Readers’ letters - February 17

COMPARED with some northern towns such as, say, Doncaster, the plight of Horsham in weathering the recession is relatively mild. Nevertheless, one cannot help but notice the increasing number of shop closures, threats to our public libraries and reduction in bus services etc.

In short, times are hard – particularly for the elderly and others on fixed incomes. And anxiety haunts those in work for fear of losing their job – with London commuters facing even more increased fares and crowded trains.

Against this background, one wonders if our coalition Government has chosen a timely moment to undertake a root and branch overhaul of the NHS and yet another reorganisation of our educational system?

Is it also an appropriate time to take our precious woodlands into private ownership – a policy not mentioned in either the Conservative or Lib-Dem manifestos and one which is causing a good deal of public outrage. For this coalition Government, the rush to look busy appears to be contagious.

Accusations about who got us into this mess will continue for years to come. But what we should all recognise is that the public services under threat – including a rumoured swingeing increase in charges for services provided by Horsham Age Concern, for example – are absolutely essential to a civilised society.

And how do such threats to the most vulnerable in our community accord with the much vaunted concept of the ‘Big Society’?

According to the 10 Downing Street website, ‘The Big Society’ aims ‘to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, building a big society that will take power away from politicians and give it to people’.

Tell that to the pensioner in need of companionship and a hot meal or to the young graduate without transport trying to get to a precious job interview.

As one who has spent a good deal of a chequered career working in political public relations, the term ‘Big Society’ sounds to me very much like an idea jotted down on the back of a fag packet.

Cynical that may sound but to my mind, the ‘Big Society’ has about as much credence as that other meaningless slogan, ‘We’re all in this together’. The fact is that some of us are in it much more than others!

ROBERT B. WORLEY

Ayshe Court Drive, Horsham

WEST Sussex County Council must make more savings to keep within its government grant and budget, but cutting bus services could be committing the elderly and disabled to imprisonment in their own homes.

For many, myself included, the No 70 Compass bus is a godsend. Without it I’d be imprisoned and impoverished like many other disabled folk no longer able to walk or drive.

The authorities should no longer issue free passes for buses and trains. Near relatives of former rail employees get free train passes. If we all had discounted passes for buses and trains by actually paying the fare collectors or drivers at least half of the nominal fee there would be some considerable saving at no extra cost.

The production of glossy magazines, salaries, automatic payments to elected councillors and huge bonuses should all be cut. Existing constraints are ignored. This is not good enough! We should expect more of our elected representatives.

PEGGY GLEDHILL (Mrs) MBE

Highlands Road, Horsham

I REFER to Alan Grant’s letter of February 3 in response to my letter to the County Times over the rising staff costs of Billingshurst Parish Council employees.

The comment in Mr Grant’s letter in respect of staff costs is patently at odds with the details provided to me, by a member of staff in the parish council. Let me remind you what they are:

2009-10, £304,080 (income), £117,705 (staff costs), 39 per cent (staff costs as a per centage of total income).

2010-11, £284,857 (-6.4 per cent) (income), £124,050 (+5.3 per cent) (staff costs), 44 per cent (staff costs as a percentage of total income).

Budgeted costs for 2011-12, £272,169 (-4.4 per cent) (income), £129,036 (+4 per cent) (staff costs), 47 per cent (staff costs as a percentage of total income).

The above shows that parish income has fallen by more than ten per cent over two years, which is to be applauded, but staff costs have risen by more than nine per cent over the same period.

The statement about increases in rates being one per cent for last year together with zero per cent for this year is confusing and contradicted by the staff costs shown above which were given to me by the council and sent to your office with my last letter.

There is no point, from my perspective, in writing direct to the parish council to raise specific issues or questions as there seems to be a veil of secrecy over matters in which Billingshurst residents have an absolute right to know.

It is positive to note that the ‘parish council are keen to keep its costs down especially in these times of hardship’. I would have thought it the responsibility of the parish council to keep its costs down at all times.

If the council can reduce costs and still deliver good services, as claimed, it would be reasonable to assume that it was not ‘prudent’ over past years. This is public money I am concerned about, it is not private cash and every pound spent should be done so with the utmost interest of parish council residents.

NIGEL JEROME

Marringdean Road, Billingshurst

WHAT is Horsham District Council attempting to achieve through its latest consultation process regarding housing in Southwater? There has been little information from the council to households in the village, no links easily visible on its website and Southwater Parish Council’s website is no better.

It appears that they want to perform the consultation but do not want anybody to actually find a way to respond easily. Thankfully Keep Southwater Green is providing valuable promotion of this consultation process and distributing the questionnaire. In this world of internet and social networking, why is this consultation questionnaire not online? If it is it’s well hidden!

Sadly Horsham District Council shows its bias for additional housing in Southwater in the tone of the questions. ‘Would you like unplanned growth?’ is how option one is presented when an unbiassed question would have been ‘Would you like to retain the existing planning controls?’.

