Monday, 21 August 2017

Your letters...

More action, fewer words

Sir, — What is it about some people believing the worst and leaping into print without a pause for reflection, or even bothering to check facts?

The dreadful letter about Russell Brand two weeks ago was bad enough but some of your correspondents (and people on social media) have been quite horrid to Lorraine Hillier who has served the community selflessly for many years and made an excellent mayor.

Is it just possible that what she says is true — she “went” independent because the rest of the Henley Conservatives did not include her in their team? (I’ve not heard a single Henley Conservative deny it.)

Is it just possible that Henley Residents’ Group, faced with the exciting prospect of appointing Henley’s youngest-ever mayor, felt that Lorraine would be an ideal mentor and supporter as Deputy Mayor, no strings, no back-handers?

And that perhaps Lorraine, as a dyed-in-the-wool life-time Tory, believed she might help bridge the divide between the two parties?

Being Mayor is not prancing about in a pretty cloak, wearing inscribed cuff-links and being the centre of attention (though that must be rather fun).

In reality, it is a very demanding job, chairing meetings of the town council, attending committees and being at the heart of the governance of the town.

Kellie Hinton deserves our respect. Not many 31-year-olds, faced with co-ordinated cat-calling and walkouts from people considerably older than her, would have kept the mayor-making ceremony in order and brought it to a dignified conclusion.

If your correspondents really do have a problem with the way Henley is being run, they should move off the touchline, turn up to town council meetings, participate in working groups and help build the town. — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher

Mill End

We warned the Tories

Sir, — I am writing so that your readers are aware of the full facts and can make an informed judgment on the election of Kellie Hinton as Mayor of Henley.

To be clear, we voted for Kellie as Mayor because she is the best person for the job. A majority of councillors agreed — that is democracy.

On March 28 Henley Town Council held a meeting and on the agenda was the choice of mayor-elect and deputy mayor-elect.

During this meeting — seven weeks before the local elections on May 4 — five councillors stated that the “elect” positions should not be filled.

The Mayor of Henley is elected by all 16 councillors at the annual meeting. That is the only meeting where this takes place.

On May 4 there were local by-elections in Henley and the composition of the council changed.

Prior to the annual meeting I had a face-to-face meeting with mayor-elect Councillor Will Hamilton to inform him how I thought the vote would go and I also informed Dieter Hinke, chairman of the Henley Conservatives.

In conclusion, seven weeks prior to the election, we informed the Conservatives that the May election may change everything and, since we live in a democracy, it did.

Last year the Conservatives could have chosen Cllr Hamilton but he was overlooked and Councillor Julian Brookes was chosen as Mayor with little experience of the council.

We will work with all parties and all people with great ideas.

Kellie is already proving to be a great Mayor and we will work to make Henley an even better place. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak

Henley Residents’ Group, Henley Town Council, Elizabeth Road, Henley

Our Game of Thrones Pt2

Sir, — Your writer from the parishes gorged himself last week watching the ongoing saga of the Henley Game of Thrones.

How can the former blue queen continue her denial of a deal with the black and white tribe?

Your writer questioned a very senior officer of the black and whites at mayor-making and asked why they had not fielded a homegrown runner in the deputy mayor stakes.

The grandee stressed: “That was the deal.”

Will evidence now be released to answer the conundrum, “deal or no deal?”

To further heighten the perceptions of collusion between the black and whites and the former blue queen, on the Tuesday after mayor-making she was elected chairwoman of a prestigious committee of Henley Town Council without even attending the meeting.

Again the black and whites conveniently stepped aside and allowed the former queen to gain the prize without any contest.

Is this the way that business is discharged in the new town council? To use the former blue queen’s own words: “At the end of the day, we’re supposed to be a democracy.”

She is now sitting as a self-styled “Independent Conservative”. Has anybody told Theresa May that there is a new strain of Conservatism growing in her own backyard? Is it a lighter blue or is it tinged with red from the sacrifice of her former colleagues?

No greater love has any woman than to sacrifice Will Hamilton for her own ambition. Then, complete with her haul of crowns, she has the effrontery to conduct an unapologetic PR campaign through your newspaper, capped by a truce request so that everybody can make the peace. Now that’s politics!

Finally, we had our very own Henley EastEnders moment!

The former blue queen was threatened at 1am by a man who was “worse for drink”. I am surprised she could see in the darkness at this late hour.

As a result of her self-testified fright, I can believe that her mental condition was not fully stable at mayor-making the next day.

She may, after all, have a legitimate excuse for her actions… but how will she make it up to that noble prince, bonny Will Hamilton?

