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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Government ‘still trying to sell the NHS to the highest bidder’

SIR – I write this with a very heavy heart but one with no surprise as nearly 3 years ago I warned of the dangers of letting the Tories/Liberal Dems get their hands on the NHS.

From April 1 (although this is no April Fool’s joke, it is deadly serious) new rules to “impose compulsory competitive markets” on the entire health service are planned to start.

The changes come about under the planned overhaul launched by former Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley. He claimed there was nothing in the launch that would “ promote or permit the transfer of NHS activities to the private sector”. But now all services are to be offered to the highest bidder from April 1. This move would allow a qualified provider to outbid local hospitals.

It is quite clear to those of us who love and support the NHS that firms could cherry pick the easiest, most profitable procedures, leaving the NHS to pick up the tab for tricky and expensive surgery.

The Government’s claims that it would only put out for “competition on quality, not price” leave critics underwhelmed.

Jamie Reed (Copeland MP and Labour’s shadow health minister ) is quite clear on these proposals that it will put private companies and the money motive at the heart of our NHS. Quite rightly he warns that these proposals go further than last year when the destructive NHS re-organisation struggled through Parliament and ministers concealed their intentions.

Remember Mr Lansley had insisted the NHS was “not for sale” and added: “There will be no privatisation.”

Dr Clive Peedell, who set up the National Health Action Party to protect the NHS, has said: “We and many others have warned from the beginning that the Tory agenda behind Lansley’s Bill was privatisation.”

MPs have until March 31 to overturn the planned rules. Your readers need to be very afraid of what is coming down the road in this continuing attack on the NHS by the current Government, and whether it is by writing to their local MP, raising their concerns with local health administrators, or their GPs, they need to be involved as what might end up in place may not be so easy to dismantle a few years down the line.

People will not forgive David Cameron and Nick Clegg for selling off the NHS to the highest bidder. Again, you have been warned.

Paul WHALLEY

Scotch Street, Whitehaven

SIR – It is exactly one year to the very week that I wrote a letter in your paper: “Ill-conceived, unworkable NHS Bill opens door to privatisation”.

And now our worst nightmares could unfold as Tories’ hidden privatisation plans are revealed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

We failed in our attempts to halt the destructive Health & Social Care Bill steamrollered through Parliament by the previous health secretary Andrew Lansley and abhorred by a vast amount of health care professionals.

Crafty Cameron shuffled Lansley into the long grass once the Bill went through Parliament and he was swiftly replaced by the grinning orifice of Jeremy Hunt. We shuddered with apprehension at this latest Jekyll and Hyde: how right we were to be afraid, and now that his hand has been revealed, as the proposed instigator of Lansley’s plans, complacency is NOT on our agenda this time round.

Don’t let the Tories and their tallymen taint our NHS heritage with their despicable plans for privatisation.

We must wholeheartedly support Jamie Reed in thwarting the current proposals. We owe it to our families whose futures depend on our determination to condemn these new rules.

Unfortunately we’ve taken our eyes off the target with so many other local concerns recently in Cumbria, and whilst the cat was away in India, the rats were silently gnawing away in the basement. It’s not too late to flush them out if we apply a sufficient stranglehold, but that takes courage.

Ms Eileen WEIR

Queen Street, Whitehaven

SIR – As a road user and road tax payer, I am utterly appalled at the poor condition and disrepair that many of our local roads are in.

On a vast number of roads there are numerous unsightly and potentially dangerous potholes, which I feel is a slap on the face to us road tax payers.

Even the temporary repairs being undertaken on many of these badly-eroded services are inadequate and only a temporary measure. These roads should be repaired properly.

No doubt many readers will agree with me, that not only are these potholes unsightly but they are dangerous to all motorists and cyclists. They also vastly contribute to the increased wear and tear to our vehicles. On many occasions whilst driving on poorly maintained roads it has felt like I was driving on square tyres.

We demand better services from the council and Highways agency. Many potholes are in potentially dangerous areas on the road, where quite often you have to try and manoeuvre around them because of how bad they are. This in itself is dangerous enough. I have seen many potholes near junctions, traffic lights or roads leading on to estates.

