Saturday, 20 August 2022

Your letters...

Poor phone provider

Sir, — We have had a number of mishaps in the three years we have had TalkTalk as our provider of telephone and TV. For example, no TV service and no phone.

This was not due to us not paying our bill (that was always by direct debit). No, the problems were generated by them.

The straw that eventually broke the camel’s back happened the week before last when, once again, the phone and TV weren’t working.

I went through the procedure of switching the connection to the electrics off, waiting a few minutes then switching on again. Nothing!

So on my mobile phone I tried to contact TalkTalk (keeping my patience in check) and waited the usual three hours for somebody to answer the phone in Calcutta before enquiring was there a problem with our connection?

“Yes” came the reply. “You have gone over the allowed time to be on the phone”. (In their bumph/flyers they say they don’t have any caps.)

I asked what I had to do to to get normal service resumed. They said there was a surcharge of £21 and that the normal service would be resumed within 24 hours.

My partner, who is the account holder, said she would pay. I wasn’t too keen (that’s an understatement) so out came the debit card and she paid over the phone.

The next day — surprise, surprise, no phone or TV. So I was on my mobile again (another three hours) phoning TalkTalk.

They said their machine hadn’t worked and the payment hadn’t gone through.

So once again my partner gave her debit card details over the phone. This time we didn’t ring off but waited.

They came back and said it hadn’t worked again and asked if she had another card (she had used it that morning in Waitrose and it had worked alright).

Then I used my card and once again they said the nomal service would be resumed within 24 hours. It wasn’t, so now I have changed my provider.

I would like you to publish this letter just to inform other people how discourteous, unfriendly and uncaring TalkTalk can be to its customers.

What was really unprofessional was the fact that they didn’t inform us that the payment did not go through at the time and instead let us believe we would have a phone service again within 24 hours.

After 24 hours and still with no working phone, we had to contact them again and there’s no telling how long we might have had to wait if we hadn’t done so. — Yours faithfully,

Bill Pearson

Mount View Court, Henley

TalkTalk responds: “We’re sorry that the customer has decided to leave TalkTalk. Our customer service team worked quickly to resolve the customer’s issues and as a gesture of goodwill offered them £15 credit on their account, which they accepted shortly before the case was closed.”

Controlled movement

Sir, — At Chequers Mrs May attempted to reconcile her red lines with the dire economic consequences they cause.

A year ago it was believed that there was a choice of relationship to have with the EU, “hard” or “soft”. We know now that choice is illusionary.

Brexit ideologues peddled the idea that access to the single market, with its benefits, could be achieved without cost or constraints. Liam Fox predicted it would be “the easiest deal in history”. Apparently the EU needs us more that we need them and we can negotiate as equals.

With EU members holding firm to defend an economic system of rules and treaties created over a period of 70 years, the UK is now facing “no deal”.

Brexiteers accuse the EU of intransigence, unwilling to change the rules to benefit a member which chose to leave. They blame the government for not preparing for a “no deal” outcome.

A “no deal” was never a part of the Brexit plan. In the referendum even the lunatic fringe didn’t advocate trade under World Trade Organisation terms.

The Government didn’t plan for “no deal” because its consequences couldn’t be contemplated.

Now a “no deal” is somehow good for Britain and anyone pointing out the dangers is repeating “Project Fear”.

With no viable proposal the government is faced with rejection by the EU parliament and the Conservative Party. The parliamentary arithmetic makes any solution unacceptable.

The Chequers proposal is dead because most MPs and the EU believe it is unworkable. The “no deal” option is a parliamentary non-starter. Joining the European Economic Area, with Norway, would avoid the crisis but then why leave the EU?

The answer might lie with the EU and the British people.

The EU does not want Britain to leave. They believe Brexit diminishes both sides. Economically and politically all of Europe is threatened by a breakdown of the current rules-based world order driven by Donald Trump.

The time has come to revisit immigration control. In the referendum, immigration was the most important topic. European electorates are insisting on a solution to mass immigration. Freedom of movement is being challenged by governments not willing to accept migrants, economic or otherwise.

