Readers’ letters - January 6

Funding squeeze

I THOUGHT your readers might find a financial update helpful now that we have had a chance to work through some of the complicated data underpinning the recent budget settlement from central government.

There has been some very misleading media analysis of the impact of the allocation of funding.

Although there’s still some more number crunching to do, and further announcements expected, we are clear from the information we’ve got so far that direct funding to pay for services has been reduced by 13.4 per cent in the first year (2011-12).

The situation is not likely to improve in the subsequent three years.

This means we have to find at least the £75m savings over three years that we have estimated all along as well as stop delivering some services where funding is no longer being provided.

The settlement is structured in such a way that we need to save around £45m in the first year.

On the plus side we are determined to deliver a zero council tax increase next year. I am sure that, at least, will be good news to our residents.

We won’t know the impact of spending cuts on jobs until nearer the county council meeting on February 11.

However, if we have to lose staff and cannot redeploy them we remain committed to offering voluntary redundancy as our preferred option.

To remind you of the scale of the challenge we face it is worth pointing out that WSCC got the joint lowest annual settlement from government of any county council.

This comes on top of years of under-funding. For instance we get £197 cash per resident in contrast with somewhere like Liverpool which gets £795 per head of population - four times more!

A major part of the reason for this is the way the government calculates its grant awards to local authorities. It uses a formula called the ‘Area Cost Adjustment’ (ACA). This supposedly helps authorities in places where the costs of living are highest.

The government’s calculation says most of West Sussex is not a high cost area in comparison to areas like Cumbria and Merseyside. We find that hard to follow especially as they won’t let us see the computations supporting this decision.

We are strongly challenging this with help from Andrew Tyrie (MP for Chichester). Had we received a comparable ACA settlement to some of our neighbours, we would not have to make some of the spending cuts currently being proposed.

I want to make it clear that we fully support the coalition Government’s drive to reduce the national deficit and get the country back on a sound financial footing.

We know it will mean some difficult choices in the months ahead. At the same time we will continue to campaign for a more level playing field in terms of the way the limited pot of national support for local services is distributed.

MICHAEL BROWN

(Con, Fernhurst) West Sussex County Council cabinet member for finance and resources

County Hall, Chichester

Patient queues

I REFER to the County Times report of December 23 about the ‘NHS slowdown to cut spending’ by returning to a regime of long waiting queues in order to save money.

I found the reported comments of Ms Creamer disturbing as the previous Government had spent trillions in shortening these queues and it took them donkey years to get there.

Now that politicians state we have a satisfactory waiting time (on whose criteria? Not their customers’ I bet), she suggests that we give it all up for a one year cost reduction.

And, mind you, that is all we would get out of it, in the following years there would be no further savings, unless Ms Creamer proposes to lengthen the queues even further.

Dr Bloom, a councillor as well as a doctor, is absolutely right in thinking that this is a cockeyed idea and Ms Creamer has no right to refer to NHS patients as if they can be kept waiting for any length of time.

She is reported as saying that NHS are now at par with private care, well she is so very wrong that makes me think she convinced herself into believing it in order to support her argument.

Also disheartening is the supine acceptance by the other councillors who made very relevant comments and concerns about the obvious consequences of this initiative, but failed to shoot it down for good.

I would suggest to them that once the damage is done, it would no longer be possible to recover from it, given the current circumstances.

An easier and better way to reduce costs could be a major, significant cut in senior headcounts across the whole of the NHS, given the level of extravagant pay for dubious jobs they have been allowed to grant themselves.

That would be in line with suggestions from our current Government.

L. FIORI

Georges Lane, Storrington

Abysmal service

ONE SUSPECTED that the first postal delivery after Christmas would be interesting in view of the abysmal performance of the Royal Mail in the run up to the holiday period.

At that time we went for days with no deliveries at all on account of the snow - the paperboys managed to deliver, so why not the postmen?