The main defence will be the increasing cold spells we have been having. I would not disagree with the cold being a contributing factor but what I do expect is for these roads to be repaired properly and within a given time scale.

I would like to ask county council officials what their own feelings are towards the conditions of many of our roads.

Name and address supplied

SIR – I’d like to point out the mess that has been made of a section of High Road on Kells and the shambles that occurred when the road was closed for a week.

They closed the only main road out of Kells for a week and offered no suitable diversion, the only road open into town was down Prospect. However, if we needed to get to Woodhouse or Mirehouse we had to go across Monkwray Cottages or right through town to make a five- minute journey.

Monkwray Cottages was not a suitable route, as I found out when I got stuck behind a big truck that couldn’t get past the cars parked there. Also, coming up Monkwray Brow, at the top which is now one way, I nearly collided with a car that was sneaking down the wrong way. Surely putting traffic lights at the junction of Hill Top Road with Monkwray Brow would have been a more suitable way for residents to navigate around the area?

The white line down the centre of High Road, between Bargain Booze and Eaves Funeral Home, has been moved from its central position and, when driving towards Kells, you are positioned over the white line, despite driving close to the parked cars to your left.

This is an accident waiting to happen. Yes, the roads are smoother and less potholed, but at what cost if the road markings are more dangerous than before?

Name and address supplied

SIR – Spring’s just around the corner. The mornings are getting lighter, the weather warmer and certain tired, repetitive old mammals that have been asleep for most of the winter begin to wake.

Still half asleep, they yawn, give themselves a good scratch and do what comes naturally to them – they begin the yearly ritual of slagging off the local nuclear industry (or, to be more precise, Sellafield).

I refer, of course, to the offerings by our old friends CORE, through your columns and by their usual mouthpiece, Martin Forwood (letters, February 21).

Year in, year out, you still choose to honour his opinions with no regard of the feelings for the 10,000 or so readers who are currently employed by this nuclear monster, most of them funding your paper. Even if it only exists to serve an “impoverished nuclear pariah state”, you still give Mr Forwood just what he wants, the chance to have his usual pop at the one and only industry that is keeping West Cumbria alive at present.

We have read how the council is doing away with recycling, with our toilets, our hanging baskets, our street furniture and even our Christmas lights for God’s sake, but can someone please stand up and tell me (and I know it’s getting a tired old cliché) exactly what would we have if it wasn’t for the money that Sellafield puts into our local economy on a weekly basis? Would we still be celebrating our much-loved and renowned maritime festival or have a landmark Beacon facility to visit? I very much doubt it.

So there, as usual, it looks like whether we have become dependent on Sellafield or not, it is here to stay, so let’s just deal with it.

Like most industries, Sellafield and in the nuclear industry in general, would love to be perfect, dot every ‘i’, cross every ‘t’, but as we have seen nationally of late, no-one’s perfect. I refer to Iceland, Tesco and Findus, who have been shamed by the horsemeat scandal, and even more by the loss of Comet, HMV, Republic, Blockbusters, JJB Sports, even our beloved Woollies, who have all gone to administration by not meeting their annual targets or doing what it says on their tins – something Mr Forwood is keen to point out about Sellafield.

The “lack of nuclear expertise” he talks about is currently dealing proudly and professionally with a legacy and a choice inherited by the country, not just our region, some 40 or so years ago.

Exactly who does he think is keeping the power switched on to work his chattering PC as he writes and the lights on so he can see the drivel he churns out? We are! By turning round efficiently and safely the AGR magnox power stations, allowing them to refuel their reactors and keep the lights of not just West Cumbria but the UK burning brightly.

He talks in his letter about old sayings. Well, here’s one for you, Mr Forwood: There are professional, skilled and dedicated people who work on this site whose “shoelaces you are not fit to tie”. Experts in the field of nuclear technology and engineering who are having to adapt to an ever-changing work environment and are having to come up with solutions to both legacy problems and challenges that are unique and specialised – some of the kit and ideas they have come up with are breathtaking but I notice never get a mention.

