Reader’s letters - Thursday April 23, 2015

Farmer protesting against fracking plans in Roseacre (see letter)

Farmer protesting against fracking plans in Roseacre (see letter)

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Concerns at Right to Buy

I am continually amazed at the ability of the Tory Party to make policy announcements that would have the opposite result to the one promised.

The latest is the extended Right to Buy forcing housing associations to sell their homes to tenants after three years of occupancy with discounts of up to £102,700 in London and £77,000 elsewhere.

The Tories assure us this will allow a one-for-one replacement of below-market rent homes. This is patently not true. The Right to Buy record for council homes from 2012 to 2015 (with discounts of up to £75,000) is as follows:

Around 25 per cent of the Right to Buy receipts were available from the sale of 22,900 council homes to rebuild new council properties.

The Treasury hived off £358.1m from the sales.

Only 4,800 replacement homes were built (Inside Housing, 09/01/15).

There are currently 1.36m households waiting for homes in social housing, often the only accommodation in an area affordable to those on low incomes. That represents 3.4m people.

Since 1980, 1.88m council homes have been sold since Margaret Thatcher introduced the Right to Buy. Only 345,000 have replaced them.

In many areas, especially the countryside, there are no council homes left and local young people cannot find any affordable homes.

The grants housing associations receive from the government to bridge the difference between the cost of building and an affordable rent has been reducing until now it is only about 20 per cent of the cost.

The rest of the money is borrowed from banks and building societies. The security for those loans - which now total well over £20bn - is the equity in their existing homes.

If that security is diminished by the loss of stock, not only will they break the terms of the loans, but banks are less likely to lend - therefore the ability for new development will stop for many associations.

This Right to Buy policy has already meant that around one third of the properties sold in London are now in the hands of private landlords and councils have to pay higher housing benefit for homes that they used to own but were forced to sell.

So rather than saving money for the taxpayer, it actually costs more.

The country cannot afford more of these give-away policies that don’t work.

Canon Andrea Titterington, Fulwood

Road ahead to block fracking

This month Lancashire County Council is expected to make its decision regarding the revised planning applications for fracking sites at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood, a decision which if it receives the go ahead will ultimately pave the way for dozens of such sites, each about the size of two football pitches, right across the county.

Concern regarding the volume of heavy traffic cannot be isolated from the fracking process itself. If fracking doesn’t happen there will be no additional problems of volumes of heavy traffic, so the process must be stopped now. Together with the issue of noise, traffic concerns were the very reason why the initial planning application was refused. Now, Cuadrilla are having to revise their plans yet again, part of which includes the questionable idea of routing some of these vehicles through the Ministry of Defence site at Inskip.

In addition, there are continued rash promises of job security, investment, tight regulation and prosperity for all of us, but none of these are ever backed up by hard evidence, and anyway, surely our quality of life and our health and wellbeing are more important than running the risk of the wholesale industrialisation of our living environment.

The only road ahead is to stop the fracking process in its tracks. Literally.

J Bailie, email

Doctors’ call on future of NHS

One third of GPs in the north of England are considering retiring from general practice within the next five years.

The results of our recent survey, of over 15,000 GPs across the UK, calls into question the viability of election pledges in the political parties’ recent manifesto announcements, which promise to dramatically increase the number of GPs in the next Parliament.

As well as a worrying number of GPs considering retiring from the profession, the poll shows that almost one in five (17 per cent) of those GPs who responded were considering moving to part-time working, nine per cent are considering leaving the UK to work overseas, and seven per cent are contemplating leaving general practice to work in a different industry.

This, combined with the serious shortfall in the number of doctors choosing to train as GPs in the region, is deeply concerning and presents a serious threat to future patient care.

It is clear incredible pressures on GP services are at the heart of this workforce crisis, with escalating demand having far outstripped capacity.

GPs across the region are overworked and intensely frustrated that they do not have enough time to spend with their patients, especially those with multiple and complex problems, in need of specialised care.

Rather than making unachievable, headline-grabbing promises, we need politicians to focus on addressing the pressures facing GP services, so we retain the current GP workforce and attract young doctors to become GPs. In our new campaign ‘No More Games’, we are calling on politicians to stop playing games with the NHS.

We urgently need an honest, open debate about the future of general practice, or we could be facing a situation where we do not have enough GPs to deliver effective care to patients.

Dr David Wrigley, Lancashire GP and British Medical Association spokesman for Lancashire

Police missed a golden chance

Since when does the Met Police have the option of ignoring burglar alarms?

Especially ones on high value targets? How often do they do this? How often do forces in the rest of the country do this ?

SD Little, BSc, ARCS, via e-mail