Letters October 4, 2012, part one

Harpenden post row continues

SIR – Apart from poor and confusing communication at the Harpenden Post Office, I mistakenly went to the Delivery Office today at St Albans to collect a parcel. The staff there were very helpful and they managed to locate it at the Harpenden office.

That said, the St Albans Delivery Office is a particularly poor choice of location for Harpenden people. It’s the wrong side of St Albans and worse the approach road is often blocked by 30-tonne trucks backing into spaces.

Today, I joined a queue as two giant trucks performed their pirouettes. This took all of seven minutes as the traffic queue spilled out onto the main road.

After, I joined another queue on exit of the Delivery Office as two further trucks gave a repeat performance; this took a further eight minutes. What a choice of location! Poor parking, crowded street and prancing trucks all in a cul-de-sac.

All this in the name of efficiency, or should I say bonus payments to the executives. It doesn’t seem to matter that the customer gets large postal increases, poorer service and an unthinking choice of location for a delivery office. I’m sure a primary school child could run a business better.


Most Read

Piggottshill Road, Harpenden

SIR – I agree with much that your correspondents have written about the closure of the Royal Mail sorting office at Harpenden, however I have a further complaint about Royal Mail and that is the disgusting state of many of its pillar boxes.

Once upon a time these were painted regularly and kept in tip top order, brightly standing in our streets.

Today many are in a very poor state, neglected, dilapidated and rusting. While I think it is great that our Olympic champions are getting gold ones, please can those in our area be given a lick of red paint?

Particular examples of shabby ones can been seen in Charmouth Road and Cornwall Road, St Albans.


Salisbury Road, Harpenden

SIR – Having read yet more letters in your paper re: the reorganisation of postal delivery in Harpenden, I would like to share with you some gems from the answer I received having written to comment and complain about it (you have to write to an office in Plymouth incidentally!).

“We give operational changes a great deal of thought, including a six month consultation period with our trade union colleagues...” So why was a strike threatened?

“Investment in new technology and equipment and (the) upgrade of operational facilities helps ensure we have a world class organisation... for delivering the post and a safe working environment for our people...”

Delivery at tea-time and twice as far to drive/walk for the delivery personnel.

“If you are not in, small packages can be delivered to another local post office for a small fee...” That’s if you can find one.

“...reduce the number of bicycles we use... in favour of the mail being delivered by van(!) or by a delivery officer pushing one of our new high capacity trolleys...” So “post-persons” are now delivery officers! Is this Britain as we know it and has anyone told them they’ve been renamed?

No mention was made of my concern about umpteen “casuals” being employed at vast further expense (hence where’s the saving?) in areas unknown to them, coping with their new high capacity trolleys overflowing with small packages, a map of the district and the British weather.

Neither of the inconvenience to and demoralisation of our regular post-persons whose whole working lives have been turned upside down. As usual, all in the name of progress by those at computer workstations who haven’t a clue.


Overstone Road, Harpenden

SIR – The saga of the Royal Mail and Harpenden continues.

The pictures above include a photo of the boarded-up hole in the wall of Harpenden‘s main Post Office in Station Road which used to house the post box – a normal amenity, you’d think, outside a main post office in a town of Harpenden’s size.

The nearest big red post box is now 100 yards away and – as the other picture shows – the information for users is that there is a later collection from the Post Office! Except there isn’t, because they’ve taken the Post Office box away!

If the Post Office bosses don’t even know they have removed the box to which they direct us for a lataer collection or if they do know, they haven’t bothered to amend the later posting information, that probably explains the shambles into which Harpenden’s post deliveries has degenerated.


Sir Joseph’s Walk, Harpenden

Harpenden bias in council cabinet?

SIR – I recently received my Community News Autumn 2012 news letter from St Albans city council.

On the reverse of this document is a list of all our local councillors. Passing over the fact that there are 58 of them (which feels midly excessive) I focussed on the makeup of the Cabinet and was surprised to see that St Albans and District Council’s “decision makers” include five councillors from Harpenden and one from Sandridge: Cllr Julian Daly – Executive Leader, Harpenden West; Cllr Mike Wakely – Deputy Executive Leader, Harpenden East; Cllr Daniel Chichester-Miles – Environment, Harpenden West; Cllr Teresa Heritage – Planning, Harpenden South; Cllr Brian Ellis – Housing, Harpenden South; Cllr Beric Read – Community Engagement, Sandridge.

