Friday, 18 June 2021

Your letters...

No place for party politics

Sir, — What is happening at Henley Conservatives (who, incidentally, appear to be based in Watlington and run by the former leader of Wokingham Borough Council, who does not live in Henley)?

First of all, a former Mayor and party turncoat gets pushed out because it seems he never attends meetings anyway. So there’s an election.

Then another of their town councillors gets such an important job in London that Mrs May reckons he’d have a massive conflict of interest if he went on being a councillor. So there’s a second mid-term election.

But life among Henley Conservatives gets so unpleasant that a third one quits.

Next, a fourth, who hasn’t had a brilliant attendance record anyway, quits just nine months ahead of the next full election.

I’m sure Lady Bracknell would have had something to say about that.

That is four out of eight Conservative councillors who have resigned, causing a whopping £23,000 bill for election expenses — the cost of running Henley’s bus service for a year — just because (it seems) Henley Conservatives can’t work together.

The Conservatives’ track record of governance is not brilliant anyway — the last constructive thing I can remember them doing was at the end of the last century when Councillor David Nimmo Smith had the town tennis courts bulldozed to make way for the Leichlingen Pavilion.

Anyway, why is it necessary for the national party system to spill over into Henley? Few parish councils are blighted in this way. National politics has no relevance at a local level.

That’s the principle behind Henley Residents Group — independent town councillor candidates standing as individuals on their own merits.

The ones who appear to serve Henley best then get elected, regardless of their national party allegiance. — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher

Hambleden

Tories offer solutions

Sir, — I write in response to the various letters from Henley Residents Group councillors that you have published over the last two weeks.

Two councillors seem particularly vexed over the statements in the Conservatives’ election leaflet where we shine the spotlight on Henley Residents Group’s approach to:

• Raising the town council’s element of council tax by seven per cent.

• Failing to deliver on an election pledge made last year that there will be “no extra houses until we have better roads and services”.

• Failing to support Henley Conservatives’ campaign calling for better police resources for the town from Thames Valley Police.

I stand by those statements and have put a more detailed explanation behind them on our website, www.henleyconservatives.com

There is, however, a more fundamental issue behind this scrutiny and the holding of HRG to account.

Again and again, people I speak to in Henley are amazed when it’s pointed out that for 22 out of the last 27 years HRG has been in control of the town council.

Over those 22 years Henley has suffered from increased traffic and congestion, a deteriorating town centre, inadequate town centre parking for shoppers, students, visitors and businesses and poor delivery of truly affordable housing for local first time buyers.

One only has to look eight miles to Marlow to realise that it doesn’t have to be like this for Henley.

HRG’s failure to properly identify these issues and then develop and champion solutions that address the root causes of these problems is their most devastating failure over the last 22 years.

In our role as the opposition group on the town council, we are increasingly scrutinising HRG’s record as the ruling group.

More importantly, we have also started the thinking and policy development process to bring forward fresh ideas to tackle the issues Henley residents have told us they want tackling and will be bringing forward the necessary solutions that our town so desperately needs.

I believe our candidate, Laurence Plant, will be a superb councillor to assist in this process and I hope all residents in the South ward will seriously consider supporting him on Thursday. — Yours faithfully,

Frank Browne

Chairman, Henley Conservatives

HRG means tax increases

Sir, — Many residents of Henley may not be aware of the vast amount of money and assets the town council looks after on their behalf.

Henley Residents Group, the controlling party on the council for 22 of the last 27 years, has been making some interesting claims about its finances in your paper and I’d like to put them into context.

HRG claims it was justified in increasing the town’s share of council tax at an inflation-busting rate of seven per cent because some neighbouring town councils’ tax rates are higher than Henley’s.

But unlike Henley, those councils are not custodians of great wealth on behalf of their residents and beneficiaries of a multi-million pound investment fund that generates more than £150,000 of revenue every year.

HRG is pointing the finger at Oxfordshire County Council for increasing its share of the tax.

However, the party’s county councillor voted for that increase, and declared his full support for the increase and the reasons behind it at a town council meeting on January 3, as well as supporting the tax increase made by South Oxfordshire District Council, to which he also belongs.

Thus HRG is the only party that supported all three council tax increases levied by the town, district and county councils this year.

It’s worth noting that over the last 20 years or so under the control of HRG, Henley Town Council has increased its element of the tax by almost twice that of the district council.

