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Viewpoint: The neighbourhood plan, the budget and noisy libraries

Featuring debate on the Maidenhead Neighbourhood Plan, the council budget, the importance of the BBC and children in libraries. Scroll down for all of this week's letters.

Viewpoint: The neighbourhood plan, the budget and noisy libraries

All views must be heard on area's future

I regret that I must correct Mick Jarvis for his misunderstanding of the actual situation regarding the rejection of the application by Maidenhead Neighbourhood Forum to be a properly constituted group (Viewpoint, February 20) .

Firstly this administration has, since the launch of Neighbourhood Plans, supported every single application except this one. I know this because I was the chair of the very first group which was over eight years ago.

In addition to a large number of parish councils, residents of Windsor are currently working on two plans to cover the town.

All previous decisions have been endorsed by cabinet after approval by officers. This has been done to give publicity to the work done by residents.

I have no power to delegate decisions.

Delegation is granted by the constitution. The decision by officers is clear.

Maidenhead is a multi-ethnic community comprising people of all ages.

We have many businesses involved in our community from small one-person accountants to multi nationals.

All must be heard.

Cllr DAVID COPPINGER

Lead member for planning and Maidenhead


Neighbourhood Plan needs Forum insight

Not an easy decision I guess, judging whether a group of local people should develop the Neighbourhood Plan.

How do you know if they are fit for purpose when they aren’t elected?

Is the forum established for the correct purpose? Yes, tick.

Is membership open to individuals living or working in the area, and to councillors? Yes, tick.

Are there at least 21 members who live in the neighbourhood, work there, or are elected councillors representing that area? Yes, tick.

But no, wait.. their contact details weren’t provided in the application, so RBWM couldn’t ratify active participation.

Maidenhead Neighbourhood Forum has a GDPR-compliant data protection policy.

No, the contact details of all its members are not in the public domain, quite correctly.

Using information in the public domain, officers checked to see whether 21 named individuals consistently participated in the face-to-face meetings, which is a made-up test, not a requirement either of national legislation or of Maidenhead Neighbourhood Forum’s constitution (which itself got a tick).

All meetings were quorate.. but that test wasn’t applied.

Anyway, no clear evidence, so – fail.

Not a ‘relevant body’.

Didn’t meet the chosen tests.

But taking a step back, what’s going on here? Please?

The council is a vanguard authority on this [neighbourhood plans] project, and is helping communities prepare neighbourhood plans. That’s what the council’s website says.

There could be dialogue – please.

There could be recognition that the Forum social media research reaches and takes input from a wide and balanced set of residents – please.

There could have been a request for membership contacts, without publicising them.

Room to widen the mix of people at the meetings – yes, agreed.

Worth discussion to resolve these issues? Worth a rethink?

I’m sure that’s what a vanguard authority will do – we’ll look forward to it.

IAN ROSE

Courthouse Road

Maidenhead


Planners – be ashamed of killing off town

Yesterday evening we thought we’d go for a drink at The Coppa Club as we’d had lunch there before and it was excellent.

But when we’d visited before we’d cycled there and this time we were actually in a car.

We also wanted to scope it out for a family dinner next week.

However, we never went there because there was literally NOWHERE TO PARK!

We drove past it and turned left then back up the ridiculous Bridge Avenue.

This is a very quiet wide road with double yellow lines both sides and for some stupid reason is one way.

Just make one side a single yellow line and make it two way!

What’s more, the idiot Maidenhead planners have approved yet more hundreds of new homes on the site of a previous car park in Maidenhead centre – less parking and more homes is exactly what we need, isn’t it?

So there’ll be even less places to park.

The Coppa Club is a lovely place with great staff but it, along with many other struggling Maidenhead businesses, is being badly let down by this stupid council, who are obsessed with double yellow lines, one-way streets and pedestrianisation. I guess they want to feel all righteous and green.

Compare Maidenhead centre with Marlow centre and you can see the difference a decent council and planners makes.

Although Marlow is congested, at least the council have done their best to manage the congestion while retaining Marlow’s charm.

Despite their recent efforts to improve Maidenhead, the council and planners should be thoroughly ashamed of the planning mess they have created.

MALCOLM JAMES STRETTEN

Boulters Lane

Maidenhead


Council’s financial future very uncertain

The Conservative administration at RBWM have put forward their proposals for the 2020/21 budget and we see previous manifesto commitment after manifesto commitment being pushed aside.

More community wardens? No... the proposal is to reduce them. Build ‘The Oaks’ leisure centre? No... not in the capital budget or cash flow forecast. £50m on roads and pavements? No... the highways budget is approximately £5m per year. Never pay for parking outside your front door? No... the proposals include charging for permit parking.

