The Newsroom: John Wilson

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What must we do about food waste scandal?

My Worcester News editorial leader about food waste. Published October 22.

HOW many times have you walked into a shop and walked out with food you did not need?

Probably quite frequently, if the findings of a shocking new survey are anything to go by.

It exposes the people of Worcester as being the fifth worse culprits for wasting food in the country.

The average city household throws away more than £670 of food every year, it says.

The survey’s revelations were coincidentally supported by another study – this one from Tesco – that also lifted the lid on our throwaway culture.

It reported that up to two-thirds of supermarket food ends up in the bin – some because it has been discarded by customers, and other produce because it has been on display too long.

What a disgrace in a world of so many starving people and even in our own country, where – shamefully – food banks are becoming more commonplace.

The responsibility rests in several places.

Firstly, as consumers we must be less greedy, less fussy and more organised about buying only what we need when we need it.

Secondly, retailers must rely less on the two-for-the-price-of-one promotions that can sometimes entice customers to buy more than they need and are skewed towards larger households.

And thirdly, regulators such as the European Union must strive harder to get the balance right between protecting the consumer through sell-by date policies and causing excessive waste.

This is a scandal that cannot continue.

This week’s Malvern Gazette front page. How Malvern Town FC was saved.

This week’s Malvern Gazette front page. How Malvern Town FC was saved.

A look inside Worcestershire County Cricket Club’s new £10 million redevelopment.

Read Worcester News sports writer Tom Guest’s first impressions of the club’s ‘Grand Design’ here.

Sep 9
Sep 5

My Worcester News editorial leader column: MPs and a question of principle

THE dust has now settled somewhat on last week’s momentous Commons vote on military action in Syria.

Time, then, to take stock.

The coalition Government’s motion supporting the principle of air strikes on Damascus after chemical weapon were used on civilians was defeated by 285 votes to 272.

The result was a relief to those of us who believed military intervention would have achieved nothing. It would, more likely, have simply worsened the suffering of the Syrian people.

Importantly, the vote was evidence that the British people – through their MPs – still have a voice strong enough to shape this country’s destiny (the impression often given, following Tony Blair’s disastrous armed adventures, was that their views were no longer relevant).

Worcestershire’s own MPs, unfortunately, do not emerge from this with their democratic credentials burnished.

Conservatives Robin Walker, Peter Luff and Harriett Baldwin all expressed to this newspaper their reservations about military intervention before the vote.

Yet all sided with the Government last Thursday evening. Their subsequent attempts to justify their support while also trying to remain sceptical about involving Britain in Syria were disappointing.

This was an issue where their consitituents might have expected their representatives to have voted for or against according to their principles, not the orders of the Tory whips.

  • This comment was published on Monday, September 2.
  • Click here to read the story on which it was based.

My Worcester News editorial leader column: How new shopping centre will help transform Worcester

WHAT fabulous news! Worcester is to get a new multi-million pound shopping centre underpinned, hopefully, by a big-name retailer.

The transformation of the Cornmarket car park and the former Co-op building in Trinity Street and Queen Street will send the city shooting up the retail league table.

It will be a key piece in a jigsaw of developments that are profoundly changing the city centre for the better.

The Cornmarket scheme follows the £75 million St Martin’s Quarter complex in Lowesmoor, and the revelation of plans for the £100 million Sherriff’s Gate development at Shrub Hill and a £10 million cultural quarter at the old Royal Worcester Porcelain Works.

Together they will make the city an irresistible draw for visitors and shoppers. Other shops in areas such as the High Street are also bound to enjoy the spin-off benefits of such a major boost to the retail economy.

As this newspaper has already said, Worcester’s prosperity will only be assured by partnership working between the public and private sectors.

Worcester City Council and Worcestershire County Council are joint owners of the Cornmarket-Trinity Street site and their agreement to work together to seek private developer for it augurs well for the future.

It holds out the prospect of further ground-breaking alliances that will transform Worcester into the first-class cathedral and university town that is its goal.

Read the story on which this was based here.

My Worcester News editorial leader column: Park and ride dream is over

SO finally Worcestershire County Council has admitted Worcester’s much-derided park-and-ride system effectively has no future.

The two exisiting routes into the city from Perdiswell and Sixways will remain in operation for now. 

But with the political will to support the idea now extinguished there there must be a question mark over their long-term future.

The admission by council leaders that there will be no further park and ride routes is arresting in its finality.

Coun Simon Geraghty, deputy leader of the county, says: “Worcester is too small to make that type of system work.”

He even recognises that most people want to come into the city by car.

What a turnaround!

In 2009, Coun Derek Prodger, who was then directing the county’s transport policy, talking about the Perdiswell route in particular said: “We are confident park and ride remains a high-quality service … and are continuing to promote the benefits of this facility.”

Recognition of the apparent failure of park and rise is, of course, no cause for celebration.

It was a sincere, if misguided, attempt to tackle Worcester’s growing traffic problems.

But it was never embraced by commuters, and locals resented the way their roads were carved up for the creation of bus lanes that seemed to achieve little except worsen traffic jams.

The challenge of tackling Worcester’s traffic problems remains – so what do we do now?

  • Read the story on which this was based here.

My Worcester News editorial leader column: The police shouldn’t be making rules on morality

WE make no judgement on the rights or wrongs of lap dancing clubs – people form opinions in such matters based on deeply held personal values. 

