Letter to local press

As many people will not be aware, Dorset, including both its urban and rural areas, is required to build 73,000 houses by 2030. This in turn will mean that the population of Dorset will increase by at least 150,000. The question arises, will the NHS, already understaffed and seriously underfunded, cope with such a rise in population?

I ask as under the latest proposed reorganisation of the NHS, the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), increasingly known as Slash, Trash and Privatise, argues that Dorset NHS cannot sustain its present service now comprised of 135 primary care sites and 13 Community Hospitals with beds. This is of course before taking into account the fact that the population of Dorset could increase by 150,000 in 2030.

Bridport itself is also faced with a huge rise in population, and there are doubts that our medical centre will cope, especially with an ever increasing elderly population. Here according to a doctor friend of mine, Bridport will require at least 2.7 extra doctors to cope with its estimated rise in population. It therefore asks the question, how many doctors will be required by 2030 not only in Dorset, but in Bridport?  Also with specific regard to Bridport, what is the future of the Bridport Community Hospital?

According to Pulse, a magazine for GPs, it argues that GPs ‘have been left largely in the dark’ regarding these STP plans. Surely, given the importance of the matter, it is time that we were told the truth as to the future of the NHS in Dorset; especially so as to whether it will be able to cope with such a rise in its population?

Richard Nicholls

The problem with academies

We are now told by the Government that all schools will be designated as academies. However, even Tory MPs and councillors are now arguing against such an outcome. So what are the problems with academies? In the first instance academies are not the panacea they are presented to be. In fact they are little more than an extension of the present government’s political aim of dismantling the values enshrined within the welfare state, democratic accountability, representation and equity. Also, as is becoming increasingly obvious, academies are defined as independent bodies, and as such divorced from local communities. To ensure this, the government also intend to abolish the role of parent governors. This of course will allow academies increasingly to select pupils on criteria created by each individual academy. Furthermore, teachers will not be required to be qualified. They will also have any terms and conditions imposed on them, as are the Junior Doctors. And so, as with the Junior Doctors, professional associations and trade unions will increasingly be ignored.

Finally, being an academy does not automatically mean that examination results improve. If they don’t of course, teachers can be sacked, and in doing so an academy can dispose of teachers, and recruit unqualified teachers in their place at a lower wage. Therefore it is little wonder that junior doctors and teachers are either looking for alternative employment abroad, or leaving their professions altogether. On a personal note, I have always been optimistic for the future given our ability to negotiate our way through problems. However, we are now faced with a government that increasingly imposes its political will on the population, a situation that one would expect of a dictatorship, not a country that prizes itself as being a democracy.

Richard Nicholls

Letter to View from Bridport

In last week’s View from Bridport you had an article ‘District Council under fire for causing delays in home sales.’ In the article, Kate Davis, chairman of the Property Codes Compliance Board (PCCB) is quoted arguing ‘we are very concerned that the home buying and selling public are being adversely affected by the very poor performance of some local authorities.’ She continues by arguing that ‘if local authorities were unable to produce information required within a few days, they should allow regulated personal search companies immediate access to their data.’

However, what is not said is that due to a lack of staff in the Planning Departments, local authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to provide a proper service. Again, what is not made clear is that this situation is simply part of the government’s intent to deregulate and privatise the public sector. This is increasingly apparent not only in local government, but the NHS, and if we are not careful we will simply transform our society into one that knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Of course Thatcher said there was no such thing as society, and it would seem that the present Government are intent on following that path.

Richard Nicholls

Members’ letters to Bridport News – January 2016

Another week and the latest cut- this time a threat to the Bridport Leisure Centre. This is just the latest in a line of cuts – most recently the Youth Service. I have the utmost sympathy with the officers of our local councils who are being to wrestle with impossible reductions in their funding.

Local government has in Britain delivered many of the services which really matter to us in our daily lives and make our communities civilised and supportive places to live. We all want high quality social care for vulnerable people, a system of public transport, parks, good leisure and culture facilities and so on. Whatever doubts one might have about its location the new waste disposal centre shows how proper investment can improve the quality of our local services.

What we are seeing in Dorset and across the country is vital services being lost or cut. This is a conscious choice by the Government. The argument that one of the world’s richest countries cannot afford to support local government does not stand up granted the fact the government is cutting taxes for the favoured few and turning a blind eye to tax avoidance. It will not be possible for local voluntary action groups to support all these services as one by one they are cut back. Vital services need professional leadership and proper levels of funding. If we wish to avoid the American way of ‘Private affluence; public squalor ‘we must persuade our Conservative local councillors to put pressure on central government to fund our local services adequately. In addition, we must pressure our MP who as Cameron’s policy advisor is behind this savage decimation of local government. We cannot simply react to each individual service that is threatened – we must ensure that a full range of local services remain available to all.

