Letters, January 27, 2011, part two

PUBLISHED: 11:07 27 January 2011

Thanks from Rotary

SIR – May I, through your columns, express the grateful thanks of all members of Harpenden Village Rotary Club for the very generous support given to us in 2010 by the people of Harpenden and surrounding villages.

Financially, this has enabled us to donate £22,000 to charities and other good causes.

Local charities and community groups were the main beneficiaries. Funds and disaster equipment sent abroad were handled by local Rotarians who ensured that they reached the people in need.

CEDRIC KENNEDY

President, Harpenden Village Rotary Club

Think twice about voting change

SIR – This coming May, St Albans and Harpenden residents will be asked to decide on changing the voting system. However, the system it is proposed we change too is a “Politicians’ Fix”.

It takes power away from voters and allows the Liberal Democrats to choose the government after each election.

The only vote that really counts under AV is Nick Clegg’s. Our current tried and tested voting system delivers clear outcomes and everyone’s vote is equal.

One person, one vote is the fairest way to elect an MP and the most democratic way to choose a government.

I’m not sure how a 50-year reign of Lib Dem plus one other party, can be perceived as a fairer outcome for the 63.6 per cent of people in St Albans consistency who didn’t vote Liberal at the last general election.

MATTHEW PECK

The Cleave, Harpenden

Teachers’ pensions increase unwelcome

SIR – I am writing to St Albans MP Anne Main as a university lecturer and member of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and one of her constituents to ask her to oppose the planned increase in teachers’ pension contributions.

The Government has announced plans to increase our contributions from 6.4 per cent to either 9.5 or 9.8 per cent.

A contribution rise to 9.8 per cent would cost newly qualified teachers up to £61 a month and teachers at the top of the upper pay scale up to £102 a month.

This will lead to more teachers, especially young teachers, opting out of the pension scheme and jeopardising their future.

This contribution increase is in addition to any worsening that may come about as a result of Lord Hutton’s review of public sector pensions and comes despite the loss of 15 per cent of lifetime retirement income as a result of the change from RPI to CPI for the up rating of pensions. This increase is just a tax levy to pay for the costs of the recession.

The truth is that reforms which made our pensions sustainable for the long-term were made in 2007. Contribution rates went up to 6.4 per cent, a pension age of 65 was introduced for new teachers and a cost sharing agreement was introduced which put a ceiling of 14 per cent on the employer’s contribution.

Even Lord Hutton’s first report agreed that, because of these changes, the cost of public sector pensions would fall over time as a percentage of GDP. This analysis has been borne out by the National Audit Office’s December 2010 report on public sector pensions. The 2007 reforms should be given a chance to work.

I would be grateful if Mrs Main could raise my concerns in Parliament and with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. I am also asking her to vote against the statutory instrument that changes the indexation of public sector pensions from RPI to CPI when it comes before Parliament.

KEVIN MORRIS

Deputy Director, Professional Development, Middlesex University

Lattimore Road, St Albans

County of wasted opportunities

SIR – Whilst I realise that new homes need to be built, I fail to see why the Green Belt has to be attacked again and again.

It seems “spec” builders are buying up fields from farmers in order to try a little pressure on councils in order to get building plans through the planning committees.

For instance land near Woollam Playing Fields to be built on in exchange for providing sports facilities at St Albans Girls School. STAGS is less than 10 minutes walk from Woollam Playing Fields, couldn’t they use them? The girls do not even need to cross the road.

To build up to the playing fields will not only destroy yet more wildlife habitat and Green Belt, but I can also hear the cries of “too much noise disturbance” from many new residents.

It will be like people who move into villages next to a church whose bells toll the hours.

All hell breaks loose and the councils decide to silence the bells rather than upset one new resident who was undoubtedly well aware they were buying property next to a church!

Woollam Playing Fields are noisy. By their very nature, the games played are supported by very vocal spectators who shout encouragement whatever the time of day.

The supporters and players also have to travel by car, motorbike, bicycle or coach, thereby traffic noise is prevalent. Then there are the lights.

