Letters, April 26, 2012, part one

PUBLISHED: 11:36 26 April 2012

Political wranglings

SIR – Kerry Pollard (“United we stand? Divided we fall..”) offers a partial account of the changes to tax credits and the budget. The changes are based on the principle that it is fair to ask couples to work 24 hours a week to receive tax credits, given that a single person must work 16 hours. Do Labour agree?

With the child element of the Child Tax Credit rising with inflation, 80 per cent of households with children will see their tax credits awards increase, at least in line with earnings this year.

The budget fell most heavily on the wealthy. Cutting the top rate of income tax was not a priority for Lib Dems such as myself. However, it raised relatively little money and a Tory government would have cut it earlier and to 40p. The new changes mean the richest will face tax rises five times as large; top earners paying a minimum 25 per cent of their income in tax through changes to tax relief; a 15 per cent mansion-purchase tax on companies buying property over £2m and those earning over £60k no longer receiving child benefit.

Raising the personal income tax allowance to £10,000 freed two million low paid workers from income tax and 21 million working people received an extra £220 tax cut and £550 in total since May 2010.

Finally, it is worth clarifying that pensioners are currently entitled to a larger personal allowance than those of working age. From 2013/14 the allowance will be frozen until the personal allowance catches up to ensure there is a single generous personal allowance for all. No pensioner will be a cash loser, it will not affect the poorest half of pensioners and the Blind Person’s Allowance remains. Next month the full state pension rises by £5 a week – the highest ever increase – and will be £500 a year more than under Labour. Remember Gordon Brown’s 75p a week increase?

The Lib Dems in government are doing more to make the rich pay their fair share and protect the poor than New Labour managed in 13 years.

SAM ROWLANDS

Beaumont Avenue, St Albans

20mph row refuses to die down

SIR – In his letter in the Herts Advertiser of April 12, Michael de Ruyter refers to “the current problems we face” but does not explain what those problems are or how he believes a 20mph scheme in the Verulam ward will address them. Perhaps he would enlighten us?

He seems to resent “outsiders” commenting on the proposals. As a St Albans resident since 1982, and one who drives and walks through the area concerned, I assert my right to contribute to the debate, especially as my sole aim is to avoid reducing road safety. His reference to “pedestrians trumping common sense” alludes to the fact that every 20mph scheme introduced in the UK has resulted in increased casualties among cyclists and pedestrians, as they take less care because they “feel safer”.

Why would anyone support such a scheme that damages road safety? There must be better ways of spending £50,000 in St Albans than this ill-conceived scheme.

The futility of Mr de Ruyter’s support for the scheme is underlined, though, when he says that “rules need to be enforced”. Cllr Julian Daly has declared that the scheme will be self-enforcing - the police will not asked to enforce the lower limits.

Finally, during the discussion of this issue at the Council’s Highways Joint Member Panel meeting on Thursday, April 12, it became clear that the project is proceeding without any success (or failure) criteria defined. There can only be one reason for that – they know that any measure of injuries will expose it as a tragic failure, just as was the case when St Peter’s Street was made 20mph. Our council is clearly unable to learn from its grave mistakes.

ERIC BRIDGSTOCK

Independent Road Safety Research

Evans Grove, St Albans

King Harry Park housing scandal

SIR – Madeleine Burton’s illuminating article of April 5 (‘What is happening with age-restricted housing on the King Harry Park site?’) informs us that last month council officers approved an application allowing the reduction in the proportion of age-restricted homes on the development and were considering reducing a further 65 age-restricted homes to 21.

This is surely a scandalous and shocking turn of events which should be nipped in the bud. Perhaps it’s a sign of my own aging or that business practices are changing but I’m increasingly incensed at the cynical, calculated, premeditated manoeuvrings by which agreements are entered into with an expectation of their being broken by the gaining party.

If it is not possible to attract a high level of interest among over-55s then they the developers will have to work harder to make sure they do – this is the risk we understood them to have signed up to. Indeed, I suppose that, through our locally elected representatives, we all signed up to.

