Letters, Thursday, August 1, 2013

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Have your say

The city needs to change to survive

SIR Terry Leahy, the former chief executive of Tesco, recently said that city centres need two attractions to survive: free parking and leisure facilities.

 Unfortunately, Sunderland has neither of these, which is one reason why the city centre is struggling. Competing with the Metro Centre and Dalton Park, with free and nearby parking, is a challenge but other councils are more successful in supporting their city centres.

 In Newcastle, the Alive after Five campaign has extended the daytime economy until 8pm, boosting footfall at Eldon Square, helped by free parking.

 Sunderland is very quiet after 5pm, made worse by the demise of Crowtree and the lack of a replacement in the city: the Aquatic Centre not being a leisure facility.

 But more worrying is the continuing departure of high-income families who leave the city because of a lack of outstanding schools and executive housing.

 Currently seventy-seven pupils from Sunderland travel to Whitburn Academy every day as only one city school, St Anthony’s Catholic Academy, has the top Ofsted grade.

 All of these factors need to be changed if the city centre is going to attract people to live, shop and work here.

Councillor Robert Oliver,

Leader Conservative

Council Group

Failed to deliver

WE are very concerned that the Government has failed to deliver on its commitment to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol.

 We believe it is a backwards step in our collective attempts to reduce crime in our communities.

 While crime rates are falling in the three force areas in the North East, the link between cheap alcohol and crime and disorder is undeniable.

 In the North East, more than £316million was spent in 2010/11 handling an estimated 213,800 alcohol related crimes – and this is repeated across the country.

 Alcohol is also having a major impact on our frontline officers. A recent study revealed that in the North East, more than 80 per cent of officers have been subjected to an alcohol-related assault during their career and one in five has been assaulted six or more times.

 Minimum unit price is needed, and it works. New research by the University of Sheffield shows that a minimum price of 45p per unit has 50 times more impact than a ban on the sale of alcohol below the price of duty plus VAT, the Government’s chosen measure.

 Experience in parts of Canada demonstrates that a 10 per cent increase in the minimum price resulted in a 32 per cent fall in alcohol related deaths.

 In contrast, the suggested alternative, to ban selling alcohol below cost price, will have very little impact. The ongoing freedom that sections of the alcohol industry are being given to sell certain products at pocket money prices is at the expense of vulnerable communities and our frontline public services.

 The Government has missed a real opportunity to reduce the impact that cheap alcohol continues to have on individuals, families and communities across the country. It was also a measure which was supported by ourselves, doctors and other health professionals, children’s charities, publicans and the majority of the North-East public.

Vera Baird, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner,

Barry Coppinger, Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner,

Ron Hogg, Durham Police and Crime Commissioner

Worthwhile cause

IT may help Dennis McDonald (There is no such thing as a free lunch, July 22) to point out that I was welcoming the recommendations of a Government-commissioned report, which was written by two businessmen and has the backing of the Tory Education Secretary.

 I don’t recall Mr McDonald complaining about this Government giving tax cuts to millionaires, but for some reason he takes exception to investing in our children.

 I make no apologies for being a long-standing advocate for improving access to healthy and nutritious meals in schools.

 People like Mr McDonald have been saying that they would rather see children from poorer families go hungry than have the Government provide school lunches since the concept was introduced by the Campbell-Bannerman government in 1906. Then, as now, anyone with an ounce of compassion – or indeed pragmatism – would disagree.

 Our country is on the verge of an obesity epidemic, but there’s also a real and growing problem with children turning up to school unable to learn because they’re hungry or haven’t had the right kind of food to allow them to concentrate.

 Study after study proves that good quality school meals have a positive impact on health and educational outcomes, and improving these will be worth far more to the country in the long run than what it might cost now.

Sharon Hodgson MP

Wise after event

NO one should be surprised at the reaction of the Tory opposition over a council decision to cancel the iconic bridge across the river Wear.

 The Tories will stir it up and squeeze all the political capital they can. Their request for information appertaining to the bridge negotiations should be given to them, otherwise they will be moaning constantly.

 Councillor George Howe appears to be a man wise after the event. I’ve never heard one objection from the Tories on the matter. Now the councillor is coming out with all sorts of reasons why the proposal failed.

 Funny that – because he puts his own Government scrutiny in question.

 However, it’s undeniable that neither of the two contractors involved said the bridge couldn’t be built. The councillor was worried about the cost of the u-turn.

 Consultants don’t come cheap, so like other councils before them, ours will have to pay the price – even the Government is not immune to paying for mistakes.

 For example, the current Tory-led Government is notorious for its numerous u-turns, which have cost our country billions.

 Then there’s the unnecessary reorganisation and stealth privatisation of the NHS, which has the wheelers and dealers wallowing in taxpayers’ money.

 The councillor again mentioned the Vaux site. This land will ultimately be developed and bring millions to council coffers. This cannot be said for the old Town Hall, which would have attracted millions of tourists. It was an elaborately designed structure of great historical value that brought lustre and importance to Sunderland.

 It should have been preserved for future generations. But one dark day in the past, the last Tory council reduced to rubble one of Sunderland’s finest buildings.

W Quinn

Not many winners

THE council needs to consider the effects of the airshow and other events like the recent Marathon of the North on the local economy.

 This marathon closed the city and did nothing for the local economy. It actually closes the access to Sunderland Marina where my business is located.

 As for the Airshow, my business is always closed as our customers can not get to the marina.

 Obviously some may gain but the majority of local businesses lose or actually have to close during these events.

 Who makes the money? Traders from outside of the area, burger vans etc.

Katy, the Snow Goose Cafe

Ban goldfish prize

I HAVE had yet another wonderful Sunderland Airshow marred as I find it impossible to ignore the cruelty of the tradition of handing over goldfish to children as prizes on the hook-a-duck stalls. Surely it’s time that this was outlawed?

 I am sick of seeing these poor creatures roughly carried about in tiny plastic bags in the blazing heat by children (without parents with them) or irresponsible, drunk teenagers.

 Surely the Airshow is not the event to attend if you’re looking for a pet?

 Last year a group of children had abandoned their goldfish on the grass next to their shoes as they enjoyed the bouncy castles – people were having to step over them to avoid stepping on them.

 Surely, the council could step in to ban this cruel tradition, especially with Sunderland’s dismal record in the animal cruelty statistics?

A concerned animal-lover.