SAFETY: Strange priorities

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Analogy is often interesting, illuminating comparisons to highlight similarities.

The classical physics of Newton is based upon a framework reflecting everyday experience. Let us equate this to the workings and priorities of Northumberland County Council.

Quantum physics tries to understand how nature operates on atomic and subatomic particles. Let us equate this to the needs and frustrations of the ordinary people who live and work in Northumberland.

Themes are formed by, and tested against, episodes. The theme here is the actions of 21st century local government.

The relevant episodes relate to the building of a glorious new County Hall, and by revealing contrast, the apparent failure of the council to act in a sensitive way to the issues raised by dozens upon dozens of parents, concerned over years about parking and driving outside local schools – a matter of life and death involving young, vulnerable children.

I’m an Ashington lad so this letter is about our schools in Ashington, but I’m certain that parents throughout Northumberland will have a similar tale to tell.

I raised the issue of unregulated parking outside primary and junior schools with senior officers and councillors in October 2015.

I subsequently involved Northumbria Police and received an immediate, sensitive and supportive response, and it has taken this issue seriously ever since.

For 18 months now I have been representing a number of concerned parents whose young children face danger on a daily basis.

In July 2016 I met with a senior officer from Northumberland County Council outside two Ashington schools. We were there, accompanied by Northumbria Police, to witness the atrocities of unregulated parking and driving.

We were all shocked, open-mouthed at the horror of the unequal battle of hard metal vehicles versus soft-skinned children.

On that day, nine months ago, following letter upon letter for nine months before that, I was given assurances that the situation outside these schools was shocking and a daily threat to the safety of young children.

Double yellow lines, zig-zags, no parking signs and steel bollards were necessary and would be installed.

As I write to you nothing whatsoever has changed, not one drop of yellow paint. After 18 months the kids are still at risk.

However, during this same period the elected councillors of Northumberland County Council have voted themselves and their full-time, often well-paid ‘advisers’ the luxury of a glistening new County Hall.

A matter of weeks after the final decision, influenced by advice from full-time professionals, the contractors were in and active, JCBs and pile-drivers, men in hard hats and with utmost urgency.

And so we have it, the Newtonian physics of everyday experience as we witness, appropriately disgusted, the construction of the new County Hall.

But also, as we suffer in frustration, the quantum physics of life as a subatomic particle – of no significance to those of very strange priorities.

Mr TM Patterson