Readers’ Letters December 23

Readers’ letters from the December 23 issue of the Observer.

I DISAGREE with Councillors Tony French, Mick Shone, Richard Plowman and John Rankin on the question of whether or not they should have accepted the offer of Linden Homes to pay the full costs of Christmas Lights in Chichester.

The public wanted to see lights, and I am sure the other businesses who weren’t able to contribute any money this year would not have objected.

After all, they would have got the benefit without any cost!

With regard to the timing, I was at a lunch in London, way back in October, and the man sitting next to me said he knew of one company which was prepared to pay for the lights but that the offer had been turned down. He didn’t want to tell me the name of the company, but I guess it may have been Linden Homes.

I have no particular views on Linden Homes, and of course it would be better if others could have chipped in as well, but in the event none of them did.

To turn down the only offer on the table on the rather flimsy politically correct grounds they expressed meant that no-one benefited, especially the people of Chichester.

And that, quite frankly, is daft.

Nigel Sitwell, Cleveland Road, Chichester

IN THE Bleak Midwinter seems a very appropriate carol for the centre of our cathedral city and county town this Christmastide!

Whatever the reasons, pro and con, for the dreary scene that awaits one in central Chichester at this festive time, one comes to the conclusion that a great many heads need to be thoroughly knocked together.

Times are hard but we, in this relatively cosy south of England, can’t really understand what the term ‘hard times’ means.

Go to the industrial midlands or north which are actually badly hit by the current economic malaise and I am sure you will not find town or city centres in darkness.

I write from experience of working in the industrial north.

What a pusillanimous council we appear to have!

Where there’s a will there’s a way and this problem between councillors and retailers in the city could and should have been resolved without penalising Christmas shoppers.

You quote Councillor Richard Plowman as saying: “The lights are for the benefit of all retailers in Chichester,” but, surely, they are also and most importantly for the benefit of all who shop in and love our city; a great many of whom pay rates locally?

There are several good shopping centres in our area; memories are long and people will not lightly forget this Scrooge-like decision.

I also wonder what foreign visitors will think?

Shame on you all.

D Mounstephen, Slindon

FIRSTLY A big thank-you to the donkeys and their helpers who managed to brighten up East Street and the craft market stalls for making the effort; it’s a pity that three wise men couldn’t be found among the Chichester ‘Luminaries’ within the powers-that-be to organise the Christmas lights.

Dennis Plumb, Coxes Road, Selsey

THE CROSS and in every direction you look – evidence that Scrooge has passed that way.

Popping over from France where town and village is full of light Christmas energy and promise, shops decorated and lamp standards adorned, you just feel good being part of the hustle and bustle of the cheer that exudes from the streets.

What sadness met my eyes as I entered North Street and continued to the Cross, dull, empty of any joie de vivre.

Chichester City, cold and dreary.

I could not believe it and was told it was due to cutbacks – and although a local benefactor had offered to put in £30,000 to the fund, it had been refused. Why?

With heavy heart I returned to my unexpired parking lot and drove away to find a more enlightened place to do my shopping.

Derek Bhowmick-Shepherd, Neufbosc, France

I HAVE just read my copy of the Observer and found myself agreeing with everything Colin Channon had to say.

In my case, I went into town to cheer myself up after the death of my mother. In my state of despair I had forgotten there were no lights. The town looked bleaker than I felt and my trip did me no good at all.

Christmas is a special time for young and old alike and a few lights sprinkled about the place adds to the magic of the season.

Christmas is a celebration whether you are religious or not.

It was so disappointing to find everything in the streets looking practically the same as it does every other day of the year.

Christmas is special and the council should be ashamed of itself.

However, I must compliment Crane Street for their efforts and a handful of other shops who have tried to enter into the spirit of things. I, for one, am very grateful for their efforts.

The council is wrong. It is not ALL about the shops touting for business, it’s about sharing a bit of Christmas cheer.

Let’s hope the lights are back next year and every year after that.

Elisabeth Thompson, Chichester

THE STAGECOACH bus service in Selsey excludes a huge area of East Beach.

