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Letters, February 14, 2014

PUBLISHED: 11:31 14 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:31 14 February 2014

Savings will lead to more support

I was disappointed to read Cllr Trevor Wainwright’s comments in an article on the Mercury, February 7. I am concerned he has misrepresented the facts of Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s financial support from Central Government.

First, the council is actually in a far better financial position than Central Government was originally able to offer – the hard work of our MP, Brandon Lewis has led to a great deal of money being made available if the council makes certain efficiency savings.

Second, GYBC has built up considerable reserves over recent years – these appear to be ignored in the comments given to the local press, favouring cutbacks to frontline services.

Third, GYBC enjoys a spending power per dwelling above the national average. Indeed, this spending power is one of the highest in Norfolk and East Anglia. GYBC has a spending power per dwelling of £317.66, compared to an average of £265.94 in Norfolk. To suggest GYBC is the “hardest hit” council in the UK when it still enjoys such spending power per dwelling is misleading – one can only assume this stance is being taken for party political purposes.

Fourth, Cllr Wainwright comments that sharing services would save “a minimal” £50,000. Councils across the UK are finding around 18pc in savings from sharing services in new and innovative ways. Rather than looking at one option, dismissing it out of hand and stating the option is useless, the council would better serve the people of Great Yarmouth by looking at other options, meeting representatives from councils who have had a great deal of success in sharing and finding a better way. There are over 40 examples of local authorities making huge savings by working together and thinking outside the box.

Should GYBC do the same, its financial future would be far better maintained, with frontline services continued or improved for local people, without relying so heavily on Government handouts.

The Transformation Challenge Award is an example of the incentives in place for councils to share services and innovate. Under the Labour Government, local authorities were rewarded for failure – the worse a council did, the more money was bunged into their bank accounts to keep them afloat. The Transformation Challenge Award, which is worth approximately £6.9m, rewards success. Those authorities who make changes, streamline finances and save money to the benefit of local people are given extra money to expand these schemes and develop them further. I note with disappointment that GYBC did not even bid for any of this funding.

Cllr Wainwright gave the impression of his hands being tied by external forces. I am calling on him now to show leadership, instruct officers, take up the help being offered by Central Government, meet representatives from councils making radical changes and make GYBC work for local people.

Cllr GRAHAM PLANT

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Town’s identity being demolished

I cannot believe how Great Yarmouth and the surrounding area is being allowed to be redeveloped. How can it be that we lose the only remaining and local electrical store from our town centre, taking away another part of the town’s identity?

How can they say yes to demolish a key historical building to replace it with a unimaginative design of building? How can they think about having a development that will include new pubs? It doesn’t make sense. The Two Bears (great name) would make a great family pub and offer out of area visitors to Cobholm and offer new jobs. Keep Hughes in town...we like having you there.

Reduce parking in town to 50p an hour again and encourage people back into the town, not out of town. How can town parking charges at the moment compete with free out of town parking. We need a clear plan of what actually takes priority. Yes, we need the jobs and we need retail in town, but we also need more manufacturing in the area. We cannot just rely on retail/ seasonal jobs.

Name and Address withheld

More schools are being criticised

So many schools are now being criticised by Ofsted, which is not surprising when government after government keeps interfering with the curriculum and teachers and support staff are constantly being told what they are teaching is to be changed.

Good teachers/support staff are being pushed out, fed up with constant changes, no-one is encouraged to give older staff better professional development and instead of being shown new ways to implement changes it is more cost effective to show them the door.

Often with them goes enthusiasm for extra curricular activities such as hockey, football, athletics etc, which funnily enough schools have all just been given money for, to enable them to promote better fitness! Make your mind up for goodness sake, are our children to be fit, are they to be able to read and write or shall they all now become computer programmers?

Lynne Grove is just the latest in a long line of schools to suffer at the hands of Ofsted, funny really that the school it sponsors (Woodlands) was deemed two years ago to be in need of help and support and now finds itself being sponsored by a school that is rated as inadequate.

I am sure the primary school parents’ level of anxiety will be increased unnecessarily and all of this school’s efforts will be again brought into question quite unfairly.

