WITH one unprecedented blanket of snow and ice hardly gone, and an even harsher one predicted, it seems there's more than enough people – not least drivers – who think more extensive and dedicated gritting on our roads will prevent the country grinding to a halt. Never mind the cost.
To deal with such harsh, indeed treacherous driving conditions in the future, (which climate change suggests we'll get) we all have to play a part – "Big Society" style. We need to recognise such weather as an environmental disaster.
Maybe not as damaging, say, as an earthquake, but nonetheless it is nature's forces beyond our control, and services, homes, jobs and most importantly lives, may be lost.
Where there's a threat to life from, say, swine flu, and hospitals falling short of being able to cope, it makes for national news. However, six deaths a day on our roads, and many more serious injures, seem to be of little concern.
More often than not, they are written off as accidents, when the reality is they have been caused by one of the countless inconsiderate, incompetent, reckless and dangerous drivers, who aren't fit to be on our roads in the best of conditions, let alone the worst. Throughout the recent disruptive weather, many a pedestrian, cyclist and responsible driver will have been horrified, if not terrified, at witnessing drivers using mobile phones, with many more driving at excessive speed.
If this Government wants its deep cut policies to succeed, in particular those to the NHS and our emergency services, where improved communication and competence will be critical, they have to get equally as tough, if not more so, with drivers.
Don't our roads – the nation's life-lines – need to be as safe and efficient as our hospitals? The Lib Dem Health Minister, Paul Burstow, said that savings to the NHS can be made by reducing stays in hospital and unscheduled attendances to A&E, adding: "All of these things, by relentless focus on quality, actually save resources."
Where then do the millions of bad drivers and the tens of thousands of road crash victims fit in, and how does his Government plan to reduce them?
From: Tim Mickleburgh, Littlefield Lane, Grimsby.
I DO think that local councils have been unfairly criticised for dealing with the aftermath of some of the worst snow we've seen in decades. Yes, we can all point to places that we think should have been gritted, especially pavements near to clinics and old people's dwellings.
Yet at the same time, are we prepared for the extra cost involved in ensuring that councils prepare for conditions of snow and ice which may not happen?
I can just see the Tax Payers' Alliance or other similar bodies getting uptight after a series of mild winters where gritting lorries have remained in garages, slowly rotting away. Yet that's the risk if you assume we're always going to get snow of the magnitude we've seen in 2010. And let's not forget that councils are being asked to cut their budgets, in the case of North East Lincolnshire by 9.8 per cent.
Tuition fees load debts on to the young
From: Alan Hinchcliffe, Haugh Green, Upper Haugh, Rotherham.
A WELL known radio broadcaster used to use the acronym TOG's for his listeners.
As a regular reader of your letters page, I have recognised another demographic group – COGs. Curmudgeonly Old Geezers or Gals.
Recent letters have been a continuation of the youth or student-bashing theme, and a little balance is called for. Young people today are every bit as good, bad, intelligent, or talented, as every other generation.
Both myself and my wife benefitted from higher education in later life. Yes, we paid towards it, but we both had well-paid jobs that allowed us to do so.
I believe anyone can benefit from further education, not just a certain percentage of the population. Education is the main driver of social mobility, and in any civilised society would be free to all who would benefit. What's not mentioned by your correspondents is the large transfer of resources towards the elderly.
Child benefit is being cut, and students are being asked to pay for their university education, mainly because of the ever- increasing number of elderly people who require expensive care and health services (free of course), bus passes (free), pensions (free), winter fuel allowances (free).
Many will receive these benefits for more years than they contributed. Many will have occupational pensions, which are now closed to new workers.
Those people will expect younger workers, already heavily in debt, and unable to afford their own home, to pay extra taxes so that the elderly can preserve their assets, and pass them on. As the parent of two in-debt graduates, I have to tell you they are very unlikely to stand for that.
The fact is, to put a 21-year-old person into 30,000 or 40,000 worth of debt, rather than pay a bit more tax, is simply selfish. No they don't pay the loan back until they earn a substantial salary, but interest is added every year (at just under five per cent this year), so the debt gets bigger and bigger. We don't expect convicts to carry the weight of their crime for life!
