12:30PM, Friday 23 October 2020
Left in a mess and we will have to pay for it
It is us residents who have seen services, such as the Advantage Card parking discount, slashed in order to save council finances.
It is us residents who have seen Serco repeatedly fail to fulfil their contract and collect every bin en route on a daily basis for several months.
It is us residents who will be subject to any council tax increase next year, as discussed at last Wednesday’s full council meeting.
It is us residents who will suffer from Tier 2 restrictions, banning face-to-face interaction indoors, crippling businesses in the hospitality industry, as well as others, a huge impact for all of us across the borough.
What on Earth have we done to deserve this?
Cllr Andrew Johnson, who announced his intention to request the Government move us into Tier 2 on Friday, strikes resemblance with Mrs May in her two-year tenure as Prime Minister.
He has been forced to clean up someone else’s mess, after the previous Conservative leader of the council resigned in September 2019.
Should the Conservatives wish to raise the council tax beyond the current cap, 2 per cent with a further 2 per cent for adult social care, they would be required to hold a referendum.
However, Cllr Johnson is seeking to change that by writing to the government, this time to change the law due to the financial strain of the pandemic.
This goes beyond the issue of closure motions in debates.
These requests to the government impact all of us.
Every single one of us.
Surely, a referendum is the fairest way for us residents to voice our opinions on any substantial changes to council tax.
Cllr Johnson, I implore you to listen to us – your communication with us now will reflect our communication with you in May 2023.
Come clean about low council tax of the past
The following was a speech at full council on Wednesday, October 14:
Madam Mayor – thank you for calling me to speak.
We all know and the public know that RBWM finances were in poor shape before we went into the COVID-19 crisis and we were in no shape to weather this storm or any other significant event. To suggest otherwise is an intolerable deception.
It’s time for the Conservative Group to come clean with the electorate on reducing council tax, its implications, the motives and effects on RBWM Services to the public.
For many years councillors past and present on this side of the chamber have cautioned on continual reductions in council tax and even attempted to remove the leadership responsible.
All to no avail.
We have all benefited greatly from low council tax, but now the party is over.
If the central Government keeps the council tax cap at a 3 per cent legal maximum then surely this paper should include a referendum with the RBWM electorate to ask for a greater increase than legally permitted.
The electorate deserve more than some sneaky behind the scenes deal with central Government on the back of COVID-19.
The Conservative leadership must set out the hard choices to the electorate.
These are dramatic cuts in service levels, cessation of some non-statutory services and the persistent maximum legal increase in council tax coupled with a fire-sale of RBWM capital assets, OR a significant increase in council tax coupled with a sensible sustainable year-on-year reductions in the Borough’s pension deficit and capital debt.
The choice between an honourable transparent path and a grubby behind the scenes deal is in the hands of the Conservative Group.
Thank you, Madam Mayor.
Cllr GEOFF HILL
The Borough First, Oldfield
This could be death by a thousand cuts
It is with great sadness I read the story from the leader of the council regarding moving to a Tier 2 COVID-19 response.
Rather than show leadership, the council looks bereft of ideas, following a leader who is now losing the support of the country.
Mini lockdowns are now becoming, as reported, as a ‘death by a thousand cuts’, for many businesses and people.
In my view the current situation provides a huge opportunity to provide clear leadership, and change the course of this disease locally, with potential of positive ramifications nationally.
Over the last few weeks, the constant reinforcement of the Government mantra by councillors has now become white noise.
There cannot be a person in the country who isn’t aware of what the guidelines are, so why are they being trotted out daily?
It appears a lazy approach and unwillingness to tackle the issues behind the problem.
The key questions to understand are:
1.Why the numbers are growing and where are they increasing?
2.The impact on the mental health within the community
3.The impact on the business community
4.How to support the neediest in the community
What are the weekly positive numbers?
Which communities are they affecting and what is the profile in terms of age, socio-economic background, religion?
This is at the core of why the message is not being followed or ignored.
Understand the problem and you can find the solution.
Telling people the same message when they are unaffected or do not believe in the message, will just result in wider non-compliance and is lazy.
In February, Caroline Flack took her own life, and mental health issues came to the fore in the UK.
The latest stats show that 18 people per day commit suicide.
The potential timebomb that lockdown has created is huge. What steps have the council taken in communicating the support network for people at risk?
With the increase in unemployment, this issue will grow. What is being done to help people in RBWM?
Unemployment brings further challenges to people’s personal wellbeing.
The drift from Tier 1 to Tier 2 needs to take this into account rather than just ignore it.
Local businesses, coffee shops, pubs and offices have worked hard and at great personal cost to ensure that social distancing, track and trace measures have been implemented.
Ask them the impact of moving between tiers.
These are local businesses employing local people.
Encourage people that these places are safe and have delivered on Government guidelines, do not adopt an approach that could push more companies to the wall.
Lastly, help focus on people who need help.
This pandemic has hit people and communities hard.
Identify them now and ensure that they are prepared during the winter months. But remember that the messages for them need to be targeted efficiently. Fear is not a message that will support them.
There is no proof that moving between Tiers works, as they have only been launched a week ago.