All I know is that I deny that I was her inebriated assailant, for I was tucked up in bed in a faraway parish at the time with my wife!

Now there is a true queen from a time when the tribes earned the respect of the residents and all worked for the common good of Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

‘Commoners’ must flourish

Sir, — Hear, hear, I say. While our schools are seeking ways to bring awareness and an end to bullying, I’m so relieved to see it’s alive and thriving in our council and some constituents.

Such a blow that the victim in this power game, after being shunned and ignored with such delicious, covert bullying, inconveniently had enough and stopped playing.

This bloomin’ bunch will just not co-operate, lie down and make way.

It could all have been so much easier if they’d been satisfied with the pre-decided choice to agree on!

May this branch of the common woman/man flourish and remove the back-slapping, hot air from those hallowed corridors and be free to deal with the pollution and other pressing problems that us fellow commoners and their town face outside the chambers. — Yours faithfully,

Louise Daly

Duke Street, Henley

Celebrities cashing in

Sir, — With reference to the letter from Vincent Ruane (Standard, May 12) and the replies from Charlotte Every and Minnie Wilson, I am all for the so-called tirade by Mr Ruane.

I have two girls and would not wish for them to be read to by the once loudmouth sex and drug addict Russell Brand.

He may be a reformed character and a father, even a very nice man but if he was not a celebrity, just an ordinary man with a shady past, would people be so quick to forgive and forget, I wonder?

Call me a cynic but these celebrities only give their time when promoting a book or the like. — Yours faithfully,

E Hodge

Caversham

Best way to save school

Sir, — Stuart Jarvis, a former teacher at Chiltern Edge School, rightly takes the view that the school must be kept open (Standard, May 19).

However, his arguments, if more widely agreed, would probably ensure the school’s closure.

He disparages the Ofsted inspection (“So a few Ofsted inspectors go into Chiltern Edge School and make judgements”) and goes on to assert that the Government “needs to review how Ofsted makes judgements about schools”.

The first thing a prospective academy sponsor wants to know is whether there is a reasonable chance of the school improving.

Clearly, if those involved with the school regard the report as unfair and wrong, serious improvement is not the key issue for them.

A sponsor will certainly accept that Ofsted has got it right and will have severe reservations about taking over the school as an academy in the face of disagreement on this crucial matter.

Very unfortunately indeed, the now disbanded governing body of Chiltern Edge has recently circulated a letter in which it also questions the accuracy of the report.

It “disagrees with some of the points made as well as the overall conclusion that Chiltern Edge deserves the outcome of ‘inadequate’”.

It is reassuring that in the same letter this view is contradicted by a statement from the school’s senior leadership team: “We share the disappointment but we are not contesting the content of the report.

“The decisions were arrived at through a fair and rigorous process in line with the guidelines set out by Ofsted.”

This is the correct and sensible response under the circumstances.

The disbanded governors have simply not understood the situation, although they undoubtedly meant well. It would be helpful if they withdrew their critical comments on the inspection.

Mr Jarvis speculates that Oxfordshire County Council might be tempted to close the school for the money it would receive if it sold the site for housing. Again, this is very unhelpful.

We want the council to be on our side in our efforts to save the school. Such surmises about motivation are not likely to create sympathy from officers or members.

I suggest that all those who are fighting to save the school should unite behind the following propositions:

1. Total acceptance of the accuracy of the Ofsted report.

2. Total acceptance of the need for radical improvements at the school.

3. Enthusiastic support for the school becoming an academy.

4. Refraining from criticising Oxfordshire County Council. — Yours faithfully,

Douglas Kedge

Retired teacher and former governor of Chiltern Edge School, Sonning Common

Is solution small homes?

Sir, — It is time to start thinking outside the box when considering how to supply affordable homes.

Young people, and others, need homes that are genuinely affordable in order to put a foot securely on our slippery property ladder.

My own two adult children have little hope of doing so, in this area, in the foreseeable future.

There is a movement that began in America several years ago that I am convinced could provide the answer.

It is called the Tiny House Movement and, as all things American eventually do, it is now taking hold here in the UK.

It is truly inspiring to look at the many YouTube videos which show what remarkable things can be achieved on a small scale.

The houses vary from contemporary to rustic, limited only by imagination and available funds in their design and structure.

It is becoming popular to drastically downsize and the lower cost in time and money in comparison to maintaining large, urban homes is, apparently, liberating.

These houses are often built on trailers, allowing for a change of scene.

They can also be built on a foundation and Tiny House villages have been springing up in the US.

As Tom Fort observed in his recent article about preserving quaint villages, the big companies have too much control over how housing needs are supplied. Their agenda is to make maximum profit. He believes we may have reached a crossroads in the way we meet these needs in this country.

