Our say is limited

In Councillor Renard’s most recent column (SA, 16 January) he invites the public to comment on the council’s budget proposals or, at least, “those parts on which we are consulting”.

Visitors to the website will find that the consultation extends to just seven items of expenditure, five of which relate to adult social care, one to libraries and one to parks and crematoria.

As a layman who is not a carer or a recipient of social care I find it difficult to understand what impact the social care proposals will actually have.

In regard to libraries, the council has launched a separate consultation which includes proposals to reduce paid staff and convert all the smaller libraries to a “community model”. This consultation is open until April 5, but the decision on how much money to remove from the libraries budget will actually be made early in February. Strange timing.

Why is the public not being allowed to comment on all the rest of the council’s spending? Every time they decide to transfer council-run buildings or services to the private sector they commission a firm of consultants to tell them how best to do it. Why is spending less on consultancy never considered?

Elsewhere in your January 16 edition we learn that the council now has only one gully sweeper and one road sweeper for the whole of the borough. I don’t recall the public being consulted about that.

Earlier you reported that the Cabinet member for finance believes that the option of increasing council tax should be considered this year. If that option were chosen, why is the public not being told exactly what extra services could be provided (or, more likely, which ones need not be cut) so that people could then express a fully informed opinion one way or the other? That would be a proper consultation.

Peter Gallagher, Folkestone Road, Swindon


What price vanity?

What a crazy country we live in.

MP Ian Duncan Smith, charged with this policy of reducing the cost of social benefit payments, has had his portrait painted at a cost to the tax payer of £10,000.

Well, it is good to see that he has got his priorities in the right order.

C J Meek Cloche Way Upper Stratton Swindon


Wake up, STFC

I too support Sam Morshead for doing his job, as on the front page of SA on Wednesday, January 15.

I am an avid supporter of Swindon Town FC but I will go as far as to blame them for the problems between club and paper.

If you have a decision you want kept secret, you don’t hang it on a hook in the dressingroom and then invite people to view, armed with picture-taking mobiles to prove it and circulate what they see. Wake up, STFC, and apologise.

L Carter, Dart Avenue, Swindon


It’s just guesswork

In reply to Des Morgan of January 2, the government has not given us any estimates, targets or quotas for the number of immigrants that will be coming here from Romania and Bulgaria.

In light of this it will be difficult to judge whether the government’s immigration policy has been a success or failure.

Noel Gardner, Carlisle Avenue, Swindon


I’m totally foxed

I have always wondered what goes through the minds of people who go fox hunting on horse back, accompanied with a pack of hounds.

I’ve come to the conclusion not a lot, only their self importance!

They try to convince us, and themselves, fox hunting is a country sport and a way of keeping the number of foxes down. With all sincerity, I say it isn’t either! It’s a pastime of the wealthy with a superiority complex!

The truth is, the vast majority of the people in this land of ours see it as uncivilised, and feel empathy towards our fellow fox. When this so called upper class is ever challenged, they throw their toys out of the pram.

I read recently in the Telegraph, and I can only deduce as a rant, the chief of the Country Alliance accused the RSPCA of being a nasty, sinister organisation, among other things. Where would we be, and more so the plight of animals, if it wasn’t for the good work of the RSPCA?

If they really want to participate in a country sport and get fresh air into their lungs, why don’t they try orienteering. If this proves too tame for them and not exhilarating enough, why not Cumberland wrestling?

William Abraham, Rodbourne, Swindon


It doesn’t add up

Another day, another report on the urgent need for school places in North Swindon.

SBC has several managers responsible for planning school places and years of notice of school need from both existing families and proposed developments. So, why is this now urgent?

In simple terms, the SBC statement that additional school places in 2014 for North Swindon will be satisfied by the Tadpole Farm School is not supported by SBC’s own data.

Whilst every parent has the right to apply for their school of choice, school place planning and the attendant DfE funding has been based on the child’s location.

North Swindon reasonably expected two new primary schools. One in 2014, the other for the 1700 home Tadpole Farm development.

SBC repeatedly states that they are providing additional school places for North Swindon in 2014. Yet SBC’s own data shows North Swindon had 540 reception places in 2012 and will have 540 reception places in 2014 and that these 540 places are needed even without the introduction of the Tadpole Farm development.

All that the Tadpole Farm School and the Orchid Vale extension will do is replace the 90 temporary reception places in North Swindon which were introduced in 2012.