Is it me or has the whole system gone completely mad? I am all for ensuring our children are being taught by the best teachers the school can possibly employ, but maybe they need to ensure they have teachers to teach and managers to manage? Lots of teachers are fantastic in class, but lots will tell you they didn’t want to be administrators or managers which is what many are becoming.

Education Secretary Michael Gove, when giving evidence at the Levenson Inquiry in 2012, said he was unashamedly on the side of those who say we should think very carefully before legislation and regulation because the cry “something must be done” often leads to people doing something which isn’t always wise... shame he didn’t apply the same philosophy regarding education reforms he is insisting on.

I hope very much, as has been discussed recently, that Ofsted are also subjected to detailed scrutiny, that they take on board recommended changes or if we are really lucky get disbanded along with the Oxford educated Mr Gove.

LIZ SIMON

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Councillors voted against bus loss

I would like to correct the article in last week’s Mercury reference “School bus pass solution.”

I have been fighting this decision to remove the free school bus passes since I was elected to County Council last May. I wish to point out it was not the county councillors who withdrew the free passes, in fact the majority of councillors voted against the removal at two full Council meetings, but this was completely ignored by the Cabinet on both occasions, who went ahead and made the decision.

Three councillors, Colin Aldred, Matthew Smith and Alan Grey, actually called in the decision of the Cabinet at the next Cabinet Scrutiny Committee. We put it to both Cabinet members (Mick Castle and George Nobbs) that the decision they made was not a safe one as the path along New Road, Belton was not fit for purpose. It is not wide enough for both cyclist and pedestrians to use at the same time. I was assured it was deemed safe in accordance with the criteria set out by Government and the decision by the Cabinet stood.

If, as I understand, the Academy is willing to pay for passes for the foreseeable future and the borough council will also try to help, this is good news for the children. I only wish we as councillors could help you financially but I am afraid our hands are tied. If, however, a solution arises in the future, as well it might once the county council is run on the committee system then maybe we can look at this again. Please do not hesitate to contact either myself or any of the county councillors that represent your parishes if you have anything you wish to discuss with us.

COLIN ALDRED

County councillor (UKIP)

Lothingland Division

Blaming pupils is unforgivable

I have to write and say that, from a school governor’s point of view, I am absolutely appalled by Alison Mobbs’ comments about the recent Lynn Grove High School Ofsted report. For a headteacher to pass the buck and blame her ex-Year 11 students for the terrible report is absolutely unforgivable.

Had Ofsted given the school a glowing report I don’t doubt Mrs Mobbs would have been only too happy to absorb the praise so, in the same way, she should now shoulder the blame as the school leader. I would hope either the governors or even a higher authority would now be asking some searching questions.

I am an experienced school governor at another school.

Name and Address withheld

Why did pupils not do as well?

I am a Lynn Grove leaver of 2013 so the comments Miss Mobbs made is about my academic year. I am disgusted she would blame a “significant group... did not do as well as hoped”? Does anyone ever wonder why a “significant group” did not do as well as they could?

I would say it is more down to the school as Ofsted reported: “Work was not always marked and staff did not always tell pupils about their learning targets.” I would say this is more of a reason if the pupils do not receive proper and adequate feedback as I had this problem.

I wouldn’t say Lynn Grove is a bad school but I would say something needs to be done.

DANIEL JONES

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Surprised school was outstanding

Ms Mobbs’ statement about a significant group of people at Lynn Grove not doing as well as hoped in their GCSE’s only happened because of the standard of teaching and the lack of control the teachers have in the classroom. I am surprised the school was ever classified as outstanding.

FRASER GIBSON

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I feel betrayed by comments

I am a leaver of Lynn Grove High School, and am feeling a little betrayed by a comment made by the head teacher blaming the Ofsted report on recent GCSE students’ results, of which a “significant group... did not do as well as hoped”. It feels as if the weight of the failure has been directed towards recent leavers in an effort to cover up the other issues.

ETHAN WRIGHT

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Outraged by the head’s words

I was a student at Lynn Grove High School last year and achieved my GCSE results last summer and in total I received one A*, five A grades, 4 B grades, one C grade and one D grade. Despite me being considerably happy with my GCSE results I do not disagree with the Ofsted report.

