Monday, 23 May 2022

Your letters...

Have robots taken over?

Sir, — So yet another bank is closing, this time Barclays, blaming “a slump in counter transactions” (Standard, November 26).

Sadly, I doubt it will be the last as Nationwide seems to be setting itself up for a similar situation.

These “manufactured” closures are leaving many people with very limited facilities for handling their financial transactions.

It is all well and good to point people at the internet but many still have very limited access to it and find it confusing to use.

Trying to get answers by telephone is a joke. All these companies are worried about is profit at any cost — customer service flew out of the window years ago.

Counter transactions depend on the ability to gain access to the bank. Close the bank on the busiest days of the week and of course this will have the desired effect. Currently Barclays is closed on Thursdays (market day) and Saturdays.

Insisting that all customers use the cash machine rather than bother the counter staff has a similar effect. Nationwide has been doing this for a couple of years.

It is not unusual to find people queuing to use the machine, which is very slow and cumbersome, while members of staff sit twiddling their thumbs behind the counter.

I have even seen staff come out from behind the counter to stand by the machine and instruct the customer on its use rather than handle their needs themselves.

The stock answer to customer complaints when closures occur is to point them at another branch, mainly (in this area) Reading, where you will be met with long queues (that is if the welcoming staff deem it necessary and acceptable for you to deal with a human being) or join another queue at the cash machine.

Of course, this journey will add to congestion and potential parking problems wherever you go so is hardly good for the environment.

Surely there is room in the market for a bank willing to put customers first — where is it? Or have the robots finally taken over? — Yours faithfully,

D Butler

Peppard Road, Sonning Common

Bank simply doesn’t care

Sir, — Recently, I had a problem with a bank debit card and the Barclays website instructed me to go to my branch as the only way to resolve my problem.

So I duly made my way to Hart Street, Henley, and a very helpful lady member of the counter staff made the necessary arrangements for something to be sent to me in order to restore my card to use — excellent service.

However, should this happen in the future I obviously won’t get much help in the bar/restaurant which may replace the bank.

Quite why the town needs yet another bar/restaurant I’m unable to comprehend when some such establishments in the town seem to close as rapidly as they open. Maybe some shops would be far more useful additions in view of the rate at which they have disappeared?

Anyway, back to Barclays or rather not to Barclays in Henley.

If I get the same problem in future I’m graciously informed that I need to go to Reading or Maidenhead.

If I make the journey by car it will not only cost me money but will add to the impact on our climate.

So I could go by train, taking about 30 minutes, or a bit more, each way between here and Reading.

Such added cost and inconvenience for me hardly amounts to what I would classify as acceptable customer service.

Barclays tell us that “visits” to the Henley branch have declined by 20 per cent in recent years.

What a surprise when a large part of that time has seen us either locked down or the opening hours of the bank severely restricted.

It’s almost as if Barclays have wished us away from making use of the Henley branch.

Oddly, their letter to me has not included information about how to easily transfer my business to one of their competitors that happens to have a human presence in the town.

It’s almost as if they think that I, and their other customers in Henley, will cheerfully accept that they don’t care tuppence about our custom and will continue to bank with them.

Perhaps we should show as much concern for them as they are showing for us? — Yours faithfully,

Mike Romans

Cromwell Road, Henley

Closure so disappointing

Sir, — I read with great disappointment about the impending closure of Barclays bank in Henley.

There are many older people in Henley who do not or cannot do online banking.

Having to travel to Reading is probably not even an option for some.

Soon there will be no banks left in the town. I just feel that everything is progressing at such a rate that many older citizens are not even being considered.

It’s a frightening experience for them feeling out of control. — Yours faithfully,

Carol Brown

Bix

Trains add to pollution

Sir, — I believe that if Mark D Jameson took the time to read my letter again, he would see that it was headlined “Fewer night trains please”.

I am not proposing to reduce trains on daytime services on the Henley branch line, which for the most part are well used.

It is simply the late-night trains that run almost empty or, as Neil Gunnell admitted, with only five passengers and this was the case even before covid arrived.

Every passenger service on the line does not reduce car usage, as Mr Jameson so optimistically states. This is only the case if there are actual passengers on these trains.

I have attended Henley Branch User Group meetings with Great Western Railway managing director Mark Hopwood present and was invited to attend the recent GWR stakeholder conference by Zoom.

I am delighted that we are fortunate to have this service and it was one of our reasons for moving to Shiplake in 2003.