It travels along Albion Road where there is NO bus stop – but fails to travel along the High Street (apart from Hill Street to Hillfield Road) where there is the doctors’ surgery, the library, town hall, a chemist and two supermarkets.

Apart from the schools, all the other venues will be visited frequently by the elderly and those with mobility problems, but there is NO nearby bus stop to assist.

If serving the elderly and those with mobility problems is of genuine concern to Stagecoach and WSCC and not a mere ‘politically correct posture’ then a major review of the bus route is well overdue.

East Beach is a very small area of Selsey; there are many areas who do not have a nearby service, but are also populated by people who are elderly and with mobility problems, surely provision of a service to these areas would be of commercial value to Stagecoach.

The route review should be conducted by someone who is capable of strategic thinking and not by someone who has a vested interest in doing nothing and is only interest in safeguarding their jobs.

Here are my suggestions for two alternative routes in and out of Selsey:

* Down Church Road, Beach Road to Kingsway, down Merryfield Drive and back to Beach Road, turning into Manor Road up to East Street then to the High Street to Hillfield Road and return by the same route.

* South from Chichester to Selsey – Down Church Road, into Beach Road along Constable Drive and Merryfield, down Albion Road and Lower East Street to the High Street and Hillfield Road.

Return From Selsey to Chichester along Hillfield Road to the High Street, right through the village – thus taking in the medical centre, library, town hall, supermarkets.

In this case instead of eight buses an hour in Albion Road (which equates to 131 A DAY) there would be four and would cover other areas of the village which are currently not covered.

Sandra Wisdom, Selsey

I AM writing to remind your readers that the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and Chichester Cathedral’s Candle of Hope will be lit in memory of those who have been lost to cancer.

The event, which runs from Christmas Eve until Twelfth Night, is being held at a time when people’s thoughts often turn to missing friends and relatives.

The idea of the Candle of Hope is to offer your readers a physical reminder of a loved one as well as hope for the future by raising awareness of cancer prevention.

Scientists estimate that about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through adopting a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.

To find out more or donate to the charity’s education and research work, please visit or call 0800 970 1461.

Teresa Nightingale, General manager, WCRF, London

WE WERE very sorry to see that Mr Fiddian-Green’s ‘majestic 30ft horse’s head sculpture’ is back desecrating the glorious landscape of the Trundle.

We don’t want one man’s idea of art ruin what is, for us, a glorious bit of unspoilt West Sussex landscape, and stuffed in our faces for all time. Get rid, we say, back to Goodwood racecourse where it belongs.

Tony and Marion Spillard, Palmers Field Avenue, Chichester

DURING this period of doom and gloom, and no Chichester lights due to lack of money, I can confirm the real spirit of Christmas is alive and well in Chichester.

While Christmas shopping on Monday, November 29, my daughter lost a number of gift vouchers in North Street, Chichester, and although she retraced her steps and checked in a number of shops, they had not been handed in.

Somewhat mortified at the loss, she finally headed home to Petersfield, a good deal out of pocket.

Quite independently I rang my husband on my mobile phone from the Apple Cafe in Waterstones to relay the sad tale and a very kind lady overheard my conversation and told me she knew someone had handed some gift vouchers into the Wallis store in North Street.

I hot-footed it over there and sure enough my daughter’s gift vouchers had been handed in and they were safely locked away.

They had no details of my daughter, and the story could have ended there but for the chance intervention of the lady in Apple Cafe. My daughter and I would naturally like to say a big thank you to the person(s) who handed in these vouchers and everyone involved in their recovery. They could so easily have taken them home and used them.

Thank you all for making my daughter’s day so very much brighter.

Gill and Wendy Strutt, Nyton Road, Westergate

RE THE reorganisation of the NHS.

While its always good fun to have a go at the NHS bureaucracy, especially as the local SHA and PCT did not cover themselves in glory during the recent Fit-for-the-Future debacle, I believe that there is a serious danger that the reorganisation currently being engineered by the secretary of state will throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I suspect that the secretary of state has failed to analyse just why the SHAs and the PCTs employ so many staff and, if he did so, he would find that his own department of health is actually part of the problem.

