Letters, Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

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Don’t let us lose tenpin bowling

EMPTY shop units, fat and unfit Wearsiders, a new supermarket for Sunderland – all reported by the Echo. Why is Sunderland Council so obsessed with building new supermarkets and shop units when we are awash with empty shop units as highlighted in the Echo recently?

Why is the council so against allowing the tenpin bowling centre in Newcastle Road to move to new premises, which would be one of these empty shop units, when it has to close to make way for Tesco and more shop units at Sunderland Retail Park?

Sunderland Bowl has served the Wearside public since the early 1960s. It has survived many attempts to close it down, especially when it was going to become a bingo hall in the mid-70s. It has produced many international bowlers over the years and even some world champions. Many bowlers travel from Darlington, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and various outlying areas.

Tenpin is a sport which can be enjoyed by all the family, as well as being good exercise. It has saved many youngsters from wandering the streets at night and given them something to aim for bowling in league matches and competitions both at home and all over the country. It is popular for children’s parties, student groups and special needs groups, to mention a few.

We know that the bowl will close for Tesco, but surely every help should be given to the owner to move to new premises, which would mean one less empty unit in Sunderland, and carry on a business that has been in our city for nearly 50 years. Please, save our sport and let the owner move to new premises.

M. Snow, Ryhope, Sunderland

A new focus

JULIE Elliott’s scaremongering about Sure Start is the latest in a line of predictable attacks by Labour MPs who are trying to con the people of Sunderland into thinking that the Coalition Government’s policy on education is nothing more than a premeditated attack on the poor.

Only the most narrow-minded people are going to fall for that line when the true intention is to improve the opportunities of the poorest children who, after 13 years of a Labour Government, find one fifth of themselves living in poverty in this city.

Sure Start is a prime example of how throwing money at social problems does not cause them to disappear, with a Durham University report saying the scheme was not delivering the improvements promised for the poorest families despite an annual budget of more than £1billion.

This report corrected Labour myth-making with its evidence that there had been “no improvement” in numeracy and literacy scores among children whose parents had accessed Sure Start services through the network of Children’s Centres.

The aims of this programme, to develop key skills early in life, are right but it needs to regain its focus on the poorest families as too often the services are dominated by people who least need them, spreading resources too thinly and delivering less impact than required.

With a new focus on providing health visitors and services targeted to the neediest, an approach favoured by Labour’s “Poverty Tsar” Frank Field, Sure Start will be better placed to make a difference to children’s lives, supported by what little money was left by the last Labour Government.

Councillor Robert Oliver, Conservative Education Spokesman

No ‘fix’ on radio

IN response to J.A. Stott’s letter, I feel I must respond, as one of the questions/allegations implies that one of our competitions is “fixed”, which would be fraudulent and illegal.

To answer the first question: Sun FM has 71,000 adult listeners per week in the Sunderland area – 133,000 over a 13-week period. This is more than any other station that can be heard in Sunderland.

Our competition, “Sunderland’s Secret Sound”, is recorded in advance of the competition starting and various proof mechanisms are in place to prove this, should we get accused of cheating/changing it. If we did, we could be fined by the Government regulator Ofcom. Competitions in the media are highly scrutinised, now, after the scandal a few years ago, mainly involving TV programmes and companies.

The advert that is described (“kids buying singles from the ice cream van”) is on all the North East commercial stations, and it wasn’t made by us. It is a regional health campaign to stop children smoking and to make people more aware of kids getting cigarettes illegally.

I’m sorry you find these two things annoying, but being the most popular radio station in the region speaks volumes. I’m also very happy to have you as a listener, even though Sun FM isn’t really supposed to be for Durham. You are what’s called an “out of area listener”.

Simon Grundy, Programme controller and Breakfast Show presenter, Sun FM

Ignorance thrives

LINDA Colling’s experience on a recent bus journey from Newcastle to Washington leads me to ask:  what else did you expect?

We live in a region where ignorance thrives and those who are brave enough to challenge it are very likely to be verbally abused by people who take pride in having a vocabulary of no more than 12 words, half of which are obscenities. Education of any kind having passed them by, they are devoid of common decency and they have no sense of virtue.

Mary Metcalfe, East Herrington

Are flats needed?

YOUR reporter Ross Robertson (Echo, Friday, February 25), writing about the Vaux site, states that “thousands of jobs are expected to be created ... including offices, apartments and retail units”.

I would like to stir up some debate about the building of apartments on the site. Is there need for more apartments in the city centre? How many people want or can afford an apartment? How have the apartments gone in the nearby Echo building?

I suggest there might be a need for more modest terraced housing. We used to have terraced houses in the city centre. I can remember Crowtree Terrace, which was where Debenhams now stands, and Northumberland Street.

As to retail units on the Vaux site: is there need for them when so many shops are already standing empty in the city centre?

John Watson, Granville Street, Sunderland

Enough is enough

I WOULD just like to share my thoughts on the letter published on March 10 about the possible fine for leaving your bin out for more than 12 hours. I work a six-day week as a security guard, with long hours. I get up at 5am every morning and cycle to work to start at 6am.

My shifts are all 12 hours, so when I finish work I don’t get home until about 6.45pm-7pm, sometimes even later if I have to stop by any shops to get food for the following day’s lunch or if I stop off at my mother’s house to see her.

What I would also like to mention is the fact that sometimes when I do return home I have found my bin to not have been emptied. Do we send a fine to the council for non-collection then?

They need to understand that people have lives to live and bills to pay, which is hard enough as it is without some stupid money-making scheme like this going ahead. Who the hell do they think they are? It’s about time we all got together and said: “Enough is enough”.

Nick Moan, Glencoe Square, Grindon, Sunderland

Bin collection

RE. “Sin Bin” – I found the article incredible. Our council will empty our bins at any time between 7am and 5pm, so this 12-hour restriction could start at any time at the whim of the council and this could affect people’s plans with no warning.

For any arrangement concerning fines to be binding the council should recognise its own obligations. For example, if they fail to empty a bin by a certain time (say 5pm) they should pay the householder as their bin may have been on the roadside for up to 12 hours. A full bin on the roadside for 12 hours constitutes a bigger risk than an empty one, especially during windy weather.

Our council regularly misses out our bin with the result that our bin is on the street (full) for up to 12 hours. At what point can we decide they are not coming? Meanwhile, the bin remains full and therefore unusable for a week until the next collection.

Councils should also remember it was they who decided not to collect bins from people’s gardens or back yards. If the councils want to fine people for not retrieving their bins that’s fine, but the council should recognise its own responsibilities and be prepared to pay householders when they fail.

Peter, Penshaw

Paying the price

I READ with interest your story (Echo, March 5) on the disgraced police officers involved in the plot to sell firearms to the public having to pay back their ill-gotten gains under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Both the officers involved took the soft option of pleading guilty to the lesser charge of misconduct when, in reality, both should have faced a more serious charge of theft and the selling on of guns for profit.

I recall Maurice Allen, one of the two officers charged for these offences, writing into the Echo Letters Page chastising one of your correspondents who had dared to question the motives of himself and the other officer involved, Damien Cobain.

He almost denied any crime had taken place, as they had not been convicted on the more serious charges.

Well, Mr Allen, now we all know, the motive was sheer greed to the tune of £9,970 gained from the sale of guns, which you quite rightly have to pay back.

He stated that he had lost his job and 29 years’ pension. Whose fault was that? And he went on to say he had made a mistake and that he did not realise he, of all people, was committing a crime in selling on the guns that had been handed in for destruction.

What rubbish! Anyone else selling stolen goods, especially guns, would be jailed and classed as a common criminal. As for Cobain, to lose a career for the sake of just £350, his share of the proceeds, the man must be desperate.

Both of these disgraced ex-police officers should hang their heads in shame. They have brought nothing but shame on their families and the entire police force.

B. Smart