Sunday, 21 April 2019

Your letters...

Let’s be more welcoming

Sir, — The decision by Henley Town Council to make permanent the ban on barbecues in Marsh Meadows left us feeling dismayed at such narrow and small-minded thinking.

Why should the action of a few affect the fun and enjoyment of so many well behaved visitors to the meadows?

Many of the visitors who enjoy an afternoon spent with their extended families in Marsh Meadows are visitors from local towns and Asian communities who probably do not have the luxury of owning their own gardens for such events.

In the wake of the Christchurch mosque horrors, we would like to see Henley lead the way in welcoming visitors from all backgrounds rather than condemning them for the lack of income they bring to our town.

We lived in Istanbul for five wonderful years and know how much Turkish families treasured their weekend extended family barbecues and we learned a lot from them about the benefits of building closer family ties across all generations.

We hope the council will rethink its decision, which was not unanimous, and rather than banning barbecues will use more rangers and volunteers to politely talk to barbecuing families, explain the town’s concerns about rubbish and ask them to take home their rubbish at the end of their visit. — Yours faithfully,

Micky and Vicky Denehy

New Road, Shiplake


Time wasted on Brexit

Sir, — It is now plain that by intention or through incompetence, on which latter she has plenty of form, Theresa May has turned Brexit into a pig’s ear/dog’s dinner/shambles that is putting all of us at risk.

But what else were we or her party to expect of her?

Two and a half wasted years have shown us the mendacity and venality of Messrs Junker and Barnier and their acolytes and yet, amazingly, we have just seen crowds strolling through London demanding that Brexit be abandoned.

Many of the younger of those marching claim that staying in the EU is essential to “protect their futures”.

How is it that they do not see the massive levels of youth unemployment in the EU (20 to 40 per cent) when we have virtually none? Were we to have those levels in the UK we would rightly expect to see our streets filled with protesters with real grievances as are those of France, Greece and Italy.

Do they not understand that the EU is an avowedly federalist bloc with a failing currency and collapsing economies? Why would anyone not want to escape let alone join or remain?

I keep hearing people complain that voters weren’t told what a leave vote would mean. This is nonsense; David Cameron’s “Project Fear” propaganda went to every household and the BBC constantly peddled Chancellor Philip Hammond’s fictional forecasts.

Far from causing the threatened collapse, our vote in 2016 has been followed by an ever-improving economy.

Then we are told that older voters voted selfishly and ignored the needs of the young. This is absolute rubbish too.

Like most grandparents that I know, I thought long and hard only of what would be best for my young grandchildren.

Had I thought that voting Remain was in any way in their best long-term interests I would have held my nose and voted that way.

In the week marking the 75th anniversary of the actual and courageous Great Escape, we must hope that Mrs May might at last “screw her courage to the sticking place” rather than continuing to screw over the electorate. — Yours faithfully,

Philip M M Collings

Peppard Common


Just revoke Article 50

Sir, — I am reluctant to write this letter but feel compelled to do so.

There is mutiny on the ship and we are at the point of sinking.

It is not the fault of the people, it is the failure of most senior politicians and not least our dictatorial Prime Minister. They alone have created this shambolic state.

It is the one thing that Leavers and Remainers agree on, so how can we trust them to deliver a solution?

Politics before responsibility is a dereliction of duty. It has become clear that a consensus to bring the nation back together is impossible at this stage.

No matter how you look at it, and no matter which way you voted, Brexit has failed and split our nation in a way that will be with us for years. Politicians are worried that if they fail to deliver “the will of the people” the people will not trust them again. Well, so be it. They have failed and failed miserably. Trust must be earned.

The only sensible option now is to revoke Article 50 and take a fresh approach.

This was all started by a minority of xenophobes led (or should I say misled) by Nigel Farage.

It is time to get on with life and try to restore some values such as compassion, tolerance, co-operation and respect, to value the privileges we have compared with the disparate state of war and famine that more than half the world’s population endures and to create a fairer society that all governments promise but fail to deliver.

Brexit has produced a society that is contrary to all these values.

Unfortunately, the damage has been done and it is time that Brexit is booted into the history books. Brexit is probably our worst period since our exploitation of the African slave trade.

Put on your lifejacket, we are about to hit the rocks! — Yours faithfully,

Edward G Hallett

Longfield Road, Twyford


Democracy when it suits

Sir, — In response to Peter Luff’s letter (Standard, March 22), at the 2017 general election the Conservatives gained 42.4 per cent of votes cast and Labour gained 40 per cent.

Thus, allowing for non-voters and those who preferred other parties, only 29 per cent of the registered electorate voted for a Conservative government as compared with 37 per cent who opted for Brexit in the referendum.

