Letters, Monday, February 20th, 2012

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Despair over place where I was born

WHEN reading Linda Colling’s recent column I began to wonder if she had been listening to many of my recent conversations regarding the fate of this city.

I can’t decide when the rot began, whether it was with the destruction of the original town hall and its replacement with the eyesore outside Mowbray Park or with that national disgrace named Margaret Thatcher and her determination to bring heavy industry to its knees so that she could win an argument.

I do, however, feel that it once began, the decline was not halted by a Labour-dominated council voted into power time after time by the people of this city. We are nothing if not loyal.

I have to say that our council representatives over the years have chased false rainbows many times, promising regeneration with every new folly paid for by us. They are full of self-congratulation yet when given genuine opportunities to raise the profile of the city – by doing something positive like bringing the City of Adelaide here as a draw for tourists – they do nothing, pleading poverty. Had they not paid for rubbish like the Ambit, perhaps the money would have been available.

I agree wholeheartedly with Linda regarding the state of the buildings, the railway station etc, and I wonder why we cannot plough money into at least regenerating the buildings, perhaps utilising the skills of the unemployed.

For those well qualified, give them an unemployed youth as an apprentice. At least that way they would be receiving a chance to learn a skill. Of course I am aware that unemployment benefit would not cover a full working week, but even if they worked a couple of days each week it may give them a sense of purpose and halt all those people calling them lazy and self-seeking.

Before anyone accuses me of simply attacking Labour, I wish to make it clear that I am not implying that a Conservative council would have done any better. Like Linda I just despair for the place in which I was born and that I know deserves better than this.

Nancy Davison

Puzzling letter

I AM rather puzzled by Coun Colin Wakefield’s letter of the February 11 (“Labour jumping on the bandwagon”). I would have thought that he would have been delighted to have the support of any present or future Labour councillors campaigning against the extending the life of Houghton Quarry Landfill for another 17 years, especially those from Houghton and Copt Hill.

In his letter he writes: “They, like the rest of their Labour Party colleagues have done nothing to stop this madness, which their party imposed on Houghton all those years ago” yet when they do start doing something he picks up his pen and complains.

Maybe he would prefer the Labour Council to, in his words, continue doing nothing. Thus giving him a platform on which to ... complain?

Only by reaching a consensus with the majority party in power will this problem be solved and I hope this will happen soon, but reading his last sentence – “Do the residents of the Copt Hill and Houghton wards want to be represented by such people as these? I certainly hope not.” – makes me think that the Houghton Quarry Landfill problem wasn’t really the main item on the agenda when he wrote his letter.

Bob Price, Rydal Mount, Sunderland

Fears for shops

I WAS reading the Echo front page report on February 13 about one in four shops in the city centre being closed.

Now living in Barmston, Washington, I am concerned that Tesco and Morrisons are applying for planning permission to build out-of-town stores here. My concern is what effect this will have on small business in Washington, and could we end up with more empty shops boarded up?

Many of them are family businesses, serving local communities. We in Barmston have been lucky to have a new family Nisa store with post office, newsagent and fish shop. It would be a tragedy if these local small local businesses were sent to the wall because of the giants. I don’t want to lose my local shop, as it serves the local community so well for everyday needs, without the use of a car or bus.

I only hope the council planning committee takes all these points into consideration.

Bill Lynch, Burnhope Road, Barmston Village

Unfair attack

A SPITEFUL and ignorant letter by a Mrs Grace Cassidy paints a picture of Councillor Chirs Fairs that is far from the truth.

As Group Leader I have worked with him on several issues in his Ryhope Ward where I know he is an active campaigner. This is true especially in relation to the Toll Bar junction where he took the lead in dealing with faults that were causing havoc.

We need more people like Counc Fairs, who works in business and contributes to civic life, and fewer who only snipe from the sidelines.

Councillor Robert Oliver, Leader, Conservative Council Group

Right to pension

RE the letter headlined “Crazy world” (Letters, February 10), it would be greatly appreciated if Mr T. Brown looked at all the facts before spouting off in written form.

As for me and Mr Cobain receiving these pensions, they are not “golden handshake”, pensions as he obviously thinks. I had paid 13.5 per cent of my wages into a pension for over 29 years. Mr Cobain had only been in the police force for eight years but had transferred a lucrative pension from over 20 years of previous employment into his police pension. In fact, I had paid over £80,000 of my own money into a pension fund over the years. Does Mr Brown feel that I should not get the money I paid in?

Remember, in any other employment if someone does wrong and is punished, they do not lose their pensions.

I come from a mining background and know of plenty in the pits who had criminal records but still got substantial lump sums and pensions. What about the MPs who fiddled expenses and went to prison? Did they lose their pensions? The answer is no.

What we must remember is that their (the MPs’) pensions are a “golden handshake” funded by the taxpayer, which includes me. What about those company directors with huge pensions and bonuses funded by the taxpayer and shareholders? When they do wrong do they lose their pensions?

Perhaps Mr Brown’s time would be better utilised spouting off about these taxpayer-funded “golden handshake” pensions rather than about me and my ex-colleague getting what we paid into for years.

