Letters from the Bury Free Press of Friday, October 5, 2018
SCHOOLS: WHAT A MUDDLED SYSTEM IT IS NOW
Are any other of your readers as confused about the state of our schools as I am? When we sent our children to school in Bury in the 70s and 80s, there was the relative simplicity of a three-tier school structure which worked well for them, both receiving a good education in well-run institutions, seemingly adequately funded.
But now what do we find? For a relatively small town we have two different systems – one based on the All-Through Trust and the other on the two-tier system that the county council spent years and oodles of cash – but some schools still local authority-controlled and others ‘academised’.
Lots of money was spent in creating new Years 5 & 6 in most local primary schools, whilst two middle schools were retained. Does this mean that there is now a surplus of places with the attendant duplication of resources? Last week, the All-Through Trust narrowed the base of its already flimsy pyramid by losing Barrow Primary School and recently failing to attract its near neighbour, Howard Primary School, which has been allocated to a totally different trust from outside the area. Now, members of the Bury Schools Partnership are being ‘lent on’ to become academies. In the meantime, Ofsted is still rating one local primary school as ‘outstanding’ without having inspected it for nine years. So-called free schools have been created locally and a new STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] academy is to be created. Where does the money come to fund these developments and is it at the expense of existing schools? Who has deemed that this extra provision is necessary? Competition may be good but not at the expense of scarce resources. Head teachers in their thousands last week marched to 10 Downing Street to protest about an alleged 18 per cent cut in school funding since 2010. What is the evidence that academies have done anything to improve the quality of education? At one time, when we voted in local elections we could be confident that there was some form of democratic control of our schools. Who calls to account the academies and how do we, as local and national tax payers, now influence the people who do? The headteacher of the new Sybil Andrews Academy disappeared over one half term earlier in the year, but with the chair of governors stating that he had done a ‘good job’ in establishing the school. Strange? Last week, the Bright Tribe Academies Trust jettisoned five schools in Suffolk and Essex after being accused on national TV of effectively defrauding the Government. There are numerous examples of headteachers and chief executives of academies being paid eye-watering salaries whilst operating poor financial controls. The list goes on.
I am worried – and I hope that either the Bury Free Press by investigation and a full feature article, and/or some of its readers, will be able to allay my concerns as my grandchildren now work their way through a very muddled schools system. Perhaps even our MP could help. There are other important issues in our society today apart from Brexit!
Bury St Edmunds
RECYCLING: BINS ARE NEEDED AT PLAY AREAS
Your correspondent Yvonne Cheesman, in my opinion, rightly states that we should be pushing for more recycling bins everywhere in town (Readers’ Views, September 28). I am 100 per cent for recycling, and in fact I own a very small trailer which I fill daily with glass bottles of all colours, shapes and sizes, and once a month I take them to the Household Waste Recycling Centre on Rougham Hill. I can only assume from her letter, that the type of bin she refers to would be of the type situated on the junction of The Traverse and Abbeygate Street, which has a blue recycling section in it, but she has not expanded on this so I am slightly in the dark.
That said, the point of the article which she refers to has been slightly missed by Yvonne, as has the response from St Edmundsbury Borough Council. We recently finished the installation of a £64,000 play area in Oakes Road, which is an excellent state-of-the-art facility for the residents of the Howard Estate and surrounding area who I have represented as a councillor since 2005. It is heavily used and is a superb facility in all aspects except one. It has no litter bin of any type, let alone a recycling bin, and many of the people I represent have asked me for one. The St Edmundsbury Borough Council response in the article states that there is a bin 50 metres away, so another is not required. This would mean that if a parent who has a child or children in the play area has litter, which inevitably they have, some stark choices have to be made including, but not limited to: 1) Leave the children alone playing while they walk the 100-metres round trip to the bin and back;
2) Take the children to the bin and back, probably causing tears for the children as they leave the play area;
3) Drop it on the floor.
