Letters to the Editor February 9

Couldn’t cope

RECENTLY I contacted Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, the Conservative councillor for Locking area, regarding the recycling problems this Christmas, in the absence of snow this year.

It seems due to us recycling so much the team couldn’t cope with extra items at this time.

Surely they should have anticipated this whilst boasting refuse will be collected on dates given and even bank holidays, etc.

Whilst on the phone I asked why so many yellow lines have been placed across pavements in the town centre? With a blue badge issued to me, as I fall within the required category of persons unable to walk easily for more than 50 yards, I tried to explain why shopping is difficult in Weston.


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These lines mean no loading or unloading. Yellow lines along the road by the edge of the kerb allow parking for disabled badge holders.

Cllr Ap Rees kept telling me there are at least three car parks near shops. When I explained they were too far away for my husband to take me in my wheelchair he said ‘I see your mind is made up, there is no shifting your thoughts on this.’ I explained my arms swell if I have to self-propel my wheelchair. His reply was the residents of Weston obviously think he is doing good work for the town – they voted him in yet again.

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I suggested he didn’t seem to read the Mercury as he seemed ignorant of public views.

His reply was no he didn’t read the Mercury, the Mercury is aware of how he feels, it is the same people writing in each week, people who are ignorant of facts and write a lot of rubbish.

How does he build up this view if he doesn’t read it?

He wouldn’t know how often letters are written by the few each week.

Thank goodness we have a few Liberal town councillors and North Somerset councillors to try to stop the extra parking charges.

Finally for the free access to the museum and water park, etc, as we already pay with our rates. However we haven’t got enough ward members to alter all the things they want to do to our town. Liberal Democrat councillors did win to stop councillor pensions, the panel agreed councillors should not be permitted to join the local government pension scheme and this will cut �30,000 from the bill.

GILLIAN THORPE

Underwood Avenue, Weston

Apologies

SINCERE apologies to the owner of a black cat who ran straight under my car by Wilton Gardens on January 27.

If he/she had had a name tag I would have come and seen you in person. I am a cat lover and feel absolutely distraught that this has happened. Unfortunately despite my best efforts I was unable to avoid this accident.

I hope you accept my apologies.

J JAMES

Broadoak Road, Weston

Statistically

THE article in the Mercury appears to have missed the point that Sky was trying to make - statistically the Bournville still has many problems to overcome, is blighted with high levels of unemployment and benefits dependency.

Let’s not let the local councillors pretend that they are blameless for the conditions that prevail in the South Ward. Maybe some of them are past their sell-by date or maybe they have become so used to chasing photo opportunities, that the real reason they became involved in local politics is now passing them by.

Can we please ask them to focus on the impending closure of the St John’s Youth Club and get proper public opinion and support to ensure that one of the positive groups on the estate does not get flushed away because of their incompetence?

NIGEL LINDORES

Grasmere Drive, Weston

Sexual abuse

CONGRATULATIONS to your reporters’ excellent story and coverage in last week’s Mercury on the local paedophile teacher and his sexual abuse of young children.

The story prompts me to express a personal opinion on the subject.

There is an unspeakable quality about paedophiles’ depravity that causes so many of us, instinctively, to turn away.

What shield is reason, what value argument when confronted with the sexual abuse of children for pleasure, behaviour lower than a beast? Yet an attempt to understanding must continue to be made, as a path not to forgiveness but more to action. Doctors, police and politicians have a duty to preventing the recurrence of behaviour which, by its very nature, holds criminals in its grip.

Paedophilia is a different order from most other criminal offences, not just in its capacity to shock but in the pathology of its perpetrators.

Every day, every night on the streets of our cities and towns are homes to thousands of children. But those who prey on them, it is only a step from sex crimes to murder at the hands of these vile men whose lust and insatiable appetite never seems to be satisfied.

Paedophile behaviour is obsessive and compulsive.

Shallow immersion in the crime, through child pornography or indecent exposure to minors, can feed a desire to go further into more intense and inevitably evil acts.