Practice takes place in the evenings and weekends. Various groups hire the premises for entertainment purposes.

There are lights for evening practice and games/matches which are very strong in order for there to be no shadows where scoring mistakes could be made.

If planning permission is given, is the council prepared to pay out a fortune in order to build bunding and noise barriers in order not to upset one or two residents?

Those new residents will know very well that a huge sports venue would be right next door when they buy the house! If they do not, they are either blind or deaf and their solicitors will not have done their searches very well.

Why should residents of St Albans pay even more council tax in order to placate residents who do not like noise when they buy a property next to a noisy venue?

All of these points would be valid objections to the planning application. I can just imagine the uproar if new houses were built up to the edge of Woollam Playing Fields.

In the Herts Advertiser of January 21, 2009, Councillor Donald said he believed that sufficient windfall sites would be found within St Albans for the remaining numbers of houses which the previous Goverment stipulated should be built.

The present administration has reduced those numbers, therefore there should be ample space within the city boundaries for housebuilding without having to destroy any Green Belt for the next 17-27 years!

The Green Belt must be preserved for our well-being. The green fields and woodland are our food lifeline because without the wildlife habitat there will be no birds, bugs, butterflies, mammals, etc., which all help our food chain to grow. Without pollination the crops fail.

No crops – no food. Simples!!

Building houses up to Woollam Playing fields is a no-brainer and will just cause more traffic queues and complaints.

I also note that more homes are being put forward for the Crown Estates near Redbourn.

When Buncefield was originally built it was certain that it was safe and would not blow up. I think the whole country is aware that Buncefield was not 100 per cent safe and certainly did explode on December 11, 2005!

The damage done to homes and businesses is almost incalculable but there is still an application being put forward for houses to be built close by. Where do people get their ideas from?

Where are the roads to cope with all the extra vehicles going to be built and who is going to maintain them? Herts Highways seems to be incapable of mending the roads we have already.

I saw a sign the other day as I drove into Hertfordshire territory. It read “Welcome to Hetrfordshire – the county of opportunity”. Then I looked at the road.

A blind person would know when they had crossed the border from Bedfordshire into Hertfordshire!

This sign made me smile – it is the opportunity to wreck car tyres, shock absorbers springs, paintwork, steering racks, teeth, etc.. If you are really lucky you may escape with the odd sprained wrist or broken arm, as the steering wheel gets wrenched around on the lumps and bumps and potholes. How exciting!!

County of opportunity? High prices, high council tax, terrible roads, the list is endless!

SUSIE BEE

Bedmond Lane, St Albans

Fresh call for London coaches

SIR – Has any more been done about a coach service for St Albans to London?

With the price rise in train fares I am sure a coach service would be welcome and well used. If they ran from 7.15am 8.15am, 8 45am. then one mid-morning say 10.45am, charge £20 return rush hour and £10 mid-morning it is still cheaper than the trains and a better service. I think it would still be well used.

S SIMMONS

Address supplied

Failings of Big Society are clear

SIR – Without even opening your edition of January 20 the following caught my eye.

While we are all keen for St Albans City to climb out of the relegation zone, this is not the sort of “climb” suggested by the caption to your back page photograph. “Clime” of course would be the relevant word to use in referring to a move to sunny Spain.

Then your front page story refers to the “training” NCP staff are given to identify cars that have been parked for a long time in their car parks.

I guess this training is similar to that which I received as a child to tell me when my shoes were dirty. I thought some of the goals of the education that we rate so highly these days are to make us aware of the needs of others and to make us all security conscious.

If NCP have a system it should result in untaxed and potentially abandoned vehicles being reported to the police in a far shorter period than two years simply out of concern for the owner’s welfare, not to say NCP’s own security issues.

Any vehicle in these circumstances could be hazardous, involved in a crime, or a danger to innocent parties.

Your story seems to praise NCP but surely it is farcical for this situation to have been allowed to happen.

We have been told to expect the Big Society where everyone helps everyone else. If this is how things are it will never work.

ANDREW JOHNSTONE

Holyrood Crescent, St Albans


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