Grant Woodward: Powers that be have forgotten who customers are

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Tube drivers who won’t drive trains and binmen who won’t collect bins. How on earth has it come to this?

I’VE always loved the Tube.

I like the way you have to plot your journey on the various brightly coloured lines – then try to work it out all over again when you find yourself in completely the wrong place and no idea how you got there.

But most of all I love the fact you can get from one side of London to the other without having to battle through all the traffic, exhaust fumes and baffling road systems that infest the surface.

Underground, I feel calm and in control, daydreaming about how great it would be to have one of these in Leeds and no longer fret about the inner ring road or Armley Gyratory every rush hour.

But one thing has always bugged me. If this is meant to be the greatest capital city on earth, then why does everything shut down at midnight – including the Tube?

I learned this to my cost a few years back when I stayed out till the early hours, realising too late there was no way of getting back to my friend’s house where I was staying.

In the end I paid for a lift home from a very polite, but very illegal cabbie from Eastern Europe. I say polite, what I mean is he didn’t drug me and leave me in a gutter somewhere minus my kidneys.

This week, the early shutdown was explained. The reason the Tube closes at midnight is because any attempt to provide a round-the-clock service worthy of the name will see Tube workers take the nuclear option.

Union leaders have responded to plans to run the underground through the night as if their members are being told from now on they’re going to have to push the trains rather than drive them.

They were planning to walk out last night, threatening that this would be the first in a series of strikes in protest at a change that would harm their “work-life balance”.

As far as I can make out, their work-life balance is so unrecognisable to ordinary working people that they’re well overdue a one-way ticket back to Planet Earth.

After all, a newly-qualified Tube driver gets £49,673 a year, enjoys 43 days of holiday and works a strict 36-hour week.

I think you’ll find most people would bite your arm off to get one of those gigs. Except you can’t. because it’s essentially a closed shop with driver jobs only being offered internally due to a deal with, yes, you guessed it, the unions.

This refusal to accept such a cushy number may involve working when the public actually need the service they’re meant to be providing, reminded me of that binman in Leeds.

You know the one. A CCTV camera catches him striding purposefully to two wheelie bins outside the Seacroft home of Debbie Campbell – then taking the top bags out of each bin and dumping them on the street.

In his defence, he’s only doing what he’s told. The council insists that wheelie bins can only be emptied if the lids are closed.

Debbie had missed the collection a fortnight earlier, so she had more rubbish to get rid of.

Maybe that was her fault. But what happens if you go on holiday?

And besides, how have we managed to move so far away from the days when the binmen actually came and collected your bin from the back garden, emptied it and then put backwhere they found it?

Last month, Northampton Borough Council set up a hotline that encouraged residents to report their neighbours if they put out too many bin bags.

So we’ve now got Tube drivers who won’t drive trains and binmen who won’t empty bins. You couldn’t make it up.

But that seems to be the way things are going in today’s Britain.

It’s long been known that we don’t do customer service very well in this country, a trip to somewhere like the United States is abundant proof of that.

But it’s now reached the point where the powers that be – and their staff – no longer seem to even know who the customers are.

Labour need to learn lessons

NOW there’s a surprise. A lengthy interal inquest into why Labour lost the general election has come to the conclusion that voters simply didn’t trust them on the economy.

Wow, didn’t see that one coming.

Except I did. I said at the time that Ed Miliband torpedoed any hopes of springing a surprise when he stood up at the Question Time debate in Leeds just before the polls and said Labour didn’t overspend when in power.

The gasps from the audience echoed round Leeds Town Hall. Floating voters at home promptly decided a vote for Labour was a risk too far.

The trouble is the two Eds – Miliband and Balls – were the public face of the boom and bust that Gordon Brown promised was a thing of the past.

I spoke to Andy Burnham last week and was relieved to hear him admit Labour did make mistakes – especially when it came to the economy.

His view is that Labour should have come clean, admitted what went wrong and tried to win back public trust. All sensible stuff.

He also told me Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves, (an Oxford economics graduate and former economist at the Bank of England) is set to be his shadow chancellor if he becomes leader, again a good move.

Meanwhile, the Labour inquest also found that the party were deemed unelectable because they were seen as anti-austerity. Perhaps someone should tell Jeremy Corbyn and his acolytes.

Parents choosing phones over kids

THE second non-shock of the week was the warning that children are starting school struggling to speak – because their parents are too busy using their smartphones to chat to them.

Sadly, I see this on almost a daily basis. Mums and dads walking along updating their Facebook status or scouring Instagram, oblivious to the young, fertile mind alongside them.

I’ve even seen a fair few with earphones wedged in their lugholes, ignoring the adorable first words of their toddler. But it’s a mistake to think this simply boils down to a lack of education on the parents’ part.

There are plenty of middle class families out there where mum, dad and kids all have the latest hi-tech gadgets and spend their entire time swiping and typing rather than bothering to strike up a decent conversation.

It used to be kids being plonked in front of the telly. Now it’s junior iPads. It’s the same result though – an absence of proper parenting that costs kids dear.

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