Letters, October 25, 2014

We need solutions to budget cuts

SIR – The proposed cuts to bus services may indeed be a contradiction of previous attempts to encourage people to be more environmentally conscious by using public transport but should not ignore the more realistic concern to travellers who have little choice, such as those who work late hours, plus an increased safety risk to those returning home at night time. Another relevant point is the blow to initiatives aimed at regeneration of our city centre such as promoting Sunday trading being threatened by reducing services which some people regularly use to travel on that day. Important issues such as these are too often clouded and then side tracked by those who highjack them with the aim of achieving political mileage. In the last two stories quoting Sandy Walkington he has attempted to follow the lead of his party in Parliament by distancing himself from the Tories, this just won’t wash with those of us who can recall images of the Right Honourable Clegg and Alexander sat on the Tory front bench in Parliament whist enthusiastically slapping George Osborne on his back immediately after he had detailed his austerity budget. The plain fact is that large reductions in government funding to local authorities have resulted in Herts County Council having to make very deep cuts in their expenditure, at present this may result in reducing the subsidy to bus services. What is needed from Sandy is not wasting time telling us what we already know, but a detailed proposal from him on alternative methods for the council to absorb these losses to its income which do not involve cutting local bus services. I would imagine that this is about as likely as spotting a Lib Dem voter in Batchwood these days.

TONY LEACH Langley Crescent, St Albans

Environmental impact of felling

SIR – Re: the removal of trees along the Abbey Flyer line – it is not a mere “claim” that the remaining tree stumps have been poisoned. As one of the residents whose garden backs onto the Abbey Flyer line and who has therefore been affected by the almost total clearance of trees, shrubs and other vegetation along the railway cutting, I have photographic evidence of the work in progress and received verbal confirmation at the time from a Network Rail workman that this was indeed what they were doing. Plus, you have only to go and look for yourself – the stumps studded with the blue tubes of poison are clearly visible. The environmental and ecological impact must be enormous. There were jays, woodpeckers, wood pigeons, blackbirds, various tits and finches and wrens, to name but a few, in the trees. It has totally changed the outlook from our property and significantly increased noise and light pollution. To give an idea of the extent to which noise pollution has increased with removal of the screen provided by the trees: from my home, a good mile away from the city centre, I can now hear the Clock Tower strike, something I have never before heard from here. That in itself is not intrusive, it is the concomitant increase in noise from the railway itself, traffic on the Park Street roundabout and surrounding roads that is very apparent. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds estimates that we will lose up to 1.5 million nests if Network Rail continues this “vegetation management” policy and, according to Network Rail’s own consultants (2003), a 30-mile square area of trees equivalent to the size of the Forest of Dean will disappear. I venture to suggest that the latter is a gross underestimate. The safety considerations repeatedly quoted by Network Rail are an exaggeration of the facts; there is a good chance that destruction of the trees and the root networks that are holding the banks together will lead to more landslips and erosion in future if our current weather trends continue. The Rail Accident Investigation Board has already highlighted at least one incident, in 2007, where following removal of the line-side trees, a massive root ball slid onto a track, causing a derailment. With our fauna and flora under constant threat from modern agricultural methods, construction development and new diseases such as ash die-back and varroa mite, Network Rail must be persuaded to adopt a more local-resident and environmentally friendly policy.

KAREN GREEN Gorham Drive, St Albans

Confusion over crime statistics

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SIR – HMIC (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary) has been commissioned by the Home Secretary to undertake inspections within all Home Office police forces to answer the question: “To what extent can police-recorded crime information be trusted?” A news article of May 1, 2014, stated: “HMIC has found weak or absent management and supervision of crime recording, significant under-recording of crime, serious sexual offences not being recorded, and some offenders having been issued with out-of-court disposals when their offending history could not justify it.” More specifically, the recording of crime by Hertfordshire Police showed that 28 per cent of cases went unrecorded, compared to a nationwide (so far) of 20 per cent. This should be compared with a similar report in 2013 where it was found that in Hertfordshire only (only?) six per cent were handled incorrectly. So it would seem that we are going backwards, to the total amazement of very few. Bravely, our Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd responded: “I am concerned that the report has identified failings in recording procedures, but I have received personal assurance from HMIC that there is no evidence of deliberate manipulation of figures in Hertfordshire, or a lack of integrity amongst officers and staff.” Just incompetence, then, so that’s all right. Our hero continues: “I had already asked the chief to review the accuracy and some key changes have since been made.” Quite where this leaves the veracity of his annual report on crime figures remains somewhat opaque, although he does say “... I am completely confident that the overall picture, showing a big fall in crime over the last few years, is an accurate one”. (From HMIC figures there would need to be a fall of at least 28 per cent for there to be a fall at all). “I look forward to receiving the full HMIC report on Hertfordshire’s inspection, which is anticipated in June, and I will also ensure this is presented to the Police and Crime Panel.” HMIC, though, disagree by referring to “…our final report in October 2014”. Figures, dates, responsibility, activity, action – let’s call the whole thing off.

