Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Your letters...

How to help Ukrainians

Since this madness of war started in March I have had an idea, which I’d like to share with Henley folk.

It is to set up a worldwide initiative to twin with the people of Ukraine.

This is not new as the original idea was mooted immediately after the Second World War to repair damaged relationships and help towns that had suffered, pairing them to a town overseas.

The aim was to encourage people to meet, mix, rebuild and reaffirm relationships.

These days it can apply to cities, towns, villages or even community churches.

Twinning can be an official relationship builder.

Ukraine globally can be helped and connected to all the free world, giving psychological and emotional support in a strong message to the aggressor.

Imagine seeing the same support message around the world — it would have an enormous impact. It could also be a huge vehicle to generate monies for Ukraine.

This is how I see the concept working:

1 A brand is created incorporating the Ukraine flag and leaving space for the twinned partner to insert their name (this has to be a professionally designed logo that would be recognised globally).

2. The twinned brand logo needs to be endorsed by the Government or an official body and maybe even given a royal stamp of approval.

3 An official approved website is created to give countries, cities, towns and hamlets an opportunity to register and download the graphics. It would also be an opportunity to download commercial merchandise, such as flags.

4. A recommended minimum donation is applied for all applicants, i.e a town £200, a city £1,000, etc. (This is open to suggestions as there are lots of ways to generate monies using this renewed idea; it could be coupled with the BBC for global awareness).

5 All monies could go direct to whoever you recommended as the processor of the funds. People like to know up front exactly what their money will be doing to help.

The initial brand designs and website could be under my umbrella and free of charge if the concept was acceptable to go to the next stage.

Britain has always been a leader for ideas so this concept would not be seen negatively but with the right endorsements a great way for everybody and every town to help this crisis.

I wrote to Richard Harrington, an old friend of mine who happens to have recently been appointed refugee minister, who said it had to be driven privately as the politics could take too long and might mean it was a non-starter.

My experience with the Henley Bridge lights tells me a team effort is needed (definitely not on my own).

So if Henley folk like the idea perhaps a new team could be formed.

It would be challenging but personally I think it could generate huge funds and make a real difference to Ukraine citizens. If it’s a non-starter, I accept that maybe I should just retire and paint dogs as I’ve held the torch as the bad guy in Henley for far too long. — Yours faithfully,

Clive Hemsley

Hart Street, Henley

Time to go electric

Sir, — I was privileged to attend a launch event for the new electric vehicle charge points in the Greys Road car park in Henley on Friday.

These chargers are easy to use and a wonderful facility for Henley’s residents and visitors.

Some electric vehicle owners charge up at home but for cars and vans that can accommodate the charging rate of 22kW these chargers deliver power at up to three times the speed of a home wallbox charger or five to six times faster for those who use “granny leads” plugged into 13 amp domestic sockets.

For those who don’t have off-road parking, these chargers offer an incentive to “go electric” with cars and vans using overnight and possibly pre-booked charging.

We all have cause to be grateful for the far-sighted decision by our local authorities to provide these chargers in car parks around Oxfordshire.

Someone suggested to me that I was born too soon to be dabbling in electric vehicle driving.

If you have never tried an electric vehicle don’t be put off by thinking that 2030 is far enough away not to bother. Things are moving at pace both in terms of electric vehicle choice and the technology that supports these cars and vans.

And zero-emissions driving is a much-needed contributor to improved air quality — an important issue in Henley.

Whatever your age, give it a try and you’ll soon discover that driving electric vehicles is an easy, pleasant, quiet and relaxing experience. — Yours faithfully,

Allen Harris

Blounts Court Road, Sonning Common

Unfair fuel price rises

I would like to ask John Howell this question about fuel prices: Do you think it is right, proper and fair that the Government is making additional revenue because of rising fuel costs at the pumps?

In February the UK average cost of a litre of unleaded fuel was 148.1p. As of June 8, this figure was 180.73p.

The Chancellor cut the fuel duty to 52.95p per litre (from 57.95p) on March 23. However, despite this, as 20 per cent VAT is levied on the selling price of fuel, this has led to the Government benefiting from the rising prices.

It does seem counter intuitive and somewhat ridiculous that the Government is actually contributing to the current “cost of living crisis”.

We have had VAT cuts previously to help the hospitality sector; surely now is the time to help people with fuel costs. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Reynolds

Goring Heath

We deserve to know

Sir, — I was appalled to learn that our MP John Howell is refusing to declare whether or not he supported Boris Johnson in the recent vote of confidence (Standard, June 10).

Mr Howell was elected to represent us at Westminster, so he has a duty to act on our behalf and inform us of any major decisions or votes he has made.

The vote of confidence is a secret ballot in the 1922 Committee room intended to allow MPs to vote freely without feeling any pressure from colleagues at the time.

I firmly believe we have a right to know whether or not our MP supports the Prime Minister. If Mr Howell continues to refuse to tell us whether he supports Mr Johnson as Prime Minister or not, then he cannot be considered fit to represent our constituency and should step down.

Perhaps we should have a vote of confidence in Mr Howell. — Yours faithfully,

Mark Hatt

South Stoke Road, Woodcote

Don’t blame the media

Sir, — In his letter to David Morris, John Howell MP says: “I have to decide whether the current campaign against the Prime Minister has any substance or is simply a media campaign.”

Leaving aside the absurd imputation that a media campaign cannot ipso facto have substance, Mr Howell should know that he is completely missing the point by characterising the widespread dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister as a “campaign”.

I will not be alone in believing — on the basis of the evidence presented by the police and by Sue Gray in her report — that Boris Johnson not only broke the law in his typically cavalier fashion but also that he repeatedly lied about the parties at Number 10.

To believe that Mr Johnson has been truthful in his statements is frankly perverse and strains to breaking point a normal understanding of honesty and integrity.

Mr Howell needs to understand that this is not a “campaign” against Mr Johnson. It is a widespread howl of indignation and disgust at the behaviour of a man who has utterly lost the moral authority to lead his party and his country.

So instead of hiding behind a secret ballot, I urge our MP to become a Howell of disgust. — Yours faithfully,

Simon Roberts

Mill Road, Shiplake

Cut mayor’s allowance

The cost of living crisis has made me start to look at where I can save money but also at local services too.

While looking through Henley Town Council’s annual accounts (on another matter) my attention was drawn to the mayor’s allowance, so I went back over a five-year accounting period and extracted the following amounts claimed: 2020 — £7,766; 2019 — £7,400; 2018 — £7,200; 2017 — £7,000; 2016 — £6,113; 2015 — £6,954.

It is interesting that the current basic pension is £7,376.20 or £141.85 per week and that is to cover all living expenses (excludes any winter fuel payment and the £10 Christmas bonus).

I have two questions.

1. Isn’t it time the mayor’s allowance was reduced and made accountable?

2. Why has the same allowance been claimed and paid in the accounting period 2020/21 when the covid pandemic hit and no or hardly any social events took place?

The last outgoing mayor’s allowance will appear in the council’s next annual accounts presumably.

I read that the deputy mayor is permitted a £1,000 allowance too. Do we know how many events the deputy mayor attended in, say, the last three years? Was it enough to justify £1,000 for clothing?

Never in 40+ years of working in commercial and financial services have I ever been or would have been allowed any expenditure claim without valid receipts. Raffle tickets, auctions and donations were claimed on a self-produced receipt.

It is our money that is being spent so I believe it should be spent wisely and in these times frugally.

There are other items of council expenditure that caught my eye. I may well be writing about those or maybe if enough local people look at the accounts they too may have questions. — Yours faithfully,

Chris Hinton


Henley Residents Group, which controls the town council, responds: “Henley Town Council carefully considers all spending of public money and we believe this is a reasonable amount to spend to compensate mayors for the costs they incur over their year in office.”