Covid and environmental issues have changed the world, however, and five passengers in three long coaches at midnight, leaving a trail of diesel fumes, somehow does not sit well with our aims for a new world, free of pollution.

When HBUG lobbied GWR for these night trains several years ago, we all believed that there would be many happy theatre goers travelling home on them. Sadly, they have simply not materialised.

It is time to acknowledge that diesel fumes damage the environment and the high cost of running these late-night trains for so few passengers is not justifiable.

It is time to look objectively at the late-night service, consider the effects of pollution and propose saving large amounts of energy. — Yours faithfully,

Vivien Pheasant

Lashbrook Road, Lower Shiplake

Good to have trains back

Sir, — I refer to Vivien Pheasant’s letter regarding local rail services returning (Standard, November 19).

The points reflected in the previous news article were collated from returning commuters who, for many months, have found themselves stuck at Twyford for up to an hour because of the reduced service when there has been a connection problem during the evening.

They will be grateful to get home as a result of the return to normal service, especially on dark, cold nights.

Our local economy depends on people being able to move in and out of our area reliably. These include students and local workers who will benefit from the return of half-hourly daytime services.

To give those London travellers some light at the end of the tunnel, it looks like we will be back to journey times to Henley of under an hour from Paddington throughout the evening.

As well as the familiar services up to 18.50, there will be options at 19.20, 19.43, 20.35*, 20.56, 21.35, 22.22, 22.50 and 23.18.

We’re happy to look into rail queries sent to henleytrains@gmail.com

(*This service is listed as one hour six minutes but it looks like there is a fast option to Slough at 19.50 with plenty of time there to change to the earlier departing train when it comes through.)

Finally, please note that GWR’s statement that these services would return in December was incorrect.

The changes won’t start until the beginning of January. So, in the spirit of the season, we wish everyone some more silent nights in the meantime. — Yours faithfully,

Neil Gunnell

Henley Trains, Blandy Road, Henley

Lacklustre sponsorship

Sir, — Nice to see we have a lovely big Christmas tree in Henley market place but I have to say the sponsorship looks a bit feeble with only five large, scruffy banners around the lower 3ft of the tree.

What about some baubles in the Invesco corporate colours and a big Perpetual mountain logo on the top with flashing lights spinning around?

And top it off with a host of Perpetual fairies hovering in mid-air displaying terms and conditions.

Rodger Stanier

Henley

Putting for profit

Sir, — Henley Town Council recently gave the green light to the adventure golf project at Mill Meadows after officers demonstrated that their robust and well- researched business case showed this will earn the town at least £50,000 per year while providing an excellent new recreational facility.

You reported on a last- minute proposal to delay this project in order to obtain external funding (Standard, November 26).

I would like to make the following points:

• The earning capacity of the project, together with the council’s capital assets of nearly £5million, mean that we would not be seen as a priority application by South Oxfordshire District Council or other bodies that award grants.

• The timing of such an application would delay the project by a year, so even if we were awarded a grant of, say, £25,000, this would cost us £50,000 in income and we would be losing out.

This project is now going ahead and this excellent facility will be open in the summer, providing what we believe will be a popular public amenity as well as income for the council.

It truly is win/win for Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Ian Reissmann

Chairman, finance strategy and management committee, Henley Town Council

People losing their power

I am extremely concerned by the MP sleaze scandals of recent weeks.

I simply don’t believe these issues exist in a bubble.

When politicians openly and knowingly fail their constituents, this is a symptom of something far more rotten at the heart of our political system.

I’ve been following Best for Britain’s work on the Government’s anti-democratic agenda.

Several bills which threaten to undermine our democracy are passing through parliament at the moment.

The Elections Bill will remove the independence of the Electoral Commission and undermine its ability to monitor elections.

Other bills, such as the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Judicial Review and Courts Bill, all take power out of the hands of ordinary people and our democratic institutions and concentrate it in the hands of the Government.

The fact that this Government is so happy to take liberties with public trust is, I fear, a sad sign that it is already preparing for a future where it cannot be held accountable. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Scott

Sonning Common


I remember ‘old days’

I read Turning back the pages each week.

My family members have been mentioned several times in looking back 100 years — my great grandfather for poaching mushrooms and getting 10 days’ hard labour in Reading jail, my grandfather being bound over to keep the peace and, more recently, a great uncle being a prisoner of war in the First World War.

