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Viewpoint: Lockdown, Frank Bough and a diversity motion row

Featuring debate on two councillors' objections to a council diversity motion, free school meals, the second lockdown and memories of Frank Bough.

Don’t snore through unconscious bias

We wish to express our deep concerns about the comments made by Cllrs Maureen Hunt (Con, Hurley and the Walthams) and Leo Walters (Con, Bray) in last week’s Full Council, during a debate about tackling institutional racism and discrimination in our borough.

Cllr Ross McWilliams worked with Cllrs Wisdom Da Costa, Amy Tisi and Stuart Carroll to present a cross-party motion recognising the need for councillors and officers to attend suitable training, such as unconscious bias training to help ensure unbiased decisions, for the council to be a beacon on issues of race and gender equality practices, and for us to at last celebrate the achievements of people of colour in RBWM.

Cllr Hunt immediately dismissed the effectiveness of unconscious bias training, saying that we should not blame somebody for something they do unconsciously, and comparing it to snoring.

She went on to describe talk about our country’s colonial past, saying that ‘Britain was great, it had a great empire, no question about that. We brought a lot, a lot, to other countries and our colonies,’ conveniently skirting over the death, destruction, rape, torture, conflict and famine that we brought to nations of the empire.

She described our record on slavery as ‘unfortunate’, saying it’s far more important to learn about slavery that’s happening now.

Cllr Walters described the motion as unnecessary, and went on to talk about his experiences in the British army during the ‘twilight’ of the British Empire, implying that the local tribesmen could only be kept in order by the presence of British troops.

Again, there was no reference to the contribution of the British to tensions in the area.

He then said we should celebrate the achievements of all people — entirely missing the point that achievements of people of colour are grossly unrepresented, while those of white people are not.

Next, he talked about vexatious claims, describing ‘black women… coloured women’ who worked for a friend of his claiming racism when he dismissed them.

He didn’t use the words ‘playing the race card’, but it’s clear that’s what he meant.

It seems from the voting that the Conservative group were allowed a free vote on this incredibly important matter but we have to ask why, when it’s clear that every other vote since May 2019 has either been whipped or closely controlled.

We’re delighted, however, that the motion has passed, and we look forward to continuing to work cross-party to promote equality and inclusion in our borough.

And we’d respectfully suggest that Cllrs Hunt and Walters should be the first to benefit from the training on offer.

Cllrs JOHN BALDWIN (Lib Dem, Belmont), CLIVE BASKERVILLE (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green), SIMON BOND (Lib Dem, Belmont), MANDY BRAR (Lib Dem, Bisham and Cookham), CAROLE DA COSTA (WWRA, Clewer and Dedworth East), WISDOM DA COSTA (WWRA, Clewer and Dedworth West), KAREN DAVIES (Lib Dem, Clewer East), CATHERINE DEL CAMPO (Lib Dem, Furze Platt), JOSHUA REYNOLDS (Lib Dem, Furze Platt), GURCH SINGH (Lib Dem, St Mary’s), AMY TISI (Lib Dem, Clewer East), SIMON WERNER (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green)


Cllrs Walters and Hunt left me appalled

I was frankly ashamed to see the comments and negativity from two councillors opposing the proposal to diversify the council and introduce mandatory training, and voting against the motion.

Racism is taught, no child is born a racist.

The only way to combat racism is through education.

Black lives have been systematically dehumanised over hundreds of years, history taught brushes over the horrific treatments of enslavement, softening and romanticising it in some ways through story books, films and songs.

I was left speechless recently when I heard a 66-year-old man who was confused by the Black Lives Matter protests.

He was never taught about enslavement at school and he honestly thought that the ships carrying enslaved men, women, children and babies from their homelands in Africa, were just like the boats coming from France.

He thought enslaved people actually paid money to get on those boats!

Education, Education, Education!

Accurate history taught from both sides is the only way to get meaningful change.

There is and never will be anything acceptable in denying anyone their dignity, their heritage, their freedom to be who they are or the opportunity to a fair and equal future.

There is nothing acceptable in throwaway comments like ‘all lives matter’.

Yes, all lives matter, but that comment in itself divulges a lack of recognition to the issue.

It’s time black lives mattered too.

May I suggest that Cllrs Walters and Hunt reconsider their place as representatives of the community.

They have both clearly indicated that they do not represent all of the community.

CHARLOTTE SPEAR

Twynham Road

Maidenhead


Fingers in ears for ‘listening exercise’

I was very surprised to see the new ‘revised’ plan put out by the council following the Friends of Battlemead meeting on September 16.

As a listening exercise this was particularly tone deaf!

The meeting had been convened due to public pressure and outcry following the publication of a revised management plan in July that allowed dogs off the lead in the West Field and most contentiously divided the East Field with a somewhat pointless seasonal circular path.

