The Wokingham Paper

READERS LETTERS: As seen in Wokingham.Today of July 2, 2020


Last week, BBC South aired a package on their lunchtime news. It was repeated throughout the news cycle that day and followed on from the front page story of June 18.

The message in the package was that Wokingham Borough Council does not support “Black Life Matters”. The thrust of Mr Halsall policy, if there is one, was his opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement demand in the United States  for the police to stop killing, predominately unarmed, black men. The latest example was the eight minutes 46 second public lynching of Mr George Floyd by former Mississippi police officer Derek Chauvin.

Sadly, Mr Halsall has benefited from white privilege which has allowed him to cast a blind eye over the intense and perpetual suffering of black people at the hands of authority around the world.

Furthermore, he has demonstrated his tone deafness to the zeitgeist on the issues that matter to Wokingham 12% BME population.

He has conflated the demands of this global movement for equality, fairness and Justice with a specific call in the USA for greater police accountability. Clearly he does not understand what is meant by the term ‘defunding the police’ in the American context.

My principle objection in the news item is the substitution of his personal views and opinion on Black Lives Matter to be those of the Council. Furthermore, the comments were made more incendiary by using Mr Parry Batth, an Asian Councillor to project fascist/racist views as Council Policy.

This cannot be allowed to stand as it has caused great offence and hurt to Wokingham’s black community.

Wokingham Borough Council Equalities Policy was adopted on 17 March 2017.

The policy requires the council policies to comply with the Race Relation Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equalities Duty. I have now reviewed the Council’s Equality Policies and found nothing on Black Lives Matter. However, I was able to find a policy on Anti-Semitism adopted by the Council on 18 July 2019, which we the BME community fully support.

Clearly, Mr Halsall was not tone deaf to the Jewish lobby call-out of Anti-Semitism in Britain.

I want Wokingham Borough Council to reverse the claim by Mr Halsall that the Council as a matter of policy does not support Black Lives Matter. Furthermore, lessons should be learned. Never again should the personal view of the Leader, purport to be the policy of the Council.

It was extremely harmful and offensive decision to put forward a person from another ethnic minority to publicly relay the message that Wokingham council would not be supporting Black Lives Matters.

It is clear that council members felt this choice would placate the anger of constituents but has instead simply demonstrated how out of touch the council are to not truly understand the aims of the movement – a demand to respect and protect black lives, through institutional change and a law enforcement system which does not view them as cannon fodder and
instead conflate them with an extreme American view point to dismantle policing.

It is no longer acceptable to say I am not a racist; you need to be actively anti-racist. I believe that Wokingham Borough Council has erred. 

However, there is a fast closing window of opportunity to redeem itself.

Wokingham Borough Council must bring a positive motion forward  to full Council for adoption that Wokingham Council positively believes that  “Black Lives Matter”.

Keith Kerr and
Sharon Harriott-Kerr

Running the new normal

With the pandemic raging the word on the block is the how our future life will be under the new normal. In Conservative-run Wokingham Borough Council that new normal has taken a nasty anti-democratic twist.

At Annual Council the Conservatives used their in house block vote of
31 Councillors to shoehorn in everything they wanted. 

Was every one of the party’s group of block voters supporting as their leader shouted 31 for or against at every opportunity?  It’s an interesting thought.

I expect to see the Conservative block vote being used at every opportunity as their dictatorship takes more control in all the councils business.

Democracy gives democrats rights but these rights must be balanced with truth, fairness, openness and honesty and once that is lost democracy as we know it is over.

A system of block voting backed by the Party three line whip under the guise of the new normal is an open indication of goodbye democracy all pretence of democracy is now gone.

Anyone who believes in democracy will see straight through  what the Conservatives are doing at Wokingham Borough and that is not to represent all its residents equally but to enforce their own party dogma on all of us. 

Its classic Conservative dictatorial dogma ruthlessly imposed on all of us by an uncaring ruling elite. Let’s not forget how much they don’t care about us next May.

