Letters, August 15, 2013

Political wranglings

SIR – I recently received through my letter box an A4 pamphlet called “in touch” which apparently is a Conservative Party handout. Its headline is “Scuppered By UKIP” and goes on to bemoan the fact that in the St Stephens ward for the recent county council election the Conservatives only lost because 951 electors voted for UKIP! The highlighted message is “vote UKIP, get Lib-Dem”.

The pamphlet goes on to say that if people vote for UKIP in the next General Election Labour will win and there will be no EU referendum.

Whoever wrote the pamphlet apparently believes that everyone who voted UKIP was a former Conservative voter – this is not necessarily true. He/she obviously hasn’t realised that any ex-Conservative voters who have transferred to UKIP have probably done so because they do not believe the current Conservative Party leadership really represents their true interests and beliefs. The local Conservative Party would be better employed putting pressure on Conservative HQ to follow real Conservative policies.

Let us also remember that David Cameron has never said that he will vote for leaving the EU if he doesn’t get meaningful success in his so-called renegotiations with the EU.

Let me add, for clarity, that I am not a member of any political party, in fact my belief is “a plague on all your houses!” Hopefully anyone writing a letter to this newspaper on a political subject will declare their party membership, if any.


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Reynards Way, Bricket Wood

St Stephen parish row escalates

SIR – In Your Views dated August 8, Oonah Jones, who rejoices in the grandiose title of ‘Chairman, St Stephen Parish Councillor’ berates Cllr Baillie’s concerns regarding costs, staff wages and increasing staffing levels.

Local residents will note that this is by no means the first time that St Stephen parish council have hit residents with well above average increases in council tax blaming rising administration costs.

It seems that rises grow exponentially according to the size of the council and its employees and Cllr Baillie is right to point this out.

The times we live in call for pay restraint and everyone should (particularly those lucky enough to work in secure public service jobs) understand this.

Oonah Jones would to well to realise where the money comes from to enable her to freely administer such largesse and that it is not acceptable to keep asking local residents to bail out the council due to their failure to control “administration costs”.


Hornbeams, St Albans

SIR – As the author of the few lines in the recent LibDem Focus newsletter that appears to have so troubled the St Stephens Parish Council Chairman, I feel that I need to respond.

Firstly my apologies for getting the source of the Section 106 money wrong, it does not however alter the basis of my original comment. The parish council have over the years spent thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money installing bus shelters, however there is little or no evidence that they have ever spent any money on maintaining them. Because of this, some are now in a poor condition. Spending a few hundred pounds on repairs now would prolong their life significantly and could save thousands on replacements.

The issue of access for maintenance is somewhat of a red herring. Did the parish seriously originally erect shelters without any provision for the possible access needed for maintenance? If so, why does each shelter display a sign proudly proclaiming ‘Supplied and maintained by St Stephens Parish Council’.

My point also seems to have been missed in respect of staffing and wages. We have no particular argument over whether more staff would be desirable, or whether existing staff deserve more money. The issue is, when it is public money, our money, being spent – can we, the taxpayer, afford it?

Parishes are in a privileged position, unlike most other parts of the public sector, such as nurses, police, etc. They are not subject to national pay restraints.

I think that when they are spending £500,000 plus of our money, they should take into account what is happening in the wider economy. The argument that the increases were recommended by an independent report does not wash. An Independent Commission has recommended an 11 per cent increase in MPs’ pay – and I don’t see that getting much support when most of the public sector is pegged to one per cent, however technically justified it is.

Her final paragraph about political bias is a cheap shot. A parish council, by its very existence is political – it raises money from its parishioners, it is elected to represent them, and decides on how best to spend that money for their collective benefit. That’s a not bad definition of politics.

If Oonah meant party politics, I doubt if any political party, or indeed many residents, would disagree with our objective of ensuring the parish does the best it can in spending parishioners’ money wisely. That was all we were asking.


Chairman, St Stephens Liberal Democrats

Wrong place for Ryder statue

SIR – I was dismayed to see the application for planning published in the August 8 edition of the Herts Advertiser. After many months and years of efforts by the Samuel Ryder Foundation to achieve permission to erect a Sam Ryder statue in front of the Old Town Hall the application confirms that it may, at least for the present, have abandoned its stated aim and is settling for something less than it wanted.

Like many others, residents and international supporters, I believe the erection of a monument in the form of a statue would be of interest to many people, and a recognisable and physical tribute to our heritage.

Samuel Ryder was a great philanthropist, contributing in many ways to the city as an entrepreneur, churchman, sportsman, well loved employer, Mayor, and chief magistrate.

I cannot believe that the sponsors of such a statue should willingly choose to erect it in such an inappropriate place as is proposed in the planning application flanked, as it will be, by a betting shop on one side, a building society on the other and with a payday lender just around the corner!