Importance of discussion

Sir, — It was encouraging to see your readers debate the impact of herbicides and pesticides on our health (kicked off by Simon Beddows’s article of April 1).

I am fortunate to have grown up with exposure to biodynamic farming, which demonstrates an alternative to chemical farming.

I am also involved with innovative companies using new technologies such as synthetic pheromones instead of pesticides to control unwanted insects on crops.

I would refer interested readers to Dr Zach Bush’s excellent work on farming, glyphosate and health. In respect of David Hughes’s plea to trust our farmers (April 15), I would go further: not only should we trust our farmers but we should help them too.

I am delighted to support young entrepreneurs such as Jack and Freddie Wilcox who recently opened McQueens bakery in Nettlebed.

They, like Kate Hamblin and Hugo Thurston at the amazing Hamblin Bakery in Oxford, are painstakingly working with millers and farmers to source organic heritage grains to make the flour for their bread.

Our farmers deserve this sort of respect and engagement from consumers.

They also deserve better guidance at policy level. There are few farmers who would choose to be dumping millions of tonnes of chemicals into our soil if they had an economically viable alternative.

Discussions like this one are critical in increasing awareness and stimulating debate and change. — Yours faithfully,

Michelle Paisley


Power of walking

Editor, — Living Streets’ Walk to School Week is over for another year and I’d like to thank everyone in Oxfordshire who made it such a success.

More than 1,800 pupils from six Oxfordshire schools joined families across the UK to enjoy the many benefits of walking to school. Schools that took part will have enjoyed reduced congestion and pollution, while children were well on their way to meeting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day to stay fit, healthy and happy.

More than 200,000 pupils nationwide took part in our Power Up! Challenge, which encouraged them to travel sustainably every day of the week, unlocking different levels as they went.

We’re thrilled so many families joined us to swap the school run for a school walk. We hope they will be inspired to keep it up all year round. — Yours faithfully,

Stephen Edwards

Chief executive, Living Streets

Future of Royal Berks

In September 2019 the Department of Health announced that the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust would be one of 40 trusts on the new hospital programme to (re)develop the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

As this programme is of interest to patients in the Henley area, the Bell Surgery has arranged a talk on Tuesday (June 21) at 6pm via Microsoft Teams. Places are available to hear Alison Foster, programme director of Building Berkshire Together, discuss the range of options on and off site and how the trust is working with the local community to ensure that the hospital is designed with those that use it and that it is fit for the future.

All views are appreciated on this important project.

To book a place, email me at — Yours faithfully,

Janet Waters

Chair, Bell Surgery patient participation group, Henley

No boat tent tickets

Sir, — I asked in the Henley Royal Regatta office on Tuesday afternoon when we could get our boat tent area tickets and was told they are not being issued anymore.

Residents of Henley are very proud of the regatta but we do put up with a lot of disruption and loss of access to that section of the river.

We have enjoyed visiting the boat tents for nearly 50 years and it is a small compensation for the inconvenience.

Is it too late to reconsider please? — Yours faithfully.

Hugh Archibald

Greys Road, Henley

Sir Steve Redgrave, chairman of Henley Royal Regatta, responds: “A series of record entries to Henley Royal Regatta meant that the decision was taken in 2019 to no longer allow unrestricted public access to the boat tent area because of potential overcrowding.

“This was not an issue last year because of the covid restrictions that had to be imposed, or the year before, when the regatta had to be cancelled. It was not a decision we took lightly but for reasons of safety, security and space, for competitors and spectators, we felt it was the only course of action.

“The regatta continues to evolve and we appreciate that it is a change from previous years. We hope the reasons for this change for the week of racing are understandable and we are always grateful for the support given to us by the residents of Henley.”

Magnificent coverage

Sir, — Your newspaper is to be congratulated on the magnificent coverage of the local jubilee celebrations.

This is not because you included the Remenham jubilee concert, although you certainly did us proud.

It was wonderful to see so many varied events and happy people, completely undaunted by the weather in true British style. Thank you. — Yours faithfully,

Felicity Rutland


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