Is Northumbria Police letting us down?

We are a law-abiding family living on a small farm in Northumberland.

We are a law-abiding family living on a small farm in Northumberland. In November, we were burgled. My husband and I were almost cleaned out of tools, large and small.

My son does tree work, so he had to replace most of his gear, only to be robbed again in December.

Up to this moment in time, we have heard nothing from the police to suggest they have recovered any of the stolen property.

We have, I suppose, to accept that this is a sign of the times. What we cannot accept is that earlier this month, my son was approaching Alnwick when he was pulled into a lay-by by the police who were quite convinced the chipper he was towing did not belong to him.

He had to produce paperwork to prove otherwise, the police then contacted the company to confirm the machine was his.

I ask you: is Northumbria Police letting us down?

NAME & ADDRESS WITHHELD, Northumberland

Letter not an accurate reflection of inquiry

BELOW is an edited extract of a letter from the chief executive of Sunderland City Council to Mr E Brittain, whose letter headlined "Apology to come and a refund too" was carried in Voice of the North on February 7:

"The judicial review to which you refer (and which did not involve Sunderland) was not relevant to the outcome of your complaint to the Ombudsman.

"That decision did not impact on undated penalty charge notices (PCNs) that have already been issued and on which there was no outstanding appeal.

"In other words, PCNs such as yours that had been paid were not affected by that judicial review.

"The Ombudsman confirmed this in her letter to you of December 8, stating that she had `not found maladministration in the way the council dealt with you as one amongst the class of people who paid a PCN that had only the date of contravention'."

The £80 payment to you was made as a consequence of my review of your particular circumstances. It was not in any way connected with the judicial review, nor was it made because your mitigating circumstances had not been properly considered earlier.

The Ombudsman confirmed this, stating "inquiries have not revealed any grounds for believing that the council acted with maladministration in considering your mitigating circumstances".

Your published letter was not, in my opinion, a fair or accurate reflection of the Ombudsman's investigation into your complaint.

It entirely ignores the credit given to the council by the Ombudsman for its "positive and proactive approach to the review of decriminalised parking enforcement".

It is disappointing to receive such an ungracious response to the council's efforts to remedy your grievances. I am sending a copy of this letter to the Ombudsman and The Journal in order to set the record straight.

GED FITZGERALD, Chief Executive, Sunderland City Council, PO Box 100, Civic Centre, Sunderland SR2 7DN

Is MP really vying for votes in new seat

I'VE never seen so much of MP David Clelland who's been in the newspapers over the last few weeks.

He recently asked his leader Tony Blair for £600m to update the Metro over the next 20 years. Who'll be able to afford the fare at the rate at which it's rising? And now he's going all guns at the Government for the state of road and rail policies.

Is it possible that he is really vying for votes for the new parliamentary seat created by boundary changes, which he has been chosen to contest on behalf of the Labour Party?

I don't think he's got much chance of getting the £600m as the Government wouldn't or couldn't bail out the Metro when it needed £5m to meet the costs involved in providing free travel for pensioners and disabled people.

GEOFF SMITH, Pelaw, Gateshead

Scientist on TV left questions unanswered

IWAS sat idly watching a guy or a physicist on television talking about carbon emissions from a vehicle.

He was explaining, if he explained anything, that the emission from that vehicle could amount to as much as a bag of coal (he had one at his feet). But what was he telling us? He didn't seem to be equating that amount of carbon to miles of motoring or hours of the engine's test bed running.

I keep noticing how some scientists seem to miss the punchline of what they are saying and I keenly resent that. If the guy is trying to tell me something which I ought to know, I want the whole story not the half of it.

If the man on television was implying that carbon emissions from vehicles are greenhouse gases, which he probably was in his roundabout way, I want to know from him how hot those emissions must be to escape our atmosphere and become additions to the greenhouse layer already up there and causing global warming.

R LEWIS, Birtley, County Durham

Long-term solution needed over transport

SO Fiona Hall MEP is to meet local campaigners fighting bus cuts ("Bus cuts protest", The Journal, February 16). This is a typical pathetic Liberal Democrat stunt.

For the past two years, I have chaired a group looking at the long-term issue of public transport in the East End of Newcastle, fully backed by my Byker and Walker Labour ward colleagues, and a Liberal Democrat councillor from Ouseburn ward.