It’s not all about meeting targets and percentages; it is about operating safely without the loss of limbs or life and getting Mr and Mrs Average of West Cumbria home at the end of the working day, knowing that the site and its growing estate will be there waiting for them when they get up the following morning.

The job security means we can trot down to the local post offices every Thursday and buy our copy of The Whitehaven News, ensuring they don’t end up like one of the many unfortunate firms mentioned earlier.

To be frank, Mr Forwood, this is called life in West Cumbria, with or without a repository here now and hopefully for the foreseeable future, and while I have to accept the freedom of the press – even our local press, who have got to see both sides of any argument – I could do without your inane chatter after your long winter slumber.

Geoff B LEE

Valley Park, Whitehaven

SIR – We would like to record our deep thanks to the members of Copeland Borough Council who have donated £20,000 to Copeland Citizens Advice Bureau.

This was a cross-party gesture to help the CAB deliver its extra support to the community in light of the extra demand brought about by central government initiatives.

While we are a non-political organisation, the extra work we now have is almost entirely due to central government policy, specifically the new ‘bedroom tax’ and ESA initiatives which have significantly increased the number of people requiring our help.

The gesture from the councillors of Copeland goes beyond all normal political allegiances and while we appreciate the council recognising the quality of our service, this is very much a case of the community of Copeland joining together to help our own.

Peter HANRATTY

Chairman, Board of Directors

Copeland Citizens Advice Bureau

SIR – In response to the 73-year-old on crutches, who parked in Aldi/Iceland car park on October 23, overstayed their welcome and paid a £40 charge to Parking Eye.

This happened to me on December 15 – I overstayed my welcome by 15 minutes. I had my 83-year-old mother with me and wanted to look around both shops. I thought there were two hours of parking time, as in most of the other car parks in Whitehaven.

I received a letter on Christmas Eve from Parking Eye, and I paid £40. However, I also wrote to Aldi in Whitehaven, Aldi head office and to Parking Eye – with copies of my till receipts.

I was refunded my £40 by Parking Eye but have still had no acknowledgement from Aldi.

When these shops were built, I was under the impression (like many others) that shoppers could park their cars, have a look around the shops in town then do their shopping in Aldi/Iceland. Well, that’s obviously not the case, which is disgraceful.

So, people of Whitehaven and surrounding areas, a learning curve for shoppers – keep your till receipts from all these shops which have car parks with cameras. This is your proof to appeal against the fine.

Name and address supplied

SIR – Michael Moon has suggested your letters page as the best opportunity for answers to a few questions of local history.

I remember being taken, as a child, into a tiny, dark shop at the bottom of Roper Street, Whitehaven, where my grandmother bought her magazines etc.

I thought the name of the shop was Wattleworth’s and recall two walls with old, glass-fronted cases containing a subscription library although no-one ever seemed to use it.

I looked through Michael Moon’s recently republished Directory of Whitehaven 1954 but there is no newsagents shop [it was on the opposite side of Roper Street to the rear of the Golden Lion, opposite Skinner’s, and, to the right as you entered, was James, the butcher. The shop I remember would have been at the back of the present Halifax building].

For a while, my comics came from this shop and, as in 1954 I was not yet at school, I wouldn’t have been buying comics so, for my memories to be correct, the shop would have had to be there during the time covered by the directory. I can even remember the smell of the shop so I am certain it was there! There are Wattleworths in the General Directory of 1954 but none are listed as newsagents. Do I have the name right? Does anyone remember this shop or have more information about it?

I wondered if it was so small that it didn’t get a mention. Is that likely? Does anyone now have any of the books from the subscription library?

This shop is quite significant as I am engaged in writing a history of the Dickinson family, one branch of which briefly settled in Parton; there is a story which may be verified if I can find out more about the shop and its owners, tracing them back through Whitehaven’s history.

I shall be very grateful for any information which can be supplied by your readers.

