YOUR VIEWS: Readers’ letters as seen in The Wokingham Paper of July 25, 2019

Email your views to letters@wokinghampaper.co.uk

Making housing affordable to all

Why isn’t Wokingham building more affordable homes? The politicians all agree they are needed!

I attended a council meeting last Thursday evening and I was pleased to hear that Cllr Wayne Smith put forward a motion for ‘a carefully managed approach’ to house building in which he recognised the need to focus on more affordable homes to be built in the borough.

A view, which in a recent article in The Wokingham Paper about the housing survey, is shared by Cllr Lindsay Ferris of the Liberal Democrats. The target for affordable homes in Wokingham is 35% of the new builds according to Cllr Smith.

However, my understanding is that since 2011, 7,200 new homes have been built but only 305 of these properties have been sold through the Help to Buy scheme.

I am very concerned about these statistics and the lack of affordable homes that the council is allowing developers to build, especially as this impacts mainly on women who can become locked out of the housing market.

In a recent national study by the Women’s Budget Group and Women’s Housing Forum it was found that because women are often excluded from the housing market, not surprisingly, the majority of homeless people are women.

The report found that as women’s incomes tend to be lower relative to men’s, they are less able to afford housing, and this problem is particularly acute in our area. To buy one of the many large houses built by developers in Wokingham you would need a minimum income of over £50,000, which is out of reach of most people, and particularly women. Women are also likely to find themselves unable to afford a home of their own if their relationship breaks down.

The fact that many women have caring responsibilities also results in them having specific needs when finding a suitable home for themselves and their children. The Office for National Statistics recently analysed data by the National Housing Federation revealing that there are 847,000 children from working families nationally living in poverty for the sole reason that their homes are too expensive.

Affordable homes are what the two main political parties want for the borough’s residents, so why are the figures not adding up to the 35% of new builds, as set out by Cllr Smith? Affordable housing does not just benefit women but is a win-win for everyone including NHS workers, school employees and other public sector workers who are required and therefore need to live in areas where a substantial proportion of the population are high earners.

It is very positive that our two main political parties in Wokingham agree on this very important issue. Can they now please ensure that the Authority achieves the affordable housing target in this borough to create a fairer housing market for all.

Louise Timlin, Women’s Equality Party

Reading and Wokingham Branch

Evendons

We’re standing up to ALL forms of racism

I was very disappointed that the Council did not have the chance to debate my amendment to Cllr Keith Baker’s motion on antisemitism. Keith’s motion touched on a very important topic but lacked any real punch.

My amendment would have strengthened Keith’s motion in several important ways:

  • It introduced the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism
  • It made clear the personal responsibility of individual councillors, not just Council, to oppose antisemitism
  • It extended the scope of our opposition to antisemitism from just ‘politics’ to all areas of our lives – our workplaces, our streets and our communities.
  • It widened the scope to include Islamophobia, homophobia, ableism and other forms of hate
  • It widened the scope of the motion from opposition to antisemitism to creating an inclusive community for all.

The Council has a rule whereby debates can be adjourned until the next meeting (4.2.13.12. d). A proper exercising of this rule by the Tory group would have allowed this important debate to take place at the next meeting and I have no doubt that reasonable members of the Tory group, and Keith, would have accepted the amendment.

Instead the motion was rammed through, presumably with the intention of embarrassing the Labour Group.

Let me tell you this. The Labour Group will always vote against antisemitism. We will always vote against racism. We will always vote against all forms of hate.

Next time, let’s do it properly.

Cllr Andy Croy,

Leader of the Labour Group,

Wokingham Borough Council

Talking on the moon

On Saturday’s anniversary of the first moon landing, I was struck by the extreme contradiction between the level of human intelligence we clearly possessed to achieve this fantastic technological advance and human endeavour 50 years ago – against the stupidity and carelessness with which we have collectively managed to overpopulate the planet by at least three billion too many.

We have also overshot the planet’s biocapacity by our overconsumption of natural resources by no less than 75% (Ref Global Footprint Network), lost 60% of all vertebrate species in the last 44 years (Ref WWF Living Planet Report), decimated biodiversity (Ref recent IPBES report) and “made a rubbish tip of paradise” according to what Greenpeace published about our behaviour around 20 years ago.

Goodness knows what they would say about our waste problems now!

Yet 50 years ago our planet was described as being “like a precious blue jewel on a black velvet cushion” when seen from the moon.

How much more disrespectful and unappreciative of this planet, our only home, can we possibly get over the next 50 years? I shudder to think.

