Be sure the terms are value for money

The Lib Dems (Greg Stone letter, September 5) may be right to investigate a PFI deal to fund major road improvements.

The Lib Dems (Greg Stone letter, September 5) may be right to investigate a PFI deal to fund major road improvements.

As local authority settlements get tighter each year and the Labour Government are unwilling to rework the Barnett formula so that the North of England receives a fairer share of funding, alternative funding for projects/services has to be examined.

The Government see PFI as the main solution to the past under-investment in capital projects and a way of keeping Balance Sheet UK looking favourable. However, the terms of the contracts mean we are paying increased repayment rates to companies to profit them and their shareholders. How times change.

However we as council tax payers are right to be concerned at both the amount of repayment commitments (debt) we are accruing for the future and the terms of such contracts. After Newcastle City Council's experiences with Throckley Middle School and Wingrove Primary we need to have more flexibility to amend the terms of the contract and the ability to hold these companies accountable. Will we be paying for roads and pavements that are no longer in existence as our landscape changes? If we need to change road layouts, will we have to pay over comparable rates because company "x" controls it?

The headline figures, in the press, do not appear to add up both on potential employment, current cost and the total bid, yet there are no further details on the website.

Yes, investigate it, but be open about the constraints you are working within, the effect on your employees and be sure the terms you are committing to are truly value for money.

D Liddle, Newcastle.

In no way resembling the Common Market

IT is only right that Julie Hogg's murderer should pay the price for his crime.

However, there was no need to re-try him on the previous charge of murder to ensure that justice was done, since, during the investigation and trial, Billy Dunlop flagrantly perverted the course of justice: an offence for which he could quite legitimately have been put in the dock, and which itself carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

So why, at this particular time, pointlessly wipe out a traditional safeguard against serial re-trial for the same offence, potentially putting innocent people at the mercy of the state or other powerful enemies? Can this be in any way connected with a possible government decision to surrender our veto on Justice and Home Affairs to the EU at a meeting of the European Justice Ministers on September 22?

With this veto gone, the EU will bring us into line with the continental system of justice, wiping out not only double jeopardy, but such little things as indefinite detention without charge and trial by jury.

"So what?" you may say. Haven't our own politicians already made inroads into these traditional freedoms, with, eg, their Terrorism and Criminal Justice Acts? And anyway, haven't things like double jeopardy fallen into disrepute, as instanced by the Julie Hogg case? The point is that, while we retain our right of independent decision, future UK governments could correct these aberrations.

In fact, the traditional pillars of our Common Law are there to protect us not only against common criminals but against an over-mighty state. Even the much-derided trial by jury potentially offers a powerful protection against tyranny, since a jury can refuse to convict a person for breaking any law which they deem to be unjust.

During the 1975 referendum, we were told that the minister representing Britain could "veto any proposal for a new law or a new tax if he considers it to be against British interests". The promised veto has been surrendered again and again.

If the Home Secretary surrenders once more next Thursday, isn't it time to call another referendum, to withdraw from an organisation which in no way resembles the "Common Market" which we voted to join?

Gillian Swanson, Whitley Bay

Another turn taken in a heated debate

OH dear, I'm afraid Tom Shaughnessy couldn't be more wrong! His story about the "heat" from engines being the cause of global warning is utter nonsense.

It really is connected with the increasing CO² content of the atmosphere. The heat from engines is tiny compared to the heat of the sun. How on earth does he explain the dramatic drop in temperature which occurs every night when the sun goes down? The rise in temperature when the sun came up last July (say to over 80 degrees) says it all. The extra CO² provides an excellent blanket to reduce the radiation losses and the whole system slowly warms up.

Ray Farnsworth, Alnwick

Can the teenage texters beat this?

IT incenses me to keep reading that text speak was invented, and is the province of, today's teenagers. What about this?

"CQ dx de G0KYR fb dr om es tnx fer call. ur rst is 599. op dave qth bedlington w xyl es wx fb.tnx fer qso es cul 73 de G0KYR."

This is morse code abbreviated speech, and has been used for decades by radio operators and amateur radio enthusiasts. Translation?

"This is operator G0KYR calling for a long distance contact. Very good, old man, and thanks for your reply. You have a very strong signal, perfectly readable and of good tone. My name is Dave and I live in Bedlington with my wife and the weather is fine. Thanks for the call, see you later and all the best from G0KYR."

We could go on for hours...let me see a teenage texter beat that!

Dave Cooper G0KYR, Bedlington

Police driver was using only one hand

I REFER to the letter from Chris Robinson of Gosforth (The Journal, September 14).

This letter rightly expresses concerns about the seemingly increasing use by drivers of all sorts of vehicles from the smallest of private cars to the largest of commercial vehicles, of hand-held mobile telephones whilst the vehicle is in motion. I cannot but agree with the sentiments expressed.

However, I fear there is little help we can expect from the police if the police driver (and sole occupant) of a panda car who one morning turned off one street into another with only his left hand operating the steering wheel is anyone to go by.

He didn't even have the excuse that he was holding a mobile telephone! He simply, I suppose, needed to rest his weary arm.

Mark Rennie, Jesmond, Newcastle

Mark of approval

I WISH Paul Stott the best of luck with his tattoo studio in Morpeth and hope the people who objected aren't too upset by his business.

They can take heart in the fact that a tattoo is a very expensive purchase and the people using Paul's business will bring much needed revenue to the local economy.

Lezley Gibson, Alston.


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