While I travelled through the years of the school since it became an academy I did notice considerable change and not for the better. However, after reading through the full Ofsted report I am completely outraged with the comments by the current head teacher Alison Mobbs.

I feel let down and annoyed she would even attempt to blame the school’s failings on last year’s Year 11’s when the Ofsted report itself details exactly what is going wrong. The Year 11 students have been used as an excuse for the school’s failings, which is completely wrong.

The head teacher has made no attempt to make the public aware there were students from last year’s cohort that did do considerably well, however this success was due to large amounts of revision and study at home.

Through working hard too obtain my results I have been awarded a place at a residential college in Hampshire to study fishery management. If I hadn’t succeeded, then how would I have come so far since leaving Lynn Grove?

MACAULEY CHAPMAN

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Replace bulbs with annuals

I think scrapping ward budgets is a good idea, if the article from April 2013 about councillors and their £2,000 allocation is to be believed, of 39 wards only 29 spent theirs. Doesn’t sound a lot but it is, as stated in the article, a saving of £78,000.

The council could also make a saving by not planting hundreds of flowers etc, two or three times a year on the seafront, outside the Town Hall, along South Quay and anywhere else in the borough that usually has them. Have they not heard of annual plants or shrubs that look good all year round, every year, without having to dig them up and re-plant.

If they put in two sets of annual plants that bloom between spring and autumn or one or two sets of shrubs (where the leaves do not die but stay green in winter) every year, they wouldn’t then need to replace them and save a few thousand pounds.

If they do it for the award for best flowers, forget it. Permanent well tended annual plants can look just as good.

P LONG

Great Yarmouth

Looking for my family history

I am trying to find any descendants of Joseph Haylett of Great Yarmouth and Sheila Margaret Burke. They were married in India (Dinapore, Bengal) in 1942 and had at least two children. They were Ian Joseph Haylett (born 1943 at Jamshedpur, Bengal) and Sheila K Haylett (born 1945 at Yarmouth).

I would be grateful to hear from anyone who has information on this family as I have hit a brick wall in working on my family history. I can be contacted by email at allanj.sarum@gmail.com or by phone on 01722 330365.

A JARVIS,

Salisbury

Beaconsfield: answer queries

Facts that need to be known about Beaconsfield recreation park. I agree with Mick Castle that facts should be more widely known and wonder if some of my queries could be answered please.

Will the public be able to use the park in term time at any time during the day?

Barnard Bridge would be given to the borough. Lovely, but what will happen to people in central Yarmouth if we are stopped using Beaco during term time?

How would the pitches be kept in good condition if they are used so much, these pitches are used at weekends for many football teams?

I believe it would be preferred for the high school students to walk across the road to beaco for PE. But it will be expected for the younger children of Northgate Road school to have to walk the length of Beaconsfield Road to get to the ground as their grassed area will be closed off from traffic between North Denes Road and Marine Crescent, hence more parking problems for the people of Salisbury Road and surrounding area.

Everybody wants the best for our local children but neither do we want daily usage of the park being taken away from the public.

I understand 500 places are needed in the next five years. Where are all these children coming from? I hope enough teachers and staff will be increased for the new intake.

BARRY HEWITT

Nursery Terrace,

Great Yarmouth

MP has seen the loss of our pubs

Since Brandon Lewis was elected MP in Yarmouth in 2010 our very own “Minister for Pubs” has seen the closure of about a third of the public houses in Yarmouth and Gorleston. All those businesses, jobs and well known establishments gone.

When I questioned him about the matter last year he said he accepted “…the valuable role that pubs play in communities…” Then he went on about a Code of Practise to help adjudicate between the pub companies and the hard pressed tenants that may or may not happen.

These pub companies appear to want to charge high rents just to close the businesses down and build houses on the sites. This has happened and is still happening at the Cap and Gown/Sportsmans and the White Horse in Gorleston. Meanwhile large areas of householders are faced with nowhere to go within walking distance.

Of course nothing has yet come from the proposed code. I suspect we are having to wait until there are no pubs left before it is introduced. It appears Brandon is as effective as an emergency flood plan in Somerset.

PATRICK SMITH

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Thanks for the skills workshop

I would like to thank Amy, the Ingeus workshop facilitator on her very interesting workshop on February 6 about Core Interview Skills. Amy explained how to prepare for an interview, how to answer the difficult questions and how to ask the interviewer relevant and interesting questions. I really learned a lot from this lady who delivered a very professional and well presented workshop. I look forward to the next workshop.

COLIN THOMPSON

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Who’s deciding ‘listing’ status?

Council staff and unknown others are compiling a local list of buildings with sufficient heritage interest to be considered worth preserving. The idea is that listed status would protect them.

That could be a worthy aim but in reality it is only a pious hope.

It is highly unrealistic to suppose that any planning committee would pay extra attention to listed status when economic or social advantages are to be obtained, especially when the protection is not backed up by law.

A number of issues should be raised before these secret arrangements are taken too far and become fixed.

Who decided which members of the public should be involved and do they have any particular expertise to justify their selection? Others may have different views about what should be listed. Certain buildings in Gorleston have been listed already; others may have made other choices.

The owners of these buildings have presumably been informed but have they been made aware of possible implications?

Prospective buyers may feel put off by concern that they may feel pressurised into preserving cute heritage features such as Georgian staircases or scraps of Victorian wallpaper which they do not want and which in any case are not all that unusual.

Councillors will laugh off the idea that taxpayers’ money could be spent on such buildings; that would be illegal they would claim. Apart from the fact that council staff time and money is already being spent on the project one can reply that if a council can contribute to the cost of sea defences on a private beach then they can easily decide to pay to preserve its listed buildings. It would be interesting to know which sites have already been selected for listing.

There should certainly be more publicity about this project; members of the public may be able to identify buildings with features not generally known. It is a project in which all, including specialists, should be engaged and which should really be managed not by a clique but by a Great Yarmouth Society open to all.

J F LAMBERT

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Use dependable tidal wave power

I marvelled as a child when the small device called a dynamo, generated electricity on my bicycle giving me dazzling free lights front and back. Why did they do away with the dynamo?

Now we see on a similar but much larger idea the ubiquitous “windmills” getting bigger and more prevalent as time progresses to generate electricity. The definitive carbuncle on the landscape.

Now I read of a company - Tidal Lagoon Power which has submitted plans to Swansea council to build a tidal energy plant within a lagoon for clean and reliable energy. If accepted it would be the largest tidal power plant in the world.

What is a tidal lagoon? A harbour structure that can close off a tidal sea area. Turbines are used through which sea moves to generate electricity. The planning application hopes to give renewable energy to 120,000 people for 120 years. We already have the lagoon here - the white elephant they call the Outer Harbour. Could we not emulate the idea here in Great Yarmouth?

I have often watched the roaring tides ebb and flow up and down the Yare, twice a day come what may...

Surely this energy could be harnessed? Come on Yarmouth, if you want to make a real impact in the energy world forsake the inefficient windmills and use the ever dependable tides, your little dynamo!

PAUL PASCALL

Lynn Grove

Gorleston

Thanks for your good wishes

My husband Bob and I would like to thank all the many people and organisations from the Great Yarmouth community who have wished us so well and my speedy recovery from cancer. It has been an enormous comfort to us at a very difficult time.

It is a great honour and privilege to be the chief executive of Great Yarmouth Borough Council and I am looking forward to returning to my job as soon as possible.

JANE RATCLIFFE

Senator Disco reunion planned

Last year I tried to get up a reunion for those who had visited the Senator Disco in Great Yarmouth in 1974, or thereabouts, to contact me. I am now trying to get up a reunion again. Anyone interested call me on 01493 369938.

P TURNER

St Margaret’s Way,

Fleggburgh

Will we find we are sinking?

It was interesting to read the views of our MP on floods and erosion. This is another example of the impact of Government cuts.

It is all very well cutting taxes but all that happens is we have floods and homes falling into the sea and insurance companies hike up our house and car insurance, which presumes everyone can afford insurance. This ignores the human cost of being flooded or losing a home. I don’t think community spirit can overcome that.

Ten thousand properties are at flood risk in the borough. This could mean about 30k people or nearly half the borough. It is a shame it takes a crisis to raise the profile of the problem.

