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Saturday 14 July 2012
Letters: There are two sides to tennis clubs
I am chairman of a small tennis club in rural Somerset (letters, 10 July) where junior membership costs less than 50p a week and for an extra £2.50 juniors can purchase a court key that allows them to book courts and play at almost any time.
For an extra £7, their parents can take out a membership that allows them to play with their children only. Full adult membership is £130. I do not consider these fees expensive.
We have four all-weather courts, two of them floodlit, and we need to put £6,000 a year into a sinking fund for maintenance and court resurfacing. That is not easy with about 90 adult members and 35 juniors.
We have good contacts with local first and middle schools part-funded by the LTA and run several successful junior events sponsored by local businesses. While not agreeing with everything the LTA do, I have to say that we have received excellent support over many years from our county development officer who has helped to establish coaching programmes and provided some funding.
I too would like to see more of the LTA's vast resources being pumped into grassroots tennis; coaching costs and coaching time can be expensive but in my experience most parents are reasonably happy to pay between £2 and £4 an hour for an organised squad session.
I spend on average eight or nine unpaid hours per week on club business and have a small hard-working committee all doing their best to make sure tennis continues to happen in the community and our children are able to play the game without incurring excessive costs.
I live in the village of Read in the Ribble Valley where we have a tennis club of four hard courts and clubhouse set in beautiful countryside.
We offer membership at £75 per player over 18, children free, balls are provided and an LTA-accredited coach takes all the local children through the different age groups at minimal cost.
Sadly, this 100-year-old club is in danger of folding due to lack of interest. The adults can't be bothered and the children, when they reach the age of about 12, find more exciting things to do.
Read, Ribble Valley
We are safer with G4S relieved of Games security
The peeople of London should already be feeling safer, knowing that G4S is being relieved of some of its responsibility for "securing" the Olympics. This is a company said to be involved in Israel's belligerent and illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.
The politicians responsible for the Games dismissed concerns about this, which were articulated by faith representatives, after reassurances from G4S.
The chequered history of this company includes the deaths of Jimmy Mubenga and Gareth Myatt while in the custody of G4S operatives. It has been alleged that G4S is derelict in its recruitment, its training and its payment to its employees. It has been the subject of many complaints by immigration detainees, including claims of assault and many of racial abuse.
It therefore beggars belief that this company, shown to be so incompetent in its handling of the Olympics, is now bidding to take over large swaths of our public provision.
It is in the running for contracts in the criminal justice, education, health, welfare to work and border agency services. It is surely not too late for the Government to exclude this compromised company from bidding for any further public contract.
The Home Secretary Theresa May and the Olympic organisers should pray that no eagle-eyed Masai tribesman or human rights lawyer reads the so-called Olympic banned list ("No frisbees, picnic hampers or vuvuzelas: Items banned from the Olympics", 12 July).
With the controversies covering over-budget, missiles on residential homes, marketing of junk food and the use of soldiers to police the event already casting a shadow, they could be sued for discrimination on racial ground if they allow the Sikh article of faith, the kirpan/ceremonial dagger, but ban spears and clubs, which are integral to the Masai culture.
The Masai tribesmen are some of the best marathon runners in East Africa. In 2008, six Masai men ran in the Flora London Marathon and toured Trafalgar Square, all carrying their traditional spears and clubs, without which no self-respecting tribesman will leave his home.
What a shambles our Government seems to be as they lurch from one self-inflicted crisis to another, the latest being the security arrangements at the Olympics.
Now that we have been reduced to a laughing stock, can we at least expect them to give a serious rethink to their plans for private enterprise to "help" our police forces and have much more involvement with the army? If this fiasco serves any purpose at all, at least it demonstrates that this really is a privatisation too far.
With 14,000 athletes and 17,000 military personnel, perhaps the GB medal count could be significantly enhanced if the organisers were to introduce synchronised military manoeuvres as an event.
With unemployment approaching the three million mark, how can G4S fail to recruit enough security staff?
