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Viewpoint: The vaccine rollout, council meeting chaos and night flights

Featuring discussion on some superb performances at the Desborough Suite, another council row, library closures and development in Maidenhead. Email letters to jamesp@baylismedia.co.uk

Bravo to Desborough’s top class production

The Desborough Suite at the Town Hall has seen some first class performances over the years but few would compare with the production presently being shown.

Advertisements for the show are clearly indicated outside the building and there is a very warm welcome given to those booked in by ticket and with a measured entrance into the hall.

The theatre goers are then ushered into the auditorium and immediately the stage unfolds; the actors ready at their stations and the audience shown to their respective places – who then become part of the Dramatis personae.

A dialogue ensues followed by a display of needlework by the cast and (usually) a smile of silent applause from members of the audience.

Many will return for an encore in a few weeks time.

THANK YOU to all the staff, attendants and nurses for a very fine show of community service in the fight against COVID-19.

PETER GRIMSHAW

Wessex Way

Maidenhead


Tough start for council monitoring officer

As an attendee, I was shocked to watch the RBWM cabinet meeting last Thursday descend into chaos, with the new monitoring officer reprimanding councillors to focus on the seriousness of the issues at hand.

The problems were initially triggered when a number of apparently disparaging remarks were made about Adam Bermange’s petition in his absence.

The successful petition to scrap car park fees had gathered over 1,800 signatures from residents of all political persuasions (and none), so it was surprising to hear it described as ‘politicised’.

In my view it simply represented a vital source of resident feedback to councillors.

The managing director had little choice but to intervene and remind councillors that referring to members of the public by name in formal statutory meetings is inherently unfair as we (the public) have no immediate right of reply.

There has been a depressing trend in recent weeks for council papers to bury bad news deep down in the appendices, under often obscure titles.

Without Adam’s detective work, I think 1,800 of us would probably have had little idea that the charges were even proposed.

It certainly wasn’t obvious that ‘rural car parks’ would include Oaken Grove was it?!

Adam (or ‘that Boyn Hill chap’ as he was gently referenced) is tireless in looking at the detail behind issues in my experience.

This was surely a baptism of fire for the new monitoring officer, so I hope and trust this event will lead to positive change within council meetings.

ANDREW HILL

Rutland Gate

Maidenhead


Libraries especially important for some

I read with dismay the article Is it the end for some libraries? (January 28) about RBWM’s proposal to reduce the opening hours of some libraries and to close others.

I am appalled by this prospect.

Every time libraries come under threat we hear from authors and others who say that if it had not been for libraries, they would not be where they are now!

Unfortunately there are still many homes where books are not valued and have none or very few books.

I remember reading an article some years ago about a project in London where primary school children were asked to bring a book to school. In some areas a worrying number of children brought in the Argos catalogue as it was the only ‘book’ at home!

To emphasise the importance of books and libraries, a couple of pages later was an article about Courthouse School appealing for donations of books as it is encouraging children to read for pleasure but has found that ‘many children are reading a very limited range of books or even rereading the same book over and over again for months’.

That is not good for any child and as Kelly Buxton said: “Books can open up the world to them. Being an avid reader leads to the biggest academic outcomes in later life.”

Libraries are in important resource for
all of us but especially for children who do not have books at home or access computers.

Cllr JANE PERRY

Sutton Road

Cookham


Fuzzy thinking and the loss of our green lung

Opinion by Gavin Ames, Maidenhead Advertiser (February 4), eloquently summarises the problems that the planned massive development in Maidenhead town centre will cause.

Furthermore, he points out that the fuzzy thinking behind the Borough Local Plan (BLP) to build homes all over Maidenhead Golf Course where fauna and flora flourish to be opportunistic at best and immoral at worst.

To put this into context, the BLP proposes, that out of a total of 8,296 new homes planned on allocated sites across the whole Royal Borough, disproportionately, 6,144 of these homes are to be built in Maidenhead.

Of these 2,760 homes are planned in the high rise town centre development and 2,600 in South West Maidenhead, which includes 2,000 new homes on Maidenhead Golf Course.

