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Disgraceful behaviour in meal break dispute.

Like many other people in the North-East, I was pleased and relieved that the dispute over meal breaks in the ambulance service appeared to be resolved.

Then today, news that no-one expected: no deal ("Meal deal stand-off as crews reject pounds 35", The Journal, February 20)!

What is going on? It seems an act of utter stupidity from both sides that an agreement cannot be reached.

The only people really suffering in all this is me, the public, the taxpayer who funds all this.

I am fed up with the stance taken on this and feel like knocking heads together.

The behaviour of this service is disgraceful and badly reflects on the genuine men and women in this service who want to agree a solution.

Any public support they had for their claim is rapidly diminishing and I would urge a speedy solution to this issue, for the benefit of us all.

PETER DAWSON, Backcrofts, Rothbury, Northumberland

Library closure defies admirable sentiments

IT was with dismay that I heard of the planned closure of Ryton library.

There are so few facilities left in Ryton ( the swimming and paddling pools having been demolished some years ago ( that this appears to be the final nail in the coffin.

We are informed that people will be able to travel to Blaydon and Crawcrook libraries, but this is not always feasible for the elderly and the young. The extra vehicle usage hardly fits in with the 'green revolution'.

The library has been a meeting place for various local groups who will now have to find alternative venues, while a valuable resource will be taken from children whose families do not own computers and who use the library for homework.

I would draw your attention to a recent article in The Times by Jeanette Winterson headlined "Take away a library and discourage users and you lose a way of life", whilst Alan Johnson, Labour's Education Secretary, has stated that "reading for pleasure helps children with their literacy skills and sparks their imagination and creativity". Is the closure of Ryton Library not at odds with these admirable sentiments?

MRS S ROBSON, Village East, Ryton, Gateshead

Government sells out on post office closures

FURTHER to your article headlined "Rally over PO closures threat" (The Journal February 20), few people appear to be aware the real reason for the closure of thousands of our post offices is the Amsterdam Treaty and the European Union postal services directive 97/67/EC.

This directive has compelled the Government to allow the German Post Office (the Bundespost) to operate in the United Kingdom. Not surprisingly, the Bundespost has creamed off millions of high revenue business post from The Royal Mail. If, for any reason, the Bundespost decides not to deliver its mail, the Royal Mail has to deliver it at a cost to the Bundespost of only 14p per letter.

The Bundespost is protected by the German government who flatly refuse to implement the EU directive, which would allow foreign competitors into Germany, for at least five years.

It has been stated that our Government will set the level of subsidy the Royal Mail may receive from the taxpayer. Whatever figure is decided upon, Gordon Brown will have to go cap-in-hand to Brussels for approval.

In rural areas, local post offices provide a lifeline.

Under Article 88 of the Treaty of Amsterdam, this Government needs permission from the EU Commission to give state aid to the Post Office, to a maximum of pounds 150m a year.

The European Competition Commissioner said she was happy to endorse measures to run from April 2006 to March 2008, if the Government agreed to close a minimum of 3,000 sub-post offices.

This Government has turned its back on the people of this country and sold us all out.

PENELOPE GILES, Warkworth, Northumberland

Appeal for actors to join Tynemouth play

IAM a long-standing member of Tynemouth Pageant, who have staged big open-air plays in Tynemouth Priory every three years since 1990, with shorter plays in the intervening summers.

This year, to commemorate the Bi-Centenary of the Abolition of Slavery in 1807, I have been asked to write the 2007 short play. There is a challenge.

To make the drama work, we need some black actors to personify black slaves. I have tried local performing arts courses and several theatre contacts, but have had no luck so far. I wonder if you could publish my plea?

I need black African/Caribbean actors, male or female, who might be able to take part. The show will be at the end of July, with rehearsals on weekday evenings, say two a week, from about the end of May.

ROGER BURGESS, 8 Tynemouth Place, Tynemouth NE30 4BJ. Tel: (0191) 258-7905

Working for a solution to public transport

FIONA Hall MEP agrees with me on taking a holistic approach to public transport, but then takes a typical side swipe at the Government over public transport ("Council's hands tied over transport powers", Voice of the North, February 21).