Even those paedophiles who acknowledge, and at times, abhor their own inclination are overwhelmingly likely to continue to offend.

These perverted misfits of men who prey on innocent children to satisfy their heinous craving for sex leave me searching for the appropriate words to describe my revulsion and abhorrence.

I don’t really know but it could be that the so-called experts got it all wrong.

For example, if you read the definitive works of such respected specialists as Haverlock Ellis (no relation), the most famous authority of the study of sex, D J West, Kenneth Walker, and Dr Anthony Storr, to mention just four; they all came up with the same conclusions and blamed society, the environment, family life – or lack of it, and umpteen other things to excuse the paedophile his disgusting habits.

The experts repeatedly tell us that the sexual seduction of children by adults for sex purposes is generally regarded with horror (that’s an understatement), which they say precludes rational discussion (try telling that to a parent whose child has been molested and abused).

When there is a report in the press or on television of sexual abuse of children many people who are usually of a kindly disposition, demand flogging, execution, castration or life imprisonment.

As far as I am concerned the laws of this land must at all times be observed.

But for this, I would like to see this pestilence in our society on the end of the gut feeling of the people whose children have endured the misery at the hands of these repulsive individuals who will have left their victims with a horrifying, indelible imprint on their minds for a lifetime.

RON ELLIS

Westbrook Road, Milton

Every success

WE ARE 100 per cent behind Save our Tropicana scheme by The Trop WSM Ltd, and wish it every success with its campaign, and for all the people who feel the same.

Let’s bring it on.

DENISE AND PETER JACOBS

Whitecross Road, Weston

Petty

I HAVE read with some amusement the articles about the A-boards being confiscated and how this has affected the various businesses. I do feel that the council is being petty to take such action.

However as a trader in the covered market I feel that we have been hung out to dry by the council, the developers and the media.

First the press has broadcast for the last three years that we were going to be ‘demolished’ or ‘bulldozed’ by December 2011.

The council closed Walliscote Grove Road so that the council offices can be refurbished.

The development then started on the seafront car park, the other end of Carlton Street.

The developers changed their dates to September 2012 apparently because of the council.

People assume that we have gone. We are still here, the market and most of the shops trying to make a living until September with no support from the town council or the press. Now Carlton Street Car Park has closed down as well. Short of putting armed guards at the front of the square they have now isolated us completely.

GINA SIMPSON

Tea Cabin Cafe, Covered Market, Dolphin Square, Weston

Brown’s

IT WAS of great interest to me to see the photograph of Brown’s Caf�, as I was a member of staff working there.

I can say yes there was a large bakery employing quite a number of staff.

It also had access from North Street sharing the same lane as Lawrence Brothers the printers.

Coming from the bakery through the boiler room was the finishing room and one lady would ice the wedding and birthday cakes.

It was a very large building run by two brothers, Maurice and Rex Brown.

MARGARET DAVIES

Wells Close, Weston

Visitors

I MUST respond to the letter sent by Ian Pitch of Winscombe. I live in Weston and I meet folk that live and work in Weston.

It’s down to forward thinking and planning. Weston depends on its visitors and that’s about four million per year. Then we ask why do they come to Weston?

First we have one of the best seafronts and that was funds well spent. Then we have a good range of shops and it’s easy to get to via the M5 motorway.

So now we must ask how do we keep them coming. We must provide for their needs.

So the Trop is a scab on the seafront doing nothing, just sitting there for the last 12 years.

Was it decided by the council 12 years ago that it was no longer needed and it was just a matter of time before they could get rid of it? I think so.

So it does not make money it runs at a loss. The same was said about the splash park and just look how well that does.

Now we go on to the cost that can be off-set by increasing the number of visitors. If we can get an increase of a �100,000 per year each paying �7 to park their car that is an increase of �700,000 that would off-set the cost of running the Trop plus the money they spend in the shops might stop the shops closing.

