The Wokingham Paper

Your letters, February 15, 2018

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Every week, we print the liveliest selection of letters for Wokingham borough. A range of voices, a range of views – here’s the letters pages from the February 15 edition. We welcome your views – email letters@wokinghampaper.co.uk

Elms Field to have limited impact? Pull the udder one …

Preparatory work has started at Elms Field: The Wokingham Paper warned us it would in the February 1 issue.

In one breath, Cllr Stuart Munro, executive member for business and economic development and regeneration, states work on Elms Fields “should have limited impact on surrounding roads and businesses.”

Really?

Particularly as, in his next line, he declares that there may be a requirement to close off areas of the park, car parking spaces, footpaths and roads.

He also claims disruption “Will be kept to a minimum and carefully managed”. Where have we heard that before?

The work, as stated, may well be contained within the site’s boundaries, but how, on a continuous basis, will heavy vehicles carrying plant, materials and other equipment gain access?

All this rather smacks of a repeat performance of the chaos, congestion and misery caused by the back of a fag packet planning of town centre redevelopment by an Executive which appears to have completely lost the plot and seems hell bent on prolonging the agony for yet another two years, assuming that is the work is completed to schedule and within budget.

Based on past council performances, seems most unlikely.

As we mark the anniversary of 100 years since women were first allowed to vote, local politicians and their Westminster masters, would do well to heed the motto of the Suffragette movement: Deeds, not words.

J W Blaney, Wokingham

John, what’s your view on the regeneration?

Having walked through the Paddocks Car Park in Wokingham, I am most concerned to see a notice from Wokingham Borough Council that car parking charges will resume for almost all the council owned car parks from March 2 for Monday to Saturday inclusive.

With the town still in major upheaval and the Market Place works behind schedule and a constantly changing maze (of which I keep expecting to see the Minotaur!), reintroducing parking charges surely is a further retrograde step the borough council are taking, while the Free to Park [Free to P] after 3pm and at some weekends was eventually and with much grinding of teeth and stamping of feet from some councillors rolled out across the council car parks, it seems that even this is no longer going to be available in the council car parks in Wokingham during Monday to Saturday.

I would urge the borough councillors, that in these testing times for Wokingham, where market stall traders and shop owners are struggling with downturns in trade, to roll out across every council owned car park in Wokingham [and further afield] to have at least an hour, preferably two, of free parking available which is obtained via one of the machines. It should be easy to reprogramme the machines to give these tickets.   

The one or two hours’ free car parking should not have a time limit on when it starts, so people can shop during the morning or afternoon as they wish but still benefit from this. Doing this would also help give incentive to come and park in Wokingham and come to the shops and market, if the latter is on.

While I appreciate money is tight from central government and that the regeneration, once it is totally completed in a few years time, probably will look good, it is the market traders and shopkeepers who are struggling now. They need the help and need the people of Wokingham and surrounding areas to actually shop there and frequent the market.   

Making people pay for the car parks, if they can get around the maze of roadworks, is a retrograde step.

Finally there is one other person whom represents us in Parliament, John Redwood,  but while he has been vocal about Brexit, he appears to be strangely silent over the chaotic redevelopment that is taking place in Wokingham.

I would therefore like through the letters page to directly appeal to John to give please his views on the redevelopment and also of his views on the chaos that’s enfolding the town currently and hitting hard the struggling shopkeepers and market stall owners and as our borough’s MP what actions [if any] he’s doing about it.   So John, it’s over to you.

Ian Hydon, Wokingham

Child Poverty rates

Thank you for raising the extent of Child Poverty within Wokingham (and elsewhere) in your article on Thursday, February 8 (“MP’s anger over rise in child poverty”).

Although Wokingham has the sixth lowest level of child poverty in the UK, there is no room for complacency as there are still about one in 10 children in our community living in poverty, or around 3,700 youngsters.

