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Letters (June 10)

PUBLISHED: 16:04 09 June 2011

Does this smack of a cover-up?

FOLLOWING John Cooper’s letter in last week’s Mercury, I think this is a situation where the council has fallen short in its democratic responsibilities.

Other people I have spoken to agree with me that the council has fallen short by not ensuring the notice of the upcoming Gorleston by-election information was readily available through the best means, that is via the Mercury and the Advertiser.

Notices were on the town hall notice board, in the library and on the council website. How often does the average resident look at the town hall board or notices in the library?

I don’t think the borough council’s website is any resident’s regular viewing either. John was told this complied with legal requirements. What do you think?

Are both parties afraid of John’s stand? Have they the courtesy 
and guts to ask for him to be 
allowed to stand as a late nomination?

The whole political process in Yarmouth is starting to become a closed shop with wives of councillors now joining their husbands on county and borough councils – GYBC councillors becoming twin hatters by getting on both councils.

I always understood that important information is advertised as a notice in the local papers where everybody has the best chance of knowing anything important.

It is done with planning applications, road closures, public house licenses and more, because the council want as many people as possible to be aware.

So why not election details? Politicians are always supposedly disappointed with election turnout and the lack of interest and apathy of voters, but show little interest in listening to them, consulting them or encouraging more to come forward to participate.

We were encouraged by the support given to our cause in the Lothingland election and expected to do much better in an area where John is better known and, as 
an Independent, could upset the whole right and left political tradition.

St Andrews is a seat that no party can call “theirs”. We had 2000 leaflets ready to deliver, we just hope there will still be a chance.

I am sure there is a way out if anyone has the true interests of democracy at heart.

Regarding this I have emailed Eric Pickles asking him to intervene – we shall see just how big the Big Society really is?

DENNIS DURRANT

Brett Avenue

Gorleston

News of vacancy was widespread

I WRITE in response to the letter of June 3 from John Cooper (Legal, yes – but is it democratic?).

I am sympathetic that Mr Cooper missed out on the opportunity to stand in the by-election – something which he was clearly keen to do. I have personally spoken to Mr Cooper; however, I feel I must give clarity to some points raised.

In the letter it is stated that the by-election will have “just two nominees – nominated because their parties were in the know, because in our town hall we only have Tory and Labour.”

Nomination papers were also sent by the council’s elections team to agents acting locally for other political parties, including Liberal Democrat, UK Independence Party and Green Party. Choosing not to field a candidate was their decision and not because they weren’t “in the know”.

Mr Cooper quite rightly states that the notice was displayed in the Town Hall, library and on our website, in advance of the closing date for nominations.

A Notice of Vacancy was also on display in the Town Hall on the day of the recent election count at the Town Hall, which both Mr Cooper, and the local media, attended.

Had he been in any doubt about the date for nominations, he could also have chosen to call, email or have written to, our elections team – who would have happily provided details.

Cllr STEVE AMES

Leader

Great Yarmouth Borough Council

Bring expenses into the open

GOVERNMENT Procurement Cards (GPCs), as they are officially known in Whitehall, were intended to cut red tape, and the costly bureaucracy involved in reimbursing employees for small expense claims. Details of Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s spending over £500 on GPCs has yet to be provided as is that of the county council.

To you and I, they are credit cards; you hand it over to a retailer or supplier and get goods/service in return. The county council prefers to call them “purchasing cards” but, whatever their name, they are plastic, and funded by the ratepayer.

I am eagerly awaiting my Freedom of Information question to be answered on the following questions

The names of councillors and officers, past and present, who held ratepayer-funded purchasing cards between 2008 and 2010;

A breakdown on what each card has been used for;

And the value of each transaction. I am also interested in the gross value of expenditure on each card under £500 from council purchasing card expenses.

Most councils in the UK have provided details of what they have spent over £500 on credit cards (GPCs).

Like MPs’ expenses, a lot of them are for seemingly bona-fide items through £100m of taxpayer-funded credit cards over the last three years. Councils around the country have only agreed to release information disclosing expenditure over £500, this means there are tens of millions of pounds in additional spending on lower value items or services of £499 downwards.

