Viewpoint: Oldfield Road traffic lights causing tailbacks

This week's Viewpoint includes discussion on the traffic lights at the A4/Oldfield Road junction in Maidenhead, the end of the HSBC counter service in the town and Serco waste collections.

Four-way traffic lights causing hold-ups

The temporary four-way traffic lights on the A4 Bath Road at the junction with Oldfield Road is causing massive unacceptable tailbacks and hold-ups.

The junction is being changed from a mini-roundabout to traffic lights.

I see there will be no right turn into Lassell Gardens from the A4 East, as used to be possible with the roundabout.

May we learn from the traffic department how they justified this expensive change as the roundabout worked well in my experience.

I presume they conducted a survey – may we know their conclusions?

Why not ask the public for their opinions?

Or maybe a government grant was there to spend or lose, with minimal justification.

They could have had a trial with temporary lights to see if the new scheme would work, before making it permanent.

Dr BRIAN L SMITH

River Road

Taplow


One more reason to not to visit Maidenhead

From July, I will have another reason not to shop in Maidenhead, but venture to Marlow, Reading, Beaconsfield or Slough instead.

Using the HSBC counter service in town this week, I was told that Maidenhead HSBC will be closing its counter service at the beginning of July and will only offer machine banking in branch from that date.

Yes, I do use online banking and yes, I am capable of using the equipment provided.

But following my unnerving experience of watching an HSBC machine accept and then lose cash deposited two years ago, (never found or credited), humans it is.

I did ask why Marlow was being granted the privilege of humans and not Maidenhead, and was told that the demographic of our town did not merit them.

So Marlow it is then.

JAY WILKINSON

Cannon Lane

Maidenhead


Serco are simply taking our recycling to landfill

Your anonymous contributor in last week’s issue (Viewpoint, March 18) is perfectly correct – RBWM encourages us to recycle and to separate all our waste to reduce landfill sites and ‘save the planet’ a la David Attenborough and then Serco, in one fell swoop, destroy the whole idea and lump everything together in landfill!

The council approved ‘increasing recycling rates’ in December under its sustainability and climate change policy so why are they not getting Serco to abide by this decision?

At 8am on Sunday morning there was a long queue at Stafferton Way recycling area because Serco cannot make full use of the resources and allow alternate spaces to be used at the site, still preserving social distancing.

Why do they still have a contract with the council?

The council also voted to reduce the need for carbon intensive travel, and this they achieve by erecting traffic lights at every possible road works.

Some are just plainly unnecessary with a small, obstruction of the pavement.

The council could save money by getting the contractors not to install unnecessary lights.

The excavations in Shoppenhangers Road are almost repaired, just a large metal plate to be replaced over the filled hole so all weekend the traffic has been subject to delays (more wasted fuel) because the contractor cannot be controlled, or forced to remove the lights.

The main route through the town with roadworks at Castle Hill roundabout, partial obstruction of the road at Stafferton Way roundabout and obstruction outside the railway station, that reduces the carbon emissions no end.

How much fuel has been wasted with the works along the Bath Road between the bridge and Reform Road?

An incompetent council held to no account by an ineffective set of councillors led by an arrogant leader who cannot respond to letters.

My council tax demand arrived this week. Mr Johnson your expenses are paid from this council tax so why do not provide replies?

I will pay my council tax when you reply to my letters – quid pro quo!

Are there shoots of a revival in Maidenhead? A new quality food shop in Queen Street and a new patisserie in Nicholsons Centre? Bring it on!

MERVYN BUSTON

East Road

Maidenhead


Plea to save our vital street cleaning team

It is Red Nose Day as I write.

I have just come back from placing a Red Nose Crocodile Object on York Stream, just by Chapel Arches.

Why, one can reasonably ask?

Well, I work on the principle that in these difficult times, trying to create frivolous moments for myself and others is not a bad strategy.

One source of pleasure throughout lockdown has been enjoying masked, distanced short chats with our wonderful team of men who work so hard to keep our streets in the centre of Maidenhead (where I live) tidy and free of rubbish.

I met a member of this splendid team when I was photographing my red nosed crocs, and thoroughly enjoyed exchanging a few words about life, lockdown, and red noses of course.

It is these moments of human contact that make Maidenhead a place I call home, and that have helped my mental health in the last year.

I have now heard that plans are afoot to make some of the street cleaning team redundant.

One realises of course that our financial situation is precarious.

