Letters, March 3, 2011

PUBLISHED: 14:57 03 March 2011

Save our WRVS!

SIR – The ladies of the WRVS have worked in St Albans City Hospital for as long as I can remember and their friendly, voluntary service providing affordable drinks and snacks has been outstanding.

I would think they have raised an enormous amount of money for the hospital over the years, far outstripping anything received from a commercial firm. Surely the hospital has every reason to be proud of the services they have always provided and I would like to know the reason for the change. It certainly does not seem consistent with the Prime Minister’s dreams of The Big Society.


Tudor Road, Wheathampstead

Bogus newspaper resurfaces again...

SIR – I recently received a copy of the St Albans Mail, a piece of political propaganda from the Liberal Democrats, dressed up to look like a tabloid newspaper – it is even marked “Free” in red next to the title. Significantly, as far as I can see it bears no publisher’s name or address.

Gimmicky and self-congratulatory, it lives up to the Lib Dems’ customary standard of “news” dissemination, which boils down to everything we do is right, everything everybody else does is wrong. Local election panic seems to have set in early!

What I find almost offensive is a back-page headline next to a picture of their failed parliamentary candidate which says ‘Lib Dems deliver for Britain’s pensioners’.

It states that Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg said: “Britain’s pensioners suffered for too long under Labour”.

The statement appears directly under a paragraph which says: “Winter Fuel Payments, free eye tests and prescriptions, concessionary bus passes and TV licences are to be kept thanks to the actions of the Lib Dems in Government.

What a cheek; whatever one thinks of the last Government, it was Labour who introduced all of those measures which have helped millions of pensioners, including myself.

Just remember, it is those Lib Dems who now have well-paid government jobs, who have further undermined any remaining trust the public may have had in politicians, by breaking pre-election promises and agreeing to raise VAT on fuel and goods and services, with the direct effect on everything that pensioners have to buy.

Politically, one of the major Liberal objectives for years has been to achieve proportional representation.

What happens when they gain a slender majority on the District Council? They grab all of the cabinet seats and exclude everyone else.

Let us not forget that this caring body has not only closed a major homeless hostel but has decided to go ahead with an ego-trip £26 million pound flawed leisure centre project at a time when we can least afford it, and when council and local services are going to face severe cuts which will affect us all.

Hypocrisy may be a strong word but it doesn’t seem too out of place in this context.


Address supplied

Making a fuss over fly-tipping?

SIR – On a recent Saturday afternoon I noticed two young gipsy boys walking past my house pushing an empty hand-cart. Out of curiosity I decided to see where they were going and what they were up to.

They headed for a nearby garage area where they proceeded to load their cart with a large quantity of household and garden rubbish given to them by a householder. A large length of drainpipe which they obviously did not want was then thrown on to the garage block roof. At this stage I decided to phone the police as I assumed the lads would fly-tip their load at the earliest opportunity.

A young police officer soon arrived at the scene to speak to the lads whilst I returned home. Shortly after, the police officer came to speak to me about the incident and reported that ‘no crime had been committed’ and the boys were merely taking some rubbish to the gipsy site at Park Street where it would be burnt.

He had also spoken to the householder who said he had given them £20 to dispose of his rubbish. All legal and above board. Following my protestations that the load was too large and unstable to be safely transported to Park Street, the officer reluctantly went after the boys and told them to return it to the householder and hand back the £20. What a fuss I was making!

We are constantly being urged in the local press to report anything suspicious regarding fly-tipping but I, for one, will not waste my time in future.


The essence of democracy

SIR – My earlier letter about the May referendum on alternative voting (AV) has provoked a response, which is all to the good.

The issue is an important one which goes to the very essence of our democracy.

I am opposed to any voting system that favours a party or group of parties, as first-past-the-post (FPTP) does.

I favour a system which produces governments which more nearly reflect the diversity of views of voters than does FPTP. Proportional representation would be my choice but the referendum, like FPTP, does not allow me to express my preference at the ballot box.