May I therefore presume that Mr Luff thinks the idea that a general election success arising from the votes of only 29 per cent of the electorate and with such a small margin over the opposition is an example of democracy is also manifestly nonsense and dishonest?

If one accepts that nevertheless we have a legitimately elected government (and ditto had Labour got into power instead), then surely one must logically accept that a greater level of voting is valid as a mandate for leaving the EU.

My attitude in any election is that people who don’t vote (allowing for a small minority with genuine reasons for inability to do so) can be regarded as content with whatever the outcome.

On that basis, I’ll claim at least another 20 per cent in favour of Brexit!

I think he is being a little disingenuous in deriding Leavers’ attitudes to a second referendum.

As I understand it, the proposition would be restricted to accepting or rejecting the terms of whatever deal our fractured parliament might endorse.

If a second referendum included the option of reaffirming Brexit, deal or no deal, then I would be in favour. — Yours faithfully,

Ken Stevens

Red House Drive, Sonning Common


Time for a second vote

Sir, — As I watch, day by painful day, the performance of our blinkered Prime Minister and her kamikaze ministers, I increasingly feel that I have to put my feelings into words.

But now I don’t have to as I have just read Peter Luff’s letter which clearly laid out the sorry state of events and how the world must feel looking in on us.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but we don’t need it, we need a second referendum. — Yours faithfully,

Mike Kempton

Shiplake


Downside of remaining

Sir, — During the EU referendum campaign, Remainers emphasised that leaving would be a step into the unknown and there is some truth in this.

However, they omitted to say that remaining would also be going into the unknown as the EU leadership works steadily towards a totally integrated United States of Europe. We would have to choose between joining and taking the euro (by referendum?) or decide to remain outside the integrated state, retaining the pound.

We would almost certainly lose our voting rights and be no more than a European sideshow, simply obeying orders.

It is not hard to imagine how the EU would then treat us. — Yours faithfully,

Yvonne Kedge

Lea Road, Sonning Common


Leavers are inconsistent

Editor, — There are still some who don’t want to remain in the EU and who want to prevent another vote on it but the Remainers are now in the majority.

The Leavers must explain why it is perfectly acceptable for parliament to vote on exactly the same matter three or four times within a few days, whereas it is perfectly unacceptable for the country to vote twice (and after substantial delay) on whether they really want this expensive and dangerous farce to continue.

Both can’t be right.

Leavers find no paradox in this, being apparently blind to any rational solution. If parliament can vote as many times as is necessary to get the answer that the Leavers want, then so can the country. — Yours faithfully,

Christopher Leeming

Matson Drive, Remenham


Helping the homeless

Sir, — I see that Henley MP John Howell has updated his Twitter feed with news of a Tory campaign to get rough sleepers into safe accommodation.

What I find remarkable is that for months, if not years, there has been a vulnerable young man living in a tent in the hedge next to Tesco in Henley.

The plight of this young man has been made sufficiently apparent to Mr Howell through people communicating to him via Twitter and email yet there is no action, not even a response.

What are you doing to help this young man become safe, John? Perhaps you might have the courtesy to let us know. — Yours faithfully,

James Lambert

Henley

John Howell responds: “I am not going to comment on the individual concerned; everyone deserves their privacy. I am aware of this case. Our record is good in this area. In 2018 the statistics showed a decrease of almost 20 per cent in the number of rough sleepers across areas we had funded.

“Our rough sleeping initiative is having a significant impact on the number of people sleeping rough and is being funded again in 2019/20.

“New funding will provide for more 750 new staff focused on rough sleeping and for more than 2,650 new bed spaces.”

Fair funding for schools

Editor, — Like other parents with children in Henley schools, we are most concerned about the continuing funding cuts in all Henley’s schools.

We are told that Gillotts is facing a funding shortage of £160,000 this year because of capital funding cuts, the new pay structure for support staff and the increase in staff pension contributions.

In addition, the funding for schools per pupil has not kept pace with the increase in school numbers and inflation and is now the same as it was in 2012.

Our state-funded primary schools, Trinity, Sacred Heart, Valley Road and Badgemore, are facing a budget shortfall of £100,000 collectively for the current year, with continued financial uncertainty in future years.

Henley schools are facing an unsustainable shortfall in funding which will affect the quality of our children’s education.

We call upon John Howell MP to get fair funding for Henley’s schoolchildren. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Sarah Miller and Michelle Thomas

Sitting member and prospective candidate for Henley Town Council (Henley Residents Group)

School may still move

Sir, — It is simply not the case that Goring Primary School has called off its plans to relocate (Standard, March 15).

