Tom Richmond: Shops should take a lead against the blight of litter

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“IT just fills me with fury! It’s just utter laziness, lack of interest in other people, lack of interest in the planet, in the hedgehog who might eat the plastic bag, it’s a lack of concern.”

The passionate words of actress and campaigner Joanne Lumley on the scourge of litter came to mind on two occasions when I stopped at the same row of shops in Leeds this week.

There’s nothing out of the ordinary about the location in the suburb of Horsforth – a Tesco Express store nestled next to a Subway sandwich store and Pizza Hut shop. Yet, in many respects, this is immaterial because litter is a scourge that is becoming a growing, and costly, menace to the whole nation.

Just after 8.30am on Sunday, a Leeds City Council rubbish collector was already collecting his third sack from the vicinity of these shops.

Sundays, he said, were always a busy shift because of the food wrappings and other detritus left behind by Saturday night revellers and he did not want shoppers to be given an unfavourable impression of the area. He was a credit to his council and his city.

Yet, 48 hours later, the amount of rubbish blighting the pavement was, frankly, an embarrassment. Coke cans, sandwich wrappings, empty pizza boxes and the rest – all because people were too lazy to dispose of these items in the bin. I felt sorry for the litter collector; all his efforts had gone to waste.

Of course, it is difficult to apportion blame – the rubbish in question could easily have been acquired from other food premises in the vicinity – but my point is this: the time has come for shops to be held accountable for the cleanliness of the pavement and street outside their premises.

McDonald’s does this – and there should be no reason why others cannot follow its example as pressure grows from Keep Britain Tidy, and others, for the creation of a Minister of Litter to champion this issue.

If shopping areas are litter-free, the stores concerned should be eligible for a rebate on their business rates. If not, they should face a surcharge.

Yes, there will be those who will contend that this approach is too draconian, but it is all about encouraging personal and social responsibility.

DURING hustings for the Labour leadership, Andy Burnham incorrectly guessed that a litre of petrol was £1.60 rather than £1.16. I guess that this is what motorists can expect to pay if the Shadow Health Secretary succeeds Ed Miliband.

Mind you, I do not envy the next Labour leader – and the challenge that they will face just to assert their own authority over a rancourous party. How ironic that various luminaries are pre-occupied with putting in place a mechanism to oust the winning candidate if they do not pass muster, rather than actual policies.

And then they’re those who continue to obsess about a comeback by Leeds-born David Miliband who is currently ensconced in New York as head of the International Rescue Committee.

Even if Miliband D could be persuaded to return to the fray as some kind of political saviour, he will not solve Labour’s problems. This, after all, is the man who bottled the chance to oust Gordon Brown as premier in June 2009 and then walked away from domestic politics when he was beaten by his brother in the 2010 leadership contest.

The only way forward for Labour is for the new leadership to accept that the party mishandled the economy when last in power, before coming up with a policy agenda that reaches out across the political spectrum. As Jim Murphy, the party’s defeated leader in Scotland, said so candidly: “The voters are never wrong.”

TALKING of Labour, and its spending record, I had to smile when I read these comments: “We have to rid ourselves of the myth that we simply don’t spend enough money on health. The UK spends just over nine per cent of its GDP on health which is the OECD average... the problem is not lack of money but the way the NHS spends it. The NHS’s main problem is its poor productivity arising from the way it uses staff to produce the wrong services in the wrong way and in the wrong places.”

Why said this? Lord Warner. Who is this font of all wisdom? He was a junior minister at the Department of Health from 2003 until 2007. And which party was in power? Labour.

I hope the leadership candidates, 
not least NHS scaremongerer-in-chief Andy Burnham, take note of this prescription.

I DON’T know which leadership race is the more uninspiring – the three former special advisers, Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper, vying with ardent left-winger Jeremy Corbyn to be the next Labour leader when they have next-to-no experience of life in the private sector, or the fact that America’s presidential contest is threatening to become another clash between the Bush and Clinton dynasties? There needs to be a concerted push to make high public office more attractive to people from all walks of life – not least entrepreneurs and wealth-creators.

COMPARE and contrast... Alan Milburn, one of the more respected former Labour ministers, bemoans the fact that young people from working-class backgrounds are being systematically excluded from jobs in top legal and accountancy firms while former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy says British companies should start hiring the most suitable candidates instead of focusing of those who went to the “right universities”.

I’m with Sir Terry. There’s a lot to be said for people with experience of the so-called University of Life. He should know – he grew up on a Liverpool council estate before becoming chief executive of Tesco for 14 years and transforming the supermarket, like it or not, into a global brand. To me, his can-do attitude – as opposed to those who play the blame game – is further evidence of the need for every school to have a closer relationship with local businesses.

With CBI director-general John Cridland warning yesterday about the relevance of the school curriculum, how about persuading more leaders, like Sir Terry, to become mentors? They’d certainly bring a new dimension to business studies lessons which should, in my view, be increasingly integral to the day-to-day curriculum because of their relevance to the future of the youngsters concerned – and the country as a whole.

LET me get this right. We’re supposed to eulogise a trumped-up footballer, Jack Wilshere, who has finally scored for his country after five years of trying and a star striker, one Wayne Rooney, whose goalscoring feats are about to surpass those of the iconic 1966 World Cup winner Sir Bobby Charlton. I don’t think so. Show us your England medals, lads.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk