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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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‘Council should cut trade union funding before local services’

SIR – This is an open letter to Cumbria County Council chief executive Jill Stannard:

Dear Ms Stannard,

On the evening of Tuesday January 10, I attended a county council consultation meeting in Egremont, with regard to looking at ways to either raise revenue or reduce spending by cutting back. The two options proposed are either charging for on-street parking (permits) or reducing community services.

During the evening one member of the public brought the subject of trade union funding and asked how much this was. You apologised, you did not have these figures with you and further went on to explain that some councils do not fund anything and some a lot and considered, when compared nationwide, this council’s funding is ‘average’. Another member of public pointed out as Cumbria is the least populated county in England, then surely the trade union funding per capita was actually very high. Which, you did not deny. I had read trade unions were getting state funding and had assumed, until that evening, it was being surreptitiously siphoned off via some quango.

At the close of the meeting you told the attendees that should we require any further information to contact your office. I did the following morning and requested the cost of the trade union funding. The response I received was affirmative and I left my contact details. A week has elapsed and I have still not received anything.

As you pointed out, this consultation ends, if I recall correctly on the 30th of this month, so surely time is of the essence and this should have been dealt with promptly. I am very disappointed this has not been the case.

As mentioned above, this meeting was about getting the opinion of the local people of the two options being proposed. You further explained there had been stringent cutbacks and these two options must now be considered. At no point, until the first member of public mentioned trade union funding, were most of the attendees aware the county council is funding trade unions.

I question why this information was not in the consultation papers for consideration? I also question why the county council is funding trade unions and why community services must be cut. And finally, I question why there is a delay getting requested information out when you have already effectively admitted, time is of the essence? How can the people make an informed decision on partial information?

I am of the opinion that all trade funding should stop before any cuts are made to community services, or revenue raised. That said, I still want to know the figures.

I am sure you will agree that as a further week of the consultation period has passed, it would be expedient to get this information to everyone as quickly as possible. With this in mind may I respectfully suggest this information is released to the press, so that all may have access to this information, enabling us all to make an informed decision and I will accept this as your response to my request made on the strength of the commitment you made at the meeting.

J BUSH

Cleator

SIR – The directors and staff of G & A M Lawson Ltd were devastated by the death of their friend and fellow worker Les Brown on April 20, 2010.

Les was a warm-hearted, witty and highly-respected employee of the company.

Les was always willing to help anyone he could. He will always be sorely missed by all.

Our thoughts are with Les’ family at what must, once again, be a very difficult time for them.

We wish to express our sincere condolences to Les’ family.

Jayne MANNING

G & A M Lawson Ltd

Whinbank Farm, Distington

SIR – It is not often I heap praise through these columns but Mr Tony Cunningham and Mr Jamie Reed, our respective MPs, have taken a superb stance on behalf of the people of the area and condemned the lack-lustre efforts of the West Cumberland Hospital Trust and the Primary Care Trust (PCT) in their refusal to resolve the development of two hospitals in our area.

The initiative led by Mr Cunningham and Mr Reed deserves our most sincere thanks and support. Political allegiances apart, we must all stand up for the area of West Cumbria and the West Cumberland Hospital, these two men are vocally and visually doing that. Where is the support from those who stood against these men at the last general election? The silence is deafening. Perhaps they have other hidden agendas.

The two councils of West Cumbria depend on this hospital for care of their people. Let’s see the weight of these councils’ chairpersons and all our councillors – district, county and parish – stand firmly behind our MPs in this venture. Forget the politics, this issue is about something greater than politics, something we all care about, or should care about, the future of West Cumbria.

The question we must all ask of the chairs of the opposing factors is why are these chairmen and their committees playing games with everyone’s health, lives and futures?

As clearly stated by Mr Cunningham, these chairmen are paid, and extremely well paid, from the public purse and we, the public, demand that they do the job they are paid for to the very best of their ability for and on behalf of the area of West Cumbria.

If any of these two chairmen had any shred of decency for the people or respect for the area they purport to represent they would do the decent thing and both resign with immediate effect.

I understand that a public meeting was planned around two weeks ago at the Wave Centre at Maryport, to appraise the public on this issue. Unfortunately there was no one willing or available from either the West Cumberland Hospital Trust or the PCT to chair this meeting and explain events to the general public and it was postponed. To me and many others, this smacks of fear: fear to disclose facts that would outrage the public; fear to tell the public they were going to be pushed adrift without a paddle; fear for themselves when they did actually stand up in front of a meeting that contained a lot of passion.

