Tighter rules will stop bad MPs tainting reputation of the rest
Last updated at 16:13, Thursday, 02 April 2009
SIR – Justified concern over the behaviour of a minority of politicians has continued to bring the entire political system into disrepute and threatens to overshadow the fact that the majority of Members of Parliament, MEPs and councillors are honest.
But we can hardly blame the press or the public from being angry when a few people (alas, from all political parties) have been, quite frankly, taking the mickey.
It is worth mentioning one recent decision in Copeland which attracted hardly any publicity, as an example that many people in politics fully understand this. While I disagreed with almost everything else which the portfolio holder for finance said during the budget debate at Copeland Council, he deserved credit for getting one thing right: he proposed a zero increase in councillors’ allowances, arguing that this was not the time for councillors to give ourselves a pay rise while everyone else was coping with a savage recession.
That proposal was agreed with no disagreement from either side.
But it is high time to change the system so that MPs, MEPs, and councillors are not put in the invidious position of setting our own salaries or allowances. David Cameron has called for this. Gordon Brown has indicated that he would like this to happen in the case of MPs. Well, it’s time for him to actually do it.
And the recommendation from the Estimates Committee (which was voted down last year) for an independent audit of MPs’ expenses and the abolition of the so called “John Lewis list” should be reconsidered. This had cross-party support (in Cumbria, David Maclean and Eric Martlew supported it) but half the House of Commons, including the Prime Minister and the MP for Copeland, did not vote on the question.
I remain convinced that politics in Britain is actually far cleaner than in most other nations. But it is time to make the rules stricter to stop an irresponsible minority of politicians giving everyone else a bad name.
Coun Chris WHITESIDE
Conservative PPC for Copeland
Don’t disregard rural parishes
SIR – I was shocked and dismayed to read in The Whitehaven News about the proposal to build a nuclear power station at the north end of Braystones.
I would fully expect any new nuclear development to be at the existing nuclear site of Sellafield, where there are already roads and facilities built to handle large-scale industry. Although local communities accept the existing nuclear site in the region, they need to live at a comfortable distance from such overpowering, industrial buildings.
While jobs are always welcome, industry should not encroach on people’s homes and surroundings. To build such a massive complex in close proximity to the rural communities of Braystones, Beckermet and Nethertown would be obnoxious; they would be dwarfed in the shadow of another industrial blot on the landscape. In time, should such a complex be built, Braystones would eventually be obliterated and swallowed up by the inevitable industrial sprawl.
Sellafield already looms large enough to the south of Braystones, without a reactor site cutting the hamlet off in a pincer movement.
Braystones is an historic, seaside hamlet, where people value their homes and surrounding peaceful countryside, not an industrial dumping ground. I question the morality of industrial giants being allowed to choose a spot on a map where other people live, and say ‘Let’s build a nuclear power station here’. Not only is it obnoxious, it would hugely devalue local people’s homes, in which they have invested their hard-earned life savings.
There are already two large, nuclear sites within ten miles of each other in West Cumbria, we surely don’t need yet another, and on a greenfield site. So I say to RWE npower: Stop, and think again!
And for those of you who think none of this will affect where you live, ask yourselves where the new, high capacity, overhead transmission lines will be sited. Will they be over your house?
Name supplied, Braystones
SIR – New forms of energy have to be generated quickly, in order to bridge a shortfall before 2020, when old power stations reach the end of their life. Decisions for new-build have been too slow off the mark and the likelihood of energy blackouts is very high. It has reached a point where nuclear is necessary.
While contributions can be made with other forms of renewable energy, the amount will be insufficient to sustain the needs of the current population of this island. North Sea oil is running low, leaving us dependent on costly imported fuel.
Nuclear reactors have to go somewhere. The question is: is Kirksanton a suitable site? It cannot be denied that it will change the eco-system and the environment. It will radically alter the villagescape and people’s lives. Business dependent on tourism is unlikely to thrive. What, for example, will the proprietor of the holiday cottages adapted for disable people do with the property – one she has invested a huge amount of capital in?
Yes, Millom is likely to gain in terms of extra jobs and training opportunities and people will have more money to spend locally. The energy requirements of the country if not met in full, will receive a major input. Millom is traditionally an industrial town, which lost its identity with the closure of the iron works. This is an opportunity to regenerate.
But while some are set to gain, others will lose. It has created a division between the interests of town and country. Kirksanton residents have every reason to be alarmed. I attended the meeting at the Village Hall on Tuesday and I assure you passions are high. People choose to live in Kirksanton for its green fields. They are not NIMBYS. Concern for the environment in which they live is their right and shows moral responsibility for the legacy they pass onto future generations.
