This week’s letters - 15/08/13

Skerton High School
Skerton High School

Skerton has to be saved: Should Skerton High close? Let me add my voice to the resounding “No!” from pupils, parents and teachers in the Lancaster community.

We need Skerton because it’s a small school, where they go the extra mile with every child, whatever their needs, and know how to get the best from young people who have already experienced failure and unhappiness at other schools.

Parents have always chosen Skerton High for sound educational reasons; many more would have done so over the years if not for the constant rumours of closure.

The decision-makers down in Preston say Lancaster has spare school places.

But for parents here, without Skerton High there is only one local school to ‘choose’ if a Christian education or an academic single-sex grammar isn’t for you.

It’s a move that encourages more people to send their children out of town and out of the county to get their high school education.

So many local children are educated in Cumbria that we have the equivalent of Lancashire outsourcing a complete high school.

This ties parents into high bus travel costs and children into longer journey times.

Lancashire says it can’t afford Skerton High because there are too few pupils.

I say they should count the true costs – such as young people permanently out of school because nowhere else can successfully educate them.

That’s a lifelong cost to the state in many cases.

Count the cost of having to provide special school education for children who would otherwise go through mainstream schooling with their friends. Skerton has the spirit and the capacity to come out of “serious weaknesses” and a loyal community that will help it grow in size again.

What it needs is politicians and officers at Lancashire County level who provide support rather than undermine with threats of closure.

Coun Caroline Jackson

(Green Party)

Assistant/deputy head Skerton 2002-7, head, Hornby High 2007-2009

Power to the pedallers

I have sent a letter to David Morris MP and Eric Ollerenshaw MP urging them to attend the debate of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report, Get Britain Cycling, that will take place on the first day after the long summer recess.

It is imperative that the two elected members of Parliament who have the privilege to represent this beautiful district make an effort to take an interest in this report because we were a cycling demonstration town with first class cycle routes that need to be promoted nationally but also improved.

We have great potential to expand our cycle routes further.

This country will enjoy enormous benefits by promoting cycling in regard to our health, economy and environment but also cycling promotes well being for many people.

The time is right to start recognising these benefits, with interest and participation in cycling at an all time high following Britain’s Olympic and Tour de France successes.

There has been no clear or concise policy directive from the Government on cycling but the All Party Parliamentary 
Report provides Parliament with a chance to demonstrate the country’s need for political leadership to promote cycling to its full potential in this country.

The Get Britain Cycling report sets out a clear action plan and benchmark and has indeed received near unanimous cross party support.

The Get Britain Cycling report recommends an increase cycle use from less than two per cent of journeys in 2011, to 10 per cent of all journeys in 2025. Around the country communities are seeking leadership on this issue and to be effective the next steps must be led from the very top.

The key priorities from the report include:

l Ensuring cycling is designed into all future roads, junctions and relevant transport policies.

l All children to be given the chance to learn the skills of road cycling, at primary and secondary school.

l Government funding on cycling to be £10 per head of the population.

I do hope that our two elected members take an interest in this report and attend this debate. It is about encouraging healthy lifestyles and promoting a greener environment.

Coun David Whitaker

Labour, Harbour Ward

Arcade lacks little extras

I quite like the new ‘St Nics’ signage outside St Nicholas Arcades.

It will look even better when the full stop and apostrophe arrive in the post.

Steve Smith

Roosevelt Avenue

Lancaster

Royal Mail can prosper

Your readers may be interested to understand what the recent announcement by the UK Government on the privatisation of Royal Mail means for our customers, our business and our people.

The UK Government has acknowledged it is not a good owner of large businesses.

Private ownership will enable Royal Mail to become more flexible and fleet of foot in the fiercely competitive markets in which we operate.

We will also have long-term access to capital when we need it.

The Government has made clear it doesn’t have the money to allocate to Royal Mail ahead of schools and hospitals.

We aim to combine the best of the public and private sectors. The six-day-a-week, one-price-goes-anywhere, affordable 
Universal Service will remain unchanged.

It is protected by law – enshrined in the Postal Services Act 2011.

Any change would have to be passed through an affirmative vote in both Houses of Parliament.

The Quality of Service regime that applies to Royal Mail under public ownership will continue to apply under private ownership.

Ofcom has already specified the minimum standards under regulation.

Royal Mail will continue to offer good value for money. UK stamp prices are among the best value in the EU.

Our people are at the heart of Royal Mail. The current position is that all terms and conditions that apply now to Royal Mail employees would remain in place, on the same basis, were the company to be sold.

To provide further reassurance, we will create a legally-binding and enforceable contract with the CWU. Pay and protections could not be changed for the period of the contract without CWU agreement.

Approximately 150,000 eligible UK employees will receive free shares giving them a 10 per cent stake in the business.

This is the largest free stake than in any other major UK privatisation for almost 30 years.

Many previously Government-owned companies – like Rolls Royce and British Airways - have flourished under private ownership.

We believe privatisation will equip Royal Mail for similar success.

Stuart Simpson

Head of Operations

Royal Mail

West Region

When were cuts fair?

Wages in the public sector either have not been raised for some years or have been low percentage rises below the rate of inflation.

Apparently this is because the economy won’t support this any more and, anyway, workers in the private sector have had to suffer so why not those in the public sector too? After all, that’s only fair isn’t it?

Of course this doesn’t apply to company bosses whose mega pay rises are apparently needed to recruit and retain the best talent; or so they say.

If pay rises aren’t happening for ordinary people then surely it must be fair to restrict benefit rises for working age claimants.

If those in work can only have one per cent then why not those on benefit? Let’s ignore that with inflation that this is actually a cut in subsistence levels of income.

And, let’s not kid ourselves on what the effects are. It doesn’t mean switching from shopping at Sainsbury’s to Aldi. It means that people, children, go hungry and has meant a rising, shameful need for food banks.

Anyway, people should work rather than claim benefits, shouldn’t they? That’s fair.

So, if you are unable to work due to ill health you’ll be forced to attend an ATOS medical assessment. And you may be found fit for work. That sounds fair.

But a large percentage of ATOS assessments are overturned on appeal; and we’ve all heard of those disgraceful cases where severely ill or disabled people are told they are fit for work. And, even a, thankfully, small number of those have actually died within months of being told they are fit enough for work.

Despite NHS funding being ‘ring fenced’ let’s make this fairer too.

There isn’t enough money so some front line services will need to be “reviewed” (now there’s a scary word).

Our rural communities have had their buses and services removed, although they still have their local GP.

But, hang on, these GPs aren’t seeing the same number of patients that an overworked, stressed city GP is. So, they cost more per patient. That can’t be fair can it?

Let’s remove these small village GP surgeries (this may actually happen in Coniston).

The sick and the elderly will have to travel on their non-existent or inadequate, privatised bus service to the nearest town. If there actually is a bus it make take an hour or more. But that’s fair.

So, when this Government says they are being fair it’s time to worry, because being fair to a them is another way of saying ‘we’re going to make some cuts’.

Colin Hartley

Alderman Road

Lancaster

Community for sailors

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 annual meetings/socials, sea trips with HMS Bulwark and anniversary commemorations at home and abroad.

This year we were at the Royal Beach, Southsea, for our annual meeting/social.

Next year we shall be at Southport on May 9-12 for the annual meeting/social and at Chatham for anniversary 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 Leigh Easton, Glenmoray, Hayford Place, Cambusbarron, Stirling, FK7 9JX or email at ngsfo@tiscali.co.uk or visit our website at www.bulwarkassoc.co.uk.

Leigh Easton

Membership secretary