Letters, Friday, July 5, 2013

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It is unfair to call Obama a hypocrite

I WOULD like to put the record straight and point out the true facts relating to the Guantanamo Bay situation.

 On June 14 this year, The United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a sweeping defense bill that would block President Barack Obama from closing the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

 It is unfair to call Obama a hypocrite when the truth is that since being elected he has been trying to close this facility and he even appointed a top US Lawyer to oversee a team dedicated to this process.

 However, his efforts have been blocked all the way by democratic process.

M Mickey

Tip of the iceberg

THE £3,600 spent by the council funding balloon-powered car workshops and friendship bracelet making sessions at the Deer Shed festival in North Yorkshire, 63 miles away from Sunderland, is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to inappropriate spending on the council’s image.

 Sunderland City Council has a track record of expensive public affairs spending, contracting firms, in the 2011/2012 financial year, such as Weber Shandwick, at a cost of £23,714, Bell Pottinger at £10,640 and TLG at £73,521.

These companies are controversial as some of them also engage in lobbying but for this council they were asked to provide a “reputation and influencing strategy” and an “understanding of central and local government activities” even though the city has three MPs, three MEPs and 75 councillors to do just that.

 Although the worst excesses of this practice have been reined in, £55,946 was spent on TLG in the last financial year – the cost unsurprising given that its other clients include Honda, Walmart and the United Nations, not institutions usually considered in the same vein as a mid-size city.

Surely, with budgets under pressure, and the council purporting to buy local, a cheaper and more modest alternative for public affairs spending could be found on the doorstep in local companies.

Councillor Robert Oliver,

Leader Conservative Council Group

Alarm bells ring

THE continuing affects of Britain’s membership of the EU are once again ringing alarm bells. How many Romanians will opt to move to the UK when curbs are removed next year?

 The Government doesn’t have officials in Romania and Bulgaria and refuses to publish estimates of just how many of these former eastern block nationals will choose Britain as their preferred destination. While the UK Government shrinks back from revealing the true figures a Romanian think tank, Ires, has conducted a poll which shows that young Romanians in the 18 to 35 age group are most attracted to migrate to Britain.

 One Conservative MP has stated that many of the would-be migrants will be hard working, talented and, in the main, self- sufficient, but would add pressure to housing and infrastructure, especially in the South East.

 Is he suggesting that British youths are less enthusiastic? Surely, youth unemployment, although less than that of France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, is reason enough to defy EU law?

 Migration Watch UK, another think tank, has forecast that 50,000 citizens from Romania and Bulgaria could settle in Britain and that the Government must impose at least a delay before granting access to our welfare system so they do not have the extra incentive to come here. But really the question is: Can Britain afford to continue with its policy of allowing unrestricted migration – though we are told that levels of migration into this country have been reduced by one third?

 While Britain is showing signs of an improving economy, this is not the time to allow more strain and pressures upon the financial and unemployment issues currently besetting the country.

 Is the Prime Minister going to bat for Britain and tell the EU ‘sorry we cannot allow more people in because we must think of our national interest on this one’?

 Of course, the European law-makers and the parliamentary Europhiles will rant but people coming into this country from the EU will be allowed to vote and when Cameron’s pledge to hold an In-Out referendum materialises, which way will they vote?

Councillor George Howe

Fulwell Ward

Amazing people

On behalf of Barnardo’s, National Volunteers Week (June 1 to 7) gives me the chance to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the Barnardo’s volunteers in Wearside who make a staggering contribution to the lives of the most vulnerable local children.

 During the week-long campaign, Barnardo’s Retail presented dozens of volunteers long service awards, in its five shops in Sunderland and Seaham. Volunteers in these five stores have given a massive 17,952 hours of their time in 2012/13.

 Volunteers come from all walks of life and make a real contribution to Barnardo’s and the impact the charity can make. Their dedication just goes to show the generosity and commitment of people in the North East to helping others.

 As an Ambassador, I’ve found volunteering for the charity incredibly rewarding and I visit Barnardo’s stores and projects to try to raise awareness of the charity’s great work. My daughter, Maia, has worked in a Barnardo’s store where she gained valuable experience and had a great deal of fun. It’s been really positive for us to share this experience and use our free time to help those children most in need.

 Of course, Barnardo’s local volunteers are the real heroes and whatever their role, they make a huge difference to the charity’s work through their ongoing dedication.

 Thank you.

 Anyone interested in volunteering can visit www.barnardos.org.uk/volunteering for details of local vacancies.

Michelle Collins

Barnardo’s Ambassador

Waste of money

IT appears that seven North East councils want to form a “combined authority” to look after NE concerns.

 In other words a North East Assembly by another name, voted against in 2004.

 They say it will not cost any money – just funding from the Government. Any money from Government comes from people who go to work and pay taxes – in other words, our money. Who are they kidding?

 It would be another layer of government with the usual questionable expenses. Councils are already under scrutiny over money wastage, bottled water, meals out and travel, and with Sunderland Council it includes a trip to the World Cup in 2010, costing £6,000. Durham Council gave chiefs a clothing allowance.

 This combined authority is to go to the Government for discussion by the end of this month and is proposed to start, if approved, in April next year.

 It will just cause more red tape and costly management.

 We must all vote against it.

Marjorie Matthews,

Sunderland

Nightmare scene

WHEN my grandfather was 19, he saw Sunderland win the League Championship (1913).

 When my father was 19, Sunderland were Champions again (1936).

 You can guess what I expected on my 19th birthday.

 But what did I get? Nothing. Just the usual struggle to avoid relegation. I still can’t understand it.

 We had a great team with King Charlie, Slim Jim and Monty. But I was never destined to see the lads crowned champions. I’m still waiting, Paolo. When grandad was a young man, the First World War broke out.

 When dad was a young man, the Second World War broke out. You can guess what I expected once I grew up. I even worked out the date: World War Three would start on April 17, 1969. Soviet tanks would smash through Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, I’d be called up join Nato forces, defending Western Europe, our submarines would fire missiles at Omsk or Tomsk, or Minsk and Pinsk. A nightmare scenario that thankfully never actually happened.

 So what have I learned from all this? History might repeat itself, but not three times.

William Crane,

Washington

Expensive council

AS an old retired seaman and not knowing how a council and its members run this city, I am on a learning curve as to where my council’s taxes are spent, by who and how.

 I recently had cause to ring the council regarding a housing query.

 I began my call at 4.20pm. I was eighth in line at 4.35pm. My query was eventually dealt with at 4.41pm.

 After waiting all that time the response was – ask Citizens Advice Bureau.

 It is a very expensive council we have, having to pay for their ‘jollies’ abroad (much reported in the press), computers and parties at the air show etc – all at the expense of the tax-payer.

Observer

Heartfelt thanks

I WOULD like to pass on my heartfelt thanks to the person who handed in my gold bracelet on the 42 bus on Sunday, May 26.

 The bracelet was given to me by my dad on my 16th birthday, 40 years ago.

 As he passed away almost 20 years ago, you can imagine how precious it is to me. Thank you very much for your honesty.

 God bless you.

C Foster,

Tunstall