So, Ed Balls has backed yet another brainless scheme, this time relating to child obesity. This latest plan is to ban fast food and takeaway restaurants from within 400m of every school, youth centre or park. As soon as I read about this proposed scheme the impracticalities of it became apparent.
Firstly, having only left sixth form this year, I would like to think I understand the psyche of the average school student better than Ed Balls. My school had a national ‘Healthy School Status’: as such there was an abundance of reasonably priced salads, fruit, nut-bars and low-fat yoghurts. But every day there were still hoards of my peers walking down the road to every type of takeaway restaurant imaginable. Clearly, forcing healthy food onto young people does not work. In fact, from my experience, it only created resentment towards our school canteen as we were being forced further away to find the choice of foods we wanted.
Quite apart from that though, the idiocy of this scheme is laughable. I am trying to think how far I would have to travel from my house to find an area which is at least 400m from a park, youth centre or school: it’s quite a way! And what would happen if a new youth centre was opened in a high street – would all the takeaway shops have to close their doors immediately?
According to the Federation of Small Businesses, this industry is worth £20bn a year, and Balls’ scheme could significantly damage small firms. In the current economic climate, the government should be encouraging businesses and entrepreneurs rather than working to ensure their demise. This is yet another example of a poorly planned top-down scheme with little consideration for people, businesses or local issues. By all means let schools educate children about the dangers of obesity (although perhaps teaching them to read and write properly should be the priority). But then allow them or their parents to make their own free choices.