The good news is that many people and organisations in Wokingham are working heroically to help these children and their families – in our schools, churches, our foodbanks, community workers etc.  

The bad news is that many of these services are struggling to respond to the escalating demand.

Supporting people in need in Wokingham since 1451, Wokingham United Charities provides grants for organisations  tackling disadvantage within the Wokingham area.

Like the End Child Poverty Campaign data, our research found a number of “pockets of deprivation”, including Finchampstead South and Norreys wards.  

These neighbourhoods are often hidden when people look at “Wokingham” as a whole.

We want to direct our newly launched grants programmes to help as many people in need so would be delighted to hear from organisations working with disadvantaged children and their families.  

You can contact us via our website wokinghamunitedcharities.org.uk or via grants@wokinghamunitedcharities.org.uk

Janet Rogers, Trustee, Wokingham United Charities

Sprinklers in new builds

Over the past three to four years, as far as I can tell, all new school buildings linked with Wokingham Borough Council  have been provided with sprinklers. This follows the agreed policy developed in November 2012 and supported by both Party Groups on Wokingham Borough Council.

In addition, all local councillors have a duty of care to the children of the borough. This is a very important responsibility and one that I felt needed a response when I discovered that the Emmbrook maths block had not been provided with sprinklers.

I believe that this is the only such building to not have been provided with this facility during this period. The School deserves better. So my main concern was why?

Anything that can put children into potential danger needs to be highlighted and resolved. It was for that reason that I raised a complaint to Wokingham Borough Council and no other reason.

Cllr Lindsay Ferris, Leader of the Liberal Democrats
on Wokingham Borough Council & Member for Twyford

Assessments needed

The Editor’s front page comprehensive article re Schools and Sprinklers last week, requires some comment! Not the actual article, of course!

Let me note a very important piece of Legislation – ‘The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005’. That Order places the full responsibility for Fire Safety on the owners of all and any constructions with public access etc.

A first requirement is a Fire Risk Assessment, just as required for Health & Safety. Fire Officers may still carry out random inspections etc. to ensure compliance. They retain considerable powers.

Having outlined the Legal requirements, I need to know – as a Council Tax Payer – was the correct Procedure followed? If the FRA showed that in 2012 it was identified that Sprinklers be installed in all school new builds, who are the people who vote on such issues?

It is not a ‘votable’ or ‘opinion’ issue, provided the RA was produced by a qualified/competent person, nobody can vote about it! So, who produced it?

It is not a political issue either.  I know Cllr Mark Ashwell quite well and have a lot of respect for him. Whilst his comments appear placatory, as a successful businessman, he will be aware that written statements are what need to be in the Site Records for legal reasons, e.g. the FRA. As in my case when carrying out a FRA, when in doubt I consult with the Fire Service to ensure a comprehensive analysis – because as with everyone these days, I am not an expert at anything!

I cannot comment further than that without full involvement.

A second matter concerning the council, is the female leader we have. Once again a woman is fighting for her gender, wanting more women in just about everything – but why the fuss?

I consider women as equal to males in the sight of God,  and having worked with excellent female engineers, plus having set up and run at least one factory with nearly all female employees, I have experience of how ‘equal they are’ or even superior to males!

If you are the ‘best choice’ for a role and have the required abilities to carry out an important function in society, then welcome aboard! Hold your head high and set a good example in your work, but make sure you know and work to your Job Spec. A life’s experience has taught me that office politics and lack of integrity in male management, has led to much of the decline and corruption in life today. Time for more Margaret Thatchers to sort out the country, and keep us away from Communism/Marxism?

Let me challenge Charlotte to get rid of the ‘gang culture’ in the council – the clique of self-interested councillors in Wokingham. It  would appear that they make decisions to suit themselves, which may have led to the resignation of more than one councillor in disgust. You will then have achieved something that maybe only a female can. Called ‘Democracy’, it’s sadly not a Conservative trait!

Lastly, beware: gender prejudice is illegal.  

