Letters March 10 2016
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Parish at war over Queen’s birthday
SIR – Following the letter by Lyn Bolton (Herts Advertiser, February 25) I and others feel that the time has come to see if other people shared our growing sense of unease. We did not like the bad taste stirred up by this article but decided to let memory fade with time and this would have happened had Lyn Bolton’s letter not stirred up all the nasty political/personal ill-feelings again, Is she trying to destroy all the good work done by the local parish council over many years? A parish council is not the word or view of one individual. Mrs Churchard may be the chair but there are 14 other councillors whose views and vote have equal validity and it is only on very rare occasions that a casting vote is called upon. We cannot understand why there is such personal vindictiveness towards one individual. We have read the article by Madeleine Burton dated February 4 stating that it had been decided not to hold a local event for the Queen’s 90th birthday. Those making such decisions have been elected by us for this very purpose. This is called democracy. We may not always like what they decide but it will be the outcome of open debate and careful consideration of all the events available to them. Yes, a parish event would have been nice but there will be lots of other events being held around the area and anyone who wants to celebrate will not be short of choice. What must be remembered is that the money for such events does not come out of a bottomless purse. It is paid by us as a part of our local taxes and the sums involved are not small. We do not think that it is the role of the parish council to provide a free ‘jolly’ day every year. There have been two events in the last few years but these have been the celebration of once-in-a-lifetime events whose closeness has been sheer coincidence. Local residents must also remember that it was the parish council who made a mammoth contribution (your money again) to the new sports hall at Sandringham School, helped in the refurbishment of St Mary’s kitchen for the elderly lunch club, constantly supports the cricket club etc., just to mention a few recipients of their spending. We have no quibble with any of this as it is for long-term local benefit. We would prefer our contribution to local taxation spent on such things as a watertight community centre roof, smooth even paving, safe disability access and security for local children rather than watching a dog obedience display in the rain, as entertaining as it may be. These views are shared by many residents and lead us to support the decision taken by the local councillors. Interest aroused by the February 4 article led us to research some of the background to all the petty name calling and mud-slinging. We (perhaps optimistically) thought that councillors were somewhat more mature in their outlook and approach than to descend to the levels of name calling and childish squabbling if they cannot get their own way. We have been told by a number of sources that the original plan was for a group of parish councillors to meet in a pub to discuss the possibility of holding an event. No other parties were to be involved at this stage and nothing of a sensitive nature was to be discussed so the venue was okay. The moment others became involved, the whole situation changed and a pub was no longer a suitable venue. Hertfordshire Association of Parish and Town Councils was correct in their statement. The whole idea started off as an afternoon event which had wide support. A few weeks later this had magically grown into an all-day event finishing late at night with a firework display, completely different from the original proposal demanding far more effort, organisation, support and expenditure. Faced with all this extra work (councillors are voluntary) and the lack of time available for planning and booking performers for June, we were not surprised that there had been a great reduction in councillor support for such an event. It had nothing to do with the politics or personalities of those involved in spite of the attempts of disgruntled individuals to make it appear so. We would also like to ask why someone on the higher levels of the district council is taking such a profound interest in the plans of the lowly parish council. If she is so interested in supporting the local area, why did Ms Bolton not stand for Jersey Farm ward is the last elections? There were three vacancies and she would have been elected without any problem. Do we detect some sense of sour grapes? Is she trying to undermine the harmony of an effective parish council whose priorities for the good of the local area far outweigh those of political backstabbing and one-upmanship. Read her letter in the light of what we have already explained and the subjective selection of facts becomes apparent. How childish and petty of Ms Bolton to blame Mrs Churchard and the political defeat of her husband (Geoff Churchard) for the failure to get her own way as a figurehead in a popular local event. Ms Bolton once quoted: “I fervently believe that party politics are unnecessary in parish councils and that working together is the way to achievement, albeit that we may not always have the same point of view. A vote taken then demands collective responsibilily on the part of members to go forward together”. She has done herself no favours with the electorate who have enough intelligence to see through her political manoeuvring. Our political viewpoints cover all parties so we can be accused of bias but we are worried that such personal attacks will deter those who are thinking of future service on a parish council who works hard for the benefit of the local community, not personal glory or a political party. What a limited and bigoted view from someone on the district council who is supposed to represent the views of her electorate and set an example of behaviour to others! We would love to know what other local voters think.
Was pilot a pupil?
SIR - I read with interest the article under ‘Yesterday Once More’ in the February 25 edition of the Herts Ad referring to the story and history of Sergeant Pilot Geoffrey Gledhill and wonder if it is the same man who was a pupil at St Albans School who left the School in 1937, and whose name appears on the war memorial at the school. I am sure the school would be able to add further to the story already published.
