Letters to the Editor, August 11, 2011

Numbers

ALTHOUGH our local MP and a number of councillors may have called for a deep cull in their numbers, this has had no tangible result.

Self interest and the present party franchise system means an ever-growing political scene is needed to keep party members happy.

Today when cuts all round are needed to avoid a slump, it seems our political representatives are more inclined to increase their wellbeing than look after the needs of the community.

History shows that the long term effect of such feather bedding policies end in strife.


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North Somerset has 61 councillors for around 204,000 people and Bristol 70 for around 411,000.

In both cases there is need to cull numbers to show the public councillors too suffer and share in the hardships of those employed by the council, especially those that have lost their jobs. After all, we are getting in this together.

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Leadership in these hard times requires people who can make a difference, by getting away from the party line, thinking outside the box and implement the changes needed.

There is a case to merge district councils and make town councils more accountable. This would help in giving back to the community a sense of belonging.

I consider myself a Westonian first and a man from Somerset second and expect many others in our town think likewise.

The duplication of the type of work undertaken by district councils lends itself to modern large administration offices as has been shown by firms like Tesco, HSBC, Marks & Spencer, etc, for years.

Yes our MP and others are right, there is a great need to cull political numbers from the House of Lords now with more than 800 members, an all time high, down to the House of Commons, district, town and parish council levels, but unfortunately there is no leadership on the horizon to execute such radical changes for the better, due to die hard reasons, until they become mandatory. Let’s hope this is not the case.

C J PEVERELLE

Edinburgh Place, Weston

Pick up your signs

WE DECIDED to visit my father on his birthday. After getting stuck in traffic at Purn Farm, Bleadon, I told my partner that we would drive over to Hutton and get into Weston.

What a surprise we had. We came along the road just before McDonald’s and at the side of the road was still signs for T4 and even a parent drop off sign points and diversion signs saying all beach traffic had to go along and pass the roundabout at the hospital.

You can imagine the tailback when everybody who wanted to go to the beach met the tailback from the other road.

I thought T4 was about July 10.

No wonder when we have been to Burnham there are plenty of people wandering around, it’s simple, it’s easy to get there.

Come on highways, when events have finished please pick up your signs.

A 70 minute drive took us two hours.

STEVEN HONEYWELL Ex-Westonian

Bonners Drive, Axminster

Allergic to dogs

WITH reference to the letter from Christine Pierce re ‘Dogs on his bus’.

Recently I was trying to catch the number 16 bus from Weston to West Wick, just after 12.35pm from the Station Road, Weston, bus stop and as I mounted the step of the bus, the driver told me that I could not bring my dog on board as he was allergic to dogs and suffered from asthma attacks.

I have caught this bus most Saturdays during the past year without any difficulty.

Another passenger got off the bus with me and helped me to catch a number 14 First bus to get to my destination.

It took me to Morrison’s at Worle and I was picked up from there by a friend. I had called her on my mobile phone.

My best regards to the gentleman who helped me.

N E ASHMAN

Strowlands, East Brent

Junior section

WHAT nonsense Mr Harris of Moorland Road pens.

I assume born of frustration at not being able to park outside his house from dawn till dusk during events on the seafront, he has decided to have a dig at the Weston Golf Club.

He wants to turn the golf course into a car park. What next? He will be requisitioning the remaining sports and school playing fields for picnic areas and overspill parking as he is probably anti-sport.

The golf club provides, as do all of our local sports clubs, a recreational facility that provides for not only the adults of this town but also a strong junior section for our local youngsters, far more important than playing in sandpits.

While I’m on the ‘nonsense’ line, who allowed the sand sculptures to go ahead behind such a mess as is caused by those timber panels. It would have taken comparatively little effort to have tidied up and shifted a few tonnes (tons for old Mr Harris) of sand into the Tropicana to have created an instant use for the old building and a sheltered spot for the great works these artists produce.

It could even have run into the autumn, unless someone actually comes through with a working and feasible plan over the next few weeks.

