The Wokingham Paper

READERS LETTERS: As seen in Wokingham.Today of July 30, 2020

Anti-Brexit protest in Reading town centre Saturday, September 7, 2019, attended by Dr Phillip Lee, Matt Rodda, Imogen Shepherd-DuBey, Rob White, Louise Tomlin, Berkshire in Europe

Remainers have damaged our democracy

Dr Peter Hornsby (Wokingham.Today July 23) seems to be an intelligent person who likes a conspiracy theory. The problem with some Remainers is that they still cannot accept the result of the democratically conducted EU Referendum in 2016.

I voted Leave because I was fed up with seeing an arrogant UK and European elite spraying my hard earned taxpayers money up the wall. After all, it is taxpayers money which is used to fund the highlife that the Eurocrats enjoy.

The fine food and drink. The luxury travel and luxury hotels. The list goes on.

No austerity for Europe’s finest.

What banking crash? The Eurocrats did not adjust their lifestyle to take into account the austerity being suffered by their fellow EU citizens aka The Plebs.

Such outrageous arrogance deserved a message, and the ordinary voter did not disappoint. Any organisation that has been unable have it’s accounts verified for 20-plus years should not even be in existence.

Some may even believe that the EU is a racket to extract money from the less well off taxpayer.

If a foreign power wished to interfere in the EU referendum, which side would it pick? Surely it picked the Remain side. The proof of this is in the massive disruption and dislocation caused by some Remainers since 2016.

Parliament and country paralysed for three years, brought about by people who said that they agreed to respect the Referendum result and then reneged on the agreement.

So, some Remainers caused the paralysis of normal Government in the UK for three years. If I was the leader of a malevolent foreign power I’d have been rubbing my hands with glee.

This because of the damage done to our democracy by some Remainers who just would not, or could not, accept the EU Referendum result of 2016. Now there’s a conspiracy theory for you.

Paul Clarke, Wokingham

Stifling democracy

Councillor Cowan last week added his voice to the excellent work done by Tony Johnson highlighting how our local Tories stifle democracy.

Does this surprise anyone given how they behave nationally? We’ve now seen deeper into the sordid reality of the Brexit vote: a Tory government that holds the people of this country in such contempt it didn’t investigate, much less prevent, foreign interference – at a time when Russia was actively interfering in US politics and supported Brexit to weaken both the EU and UK.

While many Brexit supporters may not have been swayed by facts, the narrow margin of the Leave win suggests even a small influence could have pushed the vote over the necessary margin. 

And what will the Tory Brexit deliver? Rather than British businesses and jobs being supported by goods entering and leaving the country quickly and efficiently as they did when we were part of the world’s largest single market, the Tories are spending hundreds of millions for them be held up in huge lorry parks, with 50,000 customs officers processing the millions of customs declaration forms that will be needed. All this just to make British businesses less competitive and make things more expensive for everyone else.

Rather than being able to easily live and work anywhere in the EU, a generation of young people already let down by Tory austerity will have to find jobs nearer to home – handy, as that’s about the only place they’ll be able to afford to live.

Perhaps things will get better. Rees-Mogg suggested it might take 50 years to see the benefits of Brexit – although that was before Covid-19, so it’ll probably take a bit longer now.

The damage, however, will come much sooner as our food standards, environmental protections and other safeguards become early casualties of Brexit.

Dr Peter Hornsby, Wokingham

Democratic processes

Do the Tories even care about democratic process anymore?

On its face the question seems absurd.  But consider ongoing behaviour, both nationally and locally.

  • Embedding and empowering special advisors, who are subject to neither election nor civil service requirements
  • Hiding/weakening government reports from the public like the recent Russian Report, COVID BAME review or the infamous Brexit Impact Assessments
  • Council leader declaring, on behalf of the Council and without public discussion, that they don’t support Black Lives Matter (not relevant here?)
  • Refusal to schedule time to address the full Council agenda, including public or opposition motions

Individually, these can all be explained away.  But collectively, they destroy transparency and the engagement of ALL elected representatives in the decision-making process.  The ultimate result is a one-party state making decisions in secret.  And that never ends well.

Am I exaggerating?  Consider that the PM was willing to lose his Chancellor and remove long-standing public servants like Kenneth Clarke, yet expended immense political capital to protect Dominic Cumming (a man in contempt of Parliament).  Mr Cummings is still in No 10 and got a No 10 press conference. 

Where are Mr Clarke and Mr Javid?

Name and address supplied

What price democracy?

What price democracy at Conservative-run Wokingham Borough Council?

Once again a Council meeting at Wokingham failed to complete its agenda.  Sadly once again lots of good intentions has been kicked into the long grass to join all the other good stuff from residents in the past.

With the next meeting in September, a repeat of this shambles will be the order of the day just like all the past Council meetings.

As a result of this Conservative-run Council incompetence, residents and members issues/concerns have just disappeared in a cloud of dust never to be seen or heard of again. It’s as if the Conservatives are rigging the meetings to suit their own ends .

Frustratingly the key debate was about the Climate Emergency Action Plan designed to create a net-zero carbon Borough by 2030. The concept is excellent but it has many flaws.

The debate was generally supportive but before it concluded the Mayor – not in line with the rules of debate – put a guillotine on after only 30 minutes, so denying many Councillors their right to comment. 

Climate Emergency is such a big issue that will have ramifications for all of us, our children and their children’s children yet Wokingham’s Conservatives just ignored the constitution and pulled the plug on the debate.  Later in the meeting the leader of the council withdrew all the Conservative questions to its own Executive but promised written answers. I was later informed that as the Leader withdrew the questions written answers will not be provided nor will they be included in the minutes. Once again the public are denied answers for many very important wide ranging questions. Why did the Conservative leader want to gag his own members questions? Did they embarrass his party leadership I wonder?

My simple question on the Government’s scheme to pay £1,000 per patient to help pay for additional care home costs incurred so Covid-19 patients coming from  hospital into care homes was answered with gobbledygook only then to be denied my right to a supplementary question.

My member question to the leader did not even get a reply.

In addition all the executive and non- executive directors reports were withdrawn to save time yet four motions were never debated when the meeting closed. What a shambles or was it a careful choreographed scheme to control the meeting and deny their opponents any say? It stinks of the latter. 

Why do the Conservatives fail to  understand  that if every time a meeting is held but the business is not concluded then something is wrong? Would extra meetings and a rethink of proceedings be a good idea or is it a calculating and deliberate ploy to kill all opposition off?

With the next meeting on September 17, there is  enough time to right these wrongs.  Why has democracy no place in this ideologically driven Wokingham Conservative run council? 

I hope Wokingham’s residents will remember this next May as without any doubt it’s the residents who pay the price when democracy plays second fiddle to democracy.

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

Flat out of Wokingham

I read with interest last week’s article on the building of flats by the Radian Group on the site previously of Sorbus House, Fishponds Road in Wokingham and in particular the lowering in provision of affordable homes within the development of 38 new apartments.

I totally agree with Liberal Democrat borough councillor Sarah Kerr when she states in your article her disappointment that approval has been given for the developers to provide nine instead of 11 affordable apartments due to lack of viability, when 11 affordable apartments meets Wokingham’s policy requirements. As Cllr Kerr says, the council ‘is not here here to help developers increase their profit margins’.

This issue has come full circle as you kindly published a letter from me in July 2019 on the topic of the lack of provision of affordable homes in the Borough.

I’m not sure when Wokingham Council will wake up to the call from many of its residents that more affordable homes are necessary so that young families, single parents and our public sector employees such as our NHS and care workers can afford to live in the borough.

When I wrote to you last year, my understanding was that 7,200 new homes had been built in the borough since 2011 but only 305 of these had been sold through the Help to Buy scheme. Yet according to Cllr Wayne Smith, the target for affordable homes in new builds in Wokingham is 35%.

How is this Council ever going to achieve this target if it is swayed by the developer’s arguments that they cannot afford to build affordable homes?