I was pleased the RWE was extremely helpful and informative, at Millom Network Centre, as was David Dixon (Head of Sustainability and Nuclear Policy for Copeland Borough Council). This was somewhat reassuring after the bombshell that has been dropped onto a community that had previously been led to believe that the new build would be at Sellafield.
Suspicion had also been aroused by the fact that drilling had taken place at Layriggs Farm without any local councillors being aware of the proposal (including those involved with the Energy Coast Partnership). Our MP Jamie Reed appears to have been very underhand.
The communication of the proposal has been abysmal and gives the impression that Central Government is imposing the project irrespective of the wishes of villagers. Recent reforms of the planning system creating the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has taken planning decisions away from the locality and placed the authority firmly in the hands of the Government.
There needs to be far more discussion on this subject and the results of ecological, infrastructural and economic impact surveys etc presented to the public.
Jamie Reed, show some backbone, speak directly to the residents instead of holding meetings in Whitehaven!
If on balance it is decided that the greater good in utilitarian terms fall to the town, anyone who loses business or land value, in justice must be compensated.
I call on Central Government to remember that Kirksanton is not a pinprick on a map and the population of a small village is not just a statistic. This decision impacts real people’s lives and will change this area forever.
Let’s have a proper consultation, the inclusion of hard scientific evidence and the interests of all local people borne in mind. Bridge the gap between the town and the rural hinterland.
Not opposed to nuclear power, but concerned for the welfare of the greater and lesser number of people. The jury is out.
Churchill Drive, Millom
SIR – Unfortunately I don’t share David Moore’s confidence that if new nuclear power stations are to be built, the health authority will satisfactorily monitor the health of communities along the West Cumbrian coast.
Twenty-five years ago the authority was blissfully unaware that in Seascale and along the coastal strip south of Sellafield more children than anywhere else in the UK were being diagnosed with childhood cancer. It was in fact a television documentary that spilled the beans and it was widely believed that discharges from the Sellafield site were to blame.
I do agree with David Moore that ever since then childhood leukaemia around nuclear installations has been one of the most intense issues retrospectively studied in the history of British medical research. Even though recent research from the US and Germany have re-opened the debate, we don’t actually seem to be any closer to an explanation of how and why. So what could it have been?
Radiation, which is a known cause of childhood leukaemia? Couldn’t possibly be that says the nuclear industry, claiming there was either too much of it or too little, although everyone agrees that no-one will ever be able to tell exactly how much.
Chance? Statistically impossible we are told. The Seascale leukaemias are not a ‘cluster’ but a 30-year high incidence.
So, what about population mixing, a much-favoured Sellafield explanation for these cancers? An isolated community exposed to infections brought in by newcomers, construction workers maybe? A 1999 Newcastle University report said that, looking back, this theory would account for most of the Seascale leukaemias [ BJC (1999)81(1), 144-151 Quantifying the effect of population mixing on childhood leukaemia risk: the Seascale cluster].
Not even Sellafield Union man John Kane believed Elaine Woodburn’s assurance that these tens of thousands of jobs to build and operate new reactors could be filled by locals, so we’re bound to have this influx of ‘offcomers’.
Those at the public meeting who responded to the health issue being raised with “just wanting jobs” should hang their heads in shame and reflect that the jury is still out on the possible causes of the childhood cancers. Maybe then those of us who are concerned would be more inclined to believe that health and the environment really mattered to the panel at Whitehaven.
Before any contracts for new developments are signed, therefore, we call on David Moore, the West Cumbria Sellafield Stakeholder group, Elaine Woodburn, Copeland Council, MP Jamie Reed, Rosie Mathisen, Westlakes Renaissance as well as the Sellafield unions, to support CORE’s demand for a baseline health study of West Cumbria communities and parishes.
This study should be carried out by the Health Authority, by independent non-vested-interest scientists and be funded by the potential developer.
Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment
Briarwood: it’s a family home
SIR – When Briarwood first opened 18 years ago, The Whitehaven News did a half page article on the home. You used a photograph of a resident sitting in her room.
That resident was my mother, Mary Blacklock of Thornhill. She used to love sitting in her chair looking out of the window, or having a cigarette and a crack with one of the carers.
My mam couldn’t speak after her stroke but everyone used to say she talked with her eyes. My mam was well cared for in Briarwood. The staff, nurses, carers, cooks and cleaners, nothing was any trouble to them. The staff couldn’t do enough for Mam. All the staff gave her a nickname, ‘The Duchess’, which made everyone laugh, Mam included.
I could not give them enough praise for what they did for Mam. I just hope and pray that nothing happens to me where I would need 24-hour care, and for there to be no Briarwood.