Given the type of decisions this group of people will be called upon to preside over, such as the forthcoming Strategic Local Plan, can I safely assume that Harpenden will manage to avoid any unpopular planning decisions?


The Ridgeway, St Albans

Thanks for your donations

SIR – On behalf of Luton, South Beds and Harpenden Samaritans, I would like to thank all those who gave so generously to our street collection on Saturday, September 22.

On a beautiful sunny day we managed to raise over �900 to support the local branch. A magnificent sum of money. Our collectors kept reporting back saying how friendly and how interested people were in the work we do. So Harpenden residents please pat yourselves on the back. You were superb.

If anyone wants to learn more about Samaritans you will find us at lutonsamaritans.org. Our phone number is 01582 760666.


Luton South Beds and Harpenden Samaritans

Cardiff Road, Luton

Cattle concern

SIR – I was horrified to read your rather biased report concerning the grazing of cattle on Bricket Wood Common (September 27).

The enclosing of common land against the populace is a shameful part of our economic and social history which St Albans District Council seems determined to revive.

Four years ago they proposed the enclosure of Nomansland Common, which sparked such widespread public outrage (the Peasants’ Revolt of 2008) that the council requested the presence of the local constabulary at council meetings.

The plan was thrown out, to the fury of the council, thanks in no small part to the actions of a handful of local councillors who retained the principles of public service.

SADC then turned their attention to Chorleywood and Bricket Wood Commons. I have no doubt that they have not abandoned the idea of grazing cattle on Nomansland.

Gating the paths and grazing cattle will effectively deny access to a large number of horseriders and walkers – two groups who do not appear to figure highly in SADC’s list of priorities.

Many horseriders, particularly the elderly and less physically able, will find it dificult and in many cases impossible to use the gates and will therefore be effectively barred from riding on Bricket Wood common.

We should remember that horseriding is probably the best way for the disabled to enjoy access to the countryside, and there is no doubt that they would be particularly disadvantaged by gating.

The presence of cattle will certainly deter many people, particularly dog walkers, in view of the well publicised cases of injury and fatality caused by cattle. Bricket Wood, like Nomansland, attracts a large number of visitors from urban and suburban areas who will be unfamilar with farm animals in close proximity and would probably not feel comfortable entering the enclosure, particularly if accompanied by small children.

I would add that if Bricket Wood Common is as heavily infested with ragwort as Nomansland, there is a very real welfare issue in grazing cattle there.

Following the success of the Olympics/Paralympics many people have been inspired to get out and enjoy the countryside; it seems perverse that SADC appears to be trying hard to discourage walkers and horseriders.


Eastmoor Park, Harpenden

Lib Dems divided over public inquiry?

SIR – In your article, “Mixed response to plans for a third rail freight inquiry”, September 27, you report that Cllrs Yates and Lee are now happy that they have the third public inquiry they have campaigned for (although they never mentioned including Colnbrook), but Cllr Brazier – the former planning portfolio holder – disagrees and would like a decision straight away, just like the majority of other interested parties in the district.

If the Lib Dems cannot agree amongst themselves on what is probably the most significant planning application ever to hit the city and district, who knows what kind of mess we would have been in if they were still in power!

Cllr Brazier is right to worry about the cost. The previous public inquiries have diverted more than �700,000 of taxpayers’ money from essential services – that is why the Conservative administration agree with him and desire a decision once and for all in our favour.

This conjoined inquiry, unfortunately, is the next best thing as it should become clear, when the comparisons between the two sites are made, that Colnbrook is far and away a more superior use of land and has greater transport connections from the start. Let’s hope the two Liberal Democrat Park Street councillors can present a united face for their party before the public inquiry gets underway, or this will be exploited by Helioslough.


Park Street Ward

Baring her bump

SIR – A passenger in first class with a standard class ticket was not “forced to bare her bump” as reported in the opening paragraph of your front page story last week.

