LETTERS: Comet February 14
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THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, February 14.
SIR - I heartily endorse the comments of my colleague, Mr Roger Armour, in the Comet (Ferbruary 7). We were colleagues for 24 years.
He selflessly took on the on-call commitment at the Lister every Friday evening for 24 years (plus other weekdays and one in three weekends) not just for vascular surgery, but for general surgery as well. In essence, he knows what he is talking about.
Successive managers have been brought in “to save money”, as the NHS is undoubtedly cash-strapped. Their contribution, at best, is to put a sticking plaster, to stem a leak.
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No thanks to the EEC then, for bringing up a generation of time-watching doctors. No doubt, also, that managers will ride roughshod over what is good for the patients.
(Mr) Rumy Kapadia
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Retired Consultant ENT Surgeon at the Lister & QEII
SIR - Vascular surgery is a very valuable service that the Lister Hospital should be and I’m sure is very proud of. The hospital trust should be doing all it can to keep it.
I have just read in the Comet the possibility of losing yet another valuable service. Moving the vascular surgery service to Watford General. I cannot believe the short sightedness of the Midland and East Specialised Commissioning Group .
What is the reasoning in this, yes, very convenient for people living 30 miles away in the Watford area, what about patients who use the Lister Hospital. Travelling time, not for just the patients, but the cost to families, especially the elderly having to travel 30 miles would mean many people would not be able to visit their loved ones in hospital.
The Lister Hospital has recently opened several new units, the new Maternity unit, and the excellent critical care unit which I myself sampled myself after undergoing major vascular surgery. I find it very difficult to understand, and also very angry that a valuable service is being closed and moved so far away when it is needed here. The Lister Hospital is one of the best and its nursing staff, although greatly understaffed are doing a marvellous job and I feel are at times, not appreciated for the care and attention they give to their patients. The Lister needs to keep all its services, what is the point of spending millions on it, only to close essential services and moving them away.
Name and address
SIR - I write as someone who has been associated with vascular surgery for many years, and like Mr Armour I am concerned that the Lister does not have a dedicated vascular service.
From a patients point of view I was diagnosed with a left Iliac Aneurysm and chose to have this treated at the Royal Free who have a vascular surgery department, rather than being treated by a general surgeon with an interest in vascular surgery.
If this dedicated vascular service was available at the Lister, it would certainly be much more convenient in terms of travelling etc.
SIR - I saw your well-researched and informative report by Chandni Tanna. I hope it will make the commissioning group who recommended the transfer of this essential service pause and reconsider their risky decision.
Thank you, and good wishes.
Roger H Armour
SIR - Goodbye and good riddance to the Letchworth Town Council and congratulations to Nigel Jury and HELP for ensuring its demise.
This extra layer of bureaucracy was never needed and served only to add costs to our council tax.
Within two years of being formed the town council blew money on a mayoral chain and coat of arms. Another example of a raid on the public purse by those elected to serve the community. Unfortunately apathy by some of the electorate allowed this to happen.
BIN COP OUT
SIR - Many years ago I was a refuse collector. In those days the bins were full of ashes from coal fires, they were heavy and you had to collect them from on the property and return them and put the lids back on. We did this in all weathers, including snow and ice. It was hard work.
Today, the refuse collector will only empty the bin if it’s outside the property, they are on wheels, the dustcart machinery picks them and tips them and you will be lucky if the lids are put back on the recycle bins.
For the duration of the suspension of collections, I believe commercial properties had collections and I witnessed many delivery vehicles come up and down our street with the drivers managing to carry parcels etc without incident.
The cynical amongst us might be led to believe Stevenage Borough Council were just using the snow as a way to save expenditure on diesel. You would have thought the refuse collectors could have been put to work gritting footpaths while they weren’t out doing what they are employed to do.
Sir- Lisa Courts (Comet February 7) puts Simons 2010 Churchgate contract with North Herts District Council in simplistic terms of marriage and then divorce. Three years ago, only three councillors (myself included) did not support signing with Simons.
Initially Simons did consult residents and traders, but little progress had been made in turning their vision into an acceptable scheme and plan. Increasingly residents, businesses, civic groups and market traders saw our town needing to be freed of the Simons millstone.
