READERS’ LETTERS March 10

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Readers’ letters from the March 10 issue of the Observer.

WE HAVE a census coming up shortly and this time there will be a lot more questions of a private nature – more than before – and your readers may not wish to share them with strangers.

So why the changes?

EU Regulations 763/2008, with which our government agreed, requires this information to be sent to Brussels.

It says ‘…there is a need to collect detailed information for the promotion of social inclusion and the monitoring of social cohesion at regional level…’

This is either meaningless or unwelcome, or both, apart from being an expensive exercise for which you pay.

Do we really want the EU to ‘monitor our social cohesion’, particularly at regional level’?

And having monitored it, what are they going to do with it?

Shouldn’t we be establishing our own social policy nationally rather than have it imposed regionally by people whose aims and standards are different from ours?

And why ‘regionally?’

For our government to seek details on population and housing is reasonable.

Mind you this information can be gained from elsewhere so the census is an expensive way of getting it.

So, if you feel uneasy about this census, then maybe you should only fill in the details you think appropriate and leave the rest blank.

The EU police will not issue a European Arrest Warrant and come banging on your door – not yet anyway.

Our government is risking compromising the census because of this approach.

Enough people may be sufficiently annoyed that they boycott the whole thing or print frivolous answers to the intrusive questions.

Jim McCulloch, Newlands Lane, Chichester

ON THURSDAY, May 5, voters will decide who represents them in local elections across England.

There will also be a referendum on whether we use the ‘first past the post’ or ‘alternative vote’ system to elect MPs to the UK Parliament.

Many of your readers will want to get involved in campaigning in the referendum and elections.

This could be by setting up a campaign group, standing as a candidate or starting a political party.

It is important that people can get involved, but they should be aware that there are rules they need to follow.

These are set out on our website: www.electoralcommission.org.uk/guidance and I’d encourage everyone planning to play an active role in the campaigns to check the rules.

Peter Wardle, Chief Executive, Electoral Commission

I HAVE recently had a successful hip replacement at St Richard’s Hospital and where the quality of surgery has been good, I have to comment on the dreadful aftercare I received on Middleton Ward.

My sheets were not changed for four days, although badly stained.

The nurses did not wish to be disturbed by us patients ringing our bells for attention and in fact I reported one nurse for shouting at us one evening.

She told us that we were not to ring our bells no matter what!

When a couple of ladies wanted bedpans, they waited at least 20 minutes for a nurse to bring one and then at least 30 minutes for a nurse to come back – absolutely disgraceful behaviour to these elderly patients.

When you have had major surgery, you would expect to have physiotherapy and aftercare to be provided as a normal procedure – let me tell you it is not.

There is no aftercare whatsoever; one has to beg for clips to be removed and the stocking to be changed.

After begging the district nurses they finally agreed to come and remove my clips – but nobody wanted to help with anything else.

Can someone explain to me what the Social Services do for their money and what are district nurses employed to do? They certainly did not help me.

I would hate to be elderly, alone and non-verbal in West Sussex.

I hope that I never have to go into hospital again.

Marina Hicks, Salthill Road, Fishbourne

I THOUGHT Councillor Connor’s response to Mike Beale’s plea to retain the East Pallant toilet block was rather sad and maybe a little smug.

He ‘dislikes the decision’ but still took it, and that is that, and here’s how I did it!

As a businessman he should be well aware of the survival maxim that in a crisis pain in the short-term is often necessary for long-term gain, and then ignores it.

In the long-term there can be no gain ever more.

When the toilets are removed we will just have pain for ever more.

Is there not another service or policy initiative that we, the tax payers, might prefer to see axed?

One that would cause less pain to 100,000 of us, even if it hurt him and his 100 colleagues just a little?

He brags that savings are being made at the top but shows no sympathy toward the Big Society at the bottom.

He fails to show any consideration that the removal of this environmental service must have on the end user – the council tax payer – in both the short and long run.

In his March, 2000, budget, Chancellor Gordon Brown hypothecated a 25 pence rise in tax on cigarettes toward the funding of ‘hospitals and the national health service’.

Following upon this government example, cannot Cllr Connor find one job vacancy or small policy initiative within his department at a suitable finance level and hypothecate that to a KEPT account (Keep the East Pallant Toilets)?

Show some imagination.

In terms of opportunity costs if the toilets are removed it is inconceivable that they could ever be replaced.

These toilets are a current bonus at the centre of the city and represent the civil amenity that is a sign of a caring society.