A shame the local unemployed could not have been found work on flood and coastal defence work rather than needing to claim benefits. Still, one cannot expect too much joined-up thinking.

It seemed good news that £28.6m is to be spent locally on flood defences but the detail in the report shows the issue is not seen as a priority in the corridors of power. The Environment Agency reported they had been “working on it for years and it took a long time to get funding in place”.

The report also notes the first phase will not be completed until 2016 and further phases over the next 20 years. We just need to hope we do not get washed away in the interim.

Likewise I fail to see how cuts to our council budgets will help us invest in flood and erosion measures. Keep up the tax cuts so the country can sink under water or into the sea.

CHRIS WRIGHT

Victoria Street,

Caister on Sea

Paget A&E care was the best

I had reason to visit the A and E department of the James Paget last week and I must comment on the service and care I received, both of the highest standard and could not have been better. I wish to thank all the staff for the care and consideration on their part.

L BURWOOD

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Folly for council to allow exodus

I would like to comment on the recent proposal for further out of town retail development on the Pasta Food site. I have traded in the town centre for the past 26 years in the Victoria Arcade and have witnessed this once thriving quality shopping venue slowly die.

It is no coincidence this has occurred as the out of town developments have expanded. None of these developments have ever provided the number of jobs promised and the latest proposal is set to be the same.

It is folly for the council to continue to openly support this exodus from the town centre while offering so little active support for our town centre shops. The regeneration of this land should be for industrial use not supporting the further demise of our much cherished town centre.

MIKE HUKE

Yarmouth Pet Stores

Young performers were a treat

The charity event, Dance to Raise the Roof at Gorleston Pavilion Theatre on Saturday got off to a flying start with the young dancers from the June Glennie School of Dance from Lowestoft and Beccles, and as ever, their performance was a pleasure with their smiling faces lightin up the building. The school also had two solo performances, the most outstanding being a tap number by Mia.

During an evening packed with entertainment we were treated to several modern dance performances from both the Velvet Kittens and Charlotte Woolton Dancers, from retro “Tiller” to the more raunchy.

David Burdett, making his debut stage performance entertained us with four numbers, one a comedy ballet with John Woods. David’s skilled ballet moves were imperfectly echoed by John, as bedecked in possibly the largest tutu in Norfolk, he chased after him in their rendition of Don Quixote. David also expressively performed a duet with Natasha Bird from the Edward Scissorhands ballet.

The evening was completed by songs and duets. These were in the hands of Charlotte Bullen and Hanah Hofmann and Sam Street and Craig Lovatt, who performed brilliantly a misture of modern numbers and songs from the show.

The show will be repeated in early November.

JOHN WOODS

Address withheld

Must Yarmouth lose its heritage?

It is with great disappointment I recently learned of the plan to redevelop the site of the Two Bears so drastically. As a frequent visitor to Great Yarmouth it is one of those wonderful landmarks I look out for at the junction to Southtown Road.

I understand the need for development but at what cost? Must Great Yarmouth lose its heritage in order to progress? Isn’t quirkiness, unusual architecture and a sense of history and preservation one feature that brings in tourists? Rather exploit the uniqueness of this wonderful building by sympathetic development, at least preserve the facade please!

GILL BARLIN

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County has let down our pupils

I refer to the letter submitted last week from Mick Castle about the proposals from Norfolk County Council asking Great Yarmouth Borough Council if the High School can use the Beaconsfield.

I do not doubt the school is limited on the amount of children it can take, with the expansion of the town in the last couple of decades.

The fact that Norfolk County Council has let down the children and their education in Yarmouth by not providing a new school in the town to accommodate the rising number of pupils is just not acceptable. The fact that children from Yarmouth have been travelling to Gorleston for their schooling has not just happened, it has been happening for some time.

It is not just high school pupils having to cross the bridges to get to school, there are infant school children having to do the same.

Yarmouth High School owns the land at Barnard Bridge so already has sufficient space to expand. The fact the school has supervisory problems getting students 500m down a passageway with no traffic, is a discipline matter it must address. The students seem to get to the Wellesley in the summertime walking through the Beaconsfield!

