Croft contradictions

The chairman of a long standing residents group in Old Town (PaRa) recently raised genuine issues about the Croft area’s ability to cope if the school accelerates plans to open to all years ahead of schedule.

It would have been refreshing if Coun Fionuala Foley and Coun Dale Heenan had expressed any concern for local residents in reply, rather than appearing to try to wave important issues away and adding in an unwarranted swipe.

As reported in the Adver, the duo said: “There should be no misunderstandings and I sincerely hope someone isn’t trying to be mischievous about a local school. This is something that should be supported by all residents.”

Coun Fionuala Foley, the cabinet member for children’s services, said: “As Croft School is now an academy its jurisdiction is outside the council’s control.”

To avoid any “mischievous misunderstandings”, Adver readers might like to know the following: The Croft School’s academy status was confirmed in 2012 , before Coun Foley herself cast the first vote for the school to be built.

Coun Heenan repeatedly stated on BBC Wiltshire and at the planning meeting (November 2012 ) that the school would open “in a phased manner over a seven-year period” with “annual checks to address problems as and when they arose”. Not a single “check” appears to have taken place to date.

In full knowledge of the concerns of MPs, three firms of experts and hundreds of local people, Coun Foley and Coun Heenan proceeded.

They would have been aware of the school’s academy status and relevant “jurisdiction”. This is not new information.

In 2014, with more of the children having to travel from further afield to attend this school, 58 per cent are already confirmed by car, almost double the 33 per cent originally predicted by SBC.

If Coun Heenan knew that he had no influence over the school’s opening timetable, please can he explain why he chose to make worthless assurances about a seven-year phased plan, or why speeding up the opening in the current situation is “something that should be supported by all residents”?

As full recordings exist of Coun Heenan’s radio interview and of the planning committee itself, it may be better for Coun Heenan and Coun Foley to listen to their own recorded words before making any further comment on this issue.

Carole Bent, Old Town, Swindon


Creative Wi-Fi tale

In a New Year appearance on local BBC Radio, former council leader Councillor Rod Bluh utters what will surely be classed as an inelegant inexactitude hardly worthy of a leading politician.

According to Coun Bluh, the discredited and totally failed Wi-Fi project is making a profit and never cost the council a penny.

The truth of course is very different in that the project that was Digital City is not functional and is not offering any services to the people of Swindon, as such it is incapable of providing a profit.

Secondly, the project that superseded Digital City, but only in the mindset of Coun Bluh, was UK Broadband; a deal made between Capita and UKB which according to officers has contributed nothing to the coffers of SBC either in terms of sales revenue sharing or in definable tangible savings.

Finally, the failed Digital City project cost the council tax payer over £400k which was simply the amount loaned to Digital City and Rikki Hunt.

On top of this figure were other amounts to cover legal charges, audit fees and a £10k accountants report.

The loan and subsequent charges were the subject of a legally binding agreement which allowed for action to be taken in the event that Digital City defaulted in the provision of its contractual obligations.

The Council simply decided to not invoke the default clause and allowed Mr Hunt and other directors to walk away from the wreckage of the failed project, leaving the Swindon council tax payer to pick up the bill.

At least Coun Bluh has admitted the project was flawed, something which was pointed out to him very early in the process.

However his mea culpa will not see a penny of the £400k loan plus loss of interest and other costs returned to the coffers of the council. It is simply a work of fiction for councillors Bluh and Perkins to maintain that potential savings achieved from one deal can be allocated to cover the debts of another quite different deal.

The people of Swindon understand the principle that a debt is either repaid or written off.

Clever accounting practises may assist in balancing the books and creating the illusion of control but in fact it simply serves to confirm why some politicians are held in such contempt by a sceptical public.

Des Morgan, Caraway Drive, Swindon


Beware asbestos

The recent floods that have devastated many parts of the UK could have unexpected consequences by increasing the risk of asbestos exposure.

I urge readers engaging in the cleanup process to be vigilant against the presence of this killer substance.

Natural disasters mean misery for millions and 150 properties were flooded in Surrey and Kent alone.

While asbestos is not normally harmful unless disturbed, flood waters can damage the integrity of buildings, exposing asbestos contaminated flooring, walls and ceilings, breaking down any asbestos present into fine fibres and bringing this dangerous material to the surface.

Some asbestos fibres are waterproof and can sit on the surface of water, risking being inhaled once they dry out and posing a serious health hazard.

The advice to homeowners of damaged properties is to use caution when cleaning or searching through debris and if asbestos is suspected, take no chances.

Call in a professional contractor trained and qualified in the safe removal of asbestos.

Asbestos related diseases can take 20 years to develop and there is no cure. More than 4,500 people still die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres in the UK and this remains the biggest single cause of work related deaths in the UK.

Anyone in doubt can consult the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) website at or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website asbestos for good tips and advice.

Buildings can be rebuilt and repaired but people diagnosed with asbestos related diseases have no such options.

Greater asbestos awareness will help ensure the drama of the floods does not become a health crisis in the long term.

