Saturday, 19 August 2017

Your letters...

Scheming has left a stink

Sir, — At the mayor-making ceremony at Henley town hall on Monday one Conservative member of the council, Lorraine Hillier, abstained from voting for the mayor-elect Will Hamilton, who had been voted mayor-elect at the full council meeting on March 28 and who was confirmed as such on May 3.

As a result, the Henley Resdients’ Group candidate, Kellie Hinton, was elected by a show of hands of eight versus seven.

It was not surprising to hear that Councillor Hillier was rewarded by HRG with the position of Deputy Mayor and, presumably, their candidate to be mayor next year.

What is surprising is Cllr Hillier should let down Cllr Hamilton, who was her most fervent supporter to make her mayor just two years ago. So much for loyalty!

Having been proposed by the Conservatives and rejected by the HRG on numerous occasions over the previous 12 years, she finally became mayor when the Conservatives gained control of the council.

Having stated that she wished to have a second term of office but being denied this, she then turns against her former ally and his fellow councillors to get back on her path to a second term, this time with the HRG.

What was also remarkable was that the pastor who led the prayers before the ceremony asked us all to bless the Mayor and her family, so giving away to the general public for the first time the knowledge that a deal had been done!

While Cllr Hinton is a pleasant young lady whose efforts with Henley in Bloom have been well-lauded, she does not have the experience of Will Hamilton, who has most competently and professionally run the finances of this town for the past two years.

We were told what a beautiful town Henley is. Correct…. but its politics stink!

It is time that councillors became less partisan and decisions made on what is best for the people of Henley. Party politics, self-interest and scheming should be set aside.

In the prayers all were asked to work together for the betterment of the town but what chance of that is there? It is no wonder that so few people bothered to vote in the by-elections. — Yours faithfully,

Brian Triptree

Henley

Unacceptable behaviour

Sir, — While drinking with friends at the Anchor in Friday Street, Henley, on Friday evening, I was very surprised to be informed that, despite Conservative councillor Will Hamilton being proposed as our next mayor by councillors some time ago, this decision had been changed.

I was informed that a deal had been arranged to make Henley Residents’ Group councillor Kellie Hinton mayor with the Conservative councillor Lorraine Hillier being made deputy mayor as long as the latter abstained from voting at the mayor-making ceremony on Monday.

By this abstention, it was suggested that Councillor Hamilton would not be voted to be our new mayor. As you can imagine, I dismissed this suggestion as not only ridiculous but also downright unethical.

However, I attended the ceremony in the town hall on Monday to hear the pastor Roger Cole, during his prayer for Henley, refer to “the Mayor and her family” before any vote had taken place.

As everyone is now aware, the voting took place and the result is that the new Mayor is Councillor Hinton and the Deputy Mayor is Councillor Hillier.

This came about as Cllr Hillier abstained from voting as per the information received on Friday evening.

May I request, through the pages of the Henley Standard, that our councillors — regardless of political views — behave in a professional manner in future and represent our lovely town in a way we can be proud of?

This is just not acceptable behaviour by people who were elected to represent us. — Yours faithfully,

Leslie Plumb

Queen Street, Henley

Dysfunctional councillors

Sir, — I feel compelled to write after attending the mayor-making ceremony at Henley town hall on Monday.

I was among the many who could not stomach to watch as Kellie Hinton and Lorraine Hillier manipulated themselves into the position of Mayor and Deputy Mayor respectively.

Will Hamilton has worked tirelessly for our town and for him to be treated in such a way is disgusting. Our town should rise up and make a stand.

I am among many who do not want our town to be represented by such egotistical, selfish people.

What they did was shameful and they deserved the walkout that I was proud to be part of. They turned what should have been a celebration of all Will’s hard work into a farce.

The council should have listened to the wise words of Councillor Sam Evans, who tried to appeal for reason.

Now that’s the kind of leadership we want, putting our town first, just as Will has also done. Do we want these people representing us? I for one do not!

