A selection of readers’ letters from the Bury Free Press of Friday, March 4.
POST OFFICE IS A VITAL PART OF BURY LIFE
It is utterly depressing that Post Office Limited has announced it is seeking ‘franchise partners’ within the retail sector for the Bury St Edmunds Crown office. This would result in the specialist, standalone Crown Post Office which has served the public of Bury St Edmunds since 1896, being replaced by a small Post Office unit within a retail premise.
When Royal Mail was privatised, the government said that they would keep the Post Office wholly in the public sector, but what is franchising if it’s not privatisation? If the Post Office is seeking ‘franchise partners’, the most obvious candidate is being ignored – Royal Mail, a natural synergy. The Post Office should never have been split from Royal Mail.
While the Post Office attempts to cut its way to further profit, a more progressive approach needs to be adopted. Expansion, innovation, developing new products and services, winning more market share, particularly in financial services – not a policy of managed decline by cutting jobs, closing branches, dismantling the network and selling buildings.
The iconic Cornhill building has been the home of the Post office in Bury St Edmunds for 120 years, it is the heart of our town centre and should not be sacrificed for greed and profit.
This is yet another horrendous example of broken promises, irresponsible government and chronic mismanagement by the Post Office network. The Cornhill Crown Post Office is a state of the art, modern Post Office which only recently underwent refurbishment which saw the counter area, training facilities and meeting rooms upgraded at a cost of over £1 million. Part of this refurbishment was to incorporate a disabled side entrance. It is bizarre that after all this investment Post Office Limited is seeking a franchise partner, when Bury St Edmunds is now realising it’s potential as a flagship Crown Post Office.
A petition has been started, to save Bury St Edmunds Crown Post Office from franchising and has collected over 1,600 signatures online (change.org search Bury St Edmunds Post Office) and to compl-ment this a paper petition was launched on February 11 and now has over 1,000 signatures to add to that total. I assisted in collecting signatures outside the Crown Office where many customers using the Post Office that day were shocked to learn of its potential closure and were extremely concerned about the effect this would have on them. Many of our elderly residents were alarmed and upset at the possible closure.
Customers could not envisage a building that could accommodate the service that is currently provided at the Cornhill Crown Post Office.
Bury St Edmunds is a vibrant growing town and it is both disheartening and worrying that good jobs could be lost in the name of austerity and greed.
The Post Office is a public service, designed to give wonderful customer service, which the counter staff at the Cornhill branch have excelled at. Even while facing this shattering and demoralising news the counter staff have continued to provide an excellent friendly service for the town.
It is clear that the people of Bury wish to retain their Crown Post Office. Therefore, we must oppose the closure of our Crown office, we must fight to keep our Crown office open.
There is one person who has failed to make her position clear regarding the potential franchise, Bury MP Jo Churchill. Previously Mrs Churchill stated that she was keen not to lose access to services that are so vital, particularly for older members of our community, and also keen to know more about the situation. Presumably Mrs Churchill has now had sufficient time to learn the reason behind the potential closure. Mrs Churchill was elected to represent the views of the constituents of Bury, they have spoken, will she support them?
-- David Cull, via email
SIGN ME UP
Please sign me in to Keep the Post Office in Bury where it is, it would be a disgrace if we lost it, there are so few post offices now in and around Bury and it is a vital part of Bury Life.
-- Canon C T Catton
COURT CLOSURE IS SIMPLY FURTHER AUSTERITY
While I agree entirely with Dr Dick Soper that the closure of Bury magistrates’ court is tragic ( Letters, Feburary 26), I do not share his belief that this decision is motivated by something other than finance. Indeed, I would suggest it is all about finance, public sector finance, and George Osborne’s obsession to be running a budget surplus by 2020. As St Edmundbury Borough Council announces Council Tax rises, Cllr Ian Holder accurately encapsulates the dilemma facing local authorities across the country when he states ‘we either cut services or ask people to pay a little bit more’. In a fair society we would indeed ask those earning the most money to pay a little more to maintain our public services, but this is not a fair society, this is David Cameron’s society, where it was announced last week that the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland was awarded a pay deal last year totalling £ 3.8 million, while the bank racked up losses of £2 billion, a bank, lest we forget, that was was bailed out using public money to the tune of £45 billion and that you and I still have a 73% stake in. I am sure amongst those mind boggling figures we could find enough money to keep a magistrates’ court open.