There were a couple of days in the immediate run up to Christmas when we had no post at all and then the following day a positive mountain of mail arrived leading to the suspicion that mail had been held back.

Today’s delivery (Wednesday December 29) did not disappoint with a dozen or so late cards. One was postmarked Crawley 20.12.10 and bore a first class stamp and another, with a lowly second class stamp, was postmarked Crawley on December 16 - 13 days to travel about ten miles!

As both these cards were correctly addressed with the proper postcode one can only suspect that the RH district sorting office is in total disarray. Still, they did manage to deliver a card to us destined for an unconnected address (apart from the house number) in West Bromwich...

No doubt things will improve in the New Year when the whopping postal price increases come into effect and it will be close to the equivalent of ten shillings in old money - think about it! - to send a simple letter or card.

PETER HILLMAN

Primrose Copse, Horsham

AN ODE to our milkman:

Gary our milkman never let us down

Even though the snow was thick upon the ground

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Gary he was here

That is why we wished him

Loads of Christmas Cheer

And a Happy New Year

The CLARKS

Irwin Drive, Horsham

Digital signals

IN ANSWER to Stefan Woroniecki’s letter ‘Limited reception’ (County Times December 16) I own two DAB radios, one at home and the other in the car, and have been using the service for three years now.

I drove to the road concerned by the postcode given, Dickins Way, and can confirm good reception of the BBC Network, Digital One and Sussex Coast services giving a total of 31 stations and a standard fitted telescopic aerial should work OK on a portable set.

In St Leonards Road, Greater London I and II were also receivable and if Mr Woroniecki uses an external aerial he is likely to receive up to an additional 23 stations. Greater London III is currently restricted to the south and may not provide satisfactory reception in Horsham.

It should be pointed out that the postcode database on the ukdigital website is based on predictions and set conservatively to avoid disappointment. However engineers are known to survey the areas of the UK and findings are updated on the database as appropriate.

The gurgling noises are usually associated with a poor signal and an external aerial will always provide the best reception.

All of the transmissions are vertically polarised which means that the receiving aerial must be mounted in the vertical plane and comes in several sizes and does not necessarily have to cost the earth.

If buying a DAB radio look for one that can take an external aerial as some cannot and one that also supports the DAB+ system which will future proof the radio if the UK ever adopt it and can also be used abroad.

During the summer of 2011 new local services for Surrey and North Sussex are expected to launch which will include BBC Surrey and County Sound, presumably BBC Sussex and Heart will also appear for the Horsham area but cannot be confirmed at this time.

DAVID MILLER

Fairview, Horsham

Meeting places

DURING the recent festive season I went to Christmas bazaars and fairs, usually on a Saturday, all around this area.

With Horsham District Council seemingly ‘hellbent’ on removing Horsham Town Hall from being a community hall (the council wants to put a private enterprise restaurant there) it made me wonder why each village can have a usually large well maintained village hall.

I assume they are maintained by their parish councils and ultimately financed by HDC. After all, Horsham Town Hall is the equivalent of a village hall but in a town.

Ashington Community Hall is very large, new and has a large car park. The advertised rental charges seem very reasonable.

Broadbridge Heath has the same type of community hall, is large and holds a lot of social activities and has a substantial car park.

Warnham village hall - much the same.

Pulborough - an outstanding newish complex which is very large.

Storrington - a village hall in the heart of the village.

Southwater - a large newish hall and car park.

Cowfold - a charming older, but spacious village hall in a central location.

Billingshurst - a large newish hall with several separate rentable rooms and car park.

Fittleworth - a large village hall.

Roffey - the millennium hall. New, large with separate halls and office and car park adjacent.

There are lots more; even small villages or hamlets have a hall for meetings and events. It enables people to communicate in this ‘hurly burly’ world of today.

I get almost tearful when I read, for example, district councillor Andrew Baldwin’s vitriolic letter condemning the people wanting to save Horsham Town Hall for its community’s use. Why such a tirade?

W. MORRIS

Dorking Road, Horsham