Thatcher policies back in place
After 13 years of a Labour government that had grown tired and were out of fresh ideas, even I thought we needed a change. I mean how bad could the alternative be, with that personable, born-again eco-warrior David Cameron, a champion of compassionate Conservatism, and his band of reformed MPs in charge. They were no Thatcher government, were they? How wrong could I have been? Reading the case study "We need a cap on costs" really brought it home to me. Nothing has changed, the Conservatives are still the party of the self-interested, power-hungry greedy who look down on the less fortunate.
There could not be a more vivid representation of the haves versus the have-nots than the story of the young Down's Syndrome woman living with her parents, deprived of her weekly activities and slipping into depression, a victim of the Goverment's benefit cuts, contrasting with yet another easy hand-out to the super-rich that they should not be burdened with 50 per cent income tax.
What baffles me is why so many ordinary people vote for them? Is it because deep down they aspire to be like them? It is a truly depressing indictment.
Reform of the concessionary travel schemes is long overdue; they were introduced separately, in haste, as political sweeteners in the face of research which showed they were unsustainable in the long-term.
With smartcard technology, we could introduce a UK-wide concessionary travel card by 2015 for bus, rail, coach, tram and ferry available to all seniors and disabled people which could offer unlimited free travel to some holders. Others could have a restricted annual allowance with the option to top up to travel more; it could be set at 65 per cent of the adult fare.
This would prevent arguments between local authorities and bus operators over reimbursement rates, and give operators confidence to invest in the bus network without the fear that they may receive derisory reimbursement for some concessionary journeys which can be as low as 25 per cent for some longer ones.
Smaller operators could be offered smartcard ticketing equipment on cut-rate leases to avoid the need for high capital expenditure, a disincentive to them to adopt smartcards.
Dr John Disney
Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University
Lawless militias strangling Libya
Kim Sengupta's disturbing report on factional violence in eastern Libya is just one part of a frightening picture emerging in Libya ("A violent return to democracy", 9 July). Our research shows that hundreds of militia groups now have the country in a stranglehold, operating above the law and meting out the roughest of rough justice.
In particular, Libya's revolutionary fighters, the thuwwar, have been operating as vigilante groups, hunting down perceived Gaddafi loyalists (many actually sub-Saharan African migrants or simply members of communities considered hostile to the revolution).
About 4,000 detainees are now held outside the reach of the central authorities, some for more than a year, in often abysmal conditions where torture is rife. We have recorded at least 20 deaths in custody as a result of torture since August.
If the stranglehold of Libya's lawless militias is not broken soon, post-Gaddafi Libya will begin to more and more resemble the violent, repressive country that preceded it.
Director, Amnesty International UK, London EC2
£290m Barclays parking ticket
A back-of-a-beermap calculation of the impact of the £290m fine on Barclays shows that it represents 1/38th of the bank's £11bn profit for 2009. If an average wage-earner made £2,500 profit in a year, that fraction would work out at £65. So Barclays were fined the equivalent of a parking ticket for all their foul misdemeanours.
No slavers these
Given the attitude towards the jobless in the UK, I would have been only slightly surprised had the Connors ("Travellers kept slaves in concentration camp", 12 July) been lauded as altruistic entrepreneurs re-establishing a sense of purpose for the poor and dispossessed and encouraging them not to be a burden on the state.
Great Ayton, North Yorkshire
Salute to a star
Never mind Peter O'Toole's social excesses (report, 12 July), he was an electrifying stage-presence. His Irving-like Shylock and technically amazing Evening With Jeffrey Bernard showed that. I owe him a great deal. As his understudy, I played Thersites in Troilus and Cressida when he was being screen-tested for Lawrence of Arabia. As a result, I got eight years' work with the RSC. Thank you, Maestro. Have a happy retirement.
For all that your correspondents have brought about foreign alternatives (letters, 9 July) I do not believe any other country has a sign which has so easily, with four marks of the pen, been altered from DO NOT LEAN OUT OF THE WINDOW to DO NOT CLEAN SOOT OFF THE WINDOW. Delicious.
Fair trade milk
Dairy farmers who do not make a profit on milk (report, 11 July) should name the supermarkets who pay them less than cost so we can buy from supermarkets which pay a rate that will sustain the industry?
See, no asterisks
Until the John Terry trial, I thought that Suchandsuch FC meant football club.
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