Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Listen to the disabled

Sir, The damage caused by the inclusion and then rapid removal of the benefits changes for

Sir, The damage caused by the inclusion and then rapid removal of the benefits changes for those with disabilities is huge.

It demonstrates that too little thought was put into something which alters the lives of many very vulnerable people.

There is no doubt that the benefits system needs a major overhaul but surely working with fantastic charities such as Mencap and Parkinson’s UK would have alerted ministers about the repercussions of changing something like car mobility entitlements without thorough investigation first.

The new personal independence payment assessment, which replaced disability living allowance (despite the best efforts of those running the centres and the doctors carrying out the assessments), is humiliating and isolating. You are assessed in a room with a doctor you have never met before, asked many very personal questions and finally, when you feel totally overwhelmed, you are asked to copy exercises to demonstrate how disabled you are!

Is it any wonder we come away feeling traumatized? I am very lucky. Although now disabled with Parkinson’s disease at age 48, I am fully able to communicate my needs and I have family and friends who can transport me to appointments and support me on a daily basis.

It isn’t easy though, believe me; I now have more labels than a suitcase at a Qantas check-in desk!

The new health minister has his work cut out. As disabled people, we need him to understand how it feels to wake up in the night and be physically unable to get to the toilet without calling for someone to take you.

I experienced this while in hospital without my medication. You lose your dignity in these situations.

So please take note and listen to the disabled and their carers in your constituencies more carefully.

Your faithfully,

Lisa Drage

Norman Avenue,


Tax carbon, Chancellor

Sir, — Well done to George Osborne for his introduction of a sugar tax.

This continues a policy of using tax to reduce what we see as society’s ills. It has seen success with tobacco and alcohol.

Perhaps our greatest threat is climate change and we hear that February was the most abnormally hot month in history.

Why can’t we tax carbon? A carbon tax would not be so sweet for many people and we can imagine the political backlash, so let’s give all the funds collected back to the populace.

This is a serious policy and studies show that the majority, especially poorer households, would end up better off.

The policy is being promoted by the international campaign Citizens Climate Lobby and a new group is forming in Henley.

I’d be pleased for people to contact me.

Yours faithfully,

Ed Atkinson

42 Queen Street,

Henley on Thames,

Oxon, RG9 1AP.

Tel 07983 695940, or email ex.atkinson@btinternet.com

Waste of our money

Sir, Without consulting the public or Oxfordshire County Council, the county’s district councils and Oxford City Council made a surprise announcement on February 25.

They called for the abolition of the county council and the establishment of four district quasi-unitary councils. (A unitary council combines the functions of a county council and a district council into one body.)

The four quasi-unitaries called for are as follows:

* A new southern Oxfordshire unitary authority that would cover the area currently administered by Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire district councils.

* An Oxford city unitary authority that would be formed in the centre of the county, covering the area currently administered by Oxford City Council.

* A West Oxfordshire/Cotswold unitary authority that would cover the area currently administered by West Oxfordshire and Cotswold district councils.

* A Cherwell/South Northants unitary authority that would cover the area currently administered by Cherwell District Council and South Northamptonshire Council.

In addition, the announcement called for the creation of an unelected quango to be known as a “combined authority” to take on difficult areas of responsibility currently with the county council, such as social care and major road projects.

So we would end up with four councils spread across three counties, plus an over-arching unelected quango.

The districts are now in the process of commissioning management consultants to produce a report to support their proposals.

Their brief to consultants states: “The district councils’ view is that a single county-wide unitary authority is not the right solution for Oxfordshire.”

It goes on to say that any finding suggesting a single county-wide unitary is best will not be approved.

The Oxfordshire County Council view, unsurprisingly, is that a single county-wide unitary authority is an option that should be considered and has thus been forced to begin the process of commissioning a separate management consultant’s report.

The net result is that because the district councils’ leaders will not agree to a single report covering all options, council taxpayers will end up funding two reports, when only one is necessary.

To stop this outrageous waste of money, the district leaders should set aside their egos and agree that all parties should jointly fund one report that considers all the options. My own view is that the district councils’ proposal is a nonsense.

Do we really want four councils involving two neighbouring counties plus a monster quango? But I also have concerns that unless a formal way is found to devolve money and power to towns and parishes, the county-favoured option of a single Oxfordshire unitary could be too big and too distant.