I set up the Save Battlemead Save the Planet Facebook group as a response and we currently have over 200 members who would rather see Battlemead used for nature than carved up so people can get a better view of Cliveden.

Following that July plan 226 emails/letters were received by Cllr Johnson, Cllr Stimson and the officers of the Parks & Countryside team – only 18 of these were in favour of the plans then proposed.

At the Friends meeting whilst there was still much debate over dogs and leads, virtually none of the ‘Friends’ believed that a path across the East Field had any useful function or would not be of detriment to local wildlife.

Despite the clarity of the public’s wishes in this the council is ploughing ahead with only tiny amendments made to the plan they presented in July that provoked such outcry.

Why? Because the minority interest that is the friends, family, party supporters and vested interests of the council and its members will always triumph here.

It was made clear in the meeting that we could air our views but they would hold no sway.

Only Cllr Stimson interjected, asking for plans to be more considered and that there was no need to rush.

We were also treated to some super arguments from Cllr Greg Jones – ‘there is plenty of green space, why are you worried about this bit?’ – to which we might argue – and why, when you have demonstrated how much green space there is, are you so keen to have this place to walk your dog?

He also argued that ‘birds can fly away, dogs can’t’ – dogs go where their owners take them Greg, if their owners choose personal convenience over the health of the planet and the future of all the Borough’s young people, that is their decision and not the dog’s.

We have lately been exhorted by our council leader to think of others and do the right thing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It requires making small sacrifices but will save lives.

Sadly he cannot see that this also applies to the climate and biodiversity emergency.

Whilst that is the case I have no faith that any climate emergency strategy produced by the Borough will be anything more than window-dressing.

Set an example now – listen to the people asking you to protect Battlemead for the planet and for future generations – ask those minority interests whose voices are so loud in your ear to make some small sacrifices – like their better view of Cliveden – to save the planet for the millions.

DEBORAH MASON

Ray Park Avenue

Maidenhead


‘Dismayed’ at decision over free school meals

I was dismayed to see that the Government voted to abandon 1.4million children by not extending the school meals support through the October half term.

For many this means no access to a nutritious meal while schools are shut and, for some, it will mean going hungry.

Our MP was one of those voting to deny the children a decent meal while she enjoys, as do all MPs, a £25 a day allowance for meals which are also subsidised.

No chance of them going hungry.

I see in the Advertiser that the council’s cabinet member for children’s services has contacted schools to advise them to issue vouchers regardless and he will ask the Government to reimburse the cost.

The Prime Minister has refused to do so.

I have no idea where this will leave any school that did issue the vouchers.

With a second lockdown now coming into effect, the Government’s entrenched dogma needs to be abandoned so, that in future, children will not have to go hungry.

NIGEL SMITH

Australia Avenue

Maidenhead


Town councils cannot make planning rulings

Richard Endacott’s letter regarding the Borough Wide Panel (Viewpoint, October 29) highlights the misconception that many residents have about planning, development management panels and the role of parish/town councils.

Councillors on any panel are not there to represent their residents; they are there to be part of an essential democratic process and to represent the total electorate.

Any decision that they make must be supported by the relevant planning law.

It can sometimes happen that all residents in an area do not want a development but unless planning law supports that wish then there is nothing a councillor can do.

Without a sound reason the decision will be overturned when it goes to appeal or to the Secretary of State. If members wish to make a decision against an officer’s recommendation, then the officers will try their best to find reasons to support that wish, but if there are none they will say so.

Mr Endacott goes on to imply that a Windsor Town Council will change this.

Sorry but no town or parish council has the power to make planning decisions.

It may be that a Neighbourhood Planning Group has prepared a specific plan for that area which has been adopted and become part of planning law, but the decision will still be made by the professional planners or in a very few cases the development management panel.

Planners do not have any interest in whether a parish approves or not, what they would really like is information about the site and area which might not be immediately obvious to the planners.

Cllr Hill is a respected member of the Borough Wide Panel and he did what all members do, which is to look at the maps and plans available so that an accurate judge-ment can be made of distances and positions not readily available to the passer by.

Cllr DAVID COPPINGER

Lead member for planning, environmental services and Maidenhead


Letter on bin collection comes a month too late

It was thoughtful of Cllr Coppinger of RBWM and Katy Bassett of Serco to write to inform me (on October 27) that my waste collection day would be switching from Monday to Wednesday as of w/c November 2.

It would, however, have been more helpful to send that letter in advance of the change.

Serco has in fact already been collecting here on Wednesdays, completely unannounced, since late September.

After so many self-inflicted problems caused by ‘fixing’ a service that wasn't broken, surely RBWM and Serco should by now be on the same page?

