Dear Editor, It's now 18 months since the Gridlock or Growth report was published, with its proposal to charge a £5 levy on motorists in the West Midlands. The two failed attempts to implement this strategy could have been predicted by the unpopularity it met with from the outset, with drivers and business leaders alike uniting in opposition to the introduction of such charges, and the very real threat they posed to this area's economic competitiveness.
Yet despite such public hostility, research into this scheme was allowed to rumble on and on at great cost to taxpayers. A Freedom of Information request revealed to me that West Midlands Public Transport Authority - Centro - spent over £9,000,000 just on the services of various consultants in the year 2006-7. For this amount of money surely we could've seen some effective quick win strategies put into place?
Local drivers and businesses may have escaped the spectre of this road pricing plan and its unfair charges, but we have all been left with a substantial bill to pay regardless. Now the new workplace parking charges seem to be firmly on the agenda, and we can only wonder how much more of our money this scheme will devour?
It is truly unfortunate that, as new proposals to land taxes on motorists under the banner of environmentalism start rear their heads, it looks unlikely that ratepayers will be granted any respite from shouldering these substantial costs.
FIONA MCEVOY West Midlands TaxPayers' Alliance
Revealing the true cost of CCTV cameras
Dear Editor, Despite the erosion to our civil liberties, most of us have accepted creeping surveillance in our towns and cities in the form of an increase in the number of CCTV cameras around.
After all, we are told that these cameras are for our own protection, to keep us safe from terrorism and other serious crimes.
The only nagging question has been where all the money will come from to pay for all these cameras and the people that monitor them? We now have an answer; some of it will be clawed back from that reliable old cash cow, the motorist.
From March 31, drivers caught on camera parking in restricted zones will be sent fines through the post.
Now I would like to think that the people processing these fines would exercise some discretion, but the situation in London, where this system is already in place, is that in practice this just doesn't seem to happen.
Operators dispense these fines knowing the majority of weary drivers just pay them to get rid of them, despite the fact that most appeals succeed.
It is a concern that persons monitoring these cameras are so busy looking for parking offenders that they miss real crime, something serious that CCTV was originally commissioned to tackle.
What an appalling betrayal of our trust.
ANTHONY BROOK Halesowen
Yet another burden to ailing pubs
Dear Editor, While, of course, you are only an alcoholic if you drink more than your doctor, many GPs support the large increases in duty on alcohol (especially spirits) in the budget "as a device aimed at reducing binge drinking".
It will be interesting to look at the figures in a couple of years' time, because I don't think these increases will make any difference to people determined to go on a bender, but will rather add yet another burden to pubs - many of which are already suffering greatly from the smoking ban - causing many community pubs to close.
Binge drinking is essentially a symptom of a social and political crisis, a sign of powerless people railing against a system which pressurises them from school upwards into a materialist conformity, and which is deeply hypocritical over the environment - seeking and encouraging immediate pleasure.
Increased duty won't solve the problem at all, but it is possible that the politicians already suspect this.
BILL HAYMES By email
Kidney transplant patient dilemma
Dear Editor, World Kidney Day this week will rightfully highlight the plight of the 8,000 people in the UK currently awaiting a transplant. But what happens to those thousands who are not transplanted due to organ shortage or individual medical history?
There are over 6,500 people currently waiting for a kidney transplant, of whom less than 25 per cent will be lucky enough to receive one this year. There are 41,776 people in the UK receiving RRT according to the most recent Renal Registry Report. Although the majority of these will be eligible for a kidney transplant in the future, whilst they are waiting they have only two choices - hospital or home-based dialysis.
Current health policy relating to the care of patients advocates delivering care closer to the patient's home. With current dialysis capacity issues and a focus on patient choice, shouldn't more patients be able to choose a home-based treatment?
STEPHANIE TOD Dialysis Options
Any lengths for safety
Dear Editor, If I have understood things correctly, West Midlands International Airport Ltd now accepts that the runway at Coventry Airport is too short for the site. However, rather than shorten the runway to an acceptable length, it appears to have got Warwick District Council to install traffic lights on adjacent roads for use when planes are blasting around the area.
Is this really what a safe British airport should be doing?
Coventry already has the shortest safety area in the UK, being only 90 metres instead of the Civil Aviation Authority's recommended 240 metres.
Can users of these roads and airport read the risk assessment report?
Why was no risk assessment included in the public inquiry?
MARTIN CLIVE-SMITH Leek Wootton
Just the tonic for boring NEC
Dear Editor, What good news it is to hear that the NEC is to be redeveloped.
I go to see a lot of bands and regard the NEC as one of the worst concert venues in the region.
It may be the largest, but it so ugly and boring looking from the outside. Once inside it lacks character and atmosphere.
A revamp is exactly what is needed to ensure the venue does not suffer a gradual decline. I particularly like the idea of a tall tower. It would be good if it was visible from the M42. Thousands of motorists would see it every day as they sit in traffic.
LEWIS LUCAS Kings Heath