The SHAs and PCTs are suffering from Whitehall-driven initiative overload, with strategies for everything and an endless stream of ever-changing directives.

The result is management chaos at the lower levels, meeting mania is the norm, and there is far too little time for the day-job.

The devolution of more responsibility to GPs for the health of their patients may well be a very sensible idea, but the elimination of the SHAs and, in particular, the replacement of the 150 or so PCTs by 550 or so GP Commissioning Consortia strikes me as simply a doctrinaire move from bloated bureaucracy to devolved anarchy.

I agree that the SHAs and the PCTs need to be reduced in size, but a complete cull is a step too far.

An organisation as large, costly and complex as the NHS needs effective co-ordination and control, and there is a strong case for lean intermediate staffs. However, at the same time, there need to be some changes in attitude and approach, as well as far more sensible co-ordination and co-operation between the management staffs and the hospitals and other NHS delivery organisations.

At present, the SHAs and the PCTs too often tend to forget that they exist solely to support the providers of our health facilities.

Also, and very importantly (as revealed by the recent sad debacle in the Mid-Staffordshire Hospital), the PCTs are responsible for monitoring the quality performance of the organisations from which they commission services, a function that will be at risk in the future.

I am also sceptical about the proposal that in the NHS’ ‘brave new world’ without any intermediate management, all acute hospitals and other similar NHS organisations will become Foundation Trusts (FTs).

This is because there is already evidence that many existing FTs espouse secrecy and that their attitudes towards openness, transparency and public accountability is often cavalier.

Even today, it is difficult enough for SHAs and PCTs to get a handle on the FTs but, without either of the former, anarchy will surely follow.

Finally, while I wish our local GPs and the various West Sussex-related NHS Hospital Trusts well as they struggle to make the new system work, and while it would give me no pleasure to say it, I suspect that in three or four years’ time I will be saying ‘I told you so’.

Derek Waller, Surrey Wharf, Arundel

I JUST have to say how badly we are being served when it comes to roads and transport after such a short period of bad weather.

My letter comes from seeing a gritter around our local roads of Rose Green and Pagham.

I have checked the weather reports and frost was not forecast for that particular night, however when we had deep snow a gritter was not seen.

I work some evenings going between houses where people need caring for and the roads were treacherous.

I am lucky to have a car as I understand bus routes were diverted because the roads had not had any treatment.

Was this all over the Chichester area or just ours?

Gill Kriehn, Bognor Regis

ON BEHALF of Hotham Park Heritage Trust I would like to thank all those who attended or assisted at the Carols in the Park on December 4.

After days of snow and ice we then had to contend with rain for this event, but everyone carried on with scarcely-dampened spirits.

We are grateful for donated help from Brandon Hire, Morrisons and the Glenwood Choir and for the stalwart support from Bognor Regis Town Force and town council, Michael Rowland the Hotham Park manager, David Cox and the St John Ambulance members.

Bognor Regis Concert Band provided music to help drive away any gloomy weather as well as the Community Arts Group with their lanterns. The Heritage Trust volunteers worked to sell song sheets and provide some warm sustenance for the helpers.

In spite of having to pack up rapidly because of the wet weather the evening was a success because of you all and the great number of people who regularly attend this annual singalong.

A merry Christmas to you all.

Anne Cranham, Chairman, Hotham Park Events Committee

IN RESPONSE to Dr James Walsh`s recent letter, I`d really like to know what planet he inhabits?

He boldly proclaims that all the ills and cutbacks we are facing are down to one man alone – Gordon Brown and the nasty Labour Party. I`d also like to ask Dr Walsh and his fellow Liberal Democrat compatriots what was the sudden, blinding conversion that overnight persuaded him and his party to eventually back £82bn of Tory cuts?

Just days before, they were fully behind a halving of the deficit over four years as proposed by the then chancellor Alistair Darling which would have still been painful but would have avoided the kamikaze economic policy we are now being subjected to.

I know Dr Walsh was a far better GP than he is an economist because his ignorance of what was happening back in 2008 at the height of a world economic maelstrom is simply breathtaking.