Our council is dysfunctional and this is a clear symptom. We need not look too much further for the cause. — Yours faithfully,

Janine Lewis

Henley

Better than a TV drama

Sir, — On Monday a collection of councillors and their supporters, voyeurs and former council “has-beens” gathered together to witness Henley’s own Game of Thrones.

It had everything to be compelling to the senses.

Even the church had a debatable role in announcing a result before any skirmishes had taken place — was this divine intervention?

The blue tribe squared off against the black and white tribe, post the blues being trounced at the battle of the elector the previous week.

Monday’s return fight was apparently showing parity of numbers on paper but, unbeknown to the majority of the audience, there was a defector in the blue ranks. A former blue queen, full of enmity for having been previously scorned by her blue compatriots, was determined to have her revenge. Beware a woman scorned!

In a flash, or in the time it takes to move the hand and arm to the vertical, the blue young pretender had the mayoral baton dashed from his grasp.

His princely demeanour never wavered but some of his supporters left the field in high dudgeon and assembled defiantly outside a well-known hostelry to take a stiff drink.

However, the former blue queen was not finished with the dispersed blue ranks as she enabled the black and white tribe to bring forward a flagrant princess from her Britain in Bloom garden and clutch the baton to her bosom.

We all warmed to the princess’s moods and colours and we await her growth as a shining bloom in this new setting.

Not a whiff of the impending doom for the blues for, not content with the furore she had let loose, the aging but savvy queen proceeded to the “coup de grace” — as she herself was installed as the confidante to the flagrant princess as her deputy.

This was just too much for your writer as he, too, adjourned to take stiff grog.

The black and white tribe are now victorious in a coup d’état — the king is dead, long live the king… and the former blue queen of whatever colour!

Is this the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end for Henley? Will the blue tribe be able to muster again after undertaking tribal cleansing rituals?

Will the black and white tribe fall into a trap of overplaying their hand? Will the UKIP wizard further beguile the black and whites as they cavort across the landscape mopping up resistance?

Will the former blue queen be satisfied with waiting for her ultimate prize for another year or will the flagrant princess be her prisoner in a gilded cage? Will the former blue queen’s stronghold be renamed “The Cold Shoulder” as a penance?

What a feast of entertainment. Is it worth paying our licence fee (precept) to watch? Perhaps, as sane independent-minded people, we should forgo this spectacle and just switch off these kings, queens, princesses and princes and consign them to history. — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

More care, less politics

Sir, — The recent election results had produced a town council that would have been politically balanced and gave the council an opportunity to move away from the divisive model of many past years and force some consensus on the two sides of the political spectrum.

This is something which has rarely been tried before, although some of the Conservative councillors in the last two years have been more accommodating in this respect than any council in the last 20 years.

However, habits are hard to break and once more we enter the political battlefield.

Councillor Will Hamilton has worked incredibly hard as Deputy Mayor for the last year and was elected unanimously by all councillors to be mayor-elect.

The position of mayor is an honour and is a ceremonial position in the town.

However, just a few weeks after this vote of confidence, a majority of those councillors who elected him as mayor-elect decided that he was no longer their choice.

He found out that he would not be mayor three days before the ceremony. This decision was only made possible after a long-standing member of the Conservatives Party was persuaded to leave the party and not vote for Cllr Hamilton as mayor, resulting in a Henley Residents’ Group majority.

The emotional stress and disappointment of Cllr Hamilton is an undeserved outcome for someone who just wanted to serve his community.

But the other unwelcome consequence is a town council that is now more politically divisive than ever.

We have a small parish council where empathy and care for our fellow colleagues should be balanced against political gain.

After all, we promote ourselves as a friendly and welcoming town to all. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Chairman, Henley Conservatives, Elizabeth Road, Henley

Tories knew the danger

Sir, — It was rather inept of Henley Conservatives to have voted for mayor a week ahead of the election, when they knew full well that they stood to lose their majority.