The council need to tackle local issues to help support a national effort.
Just running off a cliff to show that they are showing strong leadership is naïve.
Clear leadership now can help ensure that the virus growth is slowed, people’s wellbeing is supported, and the economy is supported. It is a challenge that many in the community would support, they just need to be asked.
All Saints Avenue
Police station used to be a place to find help
How I sympathise with Hugh Lansley’s comments (Opinion, October 15) in last weeks’ Advertiser regarding the police.
I was a serving police officer many years ago when it was suggested that police stations should be closed completely at night (the thought of stations being closed during the day had not been considered then!).
The figures supported this as very few people visited police stations at night.
However, I argued that it did not matter if only one person in need visited the station at night, if that person was stranded, lost or frightened, then an open police station was a much needed place of safety.
Then it was not unusual for somebody in need to be allowed to sleep in an interview room or occasionally a cell, if they were empty, until morning.
Of course, at Maidenhead they went one step further and made the station on the edge of town, almost inaccessible to other than the most determined of visitors.
It absolutely beggars belief that somebody managing to get to the station during the day finds it closed and the contact phone not working.
It seems to me that we get less and less from the police service as a whole.
When did you last see a police officer patrolling your area or our town centres?
Even the community support officers seem to have vanished.
Retailers are not bothering to report thefts to the police as they know that the crime will not be investigated.
What are the police doing? Surely we are entitled to know?
It’s too easy to blame cuts for a diminished service, more and more the inadequate service points to poor management of resources.
What about cyclists and pedestrians?
The new leisure centre at Braywick is a fantastic new facility, but little consideration has been given for people arriving by bike or on foot.
A disproportionately large car park has been constructed, but there are no cycle paths and hardly any pavements.
There is a new pedestrian crossing on the Braywick Road, but the path quickly runs out and pedestrians and cyclists must then negotiate a large car park with cars coming from all directions.
And for those wanting to walk through the site between the areas of greenspace that remain, it’s currently a dangerous and off-putting experience.
With so many empty car park spaces, cars are dodging the speed humps and speeding through.
A large amount of greenbelt land was sacrificed for the construction of the new leisure centre, at a time when the role of greenspace for leisure, biodiversity and carbon capture should be maximised.
And this loss has been compounded by the lack of consideration for people choosing active travel options at Braywick.
Hope to see familiar friendly faces at bank
I sympathise with your reader last week who experienced some poor customer service at the Maidenhead Nationwide building society (Viewpoint, October 15).
I have been a regular customer there since the 1980s when it was the Anglia building society and have always found that the staff have been welcoming, knowledgeable and efficient.
With more attention given by senior management to marketing gimmicks, fast disappearing benefits and self service, I hope that there will be some friendly faces left to help me when the branch reopens on December 10.
Nationwide experience has been good for me
I have had nothing but excellent service from all the staff at the Maidenhead branch of the Nationwide building society over the many years I’ve been a member.
Friendly and professional staff.
Stafferton site still poorly managed
I recently visited the council’s recycling centre at Stafferton Way, still with its lengthy queues.
Not only have Serco failed in their service to the community with bin collections, they do not seem to have any idea of social distancing STILL at the Stafferton Way civic amenity site.
They have, at long last, dispensed with the ridiculous rules involving your ability to dispose of the rubbish on the day of your choice rather than on the area you lived in, but have not taken any action to improve social distancing.
Whilst having numerous bays at their disposal Serco decides it is safer (?) to use two adjoining bays at each end of the line.
This means that if the passenger in the white van gets out at the same time as the driver of the car they are not two metres apart they are not even two feet apart!
I wonder whose idea it was within the RBWM to award the contract for waste disposal and maintenance of this site to Serco.
Perhaps, they would like to step forward and hold their hand up?
Follow a joyful trail of Christmas trees
I was delighted to read that Maidenhead will still have Christmas lights on display, despite being unable to have the usual big switch on.
However different it is this year, Christmas will still be a special time of celebration.
For the last nine years St Luke’s church has played our small part in making Christmas magical by filling our beautiful building with Christmas Trees and inviting everyone along to our Christmas Tree Festival.
Clearly, we cant safely do that in church this year, so, not to be daunted, and to bring a little cheer across the town, we are organising a Christmas Tree Trail.
From December 9-24, decorated trees will be on display in shops, homes, and outdoors and a website will plot the locations and routes to follow to view them.
It will still be possible to vote for favourites and to donate, with proceeds split between the Thames Valley Air Ambulance and the church.
Anyone (shop, charity, organisation, family, individual …) can join in by emailing the church for details: email@example.com
We hope we can continue to play a part in making Christmas extra special this most unusual year. Look out for the trees!
REV SALLY LYNCH
Vicar, St Luke’s Church
US trade treaty needn’t mean shoddy products
Bruce Adams is concerned that MPs struck down a Lords amendment to the Agriculture Bill (Viewpoint, October 15).
That would be the ‘Curry Amendment’, condemned by some as ‘another EU Trojan Horse’.
Be that as it may, his fear that Parliament could approve a trade treaty with the US which forced us to allow the importation of substandard products is misplaced, because Government and Parliament would be under no compulsion to accept such a treaty.
