05:00PM, Thursday 16 December 2021
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Take care of children – and guinea pigs
At the communities scrutiny board meeting on November 18, the officers’ report shows Tivoli's performance on play area maintenance and inspection at being nearly 100 per cent, with concerns raised by councillors and members of the public on the accuracy of the performance figures.
I visited Ray Mill Island today, Sunday morning December 12, and noticed that the bark in the play area has not been raked for some considerable time (in my view several months) and also significant amount of leaves that should be removed on every maintenance visit which I understand should be daily (see main picture).
This is essential health and safety work to ensure the safety of the children as who knows what may be hidden in the leaves or the surface of the bark?
At this time of the year when maintenance is at its lowest on the contract there can be no excuse for such failure to undertake such works and this exposes RBWM to potential insurance claims.
I also noticed that the guinea pigs had also not been fed or provided clean water.
Question is to RBWM councillors and officers, is how long is Tivoli going to get away with NOT doing works that they are paid to undertake?
Don’t have this sale on your conscience
I am a fourth generation Maidonian and can claim to have seen considerable changes in Maidenhead over the years.
Many for the better and some not so good but the BLP to develop Maidenhead Golf Course in the proposed manner is not only inappropriate but irresponsible.
The council’s plans to destroy the golf course green space is clearly against current environmental considerations, local residents’ health and wellbeing and Government climate policy.
We need and want a ‘Maidenhead Great Park’ on this site for all current and future generations to use.
Crossrail no longer terminates in Maidenhead.
Housing targets have already been exceeded in the area.
The attraction of a lucrative revenue stream may be a driving force for this proposed development and of course, would help to plug a large financial deficit in the borough finances.
However, this reflects a short term view.
Come on councillors, we need and want a Maidenhead Great Park.
Reject your myopic approach.
Don’t allow these plans to proceed and to further tarnish the Conservative record in Maidenhead.
Eyes opened as to why we need green space
Cllr Coppinger, as lead member for planning, appears unsure in his recent letters about whether the BLP is considered sound or unsound at this point in time.
Officers ought to have briefed him accurately perhaps?
RBWM stated that the plan was unsound on December 14 2020 in its letter to the BLP Inspector which formally requested her help to fix the unsound plan through ‘main modifications’.
Remarkably ‘the plan is sound’ was not the only (currently) false statement attributed to the Planning Inspector in his letter.
Cllr Coppinger also stated that if RBWM councillors decide against adopting the BLP then the ‘most likely thing to happen’ is that the plan would be ‘adopted on our behalf by the Inspectorate’.
This is impossible – the Inspectorate can only make non-binding recommendations as set out in the Government guidance on local plans.
The Secretary of State, however, does indeed have such power.
But there is no need to fear the use of such power.
While Cllr Johnson did threaten the golf club with compulsory purchase, there is no evidence to suggest that the Secretary of State is equally anxious to threaten RBWM to adopt an unsound plan.
On the contrary, Michael Gove recently stated that all local plans were based upon dubious housing needs formula with outdated data, and he has asked for a review.
He states: “I think that some of the assumptions there are probably out of date.”
Cllr Coppinger’s argument that if we don’t build on Maidenhead’s central greenbelt then we’ll have to build on the rural greenbelt perhaps used to be true – because the massive 14,240 ‘OAN’ housing figure would previously have been more likely to be enforced by Government.
But now Michael Gove has freed Cllr Coppinger, and his Conservative colleagues from that redundant constraint.
I therefore urge all Conservatives to, well, conserve Maidenhead next month.
Reject Simon Dudley’s discredited BLP and start again with your own resident-led vision.
Will Cllr Stimson, who has shown passion for the environment, really vote to destroy huge swathes of Maidenhead’s wild habitats?
Will Cllr Walters, who has fought for greenbelt all his life, really vote to remove the golf club from this protection? Will Cllr Haseler, who showed such tenacity in Cox Green, really undermine his own arguments and integrity by imposing huge new traffic congestion problems on the town centre?
None of you are forced to do this once you join Michael Gove in challenging the OAN housing needs figure.
Indeed the 14,240 figure is derived from 2012 data, instead of using the 2018 data that is roughly 50 per cent lower.
Once you use up-to-date lower figures, you only need around 7,000 homes, so you are no longer forced to ruin greenbelt. Job done!
The climate crisis has opened residents’ eyes to the importance of the golf club site, and no amount of letters to the Advertiser from cabinet members can put that genie back into the (green) bottle, or help your grandchildren survive the environmental turmoil ahead.