These properties are barely on the market so why is this discussion even happening if it was not always the unpublicised intention to change the terms when it’s too late for us to object? If given half the the chance to market to a more lucrative sector it is not hard to see that the developer’s efforts towards the aged will not exactly be whole-hearted.

It is a fact that the properties will command a higher price and/or be occupied faster if they are opened up to a wider market so you can see why the developers want it. It is also completely obvious that the intended older households are likely to have less cars than, say, younger commuting working couples who will likely make a lot more car journeys and during peak time. The developers will have to pay £21,000 towards sustainable transport initiatives – what a joke.

An agreement is an agreement, the risks and benefits evaluated at the outset. The agreement should be enforced. Local councillors need to summon up the business acumen to see these things coming and the resolve in this instance to head it off.

NIGEL JOHNSON

Fryth Mead, St Albans

Beirut isn’t as bad as you think!

SIR – My surprise at reading Mr Cashin’s absurd statement that “a third of our town” looked “borderline Beirut” has now been surpassed by his latest statement that “Beirut still manages to appear in the 2012 Top Ten most dangerous cities in the world.”

According to his website source these are:

1. Ciudad Juarez, 2. Mogadishu, 3. Lagos, 4. Bogota, 5. Moscow, 6. St Louis, 7. Cape Town, 8. Grozny, 9. New Orleans, 10. Beirut.

However, Mr Cashin failed to notice the website’s footnote: “Note: these are not top 10 most dangerous cities in the world so you can also contribute your states as well. We tried our well for getting most realistic facts and made the listed above cities.”

The source of this information appears to be the American news channel CNN’s feature April 2010 “The World’s Most Dangerous Cities?”– “cited from data collected by Mercer’s latest global report on personal safety (2008!!) and Foreign Policy’s magazine’s most recent report on murder rates as well as reports by Forbes and security watchdog Citizen’s Council for Public Security we have compiled a list of those considered among the most dangerous. These surveys base their findings on factors such as internal stability and effectiveness of law enforcement, as well as official crime statistics and media reports. Do these cities deserve their reputation? Comment below.”

A Lebanese blogger replied: “I would like to hear CNN’s own Cal Perry about safety in Beirut. During last summer, he reported on Beirut’s night-life, calling it the best in the world, and on the new tourism boom in Lebanon. Did he ever feel threatened? I agree that Beirut had its unsafe period, between 2005 and 2007. Things have improved tremendously since, and it is now perfectly safe (there is a difference between safety and political stability). It is very irritating that although the country is changing for better, Western media still depict it as a war-torn place.”

Research Consulting Firm Mercer’s latest Quality of Living Report (2011) includes ranking cities according to personal safety and the bottom 10 were:

1. Baghdad, 2. N’Djama, 3. Abidjan, 4. Bangui, 5. Kinshasha, 6. Karachi, 7. Tbilisi, 8. Sana’a, 9. Nairobi, 10. Conakry”

Whilst many very positive travel articles have been written in recent years by journalists who have visited Beirut, Mr Cashin believes he would be safer in Pyongyang. According to the Foreign and Commonwealth office very few British nationals visit North Korea where apparently health facilities and standards of clinical hygiene in hospitals are deemed poor!

Bon voyage!

ROSEMARY LOVE

West Riding, Bricket Wood

No need for smears in response

SIR - Having spent the past few years attempting to detoxify the Conservative brand, David Cameron would have had his head in his hands had he read the Chichester-Miles letter in last week’s paper.

The author obviously feels it is accepteble to impugn the motives of a concerned citizen (me) and that cheap smears are a suitable weapon to use to address a serious issue. I do not think that such actions befit the status of a portfolio holder in the conservative administration.

While he remains in office, we can rest assured that ‘the Nasty Party’ is alive and well and living in Harpenden.

JON HUMPHREY

Ryder Seed Mews, St Albans

Still fighting the good fight

SIR – Why is it that we constantly have to fight to protect all that is good about St Albans?

