Letters, Friday, December 23rd, 2011

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Have your say

Some facts about teachers’ pensions

I WOULD like to take issue with the comments by R. Metcalfe concerning teachers’ pensions. In asserting that teachers know nothing about how their pension is calculated, he states that the teachers’ pension fund has an accrued deficit of £224billion. I am puzzled as to how he has acquired these figures, given that the current government has consistently refused to value the scheme.

Secondly, he states that the teachers’ scheme and public sector pensions in general are unsustainable and that change is therefore inevitable. This assertion does not stand up to scrutiny. The Institute of Fiscal Studies has recently stated that public sector pensions are affordable. Even government ministers have admitted they are affordable and have backtracked from the affordability issue by attempting to change the focus of the debate to one of fairness between public and private sector.

The fact that none of the increases in contributions is going into the pension schemes illustrates that the pension increases are nothing more than a tax on hard-working public sector workers to pay for the mistakes of the financial sector.

The dispute between public sector workers and the Government is about one issue – the Government is attempting a clear breach of contract. Teachers and other public sector workers signed a contract at the start of their employment undertaking to pay a certain amount of money into their pension schemes in return for a pension when they retire at age 60. The public servants have kept their side of the agreement; I do not think it is too much to expect the Government to do the same.

While I am prepared to accede to R. Metcalfe’s assertion that many teachers are not fully au fait with how their pension is calculated, they do understand the principle that when a contract is signed by both parties then it should be adhered to.

His claim that we should be all in this together is laughable. Try telling those public sector workers who earn less in a year than Cameron, Osborne and co spend on a yearly holiday that we are all in this together.

I would assert that it is not teachers who are being irresponsible but the Government, who are attempting to make hard-working public sector workers, many of whom perform vital jobs in society, pay for the mistakes of huge financial institutions.

R. Scott, Peterlee

Opinions on NHS

IN response to the letter by Neal Macknight (Letters, December 13), I must put the record straight. I did not say that there had been no improvement in the NHS but that there had been no significant impact across a wide range of issues in relation to the extra billions of expenditure given to the NHS. That is a fact.

Nor did I criticise or demean any member of the NHS. What I said was that the NHS bureaucracy was disproportionate in size, which it is, and it needed to be downsized, which it will be.

On a personal note, Mr Macknight posed the question of me becoming ill. If I have the misfortune to become ill, whether it be with heart problems or any other ailment, then I would expect to be treated like any other citizen based upon my clinical need and not my political opinion. As far as I am aware the NHS IT systems, complex though they are, are not presently storing the political opinions of prospective patients.

Dennis McDonald, Winifred Street, Fulwell

Thanks to staff

COULD I say a very big Christmas thank-you to the staff and volunteers of St Benedict’s Day Centre? They are absolutely marvellous and pulled out all the stops to put on a splendid pantomime and entertainment for the patients who attend the centre each day.

All the patients received a Christmas present, and even the consultants and doctors of the hospice spared time to appear in the panto

Could I also say thank you to the staff of Thompson’s Building Centre who paid a visit as Santa Claus and his helpers to the day centre and distributed presents to the patients?

It’s lovely at Christmastime to know so many people will give up their time to help cheer up those less fortunate than themselves.

Thank you all so very much.

D. Parish, Rothbury Road, Sunderland

Failed plan

IN the Echo of December 12, in the article “On This Day 25 years ago”, you reported: “Sunderland Borough Council unveiled a £9million development plan to turn Seaburn into a year-round resort.”

As everyone knows, Seaburn is not even a summertime resort, so does anyone know what happened to the “plan” and what happened to the £9million?

I cannot believe that I am the only reader who has picked up on this.

E. W. Baines, Gelt Crescent, Easington Lane