The Controller studied the photographs on the desk before him. They were of two villages, one of which had just won the prestige of being declared “The Best Village in the County”.
Village A’s shops were mostly arranged around a village square. Going in a circle the shops consisted of a butcher’s, a hairdresser’s, Post Office, clothing, a pub, newsagent’s, hardware, a chemists’s, small supermarket, fruit and vegetables, another pub, a fish and chips, a small library and another supermarket. People were standing around chatting and others could be seen entering and leaving the shops. Shoppers for the neighbouring town were standing at a bus stop.
The square in Village B had a beautiful array of flowers in a large cart in the centre of the square. Lamp-posts were adorned with further floral displays in hanging baskets. The shops consisted of a butcher’s, a hairdresser’s, a charity for destitute youths, a newsagent’s, a chemist, a pub, a bookies, and a small supermarket. The windows of the closed up shops were adorned with full size pictures of what the previous businesses had been, so if you did not look too carefully it would seem as if you were passing a variety of shops doing business filled with happy customers. The bus stop had gone. Apart from the flowers the square was empty.
The Controller noted the Golden Award for Best Village 5 years in a row, proudly attached to Village B.
The Agent whose desk he was overlooking glanced up at him. “Sorry, Sir, I couldn’t resist looking at the before and after photos”.
“Perfectly in order”, the Controller reassured him.
“We have come a long way in twenty years. The country clearances are going well. First remove transport. Then services such as the Post Office, bank branches and libraries. Strangle small businesses with business rates, red tape and remove parking. The villages empty of their own accord”.
The Agent said nothing.
The Controller looked up at the rows of desks of Agents all busy at their work.
“This is just part of a larger process. Wealthy city people buy up country homes at inflated city prices as second homes left vacant through most of the year, pricing the locals out of the market. We have gypsies on the pay-roll to set up encampments beside country homes, making £300,000 properties unsaleable, to discourage people from retiring to the countryside. We close down country schools on the argument they are too small so that young families do not come. We remove police cover and arrange some atrocious attacks on gentle, elderly people in their own homes to drive home the message that the countryside is a playground for criminals. We dissuade GP’s from setting up practice and close the country hospitals. We make sure ambulances never arrive in less than an hour. We put wind farms on the outskirts so that people are driven mad by the continuous low frequency noise caused by the vanes. People soon get the message that the countryside, far from being a haven from the noise, crime and expense of the towns are unaffordable crime filled deserts, without facilities, inaccessible and unsafe”.
The Controller turned to the Agent and smiled. “We find an holistic rather than atomistic approach to problems works best. We aim to cover all bases”.
The Agent remained silent so the Controller answered the question he did not ask.
“Population is increasing – by design. We don’t want people overflowing from the expensive over-crowded towns and cities into the pleasanter life of the countryside. Our employers want maximum population to maximise their profits, but they don’t want to live in the overcrowded world they have created”.
“Does that answer your question?”
The Agent smiled.