost £110Million less.

The hapless press flacks at the DCMS were unable to explain how a rectangular hole in the ground filled with water could possibly cost one quarter of a billion pounds. They were also unable to explain who was going to pay for it after the Olympics were over and it became just a regular old swimming pool.

Whilst digging a little further with the Olympic Development Agency, the people responsible for building the “aquatics centre”, the only explanation they could muster for the cost was “that’s how much it costs” and, to paraphrase, “we needed something really pretty at the entrance to the Olympic Park”.

Perhaps it will go the same way as the Olympic Stadium which will, sans finding any practical use for it, be knocked down. That, bizarrely, is not a joke.

So there you have it. A small insight into the madness of government thinking when it comes to paying for stuff. Even when they run programmes that are successful and people enjoy, they will still cut them if the right kind of people are not taking advantage of the project.

We all need to become the “right” kind of people apparently.