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PUBLISHED: 10:34 25 January 2018
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Another very successful and “sold out” Harpenden Scout Gang Show had its last curtain on Saturday. This was the 69th show and is the longest continually running Gang Show in the world.
I was somewhat disturbed to learn that the Harpenden Public Hall is to close and its activities re-sited within the town by 2020. The Public Hall was opened in 1938 and has hosted almost continuous performances by a variety of productions ever since.
I thought your readers would like to know that since 1945 to the present day, Scouting has been its most prolific and consistent customer. From 1945 - 1960 the County Scout organisation held its annual County Conference over a three day period, with many of the delegates being housed overnight at the Harpenden Children’s Home or with local Scout families.
These events were very well attended and really important to Scout Leaders in Hertfordshire who looked forward to learning new practical skills and listening to inspirational speakers of the day from all walks of life on a variety of subjects.
In 1949 the first Scout Gang Show was produced and has grown in popularity, moving from the Ralph Reader type sketches to sophisticated production numbers with a cast of over 100 talented young people.
In its 69 years there have only been four producers, the current, Ewan Murray having jointed the cast in 1974. It is estimated that 10 per cent of the town of Harpenden are involved in some way with the show. Understandably unions have taken place and families created with the great-grand children of original cast members now on stage.
Through Scouting the show has enhanced the lives of many young people, helping to ensure they become a constructive part of society life and allowing the show to also be a major fund raiser for local Scouting.
I presume the name of Eric Morecambe with be carried over to the new venue or incorporated in whatever will replace the present hall?
FRANK BRITTAIN Archivist and historian Hertfordshire Scouts
I noted the recent story about Bim Afolami’s expenses with great interest, while it is clear that he has broken none of the rather lax rules on MP’s expenses I struggle to see how he can justify to his constituents the fact that he is claiming the costs of a second home in London when he lives just a 45 minute journey from the commons.
At £1,800 a month it represents extremely poor value to the taxpayer, and is notably a luxury that other local MP’s such as Stephen McPartland and Oliver Heald do not feel the need to claim for.
The journey from St Ippolyts (where Bim lives when in the constituency) to Westminster is one I do fairly regularly, and it is not exactly the world’s hardest commute. Why does Bim not just buy a season ticket which would be a huge saving to the taxpayer? Perhaps then he would appreciate why many of his constituents are unhappy about the increasing train fares and the poor service.
As an approved parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats I have already stated that if elected as an MP locally I would not claim for a season ticket or a second home, as in my opinion the MP’s salary is more than adequate to cover the costs of commuting.
I also find that Bim’s use of £2,000 of taxpayers’ money to fund a pro-Brexit lobby group like the ERG, which has the stated aim of ensuring the UK leaves the single market and the customs union, utterly appalling for a MP representing a constituency which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.
Despite his claims to have voted to Remain, Bim is apparently a hard Brexiteer, just like his predecessor Peter Lilley. His colleague Anna Soubry MP says of the ERG that she is “surprised that it’s being funded by taxpayers especially as it is a single issue organisation and would be of little use to a Conservative MP who doesn’t support their views”.
So I would ask Bim to justify charging the taxpayer the costs of a second home in London when he lives just 45 minutes from the Commons, and how can he justify spending money on a pro-Brexit lobby group when representing a pro-Remain constituency?
SAM S COLLINS St Ippolyts
Very glad you published your thoughts on Mr Afolami’s expenses and reportedly bland response to explain the reasons for them in more detail – especially with his Q&A session approaching which you also publicised in the same edition.
Let’s hope those attending will not just stick to the proposed questions as you said have already been chosen by the audience as now your readers have had a chance to see what he’s been claiming and can decide whether they think the general tax-paying public think that’s acceptable.
Hitchin is prime commuter belt and, as you rightly pointed out with the Parliament hours, there doesn’t seem to be a need for him to rent a flat in London in order to attend when the rest of us travel long hours and pay the price for doing so without claiming this back off other hard-working taxpayers.
I therefore encourage suitably awkward questions for Mr Afolami from those attending the Q&A on February 2.
Deva Close, St Albans
Re: your Herts Ad Comment piece about MPs representing local communities who chose to rent in Westminster instead of commuting. Yes, so much yes!
Why should they not share the misery of the infrastructure inflicted upon us by successive governments?
How can they represent us if they don’t experience the things we do? And like Anne Main, voting against the overwhelming views of her constituency as expressed almost two years ago - are MPs elected to follow their own narrow agendas, having never experienced our lifestyles - or never having commuted as so many of their constituents do - or to abide by the majority view in their constituency? Or maybe they feel they know better than us...? DAVID FRYER By email
Roger Protz’s article in the latest issue rightly refers to the 150th anniversary of the opening of St Pancras station and its connections with the movement by rail from the 1860s until relatively recently of beer from Burton on Trent to the capital.
2018 also marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Midland Railway through St Albans. Indeed the opening of what we now know as the City Station pre-dates St Pancras by some months as goods traffic started in March 1868 and passengers were conveyed from July 1868 initially as far as Moorgate. (St Pancras opened on October 1 1868.)
The Trust that looks after St Albans South Signal Box is planning to mark the anniversary during the Heritage Open Weekend in September. The Trust is keen to hear from anyone who has any family history or information relating to the early days of the railway in St Albans.
Similarly the Trust is hoping to commemorate the role of railway servants from St Albans in the First World War to mark the 100th anniversary of the ending of the War in November. Any information available would be gratefully received.
The Trust can be contacted through its website: www.sigbox.co.uk where details of regular open days can also be found.
RICHARD KIRK Trustee
Marshalswick Lane, St Albans
It is good to know that the future of West Herts Hospital Trust’s three hospitals (Hemel, Watford General and St Albans City Hospital, SACH) is being drawn to the attention of the public in the pages of the Herts Advertiser.
To try to provide the public with information about SACH in particular, the St Albans and Harpenden Patient Group (SAPG) has invited Ms Helen Brown, the Trust’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, to speak on “The Future of St. Albans City Hospital”.
She should begin to speak at 7.30pm on Wednesday January 31 in Committee Room 1 of the District Council Offices, Civic Centre, St Peter’s Street, St Albans and will allow time for questions and discussion.
SAPG invites your readers to the meeting to learn more about the Trust’s plans for SACH.
Chair St Albans and Harpenden Patient Group
In front of me is the booklet entitled: St Albans City & District Local Plan 2020-2036. Have Your Say!
Before attempting to answer any of the questions posed I would like the answer to just one question which keeps returning to my mind - namely: is there a sufficient water supply in the district to service thousands of new homes?
We live in the driest part of the country and already our water supply is put under pressure whenever we experience an increasingly frequent abnormally dry spell.
Has any thought at all been given to this potentially critical issue?
M LITTLE By email
I agree with Mr Whieldon’s article on air pollution in this week’s Herts Ad (page 6).
However the comments about fining drivers with idling engines at traffic lights, needs some refining. I have a very modern car. Just 1 litre petrol, with all the emission reducing technology, including automatically stopping the engine when stationary. It also monitors the state of the battery, and if the charge is getting too low it will restart the engine, even though I have done nothing to indicate I intend to move off.
Likewise, if the charge is low when I pull up at red lights, it will keep the engine running, just to re-charge the battery. Therefore monitoring cars at traffic lights could easily give a false impression.
My bete noire is cars, and often vans, that are parked at the curb with their engines running. Presumably to keep the heater or air conditioning going.
I don’t have a simple answer for either of these problems; except possibly charging to use the areas currently most polluted.
Burnham Road, St Albans