READERS’ LETTERS March 17

Readers’ letters from the March 17 issue of the Observer.

I READ with interest about the protests held outside County Hall by local user groups affected by the proposed cuts to the County’s adult social care budget and Peter Catchpole’s letter of response in last week’s Observer entitled ‘County Values Care’, having worked for local authorities for over 20 years.

Although Peter Catchpole made some informative comments, the broader longer term implications of these significant cuts to adult social care, culminating in the increase in the ‘Fair Access to Care’ eligibility criteria to critical/substantial needs only, were not elaborated upon.

One of the immediate financial implications of such proposed deep cuts would be the ‘knock-on’ demand placed upon local authority 24hr nursing placement budgets as a direct consequence of the rationing of lower (but still vitally important) preventative community care services.

Carers with reduced community care support increasingly ‘give up’ caring for their frail loved ones much sooner so seek 24hr care provision from the state due to ever increasing and complex needs not being met by fragmented or rationed community care services. Carers UK estimate that nationally carers save the state £87b per year, perhaps this is what Cameron means by his ‘Big Society’?

It is also highly likely to result in a greater number of ‘delayed discharge’ charges being incurred by the local authority, as those with more complex health and social care needs inevitably end up in acute medical or surgical hospital beds whilst hard pressed practitioners ‘wrangle’ over whether these frailer patients now require NHS Continuing Care or scarce local authority placement funded provision – piling further pressure on already strained multi-disciplinary local working relationships.

Another ‘hidden’ cost would be the additional demands placed upon local authority Complaints Department who would have to respond to the increase in legitimate complaints from service users and carers after services had been reviewed resulting in either a reduction or cessation in their care (not to mention any possible longer term fines imposed by the Local Authority Ombudsmen).

Peter Catchpole also neglects to mention all the additional hours incurred by practitioners who have been diverted from equally pressing statutory ‘adult at risk’ work to undertake the volume of case reviews required to make the proposed savings stated.

I think it’s worth highlighting a few key figures to put this debate into a broader perspective.

The bankers at the Royall Bank of Scotland were paid £950m in bonuses last year – despite making a £1.1bn loss and being 83 per cent owned by taxpayers!

If we make some direct comparison with the so-called ‘bloated’ public sector the amount paid in RBS bonuses last year alone amount to 5.6 per cent of the total adult social care budget for England in 2009-10.

It is the equivalent of 27.9 per cent of the total amount spent on residential care for older people in England last year.

Based on average costs, £950m could have paid for a year’s residential, nursing or intensive homecare for almost 30,000 people or £190m ‘meals on wheels’.

If these sobering figures do not make you feel sick, it doesn’t seem to bother the government too much.

I suppose it boils down to a matter of priorities but don’t worry about it; ‘we’re all in this together’ after all.

D Gaylard, Peacock Close, Chichester

COUNCILLOR Peter Catchpole’s attempts to justify some bizarre decisions by himself and other elected representatives, who are supposed to be serving the interests and welfare of the public, fail to convince many of us, including myself (March 3).

I’ve heard the lame excuses and seen the dreadful results of all this rhetoric, in the past.

Some years ago, I had the honour to serve as a borough and county councillor in another area, where I was disgusted to witness the ruthless asset-stripping by elected councillors, which was planned behind closed doors and which decimated public services, while reducing workforces and thrusting staff on to the scrap heaps of unemployment and redundancy, all in the name of ‘best practice’ of course.

The proof of the pudding’s in the eating, but this pudding, along with a lot of others, has been over-egged.

Public confidence might be stronger if councillors, including Peter Catchpole, would agree to reduce their own allowances, as well as expenses, and I look forward to hearing his response.

Meanwhile, many of those trusting voters who put Councillor Catchpole in those important and powerful positions which he now holds, might care to invite him to pull the other legs, which have bells on them!

Lomond Handley, Haslemere, Surrey

I ATTENDED the demonstration at County Hall, Chichester on March 1, which was called to show the strong feelings against the proposed financial cuts in services for the support care, transport and funding in general for those in our society least able to manage their needs.

These include adults with complex needs from learning difficulties, physical and mental conditions to a combination of all of these.

West Sussex has a higher proportion of residents that fall within this category than many other authorities and has in the past supported them well.

There are some wonderfully professional caring organisations in our area, from the Aldingbourne Trust, which supports large numbers of its clients at its country centre, residential homes and outreach programme to the Apuldram Centre which does wonderful work.

All these organisations have a vast understanding of the needs and desires of those they help, through their superbly trained and committed teams.

It is rarely stated but the work that is done not only supports those least able, but also through the day-to-day support allows families and siblings to have a fuller life, knowing their relatives are being supported and helped on a daily basis.