But a call out to our council: please do not make this wonderful team a victim of our financial woes.

They have done so much for us during the COVID-19 crisis.

Dr NICOLA STINGELIN

Swanbrook Court

Maidenhead


Borough is not ‘broke’ on cash, only ideas

Last year I wrote in these pages that RBWM had not run out of cash, but it may have run out of ideas that genuinely help their residents.

This year’s budget confirmed the first point with a further £100million of spending on day-to-day services along with significant capital investment across the Royal Borough.

Like most councils in England, RBWM faces a challenging financial situation but it is not ‘broke’ and has not run out of cash.

Readers will have their own views on my prediction that RBWM has run out of ideas that genuinely help their residents.

Apart from painting over zebra crossings with rainbows our councillors have asked why the cost of burials should not rise given the value of land in our borough; suggested a target should be set for litter fines to pay for services and removed the weekly black bin collections for residents depending on what type of property they live in.

I recently presented a petition to keep weekly black bin collections to the full RBWM Council and not one councillor (from any party) stood up to support the idea.

Although more than 3,000 residents signed the petition it was airily dismissed by the RBWM cabinet with one member of the administration telling me ‘get off your soapbox’.

Councillors clearly think that getting rid of this service will help residents.

Those affected by this change will be able to judge that for themselves during the summer months when council staff have said that ‘three months of turbulence’ should be expected while weekly black bin collections are scrapped.

Residents from across the Royal Borough are clearly fed up with some of our local politicians and their shenanigans.

In a post-COVID world it would be good to see our councillors make, explain and deliver policies that genuinely help their residents rather than serving their own interests or the interests of the council.

RBWM has not run out of cash, but sharper minds not political shenanigans will deliver ideas that genuinely help the residents of our great Royal Borough.

Let's see if we can at least work towards this goal post COVID!

ED WILSON

Bryer Place

Windsor


Not worth breaking up UK for free trade deal

Graeme Smith has a humorous way of saying ‘I told you so’, or more accurately ‘Project Fear told you so’ (Viewpoint, March 18)

But while the principal architect of Project Fear, George Osborne, issued many dire warnings about the disasters likely to befall us if we dared to vote to leave the EU I do not recall him ever predicting that the leading figures in his party would prove incapable of implementing a sensible withdrawal, even if they were willing to attempt it – which he and David Cameron were not.

This started nearly eight years ago when the Tories published a draft bill for a referendum on EU membership which failed to say what should ensue if we voted to leave; this flaw was pointed out but it was still carried through to the 2015 Act, so that legal challenges started within days of the vote, and over nine months were wasted before the withdrawal notice could be put in.

And now we have a Lords committee warning that relations between the UK and the EU have deteriorated so badly, especially over the Irish protocol, that it is becoming conceivable that the EU may not ratify the trade treaty, which it has yet to do, and reiterating their previously expressed view that it is difficult to envisage a worse outcome for the UK than a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

I disagree. it might be nice to have a free trade deal with the EU, overall worth the same to our economy as maybe six months natural growth at the trend growth rate, but I would much prefer to keep the United Kingdom intact and default to the WTO treaties for our trade with the EU; betraying our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland and breaking up the country would be far worse.

Dr D R COOPER

Belmont Park Avenue

Maidenhead


Government tarnishing the UK’s reputation

‘British people expect their government to stand up for freedom, democracy and the rule of law.’

So spoke Dominic Raab about the ‘global Britain’ defence and security review.

Freedom, democracy and the rule of law are universal, not just Union Jack, values.

But slowly but surely our increasingly authoritarian government is tarnishing the UK’s reputation.

Parliament was prorogued illegally, ministers boast of breaking international law on Brexit and then broke the agreement on border checks in Ireland.

US President Jimmy Carter once said that ‘the best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate that our democratic system is worthy of emulation’.

He was a wise man.

Now our increasingly populist government has published an alarming crime bill
which restricts the right to protest and allows the police to clamp down on protests almost at will.

The same bill proposes maximum jail sentences of 10 years for defacing a statue as against five years for rape. Thank you to our MP Theresa May for saying that freedom of speech is the basis of our democracy ‘however annoying or uncomfortable that might be’.

Meanwhile vaccine wars go on, inflamed by the tabloid press and ministers.

Dominic Raab said that Ursula van der Leyen (President of the European Commission) was acting ‘like a dictator’, which was guaranteed to foster the kind of collaborative international efforts that are essential to help the whole world recover from coronavirus.