Yes to a unitary proposal — get rid of districts and county and have just one council in one area — but keep it local and close to the people. Perhaps the answer is one unitary council for South Oxfordshire, one for North Oxfordshire and one for Oxford city.

Any report should certainly consider this as one of the options.

Yours faithfully,

Councillor David Bartholomew

Sonning Common division,

Oxfordshire County Council,


EU’s not fit for purpose

Sir, It has been an interesting few weeks now, hasn’t it? The ongoing housing placement row, ending up with the statement by Henley Town Council’s planning committee that we might as well vote in favour as it will happen whether we like it or not.

The fiasco over Townlands Hospital, which appears not to be a functioning hospital anymore. Our doctors’ surgeries writing open letters of apology because they can hardly cope, are underfunded and have difficulty recruiting.

We cut community care and support for both the young and old, the most vulnerable.

We fail to train, let alone recruit, the healthcare professionals we need. Doctors, nurses, midwives, you name them, we are in dire need of them.

Our police force has been whittled away so much as to be ineffectual and our library services are under threat.

Suggestions of a second deck at King’s Road car park, where historically we’ve been told that it’s not possible because of the water table, have sprouted again.

More trouble with the bridge crossing at Sonning and it’s still the Oxfordshire councils that are thwarting a third Thames bridge.

Goring is getting a micro-power station on its weir, something that would work wonderfully at Marsh Lock, supplying power and bringing in revenue, but is thwarted by the wholly discredited Environment Agency.

And then there is the biggie — the EU, the politicians’ gravy train and the black hole into which we (that’s your and my taxes remember) sink £50 million a day! What could you do for the UK, or just our region even, with that kind of available money? Thought about it? Now think what you could do tomorrow. Then again the next day and the next.

Instead, we hand over the cash and get told to make savings and cuts and support the EU by making our lot worse and worse and then worse again.

A single day’s contribution would solve a great many of our local problems at a single stroke. This is not an argument or a fight, it is a war. The tactics are purely military.

Eliminate industry, decimate the infrastructure, eradicate healthcare, eliminate education and prevent movement and communication.

And the EU is forcing us to do it to ourselves!

All our self-serving politicos are doing is looking to the financial gain they can shove into their pockets by following the lead of Blair, Kinnock et al.

The UK is one of the top financial contributors to the EU. Without our hard-earned taxes the dilapidated, un-reformed gravy train would grind to a halt. And it needs to as it’s not fit for purpose.

Yours faithfully

Edward Sierpowski

Crisp Road


Vote out for nation’s good

Sir, In his otherwise excellent letter (Standard, March 18), Roger Sayer states that the “Common Market has morphed into an essentially political union etc”. I beg to differ.

Booker & North have written at length about the beginnings of the EU in their book The Great Deception, which explains that a political union was always the primary intention since long before the 1958 Treaty of Rome.

It was British politicians like Ted Heath and Harold Wilson who knew this full well (or should have done) but chose to present the EU to the country as a kind of tariff-free trade area by always referring to it as the Common Market. The grand idea was always a United States of Europe.

However, the Europeans have never wavered in their quest for this objective and successive UK administrations have never confronted this fundamental divergence of aim, which is at the heart of our present difficulties.

David Cameron’s recent farcical pretence at “renegotiation”, now conveniently forgotten, was thus doomed from the start, especially when he stated that he did not want to leave the EU. What kind of negotiator reveals his final position at the outset? The concessions he obtained have been described as utterly trivial.

They can be overturned after the referendum as they are not included in any treaty. They have, however, been praised by our MP, who talks of a “reformed” EU but glosses over the detail.

The whole exercise was pure theatre, all of it. Why is it that politicians seem congenitally incapable of putting the national interest above personal ambition or party manoeuvring, even on this crucial issue? Returning from Brussels essentially empty-handed, but ever the PR man, Cameron then insults our intelligence by telling us what a good deal he has got!

In reality, significant concessions were never likely: other EU members would probably want them too and then the EU would disintegrate. To reinforce his deal, he launched “Project Fear” and has now resorted to enlisting the help of luminaries like Richard Branson.

Even the American president may yet wade in, quite inappropriately in my view. It has been said that the special irony of Obama’s position is that he would never dream of commending an undemocratic organisation like the EU to the American people but he appears happy to do so to us.