As has often been the case, option 3 seems to be the most popular among some users. As always, it is not all users, just a few, who spoil it for the many. But if it was not for the excellent team of volunteer litter pickers on the estate, it would be in a far worse state than it is. This is not an acceptable scenario for anyone. So all I am asking for, is whenever St Edmundsbury install a new play area in the Borough, wherever it is, please include a litter bin (whatever type it is). It goes without saying in this day and age, that a recycling bin would be a fantastic choice. Oh, and could they please start with the Oakes Road play area as soon as possible. Thank you!
St Olaves Ward
BARLEY HOMES: LET’S GIVE THIS PLAN A CHANCE
Re: Repayment to county council for Barley Homes branded “ridiculous” by councillor (Bury Free Press, September 21). I agree with a lot of what Cllr Hind says, particularly Suffolk County Council (SCC) causing the stagnation of the Barley Homes project. The reneging on a deal over Wamil Court was nothing, if not short of short sighted, as they “sold” to a higher bidder (in terms of immediate cash) and ignored the social good Barley Homes had to offer.
Even more so now, as I see Wamil Court is back on the market as the massive price offered was never actually paid. However, paying back £250k to SCC is not as ridiculous as it looks, when taking nto account that officers spent a great deal of time re-negotiating the land values on the basis of that more immediate refund. It allowed both parties to get what they wanted quicker. This should please tax payers for both councils.
Money for SCC now and land at a little better price for Barley Homes to work with, allowing for more profit, but in the future (West Suffolk can afford to wait a little for it). Cllr Mildmay-White and officers have done well here and their efforts should be appreciated.
There is no doubt this venture has been difficult and many councils in Britain have failed altogether trying it.
But like training hurdling horses, if we gave up on every horse that struggled with its first hurdle we would have no horses in training.
It’s easy to deride from the sidelines, but this is still in its early stages and let’s see how this “interim” plan goes and if it makes nice houses and a profit, before being judgemental.
All councils continue to struggle for income and my question to anyone out there is: “If not this, then what?” Please email me your revenue-generating ideas for councils (that also improve “life chance outcomes” for everyone) to firstname.lastname@example.org .Please note this is only my personal opinion, I am not speaking for any council or representing any other body.
Chairman, Overview and Scrutiny
Forest Heath District Council
ST OLAVES: TAKEAWAY VIEWS BEING IGNORED
There is a great deal of consternation about the plans for yet another take away on the St Olaves precinct site. Cllr Max Clarke and Cllr Hopfensperger have noted the objections from residents. I personally find it strange that a pizza place is being muted for the old post office site.
There is already a very good pizza place in situ, the Post Office loss was a blow to the community, it seems that with so much postal business being online, it may not be financially viable as a stand-alone business. We also lost a very fine butchers, who has moved to Moreton Hall. The landlords seem reluctant to look after this area, as the rubbish and litter seems to be more than can be coped with under the current cleaning scheme.
This area does not need yet another takeaway. Residents have spoken, both borough and town councillors have raised this issue, newspapers have highlighted our fears, yet for some reason we are all being ignored: this is a very worrying.
One has to ask, are the current rents too high, are the rates too high, to make any of the small shops of this size viable? I do hope this is not just rammed through, as so much local opinion is very strongly against yet another fast food outlet. Perhaps it may be a non-starter if most folk do not support the new pizza place, which I understand is a national and international chain.
Councillor for St Olaves Ward
ABBEY GARDENS: CYCLING IS NOT ALLOWED
With reference to Mary Pinfold-Allan’s letter (Readers’ Views, September 21), I can confirm that bicycles are not permitted to be ridden in the Abbey Gardens.
The gardens are attended and patrolled throughout the week including the weekends and staff will instruct anyone observed cycling in the gardens to dismount.
As you are probably aware, people do sometimes use the gardens as a short cut to access different parts of the town, but we need cyclists to act responsibly and to dismount before entering the gardens.
To ensure that cyclists are fully aware of this situation we will check that clear signage is in place at the main entrances to the gardens and the situation will be monitored on an ongoing basis.
