More to say on the pensioners’ move
SIR – I am writing to clarify some issues and correct some inaccuracies in Tuesday’s piece by Denise Robertson, ‘A moving tale of woe for pensioners’.
Firstly, I wish to stress that I have every sympathy for Mr and Mrs Gowenlock. Leaving a home you have lived in for 40 years is no doubt an upheaval and I can understand their frustration when plans to demolish their original home were later shelved.
However, this was not a flippant decision; it was both in response to the wishes and concerns of local people who petitioned against the demolition and in recognition that revised plans were needed that would take into account the changing picture on the ground.
In the four years since the original plans were drawn up investment in the area was already bearing fruit with the housing market beginning to show signs of recovery.
Secondly, contrary to your article, the Gowenlocks never had to take out a mortgage on their new property. They moved as part of Salford’s highly regarded Homeswap scheme, which has seen hundreds of residents in regeneration areas across the city re-settled within the local area in fully-renovated homes worth more than those they have moved from.
The £25,000 was, in fact, a land charge – the difference between the value of their new home and the independent valuation of their old home at the time of purchase.
Residents are not required to make any payment against this charge while they live in the new property and the charge does not attract interest. Those who Homeswap only have to pay back the charge if they sell the property, with the value of the amount they have to pay back reducing every year.
Taking into account that their property is already worth £40,000 more than when they moved in, this land charge could be considered negligible.
Thirdly, their original house was not “sold on to developers” as you incorrectly stated but was renovated by the city council and used by another local family who themselves had Homeswapped as part of a regeneration scheme.
No profit was made by the city council or any third party, such as a developer, during this process.
We also met with the Gowenlocks and said that, should they wish us to, we would investigate the possibility of them moving back to their original home. The couple said they did not wish to move again, understandably concerned about the upheaval which would result from another move. Working to regenerate an area is a complex and long process and I appreciate that difficult decisions have to be made. However, great strides are being made to transform areas of Salford where the housing market has been suffering. Property prices in the area have risen dramatically from the low levels that existed a few years – a sign that we take to mean that regeneration is working.
Cllr John Merry,
Leader, Salford City Council
SIR – Your article of August 17 on the study by Robert Huggins and colleagues on the role of universities in driving a knowledge-based economy in Wales led me to read their original report.
The report is a discussion paper, not one that has been published after rigorous academic review. It raises important questions about the balance in Wales between the contributions of universities, public sector laboratories, and government, and rightly argues that one cannot expect the universities alone to work economic miracles. However, its very limited original data seems to me to add little to the already well-understood concerns about the shortage of public sector laboratories, nor about the relative lack of major industrial R&D operations in Wales.
Beyond this, though, the report confuses and potentially misleads about the state of affairs in Wales. It states, correctly, that Welsh universities don’t have access to the English Higher Education Innovation Fund, but fails to note that the combination of HEFCW’s Third Mission Fund and the Assembly Government’s Knowledge Exploitation Fund easily match the equivalent levels of funding in England. Welsh HE is demonstrably not underfunded relative to England.
Even more seriously, it suggests that universities in Wales prefer to target large-scale industrial research projects rather than focus on local SMEs. In fact, as the latest Higher Education Business and Community Interaction Survey (published July 2007) shows, the attention given to supporting SMEs (and meeting regional skills needs) is higher in Welsh HE than in England or Scotland, while research collaboration with industry (although still better than in six out of nine English RDA regions), is nevertheless given lower priority.
It also underplays other ways in which, on the latest (2005-06) data Welsh HE outperforms its nominal 5% weight in the overall UK picture, such as having achieved 7% of all UK HE’s cumulative portfolio of active patents, 17% of all licences granted to UK universities, and 13.5% of all UK business spinout and staff start-up activity, and similarly for graduate start-ups.
We do need serious research and debate on this important subject, but it might also be wise not to rush to release work in progress.
Professor Philip Gummett
Chief Executive HEFCW
Wake the dragon
SIR – I agree wholeheartedly with JK Palmer (Fine Words, No Action, August 21) but be in no doubt that there are people in Wales now who will work hard towards independence. Money being poured in from the European Union as Objective One funding to pay for the Energy Route Corridor being implemented across the feet of people in South Wales needs to be used for the benefit of the young people of this country with training.
It needs to be used to encourage farmers to support the 2.9 million people who live in Wales. It needs to be used to give hope to people, not in days out to the seaside, but in being given purpose.
The people of Wales are second to none whatever language they speak and the culture and history slumbers in all our beds. Perhaps it is time that the Red Dragon of Wales rose from its haunches and took responsibility for his country.
We have nothing to fear in seizing that dragon for it will be the only way Wales will move forward alongside other far smaller countries in this world who are showing the way to a future for Wales which is there for the taking.
IB already a reality
SIR – In considering this year’s A-level results on August 16, your paper has taken a keen interest in the International Baccalaureate (IB) qualification. The impression has been given that young people outside a particular school catchment in Cardiff ordinarily have to pay to study the IB – either at Atlantic College in Llantwit Major, or at an independent school in England.
I would like to clarify that the IB can be studied at two colleges of further education in Wales: Coleg Llandrillo Cymru in the north and Swansea College in the south. Both colleges have been offering the IB for over 15 years.
The IB, which is an alternative qualification to A-levels, is accepted worldwide by universities and professions. The aims of the IB are to develop the thinking student, to develop breadth and depth of knowledge and to provide a rigorous, balanced and international curriculum. It also provides opportunities to study with students from other countries.
Many IB students from both Coleg Llandrillo Cymru and Swansea College progress to the most prestigious universities here and abroad.
Chief Executive, fforwm (the association of colleges in Wales)
SIR – Professor Len Scott, the “unsung hero of the Labour Party” claims that Britain has been “tied into international arms control negotiations” and that a “radical unilateral move [for disarmament] would not have helped.”
Dare I suggest that, equally, a unilateral move by Britain to modernise its Trident nuclear missile system also will not help international arms control negotiations? Worse, this flagrant breach of our treaty obligation under Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “to pursue urgent negotiations in good faith leading to nuclear disarmament” will encourage more countries to acquire nuclear weapons and make the world even less safe than it is now.
If he is right that “the anti-nuclear movement had been conceived in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety”, the professor’s support for this mad escalation of the nuclear arms race by spending £75bn on Trident seems destined to restore this atmosphere of fear and anxiety.
Vice-Chair CND Cymru
Debate our future
SIR – I was delighted to read (Western Mail, Tuesday, August 21) that a former Conservative Assembly Member has admitted that “Wales would... flourish as an independent country”.
I think this is the first time that anyone from the London-based parties has admitted that economically Wales would be a success just like other small European countries, such as Norway, Ireland and Iceland.
I was, however, disappointed to read that he still does not want to allow Wales to become independent and flourish in the way he thinks it would.
I believe that the people of Wales do have the talent to run their own affairs successfully. In Europe, the smaller nations often perform best economically. Countries like Finland and Iceland are able to release the potential of their people, because they have the tools and the will to do so.
Iceland has a population of around 300,000 and is the fifth most prosperous country in the world. It is also the second most equal society in Europe.
If Iceland can do it; Wales can. In fact, eight of the 10 richest countries in the world have a population of less than 10 million, including all five Nordic countries. I welcome the reasoned debate about the future of our nation. I hope it leads to further mature discussions about Wales’ place in the world.
Leanne Wood AM
Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales