Letters, Thursday, July 25, 2013

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It is time to make tough decisions

I AM constantly flabbergasted by our council’s apparent nonchalant ‘let them eat cake’ attitude when it comes to trimming the fat on their freebies.

 Now we have to tighten our council waistbands due to the ‘meanies’ in Whitehall and the fat cat bankers.

 Only yesterday in the Echo, our beloved council leader stated that the chauffeur-driven council vehicles are a necessity. Is that due to the fact that one or more of our councillors may be missing a free lunch and the bus does not run by the restaurant door? And is it because they have a delicate constitution that they cannot drink ‘eau naturel a la tap Northumbria’ and so require bottled water at a large annual cost?

 I am a Labour Party member and I have to live as per my means. I would love to go out and get this and get that and hang the expense but I can’t. I understand how council’s work, I used to attend many a meeting when I worked in my last job. I understand that some meetings are held at late times or at out of the way locations but do we really need four chauffeur-driven cars costing over £21K a year? How much more is chalked up in taxi fares and the mileage allowance, or the first-class rail tickets?

 I am even more incensed that it takes the opposition party to bring these things up and publish them in the paper, making the ruling Labour Party look detached from its citizens.

 We are also drip-fed drops of poison from the Tories demonising everyone on the welfare state. We are constantly told that every person on benefits lives the life of Riley. You only have to watch programmes like Jeremy Kyle to see what is wrong and how the system is sometimes abused, but the vast majority of benefit claimants live day-to-day and hand-to-mouth. I know families that shop as cheaply as possible, go on no holidays, take very few trips because they cost too much. This includes not going to the seafront at Seaburn because of the bus fare and because the kids would like chips or ice creams and there is little money for these kinds of ‘luxuries’.

 I find it galling being taught lessons on how to behave in society by some of the same polititicans who have abused and fiddled their expenses and got off with nothing more than a slapped wrist.

 The taxpayer pays for most things in life – the NHS, education, police, fire, defence, DWP, transport, culture, Europe the lot. We also face increased fuel, food and housing costs and have to make cuts in our home budgets to meet these costs.

 So, please councillors, it is now time to put all the cards down on the table and decide what is really necessary and what is not an essential and save the money for something more useful.

 We all need to make small sacrifices in times of need and remember it is your ward members you have to answer to as they have the option of the ballot box.

 I would hate the Tories or the Liberals to pick up some of the disenchanted votes.

 Keep Sunderland Labour – but keep it real.

Simon Gordon

Forward planning

WHEN this council eventually decides what type of bridge will span the Wear (one with two ends and a middle would be nice), what’s the possibility of throwing across a single spur of the Metro attached with it?

 Better still – two lines. One attached to either side of the bridge then, when the Metro eventually links up with Washington on the South side (and through to Pelaw and on to Newcastle thus opening up a large untapped future passenger base eg: Castletown, Hylton Castle, Downhill, Red House and Washington) the infrastructure will already be in place on the North side.

 It’s called forward planning, something this council lacks in abundance.

Stephen Hanratty

A duty of care

WHEN the last Conservative government rushed through the privatisation of the telephone service it forgot to include a requirement that the new phone service providers provide a fast track repair service for seriously ill customers who need access to emergency ambulance services and for whom a telephone is a lifeline.

 Many phone providers do provide this service.

 The Post Office home phone tries, and does, reconnect in 24 hours, but there is no legal requirement unless the provider is aware that the customer is seriously ill. In the case of the Post Office, it conducts a medical questionnaire when the affected person advises that their line has failed.

 Most phone providers do not exercise their duty of care to customers by including in their pre-sales advertising or after-sales documents that this service is offered.

 The reality is that disabled or ill customers only find out when the phone line fails that a repair could take up to two weeks.

 For anyone whose phone is their lifeline on health grounds should make their provider aware before the line fails. Useful contacts are Consumer Direct, provided by Citizens Advice, 0845 404 0506, Ofcom Telephone Regulator 0300 123 3333.