A final question to these chairmen: how far does 20 pieces of silver go these days?

Again, sincere thanks to Tony and Jamie, well spoken sirs.

G S FAWCETT,

Scaw Road, High Harrington

SIR – The interest and maintenance payments of the PFI Cumberland Infirmary is crippling both the Cumberland Infirmary and the West Cumberland Hospital. What would the reaction be if the roles were reversed and the PFI payments of a new West Cumberland Hospital were crippling the Carlisle Hospital?

You can be sure swift action would be taken to protect the Cumberland Infirmary and the West Cumberland Hospital left to sink. It is totally unfair that the hospital that has no PFI payments is suffering more than the Cumberland Infirmary.

Which brings me to another subject. Even though the problems with PFI have been well known for years it did not stop Cumbria County Council using PFI to build the Carlisle Northern Development Route.

It would seem that when Carlisle wants a development it will be pushed through whatever the cost. We are now tied into PFI payments for the bypass for the next 30 years. Is PFI only for Carlisle? They can deliver a £176 million bypass but walk away from a £2.5 million Whitehaven Transport Interchange.

J DENVER,

Hillcrest, Whitehaven

SIR – In this year of criticisms of measures to cut back on employment, and of riots, gun controls etc, it is with gratitude, we, my wife and I, had no criticisms only deep reasons to draw attention, and refreshing insight into treatment received at the West Cumberland Hospital.

Due to an illness we were referred to the hospital for investigation as to the cause of various problems. Right through to being admitted to Gable Ward, we were pleasantly surprised that, at this time of worry as to diagnosis of the health problem, the staff couldn’t have done more for us to reduce the worry the visit had caused.

We were kept informed, treated with dignity and nothing was too much to ask for.

The staff were friendly, kind, and went out of their way to make the visit a comfortable one, and this was above the call.

It was very refreshing, in this said time of unrest, to find everyone on this journey, from sisters, doctors, porters, to catering, everyone of them pleasant and helpful.

This standard did not alter with change of shift. This admittance was Thursday last and we wish to thank everyone for their assistance and kindness.

We note this is a second letter of “admiration” of the staff of the West Cumberland Hospital, there was one last week.

So, in times when “criticisms” are circulating, it is refreshing to send a second letter, praising the professionalism of the staff.

Ann & Ron CARR

Low Moresby, Whitehaven

SIR – I recently spent some hours on Skiddaw Ward for an eye operation, and Mr Sellar, nurses and Kath were really kind and caring to me.

I would like to say a big thank you to them all, well deserved.

Evelyn MOFFAT

Moresby Parks, Whitehaven

SIR – If you are someone who lost their job this week, perhaps you will be greatly cheered by our Prime Minister’s statement that the latest unemployment figures are “hugely unwelcome”.

David RITSON

Seascale

SIR – I have been a resident of the Mirehouse estate for 46 years. In the last five years, the South Whitehaven wardens and neighbourhood assistants have improved the estate immensely, from helping to settle disputes between neighbours, anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping, untidy gardens etc.

The wardens and assistants do estate walkabouts and they see first hand any problems. They are friendly and approachable.

They liaise with the various authorities about the residents queries and problems.

In last winter’s icy weather they checked on the elderly who were unable to leave their homes.

The neighbourhood assistants did all the hard work to change a piece of land that was virtually a rubbish tip into a community garden. They also helped the local school to grow their own vegetables. The assistants deal with fly tipping and they keep the grass verges and the estate tidy.

The wardens and neighbourhood assistants give their free time to help with community events.

I do not know where Home group got the idea the wardens were no longer needed! The residents want them to stay. It seems the wardens are a casualty of their own success.

Home group need to keep the wardens and neighbourhood assistants if they want their tenants to continue enjoying a good quality of life on the Mirehouse estate

J WYNNE

Mirehouse, Whitehaven

Home Group has sent this open letter to its customers:

You may have recently read some alarming headlines about the withdrawal of community wardens from sections within Copeland Borough Council area by Home Group.

While it is true that community wardens are coming to the end of their four-year fixed term contract, fears the work they have undertaken in communities will no longer be carried on are far from the mark.

