READERS’ LETTERS: From the Bury Free Press of Friday, July 12

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A selection of readers’ letters fro the Bury Free Press of Friday, July 12.

POLICY IS TO HAVE SOCIAL HOUSING

I was surprised to read that a developer is reported as stating that a development of more than 100 homes in Bury St Edmunds is being proposed with no affordable homes element (Bury Free Press, July 5). This is not reflected in the masterplan document they have produced for consultation purposes.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s adopted policy very clearly states we expect at least 30 per cent of developments to be affordable housing.

With increasing pressure on our housing register we clearly need more affordable housing throughout the borough, and we need the type and size of affordable accommodation provided to be relevant to the demands on housing that we are now experiencing.

As the housing portfolio holder, I can assure you that I and my officers will certainly be pressing for our 30 per cent policy to be implemented in any major development.

-- Cllr Anne Gower, St Edmundsbury Borough Council cabinet member for housing

A SMOOTH JOB, WELL DONE

With regard to the re-surfacing of Westley Road, in Bury St Edmunds, may I thank the council for doing an excellent job speedily and with as least disruption as possible. Well done!

-- R Holton, Flemyng Road, Bury St Edmunds

A STEP TOWARDS REFERENDUM

The EU Referendum Bill, passed in the House of Commons on Friday (July 5) by 305 votes to 30, is an important step in giving the British people an In or Out referendum on our EU membership by December 2017.

Before that date, provided Conservatives are in power, we will renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership.

Nearly 40 years ago, the then Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson promised to renegotiate Britain’s position in Europe. As his former Cabinet Secretary Lord Armstrong has remarked: “Harold didn’t get what he set out to get. But he got what he thought would be good enough to say he’d done all right.”

Neither Conservative parliamentarians nor the British people will accept such an outcome this time.

There is an expectation for substantial change in Britain’s relationship with the EU. To my mind this must include an end to ‘ever closer union’; a red card to defend vital national interests; redefinition of ‘free movement’ of people; full control of our borders and immigration policy; legal safeguards to protect the single market; full control of social and economic policy, fisheries, transport and justice; and an end to EU meddling in defence.

If we are to remain in a reshaped EU, we need a Europe that costs us less and does less.

As the Prime Minister made clear in January, ‘our participation in the single market and our ability to help set its rules is the principal reason for our membership of the EU’.

Most of the rest we can do without.

-- Geoffrey Van Orden, Conservative MEP

REPRESENTING WOMEN

Prior to the county council elections, Bury St Edmunds Fawcett Society wrote to all candidates in St Edmundsbury, asking five questions relating to women’s representation in politics and issues affecting women and girls in Suffolk.

We were very pleased to receive responses from Roger Andre, Trevor Beckwith, Judy Broadway, Clive Coles, Mark Ereira-Guyer, Mary Evans, Ann Gower, Mick Graham, Diane Hind, David Hussell, David Nettleton, Peter Thompson, Sarah Stamp, Gary Stroud and Pat Warby, many of whom showed genuine engagement with our concerns. We are very grateful to them for replying to our letter during their busy campaigns.

As a result of this letter and the candidates’ responses, Bury Fawcett Society is planning focused action to ensure that women’s representation and issues relating to women are placed firmly at the heart of the political agenda for Suffolk.

Disappointingly, many of the candidates were sceptical about our assertion that government cuts since 2010 have had a disproportionate effect on women.

However, this is well supported by research conducted by several organisations including Fawcett, the TUC, Unison, as well as independent journalistic investigations. With public sector job losses, cuts to care and social service budgets and national benefits cuts, we have no doubt that women in Suffolk will continue to bear the brunt both at work and at home. We will be continuing to monitor the effects of this.

We also continue to be concerned about the representation of women in public

life in Suffolk. There are 23 women on the new SCC, which is 30 per cent – an increase of just 1 per cent from the previous council. The chairman of the council and the leader are both men. This gender imbalance is also reflected in local committees, with Bid4Bury and the business chamber committee both dominated by men.

However, our main concerns, echoed by many articles in the national press in recent weeks, are the sexualisation of young girls and women, and serious issues regarding violence against women and girls. The government’s strategy ‘Call to end violence against women and young girls’ should be a specific priority for Suffolk. We are particularly concerned that the grant agreement for the Suffolk Domestic Abuse Outreach Service ends in September 2013 and we will be lobbying to ensure that this service is maintained and effective.

Anyone interested in joining Bury St Edmunds Fawcett and supporting us can find us on Facebook. We look forward to working with the new Suffolk County Council

to ensure that women are represented and heard throughout Suffolk.

-- Eleanor Rehahn, Bury St EdmundsFawcett Society

CONCERNS OVER BEDROOM TAX

Copy of a letter sent to chief executives of all Suffolk’s district and borough councils:
I am writing on behalf of the Suffolk branch of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB). Our members are greatly concerned about the implications of the bedroom tax for many Suffolk households.
I am referring, as you will know, to the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012, which require maximum rents in the ‘social sector’ (for which housing benefit can be claimed) to be reduced where claimants are considered to have excess bedrooms. The reduction in eligible rent is 14 per cent where there is considered to be one ‘excess’ bedroom and 25 per cent where there are considered to be two or more. ‘Unnecessary’ bedrooms therefore attract severe penalties for households reliant on housing benefit prior to these reforms.
The declared, if improbable, intention of docking benefit in this way, was to adjust occupancy in the social sector by moves of residents from under-occupied accommodation to more modest habitations, and counter-moves of those in over-occupied accommodation to larger units. This IDS fantasy has already been proved preposterous, as was widely predicted, and the consequential misery and desperation of many tenants is reported to have resulted in at least one suicide so far – and rapidly growing rent arrears for many. The simple fact is that many tenants robbed in this way of housing benefit cannot afford to make up the difference between housing benefit allowed and their full rents, even cutting down on food and other essential expenditure. An alternative route available to the Government has been and will continue to be, to impose rent control on landlords, pushing down rents rather than pushing down benefit entitlement.
In any event, the bedroom tax is already showing itself to fail to save public funds, in that rent arrears are leaping upwards, and some tenants are being forced into council-funded bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless people.
Suffolk district councils will, we hope, be more sensitive and humane than central government and I urgently invite you to confirm publicly your council will not, where rent arrears are due due to the impostition of the bedroom tax, evict the tenants concerned.

-- John Ellison, Communist Party of Britain, Stanton