No other creature fouls its nest or den-like we do. We had a second and what must be a final warning about our bad behaviour given to all humanity in November 2017, supported by over 15,000 scientists in 184 countries, (Ref: scientistswarning.org) that is still being ignored, in spite of thousands more adding their names in support since.

I beg all those who read this to heed this warning and reach out to all those in positions of power and influence, and implore them to take corrective action ASAP.

Bill Dowling, Sandhurst

A laughing stock

I am like many people proud to be British. However, the actions (or rather inactions) of this Conservative Government has made this Country a LAUGHING STOCK with many peoples around the World.

Not only have we had paralysis with BREXIT, but we also have, I feel, reached a new low when IRAN had to audacity to hijack a British owned Oil Tanker on its way to Saudi Arabia.

The Iranians had given a clear warning that they intended to get their own back, so why were there not more British Royal Navy ships in the region? The Government was, I feel, asleep on the job, as it should have been possible to get at least one other ship in the region, or organised a convey system for our ships.

They appear to have done neither.

This dysfunctional and inept Government has now made us look the biggest LAUGHING STOCK in the World. The only thing is it is not funny. It just shows how far we have fallen these past few years under this lot.

We now only have 19 functional ships in the British Navy. This is an utter disgrace and deserves an immediate explanation and some (useless) heads to roll.

This ineptness of the Conservatives also extends to local issues such as a lack of School funding, spiralling costs to residents for adult social care, increased debt, lengthening queues for help at local Food Banks, plus higher and higher Council Tax bills to pay for reduced services.

Cllr Lindsay Ferris

Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Wokingham Borough Council.

I don’t believe the hype

I fully agree with the comments made by John Blaney over Peach Place (The Wokingham Paper, July 18).

Whenever I read the councils report of the regeneration I am put in mind of the man who wanted to sell his derelict cottage, but when he read the estate agents description of it decided it was too good to sell.

Joe Pester, via email

It’s not quite fantastic

I agree with JW Blaney, the new Peach Place is not what I would have expected for an old market town like Wokingham, it is soulless and when I go there myself, it does not seem to be thriving with life either…

We were promised so many things, as JW Blaney noted: buzzing, exciting, fantastic, it is none of that.

As for Elms Field, again it is a disgrace, destroying those old centenarian Oaks to put in rabbits hutches, surely the architects could have done better, the view is boxes, only utilitarian construction, Aldi is there, so what?

We have enough supermarkets and more accessible than that and as for producing jobs at a minimum wage!

It is not so good.

M.J Christie, via email

Nail on the head

Last week’s letter ‘Have a prize Tony’ from new independent councillor Jim Frewin hits the nail on the head when he recognises as many of us do that the infrastructure in Wokingham is creaking at the seams.

Residents are bulldozed into submission by the powers to be at all levels when all residents want is someone to stand up and fight their corner which has been sadly lacking in Wokingham Borough Council in years gone by.

Developer funding will not fix the broken system but only make it worse a point I have argued for many years now.

It is good to see an attempt at long last that the ruling Conservatives willingness to stand up and be counted in this struggle to save our Borough and its environment along with its recognition that there is a climate emergency that needs to be addressed.

Both are very positive actions.

I am happy to support this initiative and I wish them well in their endeavours.

Cllr Gary Cowan, Independent Borough Councillor for Arborfield.

When do two wrongs make a right?

My Mum always told me that two wrongs do not make a right, but it seems to be normal now with planning applications.

Put in a planning application for a granny annexe, breach it, and build a three-bedroomed extension.

Let out this extension, without permission, never mind, put in retrospective planning permission, and get it passed. Doesn’t matter about neighbours who have had no opportunity to complain and have to look at an eyesore, the landlord is laughing all the way to the bank.

Is this the way things are going in planning? Do residents have to put up with this? It seems very unfair on those who stick to the rules and do things properly.

From a resident of Hilltop Road

Committee comments

I attended the Wokingham Borough Council Planning Committee Meeting recently, regarding an extension to a property in our road. It was evident that you cannot make any new comments once it has got to this level and apart from one abstention, was passed without change.

This was in spite of our local councillor’s supporting remarks.

It was my first time at one of these meetings, so I was amazed to see that another – retrospective – the request was rubber-stamped with little regard to the past behaviour of the applicant.

Making a radical change to the property without permission and not paying the appropriate council tax. No opportunity for the existing residents of the road to pass comment – until after it had been built.

I understand we are short of housing in this area but surely this is not acceptable. Someone can go ahead and build first without consultation? Is a fine imposed or some punitive action taken by the authorities?

