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I READ your article about Caroline Spelman and I am surprised that ‘local MP claims less than average’ makes headline news!

I READ your article about Caroline Spelman and I am surprised that ‘local MP claims less than average’ makes headline news!

I did work experience in Caroline’s office a few years ago and was actually impressed by how hard working she was and genuinely conscientious about constituency matters.

I also know people who have personally benefited from her support and were extremely grateful for her efforts as a constituency MP - they certainly felt she was ‘value for money’.

Considering how low her overall allowance claims are, I think it’s more than a little harsh to single her out like that.

Pete Quentin, via e-mail

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Double glazing

THE in word for MPs, to justify them ripping off the public, appears to be ‘inadvertently’, as used in their attempts to excuse their thieving from the tax payer.

The figure of £6,000 for gas consumption for a year, as revealed in the Solihull News, indicates that it cost £115 a week to heat MP Caroline Spelman’s home. The fact that she, as stated, only spends three days a week at the address shows a true weekly cost of £269 a week (seven days). How many mansions is she providing gas to?

Possibly she should fit double or even triple glazing. We could afford that.

Mr L Jay, Streetsbrook Road, Shirley

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Property market

FOLLOWING the disclosure of MPs’ expenses, we find that just two months after she was elected in 2005, Solihull MP Burt spent more than £12,000 of taxpayers’ money buying herself into the lucrative London property market.

She is now claiming annual mortgage costs. The only way to deal with this whole problem is to demand that any capital gain made on this type of property is returned to the taxpayer.

Stuart Bensly, Alderwood Place, Solihull

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Class warfare

LAST week’s Solihull News biased front page revealed the true colours of your paper as well as illustrating the politics of envy and class warfare.

Why go to town on Mrs Spelman’s expenses without balancing the story with the facts about our other local MP, Mrs Burt?

Mrs Burt’s second home expenses, including the tax payer funded egg holders and wine glasses, are more than twice Mrs Spelman’s.

She is worth every penny she receives from the tax payer.

Graham Juniper, chairman, Meriden Conservative Association

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Double standards

I consider Caroline Spelman’s behavior very questionable given the existence of a London property.

Many MPs have sought refuge by claiming that their actions are within the Rules and Guidelines but I understand that in turn the overriding requirement is to be ‘reasonable and above reproach’ which appears to have been ignored by many including Caroline Spelman.

I recall that David Cameron promised to vet the behaviour of all his MPs – has that exercise been concluded and if so what was the result in Caroline Spelman’s case?

Frank Trotter, Woodfield Road, Solihull

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Community stalwart

THERE are some salient points omitted in your report on Caroline Spelman’s expenses.

Surely we should expect all Members to live in or very near their constituencies?

As soon as she was elected in May 1997 she and her husband sought to purchase a house in the constituency. This they did and were able to buy it outright, which is why she is one of the lowest claimants in the West Midlands.

Since 1997 she and her family have played an active part in the local community. On many occasions over the last 12 years their house and gardens have been open to raise funds for a wide range of local charities.

Caroline Spelman is renowned throughout the constituency for her Christian values and the hard work she undertakes with all sections of the community.

Clearly she has only claimed running costs on the home. Please now let her continue with her job as one of our hardest working Members of Parliament.

Godfrey Chesshire, Malvern Road, Balsall Common

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Give them a rise

THE Meriden constituency, including as it does Smith’s Wood, Chelmsley Wood, Dorridge and Knowle, must be one of the most socially diverse in Britain. Caroline Spelman does make a real effort to represent all her constituents, but her lifestyle, supported by the use of taxpayers’ money to heat her mansion, can not help her understanding of the dire straits of some of her constituents.

My suggested remedy to the saga of MPs’ expenses is for us to grant a £20,000 per annum increase to those who attend the Commons with increments based on the distance of the constituency from Westminster. All expenses and second homes should then be financed out of taxed income and no expense allowance whatever would be paid.

For those of us who will be voting at the next General Election you would do a favour by giving as many column inches to the prospective parliamentary candidates as to the MPs. This will help us to make our judgement on policy and/or the integrity of the candidate, which is increasingly important.

John Bragg, Hanbury Road, Dorridge

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Pack of scoundrels

CAROLINE Spelman’s “if there’s an issue, let’s talk” comment last week has left me speechless. Ever since I have had the right and, indeed, what I believed to be the ‘privilege’ of voting in one of the greatest democracies in the world, I have always advocated the idea that you should not complain about the way this country is run if you don’t bother to vote.

Now I find that in recent years we have been ruled by a pack of scoundrels (and worse) whose self-serving greed has not only justified the apathy of stay at home ‘voters’ but has also justified, in the eyes of benefits scroungers and tax evaders, the actions of those many who leech off law abiding citizens to line their own pockets.

