by Simon Johnson, Chair, Tamworth Green Party
The Herald’s forthright defence of the people of our town, against the ‘slob’ labels pinned on us by the national press, is to be welcomed. However, we must not be so defensive that we become complacent and fail to recognise the problems that do exist.
Tamworth Borough Council does need to do more to encourage healthy lifestyles and healthy eating with increased long-term investment, alongside other partners, in sporting and active recreation facilities – accessible to all, at rates we can all afford, building on some of our excellent local voluntary groups such as Tamworth Boxing Club. The planning system should also be used creatively to block junk-food establishments opening up in the town, in favour of healthier choices.
However, evidence shows that the key problem affecting diet and health is poverty. Unemployment, under-employment and the increased growth of low-paid, temporary and casual employment (responsible for much of the government’s mythical increase in employment) and a resultant lack of aspiration are all linked to poor health outcomes. These are things which do not just affect Tamworth but many other similar towns across the country. Sadly, but predictably, the policies of the current government – squeezing the poor to pay for the excesses of the rich – only make matters worse.
However, there are things the council should do to help hard-pressed people in Tamworth. Our council could follow the lead of Green Party controlled Brighton and Hove council, which recently passed a motion against pursuing evictions against tenants in arrears because of welfare change such as the government’s controversial and iniquitous ‘bedroom tax’ . Alternatively the council should follow the example of some Housing Associations in reclassifying bedrooms as other types of room. This protects tenants who are not in a position to pay more, and in doing so, also supports the local economy as people on low incomes spend a higher proportion of their incomes on local goods and services.
We need a council that acts creatively in the interests of local people, rather than blindly implementing disastrous government policy.