Look at the A303 problem from different perspective

WE are told the tunnel and Winterbourne Stoke bypass will ease the pain for locals and the new A303 will speed up the journey to the south-west – but will it? 
Actually this could be the worse possible nightmare for locals and for Salisbury. 
The latest proposals suggest the old A303 will be closed west of Winterbourne Stoke, which means the new A303 will travel from Wylye to the new Longbarrow junction without any exits then it will head through a tunnel to Amesbury. 
Now imagine you are heading east and the A303 is closed or slow eastbound near the tunnel.
By traffic alerts your only exit will be Wylye and here you will have two choices, north or south on the A36. Your destination is Solstice Park, which is likely to be the only place you will be able to rejoin the A303. 
If you take the north option on the A36 you could head to Amesbury via Codford, Chitterne, Tilshead, Shrewton and Larkhill and as if this isn’t bad enough, if you opt to head south at Wylye, you could turn off at Stoford and head back to Amesbury via the Woodford Valley. Alternatively you could stay on the A36 and get held up completely in the gridlocked Salisbury network of roads, causing even more chaos there. Either way, this is not good for our local villages and calls for a much more radical rethink. 
A proposal has been put forward that brings the road around Salisbury and connects all major roads freeing up Stonehenge, villages and Salisbury.
I do believe our MP, the Government and Highways England are all looking down the wrong end of the telescope here!

Andy Rhind-Tutt
Former Mayor of Amesbury

NHS in crisis

IN RESPONSE to last week’s letter from Robert Scott-Jupp (Postbag, Jan 12), I agree that the state of affairs in our A&E last week was not acceptable and is not sustainable.

However, in the same week that Robert Scott-Jupp wrote to The Journal, Wiltshire’s Clinical Commissioning Group, the NHS doctors who actually buy in our local health services, issued a press release stating that of the people who attended A&E over the new year period, only one in three “actually needed emergency or urgent treatment”.

Attendances at A&E have increased by 18 per cent since 2003-04, and nearly a third of the overall increase has taken place in the past two years.

Given these kind of demand patterns, the problems experienced by A&E departments cannot be purely a funding issue.

There have been no cuts to the NHS.

The health service budget was £101bn in 2015 and it will be £120bn in 2020-21.

The head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, said: “the NHS has been heard and actively supported”.

The NHS was given £400m for winter-preparedness. In respect of social care, I agree more funding is needed, which is why I was pleased to see the increase in the social care precept.

I hope more is done in this area in future budgets and I am making that case actively to the Chancellor.

Lastly, Robert Scott-Jupp has provided no evidence to support his claim that “powerful voices close to government want to see the NHS fail”.

It discredits my colleagues in government who are working hard to ensure the NHS works for the future, and is frankly a conspiracy theory with no basis in fact.

Those doctors who complain about morale in the health service must accept their share of the blame if they propagate such dangerous myths.

The present crisis needs to be resolved by a focus on demand management, better arbitrage at A&E and public health initiatives – alongside the fully honoured ongoing financial commitments from government.

John Glen

Conservative MP for Salisbury

Longer shifts

THERE is a growing consensus over the urgent need to review the resourcing of the NHS as a combination of increasing longevity, a growing population and the above-inflation increases in the cost of more advanced medicines, equipment and procedures make current arrangements increasingly unsustainable. But it was disappointing that Dr Robert Scott-Jupp (Postbag, January 12) claimed simply that the NHS can make no further financial efficiencies and that there is an agenda to privatise the NHS by “powerful voices close to government”.

The claim that an organisation of over 1.2m employees with an annual budget in excess of £116bn in England alone has no room for efficiency lacks credibility but perhaps displays a closed mind.

It is arguable that two of the largest impacts of privatisation in the NHS are the privatised GP practices and the common practice of consultants to “moonlight” their skills in private practice.

What other public sector professionals are allowed to take second jobs? Perhaps our consultants should work longer shifts for the NHS, with overtime payments, in hospitals with extended working hours in order to address the backlog.

These two examples, along with the junior doctors’ strike, illustrate well that Bevan’s comment that he could only establish the NHS through stuffing the consultants’ mouths with gold apply just as well today as in 1948, but to all doctors.

We need a sensible debate that avoids scaremongering, petty politics and emotional blackmail.

After all, we the taxpayers subsidise their training, we pay significantly towards their gold-plated pensions and we provide them with a job for life.

A more constructive, thoughtful and professional approach is the least we can expect in return.

Shaun Cowlam


Bed shortage

AFTER reading Dr Robert Scott-Jupp’s letter I thought I should add my experience regarding the seriousness of our NHS crisis nationally and locally.

Last June I took my partner to SDH, he was very quickly diagnosed with serious sepsis. He stayed in hospital seven days. Of those seven days he was moved six times to different beds/wards. We asked what the problem was, it was a shortage of beds.

I emailed our MP John Glen saying this was a serious situation. In short he denied there was a problem. A few weeks later in the Journal SDH crisis no beds! You along with me might wonder what is going on? Perhaps John Glen is living in a parallel universe.