We all recognise there is a problem. Indeed, it was through significant lobbying by myself that we saw a replacement service running along City and Walker Road. There is an even bigger problem of lack of public transport running north to south in the East End.

We cannot address these matters in isolation, but need to adopt a holistic approach, something our group is doing, working with council officers, developers and bus operators. This is a long-term issue and our working group will continue working to find a long-term solution, not adopting the short-term gesture politics of Fiona Hall.

COUN NICK KEMP, Labour, Byker Ward, Newcastle City Council

Outrageous Big Brother policies

SPECIALLY trained undercover spies with absolute power to administer instant justice. Weight sensitive detection devices. Satellite-guided photographic systems aiding plain-clothes inspectors with power to enter your home uninvited.

Compulsory, mass implemented, tracking devices linked to a Government computer.

The latest homeland security measures? New weapons on the "war on terror"? No, the latest state devices to hassle, and more importantly, screw more money out of (a) smokers, (b) householders not using correct bins, (c) householders building conservatories and (d) inevitably, motorists. All by and large law abiding citizens.

I tell you now, the first sign of bottles of Victory Gin appearing in Boozebusters and I'm off to Canada.

The irony of this is that the same computer systems being used to implement these outrageous Big Brother policies are the same systems currently crashing after setting up one petition site.

If they ever detect one person getting in their car to go and buy a pizza, sit in their conservatory to eat it and then chucking the box in the wrong bin whilst having a smoke, the consequences don't bear thinking about.

PAUL DIXON, Stakeford, Northumberland

What a ridiculous waste of money

ON July 1, smoking will be forbidden in pubs, bars, restaurants, taxis, buses and all indoor public places in England and Wales.

In keeping with the control obsessed style of our Government, local councils have already been given £29.5m of taxpayers' money in order to train staff to enforce the ban.

In Scotland, the population have been so compliant that only 11 fixed penalty fines have been issued since smoking was banned in public areas 10 months ago.

There is no reason to think the English would be more likely to light-up in public places than the Scots.

The Government could, of course, have given the money to medical research, spent it on looking after patients with cancer or hiring more much needed nurses for the NHS - £29.5m would pay for 840 trained nurses over the next 12 months - but no, the money will be spent on thousands of "smoking police" so that they can perform the "essential" task of issuing fines to smokers who are caught in the dreadful act.

This has to be a seriously crazy decision when one considers local authorities already employ an army of officials expert in the practice of issuing large numbers of fixed penalty fines to the general public; they are known as parking attendants.

PETER TROY, Sedgefield, County Durham

Labour council's record under fire

THE Audit Commission has given the current Labour administration at County Hall in Northumberland their lowest possible zero rating in their latest report on their handling of the £7m grant they received for "Supporting People".

The report says: "The council has made slow progress in delivery of the programme. Whilst there are positive improvements in individual services, there has been a lack of vision, and the delivery of strategic aims and objectives is in its infancy."

The Labour administration constantly cry poverty, yet when given £7m to spend on improving residents' lives they cannot even spend it efficiently.

Last year, they missed the opportunity to apply for extra funds towards school travel costs.

This is the same administration that claims that it can do better than the current district and borough councils, and wants to introduce a single unitary council to replace them.

The bid for two unitary councils for Northumberland, one for the rural area, and the other for the urban area, is supported by all four local MPs, yet although several Labour councillors voted in favour of a two unitary proposal at their district councils, when they got to County Hall they supported the single unitary solution.

If they cannot decide what they want on an important question such as this, that will affect every resident of Northumberland, is it any wonder they cannot run the county council correctly?

In the budget last year, it was the students over 16 years of age that suffered, through increased charges for school transport and only this week they agreed to increase care charges for the elderly and disabled. Once again they are hitting the most vulnerable and defenceless in our communities. The Liberal Democrats strongly opposed both of these proposals, but our amendments that would have alleviated the situation were defeated.

COUN PETER CHARLTON, Liberal Democrat, Ponteland North Ward, Castle Morpeth Borough Council, Morpeth, Northumberland (email: peter.charleton@castlemorpeth.gov.uk; webpage:- www.councillor.info/castlemorpeth/pcharleton)

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer