LETTERS TO EDITOR JANUARY 6

PUBLISHED: 12:17 07 January 2011

Mercury letters

Mercury letters

Archant

A referendum

READ your December 30 Mercury piece ‘Surgery merger backed’ with interest. But I think you should know that there is a very different aspect to some of the material in this report.

You quoted Peter Maitland as saying that the public consultation had been ‘turned on its head.’ This is incorrect.

The lengthy (and expensive) NHS North Somerset consultation asked all Wrington Vale Medical Practice (WVMP) adult patients to express their preference for a number of options regarding a proposed new surgery development. Only 614 from a total of 9,100 replied. Of this 614, 241 favoured a new single site and 262 supported the two-site status quo – representing a majority of a mere 0.3 per cent. Bearing in mind the consultation was just that – a consultation and not a referendum - it can hardly be said that public opinion was ignored.

Mr Maitland is also quoted as saying “people will see their current fully-functioning GP surgery reduced to one doctor and one nurse each weekday morning for consultation only in converted office premises”. This suggests abandonment by the practice and is again totally misleading. Early on in the proceedings, the doctors acknowledged that some vulnerable Wrington patients might be disadvantaged if their local surgery closed.

They therefore agreed to maintain a clinical presence in the village for as long as patients wanted it with no final closure date. This negates Mr Maitland’s other assertion that ‘the practice has been unwilling to give any guarantee whatsoever as to how long such an arrangement may last’.

You should also be aware that Wrington is the only community of the 21 served by the practice to have been granted such a favourable (and costly) concession.

Furthermore, the doctors have publicly stated on a number of occasions that they will continue to make home visits to those who are unable to attend either surgery, so no-one will be disadvantaged at all.

But Mr Maitland saves the best until last with his statement “some 3,000 people will have to travel an extra five miles to see their GP and this will cost them petrol, the environment will suffer from more CO2 and narrow roads will carry more traffic”.

Firstly, as previously stated, there will still be a medical facility in Wrington for immediate daily access to a doctor or nurse.

Secondly, there is no factual basis at all for ‘3,000 people’ as Wrington contains only 22 per cent of the total WVMP patient population, which is spread over 80 square miles.

And thirdly, any extra costs will hardly be a burden to an area of North Somerset which is officially described as ‘affluent’, where 91 per cent of households own at least one car (higher than the national average) and 52 per cent own two or more.

Lastly, Mr Maitland’s new-found ‘green’ concerns are risible. What he did not tell you was that Wrington’s SOS protesters were latterly pressuring WVMP and NHSNS to consider a site in Wrington village itself for the new surgery. They had even spoken to the owner of some land who would be willing to consider an offer. A new surgery for 9,100 patients, only accessible by narrow lanes and off designated winter-gritting and main bus routes was utterly unrealistic.

The suggestion was rejected as the doctors wanted their new facility to be as near as possible to the geographical centre of the practice, for the convenience of the majority of their patients.

IAN PITCH

Church Road, Winscombe

Ideally located

HOW dare Portishead councillor Felicity Baker tell the reading population of Weston what’s best for us.

Just because they’ve bitten off more than they can chew with their grandiose Clevedon office block why should Weston bail them out by emptying the Town Hall of everything that a town’s principal building should contain and then fill it with uses that currently take place perfectly adequately elsewhere, i.e. the Boulevard library?

Dot Agassiz’s letter was right. The library has been inadequately maintained but it’s also poorly resourced. A library should be more than a computer terminal and council interface.

Surely the Boulevard library is ideally located with reasonably adequate parking and excellent bus services? It’s also housed in a building actually designed as a library. What’s the problem?

The library’s poor maintenance is definitely the fault of local politicians but it’s no use complaining about political parties when there’s no evidence to suggest independent councillors are any more effective. The fault lies with us, the public, for voting according to our pathetic prejudices, preferring the political colour of a councillor to his or her abilities. On this council anyone with an ounce of intelligence is soon chucked out.

ALBERT JOHNSON

Milton Road, Weston

Tried its best

I AM writing in response to the negative press on the ambulance service.

Lying in the snow with a shattered femur I was extremely thankful for their rapid response.

