TODAY’S call by Keep Britain Tidy for the appointment of a Minister for Litter will certainly chime with those people who are appalled at the extent to which fly-tippers – and also those people too lazy to discard their detritus in bins – has become a dumping ground.
This issue has become a national embarrassment to the extent that it has prompted this newspaper’s Clean Up Yorkshire initiative which champions those public-spirited individuals and community groups who are working hard to rid the region’s roadsides of rubbish.
Yet, in many respects, the creation of a new political role is not the answer, particularly at a time when taxpayers are wanting leaner, more efficient government.
What is really needed is a change of mindset so that officials in each relevant Whitehall department start to take responsibility for this issue and work with town halls and police forces at a local level to enforce existing rules and regulations so that offenders are made to think twice about their selfishness and change their behaviour for the better.
Nearly three decades after Margaret Thatcher launched her own one-woman crusade on litter, it is time to admit that gimmicks and gestures have simply not worked. The key word is “enforcement”. For, at a time of financial austerity, it is ridiculous that Yorkshire authorities are spending nearly £4m each year cleaning up after fly-tippers while recouping only £36,000 in fines and other penalties.
This is public money that will continue to go to waste unless a more effective way is found to identify offenders. And this will only happen if Ministers provide councils, and the police, with the resources to respond to reports of fly-tipping and to mount prosecutions.
This should not be a one-off initiative; on the contrary, it is going to need a sustained and collective effort, like the drink-drive campaigns of yesteryear, to change public attitudes for the better.
Acting tough: Migrant crackdown has costs
IT IS, of course, one of the great ironies of the immigration debate that, despite voters’ growing concern over migrant workers, there are many areas of the economy that would grind to a halt without immigrant labour, most notably the NHS.
It is this fact which has always made a nonsense of politicians’ claims that British jobs must go to British workers. For, as every politician must surely know, there are simply not enough trained and willing British workers available.
The NHS, in particular, has a long tradition of relying on immigrants from outside Europe, so it is clear that the health service will be particularly vulnerable to new rules requiring migrant workers from outside the European Economic Area to earn £35,000-a-year or more to stay in the UK after their first six years here.
Indeed, the Royal College of Nursing has warned the Government that the new regulations will force thousands of nurses to return to their own countries, leaving the NHS bereft at a time when resources are already at a premium.
Given the fear of losing more support to the UK Independence Party and the pressure from Conservative backbenchers on an administration with a small majority, it is understandable Ministers feel the need to act tough on immigration. And the fact they can do nothing about migration from within the EU means that non-EU migrants are an easy target. But unless the new rules are applied with sensitivity and common sense, they will cause far more problems than they will solve.
The heat is on: Tax adds to holiday bill
CONSIDERING THE fact that airlines and travel companies already add vast sums to the price of holidays as soon as the school term ends, the last thing that hard-pressed families need is the cost of their annual summer vacation being forced up still further by the Government.
According to the TaxPayers’ Alliance, however, high taxes on flights, insurance and holiday items have increased the cost of a foreign holiday by more than £900m since 2008.
And considering that these taxes have their greatest impact on poorer families and that the Treasury has already admitted that there is little environmental justification for them, the only conclusion is that this is purely a money-making exercise for the Government.
And while Conservative politicians were happy to sing the praises of “hard-working families” throughout the election campaign, they are now equally happy to make those families’ hard-earned summer holidays as miserable as possible.