Letters to the Editor, December 22, 2011

Struggle

I WOULD like to extend a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who supported our work this time last year when we were experiencing bitter weather that had a devastating effect on a number of our clients.

For all of us, the tightening of budgets and increase in heating bills make life harder in the winter months. There are, however, still many people who have to live on very little money and for whom this year is proving to be especially difficult. For some of them, the struggle to keep warm and buy ever more expensive food can become too much. Life is simply too hard and suicidal thoughts often too common. For them, the way to end the perpetual misery of living like this leaves what they see as the only option – to take their own life.

At Somewhere to Go we provide a warm, welcoming space for people who are facing these kinds of difficulties. Many simply continue on, taking the help we and others are able to give them. We are only able to support them because of the amazing generosity of you, the people of Weston.

Last year, the spirit of Christmas was alive and kicking in our town and I am writing to ask if you would help us again this year by donating to help the work of Somewhere to Go.


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The centre is run by three paid staff and a large team of volunteers. If you would like to join our happy crew, please contact me. We are looking for volunteer support workers and people to help prepare and cook the meals we provide.

I would like to thank Alliance Homes, Sainsbury’s, the churches and our many other supporters for their continued generosity and wish all of you a blessed Christmas and peaceful new year.

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JOAN EALES

Day centre manager, Somewhere to Go, St John’s Hall, Boulevard, Weston

Telephone: 01934 641880

Open alley

HAVING only recently seen the ‘Zimmer frame’ railings on Weston seafront I have to ask why are they needed?

If it is to prevent people falling over the wall are there any statistics showing how many people have done this since the wall was first constructed about 130 years ago?

What was a reasonably attractive promenade has now been turned into the equivalent of an open alley with obstacles protruding onto the promenade causing potential trip hazards.

BRIAN BEVAN

St Michaels Road, Burnham

Greedy �7.50

SO THE council intends to raise the charge for five hours parking up to a greedy �7.50, yet in central Birmingham six hours is just �5.

Are our council members ensuring there is enough money for their annual wage rise, while everyone else has yet another year without one?

ROBERT LOWE

The Swallows, Locking Castle, Weston

Major provider

I WOULD like to respond to your article from the Mercury December 8, ‘Social care cuts to hit charity salaries’.

Brandon Trust is not only a North Somerset charity. Its offices are based in Bristol and it remains a major provider, caring for adults with learning difficulties not only in Bristol and North Somerset but also South Glos, Devon and Cornwall.

Staff from these relevant local authorities were transferred across not only from the NHS but also county council social service departments. The pay cuts you refer to are part of what Brandon Trust refer’s to as a ‘harmonisation’ process.

This process affects approximately 500 of the trust’s frontline staff in the North Somerset and Bristol area who are expected to accept pay cuts of up to 35 per cent.

What spokes people for the trust neglect to tell you is that staff in management and senior management positions will not be subject to these cuts as made perfectly clear by Jon Minall, director of operations recently.

Chief executive Lucy Hurst Brown recently wrote in a Christmas message to all staff: “I will say a little bit about contractual change. A member of one of our teams asked why I had recently described myself as angry about what we are going through. I said, essentially I’m angry about all of it.

“Firstly the national position is absolutely shocking and charities like Brandon Trust (and ultimately people with learning disabilities) suffer as a result.

“Local authorities do not have enough money and are therefore not paying us the right income to cover the cost of the salaries that they set in the first place (be it NHS or local government salaries).

“This means we go bust as a charity if we carry on paying them.

“I am angry that I have to change the salaries to ensure that we don’t go bust. I am angry for you and all those affected.

“It is a terrible situation for staff and pretty intolerable to be responsible for all this. However I am determined that Brandon Trust will survive; that we will continue to deliver great support to people and in the future, new jobs will be available.” The chief executive is also aware of the anger and bitterness that frontline staff are feeling. However, it is felt that she does not truly understand the reasons why.

During this ‘harmonisation’ process 500 frontline staff are not only being asked to take a major cut in pay but also accept major changes to their working conditions which involve both sickness and cuts to holiday entitlement.

This, at present, is being proposed by the very line management who are refusing to take part in the ‘harmonisation’ process by imposing the same pay cuts on themselves preferring instead to hide behind benchmarks set by some obscure company and using this as an excuse not to take a cut in wages themselves.

To add insult to injury the trust continue to advertise senior management posts whilst cutting frontline social care workers and freezing many posts.

All frontline staff continue to strive to provide a good strong quality service but with senior management refusing to take part in this ‘harmonisation’ process during these difficult times of recession, this proposal is now being seen as discrimination and victimisation of a large part of its own workforce.

The same workforce who are now asking exactly how well has the trust been managed both past and present.

