Great UK divide over prescription charges

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WITH regard to the recent announce-ment that NHS prescription fees in England are to be increased to £7.40 from April 1 2011, I would like a government representative to please explain to me why we have to pay for prescriptions in England but they are free in Wales and Northern Ireland and will be free in Scotland from April 1.

I worked for over 34 years full-time and always paid full tax and NHS contributions, so I find it totally unfair that, as a disabled person, now retired, I have to pay, whilst the remainder of the UK obtain free prescriptions.

A government spokesperson blithely states that 90 per cent of the population in England do not pay for their prescriptions – so what about the remaining 10 per cent of us who have to pay? Are we subsidising those who do not?

Or, more to the point, are we subsidising those living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

If, as stated, the prescription fees in England are to plug a £450 million gap in the NHS budget, where is the money coming from to pay for free prescriptions in the so-called United Kingdom?

I do not object to paying for my prescriptions but I do object to prescription fees not being universal.

All in it together? I don’t think so.

Mrs Valerie Allen, Forest Ridge, Wakefield

Solutions to airport issues

ONCE again we have the old problem of access to Leeds/Bradford Airport, and of people putting even greater strain on their time and money by going to Manchester.

The airport’s transport problem exemplifies the nationwide transport issue, specifically the lack of space to improve road links, and the time taken to arrive at the intended destination etc. Given these factors, the only solution is, of course, public transport, and two suggestions spring to mind.

1) Having travelled on the high-speed link between Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station twice in as many years, this is largely how all rail transport should be – fast, clean, efficient, taking only 15 minutes for the journey.

Although it is fairly costly, it is worth paying the price for, although by the time a similar link was built here it may well be possible to introduce some sort of subsidy in order to make it reasonably cheap.

2) Our own No.36 bus service between Leeds and Ripon via Harrogate, is fast, frequent, clean and reliable and generally how all bus services should be. A similar link to the airport should eventually clear much of the traffic off the road space round the airport, and hopefully give the locals a more peaceful life with regard to traffic noise.

All in all this problem may not exist today if the council had supported the airport over the past two decades, particularly in the 80s when had the airport not been bound by ridiculous restrictions on flying hours etc, much more revenue could have been generated, and even more could have been generated now in order to fund essential dramatic improvements in transport access, and not just terminal development.

Andrew Edwards, by email

Flooding fears

CAN I thank residents of Garforth and Swillington who are serving flood wardens and sub wardens, as well as Leeds City Council and the emergency services, for coming together on Tuesday last and taking part in Exercise Watermark.

Exercise Watermark was a national day of vital ‘dry runs’ to establish if areas that suffer from floods would be geared up to deal with any future flood episodes should they occur again.

I believe this was one of the biggest exercises of its type ever undertaken in the UK and, from a Garforth and Swillington perspective, I am pleased to be able to report that should our area flood again we are a lot better prepared than in 2007. May I personally thank Mrs Jacky Simpson and a dedicated team of volunteers who have made this a reality.

I am however deeply concerned by the Government reducing the flood defence budget by 27 per cent over the next four years. I believe this to be a false economy and a major policy error. More than 1,000 flood alleviation schemes that had been in line for implementation by 2015 have now lost funding. I ask any concerned Garforth and Swillington residents to lobby our Conservative MP to readdress this foolhardy and short sighted approach. We will flood again, one day Exercise Watermark could be a reality. We must be ready and we must be properly funded. The consequences are too dire to contemplate.

Councillor Mark Dobson, Garforth and Swillington Ward

Slash diesel prices

WHILE our country’s wellbeing is groaning under the ridiculous price of fuel, of which some 80 per cent is tax, it is inconceivable that the government should even think of upping the price of fuel once again.

In Germany the cost of a litre of petrol now is 1.40 euros and diesel 1.29. Not so long ago our prices were way below those on the continent, but now those crossing the channel wait to fill up over there, especially drivers of diesel-powered vehicles.

But, from another standpoint, aren’t we being taken for ride by the oil companies, who are now charging more for diesel than petrol, when in the 60s a gallon of petrol cost around five to six shillings and diesel three or four shillings? At the same time a gallon of petrol in the States was 16-17 cents a gallon.

