Services that put ordinary people first
Dear Editor, In a compelling novel, The Historian, a surprising number of librarians turn out to be vampires (rest at ease Councillor Whitby, this isn't about intentions for Centenary Square).
In reality, few would turn to this mild profession to find bloodsuckers, there being a richly populated necropolis of bankers, power companies, fuel firms and telecom providers. BT clearly has the contagion with its recent hike in charges for those, typically thrifty and older people, who do not wish to be drawn into direct debit.
The corporate ethics and social responsibilities of yesteryear are but a memory and national government similarly usurps its citizens - security of data about individuals is discarded for petty cost cutting.
So where are we to find the vampire slayers? Enter the unlikely (potential) heroes in the form of local government.
We need not resort to garlic or even Christian icons and, in taking the brakes off devolution, we could avoid a stake through our global city's innocent local heart.
We must ensure that our services put the ordinary people first, bemused and exploited as they are, and we should restore former services such as a Municipal Bank that would offer a simple and trustworthy alternative to the financial creatures of the night. Oh for the days when we also had our own water, gas, buses and a visible police force. Now there's a line-up that would ward off the bloodsuckers.
Coun MICHAEL WILKES
A paid for commitment to the Midlands
Dear Editor, While a question mark continues to hang over the future of the Drama Village at Birmingham University, I thought I'd better write to the Post and alert your readers to what might be a silver lining should the BBC go ahead, as expected, and announce its closure in March.
The BBC is a public corporation which means that you and I are its owners. Parliament renews the BBC's charter every ten years or so.
The latest charter provides the BBC with six public purposes and one of these is particularly relevant to licence payers in the West Midlands.
It is the purpose that compels the BBC to: "Represent the UK, its nations and its regions at national level, portraying and celebrating the rich range of cultures and communities."
In their drive to close network production down in the West Midlands (in order to invest £450 million in their new studios in Manchester) the BBC can clearly be accused of breaking this purpose as far as this region is concerned.
In the next few years the BBC will be presenting the nation with hours of programmes every day made in London and Manchester and nothing from here. Therefore, if Birmingham and the region are invisible, then surely they will be breaking the terms of their charter. If so, should you and I be paying their licence fee?
Here in the West Midlands we pay £350 million per annum, a full 10 per cent of the BBC's licence fee income. Are we getting our share of expenditure, jobs, investment and representation from our money?
Well, there is only one answer to that. It seems to me that the BBC should be investing more in this region, and the retention of the Drama Village as it stands would hardly be a victory. There needs to be a substantial increase in commissioning, not just in drama but across the genres.
Why not move BBC2 and a radio network to Birmingham?
Why not a historical drama set in the Black Country?
Why no light entertainment beamed direct from the NEC?
What about a continuous drama shown during peak time?
If the BBC is to remain relevant it needs to take a close look at its six purposes. It needs to be different to the plethora of broadcasters it now competes against. It needs to be more than the North and South Broadcasting Corporation. If it's not different then why should my money go to them and them alone?
My TV licence is due to be renewed in the summer and I am not inclined to pay it. I will be less inclined if the BBC continues to make cuts to its commitment to this region. It would be an interesting court case and I would like to appeal to Birmingham's legal professionals for some unremunerated advice.
If we could push it through the courts high enough then I might even need a barrister.
What is at stake here is just as important for the city and the region as the need to improve our local transport or airport links, or urban regeneration.
The issues are about encouraging creativity, the thousands of jobs that come with that, sharing our varied cultures and maintaining our importance at the heart of the nation.
Dropping visual art activities?
Dear Editor, Those of us who have for decades been supporting MAC by paying for courses in visual arts and crafts are puzzled by the apparent lack of studio provision for these in the proposed new building. Is it simply an oversight in your otherwise detailed report of January 18 or is it the intention of MAC management to concentrate on performing arts in future and drop all visual art activities?
Regrettably, current students and, it seems, tutors, have been given no information. The only communication we have had on the subject so far has been an appeal for donations.
It would be useful to know whether the arrangements being made to continue courses elsewhere during the closure need to be made permanent. No-one has so far answered these questions.
A referendum on our membership of the EU
Dear Editor, May I correct the impression given in a recent report, where you suggested the Liberal Democrats oppose a referendum on Europe (Smith to be targeted, Post February 1).
Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment to the Queen's Speech arguing for a referendum on our continued membership of the EU. The Tories and Labour voted against the motion.
The proposed European Constitution brought together previous treaties and set them out in a single document. Liberal Democrats called at the last election for a referendum on this proposed constitution, which would effectively been a referendum on our continuing relationship with the EU. This would have given many the opportunity to express a view on this for the first time.
The Lisbon Treaty does not replace previous treaties - it merely amends them as they stand. A referendum on this treaty would not, therefore, give us the opportunity to vote on Rome, Maastricht, etc.
What the campaigners, as reported in your article, call for is too limited in its scope. That is why Liberal Democrats are calling for a referendum on our continued membership of the EU, rather than a modest set of treaty changes.
This represents a strengthening, not a weakening, of pre-election manifesto commitment.
There's no honour in family murder
Dear Editor, I am surely not alone in thinking that your references to the murders of daughters and wives as having some sort of honour is deplorable. While it may be acceptable in less civilised parts of the world, this barbaric practice has no place in the UK.