PAUL BURNS

Sunnyside Road, Weston

Poor quality

I WRITE on the topic of speeding in Locking and the poor road infrastructure around Weston.

Since I moved to Weston from Ayr in 2010 I have been surprised at the poor quality of the road infrastructure around a major airport. Admittedly Prestwick is an international airport and has been for some years but seemingly Bristol aspires to be international.

Following recent letters in your paper by Mr Day and Mr Kraft I decided to have a closer look at the roads around Locking. I was shocked at how poorly signed the road was and how illogical the speed limits were. Once again it confirms my suspicions of incompetence in the council’s highways department. There are two distinct communities on the Locking site and they are going to have to suffer many months of disruption as the �50million ski dome is built. No one has yet explained to me why this site is more suitable than the airfield, however as the plans seem to have been approved and the diggers have already started I have some suggestions to make this road safer.

There should be a small mini roundabout at the first entrance called Locking Grove, nearest Banwell. The existing roundabout at the Helicopter Museum, which does not seem to go anywhere, could be moved to the junction for Locking village. There needs to be a speed limit of 40mph from the existing limit sign near Banwell all the way to the airfield roundabout. I gather from Mr Probert’s letter that �9.7million is being spent on the town hall, I call on the Weston public to demand a stop to this. Do we really need a gold-plated town hall? At least some of those millions should be spent on a proper road infrastructure from Weston to Bristol Airport.

DONALD MCGREGOR

Dunster Crescent, Oldmixon

Honour

JOHN Crockford-Hawley criticised the renaming of Pier Square in his letter to the Mercury and I must agree that Princess Royal Square hardly trips off the tongue.

It is always an honour for a member of the Royal Family to visit the town but with all due respect to the Princess she must have been a bit miffed to reopen the pier and then find out her name has been given to a square.

Why not go one step further and call the pier The Princess Royal Pier and the square The Elfan Ap Rees Square? Perhaps not. Most people I speak to do not like the new name and to keep it simple will still refer to the Grand Pier and Pier Square, surely that makes more sense?

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

What is wrong

I UNDERSTAND that North Somerset Council does not allow members of the town council to vote on what is to happen about the Tropicana. That is a symptom of what is wrong with local government as it operates for Weston.

David Cameron says that he will give control back to local people. We can only hope that he means what he says, and that Weston can regain control over the future of Weston and its hinterland.

When it comes to the Tropicana, Weston Town Council’s councillors should have seats on the working party. It is a disgrace that North Somerset denies our town councillors a place on that working party. It is simply undemocratic.

Having presided over 10 years of failure, surely it is time for the chairman of the working party Cllr Ap Rees to withdraw entirely and give someone else the chance to sort out the Tropicana as Mike Bell has suggested.

At the same time the Tropicana should be handed over to the town council by North Somerset and Weston Town Council should be given whatever it needs to do the job by North Somerset Council.

ROBERT CRAIG

Preserve Weston’s Legacy Lido

Priory Road, Weston

Full facts

MY ABSOLUTELY disgusted Labour Town councillor (Wyvern) Tony Probert has written about several local issues.

Reading about his comments re town hall, councillors’ allowances etc, I do wish that he would present the full facts, rather than rant a political attack on the Conservatives.

As a councillor, I would expect him to do his research carefully, and then present an accurate overview of local issues.

Cllr Probert suggests that money has been squandered on the town hall only for its redecoration. Not true!

Keep in mind that savings will have to be made to get us out of the financial mess.

By upgrading the town hall, the council will be able to close outside offices such as Somerset House and other rented places bringing departments into one building, from 18 to two.

The forecast savings by doing this are projected in excess of �11million. And by investing in a long-term plan will save more money.

Unless, of course Tony Probert has found a secret pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, or even a tree in the Wyvern area where money grows, my road would like one please.

You might like to know councillors’ allowances were introduced by the LibDem controlled council, replacing the �25 meetings’ attendance.