Will Heard, Balsall Common

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Pay your way

I HAVE just read your front page article about Caroline Spelman’s astronomical claim for utilities. If this isn’t a good reason for capping expenses claims, I don’t know what is! Why should we pay the running costs of a £2million mansion? This whole debacle just goes to show that we, the ordinary people who keep this country ticking over, can not trust the individuals we elect into positions of responsibility, regardless of what the ‘system’ allows.

I have to pay my own water rates, council tax, electricity and gas bills, as well as household furnishings, food and transport out of my salary, the same as every other working person in this country. Why should MPs be any different?

Glynis Harrison, via e-mail

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Complaining now

AFTER reading your article in the Solihull News about Caroline Spelman’s expenses it so infuriated us as a family that we felt compelled to e-mail you.

To think we should be deemed to accept that she had claimed £40,000 for bills and cleaning at her second home in Dorridge is an insult to our intelligence.

Surely the idea of ACA is to support parliamentary business in the capital, not a mansion in Dorridge.

How naive is Mrs Spelman to comment that up until now she had not received any complaints or criticism from her constituents. I am sure from your article this will now change.

The Cockerill family, Hampton-in-Arden.

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Explanation please

AS reported in your paper last week - Ms Spelman MP suggests that if any of her constituents have ‘an issue’ with her £40,000 expenses claim for bills and cleaning for her for Dorridge mansion they should talk to her!

I suggest she may have a lot talking to do! Or as David Cameron has suggested, MPs should explain themselves to their constituents - when will Ms Spelman do this, for these expenses and her now famous nanny’s fees claims?

PR Whitehoue, Edstone Close, Dorridge

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Green champion

MUD slinging about environmental credentials is a poor form of political discourse. Well-known Lib Dem supporter Steve Green (letters, June 19) accuses local Conservative candidate Maggie Throup of ‘painting’ herself as an environmental champion for Solihull’s green spaces.

Rather Maggie has demonstrated her commitment to this issue by hard work and tenacity. She was widely commended across all sections of the community for leading a successful campaign to prevent a Motorway Service Area being built in Catherine-de-Barnes.

She has also been at the forefront of efforts, also successful, to stop a second runway being built at Birmingham Airport.

It is therefore unjustifiable to attack her for being, as Mr. Green, puts it, ‘curiously silent’ on parkland.

Simon Goddard, Dordon Close, Shirley

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Road rage

I MUST protest at the use of tar and stones to resurface the bypass from Hampton Lane down to the M42.

This is a heathen way to resurface a road, not expected in the 21st century. Thousands of vehicles are slowed down and suffer from stone chips, usually for some weeks afterwards. And as a major road I would have expected the Tarmac treatment that Hampton Lane in Catherine-de-Barnes (a less used road) got. What on earth was the thinking (if any) behind this?

Richard Taylor, via e-mail

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Outsource them

LAST year Solihull MBC advertised for five posts to bolster their lacklustre Highways Department. This year, they are at it again.

Three more engineering posts are currently being advertised nationally. The cost of these engineers, including overheads, is nearly £200,000 every year,

If they are really needed for the short term, rather than more empire building, this function should be outsourced.

We would then not be lumbered with long-term gold-plated pension commitments, particularly when major redundancies will be required with the forthcoming slashing of public expenditure.

Richard Davis, Balsall Common

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Better by bike

I FIND it rather depressing that Councillor Potts (June 19 and previous letters pages) is devoting so much time and effort to opposing the Arden Safer Routes to School scheme.

The tactic seems to be to persuade the council to pay for endless consultations (two so far and a now a ‘public’ meeting is also promised) for a scheme that is simply about reducing traffic speeds near a local school and providing more space for those who choose to cycle or walk in Knowle Park.

Sustrans, the charity which pioneered this type of project and has achieved wonderful results in schools where they have worked (see www.sustrans.org.uk), is actually about encouraging all of us to change our travel behaviour and know that good habits established in school can stay with people for life.

As people grow up they get busier and have less time to walk, but cycling is still very quick for short trips, providing you have the confidence to do it!

Stephen Holt, Bentley Heath

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Double the money

THE subject of the cycle route in Knowle is being well aired, and from a local straw poll very few residents are in favour of such a scheme. But following and in line with a democratic process petition and without any form of council confirmation, the powers-that-be in the last few days have resurfaced part of Station Road where, should the plan go ahead, the area around the school entrance will need to be substantially altered (widening, table top calming and speed signs).

If the council is already about to turn the scheme down why do they not announce it now and save much time and effort by those organising petitions etc, or alternatively should a possible scheme go ahead, why oh why are they doing the roadworks, incurring costs twice over in some parts of Station Road?

Allan Coleman, Starbold Crescent, Knowle

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Get off the fence

I AM afraid that Tim Hodgson’s attempt to rewrite the history of Shirley just won’t wash (Letters). Because I chaired the meeting many years ago and personally proposed that the council refuse to transfer the lease of Powergen to Asda, I know very well that his own party voted for transfer rather than risk a possible legal challenge.

