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- Arts + Ents
Matthew Norman was right with his prediction that the Queen’s Speech would not deal with the problem of betting shops and their fixed odds betting machines (“If only the Queen would speak about a business that gambles with lives”, 8 May).
In a recent parliamentary debate, sports minister Hugh Robertson finally admitted what we’ve known all along: that the betting-shop industry is targeting poorer areas. He also admitted that the Government is unwilling to take on the betting industry and the £300m in tax revenue highlighted by Mr Norman is very likely to be a factor in this.
With more than 80 betting shops now operating in Newham, we have reached saturation point and we are concerned that the gambling industry is fully intent on increasing this. Newham residents have told us that they have had enough but we are almost powerless to act. Loopholes in licensing and planning laws are routinely exploited by bookmaking firms and their teams of lawyers. We have urged the Gambling Commission – which by law has to regulate the sector – but it refuses to step in. We face a particularly tough task as the bookmaking lobby is well resourced.
Even the prospect of action in the courts will not deter the industry. Newham is being taken to court on 10 June by Paddy Power for refusing to license its latest premises. The council rejected the application because it did not believe the majority of profits would come from traditional betting. Paddy Power is appealing the decision.
We are calling for councils to be given the power to protect their communities and give them a say over their high streets.
Cllr Ian Corbett, Executive Member for Infrastructure and Environment, Newham Council, London E16
Tories really could build council houses
Why does Owen Jones confine his appeal for an urgent major council-house building initiative to Labour post-2015 (“Bricks not benefits”, 6 May)? In the same issue you report new research on the extent of underemployment – hidden unemployment – which renders even more compelling the case for more government borrowing to finance an adequate response to this desperate socio-economic need (David Blanchflower: Economic Outlook).
It would take up slack in the labour market and at the same time reduce the welfare bill. Moreover, since it would pay for itself and take families out of poverty and dependency – as well as using public funds to create assets that might later be sold to tenants, with all sale proceeds dedicated to replacement – it looks a no-brainer, even for the ideologically embarrassed.
Without breaching the Party Trade Descriptions Act, it might even be sold as updated Thatcher: humanised and sustainable self-interest, and with obvious electoral appeal.
Richard Bryden, Llandudno, Gwynedd
Infrastructure for immigrants
Bill Fletcher is yet another supporter of uncontrolled immigration who refuses to face up to its practical consequences (letter, 7 May).
A few weeks ago, the co-chairmen of the parliamentary Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration, Nicholas Soames and Frank Field, claimed that the UK would need to build the equivalent of nine major British cities over the next 15 years in order to accommodate the projected rise in population from 63 million to 70 million, including five million immigrants and their children.
This is a truly daunting prospect and it baffles me why Mr Fletcher and those who agree with him cannot appreciate the scale of the problem and simply assume that the necessary material and social infrastructure will somehow be in place.
Unless some control is placed on the numbers of people wanting to come to this country, schools, doctors’ surgeries, hospitals and welfare and other public services, already stretched to their limits, will surely be overwhelmed. It’s time for supporters of uncontrolled immigration to lift their heads from the sand and explain how this can be avoided.
D Stewart, London N2
I require some clarification. If, at a football match, I shout “sod off, you Bulgarian so-and-so, and stop scrounging our benefits” (or perhaps stronger language to that effect), am I (a) guilty of racist chanting or (b) stating current government policy? Any guidance gratefully received.
John Morgan, London N4
When celebrities face charges
If someone is not going to re-offend, either because they are incapable or because they are under arrest, publicly divulging their identity is not necessary to safeguard the public. And such revelation goes against the principle that a person is innocent until proved guilty.
The argument that naming them would encourage other victims to come forward appears to carry some weight, but only because in the past abused people were simply not believed when they were brave enough to protest.
The situation is somewhat improved now, but it should not be the case that victims need the corroboration of other victims in order to be heard. Modern science is often able to incriminate a sexual aggressor if the complaint is made soon enough after the offence.
