In ‘Whit’ – countering the ‘wisdom’ which delivers profits for the few and unemployment and poor quality services for many – Iain Banks describes a set-up which is, “a model of archaic working practices, inefficiency, overmanning, job duplication and everybody is extremely happy”.

It also works!

Before this is dismissed as ‘woolly-headed idealism’ the writer of this blog has seen it carried out today in a modern, technologically advanced, low crime society whose public services far outrank those in Britain.

Having a problem with the railway ticket machine? A cheerful person is at your elbow in a second to help. Wondering which of several platforms to make for?  A metre away is another smartly dressed person ready to direct you.

Looking round the shining platform, the eye is drawn to the high translucent perspex dome covering the station – again immaculately clean.

The social consensus there is that the morality of making a contribution to the smooth working of society outranks the so-called efficiency which throws people out of work, leaving them to moulder at home.

In many areas of Britain’s cities, poorer suburbs and public transport system there is evidence of work which needs doing. Instead of offering these opportunities,  people are left to experience years or even generations of unemployment, with serious adverse effects on morale and lifestyle.

It will not be easy

The experience of the co-founder of a Birmingham employment project found that the first and most difficult task was actually to get people to turn up in the morning.

To interact with the public in the way described, far more would be needed. The only recourse I can imagine is a sort of Charm School, achieving what is sometimes seen on TV as a ‘makeover’.

Is moving towards a cleaner, more smoothly working city and an increasing number of people feeling – for the first time – that they have something valuable to offer, worthwhile?

Yes Mr Banks, morality should indeed outrank an efficiency which condemns millions to dependency, just to increase profits for those who already have more than enough.