Letters to Editor, January 24, 2013

PUBLISHED: 09:31 25 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:31 25 January 2013

Archant

Council tax

I WRITE in response to your article on the likely increase in council tax this year. The article states that the reason North Somerset Council (NSC) is proposing an increase is because of unfavourable Government grant funding.

It may well be the case that NSC has been historically underfunded by central Government, but the reason the council is proposing an increase this year, is because of massive cuts to its funding from central Government, which are part of the Government’s failed austerity programme.

In North Somerset these cuts amount to £86million over the period 2011 to 2018 – this is about half the council’s spending on services.

So let’s be clear - the Coalition Government’s public spending cuts are being passed to local authorities across the country to implement. Increases in council tax are not about unfair funding, they are about massive public spending cuts. Cuts, which the Coalition Government seems to think that councils can implement with a few back office efficiencies, when in fact the cuts are so severe that frontline services already have been and will continue to be cut – youth services are an example in North Somerset.

So why are the council considering a council tax increase this year, and haven’t done so in the previous two years? The reason is that in 2011 and 2012 the Government offered councils a bribe to keep council tax frozen – they called it a council tax freeze grant. It seemed like a good deal at the time.

The problem with this was that whereas an actual council tax increase would stay in it its budget for every year there after, the council tax freeze grants were for one or a few years only. And all these freeze grants will disappear from council budgets in 2015, leaving massive budget holes – in North Somerset’s case that will amount to about £4million less in its budget.

This year the Government has offered councils a one per cent council tax freeze grant, and councils across the country, including North Somerset, have realised that this is no longer a good deal, particularly given that the rate of inflation is currently around three per cent. Councils have realised that if they don’t start increasing council tax by very small amounts now, they will have massive holes in their budgets by 2015 and this in turn will make way above inflation council tax increases necessary in future years – the alternative would be even greater cuts. If you think your wages haven’t kept up with prices, then exactly the same is true of councils’ budgets as a result of the council tax freeze grants. As a result this year councils across the country have no option but to increase council tax in order to protect the vital public services, which they deliver to the most vulnerable people in our society.

So, when your council tax bill arrives this year, think about why the council have had no option but to increase it. Think about the services you receive if you have children, if you have elderly or disabled relatives, or if you are old and disabled yourself.

If you’re unhappy with the council tax increase blame the Coalition Government, and do something about it by either writing to your MP or joining your local Anti-Cuts campaign group. Let’s have a referendum on council tax increases and the Government’s public spending cuts.

HELEN THORNTON

North Somerset Unison,

Town Hall, Weston

Far darker

FROM time to time, individual events occur that seem to have no apparent connection. Yet occasionally, they can combine to present a far darker whole and something like this happened in our locale recently.

Two weeks ago, the Mercury ran a front-page story ‘Landlady is accused of kicking out gay drinkers’ and last week’s paper reported the contents of a constituency letter from local MP, Liam Fox. In it, he attacked his Prime Minister’s plans to legalise gay marriage as “divisive, ill-thought through and constitutionally wrong”.

Shortly afterwards, I received a leaflet with the mail from an organisation calling itself the Coalition for Marriage. It set out 10 reasons ‘why the Government is wrong to redefine marriage’.

The tone was outwardly moderate and informed, quoting various supposedly reliable sources. But, despite this seemingly respectable appearance, the overall, underlying, homophobic message was clear.

At times of economic or political uncertainty, the search for scapegoats is well known – 1930s Germany being a prime example. But such surrender to the dark forces of bigotry and prejudice must be resisted at all costs. This country has a proud record of good sense, tolerance and equality. We must all be on our guard against those who seek to undermine these priceless national assets.

AMY KNIGHTS

Lower Bristol Road, Weston

No improvement

AN UPDATE from the Weston hillside to North Somerset Council.

No grit, no rubbish collection, no buses, no improvement on last year, no surprise!

DR GEORGE PAPWORTH

Queens Road, Weston

Thank you

I WOULD like to say a big 10 out of 10 thank you to all the council workers, etc, who have had the snow shovels and gritters out clearing the pavements into and around the town centre.

It enabled me to get to the shops more safely. Once again a big thank you to all who worked so hard.

MRS W MOGG

Station Road, Weston

Agreement

I PAY my council tax regularly, without fail and always on time.

The council however does not keep to its side of the agreement and I do not have a leg to stand on.

My waste collection has been missed three times in the last few months.