WH

Lynton Green

Maidenhead


Government must help the rental sector

With hard times ahead of us, companies are being helped to furlough their staff until the end of December 2, but little thought is being given as to how many companies have rent to pay for their premises, and the 37 per cent of people who rent their homes.

For people who mortgage their own properties, help is being given with mortgage holidays, but no help is being given to the rental sector.

The Government must come up with a scheme to help the rental sector.

Certainly my pub down the road is still being asked to pay rent despite the impending lockdown and complete lack of income for the coming four weeks.

BRUCE ADAMS

Cox Green Lane

Maidenhead


Frank Bough was also a valued choir member

As the Chair of the Royal Free Singers in Windsor, I was pleased to read Steve Bough’s piece about his father, Frank, and wanted to tell you about another very positive part of his life as a much-valued member of our choir.

Frank’s wife, Nesta, joined us in 1990 and when we went on tour to Hungary in 1994, we were delighted when Frank signed up to come along too.

He decided that, if he was going, he might as well do some singing!

He brought to us a beautiful bass voice, a warm presence, a delightful sense of fun, 100 per cent commitment, quiet professionalism and a kind smile for everyone.

In other words, all the skills and experience he had honed in his day job were bestowed on us.

Nesta tells us that one of the highlights of his membership of the choir was performing the Bach Mass in B Minor at Eton College School Hall.

The media industry’s loss was certainly our gain and his extended family of fellow singers will miss him greatly.

LINDA CHANAN

Chair, Royal Free Singers, Windsor


All discriminations must be acknowledged

On October 29, EHRC produced a damning result of the investigation into anti-semitism within the Labour Party finding them guilty of two clear breaches.

The report showed that the party had a ‘culture which ‘at worst’ could be seen to accept’ anti-semitism, serious failings in leadership and there WERE unlawful acts of harassment and discriminations.

Whilst it is important to welcome
the news from Sir Keir Starmer in removing Jeremy Corbyn, there is a lot more work to be done.

Firstly. as simple as this may sound, we must acknowledge that discrimination of any race or religion is simply not acceptable.

It seems whilst we receive regular updates on some minorities injustices, other minority injustices are often ignored or just put to the side.

I understand that anti-semitism isn’t as ‘woke’ or ‘trendy’ right now but that doesn’t mean we should ignore or even acknowledge its existence.

As a minority myself (a non-Jewish minority), I believe it is simply unfair at the lack of attention anti-semitism receives across the country.

It is imperative that we don’t start to pick and choose which discriminations we want to choose to acknowledge instead we should understand that each discrimination deserves equal amount of time and attention in order to build a more peaceful and fair society.

SUNIL SHARMA

Briar Dene

Maidenhead


Seeking old weather observations of area

I am currently investigating the history of the weather and its impacts in and around Maidenhead.

While my own daily observations and those from Hurley have produced a daily record back to 1953, I am aware
that earlier (often unofficial) observations were made before then.

One example are the observations made at Heywood Park by Grenville H Palmer around 1906 (and earlier); one of the measurements made there on September 1 1906 remains one of the highest temperature readings on record anywhere in the UK in September.

Another example from the 1950s are records made in the town by Mr J Stansbridge, who used to keep weather records for the Royal Borough.

These may have been made near the local sewage works.

In addition, many rainfall observers may also have kept an unofficial diary of weather observations.

Finally, does any reader know if weather observations were made at White Waltham Airfield before, during or after the Second World War?

Some of these observations may, for a time, have been officially-approved by the Met Office and may be located in their archives – but others would have been unofficial and may stillreside in old notebooks somewherelocally.

I am keen to locate the latter, with a view to scanning and digitising them – so as to make the observations more widely available.

Can any readers help?

Any information can be sent to me via email to r.brugge@reading.ac.uk

ROGER BRUGGE

Maidenhead


An ode to lockdown II – the sequel

Lockdown II, the sequel... Who would have thought? I hope people find the strength again to ride this difficult times ahead.

Please reach out to family, friends, even strangers, if you struggle.

Under normal order

This would be considered mental torture

The weather is on the turn

Lockdown II has been confirmed

Enough of the tiers

It has again all ended up in tears

We saved the NHS and Granny

Now it’s Christmas we have to worry

Boris upstaged

By the ‘experts’ of SAGE

Once more to the ‘ologists’ we give in

Scaremongering on Halloween

They display such foresight

Without any real insight

Science is a fact

But the numbers don’t add up

It’s a persistent running commentary

This subtle form of bribery

Like a boxer been pummeled

Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel?

It’s been dangling over our heads

The sword of Damocles

At least we know the ropes

Only four weeks this time?... we hope!

SILVIA LITTLE

Heywood Avenue

Maidenhead

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