As you reported later in the story, she chose to lift up her top when she could have shown her NHS card which she subsequently did (and this was not reported although I referred to it in my quote).

There is no automatic upgrade for mums-to-be to sit in first class but we are human and our staff do show leniency because we know how difficult it is for people travelling on our busy services.


First Capital Connect

Cashin comes under fire once again

SIR – As one of many regular readers of your “Your Views” pages, am I alone in wondering why you give so many column inches, and on a such a regular basis, to the views of Mr Barry Cashin.

In his latest epistle (“Rise of the Jobsworths” – September 27) he appears to classify all “service staff” in our City as “jobsworths” and, it seems, contributing to our local economy’s downfall.

He paints a picture of him going about his business in “our high street” and being frustrated at every turn by staff unable and unwilling to assist him.

I too go about my business in our high street, but Mr Cashin’s view of it is not one I recognise. Whether it be in banks, offices, shops, caf�s, etc., and, yes, insurance brokers I find almost without exception their staff to be pleasant, helpful and efficient.

Could it be, Mr Cashin, your own attitude that creates the response that you receive ?

The incident that prompted Mr Cashin’s missive is the response of a member of staff at the insurance brokers that he uses (or used). Clearly the brokers, and the unfortunate young man that Mr Cashin so unpleasantly and publicly berates, will know who they are. I do not.

Any professional worth their salt will not discuss a client’s affairs with another person unless they have that client’s permission. I suspect that Mr Cashin was well aware of that. Thus I have sympathy only for the young man – I hope he has a long and successful career. The insurance brokers have lost a client of 25 years, but is that a sigh of relief that I hear ?


Spencer Place, Sandridge

SIR – I found Barry Cashin’s letter last week quite offensive. He refers to an insurance clerk as a “young spotty jobsworth”.

Acne is no laughing matter – I suffered badly with it in my teenage years. Besides, I’m sure a lot of the ‘Jobsworths’ he describes are just trying to do their jobs in this difficult economic climate, just like the parking attendants he described as “rodents” a few weeks ago.

Would it be possible for you to not print anymore of his reactionary diatribes?


Goldsmith Way, St Albans

SIR – I write in reference to “Rise of the Jobsworths”. So Mr Cashin expects a worker to break the rules of his employment? And because of his refusal to do so is held up to ridicule by Mr Cashin, who has to mention the refusee’s disfigurement of an acned face, which is distressing enough for the sufferer?

Mr Cashin says he is moving his business to a new company. But he will find the Data Protection Act awaiting him there too, hopefully with a spot-free assistant who will bring this arrogant chap down a peg or two.


Ladies Grove, St Albans

SIR – Barry Cashin’s carefully constructed letter (Rise of the Jobsworths) in last week’s paper might have accorded him enjoyment at seeing his name in print but is unlikely to have disturbed the sleep of anyone at the (un-named) company about which he complained.

Grievances aired in public only result in changes when large-scale public campaigns are waged – writing to an organisation with specific details of its bad customer service is the only way for one-offs such as this to be handled.

In any event, having re-read his letter it seems that the customer services staffer who dealt with him dealt with him correctly: security of personal information is extremely important in these times of electronic fraud and, since Barry’s daughter held the answer to his “problem”, he had only to wait until he could speak to her to have been able to proceed.


Oswald Road, St Albans

(Editor’s Comment: We are happy to publish all readers’ letters received providing they do not break any laws and full name and address is supplied. If someone takes the time to write in on a regular basis then that is their prerogative, and we would never veto any of our frequent correspondents on these grounds, even if they provoke comment in the way Mr Cashin does. Yes, he is at times both controversial and reactionary, but is that really an argument to curtail his freedom of speech? If you disagree with what he writes, it’s much better to explain why in a follow-up letter, thereby stimulating lively debate on these pages.)

In defence of new free school

SIR – Helen Bishop’s letter (September 27) seems to blame Herts County Council for poor provision of accommodation for the new free school. Assuming she was not trying to be ironic, I write to ensure that all readers understand that the very point of free schools is they are created outside local authority control.

