A LIVELY question and answer session took place at a meeting of the Scarborough and District Older People’s Forum at Westborough Church.
The guest speaker was Scarborough’s MP Robert Goodwill who answered questions on issues such as petrol prices, the future of local libraries and the dualling of the A64.
Chairman Dennis Orford explained that the group has no political affiliations whatsoever and welcomes speakers from all political parties.
He said: “The purpose of today’s meeting is to discuss the concerns of this forum with our representative in Westminster.
“Hopefully he will take these concerns forward to parliament.”
One of the first questions from the floor was about why free TV licences are only available to pensioners from the age of 75 rather than 65.
Mr Goodwill replied: “Given how constrained we are in public spending, when we do have resources to help pensioners we need to target it at the most needy.
“To extend this by another 10 years would increase the cost dramatically. In a perfect world with unlimited amounts of money there would be no TV licence payment for anyone.”
He added: “We can’t assume that everyone over 65 is hard up – there are in fact a lot of wealthy pensioners.”
Another member asked Mr Goodwill about the future of our local libraries, including Scalby, Eastfield, Ayton and Hunmanby, and whether petitions against their closure would make any difference.
He replied: “I’ve had a lot of letters about the libraries which are under threat. I would say that petitions are effective but individual letters are much more effective and telephone calls to county councillors are even better.
“It’s through actions such as these that the strength of feeling on this issue can be brought to bear.”
Mr Goodwill added that he understands how important the libraries are to people but explained that the county council was having to make some tough decisions.
He said the wage bill for Scalby Library alone was around £150,000 and that they needed to think about other workable options such as a community library service run by volunteers.
One member was applauded when she questioned Mr Goodwill on petrol prices and suggested that the Government was being “greedy”.
He responded: “In the last year until this Government took over, for every £1 the Labour Government spent they were borrowing 25p.
“This situation, which was not sustainable, has led to us having to make tough cuts and tax increases.
“The decision to increase VAT was something we did without any relish.”
He added that he would pass people’s concerns on directly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
When questioned about the possible dualling of the A64, Mr Goodwill said it was something that needs to be put back on the agenda as soon as money becomes available.
He also suggested that the speed limit for HGVs on a single carriageway should be increased from 40mph to 50mph to help with traffic flow in the meantime.
Mr Goodwill was also asked if he thought the proposed merger of Scarborough health trust with York would be good for Scarborough Hospital.
He replied: “I have spoken to some clinicians who welcome it with open arms. A link with York could mean top consultants coming to do clinics at Scarborough.”
And on the national NHS reform he said: “I think the Government’s plans for the NHS will get rid of a lot of bureaucracy. It might be a bumpy ride to get there, but we’re moving in the right direction.”