It would help if HRG took a more prudent approach to managing the costs of running council business rather than throwing money at problems and window-
dressing without a clear strategy or seeking to tackle problems at their root.

It is vital that conscientious and capable councillors are elected to Henley Town Council to provide a good, value-for-money service for our town.

You have such a candidate in Laurence Plant and I urge your readers to vote for him at the by-election on Thursday. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Sara Abey (Conservative)

Henley Town Council

Issues from campaign

Sir, — Among the many issues raised by Henley South ward residents during the current by-election campaign, two keep coming up: the allegiances of the Henley Conservatives and which party is in current control of Henley Town Council.

The allegiance of Henley Conservatives is first and foremost to Henley. We are simply Henley residents who seek to serve Henley guided by Conservative values.

Being a part of a well-established political party gives our members the opportunity to influence the politicians who make decisions that affect Henley.

We take every opportunity to feed information about local issues and conditions to regional and national policy makers.

Laurence Plant, our candidate, is a prime example of a Henley Conservative — born, bred, educated, worked, started and now running his own successful business in Henley.

Many residents assume that the town council is controlled by Conservatives because we return a Conservative Member of Parliament.

They are surprised when advised that for most of the last three decades it has been controlled by Henley Residents Group whose recent focus has been on short-term photo opportunities and who fail to acknowledge the creativity and contribution of many Henley residents.

Henley needs a vision and longer-term planning which address the root causes of the many issues faced by the town.

Our candidate, with his Henley background and business success, has the potential to make a significant contribution to both of these issues. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Julian Brookes

Leader of the Conservative group, Henley Town Council, Parkside, Henley

Thanks for good ideas

Sir, — As a Henley resident, business owner and town council candidate, I wanted to take a moment to thank all those I have canvassed so far.

The outpouring of positive and constructive ideas on many issues that are important to you and the town has been overwhelming.

You have opened your door to me and taken your time to tell me what matters to you and I only hope that I can try to work to improve these.

The most frequently mentioned issue is potholes and the terrible condition of our roads but I have also received fantastic suggestions on local apprenticeship schemes, marketing ideas for the town, traffic flow and parking and many, many more.

I would be hugely grateful for your vote on Thursday so that I may have the opportunity to work on many of these issues. — Yours faithfully,

Laurence Plant

Conservative by-election candidate for Henley Town Council, Ancastle Green, Henley

Vote for reliability

Sir, — Henley has a well- trusted tradition of independent town councillors choosing to work closely together. They give a lot to the town.

All 16 members of the town council should be working together.

The Conservatives, however, respond to an olive branch from the new mayor with a promise of “scrutiny” and opposition.

There are just eight Henley Residents Group councillors working for the town but they have an impressive list of achievements over the last year. We need more.

The HRG candidate Michelle Thomas is an experienced campaigner, ready and prepared to keep Henley working for everyone.

Let’s elect a reliable councillor who will stay the course. Please vote for Michelle on Thursday. — Yours faithfully,

David Feary

Treasurer, Henley Residents Group, Walton Avenue, Henley

New, better bus service

Sir, — May I thank your correspondent JS of Henley for their letter suggesting our town bus service visits Townlands Memorial Hospital.

As the Henley Standard has reported, Henley Town Council has chosen Reading Buses to deliver the new service using a bus powered by carbo-neutral biomethane.

The new service will be from 7am to 7pm and it is planned that the bus will visit new stops at the hospital, the station and Highlands Park at the top of Greys Road.

We are currently finalising the contract and the publicity surrounding the new service, which will be published very soon.

It is my intention as chairman of the council’s bus working group to start this new exciting town bus service during July. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak

Henley Town Council, Elizabeth Road, Henley

What future, yellow bus?

Sir, — On my departure from Henley Town Council’s bus working group, I would like to apologise to existing yellow bus users that I was not enabled to provide them with an update on the proposed service arrangements post-yellow bus.

They can, however, rest assured that I have placed the remedying of that omission at the forefront of priorities for the Henley Residents Group executives concerned and hope that the matter might thereby finally be remedied.— Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

The meadows need you!

Sir, — At a meeting of Henley Town Council’s recreation and amenities committee on Tuesday last week, members considered a report on how to best deal with the misuse of Mill and Marsh Meadows.

For the past few months, Councillor Sarah Miller, the former chairwoman of the committee, and myself have been working alongside park services and town hall staff to find various solutions to issues we face on high-volume weekends.

This resulted in a number of recommendations put before the committee.

