READERS’ LETTERS January 6

Readers’ letters from the January 6 issue of the Observer.

HO HO HO... thanks to the Xmas lights fiasco, almost everyone in the UK (even the world when you count publication over the internet) has now heard about our embarrassing Chichester-based council(s).

The finger-pointing Santa Claus graffiti daubed on County Hall simply brings into the open an anti-council resentment that many (council tax-paying) residents are harbouring.

Worse, while most residents have to wait weeks and months for roads to be repaired, their children shunted around different schools to get an education, inadequate child protection services, etc, the county council was able to get the protest graffiti painted over in a matter of minutes.

Imagine trying to ask Chichester and the West Sussex councils to help you as quickly; it simply wouldn’t happen!

Why couldn’t Chichester council act as swiftly to get lights up for the festive season when free money was on the table? One rule for one in Chichester, another law for others, it seems. Very baffling (as I think Observer editor Colin Channon was finding in his editorial response last week to someone who thought it was ok to go without Xmas lights in the city for 2010).

Bashing councils can be a popular past-time – but when, in the season of goodwill, councils hand people an extra-size hammer to do the job, they have only themselves to blame when someone takes up a spray can of paint to make a point.

‘Bah humbug’ indeed – here’s hoping the next round of local elections might make a similarly large point.

Mark Chapman, Chichester

I am sure I am not the only one for whom the matter of the Christmas lights in the city is one of indifference. Quite frankly, the lights in previous years have been rather pathetic anyway, so why anyone should base their shopping preferences on their provision or absence is quite beyond me.

However, the Observer columns have been full of misapprehensions regarding their provision. The only council involved in their provision is the city council, which gets no contribution from the business rate. Both West Sussex and Chichester District Councils have nothing to do with Christmas lights.

The city council offered £15,000 towards the provision of lights this year on condition traders offered a similar amount.

Since it is the traders who are supposed to primarily benefit, it is not unreasonable to ask for a contribution.

That the response was so feeble is a measure of the indifference the traders felt about their provision.

As for the proffered donation of £15,000, as a former senior officer in local government, I know that receiving large sums from a single commercial source is fraught with difficulties and the offer came with conditions which the city council could not accept.

So what is to happen? If residents and visitors want lights next year, perhaps they would like to put their hands a bit deeper in their pockets: an increase in the city council council tax precept, perhaps, and a less stingy response from the traders would help.

What doesn’t help are the ill-informed and bad-tempered comments from Observer correspondents and the editor, which must contribute to officers and elected members wondering why they bothered to enter public service in the first place.

Richard Ashby, Jubilee Mews, Prinsted

I was very pleased to see the Messam shop in East Street won the Observer prize for the Christmas decorations.

I would also like to award them a prize for their competitive pricing.

Last week, along with many others, I had to buy a bulb for an oven light, which had blown over the weekend. To my surprise I found that at Messam, a Compton 40-watt oven lamp cost £2.50, while at another store a 40-watt Osram oven bulb cost £3.99, I appreciate they are different brands, but a difference in price of £1.49, or 37 per cent, on an item costing £2.50 seems excessive, to say the least.

I have not looked any further into the pricing of other items, but I would expect to find it repeated, and will certainly continue to support our local shops, who give good value for money.

Michael Rice, Cedar Drive, Chichester

I agree with Fishbourne Parish Council’s comments, in that another crossing so close to the existing more-than-adequate one at the end of Fishbourne Road is not necessary.

To my mind, if there is money available for such a project, there is desperate need for a pedestrian crossing at the Hunston-Whyke Road roundabout.

This is heavily used by pedestrians coming to and from St Joseph’s night shelter, and by young cyclists travelling to schools in Chichester, and other pedestrian users.

Quite recently, I witnessed a young family of mother, father and three young children who were obviously under the age of five, trying to negotiate a passage across the busy A27 from the Hunston side.

The husband managed to get across with one child in a pushchair, while the mother holding the hands of the other two children was unable to run across as swiftly as the father.

As you can imagine, they looked totally fraught, and who would not be in such a situation?

There is a magnificent pedestrian-cyclist crossing at Tangmere- Boxgrove, but to date, neither myself, nor anyone else I have spoken to who travels along that particular stretch of the A27, has ever seen anybody using it.

