Whitehaven News column – 8th May 2014

Heroes
Last year, as the government cuts to Copeland Borough Council’s budget began to bite hard, a common patch of grass near me had started to be cut when those around it were not being.  Soon, a laminated sign was posted to the cherry tree planted in the middle of the grass : ‘I don’t mind cutting the grass, but I do mind picking up after your dog. Please stop it.’ I’m paraphrasing, but the sign read (and still reads) to that effect.
Weeks went by and some dog owners were still allowing their dogs to foul this mysteriously manicured  piece of land – how they had the face or lack of common decency to do this defeats me – but still the phantom lawn mower persisted.
I’m pleased to say that I think the fouling has stopped, that the message has got through. The grass has never looked better, the sign is still there and I would like to let the green-fingered philanthropist know that he or she has made our town a better place and I sincerely think that they are an example to every single one of us. Whoever you are, thank you.
Never forget?
Huge congratulations must go to all of those involved in the centennial commemoration of the First World War in Whitehaven this week – it was a spectacular and fitting event. Thanks again go to the ‘austerity Mayor’ Cllr Geoff Garrity who represented the borough with real dignity on the day. Before the ceremony, I was privileged to be able to meet with and talk to Sergeant Johnson Beharry VC – an incredible man determined to carry on using every day he has to make a difference to the lives of others through his charity the JBVC Foundation – a charity designed to help under privileged young people avoid the pitfalls of gang culture and escape social disadvantage. From what I saw, Sergeant Beharry was treated like a rockstar by local school children – I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has earned such adulation more.
As we consider the forthcoming European elections, remember this. The First World War made modern Europe. The post-war settlement led to the Second World War and the European Union emerged from the aftermath of that cataclysm that bankrupted our nation and took our country to the brink of collapse. Whatever your political views and despite the undoubted reform that the European Union requires, it has been a principal factor in establishing a European peace that our grandparents could only dream of – this should never be forgotten.
Holding it together
I recently spent a few hours at the West Cumberland Hospital speaking with staff on different wards so that I could understand the challenges that they are facing. A staff shortage has meant that clinical staff are working longer than they should do. The staff are physically shattered, but their commitment is incredible. As the hospital trust continues to meander through its acquisition process, and as government policy continues to damage the NHS, spare a thought for these people: they hold the whole thing together.

There are many problems that remain to be solved, but the attitude and commitment of the clinicians I met at the West Cumberland Hospital is not one of them.
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