The lovely ambiance and beautiful environment that is St Albans has never been under greater threat.

International and national pressures – through the proposed massive expansion of London Luton Airport and the persistent shadow of Hels (Helisloughs) Monstrosity (euphemistically called “the rail freight terminal”) conspire with the ever-present threat of decimation of our precious Green Belt. The story line does not change. It is commercial avarice at the expense of environmental damage/destruction.

My sincerest thanks to the Herts Advertiser which has shown itself to be an independent, campaigning local newspaper of quality that is prepared to champion opposition to these proposed debacles, particularly through your “Save Our Skies” and “Put The Brakes On Freight” campaigns.

Thank you, too, for being in tune with local opinion and for highlighting contentious local issues where decisions are finely balanced, ranging from the proper care of our much-loved lake in Verulamium Park through to the proportion of housing for older residents on the new King Harry Park development. Your letters page is compulsory – if not compulsive – reading for many! And your editorials are always food for thought: mostly perceptive, sometime prescient and occasionally provocative!

Please keep up the good fight...

DR ROBERT WAREING

Claudian Place, St Albans

The roundabout’s rubbish as well!

SIR – Within three weeks of opening, the new roundabout in King Harry Lane needs repair to curb edges that have been dislodged.

Tyre scuffs are evident on curbing, a vehicle has driven straight across the central grass, long wheelbase and articulated lorries find the roundabout very difficult to navigate, adverse cambers exist on an ever tightening bend. All the above is evidence of a very poor build quality, layout and inadequate signage, particularly on the north bound side.

Therefore is this new roundabout fit for purpose? On the above information I think not.

PETER COURT

How Wood, Park Street

Too many taxis at Harpenden station

SIR – I am writing to you in the hope that some readers,perhaps local or county or district councillors, can explain to me and other Harpenden residents precisely how we have got into the farcical situation that exists at Harpenden railway station with regard to passenger pick-up and put-down?

In Station Approach, the road that leads to the main entrance to the station, 11 pickup/putdown spaces are allocated to taxis and three only to residents of the town and the general public! In addition to the 11 spaces allocated to taxis, spaces which are usually fully occupied, there are often three or four other taxis parked on unpoliced double yellow lines. Frequently therefore, we have a total of 14 or 15 taxis outside the station – a farcical oversupply while residents and the general public struggle with pick-up and put-down.

I would like to know:

1. Why are taxis allocated 11 spaces and Harpenden residents and the general public three only? This is so obviously grossly unfair and an affront to the people who live in the town. Who would have authorised this?

2. Why are taxis in Station Approach allowed to continually park on double yellow lines with no penalty or apparent fear of penalty? Why is this road not policed? The line of taxis outside Harpenden railway station would be fitting outside London’s Waterloo station and is wholly inappropriate in a Hertfordshire town.

VICTOR LOWRY

Amenbury Lane, Harpenden

Grateful thanks after husband’s fall

SIR – May I, through the pages of your newpaper, express my grateful thanks to all the very kind and helpful people who came to our aid when my husband, Greg, took a heavy fall in St Peter’s Street on a recent Saturday and broke his leg.

From the lady who called the ambulance and the people who stayed with a very shaken me, again thank you so much. Also thanks to the ambulance men and A&E at Watford General where his treatment could not have been better. Thank you all so much.

HAZEL GREGORY

Pemberton Close, St Albans

Exploring the East End of St Albans

SIR – Readers may be interested to know that a really successful launch evening was held recently in St Albans, to celebrate the publication of the first of a two-volume book describing the history and development of the east side of St Albans, from the Midland railway outwards towards Hatfield. It is called St Albans’ Own East End, volume 1: Outsiders.

While spanning over one hundred years of more recent history, much of the research made use of the archive of Herts Advertiser issues, which provided some continuity in telling the story of the eastern districts.

In recognition of the resource provided by the Herts Advertiser a copy of the book was presented to its editor, and to the archivist of Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies.