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED

Horrified

AN OPEN letter to North Somerset Council. On a recent visit to Weston, a rainy and windy Saturday as it happens, I decided to walk my dog on the beach at Uphill.

I was absolutely horrified to find a so-called low season parking charge minimum of �4.50. It should be free. You have no reason to charge in the winter. That’s just money grabbing.

I was born and brought up in Weston and I’m very disappointed how my old home town has changed for the worse.

I hear they are now clamping so-called illegally parked cars nowadays. What’s happening in this country?

It’s all take and no give. It’s fair to say in my opinion that our fathers and grandfathers fought two world wars so that we could live in freedom and not be ruled by dictators and tyrants. I for one will not be spending my hard-earned money in Weston and will be visiting elsewhere on my days off.

RICHARD GRIFFITHS

Loverscombe Farm, Buckfastleigh

Removed

PLEASE can somebody enlighten me as to why a perfectly adequate bus shelter with a seat and protection from the weather has been removed, from the No 3 bus stop at Lark Road, Mead Vale, and replaced with a single panel and no seat affording little shelter from the cold winds and winter rain?

As a nurse in our local hospital I was completely amazed to hear from an elderly patient that this mean and thoughtless operation had been carried out in an area where there are many bungalows housing older residents, thus curtailing their independence and increasing the use of taxis?

LIZZIE DRINKWATER

Atlantic Road, Weston

Adventure

AS A foreigner (Bristolian now retired to Burnham) I would like to add my voice in praise of Weston.

All too often I read moans and groans about so many aspects of the town I first visited more than 60 years ago.

I was born in 1937. Due to the war it was around 1946 when I was first taken to Weston by train. This was an adventure beyond my wildest dreams. At that time my only other adventure had been a train trip to Severn Beach. Wow!

I don’t know when I first visited the open air pool but it instantly became a favourite of mine. When my friends and I were old enough (10 or 11) we would ride our bikes the 20 miles to Weston, primarily to use the pool. Lunch would be a Beetox sandwich or two and a drink of water from a local fountain.

Money was that stuff other people had but we would have a penny or two between us to spend on the pier.

‘What the Butler saw’ was extremely disappointing for the cost of a whole penny. I had overheard my dad speak of another machine called ‘What the Butler didn’t see.’ Despite many hours spent looking for it we never found it.

As a National Service airman I spent six months of 1959 at Locking and took part in the Freedom of Weston parade. We were treated to a dance at the Winter Gardens for our effort.

These days my wife (who lived in Weston for some years) and I frequently visit. We have enjoyed seeing the transformations taking place and cannot understand the unpleasant comments made by some.

When we are visited by our grandchildren (nine at the last count) a visit to Weston is always a must whatever the time of year. Without exception they share our feelings about the town.

We like the changes and additional facilities. We enjoy walks in the woods and appreciate the hard work of the volunteers who have helped to construct the paths which are especially good for the disabled.

But how sad it is that the wishes of Westonians and visitors alike for a swimming pool are beyond those who are supposed to be acting on their behalf.

A good pool is all we want. Using modern design techniques it could be open air to start with and a roof added later when financially viable, which it would most certainly become. No shops, hotel or other accommodation, just a basic food facility and loos.

How about a park and ride or two which would provide much the same revenue as the town’s car parks without the huge amount of traffic polluting the town. As for a large cinema in town? Take a look at other towns. Large cinemas are built on the outskirts of town where parking is no problem. Simples!

Good folk of Weston, if you feel your ‘representatives’ are failing you, then vote them out. Only you have the power. But some of you must bite the bullet and stand against them and be prepared to champion the desires of not only the townspeople, but very many others like me.

TONY DALTON

Osborne Walk, Burnham

Destroyed

I WAS very pleased to read in the Mercury last week that you are highlighting the accident blackspot on the A38 and Biddisham Lane junction.

Our 27-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident at this junction on September 24. Her death has totally destroyed my family and at the moment none of us can see a way forward.

The accident occurred because her driver swerved to avoid a van which was turning into Biddisham Lane and collided with a car coming in the opposite direction.

I have stood at the accident site and watched the traffic trying to get in and out of the lane and I can assure the Somerset Council officials drivers risk their lives and those of their passengers every time they do so.

The speed limit at this part of the A38 is 50mph which means that there is a potential head-on crash speed of 100mph if any incident occurs.

Further down the road towards Brent Knoll on a part of the road with similar, though in my opinion less dangerous hazards, there is 30mph speed limit which is enthusiastically enforced by the police and also has speed cameras.

The approach to the Biddisham junction going towards Brent Knoll is a long straight with 50mph speed limit which is ignored by a majority of drivers.

The warnings of the potential dangers of traffic in the middle of the road turning right are inadequate and lead to the constant accidents and near misses.

I observed a school bus trying to turn out onto the A38 and it is only a question of time before one is involved in a crash. Hopefully not with one of the heavy lorries which speed past at 50+ mph.