But what does the council seek to gain particularly with legislation due to achieve Royal Assent in 2011 which would make its desire for 500 houses significantly more difficult to push through if it had not got the support of the local community?

We are a country that values free speech and we are luck enough to enjoy this unlike many citizens of the world. We should use it now and complete the questionnaire, make the local community voice heard loud and clear - we do not want 250 houses, 500 houses or 2,750 houses!

I’m also disappointed to find that one of our district councillors in Southwater has no comment. If a politician does not have an opinion then what does he have? In my opinion nothing at all!

Perhaps the County Times could run a feature to allow our three district councillors to layout their views and position regarding the options being presented.

BRIAN SAMPFORD

Abbots Leigh, Southwater

WHILE watching pictures of the fight for democracy in Egypt I heard the commentator say that one thing the people wanted was justice. He pointed out that people could be arrested with little or no evidence and then just sat in prison as there was no urgency in bringing them to trial.

It struck me forcibly that this is the way our system is moving. The European Arrest Warrant produces the same system. Where are those who vanished to Greece, Italy, etc this year?

Would it not be wonderful if our local paper found out what had happened to all those from this county and fought for their proper trial or return? Local people should be supported by the local press.

Don’t let us become blasé about the changes to our justice system for if we don’t care about those who are suffering we could be next.

LIZ WALLACE

Carpenters Meadow, Pulborough

WHAT type of lowlife crawls round Horsham between 3.30 and 7.30am and steals milk deliveries off doorsteps? They even pinched the crate to carry the bottles in.

By contrast, full marks and grateful thanks to Dairy Crest and milkman Steve, who not only promptly replaced and delivered two pints of milk and orange juice, but also returned again later with a bottle of mineral water.

RITA MONK

Athelstan Way, Horsham

I HAVE lived in Southwater for nearly 20 years but feel compelled to write in the hope that this letter may wake up the authorities to clean our roads and streets properly.

Driving around the district, I am amazed at the volume of discarded litter on the verges and central reservations of our major roads, most of which is plastic which will not biodegrade but will just be added to over time.

Despite the austere times we are in if the council can’t spare the cost of a once a year clean, logically at the same time as the grass is cut, then the offenders should be charged to clear the waste or fined accordingly.

There is not much point in applauding the good work to the environment of the Acorn scheme if our roads make us appear a third world country.

RICHARD JACKMAN

York Close, Southwater

BADGER Trust West Sussex is asking that motorists pay particular attention when driving as March sadly becomes our busiest month for badger road sasualties.

We also have the added problem of lactating females getting killed on the road and hungry badger cubs waiting for mum who will never return.

Please drive carefully and have consideration for our oldest , largest mammal and of course report casualties immediately to us. Thank you. Phone 07990 522712.

JAINE WILD

Badger Trust West Sussex

Sutton Close, Bognor Regis

ON BEHALF of the British Polio Fellowship I would like to thank the people of Horsham who kindly donated the marvellous total of £520.26 to our charity collection on February 5 in the town centre.

We are grateful for this money, all of which will help people with polio and post-polio syndrome in the Horsham area.

The fellowship is dependent upon such fundraising activities in order to maintain our welfare and information services and we would welcome your support to out endeavours.

More information is available from www.worthingbpf.co.uk.

R.E.STEPHENS

Chairman,Sussex branch, British Polio Fellowship

Lime Tree Avenue, Worthing

THROUGH your pages, the SaveBillingshurst Action Group would like to thank the cake-bakers and coffee-makers, those who provided ‘supplies’, everyone who made a donation to the ‘fighting fund’ and all those who attended our public meeting on Saturday February 12.

To those who were unable to attend but who would like one of HDC’s leaflets, either because you’ve mislaid your copy or had not realised that every member of your household can submit an ‘option response’, further supplies are still available.

Additionally, should you wish to discuss any comments you want to make to HDC; or how to do this; you are welcome to contact us at info@savebillingshurst.co.uk or, for those without internet access, please telephone 01403 782820 between 10am and 8pm.

Once again, our thanks to all those who, in different ways, supported the event.

SUE KINGSTON

On behalf of SaveBillingshurst

Daux Avenue, Billingshurst

I WOULD like to thank all our blood and platelet donors for making a special effort to give blood during the severe winter weather and over the festive period.

We never take the generosity and commitment of our volunteer donors for granted and appreciate everyone who took the time and in some busy times were willing to wait to donate.

As a result blood stocks across all blood groups remained strong over the period and have now quickly returned to healthy levels.

Anyone interested in becoming a blood or platelet donor can call 0300 123 23 23 or visit www.blood.co.uk. First time donors should be aged between 17-65, weighing at least 50 kg (7 stone 12lbs) and in general good health. If you’ve donated before, you can start again up to your 70th birthday and there is no upper age limit for donors who have donated in the last two years.

JON LATHAM

Assistant director of blood donation, NHS Blood and Transplant

Reeds Crescent, Watford, Herts