This, along with cuts to youth services provision, cuts to early years provision, reduction in the council tax support scheme and removal of residents' discount parking.

To produce a balanced revenue budget (compulsory) for 2020/21 the administration are having to find over £5m of savings or increased revenue AND raid the meagre reserves for over £2m.

Next year we have to find an additional £4m of savings. What is next to go? That manifesto pledge to retain weekly bin collections is looking extremely uncertain. This is not a short-term issue and significant savings continue to be expected over the next five years.

This is a direct result of reducing council tax below a level that would support services, borrowing for capital projects without having a robust repayment plan and using taxpayers’ money to gain votes.

There are warnings in the budget papers that the situation could be out of RBWM’s control and, given certain scenarios, the S151 Officer (usually the finance director) would have to issue a S114 notice. This may reduce spending to statutory services only.

So... yes, there is more social care demand, we knew this was going to happen ...and yes, other councils are seeing the same rise in demand... But other councils have reserves, we don’t. Other councils do not have a forecast £200m capital debt that results in a £7m annual repayment...

This is a situation of their own making and unless they are successful in lobbying for extra funding, or there is a flexibility to raise council tax beyond the two per cent cap, the financial future is very uncertain.

Cllr LYNNE JONES

Leader of the Local Independent Group


Climate change just an excuse for removing subsidised parking

It is understandable that residents are up in arms about RBWM’s withdrawal of parking discount to local Advantage Card holders.

For many, the greatest concern is the negative impact this will have on Windsor’s already struggling night-time economy.

To add insult to injury, the party which, not so long ago, declared it was ending the ‘war on the motorist’ now has the nerve to claim that removing subsidised parking is part of its initiative to address the climate change emergency we all face today.

Those paying attention knew 10 years ago that a slowly evolving crisis in local government budgets was planned by the Conservative/Lib-Dem government.

Support grants were to be progressively reduced, while statutory duties imposed on local authorities were allowed to expand.

Neighbouring Slough Borough Council is in relatively good financial shape today, having made wise investments over the years with the public money entrusted to its care. In contrast, the Royal Borough has pursued a Mr Micawber strategy: using up its reserves, and spending more than it brought in – presumably in the hope that ‘something would turn up’.

Spare a thought for the RBWM council employees caught up in this sorry tale.

The annual habit of ‘squeezing budgets’ to maintain an artificially low council tax became a drug which councillors found hard to kick. All too often, the route to savings turned out to be staff cuts, and shedding the most experienced workers was always the most attractive option.

Residents experienced the pain of this whenever they used council services but for employees it meant the huge stress of trying to maintain service with fewer and fewer people.

This was while their pay failed (in a quite deliberate tactic) to keep up with the cost of living; and their security of employment was whittled almost to nothing. There is another freeze on their pay this year.

The budget crisis in future years is only likely to get more severe, not less.

SPIKE HUMPHREY

on behalf of Slough & District Trades Council


Falling shopper footfall not helped by parking

Two weeks ago, in the wake of the closure of Lakeland and other shops, you reported that Cllr Rayner was asking (begging?) local residents to continue shopping in Windsor, where the footfall has fallen alarmingly.

The situation in Maidenhead is very similar, where the town centre is the biggest building site in Berkshire.

Yet on Tuesday this week, the council was set to remove discounted parking for residents, which is guaranteed not to encourage local shopping.

Does the right hand of the council not know what the left hand is doing?

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED


Speak out to stop BBC from being undermined

I may have read Jim Taylor’s ‘Opinion’ as a witty praise for the BBC (Viewpoint, February 13) – somewhat differently from Tess Marsh (Viewpoint, February 20) – but I totally agree with her that the BBC is marvellous and welcome her letter as a springboard to a defence of the BBC.

What is interesting is that the list of programmes Jim Taylor listens to and watches are not my choices, which illustrates the range that it covers.

I wake up to Radio 3 with its mix of all types of music, including listeners’ requests, and in the evening, listen to Radio 3 or 4, depending on the subject matter, or watch TV.

It often happens to be the BBC for art, nature, a documentary on another country and culture, or topic of interest.

I would add that it is as valuable to our mental wellbeing as the health service is to our physical.

It nurtures fresh talent, has the pick of the best presenters, gives us access to the most brilliant and original minds, and opens us up to the outside world.

I listen to be entertained, to laugh, and to learn; I listen to points of view other than my own.

True, not everyone listens to BBC radio, or watches its programmes on TV. Even if they watch one or two programmes a month, I think it is worth the licence fee.

