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Where’s the fairness in taxpayers funding this?

Letter of the Week: Peter Sykes, White Lee, Batley

Written in response to last week’s Letter of the Week, from GMB Union official Bill Chard

Dear Sir,

The Mr Chards of this world just don’t get the notion that central and local governments have little objection to trade union representation in the workplace.

What many object to is that unions expect taxpayers to stump up for such activities rather than the novel idea, which has caught on in many regions, departments and authorities, that union activity is paid for by unions themselves.

Some have gone further and stopped, or charge for, such things as processing union members’ subscriptions.

Ten bob says Kirklees provide the service for free also.

Being weaned on the public teet (remember Brown’s wheeze of trade union modernisation funding of millions from central government taxpayers, for instance), Mr Chard and his bunch of ‘pilgrims’ can’t see beyond entitlement to somebody else’s money – ‘kerching’.

The other end of this trough is his union, GMB, which part-fund some MPs just as the cosy Co-op, which I stopped using a couple of years ago, ‘sponsors’ similar.

If the union paid for its members’ activities, who’d provide top-ups to busy bees like Mike Wood?

Not the Labour Party, as it’s broke. For Mr Wood et al – ‘kerching’.

All parties at Westminster utter “fairer society” when it suits, but where’s the fairness in millions of tax money paying union ‘pilgrims’.

For me? I’ve no objection to either body existing but subsidising the trade union movement and the Labour Party?

Shouldn’t that be a matter of my choice rather than Mr Chard’s sense of entitlement?

Cynical politics from councillors

From: Dathan Tedesco, Labour candidate for Birstall and Birkenshaw

Dear Sir,

I write in response to the article published last week about the petition to save services in Birstall.

Firstly I would like to pay tribute to all the local traders and residents who have taken the time to give their views and engage with the campaign.

I also applaud and will fully support new plans for themed markets to support the retention of our market.

As Labour’s candidate for Birstall and Birkenshaw I can let local people know my stance in plain English: I do not want any services removed from the area.

I want more and better services that are run efficiently, and for the benefit of residents – services that allow Birstall to retain its identity as a town.

But I really must say something about the deeply cynical politics being played by Birstall’s three Conservative councillors. The reason these cuts are happening is a £152 million per year cut from central government, an equivalent to 40 per cent of the council’s total operating budget.

I would urge any trader in Birstall to contemplate a 40 per cent cut to their income and then imagine the kind of services they would be able to offer to their customers.

As a small business owner myself, if I had a 40 per cent cut in income I would struggle to pay myself a wage, let alone deliver a good product to customers.

Kirklees is facing a cut which is more than double the cut being faced in George Osborne’s constituency, and up to eight times higher than other councils down south.

This is an unfair and disproportionate attack on Birstall and the culprit is the Conservative government.

The fact is that if our cut was the same as in David Cameron’s own constituency in Oxfordshire, we would be keeping the toilets, market and library in Birstall.

As it is, these kinds of services are at risk.

Local people need to understand who is making these decisions.

The Tories in Birstall need to be honest. They can’t treat local people like idiots and campaign against cuts that they themselves are making.

They should come out and condemn David Cameron’s attack on Birstall. Unless they agree with it?

The Conservative Party has put Birstall in a terrible situation.

My plan would be to get on with the job of managing this, not point fingers and tell lies.

Local people deserve better.

Support for the cuts?

From: John Appleyard, Liversedge

Dear Sir,

I hope the 1,000-plus people who have given their names to a petition opposing cuts in Birstall’s public services such as the library, the open market, children’s centre and Oakwell Hall have asked the three Tory councillors why they support a government that is cutting local authority budgets that are bringing about these possible closures.

If the Tories win next year’s general election there is worse to come.

The Chancellor George Osborne announced in his autumn statement a further £30 billion of extra cuts which will see even fewer nurses, doctors, teachers, police, defence staff, council workers and local services.

The services that these Tory councillors claim to support will go.

Napoleon once famously said that England was a nation of shopkeepers, but this Government is turning our country into a nation of low-paid, zero-hour volunteers. Let’s stop them.

Uncivilised and undignified

From: Robert Cowan, Sandal

Dear Sir,

Your brief story in last week’s paper about Black Friday chaos at Batley’s Tesco store is sadly only one of very many similar reports I have read recently in various local and national newspapers.

It would appear at least that no offences were reported and therefore no arrests made in the case of the Batley store incident, unlike some parts of the country where some shoppers resorted to extreme measures including assault in order to get their hands on the desired discounted goods first, often terrifying other shoppers and store staff in the process.

Times are undoubtedly hard financially for many people and the prospect of heavily discounted goods is irresistible.

But there can be no justification for the scenes of mayhem witnessed in many retail outlets throughout the land, bargain-hunters grappled with each other, abused staff, and sometimes even trampled other shoppers underfoot.

What uncivilised and undignified behaviour, and what an indictment of human nature at its worst!

