Viewpoint: Sewage, the climate and council finances

Email Viewpoint letters to or write to Viewpoint, Newspaper House, 48 Bell Street, Maidenhead, SL6 1 HX.

Victorian sewers can’t be improved overnight

I am a regular river swimmer and don’t want to be ‘going through the motions’, however your headline about a Government U-turn on sewage overflows is unfair.

We inherited our system from the Victorians but neither the private nor the previous, nationalised water companies invested in the improvements that were needed over the many decades since.

This cannot be rectified overnight, which the House of Lords amendment would have made a legal obligation. The Government’s bill instead will require investment in upgrades over time and we need to hold its, and the companies’ noses to this.

Amongst other actions, we must keep reminding our MP that this is high priority.

Had John K of Cookham written directly to Theresa May instead of asking her rhetorically via this Letters page (Viewpoint, October 28) her office would have explained clearly why she voted against the Lords’ amendment.

He (and we) should also ask her what rate of progress she will demand.

Any alternative government would have to face the same reality so their political contenders should also be asked.


Courthouse Road


Views on council debt are worryingly naïve

In the article ‘Councillor hits back at ‘lucky‘‘ finances claim’ you report the RBWM lead member for finance, Cllr Hilton, as saying: “As soon as we see there is a probability of interest rates going up we will begin to move some of our short-term debt into long-term debt and capture lower rates.”

This displays an economic naïveté so typical of this administration’s past financial incompetence (in my humble opinion).

The difference between long and short term rates can vary depending on expectations of inflation over the corresponding periods of time and there is no certainty that long term rates will stay low when short term rates rise.

But of course he has a ‘get-out’ in that he can always lay the blame elsewhere: “We work with companies who provide advice and guidance.”

How fortunate for this administration that they have a ready-made ‘get out of jail free’ card in the capital receipts likely from the Maidenhead Golf Club project.

It is truly unfortunate that any decision to proceed with this project will be influenced by the desire to correct previous financial mismanagement rather than the wider implications of preserving greenbelt land and our precious ‘urban lung’ heritage.


Chiltern Road


Golf course would pay bills for the borough

On the RBWM website: ‘Public Document Pack of the Audit and Governance Committee 21 Oct 2021.’

On page 71 I am reading that receipts from the sale of Maidenhead Golf Course (£227m + £8.25m) are greater than the entire Capital Expenditure Budget (£225.798m) for RBWM for the period 2021-2037. How does Maidenhead support the rest of the borough?!


Walker Road


Pete and Dud and the case of the missing bin

Peter Cooke (in the pub): How are you Dud?

Dudley Moore (with pint) Cheers Pete. I fink that bloke in the council ‘ouse is illegitimate, Pete.

Cooke: Why is that Dud?

Moore: Well he doesn’t answer any of them letters I write to the Advertiser about the bin at the bottom of my street, I fink he can’t read.

Cooke: You mean illiterate Dud.

Moore: That’s it Pete, illiterate–- can’t read nor write.

Cooke: What happened to the bin Dud?

Moore: It was taken away in April and has not been replaced.

Cooke: Why did they take it away Dud, was it not being used?

Moore: Yes it was but it was broken.

Cooke: Did they not replace it, Dud?

Moore: No Pete.

Cooke: So what happens to all the rubbish that was going in the bin then, Dud?

Moore: It is dropped on the streets, Pete.

Cooke: Who clears it up then, Dud?

Moore: The council.

Cooke: That costs them money then, Dud?

Moore: Yes Pete

Cooke: Cheers, Dud.


East Road


Why no answer to a query or complaint?

Having worked through the period of local government management, when customer care was all the rage, I am disappointed that, whether it be lead members or officers of RBWM, it is impossible to get replies to complaints or queries now and has been for some time.

I cannot believe it is contempt for us ratepayers or lack of interest in how they could improve services.

I believe the problem is more basic and all those in important positions in the council cannot read or write.

My solution to this problem is extra training to learn the basics of English language with particular emphasis on these basic skills.




Red herrings, recycling and sustainability

Some of the Advertiser’s readers may have seen last week’s Panorama programme – Coca-Cola’s 100 Billion Bottle Problem – on BBC1.

I thought the producers did a fantastic job of summarising the main reasons for the world’s plastic pollution problem into 30 minutes of interesting and very watchable television.

Those who didn’t see it can still find it on BBC iPlayer – I thoroughly recommend it.

A day or two earlier, Boris Johnson held a question-and-answer session at 10 Downing Street with several dozen children ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.

During the session he named Coca-Cola as one of 12 corporations ‘producing the overwhelming bulk of the world’s plastics’.

Addressing the subject of recycling he said: “Recycling isn’t the answer, I’ve got to be honest with you. You’re not going to like this. It doesn’t begin to address the problem. You can only recycle plastic a couple of times, really. What you’ve got to do is stop the production of plastic, stop the first use of plastic. The recycling thing is a red herring … We’ve all got to cut down on our use of plastic.”

When challenged on his point, he continued: “It doesn’t work. I don’t want to be doctrinaire about this, but if people think we can just recycle our way out of the problem, we’ll be making a huge mistake.”

The Prime Minister is absolutely right – we need to stop the production of single use plastic. We need to turn off the tap.

The plastics industry actively promotes the idea that it’s OK to buy goods in single use plastic packaging because it can be recycled.

The truth is that a tiny fraction of this plastic is recycled.

The vast majority goes to landfill, is incinerated, or ends up in the world’s oceans.

As consumers we can have a significant impact on the problem and help to turn off the tap by boycotting single use plastic wherever possible.

Recycling should be the last resort and only for plastic that can’t be avoided.


Plastic Free Windsor

Cutting pollution and renewable energy

Earth’s climate has existed for millions years but in no two days will it have ever been the same – climate change is not new.

History tells us of ancient floods and geology shows forests grew in the Arctic Circle. Coal, oil and gas are finite sources of energy and they do pollute so we must develop wind, solar and other natural (renewable) energies.

In the UK we should add tidal energy which depends on the moon, not the weather. Nevertheless for many years coal will remain the major fuel for producing metals, glass, bricks, cement, ceramics, etc.

Sweden recently produced steel using hydrogen but bulk hydrogen today is derived from oil or gas.

Oil will continue to be the major fuel for land, air, marine and heavy transport and for agriculture and construction.

Natural gas will heat our buildings for decades (yellow plastic gas mains are being installed across Maidenhead despite politicians claiming gas is to be phased out).

Natural gas is also the main source of vast global fertiliser production, essential to feeding a vast and expanding global population.

This is a huge issue, for alongside developing renewable energies we should also be cutting population levels, globally, in the UK and in Maidenhead.

Buildings have a huge carbon footprint, during construction, occupation and then demolition.

Every new resident has one too.

The conflict is that economics (and greed) demand growth in population, goods, services, etc but population sustainability and climate change demand population levels and consumptions to be cut.

Democracy should mean that the views of long-term residents of Maidenhead are sought on ever more town centre flats, houses on golf courses etc.

One further comment is that Insulate Britain’s squatting on motorways has probably resulted in a far higher carbon footprint than would be saved by adding more insulation to existing housing.

Insulation best reduces heat loss when the outside temperature is much lower than the required house temperature – our last harsh winter was 1963.


Clarefield Drive


Actions show they’re holding out for a Nero

The council and its administration seem hell bent on pretending that there isn’t a climate emergency, holding out Neroically against the views of RBWM residents, experts and non-Conservatives alike.

The council’s every action during the corporate plan process seemed to frustrate the consultation by issuing it late over the summer holidays, with no educative roadshows to inform the public, with a limited range of questions and no viable alternatives presented, and a late attempt to curtail scrutiny by the only politicians who seem to voice concern i.e. not-the-Tories.

It’s fair to say now, with the daily publication of damning news about the future of our planet and our children’s prosperity that Bill Clinton’s old phrase can be restated to: “It’s the Climate, stupid.”

This is a theme taken up vociferously by the majority of the 491 members of the public who were able to respond to the council’s corporate plan consultation.

Fifty per cent of the public disagreed with the expectations of the plan, which is twice as many as those who agreed with it.

The public said that the top five issues that this council is not addressing are, in order of priority to them:

1. Environment, climate and biodiversity, with an average of 174 responses

2. Democracy and decision-making, 33 responses

3. Housing, 18 responses

4. Consultation, 15 responses

5. Planning and development, 14 responses

Every decision that we take from now on and, every regulation we create has to put ‘environment, climate and biodiversity’ front, left and centre.

It’s an ethos, a new way of doing life.

Yet despite this, the revised corporate plan which was presented to the cabinet on October 28 does not reflect the overwhelming views of the public.

In short the council and the administration have stopped representing our citizens and are reneging on our responsibility to fight for future generations.

Greta Thunberg and her generation are correct in saying that ‘we need more public pressure and not summits’ or even duplicitous consultations.

I would urge the public to pressure, pressure, pressure now and remember this also in May 2023 at the next elections.


West Windsor Residents Association, Clewer & Dedworth West

Keeping a close eye on Urgent Care Centre

The campaign by Windsor and Maidenhead Lib Dems to reopen the Urgent Care Centre (UCC) at St Marks Hospital seems to have prompted a remarkably defensive response from the local Conservatives given that the campaign, in this instance, isn’t about them.

We have, for some time now, been seeking answers from the Frimley Care & Commissioning Group (CCG) about when and how they intend to reopen the UCC.

We have written numerous letters and Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) asked questions at a recent COVID outbreak board.

Their response published last week confirms what we have been saying all along — that the centre remains closed, and there will be a consultation about its future.

We were told at the outbreak board that residents prefer to access urgent care services via their GPs, which is surprising given how difficult it is at the moment to get an appointment or even get through on the telephone.

In light of those difficulties, we welcome the news that the GP service at St Mark’s is to be expanded, but fear that this approach — which is, in effect, a sticking plaster for wider pressures on the NHS — will impact on the CCG’s ability to reintroduce walk-in urgent care services any time soon, if ever.

The local Lib Dems were right to highlight this issue and we will continue to keep a close eye on developments to ensure that residents don’t lose this service they love or see it downgraded.

Others may choose to look away – that’s their prerogative.


Lib Dem, Furze Platt and chair, Windsor and Maidenhead Lib Dems

Clear communication on waste collections

I am writing this on the eighth day since we changed to the way we collect recycling and waste.

I have not had a single email from residents raising issues about collections at all which really pleases me and does show that the level of planning we, together with SERCO have done is paying off.

Yes, as always there have been sites we could not access but in every case, we returned either later that day or first thing next morning.

The only issue I am aware of is that quite a few residents have put the wrong bins out.

We have really tried to communicate with every household but if you have lost the timetables we sent you, please do go one our website and check the waste and recycling section where you can both report a missed bin and look up your collection dates.


Cabinet member for environmental services, planning and Maidenhead

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