I despair.

RICHARD POAD

Cookham


Watch out for NHS privatisation by stealth

It was welcome news to hear that plans by the Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust to create a WOS (Wholly Owned Subsidiary) at its three hospitals – Wexham, Heatherwood and Frimley – have been dropped.

These proposals would have seen more than 1,000 non-clinical staff roles, including housekeeping, security and porters, transferred to the new company, thus creating a two-tier workforce with new workers operating under separate terms and conditions to the NHS.

The WOS always represented ‘the thin end of the wedge’ starting with cleaners and security guards, etc but opening a path to put more and more staff at arm’s length.

According to local news, a spokesperson for the Trust said: ‘we have confirmed to staff that we will not be pursuing the creation of a wholly-owned subsidiary and we will continue to work with them to deliver our strategy and to secure the benefits in different ways’.

Clearly this represents a victory for the three unions – GMB, UNITE AND UNISON - who reacted so quickly and stood firm against the Trust proposals with relentless determination to say ‘No’ to this privatisation by the back door.

Solidarity was also expressed by others across the locality.

Slough & District Trades Council, the Save Heatherwood Hospital campaign group (SHH), Defend Our Community Services (DOCS) and local Labour Party members all came together in support of the campaign.

They joined the rallies, ran street stalls and wrote to the press to defend the workers and the future of our NHS.

This announcement has been welcomed wholeheartedly.

However, caution should be exercised as the future of our NHS is in jeopardy and needs to be monitored closely.

It is well known that the Government has handed out lucrative contracts to the likes of SERCO; often with disastrous results as in the NHS Test and Trace which have been well reported in the national press.

So too, the latest news that one of the UK’s biggest GP practice operators with 500,000 patients has quietly passed into the hands of the US health insurance group Centene Corporation, fuelling calls for an inquiry into ‘NHS privatisation by stealth’.

All who believe in the importance of the NHS need to be aware of its precarious existence.

We have all benefited from the NHS and more recently, its value has become critically apparent during COVID-19 when we have seen the sheer dedication, loyalty and commitment from all who work within it.

We need to be mindful of all the challenges to its future and rally to its defence.

Long live our NHS!

SPIKE HUMPHREY

Vice-Chair, Slough & District Trades Council

MARGERY THOROGOOD

Secretary, Slough & District Trades Council


Council meetings no place for vile outbursts

We have seen over the last 3-4 months in council meetings, councillors behave in an unprofessional manner, including the use of vile expletives.

Colleagues have been ridiculed and disrespected in a below the bar fashion. This is totally unacceptable and needs to stop.

We recently saw Handforth Parish Council in the news.

Many eyebrows were raised listening to some of the members expressing their views, using unacceptable language and some even looked like they needed some form of anger management.

It’s unfortunate to say there are a few RBWM councillors who come over in the same way, which is of a serious concern.

Since being elected as a councillor in May 2019, I have experienced online abuse, intimidation and a fellow councillor trying to ridicule me for supposedly not knowing the English language, although I was born in this great country and have a good grasp of the English language, as well as other languages.

Only a few weeks ago we heard a Liberal Democrat councillor apologise at full council for interrupting and swearing at a previous full council meeting, blaming his dog for his wrongdoing. Who is he kidding?

Last year our former Madam Mayor was told to ‘go to hell’ in an extraordinary outburst by another councillor and so the list goes on…

Lines have been crossed and accountability is lacking. It needs to stop and standards must return for everyone’s benefit.

Behaviours of this kind discourage people from standing to become a councillor and with the inevitable effects on mental health, it can take its toll.

We are only human and should not have to endure this style of opposition.

There is a saying that you need to have thick skin in politics, that may be true, but there are limits to what you should be subjected to.

Of course, we need to be held to account and robustly so, but respectfully.

That means agreeing to end abuse, poor conduct and harmful behaviours.

As Conservatives, we are concerned with running the council, providing good services and value for money, protecting vulnerable people, and delivering a balanced budget.

The time we have to spend defending ourselves against cheap shots and nonsense is dead and unproductive.

I can only assume residents look on in dismay.

All RBWM councillors are elected to represent the residents and the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead – we need to fully respect the positions we are privileged to hold and I would go as far as to say aim to be a positive example for councillor conduct across the country.

Some councillors sadly need to take stock.