Cllr Gary Cowan, Independent Borough Councillor for Arborfield at Wokingham Borough Council

Why I’m worried

I’ve just heard on a BBC radio programme that of people over 70, 80% who catch coronavirus die from it.

Another very worrying point I head is that 95% of the population have not had the virus.

I am in my late 70s, I feel vulnerable.

With restrictions coming off quite quickly, I think we older folk are going to be thrown to the virus, expendable people.

We are ruled by economists, not by protection and thought,.

I don’t wish to be sacrificed to herd nonsense. Think again Tories.

Many believe we have not been spoken to truthfully. Most of us are not from public schools, not that well off. We do have a voice, a floundering around government does not help ordinary people.

Name and address supplied

A wise way to spend money during a pandemic?

Love ’em or loathe ’em, politicians both locally and nationally certainly have the knack for laying themselves open to ridicule.

The recent announcement by 10 Downing Street that the grey RAF Voyager A330 Aircraft used for, among other purposes, official ministerial business is to be ‘rebranded’ with a new Union Flag themed paint job – at a cost to the public purse of the best part of £1 million – follows on the heels of the suggestion that it would be a good idea to build a new royal yacht costing around £100 million.

I suggest that most people, in the midst of a pandemic, the nation’s economy in danger of heading for a meltdown, care workers paid a pittance, the use of food banks, homelessness and child poverty at unacceptable levels, will view these spends as unnecessary and inappropriate extravangancies.

Nearer home, I seem to recall, not so long ago, the inmates of Shute End Towers expressing the desire to introduce more ‘street art’ to the town centre.

If the array of colourful red and white crowd (what crowd?) barriers stretching around the notorious one-way system are anything to go by, then they have exceeded all expectations.

Keith Carter in his letter (Wokingham.Today, June 18) asks in respect of these barriers, “Why do they (Wokingham Borough Council) treat us like two-year-olds?”

Quite simple Keith – we know best egotism.

Finally, those particularly who lives through the war years will have been saddened by the loss of Dame Vera Lynn, at the age of 103. Thanks for the memory Dame Vera, thanks for the memory.

J W Blaney, Wokingham

Showing we care

On Friday, June 26, we were all set to celebrate our annual Care Home Open Day. Sadly, this is no longer possible, so instead we are thanking our local community for the support we have received over these last few very tricky months. We gifted wildflower seed to those in our local area.

We  preparid wildflower seeds for you to pick up outside our care home from Friday 26th June, available for everyone in our local community as a symbol of appreciation and hope for the future.

It is extremely important now more than ever to keep our residents’ spirits high and for them to continue engaging with team, their community and loving every day – this lovely initiative is helping to do just that.

We hope that next year we’ll be with of our friends and neighbours from the care homes local areas, to celebrate our Care Home Open Day together and continue to build the community that has supported us so wonderfully.

Best wishes from everyone at The Berkshire

The Berkshire Care Home, Barkham Road, Wokingham

Co-oping together

As one of the independent co-operatives operating in your area, we’d like to invite your readers to join us and work together to rebuild our economy and communities with responsibility, fairness and kindness at its core.

During Co-op Fortnight, many of the UK’s 7,063 co-operatives are coming together and pledging to ‘build something better together’. The global societal and environmental challenges we face can’t be achieved alone and there is power in co-operation.

The statement, which can be viewed at, highlights the immense challenges faced by our communities throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

Co-operatives have always thrived in periods of social and economic change and, the shared principle of ‘concern for the community’, has been at the heart of our response to this crisis.

We have a part to play locally and globally through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which are in effect the ‘to do list’ for the world, focusing on, and addressing, the world’s biggest challenges and a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

We remain committed to continuing to work together as co-operatives and with others, so we can build a better future together.

Mark Smith, Chief Executive at Southern Co-op

What do you think? Send your letters to

We love to hear from you! Send us your views on issues relating to the borough (in 250 words or less) to The Wokingham Paper, Crown House, 231 Kings Road, Reading RG1 4LS or email:

We reserve the right to edit letters

Views expressed in this section are not necessarily those of the paper

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