Barry Bates


I notice from Oliver Letwin’s latest column (14 January) that he has, yet again, taken up a popular and non-controversial cause – that of “ensuring the long term future of Bridport Leisure Centre”. What he fails to mention is that his government’s policies are the principal cause for the reduction or withdrawal of funding by the local council for this, our Youth Centres, libraries and many other much-needed and valued local facilities. His apparent inability to make these links reminds me of David Cameron’s recent and almost unbelievable letter to his local council complaining about the reduction in various local services.

Letwin and Cameron are at the forefront of a government that is determined to reduce public spending and the public sector. They are pushing through ‘austerity’ policies that are dramatically and negatively affecting innumerable people’s lives in ways that are obvious to anybody who cares to notice, with ever more drastic cuts and closures taking place all over the country. It is truly shocking in a country that is still one of the richest in the world that we seem to have come to accept food banks as part of how it is. Child poverty is rising inexorably as many families struggle to feed, clothe and house themselves, even when they are in work. Inequality in income and in many other ways has increased dramatically in this country and is not being addressed in any serious way.

The reference to Oliver Letwin’s privileged background and education in my previous letter is entirely relevant when looking at how he has used his powerful and very influential position as an advisor within government over the years. Our MP may be popular with some, but he advocates austerity whilst being independently wealthy enough not to be affected by cuts to publicly funded educational facilities, libraries, health and social care, welfare and other essential support services. His hugely expensive private education and lengthy studies at Cambridge and Princeton Universities may well have benefited his academic intelligence but he shows little sign of using this to genuinely learn about the realities of life for people whose experiences, opportunities and needs have been very different to his own.

Many years ago Letwin wrote a book called “Privatising The World” and he has been advocating privatisation of various public services ever since, including and especially the NHS. In a speech in 2011 he said that public sector workers (including those in teaching and healthcare) need “real discipline and fear” of losing their jobs in order to produce innovation and excellence. At a fringe meeting at a Tory party conference in 2003, he was reported (by the Telegraph, so it must be true) as saying that he would “go out on the streets and beg” rather than send his children to the comprehensive school where he lives in London. He is someone whose view of the world has been shaped by a background of wealth and privilege and he serves in a Cabinet full of people like him, who seem to be able to learn the language of “we’re all in this together” but not what that actually means.

Christine Bell

Oliver Letwin – Our letters to the Press

Letter to The Observer

Your article last week, ‘Letwin: inner-city youth ‘more alien than serfs’, ignores one important aspect. Mr Letwin’s argument is not only directed at inner-city youth, but especially against their young black communities. In doing so he completely ignores the situation faced by a growing number of young disenchanted and underpaid white young people in his own Constituency. Youth clubs are being closed whilst at the same time there is a growing drug problem. One only has to talk to publicans, chemists and local doctors to find out the reality of the situation. This fact is compounded by the fact that the cost of renting a property, let alone buying a house, is prohibitive given the low wages and casual employment that persist in his West Dorset Constituency.

In the article, Mr Letwin also argues that he is ‘a strong supporter of David Cameron’s drive for social reform’. We therefore as the local Bridport and District Labour Party look forward not only to our MP pushing through legislation that will allow our young people, whatever their colour, to find somewhere affordable to live, but also to local authorities being provided with the financial and political support to retain their youth clubs. And in doing so, offer the opportunity to positively fight the growing political and social disenchantment amongst our young people, not only in West Dorset, but nationally.

Richard Nicholls


Letter to the local papers

What is quite extraordinary for our MP Oliver Letwin, is his continuing ability to remain as the senior advisor to the Prime Minister when it is now reported of his openly racial attitudes to young black people. He is also reported as saying that in terms of poverty and poor housing, ‘white communities had endured such conditions for decades without rioting.’ In this respect alone, he shows a total lack of knowledge of working class history. Workers historically have and did, as did slaves, riot to gain change, both socially, politically and economically, only to be put down by State violence in the form of the Establishment. It was only with the development of the trade union movement in the twentieth century, a movement the present government is trying openly to undermine and destroy, that conditions in this country, both in housing and the workplace, actually improved through negotiations and political pressure. Today sadly, we are again faced with an increase in individual poverty, seen in the escalating number of ‘food banks’ and the increasing numbers of young people, both black and white, having little chance of buying or renting a property that includes security of tenure.

In an apology regarding his remarks, Mr Letwin states the published document was both badly worded and wrong. Of course it was wrong, and in that his apology can be accepted. But to say it was badly worded can only be accepted as an insult to our intelligence. But at least we now have an understanding as to Tory thinking, and the real consequences we all now face as a society.

Richard Nicholls