The first paramedic was very kind, reassuring and very capable and stayed with me until a further ambulance arrived an hour later and I could be moved to hospital.

The ambulance service tried its best to locate the nearest crew so I could be moved as soon as possible. Having been in hospital for 10 days I really appreciate how stretched they were with so many people slipping on the ice.

DAPHNE R DYBALL

Woodland Road, Weston

Very run down

I READ in yesterday’s Sunday Express the following quote from the actor John Cleese:

“I feel a certain disappointment with the town where I grew up. It has become lifeless. It always had its entertainment arcades and fish and chip shops and there was also a part of Weston that had a faded Edwardian elegance. It is so sad. I used to love the town for all its eccentricities and ugliness but I don’t really want to go back any more”.

Cleese says the town is very run down now – he is so right. Nothing has been done about the Tropicana for 10 years, and the infrastructure and road systems have similarly been neglected for years – I fear gridlock awaits us.

Also just recently, although I realise the bad weather conditions have been testing, to have only six gritters for the whole of North Somerset showed no forethought whatsoever, and the roads and pavements were highly dangerous for far too long. The waste collection system in Nithsdale Road and surrounding areas has been pretty well non-existent and our rubbish has been piling up for three weeks now. The pothole problem is getting worse – a lethargy seems to surround us.

The only sensible decision in 2010 (made by the town council) was to keep the museum in Burlington Street, and the initiative shown by the Michaels in the pier rebuild was wonderful.

In 2011 I implore the council to accept Nightingale’s offer to rebuild the Tropicana and to follow the Michaels’ example and take some action on so many things. Otherwise our town will only continue to decline and we will be badly failing future generations.

JEREMY NORTON

Nithsdale Road, Weston

Rubbish

THE following three letters were sent to the Mercury during the week after Christmas. So by the time the paper goes to press the situation they, Mr Moon and Dr Papworth describe regarding their rubbish will have been, hopefully, resolved.

I WOULD like to offer my thanks to all the postmen, couriers and delivery drivers who successfully delivered mail, parcels etc to our area in the run-up to Christmas.

Despite the adverse weather conditions they cheerfully pressed on and did their jobs to their best abilities. How different from the refuse collection service, which clearly found our roads too much to cope with, so suggested that we took our rubbish to them instead. Obviously the roads were safe enough for us to drive on, but not for them.

Here in Elborough, despite there not being any snow or ice left to be found, and despite the North Somerset Council website telling us that collections are back to normal, we have still not had any recycling, or more importantly, food waste, collected since Monday, December 13. (Date of writing, December 29).

JUDY HAYES

Cedern Avenue, Elborough, Weston

I HAVE been trying to reach North Somerset Council all morning, it being the first day back after the Christmas break.

I have been trying the published number of 01934 888888, but it seems they have switched the phones over to some sort of voicemail system.

Try as I might I cannot get through to a switchboard. Instead I go around and around the system getting more and more frustrated.

A very helpful man at Weston Town Council suggested I try the website advertised waste hotline, since that is the nature of my enquiry. That number, 01934 888802 simply states after half a ring ‘the other person has hung up’!

I am sure that many residents are frustrated with the waste collection issues after the snow - my wheelie bin and now growing mound of black bags have not been collected since two weeks before the December 17 failed collection.

NSC assured me that it would go last Friday (it did not) or without fail bank holiday Monday or Tuesday as crews were working those days too (it did not).

I appreciate the issues they face, but simply turning off the telephones so their clients can’t phone in simply is unacceptable. The lack of information is very poor indeed

MATTHEW EVANS

Pelican Close, Worle

THE contractor and officers in the council’s Streets and Open Spaces department responsible for winter maintenance operations appear to have done a very good job in keeping the designated roads passable and free of ice and should be congratulated and awarded 10 out of 10 for their dedication and efforts.

The Royal Mail, whose mail delivery personnel drove and walked the hills and streets of Weston throughout with spike attachments to their shoes have also provided an excellent service and also should be awarded 10 out of 10 for dedication and effort.

