Tom Richmond: How Cameron can show he means business

Geoffrey Boycott.
Geoffrey Boycott.
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THE economy will not be kickstarted by the Prime Minister’s officials reading the riot act to the Chancellor and his slow-moving advisers.

Britain’s growth has become so sluggish that David Cameron needs to take personal charge. He is, after all, First Lord of the Treasury and should not have allowed himself to become so distracted by phone hacking, Libya and international grandstanding – the economy must remain his number one priority.

Every decision taken by the Cabinet needs to be placed in an economic context. Will cuts to reduce the deficit be counter-productive, or can more be done to nurture new jobs in areas like Yorkshire?

Those are the types of questions that Cameron and his team need to repeatedly ask themselves when decisions come before them.

I suggest this after the PM wrote in the Yorkshire Post on Tuesday that “it will be the student in Wakefield with the great business idea” who holds the key to the recovery rather than Ministers.

Coming a day after it was revealed that taxpayers across the region face a multi-million-pound bill for maintaining buildings that have been left empty because of stalled regeneration schemes, Cameron’s analogy was somewhat ironic.

Wakefield, after all, is home to a controversial fire control centre that is standing empty after the scheme was scrapped. Complete with a £6,000 coffee machine, the premises are still costing taxpayers around £5,000 a day in rent.

Yet, while this folly can be traced back to Labour’s days in powers, why cannot this building – and others – be leased out, for peppercorn rents, to young entrepreneurs?

It would, at least, give people the chance to “road test” their business idea without having to finance new premises from the outset. And it would demonstrate that this Government is more pragmatic than its predecessor. What’s stopping you, Mr Cameron?

TWO further points need to be raised as the economy returned to the political centre-stage.

While Ed Miliband found his voice during the hacking controversy, the next election will – in all probability – be fought on the state of the nation’s finances.

He now needs to flesh out an alternative. People are unhappy with the coalition’s approach – but they are even more dismissive of Labour.

Second, Nick Clegg should be credited with taking the Lib Dems into a Conservative-led coalition to help cut the deficit – even though he has become a political hate figure.

At least the coalition has an objective – unlike the debt-ridden United States where the Obama administration and the Republicans are at loggerheads over whether to borrow a few more trillion to pay the bills.

This power struggle has everything to do with President Obama shoring up his support ahead of next year’s elections. At least Clegg and the Lib Dems can no longer be accused of courting popularity with rash promises that are unaffordable.

I AGREE with the Parliamentary report which calls for energy suppliers to be banned from doorstepping or cold calling customers.

A rep on behalf of npower only desisted from calling at my house after four visits. I simply did not understand the pricing policy that he was trying to sell and whether I’d be better off.

This is the rub. The key is devising a pricing structure that makes it straightforward for householders to weigh up their options before signing on the dotted line.

If the so-called “big six” cannot agree on this, then the Government should intervene.

I say this after calling Scottish Power this week to inform them of my latest meter readings. No problem – until their man suggested that I could receive a £15.75 a year discount by handling my account online in future.

I’ll consider it, but I would not have known about the possibility unless I had called the firm. And such a switch does little to assist those who cannot, or will not, spend all night searching on the internet for the best deals – and the crucial wording of the small print.

IF a modest, rural council like Mid Devon (where I have been holidaying) can have a viable and effective recycling scheme, why is such a policy beyond the capability of Leeds Council?

I returned home to find, depressingly, the recycling bin still on the street from where it had been left three weeks ago when it was last due to be emptied. And, despite neighbours calling the council, the recycling waste piled up.

My message to Leeds is this: don’t even think about raising council tax bills if you fail to meet recycling targets. You only have yourselves to blame.

LEWIS Hamilton appealed following his unexpected German Grand Prix win for both verses of the National Anthem to be played at sporting events.

Wouldn’t it be preferable if more sports stars – including Formula One drivers – followed the example of passionate rugby hero Lawrence Dallaglio and learned the words to the first verse?

There’s nothing more embarrassing, or disrespectful, than watching God Save The Queen being mumbled.

GEOFFREY Boycott amuses many on Test Match Special. He did so this week when he said that not even the Queen, or his mother, would have been able to interrupt his batting.

But he is increasingly out of touch with the modern game. Lamenting the decision not to allow spectators to sit behind the boundary at Lord’s, he forgets that it was Headingley – his one-time home ground – that started a regrettable trend in which spectators are not allowed on the outfield during intervals.

Perhaps Boycott will use his forthcoming presidency of Yorkshire CCC to remedy this so children can hone their batting skills at his beloved Headingley – or pitch the ball in the commentator’s fabled “corridor of uncertainty”.