Letters, April 26, 2012

I’M writing to you personally to let you know of my intention to step down as Chair to the Corporation and as a governor at Doncaster College on July 31 this year, when I hope to formally hand over to the new chair after a formal period of managed transition.

When I was asked by the previous Executive Mayor of Doncaster to go in and see what I could do for the College, I was reticent to take on the task as the College was obviously in dire straits with a growing financial deficit, governance in crisis, poor management, and - most worryingly of all - a continuing decline in success rates for learners.

Many advised me that the role of governor and chair would be a poison chalice. I must admit that looking in from the outside this was my first thought too.

But then I talked to some of the staff and learners at the College and to other key stakeholders including the Chamber of Commerce and the Local Authority, and I realised this was a job worth doing because the College’s place in the community matters so much to our town and its economy.

I said I could dedicate six months of my time. It’s taken nearly six years to get where we are today. And though there’s still a way to go, we’ve now reached some important milestones:

n Success rates for 16-18 year olds on long courses have risen by 9% in the last three years and are now above national averages and showing a good upward trend.

n Student satisfaction is high and as a result the College has recruited significantly more learners in this academic year, with record numbers of apprentices and full time students enjoying the purpose built facilities at the Hub.

n The College University Centre student numbers have also risen with the students from the local area making up 65% of our undergraduate numbers. Significant investment has taken place at High Melton to enhance further the student experience of Campus life in Doncaster.

n At the end of March the Skills Funding Agency confirmed that Doncaster College is in good financial health and has lifted a notice to improve which has been in place for three years.

n The governance of the College has been confirmed as good following recognition of the progress made. The lifting of the previous notice to improve in Financial Management and Control was important to show the efforts made.

n We have in place a capable and respected management team, led by our Principal and Chief Executive George Trow.

We’ve essentially now completed the recovery of the college, and we’re now entering the vital period of continuing improvement towards excellence. I’m proud of what we’ve done, and though at times it’s been an extreme challenge and all-consuming in terms of time and commitment (for me and my fellow governors), it’s been one of the most satisfying and worthwhile journeys of my life. That said - and though my passion for the college burns brightly as ever - I think I can safely say I’ve done my bit! I’m a turnaround specialist, and the college now needs a chair with a different set of skills to take it forward and build on the firm foundations we’ve now put in place.

None of the above could have been achieved without the unerring support and trust of the stakeholders, partners and friends of the college and for that you have my sincere thanks and gratitude.

I shall not be disappearing from the scene and will continue to be an ambassador and advocate for the college as well as offering advice and help along the way.

I will of course keep you informed as and when the new Chair is announced.

Rob Wilmot, Chair to the Corporation, The Hub, Doncaster College

60 years reading the Free Press

I HAVE just read the Free Press (DFP, Page 6, April 19) and the comments people had to say about it. Yes it is the best paper to read to find the good things about our town.

I have been reading the Doncaster Free Press since I was 15 and I am now 75 so I think that says it all. It was only three pence in old money when I started to buy it, and I didn’t have far to go to purchase it as I worked at Sleaford’s cake shop.

It was my first stop on my way to work on Thuraday, because all of the town closed for half day then. So keep up the good work and don’t ever stop going to press.

Shirley Gilligan, Common Lane, Auckley

Vote to stop an elected mayor

VOTE no to the elected mayoral system and return democracy to the elected councillors and leadership of Doncaster.

Voting no would then allow councillors to elect a leader of their choosing whom you would expect to have local government experience. If the leader chosen does not come up to the standards needed, that person could be removed by a simple majority vote. This should be enough to stop one-person dictatorship.

Gordon Gallimore, ex leader of Doncaster Council, Drummond Avenue, Scawsby

Elected mayors not democratic

OVER the past few weeks a number of letters have been printed in relation to the elected mayor issue, and DMBC have issued a document setting out the differences. Precious little however, is printed in relation to the issue of democracy.

Over the last three decades (and perhaps longer) we have experienced a steady erosion of our democractic rights.

1. At General Elections we used to have the opportunity to meet all the candidates sitting on the same platform, taking questions and being expected to answer them.

2. It was accepted that a political party seeking office would provide a manifesto of what policies they intended to enact if elected. The mandate only covered those policies which were in the manifesto. Now it is more a case of elect us and we will do as we like.

3. It has always been generally accepted that the larger the number of people involved in making decisions the more democratic the process, and the less opportunity for corruption.

