Letters published in the Bury Free Press on Friday, November 2
BUDGET: PARK FREE LONGER TO BOOST SHOPS
As the Chancellor is doing his best to help our ailing High Streets (see Monday’s Budget), I think local authorities could and should also do their fair share, and in our case –Bury St Edmunds – to stem the tide of both small and large retail premises closures. Help could come in the form of extending the free parking on Tuesdays from the start-up time of 3pm to begin at midday instead, and also incorporate Thursdays straight away, rather than wait until a week or so before Christmas, as has been the case in previous years. Everyone, if you think about it, including, the council, would benefit from “pay on exit”.
Of course, would asking for a reduction in parking fees, be “a bridge too far” ?
Bury St Edmunds
HOSPITAL: FIRST CLASS CARE AND GREAT FOOD
After suffering a head injury on my way from Canada to Risby, I was taken to West Suffolk Hospital on Wednesday, September 26. The care received in A&E and on ward F7 was excellent. First class care and kindness from all members of staff (you know who you are!). The food was outstanding: fresh, tasty, sufficient and all tasted home made. F7 was spotlessly clean at all times. Well done West Suffolk Hospital! A special mention to the most important member of staff: Tea lady Jackie. My warmest thanks to all. Also, congrats to Bury St Edmunds on the cleanliness of the ladies loo on Angel Hill, and at no charge, too!
(“Tea, no shoog”, bed 6, F7
September 26 – October 1),
SCHOOLING: REALITIES OF TEACHING TODAY
Mr Coulson! There were several points with which I disagreed in your article “We base our decisions for pupils on evidence” (Bury Free Press, October 19) but “There are few jobs as wonderful as being a teacher” really incensed me! I wonder how recently Mr Coulson has taught a Year 8 or 9 class? I always wanted to teach and have had some wonderful experiences while doing so. I started my career in 1977 and retired in 2015. I qualified in secondary education but have taught in primary as well as special schools. For the final decade I worked in middle schools until they ceased to exist. Today’s conscientious teacher, apart from an unsustainable work load, faces two main problems. Firstly, heads who do not support their staff. I have met several heads who are so delighted to have quit the classroom that they become oblivious to the daily grind and load their staff, who are just about keeping up with planning, marking, record-keeping and talking to parents, with new initiatives. There is nowhere for the teacher to turn, apart from possibly her union. There is no effective HR for teachers: some heads know this and choose to ride roughshod over their staff.
Teachers who find themselves with a particularly challenging class or individual pupil are often made to feel that they are the problem. I defy even the most outstanding teacher to produce dynamic and engaging lessons in this situation.
Secondly, there are the pupils themselves. Dream classes who cooperate and become enthusiastic about the topic do still exist, but they are in the minority. Establishing a relationship with pupils has become a formidable task. There is certainly a high proportion of pupils who view education as an interruption in their social life. The teacher, having planned carefully for engagement and progress, attempts to set high standards of work and behaviour but is constantly frustrated.
Subject coordinators can be helpful here, but if the head becomes involved the teacher often finds herself accused of inadequacy. And there is the inevitable Parent Consultation Evening. It is wonderful to be able to delight parents with news of a hard-working child, but when the news is less welcome it can be a distressing experience for everyone concerned. I have worked with colleagues who write flattering but untruthful comments on reports because they have had too many confrontations. Of course, this is another situation where a supportive head could intervene, but few would do so.
I loved teaching, warts and all, but I am not surprised that we now suffer shortages. I am not surprised that young teachers leave the profession after five years. It is a futile gesture to entice prospective teachers with financial incentives. Neither the salary nor the long holidays (!) will keep someone in post unless they really want to be there. I worry about those who will teach my grandchildren. Will they feel they are able to achieve their potential and feel supported?Mr Coulson, I would dearly like to discuss this topic further, and maybe show you some of the classrooms which show how teaching falls short of being wonderful.
