Letters to the Editor, May 14, 2015

letters

- Credit: Archant

I WRITE to share my appreciation of all the volunteers who contributed to the recent democracy activities: people who believe in something and were proactive.

Those that were involved with folding paper or addressing envelopes, maybe missing holidays or family time, perhaps pounding the pavement and dealing with angry letterboxes all because they value something that I value too: democracy.

So thank you to everyone from all the party teams, as well as those who proudly supported an Independent candidate, who went into their communities to distribute their messages and facilitate democracy.

Secondly I would also like to thank Simon, Tom, Sarah and the Mercury team for truly excellent election coverage. I felt their professional and positive approach put the majority of our national newspapers to shame as our local team focused on facts and making information accessible and politically neutral.

They produced a great video about the changes to the council seats, what the two types of Councils do and how devolution of power makes local elections all the more important.


You may also want to watch:


They ran a live stream, hashtags for social media and interactive services for complete coverage of hustings and election activity.

These, coupled with their clear printed information, must have helped ensure their readership were in-the-know and confident voters. So to the local newspaper team again a big thank you is sent.

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RACHEL LING

@localrachel, Osborne Road, Weston

SO THE North Somerset electorate has returned an increased majority of Conservative councillors who now occupy 36 of the 51 seats on North Somerset Council (NSC) – an unhealthy majority when consensus ‘politics’ is desperately needed for the administration of the area as a whole.

One of Weston’s previous Members of Parliament, Sir Jerry Wiggin, was guest speaker at the initial annual general meeting of the Back To Somerset campaign at the Grand Atlantic Hotel in 1989. His opening remarks were: “The worst thing that ever happened in local government was when councillors started sitting together and voting together”. Until that moment, local people stood for election in their own name, for example Mrs Smith, Mr Brown without any labels - although some described themselves as ‘ratepayers’ to emphasis their local connection. They stood for the good of the town, believing that they had a contribution to make to its future.

Some were business people – every council needs their acumen - who possibly had personal agendas or business interests to promote but if those interests coincided with Weston’s there was a win-win situation of mutual benefit to both parties.

It is to be regretted that the nature of last Thursday’s elections was lost on the vast majority of local people. Only a small minority (possibly 5 per cent) arriving at the polling stations I visited as a candidate in the Uphill ward was aware that there were three elections to be voted on. Many looked at me in utter amazement when I asked them if they knew they would be faced with three ballot papers: for Parliament, for NSC and for Weston Town Council (WTC). A significant number thought there were two elections (I didn’t ask which two) but a great number were only expecting to vote for their preferred Parliamentary candidate.

The result was that a considerable number of people had to make up their mind who to vote for locally on the spur of the moment with pencil in hand.

I believe that the reasons for this were two-fold. Firstly, candidates made insufficient attempts to deliver their leaflets to every household in the ward. Deciding to concentrate leafleting to areas in which they believe their supporters to live is to deny, for example, the many Labour supporters who live on Bleadon Hill or in Broadoak and the many Conservative supporters who live on the Coronation, the opportunity to make up their own minds about who to vote for. ¬Everyone is entitled to see all the available literature from all of the candidates.

Secondly, at the risk of offending the editor of this newspaper, Mercury coverage of the impending elections was poor – and confusing. I received telephone calls from people who were planning to vote for me but had failed to find my name in the Mercury. Fortunately, I was able to explain that I was standing for a seat on NSC and they were looking at the list of candidates for WTC. Mixing reports for Westminster and WTC one week on the same page was confusing for those not familiar with such matters – confusion compounded the next week when there was similar reporting on the Westminster election and NSC. In future, I would suggest that no two elections are anticipated on the same page. It would be far better if all three reports appear on separate pages in the same edition. The readership needs assistance and clarification.

Despite his huge majority, I hope that Cllr Nigel Ashton will opt for a more sympathetic approach to Weston because the overwhelming feeling amongst local people is that his administration has treated Weston simply as a cash cow. Its roads are a disgrace compared with those in Clevedon, Portishead and Nailsea, residents only pay to park in Weston not in those other towns and visitor parking charges on the seafront can only deter families from returning. This generates considerable ill-feeling amongst Westonians of all political persuasions and none. Worse still is the fact that Weston is no longer the ‘Smile in Smiling Somerset’ it was when I first started to vote. It is no longer the welcoming place it was when it drew in thousands of visitors from far and wide. Go down to the Dorset coast as my wife and I did a few weeks ago: we paid hardly more than £1 to park anywhere and, of course, the toilets were all open and free to use.

