Readers’ letters - February 18

Baker should give account

THAT’S odd. Norman Baker tells us in his Letter from Westminster that ‘the quiet majority of people who speak to me (about the coalition) tell me they support its creation and are by and large pleased with the way it is working.’ That’s not what the quiet majority of people who speak to me about it tell me.

But rather than give vacuous statements like this in his weekly letter he could give us a much more informative account of his work in Westminster. He could, for example, tell us how he voted on recent issues such as raising student fees to up to £9,000 per annum, cutting the Education Maintenance Allowance, (a lifeline for poorer pupils to stay on at school), selling off Forestry Commission land and handing the NHS over to private profit making companies (the inevitable result of handing GP budgets over to hard-pressed GPs).

And he might also tell us how he intends to vote on future issues, such as closing libraries. His most likely answer would be that that is a decision for local authorities, not Parliament. If so, that would be a clear demonstration of the age-old trick of starving local councils of funds and then blaming them for the cuts they are forced to make.

And remember that the real effects of the cuts haven’t begun yet. Wait till disabled people and their carers and many old people find not only their benefits but their services cut. Families with children will feel the pinch as child benefit is frozen at the level it was three years ago or stopped altogether, and the child trust fund is scrapped.

Maybe it’s time to recall Neil Kinnock’s ‘I warn you not to be ordinary, I warn you not to be young, I warn you not to fall ill, and I warn you not to grow old.’ And the thought that the 18 millionaires in the coalition cabinet share our pain brings little comfort.

John Jacobs, Lewes

A compromise or a sell-out?

It seems that Lewes MP Norman Baker is living in some kind of parallel universe where everything is just tickety-boo and we all love the Coalition Government.

Still when he presented himself to the electorate as a somewhat radical and green politician, keen to hold other politicians to account and held in pretty high regard by constituents of most persuasions, it must be hard to face the reality of the current situation. After all, many people now openly regret voting for him and graffiti attacking our MP is seen to remain as a badge of pride rather than being swiftly cleaned away.

Norman Baker excuses himself by explaining – as if we are idiots – that Coalition Government demands compromises.

Well yes, of course, but surely those compromises ought to be between positions that have already been voted upon by the public. Sadly that has not proved to be the case and this Coalition is introducing all kinds of upheaval for which neither Tories nor Lib Dems have any mandate.

Indeed the proposed revolution in the NHS has come completely out of the blue. David Cameron went out of his way to say he would protect the NHS if elected and promised no more top-down re-organisations and yet Norman Baker and his Lib Dems find themselves having to support something that neither side had put to the public and which is strongly opposed by many health professionals. That is not a compromise. That is a sell-out, not least because it opens the way for the effective privatisation of a service that must be for the common good. Ditto with university tuition fees. The Lib Dems said they opposed tuition fees (as did the Green Party) in their election manifesto. And the Tories made no mention of tripling tuition fees or abolishing EMA. I do not understand therefore how present Coalition policy forms any kind of compromise between their two pre-existing positions.

Norman Baker once told me we don’t need a Green MP in this constituency because he is so green himself. I would beg to differ (he has failed to notice that Green policies go far beyond the environmental agenda to embrace a fairer, more equal society and a rejection of the excesses of capitalism, for instance). However, even by his own definition, he has disappointed the majority of people in Lewes and across the country by choosing to vote with the government on its proposals to sell off the forests. Apparently access will be protected when they are sold to companies seeking to make a profit from our green lungs or the Big Society will look after them. Do all join me in a hollow laugh.

At the end of his piece, Norman asks what those who oppose would do instead. Well one of the answers was on the front page of the very same paper. We do not accept the case for the cuts being imposed upon our public services. There is an alternative and one important action would be for this government to stop protecting the big corporations and its other rich friends. If all the tax evaded or avoided by companies targeted by UKUncut – like Boots in Lewes – were to be effectively collected then they would virtually wipe out the deficit. It may be legal for Boots to move its tax-paying headquarters to Switzerland, but morally it is quite wrong.

I say there is an alternative and Norman could do more good by resigning from the government and going back to asking all those awkward questions than by carrying on in the tickety-boo land of the ministerial bubble.