Remember, our pensions have been penalised. We are not going to receive all we could have, which can I say has cost me plenty. No, I am not looking for sympathy, merely pointing out to Mr Brown that we have been punished three times – twice by the courts and now by losing part of our pensions. Where else would this occur?

Could Mr Brown or anyone let me know of any job in the private sector where this would happen?

Maurice Allen, Bloomfield Drive, East Rainton

Using class system

MICHAEL Dixon’s recent letter said Labour must stop playing the class card. If he looks at the facts, Mr Dixon would find that his own Government appear to be using the class system in favour of the wealthy. The public don’t need prompting from Labour. They will judge by results whether the Government are perfidious or not.

These people will be currently concerned about the cap on housing benefit which means among others, thousands of low-paid workers losing their homes. They will also be worried about how to keep their heads and that of their families above water with inflation outstripping wages and reduced benefits.

Only working-class people get this kind of stress. The rich like Cameron have never experienced it. That is why he wouldn’t have thought of curtailing the exorbitant rents charged by greedy landlords, and left the tenants in peace. While Cameron is squeezing the commoner, he is taking it easy on the promise to stop tax avoidance.

A Commons committee report states the Government have let bankers Goldman Sachs off with £10million-worth of tax. Vodafone paid only £1.6billion of a £6billion tax bill, and the next one, a cracker, a decision was made at ministerial level which gave Ed Lester, head of the Student Loan Company, his total wages without any deduction of tax and national insurance.

The Government paid the money – £182,000 – into Mr Lester’s private firm. This meant Mr Lester paid corporation tax rate of 21 per cent instead of 50 per cent, which means someone earning £182,000 per year would pay £50,000 in tax instead of £75,000, leaving you £25,000 better off. Nice work if you can get it, and it’s rumoured this legal fiddle is widespread in the private sector, costing the nation billions.

It’s unbelievable that Cameron can impose the most vicious cuts on the poorest in the history of the Welfare State, then allow the Government to be involved in the rich man’s game of tax dodging.

W. Quinn, Duke Street, Millfield

Credit where it’s due

I WISH to make clear that not at any time was I involved in Independent discussions as to what Independent councillors as group could do in Houghton.

I most certainly was not involved in discussions to form an umbrella group for other organisations, as Coun Smith, stated in his letter of February 15.

I certainly held a public meeting to help get the Friends of Rectory Park off the ground. I have always resented councillors who try to take the credit for what ordinary people do. I am sure others do too.

Sheila Ellis

Post office threat

BARNES Park Post Office may close said the headline in the Echo of February 13. To say I am appalled and annoyed by this proposal is an understatement.

I have used the post office for many years. In fact, as I have reported in the past, it’s almost like a community centre. OK, so I am not the most popular of its customers, but all I have ever been responsible for is raising the profile of the post office.

It’s a little-known fact that in the 60s pop stars Kathy Kirby and Long John Baldry sent parcels home from the post office.

Quite rightly, the locals are up in arms. It really is a popular place. For instance, the store opens at 9am but there is a queue of pensioners lining up at 8.15. They normally discuss the war and how Sunderland AFC were much better to watch with Raich Carter in the team, but hey ho it’s great to listen to.

A friend of mine once visited from the South and genuinely believed that because the queue was so long, everyone who cashed in their pension got a free toy similar to those from Macdonald’s.

If the store does close I will miss the Blue Rinses. They have been a great source of information, and I have always thought that the cheery postmaster and his staff have been responsible for bringing together such a close-knit community.

One other reason for not wanting the post office to close is the fact I may have nothing to write to the Echo about.

Mick “The Pen” Brown

THE letter from Ken Harding about everyone mucking in after such a horrendous accident at Wearmouth Colliery 20 years ago is a 100 per cent correct.

Without the help of the miners who were there on that day in such difficult and dangerous conditions, myself and others involved would not be here today. Unfortunately two colleagues did not survive.

Having been left in wheelchair, I would like to thank everyone who has helped me throughout the last 20 years and look forward to the next t20.

Alan Curry, Cleadon

WE would like to thank the following people who tried to help when our brother Ian died suddenly on December 20, 2011:

The passerby who was in the street when Ian was unsteady on his feet and phoned for an ambulance, the paramedics who attended Ian, the staff at the hospital, the police at Gill Bridge who came to the house to let me know about Ian, and also the police who took my sister and me to the hospital.

Thanks to everyone for their caring thoughts at a very sad time.

Ian Watson’s family

RE your recent article about dog mess, it is not just the beach. I live in Lansbury Way, Castletown, and the dog mess is disgusting.

You find it is dog owners who take their dogs out early in the morning are the ones who leave the dog dirt.

To the owners, please clean up after your pet.

Marilyn Ditchfield

I NOTICED in your 50 Years Ago section on February 4, Sunderland shipyards and factories came to a virtual standstill and shutdown, but union sympathisers are always saying Thatcher closed the shipyards.

If I were a ship owner I would not be happy about demarcation, a much-used union word. Japanese translation at Nissan is multi-tasking.

Say no more.

A. Pollitt, Fulwell