Crest Nicholson are fulfilling their obligation to build a school within Tadpole Farm earlier than agreed (for who knows what reason or concessions?) but there is nothing to say that this school is for the children from Tadpole Farm.

The DfE have arguably already paid for a new school for North Swindon need in 2009. Having granted £6,374,000 to SBC, the Cabinet decided to allocate all these funds to the Class Solutions 420 pupil prototype on the Croft. Therefore who is to pay for this missing North Swindon primary school, when and where will it be?

Why are North Swindon ward councillors so quiet on this matter? Maybe they don’t understand or are afraid to go public?

In the meantime, where will the children from the 1700 home Tadpole Farm development go to school?

Old Town already has overcapacity and the town centre will have a new primary school in 2014. The White Horse Federation wish to open the Croft School to all year groups in 2015, 3 years ahead of schedule. SBC’s own data did not and does not support this for local need.

If the Croft School is permitted to open in all year groups in 2015 without a full, open and transparent review of school places across Swindon, will North Swindon children have to travel to Old Town?

Might Couns Foley and Renard state all the council has to do is to provide sufficient places within the borough, it’s up to the parents to get them there.

Kareen Boyd, Old Town, Swindon


Spare a thought

A New Year always brings a sense of hope and as all of us adopt our various resolutions, I would urge your readers to resolve to make a difference this year and support The British Polio Fellowship in raising awareness of the plight of those living with polio and post polio syndrome (PPS) in the UK.

This year is The British Polio Fellowship’s 75th anniversary and already two of our members have been recognised in the New Year Honours list for their efforts and you too can play your part.

Our colleagues in the European Polio Union have prepared a political manifesto for the disabled, making specific reference to PPS. This calls upon the EU Parliament and national Parliaments to recognise polio survivors in their own right and finally deliver official acknowledgement of PPS.

You can help by asking your MP to support an Early Day Motion (EDM) in Parliament tabled by Andrew Love, MP; and by ensuring your prospective MEP supports the manifesto in the elections to the European Parliament in May.

MPs and MEPs are your representatives and making it clear to them that the rights of the disabled matter, the better it is for us all and what a fine legacy for our 75th anniversary year it would be in 2014 is the year PPS is finally recognised by all governments as a medical reality.

Over 120,000 people in Britain are suffering with PPS – and despite this being a similar number to those with Parkinson’s – this devastating neurological condition can be missed or even mis-diagnosed, which is why Andrew’s EDM calls for the Department of Health to bring forward a strategy to address an issue that occurs in approx. Eighty per cent of people who have had polio.

Full details of how you can get involved are on the charity’s website at www.britishpolio.org.uk which has a lot of helpful advice for those with polio or PPS or call us on freephone 0800 018 0586.

Ted Hill MBE CEO, The British Polio Fellowship


Shipping reunion

Did you ever serve on board any of the light fleet carriers, HMS Bulwark, HMS Albion or HMS Centaur? Our Association – the HMS Bulwark Albion Centaur Association – is open to anyone who served at any time on these ships.

We send a magazine three times per year and run events including AGM/socials, sea trips with HMS Bulwark and anniversary commemorations at home and abroad. Last year we were at the Royal Beach, Southsea for our annual AGM/social. This year we shall be at Southport on 9/12 May for the AGM/social and at Sheerness and Chatham in November 2014 for centenary commemorations of the sinking of the 5th HMS Bulwark in 1914. We also sponsor sea cadets from our affiliated Sea Cadet Corps on three training ships – one sail, two motor.

Membership is all of £8 per annum. Enquiries to me at the address below or email at ngsfo@tiscali.co.uk or visit our website at www.bulwarkassoc.co.uk.

Leigh Easton, Membership Secretary, Glenmoray, Hayford Place, Cambusbarron, Stirling, FK7 9JX


Tell us the truth

How devious can the Coalition get? Because they know that people are scared of fracking taking place in their area, they have come up with a scheme where the companies involved pay cash into the local community.

The history of fracking shows that there are unforeseen problems that can have dire consequences. The cash sweetener these companies are offering won’t help if your house has disappeared into the ground or the water pouring from your tap is rendered unsafe to drink.

But our politicians are already well versed in how to take risks on our behalf.The major parties are pressing ahead with nuclear power in the face of adverse public opinion being against. Nor is this a NIMBY action.They have done this on the grounds that cost savings outweigh the risks.

Shaun Henley, Address supplied