Bury Free Press letters to the editor
Local and national politics, Covid, planning, plus some praise for teachers are among this week's topics.
WANTED: SOME ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY
The more than welcome life-line offered by the present vaccination programme must not be allowed to cover up the human consequences of ‘too little too late’ Government action to contain the Covid-19 pandemic - with this country’s death toll now rising far above 100,000, and the health service overwhelmed.
Almost a hundred Covid-19 deaths were reported by this paper for West Suffolk Hospital during January, more than double the figure for December, despite everything that doctors and nurses could do. Mark Drakeford, Welsh First Minister, in saying that this Government has done ‘the bare minimum’ in response to the crisis, may have been too kind.
Shortages of staff and appropriate personal protective equipment due to economic austerity policies, inadequate attention to safe conditions in work places, dangerously late lock-downs, and ludicrously delayed and ‘over-privatised’ test and trace arrangements tell just some of the grim story. The recent disclosure that one sub-contracted test and trace company has had to check out whether its call handlers were living abroad or not is just icing on this catastrophe cake. Hot air from Number Ten’s ever-ready mouth cannot hide our Government’s monumental failure.
Over the pandemic period the number of people in the country, many of them working, who are claiming Universal Credit, has risen to almost 6 million, more than half of whom made their first claim during 2020. This paper recently reported 5,209 people in the Bury area alone signing on for job seeker allowance or Universal Credit in November, more than the previous month. And it is obvious that the rise in unemployment and falls in income are continuing. The impact of the latest closures of shops and hospitality venues in Bury and elsewhere can only add to an already critical situation for many people.
And yet the coming Budget is all set to take away the £20 weekly rise in Universal Credit allocation granted last spring. To cancel this uplift is doing far less than ‘the bare minimum’: it is driving people into deeper debt and deeper desperation, and no-one should imagine that charity contributions, though vital, will go near to making up for this. Noisy and firm declarations of support from local Conservative MPs for keeping the £20 a week uplift would help. Silence about this and about Downing Street’s messy failure to rein in the pandemic, speaks louder than words. Wanted: acceptance of responsibility!
JOHN ELLISON, SECRETARY, WEST SUFFOLK TRADES UNION COUNCIL
Will the council fund replacement trees?
I could not believe the dreadful mistake made in cutting down the walnut trees in the aptly named Walnut Tree Walk, Stowmarket.
What has emerged now is an excuse to cover up a lack of communication.
A recommendation for action in 21 days is not a legal instruction . Why was there a delay of 50 days? When the team arrived eventually on site, why if there was a doubt did they not check instead of ploughing on with disastrous consequences.
I believe this is the result of relying on technology and the preference for staff to work from home with myriad distractions. If staff had been in the workplace then there would have been the appropriate checks in place to prevent a PR disaster.
I have no faith in the regret given and assurances that “extra procedures have been put in place”. I will believe it when I see it.
Perhaps those responsible within the council organisation should fund the provision of replacement trees.
Graham Day, Stowmarket
GROVE PARK IS SUCH A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE
As a resident of Grove Park it was interesting to read David Eddershaw’s article on the history of these houses. Many are now privately owned and have been for many years. I was very surprised to discover that my house was actually bought in 1953 by a Mr and Mrs Chenery for the princely sum of £820. This was long before the option of buying council houses and I have often wondered under what circumstances it was made possible.
They are lovely houses and Grove Park is a great place to live.
A L Groves, Grove Park, Bury St Edmunds
GREENE KING WILL END UP PLEASING NO-ONE
Greene King are to rename their pubs called The Black Boy because,to quote CEO Nick Mackenzie from the Bury Free Press, “there is a perception that it is linked with racism”. Well Nick, there are always different perceptions related to any subject. My perception is it is complementary and must surely add to the current demand for more diversity in the country.
Avoiding negative perception of anything is impossible and I fear Greene King have set themselves an impossible task. They may soon be required to cease providing IPA, India Pale Ale, as this was produced to supply British troops stationed in India during the RAJ and could therefore attract condemnation for having racist and oppressive connotations. Others, including myself, will think otherwise.
I think Greene King have fallen into the trap of trying to please everybody and will end up pleasing nobody. It is silly and sad.
