Monthly Archives: August 2010

Change4Life – Let People Have a Life!

I took delivery of the Walsall Advertiser yesterday evening, and in amongst the inserts that are usually destined for the re-cycling box, I noticed the latest waste of money sent out by a government department – in this case Health. 

Another Nanny-Knows-Best Initiative

 Basically it contained a pack which invited parents to answer questions about themselves and their kid’s lifestyles. For example, what they do when they get up in the morning? did they eat breakfast or lunch? how do they get to school? All fairly harmless you might think, until you read the bit which says that in exchange for providing this information, the department of Nanny-Knows-Best, will send you a tailored action plan so you can ensure your kids live a healthy lifestyle!  Perhaps if the government – and I’m being generous in assuming these were an initiative from the previous one – want to spend silly money producing patronising drivel on how to raise our offspring, it should do better than produce the kind of nonsense pictured above.

Thanks to successive government policies over the years, most parents who have a job are having to work longer hours to keep it, and a roof over their heads, in the first place. Secondly, with the reduction in council-provided leisure services and the likelihood of even further reductions from next year, there is nowhere for most of these kids to go. In certain parts of the country, particularly in the inner cities, it is no longer safe for kids to play out in the streets or to go cycling anymore. When I was younger, during the summer holidays I went swimming with my friends most days, as the local council then had the innovative idea of allowing kids under 13 to go swimming for as little as 20p a day.

To be fair, most councils do try to run some organised activities, but the provision is patchy at best. Like most council run initiatives there does not appear to be much in the way of joined-up thinking – a bit like individual council re-cycling policies in some ways. No-one denies we all need to take a more healthy approach in our lifestyles, but what is needed like so much else in a country emerging from the centralised dictates of the Labour government, ought to be based on sensible guidance, while at the same time allowing local people and their councils to organise and implement according to their needs. Why for instance can’t school facilities be better utilised during the holidays? It works in the independent sector; I dare say there are state schools who have already implemented something similar, but where is the joined-up approach to encourage – rather than direct – others to follow suit? Surely this calls for concerted action between the departments covering education, sport and local government? 

There is no reason why councils cannot subsidise  swimming and other activities during school holidays, perhaps getting sponsorship from local businesses such as sportswear outlets to help defray the cost. If councils are prepared to organise single sex and specific minority group-only sessions, then more should be done to accommodate the local kids too. Allowing them to mix together in a fun activity while properly supervised, is a far more practical measure to promote tolerance and inter-community relations, than any PC inspired lectures so beloved of the socialist paradises that masquerade as Labour-run authorities. 

What the last government failed to grasp and hopefully this one will, is that people respond much better and more enthusiastically to encouragement, than they do to instructions from on-high.

Politicians no longer have that sought of clout – and a good thing too!!


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Business Voice WM – not exactly Smooth FM is it?

Since my new superhero Eric Pickles, announced the long overdue abolition of the Regional Development Agencies, our local business media has been full of stories about the feuding and disagreements between West Midlands local authorities on how to effectively plan economic growth for our region. 

Advantage West Midlands, the soon to be disbanded agency, was in many ways similar to the old Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia; artificial nations made up of disparate Peoples, who viewed each other with suspicion if not loathing while outwardly at least, giving an impression of unity. So a recent conference organised through an umbrella group called Business Voice WM, attempted to provide some ideas on how the new LEP’s will work and what structure they should take. Needless to say, with so many different participants including politicians and some 65 other groups plenty of talking was done, but seemingly very little in the way of concrete agreement on the way forward. With some councils intent on forming their own LEP’s, one wonders if this is just a way of re-forming AWM and hoping no-one in Whitehall notices?

Looking at their website, BVWM as it likes to be called – another bloody acronym I here you say! – contains a membership comprising everyone from the Asian Business Forum, FSB, CBI, NFU, National Federation of Retail Newsagents, West Midlands Developers Alliance??, the CBI and some 17 Chambers of Commerce. If they wanted to make it truly representative, they could have also invited The Knights of St Columba, The Legion of Mary, The Women’s Institute, The North Walsall Chrysanthemum Society and, granted honoury membership to the Dagenham Girl Pipers.  

In the “good” old days BP (before Pickles) AWM would have spent another two million quid on generating massive publicity on what they were not doing , while glossing over the very real issues of fractured relationships between local authorities and various business groups. Yes, there will be some re-shaping of alliances in order to create the new structures required, with many politicians and business people suddenly finding themselves out of their comfort zones, without the crutch of the vast talking shops they have been used to.

The new government has made it clear: localism is in, and if businesses and local authorities are serious about taking the lead in economic re-generation, they need to recognise that they cannot sit on the sidelines any longer blaming everybody else . Enough CO2 has already been pumped into the atmosphere since AWM and the other RDA’s were formed, they all have to go, as there aren’t enough trees that can be planted fast enough or mature quickly enough to absorb it all up again.

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