The new administration must become more aware of the neglect Weston has suffered for several years and the resentment that has generated in local people. Over to you, Mr Ashton.

JOHN LEY-MORGAN

Independent councillor for Uphill Ward

Elmsleigh Road, Weston

I AM absolutely stunned at the outcome of the district elections in which the same tired Conservative politburo maintained a stranglehold on the newly elected council.

I had the honour and privilege to stand as a candidate for North Somerset First Independents along with my colleague Anita Smith.

During the build up we met with many of the electorate who, whilst not pledging support for us spoke of their utter despair and total loss of confidence in the Conservative-led administration and the overwhelming comment was that they would support anyone who would ‘ get rid of that lot’.

We have now been inflicted with governance through apathy which is exactly what this council were relying on. They will now go ahead and destroy the tourist industry, the retail sector and rip the heart out of Weston to ensure they get their published wish to turn us into a university town. They will pay only lip service to the needs of the retail sector and tourist market whilst killing off the very reason why holidaymakers come here. Having done that they will then systematically sell off all the remaining assets as they will be ‘unviable and uneconomical’ to maintain.

I am sorry if this sounds like sour grapes from a losing candidate. It certainly is not but it is a painful and heartfelt cry of despair.

As a true believer that local matters should not be determined by sheep-like party politics I intend to continue, along with other North Somerset First Independents to carry this fight to the council. I and my other NS1 friends will be monitoring every move this council makes and will ensure that they are made to account for each and every decision made.

We have a voice in the council chamber with Derek Mead elected as a North Somerset First district councillor which, I am sure, will be heard and I have every confidence that your cares and concerns will be in safe hands should you wish to contact him.

I would urge all those who care about our wonderful town to attend the public council meetings and ensure you are fully aware of how and why the decisions made on your behalf are taken.

I would also like to express my delight at the number of the electorate who did vote, not just for Anita Smith and myself but for all my NS1 candidates. I thank each and every one of you who cast your vote in our favour and by doing so proved that there is, indeed, a groundswell of opinion against a council that is rapidly dragging Weston to its knees. To you all I would urge that you keep that faith, spread the news that there are Independent men and women out there who are prepared to stand up to the bulldozer council and fight for a better, fairer community.

We will not go away.

JULIAN NORRIS

North Somerset First Independent

Old Mill Way, Weston

WHAT a depressing result the 2015 election produced, both nationally and locally. From a national viewpoint, it makes us ashamed to live in a country where a large number of our fellow citizens seem content to allow those less fortunate to have their benefits slashed, to rely on food banks and to be exploited by greedy private landlords and letting agencies; to witness the creeping privatisation of the NHS, to see essential public services decimated and accept the ruthless exploitation of workers through zero hour contracts, safe in the knowledge that their chosen Government will ensure that their own taxes are not increased.

It seems to us that the “I’m alright Jack” brigade is flourishing in England and will be well looked after by the new Tory Government.

From a local standpoint, how can voters continue to allow the Tories to dominate? They have proved themselves to be incapable of developing the Tropicana and Dolphin Square whilst arrogantly refusing to consider the views of local people. Weston town centre is, to put it mildly, a dump that continues to go downhill rapidly whilst attempting to avoid the numerous potholes as it does so. Again, rather than agree, for instance, to a modest increase in council tax, it seems that the majority of local citizens would rather watch their town deteriorate before their very eyes.

Despite being far from financially comfortable, we consider ourselves fortunate to be in the final few years of paying off the mortgage on our modest terraced house. Full time employment within the public sector, which continues for one of us, has enabled us to reach this position. Many younger people, however, will not be able to achieve even this by the time they approach the end of their working lives. The majority of those, far from having chosen a life on benefits, will have worked hard in low paid, often part-time employment whilst at the same time passing over a large proportion of their income to their private landlord, supplemented, of course, by housing benefit as their wages will not have been enough to meet the obscene cost of their rent.

The one good thing to come out of this election is that the Tories will have no one else to blame but themselves this time. In the meantime, Labour needs to have a long, hard look at itself but we sincerely hope it does not revert to being ‘Tory Lite’ and go too far in trying to appeal to the middle England, middle class voters who seem only to care for themselves and their own pockets.