Their removal is not a saving, it is a total loss.

How uncaring!

Alan Beer, Selsey

RICHARD LUFF’s comparison of the new Chichester museum with the recently-demolished Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth (Readers’ letters, February 24) is very apt.

The architect of that unlamented erection, Owen Luder, once praised another new building for daring to say ‘sod you’ to the public.

Our new museum appears to be expressing the same thought; as of course does the East Pallant frontage of the Pallant House gallery extension – the work ten years ago of another famous Modernist, Colin St John Wilson.

It will be wonderful to have a new museum in the city, with the remains of the Roman baths displayed beneath it. But how could the design of the building’s repulsive exterior have been passed – as it presumably was – by a majority of the district council’s executive board, and a majority of the full council itself?

Perhaps one of our representatives – for instance the ‘portfolio holder for the arts and heritage’, Nick Thomas – could enlighten us.

Tim Hudson, Hawthorn Close, Chichester

I WRITE to express concern that over the past few weeks Louise Goldsmith (Leader, WSCC) has been given a significant amount of column space in the Chichester Observer in which to exhort the virtues of Cameron’s Big Society while reassuring residents how well placed West Sussex will be in delivering this agenda.

But Tim Loughton (children’s minister) revealed ‘most people don’t know what the big society really means, least of all the unfortunate ministers who have to articulate it’.

Although I acknowledge that most readers are mindful of the political dominance of the region, I find it somewhat offensive when what I had thought was an independently-minded and moderately-balanced newspaper allows itself to be used as a ‘manifesto’ for the local authority.

We already have the wasteful Connections publication to fulfil this function.

Mrs Thatcher was famously quoted as saying: ‘There’s no such thing as society’ so unsurprisingly she presided over a period of great inequality.

So I find it strange that her most staunch supporters appear to have rediscovered the value of society – hoping that we have short memories of what has gone before.

Big society rhetoric reveals a naïve and patronising ‘Victorian’ logic that exaggerates the hoards of ‘do-gooders’ clamouring to be empowered to run our services.

In reality, it ends up being the better-off who have the louder voices who also have better contacts and the sharpest elbows.

Although I support volunteering, this initiative ignores the importance of inclusive professional skills and values required in running services which provide an invaluable civic function for the benefit of all citizens – not just the pushing and articulate few.

What Louise Goldsmith does not reveal in her letters to the Chichester Observer are the harsher realities coming our way eg WSCC eligibility criteria threshold for social care services being increased to substantial need from April, thereby terminating any potential for low-level preventative services or support for carers, grants to numerous local charities and trusts being ceased (many of whom have already been doing the ‘big society’ for years), subsidies to rural bus services terminated, library closures, youth/ childcare and day-care services for older people being reconfigured, rationed or cut.

Most of us are struggling to hold down tenuous employment while trying to keep a roof over our heads, support our children or extended families.

But politicians now arrogantly expect us to also run the local libraries, the free schools, the post offices and hospitals they have privatised or have already closed.

So what precisely will WSCC be doing in this smaller state society?

In order to show real leadership perhaps all WSCC cabinet members could waiver their expenses and donate them to local charities and give up their precious time to support the services they intend to cut, as most members have never had to depend upon such services themselves.

Big society is just ideological spin for the cuts to essential services that threatens the most vulnerable and will create further division in our local communities. D Gaylard, Peacock Close, Chichester

WHAT A contrast between the customary acuity of Keith Newbery, this time aimed at Cameron’s Big Society, and the vacuous issuings from the leader of West Sussex County Council on the same subject.

If it was intentional to put them almost back-to-back in last week’s issue, you deserve a round of applause.

R Newham, Coates, West Sussex

WHILE ON on my way to work one morning recently, I had the misfortune to get a puncture in my tyre and had to pull over to the side of the road just before you get into Pagham – by Barfoots of Botley.

Luckily for me I work for a great company, Covers, who sent out one of their guys to change the tyre for me.

I would just like to say a massive thank-you to all the inconsiderate drivers who drove past me at great speed, without a thought to stop to see if everything was okay – and a very special thank-you to the ‘gentleman’ who instead of patiently waiting for the oncoming traffic to pass decided to carry on and actually hit my wing mirror while the real gentleman was working on my tyre and could have been injured.

Gina Pitham, Chichester

WE WERE dismayed to read in last week’s Observer that the proposed footbridge across the A27 at Whyke Road is not now going to happen.