For a start, after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in America, UK banks were within two hours of all cash machines shutting down.

The emergency measures and bank rescues undertaken by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling prevented complete economic meltdown and gave vital leadership in a situation the world had not seen the likes of since 1929.

Overwhelmingly, the key reason the UK deficit rose to 52 per cent of GDP ( although this is less than many other comparable countries ) was to prevent a severe worldwide recession turning into a whopping great depression.

Dr Walsh either conveniently forgets these facts or is simply not aware of them, and the result of the measures taken and the fiscal expansionary policies pursued up until last May have been a recovery from recession, bigger tax receipts, faster growth and falling unemployment – all of which are now fast disappearing.

As a direct result of the Liberal Democrat flip-flop after the last election, they are now cravenly supporting a reckless Tory gamble with the economy which has now led to a 35,000 rise in unemployment, record numbers of youngsters out of work, a big rise in VAT planned for January, huge cuts to police and council budgets – with Arun District Council suffering a staggering 15 per cent cut in the new financial year.

Dr Walsh wistfully says in his letter ‘the sooner the Coalition gets us out of this dreadful Labour inheritance, the better will be all our public services . . .’

Who is he trying to kid?

What we are now witnessing is the wholesale dismantling of many of our public services.

Roger Nash, Chairman, Bognor Regis Labour Party

HAS EBENEZER Scrooge taken up residence in the Chichester District Council offices?

I went into Chichester recently and how dreary it looked.

This council rips us off with extortionate parking fees (and no doubt charges the poor traders a fortune in rent) but won’t put some lights up for people (especially children) to enjoy.

I have heard figures quoted of £15,000 to put the lights on which sounds rather a lot, however, when you think my wife and I probably spend £1,000 to £2,000 in Chichester for Christmas it doesn’t take too many of these to cover the cost.

Unfortunately, that won’t be the case in Chichester this year as our children love the lights and the atmosphere of Christmas so we will take our money to Bognor and Worthing.

What is it with these councillors?

They make decisions with the money from people that pay them, pay themselves far too much and stick two fingers up to the people who effectively employ them. If they can’t run the budget in a way to ensure the local community get value for money then there is something seriously wrong, sack them and put people in charge who will do a good job, and can justify their position.

Christmas is a time for being nice to people – goodwill to all – especially the kids, there is something dreadfully wrong when we can’t give them a good time at Christmas.

Nick Hopkins, Yapton

IT’S WONDERFUL to have such a community-minded business as Budgen’s in our midst and I would just like to thank the management and staff for their support in giving us the space, over two mornings in November, to help us reach the giddy heights of no less than 5,400 signatures in our Save the Day Care Centre Campaign.

Since our target was originally 3,500, naturally everyone involved in getting the petition signed by as many locals as possible, is thrilled.

Many people told us about what the day-care centre meant to them and their relatives and the word that was used the most, was ‘lifeline’.

So, to Budgen’s, every shop that has had the petition on their counters and everyone who has signed it, a very big thank-you!

Caroline Frost, Save the Day Care Centre Campaign

I WRITE in response to news on the changes to free bus passes proposed by West Sussex County Council.

At a recent Voice for Disability conference in West Sussex, disabled people asked if the price of the free bus pass is too high.

For people in rural areas, who have restricted mobility or are disabled, a free bus pass is worthless. Elderly and disabled people rely on community transport for which they have to pay and the funding for which has recently been cut by West Sussex County Council.

Providing free bus passes for the over-60s was a great vote-winner but all the gains have gone to those living in urban areas that can walk to a bus stop.

The high cost of providing the free bus passes has diverted funds away from supporting community transport and bus routes in rural areas.

So, for West Sussex with its large rural and elderly population, the free bus passes do not reach the vulnerable or isolated members of society for whom social isolation is a real problem.

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

The ability to opt for taxi tokens, community transport tokens or a rail pass would greatly assist those who cannot use the regular buses.

Roland Higgins, Executive Officer Voice for Disability, Goring-by-Sea