Could one of the signs at the crossroads be pointing us towards a radically new solution?

Search the internet for “Tiny House Movement UK” and see what you think. — Yours faithfully,

Frances Williams

Gainsborough Crescent, Henley

How to solve parking issue

Sir, — When the new parking regulations for the Hart and Bell surgeries in Henley were introduced, I was suprised to see that the GPs were discouraging patients who are not “frail, disabled or acutely ill” from using the car park.

Previously, all patients could use it. Why should the new regulations be any different for those who do not come under the “frail, disabled, acutely ill” category?

The car park used to cope, admittedly with difficulty, with all patients.

The main problem then was people using the car park for reasons other than visiting a surgery. Isn’t this still a problem which, as Nigel Geary suggests (Standard, May 19), could only be solved by some policing of the car park?

And do the receptionists have to judge whether a patient is frail or acutely ill?

I can imagine patients coming into the surgery with a hacking cough or an exaggerated limp to justify being able to park.

Since the new parking regulations were introduced at Townlands the new car park seems to have plenty of empty spaces most of the time.

Isn’t the Townlands car park too large (I never thought I would say this of a car park)?

There must be some statistics available but I would guess that there are far fewer visitors to the hospital than to the surgeries.

Wouldn’t it be best if the two car parks came under the same scheme so that patients would have a choice — in particular those visiting the surgeries could, if necessary, use the Townlands car park by checking in their vehicle registration number at the reception desk.

In fact, before the parking regulations were introduced, many of us were doing that and I didn’t get the impression that visitors to Townlands were being seriously deprived of car parking spaces. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Hollas

Queen Close, Henley

Parking for GP patients

Sir, — The Bell and Hart surgeries wish to apologise for any upset and inconvenience caused to patients following the implementation of the new car parking enforcement in the surgeries’ car park (Standard, May 19).

We have advertised the new system in the surgeries, on our websites and in our newsletters. The signage in the car park is plentiful and we have communicated by text and/or email to alert patients to the new system.

There have been instances where patients have not seen the signage or not entered their details correctly on the tablet in reception to record their car registration number. We accept that any new system will have teething problems and we are working with Smart Parking to resolve any issues.

The system was initially in a trial and testing phase. Now it is fully up and running, we hope the system will alleviate overcrowding in our car park, thus providing space for patients who really need to park close to the surgery for their appointment.

We ask all patients to be mindful of the limited parking spaces we have and help us to prioritise parking for the frail, elderly and acutely unwell. — Yours faithfully,

The partners

The Bell and Hart surgeries, Henley

Roadworks warning

Sir, — A section of King’s Road, Henley, between Ravenscroft Road and the Northfield End mini-roundabout, has been in a dangerous and dilapidated condition for some years.

Oxfordshire County Council has now confirmed that resurfacing is scheduled to be carried out overnight on June 23/24. — Yours faithfully,

A Lawson-Smith

Fair Mile, Henley

Questions before I vote

Sir, — Could we put some questions to John Howell MP, through your paper please, because I’m sure many others will be asking the same thing.

Am I right in saying that under the new social care plans, an owner’s property can be sold off to pay for their care, after they’ve died, unless there is a remaining spouse in which case they can remain in the property for the remainder of their lives, then the property is sold with £100,000 being left for their children?

What if they’ve had no children, can they leave it to charity?

If the remaining spouse wishes to sell the property to be nearer to his/her family, what then?

What if children/relatives living in the same property are working adults and they’ve paid towards the mortgage and upkeep of the property — can they remain?

What if there is a disabled adult relative living in the property?

On the cost of the care given:

Will this care be provided by private companies and, if so, will the value of this care depend on where you live in the UK and will the costing be monitored by an ombudsman?

What happens if a person is in desperate need of care but their relatives put the cost of losing the property above bringing in professional carers?

How is the Government going to safeguard these very vulnerable people from potential cruelty within their own home?

Finally, on our NHS:

Is it true much of our NHS has been sold off by Jeremy Hunt and he intends to create an American-based private insurance for NHS treatment?

People pay National Insurance which should support our NHS.

The majority of people are healthy so where has the money gone and why is the NHS being sold off and another insurance created? — Yours faithfully,

JS

Henley

PM requires big mandate

Sir, — Far from ensuring that we get a good deal from the EU, the Liberal Democrats’ campaign pledge of a referendum on the deal Mrs May brings back from Brussels will encourage the EU to offer the worst possible deal to the UK.

Tim Farron’s hope is that the deal thus offered will be so awful that even die-hard Leavers will vote against it.

