Eric Pickles, the Minister for Communities and Local Government, has instructed local authorities to reduce the number of signs in their areas which he maintains are confusing and spoil the character of town centres in particular. His instruction has caused some amusement in Wolverhampton where a panoply of signs is thought by locals to bring colour and excitement to their streets. But pernickety points ignored, you can see what he means. Other objections appear to be more convincing. It has been pointed out by several authorities that most of these signs are required by law (laws the good Pickes has voted for!) and often for reasons of public safety. Some town centres, for historic reasons, are more inherently dangerous than others. However, even when that is allowed for, doesn’t he have a point? Let’s take the issue of public safety. Are there not ways other than signs to ensure safety?
Yes, there are. Do we need to have traffic in town centres at all. Why not pave over the roads and provide a decent tram service? Noisy trams are best. There is no excuse for getting in the way of one. Stick a ringroad round the town and provide decent parking on the perimeter. That should do it. Look, I do appreciate that these towns are commercial centres and need to take deliveries. What can be provided is access lanes to be used, say, between the hours of 12 midnight and 6am. No problem. Remember Operation Midnight, the GLC scheme? (It failed by the way, still we have fond memories, and we learnt something, although I cannot recall what). There you are then, that’s the way ahead. If I may so this is how the Big Society can work for all of us and remember we are all in this together. I think it right to make these points.
Any questions? Would it not cost a lot of money and take a long time to bring to fruition? I am sorry to have to tell you that this shows some ignorance of how the Big Society works for you. It is not for the Government to concern itself with issues of cost. Local communities must work out what they want to do (providing it is wwhat we want) and raise the money for it. Local appeals for contributions, Whist Drives, Bingo. You know the sort of thing. Use your imagination. The sooner you raise it, the money, the sooner you can begin. We are opening a website for you. Come up with ideas, share best practice. You know it helps. We are all in this together. (sorry I’m repeating myself). Would not many local businesses be ruined by restrictions on movement in and out of our towns, particularly large stores? Yes, they would be if they didn’t adapt. They must recognise that a business model concentrating on becoming small and sepcialised is likely to be the one to succeed in the Big Society. That is how it is in our Tory market towns: small specialised boutiques, cafes and restraurants, a nice type of person. Come in on the bus for a pleasant day out. Well that’s it then. Thank you for coming. Roll up your sleeves. Like me. That’s a joke. Ha, ha.