Jim Hubbard, Thurston
CUTS TO NHS HAVE TAKEN THEIR TOLL
It is truly excellent news that the Covid-19 vaccine is successfully being rolled out across the UK and much praise should rightly be given to our Scientists and the NHS for the progress that has been made.However, we should not allow this recent good news to draw our attention away from the complete failure of this government to protect its citizens. We have to ask ourselves how does one of the richest nations in the world end up with more than 120,000 deaths from Covid?
A cursory examination of why things have gone so badly wrong, quickly leads to the conclusion that it is not just the failures (and there are many) of the current government that is the problem but the decade of continuous cuts to public services that have been overseen by successive Conservative governments. David Cameron promised to reform Social Care back in 2010, Boris Johnson said it was his top priority in 2018 and yet nothing has happened. Similarly, while funding for the NHS has allegedly been ‘protected’ it has failed to keep up with demands, and for many years we have seen reductions in the number of hospital beds and vital community services such as District Nurses. We simply don’t spend enough on healthcare. We have far fewer intensive care beds than our neighbours in France and Germany and overall we spend spend less per head of population.
The significance of these shortfalls is that even before Covid-19, the NHS has experienced a bed shortage every winter for at least a decade. The only way it has managed to cope is by cancelling planned hospital treatments (including cancer surgery) and by rapidly discharging older and vulnerable adults into hard-stretched and under resourced social care provision. When Covid-19 struck, the current government went one step further, with disastrous results. They forced many older people to go directly from hospital into care homes. In many cases this was done without testing or consent. As a consequence, the virus rapidly spread resulting in 25,000 deaths in UK care homes by January 2021.
While there is much debate about how we move forward once the virus is under control, one thing that it is clear is that there needs to be a commitment to adequately fund and restructure both the NHS and adult social care. But it can’t just stop there. We know that people on low incomes and in poor housing have suffered disproportionately from the virus. The services run by councils and their partners that might reasonably be expected to help, have also had their funding cut.
To date this government’s approach to meeting the long-term challenge has largely focused on quick fixes and rhetoric such as the ever-increasing use of slogans such as ‘world beating’ and ‘levelling up’. But empty words will not cut it. If we are to truly give priority to the health and well-being of all of our citizens, it is essential to commit to adequately funding the NHS, Social Care and the other key public services that impact directly on people’s lives.
Richard O’Driscoll, Bury St Edmunds
TEACHERS EVERYWHERE DESERVE PRAISE
I was saddened to read the obituary of Alan Byford (Bury Free Press, February 19).
He was my English and drama teacher when I was at the Silver Jubilee School in the mid 1960s. He, along with Lawford Smith, the music teacher saw in a rather shy and insecure pupil my fledgling gifts and developed both my ability, confidence and self-esteem. I have gone on to have a very fulfilled life and been a public speaker across numerous countries and a musician and at 70 years of age can look back with satisfaction on my life’s pathway.
So may I through the medium of the letters page pay a tribute to the late Alan Byford and Lawford Smith, who is still alive, well and active at 94 years of age.
And also acknowledge the amazing work that teachers have done in lockdown and will continue to do. I speak from experience of helping to home school two of our grandchildren and have seen the incredible effort teachers are putting in to continue the educational process.
Sadly, I think many of my contemporaries found that there were more teachers that broke down rather than built up the pupil under the mistaken guise of discipline. The modern teaching methods, in my opinion, are far superior to the rote system I experienced, so thank you to teachers everywhere as you develop the well-rounded citizens of tomorrow.
Pastor Bernard Plume, via email
DOES ANYONE HAVE OLD QUIZ TROPHY?
Some 35+ years ago I used to organise the annual town quiz in conjunction with the Bury Free Press (when the late Malcolm Scott) was editor). I had a trophy (the China cup with a hole in it) which up to 25 teams competed for. I would love to locate the trophy, if it still exists, as the cup on the plinth has some sentimental value as it was my late mother’s. I wonder if someone still has it?
Graham Jones, North Walsham
PROTECTING OUR WARTIME HERITAGE
In a recent Bury Free Press it was announced that a developer wants to build flats and houses on the unused industrial site at the top of Thingoe Hill, in Bury. I do hope that they have realised that the site includes a piece of our history – a pillbox from World War Two. This particular site has already lost one when the A45 (A14) was built. Suffolk has lost two pillboxes in the last couple of months. People tend to assume all pillboxes are listed buildings but in reality very few are. Our World War Two heritage is being lost.
