Monday's letters: A good neighbour... and appalling call-out cover in the cold

I RECENTLY bought buildings and home insurance from the Bradford & Bingley and to ensure that I had peace of mind I purchased the home emergency cover at the same time.

The other day, we had a leak so I rang the emergency number at 2.30pm. When I finally got to speak to someone, they told me we would receive a phone call within the hour.

What a relief – we had no water or electricity or heat, but it was going to be all right.

Ninety minutes later, we hadn't heard anything so I phoned them again to be told the original call hadn't been put through but it would be put through now as urgent.

I did get a call about an hour latter, only to be told that it could take up to 48 hours for a plumber to come out as they were busy. We were all very cold now and fed up.

I told the operator that we had no water, electricity or heat and my son is disabled and I have just come out of hospital and we were all very cold. Her response was "go and stay at a friend's house".

I can't even get down the stairs, let alone pack up my son and two dogs at 7pm on a freezing night. Eventually, after a lot of pleading, they agreed to send a plumber. At 8.30pm, a plumber did come, who told us he was the only one working and he had another 14 calls to make.

He asked for the water to be turned on, he heard the water running down the wall, and stated we had to get a builder to take down the ceiling because he didn't know where the leak was coming from. Within 10 minutes of arriving, he left.

My husband went to a neighbour to ask for some water. When he got here, he went into the loft and within five minutes he had found the problem capped off the pipe and got us our water and heating back on. What a hero, a truly remarkable neighbour.

But what about the appalling service home emergency cover that you can't use in an emergency?

From: Michelle Middleton, Biddenden Road, Pendas Fields, Leeds.

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From: Coun Andrew Carter, Leader of the Conservative Group, Civic Hall, Leeds.

THE news that the Labour/Green administration at Leeds City Council is to slash the highways maintenance budget is very unwelcome, although not surprising. It is particularly unfortunate as it comes during another harsh winter that will cause havoc to road surfaces of the city.

The previous administration, of which I was joint leader, was forced to spend a huge amount of money on highway maintenance – 141m over five years – partly in an attempt to undo years of neglect under the previous Labour administration.

In 2004, we inherited a backlog of 61m of maintenance. I suppose it is unsurprising therefore that the Labour- Green administration has made these cuts to highways maintenance.

I regret to say that we shall see all sorts of work continuing to be undertaken by our highways department which most of us would regard as not being a priority, while the importance of maintenance is downgraded yet again. The council should ensure that our road surfaces are not neglected. Along with bin collections, another issue that the Labour-Green administration has handled particularly badly, roads and footpath surfaces are important to all residents of Leeds.

It is imperative that the millions we spent on road maintenance is not wiped out.

From: Ian Smith, Colston Close, Bradford.

"LESSONS will be learnt" is a tiresome phrase being increasingly used to hide incompetence, naivety, lack of skill, knowledge and judgment.

The Football Association, England's cricketers, rugby union management, Heathrow, the rail network, Parliament, in fact just about all those who expect our respect admit to having to learn lessons from what has to be their bungling.

Maybe Vince Cable in his new role as Mr Bean has now fallen into this category of learner.

High profile people receive very nice pay for what are supposed to be high levels of ability. If they really think that lessons will be learnt, then perhaps they should accept failure as a professional and go back to school.

From: David W Wright, Uppleby, Easingwold, North Yorkshire.

WHAT further proof is needed to confirm the decline of the UK into Third World status following the saga at Heathrow, St Pancras and countless roads around the country which have all succumbed to the snow and ice and the apparent inability of the services to meet the problems swiftly and efficiently.

Compounded with this dire situation is the disgraceful decision of the two senior immigration judges representing the UTIAC to allow the failed Iraqi asylum seeker and criminal to remain in Britain – against the wishes of the UK Border Agency and Paul Houston, the father of his daughter, was killed by this criminal. Who is running the country – the judges, EHRC, Brussels and the EU compounded by the antics of the irresponsible and militant trade union leaders who are threatening strikes, in addition to the revolting students?

It is time for the Government to get a grip on this dire situation as we are becoming the laughing stock of the world and even Mugabe will view us as nincompoops.

From: Brian Sheridan, Redmires Road, Sheffield.

My son, who lives in the United States, sent me the following quotation from the New York Times: "The British way of dealing with snow and ice is panic, followed by chaos, followed by recrimination."

Contradictions over local government scrutiny

From: James Hinchliffe, Beck Lane, Bingley.

IT will be interesting to see if the Local Government Minister's appeal to Baroness Margaret Eaton (Yorkshire Post, December 22) will bear fruit. The Local Government Assocation, which is funded by our council tax payments via local authorities, is in the process of appointing a "principal strategic adviser" and a "head of knowledge and innovation" who, presumably, will be receiving six figures salaries.

Baroness Eaton, as Chair of the LGA, will, no doubt, have an input into the final decision but her recent statement "what we (the LGA] will not do is to start a running commentary on people's personal pay and service conditions" does not indicate that the LGA is prepared to allow too close an examination of the staffing levels and salaries of their employees.