The Reading and Wokingham branch of the Women’s Equality Party attended the Wokingham Winter Carnival last year. We asked visitors to our stand what were the most pressing issues for them living in this borough. The top answer from all age groups was affordable housing.

For the young, housing was so expensive in the borough they were struggling to get onto the housing ladder.

For older residents, they wanted their daughters, sons and grandchildren to live near them but the only way they could foresee this happening was by more affordable homes being made available for them to buy.

Lack of affordable homes affects women more adversely. According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, 67% of the statutory homeless are women, and of homeless families, single mothers make up 66% of the figures. The Child Poverty Action Group states that there are 4.2 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2018-19. That’s 30% of children. Childcare and housing are two of the costs that take the biggest toll on these families’ budgets.

A report published July 2019 by The Women’s Budget Group states that ‘rising house prices and the gender pay gap mean that there is no English region where a single woman on median earnings can afford to rent or buy an averagely priced house’. According to their report, an average home to rent or buy is affordable for men on median earnings in every region except London and the south east.

In these areas women need 18 times their annual earnings to afford to buy a house. In the South East the gender pay gap is at its largest, again making house buying unattainable for women buying on their own.

I want to endorse Cllr Kerr’s view that WBC’s ‘commitment is to the people of Wokingham Borough, and as a local planning authority, it has been determined what level of affordable housing is required for developments. Your job is to uphold that requirement’.

Wokingham Council does need to uphold its requirement to provide affordable housing, to put peoples needs before developers’ profits and create
a fairer housing market for everyone.

A housing market affordable for young women, for young men, for single parents, for young families, for NHS workers, for care workers, for our children who want to move to be near us and for our community.

Louise Timlin, Leader of the Reading and Wokingham Branch of the Women’s Equality Party

Walk on by

As reported in Wokingham.Today last week, Wokingham Borough Council is developing a network of ‘green routes’.

The aim evidently is to allow residents to use a ‘traffic free’ way to get between major developments.

Really? Have the Shute End Towers silly billies actually walked any of these proposed routes?

Of course, I can only describe the section to run along Jubilee Avenue via Clifton Road, Brook Close and Millmead to Reading Road.

To begin with, this section is most certainly not, by any stretch of the imagination, traffic free.

In fact, it is a regularly used road used by motorists as a short cut from Holt Lane to Matthewsgreen Road and Embrook village, as well as residents travelling to and from their homes.

On any normal working day there are 70-80 private cars parked along the left-hand side of Jubilee Avenue, often forcing buses and vans to mount the opposite footpath to make way for oncoming traffic.

Clifton Road runs through a residential estate with cars and other vehicles parked on both sides.

Pavements are frequently used by pedestrians including young children.

Brook Close also has a number of vehicles parked along its length. Its pavements are, in places, uneven, and its road surface – to the best of my knowledge – has not been properly resurfaced for at least 40 years.

The section from Brook Close to Reading Road via Millmead is an uneven footpath more often than not littered with food wrappers, drink tins, bottles and mini nitrous oxide cylinders, among other things.
Accompanying the letter from the council was a coloured leaflet, including a map, which would take the eyesight of one of the local red kites to read. It is also informed that these green routes would, in addition to walkers, also allow for their use by cyclists, horseback riders (rose growers will be delighted), roller skaters and skateboard users.

Another cockeyed, ill-thought through plan from out of touch with reality, inept, petty part-time politicians?

 J W Blaney, Wokingham

Fundraising appeal

A few months ago we were forced to launch an emergency fundraising appeal in order to ensure that Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading could continue to provide the expert and compassionate palliative care we are so proud of.

The coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on us. All of our shops closed overnight and our fundraising activities had to stop immediately. This resulted in a deeply concerning drop in income and for the very first time our future was in doubt.

We received the most wonderful response to our emergency appeal from local people who have so far raised more than £124,000 for us. I would like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you to you and your readers from all of us at Sue Ryder. We are so very grateful for the support you have all shown us.

Unfortunately, our struggle is not yet over. Our fundraising events remain cancelled for the rest of this year, we have no clear indication of how long it will take for our shops to return to normal trading levels and we continue to incur the additional cost of purchasing PPE for our doctors and nurses.