G White,

Sunderland

Place of heroes

THE neglect that this Sunderland Labour Council imposes on the people of Hendon, is truly unbelievable.

 Hendon was at one time, in my time, the heart and soul of Sunderland before this Labour Council got hold of it.

 The destiny of my library is the culmination of this council’s policies.

 I owe Hendon Library such a lot and couldn’t possibly begin to pay it back. It helped such a lot with my education, from a small child to becoming an engineer.

 This area had so many chief engineers and captains of ships you could not even count them.

 Hendon was such a creative place and still is, if, we had a council of wise men. The like of which we once had.

 Known as ‘Little Egypt’, I bragged many times throughout the world of the place I was born and bred.

 Even Adolph couldn’t flatten us.

 Long may Hendon be the centre of the ‘real Sunderland’ which bred so many heroes.

Observer

Broken promises

I REFER to the article (July 8) about the proposed park on the site of Salem Street South.

 This is an absolute disgrace.

 All those who have had a hand in this should hang their heads in shame, including the Johnny come lately councillors, instead of grinning like they have found a cure for cancer.

 Let’s go back to 1998, the council proposed the clearance of Harrogate Street, Amberley Street South, part of Mowbray Road, and of course Salem Street South. The council was forced to have a meeting with the newly-formed residents’ association, and admitted it was not expecting the level of objections it received, but said there had to be a compromise and that the Harrogate Street area would have to come down, but the two Salem Streets would be retained.

 In 1999, the residents’ association was asked to attend a meeting with Tees Valley Housing’s Simon Underwood, who showed us all the architects’ drawings of what the streets would look like, with period-style double glazed windows, new fascias, regency guttering, new boundary walls with wrought iron work, new rear gates and solar panels on the new roofs, all uniform and mirroring the then recently refurbished St Vincent Street.

 This was to be one of the first false dawns to be suffered, as with the arrival of Back On The Map (BOTM) and the £54million grant (over 10 years) everyone sat on their collective hands and did nothing.

 The original remit for BOTM was never housing, yet for the last two years of its existence it bought up houses all over Hendon, tarted them up and rented them out at high rents, certainly not affordable to the average working family.

 BOTM had brought in the big guns. These came with a big, big reputation. They had helped to turn around the Benwell and Elswick area of Newcastle by letting residents buy their homes for £1 each, however they had to spend a certain amount of money on them for which lenders were throwing money at the project as the council would match it, providing the homes were for owner occupation – yet another false dawn.

 One of the other pipe dreams was building a new estate with BoKlok homes (Ikea homes) but this was dropped and the housing market crash was blamed.

 I lived in Salem Street South for three years, after leaving home I moved away for a few years prior to my marriage, but when I moved back to Sunderland there was only one place to be.

 Why would they need to build a park when two minutes in either direction you have Mowbray Park and Backhouse Park.

 Councillors are spouting about community and inner strength but what about the families, like mine, who were settled and loved where we lived but have been displaced. This has ripped the heart out of our community.

 With a bit of capital investment you would have an over subscription of people wanting to move back, giving me, my family and people like me a stake in the community we love.

 The council got its own way in the end – it always does – but it kept us dangling on a string for 15 years.

 The promise from all parties involved in this has been the regeneration of the area, now we are left with the promise of another park.

Name and address supplied

Lost loved one

IS this what it’s going to be like?

Lying alone in the darkened bedroom hoping that sleep will stop the heartache for a little while.

Getting out of bed and not being able to hear a friendly voice. “Morning pet, want a cup of tea.”

Is this what it’s going to be like?

Shopping for one, after being used to guiding a loaded shopping trolley, full of bargains and buy one get one frees.

Is this what it’s going to be like?

Having an almighty row over something trivial and not being able to make it up soon afterwards.

No sharing the joys of marriages, birthdays and new born babies.

Is this what it’s going to be like?

Not being able to share together Christmas dinner with the rest of the family.

Not being together to see the old year out and the new year in.

If this is what it’s going to be like – then I don’t like it!

Fred Gooch,

Monkwearmouth