As a worker in the oil industry, it was a known fact that diesel was cheaper to produce than petrol, hence the lower cost. The only excuse the oil moguls make today is that the extra additives to keep pollution down are responsible for the hike in the cost of diesel. The car industry has also cottoned on to the idea, and the price of cars with diesel engines has also risen beyond that of petrol-driven vehicles for the similar reasons.

However, we don’t have to believe any of these excuses, especially as we read of the tremendous profits made by these companies – in spite of the fact that the government takes the lion’s share in tax and duties, the troubles with out-of-control wells, and insurrections in oil-producing countries, when prices rise but never fall.

What a magnificent gesture it would be if Shell, BP, Esso, Mobil and the rest reduced the cost of diesel to at least the price of petrol. To do so would really ease the burden on the now precarious haulage industry, and thus the economy.

E A Lundy, Beeston

Losing out

L RAMSEY stated that both people in married couples receive the £250 heating allowance, plus the extra £25 per week should the temperature drop below freezing.

To put his or her record straight, the £250 is per household and not each and the extra £25 is only extended to pensioners who are in receipt of benefits. As my husband and I paid full NI contributions, also paying into a superannuation scheme which allows us both a small private pension each, we are penalised and do not qualify for the extra £25 cold weather payment, or any other benefits.

Consequently we are worse off when you reckon what these benefits consist of, relief on rent, council tax, dental treatment, opticians etc. People in our position have to meet these costs in full.

I, too, like a game of bingo but I am spending my own money and not handouts, and the £250 does pay towards the cost of the heating bill. For this I am grateful, as I am for the winnings I have which help to make up the shortfall of the benefits we do not receive.

Mrs E O’Donnell, Leeds 9

Give us a vote

WHEN will David Cameron accept the fact that the British don’t want the EU, with all its laws, rules and regulations and the horrendous cost of membership?

The petition to leave the EU altogether, run by the Daily Express, was signed by 380,000 people and was delivered in sacks to Downing Street by MPs. Cameron, who before the election talked of a UK “in Europe but not ruled by Europe”, didn’t think it was worth a comment.

The Barnsley by-election should make him take notice, though. UKIP came second to Labour, beating the Conservatives, and the pro-EU Lib Dems were an embarrassing sixth, their candidate losing his deposit.

MPs seem to be the only enthusiasts for the United States of Europe, especially the MEPs, some of whom were reported and photographed by News of The World investigators, travelling to Brussels to the European Parliament. They were there only to have their cards punched so they could claim their £258 daily expenses and were back on the Eurostar half an hour later to return to Blighty, not satisfied with their £81,000-a-year and unquestioned expenses which the EU Parliament voted unanimously not to make public.

We hand over £8.5 billion a year to Europe – £137 per person – to pay for these pampered politicians and have had a trading deficit for the last 27 years.

Blair, Brown and Brussels brought a once great country to its knees. We have got rid of two Bs. It’s time to get rid of the third.

We should demand a referendum on whether we should leave the EU – but I doubt if Cameron has the backbone to give us one. Thatcher would have had us out years ago, saying it had been a complete disaster.

Terry Watson, Adel

Big picture

I UNDERSTOOD that when we voted local or general elections, they promised to run our city or country to the best of their ability.

So why, when Mr Cameron said we were all in this together, have the sick, elderly and vulnerable been hurt? Why is our Labour-run council closing day centres, mental health services and leisure centres? This causes our YEP to be filled with point-scoring letters from different supporters. Why, when we all know the fastest way to save money, and cut down on a lot of our problems, is to look at the bigger picture.

Withdraw our membership of the European Union and cut down on the numbers of elected officials running the country and our councils, cut out looking sideways at those people not paying their way.

There’s your answer without punishing the hard-working of this country and the vulnerable who rely on us.

Please, on behalf of all voters, whatever party they support, look at our problems with open eyes, not eyes looking inward at what you can make from your position.

LE SLACK, Leeds 17

YEP Letters: June 21