So where can we get more money from to help social services thus help ease the bed shortage? Have a look at the DfID website devtracker.dfid.gov.uk. It’s fairly easy to trace who is being paid and how much, then make your own mind up and email John Glen if you think we should divert £12bn from DfID to NHS.

We have to borrow this money to give away to private businesses (who have to pay CEOs and make a profit) and foreign governments (often corrupt) and yet your very own social services are being cut to the bone, with more cuts to come and now NHS at breaking point.

How will SDH cope when five new housing estates are occupied? Ask John Glen.

Jayne Hurst


No rate rise

FURTHER to the letter from Councillor Hocking (Journal Postbag, January 12): n Lib Dems are not the cause of the need for a city council rate rise. At a time of austerity and increasing numbers of those who are just about managing (JAMs) we incline to a no rate rise.

The problem lies with the Tory Party at county level who have been unable to honour their initial promise to make asset transfer cost neutral which will cost the city an extra c£500,000 over the next three years, and boundary review resulted in further loss of council tax income.

Does Cllr Hocking understand the responsibilities of the council under the Local Government Act? The most important one is that our council, in order to obtain further funding, must produce an agreed balanced budget for 2017-18. Shades of Liverpool City Council using a tax to pay its workers come to mind!

My reason for supporting the leader’s budget was to enable open discussion and allow other budgets to be presented in public with a high degree of transparency at a meeting set for this purpose.

The attitude of central government to local government has been one of suspicion since Liverpool. It does local government no good. We need authorities to deliver more efficient services as locally as possible.

Cllr James Robertson

Leader of the Lib Dem Group


WHAT has local democracy come to?

In the case of a planning application to extend a bungalow in Pitton which was heard at Thursday’s southern area planning committee, the planning officer made a serious error in calculating the ridge height of the planned building, and even though I had written to him explaining this fact, no attempt was made by him to correct this very significant mistake.

Also, no attempt had been made by the planning officer to ensure that Highways’ concern about parking spaces and access to the road were addressed. So, for a start, councillors were presented with misleading information.

Moreover, during the debate on the application, Councillor Clewer made a statement that some of the bungalows along this street had already been converted into two-storey houses.

This is completely untrue, but my “point of information” request was denied by the chairman, so this incorrect statement was allowed to stand as a factor in the application’s consideration.

How this can be considered democracy in action defeats me.

In the end, the application was approved on the basis of the chairman’s casting vote.

I am astonished and depressed that the democratic process displayed by Wiltshire Council planners doesn’t show the slightest interest in allowing the local community’s views to be taken into account, as required by the government’s own National Planning Policy Framework.

Rod Coppock

Chairman, Pitton & Farley Parish Council

Planning alert

IN announcing my retirement from architectural practice based in Salisbury, I want to highlight my deep concerns about planning issues locally and generally.

I noted how much slower the process had become and how divorced planning had become from the days when we did build 300,000 houses.

Planning has become a legislative process with lawyers that well-heeled developers can deploy with no expense spared.

We do need to ensure that cuts do not mean planning offices are short of infrastructure skills, architect planners, highway specialists, economists and other staff.

Perhaps we need to ring-fence budgets for planning offices.

Architect colleagues have little good to say of our planning process. I feel sorry for our planners, clearly not able to do the job we need them to do.

We need to give developers frameworks in which to work, quickening the process but not simply allowing sites to be developed piecemeal, which they can do when no real infrastructure plans exist, or they are out of date due to a lack of staff.

Do the work in advance and, in the end, the total outcome costs and the speed of providing roofs over heads will be less.

You cannot form viable families without roofs over their head.

Too many are struggling. Many solutions exist. Funding is in short supply.

Gregor Condliffe


Facts on booze

I WRITE to express some discomfort about the recent opinion article by Martin Field (January 12, 2017) regarding Dry January and Dubai. I am a local resident and director general of the Alcohol Information Partnership and feel alarmed by Mr Field’s implied support for the social illiberalism of an absolute monarchy such as the one that rules the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is part.

I am also concerned that Mr Field has a view of UK society that is not backed up by any data. I am sure readers would be interested to know that according to government figures alcohol consumption in the UK has been falling for the past 10 years or more, that underage drinking declines every year, that young people drink less than ever before and that alcohol-related crime is steadily falling, as is drink- driving.

The night-time economy in Salisbury and elsewhere is far from the wild west. Partnerships between public services, industry, retailers, licensees and charities – such as the Street Pastors – are delivering ever safer and more convivial environments in which we can all go out and have fun with or without drinking alcohol.

While problems remain and some people misuse alcohol and others behave badly having consumed too much, it is worth remembering that the vast majority of people that choose to drink alcohol do so within the government’s new guidelines and that nearly 20 per cent of the UK adult population are teetotal.

Mr Field may well enjoy a month or more off the booze – that is his choice, freely made.

Dave Roberts