Previously, this was something you would expect to hear when ordering the weekend’s chinese take-away treat. Since January 06th on the other hand, it’s likely to heard more often as a result of Walsall Council removing its meals on wheels service. In order to save £1m over the next three years, council bosses have ceased its contract with previous provider, Sodexo, and will instead encourage the 300-400 people who relied on the service, to either attend lunch clubs or order take-away meals instead. The council claim incidentally, that they offered Sodexo a six month extension on the current contract which was refused, so clearly they have taken Dave and his coalition partners at their word when they say; “We’re all in this together”.
For those with sufficiently long memories, the meals on wheels service was designed to provide elderly and vulnerable people with at least one hot meal a day, to ensure they received the necessary level of nutrition they needed. To ensure the success of this far from innovative idea, a new community meals service called Taste for Life, comprising a local housing association, Age UK Walsall and Walsall Housing Regeneration Agency, will instead transport those previously in receipt of home delivered meals to lunch clubs across the borough. Walsall Council in turn has pledged to provide the necessary finance, likely to be hundreds of thousands of pounds, to keep the scheme running at least until March 2012.
Council bosses have pledged that nobody would go without a meal as a result of the changes: so it will be interesting to see a) if that pledge is met and b) the long term take up of the lunch club service. Given the Health Secretary’s plans to also use companies such as McDonalds and Sainsburys to provide nutritional advice to the public – among other things - don’t be surprised if in the future, you see special OAP excursions to the “Fillet of Fish Fridays” at McDonalds on Reedswood Retail park, “Zinger Tower Tuesdays” at Walsall Wood KFC or “All you can eat Salad Bowls” at Pizza Hut.
I’m normally ambivalent regarding our local papers, but for the next few weeks at least, I shall be looking forward to reading the headlines - and council excuses - everytime a pensioner is left without a hot meal because a take-away driver delivered Chicken Madras instead of Lamb Balti, lunch clubs get cancelled due to lack of punters and most importantly…forgetting those prawn crackers!
I was reading some of the recent tweets from the journos and others that I follow earlier on, and by varying degrees came across the chart below illustrating the percentage of GDP of our public debt over the years.
The History of National Debt clearly shows that at some 64% our public debt is higher than previous years particularly the 1980′s, but compared to the war years and the years leading up to the great depression, we are some way off that despite what many politicans and others who should know better keep telling us.
I also found a league table published by the CIA – yes that CIA – which shows the 2009 public debt levels of a number of countries. The UK was 22nd in the table at 68.5% below that of our G8 partners of Japan ( 194%), Italy ( 115%), France (79.9%), Germany ( 77.2%) and Canada (72.3%). For the record Zimbabwe came out top with public debt of over 300% of its GDP.
While the UK’s debt levels are a cause for concern, one must wonder based on these figures, if perhaps those voices calling for our deficit to be halved over the course of this parliament, rather than wiped out as the coalition are proposing, have a valid point.
Then again maths was never my strong point, nor I suspect, was it for most bankers or economists in recent years.