Letters, Thursday, September 20th, 2012

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Don’t miss chance over bus contracts

MY support for Bridget Phillipson’s Big Bus Campaign is not some left wing “power to the people” or “let’s bash the bosses” mantra but a belief that by introducing quality contracts and making the bus companies more customer focused there is an opportunity to create a situation that benefits all concerned.

Shaun Cudworth (Letters, September 8) misses the point. Mr Cudworth asks why would the bus companies introduce an express service from Doxford to the city centre when the current service is profitable. This typifies the blinkered short-termism that is responsible for the reduction in the percentage of the travelling people using public transport for commuting, shopping and leisure.

The result is a decrease in footfall in our city centre and a rise in the need for road improvements to cope with the increase in traffic volumes as people refuse to leave the car at home.

By reducing the bus companies’ ability to squeeze a few extra pennies of profit by tweaking routes and timetables, we may find that they turn their attention to winning back customers by providing more efficient and cost-effective routes. By giving the travelling public a voice, the bus companies may begin to understand what customers really need and can adjust their services accordingly.

Leaving things as they are or introducing some toothless compromise removes the possibility of a “win-win-win” situation where bus companies earn sustainable long-term profit by increasing their customer base, customers have a better service and the city benefits from increased business and reduced infrastructure costs.

One of the main lessons I learned from my many years experience in global business is that you ignore your customers at your peril. In the more cosseted world of public transport the need for customer focus becomes less clear because much of the income comes from rebates and subsidies. It is clear to me that the failure of public transport services to listen to their customers has caused them to become less fit for purpose and as a result people have voted with their feet.

If the success of the Big Bus Campaign makes the transport companies listen to their customers, this can only be a good thing. September 27 is decision day about quality contracts. We should apply as much pressure as possible to ensure that we don’t miss this opportunity.

Dr Cameron Marshall

The big sell-off

CAN you imagine Mercedes or BMW or Renault selling out or taking a minor part in any kind of business venture or merger? No you cannot and they would not, but Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Corus (British Steel) and countless of our other iconic British companies have been sold off. UK water, gas and electricity are virtually controlled by France and Germany. There are foreign influences in our transport and road systems.

France is about to build atomic power generating plants in the UK and now BAE are about to take a junior part in merging with Franco German company EADS. A sellout in other words.

When privatisation of our utilities was taking place even Harold Macmillan, an archetypal Tory, complained that we were selling the family silver. Events have proved him right. For instance, average-salaried administrators in British Rail became millionaires overnight while the state and the passengers still must underwrite the private operators.

At the heart of all these arrangements are shortsighted, hapless politicians seeking kudos and votes, ruthlessly greedy, profiteering directors and, of course, the Europhiles with their insane desire to drag the UK ever closer to complete reliance upon the EU.

So the old Vickers works in Gateshead, now BAE, is set to close with the loss of over 600 jobs and yet another British icon is lost for ever.

What will it take to rid ourselves of these self-important, greedy, incompetent people and a political system which seems destined to destroy what little remains of Britain?

Denis Gillon, Sunderland

Shop’s thank-you

PAWZ for Thought charity shop in Fulwell Road, Sunderland, would like to say a big thank-you to their customers for their continuous loyal support over the years.

We are starting to collect for our Christmas raffles. Any tins, packets etc will be gratefully received, to get our hampers started. We are now open Sundays for sales and donations.

Many thanks.

Lynne Ebdale, Director, Pawz for Thought

New station

SO, Sunderland Railway Station is to be bulldozed and replaced with a new station (Echo, September 13).

Will it include public toilets this time? Or are they going to give the job to the same firm that modernised it the last time?

What a pity there isn’t an Olympics for wasting money. There are some that could win gold doing it.

Mr R. Tomlinson, Seaham

NHS betrayal

RECENTLY a former Tory Cabinet Minister queried whether David Cameron was “a man or a mouse.” In my opinion Cameron is no mouse, he is a much larger rodent called the rat.

