Sunday, 21 April 2019

Your letters...

Why I must switch sides

Sir, — In November I announced that I had left the Henley Conservatives.

I would now like to announce that I have joined Henley Residents Group and plan to stand as an HRG candidate in the town council elections on May 2.

In the year since my election it has become obvious that HRG are the best choice for Henley. They work hard and get things done.

I campaigned to save the bus service back in 2017 and it is only thanks to HRG, especially Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, that we have not only saved it but made it even better.

We desperately need more social/affordable housing and HRG understands this.

I tried to push this forward while in the Conservatives. When I mentioned 100 per cent affordable housing, one councillor replied: “Who would want to live there?”

This made me so cross as it’s an insult not only to me but everyone who is hardworking and wants to stay in Henley but can’t afford to buy or rent.

I also feel that HRG is a diverse group which truly represent all the residents of Henley.

The Conservatives do seem to have a problem with sexism. For example, I believe that since 1974 — the year I was born — the only Conservative female mayor was Lorraine Hillier.

She was appallingly treated by the Henley Conservatives and, like me, felt she could not be treated fairly and now stands as an Independent Conservative.

I take my responsibilities as a councillor seriously and have attended all meetings since my election.

I am delighted to be joining HRG and working with other councillors to improve and protect the town and I hope that the voters in May will appreciate that HRG really is the best choice for Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Donna Crook

Henley Town Council, Abrahams Road, Henley


New homes, not profits

Sir, — To follow on from the discussions in your letters page regarding social housing, there is a solution.

The Government is encouraging local councils to once again start building social housing with below market rents.

Henley could be a pioneer in this and lead the way in something that is desperately needed in our town.

When the neighbourhood plan was approved four years ago it included provision for 200 social housing homes in our town.

Since then, the old Jet garage site has had homes for the over-70s built there and the site of the old youth centre might be turned into a care home.

I estimate we will have lost at least 80 homes for social housing against the original plan.

We have the land to start a project immediately. There is a plot of council-owned land next to Tesco which could provide around 40 flats for Henley people. There is another council-owned plot, a spinney near the allotments, which was inspected four years ago and the trees found to be of a low grade, irrespective of the tree protection order.

Henley has more than £4 million in the bank, which was acquired by the sale of council land so it really belongs to the people of the town and could fund the build if that was the route chosen.

There is more money still to come from the new housing developments.

We could build the homes, or the land could be sold to, say, Soha with the guarantee that it could only be used for social housing.

Let’s take the lead and ensure we get the housing we need. I expect that some town councillors would not be interested as there would not be the financial gain compared with private dwellings but our need is not more cash in the bank but more homes.

This is about helping our residents and should not be decided on by maximising profits. We have the land, we have the money, we have government support — and we have people in need. — Yours faithfully,

Dieter Hinke

Elizabeth Road, Henley


Sustainable growth only

Sir, — Your correspondent Tony Chandler highlights the increasing problem of UK overpopulation, estimated to be 90 million by the end of this century — an increase of 50 per cent from now (Standard, March 1).

As Sir David Attenborough has said: “All environmental problems become harder and ultimately impossible to solve with ever more people.”

Henley, which is surrounded by the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is not isolated from the impact of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal with its increased housing proposals.

There is already a backlog of low-cost housing need which will surely increase by expansion in population numbers.

So let us think “sustainability” and small-sized families so that more smaller homes can be built rather than the five-bedroom houses preferred by developers maximising their profits.

Sustainability requires moderate consumption and efficient use of resources for everyone’s benefit. — Yours faithfully,

Valerie Alasia

Makins Road, Henley


What about rest of us?

Sir, — The residents of Binfield Heath and many surrounding villages were grossly inconvenienced last week with the closure of the road to Shiplake for three days.

The work was being carried out with very little notice, merely to connect a water supply for another infill house.

How is it that the planning system can allow the quest for profit to override the needs of the community? — Yours faithfully,

Nick Fairbrother

Binfield Heath

HRG is wise with money

Editor, — Your story on council tax rises (Standard, March 1) stated that under Henley Residents Group, Henley Town Council is levying a precept rise which is “below the average of other town and parish councils in South Oxfordshire”.

The average band D householder will pay just £96 for the council’s services in 2019-2020.

HRG has always committed to keeping council tax over a four-year period at or below inflation.

HRG also commits to running a balanced budget over a four-year cycle. From 2011 to 2015, HRG achieved a surplus of £84,000.

HRG’s sound, prudent budgets delivered increased spending and improved services while maintaining the council’s investments, which continued to rise in value.

This all changed in 2015 under a Conservative-controlled council.