I totally agree with Mr Ames’s conclusion that ‘if the last year has taught us anything, it is the importance of wide open spaces and the ability to connect with nature’.

The golf course is a wonderful green space and for the last 125 years has been the major green lung for Maidenhead.

Councillors, please leave it for the town to enjoy.

GEORGE MIDGLEY

Walker Road

Maidenhead


Not one cyclist using A308 cycle lane

I declare my hand as a non cyclist, not because I do not recognise the health benefits of such an activity, but a desire not to expose myself to what must be one of the most life threatening hobbies available.

I am therefore confused as to the behaviour of cyclists that I see on our town roads.

I had to visit Windsor last month to attend a hospital appointment, and driving on the A308, I passed no fewer than 14 cyclists.

Our council have spent a great deal of money providing a cycle path for their safety, but not one cyclist was using it. Why?

Before any more money is spent, could I suggest the council follow up any such plan with a survey to establish the usage, or lack of, and reasons before committing any more of our meagre funds to such a project that is obviously either not needed or wanted by those who cycle.

CHRIS LOCKE

Talbots Drive

Maidenhead


No attempt made to camouflage mast

To paraphrase Prince Charles, we have a monstrous carbuncle in our midst.

Where is this blot on the landscape?

It’s in a road in Maidenhead, on All Saints Avenue, just near the junction with Courthouse Road, outside All Saints Cemetery.

It is a phone mast and by any desc-ription, it is enormous, being five metres taller than the existing masts there already and higher than the houses opposite.

There are huge boxes and other paraphernalia on display and, worst of all, it is buff in colour.

There has been no attempt to blend it in to the green background, unlike for the two others there, which at least have their electronics encased and not on display.

It should at least be green to go with the background and preferably like the others fully encased.

IAN SMITH

Belmont Crescent

Maidenhead


Have your say on night flights

The Department of Transport (DfT) is conducting a night flights survey, closing on March 3 and this is particularly important for residents of Windsor, Datchet, Old Windsor and the surrounding areas.

The DfT says ‘there is growing evidence that exposure to high levels of aircraft noise can adversely affect people’s health’ and yet there has been no review of the night flight regime for 15 years and now they are proposing to extend it for a further two years.

The World Health Organisation, who have a leading role in these pandemic times, the US National Sleep Foundation and others strongly recommend that all adults have eight hours sleep a night, school age children nine to 11 hours and infants 12 to 15 hours sleep a night.

They say that lack of sleep health ill-effects include stress, hypertension or high blood pressure, dementia and premature death.

The Times has reported neuroscientist and sleep researcher, Professor Matthew Walker, as saying ‘not getting enough shuteye makes us fat, damages our organs and alters our DNA’.

And ‘with less than seven hours, you can measure objective impairments in brain and body’, and that lack of sleep is increasingly being associated as leading to slower learning in children, obesity, dementia, calcification of arteries and a reduction in our bodies’ production of vital cancer-fighting cells!

NATS requires its air traffic controllers to get sufficient sleep ‘as a matter of life and death’ however similar requirements are not applied for the rest of us.

The DfT study is looking at continuing Heathrow’s existing night time curfew which is from 11.30pm to 6am.

But this is ‘from the stand or gate’ and ‘to the stand or gate’.

So an aircraft leaving the gate at 11.30am takes around 15 minutes to taxi to the runway and a further 15 minutes to take off and be over local residents of Windsor and surrounding areas at midnight.

But early morning arrivals are allowed from 4.30am; so over Windsor at 4am to arrive at the gate at 4.30am.

What the DfT say is 6 ½ hours respite is in reality only 4 hours for people trying to sleep soundly in Windsor and surrounding areas. But that’s not all. Heathrow is allowed up to 16 ‘unscheduled; flights per night, ie departing late or arriving early.

These can and do occur at for example midnight, 1am, and even 2am, with the early morning arrivals at 4am or 4.30am.

One can't imagine passengers waiting around at the airport, or Heathrow support staff being available for flights at midnight, 1am or 2am, so one has to question whether these are cargo flights?