I congratulate all those individuals and groups whose consistent and cogent views convinced a sizeable majority of councillors across all parties to vote on January 31 against Simons’ requested extension of the March 19 deadline. This was despite a report to the council which argued strongly for the extended deadline - giving dates as late as 2028 for alternatives to be realised. Fortunately councillors did not buy these arguments, and accepted instead residents’ and traders’ views on the outdated Simons’ vision of huge extra shopping space needs in our town. In the end, Simons sealed their own fate by thrashing around with variants to their extension request – at one stage seeking council funding of about £2millon and then remarkably not needing it, while having still not achieved a viable scheme. They had ceased to be credible, and councillors lacked confidence that Simons could deliver a viable scheme suitable for Hitchin. Now those of us who love Hitchin must reflect, but not for too long, before re-grouping after March 19 around a new more gradual and less grandiose approach suited to residents’, visitors’ and businesses’ needs.
NHDC Labour Group Leader
SIR - Hitchin residents are celebrating a ‘victory’ because Simons is not granted an extension for its planning application. Nor should it as the company has been given more than enough rope already.
However our ‘victory’ is Pyrrhic as NHDC now says it may be 15 years before any improvement to Churchgate may be undertaken. Rome was not built in a day but a considerable portion would have been constructed in 15 years.
Could it be that NHDC is being somewhat vindictive to Hitchin residents because of the rejection of its pet Simons proposal? Could it be that after a suitable and for us frustrating delay, a new Simons proposal will surface and we will be only too glad to accept it since anything would be better than nothing?
I hope not. NHDC should take a careful look (but not lengthy, it has already had plenty of time to study them in depth) at the Hammersmatch options, pick the best (one which does not include a multiscreen ‘boutique’ cinema in juxtaposition with St Mary’s Church) and get on with it. We have been mucked about for long enough.
SIR - I want to use your letter pages to congratulate NHDC councillors and the democratic process. I hope their vote not to extend Simon’s contract beyond March 19 will bring to an end years of procrastination. Over the past 10 years (or so) there have been several attempts to turn the conservation area into another anonymous shopping centre. All but Simons gave up years ago with the conclusion there is not a viable scheme. Simons went further than others because of a generous contract from NHDC. Even now there is a shortfall and talk of NHDC subsidising Simons with up to £2.1m. In the report put to the council meeting, Simons’ headline claim is to be committed to producing a viable scheme. Compare this sound bite with two actions by Simons. First, no progress made on the planning application in three years. Second their report attached to the council meeting agenda consisted of one page (other than the title), that contained the text “This page is blank” – only!
Let’s hope Simons do not drag out the contract by putting forward a “nominal” planning application in March along the lines of their report to council.
Hitchin can then remove the shackles of searching for an anonymous shopping centre and move forward in the spirit of the planning policies for our historic market town centre conservation area. That is to keep the market, our open spaces, upgrade the Churchgate arcade and landscape the car parking. Removal of the redevelopment cloud would allow the existing tenants and owners to invest in the town centre without fear of demolition “soon”.
SIR - I was very interested to read your article in the Comet (February 7) on the future of Stevenage town centre. I have been following this story since it was first reported back in 2002. I can’t believe it’s been over 10 years.
The fact that there are no firm plans or timescales in place does not surprise me at all, I think too many heels were dragged after the second plans were revealed of a £250m regeneration of the town. I went to the exhibition in the old Edward The Confessor pub in the town and there was nothing but praise, enthusiasm and positivity from the company behind it and they could see the huge potential and urgency for Stevenage. But the council for some reason weren’t in any hurry and I think because of this they left it too long, then the financial crisis happened. In the meantime other new towns like Harlow and Hemel Hempstead have had major developments.
Stevenage seems to continue to fall behind and has become a town known for discount and pound shops (how many does one town need?). If the council could get a grant as mentioned to renovate Queensway that would be fantastic, the canopies and the ugliness of the buildings above is such an eyesore. There has been some good news the relocation of Next and their big new store and the new owners of Westgate who have brought in some new stores and I have seen they have plans to increase the size of some of the stores by knocking some units into one and creating a second floor for the first time which is great.
But I do hope there are some new plans that are realistic and finally get off and bring a department store, the area around the old land registry building is crying out to be redevolped and all of these would breathe new life into this tired town centre.
Name and address
SIR - I refer to your news item on February 7, entitled “Improved post office to deliver a better service”. I wish to correct some inaccuracies in this article:
Hitchin Post Office at Brookers in Bucklersbury will continue to be Hitchin’s Main Post Office.
The article implies that Highbury is Hitchin’s only post office, when in fact it is only one of three, in addition to the main post office at Brookers, there is also a post office in Redhill Road and both will be open for business as usual during and after the Highbury Road refurbishment.
Unfortunately several of our customers have been led to believe (by your article) that our post office will be closing.
I would be grateful if you could please put the record straight by bringing this letter to the attention of your readers.