Currently there are two community wardens who cover a patch in the South Whitehaven area of Copeland Borough Council. The two wardens cover an area which takes in 3,000 Home Group customers – one warden per 1,500 people. The functions of the two wardens are to be taken on by a larger team of Customer Service Partners. In total there will be 28 Customer Service Partners working with around 5,500 customers in the Copeland area. One of these will be an anti-social behaviour specialist.

A total of 50 Customer Service Partners will work across Cumbria with a total of 9,513 people. Each Customer Service Partner will have a dedicated patch of around 200 customers who they will work with, with the maximum being 220 customers.

This new system will allow more intensive and focused work with residents rather than a wider approach.

Limiting each Customer Service Partner to around 200 customers will mean each community has an easily recognisable and approachable point of contact for any issues. It should allow real relationships which will benefit each community to develop.

Customer Service Partners will spend 80 per cent of their time in their patch and will continue to carry out estate walkabouts.

Community wardens were never there to replace the role of police officers or police community support officers. The role of crime fighting is best left to the police and local authorities. Crime fighting is not the job of housing associations.

However Community Service Partners will continue to carry on working with the police and community support officers to tackle anti-social behaviour and improve neighbourhoods.

Work such as estate maintenance and enforcement will continue. The only changes residents will see will be a much more accessible and focused service concentrating on their needs.

Home Group will continue to keep residents informed of changes and respond to their questions.

Andrea THORN

Head of Customer Service

SIR – I write to commend both the service and products offered by Cumbrian Foods Direct.

After reading the article about this new enterprise in The Whitehaven News, I made quite a large order online, selecting from many different sites, in order to get a flavour of their varied range. Unfortunately, at the end of my selection, the computer informed me that they were unable to deliver to my postcode.

At 4.30pm on Friday afternoon, I rang Nigel Ellis to express my disappointment. He was terrific, straight on to the case, and in a very short time I had an e-mail saying that the cause of my order rejection was a website error, and not my postcode. They went to work immediately to repair it. By 9pm, and several e-mails later, he sent word that the error was rectified and ordering could commence, for normal delivery the following Friday.

When the goods arrived, I was delighted to find them of excellent quality. I shall be ordering again, and regularly. I am greatly in favour of small, local and personal, and pleased to be able to support this community initiative.

I hope more suppliers will join Cumbrian Food Direct, to give us even more choice, and I would like to urge anyone else who may have been unable initially to order from the website, to persevere or ring Nigel Ellis or Kerry McPhee.

Their prompt and courteous service is exactly what a customer desires.

Gretchen STEVENS

Centre for Complementary Care

Muncaster

SIR – I write in reply to Ms Hughes’ baby name comments about the name ‘Beau’ for a girl or ‘Beau’ for a boy. Beau is as much a French word or name as apples and oranges are to Asia. When we eat them we don’t think of their origin, Ms Hughes – so why would anyone choose to dwell so much on a baby’s name these days?

I am more than aware of the French language and its sexist gender association of words, thank you very much!

My daughter, Beau, lies giggling and cooing surrounded by her loving family – her Beaus. My Beau will grow to be a kind, generous and a sweet-hearted little girl. She will be non-judgemental and non- discriminatory and will not make ignorant remarks. She will be open minded and have thought for the feelings of others. She is surrounded by love and affection and a beautiful family to share giggles with.

Please put your remarks into perspective Ms Hughes: there are worse things in life that you should feel compelled to write about.

We have laughed, we have cried, we have jumped for joy at the birth of our ‘Beau’, our ‘Beauty’, our ‘Sweetheart’, our ‘Darling’. One day, if anyone tells her she has a boy’s name, she will turn to them and say “It’s because I’m cool!”!

Jayne LAINÉ

Address withheld

SIR – Please through your page could you advertise St Benedict’s School reunion for any pupils that joined in 1980 and left in 1985 to be held on Saturday February 18 at 7.30pm in St Beghs Social Club, Coach Road, Whitehaven.

This will be our first reunion for our year in 27 years. Partners are welcome and we would love to see teachers there also. Tickets are £5 each for buffet and karaoke available from either emailing annmarierogan21@aol.com or by telephoning 07517 115037.

Ann Marie ROGAN

Whitehaven

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