To remove this funding, and therefore the support from many, is badly thought through.

The results will inevitably mean family members, at present able to work, will in future have to take on a carer’s role resulting in loss of family income, less taxes being paid and benefits having to be claimed.

The cost would negate any savings made.

There is a ground swell building around government cuts and it beholds us as citizens to ensure those least able to vocalise their concerns and fears are heard.

We should all be able to live our lives safely, progressively and with dignity.

This is why those committed to ensuring these aims must have our voice and support.

When banks are still making vast profits with little taxation, the onus of cutting support should not fall on those least able to absorb them.

There is much wealth being generated from the money markets and little dripping down to front-line needs.

I hope the support already given will gain even more momentum and these iniquitous measures be scrapped.

Barry Waddington, Cedar Drive, Chichester

IN THE Observer recently we read of the discovery of nine illegal immigrants from Eritrea hiding in the back of a German lorry making its way to Chichester.

The cleverness of the sniffer dog in finding them, and the anxieties of the UKIP member, Douglas Denny about our open borders, took precedence over the fate of the nine men.

Eritrea, a small country of about four million people, has been described as ‘the world’s biggest prison’.

There is no freedom of speech, no freedom of worship, especially not for religious minorities like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Pentecostal believers, who are persecuted.

Most adults, both male and female, are compulsorily conscripted into indefinite military service.

Everything is state-controlled; dissent isn’t tolerated; detention, torture and forced labour await those who disagree or try to evade military service or flee the country without permission.

Many journalists have been incarcerated; an Eritrean known to me who fled from the army three years ago, finding the conditions unbearable, would be certainly imprisoned and probably killed were he to be returned.

In any case, the Eritrean government often refuses to take their citizens back so they remain stateless sojourners with few human rights.

This then is what those nine desperate men in great discomfort and fear, were fleeing from.

Who can blame them?

Thelma Percy, Normanton Avenue, Bognor Regis

IT IS with great disappointment that I read the proposal that the ‘park-and-ride’ land is to be used for another purpose.

I have long had a hope we may one day have a permanent park-and-ride system for Chichester.

The temporary one at Christmas was in entirely the wrong place because to reach it one had to drive into the town centre.

There is an overwhelming case for a park-and-ride venture to be situated on the east side of the town. Places to the south and west of Chichester have very adequate bus services – in most cases every 15 minutes, and running well into the evening – whereas we in the east are much the ‘Cinderellas’.

Apart from a bus at 7am we have only four buses a day going to Chichester – and the last opportunity to get home is at 6pm.

There is no way of getting into town before midday apart from the very early bus, so one is forced to use a car, and in the evening there is no choice.

I feel strongly that people should be encouraged to use public transport whenever possible, but when it is not possible the ones who have to use a car should be considered first when siting a park-and-ride.

Clearly the Barnfield site is a good one for the purpose, and I fear that if it is lost any park-and-ride scheme is likely to be shelved indefinitely.

I would suggest to the council that it is short-sighted to ignore the fact the population and the number of cars in the area are both likely to increase, and it would be more important to take a step which would help to keep the town centre clear than to make a one-off sale of land to make money.

J Barratt (Mrs), West Walberton Lane, Walberton

I WOULD like to take issue with the ‘park-and-ride’ article written for the Observer of March 3 – the details of which do not seem to be fully researched.

Part of the article mentions an application for change of use for the Homebase site.

As far as I am aware this has never been the case.

Anyone who has recently visited Homebase will have seen an enormous investment in the store, with brand-new kitchen, bedroom and bed areas within the store.

I do not think the company would be spending the types of sums involved if the store was going to be a supermarket.

This refurbishment has been supported by advertising on local radio and even within your own publication.

I believe this story undermines the public’s confidence about shopping at this site when we need to be encouraging businesses in the local area.

Maurice Foster, Chichester

THE ARTICLE Mixed views on zone for kitesurfers, in the February 17 edition of the Observer, offered a balanced view, but a key point was missing.

The concern is not so much for the health and safety of kitesurfers, as for those with whom they share the beach and sea.

The location of the Bracklesham kitesurfing zone places what is an extreme sport close to an area of beach and sea used by the general public and residents.

Kitesurfers can reach speeds of up to 50mph (world record October, 2010 was 55.65 knots = 64 mph), and race up and down the coastline either side of the Bracklesham car park, often in the shallows where there are bathers and paddlers.

On-shore winds can blow them towards other beach users, the groynes and houses, and as most kite surfers, especially learners, tend to look up at their kites and not at other beach and water users, there is a real risk of collision and accident.

It is a misconception that they can keep within the designated area.

The problem is also that kites can effectively take over the whole beach in the designated zone.