And did you know just three Labour councillors claimed over �25,000 last year?

Something about kettle and black…

JOHN CARTER

Addicott Road, Weston

Disbelief

I READ with some disbelief of the bus stop resiting in Locking Road.

Apart from Mr Baker’s concerns about the road safety angle, it seems to me that the new position will invade the privacy of the householder that the stop is now outside a whole lot more than the former complainant.

I have lived on Locking Road for nearly 76 years and my wife and I are well used to having our privacy invaded every time a bus stops at the traffic lights at the junction of Locking Moor Road, but you learn to live with it, the price of living on a main road.

Perhaps the person who complained in the first place should have bought a house in the country if they needed privacy so much.

As for the council listening to the people, how about the Tropicana, but that would have cost a lot more wouldn’t it?

D J NOCK

Locking Road, Weston

Action

AS ONE of the residents who contacted the Mercury regarding the Oldmixon estate, I read with interest the letter from Mr Drake.

Forgive me if I am wrong, but I thought North Somerset Council had a Conservative majority and is, therefore, run by them, even if the representatives for the Oldmixon are Labour.

I have nothing but praise for Councillor Ian Parker who has contributed a huge amount to the estate and who is always available to us.

He has attended every meeting, bar one, held for the benefit of the residents and if a phone call to North Somerset Council has not solicited the help/action required, a call to Mr Parker has achieved action.

It is just a shame that due to North Somerset Council’s inefficiency that one has to call him at all.

Now the grass has been cut twice, strimmed and the rubbish sorted.

MRS C PAYSER

Monkton Avenue, Weston

Thank you

I WOULD like to thank the very kind and honest lady who found my handbag in a ladies toilet on the seafront at Weston last Sunday and handed it in at the adjoining caf�.

I cannot express the relief I felt when it was handed back to me. Many thanks.

D EUSTON

Aberfoyle Close, Ipswich

New slabs

HAS COUNCILLOR Elfan Ap Rees gone completely bonkers?

If he had taken the trouble to walk along the promenade whilst the new slabs were being laid, he would have realised that the slabs used must have been about four inches thick, plus about two inch thickness of the mortar, or whatever it was they used to lay them on. This in theory lowered the sea wall by six inches. In some places this comes below knee level.

The sea wall has been changed by the laying of the new slabs; it’s not the same as it was 100 years ago. I remember when we needed to have a railing made for our balcony; the regulations stated that it must be 110cms high. Is North Somerset Council self exempt from these regulations?

There have already been several incidents where people have fallen over the wall, and these days they land on concrete, not sand. These railings are badly needed, especially when you see parents allowing their children to walk along the wall.

Now to the flowers around the town. I have had a good look at them today and hope that it will not be necessary to cover the flower beds in Grove Park, etc.

Surely cutbacks could be made which could still leave the town attractive to visitors and residents alike.

Here are a few suggestions to cut back on:

Do away with the huge cascade of flowers on the Italian Gardens. OK they are attractive, but very over the top.

Also the cascade displays in Grove Park, The Plantation, and the station roundabout, and anywhere else they are sited over existing flower beds.

The lampposts in High Street would look just as attractive with only three hanging baskets instead of six in some instances. I would say two baskets, but I noticed that the brackets for hanging them are in threes.

Then there are those stupid plant arrangements on the barriers around the town hall, where they look like they are only just balanced and could fall any moment. Other places, outside of the town centre have them as well, such as Coronation Gardens, Worle, these arrangements on their external fence. Here in Milton we have hanging baskets on the lampposts which are hidden by the leaves on the roadside trees. I often wonder how many people even notice these baskets are there. It’s nice the have these flowers, but in this financial situation, surely we wouldn’t miss a few of them in order to keep those in Grove Park.

As to the suggestion that we pay for green recycling - no way. We already pay for recycling in our council tax. We are supposed to be recycling more, thus saving the council money, and now it wants to charge us.