Parks & Open Spaces Manager
West Suffolk Council
POLITICS: PROBLEMS GROW ALL AROUND US
As a retired man of 72 years I sit and read the papers and I wonder what on earth is going on in our country. We have a government in office but not in power, whose obsession is keeping the party from dividing while the country goes to hell in a hand cart; mind you, most Conservative governments end up like this.
The railways are a disaster (with John Major it was always going to end in tears), so who does Mrs May put in charge? Probably the worst minister since Winston Churchill was sacked from his chancellorship.
We have Brexit tearing the country apart, I remember being told everything will be a piece of cake, where are these people now? Our local councils are collapsing because their finances have been cut so much, some are bankrupt, never mind the NHS, schools , roads and so it goes on. Even our MP appears to be more interested in climbing the greasy pole than answering communications from her constituents.
As a final comment, the tale we were all told that we can’t retire at 65 because we are living longer has now been proved to be another lie: we are not living longer!
Mr JK Apps
St John’s Street
Bury St Edmunds
WEST SUFFOLK HOSPITAL: LIFELINES NEEDED AS WINTER NEARS
In the face of the high level of professional competence and commitment demonstrated
unceasingly by management and staff (the latter often working 12-hour shifts) at West Suffolk Hospital, the danger signals for patients now and in the times ahead are flashing red.
The emergency department continues to be under great pressure. While the national
target for dealing with admissions within four hours is 95 per cent, a figure not achieved by WSH for any quarter over the past year, in August just gone the average achieved was under 88 per cent, and on one exceptional day that month the figure was down to a perhaps unprecedented 54 per cent. On September 28, the Hospital’s monthly Trust Board meeting at Quince House was told that emergency staff were still squeezing a quart into a pint pot. And ‘winter pressures’ are coming. The Board was also told of increasing difficulty in meeting the national waiting for treatment target times for patients referred by their GPs.
Members of the public, incidentally, can see reports to the Board online – admittedly extensive and detailed – before meetings, and can be present to observe and to ask questions.
Last financial year WSH did remarkably well to achieve a budget deficit of well under
£1m. But for the present financial year, a budget deficit of £13.8m is, unavoidably,
‘planned’, a figure which may be reduced by £3.7m if emergency department and
financial targets are achieved – and if extra cash support is received. As a member of the public I asked a question of the Board on September 28. I asked if, essentially, it was right that to avoid mounting deficits and deteriorating standards, the hospital needed to be thrown several lifelines: first, a more generous budget allocation;
second, the easing of conditions outside the hospital’s control which have led to the present nursing shortage (well over a hundred staff vacancies!); and third, the handover of £15 million capital desperately needed for the upgrade over four years of the emergency department. Chief executive Steven Dunn, in answering, did not say my concern was misplaced.
In these circumstances, the continuing denial of the funds needed to maintain WSH’s excellent service can only make the calls of the local ‘Defend the NHS’ Campaign louder.
Loud calls could be directed to Matthew Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and to Jo Churchill, Bury’s MP, who, as Conservatives, should theoretically be working not to run down, but to conserve. From them, unfortunately, so far we hear NHS-praising words much more than NHS-supporting action.
John Ellison, Secretary
West Suffolk Trades Council
HISTORIC CLOCKS: ENTIRE COLLECTION MEANT FOR DISPLAY
I asked the question on September 18, ‘Where is the John Gershom Parkington Clock Collection that was left to the borough by a father in memory of his son?’
It was intended to be displayed in total and was for a number of years at Angel Corner.
I have not had a satisfactory reply yet, and would appreciate one, please. The borough is conscious of its appeal to tourists. Surely such a clock collection, displayed as it was previously, would be an important attraction and should not be dispersed? As a former journalist and now wife of a councillor, I fully appreciate how easily the original intention of a bequest can be lost in the fullness of time. With this collection, that would be a great shame and there must be some accountability for it.
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