It was also very unkind to Will Hamilton, who deserved better of them.

Orchestrating a walkout at mayor-making lowered the tone even further, although I noticed that some of them sneaked back in for the free food and drink later.

Henley has a young, sparkling, very assured and energetic Mayor with a good track record. Let’s help her build on that. — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher

Mill End

Life imitates art indeed

Sir, — Reading reports on the shenanigans in the town hall on Monday, and with no disrespect to the parties involved, I was irresistibly reminded of the Eighties comedy A Private Function, starring Maggie Smith, a part-time cinema organist and pig kidnapper, determined to have her place at a local celebratory function.

Some readers may recall that one scene was filmed at the old Regal Cinema, the campaign for which, I believe, provided the genesis for Henley Residents’ Group.

Politics at all levels seem to involve behind-the-scenes “negotiations” with occasional public drama, as appears to have been the case on Monday.

Perhaps Henley has an aspirant Alan Bennett or Alan Ayckbourn already scripting a play on local politics to be premièred at the town’s own Georgian theatre? — Yours faithfully,

Ron White

Milton Close, Henley

Thank you for your votes

Sir, — I would just like to say to each and everyone who chose to vote for me how grateful I am to you as it would have been so easy for you to be swayed by the popular vote.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. — Yours faithfully,

Donna Crook

Abrahams Road, Henley

Better policy on buses

Sir, — On May 4 electors ousted Councillor David Nimmo Smith, whose Oxfordshire county councillor cabinet post included transport, and Councillor Rodney Rose, who preceded him in that post.

Most people care about transport but few put it first in an election.

We cannot assume people’s votes depended on the transport policies that government austerity forced on Oxfordshire.

But Oxfordshire has cut bus subsidies from £5.5million in 2009 to almost nothing since 2016. This has made operators scrap 60 bus routes, leaving a record number of places in Oxfordshire with no bus service.

Andrew Jones, the buses minister, opposes all bus subsidies. Under him, nowhere that lost its bus in 2016 would get it back before the general election.

Ever-tighter EU exhaust limits mean new diesel buses emit only a tiny fraction of the poisons emitted by buses built 15 to 20 years ago. But too many old, high-emission buses remain in service.

In 2008 the Government launched the Green Bus Fund, which helped bus operators to buy new buses with hybrid or other propulsion that cost more but emit less. But a successor government ended that fund in 2013.

In 2009 the Government launched a huge scrappage scheme for old cars but not old buses. Now another scrappage scheme is proposed for diesel cars but not old buses.

For this election, Bus Users Oxford asks each party for policies that would restore good bus services to communities that have been cut off and help operators replace old high-emission buses with new low-emission ones. — Yours faithfully,

Hugh Jaeger

Chairman, Bus Users Oxford

No regard for plan policies

Sir, — I am writing to express my utter dismay that, in spite of the unanimity of South Oxfordshire district councillors, Sonning Common Parish Council and residents of Woodlands Road, Sonning Common, in opposing further damaging housing development along this road, considered as garden infill, the Government’s Planning Inspectorate has allowed it to proceed.

This makes a nonsense of any informed decision made by the parish council, upholding the policies carefully set out in the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan, and the opinions of members of the district council’s planning committee to protect the village from inappropriate development.

I do not understand why a government inspector, who knows little of the area, should have the authority to override, and therefore undermine, those working hard to ensure that appropriate development takes place so that the character of the village is not destroyed.

Huge houses are being squeezed into minute plots that do not reflect the local surroundings.

This has happened at 31a and 23 Woodlands Road and most recently at 2 Baskerville Road, where the approved new four-bedroom house will front on to Woodlands Road.

There is evidence that the district council’s planning enforcement officers did not check that planning permission conditions were met in the case of 31a Woodlands Road, so the whole process seems disjointed.

