Letters, Friday, February 4th, 2011

Have your say

Tackling the problem of binge drinking

ON a regular basis these days we hear of recommendations from doctors and other experts that there should be an increase or minimum price for alcohol. This is said to help combat the serious effects of excessive drinking.

The Government’s contribution is to approve what have been described as entrapment policies. While the first idea may be flawed, the second is basically immoral.

There is a drink problem but hiking up the price hits the innocent more than it deals with the real issue, which is the way society has changed. Many people like to go the pub and enjoy a drink. This has been in our culture from way back. There has always been drunkenness, but these days it presents itself in a different way.

The change was coming in my youth, the days of the 60s and the promise of freedom. Looking back I sense a misguided notion of manliness which included being able to hold our drink. True, fights occurred, but I also think they included an unspoken code of honour, in contrast to the ultra violence today.

The change was that young people have insidiously hijacked the culture around drink. They are the ones in the plastic pubs and wine bars or whatever they choose to call them

Round-the-clock drinking – not a problem for responsible drinkers – allows youngsters (for that is what they are) to get tanked up on slabs of cheap larger then hit the town. “Ah ha!” say the docs and experts. “It’s the cheap drink doing it”. Yet, it’s not the old time pubs doing this. Dare I say the supermarkets have a lot to answer for?

Unfortunately, some pubs have tried to compete by introducing happy hours but this may have undermined the genuine case for the pubs. High prices of drink hit the wrong target because historically the pubs have helped to keep things under control because this is where the responsible drinkers go. Pubs have no influence over gangs drinking cheap wine and lager in alleyways.

It would seem more logical to go back to the old system of restricting the sale of alcohol to pubs and off-licences. There is always a spin-off too. Old-style pubs are disappearing fast, priced out of competition. Price rises can only make things worse.

And so ... that other drunkenness remedy. Under-age lads are recruited to buy alcohol in pubs and when they are served the undercover agents come down with the force of the law. It has to be wrong to set people up in this way. There are other examples of Big Brother taking over. Many issues can be used as examples, but as I suggested above the dream of freedom promoted in the 60s is going horribly wrong.

Mick Ewing, Bede Street, Roker, Sunderland

Local history

HAVING read the letter by Mike Leddra (January 26), I have to agree with him, regarding the often disregard for our historical buildings and sites.

Hetton Railway, with locomotives built by Stephenson, often gets overlooked when historians talk about the birth of the railway. This railway, the first ever mineral railway with steam locomotives, was built to take coal from Hetton and surrounding collieries to Sunderland Staithes.

The important engine sheds are now gone and any remaining building demolished.

I acknowledge there is a Stephenson Trail in the Hetton area, and a plaque on a house near the colliery site, but ask any children what they know about this important colliery and they won’t know what you’re talking about.

We should not let this important part of our heritage be forgotten. The local school should teach the children local history and we need to stop destroying our past and be proud of it.

Proud Hettonian

Hearty help

FURTHER to your excellent article on heart health on January 19, featuring the local branch of the British Heart Foundation and the work of Dr Iain Gilmour, we at the Sunderland Cardiac Support Group, a registered charity, are leading the way in raising public awareness of cardiac health, as well as promoting gym exercise sessions for six hours over three mornings at Crowtree Leisure Centre.

Apart from these exercise sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 9.30am to noon, where people do as much or as little exercise as they can manage, led by British Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation-accredited instructors, with each session supervised by a cardiac nurse, we also organise monthly walks, day trips and weekend holidays to various places of interest at both coast and country.

We also offer pastoral care, a benefits information service, monthly social meetings at the Education Building, Sunderland Royal Hospital, a quiz, book club and much more besides.

If you would like to become fitter than you are now, or if you have had the misfortune to have suffered cardiac trauma in any way, all it takes is a phone call to the undersigned.

Between us, we will beat heart disease, currently Britain’s biggest single killer, by a country mile.

Barry Cook, Honorary secretary, Tel. 565 6892

Dip into reserve

IN a time of global austerity, government funding cuts and an estimated £20million pay-out to council workers, I think it is about time Sunderland Council drew on its – no, correction, our – multimillion-pound reserve before any decision to hike up council tax is made.

