Readers’ letters - March 24

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Have your say

Vote of confidence

The first part of Cllr Bob Lanzer’s article of March 16 about the Alternative Vote (AV) is sound common sense, but then he seems to lose the thread.

He is quite right about the faults of the old, 19th century, First Past The Post (FPTP) system but doesn’t seem to understand AV and its advantages and that, to progress from FPTP, first we have to break the mould.

He clearly doesn’t understand the way voters’ choices are counted with AV. The winner is not “the least disliked candidate” but the only one with overall majority support. For example, with FPTP in Norwich South last year, 70.68 per cent voted against Simon Wright (Lib Dem) and 29.32 per cent voted for him and yet he won! That wouldn’t happen with AV; the winner would need over half the votes.

One way to deal with the Norwich South problem would be to hold a series of elections. In each election after the first, the bottom candidate would drop out until one (usually when there were only two left) had over half the votes. No-one could say then that the winner was the least disliked. If so, that’s the position of David Cameron and Ed Milliband who became party leaders this way. So were these not “credible results”?

But there is a quicker, more efficient and less expensive way of achieving the same result. It’s AV. In AV, voters can show on one ballot paper how they would like to vote in subsequent rounds if their first choice has to drop out. No-one gets “multiple votes”. They just get one vote each, but can transfer their votes to substitutes, if their first choices drop out.

If Mr Lanzer is sincere in his criticism of FPTP, he should realise that he can’t vote against AV without voting for FPTP.

The bottom line is that:

1. In the vast majority of constituencies, every voter could vote by AV for his or her own party safe in the knowledge that, if that party was eliminated in an early round, his or her subsequent preference could still influence the result.

2. No candidate could be elected by as few as one-third of the votes, as some are now, and every candidate would have to work to attract more than half the votes.

I’ll certainly vote “Yes” for AV!

Anthony Tuffin, chairman, Make Votes In West Sussex

Tax freeze

It’s not usually a letter people look forward to being delivered but like me households across Crawley will have now have received their council tax bills for the coming year.

Council tax bills in England hit a record £1,439 a year for an average Band D home last April and over the past 13 years they more than doubled under Labour. This year I am grateful that Conservative run Crawley Borough and West Sussex County councils, along with Sussex Police have worked with the Government to take advantage of its offer to fund a council tax freeze.

A zero per cent rise is very welcome and I congratulate Conservative councillors for passing this. However, I am dismayed that Crawley Labour councillors described this move as an “attack on Crawley and its residents” and voted against the council tax freeze budget. Unfortunately this attack on the council tax freeze is also opposed by the Labour leadership too – I think their words speak for themselves.

Henry Smith MP, Crawley Constituency

Big Society

I read with great interest the column from Cllr Michael Jones in the last issue of Crawley Observer(March 16).

In his article he makes great mention of cuts and that it is not possible to get people to be involved in The Big Society without a full time paid officer being employed to assist this work.

He conveniently overlooks the great amount of work that is already being done and is continuing to be done by way of community engagement by the public throughout this town, assisted by dedicated and hard working officers of the Council.

This is all part of ‘The Big Society’.

Also he conveniently chooses to forget to mention the work done over the last five years by Crawley Borough Council under a Conservative administration.

There has been neighbourhood regeneration, improved waste collection, better recycling, lowest council tax rises, construction of council housing, improved play and leisure facilities.

The list goes on. All of this has been made possible by careful management of limited resources and by ensuring good value for money under a Conservative administration that has the interests of the people of Crawley at heart.

We are in difficult economic times but the impact on the people of Crawley is being kept to a minimum and we are continuing to look to bring further benefits to the town.

Crawley has much to be proud about and this has come about in no small way as a result of prudent financial management and a striving to eliminate waste and inefficient working so that all of Crawley may benefit.

Cllr Brenda Burgess and Cllr Bob Burgess, Crawley Borough Council ward members for Three Bridges

Taxing issue

I received a leaflet from the Labour Party’s Chris Oxlade. As a resident of Ifield, which I am to understand Mr Oxlade is not, I wanted to ask him some questions. He promises to spend - what seems - millions in Crawley and billions nationally.

Can I ask Mr Oxlade where is this money to come from? As the country is suffering from a hugh amount of debt from the last government, it seems to me the only way Mr Oxlade would be able to raise this money is to increase our taxes! We are hard enough pressed without having our council taxes increased. I think it was something like 150 per cent increase in council tax under the last labour government in council tax. Is this what he wants to see happen again? It seems to me that Mr Oxlade has taken a leaf out of the Gordon Brown book of accountancy.

 Christoper J Brightmore, Ifield

Library closures

There is much national news coverage of libraries closing, so it is not surprising to learn that people are worrying about the local picture.

Every day, people are coming through the doors and asking what is happening in West Sussex. As the spring Parish and Town Council meetings are starting, it is very likely that some may be drawing up contingency plans in case their own smaller library should close. This is good news because it gives us clear evidence that the Big Society is ready and willing to step in, and also provides the ideal time to take stock of where we are and where we are going.