ROY BEN

Oldmixon Road, Weston

One man

IAN Pitch appears to be conducting a one man campaign against the re-building of the Tropicana and must be loved by the council.

I respect anybody having a point of view but I must take issue with some of his comments in his most recent letter.

Ian makes a point that previous schemes have fallen because of parking demands, a proposal that has met with strong public disapproval in the past.

Richard Nightingale wanted parking on the beach and as the council already has beach parking, to which the public have not complained, how can this be public disapproval.

He also queries the claim that 80 per cent of the population favour the rebuilding. There never has been a general vote on the subject but if the letters of support and general comments are to go by not many would argue that 80 per cent is a fair estimate.

Finally Ian refers to an old ad-hoc petition that has no means of verification and asks for proof that it contained 25,000 signatures.

Richard Whittington spent the last years of his life collecting signatures from townsfolk and visitors alike and on most days could be seen on his mobility scooter either in the High Street or on the seafront.

He then drove on his scooter to London to present his petition and there can be no doubt about his dedication to the cause.

I have no doubt that the figure of 25,000 is correct but unfortunately Richard cannot confirm the exact figure because he sadly passed away last year - a fact obviously overlooked by Ian Pitch.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

Key issues

I THINK D R Mead protests too much in his letter ‘Barriers’ last week. He portrays North Somerset Council as the villains of the peace regarding his planned redevelopment of the Tropicana. But he misses out some key issues.

In its January 23 press release, The Trop (WSM) Ltd told us that its scheme was subject to council approval being given for its application to build 1,600 homes at Parklands. In other words, they appear to be trying to force the council’s hand with such a quid pro quo: ‘Let us build a load of houses or we’ll drop you all in it again.’

Under any other circumstances, imagine the outcry that would follow if such a tactic was allowed to succeed – your columns would be swamped with complaining letters.

The press release also said that they want the council to give them some land for car parking. But has Mr Mead forgotten the public protest when such a proposal was made in the past? Why should it be any different now?

He tells us that The Trop (WSM) Ltd is made up of established local businessmen and women to suggest the project’s sound financial backing, but the press release stated that it needs to apply for grants to cover redevelopment costs.

So does the company have all the money it needs or not? And what if these grants are denied? Can it raise the cash elsewhere or will it bale out at the last minute like all the previous attempts, and leave the council (and us taxpayers) high and dry yet again?

Lastly, Mr Mead seems to be cynically playing the ‘heritage’ card. He says that his group is currently in ‘the campaign phase’ of its development proposals and urges the public to add their names to a petition.

Spurred on by a patriotic World War One image and stirring words, we are encouraged to join him and his friends to fight the good fight on their behalf. But if their case is so strong and their financial position so sound, why do they need such a crusade?

Somehow, things just don’t appear quite as rosy as we are being led to believe. Or, as the saying goes, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

AMY KNIGHTS

Lower Bristol Road, Weston

Another town

FURTHER to the reams of correspondence that has appeared in the Mercury over the years on the subject of the future of the Tropicana, might I draw your readers’ attention to the story of another seaside town, Worthing?

Like Weston, it also had a seafront swimming pool that had become rather tired, but its local council, unlike ours, took immediate steps to do something about it. It was able to get the Royal Institute of British Architects to run a competition to design a new pool in 2009, once a decision had been made to replace the existing 1960s building, with the result that Worthing now has a brand-new council-run pool.

North Somerset Council leaders believe stand-along swimming pools are no longer viable, but this would not appear to be a view shared by the people in Sussex. I would invite sceptics to look at their website: http://www.worthingleisure.co.uk/worthingleisure/aq/newswimmingpool/

Perhaps their precipitate action in beginning to demolish our Tropicana will be stopped and The Trop (WSM) Ltd’s planning application will be successful. We can only hope.

TIMOTHY WEBB

Belgrave Road, Weston

Flattened

IF IT is eventually decided to demolish the Tropicana, would it not be easier, quicker and probably cheaper, to blow it up?

A few well-placed charges should do the trick. What a pity dear old Fred Dibnah is no longer with us. He would have flattened it in no time!