For good measure the EU-funded CBI has issued a shrill warning against Brexit, in spite of having been utterly wrong on more than one previous occasion (UK membership of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and then the Euro).

The British public surely realises that such people (rightly) see the referendum from the point of view of their own interests and not of our nation’s.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Emmett

Peppard Common

Trust in our doctors

Sir, The crisis that our GPs find themselves in (Standard, April 11 and 18) appears to be replicated in other areas. Several surgeries in Reading have had to close due to lack of funding which resulted in the inability to recruit staff.

The public clearly appreciate and value the National Health Service. The medical profession remains the most trusted institution in this country.

It seems a betrayal for politicians to undermine that which is valued and supported by the majority of the public.

John Howell will also be aware of the situation, being our local MP with a finger on the pulse and having our interest at heart.

It will be interesting to hear what action he will take to help his constituents.

Yours faithfully,

Margot Dapper


Not made to feel welcome

Sir, It was gratifying to see that nine-year-old Martha Collins received such a warm welcome when she visited the new facilities at Townlands Hospital (Standard, March 18).

We had a rather different experience as we walked in the door at a few minutes before 9am on the first day the new building was being used.

My daughter and I were greeted with a rather gruff: “We’re not open until 9am.”

This was in stark contrast to the builders who had happily given us an escort through the maze of building works to the door.

My reply of “Good morning, that’s good as we have an appointment at 9am” prompted another glare in return.

I do hope that the smiles are not just for the cameras.

Yours faithfully,

Sheila Forde

Kidmore End

Happy with plan result

Sir, We are delighted that residents of Henley and Harpsden chose to vote for the neighbourhood plan at the referendum.

The plan is the result of more than two-and-a-half years of hard work from people across Henley and Harpsden and developers such as Crest Nicholson and we were particularly pleased to see that the exhaustive consultation efforts resulted in an encouraging turnout and approval of the plan.

We look forward to South Oxfordshire District Council adopting the plan in the coming weeks. Crest Nicholson remains committed to working with the local community as our plans for Highlands Farm continue to progress and develop.

Yours faithfully

Robin Hoyles

Group land and planning director,

Crest Nicholson

Council unfair on marina

Sir, In August you reported that the owners of Willow Marina had been prosecuted and fined for allegedly “demolishing” what was in reality a very badly dilapidated old wooden boatshed at the marina.

The court’s decision must, of course, be respected but it struck me that the action by Wokingham Borough Council risked failing a fundamental test of even-handedness, taking into account all the prevailing circumstances.

It now transpires that the council appears to be seeking to enforce removal of a tidy and inoffensive timber floating boathouse, which is the marina’s offices, and which floats in the water over which the dilapidated boatshed used to sit.

It appears to be also seeking removal of a very small shop (called the Local Larder) which causes no inconvenience, aims to market local produce and is liked by berth-holders and others in the area.

I put it to you that the council, with the greatest respect, appears to have rather lost a necessary sense of balance in this particular matter.

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Dresch

Berth holder,

Willow Marina,



Campaign for safer roads

Sir, I’m writing in my capacity as a Henley town councillor and a resident of the A4130 at Northfield End.

I stood for election last year to Henley Town Council in order to try to make a difference to our local community and improve our transport and pedestrian infrastructure. I campaigned to reduce the number of heavy goods vehicles using Henley as a short cut and to improve air quality in the town.

I also campaigned to introduce pedestrian crossings and traffic-calming measures to reduce speeding and to improve pedestrian safety across the town.

However, I never imagined that within less than a year of being elected my own vehicles, through no fault of my own, would be involved in two separate traffic accidents while parked legally on the A4130 (Standard, March 18).

I have been on the council for less than a year but in that time I have come to learn that the town council has very little power to improve any of the issues that I campaigned on despite the best intentions of many of my colleagues on the council from both political parties.

It is quite clear that the power and budgets to improve our roads, infrastructure and air quality all reside with Oxfordshire County Council and in particular our Henley county councillor David Nimmo Smith, who is the cabinet member for environment with responsibility for transport.

I have tried to persuade him of the need to introduce traffic-calming infrastructure on the A4130 and across Henley and for the need to introduce resident permit parking.

However, I have had little or no success. Therefore I would like to start a petition and would like your readers’ support.

