Letters, Friday, January 13, 2012

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Funding of public sector pensions

IN his reply to my criticisms of his stance regarding public sector pensions and teachers’ pensions in particular, Ron Metcalfe (Letters, January 5) quotes a variety of figures from “The Office of Budget Responsibility” to emphasise the supposed unsustainability of public sector pensions.

 The Office of Budget Responsibility was established by the Coalition Government in 2010 and several of its members are selected by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In effect it is a government-sponsored organisation and as such cannot be expected to be independent.

 As I have previously stated, several independent financial organisations, including the Institute of Fiscal Studies, have shown that public sector pensions as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product are falling and there is sufficient resources to continue funding them in the current form.

 Government ministers themselves have admitted on television that public sector pensions are affordable.

 As stated in my previous letter, the Government is refusing to carry out an evaluation of the teachers’ pension scheme despite promising to do so every four years. At this current time it is believed that the teachers’ scheme is fully funded, whereas the local government scheme is in surplus. Both schemes operate at no cost to the taxpayer. Mr Metcalfe’s statement that the public sector schemes are a burden on the taxpayer is totally untrue.Incidentally, Mr Metcalfe, public sector workers also pay taxes.

 Mr Metcalfe argues that it is easy for public sector workers to argue that they are not responsible for the economic problems faced by the country. He is right, it is, and that is because it is true.

 I note that Mr Metcalfe chose not to address the main crux of my letter – namely that the attempt to force through a change to public sector pensions without proper consultation is clearly a breach of contract. I suspect that this is because he is unable to adequately address this issue.

 I also note he has chosen not to address my question about how he would feel if he was told by his mortgage company that not only would he have to pay an extra eight years’ mortgage payments, but also the payments themselves would have to increase.

 I would very much like him to address the question as to whether it is fair and just for the Government to treat people, many of whom have worked for the benefit of the public for many years, in this way.

R. Scott,

Peterlee

Thanks to shops

PLEASE may I say a wonderful big thank-you to Silksworth shops Save and Drive, Frazers Hair and Beauty and the Midas Touch for helping us bring a little of the real meaning of Christmas into society on December 10 in Blind Lane.

 Our church tried to erect a living stable, with straw, a manger and living characters, having photographs taken. Those businesses provided heat, changing rooms and free food to anyone who wanted to take part. It was a marvellous time. Thank you!

 As Tiny Tim said in Dickens’ Christmas Carol: “God bless us every one”.

Mrs Hazel Oliver,

(Independent Methodist Church),

Courtney Drive,

New Silksworth

Labour’s fault

K. STOKER raised some not very valid points which still need a response (Letters, January 9).

First he asks “Why won’t Mr Cameron call an election?” Simple: we need the strong stance taken by this Government to repair the damage of 13 years under Labour which took this country to the economic brink with the largest peacetime deficit ever. Even Labour now acknowledge their faults.

Also, we must never forget that Labour’s former Treasury Chief Secretary Liam Byrne summed up the situation perfectly when he left a note for his successor. The note stated: “Dear Chief secretary, I’m afraid there is no money left. Kind regards – and good luck! Liam”.

Mr Stoker then suggests Ed Balls or Yvette Cooper (Mrs Balls) could take the Labour Party forward. This is a bit like putting King Herod in charge of the nursery.

He then goes on to say the Tories have always punished the North East. Well, all the big positive things have happened under Conservative governments. Nissan and Doxford International are good examples. Now we have the new Wear bridge and the A19 Enterprise Zone, both of which will bring thousands of jobs. What came to the area on this scale under Labour?

As for the state of Sunderland, we have had 40 years of Labour rule in the city – 13 years of this under a Labour Government. That is why the city is in a state, Mr Stoker – 40 wasted years under Labour. I’m all in favour of new blood taking over the city. It is its only hope.