The lady that wrote that Briarwood was a family home hit the nail on the head. She is so right.
SIR – As a member of staff at Briarwood I am devastated at the announcement that we are to close. Anchor Trust no longer wish to run the home because of its size and age according to operations manager Angela Hunt. Its size is a 30-bedded nursing home which is split into three units of ten. Its age is 18. The truth is that Anchor has a 20/20 vision which basically states that Anchor wants to provide a choice of services for the elderly for which they pay for according to their needs.
Anchor no longer wishes to provide care for those who need it most but who also need financial assistance to help pay for their care. Private fee payers pay more than those who are funded by the local authority and so are more lucrative. Anchor Trust operates as a charity but shies away from those that needs its help most. Our residents are frail and to move them from a place of safety which has become their home, and to take them away from the staff who have become their extended family is cruel and unnecessary. The staff, friends and families will fight this decision to the wire and hope and pray we can find a way to keep Briarwood open.
Should the very worst happen and Briarwood can’t be saved I would like to assure the families and residents that we will not abandon them and we will continue to give our very high standard of care from a dedicated staff team.
Name and address supplied
In praise of Pitt the hardworking
SIR – May I start by saying that Coun Pitt is big enough and man enough to look after himself. Having said that, I read with a certain amount of displeasure the attack on him by both the Leader of the Conservative Group Coun Moore and his deputy Coun Norwood. Those of you out there who have read any past letters from me in The Whitehaven News know I deal in facts.
I first came across Coun Pitt in 2007 after the district elections and he has been on two committees both as a Conservative and Labour councillor that I have been on. At the very first meeting that I heard him speak at in 2007, as he was then a Conservative councillor brought this reaction from me: “We are going to have to watch this councillor. He does his homework and will make the Labour Group sit up and take notice.” In this I was proven right. However as time moved on it became more obvious that he sat awkwardly in the Tory ranks and his resignation from them came as no surprise to the Labour Group. At no time was any pressure put on him to join the Labour Group, this in the end was his decision and when it came he was more than welcome.
Can I say to those in the South of Copeland in Millom you have in Coun Pitt and also Coun Park two very hard working and sincere councillors who work tirelessly for their constituents.
To both Councillors Moore and Norwood, and I will say also a number of Tory supporters in the Millom area, the animosity shown to Coun Pitt since he joined the Labour Group has by my understanding been far from what should be tolerated within politics. Much has been written in both letters from the two top Conservative councillors on Copeland Borough Council, much to do with consistency. I will say this and voters can rest assured the least consistent people on Copeland Borough Council are the Conservative Group unless of course you count the large number of times they nod their heads in agreement on Labour Party initiatives because it will send out the right message to the residents of Copeland that they can be trusted and everything will be safe in their hands.
To quote from Coun Moore’s letter: “The Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, who has visited the West Cumberland Hospital, included it on a list of hospitals where the Conservatives will resist proposals to close services.” Please note that the word was “resist” not “stop” proposals to close services. In this one word there is a world of difference.
I have always been consistent that the NHS in Tory hands will suffer as history has shown. The fact of the matter from both these letters is that the Tory Group know that in Coun Pitt you have both a hardworking and knowledgeable councillor in his duties and it is this that really gets to them.
Their loss is both a Labour Party gain and to the residents of Millom I hope you will come to realise this also.
Coun Paul WHALLEY
Scotch Street, Whitehaven
Parking tickets at Morrison’s
SIR – I write in relation to the increase in parking tickets issued by the agent responsible for Morrison’s car park. I myself have been a victim of these ridiculous demands for money.
The fact is that the company, and others like it, make a living by attempting to extort money on the basis of consumer ignorance. It is not an offence to contravene the rules on their sign – the worst it can be deemed is a breach of contract. Furthermore, the Unfair Contract Terms Act means that a contract term can only provide remedy for actual losses. The loss on a free parking space would amount to nothing, and as such they would never be able, nor would even attempt to pursue the ‘fine’ in court.
I urge anyone who has received a fine to simple ignore the letter they receive from Trethowans. They only send two letters demanding payment and then go away.
I also urge readers to write to Morrison’s in Whitehaven and ask them to reconsider their parking policy. After all it was part of their planning permission that a free car park should be provided for shoppers. To then appoint a parking control firm to recover funds for some kind of dreamed up parking offence is disgraceful.
People who want to find out more information regarding this type of ‘parking fine’ and their wider consumer rights should visit www.consumeractiongroup.com.
Ennerdale Road, Cleator Moor
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First published at 15:48, Wednesday, 01 April 2009
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
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