I believe we should:

1. Install at least one, if not two, pedestrian crossings on the A4130 with one located at the New Street/Bell street part and the other at the Northfield End/Fair Mile section.

2. Install traffic islands to narrow the road in sections and slow down the traffic. This should reduce the impact of HGVs on our historic houses and the damage their vibrations cause.

3. Widen the pavements to increase pedestrian safety and have a traffic-calming effect.

4. Graduate the speed limit. We should introduce a 40mph speed limit on Fair Mile. Marlow Road has graduated speed limits and this helps reduce speeding and traffic accidents on that section of road.

5. Introduce resident parking permits to ensure that Henley residents can park their cars legally and safely in designated parking spaces adjacent or near to their place of residence on the A4130.

Please sign and help spread the message by sharing the link for the petition, https://www.change.org/p/oxfordshire-county-council-introduce-traffic-calming-measures-in-henley-to-prevent-accidents-increase-safety?recruiter=512304713&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_responsive

Only through your support can we persuade Oxfordshire County Council to introduce traffic-calming infrastructure and resident parking.

Thank you for your support.

Yours faithfully,

Councillor Dylan Thomas

Henley Town Council,

Northfield End,


Outstanding contribution

Sir, With reference to your lead story (Standard, March 18), I have known John Friend for many years and feel compelled to point out that his contribution to rowing in general, and Henley Rowing Club in particular, has been outstanding.

Safeguarding procedures are in place for good reason and if John has fallen short in their application then I’m sure useful lessons will have been learned.

However, sometimes during the investigation relating to the club’s junior section a rather more sinister impression may unwittingly have been created.

The final prompt to write came with last week’s front page report. John’s character is impeccable. Many of us involved in rowing, who know him well, have found it hard to stand back and watch in silence as his reputation has been sullied over the last year, feeling unable to provide the missing balance necessary to reflect a more rounded picture, not wishing, quite rightly, to prejudice an investigation now entering its second year.

John has always embodied a bright spirit of encouragement and enthusiasm; we all know people like him who selflessly go the extra mile for the benefit of others and we are richer for having them in our lives.

So, John, thank you for your advice, your integrity and, above all, your boundless enthusiasm for the sport you love.

Yours faithfully,

Justin Sutherland


Encouraging, supportive

Sir, I write in response to your article on the Henley Rowing Club “scandal” and on behalf of previous and existing members who have experienced the coaching of Jeff Morgan as well as David Lister.

We have found these men to be not only fantastic coaches but kind, dedicated and supportive people who guided us through the cold winter mornings and the late night sessions without complaint or reward.

We have not yet had the opportunity to share our experiences and in this letter we wish to vouch for their characters.

Jeff and David committed themselves entirely so that we could develop and achieve our goals.

What the articles failed to mention is that they were organising and coaching huge groups of junior girls and boys four evenings a week and on both days of the weekend.

They pushed us hard to build a competitive platform from which we could become one of the best clubs in the country.

Their enthusiasm in sharing their boundless knowledge and shaping a near unbeatable junior squad can only be commended and admired.

While we may have had less contact with John Friend, he was undoubtedly a man similarly committed to the success of club members.

We also have him to thank for the smooth running of the club and the wonderful experiences that we have had. My experience of the club is entirely positive — it’s a place where I was taught, encouraged and supported both within and beyond the sport, with a fun, friendly environment and a record of success that speaks for itself.

Thank you to the coaches and members of the club who made that possible and who supported us in realising our potential; let’s not lose sight of the good things.

Yours faithfully,

Ciara Buckley

Gillotts Lane,


Unpleasant viewpoint

Sir, As I read Thought for the Week (Standard, March 18), I became more and more incensed that the skewed thinking of Lt Col Peter Blaker could even be considered appropriate for the column.

While I acknowledge that we all have different views, to which we are entitled, the majority of right-minded people know that sexual abuse, from whatever era, is totally wrong.

The abuse of vulnerable people and children is morally wrong.

He says that “sex is undignified, aesthetically revolting and messy” and that desires are grotesque. Most people in loving relationships would disagree emphatically. He talks about wondering what people would like to get up to sexually. All of this in the first two paragraphs.

He goes on to say that decent, upright, honourable people desire their own children or underage children. He is apparently saying parents want to have sex with their own and other people’s children and that some “crack under pressure” but most manage to control their instincts.

Decent, honourable people know what is wrong and right.