There is only one place for such a statue and that is in front of the Town Hall – a building Samuel Ryder would have been well familiar with when performing his various civic duties.

Flanking the entrance to the Town Hall, hopefully soon to be a new museum and gallery that will promote and advertise our post-Roman heritage, are two plinths.

The plinths have been unoccupied for many years; I understand they once supported two ornate lamp standards and now serve no useful purpose. What better home could there be but to provide bases for statues or other works?

One for Samuel Ryder and, perhaps, the other allocated to the gallery for the temporary display of the work of artists.

I urge the Samuel Ryder Foundation to withdraw its current planning application and amend it to reflect the view above which would not only provide a welcome to the museum, greatly enhancing its façade, but would be noted and appreciated by every visitor.


Church Crescent, St Albans

SIR – I have to take a different view from you on the revised location for the proposed statue to Samuel Ryder. I am very sorry that the Foundation have bowed to pressure from the vested interests of the market traders, many of whom visit the city only twice a week.

I find their submission that the original site proposed would make it difficult to manoeuver their vans quite laughable and I do not think that the Tasty Bites van adds a great deal to the enhancement of the environment. But if the decision has been taken so be it much as I feel that the new site is in a very secondary position.

On another planning matter I am disturbed to see the way in which the developers of the hotel on the McDonald’s site have encroached on public property in St Peter’s Street and in Adelaide Street. I estimate that the extension of their barrtiades on to these streets is the equivalent to about 15 car parking spaces. I wonder if the council is charging them a rental for these infringements and if not why not?

It is hardly up to council tax payers to subsidise a commercial enterprise such as this. Perhaps the council can enlighten us.


Townsend Drive, St Albans

Phone rescue and parking problems

SIR – I would like to say a big thank you to the two kind-hearted children who came to my rescue in Waitrose this morning.

As I had only gone into the shop to buy a paper, I didn’t pick up a basket.

However, as is often the case, I started to gather other items, became rather laden down and inadvertently dropped my mobile phone which literally exploded into its component parts.

For several seconds I looked in despair as the cost of a new phone flashed in front of my eyes!

Yet within several more seconds two children who could only have been about eight or nine years of age, had gathered up all the bits, some of which had shot halfway up the aisle and put the phone back together; something I wouldn’t have had a clue how to do!

They then disappeared down the aisle before I had the chance to really thank them.

As a society we are often quick to judge the actions of young people today, yet I can only praise these two for very kindly and selflessly coming to my rescue!

Due to a back problem I have rather reluctantly had to make use of St Albans city centre car parks.

I was somewhat aghast at the amount of money made from parking charges in St Albans as mentioned in last week’s Herts Advertiser as more often than not I seem to be involved in some debacle with the various ticketing machines.

The car park situated at the end of Upton Avenue is a case in point. This car park benefits from two ticketing machines and yet for the past week one has been out of order and today the other machines refused to accept my “correct change” (remember they don’t offer change!) .

Left with no option but to leave my car, I went on the hunt for coins that the machine would accept.

However, what was even more frustrating was the conversation I had with the over-zealous traffic warden as I tried to convince, plead and cajole him into accepting that I was not trying to park my car for free.

I realise that parking in city centres can be a problem but the whole process could be made much less painful if the machines were regularly serviced!

Once I had acquired the correct ticket I happened to notice the words written in small print on the edge of the ticket: “Thank you, please call again.” I would rather not, I thought!


Deva Close, St Albans

Three Horseshoes was failure as pub

SIR – So Steve Gledhill is an expert at pub management as he believes The Three Horseshoes on East Common could be turned into a successful business venture whereas five tenants in the last seven years could not. I’m not so sure.

He states it is a valuable social amenity for local residents – they clearly don’t think so otherwise it would have been a successful business already. He sees it as a pub where people stop off from work for a drink. The Harpenden Arms – yes, given its proximity to the station, the Three Horseshoes – no, unless he is encouraging us to drink and drive.

He is correct, the garden is superb, but with the vagaries of the English weather income from that source is far from secure.

Presumably he thinks he could do a better job so let him put his money where his mouth is and invest in the venture or at least with his extensive business network get a consortium together to invest. If not then please support the redevelopment which should take place as soon as possible thus avoiding further deterioration in this historic property.


Granby Avenue, Harpenden

High cost of local business parking

SIR – I was shocked to read that St Albans council have racked up £1.5 million in parking revenue last year, the highest amount in Hertfordshire.

During the same period over 65 local retailers/shops have closed. Is this a coincidence or is it a result of the council’s parking policies?

What I can’t understand is the huge difference in the cost of a business parking permit in Watford and Hemel compared to St Albans.