There can be very few voters who support the entire election manifesto of any one party. Under FPTP they are obliged to support the one which most accords with their views, or the one which offends them the least or not vote.

The latter option is becoming increasingly popular and presents a serious danger for democracy. Something needs to be done to bring the disillusioned public back into the political process. AV may help to achieve this.

AV would help to overcome the view of many voters that a vote for a minority party is a wasted vote. Minority parties have the dice loaded against them under FPTP. How can that be democratic? AV goes a small way to eliminating the bias against minorities and would better show the level of support for smaller parties.

Philip Webster deplores the fact that the Lib Dems have a majority on St Albans District Council but received a minority of the votes cast.

Does he realise that every national government since 1951 has been elected on a minority of votes – a direct consequence of FPTP?

Some of them, nevertheless, won an overwhelming majority of seats. A House of Commons composed of the defeated candidates would actually have been more representative of the voters!

Richard Smith suggests that I am against the candidate with the majority of the votes being elected. Not so. What matters is how votes count and how votes are counted.

AV gives voters the opportunity of expressing preferences and puts an end to the system where candidates win with a minority of votes cast. Under AV a winning candidate must get at least 50 per cent of the votes.

Matthew Peck dislikes coalitions and AV. He also dislikes the EU. Germany has coalition governments and the strongest economy in Europe.

For Germany, the EU is far from being a ‘dead weight’. For us, the EU’s enlightened laws have mitigated the anti-democratic policies of UK governments on several issues.

Members of the armed forces can now be openly gay, thanks only to Europe. Prisoners in jail may now get the vote. And why not, if convicted criminals not in jail are allowed to vote?

What is important is not so much who makes our laws but whether our laws protect the rights of those we may not like.

General elections are held to elect the members of the House of Commons. A representative democracy should ensure that the number of MPs of each party represents their support nationally. While AV does not do this, it is the best system on offer. We should go for it.


Gibbons Close, Sandridge

A question of trust for football club

SIR – I am writing to address the concerns of Mr Phil Ross (Letters, February 24) regarding the St Albans City Supporters Trust and the current situation at St Albans City Football Club.

First and foremost, I feel that it is most important to clarify that the slogan ‘Gibson Out’ has, at no point, been used by the Supporters Trust. The phrase was used on a banner by a group of supporters at the recent Chelmsford City home match; however, it was in no way linked to, or endorsed by, the Saints City Trust.

The Football Club has been docked 10 points and also fined £7,500 by the Football Association after being found guilty of financial irregularities. The statement that I, as chairman of the Supporters Trust, have made is that John Gibson must take responsibility for the club’s current plight, which has occurred as a result of his mismanagement, and that he should stand down. This is not just the opinion of the Trust board but also the view of a significant number of St Albans City supporters who have been in contact with me regarding this issue.

Mr Ross asks in his letter if the Trust has spoken to any potential investors for the club. I can confirm that the Trust has engaged in communications with potential investors but that, as a result of the obfuscate nature of the financial situation at the football club, the investors were not willing to become involved at St Albans City.

In response to the questions raised regarding business planning, I would like to make Mr Ross aware of the fact that the Trust has frequently attempted to engage with the club in this way. A few seasons ago, a business plan was devised and presented to the football club board but the plan was not read or acted upon. More recently, the Trust presented a series of marketing ideas but these were also not taken up by the club’s board.

The Saints City Trust policy has been to support the football club as best we can but this has been continually thwarted by the current management, who have consistently failed to co-operate or to provide evidence of a sustainable future for the football club at this level. The recent FA case adds to the doubts and unanswered questions about the competence and suitability of the management to operate a football club. In these circumstances, the Trust believes that the only way for the club to survive at anything like its current level is for a complete change of management.

Ultimately, the board of the Saints City Trust believes that there needs to be substantial changes within the structure of the football club to move forward. The Trust would expect to play a significant part in any renewal process and any future for the football club must include proper business planning, budgeting and regular minuted meetings. The Trust sees no way that these things will happen whilst the current management remain in place.

Ian Rogers

Saints City Trust Chairman

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