Hitchin Post Office
BUS PASS FARCE
SIR - Following on from the letter by Bernard Maddox in last week’s Comet, I too sent off for both my wife’s and my bus pass when we received the application forms. My pass arrived within weeks, but she has yet to receive hers. When I telephoned to enquire why my wife’s pass had not arrived, I was told, ‘it was being processed’. When I then explained that both applications were sent in the same envelope and that I had already received mine, I was told again that, ‘it was being processed’.
Therefore I can only assume that the passes that have not been received have not been ‘lost in the post’ but lost in the bowels of HCC’s system.
Letchworth Gdn City
SIR - The letter by Chris Jenkins and Bernard Palmer, published in the Comet on 7 January, is littered with inaccuracies and fortunately does not speak for all Christians, or the majority of people in this country, which is why the ‘debate on gay marriage’ as they put it, has already won out in favour of fairness, justice and equality by a significant majority.
Let’s not forget that the recent changes in the law still allow churches to refuse to marry same sex couples, and no one is telling Christians how to live their lives or practice their faith, they still have exactly the same privileges they had before. While this may be just a theoretical debate to some, let’s not forget that this affects the lives of real people in our local communities, who happen to be lesbian or gay, and may be your neighbours, work colleagues, the health professionals treating you at your local hospital, or part of your own extended family or social network. For me this isn’t just a theoretical debate, but the fundamental rights of myself, my partner of 12 years, and our daughter not be treated as second class citizens, and to have equal rights under the law.
I would like to make the following specific points in response to last week’s letter:
1. Children: Mr Jenkins and Mr Palmer state that ‘there is good evidence that children are best raised in a stable family where there is a mother and a father’. But where is their evidence? All of the credible available evidence indicates that children brought up by parents of the same gender are as well adjusted as those brought up by straight married couples. A recent research study into the experiences of 82 children with lesbian and gay parents showed that the children were happy with their families, and their only wish was that other people would be more accepting. A 2010 study by the Williams institute showed that there was a zero rate of child abuse within lesbian parent households. Wouldn’t it be great if the same could be said of all families?
2. Relationships: There is no evidence that committed same sex relationships are ‘more temporary’ than other relationships, this is simply a myth which has been created in an attempt to discredit lesbian and gay relationships.
3. Consequences of inequality: With all actions, there are consequences. Anyone who perpetuates the belief that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender are not equal, and do not deserve equal rights, is actively contributing to a culture of intolerance which paves the way for homophobic bullying, and homophobic hate crime, which are still worryingly common in our society. There are still teenagers being rejected by their parents because they are lesbian or gay, and children being bullied at school because of this prejudice.
Perhaps Mr Jenkins and Mr Palmer should be directing their energy and attention to putting their own house in order by highlighting and challenging the child abuse perpetuated by the Catholic church, rather than targeting lesbians and gay men who just want to celebrate their relationships in the same way as everyone else, and have equal rights.
Finally, it is nothing short of a disgrace that Mr Palmer and Mr Jenkins make reference to Hitler and the Nazis in favour of their own deeply flawed arguments. Of the hundreds of thousands of mainly Jewish people who were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust, records show that approximately 50,000 people were persecuted because of their sexual orientation. The holocaust happened within the context of a society in which certain groups were not considered to be equal, and as a consequence had their human right denied, and their lives taken from them. Shame on Mr Palmer and Mr Jenkins for playing their part in contributing to prejudice in our society.
SIR - I was relieved to read in your article ‘MPs vote against gay marriage,’ that four of our five local MPs voted against the bill to redefine the meaning of marriage.
I was even more relieved to read Chris Jenkins’ quote that ‘Marriage has always been held to be a sacred union between man and woman. A change in law would say that those who make the laws (mistakenly think that they) are themselves above the authority of God.’ (I added the parts in brackets). We are mistaken to think we can try to change what has been fact for thousands of years and not suffer ill consequences.
Marriage is the stable bedrock of society for the good of all. We tamper with it at our peril.
Name and address
SIR - Chris Jenkins and Bernard Palmer raise the usual aggressive sectarians’ opposition to gay marriage. Firstly, they suggest that “marriage has always been held to be a sacred union between man and woman”. This is not borne out by history: historian John Boswell has shown that the church had no specific liturgies for marriage rites until the eighth or ninth century and that the original role of the church was to witness and bless the couple. The institution of marriage was taken directly from Roman secular law and it was a medieval meddling with it that redefined it as ‘sacred’.
Their second point is one of authority. They choose their particular sectarian volume as the ultimate authority and make the ludicrous claim that their God is an authority above the secular laws of the state. They do not explain by what right they impose their sectarian beliefs on those of us who are not members of their cult.