NASUWT: STRIKE AT TRADE UNION OFFICE
Trade unionists rarely experience the need to withdraw their labour because of decisions by senior management of their own trade union employer. But on October 17, staff at the regional office of teachers’ union the National Association of Schoolmasters & Union of Women Teachers, in Olding Road, Bury, were on official strike for the day. During the morning, employed GMB union members stood in a picket line on the pavement, receiving encouraging waves and hoots from vehicles passing by. Similar action was taking place across the country. The reason? NASUWT national management had made decisions which meant reduced future pensions, and imposed a three-year pay deal, undermining a previous entitlement to renegotiate pay if inflation accelerated. This was done without direct consultation with the staff concerned. The GMB picket line on Olding Road was joined by supportive members of other unions. Further strike action is planned on November 5 and 9, though it is hoped that negotiations in the meantime will make such action unnecessary. NASUWT of course, whatever its deficiencies on this occasion, supports the right of staff to join a trade union, and staff members can collectively resist adverse changes in pay,
pensions and working conditions, and can press for improvements. In many workplaces, and notoriously in the retail and hospitality sector, the position has been historically very different.
But this is beginning to change, as recent small-scale, though dramatic, events have
shown, including recent co-ordinated strike action by workers at McDonald’s, JD
Wetherspoon, Uber Eats and TGI Fridays. Acting together, and as members of a trade union, those who depend on work for their living – and that is most of us – can do so much more for themselves and others than as isolated individuals.
West Suffolk Trades Council
SOCIAL CARE: NEW CARE PLANS MAKING PROGRESS
I read with interest Cllr Diane Hind’s letter entitled Social Care: Budget must restore services (Readers’ Views, October 26).
As she quite rightly highlights, social care must be fairly and properly funded to give vulnerable and older people the care they deserve. However, Cllr Hind also reports a number of false facts which I must correct. I must also counter her unfounded, unjustified and vastly sweeping statement that the system is ‘illogical’ and ‘uncaring and unfit for purpose’.
It has been widely reported that Suffolk, along with other authorities, is facing a period of unprecedented demand and that has forced us to think long and hard about the way we deliver care. We can no longer just tinker with the current system – we must look at introducing types of care that can cope with further changes.
Our new home care, which has been agreed by Cabinet, is robust enough to tackle growing demand with efficiency, whilst, more importantly, providing the very best care to our residents with compassion and dignity.
Last year we delivered 2.48 million hours of care to 7,106 customers and we forecast that this year that number will increase significantly, as it has year on year. This is not the decline in numbers that Cllr Hind mentions in her letter.
I was happy to hear in the budget this week that building on the additional £240m for social care winter pressures announced earlier this month, the Chancellor has pledged a further £650m of grant funding to be spent on social care.
This funding is testament to the lobbying work my colleagues and I carry out. We are grateful for any additional money we receive, but we need longer term solutions for health and social care and eagerly await the Government’s Green Paper on Health and Care funding, which we have commented on. It is worth noting here that this year we are forecast to spend £43.4m on social care, but this is continuing to increase.
Cllr Hind also correctly identifies the need for health and social care to integrate. I am very proud to announce that on Tuesday I will be giving a report to Cabinet to update them on the significant progress we are making with the Health and Care Alliances in Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk. The benefits of the strengthened relationships between the NHS and social care is that people get more co-ordinated support, there is greater ability to plan, prevent ill health and resources are used more effectively across the system.
In the long term, the intention is to move resources from acute and crisis care into preventative care, and care in the community, rather than in hospital.
Undoubtedly, we have challenges to overcome, but we are facing these with gusto, innovation and overall, compassion to those we care for.
Cllr Beccy Hopfensperger
Cabinet member for adult care
Suffolk County Council
BREXIT: WE NEED TO TAKE BACK OUR DESTINY
Clearly the Brexit issue raises conflicting opinions, but I would ask all people to consider the following facts:
When we joined the EU were told that it was simply a trading ‘club’.
What has happened since is that successive British politicians have gradually allowed the EU to take control over us and rob us of our freedoms as an independent country.
They now rule over us and give us their orders, to their benefit and clearly not to ours. I have seen this before with the trade unions in Britain.
I used to be a keen supporter of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, until I found that the ‘tail was wagging the dog’!
In both cases the ‘club’ has taken over control from the members and orders them about!
In the case of the EU, what other club demands such a large ‘subscription’? What other club threatens sanctions if we leave and demands a huge ‘ransom’ for leaving?
The power that the EU exerts over us needs to be overthrown and we need to take back control over our destiny and our country.