I have reported the problem both over the phone to the council and on line. Over the phone I was told to leave it out for another two days and they will get someone to collect it. Surprise, surprise it is still there.

The on line complaint reply was it would take them 10 days to look into it... 10 days. Why bother logging a complaint? And my waste will still be out in the road for another two weeks making that another month of no collection.

As you can tell I am totally fed up. I am sure there are others with the same problem, so why do we continue to pay for a service that is in itself a waste of time, effort and above all money (pun intended)?

VANDA JONES

Spring Hill, Worle

Public toilets

I WAS surprised to read in last week’s front page story that sums in the region of £6,640 and £4,413 are being spent keeping public toilets in operation in Wrington and Blagdon respectively.

It would be an even more interesting read if some investigative journalism could uncover exactly how these sums are spent. (Certainly not on toilet rolls and bleach!)

In the current economic climate, with so many people seeking work, might it not be an idea to allow individuals in each locality to take charge of these toilets and keep them open?

After all, £6,000 a year is £120 a week – and there are many local people to whom a wage like that would be a Godsend.

Even more importantly, as a woman, may I venture to suggest that the closing of public toilets is an example of sexism on the part of the council?

We all know that men of any age, if the need arises and there are no conveniences available, will simply find a suitable tree or wall and be able to answer the call of nature. And how pleasant that will be for the rest of us?

What are women expected to do? It is difficult enough for a woman to enter a pub alone – even more so if she only intends to find and use their toilets! But what happens if she visits these attractive villages, Wrington or Blagdon, perhaps to enjoy a country walk, and the pub is closed? Does she knock on a stranger’s door?

Or is she gradually forced to stop venturing further than her own immediate neighbourhood?

Meanwhile, as reported in The Mercury, North Somerset Council sees fit to produce its own self-serving magazine at the cost of £247,524 a year!

Where are their priorities?

MARIANNE MCALEER

Florence Grove, Weston

Essential

I AM sure many of our local residents and visitors to Weston, from April 1, will part with 20 to 30 pence to spend a penny in Weston’s toilets especially the seafront loos which so many people use all year round.

And Weston Town Council has agreed to take on five conveniences to prevent them from closing.

For thousands of our visitors and local residents it’s good to know there is a loo close by if you need one, not just for our generation but for mums-to-be, those with toddlers and people with medical conditions which mean there is little time to hang around when nature calls.

I am sure if North Somerset Council shut most of the resort’s toilets it might put off visitors which many seafront businesses rely on.

Everyone appreciates cuts are needed but councillors could easily make cuts elsewhere, for example council executive allowances, leaving essential toilet services intact.

D F COURTNEY

Victoria Park, Weston

Same issue

VERY rarely do I feel the need to write to the Weston Mercury and the last time I did it was about the same issue, dog mess.

Dogs should be banned from Ashcombe Park. My children sledging through dog mess, is the final straw.

At least let’s have half the park a dog free zone.

SARA REDDING

Chalfont Road, Weston

What value?

I AGREE with Mrs J Edwards’ letter, ‘Encouraged’ in last week’s Mercury. It prompts me to reply.

There is an unpleasant quality about paedophiles’ depravity that causes many of us to turn away.

What shield is reason, what value argument when confronted with sexual abuse of children?

Yet attempts to understand must continue to be made, as a path not for forgiveness but more to action. Doctors, police and politicians have a duty to prevent the recurrence of behaviour which, by its very nature, holds criminals in its grip.

Paedophilia is a different order, not just in its capacity to shock but in the pathology of its perpetrators.

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

Paedophile behaviour is obsessive and compulsive.

Shallow immersion in the crime, through child sex images or indecent exposure to minors can feed a desire to go further into more intense and inevitable evils acts.

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

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 come up with the same conclusions and blamed society, the environment, family life - or lack of it, and umpteen other things to excuse a paedophile his disgusting habits.

What next?

At least Mrs Edwards you hit on the right note. It was refreshing to read your comments.

RON ELLIS

Westbrook Road, Weston

Option

WHEN unemployed signing on the dole isn’t your only option.

Recently I volunteered to become a business mentor and help North Somerset Enterprise Agency.

This agency gives free help and support to new business start ups, small and large. The agency has been running a lot longer than people think and these recession times is when it is needed the most.

The new Enterprise Allowance which works with Jobcentre Plus is where prospective new businesses are sent in and its idea is scrutinised using mentors and common sense and proven systems from experienced business minded people.

