What matters to you - Guardian Letters June 25th

Lancaster Town Hall.
Lancaster Town Hall.
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The hot topics of the week were: the TTIP trade deal, rural broadband, traffic tailbacks, Macmillan volunteers, simple pleasures, men’s health

TOP JOB: Maybe we can save on top council job

The CEO of Lancaster Council has announced he will resign and no doubt councillors will be discussing who will replace him, but I ask why we need to replace him at all.

He costs the council taxpayers £125,000 p.a. plus expenses (EDITOR’S NOTE - the annual salary plus expenses for the chief executive is just over £108,000) yet the tasks carried out by a CEO no longer justify this amount.

In council meetings the CEO advises on procedure, but often has to refer to the experts on this, the head of governance, a qualified lawyer or her deputy, also a qualified lawyer, for guidance.

So we don’t need a CEO for this.

The CEO is paid to head the election process, but we already have an officer who has responsibility for this who copes perfectly well without the CEO.

When we need someone to announce the results of the election, we have numerous people who are excellent public speakers.

So we don’t need a CEO for this.

Every aspect of council work is headed by an expert in the field, who controls the activities of his own staff.

These already report to the two committees of councillors, budget and performance and overview and scrutiny. So we don’t need a CEO for that.

In the past the role of the CEO has on occasions been to protect the departmental heads from scrutiny, which is most likely a main reason for inefficiency experienced in the council, so the elimination of the post of CEO could actually improve the performance of the Council.

Finally, at every budget time in the past four years, the leader of the council, Eileen Blamire, has claimed that we, unlike two thirds of the councils in England, cannot balance the books without increasing our council tax, so the the cash from his pay packet, when added to the budget, would eliminate the need for us to pay more every year.

Keith Sowden, Stephens Grove, Overton, Morecambe

WORLD TRADE: Danger in this deal

I’m writing to spread the word about TTIP. It’s a dangerous trade deal being negotiated in secret between the EU and US.

I’m one of two million people who have signed the petition to scrap the deal.

This deal could allow big corporations to buy up some our most vital services like the NHS.

It would also give big businesses the power to sue our government if they don’t like the laws that protect all of us. That’s just not right.

Our MEPs were meant to vote on TTIP recently - but when it looked like they might actually vote against TTIP, the Parliament’s president cancelled the vote! MEPs still need to know that the public want TTIP scrapped. They need to feel public pressure.

Greg Webber, South Cumbria (Address supplied)

RURAL BROADBAND: Deserving their MBEs

I was delighted to see the coverage in your paper of the MBEs awarded to Barry Forde and Chris Conder of Broadband for the Rural North.

The hard work they have put in goes way beyond the “services” and “campaigning” which is mentioned in the citation.

Thanks are due to them from many rural residents – without B4RN there would be little prospect of accessing any sensible broadband speed.

For example, in our village of Cantsfield, many residents were unable to get any broadband service at all over the old, buried, BT lines whereas since the fibre was installed last month every property has access to the hyperfast B4RN network.

Our own broadband speed has increased by a factor of 3,000.

Whilst writing, I would also like to thank the many other volunteers who made it happen, not least the local farmers for allowing access and for working hard to lay the fibre.

Roderick Burgess, Cantsfield House, Cantsfield

LANCASTER TRAFFIC: Ways to cut tailbacks

I was very interested to read Brian Jefferson’s letter on our city’s traffic problems in the recent Guardian. I believe the proposals are all sound and should be widely debated and actioned, where practical.

I am surprised that no councillor, or member of the traffic department, has responded to the letter, which has been in two editions of the Guardian.

It would certainly help people visualise what is proposed if The Guardian were to print a map of the proposals so that they are easier to understand; many people will not be familiar with the ideas.

A map should also encourage people to suggest other ways of helping the traffic flow – I am sure there are other measures that readers might suggest. I would add an idea of my own below:

The junction of Owen Road(the A 6) and the Torrisholme Road is a case in point.

A system to filter traffic (as happens in Canada) would reduce congestion at busy periods.

I would suggest a filter on the traffic lights going north on the A6 at the left turn into Torrisholme Road would reduce the tail back into the city and, perhaps, moving the bus stop 100 metres west would help.

Also traffic in Torrisholme Road turning north could use a filter to get on the A6, making more use of the time the traffic lights allow. I am not sure who in the new council has responsibility for implementing traffic flow ideas.

However, if approved, it should not be difficult to implement them as there does not seem to be a lot of cost involved.

I hope this will stimulate debate.

Perhaps the proposals are not practical for some reasons that are unknown but let’s hear from those who have responsibility for this problem

Peter Dew, Halton

CHARITY SUPPORT: Be part of our team

Macmillan Cancer Support needs volunteers in Lancashire to become part of a new Action Team. The Action Team is a team of volunteers who sign up to support Macmillan in their local area.

As a member of your local Action Team, you’ll be offered a variety of volunteering opportunities – you decide which events and activities you want to support, how often you volunteer and you choose whether the time and date suits you.

Today in the UK, 1,000 people will be told the news they have cancer.

We would like to be there for each and every one of them, however, to continue to provide our expert medical, emotional, practical and financial help – we need you.

Volunteers could be involved many activities.

In return, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are making a real difference to the lives of

local people affected by cancer along with the

chance to meet some new people.

For more information call Fiona on 07894 936 363 or email fdundas@macmillan.org.uk, or call 0808 8080000.

Macmillan Cancer Support

SIMPLE PLEASURES: Ashamed of our ridicule

On Saturday as I was walking along the canal towpath into Lancaster, I saw a Polish woman – probably in her early 40s – ambling along the towpath at a leisurely pace picking wild flowers.

The simple act of picking wild flowers, enjoying the sight of seeing swans with their signets and ducks with their ducklings on the canal on such a beautiful English summer’s morning was very plain to see on her face.

We people in England take for granted such simple pleasures, but such pleasures in her native Poland under former Communist rule, and during WW2, must have been very few and far between, and it makes me ashamed to be British when I read in the press and hear people ridiculing and castigating Polish people who have come to settle in the Lancaster/Morecambe area.

The expression on the face of this Polish woman, who was probably experiencing personal freedom for the first time in her life, was an absolute joy to behold.

Norman Tomlinson, Elterwater Place, Lancaster

HEALTH: Please men, don’t be shy

British men are notorious for their reserve when it comes to discussing health matters, and Men’s Health Week just marked has been a perfect time to start talking.

Men can be especially shy about issues below the waist and behind the toilet cubicle door.

While difficulties like constipation can be the result of stress, poor diet or certain medications, changes to bowel habits can sometimes be indicators of more serious problems.

It’s very important that men take control of their health and are more open when it comes to talking about concerns.

In my 40+ years working with people in the health arena, I’ve found humour can be a great way to start a conversation about issues we might find embarrassing.

Stand Up/Sit Down is a new short film from Dulcolax, featuring four of the UK’s brightest, up-and-coming comedians cracking jokes about the ‘poo taboo’ and discussing men’s reluctance to talk about not being able to ‘go’. You can watch the film at www.letstalkconstipation.co.uk, which also includes information and a free bowel health App.

Shared experience is so important in feeling confident to talk and I hope this film helps men.

Prof Alex Gardner, Chartered psychologist and psychotherapist, London