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RICHARD DAVISON Abbey Avenue, St Albans
The Trident debate
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SIR – Do we need Trident? Well first, who does Mr Ellis (Herts Advertiser, February 18) think would either have invaded us or dropped nuclear weapons on us had we not possessed Trident and the bomb? He appears to suggest that it might be the Russians. Really! I am neither an admirer of, or apologist for, Mr Putin but he is the democratically elected head of a country which was part of the former Soviet Union which lost 27 million people in the last war and whose ‘Red Army’ according to Winston Churchill, ‘broke the back of the German war machine’. The Crimean revolt started because historically the Crimean people felt closer to Russia than to a Ukraine, on the Russian border, which was going to join the West and NATO. An election was held, which was generally regarded, even by Putin’s opponents, as fair and the Crimeans overwhelmingly decided that they wanted to become part of Russia. Surely others than the Falkland Islanders have a right to decide who they want to be associated with. Thus Mr Ellis’s claim that the Russians ‘annexed large parts of Ukraine’ is simply not true. In respect of Syria and Russian support for the Assad regime. General Lord Dannat, former Chief of General Staff 2006-2009, and Peter Ford, former Ambassador to Syria, 2003-2006, both said on the February 14 BBC TV programme The Big Questions that the Russians were doing the right thing and doing it successfully because there was no ‘moderate’ opposition to support. Our Foreign Secretary still maintains that there is. But who are we to pontificate? The United States desecrated Vietnam and even invaded British Territory, Grenada, because it did not like the left-wing government it had elected. Mrs Thatcher said not a word. In Afghanistan, we condemned the Russians for fighting the Taliban who we supported. That support must bear some responsibility for the subsequent deaths of so many of our soldiers. We invaded Iraq and precipitated a situation which has seen the deaths of half a million civilians to date. We bombed Libya illegally and what a mess that has precipitated. Nevertheless, whilst we still don’t even officially recognise that we have done anything wrong; on British insistence the Russians have had sanctions imposed upon them! What hypocrisy! Lest people like Mr Ellis think I am some sort of pacifist, I spent years in the RAF, for which I volunteered when I was 17, and many more years in professional and voluntary public service. Certainly I want a peaceful world where by great-grandchildren can grow up in a decent democratic society but not at any price. However possession of nuclear weapons makes it certain that one day someone, somewhere, will threaten their use and then carry out the threat. Of course we want conventional defences but the money spent on Trident alone would be far better spent on health, housing and educating people to live together.
RON HERSHBEIN Furse Avenue, St Albans
No absolutes in climate change
SIR - I feel I must answer some of the claims made in the letters on climate change (February 18). Firstly renewables do not currently give us energy security or self sufficiency as they have to be backed up all the time. Secondly Mr Allans assertion that flatlining temperatures since ‘98 “is an old myth” please see the website ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global201513. There you’ll see that discounting the margin of accuracy (tenths of a degree) from ‘98 on, all years are flat until ‘14 and ‘15 where they’re up by tenths.That’s not all though, those yearly figures are comparing one years temp with a mean of 30 years 1961-90. It is incorrect to claim “warmest year since 1850” etc as means can have higher temps within the sample. In fact I found it impossible to get ABSOLUTE temperature data, it’s all anomalies! There is one more even bigger problem. The baseline temp used has been lowered. In 1988 it was 15.4; by 2007 the IPCC claimed 14.5 as global mean. Its now 14. If you cool the past you warm the present. Oh and the funding question? The US spent $2.7 billion last year alone on research and from 1989 to 2009 $32 billion. I don’t do exaggerations I leave that to governmental agencies.
C KEECH Flamsteadbury Lane, Redbourn
No examinations for 7/7 victims
SIR - I wonder if you or any of your readers could explain to me why, as I have been informed, there have never been any post mortem examinations of any of the 52 victims of the 7/7 London bombings. It is no answer to say that we know how they died. In the days of capital punishment there was as a matter of course a post mortem examination on every hanged man to confirm that death was by breaking of the neck. Surely the least the families of the victims deserve is forensic confirmation of the way they died. What else is a post mortem for? But perhaps I have been misinformed, and there have been such examinations.
ROGER GRAY Sandridge Road, St Albans
Campaign for Royal Park status
SIR - Verulamium Park has been run well enough ever since my parents helped Rik Wheeler with the dig in the 1930s, but the main problem has always been vision - rather than money or contracts. Let’s celebrate the Queen’s birthday this year with an agreement (by authorities and volunteers alike, however long it takes to achieve it) to aim for Royal Park status. And define the park as all public open space around the Ver from Bluehouse Hill to Cottonmill Lane, please. In 2000 to celebrate the millennium I proposed having a “jette d’eau” (like Geneva’s) between the islands with the pumping station on the scruffy site of Tingey’s farm buildings. It would have been handy for the visual effects when the Alban Pilgrimage took that route. What matters is the inspiration and political will regardless of who is in charge. Your paper could start an email petition now for signatures. Then the Heritage Lottery people will take note.
MICHAEL JAMESON Marlborough Gate, St Albans
Uncertain future for the city hospital
SIR - As your readers know the future of St Albans City Hospital (SACH) is in doubt. In 2015 the West Herts Hospitals Trust (WHHT), which runs Watford General, Hemel Hospital and SACH, said that it would spend almost £1 million improving facilities at SACH but building has not started. The Trust is considering removing planned surgery from SACH. The St Albans and Harpenden Patient Group has been given figures that show the low level of hospital provision in West Herts. The people of St Albans deserve to know about them. The United Kingdom has fewer hospital beds per 1,000 people than most countries in West Europe and West Herts has half the UK average. The United Kingdom has less diagnostic equipment per million people than most countries in West Europe and West Herts has less than half the UK average. The United Kingdom has an average of one general hospital for 250,000 people, but West Herts has one (Watford General) for 650,000. The Care Quality Commission recently judged Watford General to be “inadequate” – the word is CQC’s own official verdict. All the acute services and A&E services and many diagnostic services for West Herts are concentrated at Watford General, but it cannot cope. It has very high levels of bed occupancy, on three occasions in January its A&E unit was overwhelmed, and it contracts out some diagnostic services to the private sector at £750 a time. If the promised spending to improve SACH never starts, and it loses planned surgery, more pressure will be put on Watford General and it will be even less capable of providing adequate services. The people of St Albans will suffer twice over. The people of West Herts and of St Albans deserve better hospital services. I urge your readers to contact WHHT’s Chief Executive, Ms J Kelly, and the Director of Corporate Strategy, Ms H Brown, and ask for better hospitals in West Herts and in St Albans.
JOHN WIGLEY Chair, St Albans and Harpenden Patient Group