We have been here before, more than once.
In 2015 there were concerns that the TTIP trade deal agreed between the EU and the US could force us to privatise the NHS, and I pointed out: “Even on the Government’s own claims the benefits of this trade deal for the UK economy would actually be rather small, a one-off benefit equivalent to the natural growth of the UK economy over just three months.” (Viewpoint, August 27 2015, ‘Trade deal a threat to our national democracy’).
And again in March of this year, when that was updated to a proposed UK-US trade deal, with the projected economic benefit being:
“A third of the 2015 estimate; less than 0.2 per cent added to our GDP, similar to growth over one typical month.” (Viewpoint, March 5 2020, “Little to be gained – or lost – by trade deals”).
We already have a healthy trade, and indeed we run a trade surplus, with the US, without any special free trade deal, and if the deal on offer came with unacceptable strings it would be a trivial sacrifice to decline it.
And likewise with the EU, although in that case the potential gain from a free trade deal could be described as ‘marginal’ – an enhancement of our GDP by maybe one per cent over the long term rather than ‘trivial’.
Dr D R COOPER
Belmont Park Avenue
Leaders in politics and health do a difficult job
Well done Michael Gove for his awesome round of interviews over the weekend.
Whilst Boris Johnson and Matthew Hancock had a well-earned rest, Mr Gove was in tip top form and absolutely right to stand up to the stubborn EU in regards to Britain potentially leaving without a deal and equally right to stand up to a similar bureaucratic institution in the form of Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.
You really would think that a man with ministerial experience like Mr Burnham would at least understand how lives are being put at risk by people not obeying social distancing rules, as was yet again so obvious over the weekend, yet this man behaves like a cross between a spoilt little public schoolboy still harbouring a silver spoon in his mouth and a left wing union baron intentionally blocking a picket line.
The fact that people were so openly disobeying lockdown advice proves what a laughing stock the Labour Party are with their petty political point scoring in the midst of a pandemic.
People need to get behind our leaders in our time of an international pandemic.
What is more, I call upon anyone who is a part of the Christian faith like me to obey the Bible by praying for our leaders, our law enforcers, and all of the fantastic people on the front line including experts like chief medical officer Chris Whitty and his deputy, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam who are also doing a magnificent job.
EU deal must boost economic recovery
Last week saw the Prime Minister’s self-imposed deadline to secure a trade deal with Europe come and go.
We were all promised a comprehensive deal with Europe – I believe there is still time to deliver that promise.
As the second wave of COVID begins, it’s never been more crucial to reach a recovery-boosting deal with Europe. Polling by Best for Britain shows four fifths of people in the South East of England have already noticed job losses and business closures in their community – something I’ve seen as well.
A recent report by the same organises the countless professions, products and industries that will be severely impacted from day one of a no deal exit. To leave the transition period with no plan and no deal would be disastrous in this climate.
Last week also saw the passing of the Agricultural Bill, without the amendments intended to protect our food standards and our farmers.
It was a stark reminder that the best guarantee of our high standards is to trade with an ally who shares them. Abandoning trade with our closest neighbour without a plan in place would compound our already vulnerable position.
This is not an abstract matter of diplomacy and trade – our lives and our livelihoods are on the line. Let’s pursue a recovery-boosting deal, which lets us work with Europe to recover from COVID and keep our standards high.
Dr JOSEF KONRAD
Ode to a well-named, beautiful space
Windsor Great Park:
So much to explore on a hike, even do it on a bike.
In the warm and cold, there’s beauty to behold.
Brown hares boxing, in the spring. At dawn, all the birds sing.
Drifts of bluebells, in the wood, such a lovely colour and they smell good.
Looking through branches from below, lacy patterns they will show.
Buds bursting on the trees, their delicate unfurling leaves.
High in the sky red kites fly, birds feeding below, they will soon go.
Waterlillies flowering, in the ponds. Baby ducklings, making their bonds.
By the copper horse, on the hill, so far to see, have your fill.
Wild flowers growing for you to see, nectar and pollen, for the bees.
Jackdaws calling above on a windy day, weaving their pattens, they come out to play.
The bellow of magnificent rutting red deer, stay well away and you’ll have nothing to fear.
Smell of the earth when the rain falls, steam rising, has you enthralled.
Corn growing in the field, farmer hopes, there'll be a good yield.
Big brown cows eating the grass, with their calves as we pass.
Riding a horse through an avenue of trees, gallop if you must but mind others please.
Toadstools growing in the wood, leave them alone you must be good.
Leaves of reds and yellows looking so bright, sun shining through them oh what a sight.
Shiny brown conkers on the ground, amongst the leaves, asking to be found.
Geese in formation putting on a show, talking to each other, as they go.
Colour of bark on the trees, so many patterns you wouldn't believe.
Starlings pecking on the ground, looking for grubs they can be found.
Changing landscapes of snow and frost, wrap up warm, or it'll be to your cost.
Use all your senses to be enthralled, the parks not just for you it is for all.
Three puppies will be spending their first Christmas in loving homes after being found wandering the streets when they were only a few weeks old.