The argument to build on the golf club has been decisively lost, and you now need to take a deep breath among the pure oxygen from the remaining trees and reflect on why you got into local politics in the first place: to leave the world a better place than you found it.
Damaged trust and the art of justification
“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t trust you” (19th century philosopher).
It won’t be parties, decorating or even COVID rules that will do for the prime minister, but the lack of trust.
With parliament approaching 327 degrees C (the melting point of Teflon), the non-stick will likely be over soon.
In Viewpoint (December 2), Councillor Coppinger, following six months of silence from the Inspector and council, through a public consultation period, announced, not on the official public portal: “The inspector... has decided that the plan is sound.”
He was given, in May 21, without transparent justification, the sole responsibility to liaise with the inspector.
Surely, we must trust his statement.
There were 533 public representations in the last consultation, but no official questions or communications resulted – surely something must be wrong.
Others and I wrote immediately to the inspector asking for an explanation over her decision being leaked and indeed questioning Its integrity.
I messaged Mr Sharkey, the non-politically appointed CEO of RBWM.
He responded ‘it is more accurate to say that the plan has not, at this time, been found unsound’!
Imagine a judge pronouncing ‘you are presumed innocent until found guilty so you must be innocent’.
Cllr Coppinger attempted a wriggle in last week’s Viewpoint (December 9): 'part of the letter (December 2) could be misinterpreted. What I should have said is: The inspector has completed her examination”!
A case of beer for anyone who ‘misinterpreted’, ‘the plan is sound’ (no comments were made on other inaccuracies and scaremongering).
Why, I wonder, was he misleading?
Her assistant responded ‘the council ... have no indication of the plan’s soundness’.
Explanations and apology are in order, why not in the Maidenhead Advertiser, the new plan portal.
The positive news: I will have beer for Christmas.
When trust dies mistrust blossoms.
The council’s debt will be for the short term
John Hudson is wrong to say in last week’s Viewpoint (December 9) that low council tax in RBWM has resulted in high borrowing.
Councils such as Bracknell and Wokingham have similar debt levels to RBWM, but their residents pay hundreds of pounds a year more in council tax.
Residents in Slough also pay more for council services but their council has been declared bankrupt after debt levels there passed the £1billion mark.
RBWM has increased its short-term debt to invest in infrastructure to support a rising population.
There are plenty of examples such as a new leisure centre, a new relief road, new bin lorries, new school places, new car parks, new housing etc.
In the next five years RBWM will significantly reduce its short-term borrowing and will repay all of it within 10 years. Their recent budget document provides this data.
I did suggest to the council that this information should be better explained as few residents will be aware of (or possibly understand) it – Mr Hudson has proved my point.
There is no doubt that this council could collect hundreds of pounds a year more from its residents (assuming that a majority agreed to it).
In my view it would make little difference to either the infrastructure needed to support a growing population or the level of RBWM’s short term debt.
I wish Mr Hudson and your readers a happy and peaceful Christmas.
Propaganda war has sabotaged withdrawal
In his letter of December 9, James Aidan argues that other things are more important than anti-Brexit campaigners ‘waving an allegedly bogus banner’, and on the face of it that is certainly true.
However that argument begins to wear thin when the same people have been doing it repeatedly for more than five years, and their activities are just part of a continuous and large scale anti-Brexit propaganda campaign.
I recall that on June 7 2018 the Advertiser kindly published a letter headed ‘Why lack of ripostes on EU from Whitehall’, in which I pointed out that shortly after she had become Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs that she would not be giving a ‘running commentary’ on negotiations with the EU, and she had kept her word on that, so instead the ‘running commentary’ had come from opponents of Brexit.
Also about then Theresa May assumed personal charge of the negotiations with the EU, supported by the two thousand strong Cabinet Office, but apparently nobody could ever be found to counter the hostile propaganda that was being pumped out daily; again a year later Michael Gove let it be known that he was going to set up a ‘rapid rebuttal unit’ to take on ‘Brexit fake news’, but that never happened.
There is no doubt in my mind that although those who wished to leave the EU won the 2016 referendum the subsequent propaganda war has been won by those who overtly or covertly rejected the result and sought to undermine – sabotage – our withdrawal; which rather than suggesting that it was a mistake to vote to leave exposes the extent to which EU membership had degraded our national democracy.
Dr D R COOPER
Belmont Park Avenue
Seeking solutions and answering criticisms
Last week’s edition featured an opinion piece by Tameena Hussain which I feel needs to be responded to and the record set straight.
