Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Hats off to The Spireites. Here’s to a promotion-winning season - and meaningful grappling with Derbyshire's asbestos problem

Hats off to Chesterfield FC. By all accounts the club's away fixture at Rochdale last Saturday was a thriller. It ended in a 2-2 draw, with Marc Richards and Gary Roberts on the scoresheet for The Spireites. Good work especially by Roberts, who also set up the opening goal by Richards.

Spencers is proud to sponsor Chesterfield FC's community stand. Football is important to communities up and down the country: it's part of the fabric of our daily lives, giving a focus and sense of identity to thousands of fans. Wouldn't it be fantastic if The Spireites, under the guidance of manager Paul Cook, can maintain their excellent form at the beginning of the season and secure promotion to League One? So far, so good, with the team unbeaten in three games and sitting nicely in third place in the League Two table.

A long, hard season looms, but the sense in the town is that the talent is there, so too the commitment and dedication needed to mount a promotion push. And Derbyshire's largest town certainly has the stadium for an upper tier football club. The Proact Stadium, with a capacity of 10,504 (roughly the same as newly promoted Yeovil Town, currently adjusting to life in the Championship), is as good as they come. It's easily capable of hosting Championship games - which is where the club aims to be.

Chesterfield could do with a success story. Derbyshire could, too. There is so much to commend about the county's market town and Derbyshire itself, but the area is not without its problems. In particular, heavy industrialism has left a dangerous legacy. I am thinking of the so-called 'hidden killer' - asbestos.

Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team
The problem of asbestos in many public buildings, homes and schools has been revealed by the excellent campaigning work of the Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team. In particular, in July 2011 it displayed a life size model of a house - showing where asbestos could be found in an average house - in New Square in Chesterfield. Colleagues of mine well remember the house (created as part of Mesothelioma Action Day) and the way in which it captivated the interest of passers-by. The charity continues to do its best to publicise the dangers posed by asbestos, not least in our schools.

Management of asbestos in schools is, indeed, a serious worry. Many experts regard its management as inadequate. There is concern that governors have little awareness, understanding or training in managing asbestos. Local authorities are supposed to have individual plans per school and yet many have one for all schools. There is the question of who is responsible in schools outside local authority control, many of which are unaware of the liability they are taking on in regard to asbestos. There is an overall lack of transparency and availability of data. Surely every parent has the right to know of the existence of asbestos in their child's school, and how the known risks it poses are managed? This seems self-evident, and yet the government continues to drag its feet on the problem of asbestos, lagging a long way behind the excellent model for its treatment in Australia.

Some of Chesterfield's children of today may one day don the blue shirts of The Spireites. Here's hoping that when they do, the club is plying its trade in the Championship. And that by then, the government has at last got its house in order when it comes to asbestos.