No one would dream of withholding their taxes or national insurance because they claim they have no children or are not pensioners; that they won’t pay because they never visit the doctor or have never been to hospital.

The BBC is part of the fabric of this country.

Can you imagine being without an independent broadcasting service that is the envy of the world?

Can you imagine radio stations dictated to by The State?

If you care to stop the BBC being undermined, please sign this petition: www.you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-our-bbc-1 and/or email Boris Johnson and the Culture Secretary.

SYLVIE HOWSE

Portlock Road

Maidenhead


Can libraries return to being a place of shhh?

I can already hear the hisses and loud boos, but seriously folks.....

"Classes were all connected with balance, confidence and movement, " said Jeannette Kemp library stock officer (‘Clowning around at library leads to new skills’, February 20)

Is it only me that checked my dictionary to confirm that a library is still ‘a building where a collection of books/films/records are kept’?

Maidenhead Library would, I've no doubt, even benefit by being renamed The Maidenhead Social and Community Centre.

We haven't got one of those have we? I wouldn't mind, honest!

At least that would explain why the quality, variety and quantity of books has deteriorated at what was my local library.

I will also feel less guilty as I look elsewhere for an alternative library for my monthly five to six books.

Hopefully the books would also have all their pages and not the feel of 60 year old books, ie. yellow pages.

Aaaaagh, gone are the days of peaceful, quiet libraries with an amazing and diverse selection of books to quietly ponder over, without a musical background of ‘The wheels on the bus go round and round’.

Children should be encouraged to use the library, for books. Sorry mums.

Please can I have my library back?

I know.... Baa Humbug !!

KATHLEEN EVANS

Lancaster Road

Maidenhead


Heathrow facts that aren't pie in the sky

I am writing to reply to the letter in last week’s Viewpoint (February 20) by Parmijt Dhanda of BackHeathrow in which he welcomes debate about facts.

He says that I was right to say that electric aircraft are not the answer but the leaflet that BackHeathrow distributed says ‘current thinking is that electric aircraft will touch down at major international airports by 2030’, i.e. only 10 years away, which Is highly misleading.

Rather than, as it purports to be, a residents campaign group, BackHeathrow is in fact Heathrow’s own campaigner with large funds coming from Heathrow itself.

He says that ‘Heathrow can expand and meet environmental targets by creating the largest car sharing scheme in Europe, a new ‘ultra low emissions’ vehicle charge or major improvements to public transport’.

However Heathrow car sharing has been promoted for decades for thousands of employees without much success.

It could not be applied to the millions of passenger car users who will be coaxed to the airport by the proposed new 50,000 capacity multi-storey car parks, another huge Heathrow money-spinner.

And Heathrow’s own cargo plans show their objective is to be ‘the preferred trans-atlantic gateway for Europe’ with a growth in Truck-Air transit weight of 2.45 times by 2040.

There are no current or shortly planned heavy long-distance electric trucks, so this means nearly two and a half times the number of diesel heavy trucks on surrounding roads, and to and from the Channel Tunnel, with commensurate increases in diesel pollution and congestion.

Heathrow are only prepared to pay £1bn of the estimated £4bn to £15bn needed for road and rail access to the airport.

So Heathrow are relying on a subsidy from the taxpayer to support their third runway.

BackHeathrow mention that the CBI supports it, however the fact that someone supports a third runway is irrelevant, anymore than the fact that President Trump doesn’t believe in climate change means climate change isn’t happening. Let’s have some real facts:

  • The Government’s own expert advisor, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), has made it clear that offsets cannot be used to help to meet our ‘net zero’ climate target.
  • Air pollution is one of the biggest public health issues in the UK, with 40,000 people dying early every year. Heathrow, with its planes and road traffic is already the UK’s biggest polluter and increasing its size by 50 per cent with 700 more flights a day will make it impossible to meet air pollution limits set to protect human health.
  • He says that Heathrow expansion ‘will create economic growth for our nation’, however the Government’s own analysis in the Department for Transport’s National Policy Statement of 2018 shows economic benefit of approximately zero (‘Net Present Value’ after costs over 60 years in the range -£2.5bn to +£2.9bn).
  • Meanwhile last year Heathrow’s mainly foreign shareholders received £800m in dividends, much, much more than the projected annual net benefit to the UK as a whole. Also this is money taken out of the UK and so not directly benefiting the UK and local economies.
  • For approval to build Terminal 5 Heathrow promised 6,000 new jobs, however since that time the airport workforce has reduced from 79,000 to 76,000, a reduction of 3,000, and a mismatch of 9,000 jobs.
  • The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has twice conducted polls of its residents showing that a majority do not want Heathrow expansion, which is why they are part of the five West London councils, along with the Mayor of London, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Climate Change lawyers who are challenging expansion in the High Court.

