Letters, Thursday, March 8th, 2012

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Have your say

Shocked at plan to close offices

RE the proposal to close three HMRC offices in Sunderland and Washington: I am writing this letter as a retired civil cervant who, as a trade union officer, was involved in the setting up of Gillbridge House and Shackleton House and whose last post before retirement was at Shackleton House.

In my present position as a life member of the Public and Commercial Services Union I usually attend the AGM of my former branch.

This I did on March 2 and was shocked to hear of these proposals, which if carried out would have a severe impact on employment prospects in Sunderland and its environs.

It should be remembered that both Gillbridge House and Shackleton House have only been open for 21 years and were opened to take in PAYE work from those regions where recruitment and retention of staff was difficult or well-nigh impossible.

The posts which were created in regions where other sources of employment had disappeared were of significant economic benefit.

Although senior management in HMRC state that there will be no redundancies (compulsory?) any large-scale transfers of staff to the proposed location on Tyneside will, given the increase in travelling time and expense, represent a significant worsening in conditions, a detriment to family life, and an increase in levels of stress among the staff involved.

In view of the sustained attack on departments within the Civil Service by the present and previous administrations, the statement that “We are all in this together” rings hollow.

I would ask readers to bear in mind that your friends and neighbours may well be in difficult circumstances and would appreciate your support.

J.N. Benson

Olympic success

FURTHER to the recent articles regarding Sunderland’s one and only Olympic medalist, Tony Jeffries: my daughter Laura Ferguson competed in the Special Olympic European Games in Warsaw in 2010 and achieved a gold medal (ladies’ badminton singles) and a silver medal (mixed-doubles badminton). Quite an achievement for a 16-year-old with learning difficulties!

Unfortunately, Laura’s achievements were not celebrated by the media and press at that time, hence the misunderstanding that Tony is the only Olympian from Sunderland.

Laura has since won an array of medals competing in tournaments across the country. Laura also won the Young Achievers Individual Sports Award last year.

As regards Tony, I too agree that he should be given the opportunity to carry the torch, as he has certainly earned the privilege.

Anita Ferguson

Regret over home

SHEILA, my sweetheart wife. It’s six years since you left me. But my life went with you. I have many regrets, but one sticks out a long, long way, and that was putting you in a nursing home.

The staff would not listen to me when I asked them to. In other words I was wrong and they were right, all of the time.

In fact it was a case of the staff knew Sheila better than me, strange considering we would have been married 56 years (December 26, 1956).

My biggest wish after all I have seen and experienced would have been to keep Sheila at home. Because I knew what my wife wanted and the home did not. Nobody, but nobody – and I mean nobody – would listen to me. It’s as though I did not exist.

Name and address supplied

Party changes

BEFORE con man Tony Blair packed in as New Labour Party Prime Minister, he appointed Gordon Brown as the NLP Prime Minister in a reshuffle of his cabinet.

He kicked John Prescott, the deputy PM, out of office and appointed Harriet Harman in his place.

Shortly after the NLP defeat in the 2010 General Election Gordon Brown did a runner, which left Harriet Harman as leader of the NLP in our Queen’s Parliament.

I would like to ask political correspondents like Andrew Marr and Andrew Neil, when did she inform the Speaker of the House or our Queen that she wanted the dissolution of the New Labour Party?

The NLP has been in our Queen’s Parliament since 1998 until now. In those years several general elections and local council elections took place in the North East, but in the polling booths there were never any New Labour Party candidates stood for office, but the non-existing Labour Party always had plenty candidates up for election.

Make no mistake, Harriet Harman is still leader of the New Labour Party in our Queen’s Parliament.

P. Haswell, Deneside, Seaham

Artistic chance

THE designer and small business expert Mary Portas has been commissioned to award government grants for the regeneration of traditional high streets in the form of prizes for the best 12 bids (Portas Pilots). Seaham is hoping to be one of these winners and is asking for positive suggestions to help achieve this. These are mine:

Church Street is unique. There is nothing quite like it in the whole country. The long row of shops going gradually uphill with the church looking down at the top end is an image that, when shown in the media, is instantly recognisable to anyone who has been there. To many it is the iconic image of Seaham.

Newcastle has the Millennium Bridge, Gateshead the Angel of the North. Is it not too much to say that Church Street could likewise become a work of art in its own right?

How could this be achieved? In my opinion by the artistic use of colour. The shops certainly don’t need modernising or having an awning put over them as this would totally ruin the whole character of the street.

Basically they first need to be renovated, then they could be painted in bright but not gaudy, contrasting and harmonious colours – a case of putting one coloured shape against another in a vibrant and visually exciting way.

The street could then also become a focal point for artists and cultural events. We should not underestimate the importance and the power of art.Let’s not forget that the lady who is awarding the prizes has an arts background. In her online review of December 2011 she states: “High streets should be vibrant places that people choose to visit. They should be destinations. Anything less is a wasted opportunity.”

Let’s go for it, Seaham!

George Browell, East View, Seaham

Save post office

I AGREE with Mr Fairweather re. the possible closure of the Barnes Post Office.

The shop can at times be packed to capacity and the proposal of moving it to an already busy Spar shop will create problems for old and young alike.

The post office has been in its present position for many years without any problems and no one has come up with a valid reason for change. Even the staff who work there do not seem to know. If anything, the place is too busy and a larger shop is required to serve that area.

But why do they close post offices? I can understand it in the county villages, but on a main road and a really busy area, it makes no sense and the clientele have never been given any rhyme or reason for change.

My next point is that the elderly will now have to travel to Chester Road or the town if the post office in the Spar is too busy.

I really cannot see folk hanging around forever to cash in their pensions while others are buying groceries. Plus there have been unruly elements in the area now and again.

Finally, the post office has come to prominence in recent times through letters written by the infamous Mick “The Pen” Brown. I don’t know this character and have no real desire to meet him but he is high profile and could actually make a real difference if he would only tone down his letters about the post office and the customers and write something positive.

I know that he has ruffled many feathers in the past with his outspoken opinions about various things in the Echo. Taking the mickey out of the situation is simply not on.

The closure of the post office has upset a lot of people. I do hope that the authorities have a change of heart.

Mrs Cooper, Mount Road, Sunderland

Clean it up

CROMARTY Street is covered in poop.

I think all people with dogs should pick the poop up or should be fined on the spot and if you see anyone letting their dogs poop without their owner picking it up, let the police know.

I hate seeing it on my way to school and when I’m playing out.

Neve Cameron (aged seven)

Wonderful care

I WOULD like to express my thanks to the staff in D48 in Sunderland Royal Hospital for the care I was given after a knee operation.

My thanks to Paul Dixon for his advice before the operation and his wonderful sense of humour.

Thank you also to Violet, Lily and Sandra for the kindness they are giving me.

Edna Richardson, Zetland Square, Sunderland

Get together

A REUNION is being held for St Patrick’s Secondary Modern School’s football team from 1956-57.

It will take place in Jameson’s, Sunderland, on Saturday, March 17, at 8pm.

Any girls who attended the school around that time would also be very welcome.

Contact me on 07506 270515 for further details.

John Ruddick