The elected mayor process is not so much democratic, as elected dictatorship, too much power concentrated in the hands of one person to gauge just how dangerous this can be, we need look no further than the man who introcuced it. Tony Blair, and his disastrous decision to drag us into what in my view was an unjust, illegal and unnecessary war in Iraq over oil.

Our present elected mayor claims to believe in democracy, if this is so, and he truly believes in democracy, let him, like myself recommend the electorate to vote against this undemocratic process or elected mayor. Democracy is a very delicate flower and will wither and die if not fiercely protected and defended.

Name and address supplied

Vote yes for an elected mayor

THE Referendum on May 3 is looming and because I do not want to see the return of a leader and cabinet run council I urge every eligible voter to vote on this very important day.

If you have never voted, because you thought your vote would not make a difference, by voting in this referendum it can. Rarely do we get the chance to have a voice and if we want to keep democracy alive we must vote yes to keep an elected mayor and cabinet run council.

The only reason that a referendum is being called is because the majority of the councillors want to see the return to a leader and cabinet-led council; where the leader is chosen ‘in-house’, remember Donnygate? I can still remember the corruption it manifested throughout Britain and I certainly do not want to see its revival.

Peter Davies has been working hard for Doncaster, albeit, with a group of dissenters who have never given him a chance. I have been a Labour supporter all my life and I welcome an elected mayor who can bring fresh air into the arena. No longer are decisions made ‘behind closed doors’ with the same leader of the council remaining in office year after year without being challenged. If we believe in democracy we must vote for an elected mayor, even if we do not always agree with the decision making.

Rome was not built in a day, it takes time for change and promises to be realised; bearing in mind that no one person can be all things to all men, all the time. We are in it together for the long term, therefore we must vote yes. In my view if we lose our elected mayor the people of Doncaster will see the return of a scenario which I do not wish to be associated with.

Jean Elliott, Bellrope Acre, Armthorpe

Change the law on non-UK cars

WHILE driving through Doncaster last week I saw quite a lot of foreign-registered cars breaking the law through double parking, parking on double yellow lines, while speeding was rampant on one-way Copley Road with some cars reversing back to a road junction that would save them from driving up to the next junction.

There was more while driving home to Bentley.

I believe Britain should have a change in how foreign nationals who live, work or claim benefits in the UK are allowed to drive around in their foreign-registered vehicles.

I believe it is time that people who come to Britain to live should only be allowed to drive a foreign owned and registered vehicle for up to three months after their arrival then it should be compulsory to have it UK registered and pay UK road tax as well as having it UK insured and MOT tested - it’s time this loophole was closed.

Eddie Storey, Huntington Street, Bentley

Spitting law or cash generator?

I AM writing in regards to an article in the DFP about the mayor and councillors voting in favour of passing a by-law to punish people for spitting.

According to them it seems to be a big issie and that in a survey done in the past year, 129 people were seen. I can honestly say that in the last five years I can’t honestly see where it’s a big issue.

If you were to ask me how many times I have been asked for money while walking through the town centre, day afternoon or night it would be different.

So what is the real reason for the mayor and councillors voting for this bye-law to be passed?

Let’s look at the fundamental side of it - £400 fine if caught, times that by 129 and its over £50,000. Good way of making up the cuts that the Government are making.

So in my opinion it’s not about spitting its all about making money from the public just like the one regarding litter.

The only people that are getting fined are the ones that are vulnerable during the day, ie mothers with kids in pushchairs, the elderly, and smokers. But where does the majority of litter get thrown about? At night time when people are visiting takeaways after their night out.

W Allen, Balby

It’s taken you all 177 years to act

I READ with public interest ‘crackdown on illegal cyclists in the town centre’ printed on (DFP, Page 21, April 19) noting that Doncaster Council are ordering new signs and looking at putting up free standing signs.

As the relevant legislation received royal asset in 1835 why have our local councillors who have been elected to represent the electorate allowed 177 years to elapse before any action is taken.

Maurice Field, Kings Road, Wheatley

Was the Queen not amused?

I WAS very interested to read that they are planting thousands of trees to celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee.

Prince Charles also wants lots of trees to be planted on golf courses.

Could this be the reason Doncaster lost out on becoming a city? They’ve heard what the Mayor has done to trees on the golf course?

J Slater, Bessacarr