David Nichol, Managing director of Nichol Associates and UKATA vice chairman


Teaching hatred

Last year in August the Advertiser printed a letter of mine, ‘Race card truths’, in which I said the constant demonising of migrants could take race relations back decades.

A report out last week by the charity Childline gives credibility to my concerns.

The report said that children were hearing racist language and rhetoric at home and were taking it into the classroom.

Those being bullied, most are young Muslim children, are being called terrorists and bombers.

These children born in the UK are being told to ‘clear off and leave the country’.

What kind of parent is it that fills the minds of children with such offensive views and words?

It was also said that children asking for help coincided with increasing political hostility towards immigration, not just by politicians but also I suspect by the aggressive right-wing tabloids.

I wonder how the parents and grandparents reading this letter would feel if their children/grandchildren were the victims of such abuse?

These children (and it appears the parents) need educating and reminded that there is no place in society for racism, or any other form of bigotry, be it directed at a person’s religion, sexuality or gender.

The children in the report – are they growing up to be tomorrow’s racists?

Nelson Mandela said that nobody is born hating others, so where does the hatred start from? Sadly, it appears to be in the home.

Martin Webb Swindon Road, Swindon


Religious apartheid

Throughout the last few weeks the world, including Great Britain, has been mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela and celebrating his accomplishments in ridding his country of apartheid.

Meanwhile, in our own country a different form of apartheid is emerging. I refer to religious apartheid.

This form of apartheid manifests itself in a most insidious form.

We have the example of men and women being segregated in our universities when a speaker of a certain religion is present.

Similarly, we have check out staff in our shops not prepared to serve customers because that person, due to their religious beliefs, deems that the contents of a trolley are in violation of their beliefs.

We also see certain parts of our cities becoming no go areas for people not of a particular religious belief.

My feeling on this matter is quite simple. Whatever your belief, whatever fairytale you believe in, leave it at home when you go to work; save it for Friday, Saturday or Sunday, depending on what denomination you are affiliated to.

That way we won’t inconvenience each other and that way we can all get on and not annoy each other.

C J Meek, Cloche Way, Swindon


Give money back

It’s very sad to read that our councillors feel the need to ask if it’s right to give themselves a rise in allowances.

Based on their performances in the past year I would suggest handing some back would be more appropriate.

A total of 47 councillors for the Swindon area alone is beyond belief.

I spent the last 14 years of my working life in local government in the City of Gosford in NSW Australia.

There is practically no difference in the method of administration, the area covered is over four times that of Swindon Borough, there are 78 towns and villages which include nine ocean beach suburbs, with appropriate facilities, including public toilets (remember them?), and a grand total of 10 councillors who, as civic minded individuals give their time and qualifications freely.

They are reimbursed out of pocket expenses. Just Google Gosford City council and then decide if we are being treated fairly.

Norm Birt, Derwent Drive, Swindon


Do more for pay

Our new glorious leader is seeking views on whether SBC councillors deserve more.

To put the amount in context the allowance is 40 per cent or more than the amount spent per secondary pupil in Swindon.

One councillor has informed me that the total budget is close to £1 million.

So, are they worth it? Some probably are; councillors Watts and Robbins spring to mind. Some are not and I’ll leave the reader to choose who fits this category.

The suggestion to match remuneration between SBC and Wiltshire Council is fatuous. One bunch of chancers matching another. Imagine the response if a group of workers sought parity with a group in another authority!

Councillors should be well expensed and paid only so far as it means they are not in a worse position than if they were working. If they want more, do more.

Guy Green, Old Town, Swindon


Ban cars before stopping hunts

I cannot pretend to be a regular reader of your publication but I was pointed by a friend to a letter published on January 9 this month entitled, ‘Oppose hunting evil’ and I must agree with its author Revd Jones that you cannot use numbers to justify a cause.

However, that is where we start to disagree as I feel he has rather got the wrong end of the stick when it comes to hunting.

Rather than opposing a method of wildlife management that is not only humane according to the Veterinary Association for Wildlife Management but is also undeniably an effective way of managing fox numbers, perhaps the reverend’s time would be better spent opposing the driving of cars.

Motorists not only kill many times more animals than hunts do but cars are also unselective.

You are just as likely to see a badger at the side of the road as a fox and they tend to maim rather than kill their victims so that they then die slowly and painfully over some days because of gangrene or starvation due to their wounds.

And before you tell me these are completely unrelated issues I do not think they are.

Hunting was just as important to thousands of country people as cars are to commuters or other people and as you have already stated numbers are no excuse for cruelty so motorists would seem to me to be far more ‘evil’ than hunters; or would you not agree?

Also I should just like to correct you on one other point.

You suggest that hunters ‘admit that 80 per cent of the population are against hunting’.

However, not only has no hunting association or organisation ‘admitted’ this figure is correct it is also likely this is not even true.

The poll you are referring to was commissioned by the League Against Cruel Sports and the RSPCA – two organisations that actively oppose hunting, which suggests the poll is no more independent than if it were commissioned by the Hunting Office. The poll was probably conducted within the inner-city (an area not known for its support for hunting!)

A Holman-Baird, Uppingham, Rutland