PAUL GROVES

Tithe Barn Drive

Bray


Touring EU will be unviable for musicians

The opportunity for EU musicians to perform will be seriously curtailed in 10 months when we officially leave the EU.

Anyone from the EU wishing to perform in the UK will need to apply for a visa to enter the UK at a cost of £244 for each group member, plus prove they have £1,000 of savings and can support themselves, unless they are ‘A-rated’.

They must also provide certificate of sponsorship from an event organiser.

This onerous paperwork will cut through the legs of the bottom half of the music industry, and UK artists will feel the same pain in Brussels if they implement similar restrictions on UK tours to EU countries.

And we have only just started to negotiate UK official withdrawal from the EU.

The Home Secretary Priti Patel should rethink the consequences of this irresponsible legislation and this is not the way we should bring in this immigration restriction.

This legislation will affect small Art Centre venues such as at Norden Farm and South Hill Park. Is this really what we voted for in that referendum some three years ago ?

BRUCE ADAMS

Cox Green Lane

Maidenhead


EU should not forget UK's war sacrifices

Since the good Doctor Cooper is still defending the UK's departure from the EU I'd like to join in at the risk of prolonging the agony.

It seems the 27 members of the EU were due to meet on Tuesday to discuss and agree their response to the UK's trading position following the transition period.

Macron has made it clear that he will make things difficult for us.

I'd like us to remind the French, the Germans, the Austrians, the Dutch, the Luxemburgers, the Belgians, the Italians, the Greeks and other members that their independence would not exist without the UK – the one European country that stood against the Nazis and helped defeat them, thus ensuring the freedom of western Europe.

Each of those countries owes us undying gratitude for the sacrifices we made between 1939 and 1945 and we should remind them that without us there would be no EU but rather a Greater Germany and slavery.

Is this something Doctor Cooper can agree on?

HUGH LANSLEY

Balmoral

Maidenhead


‘Out of Europe and no longer run by Europe’

What a strange, rambling, muddled, diatribe from Gavin Ames (Viewpoint, February 20).

His core complaint seems to be that he is tired of reading my letters about the EU.

Well, the good news is that there is no compelling need for him to read them; and I am envious, as I would much prefer to see no need to write them.

A happy position which could have been reached two years ago, if the Tories had got their act together both before and after the referendum.

Back in 1996 William Hague set out to placate the eurosceptic grassroots of his party with the delusional slogan ‘In Europe but not run by Europe’; in the same nonsensical terms David Cameron and Theresa May together have now got us ‘Out of Europe but still run by Europe’.

So, alas, we are still waiting to see whether or not her successor will keep his word and get us ‘Out of Europe and no longer run by Europe’; and if that means Mr Ames is going to be upset by any continued commentary in these pages, or elsewhere, then that is unfortunate but he should really blame those responsible for the unnecessary delay.

Dr D R COOPER

Belmont Park Avenue

Maidenhead


Still so much to be settled with the EU

I would like to remind Gavin Ames (Viewpoint, February 20) that there are many things still to be decided with the European Union. The British in Europe group (britishineurope.org) has written to Michel Barnier with examples of how free movement is essential.

The people who came to the UK as a fellow EU country in good faith are asking for the ‘automatic rights’ they were promised by certain British politicians. Faced with having to apply for permission to stay in their own homes, they are asking for a physical proof of their status, not online only.

What about the customs union and the free movement of people, goods that have been processed, services and capital re Northern Ireland?

The Eurasmus university exchange scheme is just one of the EU's projects.

Euratom! Who mentioned the European Atomic Energy Community in 2016?

The European Commission has published its 3.2.2020 recommendation on the ‘opening of negotiations for a new partnership’.

The Common Travel Area between the United Kingdom and Ireland should not be affected (paragraph 56).

On fishing, any new agreement should avoid ‘economic dislocation’ for fishermen of other countries who have traditionally worked in UK waters (paragraph 83). Fish is a shared resource that often moves around - mackerel, for example, migrate between near Spain and near Norway.

Law enforcement cooperation and judicial cooperation in criminal matters depends on the UK's continuing support for the European Convention of Human Rights (paragraph 113).

PHIL JONES

Member, European Movement UK

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  • PeterPlucker

    22:38, 03 March 2020

    It is about tie that Councils REBELLED en masse on the Government Cuts which have destroyed the social fabric of our nation. Why do they take the horrecndous underfunding without a whimper? And why do we?

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    • rogersmith02

      15:10, 04 March 2020

      We have the option to vote for other councillors and MPs if we don't like what the last elected ones are doing.

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