Next they raise the idea that “children are best raised in a stable family where there is a mother and a father”. In rebuttal of their unevidenced claim, a study by the American Psychological Association concluded that “the adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children are unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish”.
Finally, they indulge in scare-mongering, asking “how will Christians be able teach and practise what the Bible says if the law takes a contrary position”. One wonders how they can support secular legislation that makes slavery illegal, when the Bible very clearly supports that terrible institution (St Paul repeats injunctions that they must obey their masters in all things in both Colossians and Ephesians).
It is ironic that much of the opposition to equal marriage comes from the Church of England, created by Henry VIII specifically to redefine his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Let these sectarians follow their own consciences: don’t let them impose the ancient regulations they use to justify their prejudices on the rest of us.
SIR - I’d like to say I’m in agreement with the letter by Chris Jenkins and Bernard Palmer on the issue of true marriage. It saddens me that that there is an attempt to undermine the family, the very building block and stability of a nation. God instituted marriage between man and woman for procreation, sexual and emotional fulfilment and the fulfilment and joy of sharing and being responsible together, for raising a family, based on sound Judeo-Christian values. This spills over into society where sound families are equipped to care about widows, orphans, elderly and single people.
Only about 1.5 per cent of the population claim to choose to express their sexuality homosexually and often promiscuously, against God’s plan for them. All human beings have to suppress and harden their God given conscience to be able to express sexual behaviour any way they feel. Why have this extreme minority been allowed to exert so much influence, pressure and public debate and every aspect of life and why are leaders bowing to their command? People follow popular opinion like sheep, but if anyone cares about what we are exposing our young, impressionable children and grandchildren to, they ought to have the courage to say no to this.
We’re on a downward spiral to destruction in civilization when homosexual marriage is legislated as being normal and our children are being fed a lie, as acceptable truth. Children are being made to doubt whether they are really male or female, as God created them and asked to be open to explore their possible homosexual tendencies. We need God’s help in our behaviour like expressing self control, patience and goodness; to love and respect others, as we do ourselves, not abusing another in mind or body. God, who loves everyone, (but will not accept sinful behaviour), will help all who ask, regarding the choices they make, as we are accountable for our choices and they will have eternal consequences.
Name and address
SIR - As Vicar of St Nicholas Stevenage - a church which holds many weddings each year - I was saddened that the bill to allow gay marriage was passed by the House of Commons last week. As both our MP and the letter from Chris Jenkins and Bernard Palmer made clear - despite the government’s assurances of legal protection for churches which like the Church of England will not allow same sex marriages to take place, it is by no means clear that such protection will be sustained by our own courts or European courts. If that were to happen, ministers like myself would either have to leave the church or refuse to marry anyone. Where then, the rights of those heterosexual couples who desire a church wedding?
Marriage has always been the union of one man and one women, and whilst the government was right, I believe, to protect the rights of same sex couples in civil partnership legislation - it has no right or mandate to redefine an institution simply to fit 21st century morals, nor was there a huge clammer from the gay community for them to do so. Once again the Christian foundation of our country is being eroded in the pursuit of political gain and political correctness.
I pray that the House of Lords has the wisdom and the courage to think differently.
Rev Dave Brown
Vicar of St Nicholas Stevenage and St Mary’s Graveley
SIR - Many thanks for your article commenting on the fact that four out of five of our local MPs voted against The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. I’d like to express my support for maintaining the law as it currently stands it’s what the majority want. The Government are trying to impose this on us, despite the fact that it wasn’t in the manifesto of any party, and their own consultation process failed to show that the English and Welsh populations are in favour.
To force this new law through is unnecessary and duplicitous. Civil partnerships already confer exactly the same legal entitlements as traditional marriage, and when civil partnerships were introduced the government gave assurances that they would not lead to same-sex marriage. Small wonder, when the Government’s own figures indicate that only 6000 couples a year are expected to take advantage of same-sex marriage.
We have to maintain civil liberties. We can happily co-exist with all kinds of people, but only while the fundamental freedom to politely disagree is protected. The Government has made clear that it cannot guarantee the protection from prosecution of the numerous UK employees who cannot for religious reasons affirm that same-sex relationships are marriage. This includes almost six million Christians who respect the Bible, five million Catholics, two million Muslims and 600,000 Hindus, not to mention orthodox Jews and a number of atheists. The moment they all have to affirm a new definition of marriage is the moment when their religious freedom is destroyed, and a brutal intolerance for a diversity of opinion is enforced. In short, to force through this legislation is undemocratic, it won’t grant any additional legal rights to the tiny minority it’s supposed to help, and it will instead heavily undermine equality and tolerance in our nation.