Letters, Thursday, November 21, 2013

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Have your say

Pensions are now almost unaffordable

I AM writing in response to Councillor Robert Oliver’s letter (November 12) regarding the industrial action by firefighters over pensions.

 While Councillor Oliver and his Government friends might like the public to swallow their simplistic explanation of the changes to fire-fighters’ pensions, I don’t believe the people of Sunderland are as gullible as he seems to think.

 So just to help him out, here are a few ‘real life’ facts for him from a frontline firefighter:

 I can’t afford to pay any more into my pension. I currently pay 13.2 per cent, that’s about £320 a month. Given that the public sector pay freeze, imposed by Whitehall, to bail the banks out, has resulted in year on year pay cuts for us, I find myself in the position of having to consider pulling out of the pension scheme to provide for my family. Contributions are now set to rise 14.2 per cent – hardly a generous scheme.

 Councillor Oliver claims the proposals bring our pensions in line with the armed forces, not so. If anybody knows of any infantry personnel serving on the frontline at the age of 60 please let him know, so he might point them towards the fire-service recruiting office, as these super-humans will be in great demand if this Government gets its way.

 Of course, if only fire-fighters and other hard-pressed public sector workers could jump on the expenses gravy train, we wouldn’t have to forego the pay we desperately need by going on strike.

 But then I suppose next time the Government’s mates in the energy companies put the bills up, we could just cover the cost of heating the stables, the second duck house etc, by claiming it on expenses?

Name withheld

Put fun into music

I FONDLY remember novelty songs such as Napoleon XIV singing They’re Coming To Take Me Away Ha-Haa, I’m the Urban Spaceman by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and The Scaffold’s hits among others of the 1960s.

 There was also Benny Hill, Clive Dunn, Lieutenant Pigeon and little Jimmy Osmond, who all sang novelty songs, some best forgotten I admit.

 In fact, the last novelty song I remember, and I’m still trying to forget, would be Axel F by Crazy Frog in the early 2000s.

 In the 1970s, Fleetwood Mac released the LP Rumours to which Graham Parker cheekily replied with the LP Max, as his backing group was the Rumour, and when David Bowie released the LP Low, Nick Lowe just had to release the EP Bowi and, of course, in the 1980s, when Michael Jackson released Beat It, Weird Al Yankovic released the parody Eat It in response.

 The charts were full of humour and the music business was there to entertain the public as well as make money.

 Fast forward to today and, although I generally don’t listen to today’s ‘muzak’, I do know that there have been no novelty songs in the charts.

 The artists’ of today seem to be working just to make money and not to entertain like the bands of the 1960s, ‘70s and, indeed, the 1980s and ‘90s. I remember Bob the Builder and Mr Blobby. Why can’t anyone release a parody song to cheer the public up?

 Might I suggest She Walks Like Me Nanna – although it might be lost on people who don’t understand the vernacular.

Alan ‘The Quill’ Vincent,

Old Penshaw

A cavalier attitude

ON a recent trip to the North East, deputy leader of UKIP Paul Nuttall showed a shamefully cavalier approach to local jobs by dismissing Nissan’s warning that withdrawing from the EU would put workers at risk. UKIP is hoping that people will trust its judgement above that of Nissan, the CBI, Hitachi and the 80 per cent of businesses who say that leaving the EU would mean job losses for thousands of people across the North East.

 Unfortunately, for UKIP, its track record on trustworthiness isn’t great.

 Mr Nuttall also claimed this week that the EU accounts haven’t been signed off for 19 years.

 In reality, the accounts were signed off by independent auditors earlier this month, as they have been every year since 2007.

 UKIP’s baseless anti-Europe claims have gone unchallenged for too long.

 The risk it poses to many thousands of people’s jobs is too serious for that to continue any longer.

Fiona Hall MEP,

Liberal Democrat

Empty threats

NISSAN chief Carlos Ghosn insinuated that he may pull out of Sunderland if the UK left the EU, but I say that there is more chance of Victoria Beckham being the next Manchester United manager, than there is of Nissan leaving Sunderland. Forget the £5,000 tax-payer-funded subsidy provided for every Leaf sold, and forget the £9.3million grant for the new production line, but remember that the Sunderland workforce has an impeccable labour relations record, and has proved to be successful over the past 30 years.

 Being part French, Ghosn may favour France as an alternative manufacturing base, which, of course, would expose Nissan to the vagaries of the volatile and notorious French labour movement.

 If Nissan pulls out, it will be because the product fails and not because the UK finally decides that there are too many strings attached and the subscription that we pay to the Brussels Mafia is too high.

 Mafia because, yet again, the auditors failed to accept the EU accounts. In other words, they are trading illegally.

 Could the reason why Cameron picked 2017 for the long-awaited thrice promised in/out referendum, be that 2017 is the year the UK has the rotating presidency of the union?

Denis Gillon

Song for our city

WITH apologies to Bacharach and David, I’ve written a song to be sung to the tune of Do You Know The Way To San Jose:

Do you know the way to Sunderland?

I’ve been away so long, some things I just don’t understand.

Lots of things have changed in Sunderland.

Now I’ve been back some time, I see so much is badly planned.

Walk down Holmeside, it’s a disgrace.

Derelict shopfronts ruin the place.

Now I’ve got dog’s dirt all over my shoes.

Chewing gum, fast food

Litter the ground all over town

And Fawcett Street has long bus queues.

I had lots of friends in Sunderland.

My complaints are going to get me banned.

All my favourite pubs are closing down

Like the libraries in most parts of town.

No iconic bridge upon the Wear

Gateshead’s got one, but of course not here.

If you want more than a can of pop

Better go to Eldon Square to shop.

Council taxes wasted down the drain

Can we have the Tories again?

SAFC’s heading for the drop

All our managers have received the chop...

 My next hit will be another Bacharach song – 24 Hours From Tunstall.

 I bet you can’t wait for that one.

Paul Manning,

Washington