Our best hope of a good deal is to give “the girl from Wheatley” a strong mandate. — Yours faithfully,

Tim Beechey-Newman

Gravel Hill, Caversham

MP’s leaflet spells it out

Sir, — According to John Howell’s latest election flyer, he has served the “Henely” constituency as MP since June 2008.

Is that why we see so little of him? — Yours faithfully,

John Howard

Henley

Revealing old shop tiling

Sir, — The Caversham Picture Framer shop in Church Road, Caversham, holds a well-kept secret.

The shop has been a picture framing business for 30 years but it had a former life as a fishmongers.

The historic tiled interior has been hidden from view for many years.

The shop has black and white tiled walls with a swag pattern frieze which is both of local historic interest and an attractive period shop interior of a type which has largely disappeared. The Caversham Picture Framer is going to undergo a major refurbishment and, as part of the process, the old tiling will be revealed and be visible for the first time in many years.

The shop will close from Tuesday for about three weeks before re-opening to continue serving the local community as a picture framer.

The new interior design will endeavour to display more of the tiling, which many visitors to the shop admire.

As the new owner and framer, I intend to also use the space to bring art events and opportunities to the local community as well as providing interior design support by introducing a range of handmade bespoke mirrors and frames and framing services, including restoring and supplying period frames.

This historic old shop at the heart of the Caversham community needs to be kept as a feature of the high street and I am really looking forward to renewing its appearance and helping bring art and design to the fore in Caversham. — Yours faithfully,

Alex Foster

Director, the Caversham Picture Framer, Church Road, Caversham

Very grateful for kindness

Sir, — I wish to say thank-you to those people who helped me and my husband after he collapsed on the pavement in Henley in the late afternoon on Monday last week.

I was grateful to the gentleman who gave me a lift to get my car as no ambulance was going to be available and for people’s help getting my husband into the car so I could take him to Townlands Hospital.

He was later taken by ambulance to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading for treatment.

He is now at home recovering from the fall.

Thank you, your kindness is very much appreciated. — Yours faithfully,

Anne Johnson

Henley

Thank you for caring

Sir, — On the morning of Sunday, May 14 we discovered that our almost deaf 14-year-old Labrador Ella was missing from home.

As we live adjoining Maidensgrove Common, we assumed she had somehow escaped from the garden and taken herself for a walk.

We searched the common, woodland and any buildings but she remained missing.

I contacted a wonderful organisation called Doglost, who were exceptional in their help and kindness and circulated Ella’s details countrywide, but we were extremely worried. Both the dog warden from South Oxfordshire District Council and Henley Recommends were also most supportive as were the local vets and rescue centres and so many people and organisations that had heard via social media. All were fantastically helpful and supportive.

Ella returned on her own, safe and well the next day at 10am. Where she had been is a mystery but we are thrilled to have her home.

If you were one of the wonderfully kind folk who helped a distraught and increasingly panicked woman I should like to thank you, one and all.

My great fear was that you do hear of old dogs being kidnapped as bait for dog fights and the very idea is revolting and terrifying.

Ella is keeping mum about her adventures but for anyone in a similar situation Doglost and the power of social media are a formidable force. — Yours faithfully,

Susie Chown

Maidensgrove

Thanks for caring for cat

Sir, — We would like to thank a nice lady called Emma, who lives in the Sonning Common area.

She kindly found our cat, who had been missing for over a week, and took him to the local vet.

Unfortunately, he had been run over and killed by a car but we are truly grateful that she took the time and trouble to take him somewhere where he could be reunited with us, via his microchip.

He is now buried in our garden. Emma, we don’t know who you are, but thank you. — Yours faithfully,

The Alvey sisters

Sonning Common

Bowled over by welcome

Sir, — I would like to thank Henley Bowling Club for welcoming and coaching 1st Henley cub scouts (Monday) on May 15.

I was unable to attend due to being in hospital but I have received glowing reports about the evening from the cubs and their leaders, who had never tried bowling before, as well about the refreshments that were eagerly eaten!

I would like to commend the men and women of the bowling club for giving their time to teach the cubs and would recommend that anyone who wants to try bowling should contact the club where you will get a friendly welcome.

Scouting is the largest youth organisation in the world and the volunteer leaders aim to provide as many unique memories as possible.

If anyone is interested in their son or daughter joining 1st Henley scouts, please email Kirsty Chater at kirsty.chater@gmail.com — Yours faithfully,

Stephen Colver

Akela, 1st Henley cubs (Monday night)

Editor’s comment: There is a photograph from this event on Picture News on page 18.

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