And all this in the lead-up to Christmas, a time supposedly of peace and goodwill towards all men.

If we really have to adopt this annual American shopping practice, it clearly has to be handled very differently in future to ensure the safety of the buying public.

In the main, store managers need to increase security staff so that sales can be supervised more effectively and greater control exerted on potentially rampaging crowds of shoppers.

All too often stores have had to rely on police intervention to sort out the mess that they themselves have created.

Don’t the police already have enough to do without having to separate squabbling shoppers as they violently tug at opposite ends of the same coveted item – a scene incidentally that would be almost comical if it was not so pathetic?

Switch-on woes

From: An unhappy Birstall resident

Dear Sir,

Birstall Christmas lights switch-on seems to be such a farce – roads closed from 12pm with buses diverted, motorists not given any advanced noticed, traders in Market Street not consulted...

And when it came to the switch-on, what lights? A few solar-powered Christmas trees on selected shops (not all traders were asked) and most of these trees did not work very well.

There were a few lights on a Christmas tree in the Market Place and some small displays, some of which did not work.

What has happened to all the lights Birstall used to have a couple of years ago?

Have they been taken by the other towns? Dewsbury, Batley, Heckmondwike, Cleckheaton and even Mirfield all have good displays,

Birstall forgotten yet again. The small group of volunteers do their best but surely more traders could get behind them so we have a decent display.

If it was not for Ikea’s tree we would barely have anything in the town.

Maybe some of the big stores at junction 27 should help more. Maybe next year...

More gimmicks

From: David Honeybell, Heckmondwike

Dear Sir,

At last week’s Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust meeting (4/12/14), there was a verbal report of the ambulance service proposals to free up ambulances.

The idea was supposedly to make ambulances more responsive to emergency calls by enacting the following:

(1) When ambulances arrive at A&E, the patient will be transferred to a ‘waiting ward’;

(2) The patient will be transferred to another ambulance and share with the patient already in there.

This would have the effect of having an empty ambulance available for the next emergency call, which, on the face of it, would seem a good idea.

I don’t believe a word of it. I think it’s a cynical attempt to appear to be shortening transfer times from ambulance to A&E.

If the patient, on arrival at hospital, is transferred immediately from the ambulance, transfer times will, at least on paper, seem to be cut drastically and meet targets.

But, in reality, the patient will still be waiting to be seen for the same length of time.

The facts are there is a shortage of A&E staff nationally, and no amount of smoke and mirrors, sharing ambulances, or special waiting wards will change that fact.

We need a more positive action to recruit the A&E doctors and nurses needed to properly run the A&E service for everyone in the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust area, not gimmicks like shared ambulances and hastily-discovered waiting wards.

Keeping the chief informed

From: Cheryl Tyler, chairman of Save Mirfield 

An open letter to Adrian Lythgo, chief executive of Kirklees Council

Dear Mr Lythgo,

We are taking the unusual step of writing to you to be sure that you are informed about a situation which has serious implications for you and your officers.

It involves a proposed development on a site known locally as Balderstone Hall fields (Planning application number 2014/91282) for 135 houses.

Save Mirfield has submitted a detailed objection to the planning department in the usual way. We believe that given that this plan creates known and identified hazards, approval by the officers of the council could be viewed as negligent, creating potential personal liabilities should there be an accident in the locality.

So that you are fully informed here is an outline of the problem:

A similar application was made by Bellway Homes Ltd in 1998 (incidentally for fewer houses than are proposed now) and was met with considerable local opposition.

Ultimately however, the application was rejected following a full planning inquiry in Dewsbury Town Hall before a planning inspector – Mr Christopher Frost – who travelled up from Bristol for the four-day hearing.

Both Kirklees Council and Mirfield Town Council objected to the planning application because of highway issues exacerbated by the land being adjacent to Crossley Fields Junior & Infant School.

The roads in the area were, in the view of the objectors and ultimately of the inspector, incapable of absorbing the increased traffic that the development would generate in a manner that was safe for the school children and for other road users such as cyclists and horse riders.

The original inquiry was over 16 years ago, but nothing has changed that would materially improve matters.

Indeed things have worsened in the sense that this local school is now fully subscribed and traffic numbers in the vicinity have increased.

Some months ago, under the Freedom of Information Act, we requested sight of a recent traffic report for the area from the highways department.

Although it was acknowledged that the report existed, this request was refused even after appeal.

Knowing that Kirklees Council were concerned in the past about the highways issues we were astonished at this secrecy.

With the passing of years and changes in personnel it could perhaps be claimed that the findings of the inspector’s inquiry have been forgotten or lost in the files of Kirklees.

We think it important that those who have the responsibility of safeguarding the public, including the children attending the school, are made aware of these earlier findings.

We recognise that Kirklees Council has a housing shortfall but this should not override the need to protect the safety of the public, particularly that of children.

We decided to share this letter with the local press so that in the future there is no prospect of senior officers claiming not to be aware or uninformed of these issues should approval of the planning application for this site be given.

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