The delivery drivers striving to deliver parcels in time for Christmas should also be congratulated for their efforts to get presents ordered on line and other parcels to residents should also be awarded 10 out of 10 for dedication and effort. But what about waste and recycling service? No-one can deny that on Friday, December 17 and Monday December 20 conditions were that it would not have been safe to operate, but after December 20 why not? The contractor tenders to undertake the service in spring, summer, autumn and winter and I am sure they would have been required to supply vehicles and equipment to undertake the service throughout the year and that should mean snow chains or winter tyres for their vehicles and attachments to the boots of personnel, such as the postal workers used, being available when conditions such as we have experienced occur.

So why were they not providing the service? Why were our council officers responsible for the management of the contract not ensuring the residents of North Somerset received the service that the contractor is paid to undertake?

I emailed the Town Hall on December 23 for an assurance that collections would be undertaken on December 24 since the collection on December 17 had been cancelled, due the conditions on that day. My email was passed to the manager responsible for the waste and refuse contract. I did not receive a reply.

I received a parcel delivery on the morning of December 24 by TNT on a lorry the same size as the recycling vehicles without any difficulty, but alas no refuse or recycling collection in Lyefield Road that day.

Upon emailing the council manager responsible for waste management and recycling on the afternoon of December 24 I received an automated email response to say that he was out of the office until January 4 and there would be no response before that date.

No doubt someone in the Town Hall will quote health and safety as the reason for non-collection, but if it is OK for snow clearers, postal workers and delivery drivers to work safely, why not those providing the refuse and recycling service? They work the same streets and hills of North Somerset

For effort I would award the refuse and recycling contractor a maximum of three out of 10 and the council officers’ responsible for the management and provision of the service a maximum of two out of 10

DAVID BURROWS

Lyefield Road, Worle

IT IS now nearly four weeks since my food and recycling bins in North Worle have been emptied although the lorries managed to collect the black bin on Christmas Eve.

This state of affairs is unacceptable as we were promised regular collection of at least food waste by our councillors when they approved the contract. What have they done to sort this out? Nothing. What will they do? Much the same I think.

In any other organisation someone would be taking responsibility and be held to account with their job on the line, but no. This is local government that seems to serve itself and not their electors,

We are told to take our rubbish to the tip and queue for an hour or so. I have a better suggestion. Take your waste to the town hall or councillors’ front gardens and then see how quickly it’s moved!

RON MOON

The Saffrons, Worle

IT HAS been a great Christmas and New Year for the numerous rats and foxes of Queens Road - feasting and over-indulgence on limitless local food supplies hardly describes this new aspect of the festive season.

The shimmering silver and gold paper ‘decorations’ scattered over the pavements from ruptured black bags add to the surreal seasonal atmosphere. All God’s creatures ... comes to mind!

At a time of human cutbacks, job insecurity and deprivation it represents such a marked contrast of fortune.

We, the residents and paymasters, might not like the total failure to collect our rubbish from December 10 2010 to January 11 2011 (we hope!) nor the impossibility of getting an explanation from anyone responsible for doing so, but our rats and foxes are in seventh Heaven.

DR GEORGE PAPWORTH

Queens Road, Weston

Tropicana

THE public relations agency acting for Havard Tisdale tells us that 80 per cent indicated strong backing, while just 13 per cent offered opposition to the scheme. What did the remaining seven per cent say?

Were these numbers just based on the answers to the first question: ‘Will development of the site benefit this part of Weston?’ and not related to the actual proposals?

PETER BARRINGTON

Hutton Hill, Weston

Resolutions

OVER Christmas a young man said to me that if it was just the birth of Jesus nobody would celebrate Christmas. It is sad that so many want to take Christ out of Christmas but even more sad that this young man did not ask for my point of view and seemed to have no respect for my feelings, even though I respect his right to have an opinion.

We are now at the dawn of a New Year and it is strange that, as we get older, we are better prepared for the bigger problems that 2011 can bring - it is the little things that niggle.

May I suggest a few little resolutions for the year to come that may help in a small way. Perhaps supermarket shoppers will refrain from leaving their trolleys in the spaces in which we want to park. Maybe if we open doors for people they will say thank you instead of completely ignoring us. If we stand aside, on pavements, for ladies pushing prams they will not just glare as they walk by.

Those obsessed with texting on mobile phones will not do it when holding a face to face conversation and if the blessed thing rings they just get up without as much as an excuse me, leaving us in mid sentence. I know these are only little things but they all show a lack of respect and are quite common practices.

