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Full details needed on nuclear power issue.

Ihear that One NorthEast has invited tenders from companies interested in drawing up the business case for the construction of a new nuclear power plant in the North-East.

Please could we have the full details on this? Surely it cannot be true?

It is only a matter of weeks since the Prime Minister indicated that there is to be a review of this country's power and energy needs, and to consider the best way to ensure the whole country's energy future.

That national inquiry has hardly begun. We cannot nor should we assume that it will conclude that we need any new nuclear generation in this country. So what in fact is ONE doing? And why?

I recall the great joy in the region when Druridge Bay was spared the ignominy of being despoiled by a nuclear power station.

I am well aware that since that time, there has been no advance in dealing with highly toxic radioactive waste and we have had 9/11 in the USA showing us how vulnerable such targets as nuclear power stations are to a terrorist attack.

So who in ONE thinks that they represent the whole region, by inviting nuclear power back to the area, and why?

We must be told. There must be open and honest debate. We must begin from the position of our own government and not assume that nuclear power is a done deal.

Dr NEIL FODOR, Newcastle.

Alan Shearer a great ambassador for club

CONGRATULATIONS to Alan Shearer for reaching the magical milestone of 200 goals for Newcastle United to emulate John Edward Thompson Milburn. No doubt Shearer will create a new record with at least 201.

He has more than one string to his bow and has always been a great ambassador for both club and country. As captain of England, he played with great distinction and was admired throughout the world, although there may be one or two players who would disagree after being on the end of a push or shove.

At the end of the season, I would like Alan to follow in the footsteps of Bobby Charlton and Bobby Robson and receive a knighthood. Sir Alan Shearer has a nice ring about it.

CHRIS ROBINSON, Gosforth, Newcastle.

Overall jobs reduction should be much lower

THERE were some important omissions in your January 7 report on Newcastle City Council's proposed budget.

Although our proposals could theoretically result in 288 fewer posts, almost a third of these are currently vacant. The reduction represents under 2% of our workforce.

However, once the jobs impact of the significant increase in schools' funding and of some special grants is established, the overall jobs reduction should be much lower. We now employ 229 more staff than a year ago (mostly in schools) despite a forecast then of a loss of 140.

It is important to recognise that covering the financial deficit projected for next year would require a council tax increase of well over 10%. To keep it to the rate of inflation means we must continue to devise new ways of working and delivering our services.

Growth in demand for some services needs to be balanced by reductions in others or council tax will spiral out of control. It is disingenuous of Labour to pretend otherwise.

We now look forward to hearing Labour's proposed council tax increase, a fact which has been singularly absent from their sound-bite statements to date.

COUNCILLOR JOHN SHIPLEY, Executive Member, Newcastle City Council.

Hours of village post office were increased

ALTHOUGH there have undoubtedly been a large number of post office closures in recent years, I would like to highlight one major PO success.

At Belsay, the PO hours were recently increased in order to cope with the demand. All of the negativism associated with the recent report in The Journal does not apply at Belsay. The people who took over recently have done a great job and secured the PO as the nucleus of the wider community.

AD WALLACE, Kirkley, Northumberland.

George Galloway's record defended

IT was disappointing that The Journal felt the need in its report of January 7 to line up with the national press in criticising Respect MP George Galloway's appearance on television's Celebrity Big Brother show.

Contrary to reports of constituents being unable to have their problems dealt with, his office was doing just that last Friday. In fact, his office responds to constituents every day of the week, including Christmas and New Year.

Since the General Election, Mr Galloway has taken the message of Respect around the country speaking to thousands at the largest political meetings for generations, playing a very significant role in building the international anti-war movement.

He visited Newcastle twice last year, speaking on both occasions to packed houses at The Journal Tyne Theatre in June and to students at Newcastle University at the end of November.

For those who missed him on those occasions and for those who would like to ask him about his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother it is not too late. He will be back in Newcastle in February to launch Respect's local election campaign.

TONY DOWLING, Secretary, Respect North East.

Good case for extra tax on second homes

ATTACK is said to be the best form of defence. It is often the tactic employed by the desperate who are trying to defend the indefensible. This, I believe may be true of the newly formed Association of Second Home Owners.

You have to admire the courage of the 100 people who have stuck their head above the parapet and said: "Look at me, I'm a second home owner." There are 206,000 second home owners in the United Kingdom.

They are going to fight their corner with the commission which is looking into the acute problem of affordable housing in rural areas.

They will argue that we live in a free country and they can do what they like with their money. True. But we also live in a country where one man's freedom is another's oppression. There are few things more oppressive than homelessness, over-crowding or unaffordable rents.

Tim Farron, the Lib Dem MP for Kendal, has called for taxes on second homes. There is a strong case for this. Any property in a community is a source of collective revenue with which to pay for local services. A property that is empty is a near total loss in almost every regard. There is no case for second home owners paying less than 100% council tax and there is a good case for them paying a premium because their second home is a luxury item and their ownership of it causes public expenditure and social deprivation. I would suggest 120% council tax to help ameliorate those problems and to compensate for lost revenue in the past.

If this leads to a glut of second homes being sold, well and good. This will bring house prices down to a more realistic level in an area of low wages.

ALAN MARSDEN, Gamblesby, Cumbria.

Demand that Ernie Coe be reinstated

IAM worried, very worried, like thousands of other people. I know Councillor Ernie Coe for what he is: a man of courage, conscience, concern, humanity and public service. He works and has worked for many years for other people. As an elected member of Northumberland County Council, Coun Coe was speaking on behalf of his electorate when the events that led to his suspension took place. Why are unelected officials in office if they are seemingly not prepared to be cross-examined by a member of the council?

Are any elected councillors liable to have similar treatment if they query anything? Could this happen to my elected councillor?

Come on, Ernie's supporters. Get down to County Hall, insist on some answers and demand that Ernie be reinstated.

LISA BOLTON, Chatton, Northumberland.

It seems the rural voice is being ignored

NORTHUMBERLAND County Council's executive was due recently to consider proposals to more evenly distribute its spending on youth provision.

In other words, it was to consider moving money from youngsters in the socially deprived rural areas and increasing its spend on those in the already well catered for urban areas.

It has been suggested that to replace social skills developed within rural community centres, rural areas can survive on internet chatroom-type facilities. There has also been talk of rural community programmes being put under the wing of urban areas, together with the planned closures of our middle schools, which are often the centres for such activities.

Cynics amongst us could think that just because the executive is one of urban councillors and is Labour orientated, the rural voice is being ignored.

LYNN ROXBURGH, Longframlington.

Assembly not an extra tier of government

YOUR correspondent Gillian Swanson (The Journal, January 6) is wrong to dismiss the regional assembly as an extra tier of government. As it involved abolishing two county councils, it was actually a restructuring of local government.

It was a major failing of the campaign for the assembly not to push that side of the agenda. The key point about the assembly is that it would have been a focal point to demand exactly the devolutionary powers that Ms Swanson is arguing for.

In the 19th Century, some local authorities such as Liverpool did create their supplementary currencies and these can be an engine for regional growth.

Under the present system, all of our nation's seigniorage is spent in one single region, the city of London. In the USA, there have been requests made by 64 cities for the Federal Reserve Bank to provide them interest free loans. None have been successful, but at least they are asking for a fairer distribution of the nation's money supply. Our councils aren't, but they should be.

If the Bank of England provided such interest free loans here, it would be a radical alternative to the usurious scheme of private finance initiatives.

MARK HARMS, Clara Vale, Tyne and Wear.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 10, 2006
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