Dear Editor, May I, on behalf of the Working Men's Clubs' affiliated to this Union, offer this open letter in the hope that MPs in your catchment area can feel the frustration and, yes, despair of the impact of their actions.
The latest nail in our coffin was revealed in the Budget with a further price increase in beer, cider, wine and spirits. When the Government stated 4p per pint, our clubs have to add other elements to that price viz a viz profit and VAT, which takes the 4p basic rise to almost double that figure at the bar.
We accept that there is a binge drinking problem, including under-age consumption, but we do not believe that these problems are of our making. On the contrary, we believe that the availability of exceedingly cheap alcohol in supermarkets is a major influence fuelling the heavy drinking culture. Often youngsters are already primed with alcohol before hitting the streets later in the evenings. If there is the means and the will to alter competition laws or persuade the supermarkets and off-licences to adopt more sensible pricing, that would be a major contribution in addressing current alcohol concerns.
Many clubs are hanging on by their finger-tips, partly due to the recently introduced smoking ban and there is evidence all over the country that clubs' takings are down by double percentage points. We believe that recent laws on the Licensing Act, the Gambling Act and the Non-Smoking Act has and will continue to close many Working Men's Clubs.
In conclusion, the breweries having increased their prices recently due to increased overheads, together with all the aforementioned legislation, can only hasten the death of many clubs, which of course occupy an important social role within the community.
West Midlands Branch Secretary
Working Men's Club & Institute Union Ltd
Congestion and the cost of recent studies
Dear Editor, In response to Fiona McEvoy's letter 'Costly waste on a failed strategy', I would like to put the record straight on the costs of our recent studies into congestion and to explain what we are now doing.
We all accept that congestion is a growing problem and that if left unchecked, will continue to worsen. The West Midlands, along with a number of other local authorities and regions bid therefore for, and were successful in getting central government funding to conduct a detailed study into the problem and look at solutions most notably road pricing. The study did not consider workplace car parking. The studies have cost £5.7 million, of which almost half was provided by the Department for Transport. We have now published three reports as part of the same study, which can be found at www.westmidlandsltp.gov.uk.
The decision taken by the seven West Midlands metropolitan authorities not to pursue road pricing was based on the results of this study and our report, 'Tackling Congestion, Delivering Growth'. The report found competitiveness in some parts of the region would be damaged by road pricing and noted that it would have mixed results in terms of cutting congestion.
The seven West Midlands metropolitan districts and Centro authorities are now pressing ahead with a three-point plan to reduce congestion on the region's roads. This includes a "quick wins" initiative to improve traffic movement, and steps to boost green travel plans at workplaces and schools. In addition to this, West Midlands authorities are continuing to work with regional stakeholders on the delivery of or transport priorities for the region.
Our industrial heritage
Dear Editor, The proposed exhibition space at the new Birmingham library will provide an opportunity for the public to see paper archive material relating to Matthew Boulton and James Watt (World's best...but no exhibitions, Post, March 13).
However, it is worth noting that world-class artefacts associated with the pair are already on display at Thinktank, Birmingham science museum.
Highlights in the museum's Power Up gallery include the Smethwick Engine of 1779, the oldest working steam engine in the world, and the miniature locomotive by Boulton and Watt's associate William Murdock, the first self-propelled vehicle in England.
Visitors can also see personal items that belonged to Watt, including his chair, walking stick, toasting fork and lunch basket.
Through the proposed library exhibition space, and the artefacts already on display at Thinktank, Birmingham will be able to showcase an impressive selection of industrial heritage from Boulton and Watt.
Thinktank, Birmingham science museum
The impact of planning
Dear Editor, There is a local unease over the perceived failure of the planning laws to maintain an understanding of the wider interests of the local community, the impact that decisions have on the environment, and the pressure on existing services and infrastructure.
Highfield House in Hall Green is only one example where a building or local feature is considered part of the 'spirit of that place' and valued by the local community - but to no apparent avail.
We certainly need a planning system to control and allow for progressive housing opportunities, but it can also have a profound impact on our quality of life.
It can influence the quality of our urban environment, the value of our homes, the amount of open space we have available. Therefore, we expect planning to be a fair and democratic process but it can be argued that, in many cases, it evidently is not.
What does remote planning legislation know about our local environment?
We perhaps need opportunities to question and challenge whether the legislation is appropriate and in our interests and, if not, seek to change or get it repealed.
Even the government of the day, during "The Great Pillage" known as the Enclosure Acts 1857 eventually felt some remorse and repealed these acts of Parliament.
I am in sympathy with our neighbours of Hall Green.
Dear Editor, Mick Cole is quite right (Tantamount to treason, Post Agenda, March 1). No-one ever voted to join this monolithic monstrosity ie the EU. Ted Heath's government took us in with no referendum.
There was a lot of unrest about this and Harold Wilson's Labour government held a referendum on whether to stay in or come out - nothing else.
The vote was to stay in - I know, I voted.
Plenty fear regarding ID cards
Dear Editor, With reference to ID cards ( 'Nothing to hide, nothing to fear,' Post March 12), if the health records of 25 million people can be lost in the post, there is plenty to fear.
Computer error could lead to the arrest and conviction of an innocent person. What have you to fear if you have done nothing wrong? The loss of your character and your liberty.