Letters, Friday, May 25th, 2012

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Tackling problem of crumbling roads

THE article about the state of the city’s roads (Echo, May 21)seems to have been on the back burner for a few weeks. As a resident of Stannington Grove, I can confirm that the council has resurfaced part of the road, albeit in a curious manner.

In about early March, a road-mending crew turned up and I thought “Great, they are going to fix the road at last”. They patched one hole about 0.5 sq metres and promptly disappeared. At the end of April, they reappeared and divided half of the length of the road into three sections. The first and the third areas, nearest to junctions, were scarified down to the sub surface and the full width relaid. The middle section was left untouched as it wasn’t too bad.

In defence of the council, they are fighting a battle they cannot really win. It is estimated that road damage rises steeply with axle weight and a rule of thumb is that road wear is proportional to the fourth root of the axle weight.

If you assume a 1,000 kg empty GVW ( Gross Vehicle Weight) for a super mini and it contributes one unit of wear on the road, a family car (1,500 kg empty GVW ) will equate to five times the super mini and a Range Rover (2,500 kg empty GVW) a whopping 39 times.

With the number of cars on the road increasing annually, the fashion for overweight SUVs and with car GVWs increasing every time a new model is brought out (up to 100kg), it only needs a bad winter and this added effect of annual extra car-induced road wear leaves the council playing catch-up with a reducing budget.

As an aside, our Highways Department doesn’t have a clue about traffic lights, but they seem to have done their homework on Stannington Grove. I assume that they have recognised that right-angle bends at junctions induce greater horizontal stresses from the tyres leading to a higher degree of wear, i.e. just do the junctions to save a bit money.

The solution? The present system of road tax based upon emissions is ludicrous. Manufacturers are developing ways to reduce emissions, and there is a hotch-potch of VED charges which seem to defy logic for equivalent size/engined cars. Nil road tax for a 1,560 Kg GVW Leaf ignores the fact that it is inducing five times more road wear than a supermini. Road tax should relate to point of impact i.e. tax based upon GVW. Some countries in Europe already apply this, but mainly for lorries.

Bill Scott, Stannington Grove, Sunderland

Benefit cuts

DO you get the impression that the Tories are trying to destroy the North East? David Cameron warned us before the election that he intended to do so, but I think there were some who didn’t believe him at the time. Anyway, he has been as good as his word.

First, there were the cuts in benefits. Tough new rules have been introduced for Housing Benefit, and for people on Jobseeker’s Allowance. Thousands have had their Working Tax Credits revoked.  

The Government is currently reassessing those on sickness benefit and –- in County Durham – declaring 45 per cent of them fit for work and placing a further 26 per cent into a “work-related activity” category (which means that they will be moved on to JSA after a year).

These changes will affect the North East disproportionately, because we have a high proportion of people on benefits – 37 per cent of the people in Aycliffe are “workless” (i.e. receiving some kind of benefits).

I am aware that some of those local people defined by Mr Cameron as “decent, hard-working families” may approve of these changes, because you have been sold by the Government a “scrounger” narrative, which alleges that people on benefits are in fact just being lazy, and taking money out of your pocket.  

But even if you believe the propaganda, you cannot deny that these cuts represent a significant cut in demand, especially for basic consumer goods, in the region, and that will affect the general prosperity of the region.

Kevin Stoker

Soapland jobs

UNEMPLOYMENT is very high at the moment, but not, it seems, in soapland. People are given jobs instantly, especially in Emmerdale where you can get finished from one job and walk into another within five minutes.

I think the writers need to get real. I sent my CV off to Emmerdale and haven’t even had

the courtesy of a reply.

John Watson, Pensher View, Washington

Pupil Premium

DOCTOR Mick Thurlbeck’s attack on the Pupil Premium ignores the benefits to children in Sunderland, with currently 9,846 pupils eligible for the £600 funding, bringing nearly £6million into the city.

It is given to schools on the basis of how many pupils are entitled to free school meals due to an established link between income and educational attainment not because these pupils are “dimmer”.

Robert Oliver, Leader, Conservative Council Group