Friday, 2 May 2014

IDS’s unwanted army of jobless memorial cleaners

Before David Cameron announced at the weekend that the long-term unemployed are to be set to work cleaning war memorials, it would have been a good idea for someone to ask the War Memorials Trust whether they wanted help from this particular source of unpaid labour. But the Trust did not even know the announcement was coming until it was all over the news.

The politics were tempting for the Tories. I am sure it would warm the heart of many a Tory to see the unemployed being made to work for benefits, helping to preserve our heritage when we mark the centenary of the Great War – but the complications could be more than officials bargained for.

“The War Memorials Trust could not engage with this programme as it does not commission any work,” they say. “With an estimated 100,000 war memorials in the UK there are almost as many custodians, and for any war memorial to be cleaned the permission of the custodian should be established.”

Okay, so suppose they have obtained individual permission from as many of the 100,000 custodians as they can – does the Trust think the idea is fundamentally sound?

“War memorials are an important part of our historic environment and shared cultural heritage,” they say. “It is important that they are treated appropriately. The War Memorials Trust often deals with cases where inappropriate cleaning has been undertaken which has caused a significant amount of damage.”

Another triumph for Iain Duncan Smith’s Work and Pensions Department.

Andy McSmith, Independent