In Britain there is a growing realisation of our dependence on European migration in so many areas of our national life. Opinion polls show a progressive downward shift in the importance of immigration.

If immigration were added to the negotiation agenda we could stop trying to solve the intractable problems of leaving by exploring how we could stay.

European immigration might be acceptable if EU citizens registered their residency in their adopted country. Freedom of movement could be limited to a predetermined number for each country. When that limit was reached a member country would be allowed to opt for restrictions until the number stabilised.

This concept is compatible with free movement whilst allowing for a higher degree of control.

If the terms of free movement were made more palatable then the British people could vote on whether it was enough to reverse Brexit. If not, live with “no deal”.

After two years of confusion and national shame could a pragmatic approach save the day? — Yours faithfully,

Stuart Fox

Berkshire Road, Henley

Disturbing viewpoint

Sir, — The letter headlined “What Brexit can deliver” (Standard, August 17) was nothing more than a call for racism to be promoted. Was is saying with seriousness that we should have a policy of “rejection of integration”?

Anyway, would it be legal? And what was meant by the words “native British”? Obviously there can be no definition of such a person.

It seems to suggest that 52 per cent of the people of the United Kingdom are, at heart, racists. Surely not?

It ends with “think it over”. Well I have, for several days, and can still not find anything in it with which to be empathetic.

If I have misunderstood the letter, I apologise. Racism is horrible and rightly illegal. — Yours faithfully,

Mike Phelan

Deanfield Road, Henley

Thoughtless visitors

Sir, — We were moored at Mill Meadows on Sunday afternoon and, right by the towpath and boats (with fuel in their tanks), about 50 people were barbecuing under the willow trees and more across the area, approximately 70 to 100 in all.

There are clear signs on the path banning barbecues. I went over to the first group and pointed out the signs and said how dangerous I thought it was especially as it is a windy day.

I must say the smell alone ruins what was once a pleasant area. They, of course, totally ignored me. — Yours faithfully,

J Morris


Don’t rip up the hedge

Sir, — I read that there is a rat problem at Singers Park in Henley (Standard, August 10) and it is proposed that to solve this problem an attractive hedge should be removed.

This suggestion appears to run counter to plans to increase greenery in Henley to reduce air pollution from traffic.

The problem is not the hedge, it is poor food hygiene either by adjacent restaurants or people putting food into litter bins, thus providing food for the rats.

My solution would be to remove the litter bins, install discreet notices saying “Please take your litter home” and check that food disposal at the nearby restaurants is done properly. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hawkins

Berkshire Road, Henley

Singer’s fans spend money

Sir, — I am appalled at the Miller of Mansfield owners’ reaction to the summer party for George Michael (Standard, August 17). They benefit financially as many George Michael fans spend money in there throughout the year.

As far as the use of toilets is concerned, I don’t understand what the problem is.

I am just back from New York and if you need to use the toilets, you can go anywhere without having to purchase anything. It's a basic human right, I used the toilets at the prestigious Plaza hotel twice and nobody complained. You should have seen the queues in Starbucks! — Yours faithfully,

Nadine Caldwell

East Kilbride

Deer can be dangerous

Sir, — I have just three things to say to the lady who wants to ban barbed wire (Standard, August 17).

Please come up with a viable, cost-effective alternative.

It’s a buck, not a stag that refers to red deer. In this neck of the woods there are fallow and roe deer, bucks and does. Red deer are stags and hinds.

Has she any idea how dangerous a fully grown male deer can be? — Yours faithfully,

Kate Waddington


Tories should look ahead

Sir, — Your article on the third Thames crossing (Standard, August 17) brought South Oxfordshire’s Conservatives’ lack of vision to the fore.

Our MP John Howell expressed how obstinate the Conservatives are in blocking any form of progress in the area.

Let me explore what they miss in their complacency. We live in a rapidly changing world, with technological innovation upturning long established practices.

A core part of this new order is Artificial Intelligence, a means by which you can process existing data sets to allow decisions on new incoming data to be made by machines rather than humans.