Finally, could younger people start 2011 with a resolution to show far more respect for their elders - they should remember that they will be old one day. Happy New Year.

GEOFF MALHAM

Clarence Grove Road, Weston

Unacceptable

THE state of pavements and pedestrian areas in and around the town centre during the recent icy weather was totally unacceptable, particularly around bus stops and pay and display car parks.

Surely North Somerset is aware of the provisions of the highway authority’s duty under Section 41(1) of the Highways Act 1980 as amended in Section 41(1A) of the Act (which was inserted by the Railways and Transport Safety Act, 2003, section 11) which now provides as follows: In particular, a highway authority is under a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not ndangered by snow or ice.

The term reasonable refers to cost. Cost of labour would be the main cost, so why not use offenders subject to community service as handed down by the court to carry out this work?

The cost to the health service resulting in the treatment of injuries is avoidable, likewise the cost and loss of business experienced by traders.

Numerous bus routes, so essential to the elderly for their wellbeing, were impassable.

In the commercial and industrial world action would be taken to provide safe access and efficient operation of factories and utilities, otherwise they would go out of business.

As providers of funds to North Somerset through council tax and business rates we expect appropriate and timely action to provide a safe environment.

A WILMOT

Moorcroft Road, Hutton

Recent dog ban

ON BEHALF of the vast majority of dog owners who keep their dogs under control and clean up after them, I would like to protest in the strongest terms about the recent dog ban on the pier.

Why victimise the innocent majority because of the very small guilty minority? This is very unfair and a great disappointment.

For many years we have been able to walk our dogs along the pier. We would not want, nor think it right, to take our dogs inside the main building, but to ban dogs from the outside is very wrong. Why, after all the years of the Grand Pier, should this now arise?

I will not visit the pier again until this ban is rescinded, and will actively encourage others to keep away. Our many friends who visit Weston will no longer visit the pier.

After having our support throughout the fire and re-build, the Michaels have now lost it. I hope some reasonable sense will return.

ROGER JONES

Clifton Road, Weston

About time

I WOULD like to offer my full support to P Hobbs, who had a letter published last week.

It is about time our council took the opinions of the general public on board instead of apparently leaning in the direction of where the most money is coming from.

It is clear that Richard Nightingale’s proposals are more popular with the general public than those of Harvard Tisdale and it’s about time local businesses took precedence over outside companies.

Richard Nightingale’s options will no doubt give jobs to local people, some of which will be permanent and also invaluable during these ghastly economic times. He will always be around in Weston to ensure that his development is run effectively and to resolve problems if any arise.

A few weeks ago you kindly published my internet link to an online petition that I created to register the opinions of Westonians and North Somerset citizens and, following the recent renewed publicity about the Tropicana, perhaps you would publish my link again to which I have already had 91 responses. The link is: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/tropicana/ and hopefully your readers will spare the time to make their opinions known and also get their family and friends in the Weston/North Somerset area to do likewise.

As I said in my previous letter I intend to present the results of the petition to the Tory-run council but, perhaps more importantly, I intend to let David Cameron know just how ineffective his proposals for the ‘Big Society’ are and will remain so until local people are given the power to make and control decisions in their local area.

TONY PROBERT

South Lawn, Locking

Thank you

I WOULD like to thank the people of Weston who donated £52 at our street collection for the Naturewatch Foundation on December 4.

Naturewatch does a wonderful job rescuing animals, exposing the cruelties of puppy farming and trading, and promoting cruelty-free lifestyle choices.

GAIL WOOLFENDEN

The Animal Information Bureau,

Highcroft, Woolavington

Trapped

‘FEWER roads in North Somerset are being gritted in an attempt by highways officers to conserve supplies’. So ran a newspaper report in January last year!

Has anything changed? Of course it would be unrealistic to expect any council to prepare for worst weather conditions as the norm. A fleet of seldom-used snow ploughs would be a waste of money but the recent inclement weather seems to have exposed a total lack of basic preparedness by North Somerset Council.

Keeping main thoroughfares open is a clear priority but Weston’s hillside remained unusable for an entire week with many residents trapped in their homes. Trapped not only by non-existent road clearance of snow but also trapped because of ice which had become so firmly impacted upon footpaths that mere walking became hazardous.