As this was in the time of a hung council my proposal was overruled. I (and other Conservative councillors) also attended public meetings to oppose the Asda planning application but as this was well before Tim arrived on the scene it is not surprising it passed him by.

It is time Tim came off the fence and made clear whether he supports or opposes the proposals to make regeneration deliverable.

As Coun Allport points out, the independent planning inspector’s report last year stated clearly that this is the only viable scheme to rejuvenate Shirley as a thriving shopping area. The letter from Rosemarie Rickard (Plan A Please) is at least honest in recommending that we throw in the towel and let Asda build a superstore on the Powergen site. Could we please have similar honesty from Tim as to where he stands?

Ken Meeson, Leader, Solihull Council

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Heartbroken

I WOULD like to express my thanks to the person(s) who, on Friday, June 19 between 5.05pm and 6.05pm, stole my gold Rover 25 from Stratford Road, Shirley, near Currys whilst I was attending my husband’s funeral. You chose the perfect day to carry out this act. If anyone notices my ‘Y’ registered Rover 4 door in gold, abandoned or parked please contact Solihull police station.

Name and address supplied

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No to chips

I WRITE in response to a letter in last week’s letters column about a planned change to the way refuse is collected in Solihull and I would like to provide reassurance to residents about this planned change.

From September 21 2009 we will begin to provide households with a 140 litre black wheeled bin for disposal of non-recyclable domestic waste.

The bins we are providing will not contain micro-chips. They will hold approximately two sacks of normal household waste. By the time the new wheelie bins arrive people should find that they have a lot less waste to throw away as we will also be introducing further kerbside recycling services for the collection of cans and tins and plastic bottles and card. A prototype of the new bin is on show at Solihull Connect Walk-in Centre at Library Square in Solihull and Chelmsley Wood Area Housing Office.

Further information about these services will be available to householders from mid-July.

Coun Kate Wild, Cabinet Member for Community Services and the Environment

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Bin hazard

COULD I bring to your attention the hazard caused by green bins. I see young moms struggling to manoeuvre around them and one day someone will step into the road and then there will be an accident.

Then you will find they will sue the local council. This will be one of many accidents if we keep having these bins. Elderly people also find it difficult to get past these bins with their trolleys.

Joan Clark, via e-mail

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Wheely good

THOSE who are “against it” are often moved to write. Those of us who are “for it” usually don’t bother, but here goes.

I am very much an older citizen but am looking forward to receiving my rubbish bin in September. It will, I hope, stop the loose rubbish from disgracing our streets after foxes and crows have checked to see if there is anything edible in the plastic bags and left a sizeable hole!

RD, via e-mail

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Stop moaning

I READ the letter from someone regarding the Knowle Poet’s complaint about Solihull post office. The Poet has always got something to complain about. Hasn’t he visited Argos or the Council House or the big supermarkets?

He should be grateful he gets a pension. I thought you could only withdraw your pension once a week. Perhaps he’s privileged and has two because he’s a poet. He’s lucky he can walk to get it.

Name and address supplied

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Bus peril

I WAS pleased to read the article about bus accidents. There are too many accidents on our local buses. I had one in April last year. Before I could put the fold down seat down and turn and sit, I was hurled to the floor and hurt both my lower back and my neck. Fourteen months on I am still suffering pain.

Telling people to try not to carry too many bags is not really the answer. Most of us go on the buses as we don’t drive and consequently we have to carry all our grocery shopping on the bus, leaving us with no hands to hold on with.

I have witnessed several accidents, one involving a 90-year-old man who was holding the upright post to enable him to get into the seat when the bus jolted and he was thrown against the bell push.

I have also seen a passenger get on near House of Fraser and ask the driver to stop at Marie Curie. She rang the bell in good time and he did stop but started off again before she could pick up all her bags and she almost fell.

The drivers should have a duty of care for their passengers.

Gwyneth Taylor, Ullenhall Road, Knowle

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Great care

I AM writing to express my thanks to staff at the Walk-in Centre in Solihull Hospital.

I had to visit the centre on Wednesday, June 3 and everyone was wonderful. Special thanks to nurse Mrs Jenking and Dr Kotecha for the kindness and efficiency shown to me.

Leslie Mobley, Kittermaster Road, Meriden

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Fete thanks

AS chairman of the Friends of Solihull Hospital Association, I would like to thank all the volunteers who helped at our fete on June 6 in such atrocious weather conditions. Special thanks to the Mayor Norman Davies and Mayoress for their kind support and for taking the time to talk to most of the stallholders and showing such interest in what the Friends do for our local hospital.

G Cother, chairman, Friends of Solihull Hospital

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Here to help

I WOULD like to say a big thank you to the kind people of Shirley who donated to the bucket collection on Saturday, June 13. We raised £661.44.

Two million people wake up every day to the reality of living with cancer, and one million of them don’t know that there is practical help freely available to them. This money will go towards helping those people.

Ann Gumery, Macmillan Cancer Support

 

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