Letters, Saturday, February 5th, 2011

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EMA axe and life in the real world

I SEE the Tory Party apologists are queuing up to defend the removal of the Education Maintenance Allowance. Yet another example of how the very poorest people in our society being made to pay the highest price by this obnoxious ConDem Alliance.

One apologist claims to “live in the real world”. Well, the real world is not a comfortable existence in leafy St Chad’s for the vast majority of people in the North East. The real world is in places like Easington, Horden, Middlesbrough, South Bank and many other parts of the North East, where youngsters had little hope of a decent life and now have no hope at all.

Where £30 is not the price of a glass of champagne in the Bullingdon Club, or the amount of interest accrued every hour of every day by George Osborne’s trust fund. £30 in the real world is the price of a pair of shoes or a jacket. It is six hours work in a care home. The real world is where 1.5million people have lost their jobs because of the greed of bankers – 1.5million people desperate for work and spiralling into debt.

Of course, in the Tory world, everyone who is unemployed is a skiver, everyone who is on the sick is a malingerer and everyone in a low-paid job is feckless.

The same Tory apologist goes on to describe these young people on EMA as “greedy”. Well, I’ll tell you what greed is. Greed is paying yourself £7billion pounds bonus and sticking two fingers up at the taxpayers who bailed you out. Greed is Sir Philip Green flying out to Monaco in his private jet every weekend to avoid paying his taxes. In fact if he and Lord Ashcroft stopped avoiding tax, the revenue gained by the taxpayer would be more than enough to pay for the EMA.

Alternatively one seventh of the bankers’ annual bonuses would raise the same amount, or, here’s another suggestion, and that would be to remove the ridiculous charity status of public schools and to charge VAT on private school fees.

Perhaps Coun Oliver could suggest these ideas to his colleagues in Westminster. I’m sure they would implement them, but watch out for flying pigs.

Post Lux Tenebras

Cash for education

RON Metcalfe (January 31) writes rather stridently concerning the withdrawal of EMA – the £30 per week grant allocated to students

entering tertiary education.

The writer proceeds with a vituperative attack on the editor of the Echo for warning of the likely

consequences of withdrawal of the EMA.

Mr Metcalfe protests the EMA costs the country £529million per year. This sum equates roughly with the amount of tax “saved” by Sir Philip Green – boss of the Arcadia group – by having his businesses registered in his wife’s name. Green’s wife is a resident of Monaco, a so-called “tax haven”.

More importantly, I wonder if correspondent Ron Metcalfe is the same man who studied at Fircroft College for Working Men at

Birmingham and was later a deputy at Wearmouth Pit. If so, would Mr Metcalfe permit readers to know how this one-year course in liberal studies was funded?

I attended the same college in 1970-71 and was admirably financed by a bursary from my trade union and a full maintenance grant from my LEA.

For younger readers, an LEA full maintenance grant covered tuition, travel to and from college each term, accommodation, books, food

and – believe it or not – a few pounds “pocket money”.

Bob Stothard, Washington

Crocodile tears

CROCODILE tears from Coun Lee Martin when viewing the destruction of Doxford shipyard and the listed gatehouse.

Can’t he remember that only 10 months ago this is precisely what he was advocating with his full-page election campaign advertisement manifesting Conservative party support for Stephen Spence’s “iconic” bridge at the derelict Grove Crane site?

In much the same way that you can’t make a omelette without breaking eggs, you cannot have the absurd iconic bridge without an absurd zig-zagging approach road from the south radial road to the A19.

“A proud past lies in ruins” was the banner headline on the front page of the Echo (February 1).

If the Sunderland road planners have their way and the funds from the treasury (only about £235million) that are needed for the sophisticated Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor, then you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Has there ever been such conspicuous profligacy with public money? It is worth bearing in mind that the £4million spent by the council researching the feasibility of the iconic bridge project was only for one year – 2009 to 2010. (See the recent Echo report “£6.5million paid to 147 consultants”.)

How many millions have been dissipated paying consultants from 1972 to 2009? The council do not keep records that far back and there are no records of the expenditure to be found in the archives, which are kept in Newcastle.

Ron McQuillan

No history lesson

CAN anyone tell me what the Tory councillors for St Michael’s and St Chad’s were on about in their joint letter “The right to write” (Letters Page, February 2)?

The French Revolution, The Declaration of the Rights of Man, Age of Enlightenment ... if I had wanted a history lesson I would have bought a history book. I don’t want some self-important Tory councillors giving me a history lesson.

The lesson I have learnt from them is that two Tory councillors talk twice as much rubbish as one.

AB, Durham

Big thank-you

I WOULD like to thank all the very kind people who saw the publicity for the Christmas Appeal in the Sunderland Echo and helped me and my daughter, at that period of time I was worried and struggling.

It was a great help. My daughter had an extremely good day and was very happy, which made me feel at ease.

I am so grateful that people found it in their hearts to give that one present. It makes a big difference.

Resident, Wearside Women In Need