In the case of 2 Baskerville Road, the government inspector has approved building with no constraints and no consideration for existing residents’ concerns or for the considered policies on appropriate housing development set out in the neighbourhood plan.

Prior to the appeal being determined, a number of residents made representations to the inspector that the neighbourhood plan should be upheld but our views were ignored.

I am outraged that an inspector can ignore neighbourhood plan policies that have been five years in the making.

If decisions made unanimously by local councils and neighbourhoods can be overturned on appeal, then what is the point of having a planning department at the district councils, parish councils and, above all, a neighbourhood development plan that has cost the taxpayer £63,000 to put in place?

We might as well just have a dictatorship set up by government inspectors and builders since the evidence shows that neither of these has any regard for the rest of us! — Yours faithfully,

Gaye Rice

Woodlands Road,
Sonning Common

Encourage restaurateur

Sir, — I think it is very petty and unfair of Henley Town Council’s planning committee to recommend Shaun Dickens’s application to use his outside decking area until 9pm be turned down (Standard, May 5).

Anyone would think he is planning to have three hours of “rave” out there rather than giving his customers a lovely outside area overlooking the river (Henley’s greatest asset) to have a quiet drink before going in for their meal inside the restaurant.

People can walk along the towpath at all hours talking loudly, not to mention boats going by with very loud music playing. By comparison, I would think people sitting on the decked area are likely to be talking quietly out of respect for the houses nearby — we’re talking about the clientele of a very high class restaurant here!

Give Shaun Dickens the benefit of the doubt -— he’s working hard to build a successful restaurant in challenging times.

I would have thought that councillors would be so delighted that he has chosen to have it here in Henley that they would do everything to encourage and support him. — Yours faithfully,

Leslie Maynerd

Whitchurch

Feeding need of visitors

Sir, — I read with dismay about Henley Town Council’s decision to recommend refusal of Shaun Dickens’s application to use the deck outside his restaurant until 9pm instead of 6pm.

How is Henley ever going to compete with Marlow for restaurants with decisions like that? It is not as if he is applying for a late licence, only until 9pm for heaven’s sake.

Are the local residents who have objected so sensitive that they cannot bear a modicum of life in a tourist attraction position?

What about the Hobbs boats that disgorge their party passengers often much later than 9pm or the parties that go on those boats still moored up?

Apart from the Angel on the Bridge, which attracts a totally different clientele, there is no other restaurant in Henley with a river view and to deny this amenity to diners on the few summer evenings we have when it is fit to eat outside is small-minded and unbelievably unprogressive.

Come on, Henley, stop living up to your reputation as a sleepy town for old folk (although I note there has been much objection to further care homes for the elderly in the town) and make the most of the facilities you have.

Make the town somewhere people want to go at night. Marlow is beating you hands down on this one.

It seems the outgoing mayor Julian Brookes is the only one of you who can see this. — Yours faithfully,

Curtis Jackson

Orchard Close, Henley

Catastrophic to shut school

Sir, — As a former head of Chiltern Edge School and a former county education adviser, I am deeply saddened by the talk of closure of the school after a critical Ofsted report.

This report is the first in its history and surely record of previous merit should not be ignored. One report, however bad, should not lead to a possible closure.

If the problems are short-lived then they are transient and could, with support, be eradicated. If they are of longer standing, what actions did Oxfordshire County Council take to address them?

I am not able to challenge the findings but the remarks about poor behaviour to special needs pupils and the “low expectations” of staff sound very much like anecdotal evidence and as such should not appear in a report which should be based on solid evidence.

Closure would be a catastrophe for the former Bishopswood pupils whose social and educational welfare has been nurtured by the school and, so that present and future pupils will be safeguarded, it is essential that the council announces that there will be no closure, that support will be given and that there is confidence that the school will return to its past success. — Yours faithfully,

Ken Fitt

Ipsden

Learn from Scandinavia

Sir, — I read that parents of children in Henley are concerned that Gillotts School is about to lose out on funding (Standard, April 21).