Perhaps it could be uprooted and transferred to The Hunston-Whyke Road roundabout where I am sure it would be gratefully received and used by those who take their lives in their hands each time they cross.

Vivian Robinson, School Lane, Bosham

The chairman of Sidlesham Parish Council and all Councillors – except Cllr Pound – recently signed a letter to the Observer that was both inaccurate and economical with the truth.

They suggested I have pestered the council about trifles that are of concern only to me; they know that’s not true.

They know I have recently been worried solely about dangers to the public at the long-neglected recreation ground. The ground isn’t of any personal concern to me at all. I went there for the first time in May 2010 only because the vice-chairman had asked my opinion on a legal point relating to it. I was shocked by the neglect I saw.

It is true that after my inspection I sent many letters to the council, but only because not one was answered.

I may have overdone it, but there was urgency. There were hazards close to the soon-to-be-opened playground. There had been no electrical certificate for five years. The floodlights had been neglected so fuse box ports hung open, wires were exposed, and their cases had rusty jagged holes big enough for children to put their hands in.

That danger has been dealt with, but only in the past few weeks.

The area around the buildings was littered with rusting metal junk, exposed wires and ladders, tempting children to climb on the rickety flat roof where there were dilapidated, amateurishly-connected electrical extractor fans.

There were plans to hold public functions in the club buildings, built from wood and plastic, without at that time a proper council fire risk assessment. There was uncertainty about public liability insurance and there still is. The council took no practical action, so in June I called in the environmental health officer, but progress has still been slow.

We are all grateful to councillors for giving their time voluntarily and for what they achieve, but no-one expects them to know everything – only to admit it when they don’t.

They needed, but would not seek, professional guidance about management and insurance of parish property.

I suggested over a year ago they should take advice and now at last they are.

Perhaps they will continue to adopt the other courses I have recommended.

In the hope that is among the council’s new-year resolutions, I wish them and all parishioners a happy, prosperous and safe 2011.

Paul Albrecht, Mill Lane, Sidlesham

It was reported that Voice for Disability would like to see a charge for bus passes with the funds generated reinvested into providing transport for vulnerable people.

I, too, would like to see money found for taxi tokens, community transport tokens or a rail pass for people for whom a free bus pass is no use.

In my opinion, however, it is essential for the bus pass to remain free, not only for the well-being of pensioners but also for the health of town centres.

Town centres already lose increasingly to internet shopping and the ever-growing number of out-of-town stores. They cannot afford to forego the shoppers who will keep away if they have to pay for a bus pass.

I believe West Sussex’s tourism and economy will fail if the county council does not invest more for good bus services around and connecting thriving towns and reducing traffic.

Gillian Farina, Shelley Road, Bognor Regis

What wonderful folk we have in the Bognor Regis area. I say that with some conviction after a heartening response to our Christmas appeal for Trousers For Africa.

We raised £376.75 in funds and collected more than 200 pairs of trousers.

A mulled wine and mince pie morning at Rick’s Cafe in the town was a huge success with sterling work from James Therat and Trevor Lure. A grand effort by any standards.

The trousers have been dispatched to Chad already.

Please can I, on behalf of TFA, make special mention for the tireless work of the following missionaries in the Chad capital N’Djamena: Wal King, Ina Berg, Ampwo Nderlnd and Faik Dyeedz.

Sue Burgess, Co-ordinator, TFA

My girlfriend and I are very keen that an Asda store should be built for the Bognor Regis residents (and visitors).

Currently, we have to travel to Waterlooville to shop at Asda. I am sure many others do also, so a local store would save on the environment (emissions, etc) as well as our fuel costs.

Mr Taylor, Barnham

My family and I are very much in favour of Asda opening in Bognor Regis. It will be a far more suitable store for the people in Bognor than Sainsburys, who have already ‘ditched’.

I feel Arun District Council should listen to Bognor residents on matters relating to Bognor – or, better still for Bognor Regis, to leave Arun and become part of Chichester District.

DJ Coppard, Aldwick

It would not surprise me if the idea of repeal of the Hunting Act quietly disappears because hunts are comfortable in the fact the police never enforce the law.

