Monday's Letters: Petrol price rises take toll on elderly and in countryside

From: Karl Sheridan, Selby Road, Holme on Spalding Moor. Having just filled my car with diesel and parted with more than £80, which makes my income for this week look a bit sick (I'm retired), I have to question the logic of the current and preceding governments in their attitude to the motorist.

Without doubt, the biggest complaint has to be the state of our roads and the lack of investment. Unfortunately, this is down to greedy politicians deciding the road licence revenue would be better spent propping up their inept spending policies, rather than actually investing the money in our road systems.

We are all being told to use our cars less, and are being whacked in the pocket to encourage us to do that – yet on the other hand governments have allowed large shopping malls to be built miles from local communities, so you have to use a car to get there.

Large employers are moving their offices and factories out of the city, so employees have to drive to work because the public transport is dire and expensive.

Local schools are being closed, and parents have to drive their children further so they can attend.

High fuel costs will also affect tourism – friends in France will have cancelled thoughts of coming over for a holiday because the cost of petrol is far too high. And local tourism will suffer too, because that nice drive out to the Wolds for a Sunday pub lunch will be shelved because of fuel costs.

The whole concept of taxing fuel is unfair, especially because it penalises the less well off, not to mention those who live in rural areas who depend on their cars to see others and get about. The old adage the Tories banded about, that the car is classed as a luxury, is utter nonsense – the car is an essential tool for everyday living, particularly in rural areas where bus services are poor.

Stupidity seems to be the nature of this Government, and their cost-cutting measures are going to cripple us like never before.

From: E Ward, Sycamore Crescent, Bawtry, Doncaster.

During the last war, we had to try to save as much petrol as possible, mainly through our driving skills. It was called "driving with your foot off".

As soon as you reached the required speed, you would ease you foot off the accelerator, which meant that you were certainly not using as much petrol. It worked very well, though it did require a bit of practice!

Keeping to the advised speed restrictions – in fact try to keep just under them – also helps.

I am sure that there are many drivers out there that have more tips of this nature.

Bad judgment over burdens on business

From: T Scaife, Manor Drive, York.

The Tories are supposed to be the party for business. Yet they seem to understand very little of how to support business and allow it to flourish.

Take, for example, their feeble excuse of blaming the snow for the disastrous dip in the economy. Such challenges crop up from time to time.

What is needed is a sound policy of elasticity in the various burdens placed on business by Government. Then such problems as adverse weather could be accommodated.

What crocodile tears from Chancellor George Osbourne for the poor trading figures, when the least he could have done is delayed the VAT rise.

His Government were warned of the extreme weather yet did very little to keep roads and railways open. This in itself caused major transport problems and severe delivery backlogs. People could not shop in the high street as the paths and roads were treacherous. Trains and other public transport were frozen.

This poor lack of political judgment and infrastructure investment is before the "people's austerity" really kicks in.

Come along George – cut business some slack before the elastic of the economy fails and drops around your ankles.

Stop this forest sell-off

From: Brian Ormondroyd, Brindley Court, Skipton.

Well-known US folk singer Pete Seeger sings of his homeland: "This land is your land, my land, made for you and me."

Now our Government plans to sell off your land. Our Forestry Commission, set up in the inter-war years to protect future timber needs, is yet another target for ill-advised intervention and betrayal. Our very heritage is at stake.

Do you want to see our lands sold off to spivs and speculators? Doubtless, like many of our assets, sold off or given away to foreign companies, dodgy entrepreneurs or celebrites?

The answer must be a decisive "no".

What is needed is an expansion of our forested areas. Creating jobs, renewable resources, improving the quality and drainage of uplands. Playing a valuable role in tackling climate change.

I trust that no-one would grouse about these aims.

Support for school science

From: Dr Michael Wilson, William Court, York.

I read with interest Alex Massey's article (Yorkshire Post, January 27) on the potential use of shared services in universities which are seeking to become more efficient.

Although I now work in a university, I spent a number of years employed in science support in both independent and state schools, and it is clear to me that shared services have a key role within all areas of education.

Budgets are important, especially in science. For example, in the most recent independent school in which I worked, one science subject commanded an annual equipment and materials budget of nearly 25,000. Compare that to a state comprehensive with a budget of less that 10,000 for all three science subjects.

Perhaps even more important is the availability of talented, knowledgeable and enthusiastic teaching and support staff. Not a problem in the independent sector, but within the state sector there is often a shortage of experienced teachers and suitably-qualified support staff.

I would like to see science – something everyone can agree is vital to the future economic health of the country – supported in a better way. Sharing of experienced teachers to inform and inspire students, supported by an agreed practical science programme supplied in prepared, tried, tested and working "lesson packs", complete with materials, equipment, instructions and so on, matched to the syllabus in use in the school, and supplied from a shared resource at the LEA or regional level.

No peace in Middle East

From: David Quarrie, Lynden Way, Acomb, York.

President Barack Obama said soon after being elected that one of his most urgent tasks was to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and bring peace to the Middle East.

Unfortunately he is as far from achieving that as ever.

Neither side believes the problems can be resolved. Because there is no trust between any of the warring factions, nor between those trying to broker a deal, lasting peace is impossible to obtain.

Many of the young Jews and Arabs desperately want the fighting, killing, injuries, damage to the infrastructure, loss of jobs, wealth and the poor standards of living to end, but their elders are entrenched in hate and insisting that they are right and the others wrong.

All the Arab states would have to come together, back the Palestinians and demand that Hamas drops its most fanatical demands, and the Americans would have to accept a 'two state' solution and dilute the fierce opposition from the Jews who live in the US.

Sadly, a sensible, workable solution is even further away now, as much of the Arab world is in confrontations with itself. As well as the current tumult in Egypt, we have also seen the people in Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Lybia and Jordan in the streets taking on the dictatorships, autocracy, militia, police and their establishments.

Much of the West, especially the EU, at last fully realises its future and safety is directly influenced by what does or does not happen in Palestine, and they were hoping to urge on a genuine solution. This remains the world's most serious problem.

New voting system will hold MPs to account

From: James Bovington, Church Grove, Horsforth, Leeds.

It's hardly surprising that Dewsbury's Conservative MP Simon Reevell wants to retain the first-past-the-post voting system (Yorkshire Post, January 25), given that he was elected by just 35 per cent of the vote.

So nearly two-thirds of voters in his constituency didn't want him – yet he and all others who support this archaic system claim democratic legitimacy.

Mr Reevell is correct that the Alternative Vote (AV) is the system used for electing the Labour leader, but if that appears complex it is because of the nature of the tripartite electoral college Labour uses.

AV for the Commons would not be complex, and given that the MP finally designated could claim the endorsement of at least half the voters, AV actually strengthens the so-valued constituency link. AV is, in effect, the system that MPs themselves use to elect the Speaker of the Commons – so if it's good enough for our elected geese, then why should choice be denied to us the electoral ganders?

AV will give us a genuine choice allowing us to express a preference for those candidates that we would accept as our MP while ignoring those that we don't. Furthermore, if voters really want to dismiss an unpopular Government, then AV is the way to do it – simply rank the candidate of the ruling party as the last preference or ignore that person altogether.

Parliament is not a museum. First-past-the-post might have worked in 1951, when 80 per cent of people supported either Labour or the Conservatives, but it is now an anachronism holding back our national democratic renewal. AV, however, offers a small and simple change that can make a big difference in strengthening our democracy and holding our MPs to account.