Norfolk County Council has failed Yarmouth by not building any new schools within the borough for decades to address the lack of school spaces, which they have been aware of for sometime - it hasn’t just happened! Invest in us and provide a new school that will accommodate the children in Great Yarmouth.

MICHAEL MITCHELL

email

Miserable day, a miserable town

On Tuesday, February 11 at about 4pm I travelled to Great Yarmouth and parked in the car park behind Palmers Store. I had not been to Yarmouth since Christmas. There was only a handful of cars and yes, it was a miserable day, wet and cold.

I walked into the Market Place and found it nearly deserted, it looked like a ghost town. I then walked down past M&S to find various shops empty, like Partner’s old shop, then walked into Regent Road to find not one shop open and the street deserted.

I went back into the Market Place to find the redundant Co-op Store still empty as well as the butchers next door.

To then find that Hughes Electrical is moving out of the town centre, I thought what do they know I don’t? It was like the Mary Celeste.

BOB ATYEO

Winterton on Sea

Be honest about the Beaconsfield

Looking at the proposals from Norfolk County Council, nowhere do these proposals mention a “land swap”, nor do they mention the closure of the access to the Beaconsfield from Beaconsfield Road or the closure of the said road.

Yarmouth Borough Council has said it wants to be open and honest about what they do within the town to its residents, which is the correct way a local council should be run. What does concern me is Norfolk County Council is not open and honest as its proposals do not state what the actual intention is for the Beaconsfield.

They say the public will have access to the site but only out of school hours. The fact the Beaconsfield will in effect be closed to local residents during the week when clocks go back in October until they change in March, is something that seems to be forgotten. The Beaconsfield will only be open for weekends for a significant chunk of the year.

Last week’s letter states the current North Denes School would only accommodate 450 children.

North Denes’ site is much larger than the high school site so I find this hard to believe. North Denes is a single storey with two courtyards and a new high school could be built several storeys high and still have playing fields. You only have to look on Google Maps to see this!

The fact is the high school already owns land and has sufficient space already to expand upon.

If they are looking to “land swap”, perhaps they could swap the field they currently own next to the Beaconsfield for the land leading from Salisbury Road to the entrance to their own fields.

Last week’s Mercury advised of further cuts to the borough council’s spending budget. A letter in last week’s Mercury said a land swap would benefit the people living in Yarmouth North ward.

However, with the borough council already struggling with funds they will not have spare money to spend in providing a new play area, concrete walkways and suitable seating within the Barnard Avenue site, that the Beaconsfield already offers.

This is very worrying, considering it is a borough councillor that has said this.

Let’s not keep wasting money and giving parts of our town away. The borough council needs to consider the additional costs these proposals will incur and be realistic. The county council should leave the Beaconsfield as it is.

JENNY NEWCOMBE

email

The fools use only parking lights

With reference to the sentiments expressed by Esther Aldred (February 7). Equally driving with fog lights in light mist can be a greater hazard. Unnecessary fog lights can induce visual disturbances and distress of migraine, creating the dilemma where it is too dangerous for an adversely affected driver behind to continue, but greater danger by stopping and creating a contraflow.

A daily user of the Acle Straight for over 20 years, I am amazed how many motorists rely on the illumination only of parking lights.

In my experience, and in certain conditions, parking lights of oncoming cars at 200 yards can easily be mistaken for headlights at 1,200-yards.

This fools overtaking drivers into believing they have a sufficient safety margin. I have witnessed many near misses and indeed nearly had a head-on myself by such miscalculation.

It is illegal to drive displaying only parking lights at any time and suggest it is parking lights and not speeding - which is commonly blamed, that is a major factor in fatal crashes on the Acle Straight.

ROGER HAYES

Beccles Road,

Bradwell

Extra cash to nab dog poop walkers

What a shame that Cllrs Wainwright and Pettit’s great initiative to empower traffic wardens to apprehend those people who allow their dogs to foul the streets, doesn’t appear to have any effect in the areas of Northgate Street and Newtown.

Where is the reply from these councillors to my suggestion of paying wardens a percentage of the fines to patrol at the times these people (using the term loosely) are actually walking their dogs ie early in mornings and late in evenings. Also, when will magistrates maximise fines imposed, rather than fining the minimum.

JOHN STEVENS

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