In Watford and Hemel a business permit costs £300 or £150 per year in some zones. The equivalent permit in St Albans is a flat £500.

Surely a lower cost business permit can be introduced, where for example a business permit could be purchased for exclusive use at Westminster Lodge during the week only, for £150 per year?

With the recent increased amount of parking spaces at Westminster Lodge there is spare capacity that can be used for the benefit of local businesses at rates equivalent to the rest of Hertfordshire.


Holywell Hill, St Albans

Swift action to repair pothole

SIR – Yes, it’s me again, different subject.

Residents often complain about our councils, both district and county, concerning things that they ought to have done and not doing things which they should have done.

However here comes a note of praise. I had noticed a four inch deep pothole in a neighbouring road for several weeks, so I presumed that the resident of the nearest house had not informed Herts county council. Also in my road, pavements had been badly damaged outside two houses, where extensive building work had been done over a long period.

I phoned HCC and was informed by a very pleasant young man (well he sounded young) that pavements and roads were repaired by different departments. Within two days the road pothole had been successfully repaired. I still await the pavement repair. So, if you see a pothole, report it, the council employees cannot be everywhere to detect them. Some while ago I reported a streetlamp being lit during the day. This was corrected the following day. When you think about it, we are all paying for that unnecessary lighting.


Granby Avenue, Harpenden

Rotary heroes deserve praise

SIR – Last week your paper wrote a report on the annual Classics on the Common in Harpenden. If I may, I would like to make a further observation about the day.

This year our charity was privileged to have been chosen as one of the beneficiaries of this event, and therefore we became more involved than we would otherwise have been. Harpenden Rotary Club deserves every plaudit that comes their way.

The months spent in meticulous organisation, the sheer hard graft of the many, many volunteers on the day itself (they started at 8am and finished well after 9pm at night), the professionalism that went into the day and last but not least, the patience that was needed to deal with such huge crowds, all deserve commendation.

The organisers and workers were all volunteers, working for other charities not themselves. If David Cameron wants lessons in the ‘Big Society’ and needs to study altruism, he need look no further than Harpenden Rotary Club.


Luton, South Beds and Harpenden Samaritans,

Cardiff Road, Luton

Genuine Blue Badge users only please

SIR – Walking through town on a busy Saturday market day, you can quite clearly see a number of cars parked around the Alban Arena all displaying disabled badges.

I have nothing against anyone disabled or who has some sort of disability but I believe not all these cars are driven by disabled people.

Brand new cars that are so low to the ground even I would struggle getting in, and a disabled person is gonna get out OK, I don’t think so. Mercedes, sporty Jags and BMWs, these are cars driven by younger people in St Albans.

Now it may be be the case that some people have family members who have disabled badges but aren’t I right in thinking they can only display that badge if they’re in the car too?

Too many times I’ve seen people who clearly aren’t disabled park in disabled spaces in town, probably borrowing a badge of an disabled relative. That’s not on!

Genuine disabled people are being forced further out of town as these people are taking up spaces unnecessarily and surely against the law too!


St Albans

Food waste scheme is flawed

SIR – I am dismayed that we have now had our food waste collection cycle reduced from a weekly schedule to a fortnightly one.

To help residents with their storage of food waste, we have been given a plastic ‘caddy’ and a supply of brown paper bags. Each bag is designed to hold nine litres of left-overs, peelings, etc.

The bags are quite unsuitable for this purpose.

One only has to put in a single wet tea bag and say, a few melon pips and the bottom falls out of the brown bag.

I feel that this latest effort by SADC is a bit of a ‘miss’ and rivals in stupidity the chocolate teapot.


Old Rectory Close, Harpenden

Why we must all help each other

SIR – Thank you to Toby O’Dell for replying to my letter, I hope I made you think.

If your children were about to collapse like my dog was and needed a drink rest assured I would give them FREE water and food to sustain them. I believe it is up to all of us to show kindness.

Look around Toby. The RSPCA is inundated with scary calls about animal abuse, the NSPCC and child abuse services at stretching point, people are in fear of their jobs, families are splitting up and kids never seeing their dads again.

What is going wrong? What is the government doing to stop it?

It is up to us. It is up to each of us to show they care. Feeding animals is the beginning.

69 years ago a woman slept and the rain poured down. At about 1am there was a repeated banging at the door. The woman came down the stairs and opened the door to find three people there: a woman, a man, a little child.

They pleaded their way into the home, to have somewhere to stay. This woman kept them free of charge and did all she could to save their lives for three months.

One night a car drew up and a man entered the house searching for the family. He found them and shot all three and left the house.

The story simplifies how people can try to help one another. The scene was Poznan Poland. The killer a member of the Gestapo. The murdered were Jews. The story teller the granddaughter.


Roundwood Lane, Harpenden