In spite of representations from residents supported by Badgworth Parish Council the Somerset County Council highways department gave the usual civil service response to your reporter: “A spokesman for the council said it would need to check how many accidents had occurred at the Biddisham Lane junction before it would consider adding safety improvements there.”

In plain English it will wait until there are X number of deaths and serious injuries before it includes it in its 10-year programme along with the library cuts.

What is needed at the Biddisham Lane junction is a strictly enforced 30mph speed limit and an well marked right turn lane.

My family will not rest until work is in hand to make this junction safer. We are willing to meet Harvey Siggs of the county highways department on site with members of the parish council to discuss the issue. I hope he can sleep at night - we can’t.

RAYMOND HICKS

Hillcote, Bleadon Hill

Junction 21A

IT IS good to see money being available to change Junction 21 on the M5 at Weston but it will never be able to cope with the present increase in traffic no matter what is done.

Why not build Junction 21A at Locking Camp where the Banwell road crosses the M5? There is plenty of land to build an up and down ramp on both carriageways and either have a give way system or traffic lights similar to the junction near Leigh Delamere north of Bristol.

Access would be so easy from Weston from the dual carriageway at Flowerdown roundabout and very little changes needed to the local road system.

D LAWRENCE

Methwyn Close, Weston

Disgraceful

I MUST make my voice heard in the debate regarding the disgraceful decision to demolish the Tropicana.

This decision was made by a very small group of people. Have they a hidden agenda or some personal reason to object to its regeneration.

Why else would they object to a private individual like Mr Nightingale rebuilding what the vast majority of people in Weston want? An enclosed swimming pool with a restaurant, open all year. We have heard of these grandiose plans for cinemas, hotels, car parks etc on the site which were non-starters.

Everyone with any sense could see this was not going to happen. My own experience tells me not to trust planning committees. Some time ago I, and all my neighbours, objected to plans to turn a house in the road into bed-sits. A recipe for disaster.

I organised a campaign to object to these proposals, collecting letters from all the neighbours, writing to every member of the council, and liaising with three councillors with a special interest in my road. All three councillors visited me and agreed with me that permission should not be granted. I attended the planning committee meeting together with another neighbour. Our case came up for discussion.

The chairman of the meeting said: “We have some objections to this proposal but I think we can pass it, all agreed?” Unbelievable, they were going to let this matter pass through without even listening to our objections. It was almost as if we didn’t exist. Fortunately one of the councillors who had visited me stood and said: “Just a minute, a lot of people have objected to this. We ought to discuss it.”

Eventually permission was not granted. We had won, but if we had just written to the planning officers we would have been completely ignored.

I don’t trust planning committees.

Don’t let them get away with this. It’s our Tropicana, we all want it restored, and why should a small group of councillors, who are elected by us, lose a valuable asset?

J HARKER

Ashbury Drive, Weston

Demolished

AFTER a decade of Weston being without a swimming pool our elected council has succeeded in now voting to have the Tropicana demolished.

Even though this council has voted to have the Tropicana demolished we have a consortium of three well-known and successful businessmen, Derek Mead, Kerry Michael and Guillio Ellis, who are willing to at least try to do something, but again they seem to have been rejected out of hand by this council.

The present council committee headed by Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, who abstained from voting, and the other committee members and also members of past committees have given the impression over the past decade that Weston does not need or require a swimming pool.

We are a seaside tourist town which needs to cater not only for the visitors but also the residents. If this insane decision of not having a swimming pool is final could this then lead to a reduction in the number of visitors to our town thus reducing further the monies made by the local business which ultimately would mean that Weston could end up as ghost town as all the main business would be forced to leave?

Was it also down to them, the current committee being responsible for giving the contractors who carried out the refurbishment of the seafront permission to dump all of their rubble into the Tropicana, thus landing us the rate payers with a potential bill of �800,000, for its removal and the subsequent demolition.

Was this a means to an end thus making the development of the Tropicana an uneconomical project?

Should not the �9million being spent on the refurbishment of the town hall also be considered a complete waste of the taxpayers’ money as the majority of the council employees who were based there have been moved to Clevedon?

Would it not be better to give the �800,000 to the Derek Mead consortium so that they could use it towards getting the Tropicana up and running again? Also they may be able to persuade Richard Nightingale to join them as he already has two plans for the redevelopment of the Tropicana drawn up.

Weston can still have its swimming pool but we need to support the people who want to see it happen.

It is time that North Somerset councillors started listening to the people they are elected to represent and not, as it seems, use their position to go against the requirements of those electors.

Finally if the proposal of Mrs J Edwards for a set of stocks to be built is ever taken up, could my name please be added to the list of residents willing to build them?

GEOFF BEAVEN

South Lawns Close, Locking

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