DAVE AND SUE JOHNSON

Somerdale Avenue, Milton

MAY I use your letters page to say thank you, to everyone who has invited me as mayor, along with my mayoress, to all the wonderful, fun and interesting events throughout my year as Mayor of Weston. It has been a privileged and an honour to serve my town, and its people of all ages, cultures and gender.

To all those who have helped and given, to raise monies for my charities (and also smaller organisations of the town), a huge thank you for the generosity and kindness shown to me.

‘Team mayor’ 2014/15 are most grateful, and I thank you all for making my term of office wonderful.

ROZ WILLIS

Weston mayor

Mayor’s Parlour, Grove House, Grove Park, Weston

THERE’S an old Chinese saying that states ‘May you live in interesting times’. And, after the general election shockwaves, that is undeniably true.

Who would have thought that, on May 8, we’d see this country’s political landscape undergo such an unexpected change and that three party leaders would resign within an hour? What a perfect and sobering example of the fate that awaits arrogance, complacency and hubris.

And Weston had its own local example of spectacular failure and humiliation too. Since its foundation last September, North Somerset First assured us that it wanted ‘localism for local people’.

Its website and literature proclaimed that it was a fresh, radical voice which stood against everything that was corrupt and shady in local politics. It asked ‘are you tired of seeing the same group of North Somerset district councillors making misguided decisions across the district with little or no consultation’?

Who could possibly disagree with such an inspirational prospectus? And yet the majority of voters still spurned them at the ballot box.

The electors saw through the smoke and mirrors to the extent that North Somerset First only succeeded in returning a single, existing candidate to office.

Ironically, at the same time, the Conservative hold on the council grew, despite there now only being 50 seats rather than the previous 61.

No doubt North Somerset First and its founder will find excuses for their failure but the people had spoken and rejected them with suspicion and disdain.

On reflection, another famous quotation comes to mind - ‘How are the mighty fallen’….

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

RACHEL Ling and Emma Rome should have had the sense to find out in advance whether becoming a job-share MP was possible before bemoaning the fact it’s not. Just because they had the idea doesn’t mean it will ever become a reality, whatever party line they want to take.

STEPHANIE MCMANUS

West Street, Banwell

I READ with interest the article which appeared in the Weston Mercury May 7 entitled ‘Camera rakes in £4,000 a day’.

It was stated that the police say they are ‘disappointed’ at the number of drivers exceeding the speed limit along New Bristol Road and also that Worle Community School’s headteacher says that ‘irresponsible’ speeders are putting children’s lives at risk.

The speed camera was presumably reactivated primarily to create a safer environment for the children who attend the school. Might I suggest therefore, that the revenue generated by the camera be used to help these very children. For example, a crossing operated by lights could be placed near the school, flashing lights asking drivers to slow down could be situated along the road and a new footbridge could be built across the road.

With these measures in place it is possible that there would be no further need for the camera. If that were the case, many people, police and drivers alike, would be spared a great deal of disappointment in the future.

NICOLETTE WHITE

Grace Close, Yatton

I FEAR that the new café culture Town Hall road ‘improvements’ have compromised pedestrians in favour of aesthetics. Two pelican crossings have been replaced by one zebra crossing, withdrawing the audio and tactile assistance for blind and partially-sighted people that was previously available.

Two refuge islands have also been removed from the Oxford Street/Walliscote Road junction, making it much harder to cross to the bus stop.

Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users, particularly so children, the elderly and disabled. I therefore feel that our council has no excuse for not showing greater consideration for their welfare.

I would prefer to see a look that is safety conscious, rather than a look that could kill.

DAVID PUPLETT

Clifton Road, Weston

THE article in the issue of April 30 regarding 45 homes that could be built in St Georges is somewhat misleading.

In December 2011 a meeting took place between representatives of the parish council, a senior planning officer and the owner of the land Derek Mead.

If planning could be given for the provision of residential park homes, Meads would build the basic structure of the Community Centre extension to include all drainage and would also donate one acre of the land for community allotments.

The planning officer indicated that such planning permission was highly unlikely as the site was outside the settlement boundary and therefore in breach of established North Somerset Council policy. I can find no information that indicates this has changed and that it is an allocated housing site as stated by the clerk. It was also part of the flood plain mitigation arrangements for the River Banwell which borders the south side of the site.

Access to the site is, to say the least, restricted and it is difficult to see how this could be improved. However if this goes ahead perhaps St Georges may find itself with allotments and a larger community centre. For all the house building that has taken place here it has benefited not at all, s106 money going to projects outside of the community.

