Letters, Friday, November 11th, 2011

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Labour’s shambolic housing record

IN 1971 Anthony Crosland, a former Labour housing minister, stated that “housing is basic to certain socialist objectives”.

Unfortunately, someone should have told Blair, Brown and now Miliband E because the turnover of housing/shadow ministers under their leadership has now well passed embarrassing proportions.

During the time Grant Shapps has been their Conservative equivalent, Labour have had no fewer than eight of their number in a similar role. Absolutely hopeless for continuity and a sad comment on either a lack of talent or effectiveness or both. Crosland would not have been happy.

The last shadow housing minister, Alison Seabeck, partner of a previous Labour minister, Nick Raynsford, was replaced during the brief time Miliband E has been attempting to be a Labour leader, so she certainly did not last long.

Her successor, Jack Dromey, husband of Harriet Harman, has not the made the best of starts as he is under investigation by the Parliamentary Standards watchdog following accusations that he did not declare money he had earned from his job as Deputy General Secretary of the Unite union after becoming an MP.

2008 was the low point of this fiasco, with three Labour housing ministers in that one year, including the rather bizarre appointment of a seemingly disinterested Margaret Beckett. Little wonder that Labour’s record on social house building was lamentable up to 2010.

Miliband E compounded this trend by asking his shadow team, when he became leader in 2010, to present a review of housing policy by 2012. So for two years on the massively important issue of housing, Labour were/are a blank sheet of paper, except for the usual inaccurate scaremongering stories that appear on leaflets at election time written by people who do not know what they are talking about, but try to frighten the vulnerable to get votes.

In July of this year a Labour Party activist made the following observation: “Serious questions must be asked when Labour’s defence of badgers and circus animals is getting better press than that of the millions of people who just want a decent place to live in.”

Little wonder after the many years of disappointment.

Michael Dixon, Sunderland

Better off in EU

COUN G.E. Howe chose an odd day to submit us to another of his rants on the EU (Letters, November 9). On the very same day, the European Investment Bank announced a £189million loan to Nissan to support the introduction of new machinery and tooling for the electric Leaf car.

This is a great example of how Britain’s EU membership is supporting jobs for local people here in Sunderland.

Trevor Mann from Nissan has been quoted as saying he’s “extremely grateful” for the EIB’s support.

Support from the European Investment Bank is only available to the 27 EU members – so isolating ourselves by withdrawing from the EU would mean losing this support for local jobs at blue-chip employers like Nissan.

Fortunately for our city, it’s not just Nick Clegg who disagrees with Coun Howe. Even his own leader – the Prime Minister – doesn’t support his costly calls for withdrawal from the EU, and neither does the Labour Party.

That’s because they all know that despite its faults, as a city and a country, we are better off in Europe.

Brian Robson, Ewesley Road, Sunderland

Meeting fiasco

AS co-ordinator of the Long Street Action Group, I would like to point out an important missing part of the Echo story. After working on the campaign, even taking a party to see a similar facility in Northumberland, the most annoying part of this fiasco was not being allowed to speak at the planning meeting

Why? Well, in order to speak (for five minutes), you have to give the chairman of the meeting three days’ notice of intention. So when did the 69 objectors learn of this meeting? Whenever their post was delivered on the Monday, so that equals one day of notice of the meeting.

I did received an email (down in Yorkshire) on the Friday, but it’s difficult complaining by phone systems on a Friday afternoon (I never did get a reply).

Eddy Moore, LSAG

Thanks to hospital

MAY I say thank you to Sunderland Royal Hospital after my recent stay on Ward D43.

The staff do a superb job, nothing is too much trouble yet they never complain. Also the domestics always have a smile and a word to cheer you up.

Also to my ward friends Mary, Ruth, Jean and Margaret. It was a pleasure and a laugh. Well done to all of you.

Thank you.

Rose Callaghan, Farnham Terrace, High Barnes, Sunderland

Family estates

WITH reference to Sarah Stoner’s feature on Whitburn Hall (Echo, November 3), the article stated that the estates secured by Col. George Fenwick were bequeathed to his daughter Dorothy (later Dame Dorothy Williamson).

After the Civil War, George Fenwick had purchased the Borough of Sunderland and the Bishop’s Manor at Houghton and part of Monkwearmouth in 1646. This was the same year that he had returned to England from Conneticut, in the United States, and only months after his daughter Dorothea had been born there, her mother dying shortly afterwards.

In this same year he was appointed as a commissioner to secure peace between England and Scotland.

He returned to America and brought his family to Sussex before resuming parliamentary and military affairs. When he died in 1656, Dorothy was a minor aged 11 and her sister Elizabeth, also born in Conneticut, was 15.

However, the Durham properties in his will were reverted to the See of Durham after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, so the only land the sisters actually held was in Sussex where they were co-heiress to an uncle.

The Williamson sisters still retained interested in the Sunderland area and Dorothy actually purchased Monkwearmouth Shore from her sister Elizabeth and the Pudsey family after selling a partition of land in Sussex. No date of her marrige to Thomas Williamson has been recorded in the family archive.

With regard to these documents known as the Williamson Memorial, they were used by the late Eric Watts Moses for a chapter in Sunderland Antiquarian Society Transactions Vol. XX111 and were kept at McKenzie Bell solictors where Mr Moses worked.

Patricia Storey, a descendant of Sunderland Echo founder Samuel Storey, also accessed from this same source some years later for a thesis she was researching.

When I enquired five years ago to McKenzie Bell in John Street, I was informed that the Williamson Memorial had been collected from them by the legal heir of the Williamson family, this being Julian Lambton, claimant due the fact that Sir Nicholas Williamson, 11th and last Baronet of Whitburn, had married as his first wife Dianne Mary Lambton.

Michael Bute, Sunderland Antiquarian Society

Wonderful prize

I WAS the winner of the recent competition in the Echo to win a trip to Paris. Thanks to the Echo for the flights, transfers and two nights’ hotel accommodation.

The hotel was first class. It was a very enjoyable trip. Also thanks to James Burrell in Promotions for his assistance with the booking.

Marilyn Davidson, Sunnybrow, Silksworth

Footpath danger

OVER the summer months, the council has established a formal pathway along the edge of the river at Washington, between Coxgreen and Biddick Bridge.

Much of this footpath, of course, already existed in a more natural state, and if I was being honest I would say that I preferred the natural setting of the original pathway.

I do acknowledge, however, the council’s attempts to make this beautiful stretch of the river available to people with walking difficulties or indeed for wheelchair users.

A considerable section of the footpath is protected by two “self-closing” gates, which are meant to restrict its use and make it safe for walkers and wheelchairs.

The formal establishment of the pathway, however, has attracted cyclists on to it – the gates are easily negotiated if the bicycle is raised on to its rear wheel. A small sign on the gatepost near the James Steel Lake has also been vandalised and the “cycles prohibited” instruction obliterated.

The pathway is for much of its extent quite narrow, fenced-in and has many twists and turns, which restricts the view ahead along many portions of its length.

Indeed, a few narrow escapes have already taken place. A cyclist recently shot over the top of his handlebars after braking to narrowly avoid two walkers out with their dogs.

I urge the council to take action before a serious accident occurs along this footpath. The pathway needs good signage advising of the restrictions of use. Only one small vandalised sign is currently present.  If cyclists do not stick to the official “coast to coast” cycleway on the other side of the river, then perhaps they should be fined?

Keith Cockerill, Sherwood Close, Washington