If successful it can have a loan up to £1,000, have six months of support and 26 weeks allowance.

A monthly enterprise meeting is held where like-minded people can meet and share ideas. All are welcome from current business owners to retired.

There is a list of successful start-ups who thank North Somerset business enterprise for helping them. This is all listed on the website.

In the constant gloomy economic climate this kind of free support must be taken advantage off.

ANDREAS C MACRIDES

Newton Road, Weston

Lost door keys

RECENTLY, after some shopping, I found that I had lost my door keys.

As I had been into some stores I retraced my steps and called into Sainsbury’s and Tesco. In both cases, the helpful staff opened drawers that contained a large number of keys of all kinds. Fortunately my keys were found in the Tesco drawer.

There are lessons to be learnt from this experience. I would urge anyone who has lost keys of any kind to visit the stores where they have been, as, if my experience is anything to go by, there are a large number of unclaimed keys just waiting for the owner to claim them back.

Finally my thanks to Tesco - I rarely find anything that I have lost.

VERNON RICHARDS

The Lynch, Winscombe

Old phones

MANY of your readers will have received new phones for Christmas, leaving them wondering what to do with their old devices.

Rather than putting them in a drawer, never to be used again, World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) is offering the perfect solution for redundant and out-of-date devices – its Recycle for Research scheme.

This gives unwanted mobile phones and other items such as PDAs a new lease of life and raises funds for the cancer prevention charity’s vital research and education programmes.

The WCRF scheme also accepts used printer ink and toner cartridges.

Most phones are sold on or recycled while cartridges are sent back to the manufacturer for refilling. Both are the most environmentally friendly option.

WCRF can provide freepost envelopes for your devices and freepost labels for larger packages – sent straight to your workplace or home.

We can also provide boxes of recycling envelopes for display.

To find out more about Recycle for Research email recycling@wcrf.org or call 020 7343 4205.

NATALIE TARRANT

Senior Fundraising Manager,

World Cancer Research Fund

22 Bedford Square, London,

WC1B 3HH

LAST week my wife and I returned to Weston having spent Christmas and New Year visiting family in Canada.

They live in a small town called Moss Bank, which is about 75 kilometres south of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan lies deep in the Canadian Prairies, and is responsible for much seeds and grain.

We woke up to find a couple of inches of snow. This in itself is no big deal, or shouldn’t be, but as it’s in the UK, as in other years we find that the country is slowly grinding to a halt. Most schools closed for the day. I noticed a couple of shops in town closed ‘due to adverse weather’.

If we experience another inch or so of snow, I’m sure that all public transport, including our rail service will grind to a halt.

Compare this to the conditions that our cousins in Canada have to deal with for several months of the year.

Whilst we were there the average temperature was minus 25C, with a wind chill factor of minus 35C, and will only get colder as the winter goes on.

Children who live in the town, which has a population of a couple of hundred, walk to school, those that live out, mostly in farms, are picked up the school buses, which always run unless the temperature falls below minus 41C.

The depth of snow was about 18 inches, with drifts of six-seven feet in places, and still life goes on. Moose Jaw is where residents do their weekly shop, whatever the weather.

When we were due to leave for Regina Airport there had been a snow blizzard lasting for 36 hours. We were concerned that we might miss our flight to the UK, we needn’t have worried, the roads had been cleared and you wouldn’t have known that there had been any snow when we arrived at the airport.

I emailed photos and a report of the conditions in Weston to my family. They could only smile in disbelief.

PHILIP GARRITY

Gordon Road, Weston

IT IS reported that the potential developers of the Royal Pier Hotel and the dilapidated Birnbeck Pier owe North Somerset Council over £100,000 for the cost of demolishing the hotel after the fire, two years ago.

Now I know that if we did not pay our rates for two years the council would soon be on our backs. It is difficult to know whether to laugh or cry because Mr Samady representing the developers, wonders what all the fuss is about, because £100,000 is just ‘a drop in the ocean’.

The way things are going the only thing to drop in the ocean will be Birnbeck Pier - unfortunately.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

SO MR Wahid Samady thinks the £100,000 which he owes to the local council is ‘a drop in the ocean’.

Well, it might be to him.

I would ask if Mr Samady to stop whinging about the paltry debt, do the honourable thing and pay up.

After all, this money belongs to the taxpayers of Weston.

MRS H HARVEY

Ashford Drive, Weston


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