They are trying to set up an independent fund to help the school. I understand this is happening all over the country.

How is it that, as one of the wealthiest countries in the world, we are not able to support local schools adequately? Denmark, Norway and Sweden are not as wealthy but are able to provide funds. Maybe people should read a book by a Helen Russell called The Year of Living Danishly, Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country.

She was recently interviewed on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. She said that now she is expecting twins there is no way she could return to Britain due to the high cost of childcare here.

I should like to highlight that all the Scandinavian countries have high tax rates and although they may not be ecstatic about it, they mainly say that they prefer a society where people have a decent life (meaning all). Maybe we should look at this.

Low tax rates do not mean happy people and the illusion that it hinders enterprise is a fallacy.

Both Denmark and Norway are doing well and able to afford healthcare, schools etc. — Yours faithfully,

Anne Johnson

Henley

Insufficient parking space

Sir, — On Thursday last week, I took my husband for an appointment at the Bell Surgery in Henley — the first time I had experienced the new parking arrangements.

On arrival, there were no parking spaces free, apart from one disabled space. I parked my car in this space and took my husband to reception as he walks with a stick and has balance problems.

I entered my car registration and told the receptionist that I had been forced to park in a disabled space.

She asked if my husband had a blue badge and said that, if not, I would be fined. He does not have one at present.

I wanted to accompany my husband to his appointment as he is very deaf and there were a number of questions that needed to be discussed.

Fortunately, we had got to the surgery in good time. I went back to the car park — still no spaces. I waited 15 minutes and not one car moved.

In desperation, I returned to the disabled space, left my car and went back to the surgery to accompany my husband, hoping the short stay and extenuating circumstances would prevent a fine.

After the appointment we drove the normal exit route through the new Townlands Hospital car park. This was less than half full with a large number of free spaces.

Would it not be possible to make some arrangement between the hospital and the Bell and Hart surgeries to allocate some sections of this large, underused car park for the exclusive use of surgery patients? My husband cannot be the only patient, not registered disabled, who is unable to walk up the hill from a car park in town yet wants to have someone with him at his appointment. — Yours faithfully,

Jennifer Sanderson

Greys Road, Henley

EU departure was overdue

Sir, — With regard to Mr J Cassidy’s letter, headlined “Historic act of self-harm” (Standard, May 5), he will just have to accept that Brexit is the will of the majority of the electorate in this country.

What we mistakenly thought was a trading alliance has turned into a despotic political behemoth which, as well as costing us billions of pounds for very little benefit over the years, has progressively chipped away at our sovereignty and severely emasculated the power of our Parliament.

Our departure from the bloated and corrupt EU is long overdue.

Of course the other members of the club are bitter that they are losing their main cash cow and are seeking to punish us by attacking sterling.

However, this has partly rebounded as it has boosted our exports by making our goods less expensive than our competitors’ goods.

Our rate of unemployment is far below that of the rest of Europe and many of the world’s best-known companies are investing here, as national insurance and corporation tax are less than those in EU countries.

If, unfortunately, we are forced into a “hard Brexit” we should not lose our nerve. There is nothing that we buy from Europe that we can’t either produce ourselves or source elsewhere on the world markets.

Nothing physically has changed. There are no bombs, air raids or fighting, so no reason for us to be worried for our future.

We have no need to be alarmed by the vagaries of the giant gambling casino that is the world’s financial market.

We have survived much, much worse, mostly on our own, and come out of it to rebuild our peace and prosperity.

We can look forward to a completely new start by taking back control of our own destiny. Those who wish to leave Britain are welcome to do so.

The rest of us can build a prosperous future free of external interference, rebuilding our industry, greatly improving agriculture and food production by removing wasteful “set-aside” rules designed to help inefficient farmers in the Common Agricultural Policy by keeping prices artificially high, replacing EU grants with our own and easing the mountainous burden of red tape strangling the industry at present.

