A selection of readers’ letters from the Bury Free Press of Friday, March 21.
DON’T UNPICK THE GOOD WORK
I, like most people in the Bury St Edmunds area, could be forgiven for thinking that Bury St Edmunds town centre was doing extremely well and bucking the trend with the praises that have been heaped upon it this week.
But no, Suffolk County Council knows better and thinks it would be a great idea to hike up the car park charges by almost 30 per cent, allegedly to ease traffic and improve conditions for shoppers and cyclists.
They say, the recommendations followed a major review and consultation of on-street and off-street parking charges with evidence taken from a number of sources.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council? No their comments and objections were ignored.
Local businesses? No.
Mark Cordell, chief executive for Bid4 Bury? No.
Car park users? I very much doubt it.
So, Suffolk County Council, please do not unpick the good work that has been done in our town, and listen to local people and their representatives.
-- Gill Malik, Blomfield Street, Bury St Edmunds
FAILED REPAIRS HAVE BEEN COSTLY
It must be good news for many of your readers who use the A134 to hear that it’s going to be resurfaced at long last (Bury Free Press, March 14), but the question has got to be asked at what cost? Accelerated wear of car parts, damaged windscreens and paintwork not to mention tyres. Did all the people affected claim damages? Were all claims settled, did people even bother claiming, opting to pay for the repairs themselves. Whichever way one looks at this, it has cost people money, either directly or indirectly, and been the source of frustration for drivers, who will have endured the appalling road condition for a year before rectification. The question now is who is actually bearing the full cost of the repair work? If it is the contractor who performed last year’s work then that would be reasonable, but if it is Suffolk County Council, then there is a problem, as that money comes ultimately from us, the taxpayer, who quite simply did not get value for money, or may even be of the opinion, a safer road. So why should we pay for such an obvious mistake, or should I say two?
I have focused on the A134, but one should not forget how quickly the road surface on Bedingfeld Way, which was resurfaced at the same time, is degrading. So, having heard that the A134 is going to be corrected, one hopes Bedingfeld Road will be too.
I wonder if others share my concerns too, and if the Bury Free Press will ensure Suffolks taxpayers get the fair deal and value they deserve?
-- Peter Royce, via email
APEX IS AN ASSETT WE CAN ALL ENJOY
Adrian Bird (Letters, March 14) is disgusted. His ire was induced by St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s intention to subsidise the Apex arts venue. He is fervent in his belief that it should be the users of this ‘business’ that bear this ‘burden’ and doesn’t feel that he should ‘pay to keep it open’. However, he appears to be blinkered to the fact that the Apex is a community investment and asset that benefits us all. Just as Mr Bird is unenlightened to the fact that as well as ‘emptying his wheely bins’ our Council Tax pays for transport, highways, libraries and emergency services (to name but a few), he is similarly benighted to the concept of cultural value. The council’s subsidy is essential to allow all individuals in our area the opportunity to enjoy and/or participate in a diverse programme which includes dance, comedy, a plethora of music and, of course, charity events. It is impossible to put a value on this ‘burden’ which allows individuals to see acts that epitomise the colour and dynamics of our modern society... although it is worth noting that Cllr David Ray said the Apex is worth £5 million a year to the local economy. I am proud that our council supports the inherent value in artistic work and wants to give everyone – even disgusted Mr Bird – the possibility to enjoy it.
-- Alex Lowe, via email
MYSTERY: WE’D NOT SEEN HOUSE BEFORE
RE: Mystery/vanishing houses.
Twenty five years ago my husband and I were passing though Elveden from Thetford on the A11, very slowly due to masses of traffic, going towards the Mildenhall roundabout, when to our surprise, on the left in the vicinity opposite the high column, we saw a massive Georgian mansion complete with pillars and open iron gates, driveway ending up with a circle effect, and high steps going up towards the house on either side – a fantastic sight, 200 yards from the road.
I remarked to my husband ‘we’ve never seen that before on this road’, and guess what, we’ve never seen it since, and we have driven that road many times over the years. Well, we both saw it.
-- Gillian Cooper, via email
TAKE POLITICS OUT OF EDUCATION
Lisa Chambers has said that, following Ofsted’s damning letter, which was much worse even than Norfolk’s, she is working on a ‘school improvement strategy’. But, after so long at the helm of Suffolk education, what confidence can we have in this latest effort? A little history helps to answer that question.
In June 2012, Cllr Graham Newman, who by then had already been cabinet member for education for four years, finally concluded: “It’s time we took the issue of educational attainment and aspiration in Suffolk by the horns.” And so Raising the Bar was born.
By December 2012, Mark Bee, council leader, said he was confident that the high-profile Raising the Bar initiative would ‘deliver significant results in the short and medium term’.
Nearly a year later, with the Raising the Bar report published and its recommendations accepted in full by Suffolk County Council, we got the latest set of GCSE results. These put Suffolk’s GCSE performance lower than in 2011, and further behind the national average than ever. Bizarrely, Cllr Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s new cabinet member for education, said: “I am thrilled to see Suffolk making this level of progress.” She went on to say: “We always knew this wasn’t going to be a quick overnight fix, the Raising the Bar programme is a long-term investment from partners across the county to see educational attainment improve.”
What does this near two years of effort add up to? Well, according to Ofsted, very little. Despite all this apparent dynamism, Suffolk County Council has been ‘ineffective’ at driving up school standards. Mr Harford (Ofsted) tells us: “There have been no significant improvements in pupils’ attainment since [the launch of Raising the Bar] and there is still no clear strategy for how the local authority will make improvements.”
That is worth repeating – Raising the Bar is no strategy and has had no impact.
Given all these false dawns, the good folk of Suffolk can be forgiven for having little confidence in the leadership of Suffolk’s education system by the politicians who have overseen Suffolk’s fall from being a top 30 authority in 2005 to one bouncing along the bottom of the league tables today.
If all Cllr Chambers and her colleagues have done up to February 2014 was ineffective and didn’t amount to a strategic plan for improvement, who can really have confidence that the promised ‘school improvement strategy’ is the answer?
There have been high-profile calls for humility from our political leaders over their education record. If Cllrs Chambers and Bee were really interested in education instead of politics, they would accept that playing politics with our children’s futures has comprehensively failed them and us. At the very least, what our children deserve is an apolitical approach to education. Sadly, for the children whose life chances Ofsted believes are being damaged, there are no signs that these dogmatic politicians are listening whatever Cllr Chambers asserts.
-- John Park, Bury St Edmunds
SAME RULES SHOULD BE APPLIED TO ALCOHOL
It would be difficult to come up with a rational argument against the points raised by Adam Howlett’s article (Bury Free Press, March 14) as to the long/short term effects of smoking. However, I would very much like to see an equally illuminating article illustrating the ill-effects of – all too frequently – excessive alcohol consumption. Very often only the short-term would apply, as so many heavy drinkers don’t live long enough to know what they would looklike at reaching 70 years of age, many having come to grief as teenagers. The measures taken to dissuade people from smoking are draconian (supermarkets even having to hide tobacco productsfrom view ) and yet rows upon rows of alcohol – a toxic substance – are encouraging us to buy what is basically a poison. Can we redress the balance please?
-- Brian Davies, St Olaves Road, Bury St Edmunds
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