Cornwall council spent £60,000 at the 4 star Hotel Opera in Madrid. Essex County Council spent £617 on a supplier of chicken housing and livestock. Pembrokeshire Country Council spent £5.4m on items including theatre tickets, gift cards, wetsuits.

About 150 councils have supplied data for us to read on line, about 40 have not, and among the have-nots are Norfolk County Council, and Great Yarmouth Borough Council. Why?

JOHN L COOPER

Burnt Lane

Gorleston

Library is not the place for nuptials

I FELT the need to put pen to paper with regard to the proposed move of the register office to the library in Great Yarmouth.

People who need to use the register office are sometimes distressed, vulnerable and emotional, and need quiet, peaceful surroundings to conduct their business.

For a bride and bridegroom, this is their special day and should be treated with respect and dignity, allowing them to enjoy a happy and memorable event. I feel the atmosphere of the library is not conducive to this.

On a daily basis, staff have to deal with all manner of antisocial incidents ie people being escorted from the building by security and banned from further entry, people doing “wheelies” around the gardens at the front of the library, and people shouting and fighting on the premises.

This appears to be a cost-cutting measure that has not been thought through and is to the detriment of the public and the register service.

Please Caroline Clarke, think again, how would you feel to have your wedding day ruined by anti-social behaviour, or the registration of a birth or death subject to such disrespect.

SANDRA BRADLEY

email

Road trains are the way forward

FOLLOWING the situation regarding the degradation of the Great Yarmouth seafront bus services, I believe now is the time to bring the local services more in line with the 21st century.

As mentioned in the June 3 Mercury article, the road trains could become not just a lifesaver for seafront access for many visitors, but also become an improvement for local residents too.

Road trains can access much narrower streets and country lanes than the standard eight feet wide bus. Simply by operating road trains routed via all major car parks, transport links, shops, holiday camps, even industrial areas and schools, it could link practically everyone in Yarmouth, Caister and Gorleston to one another.

Not only would it boost the lot of visitors but it could cut down on mums’ shopping and school runs, workers commuting, and improve overall safety as well as the environment throughout the area.

With such as a “pay as you go” minimum fare the road trains could not only improve the public services around the area but would also complement the existing bus and train services by acting as feeder services, giving a “back street” access, interlink and ride provision for all comers.

COLIN BRADISH

Princes Road,

Great Yarmouth

Bus cuts are just one in a long list

OUR Tory MP, Brandon Lewis, complains about the bus cutbacks to the Hemsby service, where he lives.

He fails to recognise the buses are privately run – the last Tory government having forced us to lose our Corporation-owned Blue Buses. A private bus company needs to react to market forces and a lack of demand, especially as they face increased costs and reduced subsidies as part of the public sector cuts.

Likewise, the MP’s campaign to seek improvements to the privately-run rail station seems to have been forgotten, and he should be seeking better rail services and opposing the current bus substitution on two peak-hour trains, which taxpayers pay the private rail company for in subsidies.

Even more amazing is the Tory borough council, paying out extra funds to catch owners of dogs fouling the town. Excellent idea, we all hate the mess but the Tory government is committed to cutting public expenditure – I’m sure this could wait.

It is an excellent idea to save the Winter Gardens, another piece of local heritage about to be lost but where are the private sector funds?

This Tory mantra that the private sector is the answer fails again. Again, an excellent idea to re-open the Vauxhall Bridge and remove the Asda traffic from Acle New Road – will the private sector Asda pay?

Who will repair Gorleston Pier to make it an asset rather than an eyesore? Who will repair the shelters on Gorleston seafront and remove another eyesore? Who will further develop the seafront and reopen the closed facilties on the seafront? Who will fill the empty shops? When will the homeless be housed properly? When will the permanent jobless get jobs? How will school-leavers get jobs when Connexions has been decimated by Tory cuts?

None of the ever-lengthening problems of the once Great Yarmouth will be resolved by the private sector alone and the massive government cuts will not help us.

How on earth the voluntary sector will meet the challenge is the other great unanswered question.

Four years to the next election: it could be interesting except Labour are yet to recover and the Lib Dems never will.

CHRIS WRIGHT

Victoria Street,

Caister on Sea

Our seafront bus must be kept on

I HAVE just picked up the summer timetable for the number 3 bus route that services Newport in the summer months to find that it is not coming up Newport Road in Hemsby as it usually does.

