Having had the privilege of representing Wakefield south ward from 1999 till my retirement on May this year, I hope that you will allow me to say thank you to the people of Kettlethorpe, Sandal, Agbrigg and Belle Vue for their support and encouragement during my period of office.
I learnt many things over the years, not least the fact that you cannot always get the result which you or your constituents want, and, as so often happens with planning issues or some other controversial projects, you are just as likely to displease as many others as you satisfy.
In planning matters, as with any other issue, I can only say that I did my level best to do the right thing, a phrase which some people believe to be over-used in politics. The fact that I have received many messages of goodwill from across the council as well as the ward, not all from Conservatives, helps me to think that, whatever I did get wrong, I must, at least, have got some things right.
Having the privilege of being Mayor in 20056 was the greatest honour of all; being able to visit and recognise the fantastic work of different groups, sporting, youth, special interest and perhaps most rewarding of all, the tremendous professional dedication of the district’s primary and special schools; yes, that was a year to remember. During our Mayoral year, Brigid and I, with a lot of help from others, too many to mention, raised more than £29,500 for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and local charities or individuals, based on my theme of Sight and Sound.
I do have a number of criticisms of Wakefield Council and its political judgements, but this is not the time for me to complain; maybe another letter or two in the future. Today I just want to say a big thank you to the residents of south ward for putting their trust in me for seventeen years.
Attlee Crescent, Sandal
Not highest paid
Paul Wilby believes that the UK has the highest paid teachers and the worst educated children in the western world (Wakefield webchat Friday May 6).
Whilst it is less than easy to compare educational attainment between countries due to differences in their respective teaching systems and examinations, it is fairly easy to look at teachers’ pay. A study published in 2014 which looked at 30 OECD countries found that UK teachers’ salaries ranked 13th out of 30 at £24,000, less than the UK national average salary.
The study also found that our teachers worked on average eight hours per week longer than the international average. So, reality seems to be saying that our teachers do not sit at the summit of global teaching salaries and work longer hours. Perhaps Mr Wilby needs to return to school himself where I am sure our wildly overpaid teachers will be only too pleased to teach him how to check one’s facts before firing them out on to the internet. Or perhaps Mr Wilby knew that all along.
Birchen Avenue, Ossett
In last week’s letter’s page, Paul Dainton said that regulation is no protection for the environment.
He gave the example of the most regulated industry in the world, nuclear power, and cited accidents in the USA, Japan and Russia.
I understand that Paul has campaigned on pollution issues and his passion is understood. However, we need to consider the pros and cons. We should also be honest with the facts.
The largest nuclear catastrophe in the past three decades took place in Fukushima in 2011. Nearly 16,000 people were killed by the destructive power of the tsunami and three of the six nuclear reactors failed and went into meltdown.
How many people were killed as a result of the nuclear meltdown? None. In 2013, two years after the incident, the World Health Organisation reported that the residents of the area who were evacuated were exposed to so little radiation that radiation-induced health impacts were below detectable levels.
So, an unpredictable natural catastrophe created a massive nuclear meltdown and no-one died. The evacuation and well-implemented precautionary measures after the accident shows that we can mitigate the risks, even in the face of unprecedented natural devastation. This compares with the poor engineering design and lack of safety controls which led to the accident at the Soviet-run Chernobyl power plant - which is the best example of what not to do.
So, we must ensure that there is well-thought through and effective regulation and disaster-recovery planning for all energy production. However, if we reject new power technology and new forms of energy extraction, we will have to live with the real consequences. Our entire lives are dependent on affordable, abundant energy.
When energy is cheap and plentiful, it makes life easier, product prices fall and new industries become possible. We live in a time where we have the technology to dramatically reduce the price of energy and create abundance. A blind focus on what could possibly go wrong in the worst case scenario is short-sighted and far more destructive.
St John’s Grove,
Several weeks ago Ruth Sheard wrote that although she wishes the UK to leave the EU she would leave economists to interpret the costs and benefits of leaving.
As an economist, I responded with an estimate of the costs of leaving – to summarise, for a family on an average (median) income the loss is estimated at about £500 per year, every year for the foreseeable future. This evidence is based on a compilation of six comprehensive studies on the cost of leaving the EU.
Later Ruth Sheard wrote again quoting the Open Europe report. In fact, this report is one of the six comprehensive studies mentioned in my letter.
My conclusion is balanced because it is based on an average of the six studies. Ruth Sheard’s conclusion is selective because it is based on only one of the six studies – the one that reports the least cost of Brexit. That said, even this Open Europe study is consistent with my conclusion that ‘the question is not whether leaving the EU will be costly but it is how costly?’
For readers wishing to go further into this matter, the six studies are reviewed in The Economist magazine of April 9 2016. The article may be found online: http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21696517-most-estimates-lost-income-are-small-risk-bigger-losses-large-economic
I said in my last letter that I would be pleased to debate this issue further. This remains the case.
Richmond Road, Wakefield
Hand park over
I was surprised to read in the Express that Coun Cummings does not understand the meaning of living somewhere.
To explain - the geese making the mess in Thornes Park may fly away to nest somewhere else at night.
Maybe they do not want to pay bedroom tax, but they return to live and make their mess in our park for children to paddle through. That is a fact.
When children do try and feed the smaller ducks the larger geese come running up and scare the children. As there are so many geese this I should imagine is scary.
I am aware, as is Coun Cummings, that government cuts have made a misery of the lives of many people, obviously the result of which is the lack of spring flowers in Thornes Park.
However, my main point is this - Thornes Park was given to the working people of Wakefield by industrialists and landowners so that working people may find relief and enjoy some open space away from the mines and mills. The caretaker role of Thornes Park fell to Wakefield Council which was responsible for the care of the park.
If Wakefield Council found that it could no longer fulfil that duty of care, maybe due to the government cuts, then surely they should have handed care over to a concern that could look after the open spaces bestowed upon the people of Wakefield. We then might have some spring flowers. Oh, by the way my name is not Mr Gill.