Charity provides the safety net
The story you carried about a couple sleeping rough on the streets of Bury St Edmunds on Christmas Day (Bury Free Press, January 4) brought to light, through the extraordinary generosity of businessman Simon De Latt and the selfless work of volunteer Fiona Watt, that the housing crisis in this country is being exacerbated locally by St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s emergency housing provision policy, a policy that Fiona correctly states is not fit for purpose. Once again it is charitable provision that is the safety net for the most vulnerable within our community, as the Tory austerity programme pushes more and more working families towards financial insecurity and the associated risks this brings in terms of their ability to finance staying in their homes.
A recently released report by the housing charity Shelter, reveals that last year nearly one million people took out rip-off pay day loans to cover their rent and mortgage repayments, with a further 7.8 million facing a battle to keep a roof over their heads, demonstrating once again how honest hard working families are being hit by a double whammy of failing Tory economic policies and inequitable welfare cuts.
With the imminent introduction of Housing Benefit reforms, reforms that will have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable, increased numbers of families will be pushed into the greedy hands of legalised loan sharks in an effort to keep their homes.
With average household energy bills expected to reach an all time high of £1,300, a third of the working population experiencing a further wage freeze and the cost of food and travel continuing to rise above inflation, it is quite clear that 2013 is going to be an extremely tough financial year for many working families in Bury.
There appears to be an air of complacency amongst the Tories as this economic and social crisis deepens and I would urge MP David Ruffley to ask his government to stop the ridiculous pretence that these reforms are all about ‘strivers v skivers’ and to recognise that apart from millionaire cabinet ministers, a combination of Tory political dogma and economic incompetence means that we are all in this mess together!
Pay-on-exit makes sense
Recently, there has been more discussion regarding car parking in Bury town centre. Several letters suggest making some of the car parks charged according to the time spent – as used in many town centres. I strongly support such a proposal as there are many advantages to having some car parks using this method of charging. As has been pointed out, it would encourage shoppers to stay longer, which will benefit traders. Pay and display car parks need a system of penalties which, when given, produce a very negative reaction about visiting again and some penalties, as reported in your pages, seem to have been very dubious and unfair. Paying according to the time spent is a very fair system and no penalties!
Surely the objective should be to achieve a balance between the revenue from car parking and ensuring that the maximum number of people visit Bury town centre – our traders need all the help they can get at the moment. I would be surprised if such a system is more expensive to implement compared to ‘pay and display’ as one does not need so many wardens checking cars.
One last suggestion. A few years ago when we lived in Germany, the main shopping centre used reusable plastic magnetic cards which meant eliminating wasteful paper tickets. The tickets were transferred from the exit machines to a magazine in the entry machines. A good technical solution which should be seriously considered.
While I agree with Paul Farmer that permit holders should not pay twice when using the borough council-owned car parks after 6pm, I think the success of charging £1 overnight should be extended to all off-street car parks in the town centre (Letters, December 28). The tariff covers the cost of patrols under the ‘user pays’ principle and has improved both security and reduced anti-social behaviour by the tiny minority who previously viewed car parks as mini-racetracks. Concerted efforts by the police and borough council has resulted in less public nuisance and the presence of more parked cars has made it harder for the few to misbehave.
Evening charges of £1 were introduced two years ago in selected car parks. In the folly of the 10 per cent all-round increase last year, this became £1.10 and officers were contemplating a further rise to £1.20 (I retained the relevant email in case of a later denial). Fortunately, the car parking charges review group rejected this option and recommended instead a return to £1. Hopefully, this token charge will remain unaltered for several years more. The aim is to cover the cost of patrols, not make a profit.
As a town centre resident for over 20 years, let me assure Cllr Farmer that fears of displacement parking if on-street evening charges were to be introduced are unfounded. Every residential street is jammed full of residents’ cars by 6pm so there is simply no room for any more. The real issue for Angel Hill is should it be returned to its original purpose as a public open square or continue in its modern usage as a glorified car park. This has more to do with aesthetics, beauty and civic pride rather than money.
There are clearly two opposing views. I am on the side of the angels!
Bury St Edmunds
Gay people have right of equality
Recent comments in this column that ‘marriage should be between a man and a woman’ and quoting biblical aspects on the matter leaves me feeling sick and disgusted with the attitude of some people and some politicians. Whether these people like it or not, in this country there are hundreds of thousands of gay couples in a caring and loving relationship who are being denied equality and particular rights simply because of their chosen sexuality.
Gay people have a human right of equality in all aspects of life, including marriage and those gay people who sit on the fence on this matter should, in future, look at how they cast their votes, both in local and general elections. They have the power collectively to make the difference.