Helen Bishop should rest assured that, whilst the current education secretary seeks to return education practices to the Victorian age, she does not need to worry about the children entering the new premises under scaffolding and building materials as, to date, the government has not sought to return health and safety standards to the same era.


Station Road, Harpenden

SIR – I was extremely disappointed to read the negative comments in Helen Bishop’s letter about Alban City School.

My daughter has just started at the school and I couldn’t be happier with the start to her school career.

Yes, there is still some scaffolding up around the building, but this is because the school has been granted extra funding from the Department for Education to have a new roof put on the building; when the scaffolding comes down (around Christmas time) no more work will be needed on the exterior of the building for decades. I doubt that the same could be said of any other city centre primary school.

So this is not a question of being “a cheap way out”; on the contrary, it is evidence of investment in the school’s future.

To suggest that “the building simply isn’t fit for occupation by the new pupils” because there is still some scaffolding up is risible.

Inside, the classrooms are light and airy, and extremely well equipped and the whole atmosphere of the school is warm and welcoming.

I have also been very impressed with the teaching staff, who are all extremely professional and clearly love working with children: it is a joy to drop my daughter off every morning and know that she will be in such safe hands.

In my view, there is only one downside to the school, which is the lack of outside space for the children to play in.

This is due to the council’s extraordinary decision to preserve the Pemberton Building, a dilapidated and unused Edwardian school building which cannot really be seen from any public place in St Albans.

In making this decision, it seems to me that the council has prioritised the private interests of a handful of local residents who can see part of the building from their houses over the interests of a generation of school children in having a decent playground, and I can only hope that the council will see the error of its ways when the school reapplies for permission to demolish the Pemberton block in a few years time (as it surely must, as the school grows and outside space is even more essential).

But this one gripe aside, I am thrilled with the new school, and would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the team behind the project who have worked so hard over the past couple of years to get this amazing project off the ground.


Folly Avenue, St Albans

Gold standard flower scheme

SIR – Is someone going to give a gold medal to the people responsible for the best civic flower scheme that St Albans has had this year? The abundant sowing of wild and cultivated flowers has been a triumph. Who are they? I’d like them to come and transform the place where I work next spring.


Verulam Road, St Albans

Banks and boy racers

SIR – On September 27, you reported the case of a man who twice failed to return a car tax disc when his cheques bounced.

To continue to supply this man with cheque books is unacceptable conduct by his bank. I have no doubt that the bank nominally make vast amounts of money out of the various penalty charges which they levy for such behaviour. His debts are then simply increased until he is bankrupt. The rest of the bank’s customers carry the loss.

The BBC could help discourage people who cannot afford it from buying cars by pulling the infantile programme Top Gear. The boy racers could also be curbed by ordering an end to the 0-60mph time shown in car adverts.


Park Avenue, St Albans

Time to end pheasant shooting?

SIR – This week sees the start of the pheasant shooting season.

If you go into the village lanes around Wheathampstead and Ayot St Lawrence you may come across groups of men driving in a convoy of four-wheel drives or standing in a field holding guns, their aim being to shoot and kill as many innocent birds out of the sky as they can.

Imagine if this took place in St Albans or Harpenden town centres, where the public would see the wanton cruelty and waste of this barbaric so-called sport.

I am sure there would be an outcry as the public saw the wounded creatures and destroyed lives of the hundreds of birds every shoot day; they are shot for fun, not even for food, in my village just a few miles from the town centres.

More that 47 million young birds are released into the wild each year for shooting over the next four months.

More than half of these never get within sight of a gun. They die from exposure, cannibalism, predation, traffic collision and starvation. These innocent animals do not deserve to be treated like this; they are living creatures – not targets for guns.

If you object to to this barbaric “sport” then write to your MP, your local councillor and get in touch with the League against Cruel Sport and let us work to end this blight on our countryside.

I think it was the Dali Llama who said, “you can judge a country by the way it treats its animals”; looking in the local paper we read stories of cruelty to animals and most thinking people throw up their hands in horror on reading these, yet here we have legally sanctioned slaughter in the heart of our community.

I believe that it is time for us to get together to stop this cruel outrage against innocent creatures.


Ayot St Peter

Near Wheathampstead