We have five caravan parks in this area and not all people have cars. Quite a few are elderly and lots have young children. It is a long walk along the length of Newport Road and even worse coming back as it is uphill.

Now we find the number 3 bus does not go along the seafront. My partner and I are both elderly and always caught the bus home from the Britannia Pier instead of having the mad rush at Market Gates bus station.

As it is we get no transport in the winter so we have to do the long walk to the bus stop.

If people find they don’t have transport they will stop going into Yarmouth and it will affect the businesses in the area. I hope something can be done to solve this problem.

The letter is sent on behalf of the holidaymakers and residents of Newport.

Mrs V M SPELLER

email

Simple solution to long journey

WHEN the number 3 bus started, I used it go to Great Yarmouth seafront.

But after a while I realised it took too long, and I would alight at Market Gates and walk down Regent Road.

I worked out, and it’s not rocket science, if one bus ran into town via Jellicoe Road and the seafront and the other via Northgate Street/seafront/Jellicoe Road, it would be quicker and save fuel.

So why couldn’t First Bus work that out? All they had to do was alter the number to 3 and 3a and the indcator to say via Jellicoe Road or Northgate Street and it may have become more viable.

D J RICHARDS

Ormesby road

Caister on Sea

Where is this mystery service?

IN reply to the article in last week’s Mercury concerning the lack of a direct bus service from Great Yarmouth town centre to the seafront, a mistake occurred in the article. In fact, the open top service that has operated in previous years, this summer is not running as stated in the report.

My main point, though, is to pick up on the point made by Cllr Charles Reynolds at the end of the piece.

His title is given as cabinet member for tourism, so he should be in agreement with everything the article said, as surely a regularly run proper bus service is vital to transport holidaymakers quickly and cheaply to the main tourism attractions.

Mr Reynolds quotes that there is a coach service operating from Seashore into town.

If so, where are the timetables and the stopping points and what are the fares? If this service exists it would be a public bus service with proper timetables and be available for anyone to use.

As Mr Reynolds operates an extensive fleet of coaches out of Caister, why does he not consider registering a bus service and operating along the seafront and into town for all to use?

Mr Reynolds also mentioned the roadtrain. This is a tourist attraction and does not attempt to promote itself as anything more and I am sure you will agree it is no substitute for a frequent, regular and proper bus service, as it does not appear to operate to a published timetable.

The service provided by the landau operators also receives a mention but that is not like a £1 bus fare and is possibly beyond the pockets of many on holiday and on a budget.

Most, if not all, major seaside resorts offer a link from the centre of town to the seafront attractions and though the walk, as stated by First Bus, is taken by a large number of people down Regent Road, it still does not detract from the fact that the infirm and elderly who visit our town for a holiday are not provided with a public transport link.

STEVE HEWITT

East Norfolk Transport Users Association

Situation is not black and white

I FIND Dennis Durrant a most interesting correspondent.

He, like John Cooper, is perceptive of the town’s needs, particularly as a Gorlestonian like myself. I will not comment on this occasion about the merits or otherwise of consultative arrangements involving START and Eastport, except to say it seems to me a fudge and in my day as chief executive of the Port Authority I would have been more forthcoming with information.

I do appreciate Mr Eddie Freeman’s situation though with regard to the South Pier and also the residents’ desire to see what is an asset for Gorleston, restored. Perhaps I could add a key piece of information. Mr Durrant has hit the nail on the head, by referring to the Pier’s substructure.

The history of the South Pier is as follows: It was built by Joas Jonson in the late 16th century, passed into ownership of the Port Authority in 1670 and has remained a Port Authority operational structure for nearly 350 years.

The Pier is owned by the Great Yarmouth Port Authority, operationally managed by Eastport so it is not owned by the town or council. The Dutchman’s Pier is intact beneath the steel piles of the 1960s.

The substructure of the pier is not strong. In my time as chief executive there were many occasions when the port engineer reported there were large voids under the pier and repairs were very expensive, in fact almost a bottomless pit of material.

There was also the safety issue of which I was very concerned and which Mr Freeman must also be. The Pier fulfils its function as a navigation structure, anything else is a bonus, something that has long been enjoyed by we residents who remember the Cosies. It is a balancing act.