Police attend many hunt meets in Sussex for public-order reasons, but they do nothing other than park up in some rural lane; never so much as venturing down a footpath as they do not like getting their trousers muddy.

All around them fox hounds are entered into dense undergrowth where foxes have harbourage and yet no trail could ever be laid. Inevitably foxes are hunted and all the Sussex hunts have even had the cheek to allow terrier-men to dig out foxes that have been hunted to ground.

One Sussex hunt I know has a person running around with a yellow jacket bearing the words Trail Layer. However, he never actually lays a trail, only carrying a stick.

Add this to some riders having dusters on their whips, and this pretence is considered to be sufficient to circumvent the law.

I have provided senior officers at Sussex police with reports from Professor Steven Harris of Bristol University which shows that one Sussex hunt is engaged in multiple offences under the Hunting Act and Badgers Act.

We have asked police to demand maps of trail laying footage, and ask why trails are not laid.

We have even asked them to put pressure on landowners and let them know that to allow terrier-men to follow hounds and use terriers could constitute a ‘joint enterprise’. However, nothing has been done.

With enforcement being the problem, the Hunting Act needs the addition of a strict code, enforced by a professional body on a balance of probabilities and with suspension and ultimately a complete ban for defiance.

Under the code, trails would have to be laid in open ground following a pre-designed map route – open to inspection.

Entering hounds in dense undergrowth would be prohibited and no use of terriers underground. Payment for the professional body would be from the 300-plus hound packs, and with only a £40 per week fee per hunt bringing in more than half-a-million pounds a year to fund this.

The criminal sanction must remain, but it would be much more of a black-and-white issue for police. Of course, under the present government we will not get this, but there is still much the police could currently do to put hunts on the back foot rather than simply turn a blind eye.

Simon Wild, West Sussex Wildlife Protection, Littlehampton

My diagnosis of Jan Cosgrove after his astonishing personal attack (letters, last week) is that he is suffering from a surfeit of bile, coupled with myopia (short-sight) and failing memory.

I take deep offence at the almost slanderous comparison with the Nazi Dr Goebbels, as my father flew in the Battle of Britain, and I have served in the Royal Navy in defence of this country and its freedoms.

He attacks the Liberal Democrats over tuition fees. What a cheek!

Labour had a manifesto pledge not to introduce tuition fees, and went on to do a U-turn and introduce them; Fact!

Labour commissioned the report just before the election that recommended increasing them; Fact!

Labour promised in their 1997 manifesto a referendum on voting reform, and then ditched it; Fact!

Labour rapidly expanded privatisation to the NHS including the hugely-wasteful and expensive PFI funded building programme; Fact!

Alistair Darling was poised to make virtually the same scale of government spending cutbacks as the coalition, but six to 12 months later, and to increase VAT to 20 per cent; Fact!

The economic facts are the Labour government maxed out our nation’s borrowing over a sustained period, almost leading to a down-grading of the UK’s international credit rating to Greek or Irish levels.

It was not just the banking collapse, although the laissez-faire of Gordon Brown assisted that somewhat, and the bank fat cats must take a large part of that blame.

There is no alternative to financial restraint and economic recovery as fast as possible, and Labour knows it. Why is it that Ed Miliband has not come up with a single alternative plan, and why have Messrs Cosgrove and Nash also failed to?

As to the ridiculous question of ‘which school would we not have re-built’ locally, I can easily answer that as a member of the responsible county council, I have argued long and hard for the rebuilding of both the Regis College and Littlehampton Academy, as well as several primary schools.

The question belongs in the ‘have you stopped beating your wife’ category!

I would point him to another more inconvenient truth. It was Labour who allowed the demolition of Littlehampton Hospital and the cancellation of the rebuild project; Fact! I am still fighting for that to go ahead.

Under Labour, the number of children living in poverty in the UK continued to rise, as did the income gap between rich and poor; Fact!

New social housing starts were among the lowest since the war; Fact!

They are the snake-oil salesmen, but they have run out of their dubious supplies and so turn to personal invective. The electors are not so gullible and will always have the final say on the facts and not the fiction.

Dr James Walsh, Liberal Democrat county, district and town councillor, Littlehampton