As the Prime Minister recently announced, £3billion is being made available in order to support health services in the UK, but this will not include hospices.

This means that, even if we are able to avoid a second wave of this dreadful virus, by winter Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice will be struggling again financially.

Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice is anticipating a funding gap of £1,000,000 for the rest of this financial year alone, which is why we still so desperately need the support of our local community.

Your readers can donate via our website at sueryder.org/donate

We know that times are tough for everybody at the moment, so please be reassured that every bit really does help.

Maria Turnbull,

Hospice Director, Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice

Mental health awareness

We persevere, manfully, with our campaign to educate the public about mental health – through Wokingham.Today. In particular, we endeavour to show, how common, mental health problems are.

Due to the stresses imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the statistic has actually increased.

You only have to read the report in last week’s edition to realise how busy the Wokingham Citizen’s Advice has been – dealing with the increased volume of enquiries, and if anyone doubts that a younger person, can take over a service, successfully, as an older person retires, then you need look, no further than the Citizen’s Advice.

It WAS one in four people who would, at some time, suffer from a mental health problem – hence our former campaign – being entitled – One In Four. Now the number is something nearer to One In Three. Psychiatric rehabilitation, is neither speedy, nor magical.

On the contrary, it is slow, laborious, painful, and is achieved, not all at once, but in stages.

The fourth stage is returning to full-time paid employment, and thus, getting off benefits, and off dependence upon tax-payers.

Not everyone achieves this – though it is always our goal and ambition,  particularly for younger people. I tell our members, regularly, ‘If you work – then you are normal, in the eyes of society.’

It is, indeed, the case, that nothing is worse for mental health, than sitting around, isolated, staring at the wall, and thinking about yourself, and nothing is better for mental health, than being fully, and gainfully, occupied.

Recovery from addiction which, probably, has also increased because of the crisis is, if anything, even more arduous to achieve, than is recovery from mental breakdown. I have only undertaken the provision of such a rehabilitation service, once, for two, inveterate, heroin addicts.

Firstly, you have to get them interested, in having a better life, free from drugs. Then, there is all the medical stuff to organise.

Fortunately, a local, Wokingham, doctor, was willing to help with this.

Then, it is a step-by-step, process, gradually getting the people to take on life’s normal activities, and responsibilities, and, finally, getting
them back into full-time work.

It took me, nearly two years, to enable them to achieve a complete recovery, but it was worth it, because, otherwise, they would have died.

Indeed, most unfortunately, another local heroin addict, of our acquaintance, has, recently, and prematurely, died.

Requiescat In Pace.

Pam Jenkinson, The Wokingham Crisis House

Take the Step Challenge

We’ve all felt  the strain of lockdown these past few months, which means that looking after our physical and mental health is extremely important. 

At the British Heart Foundation (BHF), we see it as our responsibility to help people to keep their hearts healthy, which is why we’re asking the nation to take on our new Step Challenge now lockdown has eased.

A brisk 20-30 minute walk each day can be  a simple way to achieve the recommended 150-minutes of moderate intensity  physical activity each week and can also help improve sleep, reduce stress levels, boost energy and help you get fit. 

My Step Challenge has been designed by BHF cardiac nurses so is suitable for all fitness levels, including those with heart and circulatory conditions.  It is a great way to increase your daily steps whilst raising vitals funds for the BHF’s life saving research.

Like many charities, the coronavirus crisis has devastated our income, costing us around £10 million a month.

We are urging the public to #BackTheBHF and help the millions of people in the UK living with heart and circulatory diseases.

Research suggests that people with these conditions are at higher risk of complications from Covid-19, meaning our work has never been more important.

Visit our website to find out more about how to improve your heart health and sign up to My Step Challenge: www.bhf.org.uk/mystepchallenge

Barbara Kobson, Senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation

What do you think? Send your letters to letters@wokinghampaper.co.uk

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: letters@wokinghampaper.co.uk

We reserve the right to edit letters

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

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