Friday, 23 February 2018
Sir, — It has been many years since a new year began with the current level of social injustice and barriers to social progress as we have at the start of 2018.
Levels of inequality are causing poverty and there are poor care facilities, homelessness and an increase in the number of food banks, affecting not only children and the disabled, but also poorly paid public sector workers such as nurses and many others.
Annual pay decreases, in real terms, are expected to continue for many years, particularly affecting the disadvantaged and poorly paid in our society.
We are a caring nation and volunteers and charities have sprung up to take the strain but are already overstretched with the ever-increasing burden of those in need caused by local government cuts.
Our young are also being denied the opportunity of owning their own home, particularly in our district.
Our children are in danger of becoming the first generation in recent times to be unable to aspire to the living standards of their parents and grandparents.
Some local politicians and our MP take great joy in that we in South Oxfordshire may have our housing need figures slightly decreased through mathematical wizardry, but the truth is that we are letting down the next generation. We are selling them down the river.
The disadvantaged, those who care about the scale of inequality, and particularly the young, are becoming much more politically aware, particularly through social media.
Unless the Government seriously addresses their problems it can expect major support for political parties that offer solutions to these injustices.
However, perhaps political change is what it will take to shift what seems an immovable obstruction in our country and communities. — Yours faithfully,
Elizabeth Road, Henley
We must help those in need
Sir, — There has been much correspondence over the last few years about the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan and specifically in the area of housing.
Despite the rhetoric, I am still unclear about the definition of affordable housing.
Does that term include social housing or is it just lower-cost housing to enable people to get on the housing ladder?
If, as I fear, social housing is at the bottom of the pile it is an omission which will, in the long term, threaten the existence of the town.
During the course of our work with the Nomad project, we are increasingly aware of the need for more social housing for both young people and families here in Henley.
Is it wrong for young people who have grown up in the town, or for families who have managed to find housing here but find the need to upsize to larger properties as their children grow, to want to continue living and working here?
Is it right that they should have to decamp to other Oxfordshire towns, away from the vital support of their family and social networks and from what they rightly consider to be their home town?
Please don’t stereotype them either. Most of those that we know want to work, want to live decent lives, raise their families in the town where they grew up, want to contribute to the wellbeing of the town and love Henley. Is there not a way to make that happen?
Historically, Henley has always had its large houses owned by the wealthier and its smaller, less salubrious properties lived in by the people who keep the wheels of the town turning. Has it not thrived on this principle?
Surely this must continue to happen if Henley is to survive.
Is there not a way to get the various interested parties together to resolve this situation rather than keep on just endlessly talking?
I’m thinking the town council, South Oxfordshire District Council, housing associations, landowners and local residents. Let’s attempt to build bridges between those who have a lot and those who have less.
Can we put our political differences aside for the sake of our community and make 2018 the year it begins to happen? — Yours faithfully,
Nomad youth and community project, Market Place, Henley
We need care housing
Sir, — You report scathing comments about the care housing development in Reading Road, Henley, such as Councillor Joan Bland’s “Don’t want a ghetto for old people”, Councillor David Nimmo Smith’s “A body blow for Henley” and Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak’s “It stinks” (Standard, December 29),
We are living longer, therefore more old people are around, but none of the above worthies tells us what we should do with all these geriatric bodies. Euthanasia, perhaps?
Their tunes will change when they become old.
It can be argued that care housing is precisely what we want because this will persuade oldies now rattling around in large houses to downsize, thus releasing more space for families.
Housing, whether for young or old, is part of the wider problem no one will talk about, namely over-population.
When will we realise that reduced immigration is not good enough and large families are antisocial?
Our aim should be to stabilise the numbers living on this overcrowded island. Until we do, there will logically be a need for ever more housing.
Maybe when Henley finds it has become a suburb of Reading people will wake up. — Yours faithfully,
Wootton Road, Henley
Sir, — While we in Henley Residents’ Group are busy working hard for Henley by replacing the services cut by Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council, supporting local schools and charities, regenerating playgrounds, arranging new bus services, fixing potholes, staging town events and keeping our streets clean, Conservative councillor Julian Brookes is more concerned with how many people in HRG may be Left-leaning, which national parties members may vote for or if there are people in HRG that might be anti-Conservative!
I must thank him for illustrating so eloquently, in the run-up to the Henley Town Council by-election, why it is such a bad idea to elect councillors who are tied to national parties and politics and determined to create a mini-Westminster where a functioning town council should be.
Councillor Brookes also restates the thoroughly discredited claim that having Conservatives controlling every council is somehow beneficial for the town, when in fact all that seems to achieve is the streamlined imposition of diktats from county and district councils on Henley whether they are good for the town or not.
We are facing another costly by-election on January 18 to contest the seat vacated when Conservative councillor Simon Smith resigned, stating he was “fed up having to toe the party line”.
We have seen in just the last year the very public ostracisation of Councillors Paul Harrison and Lorraine Hillier for placing what they felt was right above Conservative Party loyalty.
This is why we need remove national political allegiances from our town council.
The by-election will offer Henley North ward voters a choice of three candidates.
Only one of them, Paula Isaac of HRG, will enjoy absolute freedom to vote with her conscience without fear of reprisal.
The other two candidates represent national parties who frequently, and very publicly, punish dissent and disloyalty.