I am not clear why then, she chooses to only meet local campaigners in Walkergate, coincidentally currently a Liberal Democrat held ward of the City.

Clearly the Liberal Democrat representation is doing nothing to resolve the matter, unlike Labour councillors who are working closely with council officers, Members of Parliament and bus operators.

Fiona Hall obviously needs reminding that the bus operators are private companies, operating to make a return. We in the Labour Party are working together at all levels to identify positive ways forward, to gain the best public transport provision for our communities, not playing pathetic parochial party games.

COUN NICK KEMP, Labour, Byker Ward, Newcastle City Council

Cartoon badges help services for the blind

ACTION for Blind People North-East has always enjoyed fantastic support from your readers, enabling us to provide a range of services to blind and partially sighted people.

Now we've joined with Alliance & Leicester to raise vital funds and awareness for our services.

Until the end of February, you can support the charity by purchasing a specially-made pin badge from your local branch in Durham. There's a choice of five badges of the current stars from the Nickelodeon cartoon, All Grown Up. Each badge is available for a suggested donation of pounds 1.

SUSAN STEVENS, Action for Blind People North- East, c/o Garland House, 144-146 Borough Road Middlesbrough TS1 2EP

Bizarre priorities take on a sinister meaning

THE article by your columnist Keith Hann (The Journal, February 20) highlights frightening developments in the way Britain is governed.

In the last 10 years, we have had numerous pieces of legislation restricting the freedom of law-abiding citizens and increasing the power of the state.

The principle of Habeas Corpus has been eroded and the Extradition Act 2003 means a person can be extradited to any European Union country without any prima facie evidence against him.

The person thus deported faces trial, after an indeterminate period of detention, under a justice system alien to ours, requiring him to prove his innocence.

We are no longer able to protest near Parliament. The Government last year tried to introduce a law to effectively give itself power to amend any laws without parliamentary debate. There are plans for compulsory ID cards, a central children's database and tracking of all motor vehicles.

Many of the Government's plans rely on IT systems. Not a single one of its systems has yet come in on time and within budget, and we cannot feel sure all this extra information will be held securely. And for what purpose is it being held? This Labour Government has created 3,000 new criminal offences, but do any of us actually feel any safer than we did in 1997?

We have a Government which is obsessed with control over all our lives, increasing its own powers at the expense of our freedom.

It is all being done at our financial cost too. This Government is prepared to spend massive sums on surveillance yet cannot find money to employ physiotherapists. It can fund new prying surveys to raise council tax, yet cannot properly equip the army in Iraq.

The Government's priorities are, at best, bizarre, and at worst, sinister.

JUDITH WALLACE, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside

Paying more doesn't always work well

MANY councils are proposing massive increases in payments to councillors, including redundancy packages and pensions "to attract the right people".

This certainly works, just look at Westminster.

GORDON TOMLINSON, Seaham, County Durham

Coalition government is only one to trust

DAVID Miliband's prediction that within six months of 'Tax It' Brown becoming Prime Minister we shall be regretting the departure of 'Trust Me' Blair, is spot on.

Which politicians can we trust these days once they are on the gravy train?

We are living under a dictatorship which will lead eventually to civil unrest. No self-interested, one party set-up can be trusted. It's essential we change to some form of coalition government for the good of all.

NORMAN WALL, Wallsend, Northumberland

Shattered illusions over British justice

WITH respect to some of the letters this week regarding the state of policing and justice in this country, I can tell your readers that there is a 'system' but justice it ain't.

I have been loosely involved in a civil case for the past three years in which an evil and malicious woman is constantly making false and unproven allegations against her ex-husband. I believe she is supported in this by the police and the court system, which seems to choose the winner and loser in advance and then effectively deny the innocent party his human right to properly defend himself.

I have today decided to write this all up and offer it to your newspaper in the knowledge that your readers will be utterly astounded at what I have seen and experienced. It will shatter any illusions they might have that this system will not apply to them as long as they behave.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 24, 2007
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