Serial policy and communications flop, Councillor Clyde Loakes, is spinning his results-lite anti-fast-food policies in the press again. His policy, which is to do very little about existing junk food outlets like Dixy Chicken, Venice Pizza, Mega Bite, McDonalds, Tennessee Chicken and Pizza Hut but does involve supersizing the self-publicity for Mr Loakes as much as possible, has had a number of justifications over the years. These range from being a war on litter to an attempt to turn our children into Olympians. It is now being promoted with New and Improved Added "Regeneration" Spin.
He was today quoted by someone called David Foad saying that: “In addition to improving the appearance of high roads and reducing litter, the policy also ties in keenly with the council’s recent £9m investment in the regeneration of borough high streets, of which a key element is encouraging a vibrant and vital mix of outlets. It is also one of the factors in the fight against childhood obesity. It is no coincidence that over the same three-year period there has been a rise in school meal take-up in the borough of nine per cent.”
We are not told whether the rise in school meal uptakes means that 9% more lunches are being eaten - in schools which have had a massive expansion in pupil numbers in the last three years - or if a greater proportion of the school population are actually opting for the catering laid on by local school kitchens. It would be nice if the latter were true, and if the food was healthy stuff, of course.
The £9m regeneration, however, has not been spent on the kitchens that food has been prepared in, let alone ingredients. Moreover, only £950,000 of that money has been earmarked for Walthamstow High Street.
As far as one can tell, the most recent council spending on what they call regeneration was spent on cosmetics. They painted a small number of shops near the library, including the front of a pawn brokerage and an islamic bookshop. Sprucing up a handful of shops is not a bad thing in itself, of course, though it may well have been done more expensively than it need have done if the council's past track record of spending our money is concerned. I am fairly certain in any event, that whichever shops get the pastel treatment, this kind of stuff from Mr Loakes will have had no demonstrable impact on how fat the borough's kiddies may have become.