There may be a little bewilderment at first, as happens to a prisoner who is newly released after a long sentence, but I’m certain that what lies ahead is an exciting prospect that everybody in this nation will welcome when they see the result. — Yours faithfully

Adrian Vanheems

Baskerville Road, Sonning Common

Democracy is the winner

Sir, — It is the EU which is poised to commit “an historic act of self-harm”, not the UK, Mr Cassidy. Your letter read like a lengthy invective against the Conservative Party, which cannot go unanswered.

Years ago I was jury foreman at a crown court. The law does not allow me to discuss what went on there but I would sum up the experience by saying that “the jury system is the least worst system we know”. So it is with democracy and politics of all stripes: it’s not perfect.

Like many socialist organisations, the EU is essentially coercive, so it is hardly surprising that the UK finds itself so deeply ensnared in the EU’s web of complex and expensive regulations.

If you were writing the rules for EU membership, wouldn’t you make it difficult and costly for a member state to leave?

The EU does not have all the cards, however. The loss of our contributions to the EU budget would be significant and is presently rattling the likes of Mr Juncker as the EU is very good at spending other people’s money.

The EU also has the problem that the UK cannot be seen to get a “good deal” out of leaving because it would encourage others.

But trying to force us to take a “bad deal” would result in the UK walking away and would be a trading “own goal” for the remaining members but not, of course, for the EU Commission, headed by the unelected Mr Juncker.

The EU states sell much more to us than vice versa, so surely, Mr Cassidy, our position is not as weak as you imply?

We are told that without granting free movement the UK cannot remain in the single market. A statement of the obvious surely? As we indicated in the referendum, I and the majority of UK voters want to be able to control who comes here, just as do all other non-EU countries on the planet. What is so wrong with that?

To spell it out, Brexiteers would be prepared to sacrifice a few percentage points of (disputed) economic growth in order to have the chance to get back our sovereignty with all it entails. Obama, Branson, Blair, Heseltine, Clarke et al. please note.

The controversy surrounding this issue has also revealed that some politicians actually care little for democracy, so long as their personal opinions prevail.

I understand that in any case World Trade Organisation tariffs are not onerous and more than compensated by the fall in sterling, the bleating of industry notwithstanding. Do you see no disadvantages at all to our continued membership? The EU has four major “flagship” policies, the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy, the Euro and Schengen. Which of these is an unalloyed benefit to the UK in your opinion and why?

I have not mentioned the lack of democracy, the corruption, the profligacy, the protectionism or the recent petulant behaviour of the EU, which in my view dooms the union to ultimate failure.

By the way, I believe EU employees in Brussels do not pay any income tax anywhere. What do you think of that, Mr Cassidy? — Yours faithfully,

Michael Emmett

Peppard Common

Cheer up, it’s summer time

Sir, — What a tale of misery and woe to greet us on a Friday morning! We open last week’s letters page to be greeted with a lengthy summary of Mr J Cassidy’s worries about aspects of the Prime Minister’s negotiating position over Brexit with our friends in Europe.

Not only does Mrs May not please Mr Cassidy but there is a sideswipe at the “ineffectual” Jeremy Corbyn.

As if we hadn’t heard enough about this national issue in the last 10 days on TV and radio.

Is this letter brief or about a topical local issue as the editor requests?

This first letter is followed by a further salvo in the continuing Gainsborough estate versus John Howell saga.

Oh dear, how sad it all seems just when summer approaches. — Yours faithfully,

William Fitzhugh

Caversham

Henley Jesus masquerade

Sir, — I was astounded to see that the whole of page 3 was given over to some stories about a foul-mouthed, talentless oaf who happens to live nearby (Standard, May 5).

I do not have young children but if I did I certainly would not invite this man to read them a bedtime story.

The Henley Standard should be ashamed. — Yours faithfully,

Vincent Ruane

Grove Road, Emmer Green

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