Kites are usually flown on 4 x 25 to 30-metre lines, and at pre-launch and during training/lessons, the lines are laid out across the sand, and can act as tripwires.

The establishment of a dedicated zone has led to a concentration of activity in this area, and an increased risk of accidents.

The rescue helicopter had to be called out twice, to my knowledge, last summer.

I support kitesurfing as an activity, and the establishment of a zone, but it should be further east along the beach, past the area used by the public and beyond the residential area, which would still be only a ten or so minute walk along the sand from the Bracklesham car park.

G Branston, Bracklesham Bay

CHICHESTER is a beautiful city, and despite some unfortunate architectural aberrations within a few steps of the market cross (why does no-one ever complain about these?) has managed to retain a much greater proportion of its heritage buildings than many similar cities.

The new museum is a welcome addition to this heritage.

Chichester should be proud to have such a great example of the work of the award-winning architect Keith Williams.

The clean lines of this Bauhaus design and the lustrous texture of the reconstructed stone cladding enhance the north-west quadrant which already boasts some fine examples of contemporary architecture (pace the library and County Hall) all of which sit comfortably with the more established Georgian buildings and in the lee of the cathedral.

The Pallant Gallery is another architectural jewel of which the city should be proud.

Designed by Long and Kentish (also responsible for the new British Library) the building is restrained and elegant and complements rather than detracts from the beauty of the Georgian House.

We are not living in Georgian or Victorian times any more.

Modern attempts to replicate the architecture of those periods just look like what they are – poor reproductions.

How much better, and how lucky we are to have instead two contemporary buildings of international significance which will attract many more visitors and admirers to our fair city.

If the Observer had been around in the 11th century no doubt there would have been letters from disgruntled Anglo Saxons moaning about that ugly great cathedral the Normans were putting up.

Nicolas Vining, Tangmere

WELL HERE we go again – Chichester council begging for money to fund the Christmas lights.

DISGRACE.

In your article the city clerk states that ‘the old lights have gone and we need a total of £30,000 to hire new lights to brighten up the city’.

Well, the only thing that would brighten up the city following last year’s disgrace would be for the whole city council to resign.

Maybe they have forgotten that like Christmas lights they too are hired by the electorate and can be gone as quickly as the old illuminations.

Shame on you so-called councillors and clerks etc.

You are a disgrace and any common sense should tell you that a fine display – along with a grand switch-on – would bring in much needed revenue to the city, its shops and businesses and the council itself.

Remember the ballot box next time you all put in your expenses.

Gwyn Williams, Chichester (A really hacked-off resident)

I NOTE from regional TV news that the Festival Theatre will lose one half of one per cent from its Arts Council grant as part of the new government’s attempts to cut spending in the public sector.

Having recently been subjected to The Minerva’s Love Story, which was performed without an interval, I wonder how much of the £9,000 cut could have been reclaimed from refreshment sales if a 20-minute break been added to this sold-out show?

An interval would also have provided an opportune moment to escape from the bum-numbing seating and mind-numbing production.

Nigel Lockley, Priors Acre, Boxgrove

MUCH HAS been said about the locking out of the public from the open ground, now all of a sudden, referred to as Central School playing field.

We’ve had the highly-exaggerated tales of dog poo, broken bottles and all the rest but, one subject has not been mentioned... the use of the field by the children.

I have been a local resident since the early 1970s and the only time I have seen the area in use by the schoolchildren, is for a couple of weeks towards the end of the school year in mid-summer, when the field is marked out with running tracks for the annual sports.

Philip Pratley, Chichester

AS YOU may know, Southern Railway provide, through its customer services department, an electric buggy service for the elderly and infirm.

This involves meeting trains into Victoria and taking passengers to the bus stop or taxi rank.

I and three friends, all suffering from partial disability, travel to London once a month to a reunion lunch.

I have now booked this service four times to meet the incoming train from Chichester and the late afternoon train back.

So far we have been met at Victoria on only two occasions and never for the return journey.

For the last visit on February 25, I booked the times, phoned to double check two days before travelling and informed the ticket collector at Chichester as we boarded the train – all to no avail.

This is a complimentary service – and very good when it works – but when it lets you down it causes considerable distress.

If Southern Railway considers this service worth operating then it must be reliable.

DGO Hughes, Bracklesham Bay

I FOUND very interesting the article you published in the paper regarding Jos Metcalfe the thatcher, but also that Vine Cottage was owned and lived in for a number of years by my aunt and uncle, Mr and Mrs Goff.

My cousin and I used to spend holidays there. To this day it has many memories.

It is good to know that fellows like Jos are still looking after this type of property and carrying on with this profession.

Bob Harris, Chichester