Ed­i­tor’s Com­ment

Cotswold Life - - NEWS - MIKE LOWE, mike.lowe@archant.co.uk Fol­low Mike on Twit­ter: @cot­slifeed­i­tor

IFEAR for our High Streets. In larger towns Mother­care, Car­petright, Toys R Us, Maplin, Pound­world, Clarks, Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser, Deben­hams and even Waitrose have ei­ther closed down or dras­ti­cally re­duced the num­ber of their out­lets. Al­most 6,000 shops closed in 2017; this year doesn’t look like be­ing any bet­ter.

In our smaller towns, the grad­ual ex­tinc­tion of tra­di­tional in­de­pen­dent shops is ob­vi­ous as they’re re­placed by tat-strewn char­ity shops (yes, yes, I know they do a worth­while job, but some of them look like an ex­plo­sion at a jumble sale); tat­tooists, both posh and pov; perma-or­ange sunbed shops; ex­otic e-cig­a­rette re­tail­ers; bet­ting shops fu­elled by ad­dic­tive, lifewreck­ing gam­bling ma­chines rather than lit­tle old men with a stubby pen­cil and a hot tip for the 2.30 at Kemp­ton; and du­bi­ous, dark­ened cubby holes that of­fer to trans­fer your money, open you an anony­mous PO Box ad­dress or un­lock the mo­bile phone that has mys­te­ri­ously come into your pos­ses­sion.

You would think that given this on­slaught on the heart of our com­mu­ni­ties, lo­cal coun­cils would be do­ing ev­ery­thing they could to help sus­tain lo­cal traders. Sadly not. As­ton­ish­ingly, Stroud Dis­trict Coun­cil seems hell-bent on cre­at­ing fur­ther hur­dles for traders and res­i­dents by in­tro­duc­ing park­ing charges in ar­eas that are cur­rently free. This will af­fect, amongst other places, Durs­ley, Wot­ton, Stratford Park and Nailsworth.

This is­sue is far too com­pli­cated and multi-lay­ered to cover in these few mea­gre lines, but there seem to be two key fac­tors that need to be ad­dressed. Did the Coun­cil use al­most £10,000 of pub­lic money on ‘in­de­pen­dent’ con­sul­tants whose only brief was to de­liver a ‘pay up’ rec­om­men­da­tion? (One ‘fact’ re­lied upon is that in Mar­ket Rasen in Lin­colnshire, com­muters us­ing the rail­way sta­tion clog up free car parks. As far as I know, Nailsworth’s rail­way sta­tion closed to pas­sen­gers in June, 1947.) It also seems re­mark­able that these con­sul­tants ap­par­ently failed to con­sult with any­one in Nailsworth, but there we go.

The other is­sue con­cerns the blink­ered re­sponse of al­most all lo­cal coun­cils to de­creas­ing cen­tral fund­ing and the panic-stricken use of this calamity as an ex­cuse to im­ple­ment any money-rais­ing mea­sure on the

Dpop­u­la­tion, demo­cratic or not. “We have no money so we HAVE to do this.” Well ac­tu­ally, no you don’t. Get cre­ative; have a hard look at your man­age­ment struc­ture; seek out waste.

As I men­tioned, we have no space here to dis­cuss this prop­erly, but we do hope to re­turn to it as soon as pos­si­ble. In the mean­time, there are pub­lic meet­ings and fight­ing funds be­ing as­sem­bled. A de­ci­sion is due in Oc­to­ber, but I’d be very sur­prised if that was the last we heard of this mean-spir­ited farce.

UE to the de­mands of our print sched­ule, I am writ­ing this on the af­ter­noon of Eng­land’s World Cup semi-fi­nal against Croa­tia and will have to press the big red but­ton be­fore the match even kicks off. It would there­fore seem a lit­tle odd to most peo­ple to even con­tem­plate writ­ing about it.

How­ever, the im­pact of this World Cup – and Eng­land’s part in it – spreads wider than one sin­gle match re­sult, be it tri­umphant or tragic. Foot­ball is a unique phe­nom­ena in that it can unite or di­vide in a split sec­ond like noth­ing else – even re­li­gion. Hap­pily, this year’s ex­cur­sion has been one of con­ta­gious cheer­ful­ness and undi­luted joy as a squad of young lads – most with­out the more ex­treme pre­ten­sions of the modern foot­baller – have dragged this dys­func­tional na­tion into a state of sur­prised ela­tion. Peo­ple are smil­ing at each other in the streets of Glouces­ter; even BMW driv­ers are let­ting fel­low mo­torists into queues in Chel­tenham and one un­con­firmed ru­mour has it that a Lon­don com­muter ac­tu­ally wished “Good morn­ing” to a fel­low trav­eller at Kem­ble Sta­tion on Mon­day.

And at the heart of this Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble is Gareth South­gate, a calm, clever, unas­sum­ing man who would let you use his mo­bile phone charger even if he only had 1% left him­self. The man­ner in which he has con­ducted him­self, and the way in which he has im­posed those val­ues on his squad of play­ers, has been ex­em­plary.

When you look at the bunch of bark­ing, gib­ber­ing, wit­less, self-ob­sessed mup­pets cur­rently run­ning the coun­try, per­haps it’s time for some politi­cians to look to foot­ballers for shin­ing ex­am­ples of how to con­duct them­selves in pub­lic life.

This month’s cover image: Max at Ard Crags/stroud Val­ley com­pos­ite, by Kerry Irv­ing /Chris Rose/ Get­ty­im­ages

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