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Your recent article highlighted some of the real concerns about the roll-out of Universal Credit in St Albans earlier this month. Citizens Advice has been one of many groups urging the government to take action to ensure no one applying for Universal Credit has to wait longer than six weeks for an income, and that anyone who needs it can get a payment within two weeks that they do not need to repay.
In areas where the full service is already in place, many people have already turned to Citizens Advice for help with Universal Credit. Research for Citizens Advice has revealed that the people we help with money matters are more likely to be in the most serious types of debt – meaning they could lose their home or even face prison - if they are on Universal Credit than if they’re on one of the benefits it replaces.
By 2022, Universal Credit will affect 6,500 households across the St Albans constituency, and a further 6,000 in Hitchin and Harpenden. We expect the numbers who are struggling financially will grow as more people move onto the benefit. Problems with Universal Credit include the long wait for first payment, which can leave people’s finances in tatters. This is likely to lead to more pressure on local services such as homelessness, health and social care.
While Universal Credit is a good idea in principle, the system as it stands now is badly flawed and not able to properly support those who need help. We’ve waited all my adult life for a government to be bold enough to simplify welfare benefits and it is deeply disappointing that the Government was not prepared to wait a little longer to get the implementation right.
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We expect many people to turn to us for help as they struggle with Universal Credit. Citizens Advice in St Albans helps thousands of people with benefit problems every year and anyone with a question or concern about Universal Credit should get in touch with us for help at the earliest opportunity.
JUNE CHAPMAN Chief Executive, Citizens Advice St Albans & District
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I would like to correct some information that you printed in your column. I have absolutely no doubt that there were things that I got wrong when I was on the council but I cannot lay claim to the SLP decisions.
Just to set the record straight - the council under Conservative control started work on the SLP in 1986 and most of the work was done by the time I retired from the council in 1991 being made an Hon Alderman at the May annual meeting in 1991.
The Conservatives lost control of the council in 1991 and the council was then under ‘No control’ which is where all the problems with the SLP arose.
No one could agree, no group agreed so no firm decisions were made. The SLP was finally agreed in 1994, three years after I left the council.
Since then updating the SLP I agree has not been easy, as a succession of Government decisions changed the goal posts which has not helped but neither has procrastination of the council whoever was in control.
I stand by the fact that until the council does have a feasible agreed SLP St Albans is in a very precarious position regarding planning decisions particularly as the council owns 81 per cent of land in the Green Belt.
AGNES HILL Charmouth Road, St Albans
You recently published an article on transgender children. While I don’t see a huge amount wrong with the article in question, it does leave out one incredibly important point: that most children with gender dysphoria grow out of it, and later identify with their assigned gender.
Given that the article is at least in part aimed at parents, as instruction on how to treat one’s child, should they identify as a gender other than that assigned at birth, I would have thought it quite prudent to include such information.
Of course, I didn’t expect this information to be included - pro-transgender activists always leave it out, to serve the narrative that gender reassignment surgery before adulthood is acceptable and compassionate, when in fact it is neither of those things.
I appreciate that the article in question does not specifically endorse gender reassignment surgery for children, but it does mention it, without any criticism of a justifiably extremely controversial issue.
I also understand that the intention of the article is to promote compassion with one’s children, which I whole-heartedly support.
But in this circumstance, compassion can easily be a Trojan Horse for allowing a child, whose perceived identity is most likely not stable, to mutilate their body beyond repair.
This, coupled with other factors such as it being fashionable nowadays to identify as transgender, and the culture of self-proclaimed victimhood which causes people to identify as oppressed minorities for social gain (both of which are blindingly obvious to anyone who takes even a brief glance at the culture of the current political left), renders the publication of such an article, which misses out such an important fact as the one that I have stated, rather irresponsible.
I would implore you to investigate the scientific literature on ‘desistance’ with regards to gender dysphoria, so you can see first hand the scale of this issue. This is crucial information for any would-be parent of a child suffering from gender dysphoria.
Enough is enough!
Last Saturday night in Pendennis Court, Harpenden, seven days after Firework Night and from 8 -8.45pm World War One was reanacted.
Massive fireworks were set off for over 45 minutes which were totally out of order. Anyone with pets must have been really upset - surely now is the time to legislate the the letting off of fireworks beyond Firework Night?
JOHN FREEMAN By email
Luton Airport is owned by Luton council (a public company), and operated by a Spanish company
So why do they charge for dropping off people when Heathrow and Gatwick don’t?
A charge for simply dropping people off is not necessary and cannot be justified
As the public of Luton effectively own the airport they could vote the council out and vote in councilors who don’t support the drop of charge.
Although they offer 15 minutes free in the mid-term car park the bus does not run frequently enough and with the route it has to take it deliberately runs over a quarter of an hour. I got stung with a £7 parking charge for 44 minutes.
And if that’s not bad enough they have a nice little Smart car with a camera on it to scoop up every little penny from people who park outside the airport trying to avoid the rip-off charge.
D WYLLIE St Albans
Sitting on a bus bound for St Albans it looks as if I am, yet again going to be later for work due to the bus unable to pass the vehicle unloading for Tesco in Wheathampstead High Street.
As we eventually pass one can see that although the unloading vehicle is parked fully in the available lay-by it still protrudes enough making it impossible for the bus or any vehicle of the same size to pass until the traffic from the opposite direction has passed.
One has to wonder why this is still a problem to the village, and what the parish council are doing about it, if anything?
Maybe they do not want to ‘upset’ Tesco or just hope the problem goes away.
I can remember when the property used to be Fine Fare back in the ‘70s and we did not have such a problem as deliveries went round the back. So why do we have to put up with this?
It is not just a problem with the traffic but when I was last using the pavement when these vehicles were unloading I noticed that when the tail lift is raised, with the ramp edges being sharp I am surprised that there has not been an accident where somebody has cut their head as they pass by.
I suggest that ALL deliveries to Tesco should be round the back in East Lane and the current unloading lay-by filled in so NO vehicle can park there, sounds a simple solution to me.
After all who is running Wheathampstead High Street? Tesco or the dinosaurs at the parish council office? NAME & ADDRESS SUPPLIED
Last week’s news concerning the overturning by the Planning Inspector of the previously rejected planning application for the Oaklands College housing scheme came as a great shock and disappointment to all of us who are concerned about the destruction of our environment by building houses on Green Belt land.
Thirteen hectares of valuable St Albans countryside, including the agricultural college fields, will be lost for ever.
No doubt this will be, typically, another out-of-town, high density housing development devoid of sufficient supporting infrastructure.
Whereas I appreciate that there may be housing needs in the district (although I could show you plenty of empty properties and potential brownfield sites), we all know that the new houses will be marketed such as to focus on buyers wishing to relocate from London.
This raises the whole question as to whether schemes like this actually help to solve the local housing need.
My main point is that the real motive behind the housing development is Oaklands College needing to sell the land for £51m to Taylor Wimpey in order to pay for the college re-building work, despite the college previously asset stripping by selling two highly valued city centre sites ie the Hatfield Road campus.
We were told back in 2013 that £10m from proceeds of the sale of these sites was spent paying consultants on the college redevelopment plans which were subsequently quashed by the Government, but where is the rest of this money and could it now be spent of the college redevelopment as intended?
So in my view, the Planning Inspector’s reason to overturn the earlier planning refusal by St Albans district council has less to do with the housing issues and more concerning the situation the college now finds itself in.
What is really ironic about the whole debacle is that our council, who we vote for and pay our council tax to, remains fully opposed to the housing project.
Whereas I had growing doubts that we no longer live in a democracy in this country I am now convinced that this is true.
STEPHEN JONES By email