The surviving box, which is a special one with an anti-aircraft gun facility, is right on the edge of the site so it should be possible to clean it up, add an explanatory sign, and present it neatly in a little lawn or paved area. The Ravenswood Estate, in Ipswich, has done that with one box in the front garden of a new house, as well as moving another to a protected position. And that’s not a town known for preserving its history.
John Goldsmith, Bury St Edmunds
TOWN IS FACING MAJOR ISSUES
Two letters in last week’s paper encapsulated the dilemmas and challenges facing Bury and its surrounding villages as we emerge from this pandemic.
Lee Miller (‘Concern in villages over developments’) raises timely worries over the pressure on our rural communities from housebuilding targets in both the current Local Plan, Vision 2031 and as foreshadowed by the recent Aims & Objectives consultation by West Suffolk Council.
The fact is that these targets have been largely imposed on local authorities by central government since 2010 with minimal consultation and even less financial support.
Over the past 10 years it has been difficult to successfully object to the granting of planning, permission for housing where none of the appropriate infrastructure: shops, schools, doctors and other community facilities, convenient public transport, available green space etc was available or able to be funded. Worse, central government policy has prevented local authorities from ensuring that the housing that is delivered is energy efficient, suitable for all ages to live in and, crucially, truly affordable. I share Lee’s worry that village communities will be swallowed up in the pursuit of the easy profits offered by building on green spaces. Central government policy must change, and that is key, but Suffolk County Council could certainly help by investing receipts from developers (and others) in sustainable transport (eg electric buses), in other infrastructure, and in support of the development of community facilities, particularly of outdoor green spaces which we all know from the agony of the lockdowns are essential for our mental health.
While many town dwellers will not share Tom Murray’s sanguine take on issues such as the flats in Tayfen Road and the proposed redevelopment of Cornhill Walk (‘Big changes on way for town centre’), he raises an important question: what will our town centre look like once vaccination means some semblance of normal life can resume? It is obvious that shopping has changed forever but the joy of Bury has always been its independent businesses. Many have been lost to the multiples over the years but many wonderful retailers remain and more can, and will, come if they are enabled to do so. Reform of business rates and realism about rents on the part of landlords would be a big help.
Our local council could also help. In 2017, the idea of an electric shuttle bus from out of town car parking was accepted by all involved with the Bury Masterplan but it has not yet happened. Now is the time. It ticks all the boxes. It will reduce emissions from vehicles (a major cause of respiratory illnesses) in the town, it will reduce pressure on parking spaces for residents, ultimately it should enable town centre pedestrianisation – less pollution, no worries crossing roads, residents able to park near their homes: what’s not to like? – while at the same time encouraging people to come to Bury, to shop local. It would also help us to reimagine Bury after the pandemic, something we really need to do.
Tom also draws attention to the need for affordable housing – ‘young people need homes’: he is absolutely right. The truth is that the so-called affordable housing grudgingly provided by greedy developers is anything but. As a community, we need to think about providing homes for those who, no matter how hard they work, or for how long, will never be able to afford to buy the properties on offer currently from the national housebuilders. We must insist that West Suffolk Council grasps the nettle and emulates the building of Grove Park by providing social housing.
These are big issues and we need to think and debate them in the months to come. I look forward to the responses to the issues raised in this letter.
Julia Wakelam, Bury St Edmunds
DROPPING PROCEDURE IS A DISGRACE, JO
Parliament has just voted to tie its own hands on future trade deals. In a vote on the Trade Bill, MPs voted to drop an amendment that would have guaranteed them a vote on trade deals.
It is disgraceful that our MP, Jo Churchill, was one of those who voted to drop this democratic procedure.
The dangers of high risk trade deals, such as one with the US or the Trans-Pacific Partnership are real. They could undermine food standards, raise medicine prices for the NHS, affect the way public services are run, and impact workers’ rights. And at a time when we are facing a climate emergency, they could also block climate action.
Usually in domestic law, parliament would get a vote on issues like this. But trade deals, as international treaties, can effectively override this, which is why it was so important that parliament also got a vote on the trade deals themselves.
Phil Williams, Norton
SCRAP POLICE COMMISSIONERS
I am in complete agreement with Alan Pitt and his letter about Mr Passmore (Bury Free Press, February 19).
Indeed it should refer to the other 40 PCCs in the UK. Not only do they have the salaries Mr Pitt mentioned but they have an assistant on about £50k or more and also they get expenses on top.
Get more bobbies on the street and dispense with Mr Cameron’s old boys club!
Andrew Donovan, Wetherden