As residents of Whyke Road and keen walkers, the prospect of being able to cross the A27 (without the constant fear of motorists who approach or leave the Whyke roundabout at reckless speed) was a welcome development.

Experience has taught us that it is hopeless to attempt the crossing at busy times, and on several occasions we have abandoned our intention of walking around the lakes because of the sheer speed and density of the traffic.

Being retired, we have the luxury of choice, but for those whose journeys are essential, they risk their lives on a daily basis.

If the footbridge is not to be ‘prioritised’ by the Highways Agency, then what greater priority is there above the safety and wellbeing of highway users?

Or do their concerns only extend to those users on wheels ?

Because of our proximity to the A27 we have grown used to the noise of traffic, but noticed its increase since the removal of the bank of trees by the roundabout which muffled the roar somewhat.

We felt that this was a small price to pay for the greater good of anytime access to the countryside to the south of the city.

Now we discover that we and our community are losers on both counts.

A cynic reading the article in the Observer would pick up on expressions like ‘foreseeable future’ and ‘forthcoming years’ and conclude that it’s just not going to happen; or if it does, not within a time frame that will be of any use to those currently in need.

Costs will go up (they always do) and so what could have been afforded, and was budgeted for last year, will become too expensive to even contemplate in years to come.

Traffic volume has increased since we have lived here and will continue to increase; soon it will be impossible to cross the A27 safely at any time of day.

Such a shame that for a relatively small investment now, a major improvement to the amenities of Chichester and the quality of people’s lives is to be lost.

Alan Carn, Whyke Road, Chichester

I HAVE deliberately refrained from passing comment on the actions of the British Transport Police regarding the Stockbridge/Basin Road level crossings as the mention of any activity of the railway tends to send my blood pressure close to boiling point, but last week’s letter from Ms Helen Bradley – Slapped with a fine for ‘crossing’ trespass – finally forces me to pass comment.

The BTP state that she has ‘broken the Highway Code’ – I wonder just how many pedestrians know the code?

There were at one time, signs at both crossings warning pedestrians to stop when the lights flash, but these have disappeared.

There also used to be an emergency phone at each crossing, these too have gone.

I assume they were removed because the signal operative(s) could not take the abuse when he/they kept the gates closed for often 20 minutes at a time!

If the BTP disputes this they can come and talk to local residents, station taxi drivers or Stagecoach bus drivers.

Now we return to Ms Bradley.

I have two points to make – I myself, being fairly nimble, have started walking across the lines when the warning lights have sounded, and the barriers have been brought down before I reached the other side.

I have seen elderly people trapped and panicking inside the gates although they had been walking before the warning lights started.

The Stockbridge Gates are the worst as there is farther to travel across the lines.

So, if I present evidence of the gates coming down early at either crossing, can I have the assurance that the BTP will take disciplinary action against the operatives at fault?

I would like an explanation for the 20-minute waiting times, as it seems there is absolutely no need for it.

The gates could have been raised at least twice in this space of time (No doubt the ‘Health and Safety’ card will appear) .

Remember, BT policemen, you may need to take the splinters out of your own eyes first!

PB Arnold, Chichester

WHAT A disgrace the entrance to Chalcraft Cemetery is.

Can’t something be done to clean and tidy the place up?

Joan Wells, Aldwick

AS A supporter of the National Autistic Society living in the area, I am extremely concerned about the government’s Disability Living Allowance (DLA) reforms.

The reform means people with autism will have to undergone a stringent face-to-face assessment in order to claim this vital benefit.

Autism is a ‘hidden’ disability and unless assessors have specific training in the condition, it is very likely the needs of people with autism will be misunderstood or overlooked.

I would like to appeal to our local MP to bring this issue to parliament in line with the National Autistic Society’s Who Benefits? campaign, which puts forward the following four points aimed at protecting society’s most vulnerable:

* People shouldn’t have to go through a face-to-face assessment if they already have sufficient evidence about their autism from previous assessments

* People with autism experience a variety of difficulties with daily life. The government must make sure that these are reflected in the new assessment.

* Assessors must be trained so that they understand autism and how to talk to someone with autism, and can make a fair assessment of that person’s needs

* The government must not abolish mobility component of DLA for people living in residential care

I urge others in the area to take action now by visiting www.autism.org.uk/whobenefits

Sarah Wilkins, Montague Avenue, Bosham

I STRONGLY support the sensible forward-thinking comments set out by Mr Dean in his letter (February 24) but which so far seem to have been discounted.