Why don’t our useless North Somerset councillors and officers take a cut in their salary instead, if they really want to help with the financial cutbacks?

Whilst writing, can I, through you newspaper, for the third time, ask the council to do something about the road surface at the west end of Cecil Road. It’s absolutely atrocious and getting worse.

RACHEL HEATH

Clarkson Avenue, Weston

VJ Day

SHORTLY before last year’s VJ Day I was contacted by a Norwich author asking if I could furnish any details of me or any Westonians who had served with his later father-in-law in 113 Squadron RAF during service in the far East in Worle War Two.

The Mercury kindly published the request and we hope it brought dividends in completion of an important war diary.

With another VJ Day, August 15, upon us, the Burma Star association marks this day every year around the same time. Services to commemorate the end of the war in the Far East still take place in Somerset and other places worldwide but with veterans now in their 80s and older (I am in my 91st year) not many of us are left and Burma Star branches are fast fading.

Secretary of the Weston branch, Vic Oliver, felt upset at a recent meeting, when only four members managed to make an appearance.

Sadly today, many of the younger generations know very little of VJ Day which was overshadowed by the VE Day, memory of the war in Europe, and men and women who took part in the Burma Campaign before then, have been overlooked.

Some people still say we shouldn’t tell the children of war happenings. Is it to be a case of least said soonest mended? Or do we honour our pledge to remember those who died? Children everywhere should be taught to forgive – but for the sake of mankind never let them forget.

The Far East War was started on December 7, 1941, and many of us having to serve four gruelling years overseas without any home leave were greatly relieved when hostilities ceased on August 15, 1945.

Sadly many comrades, who had given their lives, would never see their families again.

‘When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today’.

Give through to them on this 66th anniversary of VJ Day and end of World War Two.

GLYN EDWARDS

Uphill Park Homes, Weston

Pensions

I AM writing to let your readers know the reality behind the dispute over public sector pensions, particularly in light of the misleading comments of the leader of North Somerset Council in the August edition of North Somerset Life. Councillor Ashton stated that “there are now more people receiving a pension from the funds than are still paying into it” and that if “nothing is done, the existing pension fund could simply run out of cash to pay all its commitments”.

I am surprised by Councillor Ashton’s lack of knowledge about the pension scheme of his own employees.

The Local Government Pension Scheme has a positive cash flow, which means income from investments and contributions exceeds expenditure on pensions every year.

For instance, in the financial year 2008-9 �5.6billion of pensions were paid out, against a gross income of �10.2billion. Based on current assumptions it is likely to remain cash rich for at least 20 years.

Councillor Ashton’s claim is based on a scenario where everyone in the pension scheme retired and collected their pension on exactly the same day but this isn’t going to happen.

Quite simply the pension scheme, of which even some of his own councillors are members, is funded and is affordable.

Councillor Ashton also stated that one of the options to tackle this imaginary public sector pensions deficit would be increasing council tax but that in his opinion asking council tax-payers to pay more for other people’s pensions, when many of them are receiving inadequate or reduced pensions seems unworkable to him.

It is important that your readers know that under five per cent of the money raised through council tax goes to paying the employer’s pension contribution.

But the whole point is that rather than reduce public sector pensions we need to avoid a race to the bottom and instead bring private sector pensions up to an adequate level so that all pensioners have a comfortable retirement.

It is also the case that public sector workers retire with relatively small pensions - the average pension for health and local government workers is only �4,000 per year.

In addition it needs to be pointed out that public sector workers are also council tax-payers, and whether you work in the public or private sector we all pay for each other’s pensions one way or the other either through taxes to fund state benefits, or the prices we pay for goods.

If workers don’t save adequately for their retirement the result is pensioner poverty and it’s the tax-payer that picks up the welfare bill.

Increased contributions for low paid public sector workers are likely to make many leave the scheme, thereby adding to the tax burden as these pensioners end up claiming state benefits.

