June 20: Duty of political and faith leaders on integration

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far FROM uniting communities after a difficult week dominated by the radicalisation of schoolboy suicide bomber Talha Asmal, and an extended Bradford family now at the mercy of extremists in Syria, the tone of David Cameron’s response left much to be desired.

For, while many will have welcomed the onus that the PM did place on Muslim leaders to counter the poisonous ISIS ideology, it might have been more prudent for the Tory leader to accentuate the positive steps being taken to make British values even more relevant to a multi-faith society.

Six days after the first reports emerged that the Dewsbury teenager had blown himself up in a terrorist attack in Iraq, the most profound question is the one that this newspaper made at the outset of this period of soul-searching: just what is so wrong with today’s society that young people are prepared to turn their backs on Britain after being brainwashed by those ISIS jihadists whose barbarous actions are such a stain on the world’s conscience?

Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings, this issue will not be reconciled by politicians and groups like the Council for Mosques playing the ‘blame game’; the dialogue needs to be far more respectful if communities are not to divide on racial, cultural and faith lines – the warning issued by Lord Ouseley, the former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, when he published his landmark report into Bradford’s race relations.

After all, his central conclusion – namely “different cultural communities believe they get nothing while others get all the benefits” – is as pertinent today as it was in 2001 when Bradford was recovering from race riots and when the world was coming to terms with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

It is also one that political and religious leaders should not ignore any longer.

A false economy: Hospital food must be healthy

IT would be disingenuous not to acknowledge the improvements that have been made to the quality of food now served by hospitals. Most meals bear no resemblance to the unappetising stodge that used to be served on a regular basis. It is not easy – cooking for a large number of people on disparate hospital sites, and with varying dietary requirements, remains the ultimate challenge for any caterer worth their salt.

Yet, while the very best chefs do know how to make the most out of their ingredients, it is perturbing to report that the amount spent on meals is actually falling at hospitals in Leeds – and elsewhere – as NHS Trusts look to balance the interests of patients with the financial realities facing the National Health Service on a daily basis as a consequence of an ageing population.

However, they need to be mindful that this could be a false economy. For, without appetising meals that are both nutritious and nourishing, it will take patients even longer to regain their strength before they can be discharged. And the consequence? Even greater demand for beds. It is a vicious circle that offers much food for thought.

Even though the Government has introduced mandatory food standards, they should be regarded as minimum requirements. Where possible, the emphasis should be on hospitals to go the extra mile and ensure hospitals serves meals sourced from local ingredients. After all, responsibility for this at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust now comes under the remit of a hotel services director – a role indicative of the high standards expected by patients at all mealtimes.

Use it or lose it – people power and the high street

IF the death of the traditional high street has been rather exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain, it will be a welcome boost to those independent traders across Yorkshire who have had to withstand a ‘triple whammy’ consisting of the recession, the advance of online retailing and the financial clout of multi-national retailers.

As thriving towns like Ilkley, Skipton and Northallerton continue to demonstrate, small shops add much to the vitality of such areas – a point made by Barclays boss Richard Lowe who believes such stores will have a viable future if they embrace the new technology now dictating the spending habits of customers. However, while town halls must pursue business-friendly policies so local high streets are not blighted by depressing rows of empty shop units, this is one area of social policy where ‘people power’ can be at its most influential. For, irrespective of the state of the economy, the ‘use it or lose it’ adage will always be the most pertinent principle.