I can recall a time when an avaricious council approached me to ask whether it could have a pay and display car park on the pier.

I declined because I did not feel formal arrangements would be safe and the council was just trying to make money on what the Port Authority had given as a voluntary amenity for so many years.

However, in this culture of blame and damages, who would want an individual or car to fall into a void, damage itself or worse still, an individual. Of course, we in Gorleston want our amenity back, but remember the South Pier is an operational structure firstly and an amenity, which needs to be safe, secondly.

I have had first-hand information for many years of the substructure and I feel sure the two issues can be balanced given time.

Gorleston is indeed a quiet resort and a jewel within the borough’s crown, but the Outer Harbour will be a major asset to the borough as a whole. Residents need to be patient on both.

Mr Freeman tries to carry out a difficult balancing act with regard to the South Pier, its safety and its amenity value. I remain an interested onlooker, particularly regarding the bigger picture which so many ignore. Neither the Pier nor the Outer Harbour are black and white situations. Perhaps it is for me to reveal the shades of grey.

MICHAEL BOON

Local Historian

Be grateful pier is in good hands

THE letter from Dennis Durrant (Mercury, June 3), does not address the fact the local borough council and other authorities sold, or passed on, Gorleston pier to a commercial company.

This commercial company has responsibilities to its shareholders and few legal responsibilities to the community.

Surely we should be grateful that the company is doing something as a good neighbour to be helpful. If “we” wanted to have control of what happened on the pier then “we” should not have disposed of it.

PAUL SCALES

Stuart Close

Gorleston

hyyhyhyh hyhyhy

A GREAT deal is printed about the marvels of the outer harbour but almost nothing appears about the restoration of the wreckage of the South Denes approach roads etc. Now isn’t that strange. We are interested in it!

Miss R L FARMER

Marine Parade,

Gorleston

hyyhyhyh hyhyhy

WE are deeply concerned about moves, behind the scenes, to hand over our greatly prized local public museums in Norfolk to an autonomous trust. This may seem an academic issue at first sight, and that is precisely what the supporters of such a move would like you to believe. But in fact some in the senior management of the Norfolk Museums Service want your museums to become independent and separate from your elected councils – the very same democratic bodies that own and have always safeguarded them up to now. In short, someone is trying to take our museums away.

Why does this matter? Well, the buildings that house the museums – Norwich Castle, Strangers Hall, the Bridewell, the Tolhouse at Great Yarmouth to give but a few examples – are much-loved structures, a vital part of the history and heritage of their communities. They belong to their local councils and, through them, to the local citizens. The collections in these buildings were mostly given by local benefactors to the citizens of Norwich and Great Yarmouth (to give just two examples) for them to own and enjoy forever.

These museums were conceived and developed by local citizens for local citizens. They were, in turn, administered by local councils for the people. They were never intended to be the preserve of a self-selecting elite body sitting as trustees and answerable to no-one very much - apart from themselves. You will be told no doubt that there are financial advantages to “trust status”; well not according to the Head of Finance at Norfolk County Council.

You might wonder, if this is true, why members of Norfolk County Council or Norwich City Council, for example, have decided to press ahead with this idea. Well the answer is that they haven’t. No-one has even asked them about it. We should know, for we sit on the committees concerned. The issue has never been openly discussed, let alone put to a vote, but despite this the Museum Service has recently appointed a “trust officer”.

We can quite see why some senior management of the Museums Service would like to be free from the trouble of answering inconvenient questions from local councillors. We can also see why they could resent what they might view as “interference” from those councillors. After all, we are merely elected representatives of the very people who foot the bill and pay their salaries.

The vast majority of those who work in our local museums are dedicated to the concept of a publicly owned and accountable museum service in Norfolk. But they too may wake up soon to find that our cherished local museums have been taken away from us and transferred to a trust operating from somewhere like Ipswich or Colchester (according to informed sources) and run by people that few of us have ever heard of and certainly not voted for.

People of Norwich, Great Yarmouth, and the rest of Norfolk, wake up and save your museums for yourselves and for future generations - while they are still yours to save.

GEORGE NOBBS

DAVID BRADFORD

RORY QUINN


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