It is believed that this book is unique in St Albans’ publishing in that is has been necessary to tell the complete story in two volumes, the first of which is a considerable A4 portrait, 368 pages in size.

Such has been the enthusiasm for this new title, that readers are already submitting pictures and recollections related to themes appearing in the book. Many of these will find their way into the second volume, which will be published next year.

Copies of the book and further details are available via www.stalbansowneastend.co.uk, by email at saoee@me.com, or by phone on 01992 468259.

MIKE NEIGHBOUR

Author, SAOEE

Stanstead Road, Hoddesdon

Here for longer than you thought!

SIR – I would just like to put the record straight. I had my letter printed in the Thursday, April 5, edition.

The editor must have misread the number of years I have lived in St Albans as it was printed 10 years, which is incorrect. I have actually lived here for 40 years. I worked in the retail business for some of those years, so I think I have the experience to comment on people who criticise St Albans all the time.

JOYCE MCRAE

Woodland Drive, St Albans

Cost of a councillor should go to charity

SIR – Cllr Wartenberg’s letter of April 19 entitled ‘Unpaid and proud’ assures us that he does not undertake his role as councilor for the money he receives. In fact he only takes the money to provide “cover” for those councillors who do need the money to live on.

On the St Albans council website, it states that Cllr Wartenberg has attended 13 meetings in the last 12 months, and claimed £5.5k in allowances. So at that rate, he gets £423 per meeting (two hours). This is money he neither needs nor wants apparently!

He is free to inform the council he does not wish to claim the money, or indeed donate the £20,000 he has claimed over his four-year term to one of the local worthy charities. But me thinks he’s, er spent it, and a fair chunk on that party literature everyone finds on their doorstep each April.

MATTHEW PECK

Hadleigh Court, Harpenden

A&E closure is risking lives

SIR – It was with great shock that I read that the Accident and Emergency (A&E) service at the QEII hospital has been virtually closed down. The increased time that it will take residents of St Albans and Welwyn Garden City to reach an A&E hospital will cost lives.

Why has this ludicrous decision been made? Is it lack of money or lack of competence? If it is lack of money, why don’t the politicians be more inventive and come up with, for example, a footballer tax? Or slash the huge amount of wasted expenditure that exists within the local authority, or slash the money paid to the large number of “fat cats” who receive far more in salary than the benefit they provide to society? If it is incompetence, then replace those concerned with quality people who are blessed with some common sense.

In this country we pay top rate taxes yet we receive third rate services. We deserve much better. Given their size, both Welwyn Garden City and St Albans should have full accident and emergency services.

If you, too, are concerned about lives being lost due to long journey times to an A&E hospital, tell the local politicians when they come knocking soon to ask for your vote in the May local elections. And only vote for the party that promises to quickly return full A&E services to St Albans and the QEII, and if none of them promise this, don’t vote for any of them. Write to your MP. Write to the local health authority. Above all, don’t do nothing. It could be someone you love who is next to lose their life due to not being able to get to an A&E hospital in time.

DAVID KILPATRICK

Boissy Close, St Albans

Full of gas?

SIR – I cannot help but notice the ever increasing and ever deepening holes in all of the roads in and around St Albans. Is the county council so desperate for extra funds they are secretly drilling for shale gas?

NEIL DRURY

Marshalswick Lane, St Albans

Airport expansion exaggeration?

SIR – In John Davis’ letter of April 5 he mentions the exaggerated jobs claims of the proponents of the Luton Airport expansion. Pot calling the kettle black!

He refers to the Luton planes droning overhead – not true. I could hear them last Friday morning and could see them too – but not over Harpenden.

They were way away over the countryside following the flight path that takes them away from our town. In all the years I have flown in and out of the airport never have I flown over Harpenden.

Also he mentions a “few thousand extra cars a day on nearby roads” – another exaggeration to stir up public opinion I suggest. Please stop the scaremongering now!

STEVE PRYOR

Granby Ave, Harpenden


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