I am pleased to say that as well as a number of ongoing measures already under way, such as a signage project for the entire area and the cleaning of the toilets being contracted out, the committee agreed to:

• Install more bins along the towpath where appropriate.

• Change some of the existing bins.

• Provide clearer instructions in more obvious places for users of Marsh Meadows. For more information on what was decided, please see the minutes of the meeting on the town council’s website.

The committee is grateful for the community interest in this issue and would like to form a users group to help us better consult and communicate with residents and visitors.

We have already seen success by creating a similar group at Freemans Meadow and would like to facilitate a new group for what many consider to be the jewel in our crown by the river.

If you are interested in taking part in a users group and would like to have more of a say on how the meadows are managed, please email Becky Walker at the council on b.walker@henleytowncouncil.gov.uk or call the town hall and ask for her. Thanks in advance. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Kellie Hinton

Chairwoman, recreation and amenities committee, Henley Town Council, Queen Street, Henley

Thanks for good ideas

Sir, — We have seen the very best of Henley in the last couple of weeks and those involved deserve recognition for their efforts.

When Janet Wood and Karen Morris recognised the scope of the litter problem in Mill and Marsh Meadows they had a choice — complain about it or do something about it.

Luckily for us, they chose the latter and launched a survey to capture all the good ideas about how to keep our meadows safe, clean and welcoming for all.

I would like to say a huge thank-you to Janet and Karen for taking the initiative and to each of the 340 individuals who took the time to complete the survey and share their thoughts and ideas.

Thanks to you we have some very valuable ideas, all of which will be explored and many of which will be implemented. Thank you! — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Sam Evans

Henley Town Council, Reading Road, Henley

Land supply is wide issue

Sir, — I note that Dieter Hinke wants councils to continue to waste millions of pounds each year in defending their calculations of the housing land supply against developers.

I note, too, that he wants a fundamental legal right to continued uncertainty in this area of the planning system.

Neither is acceptable and both were condemned by developers, council officials and leaders, planning consultants, QCs and lawyers and by me as part of the recommendations of the Local Plan Expert Group, which was set up by Government to simplify the planning process.

The discussion about the housing land supply needs to be undertaken once when the figures are produced, not at every appeal as part of a chipping away of those figures.

I am not surprised that Dieter Hinke only sees this through the eyes of Henley as this is a bigger issue than Henley and there is a bigger world out there. I want to make sure we get this right for everyone involved. — Yours faithfully,

John Howell

Henley MP, House of Commons

Humiliating experience

Sir, — I wonder if your correspondent Mark Evans had properly read my letter as he got all his facts wrong (Standard, June 1).

We were not seated at a large table. It was a table for four. (I don’t think there are tables for three).

Our bill was for £18. We were not hugging one coffee for more than an hour.

Finally, we were not asked politely to move tables, we were asked to leave as our table was needed.

We pointed out that there were two empty tables and the person who apparently is the manageress said: “Well, go and sit there then.” We declined and left. We were not asked to change tables, which we would have done willingly. We were told to leave the tearoom, which was quite humiliating and why I wrote to the Henley Standard to tell people how we felt.

I don’t know why Mr Evans thinks that the Henley Standard should not have reported it. That is what local newspapers do. People may not always be happy with what is published but as long as it is the truth and both parties can give their side of the story that is fine. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs Patricia Hughes

Sheridan Avenue
Caversham

Are police so powerless?

Sir, — Your article about the site of the former Nakhon Thai restaurant in Cane End described how vandals broke in, trashed the building, stole radiators, lead, kitchen appliances and copper wiring (Standard, June 1).

It told us how the police attended the incident, which they described as an “unauthorised encampment”, but the offenders initially refused to move, possibly so they could continue to vandalise and to steal whatever they wanted.

Yet there was no description of any arrests or charges made. Is this an omission in the article or are the police really that powerless and inept in the face of obvious criminals? — Yours faithfully,

Ben Riordan

High Street, Whitchurch

What to wear under shorts

Sir, — I read with interest the article about the uniform issue which has arisen at Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common (Standard, June 1).

I noted that an Ofsted report had rated the school “inadequate”. Would it be pertinent to suggest this also applies to the level of what is termed “common sense” by the headteacher?

It also begs the question that should the wearing of skirts be taken up by male pupils, could they adopt the “de rigueur” which applies? Maybe not a good idea on windy days! — Yours faithfully,

Terry Allsop

Ewelme

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