JANYS WARREN

Willow Close, St Georges

IN 2009 I was fortunate enough to participate with several other British tourists in an escorted minibus tour through one of the central Asian republics.

We travelled from Tashkent, the country’s capital in the north east, through the fabled cities of Samarkand and Bukhara to Khiva in the south west, a distance of 1,000kms.

The roads were often deserted, but covered in potholes everywhere, forcing the driver to veer from right to left and vice versa, to avoid the very worst ones and so keep the vehicle’s suspension in tact. Driving up and down Walliscote Road, similar manoeuvres are often necessary, but in stark contrast to Uzbekistan’s roads, there is far more oncoming traffic to contend with and therefore most times out of the question.

Considering Britain’s position, as supposedly, the sixth richest economy in the world and Uzbekistan’s which would be lucky to be included in the 100 poorest countries, I think it is totally scandalous that we in Weston, and indeed many other parts of this country, have to put up with such third rate road surfaces. North Somerset Council do something or hang your heads in shame.

MICHAEL BARCLAY

Clevedon Road, Weston

ON FRIDAY I was transported by ambulance to Weston General Hospital from Portishead and I must say the paramedics and A&E minors staff were marvellous.

But the main thing I wish to say is how shocked I was at, not so much the queue to get into A&E but the fact that each patient had to have the two paramedics wait with them, for a considerable length of time, until they can be handed over.

To see so many paramedics having to hang around like that seems such a waste of time and money when they could be out on the road doing their good job.

It’s no wonder we hear stories of people waiting too long for an ambulance. What a bad system, and so unfair on the ambulance crews who do such a brilliant job.

Thank you to all those who helped me.

GRAHAM LAMMIMAN

Glebe Avenue, Portishead

OUR hearts go out to John Horler as a result of the mindless vandalism to his Grove Park Café in Weston.

John not only created the business from nothing but he provides a service to the community and also pays for concert music during the summer.

To lose this excellent service would be tragic but John may have no alternative if North Somerset Council does not soon come up with a solution.

Wooden shutters will not defend the café, only metal shutters are the answer, but the council says they are not suitable for a conservation area – what stupidity.

Where are the CCTV cameras that Weston keeps boasting about, especially as the café is right next to the town council offices?

This is bureaucracy gone mad and we have to ask the question which is worse, the mindless vandals that want to get money for their drug habits or the heartless councillor who have their heads in the clouds.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

THANK you Mercury for letting us know that council staff have been told that there is a danger of vandalism to cars left in Locking Road car park.

Residents in Hopkins Street who once had unrestricted parking were told they could pay by meter there and could use Locking Road car park (for a fee).

Do we expect to be told of these dangers? Of course not. North Somerset Council and councillor Elfan Ap Rees carry on with their vendetta against town centre residents.

They do not care about car owners faced with a half mile round trip to Locking Road in all weathers any more than they care about vandalism to their cars.

BRIAN SHELDRAKE

Palmer Row, Weston

YOUR headline on the front page on April 23 ‘Does tourism still matter’ is quite appropriate for what the authorities have got planned for Weston.

When the information service is moved to the Tropicana, there will be no staff ‘just leaflets’ and computers. And the bus shop in the High Street is closing, what a sorry state of affairs for Weston when other seaside towns have very accessible information services.

The leaders have their heads in the sands, and I notice this morning the council have refused to let the Grove Park Café owner have metal shutters to stop the vandals.

MR E HAYCOCK

Beach Road, Weston

I HAVE visited Weston on day trips and had many a happy stay at the Sandringham Hotel over the years.

What a disappointment the pier now is - £1 to go on. I stood and watched for a while and saw several families turn back trying to explain to their children why they could not go on the pier.

Begrudgingly I put £1 in. There is nowhere to shelter on the actual pier. The seats are outside in the wind.

Upon reaching the pier end (by foot) the train is a ‘hideous’ 50p. What we now have is slot machine nightmare. Nothing but slot machines on two floors.

C CLARKE

Buck Cottages

Staunton-on-Wye, Hereford

I WOULD like to say a big thank you for the tickets which I was very fortunate to have won to see An Audience with John Sergeant at The Playhouse, Weston.

A very enjoyable evening was spent by Marlene, my sisters, and myself.

F LAND

Christon Terrace, Weston

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