Letters, July 4, 2013

Allowances are vital for councillors

SIR – You first berate the Conservative-led district council for putting forward ideas to close the funding gap caused by the national economic situation (Editor’s Comment, June 20), and then applaud them for facing up to the scale of the gap.

You then go on to suggest that councillors cut their own “expenses” rather than inflict the pain on the district’s residents. It’s easy to criticise, but much harder to come up with valid alternatives. As you know, councillor allowances are reviewed and set by an independent committee each year. We have already voted on their recommendations to keep allowances static for a fifth year running and some payments for vice-chairing committees, for example, have been taken away completely.

The point of allowances is to allow ordinary people to serve the district despite the hardship involved in giving up the opportunity of paid employment elsewhere and cost of serving as a councillor (time, fuel, stationery, etc.). But they are not intended to pay for all opportunity cost and expense, only to make “volunteering” a little easier. Anyone who is or was a councillor can tell you that it’s not a job you do for the money!


Park Street Ward

Centaurus Square, Curo Park, Frogmore

Most Read

Moral economics are way forward

SIR – I was happy to read that the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Alan Smith, spoke strongly about the morality of our modern economy at the recent Diocesian Synod, as I believe it is time to take action on these issues and make progress towards building a healthier society.

Jesus says that the people of the world are more prudent in preparing for their future in the world than his disciples are in preparing for their future in heaven. He accordingly tells his disciples to prepare in a similar way – by making friends with their money (by giving alms), friends who will welcome them in heaven.

Our Bishop is in a strong position to lead the change on how we now use money. The Church of England has assets of over £4 billion, and a turnover of approximately £1 billion per year, with £750 million being raised by the congregation, and about £160 million being generated from assets. Nearly 40 per cent of British people associate themselves with the Church of England, so there is a huge opportunity to ask these members of the regular and general congregation to use moral economics, i.e. only use companies that uphold the Ten Commandments in their day-to-day business practices, particularly the ones highlighted above. This could revolutionise British business, and world economics. Imagine a world that ran on human-based economics.

If you say this could never work, and businesses would just look for the most profitable alternative, re-read Matthew 6:24, and decide what sort of world you would like to work towards building. It is a free choice, with consequences.

One piece of action that the Church of England could take to lead by example, is to switch their bank to one with high moral codes of conduct. I understand the Church of England currently use Barclays Bank, who were kept afloat with massive funding from Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and a group of investors from Abu Dhabi and Qatar, rather than a taxpayer bailout, offering these investors a better rate than the government could have got from our money.

They are one of the top financiers to the arms industry, providing loans, investment, and banking services to this sector, hardly a good moral start. Last year 428 bankers were paid over £1 million each. They have been fined £290 million for conspiring in the UK Libor rate fraud, there is also an ongoing investigation into involvement in the same conspiracy in Singapore, that could be even bigger. Barclays have set aside £2 billion just to cover their PPI fraud settlements, only Lloyds did worse.

Every little helps as they say, but monumental decisive action can really start the ball rolling. What future would our Bishop like to build?


Lemsford Road, St Albans

No complaints at railway station

SIR – I must disagree with those who object to what is happening at Harpenden railway station.

The installation of a new footbridge makes it easier to approach the platforms and there are a lot of longer trains.

I do not feel the presence of taxi drivers is a threat as they are trying to earn a living.


Park Rise, London

Broken lifts situation is a joke

SIR – Do the lifts at our station ever work? They were built, presumably at considerable expense, and opened by our Mayor.

Since then every time my daughter visits with two children and a pushchair she is greeted by a sign “Lift out of order”. I understand they are waiting for a part (for a new lift?) which may or may not arrive at some future time. In the meantime the only lasting result is an extra set of steps to climb.


Falconers Field, Harpenden

Solving the Park Street traffic issue

SIR – I agree with Alan Wilkinson and RJ Collier (letters, June 27) that the roads around the Park Street site are inadequate.

I worked at Kings Langley for a while, and, although there are motorways and the North Orbital from Stevenage, I found it easier to cut through the lanes – Codicote, Wheathampstead, Sandridge, turn right into Beech Road, Batchwood Drive, across the Redbourn Road, up Bluehouse Hill, turn left into Bedmond Lane, and eventually to Kings Langley opposite the Ovaltine factory (well, it was the Ovaltine factory when I was train spotting over 60 years ago). I had just one accident in 55 years driving all over the UK and Europe, and that was getting out of Colney Heath onto the longabout on the A414.