What does concern us is how the licensing of such premises is handled.

A plan to open a club in the Butts, Worcester, has been working its way through a consultation process, which has now ended. Normally in a licensing application such as this Worcester City Council would impose various conditions on the venue in consultation with other interested parties, including the police.

But the council’s failure to adopt the most recent legislation, which imposes tight conditions on such clubs, has left it only able to use decade-old less strict laws.

Into the breach, though, have stepped the police. They are making their own demands about how the club should be run if a licence is granted.

Quite rightly, their priorities are ones of law and order such as  underage drinking, possible drug taking and so on.

But they also want a say on what some people would consider matters of morality and sex-industry etiquette.

For instance, they suggest quite explicitly what the club workers should wear, how they should greet customers and how the payment process should be conducted.

You may well agree with these demands, but should unelected senior police officers, answerable only to their own bosses, really be the ones making them?

Read the story on which this was based here.

My Worcester News editorial leader column: City must make more of its Civil War heritage

NOT for the first time, it is being pointed out that Worcester is failing to make the most of its rich Civil War legacy.

This time history enthusiast Jayne Snape has drawn attention to the neglected state of the city’s historic Powick Bridge, near which she lives.

She says litter, weeds and dogs’ mess are ruining the scene of Prince Rupert’s famous 1642 cavalry charge against the Parliamentarians.

She is, of course, the latest in a long line of critics of the city’s attitude towards its heritage.

As long ago as 1786 John Adams, one of the founding fathers of the United States, visited Worcester and was shocked by the lack of reverence for its place in history.

“Do Englishmen so soon forget the ground where liberty was fought for?” he wrote.

More recently, the Battle of Worcester Partnership – which comprises people and organisations with a common interest in the recognition of the city’s Civil War history – have campaigned (with some success) for its wider promotion.

We support the partnership’s aims wholeheartedly.

Worcester has the potential to be a visitor destination of worldwide significance. There is enormous international interest in this period of our history and we must do more to exploit it.

Key to this is better signposting explaining the significance of our historic sites. But first there is a more urgent demand – a tidy-up of Powick Bridge.

  • Click here to read the story upon which this opinion piece was based.

My Worcester News editorial leader column: Declaration of intent by city council leader

WORCESTER City Council’s Labour leader has used the milestone of his first 100 days in office to unveil his vision for the future.

In common with many statements of this kind it is short on detail, but within the rhetoric are inspiring turns of phrase.

Adrian Gregson talks of Worcester becoming a place of “great ambition and great opportunity”.

He accepts the inevitability of further spending cuts with a pragmatism sometimes lacking among leaders in the public sector – though his support of a council tax rise will be unpopular with some.

He displays a disarming frankness in saying he has been humbled by the support he has received since he became leader – a role he admits has a much higher profile that he realised.

And despite his grand plans he shows empathy with those suffering because of the economic downturn.

“Worcester is a wonderful city but it’s not so good if you haven’t got a job, or can’t find a home,” he accepts.

He recognises that the council is a partner in a group of organisations that hold the city’s future in their hands, and talks of closer relationships with the college, university and county council.

Crucially, he extends a welcoming hand to the businesses that will drive the city’s prosperity, announcing a city centre masterplan and telling them: “The door is open for discussions.”

Overall, this is a declaration of intent that holds much promise.

  • Read the story on which this was based here.

My Worcester News leader column: why we need free school meals all year round

THERE can be few sadder indications of how difficult life is becoming for local families than the fact that some are having to go cap in hand to Worcester’s foodbank.

Parents whose children are entitled to free school meals are, in particular, struggling at present.

With the long summer holidays upon them, some do not have the means to provide the meals at home that would normally be provided free of charge at school.

The foodbank has seen demand for its services increase by a third since the schools broke up.

Rising food prices and changes to the benefits system are among the factors making life difficult for low-income families, say experts.

A family with, for instance, three children faces a considerable bill to replace the 90 meals that would usually be taken at school.

Foodbank manager Colin Whitehead’s suggestion that school canteens remain open during the holidays has merits.

They could then continue to provide free meals to those children entitled to them.

Keeping the kitchens open could be made more viable by running holiday club activities or summer schools at the same time.

One thing is for certain, turning a blind eye while the most needy families are increasingly forced to rely on charity to feed their children is not an option a civilised society should be prepared to tolerate.

Foodbanks should be a safety net and seen as a last resort, not a replacement for axed benefits.

Click here for story on which this comment is based.

The families who can't afford to feed their children in the school holidays

Aug 6

Tuesday, August 6

Police reaction to our splash

How we came up with our two babies front page

The first pictures of the royal baby were never going to be a big seller for us; we’re a local newspaper and our readers expect stories from us about Worcestershire and things that affect local people.

Nevertheless, we couldn’t ignore the royal baby.

So what should we do?

A moment of inspiration came from a press release issued by West Mercia Police.

It was appealing for help in finding the mum of a baby abandoned in a bag on the doorstep in Worcester last Thursday.

The release began, “On the day the world’s focus is on a newborn baby…”

We had our front page. Two pictures of babies arranged side by side and a few words of copy contrasting their circumstances of their birth. Powerful stuff, and completely different to every other newspaper today.