As a responsible governing body, we continually assess the best way to provide the highest standards for our pupils, both current and future.

As the age and condition of the school buildings are clearly not fit for the future, we are investigating strategic options ranging from redeveloping the current site, which would require extending on to the neighbouring Bourdillon Field, to relocating to a new site.

All options remain on the table. On the current site there have been discussions with Goring Parish Council and the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education and a feasibility study has been conducted as to its viability.

While this could be feasible the costs would be considerable and the works would have to be phased to allow for our number one priority: the continued safe operation of the school.

We also know that moving to a new site would not be without its own financial challenges as well as significant planning hurdles.

We can confirm that the parish council has identified two potential sources of funding that, combined, might enable a preliminary phase of building at the current site to commence.

This is a positive development and it is prudent for us to investigate bidding for these funds.

At this early stage we cannot be sure how likely it will be for the school to receive these funds and if there would be any restrictions or conditions attached.

The governors’ priority is to enable the school to continue to provide an enriching, high-quality education for the children in our catchment area for decades to come but in a setting that is suited to modern educational requirements. Exploring all options will help us achieve this aim. — Yours faithfully,

Helen Scurr

Chair of governors, Goring Primary School, Wallingford Road, Goring


Speeding is our concern

Sir, — On behalf of Lorraine Hillier and I, thank you to everyone for welcoming us both and allowing us to help in the Rotherfield Greys annual litter blitz on Sunday.

We both left just after 3pm and collected litter from the war memorial down to the sharp bend in the road after a speed limit sign (not 30mph either).

At a recent meeting a man from the village expressed his concern about the speed of traffic on that stretch of the road and the danger that he often sees with lorries turning by the war memorial.

Lorraine and I certainly share his views — the speed of some vehicles going round that sharp bend is quite dangerous to say the least.

If we are elected to South Oxfordshire District Council on May 2, we would certainly wish to have further discussions with the residents. — Yours faithfully,

Geoff Walsh

Conservative candidate for South Oxfordshire District Council (Woodcote ward), Wyndale Close, Henley


Danger in your garden

Pet owners should check what is actually in their garden.

A gardening course I have just done was very informative and I thought how little most pet owners know about the toxicity of some plants. I didn’t have a clue until now.

Many plants are toxic to cats and dogs. Unfortunately, our pets aren’t aware of this and will often graze on leaves just because they taste nice. They are also attracted, for some reason, to new plants in the garden.

Most plant suppliers and garden centres do not list the plants as toxic when you buy them. The Dogs Trust provides a very good list of toxic plants on its website, www.dogstrustorg.uk

Common plants found in English gardens like heliotrope and Japanese anemones can be fatal to dogs.

Unless you watch your pet all the time it is outside in the garden you may not be aware what it may have eaten until it starts showing symptoms. Gardeners should also be aware when using weedkillers such as Round Up and lawn treatments. Pets should be kept well away for a few days as they can inhale it and absorb it through their paws.

I hope this is useful, especially as people will shortly be buying plants for the summer. — Yours faithfully,

Elaine Gibson

Harpsden

Improving our green

Many thanks to Henley town councillor Dave Eggleton for donating a small petrol-driven lawn mower and electric strimmer to the Northfield End and Bell Street Residents’ Assocation to help us keep our little green in a neat and tidy condition inbetween mowings by the town council’s parks department.

It is still not looking its best but we will soon start preparing for the planting of the new shrub bed during April/May and we’re looking forward to the final push and sprucing it up ready for the summer.

We might even be ready for Chelsea Fringe Henley. Watch this space... — Yours faithfully,

Helen Gaynor

Northfield End and Bell Street Residents’ Association

How to beat scammers

Sir, — Noting from your letter writers and from general frustration that folks are really fed up with “scam” phone calls, your readers will be understandably relieved to know the answer.

The “just hang up” advice is wrong. Precisely the opposite of success.

As soon as you recognise it’s a scam put the phone to one side and leave the line open. The caller will be locked on to the call and can’t call anyone else and indeed will continue to be paying for it.

After about three minutes you’ll get a big whine on the phone to remind you to hang up.That’s it.

If we all did it, these calls would be seriously diminished in their “effectiveness”.

In the interim you have the satisfaction of hearing the other side saying, “hello, hello, hello” etc. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Jones

Reading Road, Henley

Thanks for helping me

Editor — I would very much like to thank the lovely mother and son who were so kind following my accident in Gravel Hill, Henley, on Thursday, February 21.

I believe their names are Catherine and Alistair. There is a one-year-old family cat known as Colombo. — Yours faithfully,

Val Pickard

Gravel Hill, Henley

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