If not, why can’t we all build what we like, when we like – and only apply for planning permission when the neighbours notice what has happened and have to remind the Council of their obligations?

Name and address supplied

A break from Politics!

Among the world’s greatest gifts to mankind is Music. “That all-pervading art, which soothes our griefs, inspires our joys, soft love creates, stone rage destroys and moulds at will each stubborn heart.” Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is a manifestation of that saying.

I do have a challenge for readers concerning the 9th. Symphony. Very simply, I find it difficult to accept the 4th Movement was actually part of the Symphony during its composition – more likely along with Beethoven’s beautiful Choral Fantasia, as very special compositions that can stand alone or bring to completion a masterwork as used in the 9th.

Any views?

I stand corrected by a reader re the Ode to Joy in that 4th Movement, which I suggested is a national anthem in last week’s letters – great to see readers take an interest in the content of Letters.

May I give a ‘politicians’ answer, viz the EU intent to establish a single European State, shows how far they have progressed having already chosen the National Anthem? [As I am not a politician, I am just making an excuse for being wrong!]

Reg Clifton, Wokingham

Selfless service

Theresa May’s statement – that being Prime Minister is about service to one’s country, and not about power for oneself – is correct.

Interestingly, those people who enter politics with this belief, are those whose legacy takes them into the history books.

Sir Winston Churchill wanted to lead the nation in fighting off fascism, and in thus preserving our free democracy.

He didn’t want power for himself, and, as a result of his leadership, we have our free democracy, today. At the opposite end of the political spectrum, Aneurin Bevan wanted social improvements, particularly in health care. There was, locally, in his native Wales, a health insurance scheme, whereby people paid into the scheme a small, regular, contribution, and then received health care, as needed, free, at the point of delivery.

Aneurin Bevan wanted to nationalise this scheme – so that the whole nation could benefit from receiving health care, free, at the point of delivery. He knew that to achieve this he had to be

where the power is, in Government.

But he didn’t want the power for himself.

As Minister of Health, he founded the National Health Service, and, due to his dedication, we continue to receive health care – free at the point of delivery – to this day.

Aneurin Bevan thought that there was a social divide between himself and Sir Winston Churchill, but Churchill disagreed.

‘We are brothers,’ he said. They were, indeed, brothers – in their dedication to serving their country, and millions of people continue to benefit from their service – to this day. Since their

time, many politicians have come and gone – some sinking without a trace – but these two great men – from a different political perspective – have earned a sure place in the history books. Interestingly, neither dedication to service, nor, conversely, are confined to any one political party – nor to any one section of society. Just look at some of those in the history books! We

can’t expect all politicians to leave an awesome legacy – like defeating fascism, but we can expect them to achieve something of benefit to the common man. Lord Shaftesbury, [Conservative], achieved – asylums for the mentally ill, homes for destitute children, and improvements in working conditions in factories and mines. Keir Hardie, [Labour], achieved –

improvements in workers’ rights and labour conditions.

Lloyd George [Liberal] achieved – National Insurance and Old Age Pensions.

Butler [Conservative, achieved – secondary education for all.

Wilson [Labour] achieved – in establishing the Open University – higher education for all. Thatcher [Conservative] achieved – the reclaiming of the Falkland Island from Argentina – and

thus the protection of the British people living there.

Blair [Labour] achieved – relative peace in Northern Ireland.

By contrast, those who were self-serving defrauded us with false expenses claims and had no vision for the country, have sunk without trace. It will be something of an achievement – to be

recorded in the history books – if our new Prime Minister can, firstly, get Brexit settled, and then follow in Aneurin Bevan’s footsteps – by nationalising social care – particularly for dementia

sufferers – just as his predecessor did with health care.

He will thus relieve families of crippling care costs – which are requiring them to sell their homes. So this is what we want from our new Prime Minister – service to the nation, and not power for himself.

Pam Jenkinson, The Wokingham Crisis House.

Matt Rodda

This MP wants to use Reading Prison for arts or some other useless thing while the people in Reading need social housing and crying out for it with children.

Mr Rodda is the same as every other MP – he does not care about the community, just himself. He has caught Corbyn’s disease.

How dare he let the homeless down.

Victor Rones, Bracknell

Phil Creighton

Editor of The Wokingham Paper, and has worked in local journalism for more than 20 years including the Wokingham Times, Bracknell Standard and Reading Evening Post. He's also written for computer magazines, The Baptist Times and, to his delight and probably not yours, interviewed several Doctor Whos.

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