You don’t need me to remind you of the economic situation, and why we must now look at alternative ways of delivering services at the smaller libraries, those we call Tiers 5 and 6. However some people are beginning to ask why the process is apparently taking so long. The reason is that we are looking at a whole range of combinations and ideas, many of them never tried before. Here are just a few being put forward.  

We might for example locate a smaller library alongside another service, so they could share a building and save costs. Voluntary and community groups could perhaps take a greater part in running these libraries.

There could be a partnership with a district, borough, town or parish council to create an individual solution. Other innovative ideas might include existing staff forming a mutual business partnership to run the library and perhaps other local services.

These are simply ideas at this stage, among many possibilities we are exploring. Over the coming months we will be talking extensively to your communities to find out what you want and need. We will take on board everything you tell us, and the information will feed into the eventual plan.

Many county council budget savings need to start in the new financial year, which begin next month. However we are fortunate because Library Service savings are not scheduled to begin until the following financial year. This means we can properly consult both you and our own staff in detail, and produce the best possible outcomes for each local community.

Let me end by emphasising one thing. Absolutely no decisions have yet been taken, and currently no library in West Sussex has been earmarked for closure. Any suggestion otherwise is therefore at this stage quite untrue.

There is no simple rule by which decisions affecting all libraries can be taken. Each library is an individual case. However there is no doubt that a joined up Big Society approach will be key to sustaining services such as Youth and Library provision in some areas.

Personally I am glad we have this period of time to look so closely at the circumstances of each library.  It means all the consulting, the researching, and the assessing can continue until the right individual solution is found for each one.  You and your community deserve no less.

Deborah Urquhart, Cabinet Member for Environment and Economy

Praise for hospital

We read so much about the problems hospitals have over the care of the elderly.

I would like to commend East Surrey Hospital from A&E right through to all the ward staff and doctors for the care of my wife Betty from intake in January to her demise in February.

George Holmes, Crawley

Councils

cave in

ONCE again Horsham District Council has caved in to the developers.

Together with Crawley Borough Council, it has given the go-ahead for the Crest Nicholson development West of Crawley (actually in Horsham district).

In spite of the councils having a policy that developments like this should have at least 40 per cent affordable houses, they have given in to developers who have pleaded poverty (there’s a joke).

These affordable homes are needed to house people who cannot afford to buy at normal market prices. If the developers cannot meet their obligations they should hand the land over to those who can.

Having given in over West of Horsham, HDC’s score for affordable homes must be well down on what was needed.

It is no good developers giving a ‘contribution’. That just moves the problem elsewhere. The councils must be robust and demand that developers comply with council policies.

N.C. FRISWELL

Millais, Horsham

Cuts impact

JIM Rae’s letter (March 10), in a piece of early electioneering, declaims about the alleged political amnesia afflicting those of us who are concerned about the impact of the Con Dem Government cuts – on adult services, disability benefits, school and hospital budgets, concessionary travel and much, much more – affecting vulnerable members of society the most.

Interestingly, on the opposite page of that edition, Peter Hordern (the Horsham MP mentioned in your ‘Thirty Years Ago’ column) is quoted in support of the ‘absolutely necessary’ expenditure controls then imposed by the Tory budget of March 1981.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

The truth is that Conservatives are doctrinally opposed to state provision, and are currently working on the principle that ‘what I tell you ten times is true’ – when it comes to blaming Labour for the crash actually precipitated by irresponsible investment bank speculation (don’t forget that the Conservative Party depends for its existence on the support of the same bankers).

The current lack of growth and of inclination to invest must owe something to lower incomes and massive un- or under-employment, directly attributable to lack of creative thinking and the limiting policies of this Government – as has even been pointed out by Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, and Richard Lambert, outgoing head of the CBI.

And don’t for one minute think that our local Tories are not to blame for poor financial management. Henry Smith (now Conservative MP for Crawley) was leader of WSCC when it made fateful investments in Iceland (at a time when some private individuals were already regarding that prospect as too good to be true).

One wonders whether reductions in local school budgets, predicted to be at least ten per cent as early as November 2010, when Mr Gove was promising no central cuts, could have been related to losses thereby sustained.

Labour politicians may not have been as pretty as the current Old Etonian brigade, but they’re worthy of a bit more consideration by the Horsham electorate than they’ve had, up to now.

HAZEL LAMB

Horsham

Freedom

of belief

ANDREW Edmondson wants Great Britain to become a society without the influence and freedom of religious beliefs and organisations (County Times March 10).

To experience just what sort of society this could be, perhaps he should go and live in a country such as North Korea, where Christians are persecuted and other religions are only tolerated when this can give the desired illusion of freedom.

BOBBY VICKERY

Ashurst Close, Horsham

Thanks

COMPASSION in World Farming would like to thank everyone who kindly donated to the collection in Horsham town centre on Saturday February 26.

Many thanks on behalf of the farm animals too!

The total amount collected was £104.38 and this will go towards Compassion in World Farming’s campaigns against the suffering caused by cruel factory farm practices and live animal exports.

JOYCE AUDRIC

Cootes Avenue, Horsham