Linda QUINNEY

141 Phelipps Road

Corfe Mullen, Wimborne

Dorset BH213NL

SIR – Following the vindication of Cumbria County Council’s decision on not going forward to Stage 4 of the MRWS process, exactly why is county councillor David Southward querying their decision?

Coun Southward then goes on to say that at least two-thirds of Copeland residents were minded to proceed to Stage 4. I presume this refers to the Mori poll but neither I, nor as far as I am aware anyone else, has been balloted on this subject either in Cumbria as a whole, or particularly in Copeland where I live.

Also quoted, Copeland Borough Council leader Elaine Woodburn raises the question via Twitter (no less) about the deputy county council leader Stewart Young standing down, as he has let West Cumbria down. Not in my eyes he hasn’t!

Surely if someone has a difference of opinion on a subject, it’s better to discuss the situation rather than cast doubt on someone’s character, therefore rather than call for his resignation why doesn’t she let democracy take its place and put everyone in a position to decide via a referendum of some description? That way the people can decide what path forward to take, and not these councillors who, although democratically-appointed, do not always speak on their constituents’ behalf.

I look forward to all the councillors up for election next time round in the ward that I live in, knocking on my door to discuss ongoing situations that will affect me and my family for the coming years. Nobody called round before the last local elections as all the participants take for granted that their coterie of close friends and cliques will get them re-elected, which usually happens.

It might be decided somewhere down the line that Stage 4 should be re-investigated, and if that were to be decided democratically then fine. In the meantime, councillors Woodburn and Southward, get on with the job that you were elected for and look after all the interests of ALL your constituents, such as housing, transport and the likes, get off the hobby-horse of MRWS and earn your councillors’ pay.

Name and address supplied

SIR – They say that every cloud has a silver lining but in the case of the rejection of the GDF we have two silver linings.

Firstly, there’s the GDF rejection itself; and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the full exposure of the undemocratic nature of not only Copeland’s but also West Cumbria’s politics and governance by both the MPs and certain county and borough councillors.

In Copeland’s case it is not party politics-led but simply self-interest led, with both Labour and Conservative councillors singing from the same hymn sheet.

The fact that this has not been recognised by the electorate (or perhaps it has been and is the reason why only 40 per cent turn out at elections) reinforces the view that not only does Copeland need to find a credible borough council leader and executive but also a credible MP as at present they have neither and that should now be obvious to all.

In the couple of months prior to the 2011 elections, I and four others attempted to get a Copeland petition running for an elected mayor. Regrettably, we lacked the man hours to cover all of Copeland but still raised some 1,200 signatures of the 3,000 required (which may have also been due to the 60 per cent lethargy and ignorance of the electorate) in a relatively short period.

The fact that no credible mayoral candidates came forward may be due to the same disease that seems to afflict Copeland in the quality of candidates who stand for MP.

So what should be done about it before all the non-charity shops and public places have closed and there is only a decrepit ‘Beacon of Despair’ on Sellahaven’s harbour left? Well I suggest that:

We need to find some councillors worthy of the public’s vote who will demand the unseating of Copeland Borough Council’s leader and the current Executive (with the exception of Philip Greatorex, a Sellafield-employed Carlisle resident, who was ‘parachuted in’ in 2011 and appears to have made a positive difference) and replace them with non-political, functional, intelligent human beings who have a modicum of business management and know which way is up.

Get an MP that is worthy of the support of ALL Copeland’s electorate and not just a Sellafield cohort and, if due to the paucity of West Cumbrian ‘talent’, we should not be afraid to recruit from elsewhere (oh for a Margaret Hodge!)

Acknowledge that Yes Minister and The Thick of it might be fictional comedies but also that they appear to be a true reflection of the quality of the present West Cumbrian MPs who are out only to safeguard their own positions by any means at their disposal whilst accusing opponents of “scaremongering, deceit and lies” (to quote Copeland’s MP in the Keswick Reminder of December 7).

Perhaps it is time for someone to restart another elected mayor campaign? It will be easier this time as there is no short-term deadline.

I wonder if Eddie Martin would consider being the mayor after a short break from Cumbria County Council?

Arthur MILLIE

Longcroft, Egremont

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