Letters, Friday, July 26, 2013

Have your say

Fears raised over plain packaging

I WRITE in response to your article “Carer hid 24,000 illicit cigs in pans” (July 16) which highlighted the continued problem of illicit tobacco in the area.

 Last week’s decision by the Government to delay implementation of plain packaging for tobacco products until the emerging impact of the decision in Australia is better understood, should be welcomed by all who are concerned about counterfeit cigarettes.

 Since September 2011, I have been researching the trade in illicit and counterfeit tobacco products in the UK, including the links to organised crime.

 This work involves liaising closely with the various law enforcement agencies that have interests in this area as well as investigations in particular known hotspot locations across the country.

 Profit margins for counterfeit tobacco products are extremely high.

 Just as armed robberies of the 1970s and 80s made way for the drugs trade and large scale fraud in the 1990s, so a new crime of choice has emerged, which carries less risk but even greater profits.

 The trade in illicit tobacco has become the primary source of revenue for some criminal gangs and terrorist groups and it has already reached epidemic proportions. As part of my engagement with Trading Standards, they have described the situation in parts of the UK as reaching “chronic proportions”.

 It is perfectly clear to anyone who has dealt with counterfeiting and the black market that the idea of putting cigarettes in plain packets would be a boon for organised crime, which so often targets children.

 I applaud the Government’s decision to wait and its ability to understand the impact of plain packaging on illicit tobacco.

Will O’Reilly,

a former Scotland Yard Detective Chief Inspector

Neglected parks

Why is it Mowbray Park, Roker Park and Barnes Park get their grass cut on a regular basis but Barnes Park extension as well as Backhouse Park is totally neglected.

 It doesn’t take much for anyone to see that Backhouse Park, which is opposite the council parks depot, has been abandoned by the councils grass cutting team.

 Sadly, it is a wilderness – not with true wildflowers but because of a lack of care.

 Are parks going down the same route as the libraries – closures?

 I am sure Thomas William Backhouse, who gave the park as a gift to all the people of Sunderland, would be saddened to see how it has been left to decay.

 Sunderland Council needs to take care of this legacy, which was a magnificent gift from the late Thomas William Backhouse.

Mary and Ian Snowball

A taxing issue

THE Inland Revenue has a saying ‘Tax needn’t be taxing’, and I fully agree.

 Everybody pays tax from a five year old upwards in the form of VAT and tax on savings (excluding ISAs). Interest rates are at or below two per cent gross for savers yet the tax paid is 20 per cent when the inflation rate is two to three per cent and upwards.

 Tax is supposed to be paid on profit, yet savings are making a loss before tax and a bigger loss after tax. I think the Coalition Government should only tax the amount of interest paid when interest rates rise above inflation and only on the portion of interest paid above the inflation rate – the profit.

 Next VAT, some folk may think it’s only on luxuries but it’s on almost all food, the Coalition Government increased it from 17.5 per cent to an eyewatering 20 per cent. At least it’s easy to work out on the price of purchases but how do you know what you are paying VAT on?

 A customer has a right to make an informed choice before purchase but with VAT on supermarket food you only find out by an in-depth code breaking examination of your till receipt. There are many similar food items which are VAT and non VAT rated. For example chocolate covered jaffa cakes have no VAT but cake is VAT payable.

 I think the Government should legislate that food retailers should colour code their food price tickets red for VAT paid food and green for non-VAT food. I think the customer should make an informed choice based on what food you have to pay VAT on.

 Asda is always bragging about low prices and how good it is to customers on prices, so eight months ago I wrote to Asda HQ in Leeds suggesting they mark the price tickets VAT/non VAT on food –visit your local Asda to see if they agreed.

 At present only two retailers clearly mark their shelf prices VAT/non VAT, that’s Makro and Costco, so yes it can and is being done.

G White,


Closures are a folly

WHEN Andrew Carnegie donated money for the construction of three libraries in Sunderland, his aim was to make reading material accessible to the working classes, and the gift was aimed at the people of Sunderland, not the local authority.