CHRIS COWLAND Gorham Drive, St Albans

Tackling the fly-tippers at last

SIR – What joy at breakfast – sitting down to a bowl of porridge and reading the headline ‘Building manager is fined for various fly-tipping offences’. Thank you St Albans council for making this happen! For five months my husband and I have tracked fly-tipping incidents on the lanes around Bedmond and reported 80 plus to the council (who have duly cleared them) so it’s terrific to hear of prosecutions taking place, which I hope will deter others. In your article you report that Mr Ballard was the owner of fly-tipped waste, rather than the person who actually dumped the waste (a man who remains unknown to the courts in this instance), and this may surprise some readers. Mr Ballard was convicted under Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 – the gist of which is that you can be prosecuted for not taking due care to check that the person taking your waste away is licensed. If the man (or woman) who’s carting your stuff away seems cheap, that should ring alarm bells. It costs ‘van man’ to dispose of rubbish – if he’s doing it legally – and so this cost naturally comes back to you. A final thought – in 2010-11 clearing up fly-tipping cost UK councils £40 million whilst the amount taken in fines was just £692,000. That’s a shocking disparity that’s costing every single one of us dearly and I imagine most readers have a view on what they’d rather that money was spent on. So please, check for waste disposal licenses and if you see fly-tipping happening call 999. If you spot fly-tipping after it’s been dumped in or around St Albans please call the police hotline 01727 819598.

JESSICA CHIVERS Jerome Drive, St Albans

Ignored over recycling changes

SIR – I recently received a flyer from SADC telling me that improvements to my cardboard recycling collection would start on September 15. This service is being introduced in response to requests from residents. A couple of important details are missing from this announcement: how much will this new feature cost and how many residents asked for this service? Some time ago when it appeared that the scheme was being piloted, I asked the Environment Portfolio Holder if this was just a test or was it to become a regular feature? I regret that I never received a reply to my emails. If I had heard from him then, I might have had answers to the above queries. As it is I can only make my own estimate re the extra involved and that would seem to be a 33 per cent increase in the cost of collecting refuse. Existing arrangement: one truck each non recycling week plus two trucks each ‘Green Week’. Total three trucks per fortnight. With the new set up we will have: one truck to pick up non recyclable rubbish and the following ‘Green Week’ will see three trucks. Total four trucks per fortnight. A 33 per cent increase in the cost of running refuse trucks is a very expensive way to collect cardboard. I wonder if consideration was given to telling the residents with the large sheets of cardboard, to each buy a Stanley knife and slice up their oversized sheets and maybe keep them for the following collection if they couldn’t get them into their green box in one go. Failing being able to do that they could always take their cardboard to the dump themselves. If there is money around to run an extra refuse truck, I would rather see it used to return to a weekly collection of non recyclable material. I am in a medical situation in which I have to keep unpleasant waste in my purple bag (fortunately I’m not in a wheelie bin road) and I cannot cope with just a fornightly collection, so I take my bag to the dump each week when it isn’t scheduled for collection by SADC.

ALLEN CHAMBERLAIN Old Rectory Close, Harpenden

Stories of Sandridge during Great War

SIR – Although I was not alive at the time the picture of the war memorial lychgate at St Leonard’s stirred many memories for me as I am sure my parents and grandparents would have been present when it was taken. My uncle Charles Butlin’s name is on that gate because he died during the war when a number of the young men training on Salisbury Plain succumbed to influenza. Your photograph clearly shows the number of villagers affected by the Great War who would always remember those they had lost. When war was declared in 1914 my parents, George and Doris, were Sunday School teachers at St Leonard’s. My father’s family (the Butlins) lived at Railway Cottages as my grandfather was a signalman, while my mother’s family (the Byles) farmed at Nashes Farm. Like many other young men the three Butlin sons, Jim, George and Charles, and the boyfriends of their two younger sisters volunteered together to fight. For medical reasons only two were taken at that time and the other three joined up later, Charles died and my father was seriously wounded. Indeed his friends who had supported him to the casualty station were told” “Leave him on the floor, he’ll be dead by morning.” His friends dragged him further to find help so he survived and lived here in St Albans to a very active old age, always mindful that God had spared him with the help of his friends.

DORIS H BUTLIN Fleetville, St Albans

Summer Sounds was a joint effort

SIR – How lovely to read such praise from a parent of one of our clients (Letters. September 4) regarding the wonderful Summer Sounds event that took place in Clarence Park at the end of July. The talent was undeniable and it was an absolute pleasure to support local young people put on and perform at a local youth music festival. To continue the support, all musicians have been offered free studio time in one of our state of the art recording studios and all helpers were invited to an event with the Mayor to honour the youth volunteers supported by Youth Connections across the district. I thought it was important however to clarify that this was a joint initiative and we were partnering the St Albans Arts Team and SADC – who actually funded the event. Without the knowledge and expertise of Jo Askham and Grae Wall of St Albans Arts Team the event would not have run as smoothly as it did. Youth Connexions continue to support young musicians with our studios and rehearsal venues and our regular gig nights at the Pioneer Youth Centre – please see channelMOGO and mogolistings for more information

DEBI ROBERTS Youth Connexions Support worker in Charge, St Albans District

Back to the Dark Ages for buses

SIR – After reading your article about cutting bus services in St Albans (Herts Advertiser, September 4) I felt so angry; it’s like going back to the Dark Ages. What is this Terry Douris thinking of? Does he not realise that St Albans residents rely on these bus services to get them home from work and not everybody finishes work by 6.30pm. Also, not having a bus service on a Sunday is utterly disgraceful. What makes me even more angry is that you hear these so-called councillors telling you to use public transport more – what a load of hypocrites they are. I can remember the days of the London and Country bus service and what a service that was – fantastic. And we even had a bus garage at the top of St Peter’s Street where you could have the choice of any bus to take you wherever you wanted to go. What it needs is for residents to march to County Hall and make them realise how important it is to us to keep our bus services, especially for the elderly and the young people of St Albans. Shame on you Terry Douris.

MRS M. S. PATERSON Liverpool Road, St Albans