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Thursday 31 January 2013
Letters: Why we're still angry with bankers
David Buik ("Bonuses are needed", 30 January) is guilty of understatement when describing the public as "incandescent with rage" about bankers' bonuses. That rage is, I agree, misdirected when it is aimed at those who are improving their businesses – especially when engaged energetically on an important rescue, as is Stephen Hester.
The fact remains that those who were primarily responsible for the 2008 crash – in whatever role – are not incarcerated, have not had their assets seized and are often still in employment in finance and government. That is wrong. It is impossible to believe that criminality was not involved, as well as culpable negligence. Where is the telling retribution?
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
I put £100 of my investor's money on a 9:1 shot and told him I wanted £180 (20 per cent bonus) if it won. If it lost I still wanted a bonus of £90 because I was the only one with the expertise to get his money back.
David Buik and your editorial (30 January) seem to accept this argument and cannot understand why taxpayers don't fall for such an "Emperor's New Clothes" scam.
Our view is simple. If RBS makes a profit, then we don't mind their bankers taking a share of that profit in the form of bonuses. What we don't accept is the argument that the little darlings must get fat bonuses because if they weren't there the losses would be even greater.
You and David Buik argue that RBS bankers should be paid their contracted bonuses. Would you argue similarly for other loss-making firms taken under state ownership? And would any government allow the workers in such industries to write their own contracts?
Surely, force majeure should apply to employment contracts when the taxpayer has to bail out such failing institutions.
Crazy logic of staff cuts at nurseries
I am responsible for running four nurseries. The proposals set out by Elizabeth Truss, the minister for education and childcare, give me great concern. I don't know anyone in the childcare profession who supports what she is attempting to do.
It speaks volumes that a move to reduce labour costs has been met with such anger from early years professionals. Our profession is dedicated to ensuring that there are enough adults to offer children support, warmth and reassurance while they're away from their parents. To reduce costs while compromising that quality of care is unbelievable.
I don't think anyone will disagree with proposals to make sure that practitioners have sound literacy and numeracy – training and development is hugely valued by employees. However, plans to focus on qualifications and training, while cutting the number of staff to care for and teach children – with the ultimate aim of somehow making childcare more affordable – is just crazy logic.
Liz Truss implies that currently nursery staff don't educate children, just look after them. As education minister responsible for childcare, does she not know that children are already being taught to read, write and count at a level appropriate to their age and maturity?
Toddlers and young children learn through play, and that is what the Revised Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum also promotes. Has she visited an early years setting, observed the children and listened to the staff? If so, then she would understand that the children are not "just playing" when they paint, cut and glue, manipulate playdough, listen to stories, sing songs, weigh sand, match and sort corks, make patterns, play board games – these are designed to develop, among other things, basic literacy and numeracy skills.
With the new staff ratios being proposed I fear many early years settings will find it difficult to maintain the very high standards we have become used to.
Our boring high streets
With the recent failure of several well-known chain shops, the future of the high street is again under scrutiny, with the internet suspected of being a serious threat. I think the high street's worst enemies are local councils, which have done all they can to leverage rateable values, building malls and tarting up city centres so that now only the large chains can afford to be in the high street, and sole traders and interesting shops have been driven out, making high streets throughout the country uniform and uninteresting.
I live near the town centre but I hardly ever go there because what I need to buy most often (food) I don't want to buy there. In a town with a population of well over 150,000 people, the town centre has one butcher, one fishmonger, no baker, one fruiterer/greengrocer, yet I can stand in a certain spot and see five mobile phone shops.
There are branches of supermarkets, of course, but I want to buy food of greater diversity and better quality than that offered by supermarkets. If I want to go to a supermarket I go to an out-of-town one where I can park without harassment. I would like to see sole traders who are knowledgeable about what they sell, and quietly take pride in its quality.
Making more and more enemies
If we are to continue to believe in a Ministry of "Defence" and our "defence" forces, perhaps they should start defending us instead of stirring hornets' nests around the Middle East.
Invasion of other people's territories and intervention in other people's civil wars should not be the business of a liberal democracy, and serve only to provoke yet more violence and to create chaos and enemies – even our "enemy's enemies" don't necessarily become our friends.
Fighting many-headed Islamist terrorism and imposing democracy and peace and harmony by means of war can't work. It hasn't worked in Iraq or Afghanistan, and finding the right sides to back (democratic, respectful of human rights) in the internal conflicts of Pakistan, Libya, Egypt, Syria and now Mali is no easy matter.
If the world needs policing, as it seems to, this is surely a job for a revitalised United Nations, not individual nations.
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
London's new smog
Beijing's air may be polluted, but today so is London's (Comment, Steve Connor, 30 January). Indeed, as many Londoners die as a result of the current pollution as did during the great smogs of the 1950s.
We used small diffusion tubes to test our area around north Islington and found pollution exceeded EU limits on every spot except a cul-de-sac with no traffic. Sites next to buildings, even of just three storeys, saw higher readings, and at one spot the pollution was 75 per cent above the EU limit.
As with the great smogs, there is little official concern about this, though that may change now that responsibility for the health of residents is devolving to boroughs. For the moment however the pressure is from the community, now that people understand why levels of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are so high, and why a growing number of children are suffering from asthma.
Chair, Better Archway Forum, London N19
But will the doctor bother?
Lisa Markwell warns of the dangers of failing to "bother the doctor" with possible cancer symptoms (Voices, 31 January).
In the past 20 years four people close to me have had cancer diagnoses. Each of them had pestered their GPs for several months to a year and had been repeatedly fobbed off with "It's just your age" or some similar remark; none of them was of the kind that runs to the GP with every twinge and ache.
Of these four, two soon died, one has survived 20 years and the third was diagnosed only three months ago, so it is too soon to say.
My experience has not been that patients don't go to the GP, but that they have not been taken seriously when they do go.
Good care? Shut the ward down
Yesterday (30 January) you published a letter from me eulogising the care by Whittington hospital in north London of a very elderly man. Just 12 hours later, we learn that the ward spearheading that care, the incomparable Cloudesley, is one of a number chosen for closure and sale by the bean-counters of the Whittington Trust.
B J Cairns
Raise a cheer for the Cold War
Dr Meic Stephens' letter (31 January), concerning cinema audiences clapping, reminded me of seeing Patton in a US cinema when it first came out in 1970. When General Patton is offered a drink by his Soviet counterpart, he says: "I ain't drinkin' with no commie son-of-a-bitch!" The whole audience (except me) rose as one and clapped and cheered for about a minute. At least Dr Stephens's experience was joyful!
Train to nowhere
The HS2 route is a typical high-profile, high-cost prestige project, which might be beneficial for employment in the short and medium term, but will not, in the long term, revitalise a trading nation with a trade deficit. It is precisely the sort of investment the IMF will force a government to sell off cheap, to qualify for IMF support in an inevitable recession. Go ask in Greece.
Peter Moody, writing from Madrid (letter, 30 January), bemoans not having a vote in the forthcoming EU referendum. What about the thousands of Scots living outside their country who will not have a vote in the independence referendum next year? Surely that is an even more important issue, especially when the many recent immigrants to Scotland will be able to express their opinion?
Cold Ash, West Berkshire
Bernard McFadden (letter, 31 January) is concerned that gays wish to marry while heterosexual couples simply cohabit. The answer is simple. The heterosexual couples, by not marrying, are avoiding divorce. The gays have yet to discover the trauma and cost of legal separation.
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