Meeting shame

PUBLISHED: 11:01 17 December 2009 | UPDATED: 14:47 06 May 2010

SIR – Any member of the public must have been appalled at the level of debate at the St Albans District Council full council meeting two weeks ago (referred to in the letter Harpenden bias? , Herts Advertiser, December 3) when a motion was put forward re

SIR - Any member of the public must have been appalled at the level of debate at the St Albans District Council full council meeting two weeks ago (referred to in the letter 'Harpenden bias?', Herts Advertiser, December 3) when a motion was put forward requesting that the free one-hour on-street parking period currently existing in Harpenden should be extended to two hours.

This motion did not deserve the torrent of totally irrational and quite frankly nasty abuse that was heaped upon it by a number of councillors simply trying to be clever and thinking nothing more than scoring political points.

By doing so those councillors are shooting themselves in the foot. Simply why did they not stop to think before firing away?

The reason behind the motion was that, at a number of retailer meetings held in Harpenden, retailers had simply but strongly expressed their opinions that the shopping experience for potential customers would be vastly improved if the one-hour period were extended to two, it being contended that shoppers on average needed more than one hour for their needs.

On the run up to Christmas, shopping is tough enough in any case so what can be wrong in people trying to make it a more pleasant experience for everyone and at the same time encouraging shoppers to spend their money locally, and not driving them away to other centres?

Conversely and quite reasonably the opposite argument is put that many people, who by necessity have to drive into town, need a swift turn around in parking places helped by shorter free parking.

The retailer argument, however, is that a typical customer will spend more in total in two hours than two customers will each given one hour to shop in.

Why should that argument be greeted by derision by certain councillors whom I guess have never once served behind a till in a shop - what conceited opinions some people have of themselves!

There are so obviously arguments both for and against but for those who do not like to be disagreed with you are not allowed a fair debate. Our public deserve that debate.

Surely this was a great opportunity for a reasoned and sensible hammering out of the issue in question.

Instead it all descended into an almost juvenile, pathetically childish and downright nasty occasion with councillors thinking hardly for our wider community but rather short-sightedly of themselves.

One councillor in particular made what he or she thought was to them a seemingly funny but in this day and age could be called a hurtful and even bigoted remark aimed at lady pensioners in Harpenden calling them "the blue rinse brigade".

Is such sarcasm really so funny when it is aimed at people who are unlikely to sink to the level of hitting back? There were many similar caustic remarks.

All of this very sadly brings the reputation of our council into bad disrepute.

Many would think it not inappropriate for that councillor to make an apology.

Irrational and totally unwarranted remarks like that tend to make the public as a whole so indifferent to politics and voting.

Councillors should stop and think that they in particular have standards (including those covering courtesy and manners) to uphold and that the way that they behave is an example to the public both good and bad.

Can we not in these very difficult financial times for both shopkeepers and shoppers alike put political differences aside for the benefit of us all?

We need all of our shopping areas in every part of our district to do well if our whole community is to come out of the current recession unscarred.

More cynical people could even have the feeling that because this was a suggestion from Harpenden it should be opposed automatically, furthering a very sadly held impression that in certain parts of our district there is a very anti-Harpenden feeling.

This is not surprising when one otherwise-respected councillor stated quite openly a little while ago that Harpenden should "feel some pain".

Why? Logic and a sense of fair play suggest nothing like that at all. One must query the motives of such shallow thinkers.

Or is it all a little more irrational? Do those "objectionable " councillors have an innate disdain or even a dislike for the opinions of shopkeepers, both city-centre and Harpenden alike.

Perhaps we should all be reminded that once Britain was known as a "nation of shopkeepers".

Recently our economy and well being seems to have been characterised by a few greedy bankers, media stars and several untrustworthy politicians not worth their salt.

Sometimes it might pay to listen to those shopkeepers.

At the meeting I would not have expected the council to come to any immediate decision on this parking motion. Councillors obviously need time and concrete facts and figures to go by, not "wish lists".

However, for example, The Chamber of Commerce would be only too happy to supply these and the results of any surveys, all in an unbiased and non-political way.

Many say that some councillors not only let themselves very badly down on that night but our council as a whole.

The level of debate hit appallingly low depths, with a seeming desire to score political and personal points over-riding simple common sense and a genuine desire to put the interests of our community to the fore instead of their own.

It must be hoped that the pathetic and rather distasteful theatrical performances that took place on that night will not take place in our city chamber again.

Let us hope that it is really only just a belligerent and unthinking few who let us all down and that the majority will still take a pride in how they behave and, even more important, take pride in our city and the district as a whole.

Our city and district deserve a lot better than what took place the other day.

MICHAEL WEAVER

Harpenden Town Councillor

Clarence Road, Harpenden


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