Coun Alan Wright,

Conservative,

St Chad’s Ward

Wonderful nurses

THIS is to thank the nurses on Ward B28. Lots of thanks for all your help. You do a good job.

Mr D. Wheldon,

Sunderland

Waste of money

IN response to this article I would say “no”.

 As a previous employee of the council, I would suggest that they need to focus closer to home before spending money on such things.

 There are front-line services that are at risk of cuts and these areas are often disregarded and forgotten about. The work that is done is invaluable to the local area and the families in the area. Front-line workers are stretched to capacity and this has a greater impact on those receiving services.

 If more money was put into supporting these areas, then I think there would be a happier workforce, staff would be retained and it would follow that on paper services would look better because people are happy in their work. They are devoted to working in these roles and helping those in need but are so often taken for granted.

 When I hear of friends and colleagues waiting to find out whether their roles will still be in place or their wages cut and then read about these types of trips, then I feel there is a massive imbalance.

 Many workers leave jobs because they are not valued or respected and I think that the council should stop and look at what they have and invest in this. There are families that are not being supported because of lack of resources and time and this could be improved massively.

 In my experience it seems that as long as statistics look OK, then everything is fine. Morale is way more important.

 I would hope that councillors would consider what the need is on their doorstep before spending the equivalent of a quarter to a third of someone’s annual wage on a two-day trip! False economy? I think so.

Lisa Simpson

AGAIN, it goes without saying this council only know how to spend taxpayers’ money on more trips, which will never be of any use to us whatsover.

 They are going to spend £4,500 on a party of two people to discuss long-term economic development (which will take in one hour of speaking time but will last two days). The council are saying it will help Sunderland’s international profile. Who is kidding who? I forgot, it’s the Labour Party. They are good at spending. Just look at the last Labour goverment, how much they spent and what then happened.

 Since the Second World War Labour have never been able to understand austerity measures. They don’t know what to do. Look at all the money they received for up-grading parks in the area – over £800,000 and where has the money gone? If it was not for the Echo finding this out, we the taxpayers would never know what is happening in our council chambers. Where is the transparency from our council?

 I know by the time this letter is posted the ruling cabinet will have authorised this trip. It just goes to show you this council have got no idea on spending less in times of need. They are good at spending money but not saving money. The problem, in my opinion, is there is no democracy within the council as Labour are the ruling party. If ever there was time for change, that time has come because it is time for the people of Sunderland to stand up and make the change for the better or we will never get what we deserve.

 Look what has happened since Martin O’Neill took over at SAFC. It goes to show it can be done at the next local elections. The time for change is now, so come on.

George Gibson, Sunderland

IS Sunderland councillor Harry Trueman’s £4,500 South Africa trip really worth it?

No it is not!

 That money would have paid a year’s wage for someone on part-time work! It is a disgrace when the story clearly suggests that video call would have done perfectly.

 It’s about time all councils were brought to task for money wasting. I could go in there and save them thousands without cutting jobs within a month.

Trish Adams

THE trip might well be important and could benefit the city, but why send him first class/business class? Why can he not travel in normal-class seats on the plane which still have more than average leg room on a long-haul flight?

 I have no doubt that the hotel will also be five-star? Is this really necessary for a two-day trip? Surely a lesser four-star hotel would do and would greatly reduce the cost of this trip.

Rob McHenry

WHAT have they ever done for us? as the Echo Leader asks. Probably nothing. But they do share some things with our council. They both sure know how to waste money. And we can copy their “Beware of the Hippo” sign with one next to the horned bridge which will waste £30million of council taxpayers’ resources. Our sign could read “Beware of the White Elephant”.

Sheila Ellis

HE must be flying business class for that price. Disgrace. Why can he not fly economy? He’s not royalty. While they stop meals on wheels they could Skype this meeting in South Africa for one hour. Disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money.

Gary Hutcheon

JUST a ratepayer-funded jaunt. Utterly pointless. Resign.

R. Phillips