We have a small town council, where party whips, politics, political labels and outdated notions of Left and Right are thoroughly unhelpful and irrelevant. — Yours faithfully,
Councillor Glen Lambert
Henley Residents’ Group, Henley Town Council, Greys Road, Henley
Sir, — It’s great news that there is to be a Labour candidate standing for Henley Town Council (Standard, December 29).
I agree with Julian Brookes that a party ticket is useful, even at Henley Town Council’s parish council level of local government, as it usually tells you something about a person’s priorities and principles.
That is what Labour candidate Jackie Walker ably showed in your article.
How refreshing and what a contrast to the Conservatives’ candidate. What is the true allegiance of their candidate? A would-be Henley Residents’ Group candidate? An independent? A true blue Tory?
Of course, swapping political colours isn’t new in our local council.
There have been various HRG council members in the recent past who have suddenly revealed that they have been Tories all along and, as Councillor Ian Reissmann noted, Tory councillors who find they are not true blue after all.
Party tickets are useful but only if they truly tell us something about the candidate. How refreshing to have Jackie Walker’s open and principled stand. — Yours faithfully,
Milton Close, Henley
Party policy comes first
Sir, — It appears from her letter that your correspondent Gillian Nahum hopes Henley’s MP will help her burgeoning electric boat business as the UK exits the European Union (Standard, December 29).
Prior to the EU referendum last year, John Howell often made quite impassioned comments in the Henley Standard about our EU membership, typified by “I am in favour of the UK remaining a member of a reformed EU”, whatever that means.
By contrast and according to Hansard, since the referendum he has almost always voted in favour of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. After all, that is now the policy of his party, which is in government, having won the last general election.
Therefore, while Mr Howell may privately like to help you, Gillian, it could be a career-threatening strategy for him so, sadly, I doubt if you can expect much practical support from that quarter. — Yours faithfully,
Frightened by fireworks
Sir, — My dog was terrified by the excessively loud fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Henley.
An organised, public fireworks display is a fine thing, but ad-hoc private fireworks in built-up residential areas, which are so loud that the walls shake and the poor dog is literally climbing the walls in terror, is another.
The fireworks on New Year’s Eve continued intermittently from early evening until past midnight.
I have noticed during the last couple of years that some private fireworks are getting louder and more frequent.
Surely there should be a decibel restriction on the use of private fireworks i.e. the “big boomers” which must exceed 150 decibels?
I appreciate it was New Year’s Eve and we all like to celebrate, but in close residential areas some consideration needs to be given to local pets and young children.
Does anyone know about the laws regarding sound levels? — Yours faithfully,
Name and address
No need to divorce
Sir, — About 500 South Oxfordshire residents will divorce in 2018.
According to the most recent Office of National Statistics’ figures, the divorce rate for opposite-sex couples is on the rise for the first time since 2009.
Almost half of couples divorcing have at least one child aged under 16 living in the family. A fifth of those children will be under five.
Family law solicitors like me and my team, who are members of Resolution, support and encourage families to put the best interests of any children first, no matter what relationship issues might have come to a head over the Christmas and New Year break.
Moreover, seeking expert and confidential advice from a divorce lawyer does not mean that a couple will be at legal loggerheads.
Resolution members seek to reduce and manage any conflict and confrontation. — Yours faithfully,
Principal, solicitor and family law arbitrator, Tony Roe Solicitors, Brewery Court, Theale
Sir, — I would like to thank the residents of Henley and Shiplake for digging deep into their pockets and helping the Santa sleigh journeys to collect an amazing £4,465.39.
I would also like to thank the Henley Lions for agreeing to take on responsibility for the sleigh and the 46 people who gave up their evenings to ensure the Santa sleigh tradition continued in Henley and Shiplake.
In particular I would like to thank Ernie Povey who devoted many hours of his time to renovate the sleigh and make it roadworthy.
To his daughter Debs who towed the sleigh on six of the nine evening outings and to Robin Swift, the Lions Club treasurer, who spent hours counting his way through hundreds of coins and delivering the total within a couple of hours.
It was truly a community event and many local charities will benefit, including Bishopswood Special School, the Chiltern Centre for disabled children, Henley Youth Festival, Henley Mencap group and Riding for the Disabled.
I am certain that everyone involved would agree that their efforts were rewarded when they saw the smiling faces of the children (both young and old) waving to Santa.
Thank you again — Yours faithfully,
St Mark’s Road, Henley
Caring and hard-working
Sir, — Who said the spirit of Christmas was dead? Well, not in Henley.
After spending the morning visiting local care homes and calling into the Christ Church Centre, where a lunch was being served to those members of the community who would have been on their own, our hard-working Mayor proceeded to cook lunch for two over-60s and brought her family with her!
Grateful thanks from these two oldies.
You’re a great cook as well as a hard-working Mayor, Kellie. — Yours faithfully,
Name and address
First class treatment
Sir, — Townlands Memorial Hospital — how lucky we are to have this facility?
I had an accident in the kitchen and went to the minor injuries unit where I was met by a very efficient, friendly nurse and then taken into the unit where my wound was dressed, stitched and bandaged with great care by two nurses.
I went home and was given a follow-up appointment two days later.
It was fantastic service from very professional staff and how wonderful not to have to go into Reading! — Yours faithfully,
Badgemore Lane, Henley
08 January 2018
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