YP Letters: Sheffield Council must come clean over PFI highways contract

Tree felling on Shedlon Road, Nether Edge, as Sheffield Council's contract with Amey continues to cause controversy.
Tree felling on Shedlon Road, Nether Edge, as Sheffield Council's contract with Amey continues to cause controversy.
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From: Coun Rob Murphy, Sheffield Green Group, Sheffield City Council.

ONE of the problems of Sheffield’s Highways PFI contract has been well documented, but other less publicised decisions have shown how unsustainable Sheffield Council’s current position is.

Recent decisions to make cuts to litter clearance and roadside maintenance have been added to by an admission that the Labour administration cannot afford the current debt repayments related to the contract. They are now extending the payback period until 2057 – 20 years after the end of the contract.

Their argument that our roads now have an expected lifespan of 40 years is looking extremely optimistic with some of the newly repaired roads already breaking up. The understaffing of the contract client team means quality control is obviously suffering and residents are not getting value for money.

Unfortunately the secrecy surrounding the deal means the public, and the vast majority of elected councillors, have no access to the contract signed in their name. Full disclosure is in the public interest and the only way to ensure value for money by letting us all know what has been promised on both sides.

Unfortunately, the harsh lessons on the need for scrutiny and open government in Sheffield have not been learnt by the City Region. Public meetings are inaccessible rubber-stamping exercises.

This culture of secrecy is familiar to followers of local government across South Yorkshire, but must change if our region is to reach its potential.

Spectre of socialism

From: Dick Lindley, Altofts, Normanton.

TRUE to the spirit of communism, I read that Jeremy Corbyn and his comrades are preparing to steal private property from landowners on which to build council houses, if they are, heaven forbid, elected at the next General Election.

Previous Labour governments used Compulsory Purchase powers extensively to acquire land for housing and industrial development at knock-down prices, which they then sold at greatly inflated prices to property developers.

It is the sinister side of socialism, which has always hated the idea that private individuals could own land and property and, in their nightmarish scenario, all land, property and businesses would be owned by the State, and all individuals would become merely employees of the State.

This is the logical outcome of socialism which we all witnessed in the disastrous Soviet Union. Joe Stalin, were he still alive, would be proud of today’s left- wing Labour Party, which is becoming more and more like the Bolsheviks in Soviet Russia.

Poor man’s rail upgrade

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

LIKE the Biblical parable of the rich man and the poor man, we should be grateful for the drop in the ocean that are the new diesel trains coming to the Northern rail network to replace the outdated Pacers.

Yes, the service has improved, but the starting point was so low as to be embarrassing. Leeds could do well to emulate the birthplace of Northern’s new diesel fleet, the Spanish city of Zaragoza, which has developed an extensive street-running tram network over the last 10 years and which is so popular and effective that Zaragoza is now internationally recognised as being Europe’s least congested city for its size, which is comparable to Bradford.

Is a degree necessary?

From: Hilary Andrews, Nursery Lane, Leeds.

IS it really surprising that there are fewer applications for nursing training (The Yorkshire Post, February 5)? Is a degree really necessary for many of the tasks carried out by our nurses?

I admit that the advances in medical treatments mean that nurses may be required to have a deeper knowledge than in previous times, but looking after patients sympathetically does not need a degree.

Least worst is nonsense

From: Brian Sheridan, Lodge Moor, Sheffield.

AS pedants’ corner seems to have gone quiet I thought it time to draw attention to a few more harmless solecisms.

We are often told that something is “the least worst option”. “Worst” is an absolute – something is either the worst or it isn’t – it should be “the least bad” as there are infinite degrees of badness. “Equally as good as” is another common example: the first “as” is redundant.

Finally, Harriet Harman, of all people, is guilty of a shocker: “We can’t rely on men to include we women in our (MPs’) memoirs” (Words of the week, The Yorkshire Post, February 3). I suspect the common preference of “I” and “we” to “me” and “us” is an erroneous affectation.

Inequality and education

From: Ian Richardson, Railway Street, Beverley.

AS someone who was educated in the North, then taught here for 35 years, I find much of the debate about the gap in educational achievement within England to be misinformed at best.

There are no quick fixes to a problem grounded in the grossly unequal distribution of wealth and resources. Conservative-led governments since 2010 may say the right things about reducing inequalities, yet in reality they have exacerbated them by slashing programmes such as the Educational Maintenance Allowance and Sure Start which really did help many disadvantaged youngsters – particularly in the North.