HELEN THORNTON

North Somerset UNISON

Town Hall, Weston

Devastated

I AM writing to you regarding the letter that was published by Dr Booth regarding the reasons why he left Weston hospital.

I was a patient of Dr Booth and I was devastated when I discovered he was leaving the hospital.

I was referred to him for the treatment of lymphoma, aged 19, and as you can imagine I was terrified of what might happen and how this was going to affect my life.

He saw me very quickly from the moment I was diagnosed and I was immediately set for a CT scan, pet scan, blood tests, bone marrow biopsy, ECG and a lung function test.

Dr Booth always took time to explain the results of these tests with me and what they meant. In some cases he phoned me at home to explain the results as I used to get very stressed waiting for appointments to receive them.

How many other doctors will go to this extra length for their patients and take the time to understand how they are feeling?

I started chemotherapy straight away and I saw Dr Booth on a regular basis to check everything was still going as it should be.

I did have a couple of problems along the way which weren’t major, however, when I phoned up to discuss them I was told Dr Booth would see me that day which is outstanding and put my mind at rest having seen him.

Since Dr Booth left the hospital I have seen locum consultants which isn’t ideal as they don’t know much information about me.

At times I have had to discuss my clinical history with them as they clearly haven’t had time to read my notes, this would never happen with a regular consultant like Dr Booth.

I have felt much less at ease seeing different consultants as I had put a lot of trust into Dr Booth and I felt like I always knew what to expect and everything was always made less stressful when I was under his care.

Weston hospital you have lost a great consultant.

RACHEL YOUNG

Ashtree Road, Burnham

Very sad

I WAS diagnosed with cancer in 2007 and came under the caring of Dr Frank Booth as my consultant at Weston General Hospital Oncology Department.

My wife and I were very sad when we learnt that Dr Booth was leaving Weston General Hospital in August 2010. It goes without saying that being given a diagnosis of an illness whether it is one that will clear up following medication/treatment/operation or that of a terminal nature, as in my own case which is incurable but treatable.

Whatever the diagnosis it comes as a shock to the system.

I shall be forever grateful to Dr Booth for his professionalism in caring and understanding and of his explaining to me, a non medical person, in simple terms what would be involved as I undertook the taking of medication, undergoing numerous tests and side effects.

Not only did he involve me in conversation as the patient but also my wife and she was grateful for the opportunity to be able to ask questions which helped in giving her an insight into what I had experienced/or may experience.

When I was an in-patient at Weston General Hospital both Dr Booth and the haematology nurse came to see me and arranged for treatment to be commenced immediately so that my illness would not take on an aggressive form and undo the treatment which had been administered over the three years which had seen to be working.

Besides this while I was an in-patient at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Hospital, Dr Booth and two members of the team from Weston came to see me which I very much appreciated.

Dr Booth was a truly dedicated, professional person whose caring concerns for his patients was first-class and not only can I vouch for this from a personal point of view but having met many patients who were under his care as their consultant they were of the same opinion.

Weston Area Health NHS Trust lost an extremely loyal member of its staff in the departure of Dr Booth in August 2010.

I together with my wife would send to Dr Booth our very best wishes, thanking him for all that he has done in making my wellbeing that little more comfortable and I am pleased to have met with him as consultant at Weston General Hospital.

DAVID SYMES

Bath Road, Blagdon, North Somerset

Charges

SO, THE latest money-spinning council idea is to introduce charges for recycling collections.

Let’s leave aside the obvious fact that this will just prompt swathes of hard-up and environmentally indifferent people to throw away their recycling.

Instead, let’s wonder whether this new charge will be considered separate to our council tax.

Personally, I expect it will be, so the council’s ruling party can continue to trot out the tired old election-ready platitude that it’s ‘keeping council taxes down’.

If this is the case, one wonders exactly what we pay our actual council taxes for? The returns become slighter with every passing week.

Of course, making this an opt-in service would also effectively end the principal part of our weekly waste collections, meaning only the tiny food boxes will be emptied each seven days.