Their first budget was an eye-watering deficit of £278,000 for 2016-17.

Fortunately, HRG regained control of the council in 2017 and reintroduced financial discipline to obtain value for money and improve services.

HRG reduced the deficit to £79,000 in 2018-2019, with a budget deficit of £47,000 projected for 2019-2020. This is prudent financial management by HRG.

Similar lessons are being learned the hard way at South Oxfordshire District Council.

In 2015 it cut its council tax by 3 per cent and in 2016 the tax was frozen.

This financial irresponsibility has caused significant problems with a proposed budget deficit of £2 million despite increasing council tax by 4.3 per cent this year (and 4.4 per cent last year).

It is interesting that Margaret Thatcher’s view that “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money” applies to profligate Conservative councils at town and district level.

HRG remains the party of sound finances and improved services. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ian Reissmann

Chairman, finance strategy and management commitee, Henley Town Council


It’s not okay actually

With reference to your article regarding the misuse of disabled permits (Standard, March 1), there is also an issue with people parking in disabled spaces without a badge.

I approached two drivers in Henley regarding their parking in designated spaces. One was in Market Place. Their car boot was open and the hazard lights on.

The reply when I said “you are in a disabled space” was that they were delivering donations to the charity shop. Well, that’s okay then.

The other person was in the Waitrose car park and said they were only popping in for a few items. Well, that’s okay then.

I would also like to bring to people’s attention that the yellow hatched areas on either side of disabled bays are there to allow ease of getting in and out of vehicles and access to wheelchairs and mobility aids, not for leaving supermarket trollies in. — Your faithfully,

A M Fuller

Sonning Common

Not fit for purpose

I know if I write to the local authority nothing will happen so you might consider a feature about how difficult it is to operate the Parkeon ticket machine in the Mill Meadows car park in Henley, especially when it will not take coin payments but does not tell you this. The instructions are poorly written in small type and do not clearly accord with the buttons on the machine.

On Friday morning, it took 10 minutes for three grown men to work out that the coin payment was not working and that credit card payment was the only option.

No doubt others would have walked away and not paid only to be fined.

It’s just poor programming and design. No doubt it’s thought to be best value for money but really it’s barely fit for purpose as it’s so slow.

As good citizens, we are encouraged to abide by the regulations but by the same token the local authority has a duty to provide a facility that is fit for purpose.

Unless we, the public, make comment, nothing will be done to rectify something that should be so easy.

In Wallingford the car park machines are easy to use and quick. Why can Henley not get the same equipment? — Your faithfully,

Jeremy Howland

North Moreton, Didcot

Town clerk Janet Wheeler responds: “The town council’s accountant Liz Jones has checked the Parkeon software and all three of our parking meters at Mill Meadows were accepting coins and cards throughout the day on Friday.

“We understand from Parkeon that if there was an issue with the coin slot it would show on the display.

“We are sorry that people do occasionally experience problems with the instructions, which are complicated by the fact that the machines have to take for moorings as well as parking, and that the structure of charges is different at weekends to weekdays.

“Council staff at Mill Meadows are happy to assist when they are aware of issues and staff at the information centre are also willing to help should a phone call be necessary.

“The meters are solar- powered due to flooding potential at Mill Meadows and this can occasionally result in a short delay in the response time.

“A full survey of possible solutions was considered two years ago when the new meters were installed.

“We are sorry for the frustration caused to Mr Howland and have noted his comments.”


Shocking pavements

Sir, — The conditions of the pavements and kerb edges in Henley is a disgrace and on a par with a “third world” country.

At 6.15pm on Saturday I sprained my left ankle and fell to the ground on the pavement by Putman Place.

Fortunately, three kind people who saw what happened came to help and after a few minutes I was once again able to stand and limp home.

This is a shocking state of affairs. Who is responsible? — Yours faithfully,

Robert Ingram

Henley

No need to fear leaving

Sir, — In response to your correspondent Professor Dan Remenyi (Standard, March 1), I would point out that the circumstances leading up to both world wars were different because there was no referendum.

With Brexit there was a referendum and the Government promised to carry out the wish of the majority of the British people, which was to leave the EU.

The electorate have voted and there should not be any more referenda in the hope that we will vote the “right” way.

As with both world wars, we are again fighting to retain our democracy, which has been relentlessly eroded since we joined what we thought was just a “Common Market” but has turned out to be the path to a Federal Europe, of which we would form just a small region.

If we stay in we will be forced to adopt (and prop up) the failing Euro as well as endure escalating membership costs.