The report to the HCC Development Control Committee, 23 June 2009 says “2.4. Freight would be brought in by rail... then processed... before being moved out by road, largely to London markets,” and “2.6. The main highway access would be to the north with a new signalised roundabout on the A414 with a second access to the south via a new bypass to Park Street/Frogmore to the A5183 north of the M25.”

The site abuts the M25. If goods are going south from the site, why bring them out to the north onto an already overloaded road? An access should be provided onto the M25 solely for this site, and so that goods go in the intended direction.


Chequers Bridge Road, Stevenage

Traffic concerns at free school site

SIR – Delighted to see the Harpenden Free School application on Victoria Road passed, despite Herts Highways trying to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. One month they see there is a traffic/parking issue, the next they see none.

They may need to again visit to see real Victoria Road traffic issues at rush hour and evenings. However there are solutions available that they just seem to ignore, saying the blindingly obvious that it would take time to consider a local one-way scheme.

The school and Harpenden should not suffer from their inaction as it takes over 12 months to build a school. This one-way Victoria Road north scheme was actually a Herts Highways idea about 12 years ago. It aimed to relieve the dangerous mini-roundabout traffic at Station Road. It could also provide an extra 10 drop-off parking spaces for commuters, fast food retailers and the school.

Herts Highways seems to still be struggling. Councillors also quoted the National Planning Policy Framework that governs planning decisions encouraging creative “output” solutions that benefit the locality rather than the 20-year-old tired “scrutiny approach” of the Local Plan quoted by officers. I am still awaiting the accident statics they also failed to deliver. HCC appear to need an in-house professional senior highways officer to sort these issues.


District councillor and civil engineer

Oakfield Road, Harpenden

SIR – Why has it taken the council two years to realise that the proposed 400 pupil free school development in Victoria Road is inappropriate both from a road congestion and child safety criteria. Harpenden residents expressed these concerns after the initial proposal was announced.

The possible planning rejection also calls into question why Herts County Council spent hundreds of thousands of pounds relocating Harpenden library to the vacant High Street retail site, especially as the old library was refurbished within the last three years.

One also has to question the free school’s mentality when their proposal states “most children will walk, cycle or use public transport to get to school”. In the Harpenden real world, young pupils are driven to and from school. You only have to witness the clogged roads and parking manoeuvres at school times around infant/junior sites to see what will happen.

Surely the need for a free school has now passed, with all the Harpenden schools either building additional capacity or in advanced planning stages. In addition, what happens when the current free school directors move on to other money-making schemes and the finances dry up? The local tax payers will have to pick up the tab.

If the free school planning application is rejected what is the future for the Victoria Road site? It’s a shame that this once thriving and vibrant local further education centre could not be brought back into a useful community project for Harpenden residents.


Crabtree Lane, Harpenden

No excuse for aggressive cyclists

SIR – The actions of the cyclist who upset Ms Evans in Verulamium Park were inexcusable (Herts Advertiser, June 27).

In the interests of safety and maintaining good relations cyclists should always be careful around pedestrians on shared routes and shouldn’t ride where we’re not permitted.

As a cyclist you can easily understand how upset pedestrians can be by close passes by remembering what it feels like to be passed too close by a motor vehicle on the road. Close passing by motor vehicles or bikes always scares the more vulnerable party, even if the person passing thinks they aren’t passing too close.

Here’s an information booklet which St Albans Cycle campaign have developed to help cyclists and walkers understand how to behave on shared paths: http://stalbanscyclecampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/ride-safely-on-shared-paths.html

The park is there to be shared between all users and the routes provide a very safe alternative to the roads for people on bikes travelling to the city centre, Westminster Lodge and the park itself. It took 10 years of campaigning to get the cycle paths installed, let’s not have the actions of a very small minority wasting this effort.

This incident does draw attention to the fact that cycle routes through the park have not yet been finished. The plans called for a new bridge at the King Harry Lane end and widening of the Westminster Lodge to museum route. The money has reportedly been secured, largely from Section 106 planning, but neither of these crucial improvements have been delivered.

We have an incomplete route running north-south and a narrow route running east-west causing friction between people who ride bikes and people on foot – hardly what was intended.

Let’s have a complete solution, as planned, to deliver the safety and access improvements they were intended to give, helping people with active travel to improve their health, reducing the demand for car parking spaces in Verulamium Park and doing something to reduce car traffic into the city.