I don't condone any kind of damage or violence, but they've already tried voting for people who not only promised, but signed a written pledge not to increase university tuition fees. Look where that got them. No wonder they're angry. Perhaps we ought to be kinder to them – we're going to need them in the future.
From: Caroline Gruen, Shadwell Lane, Leeds.
I WAS one of the lucky ones! My generation went off to university, did their degree, lived on campus or nearby, learnt how to live outside the family home, made new friends and grew up. And all that without crippling the finances of my parents or hanging a millstone around my neck.
I went to Leeds University and recall a happy, but incredibly life-changing experience. The halls of residence on Beckett Park were ideally placed for work and relaxation. And my loyalty to the university, the city, where we made our home and to the people of Leeds has remained very strong.
It is for these reasons I am compelled to write. It seems to me that so many politicians who personally took advantage of these circumstances, are now busy pulling up the educational opportunity ladder behind them and making it incredibly more difficult for young students to commit to a life of debt. I fear that at such a young age this prospect will be too daunting for many.
The lamentable public hand-wringing of the Lib Dems has been shameful; they have perfected the new art of voting four ways at the same time – for, against, abstain and stay away!
No wonder that so many young students, some voting for the first time, are so disillusioned – they still had hope in their hearts that a voluntary pledge meant something. They will not vote Lib Dem again, but hopefully they will not turn their back on politics and use the ballot box to make their point.
From: Arthur Quarmby, Holme, Holmfirth.
Such a fuss about the protests by the revolting students, but I should like to know how it is that Welsh and Scottish students do not have to pay the tuition fees applied to the English?
Add to that the free care given to the elderly in Scotland and free prescriptions in Wales, and it is clear that the English have become second-class citizens in their own Union.
Do we conclude that we English taxpayers are funding tertiary education, free prescriptions and the care of the elderly in Wales and Scotland, but we cannot afford to do the same for our own people?
How has this come about? When and by whom was it debated? By what legislation was it empowered? Who instigated and enacted this unfairness, and why? Or perhaps there are matching benefits enjoyed in England of which I am unaware?
From: David H Rhodes, Keble Park North, Bishopthorpe.
A LOT has been said about the proposed student tuition fees but the aspect of repayment requires detailed scrutiny.
Given previous government competence in both collecting and distributing monies, I have little faith in any proposed recovery procedures.
What safeguards will be placed to prevent graduates from emigrating and thus making no repayment whatsoever? Likewise, what will stop a well-renumerated graduate paying some less fortunate person (earning less than 21,000) to assume his identity for tax purposes? I have no doubt many more scams are being dreamt up.
Surely simplicity is best. If a basic 1,500 pa charge was introduced then 500 would be prepaid each term on the basis of no payment meaning a ban from campus. Receipts will thus be guaranteed.
If any additional funding is to be offered by the Government then it should be allocated to those courses which will immediately benefit the nation, thus medicine and engineering could be helped but not academic courses where two C's at A-level gain you entry!
The Queen is rich enough without our help
From: Eric Vevers, Turnberry Avenue, Alwoodley, Leeds.
I HAD to read the letter from Miss Judy Gibbard (Yorkshire Post, December 13) indicating that the Queen deserves our donations about four times, trying to establish whether Miss Gibbard's letter was meant to amuse Yorkshire Post readers – or whether she might just be serious!
We have, in our Monarch, one very rich lady who leads a privileged life and needs no financial help at all from anybody.
If anything, our Queen might like to give a couple of quid to the UK population as a whole in these hard times.
I'm not anti-royalist although I can take 'em or leave 'em personally, but if anybody comes knocking on my door for a couple of pounds, I'm afraid I will say "no thanks".
From: Heather Causnett, Escrick, York.
I READ Judy Gibbard's letter about the Queen's Jubilee celebration with growing wonder and suspicion that it was written tongue-in-cheek.
While I am a devout Royalist and believe that the Queen deserves such a celebration, can Judy really feel that the Government should pay more than the suggested 1m towards this event?
Also, she cannot be seriously asking the public, already cash-strapped and likely to be even more so in the future, to contribute 2 per person towards it?
The Queen is a very rich person in her own right and I believe that she would endear herself to her already devoted public if she offered to pay the entire cost from her own purse, also the cost of Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding from the same source. Can anyone find a good reason why not?