I’ve never had the opportunity to meet the author in person, let alone debate some of the points she raises, though in the interests of transparency I do understand that she was politically involved with some of my predecessors long before my time.
It is most curious, and perhaps somewhat disappointing, to read such a politically motivated article without the ability to put the counter view, though I would welcome any opportunity to meet with the author.
The author is correct that I stated in September 2019 that we would both listen more and be more transparent.
On both counts I think we have made significant progress.
In a politically charged environment we will never please everyone, nor with the cards we have been dealt to play, will we be able to duck the often unpopular, yet necessary, decisions.
To do so would be an abdication of community leadership and take us back to the days of often not following the hard route for short-term gain.
On major decisions such as the active travel proposals of earlier this year we listened and we decided not to proceed.
On the need to continue to protect the most vulnerable we listened and significantly increased the council’s budget year-on-year.
On bringing back an affordable residents parking discount scheme we listened and are bringing it back.
On seeking to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour we listened and have adopted a zero-tolerance approach.
We have had to take difficult decisions which have often been at variance with popular opinion.
That is one of the challenges of being in administration.
However, it is interesting to note whether others put forward tangible, credible, alternatives.
Sadly, as has often been the case of late, those credible alternatives have not been forthcoming.
On transparency we proactively brought in CIPFA to review our finances and broader culture.
This resulted in some difficult, yet necessary, decisions and admissions.
At no stage did we seek to brush the issue under the carpet.
In my response I was quite clear that we had experienced a cultural failure of epic proportions.
At cabinet this week we will be debating, openly, the final concluding report of that work and how we have addressed all the issues raised.
It is fair to say that the council has never been more transparent.
For the second year in a row we have launched an extensive budget consultation, which is unprecedented in the Royal Borough’s recent history.
Most topics that would have been discussed behind closed doors are now in the greater part discussed and debated in public.
Of course, this is not to suggest that we cannot, or will not, strive to do better.
Like every organisation there is room for improvement, which is why we will shortly be detailing a series of measures which will make our performance as a council even more open to public scrutiny.
The real challenge is others putting forward genuinely deliverable solutions and alternatives.
Sadly, for all of the often-personal negativity and attacks we are not seeing much of that at present, with last week’s article regrettably being a reflection of that.
Cllr ANDREW JOHNSON
Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
F1 equivalent of the Maradona mishandling
I tuned into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday lunchtime, no doubt joined by millions of British Formula 1 fans hoping to see Lewis Hamilton win his eighth world title, or at least see good clean racing and the title won fair and square for either driver.
What transpired reminded me of what occurred in the June 1986 Argentina v England World Cup Quarter Final; Diego Maradona handballing into the England net, a ‘goal’ that should never have stood of course, but incredibly did and resulted in Argentina winning 2-1 and going on to lift the World Cup, and how different things could have been…
Masi’s U-turn on letting cars unlap themselves after Latifi’s shunt and the safety car deployment of course resulted
in Hamilton’s 10 second-plus lead being erased plus the small matter of five
back markers for Verstappen to pass in one lap.
Ham on shot tyres and Verstappen on relatively new, it was an early Christmas present for the latter from the race director.
Horner’s flippant remarks about supplying Latifi with free Red Bull for life for effectively winning them the driver’s title only proves deep down they know they didn’t win this fairly, but this attitude seems the norm nowadays in sport.
Prevent noise spikes from night flights
At 01:30 am, early last Saturday morning, Heathrow launched a plane and the noise spread across Datchet, Slough, Maidenhead, Windsor and Burnham.
It had been quiet – and then the overflight caused a 32 decibel noise spike.
It is the change in noise level that wakes people. Disrupting people’s sleep has well known medical consequences. Lists are easily obtained.
The night flights review is in progress.
How about we ban flights during the night hours?
No take-offs between 22:00 and 06:00
The medical recommendation is that we get eight hours of sleep at night
Who is mystery man in this photograph?
Do any of your readers recognise this young man?
The photograph was recently discovered in an antique desk purchased at an auction in Somerset several years ago.
The only clue is that it was taken at a studio in Slough High Street in 1945.
The uniform appears to be that of the Royal Artillery, possibly the 99RBY (Royal Bucks Yeomanry).
Enquiries with the Buckinghamshire Military Museum Trust have confirmed that the regiment served in Kohima, North East India, in 1944. It would be nice to find a home for this young soldier.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any information.
Whitburn, South Tyneside
Burnham Park Academy and a scenic spot near Windsor and Eton Bridge are among the locations to feature in a new romantic drama on Netflix.