AI is creating powerful software tools which means that many administrative and decision-making roles will become automated providing a real threat to existing jobs.

Many of you may know that Oxford University is an academic world powerhouse in the research and innovation of big data. Each year hundreds of graduates finish their time in Oxford and some of them set out to exploit their expertise in forming new innovative companies.

Very few of these will be within Oxfordshire for one simple reason, the Conservatives are backward and blind when it comes to innovation.

Why is this relevant to the third crossing on the Thames? There are many interlinked problems in the area such as air quality from traffic in Henley, accidents on the so-called “13 bends of death”, congestion on the A34.

All these would be mitigated if the A4074 was upgraded to a dual carriageway, linking Oxford and Reading and the M4 via the third crossing. This road would also allow Culham, Benson and Wallingford to become technology and innovation centres.

Here I draw parallels with Stanford University and Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose — aka Silicon Valley — which thrived on the constant output of graduates choosing to innovate adjacent to their alma mater.

We have on our doorstep a fountain of technology talent yet nothing is done to create the environment that retains those skilled individuals.

Yet our MP and our councils would rather these people went elsewhere and didn’t create employment in the area for our young people.

Well done them, but pity the prospects for our children. — Yours faithfully,

David Thomas

Greys Hill, Henley

Joined-up thinking

Sir, — The third river crossing project has been on the cards for as long as I can remember — since the middle of the last century!

Am I the only person who is becoming increasingly exasperated by the lack of foresight by our politicians at all levels?

It is glaringly obvious that major infrastructure upgrades are needed. The A34 should be a motorway (and extend in an outer arc beyond the M25 to link Southampton and Felixstowe) — just as the A303 should be a motorway as well.

The East-West rail link between Oxford and Cambridge is becoming a reality as hopefully HS2 will be before too long.

Add to that list a third — and dare I say a fourth — river crossing at Reading to relieve the pressure on the existing and inadequate structures at Whitchurch, Reading, Sonning and Henley. And, yes, they must be properly linked to the major networks to be of any use.

Until someone just gets on with the job we risk becoming eternally mired in an endless round of reports, surveys and consultations — all at vast cost — an expense which no doubt helps to push the total amount of all schemes to eye-watering proportions. — Yours faithfully,

Simon Haynes

Watcombe Road, Watlington

Closer look at crossing

Sir, — Thank you for accurately reporting what I said at the recent planning meeting in Henley town hall (Standard, August 17).

I would like to point out that I am not a campaigner, as you reported, although I am supporting the council in asking Oxfordshire County Council to carry out a formal consultation at Swiss Farm.

I also feel a pelican crossing is not required at Swiss Farm, just a simple crossing with shielded Belisha Beacons would suffice. It works very well outside the entrance to Phyllis Court Club. I will leave it up to our councillors to sort this out, of course. — Yours faithfully,

Keith Knight

Swiss Farm, Henley

Reasonable application

Sir, — As a loyal customer of Hare Hatch Sheeplands, I want to let other customers know of a way they can help this wonderful plant nursery achieve success with its latest planning application.

Sheeplands is seeking permission for a very small temporary sales area to sell nursery related items such as a limited range of shrubs and Christmas trees in December, which seems to be a perfectly reasonable request.

Customers who think this application should be successful can tell the Planning Inspector they support it by emailing or writing to Attila Borsos, The Planning Inspectorate, Room 3C, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol BS1 6PN quoting application number 173316.

Letters must be with the Planning Inspector by August 31. — Yours faithfully,

Frank Moore


What word was missing?

Sir, — The front page of your August 10 edition appeared to have a large gap for a missing word.

We had assumed you were playing the missing word game from Have I Got News For You?

We guessed the missing word was “Hospital” (parking firm facing sack) but some much ruder options were put forward.

Perhaps you can enlighten us as to what the missing word answer was? — Yours faithfully,

Mark Evans

Sonning Common

The editor responds: “This missing word from the front page lead headline was unfortunate to say the least.

“As we explained last week, the headline should have read “Victory: parking firm facing sack” but the first word (in orange) did not print due to a technical problem.”

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