Since 2010, year on year, local authorities have seen their budgets slashed in the name of austerity, forcing councils to make cuts to services that the government hope will deflect blame from them. Jo Churchill went very public with her campaign to keep the magistrates’ court open, but she represents a party that will have cut the Ministry of Justice budget to the tune of £500 million by the end of this parliament. Jo Churchill has consistently voted in favour of reducing central government funding to local government, indeed as recently as the February 10 she voted in favour of setting the main central government grant to local government 24.6 per cent lower than that originally announced. The truth is our local MP has only ever voted in favour of austerity, so it is nothing short of pure hypocrisy for her to purport to fight for local services when in truth she is nothing more than lobby fodder.
In his Autumn budget statement, George Osborne announced that he had found £27 billion ‘down the back of the settee’, money he totally squandered digging the government out of the hole they had created by having to reverse their deeply unpopular decision to cut tax credits. Within that same budget announcement he also announced his intention to sell off magistrates’ courts, so I am afraid this is all about public finance and the Tories’ desire to cut our public services to the bone.
-- Richard Soer, Great Barton
SMALLER INCREASE WAS BLOCKED
Bury St Edmunds Council Tax-payers face a rise of £39.15 in April if they live in a Band D property – slightly less for Band A-C homes. This comprises: Suffolk County Council £22.50; St Edmundsbury Borough Council £3.42; Bury St Edmunds Town Council £9.90 (all three Conservative-controlled), and £3.33 Suffolk Police Authority. Individual town and parish councils set their own precepts so the total tax bill will vary in different parts of the borough, but the average is £52.19.
The borough council rise of £3.42 (1.9%) takes the Band D charge to £178.65 and projections for the next three years are for similar hikes. Forest Heath District Council has approved a freeze at £137.43 which means that St Edmundsbury taxpayers will be forking out over £40 more for exactly the same level of service. For example, black and blue bins are emptied on alternate weeks by ‘West Suffolk’ waste management, whether they are in Forest Heath or St Edmundsbury. Conservative council leader John Griffiths says that there is no ‘cross-subsidy’ from St Edmundsbury to Forest Heath. Oh yes, there is!
Cabinet member Ian Houlder claims that only by careful management of the borough council’s finances has a freeze been possible for the past five years. He omits to mention that for all those five years the government paid a substantial sum of money to councils if they froze the Council Tax. In 2010/11 – the year before the government grant was introduced – St Edmundsbury increased Council Tax by again 1.9%. The grant stopped this year so we are back to hikes of 1.9% in future years. It all mounts up over time.
In 2015/16, the borough underestimated the income it would receive from car parking charges. It was out by £100,000. It has done the same for 2016/17 so I proposed an amendment in anticipation of a further £80,000 income over budget as more people visit Bury in the next 12 months. This equates to £2.25 per Band D taxpayer, hence the figure of £176.40, a rise of only 0.67%. My amendment was defeated by the Block Vote supported by the solitary Green Party councillor, who sided with the Tories. I’m grateful to the two Bury Labour members and the four Haverhill UKIP members who supported my amendment.
-- David Nettleton, Independent borough and county councillor
COUNCIL HAS GOT IT WRONG OVER BROWN BINS
Much has already been said about the introduction of charges for the collection of green waste and, with continued reductions in support from central government, it is understandable that ways have to found to fill parts of the funding gap. However, it does appear that some of what we are told may not be correct and there are certainly some problems with the introduction of charges.
Firstly, we are told that all households have been written to with details of the new scheme. Wrong! I, for one, have not received such a letter.
Secondly, after finding the details for myself on the borough council’s website and paying the £40 charge online, I expected an automatic receipt with a reference number to be emailed to me to save or print in line with common practice but sadly all I got was a ‘please print this page for your records’ – not possible when paying by mobile device, iPad, phone etc.
Then I am told to expect an information pack to be emailed to me. Wrong again, no pack received to date.
Most disturbing of all is the instruction that kitchen waste cannot now be put into the brown bin ‘because of government legislation’. Nowhere can I find the specific piece of legislation that bans the composting of uncooked vegetable waste. This is classed, along with garden rubbish, as green waste and is safely compostable. Therefore all the council needed to do was to remind householders that only uncooked vegetable waste should be put into the brown bin and to exclude cooked foods and meats of any kind . . . in fact, exactly as before. Or perhaps someone can quote the extract from the EU Directive and the UK enabling legislation that forbids this. It is patently nonsensical that waste fruit and vegetable matter from one’s own garden can be put in the brown bin, but not if they come from the supermarket.