Lt Col Blaker has many words, in fact the longest Thought for the Week I can recall, but he says he has no words bad enough for children trafficked for sex, or those that make no attempt to control their desires.

Then later he implies that it is okay for otherwise honourable men, under great pressure, to use boys and girls for comfort and that those abused children should be glad that they had helped and relieved those “honourable and stressed men”.

To use the term fingered is, in my view, unacceptable and shows a lack of understanding as to what abuse is.

Yes, culture changes over the time but moral people know what is wrong and what is right. Crimes undertaken in war are still crimes, abuse, whether sexual, emotional or physical, is still abuse. Victims come forward when they have the strength and courage and support to do so.

His eminent doctor friend caught up in scandal expressed an informed view, that no one was harmed, it was part of life.

I am saddened that you did not look at the piece in greater depth and wonder about the merits of publishiing it.

My hope is that these are his views alone and not those of the congregation of St Nicholas Church in Rotherfield Greys.

Yours faithfully,

Ann Fuller

Widmore Lane,

Sonning Common

We can never tolerate abuse

Sir, I write as rector of the Nettlebed and Greys Group of Churches following the Thought for the Week article written by Lt Col Peter Blaker.

The article was, as he said, controversial.

As such then, it is essential for me to clarify that the views expressed were entirely his own.

Lt Col Blaker does not write on behalf of, or in the name of, the Church of St Nicholas, Rotherfield Greys.

Such views do not portray the views or ideals of the Christian Church.

There can be no way in which such sentiments can be understood to be a part of acceptable Christian faith or practice.

The abuse of any individual by another person or organisation is entirely repugnant whether physical, sexual or emotional.

Such behaviour, especially by someone in a position of trust or power over another individual, is potentially criminal.

There is no point at which this is justifiable, honourable or acceptable in any society or community.

Any attempt to collude with or ignore the circumstances, or to withhold the knowledge of such behaviour, is equally culpable.

There are too many people who have been left scarred or damaged by abusive behaviour for such action to be tolerated under any circumstances.

Yours faithfully,

Rev Brendan Bailey Rector,

the Nettlebed and Greys Group of Churches,

High Street,


Insensitive headline

Sir, Surely for all that Paul Daniels and his wife Debbie McGee have done for this area and in fact the whole country for so many years he deserved a better heading than “Daniels is dead” (Standard, April 18).

I appreciate it became a last-minute news report but please give some things a little more thought where deserved.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Irvin

Goring Road,


Magician was one of the best

I do not know whether or not Paul Daniels had upset the Henley Standard or if you were simply following the current fad to disparage his achievements.

It cannot be denied that he was, for decades, one of the leading and most popular exponents of his craft; famous internationally and also well known locally.

I think he deserved better than the dismissive and ungracious headline to the report of his death in your paper.

Yours faithfully,

Richard Guy

New Street,


More feeling please

Sir, Although quick and concise, I thought the headline “Daniels is dead” could perhaps have been slightly more heartfelt.

I’m no journalist but may I suggest some other three word headlines that could have been more appropriate, such as “Paul Daniels dies”, “RIP Paul Daniels” or even “Famous magician dies”?

Your faithfully,

Dave Griffiths

Wyfold Lane,


Unhelpful disruption

Sir, For most people, the clocks changing this month provides a temporary inconvenience of an hour’s less sleep.

However, for many of the 8,468 people with dementia in Oxfordshire it can affect their sleep routines and may lead to them waking at the wrong time or struggling to get to sleep.

Disrupted sleep is just one of the many challenges people with dementia and their carers face.

Perhaps your readers would consider joining the 1.4 million people who have become “Dementia Friends” to learn more about the condition and the small ways they can help.

To find out more, visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk

Yours faithfully,

Chris Wyatt

Regional operations manager for the South-East,

Alzheimer’s Society

Perils of walking around Henley

Sir, — Further to your story about the potential hazard to pedestrians caused by the narrow pavement in Gravel Hill, Henley, (

, March 11), here is another example.

This is the narrow pavement at the corner of Market Place and Gravel Hill, not far from the dangerously narrow pavement outside the old Basket Weavers Arms.

The speed and volume of traffic at this and other pedestrian pinch points make walking around Henley a hazardous and arduous experience. — Yours faithfully,

Ron White

Milton Close,


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