Of course, the other members of the EU will seek to punish us for daring to regain our freedom and sterling will be under attack but we need to remember that nothing physically will change.

There will be no destruction of our infrastructure by bombing, no military action, and we will retain all our resources.

We must not accept the Irish “backstop”, which is a device to keep us tied into a customs union forever.

There should be no more delay and we should leave on March 29, deal or no deal.

I know the present generation scares easily but it is essential that we hold our nerve or we will face a much worse fate than a few temporary trading and travel difficulties. — Yours faithfully,

Adrian Vanheems

Baskerville Road, Sonning Common


Time for the people’s vote

Sir, — On June 2016 we had a referendum on whether to leave or remain in the EU. The result, by a fairly narrow margin, was that we should leave.

Assume, for the sake of argument, that it was a fair referendum and that we were not misled or lied to by either campaign.

The main reasons given for the leave vote were to reduce immigration, to make our own laws, to make our own trade deals and restore democracy.

Now consider what has happened since then. We have become a divided nation from top to bottom, such that we have a paralysed Government with a dogmatic Prime Minister, without support, even by her own party.

She has tried to make an agreement with the EU on how to withdraw but this has been rejected by the Government and she lost a vote by the biggest Commons majority in recent history.

By trying to get her way, she has resorted to bribery and coercion. By refusing to take leaving with no deal off the table, she is putting lives at risk if there is a shortage of medicines from the EU.

Every financial forecast (including that of the Government) of life outside the EU shows that we will be worse off. The Bank of England is forecasting lower growth and possible recession.

It will cost £39 billion in a divorce settlement and has already cost hundreds of millions in preparation and stockpiling — all money better spent on the ailing NHS and welfare.

Manufacturers, such as motor and aero companies, are leaving our shores, together with some financial institutions.

We have always been able to control immigration from outside the EU yet this has continued to rise. The NHS and many companies rely on immigration and are greatly concerned that there will be a shortage of both skilled and unskilled labour after we leave.

Would someone explain to me what laws we particularly wish to change? When I ask the question, the answer usually concerns the shape of bananas!

We already trade with countries around the world. There is no better deal on offer than the one we have with the EU.

Trade deals are stronger when made within the EU and the EU is our biggest trading partner.

Is all of what we have learned since 2016 still the “will of the people”? If there are those that believe it is, why would they not welcome the chance to put it to a people’s vote to confirm it?

If they are wrong, and the preference is now to remain, would it not be a dereliction of duty and a travesty of democracy to ignore it?

I have no doubt that a second referendum would cause an uproar of protest by the Brexiteers but to shy away is not a valid reason not to do it.

Meanwhile, the PM is trying to run down the clock to prevent it. Theresa May has sent letters to her MPs, reminding them that history will judge them by their actions. She would do well to remember that when she reflects on the shambolic mess she has created.

As someone humorously posted on social media recently, “Come back, Guy Fawkes, we need you.” At least, I assume it was intended to be humorous! — Yours faithfully,

Edward G Hallett

Longfield Road, Twyford

Damning judgement

Sir, — I have now had the opportunity to study the summary of the Appeal Court judgement on Wokingham Borough Council’s failed request for leave to appeal against a crown court judge’s decision that it acted unfairly in prosecuting Hare Hatch Sheeplands owner Rob Scott (Standard, Februay 15).

I am disgusted and concerned at the findings.

The judgement shows that the council acted in an inappropriate manner towards Mr Scott and the other respondents at great cost to the Wokingham council taxpayers.

It is clear from the judgement that several councillors and council staff made various incorrect decisions in pursuing the prosecution.

The judgement says: “We have heard nothing to justify the decision to prosecute at least 10 of the respondents after the injunctive relief was granted.”

It goes on to say: “We also have concerns about the approach taken by the council to selecting those to be prosecuted.”

Later, it states: “It is clear from all the material before us that the planning department at the council were well aware of the involvement of the elected councillors and hopeful that they would be able to negotiate a fair settlement.

“ It ill lies in the mouth of the council now to complain that the judge bore in mind all that was said and done by the councillors.

“Mr Scott was led to believe that they were acting with the support and authority of the council. In any event, the evidence did not begin and end with the councillors. Officers in the planning department played their own part in the negotiations.”

In fact, all the way through the judgement — and I could quote many other sections — the decisions made by councillors and staff were clearly flawed and prejudiced against Mr Scott.

As a result of this damning judgement, I am making — as a Wokingham council taxpayer — a formal request that the council carries out an independent inquiry into this case and takes appropriate action on the findings. — Yours faithfully,

Frank Moore

Thornbers Way, Cahrvil


Compassion or reality

Sir, — I disagree with John Cook’s Thought for the Week (Standard, March 1) on a number of points.

