Letters, Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

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Council working on our behalf

READING Linda Colling’s column (Echo, February 14) got me thinking about the work the officials and staff at the Civic Centre do on our behalf.

After coming to Sunderland with my family in the 1950s, I found a bombed slum called Hendon where an over-populated community were living in tenement buildings – most of them in ruins, like the one we moved into. A town centre that needed regeneration and a group of villages which had recently made up the township, it had casualisation of work in shipyards, high unemployment and a housing waiting list of over 12,000 families.

Compared with Newcastle, Sunderland was the poor relation. Nevertheless, eventually the powers that be in London, who were of the other political persuasion at the time, thought it was worthy of being called a city, which was possibly due to the progress that had been made.

After the war the powers that be, as Dr T in his column called them, embarked on a programme of building 55,000 council dwellings which mainly consisted of semi-detached houses in country estates, while Newcastle housed its population in sky-high battery-type flats.

As Linda reminded us, Pennywell has been redeveloped three times as has Hendon. People in the Civic Centre can’t control the destructive action of mature adults. Nor can they be responsible for private enterprise who leave blots on the landscape, like the Vaux/Tesco site and the derelict building left by the Sunderland Echo for years which has been replaced by Echo 24 – the eyesore Linda mentioned.

Empty shops are a sign of the times. When people can get in their cars, drive to the supermarket to get all they want and charity shops sell goods at a fraction of the shop prices, town centre businesses are bound to suffer. Offences caused in public toilets in the past have been well reported in the Echo and will be known by the Railway Police, which is the possible reason for no toilet in the station.

After £6million had been spent to improve the Sunderland yards, shipbuilding was finished by the Heath government. The pits were closed by Thatcher and the Vaux demise was caused by the rationalisation of the pubs, started by the Major government.

If Linda and others took the trouble to find out how local government works, they might be less critical of what they do.

Joe Hall, Irene Avenue, Grangetown, Sunderland

City of Adelaide

ON Page 6 of the Echo on March 1, there was almost a whole page on the meaning and importance of this ship.

On Page 26 we hade reference to the report “Centre for Cities” talking about the need for revitalisation of the city centre. It is not rocket science to join up the dots between these two items.

The City of Adelaide needs to be here. At a simple, relatively inexpensive stroke, she will achieve what no other plan possibly could. A thing of beauty in our hollowed-out city centre? Wow! That would be something!

“Pro nave pro vivitate! – “For the ship for the city”.

Dr David Inglesby, Thornhill Terrace, Sunderland

Transport funding

A FEW questions for the MP for Houghton and Sunderland South: Why didn’t Labour, her party, give us the same bus funding when they were in power? They had the means to do so.

Also, the people of London have their transport only with larger rate contributions and congestion charging and, despite this, the system still needs billions in subsidy per year. London has great transport because the Labour government gave it the required subsidy with strict conditions.

So is she advocating congestion charging for the Tyne and Wear city centres? Or is she advocating greater use of local tax pots to pay for parts of public transport that at the moment do not require it? Or is the nub of the matter that profitable bus routes in Sunderland are to be plundered to pay for a loss-making Metro system that really benefits Tyneside?

At the moment all the time-tabling and the boring but essential bits of public transport are paid for by the bus companies. Is it really right in stretched bad times to bring these jobs on to the public books? Is it really right to be sidetracking public servants at Nexus on expensive paper exercises when most of these benefits can be gained from exsisting partnership working or simple things such as a bus-only version of the Network One ticket?

Shaun Cudworth

Shopping ideas

MY wife and I recently stayed at the Radisson hotel in Durham and read with interest the information guide in the hotel bedroom, part of which contained a local area shopping guide.

Visitors are advised to shop at Newcastle, the MetroCentre, Dalton Park and, of course, Durham, but no mention of Sunderland as a shopping destination. I wonder why.

Steve Robson

Benefits stopped

I WOULD like to comment on the front-page story in the Echo on Saturday, February 25.

I also had my benefits stopped. I suffer from angina, under-active thyroid, hypertension, vertigo, migraine, pure hypercholesterolaemia, panic attacks, severe thoracic spine, osteoarthritis in spine, hips and hands and I take 18 tablets a day.

I cannot walk more than 40 metres as I have to stop for the pains I get in my back and hips. Also I get out of breath easily. I cannot manage any housework or shopping as I am in so much pain.