Reg Clifton, Wokingham

A letter about letters

What is the matter with the post in Wokingham?

During the past nine months I have had cheques both to and from me go missing in the post – bank statements not arrive at all or delivered to the wrong address, some post delivered months late one by as much as four months.  

It is pointless posting anything in a pillar box as you don’t know when, if ever, it is going to be collected so you have to go to the box at the main post office.

This is now only emptied in the evening so goodness knows when it actually sent on its way.  It looks as if they have serious problems in the sorting office wherever that is located now!

Elizabeth Spooner, Wokingham

Trashing the Thames

I see from the Don’t Trash The Thames posts on Facebook that clearance is going ahead on the Wokingham side of the Park and Ride/MTR scheme.

Considering that the Reading side is not yet approved, isn’t this premature?

Graham Bates, Reading

How to help the NHS

In his article titled “The NHS needs our help” (Wokingham Paper, February 8) Tony Johnson provides a salutary reminder of the abysmal deficiencies of Britain’s healthcare system before the advent of the NHS in 1948:

“For the majority medicines were too expensive, doctors were for the rich and if you needed an operation you’d be in trouble. And that was only the breadwinners. For family dependants it was even worse… “ But then he adds the puzzling statement: “so people were very self-reliant”. What exactly was the nature of this “self-reliance” to which Tony Johnson refers? Clearly he cannot mean that most people paid out of pocket for their own medical attention and treatment, as he has already established that such expenditure was beyond the finances of “the majority”.

Perhaps he means that most people pulled their own teeth, got uncle Jack to saw off their gangrenous leg and, if their medical conditions were not amenable to such primitive remedies, simply suffered and died. If so, then he should have said it straight and (on the basis that no sane person would wish a return to such a situation) I would not have suspected a certain nostalgic regret in his subsequent statement: “Days of self-reliance are mainly long gone and we’ve come to rely on, even depend on the NHS more and more.”

Concepts such as “self-reliance” and “dependency” have, over the past four decades and more, featured prominently in the discourse of “Roll Back the State” ideologues on the “free market” political right, whose desire to totally privatise the UK healthcare system cannot be doubted. It is not unreasonable to imagine that Tony Johnson’s use of such terminology might indicate that he shares a similar ideological outlook.

In order to begin to solve a problem a proper diagnosis of its causes is essential. Tony Johnson’s article makes no mention of the role of previous widespread A&E closures in creating the appalling scenes we have recently witnessed in hospitals across the country.

Nor does he mention the billions that have been diverted from frontline patient care into servicing the sort of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes that came to public attention in the recent Carillion debacle.

Then there is the ever-increasing proportion of the health budget being directed away from NHS hospitals into the private healthcare system as a result of government policy like the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

Tony Johnson is either unaware of these and many other pertinent issues or he chooses to disregard them, preferring instead to focus on people making “unnecessary” visits to A&E departments – although what exactly he thinks constitutes an “unnecessary” A&E visit he does not clearly specify.

Robert Griffiths, Earley

Thank you Tony

As a regular reader of your informative paper, I’d just like to express brief thanks to Tony Johnson for his substantial and thought-provoking pieces on the NHS. Many different remedies are suggested, but they can’t be evaluated without thorough research about problems, and Tony has worked hard to provide this. It’s appreciated.

Anthea West, Wokingham

Mental Health

I agree 100% with Paul Farmer – [Assessing Mental Health, The Wokingham Paper letters February 8]. Mental Health Services are in crisis, but the crisis is not in what is left of the mental hospitals. It is in the community.

If Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, can stand up there and say that community care is better than the old asylum system, then he must put his money where his mouth is!

The ‘Short’ Report, of the 1980s, said that any fool can close a mental hospital. Equally, today, any idiot can save money by simply not providing services. The clever way is to get rid of all the gobbledygook, and provide simple, basic, services – at minimal cost.

HealthWatch/Wokingham would have a job to solicit service-users’ views of local mental health services. There aren’t any!