This knowledge came to me from members of the public, who often refer to him as a “dirty rat” for the way he ratted on his pre-election promises. In particular he should never be forgiven for that brazen lie when he solemnly told the nation the National Health Service would be safe in his hands. What a whopper!

If he had it in him to tell the truth on this subject, Cameron would never have received enough votes to form a Coalition Government. So without a mandate from the people he forced the Health and Social Care Bill through the Commons. This Bill will keep the Tory donors happy, and have private medical firms circling the NHS like vultures looking for easy pickings. It allows 49 per cent of health service business to go private.

Cameron is also spending millions of NHS money on unnecessary ideological changes, while starving hospitals of cash. As a consequence, 60,000 extra people are now on the waiting lists, and patients spending more than four hours in casualty has increased by 40 per cent. Queues for beds have leapt to 30 per cent and there has been a big rise in patients waiting on trolleys.

The Royal College of Nursing blames financial pressures, nursing shortages and Tory reforms that have led to the loss of 50,000 nurses, doctors and midwives so far. The Tories have already done a tremendous amount of damage to the NHS and there’s worse to come. That’s why the chairman of the Royal College of GPs warns: “Care will never again be according to need, but the ability to pay.”

W. Quinn, Duke Street, Millfield

Poppy appeal

THE generosity of people in Seaham for the 2011 Poppy Appeal was amazing and we topped £19,000 over the year.

I am asking again for support to make the 2012 collection just as successful so the Royal British Legion can continue to support the armed forces, past, present and future and their families.

Seaham branch is looking for volunteers who can give an hour or two of their time to help man static collecting points in the town, eg at Asda and Aldi, with a member of the branch.

House-to-house collections are almost a thing of the past, but if anyone feels they could collect just in their own street, I would love to hear from you.

Also, if you have a business premises which does not receive a collecting tin and poppies and you would be willing to support our armed forces, let me know so we can rectify the matter. You may even be willing to organise a fund-raising event for this year’s appeal.

Anyone wishing to purchase a wreath can do by contacting me, but to ensure delivery I need orders by October 13.

To start this year’s Appeal, there is a concert to be held at Christ Church, New Seaham, with the Witness Choir on Saturday, September 22, at 7pm. Tickets are £4.

On behalf of the Royal British Legion I thank everyone who has helped us in the past and all those who will come forward this year to support our work for our armed forced and their families.

Elizabeth Armes, Seaham Branch Poppy Appeal Organiser, Seaham

Fine city centre

SUNDERLAND shopping centre has come a long way since people once did their shopping in the rain because there was no indoor shopping area.

The Bridges is something to be proud of. The model planes that are hanging from the rafters inside the shopping mall give a cheerful touch, and what other shopping centres lay on an indoor beach for the kids to play on.

Not only has The Bridges got that, but outside there is a beautiful park with the Winter Gardens.

In High Street West new shops are just about finished. The Market Square is now beautiful. Sunderland is growing slowly, but we are just about getting there.

I grant you there’s a bit more to do to brighten the city up a bit more. For one, empty shops to be filled.

Edwin Robinson, Zetland Square, Sunderland

Disturbing trend

IT is still a privilege to be born British. It gives every person the right to make free lifestyle choices and travel without hindrance almost anywhere in the world. It also guarantees through our envied welfare system that no one starves or need be homeless.

Even now, in the toughest economic times in 60 years, our established institutions keep the country ticking over in relative order. However, a disturbing trend has developed in our democracy which, if it continues unchecked, will come back and disturb the equilibrium.

It is the phenomenon that has seen our established institutions being blatantly absolved from public accountability and the process of law that the hoi polloi are still subject to.

The bankers over the last 10 years have been by admission irresponsibly guilty of trading while insolvent as well as unlawfully fixing the Libor rate Both criminal offences. They were supposedly being monitored by the Financial Services Authority, a government appointed quango. Were they instructed to be deliberately incompetent?