ALLEN GOULD

Laburnum Road, Weston

Refreshing

HOW refreshing it was to read some common-sense on the Tropicana affair in your Opinion column last week.

After countless ill-informed letters claiming that there is a majority of Weston residents in favour of keeping the pool, Andrew Weaver and Ian Pitch both hit the nail on the head. Enough is enough and it’s way past time to demolish the ruin.

It’s hard to believe that a group of businessmen can suddenly come up with a workable solution when so many others have failed in the past.

PETER JOHNSON

Stonewell Park Road, Congresbury

Not a she

IN HORROR (February 2) I read that Mr Headington considers the Tropicana to be a ‘she’.

It is not a ‘she’, Mr Headington. It is an ‘it’.

LESLEY ASMAN

Hawthorn Hill, Weston

Rather different

I AM writing to correct the comments made by one of your letter writers in last week’s Mercury about so-called ‘gold-plated’ public sector pensions.

The reality is actually rather different because the average local government pension is �4,000 per year for men and �2,600 for women – hardly gold-plated.

It should also be pointed out that local government workers are also taxpayers, and national insurance contribution payers.

In addition local government workers contribute an average of 6.4 per cent of their salaries to their pensions. The local government pension scheme is affordable – it is well financed with income from investments and contributions massively exceeding expenditure on benefits.

The Government has recognised this fact, along with the fact that the proposed 50 per cent increase in contributions would turn out to be a false economy by forcing many workers to opt out of the scheme and consequently have to rely on the state in retirement.

As a result the ongoing pensions negotiations are now looking at other ways to find the money that the Government wants to take out of the pension scheme to pay down the deficit.

The local government pension scheme also has investments in some of the UK’s top companies, and is therefore creating jobs and regenerating the economy.

It is not subsidised by private sector workers, and it is not paid for by council taxpayers – only 5 per cent of the income collected through council tax goes to our pension fund as part of the employer’s contribution.

If the residents of North Somerset think that they are paying for our pensions, then they also need to realise that they are paying for the pensions of private sector workers, because private companies simply add the costs of pensions to the prices they charge us. Quite simply we all pay for each other’s pensions.

In fact the really gold-plated pensions are to be found in the private sector, where chief executives award themselves large pensions, while offering something much less substantial to their workers - if they offer them anything at all.

In local government our chief executive is in exactly the same pension scheme as all local government workers.

I would also like to clarify the point I made about the council tax freeze grant, which Central Government has offered all local authorities this year, and which a number of councils, including Conservative administrations have rejected on the grounds that it will create black holes in their budgets for future years, and because rejecting it is the only way to protect vital public services.

The council tax freeze grant is not a good deal for councils for a number of reasons. First as a grant equivalent to 2.5 per cent of council tax income it is well under inflation, and this means that councils’ incomes aren’t keeping up with their costs – we are currently seeing parish councils raise their precepts for this very reason. Second, the freeze grant is only funded for one year, which means councils will have a hole in their budget for next year and every year after that. In North Somerset’s case this means that every year from 2013 onwards they will have �2.3million less to spend on services, and this is on top of the �50million of cuts they are currently making.

The consequence of this budget hole is likely to be either much steeper council tax increases in future years or even deeper cuts to services.

If instead the council reject the freeze grant and increase council tax by between 2.55 per cent up to the cap of 3.5 per cent this money would remain in their budget for subsequent years.

We have calculated that a 3.5 per cent increase over the next three years would give them an extra �10million in their budget for services, at a cost of �3.35 per month for the average council taxpayer.

Residents of North Somerset who have elderly relatives, disabled relatives, children and young people in their families may want to consider whether paying what amounts to an extra �40 a year is a price worth paying to lessen some of the massive cuts the council will be making to services for our most vulnerable residents.

Those North Somerset residents who have been campaigning recently to have street lights turned back on, or to save youth services might also want to consider what the council could do with this extra money.