On the only occasion that I have asked HealthWatch to investigate the local failure to provide a mentally ill man with supported accommodation, they replied – that he was assessed  as not needing the service – because Wokingham hadn’t got one – in which case, you might as well get rid of the assessors!

We HAD local, community mental health beds, in Slough, and in Ascot. They closed down!

We HAD mental health hostels on the London Road, in Wokingham. They closed down.

We HAD a mental health day centre on the Reading Road. It closed down!

Last Friday, a lady who was moving from Hertfordshire to Berkshire, telephoned me – to enquire about Berkshire’s MIND services. There are none. They have all closed down!

One of our own service users, found, to be quite valuable, a mental health support service – called ‘Reading Your Way’ – which had been working in Wokingham. It has closed down!

They would have closed down the crisis house – if I had let them, but wars are won by those with the strongest will. ‘Have I not commanded you, be strong?’ says the Bible.

I don’t take commands from Wokingham Borough Council, but I do take commands from God!

However, the nation can’t be expected to rely upon old women, of iron will, to stand guard over services, nor on ones who will pay for private treatment for people who can’t get it in the NHS! Mr. Hunt needs to go back to the drawing-board. One of the very few services available – these ‘talking therapies’ – that he is so keen on – are fine for neurotic disorders. They are no good, whatsoever, for paranoid schizophrenia – which requires supported housing, with supervision of medication, and sheltered work.

Patients are less overwhelmed by paranoid thoughts, and consequently, less dangerous, if they have something to do! This is where the old asylums kicked in. Mr Hunt needs to look at what they actually provided.

Until these services – sheltered accommodation, care routines established by nurses,  supervised medication, and sheltered work – are replicated in the community, then mental health will remain in crisis.

When I was a child – in the 1950s, we were much poorer than we are now. We were skint from the war. But you never saw anybody homeless – unless it was a solitary tramp – if you went into the country. The mentally ill were in asylums. Old Aunt Fanny had been ‘put away’.

As a child, you didn’t understand where they had put her, but she wasn’t freezing to death, in a shop doorway, as she is today.

I have been battling to get a paranoid schizophrenic, into care, for over three years, and I have been trying, for over a year, even to get a cleaner, for a mentally ill person who can’t cope. So my message to Jeremy Hunt is – ‘Let us get rid of the bureaucracy, and get back to the basics!’

Pam Jenkinson,
The Wokingham Crisis House

World Book Day support

Every year at the beginning of March, school children across the UK mark World Book Day.

Many will dress up as a character from a favourite book or be part of special reading activity – and families and schools will once again generously give to charity.

World Book Day is a worldwide celebration, but in many countries, children go to school with just a few tattered textbooks.

At Book Aid International, we send around one million books a year to thousands of libraries and schools. Two thirds of these books are for children. They are read by millions of young readers in 20 countries.

We can only support children around the world because families and schools choose to support us on World Book Day and I would like to thank all those who will do so this year.

If you are a parent or teacher looking for inspiration, please visit www.bookaid.org/world-book-day, where you’ll find fundraising ideas, fun activities and specially created free DIY dress-up guides (developed with busy parents in mind!).

It costs just £2 to send a book, so every penny you raise will make a difference.

Alison Tweed,
Chief Executive of Book Aid International,
39-41 Coldharbour Lane, Camberwell, London SE5 9NR
020 7326 5800

So that’s where the cycle lane went to…

The solution to the riddle of the disappearing cycle lane in Reading Road can now be revealed.

Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) built the cycleway for an undisclosed sum (i.e. tens / hundreds of thousands of pounds) and covered it with green tarmac. This soft wearing surface looked pretty but the weight of an ultra light carbon bike soon caused it to crack.

Then a different section of the highways department with money to burn decided to build a traffic island over the cycle lane.

Of course, trick cyclists can still use the facility by bunny hopping up the kerb. But average cyclists returning from a shopping trip with a dozen eggs in their pannier don’t have this option.