Cllr Susan Murray, Green Party, Lewes

A painful thing to read

It was a painful thing to read Norman Baker’s column in your paper.

Mr Baker was an excellent constituency MP, and right now we could do with him to lead the campaign against privatising our forests – including it seems, our own Abbott’s Wood and Friston Forest. If Sherwood Forest is also included in this ghastly plan, Mr Osborne is surely typecast as the Sheriff of Nottingham.

At the general election, the voters punished Labour for being unable to tame the banks on our behalf.

Those whom Mr Baker and his friends naively helped into office have turned a banking crisis, previously manageable by action together with other governments, into an engineered public panic – so that they can force their Chicago-School, neo-con economic agenda on to a country that doesn’t want it. Voters gave them no mandate to take money from the poor to give to the rich – shall we sum that up as the Government’s “Hood Robin” policy?

Mrs Jenny Tillyard, Seaford

Big Society or big corporatism

So much for localism. Residents of Offham and the surrounding parishes were appalled to find that their local petrol station had suddenly shut without warning.

Apparently, the premises needed upgrading and the various planning authorities imposed prohibitively expensive demands that made the future business uneconomical. So the site stands derelict. Tescos must be delighted. From local community we evolve into Big Society which evidently translates into Big Corporatism.

Mary Parker,

East Chiltington

Most useless wind turbine

Richard Saunders provided an excellent summary of the independently confirmed futility of the Glyndebourne industrial turbine (‘Turbine not viable – LDC’, letters, February 4).

This week, a major article by David Derbyshire asked ‘Is this the UK’s most useless wind turbine?’ (Daily Mail, Feb 10). Derbyshire was referring to the much lampooned turbine alongside the M4 near Slough http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1355419/UKs-useless-wind-turbine-Cost-130k-raise-electricity-worth-100k.html

Thanks to Mr Saunders we know the answer – Glyndebourne’s turbine will be worse than the derided Slough device.

During WWII Betjeman wrote ‘Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough’. He did not request equivalent treatment for our South Downs; nor would he in 2011.

Reg Keeping, Ringmer

Misled on three issues

Richard A Saunders’ letter (February 4) about Mill Plain wind speeds illustrates the difficulty of understanding the constraints councils have to work within. He has been misled (understandably) on three issues: cost, recorded wind speeds, and viability.

Firstly, council tax payers did not pay for the Renewable Carbon and Low Energy Report, which consultants have prepared for Lewes District Council (LDC). LDC took up a Government initiative (like other councils). The report will help LDC assist residents, businesses and farmers in deciding many energy matters.

Secondly, the report contains a wind speeds error which the consultants are already correcting at their expense. Met Office data show higher wind speeds across the district, and revised mapping in the report will show this Met Office data.

Thirdly, viability (cost/benefit) is not a matter for planning decisions, as the Inspector confirmed at the Glyndebourne turbine Public Inquiry. Neither LDC officers nor I ‘ignored’ information on wind efficiency or viability – LDC could not, and therefore did not, take these into account. Viability is a matter for planning applicants to consider, not LDC (see below). If LDC made a major planning decision on non-planning grounds, LDC could incur £100,000 in costs – I’m sure tax payers are pleased LDC avoid this.

May I also point out planning decisions must be non-political, and LDC’s planning committee vote on the Glyndebourne turbine was across-party.

Mr Saunders might like to speak directly to Glyndebourne (the applicants) about viability, as I did last year and again this January. Glyndebourne, who employ 150 local people year-round and 500 during the season, say the turbine’s viability will help keep them in business.

Peter Gardiner

LDC Lead Councillor for Planning

Crying need for speed limit

I REFER to ‘Lorry diversion sparks resident’s fury’ (Feb 4, page 5). I found it hard to feel sympathy for James Hoad when he complained about heavy lorries and other machinery being diverted down Park Road, Hellingly.

I live in New Road which is now closed and is the reason for the diversion and for years New Road has been used as a race track for both cars and lorries. I cannot understand why there is no speed limit in New Road.

With the closure of our road, we now feel a lot safer when we cross the road and when we drive cars out of our driveways. I hope that, when New Road re-opens, the council will consider putting up signs to show it as a 30mph road which I understand it should be as it has houses and street lamps.

Miss Dawn Taylor, Hellingly