I cannot dress myself and I need help to wash and shower myself.

When the doctor from the Department of Works and Pensions came to see me he said I could walk 200 metres unaided, which was wrong as I had sciatica at the time and I could not stand on my legs.

He also wrote on the report that I only thought I was poorly and I was not out of breath. Of course I was not out of breath. I was sitting down and I could not move because of the pain I was in.

I have had this doctor before to assess me and I have received my benefits no bother.

I have appealed about this decision, and have been to a tribunal which took place in October 2011. It was adjourned by the gentleman from the Works and Pensions department for more medical notes. They received these notes and I had another tribunal in February this year. At this tribunal they went back to 1996 asking questions about my health which I could not remember. All they were saying was why have I not been to see a specialist about my osteoarthritis. I have had X-rays, which confirmed I will need hip replacements, but you cannot tell a doctor how to do his job.

They say they don’t make the decision on the doctor’s report, but they must do as they kept referring back to his comments, and if the decision is not made by his report why send him out? Another waste of money.

Also when you go to these tribunals there are three people: a judge, doctor and someone from Social Services there asking you the same questions you have already answered on your claim form and also what you have already answered for the doctor. Another waste of money.

I wonder if it was the same doctor who assessed Lorraine that came to see me.

Disgusted pensioner (Name and address supplied)

Hard, cold facts

IT was a cold winter’s day, so cold that I honestly thought the robin redbreasts in my white-frosted garden were going to knock on my window to come in.

I suddenly remembered I’d forgotten to post my friend’s 80th birthday card. It was his birthday so I just had to clear the ice from my car and deliver his card

I knocked with card and small gift. “Oh come in Jimmy me boy,” said my friend, who is a truly remarkable ex-soldier. “Have a seat Jimmy.” I felt the coldness of the room, so I asked “Has your central heating broken?” “Oh no,” he said. “I never use it. I just cannot afford it.”

As tears filled my eyes, I could not help thinking of all the very highly paid people receiving ridiculously out-of-this-world salaries, most of whom have never done a hard day’s physical graft in their lives.

Also just look at the multibillion-pounds profit all the major fuel suppliers are making.

Just how many elderly people have to lose their lives by freezing in their own homes before such profiteering is announced as being a serious crime?

Jimmy Chambers, Washington

Listening in

PEOPLE are murdered on our streets almost daily, in some cases for no more than being in the wrong place. Police simply can’t cope with real crime, so why all the fuss about phone hacking – eavesdropping in my day?

If the police say they had more important things to do, why blame them? Reporters were dropping ten bob notes to coppers in return for a tip-off before Coronation Street was built.

In the 40s my parents’ telephone was on a party line, which meant that two or more phones were interconnected with neighbouring lines. As a young boy I may have, inadvertently or perhaps intentionally, I don’t remember which, picked up the receiver and listened to the pretty lady at number 9 recount episodes of her tirelessly amorous and endlessly interesting exploits. Rendezvous in hay stacks, cricket pavilions and even on a double-deck bus were old hat.

Much later I assumed that her intended audience must have been a News of the World reporter.

Occasionally I would also be privy to her butcher’s order which always included copious amounts of sausages. For years I believed that sausage was an aphrodisiac until I learnt from his son that the butcher never charged the lady at No 9 for sausages. I often wondered why.

Jeremys Kyle and Springer have become wealthy by screening hideously private details about the lives of their guests who were willing to reveal all for a fee.

Indeed they wallowed in their own notoriety while the audience enthusiastically applauded the utterly wretched spectacle. Not a lot of responsible reporting there, but all concerned seemed content.

Meanwhile celebrities whose very raison d’etre is to publicise themselves are acting hurt and successfully claiming compensation because they are subjected to a little eavesdropping.

Personally, I would be flattered if any one wanted to tap my phone. Furthermore I would be delighted to receive payment for it, but I’m afraid that the pretty lady at number 9 would have been better value.

Denis Gillon, Sunderland

All At Sea

IF only Timothy Spall’s programme All At Sea, (BBC4, February 28) had called into Sunderland’s Port, we could have shown him where we once had a boating pool in Seaburn or maybe where many of our shipyards were located.

A. Winter, Corleton Drive, Mowden Park, Darlington