Once again the lack of management control in the highways team has led to public money being wasted.

When WBC announces a huge hike in Council Tax in the coming weeks we can reflect on the fact that had officers applied common sense management practices an increase would not be necessary.

Peter Humphreys, Wokingham

Food waste recycling: another folly

Re: food waste recycling being introduced by Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) next April. Is this yet another folly to add to the WBC recycling folly roundabout for increasing recycling?

Recycling is the best way to look after our planet and reduce the impact of man.

WBC, over the last 15 or so years, has introduced various measures that were supposed to increase recycling. It started with the introduction of the green bags and two black boxes that were collected on alternate weeks. The green bag was to remove garden waste being added to the general waste and recyclable, plastic bottles and cans in one black box, clean waste paper and cardboard in the other black box.

Great, we are recycling.

Then we are told that recycling needs to be increased and the cost of the green bags scheme is too high.

Recycling is only at 30% to 40% with the rest going to landfill.

So remove the green bags and introduce large brown wheelie bins, which residents pay £60 per year for, if they wish to continue to have garden waste collected from their homes. Those that don’t want to pay £60 per year, because they only have small amounts of vegetation waste, like house plants and flowers, will either have to have a composter or take them to the recycling centre.

To encourage more recycling residents were issued with 80 official blue bags and the black box collection was increased to a weekly service, where residents no longer need to separate dry clean paper and cardboard from tin cans and plastic bottles The residents were informed that any rubbish left on the kerbside not in an official blue bag will not be collected.

The blue bags were too thin to hold the waste, so residents had to put a bag inside the blue bag to stop the rubbish ending up strewn all around the streets when the bags split. So the council increased the thickness of the bags. The new bags still split so the double bagging still has to take place.

So the Council’s efforts to increase recycling has resulted in an increased  weight of plastic going to landfill, by thicker blue bags and double bagging by residents to stop the bags splitting. The clean waste paper is now contaminated by the residual liquids, left in tin cans and bottles and then goes to landfill because of co-collection. If it rains, the paper gets wet and now sticks to the bottles and cans in the same black box (co-collection) then gets rejected by the sortation machine so it then ends up as landfill.

We are still recycling but still at 30 to 40% with the rest going to landfill.

Residents start to take their 80 bag excess waste directly to the recycling centres and use of the centres is increasing.

We are then told the cost of operating the recycling centres is too high so restrictions are put in place to stop any residents not living in the Wokingham area using it (orange plastic sticker) and also the type of vehicle that you can use to deliver your waste in is either banned or severely restricted.

The type of waste deposited at the recycling centre is then screened and a charge is introduced for DIY waste to “cover the costs of disposal”.

There is a national increase in fly tipping directly attributed to the restrictions placed at the recycling centres. The waste has to then be cleared up by the council and goes to landfill, as it is always contaminated.

We are still recycling but still at 30% to 40% with the rest going to landfill.

Now we are told that the Council has to reach its target of 50% recycling because we are still only at 40%.

So the next scheme is to introduce food waste recycling where the council are going to provide plastic reusable containers that are animal proof, to put just food waste in. Because animals are ripping the blue bags open to get at the food and it is hoped that recycling will be increased.

Animals forage with their sense of smell they do not have x-ray vision and cannot read, to help them understand what is contained in a container.

With the packaging from food still in the blue bag they will still rip them open to find food and the new animal proof food waste container will attract them to the food waste inside, unless it is hermetically sealed, so there will be lots of damaged to the plastic containers that will have to be replaced. More plastic for landfill.

Most food waste is still in its packaging as it has gone beyond its use by date and the owner doesn’t want to unwrap it.

The bio waste recycling centres do not want contaminated food waste still in it wrapping, so any contaminated food waste with packaging, will go to landfill.

Another folly scheme on the recycling folly roundabout!

‘Network’, via email

 

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