So what are we supposed to do with kitchen waste? Compost it at home? Obviously just as unsafe as composting centrally and, in any case, very often impossible in small gardens and for the elderly. Put it in the black bin? Okay, but should it be wrapped in hitherto unnecessary plastic bags, or thrown in loose, contaminating the bin? Whichever way is chosen this will inevitably increase the quantity of waste going to incineration (will it really burn?) or to landfill (to produce more methane) and so reduce our current excellent recycling record.
What a shambles
-- John Parsons, Bury St Edmunds
CUT IT UP!
I think I have the answer for those who no longer wish to keep their brown bin.
Cut it up and put it in the black bin.
David Smith, Bury St Edmunds
COUNCIL, COME AND COLLECT YOUR LEAVES
Copy of a letter sent to St Edmundsbury Borough Council:
I would like to make a point about the brown bin charge, and hope we can come to some agreement about charges.
I live at the back of the playing field on Tollgate Lane, in Bury and within approximately 10 to 11 metres of my back garden there are two lines of very high sycamore trees which cause us two problems.
In the summer months there is no sunlight until 10am or 11am hence losing the sun’s heat until lunch time.
From mid-spring until late autumn the back garden is covered with sycamore leaves and seeds. The leaves from the back garden are put in the brown bin together with those from the trees in the front of our home, this accounts for approximately 90 per cent of what goes into our brown bin on a monthly basis.
So can you explain how you feel it is right for you to charge me for doing your work by collecting council waste from your trees, and then charging me to give them back to you. Or could you pay me a living wage for doing the work for you. Then I will feel a little more comfortable about paying for my brown bin charge
On a point of what is and is not your concern, a few years ago I complained to the council about the height of the trees mentioned earlier, which interfere with my TV reception, and asked if they could be trimmed down. I received a reply which very bluntly said: “Your TV aerial is of no concern to the council, and we do not think they need trimming.”
Can I therefore let you know that the leaves which cover my front and back garden from the council’s trees, are none of my concern, and I think you should clear them.
-- Tom Marsh, Bury St Edmunds
OPTIONAL CASE OF YET ANOTHER BIN?
St Edmundsbury council is imposing a service change for brown bin collection – first of all it’s not a new optional garden waste collection service, it’s a new charge for the existing collection service.
What’s next, an exciting new optional blue bin collection service followed by an even more exciting new optional black bin collection service?
For years the council has encouraged households to recycle their waste as much as possible with the blue and brown bins because they wanted to reduce the landfill costs, hence the blue and brown bins. Now they want to charge us for being good at recycling, in a world where the environment is awash with rubbish in landfill sites they want to stop people recycling their brown bin rubbish, because all that’s going to happen is those who don’t want to pay the £40 (which I assume will go up year on year?) will just dump it straight into the black bin.
I guess some people will sign up but most will not, so the collection truck will drive around collecting from a few locations, this is not very fuel efficient.
This is a poorly thought out money collection service, not a brown bin collection service, which I fear will cost the council more than it makes or breaks even at best, which might been seen as a win for the council, but sadly the environment will pay the bigger price. Well done.
-- Steven Biggs, Bury St Edmunds
CUTS WILL PUT LIVES AT RISK
We must probably accept that, given losses in government funding amounting to the equivalent of some £500,000 per year, the proposed reductions in fire and rescue manpower and equipment are inevitable and possibly prudent.
Given that the population of Suffolk is expected to increase by some 30 per cent over the next few years and because modern working practices mean fewer retained firefighters are available to quickly man local engines it is, in my opinion, inevitable that lives and property will be at greater risk.
My concern however is how the government can justify the cuts in the first place. Beyond question we are still a very wealthy country. For confirmation look at how much we annually pump into the inflated EU and foreign aid budgets, neither of which are fully accountable to us.
Indeed, closer to home, last autumn our local MP Matthew Hancock gave Kids Company £3 million of our money which promptly disappeared into a black hole just six days later when that company closed down. Had he instead given that to Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service there would have been no need for any cuts until at least 2022. He says “It is my job to help” , pity that didn’t extend to local emergency services.
-- Chris Sutton, Risby