A rejection of the council tax freeze grant will send a clear message to Westminster that North Somerset Council, as a low-funded authority, cannot provide essential services on the current levels of Government funding, and that increasing council tax is the only way to protect vital public services to our most vulnerable citizens.

Finally, an increase in council tax is not about our pensions – it’s about services for the most vulnerable people in North Somerset and ultimately it’s up to the residents of North Somerset to decide whether those services are worth paying for.

But I for one think that North Somerset will be a very poor place to live if residents aren’t prepared to pay a bit extra to protect services to the vulnerable.

HELEN THORNTON

Unison, Town Hall, Weston

Forfeiture

WITH the recent appearance of the little-known Honours Forfeiture Committee and the withdrawal of Fred Goodwin’s knighthood, isn’t it time to re-examine the continuing ennoblement of the disgraced Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare?

Our town is taking great strides to improve its image and facilities for the 21st century. Is it right that it should still suffer the indignity of being inextricably linked, in the public eye, to a man who was found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice and spent two years in prison?

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

Thank you

I WOULD like to thank everyone who helped me when I fell down the steps of the Salvation Army after an over 60s meeting.

Majors Margaret and Gordon and the lady from Scallys who wrapped me in a blanket while I lay on the pavement waiting for the ambulance.

So many people stopped wanting to help me, and some people who were around doing other things left what they were doing and came to help.

The paramedics were excellent as were the staff at A and E. Whilst I am cut and bruised I am still here to tell the tale. Thank you all.

MARILYN KEEN

Windermere Avenue, Weston

Declaration

IN FEBRUARY 2008, 27 Tory MPs, including John Penrose, signed a declaration in the Daily Telegraph stating their intention of being more accountable to their constituents.

This initiative was inspired by a desire to draw a distinction between these principled new blades and the discredited Parliamentarians that had gone before.

Indeed such was the sense of duty proffered by these honourable members that they gave notice to the Parliamentary old guard, stating “you have had your day, things are going to be very different now”.

Given that Mr Penrose was a signatory to this declaration, and that he recently voted against the wishes of the majority of his constituents in denying them a debate on EU membership, I wonder is he still so idealistic, or has his elevation to junior minister brought about a realignment of his priorities?

A JOHNSTONE

Shrubbery Road, Weston

I WAS delighted to read on the front page of last week’s Weston Mercury how best-selling novelist Terry Pratchett has helped to launch a �4.4million wildlife hospital appeal at Secret World wildlife rescue centre at East Huntspill to help save injured and sick wildlife and provide practical experience for trainee vets across the UK.

In my opinion Secret World founder Pauline Kidner has done a remarkable job caring for our sick and injured wildlife since she set up Secret World wildlife rescue centre more than 25 years ago.

On average about 40 cubs are brought in each spring, making this the most significant hospital for badgers.

The cost of running the hospital at Secret World is astonishing. There are about six full-time members of staff and around 30 volunteers visiting the site during busy times of year. On top of that there is the cost of food for the animals and their treatment. There are various ways in which we can all help. The simplest being to pay a visit to the hospital on one of its open days. During the course of the year it has about 20 open days, usually arranged around bank holidays.

There is no charge for entry but donations are welcome. Most of the money raised to care for the animals comes from small donations. So we can all sponsor an animal or arrange to make a regular small donation.

Secret World founder Pauline Kidner is truly a remarkable woman, who deserves all the help she can get for making a better world for our wildlife out there. So I hope everyone out there will dig deep into their pockets to get the new �4.4million wildlife hospital.

D F COURTNEY

Victoria Park, Weston

WHILE the debate continues over the merits of North Somerset Council switching off street lights in order to save money I am amused by the importance given to one area of the town.

While all else around is plunged into darkness the public conveniences at Royal Sands stand proudly bathed in light.

They are floodlit from above by not one, not two, but by as many as five streetlights, all within about 30 metres.

Perhaps someone in authority had a ‘tinkle’ with the switch off plans!

ANDY NEWMAN

Quantock Road, Weston

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