This seems a slight contradiction to the recent pronouncements of Eric Pickles (a former colleague of Baroness Eaton on Bradford Council and the present Communities Secretary) that public sector salaries should be open to public scrutiny.

From: Mrs Jane French, The Kingfishers, Silsden. Keighley.

GOVERNMENT spending cuts mean that, more than ever, we need to insist that Bradford Council protects the most vulnerable people in our community.

While the Chancellor says there is an extra 2bn for the care and support of elderly and disabled people, councils are under no obligation to use all of it for this purpose.

As a volunteer for the older people's charity Independent Age, I know from experience that social care in Bradford is already stretched to the limit and with councils facing cuts of nearly a quarter over the next four years, there is no guarantee that older people or those with support needs will be given priority. This could leave many of those in need alone, and without very basic support.

Changes were in interests of poor students

From: David Ward, Bradford East MP, Killinghall Road, Bradford.

SAM Guineas (Yorkshire Post, December 17) quite rightly points out that the issues of increased tuition fees and cutting the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) "are very different".

On tuition fees, Vince Cable has negotiated measures that will protect those from low income families and low income graduates. No fees until graduation, no fees until earnings over 21,000, every graduate will pay 45 per month less than now, fees of 7.50 per month per 1,000 – to vote against the new proposal was to vote against the interests of students from the poorest backgrounds and against a source of sustainable funding for higher education.

EMA is another matter. Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot be further disadvantaged by removing from their reach, on the grounds of cost, the opportunity of continued education to the age of 18.

At the very least. the additional costs of travel, books, equipment etc should be reimbursed.

From: Tim Birtwistle, Rigton Hill, North Rigton, Leeds.

IN response to the letters by Messrs Frost and Watson (Yorkshire Post, December 18) and their assertions that participation rates in higher education in this country are too high, we should take note of what our international competitors are doing.

They (the United States, South Korea, Australia, India, China, Germany, France etc) are all planning to increase their participation rates in higher education even where they already exceed ours (see for example OECD data) and even when faced with spending constraints.

Invest in the future. The future is our talented people of all ages and backgrounds that will benefit from higher education and contribute to the future wealth and well-being of this country. More may mean different, but it is not worse.

From: Tom Howley, Marston Way, Wetherby.

IT seems that very soon the Scottish Parliament will agree that youngsters born north of the border will enjoy free university education in their own country and in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Students from the European Union will also enjoy the benefit of their Scottish counterparts.

English students attending Scottish universities will pay about 6,000 a year, whilst our former Commonwealth friends in Australia, Canada, who fought side by side with us in two world wars, will have to cough up 12,000.

If this proposal is accepted, I suggest that the English students protest again and that this time they are joined in their demonstrations by the parents, grandparents, older brothers and sisters, and that their demand is that English youngsters should be treated in the same way as their Scottish cousins.

From: Roger S Tipping, Marlborough Road, Doncaster.

THE vote on university student fees was inevitable. Nick Clegg and Vince Cable had worked very hard to produce a progressive package to ease the burden on future students and to make sure that payment was only demanded in stages after the graduates had found a post worth 21,000 or more.

The Liberal Democrats had a problem because:

1. They failed to sell it to their backbench MPs.

2. The pledge they made before the last election when they could never have expected to be in a coalition government with the Conservatives.

3. Most students failed to understand and did not want to understand.

The peaceful demonstrations were understandable. The minority who rioted were out of order. It was absolutely stupid to attack the car taking Prince Charles and Camilla to the theatre. The whole situation begs the question whether our parliamentary system can cater for coalition. Would it have been better to have had another general election?

The Liberal Democrats should be applauded for their efforts. In practice it is more than likely that they will lose most of their seats at the next election – maybe even including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable.

We must build more prisons

From: Roger M Dobson, Ash Street, Cross Hills, Keighley.

In writing his article "Radical reform is needed to break the cycle of crime" (Yorkshire Post, December 15), Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, demonstrates how useless and incompetent he really is at his job. It is not a "radical reform" that is required but a few more prisons to be built to accommodate the extra people committed to prison for terms that would seem to be far more appropriate to the majority of the British people. Do-gooders such as Kenneth Clarke have had their chance, therefore we must return to the regime as under Michael Howard – prison works.

Sting in the tale

From: David Horncastle, Birkdale Close, Bessacarr, Doncaster.

IT was very disappointing to read how easily Vince Cable and others fell hook line and sinker for a puerile sting (Yorkshire Post, December 22). Indeed, when you think how seldom a politician ever gives a straight answer to a question when being formally interviewed by the media it's remarkable how candid they can be with complete strangers.

Why on earth do they do it?

Three towns

From: Iain Morris, Caroline Street, Saltaire, Shipley.

I WOULD point out to Alexandra Jones from Centre for Cities that neither Doncaster, Barnsley or Rotherham are UK cities, all three are South Yorkshire towns (Yorkshire Post, December 17).

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