Rather than continuing the existing Heathrow night-flight curfew, it should be increased to an eight-hour ban every night.

COVID has prompted a reassessment of priorities not to live by past standards.

Let's use this opportunity to create a New Normal, grow back better and protect the health of our children, our families and ourselves.

Please send your objections, experiences and adverse effects of night time aircraft noise to the consultation at night.flights@dft.gov.uk by 3rd March.

Please also copy your response to info@stopheathrowexpansion.co.uk

PAUL GROVES

Tithe Barn Drive

Between Windsor and Maidenhead


Think ahead on proof of vaccination

We are told that everyone over 50 should be vaccinated by May for COVID-19 and I believe most people would like to carry with them proof that they have been vaccinated - a vaccine passport.

This will certainly help people travelling abroad and places like Denmark have such plans to produce a digital vaccination passport.

In the UK the Government has no plans introduce vaccine passports.

Their priority is to keep GPs and their team on the frontline of the vaccination program and not spend time on cumbersome red tape.

But then we are told we can always ask your GP for a form of proof, which is taking up the GP’s time when surely it could be produced automatically from say an app such as the ‘myGP’, or even stamped in a passport to show a person has been vaccinated.

We really do need to think ahead on this particular issue otherwise it’s going to cause loads of problems lots of people wishing to travel abroad or are required to show proof of vaccination.

BRUCE ADAMS

Cox Green Lane

Maidenhead


Yellow booklet listed all my vaccinations

Why all the fuss about vaccine passports?

For decades I carried with my passport a little yellow booklet with details of yellow fever, typhoid, polio and other vaccinations.

I still have the yellow booklet and hardly considered it an assault on my personal freedom.

As this pandemic goes on, it is clear that until the majority of the population is vaccinated normal travel will not be resumed.

So vaccination certificates may well be essential.

Airport, airline and quarantine hotel staff should all be vaccinated at an early date to make travel safer for all.

It absolutely must happen, for if the aviation industry ‘loses’ this summer as it did summer 2020 another wave of redundancies is almost inevitable, which will make a huge impact in the Maidenhead and Windsor areas.

RICHARD POAD

Cookham


Raise expectations, learn from the past

In response to the letter last week from Sal Pinto on the EU vaccination programme (Viewpoint, February 4), I would like to make a couple of points.

As a Liberal Democrat one of the things I stand for is basic competence at any level, including our council and the Government.

I therefore agree with Sal that the EU has got this one seriously wrong and I will not say that one should make allowances or that it has just had bad luck.

As a democratically accountable institution held to a high standard of competence, there is, quite rightly, talk of political consequences for those responsible.

Rather than using the pandemic as an opportunity to either have a pop at the EU or defend it, a more relevant question is why some countries have had a particularly awful experience during the last year and others much less so.

One possible answer seems to be the ability to learn from the past, especially the SARS outbreak of 2002/04.

This is generally accepted as the explanation for the experience of countries such as South Korea.

A second explanation may be that some governments act with calmness and competence, are not indecisive when difficult decisions need to be made, and admit to mistakes so they can learn from them.

In support of this explanation it has been observed that some of the countries that have proved more adept at coping during the last year are led by women.

Maybe we should all have higher expectations for competent government at all levels.

SIMON BOND

Castle Mews

Maidenhead


Transformation should not be a dirty word

A keystone of our adult social care strategy has been transformation; a plan kicked off by my predecessor Cllr Coppinger over six years ago and one I have enthusiastically continued.

Why? Because we are committed and determined to deliver best practice in a rapidly evolving world to ensure the best possible health and well-being outcomes for residents.

So what do we mean by transformation?

First and foremost, it is not a dirty word like some in the opposition have politically claimed and is certainly not a euphemism for cuts.

I have talked at length about lamentable politics before and when it comes to vulnerable people it is beyond grim.

Transformation is about opportunity, using innovation and technology, but more than anything else, it is about embracing best practice, seeking improvement and harnessing new ways of working and doing things.

Transformation at its best can deliver not just improved quality and outcomes to service users, but also more cost-effective solutions which are beneficial to the taxpayer.

It should also be noted that, under the Care Act, we have a duty of care to assess people’s needs for care and support, and so any proposal we bring forward in adult social care must be consulted on but moreover ensure individuals needs are met.

A recent question honed in on our budget proposal to save £500,000 on our reablement service through transformation.

The context and reason are vital as explained at the recent overview and scrutiny meeting and through other forums.

The proposal for the reablement service means that we will be investing in occupational therapists and reablement practitioners to support all residents discharged from hospital to recover as much of their confidence and independent living skills as possible so that they can continue to live at home for longer.

This proposal means an increased investment into the already established Short Term Support and Reablement team so that they can support more people to live their lives without reliance on paid support, which in turn will realise a saving.

Any length of stay in hospital reduces a person’s confidence, particularly if they have had a fall or other illness, and we want to reduce the risk of someone being readmitted to hospital or needing to move to a care home or other forms of intensive support.

Thus, this proposal is all about improving outcomes and seeking to prevent debilitating downstream consequences of having to go into hospital, which if avoided do in turn realise a saving.

As a professional health economist and epidemiologist, I have seen so many times healthcare systems and adult social care services sadly apply Einstein’s metaphorical definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Einstein also said: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

Moving forward is exactly what we intend to do with these important proposals.

We owe it to our most vulnerable residents to ensure we do what it takes to protect them and that is our unflinching focus with our transformation strategy.

Cllr STUART CARROLL
Conservative, Boyn Hill

Lead member for adult social care, children services, health and mental health


Liz Truss announces potential trade deals

Trade secretary Liz Truss has announced that the UK will apply to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bloc.

It may seem a bit odd that we would even be allowed to join this organisation when we have no Pacific coast, and even more odd that her department has actually made no assessment of the potential benefit for our economy.

Which sets it apart from other proposed free trade deals; such as one with New Zealand, for which a lengthy analysis has recently been published.

However while the absence of any prior economic impact assessment is rather unusual it is not unprecedented, because officials in three departments – trade, business and Treasury – have all responded to my Freedom of Information requests by denying any knowledge of an economic assessment of the ‘Canada-style’ free trade agreement that Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought with the EU.

Which trade agreement still awaits approval by the EU Parliament, with some members threatening to withhold consent because our government is, quite correctly, refusing to accord the EU's representative in the UK the same diplomatic status as the ambassador of a country.

After all the EU’s own supreme court ruled in 2014 that “the EU is, under international law, precluded by its very nature from being considered a State”, and surely it would be wrong for our government to aid and abet the EU Commission in breaking both EU and wider international law.

But how much would it really matter if that trade deal with the EU never came into effect? £660 billion a year, as claimed by Boris Johnson, or more like the £3 billion a year derived from one independent estimate? (Viewpoint, December 31).

Dr D R COOPER

Belmont Park Avenue

Maidenhead


Great responsibility with great power

Readers may like to reflect the book of Genesis mandates us to have dominion over animals and plants.

So as we desecrate nature we know where responsibility lies.

M D GEARY

Forlease Drive

Maidenhead


Source water is safe and untreated

I read the letter from Dr Adrian Doble on natural source waters (Viewpoint, January 15) and would like to address some of the matters he raises.

He states that tap water undergoes ‘more stringent tests… than is bottled water’.

This is misleading for your readers as tap water undergoes a heavily industrialised process using powerful chemicals, which is why there is a need for additional testing.

Natural source waters come from protected underground sources and must be safe to drink at source, they are not chemically treated.

Both are equally safe to drink and the tests they undergo reflect the differences in their production.

Many people choose natural source waters because they haven’t been chemically treated, others simply prefer the taste.

All natural source water bottles are 100 per cent recyclable and collected for recycling by all local authorities.

Natural Source Water Association members are using increasing amount of recycled material in their bottles, up to 100 per cent in some cases.

ANTHONY WALKER

Senior communications manager

Natural Source Waters Association

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