We wouldn’t build a street where drivers had to push their cars along an unfinished section, why have we done it for bikes?


Secretary, St Albans Cycling Campaign.

Pondfield Crescent, St Albans

Leave the poor cyclists alone!

SIR – The Herts Advertiser publishes quite a lot of letters and the occasional article about cyclists behaving badly in St Albans.

I would suggest that the threat from cycles is exaggerated and an examination of the statistics should reassure readers that rogue cyclists are few and far between. Dog owners can also be careless, so can some people who text and telephone while driving with or without illegally blacked-out windows.

Bad manners are universal unfortunately. Could you perhaps use a more balanced approach in future or even have a cyclist-bashing free week? I don’t cycle myself but know some lovely people who do.


Windmill Avenue, St Albans

Airport bus row

SIR – On June 27, Bob Gunning wrote about the cutback of local bus 321 from Luton Airport to the town centre. In his last paragraph he asks for Arriva to reinstate the withdrawal – “The public and the airport would be grateful”.

If the airport really would be most grateful, then let their owners, Luton Borough Council, allow Arriva’s local Green Line coach service 757 back to the airport terminal. According to various reports, the airport management stopped the long established 757 service, introduced in November 1980, from continuing to serve the airport after April 2013.

The changes to bus services, including local 321, have probably been caused by Arriva needing to rejig the airport connections as a consequence of the airport management’s attitude.

Hopefully, we can look forward to an explanation from the airport authorities as to their decision to exclude the long established and reliable local coach operation and the consequential inconvenience caused to many airport customers and workers.


Walton Street, St Albans

Blame Osborne for benefit claims

SIR – Cllr Leach is right (‘Benefit claims are soaring’, June 27) that the growing number of benefit claimants in the St Albans district are not scroungers but victims of government policy.

The increase in benefit claims is a sign that public spending cuts and policies like the bedroom tax are seriously damaging our local area as well as the country as a whole.

Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement that there will be a new seven day wait before jobseekers can claim benefits will be a cruel blow to those in need of support in St Albans. At a time when we face the tightest living standards squeeze for nearly a century, this is a callous act by a government of millionaires entirely out of touch with the realities of life for ordinary people.


St Albans, Welwyn & Hatfield Against The Cuts

Boundary Road, St Albans

Colour no concern for buses

SIR – So, Mr Bolt is concerned about pink buses travelling up his road – “is not a suitable colour for our streets”. Puleeease! I’m not sure I need to say anything more – do I? Tell you what Mr Bolt... walk! You have a bus service, so move on and get over the outside colour of a bus!


Beechwood Avenue, St Albans

Election literature row continues

SIR – I read with interest Cllr Beric Read’s letter dated June 20. I too, had defamatory remarks written against me, in the Lib Dems’ county council election literature.

I was accused of “voting for plans which encouraged housing development at BRE, old HSBC Management College and the former Harperbury Hospital”.

I don’t think so!

I had completed canvassing all the division before this information was delivered to residents. I therefore had no opportunity to defend myself against this lie.

When candidates stoop so low to promote themselves, it is evident they lack positive substance to fill their promotional leaflets.


Mount Pleasant Lane,

Bricket Wood

SIR – Cllr Beric Read seems to have forgotten what he voted for in the autumn. He should read the council’s minutes for November 28, 2012. His name is recorded there as having voted against keeping Oaklands field in the Green Belt and voting against a Green Belt Review.

He supported the Oaklands housing development at two other public meetings. At a packed residents meeting in Marshalswick Community Centre in November residents heard Cllr Read defend the Conservative Cabinet’s support for their new Strategic Local Plan (SLP) which included 250-350 houses on the Oaklands field in Sandpit Lane.

On October 18 the Cabinet which included Cllr Read voted for Item 8: “The Cabinet agrees the council’s pre-submission Strategic Local Plan (the SLP) and agrees that the SLP be referred to council on November 28 to seek the decision to proceed with the Pre-Submission publication.”

This had proposals for 250-350 homes on the Oaklands site. This proposal was lost because members of the council voted to hear the NOHAG proposals instead. These were passed and negated the Conservative SLP proposals.

My advice to Cllr Read is that when you are in a hole stop digging and please refrain from using unparliamentary language in your letters. I can tell you that our residents are not impressed and that is why many of them didn’t vote for you in May.

There has been enough correspondence on this matter. I would now like to get on with serving my local residents which I have done since 1982.


Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Sandridge

Pondfield Crescent, St Albans