Let’s start this new tabloid version of t’ Brig Times, as it was known when I joined it in 1948, with the good news, writes Sir Bernard Ingham.
In these straitened times I am able to tell you how you can earn money for Calderdale Council next year by being virtuous.
I appreciate that that is not what you might have had in mind, but bear with me. The Government has just announced a £2.2bn “Health Premium” for councils that improve public health in their localities. Those making an impact across a whole swathe of health concerns will be rewarded.
I cannot, of course, promise that if Calderdale gets its hands on some of this healthy brass it will freeze or, better still, cut the council tax. That is too much to hope these days from local government, which seems to live in its own hermetically sealed world.
Take for example, Hebden Royd Town Council, which is to increase its take from the voters in these hard up times by 25 per cent, or an average of £14.25 a year for those in Band D.
I don’t recall it advising the populace that this would be the cost of taking over the Picture House – or that Mytholmroyd would lose out in funding.
And you could have knocked me down with one of Barbara Green’s featherlight letters when I read that this mere parish council will spend more than 25 per cent of its £331,382 budget on salaries when the Picture House staff are counted in.
At least it’s in the business of job creation. But that is by the way.
By now readers know that I don’t think much of local borough councillors – as distinct from parish councillors – who take home £10,000 in “allowances” for just turning up when their predecessors years ago did the job voluntarily.
Incidentally, we now learn that 20 per cent or 4,500 of the blighters up and down this unequal land have even taken advantage of the local government index-linked pension scheme to provide for their old age. Nice work if you can get it.
Come on, Calderdale, how many, if any, Calderdale councillors are on the pensions gravy train? But back to how you can do yourself a treble good turn by earning money for the public advantage, improving your life and making Calderdale a fitter, safer and more wholesome place to live.
Judging from the pages of this newspaper, it is difficult to imagine more people running and walking all over this valley and its moors.
As a result a lot of you are clearly as fit as fleas.
But the Government wants more of you to take advantage of some of the finest walking and fell-running country in Merrie England.
The objective, as I understand it, is to raise the general level of fitness so that fewer and fewer of you need bother the doctor, the dentist or the hospital.
At least, that’s explicitly why they have me going to a chest clinic to do all sorts of exercises to make me all the more robustly resistant to the predatory bugs out to get me (NB: I do not refer to Mrs Green).
Points apparently will also be awarded if fewer people have falls at home and if dental decay is reduced among sweet-toothed youngsters.
The Government is also in the business of encouraging good behaviour through the council – reducing domestic violence, truancy and juvenile crime.
Why, Calderdale will even be expected to raise the rate of breastfeeding – that is the number doing it, not how often – because apparently Britain’s is among the lowest in the world, even though mother’s milk is good for you. God alone knows how they will measure this progress, but you get the idea how you might help the council and yourself or your family.
We are told that the Coalition is determined to restore the historic link going back to Victorian times between local authorities and improving public health.
It is a noble idea, though I fully recognise that some will find exercising more, drinking and eating less and behaving responsibly rather boring. But that is the nature of the gauntlet being thrown down to local authorities. There’s money to be had from being good.
So, let Hebden Royd demonstrate how you can coin it and feel very good about yourself in two ways.
First, by pursuing the Holy Grail of a low-carbon and ultimately decarbonised community, which is a real challenge. And then by showing Calderdale how to promote the responsibly fit society.
Environmentally, Hebden Royd is already a Transition Town. This year let it become Transition Town Mark II to a place of vim, vigour and virtue.