First, is not “Father give me my part of the estate” more likely to be a plea for independence rather than a desire to see his father dead?

Secondly, he may have squandered his worldly goods as many a thoughtless youth might but he did not leave in order to join an inhumane, ISIS-like organisation.

Finally, he realised the error of his ways and deeply regretted what he had done, which Shamima Begum has not.

The home to which God welcomes the sinner is presumably heaven. Unfortunately, he is not the one here on earth having to take such incredibly difficult decisions now.

Remember, too, that the Christian heaven is not the only one on offer; were it so we would not have so many prepared to martyr themselves for their view of the Koran.

My sympathy is for Shamima Begum’s child but even more so for those mothers and children who from no choice of their own are suffering from the activities of ISIS and do not have the fallback position to which she feels entitled. I feel our support should be given to those trying to deal with an exceedingly difficult problem.

At some point we must be held responsible for our actions.

Whatever “hereafter” there may be, for now we must find a way between compassion and a realistic appraisal of what her return to this country involves. — Yours faithfully,

Ann Law

Binfield Heath


Student is a softy!

Sir, — I see Henley College student Timi Avduli thinks school/college should start at 10am because he doesn’t feel “100 per cent awake” until later in the morning” (Standard, February 22).

Poor little soul, just wait until you have to work for a living. What a softy! — Yours faithfully,

Mrs J Hadley

Leaver Road, Henley


Memories of lovely Nanny

Sir, — The obituary of Miss Mary Burge (Standard, February 22) and her funeral on Friday, which I attended, brought back to me a flood of memories of my childhood.

From Mary Burge I inherited my nanny when Mary grew too old to have one.

When I was a small boy just before and during the war it was the custom of the English gentry to select local working class girls, uneducated and untrained, and to employ them as nannies for their small children. It was a system which by-and-large worked remarkably well.

My Nanny, who came to me from Mary Burge, her first charge, in 1938, was Gladys Lillian Neale, the youngest of the many children of a Shiplake family.

She was lovely. In the war my father was away as a serving officer and my mother had much to do, working with the Red Cross and helping to run canteens for the many servicemen who passed through Henley all the time as well as looking after her elderly parents with whom we lived.

My Nanny mothered me, cared for me, disciplined me with soft firmness, loved me and acted as a gentle but determined shield against my loving but rather powerful and dominating mother.

Despite being almost illiterate herself, she had me reading relatively competently when I was only four years old. To me and my mother she was known as Nanny, or Nan. To other families she was simply Nanny Blaker, as I remember Nanny Hartley and Nanny Bruce-Dick. It was some time before I learned that her name was Gladys Neale.

When I went to prep school at the age of eight Nanny went to another family with two young boys in Wargrave. When they in turn fledged their nest she went onward again and then, through a full career, looked after and cared for a succession of young children, boys and girls.

When she died, at the end of February 1992 at the age of 84, all but two of her former children turned up for her burial in Shiplake churchyard.

As her coffin was being lowered into her grave, the band of the school cadet force at Shiplake College, rehearsing just over the fence, quite by chance struck up the General Salute. It was a fitting farewell!

For Mary Burge she was more than just a loved nanny. She was in many ways a surrogate mother throughout her life, somebody on whom Mary could fall back, love and trust.

On Nanny’s birthday this year, on January 3, only five weeks before her own death, I rang Mary. True to form, she had just been to put some flowers on Nanny’s grave.

Mary was no old-maid. She was not unaware of men and at one time she had been briefly and disastrously married.

Gladys Neale’s love, however, was always directed towards the children who were in her charge and whom she cherished.

The culture, structures and standards of the society of our childhood have gone for ever but those quiet, insignificant but remarkable servants such as Gladys Neale are worth remembering and even venerating. Mary, I am sure, would agree what an influence for good they had on us. — Yours faithfully,

Peter Blaker

Rotherfield Greys


Tribute to son in trees

Sir, — I was interested to read Vincent Ruane’s Nature Notes column about the walk up off Fair Mile, Henley, and through Henley Park to the oak trees planted in the shape of a cross (Standard, February 15).

This was a walk I did often in the early Sixties when my parents lived in Northfield End.

There was no Nazi nor German joke or connection to these trees. I remember being told that the son of the house had been killed in the war and had been awarded the Maltese Cross.

The trees are laid out in the shape of a Maltese Cross as a loving tribute to their son.

I remember as an 18-year-old being very moved by this story. — Yours faithfully,

Caroline Beard

Elizabeth Road, Henley

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