I failed to see a single stretch of footpath cleared by the council - even in the town centre. Broken limbs at Weston Hospital’s A&E Department had become unamusingly fashionable and at a cost both to the wretched patients and the NHS which must be set against any ‘savings’ made by the council for its policy of ignoring the elements.

Some of us did our bit by clearing footpaths but the council was nowhere to be seen. If I am wrong and the council was indeed doing its job perhaps a spokesman - or even a councillor - might care to correct my mistake.

Perhaps it was different in Clevedon and Portishead. Who knows?

JOHN CROCKFORD-HAWLEY

Gerard Road, Weston

Still in business

IN YOUR article in the Weston Mercury on December 23 you stated that Barber Beyond had moved across the road into a former photographic studio, so implying that the photography business was no longer in existence.

I write to inform you, as owner of the photographic studio and business, that I am very much still in business but have moved the studio to the upper floor of the premises at 8 Orchard Place.

I have been approached by a number of people in Weston who had read the article and had understood that I was no longer trading - I have explained the situation to them. However, there must be many more residents who are now under the misunderstanding that my photographic services are no longer available for their weddings, events or portraits.

I would appreciate it if you could inform readers of your publication that I, Pete Brownett, proprietor of Emotions Photography, am still trading from the upper floor of 8 Orchard Place in a fully refurbished studio.

PETE BROWNETT

Orchard Place, Weston

Join us

I AM writing on behalf of Weston and North Somerset Trades Union Council to invite all readers of the Mercury to an anti-cuts meeting at the Salvation Army Hall, Carlton Street, Weston, on January 12 at 7 pm.

The Weston and North Somerset Trades Union Council, is made up of a number of trade unions including public sector trade unions representing postal workers, civil servants, teachers, rail workers, local government, further education, housing and health workers.

We want the people of Weston and North Somerset to join us in an Anti-Cuts alliance to fight the unnecessary cuts to public spending, which are being imposed by the Coalition Government.

We are asking the people of Weston and North Somerset to attend the meeting to talk about how the public spending cuts are affecting jobs, families and communities in the area.

We are asking people to attend who already are or will be affected by the cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), the increase in student tuition fees, the changes to how pension and benefit increases are calculated, the VAT rise, housing benefit and disability benefit cuts, changes to child tax credits, cuts to the arts, cuts to the police, cuts to the NHS, cuts to library services, children’s services, and services for the elderly and disabled.

Just before Christmas North Somerset Council announced that their financial position was worse than they had expected, and that they now have to make £17.4million cuts in the first year of four years of cuts, now amounting to a total of £47.2million or 31 per cent of their budget. In our view it is just not possible to cut such a large amount of money without it impacting on frontline services.

At the meeting people will be able to hear teachers, youth workers, library assistants, social workers and other public sector workers talk about how the cuts will affect the services they provide in North Somerset.

We also want the people of North Somerset to tell us how the cuts are affecting them, and we will be discussing how we can create an alliance of groups and individuals who don’t want to see their public services decimated, and who are prepared to fight the cuts.

Weston and North Somerset Trades Union Council believes that the Coalition Government’s savage spending cuts will hit the poorest hardest, will slow down the economic recovery, and increase unemployment.

We believe that the cuts are not an economic necessity, but are politically motivated.

The majority of people in the country did not vote for such savage cuts delivered at such speed.

We believe that there is an alternative to the cuts, and that rather than slash funding for public services, the Coalition Government could reduce the deficit by bringing in legislation to close tax loopholes and tax havens.

There is potentially £100billion per year out there in uncollected taxes.

The Robin Hood Tax, which is a tax on financial transactions could bring in £20billion a year. Add in the £104billion cost of Trident and the budget deficit of £175billion would be more than wiped out.

Quite simply we believe that the Government ought to tax the banks and other financial institutions that caused the recession, instead of cutting public spending, which hits the poorest hardest. It seems very odd to us that we are constantly being told we’re all in this together, when it is also made abundantly clear on a daily basis that we are not.

HELEN THORNTON

Weston and North Somerset Trades Union Council

Town Hall, Weston

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