Government turns its back on friends

AS the government finds itself in an increasing difficult position, it starts to need all the friends it can muster - so its decision to alienate police officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland looks like gross political ineptitude.

AS the government finds itself in an increasing difficult position, it starts to need all the friends it can muster - so its decision to alienate police officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland looks like gross political ineptitude.

The government that authorised a loan of £30 billion to the Northern Rock bank and has spent further billions on military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan has baulked at paying an already-agreed settlement to the nation's police officers.

Public money is tight and no one wants to see taxpayers' cash wasted, but an agreement is an agreement and for the government to refuse to backdate the deal looks like case of extreme political cack-handedness.

At a time when the country is looking to its emergency services, especially the police, for assurance more than ever before as crime and terrorism remain major concerns for many people, it seems really strange to alienate those on the front line.

It is not as if the sum is very huge in governmental terms - the figures involved are an average of £200 for every police constable and £40 million for the government as a whole. Compared with other costs that is tiny.

Police in Scotland will be getting the deal agreed in full - meaning officers in Mr Brown's Fife constituency will be getting their full settlement while those in Suffolk will not.

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If the government backs down now it will look weak and indecisive. If it does not it will lose the goodwill of nation's police officers for years to come.

It has got itself into this ludicrous situation for the sake of a small amount of cash. It really is difficult to understand why ministers picked such a pointless fight that they cannot win.

ROADS become more dangerous in freezing weather and drivers need to take more care on them.

But we all pay council tax to help keep roads as safe as possible - and at this time of the year that means sending out the gritters to make them less slippery.

So it is inevitable that there should be questions today after yesterday's horrific fatal accident near Witnesham which left a young driver dead and one of his passengers fighting for her life.

The families of those involved - and everyone who uses Suffolk roads - will today be demanding answers to key questions:

Why were the roads not gritted yesterday morning when there was a very hard frost?

Why did the council not send out its vehicles until the police asked them to go out?

And why did the gritters for a road which had already seen two accidents have to come from 20 miles away at Saxmundham rather than the depot just five miles away at Blakenham?

Council officials must learn the lessons of yesterday's tragedy. Two minor accidents on the same stretch of road should have set the alarm bells ringing in county council officers well before the third car came off the road with such tragic consequences.

ROCKY the labrador may not be as well-known as Bridget Jones, but he has a story to tell in his diary - and now he's looking for the perfect last chapter.

Could you offer him a home and ensure that he's one mutt that doesn't always get left on the shelf?

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