I won’t be holding my breath.

Nancy McKitterick, Kilburn Close, Ryhope

Hypocritical letter

ALAN Wright (Letters, January 26) had some gall to complain of other writers who can’t counter points made in his correspondence trying to discredit them. This is hypocritical stuff coming from a councillor who recently did precisely the same thing to me.

I wrote that the Tories would privatise the Health Service. I supported my words with comments by the Deputy Chairman of the British Medical Association. Alan never tried to counter the points made in my letter. He seemed to go rather hysterical and made some immature remarks before attempting to discredit me by ranting that I peddle the ultimate lie.

Yet I’m in some good company with my remarks. People like Sir David Nicholson, head of the NHS. He is concerned the plans could lead to private medical firms offering poor services at rock-bottom prices to undercut rivals. The Chief Economist at the health think-tank agreed. In a letter to the Times, signed by 300 doctors, they stated the reforms were a cloak for hospital closures, merges and privatisation.

Another doctor wrote all the Tory reforms cleverly reinforce each other to create the conditions for marketisation of the NHS with its attendant profit motive. No mention is made of the abolition of the fixed national tariff for each service. This will lead to a race to the bottom, where competitive tenders will be won by the cheapest bids.

Why didn’t the White Paper just put a few keen GPs in charge of existing PCTs and save the £3billion being used to create the conditions for an insidious private takeover of the NHS? In other words, the privatisation of the NHS by the back door.

W. Quinn, Duke Street, Millfield, Sunderland

Dogged by mess

I RECENTLY walked my dog along Seaham beach and returned along the upper path and grass verges. As a dog owner who always carries plastic bags and clears up after my dog when he does his business, I was disgusted and appalled to see so much dog faeces lying on the beach, paths and grassed areas.

Although there are dog bins provided and even free plastic bags on occasions, this is obviously not enough to persuade a high proportion of dog owners to act responsibly and clean up after their dogs.

I have declared Seaham beach and the surrounding coastal paths a health hazard and as such I will not walk my dog in this area until it has been cleaned up.

The blame for this health hazard is two fold. First and foremost the it lies with selfish, irresponsible dog owners who allow their dogs to defecate on the beach and surrounding areas without cleaning up after them. Secondly the blame lies with the council who are clearly not doing enough to deal with the matter.

I would suggest that a clean-up campaign is launched by the local council and that the area is policed. A few heavy on-the-spot fines would go a long way towards making the offending dog owners act more responsibly.

It goes without saying that the dogs take no blame for this.

Kevin McGowan, Sandown, Earsdon Grange, Houghton

Keep the Royals

MR WHIPPLE is right when he says we are tired of his attacks on the Royal Family.

He has no respect. He calls the Queen Betty Windsor, Prince William is Wilhelm of Glucksburg. He jokes that Charles’s only proper job was as milk monitor at Gordonstoun. He has fantasies about a republic where David Miliband is President.

Will he ever learn that people are not interested in a republic? We had one in the 1650s, but people got sick of a military dictatorship run by Puritans. They were also put off by the reign of terror in France in the 1790s.

If we had lost the First World War, certainly the monarchy might have fallen, but we didn’t. King George survived and introduced the honours system, which cemented the bond between the monarch and his subjects.

He knew, like David Cameron, that the British love to be ruled by a privileged elite.

Roland Green, Avebury Drive, Washington

Bus helpers

I WOULD like to express my gratitude to the two ladies called Margaret and June who helped me when I lost my balance as a bus turned a corner, in Rhodesia Road, Red House, on the afternoon of January 28.

The lady called Margaret got off the bus with me at Southwick. She saw me to the Greenery Cafe and bought me a cup of tea, then gave me a hug and left. I’d fallen over on the bus, and was still a bit shaky.

It restores your faith in humanity, to be on the receiving end of such kindness.

Once again, thank you.

Christine Wilkinson

Theory of greed

W. QUINN and others would blame greedy bankers for the financial state of the county. I read a report that Tony Blair received £2.5million a year at JP Morgan Investment Bank.

Where does this fit into this theory of greedy bankers?

N. Bohill, Staveley Road, Seaburn Dene, Sunderland