What is required is a climate in which complainants feel able to protest sooner rather than later.
Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire
I suppose I could possibly regard myself as an intellectual sports fan, like Chris Bowers. But I do not share his views about Stuart Hall; I am on Stephen Dorril’s side (both Letters, 6 May). I thought I was the only one to find Hall’s self-absorbed pseudish babble in his football reports extremely irritating, but I now realise that Mr Bowers’s admiration for Hall is not universal.
As well as feeling sympathy for Hall’s victims and relief that he has been brought to justice, on a much less important level I can now be comforted that I will not have to listen to his verbal diarrhoea ever again when I tune in to a match report.
Ian Rickard, Stowmarket, Suffolk
From PM to life on a pension
Iain Duncan Smith argues that wealthy pensioners who don’t really need benefits should hand them back.
Many retired prime ministers, as well as receiving a generous pension from the state, being entitled to half their salary index-linked for the rest of their life, earn a considerable income from the lecture circuit, advisory roles and lucrative publishing deals for their memoirs – it is estimated that Blair received £4.6m and Thatcher £3.5m.
Certainly wealthy – and yet they receive a variety of additional state benefits including police protection and often – as in a recent case – subsidised funerals. Furthermore elevation to the peerage can add an additional “earner” through attendance allowance and expenses.
Unfortunately, they are not alone. Other retired front-bench politicians and Whitehall mandarins are in a similar position.
Come on IDS – persuade them to set an example by paying the going rate for the services they receive in addition to returning their benefit payments.
Dr David Bartlett, lkley, West Yorkshire
Let politicians speak honestly
The success of Ukip in last week’s elections means we have four-party politics, but with an electoral system that poorly reflects the way people vote.
I am not a Ukip voter but I am a member of the Electoral Reform Society ,and if we really believe in democracy Nigel Farage is right when he suggests a change to a more proportional voting system. (He likes the German system!)
More and more MPs and councillors will be elected on 30 per cent of the vote and governments will have majority power with the support of around a third of those who voted.
I wish parties and candidates would stand for what they really believe in and not just what focus groups and polls suggest “Worcester woman”, for example, wants in a marginal constituency. Under a different system candidates could speak with honesty about their principles and have distinct policies.
Martin Peters, Taunton, Somerset
Archaic rituals at Westminster
How more ridiculous an event can there be than an outline of the Government’s programme to be delivered to a chamber full of members of the upper legislative house, all trussed up in hired regalia, and large numbers of their spouses, bespangled and tiara-ed, while a mere handful of members of the major parliamentary house cram in as best they can at the doorway. Twenty-first century? A government fit for the present technological age?
Roy Evans, Harpenden, Hertfordshire
Baffled by technology
Cognitive scientists know that experts often lose touch with how ordinary people understand computer interfaces and other control surfaces; Windows 8 has symptoms of a product developed with excessive influence from “tekkies” (report, 8 May).
IT organisations generally, not just Microsoft, need to pay more attention to areas such as usability testing and marketing. Such priorities seem to get lost when technological companies grow so large that users have little choice over their purchases.
Frederic Stansfield, Canterbury, Kent
Why does “national treasure” status allow you to shout, “shut the f**k up” in a public street? (Letters, 8 May) Why is the staff of the Gielgud theatre not able to ask noisy members of the public to be quiet, instead of expecting an actress mid-performance to do it? Is theatreland in meltdown? Do we need an Ofplay?
Ian McKenzie, Lincoln
Help the needy
Rarely have I read such a heartrending letter as that from Samantha Mangwana (7 May) drawing our attention to the hideous injustice done to those women in the City whose bonuses are not as big as the menfolk’s. If she cares to send me her bank details I will make a small donation to her out of my salary as a teacher of children with special needs, to at least, in my own small way, try to make the world a better place.
Nick Wray, Derby
Bank Holiday bliss
Now that we have just experienced most beautiful Bank Holiday weather, can we please have no more “It always rains on Bank Holidays”?
David benson, Birmingham
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