That leaves leaders with a final, miniscule straw to clutch at when insisting they haven’t reneged on earlier promises to maintain weekly collections.

So while North Somerset Council can still – just about, with a bit of clever semantic argument – claim to be maintaining its weekly collections, surely it can’t do anything to blind us all to the fact that this is a thinly-disguised extra tax being snuck in via the back door?

PAULINE ADDICOTT

Locking Road, Weston

AT THE risk of being labelled a controversial councillor, I would like to make my contribution to the debate raised in your item ‘Cut councillors – idea backed’ although I am concerned that this debate could divert attention away from more unpopular cuts being imposed by the Tory-run North Somerset Council.

I think there can only be three ways to reduce spending on our local councils.

Reduce the number of district councillors from the present 61 to no more than 40.

This can only be introduced by the Government which would have to pass an Act to enact such a change and no matter which government is in power it will only make changes to councillor numbers if it does not affect its political position in local councils across the country. So this is a no.

Dispense with town councils throughout the country who only perform somewhat menial roles which could be adequately covered in the district council domain. For example Weston Town Council only has responsibilities for: bus shelters; Barcode Youth Caf�; The Blakehay Theatre; Weston Museum; weddings at Grove House; cemetery at Milton Road and allotments in association with the Allotment Club.

These responsibilities were allotted by North Somerset Council to Weston Town Council when it was re-formed and could as easily be taken back on board with the transfer of the present town council employees back to the district payroll. This would remove all the overheads currently needed to fund a separate council house and all its unavoidable budget requirements.

This would also need Government legislation and involvement of the Boundaries Commission and in the present worldwide financial crisis and other more important things this would go right to the bottom of the list.

Take more of the administrative tasks presently performed in the district council and transfer them to the appropriate – in this case - Weston or Clevedon Town Councils.

If this was adopted it would need no Government approval and would immediately provide a case for the reduction of paid district councillors which national Government could not ignore because the transferred tasks would be administered by the unpaid and very willing town councillors.

I await a response but will not be holding my breath whilst doing so.

TONY PROBERT

Labour representative Wyvern Ward, Town Council

South Lawn, Locking

WITH reference to your article, ‘Sea wall railings – health and safety gone mad’.

As a newsletter editor for a local hoteliers’ association when all the work was being done, I remember this quite well, I was doing an article covering this very subject.

The then-president and I attended meetings with council staff to register our concerns.

Why when the original plans and architectural drawings showed railings, all the way from Knightstone to the pier, are they not being installed?

We also pointed out that the new paving along the seafront appeared to have raised the footpath, therefore making the existing sea wall lower.

We were told this was false and the new paving had been laid at the same height as the old. We were told, after the council had received expert advice, the railings were deemed unnecessary and would save money.

I then asked why it was necessary to have railings on top of the sea wall around Knightstone Island and yet, where the wall is much lower, there are none? I took photographs of a person standing in front of both sections of sea wall at Knightstone Island and in front of the seafront hotels, between Smith’s and the Monaco to show the height differences.

Another concern was that below the wall is now solid concrete with large boulders set into the concrete for seating, making injury more likely, for anyone fallin, where as before it was sand not hard concrete.

I am also aware of a number of reported falls, one was to an older gentleman and was quite serious.

This will now cause yet more disruption during, hopefully, a busy summer season. How much extra cost to the taxpayer than when the original work was done?

I am sure everyone must be asking, on whose advice did councillors decide to make their decision?

If the person advising the council not to install railings was employed directly, will we see resignations or if they were from an outside business to advise the council, will compensation against the firm be claimed for what was poor advice?

JOHN CHRISTOPHER

Milton Road, Weston

I QUOTE from Midweek on July 27 re leisure dome at the former RAF Locking site – “I think this is frankly a fantastic development and yet another sign of exciting things happening in Weston”. Typing error? Of course.

V TALBOT

Hampden Road, Worle

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