Numerous politicians and lords have admitted to stealing public money through expenses, yet very few of them have felt the weak arm of the law. Why?

The police have been taking bungs from the press, and now we see through the Hillsborough inquiry that the police have re-dacted or changed 164 statements to absolve themselves from responsibility for the tragedy. Why no criminal charges?

The press have lied as if second nature. See Hillsborough and phone hacking as Levenson will confirm.

If these offences had been perpetrated in a third world country we would be calling for their heads.

Wouldn’t it be appropriate for Chris Mullin, a self-appointed righter of wrongs, as witnessed in his campaign to free the Birmingham Six, to lead a campaign for justice for the public in the case of bankers, politicians, police and press? Maybe in way of an apology for not disclosing the names of the real Birmingham bombers which he has kept to himself all of these years. He could attempt to make amends by fingering all of the establishment criminals who for some reason have escaped the short arm of the law.

Meanwhile, citizen, don’t drive at 34mph along Sunderland seafront or you can be sure that plod will nick you. Careful how you go!

Peter Graham, Topcliff, Roker

Tales of the Fab Four

I HAVE just finished reading the book called “Love me do – the Beatles progress”, first published in 1964, written by American author Michael Braun. I found it very intresting to find out that the author first met the Fab Four right here in Sunderland.

This is what he says in the preface to the 1995 reprint: “In the early autmn of 1963 I travelled to Sunderland, then a dank, grimy town on the North Sea. This was the England of the dark, satanic mills – I felt I had journeyed into the past. The night I arrived I met The Beatles and sensed that I had glimpsed the future.”

He later discusses what must have been The Beatles’ concert at the Empire in November 63: “A mixture of sounds is coming through the window of the dressing room at Sunderland – the wind ... and the screaming of hundreds of girls in the alley below.” In the room The Beatles are talking with a priest.

He then tells how The Beatles managed their escape from the Sunderland theatre by rushing to the fire-house next door and sliding down a fire-pole, then while engine number one clanged out as a decoy they rode off in a police car.

Did this really happen? And what hotel were they staying at? It must have been either the Seaburn or the Roker. He says: “At the hotel they gathered for a call from Australia. They were being recorded by a disc jockey. As they talked to him several girls standing beneath their window began throwing stones at the glass. Paul walked over and told them to stop. The stones stopped. when the call was finished they turned the lights out and spent a few minutes looking at the girls through a slit in the curtains before going to bed.

“The next morning as The Beatles left Sunderland several girls were still gathered in front of the hotel, huddling against the winds blowing from the North Sea.”

I wonder if any readers have any other tales of when the most famous band in the world visited our town.

Gary Langdon, Palmstead Road, Pennywell, Sunderland

Ward leaflets

THE comments by Frank Pratt that St Chad’s Ward Labour councillors do not deliver leaflets is so wrong that he must spend most of his time with his head in the sand or on holiday.

Since January this year, St Chad’s Labour Party have paid for, produced and delivered over 20,000 leaflets, letters and calling cards in Middle Herrington and Farringdon. The latest leaflet “September” is currently being delivered.

I know this because I am Ward Treasurer and have the invoices to prove this.

While anyone has the right to criticise their councillors, criticism should be based on facts not

prejudice. Frank’s comments are an attempt to discredit two hard-working Labour councillors. He should appreciate that his views are not shared by a majority of residents in St Chad’s, otherwise they would not have been elected in the first place.

Charles E Bate, St Chad’s Ward Treasurer

Cancer warning

I BELIEVE my estranged daughter is aware that myself and my eldest son have had treatment for bowel cancer.

Here is important additional information for her: My eldest daughter has also been diagnosed with bowel cancer. She is currently receiving treatment.

I believe this makes it even more imperative, to at least seek expert advice and then, hopefully, follow any preventative instructions given.

Acknowledgement in some way, by my estranged daughter that this information has reached her would be appreciated.

Name and address supplied