As councillors of the Royal Borough we should be setting an example of ‘high standards’, not being in the local and national press for vile outbursts.

We are answerable to the residents of the Royal Borough, who are the ultimate judge and jury.

Cllr GURPREET BHANGRA

Conservative, Boyn Hill


Home to School Policy aims to be fair to all

Many residents will be aware of the consultation we have launched regarding school transport.

I wanted to bring some additional clarity given some misinformation being distributed on social media.

The council is required to review the Home to School Transport policy annually.

The review takes place in February, consultation takes place in March/April and the final version of the policy is published in May.

I want to underline and emphasise that we want the policy to be fair to all residents and schools across the Borough, while ensuring transport assistance is still provided to our most vulnerable pupils.

Hence, our stated option in the consultation is to retain the provision of free bus passes for statutory school age low income fare paying families.

For transparency, we list all options, but I am clear we will continue to protect statutory school age low income families with continued free passes.

Why an increase in fees for SEND pupils aged over 16 travelling greater distances?

This was one of the options considered, however, the council’s stated option is to retain the flat rate fee charge regardless of the distance travelled.

For transparency, the option is listed in the consultation.

Therefore, there is no proposed penalty for those travelling further distances based on our proposal.

We are proposing that low income families with pupils over 16 years of age do make a contribution to their transport, but at no more than 50 per cent of the standard bus pass rate.

Individual circumstances will always be considered.

Holyport Village is served by two public bus operators, the White Bus (school service only, direct to Cox Green) and Courtney Bus (change in Maidenhead for Cox Green). The council purchases bus passes on these services for entitled pupils.

The council is proposing to withdraw the automatic entitlement to a free bus pass
on public transport currently offered to Holyport Village and to withdraw the subsidy offered specifically to Eton Wick residents only to make this the same policy across the whole Borough.

Holyport Village and Eton Wick residents will still be able to apply for transport assistance.

In this instance, if a resident is not entitled to a free bus pass under the policy and they live in Holyport Village they will be able to purchase a bus pass on the local public bus services provided by White Bus and Courtney Bus respectively.

Residents living in Eton Wick and not entitled to free transport will be able to purchase a bus pass on the council contracted school coaches or the Fernhill public bus service.

We are proposing to retain the provision of free bus passes for statutory school age low income fare paying families.

The focus of this consultation is to get
all views, but our priorities are clear:
protect statutory school age vulnerable low income families by continuing the free pass; ensure fairness and equity across the system and all of the Borough; and ensure we provide transport assistance to all our entitled students.

I would encourage all residents to complete the consultation. Visit tinyurl.com/kvkmd23k

Cllr STUART CARROLL

Conservative, Boyn Hill

Deputy Chair of Cabinet


Can you go green for ambulance volunteers?

March 23 marked the anniversary of the first COVID-19 lockdown and your readers will be very aware of the huge and continuing efforts to tackle the pandemic by our colleagues in the NHS, our St John Ambulance volunteers and many other organisations nationwide.

Details of our work over the last 12 months can be found on our website, www.sja.org.uk.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all these groups in Berkshire for their ongoing work to keep us safe and help us move carefully into the post-COVID period – whether they are working in vaccination centres, training vaccinators, working in hospitals, crewing ambulances or providing a wide range of other vital services in their communities.

We should all also take some time to remember those who lost their lives over the past 12 months.

Another date we will soon be marking is St John’s Day on June 24.

Traditionally, our volunteers and staff have used this as an opportunity to reflect on the work of our charity around the country and take part in an annual service of rededication in the magnificent surroundings of St Paul’s Cathedral. This year, coronavirus will once again make this impossible.

Last year we observed St John’s Day in a variety of new and different ways because of the pandemic, and one of the most visible events was the lighting up in green of more than 40 buildings and landmarks around the country.

We are hoping that many more buildings will light up in green in 2021 and, if you are a building owner or custodian and would like to get involved in this year’s event, we’d love to hear from you.

Please contact us at communityfundraising@sja.org.uk to find out more and register your interest.

Readers who wish to help us with a donation can also take part in our new ‘Spring into Action’ campaign and support our volunteers as they continue to step forward to give vital support to those in need across the country.

To find out more, please visit www.sja.org.uk/spring.

St John Ambulance is immensely grateful for the support it has received from everyone in these difficult times.

CLIVE LAWSON-SMITH

Chair

St John Priory Group (Berkshire)

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