In your edition of November 5, you quoted a report from November 1921 stating: “At a meeting of Henley Town Council’s estates and general purposes committee, Alderman Pither moved the clause relating to stone throwers at the recreation ground and said he was sorry to have to refer to this matter again but the culprits had become ‘an absolute nuisance’.”

This reminded me of a story my aunt Nell Martin (née Horsley) told me. She and other children would throw turf from behind the hedge at the rec, now called Makins recreation ground.

There is a hedge bordering the rec and road now but I do remember it just being a chain-link fence.

One evening she and Nell’s friends threw turfs over the hedge but little did they know her dad’s friend was coming up behind them and they were caught. They all got in trouble and she got the belt.

At the time of this article she would have been seven years old. I do wonder if the article is one and the same story. This got me thinking of the stories like this I have been told and how much Henley has changed.

I am 60 and in my life the town has gone from having 11 petrol stations, of which four fed petrol over your head as you walked along the pavement, plus various businesses that had their own private pumps, to one.

When I started work at Stuart Turner in 1977 they had a hand-pumped petrol pump. There were also six new car retailers.

Other facts:

Park Road houses were built for £80 for the railway staff only (showing how big the railway was before the First World War). Others like Grove Road cost £100 to build.

Jewsons used to be Baynes and before that Messers. The site was used for deliveries by rail, as was the coal yard at the bottom of Park Road.

Large employers for most of the town’s population included Aubrey Watson, Waldens, Brakspear brewery, the underground factory in Wargrave Road and, finally, Stuart Turner, the only one of those still left.

There were two hospitals but elderly relatives did not like to go into Townlands as they recalled the workhouse (now upmarket housing).

There were supermarkets in the town centre, Tesco, Waitrose and the Co-op.

Other shops included Currys, Rediffusion, GDS, Hammants, Timothy Whites, Facy (but much smaller), Fosters, Jacksons, Thaines, Wimpy, KFC and Liptons plus a tobacconist and some sweet shops. Some shops were local and others were national names.

Police went about in pairs before the war if patrolling West Street.

Some houses in the town that were condemned as slums are still standing and selling for £500,000-plus.

I could go on with so many strange things, as it would be seen today, about life and the town but will leave it at that. — Yours faithfully,

Phil Horsley

More history please

Sir, — I have enjoyed reading Turning back the pages for many years and, as time marches on, I feel increasingly that a fifth column is now required so that we can keep up with stories of horses bolting etc.

Can I suggest a 125 years ago with immediate effect and a preparedness for 150 years ago in the mid-2030s? — Yours faithfully,

Nick Wills

Queen Street, Henley

Thank you for support

Sir, — I am immensely grateful to the people, community organisations and businesses of Henley and Peppard for their overwhelming support for this year’s Remembrance Poppy Appeal.

They donated more than £35,000 to the charitable aims of the Royal British Legion, increasing our average, pre-pandemic collection by more than 50 per cent.

Their generosity in helping our armed forces community in need in these challenging times will not be forgotten.

This would not have been possible without our small team of very hardworking volunteers. I am incredibly thankful to them for coming forward and for caring.

A very special thank-you to St Mary’s Church for the free use of the Chantry House as our “poppy hub”.

The church’s kindness and patience in letting our team and our many boxes invade their tranquil space was a godsend.

Our local banking community came together to freely provide a secure room and cashiers to count and bank our donations.

Thank you, Becky Jones and Guy Hayne, managers of the Henley branches of Barclays and Nationwide respectively, and Catherine Smith. of HSBC.

Henley Tesco and Waitrose were extraordinary in going beyond the call of duty to help our volunteer collectors and promote the Poppy Appeal.

A thank-you for their compassion and enthusiasm.

I am indebted to the officers of RAF Benson, who visited Henley to promote the Poppy Appeal, and the wonderful promotional support for the campaign from Gillotts School, the Henley Army, Sea and Royal Marine Cadets and the Thatcher family, of Gainsborough Crescent, and their jeep.

I thank very much Henley Town Council for lending us promotional space in Market Place.

Also thank you to the Kenton Theatre and Brakspear for arranging their spaces as back-up offices and storage.

Finally, thank you to the Henley branch of the Legion for its moral support. It was truly a remarkable community effort and a huge success.

The support needed for the armed forces and their families is ever greater and funds need constantly to be raised, so if you can lend a hand, please email me at henley@saraabey.com — Yours faithfully,

Sara Abey

Poppy Appeal organiser, Henley and Peppard

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