Tom Richmond: With the NHS in crisis, Whitehall does not – and must not – have a monopoly on good ideas

Pupils on patrol as traffic wardens outside a Bradford school in a bid to halt irresponsible parking.
Pupils on patrol as traffic wardens outside a Bradford school in a bid to halt irresponsible parking.
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ONE of the problems with this country’s governance – or lack of – is that politicians and civil servants believe that they have a monopoly when it comes to the best ideas. They shouldn’t.

At the end of the week dominated by the NHS crisis – too many patients and too few doctors – I received some correspondence sent by a loyal reader of this newspaper to Whitehall’s powers-that-be.

Given the health problems which emanate from obesity and traffic pollution, they suggested to the Department for Transport that street parking should be banned within a 300 metre radius of all schools.

It would, they ventured, compel ‘couch potato’ youngsters to walk to and from lessons each day, which would improve their wellbeing, but reduce harmful emissions being pumped into the atmosphere from the vehicles of parents dropping off – or waiting to collect – their offspring. In short, less unnecessary demand on stretched health services.

So far, so good, provided this rule makes an exception for those households which are located within close proximity to a school.

However, if there are parents/guardians who insist on delivering their children to the gates, the reader suggests that they should buy an annual permit from the school – suggested price £52 a year – which entitles them to do so, with the money being used to boost school or LEA funds.

“Traffic in general will be eased during the twice daily school run rush hour, saving journey times and reducing air pollution,” they add. “It will get parents exercising as well. Parking chaos would be disseminated throughout the area and not concentrated locally.”

There are obstacles – like the question of enforcement. Self-policing could be the answer in an era when most people have a camera built into their mobile phone.

What was disappointing, however, was the DfT’s response. Even though it’s responsible for traffic regulations, civil servant Anna Terry says these are local matters.

Offering no encouragement that the idea will be investigated further, the source of the reader’s frustration and my dismay on your behalf, she added: “I would suggest contacting your local authority who will be best placed to advice (sic) on your idea.”

In other words, a reasonable idea worthy of further consideration hits a dead-end on day one – offering no respite for the NHS in the longer term. I hope this is not what Theresa May means by her ‘shared society’.

IT emerges James Rogers, one of the very senior Leeds Council officials who tried to keep secret the identities of four councillors issues with court summonses over late payment of council tax, was a top official at marketing agency Leeds and Partners when one Lurene Joseph was racking up staggering expenses claims, which famously included £285 taxi trip to her house in the Home Counties.

This led to promises by council chief executive Tom Riordan in 2013 to overhaul financial governance. He clearly wasn’t thorough enough. Asked whether Mr Rogers would retain, or be stripped, of his corporate governance duties, a council spokesman responded after 48 hours: “It is not policy to discuss matters relating to individual employees.”

As the town hall considers new transparency arrangements which are due to be presented to the ‘general purposes committee’ in the spring, let’s hope the authority considers the helpful suggestion by a reader of The Yorkshire Post – namely council tax is deducted from the allowances of councillors at source. That way, there can be no doubt about a politician’s legal eligibility to vote on budgetary matters and it won’t cost a penny. Another problem solved.

YORKSHIRE industrialist and EU supporter Sir Andrew Cook is entitled to his views on Brexit.

The multi-millionaire is misguided, however, to threaten to withdraw funds from the Tories – he’s donated more than £1.2m to the party – if Theresa May pulls the country out of the single market. As former Cabinet Minister John Redwood retorted, Government policy is not for sale.

If Sir Andrew, chairman of Yorkshire-based William Cook Holdings Limited, wants to influence the debate, he should stand for Parliament where there does appear to be a dearth of experienced business leaders who know how to create jobs.

Come on, Sir Andrew, put your convictions to the people and let them decide. If not, people will conclude that you accepted your knighthood – part of David Cameron’s much-tainted resignation honours list for his cronies – in return for causing as much trouble as possible for Mrs May.

BY the time next week’s column is published, Donald J Trump will have been inaugurated as the next President of the United States. It’s a sobering thought given his inability to show any statesman-like qualities during a rare Press conference on Wednesday at Trump Tower in New York.

I was prepared to be more open-minded than some – and there’s still a chance he will kickstart America’s economy. Yet, after he declared war on his own intelligence agencies and others, I fear, and pray, for the world if this is the type of leadership and gravitas that we can expect. At this rate, the West will soon be yearning for the return of that man of peace George W Bush...

PARISH priest Neil McNicholas’s column earlier this week about mobile phone etiquette reminds me of the story when Clare Short was International Development Secretary. Her phone went off at a meeting of the Privy Council. “Do answer it, dear,” the Queen said. “It might be somebody important.” Quite.

MY sympathies to all those travellers who have endured a week from hell because of industrial action in the capital. Let me remind them of what Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said before he was elected: “I’ll make sure there are zero days of strikes.” I assume his hands are now tied by Jeremy Corbyn.

I KNOW the BBC isn’t used to covering live sport, but the number of pundits at the FA Cup third round tie between West Ham and Manchester City was over the top.

Gary Lineker was joined in the studio by Frank Lampard, Alan Shearer and Ian Wright; Trevor Sinclair was pitchside while Martin Keown was co-commentator. I dread to think the cost. And not one England medal to their name...

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk