Letters to the Editor, February 14, 2013

Email your letters to andrew.keeble@archant.co.uk or write to us at Opinion, North Devon Gazette, Un

Email your letters to andrew.keeble@archant.co.uk or write to us at Opinion, North Devon Gazette, Unit 3, Old Station Road, Barnstaple, EX32 8PB. Please keep letters to maximum of 300 words and also include your name, address and contact telephone number. - Credit: Archant

Factually incorrect

THOUGH I did not support Weston Town Council’s decision to engage with Insider Knowledge in the preparation of a glossy tourism brochure and website, I do not doubt the sincerity of those who did favour that particular company. One would expect those who earn their living within the world of marketing to be sufficiently adept at selling - even rubbish - and in this respect Insider Knowledge did itself proud.

The town council is reasonably well-regarded, tries its best and in a modest way is achieving results - the water park, museum, Blakehay and cemetery being sound examples, though services provided jointly by both Weston Town Council and North Somerset Council create ratepayer confusion.

So who is ‘responsible’ for tourism? Nobody - is the short answer and since there’s no statutory obligation on either council to run tourism the current arrangement is haphazard. North Somerset Council is in financial difficulty, much of which is not of its own making; budget cuts are severe and many services which are not statutory have been reduced or removed completely.

For North Somerset executive member Cllr Felicity Baker to remonstrate with Weston Town Council leader Cllr Peter Crew in so-ill tempered and public a manner as last week’s report indicated beggars belief and will do little to reassure the local tourism industry. The town council wishes to help local tourism promotion by “filling a void” left by North Somerset’s quite obvious reduction in its tourism budget. That’s a statement of fact, not a criticism of Mrs Baker’s portfolio.

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Bickering between Weston and North Somerset Tories is of no interest to me but, her choice of unfortunate phraseology apart, I am concerned when Cllr Baker claims ‘far more has been going on in Weston since this (ie her) administration took over in 2007 than had happened in the previous 10 years’, for this assumption is factually incorrect.

Major projects are many years in gestation, particularly when public accountability is involved. Marine Lake, Knightstone Island, heritage funding for historic crescents and terraces, flood defences, new promenade (but not the ugly zimmer frame railings), High Street refurbishments and even Dolphin Square were in the pipe-line before 2007; they were not initiated by either Cllr Baker or her current Conservative colleagues.

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Though North Somerset staff may well be ‘working their goolies off’ I cannot think of any tourism project which Mrs Baker has initiated, apart from ill-conceived notions to tamper with the Beach Lawns.

The only brand-new tourism schemes which any Conservative administration created during the past decade are the highly successful water park (and that was at the behest of town council Tories) and Princess Royal Square.

Perhaps her poorly located and interest-limited Tourist Information Centre tucked inside the Winter Gardens Pavilion is best left out of the equation. And the Town Square? That which ought to be a crowd-pulling link between seafront and shopping street is at best lacklustre. Tourism destination towns need to invest, more heavily than might otherwise be expected, in their environment.

North Somerset’s ‘sustainable planting’ (local government speak for grassing over flower beds, refusal to replace felled street trees, conversion of our Ranger Service into nothing more than a beach patrol leaving Weston Woods and Worlebury Encampment without due care and attention) and the dilatory approach to some of our town centre problems do little to create wonderment in the tourist eye.

But at what price do we expect to create wonderment? Nowadays Local Government might help oil the wheels of leisure-time pursuit but actual provision of major tourist facilities is in the hands of risk-taking entrepreneurs, most of whom, I suspect, are more than happy to participate in meaningful discussion though few will want anything to do with those who lean on the crutches of partisan prejudice. Have we learned nothing from years of Tropicana wrangling?


Gerard Road, Weston


THE company delivering the ‘Love Weston’ campaign may have collapsed but we, along with thousands, already do love Weston and feel it has a reputation to cherish.

We are long-standing residents who have recently bought a guesthouse near the seafront and we get daily feedback from visitors. We are told that they like Weston not only for the big attractions but for the fact it is clean, welcoming, accessible and convenient.

The policy to close or charge for the public toilets to save money has the potential to cost the resort many thousands in lost revenue and reputation. Imagine the elderly visitor or visitor with mobility issues who has to make it from Anchor Head to the Sovereign Shopping Centre to use the toilets. Or the young family enjoying Weston’s beach or parks who have to struggle with a buggy to find somewhere convenient to wash their hands or change?

Local restaurants and bars could be potentially deluged with queues of non-paying customers at peak times asking to use their toilets.

The idea of charging is ludicrous and is potentially costly. This could entail an entrance barrier which is unwelcoming, difficult to negotiate with buggies/wheelchairs and very expensive for a family each time they want to wash their hands. Alternatively someone would need to be permanently employed to collect money which will lead to a big financial loss at quieter times.

Or we could actually welcome our visitors, and look after our residents, and allow them to use clean, previously award-winning toilets for free.

We all know the old adage that someone tells one person about a good experience but 10 about a negative one.

Although there is definitely a place for a good campaign promoting Weston further afield we need to make sure we are doing all we can to look after the resort and its visitors when they do arrive.

We are a resort highly dependant on its tourist industry. If Weston gets a reputation for ‘ripping off’ its visitors in these price-conscious times and the footfall of visitors to Weston starts to fall then restaurants, pubs and high street shops will continue to close. This would affect residents and visitors alike and push us into a negative downwards spiral, costing many, many thousands more than will be saved.


Upper Church Road, Weston

A damn insult

I WAS shocked and amazed to read the damning report concerning the Jill Dando Café, saying the service was poor, unreliable and ‘very slow’.

Now it’s my turn to have a say. Lots of people must see my son who is Down’s Syndrome waiting for the bus in the morning and at 3pm on his way from Weston to Winscombe with his little sign with ‘121’ on it.

On Tuesday and Friday he is off to work at the Jill Dando Café, a job that he really loves.

He has a uniform which he is so proud to wear, he helps make cakes, waits on tables and uses the till. To say the service is poor is rubbish, I’ve never had to hang about when I’ve been in there and the word unreliable is a damn insult. Ros and Lynn, who are in charge, are excellent and unreliable is something they are not and the trainees are supervised at all times.

I’ve been in cafés that are far slower than the Jill Dando. Yes, my son needs to be watched on the till to see he gives the right change but that doesn’t take long.

After reading last week’s report I shouldn’t think anyone would want to go near the place.

The Jill Dando Café is clean, welcoming and there are some lovely pictures of Jill around the walls and the cakes are really great. Please readers, don’t take my word for it, go and see for yourself and support my son and his friends, they do not deserve all this.

It’s not about what the Brandon Trust can make out of the café, it’s 100 per cent to teach people skills and to have pride in themselves. It’s a shame that the Blakehay Theatre, where the café is situated is slightly off the beaten track. Leaflets have been put out but I think what it needs is real promotion.

Has anybody got any ideas how I’m to tell my son he’s to lose the job that he loves and that he can’t put on his uniform anymore?


Sandford Road, Winscombe

Full of managers

SOME 10 years ago I considered applying for voluntary positions in the NHS at board level, with the encouragement of the Appointment Commission.

The information packs sent out at Stage 1 consistently spelt out the absolute requirement for the applicants to have a financial background – accountancy, financial directorship, etc.

Either not mentioned at all or low down the list was the need for experience in the clinical aspects of patient care or the forward planning of services to meet the medical needs of local populations. The overriding requirement was, and remains, the determination to fit a size 10 cost into a size eight funding shoe. Of course it was always the size eight that was too small.

The new MARS initiative is the latest manifestation and reflects the fact that staff wages and pension contributions represent up to 50 per cent of the trust’s overheads. If the scheme is completely successful it could result in a rapidly expanding local population being served by a hospital almost devoid of nursing and medical staff, but full of managers, with many services devolved onto an already overloaded primary care, where the cost of running them seems to be so much less (at the moment).

If that is the trust board’s vision for the future, who could blame any staff member for being despondent and seeking a mutually agreed severance as soon as possible.

Why are these initiatives always made by the very people whose numbers need to be massively reduced? When I served on the board of the old Weston Hospital, on the Boulevard, from the early 1970s, the management structure consisted of no more than six or seven people, mostly clinicians, and it worked well, with a much bigger hospital bed base than today.


Queens Road, Weston

Good husbandry

HAVING received my copy of North Somerset Life, lovingly known as the council propaganda pamphlet, I was pleased to see, from a recent survey, that 52 per cent of those who replied expressed an overall satisfaction with the way the council runs things.

It appears the questionnaire was sent out to a random selection of residents and nearly 2,500 replied - unfortunately there is no reference to how many questionnaires were sent out. It is reported that 37 per cent of those who replied believe the council gives value for money, 21 per cent disagree and a rather large 43 per cent are neutrals. Perhaps somebody will explain how one becomes a neutral person.

I am surprised that 39 per cent are happy with the pavements and 28 per cent happy with the roads in the district - these are obviously the housebound.

What I really want to know is why it is necessary to publish a glossy magazine and spend money on posting it to all households. In these times of financial restraint I would have thought it would be more practical to take a page advertisement in the Midweek Mercury and other free papers within the district.

There would then be no need to fork out for an independent research organisation to conduct a survey, it could be included in the free papers. Good husbandry, like charity, begins at home, and this should also apply to North Somerset Council.


Clarence Grove Road, Weston

New romances

THE LEAD-UP to Valentine’s Day is an exciting time. Lots of people, young and old, will be starting up new romances and many of these will lead to sexual relationships.

For those who think about the potential unintended consequences of these things, it is also a timely reminder of why sexual health services, like testing and prevention of STIs, are so important.

We are only weeks away from these services being handed over to our council as part of the Government’s health reforms. This comes at a time when the number of people living with HIV has trebled in the last 10 years to over 100,000 (one in four of whom don’t know they have it) and over 500,000 STIs in total are diagnosed each year, most of them in our young people.

I hope that our council understands the importance of sexual health to local people, even though it may not be the most visible and talked about of problems. I wish them all the best in dealing with these important problems so that people can pursue their new-found romances as safely and enjoyably as possible.


Milton Road, Weston


AS OUR wonderful council has saved £13million, why doesn’t it spend some of it on the roads?

On the Bournville, the roads are in an appalling condition.

I know they filled in last winter’s potholes in November, but the roads are no better.

Also, the pavements are disgusting. I reported the pavement opposite the police garage about six or seven years ago, after falling over. I was told that someone would have a look and something would be done about it. Has anything been done? Not a thing. It is now much worse going from Winterstoke Road to Holms Road during the wet weather, you need wellington boots, because of the puddles. I also think speed bumps should be put in place along Stuart Road.

I know the Bournville estate is not liked but don’t know why as there is nothing wrong with it now.


Holms Road, Weston


I DO not think the residents will think the parking meters are as successful as the council assumes.

There has been no rubbish collection in the side streets for three weeks as the lorry can no longer get down the street due to the parked cars using the spaces instead of meters.

One resident has been without heating for 10 days due to the engineer not being able to park.

Another has sold his car because he cannot afford the cost of parking outside his own home, as the permits are for an extra hour in the morning and afternoon the rest of the time he has to pay.

Perhaps we could all park our cars in the councillors’ homes and block them in, so they have rubbish outside for weeks and they can’t get workmen in to do heating jobs.

Maybe that is the only way the decision can be reversed. They have certainly lost a great many votes.

Ironically all the meters in Alfred Street were empty.


Severn Avenue, Weston


I HAVE just returned from walking my dog in Clarence Park (sports field side where dogs are permitted off the lead).

To my horror I discovered someone had just dumped what can only be described as leftover party food on a low tree stump - perfect height for hungry dogs.

The food included large chunks of dark chocolate (highly toxic to dogs), crisps, ham, sweets, meringues, biscuits, bread and raw chicken.

I am outraged that someone thinks it’s OK to dump their leftover food in a public space. Maybe they think they are being ‘kind’ to nature but they are actually causing horrible problems for dog walkers and it’s incredibly selfish.

There have been a number of sick dogs who regularly walk in Clarence Park (my own included) and I really want to highlight how wrong it is to put down waste food like this. It’s also not the first time I’ve seen this happen in Clarence Park.

I cleared up the food with the help of fellow dog walkers and binned it.


Clarence Road North, Weston

They were facts

I WOULD like to reply with a correction of my own to Helen Thornton’s reply to my letter.

The figures for what your union cost us taxpayers in North Somerset were obtained from your employer under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, therefore they must be correct.

I am quite aware that employers are obliged to give union reps time off, that wasn’t my point. The point I was trying to make was instead of beating your gums and blaming everyone else for the massive savings that have to be made, try starting at home.

The unions cost the taxpayer millions of pounds. If your union can afford to pay its leader more than our own Prime Minister, it can afford to pay you for your time off whilst on union duties. According to Unite’s annual return for 2010, Derek Simpson, Unite’s retiring leader, received £510,659, the bulk comprising of £361,347 in severance pay. He also received £97,677 in gross salary, and more than £51,000 in housing benefit and car allowances. Audited returns therefore they must be correct. Not only are they taking you for mugs they are taking the taxpayers for mugs. Refer that sentence to your statement that the people at the top of the pile in the private sector earn more than the public sector. The big difference also is that the private sector doesn’t cost the taxpayer.

You say that public sector works pay has been frozen for three years, there are a lot of private sector workers who have had an actual pay cut and because of that have had to stop paying into their pension schemes because they can’t afford it, but they still have to pay into yours via their taxes.

So Helen, it wasn’t misinformation, as you put it, they were facts.


Bristol Road, Hewish

I think not

I WAS driving along the seafront quite early on the first sunny spring-like morning of the year.

People walking their dogs, people jogging, a jet skier out taking advantage of the tide. Weston seafront looking its best in the morning sunshine.

Making my way home, the traffic lights adjacent to the new hotel were at red. Two other motorists and I were waiting for the lights to change were all passed by eight cyclist, all wearing their safety helmets and safety coloured clothing, taking no notice of the traffic lights, still at red, they calmly all crossed the junction as though it’s a regularly done thing and OK to do so because we are all very keen sportsmen out on our bikes. All these people were adults and it left me wondering what responsibilities they had in their day-to-day job.

Thank goodness you were wearing your safety helmet, I can hear the police officer saying on his way to breathalyse, question and arrest the other legal road users out that sunny morning.

Adult, responsible, dedicated sportsmen. I think not.


Burnham Close, Bleadon

Very grateful

I RECENTLY had a fall as I was carrying my recycling boxes outside for collection, and I now have a nasty sprain to my ankle.

The recycling crew rushed to assist me and helped me back on my feet. I wanted to thank them for their kindness, so I emailed North Somerset Council, but it seems my comments were not passed on.

What a shame that complaints are highlighted regularly, but compliments are neglected. The crew were very friendly and kind, and I am very grateful to them.


Worlebury Close, Weston

Try again

I SENT a letter last week regarding the withdrawal by the Tory-run North Somerset Council (NSC) of £250,000 for our youth network.

I asked your readers to visit a survey which I had compiled on the SurveyMonkey website asking their opinion about the huge allowances claimed by North Somerset councillors and gave them the chance to respond to my suggestions. Unfortunately it would appear that there was a problem on this website which prevented visits to it. I have now corrected the problem and can I ask your readers try again at:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/T5655GL and give me their reactions to my questions. I would dearly love to see literally hundreds and hundreds of responses so that I can present the results to the leaders of the council.


Labour Party Representative – Wyvern Ward

South Lawn, Locking


I WOULD like to thank the driver of First Bus 126 who left my wife and me stranded on Weston front yesterday.

We were going to catch the 4pm bus and were approaching the terminus with about five minutes to spare when the bus began to move off. I attempted to wave him to stop, which he did, and he told us that due to roadworks the service was, for the next two weeks, beginning from Tesco. He then closed the bus doors and drove off.

We are in our late 70s and then had to walk all the way over to Tesco to catch the next bus, one hour later.

I am aware that it may policy not to pick up passengers other than at official stops, but in this case the bus was only a few yards from the stop, and the driver could see that we were both elderly and my wife is partly disabled and walking with a stick and, under the circumstances, he could have made an exception and let us on the bus.


Fieldway, Sandford


As young residents of Weston, we would like to express our complete disappointment with the news that yet another of our High Street clothing retailers is due to close.

While we appreciate that Topshop’s decision to close is due to lack of revenue, it is also obvious that our High Street is becoming a joke.

No wonder these stores are not doing well when the only shops that seem to open are pound shops, phone shops, and charity shops. How many more does one high street need?

Being a tourist town, councillors obviously don’t understand that although tourists may spend a day on the pier, they certainly would not be drawn to spending any money in the High Street with the embarrassing variety of shops that remain. Not only does the current parking situation discourage us, but the lack of shops and enthusiasm from councillors to improve Weston makes us even more determined to jump in our cars and spend our money in Cribbs Causeway where parking is not only free but we can buy more than a second hand skirt and a new mobile phone.

Megan Stamp and Caitlin Reynolds

All Saints Road, Weston

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