At a recent parks meeting, confirmation was sought that the new railings would stretch continuously between both pairs of gates, without interruption. The hoped-for answer was not given which suggests a new entrance is intended.

Also at this meeting, a question was raised as to the height of the new building which will/may be on two levels, with the lower level set down into the ground, presumably like a basement. No mention was made of the extra cost involved in such an excavation and construction. Subsequent discussion relating to a northern site in the park was countered as being too expensive due to the extra cost of linking up the services – which are already laid on to the existing buildings!

Mr Dean has already commented on the misleading picture shown in the Observer.

What about the views from outside the park looking in from East Walls, Little London and Priory Road? Are we once again to be left with a view of the back of a pavilion which will be not nearly as attractive as a view of the front? Imagine the beautiful scene available to everyone of a lovely open view, without impediment, across the whole park to a new pavilion. The City Walls, mainly to the north, obscure inward views of the park and the buildings therein.

At the public meeting the first lady speaker started off with ‘what about the children?’

This leads me to ask what will happen to the two small pitches close to the pavilion which are used every Saturday and Sunday throughout the winter months by the eight and nine-year-old members of Chichester City youth football teams.

Will they be preserved together with the area across the southern area of the park used by the Chichester Runners for training purposes? There should also be concern over any new access into the park through the new railings.

Vehicular access must surely be intended to any new building. If this is so, has the question of road safety been considered? Access and egress will be needed between the existing parking bays, where there is extremely poor visibility along Priory Road due to it’s circular shape. Daily there are ‘near misses’ and it can be quite scary if one happens to be driving in the opposite direction to one of the huge M&S articulated delivery vehicles.

Any new access to the park will only increase the risk of accidents. So far reference has only been made to a ‘new pavilion’, but this disguises the reality of the plan because it will become a fully-fledged ‘clubhouse’ used not just when cricket is being played.

There will be numerous other cricket and hockey club committee meetings, social gatherings and parties – often causing disturbance to nearby residents till late in the evening. This will be tantamount to a ‘change of use’ in planning terms. The Cricket Club representative at the parks meeting gave the impression that all they wanted was a ‘fit for purpose’ pavilion sitting around the edge of the cricket field. Why then is there a fixation with the position of the old pavilion when so many advantages exist at the other end of the park?

It is submitted this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which should be seized with open arms to increase the overall amenity value of the park for everyone – not just the cricketers.

N A Shaw, Chichester

I WOULD just like to say a real big thank-you both to Butlin’s, the residents and visitors of Bognor Regis, for making us clowns so welcome this past weekend.

It was really appreciated as was the weather.

However, thanks to the generosity of those who kindly came and either said hello in the Skyline at Butlin’s or who greeted me during our parade, I am pleased to say I was able to pass over to Clowns International the magnificent sum of £138.57.

This was a real surprise and much appreciated too.

Thank you!

Well, until I have the pleasure of visiting your lovely town next year, may God bless you all.

Salvo The Clown

Thundersley, Essex

HARDLY a local issue, I know, but what on earth is this coalition playing at?

Last off the block getting our people out of Libya and all the PM can do is say ‘sorry’.

Dave was out of the country on ‘official business’, but Nick ‘forgot’ and went on holiday!

Presumably HMS Ark Royal is still seaworthy and they haven’t completely trashed her yet?

Could that not have been used as a rescue vessel?

Not exactly a luxury liner, I know, but if I’d been in a situation of danger in North Africa, then I’d gladly have bedded down in a sleeping bag on the hangar deck, and felt privileged to do so, rather than face another moment’s danger.

DL Lambert (Mrs), Dryad Way, Felpham

SINCE Mrs Thatcher privatised British Gas is there anything more soul-destroying than phoning these people?

After waiting for a reply to a phone inquiry we are told we are fifth in the queue, fourth, third, and then suddenly cut off.

So we dial again but we never receive any sensible reply to a request for an urgent service call or even an appointment.

We are told on the TV that our home is our palace, but British Gas staff don’t care in our time of need.

In fact we get no co-operation – not even if you have paid for a Home Care agreement.

Furthermore, before privatisation we had a senior citizens’ helpline but not today.

I wonder what happens when Mrs Thatcher needs a service call?

I expect British Gas goes running.

Again, before privatisation we had a gas showroom in London Road and an electric showroom in the High Street; what happy days.

Ann Winckworth, Gibson Way, Bognor Regis