 Yet it is the council which has decided (admittedly because of Government spending cuts) that two of these facilities should close along with seven others across Wearside. How can it be that these Carnegie libraries, all built between 1908 and 1910, managed to escape the enforced austerity that followed two World Wars, yet can’t be spared in the current financial difficulties?

 Such folly must surely rank highly alongside other City of Sunderland fiascos – a long list.

 Councillors are always willing to attend the opening ceremonies of public facilities (the publicity seemingly irresistible); to bring some balance to the process they should preside over closures as well.

 The leader of City of Sunderland Council would be appropriate for this task. His speech could make reference to literacy standards in Sunderland having reached such a high level that facilities like this can be dispensed with.

 The ceremony could conclude with the unveiling of a plaque that, as well as the relevant dates, carries the words – “Opened by a philanthropist, closed by philistines.”

Mr F Hunter,


A forgotten city

I WATCHED the Robson Green programme about how the North was built.

 Blackpool, Yorkshire, Newcastle, Lancashire were shown but where was Sunderland on the programme.

 We got a mention on the second programme.

 I would like to say that Sunderland had five industries – mines, ship building, salt, glass and rope.

 Out of the five, only glass is still going strong. People seem to forget we are still the biggest city in the North East.

  Much has gone wrong over the years and our city has fallen on hard times – shops closing down and we also have a number of eyesores that we need to get rid of.

 From now on I am going to put County Durham on my letters instead of Tyne and Wear. We lost our identity when we became Tyne and Wear.

 In the future, do you think we could have a programme about Sunderland on the television with the people of the city doing the programme?

 What does Robson Green think he is playing at doing a programme about the North East when he left years ago to act in London?

 Please could we have a few things in this city we can be proud of instead of looking at eyesores, after all it’s the public who are paying for it.

JM Lennox,


Give us answers

LIKE most people in Sunderland I supported the iconic bridge proposal and sadly the decision to pull out must also be supported.

 However, I must ask how long will we wait for the full cost of the cancelled bridge fiasco to be revealed?

 There is great speculation that this will run into millions of pounds, completely wasted because of a miscalculation by the council on what the bridge would cost to build, so the earlier it is revealed the better.

 However, I’m sure this will be kept under wraps for as long as the council can get away with it, not for any commercial confidentiality, but to protect the political leaders of the ruling Labour Group.

 Coun Watson has said: “We must now move forward positively towards our vision for a new Sunderland bridge, albeit by modifying our approach.”

 I’ll bet he wants to move on, but we must not let the questions on the huge miscalculation be swept under the carpet. We must have answers.

Keith O’Brien,

Middle Herrington

Not right to park

AS a South Bents resident, it’s great that it has finally been recognised that residents-only parking restrictions are needed on our estate for the air show.

 However, it doesn’t look as though the council has planned to do anything to stop the motorhomes, which move in leading up to the weekend and make a real eyesore of the roadside parking area between Seaburn Camp and Morissons.

 We usually see signs up telling the public that there will be “no free parking” for the show. What it really means, is no free parking unless you get their early enough.

 This year that seems have been Monday, as that is when the first one arrived. By this evening you will see several of them waiting on the opposite pavement and doing loops of the road, diving into the final few spaces which are vacated by cars belonging to people visiting the seafront.

 I’m aware it’s not illegal to park here, but given the limited free public parking we have at the seafront, is it morally right when you have over a dozen lined up there?

 I can only imagine the impact it must have on the businesses and patrons of the two restaurants either side of the road, as well as visitors to our seafront.

R Laidler,

South Bents

Is Mick a myth?

I COULDN’T help but overhear a very interesting conversation at the dentist the other day.

 A youth and his mother were waiting to go for a check up when the lad read out a letter in an old Echo from Mick The Pen Brown.

 “He’s been around for years” the mother told him.

 “But he doesn’t exist. It’s the editor just looking to cause controversy among the readers. It’s the editor writing under the name of Mick The Pen and there’s never a spelling mistake. He always appears on a no news day.”

 So is Mick The Pen another myth of Wearside?

Mr L Taylor