LETTERS: Comet April 11

THE letters in the Comet on Thursday, April 11.


SIR - Thank you for highlighting the plight of my father (“Poor care left dying man alone”) in today’s Comet. Your reporter managed in a few days to bring a resolution to a situation that had unnecessarily lingered for almost a year after my father’s death. On Wednesday April 3 I met with representatives of both Herts County Council and Sagecare, and readily accepted their obviously sincere apologies. The meeting was a most amicable one.

While I still shiver to think of our dad lying, unable to summon help, on that day last year, one has to acknowledge that we are all capable of making mistakes. Care workers are poorly paid, do a difficult job and are often under considerable time pressure. My real anger was with the bureaucracies of both organisations, and their repeated failure to address a simple question. This has now been finally resolved, and I’m delighted to have been able to draw a line under the whole unhappy business.

Phil Rowe

Nursery Court

Nevells Road

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SIR - The poor care received by Alfred Rowe is unforgiveable and as a society we should not accept this.

The PCT offer a ‘meeting’ and to answer ‘unanswered questions’. This is not good enough. If a child with a disability was treated in this way the whole country would be up in arms, it would make front page news and there would be significant actions taken to improve the situation for future children but because the man was elderly there will be one newspaper article and then it will be brushed under the carpet until the next time.

The care for children with disabilities in this country has improved because, quite rightly, parents have consistently campaigned and advocated for their youngsters and if we do not do the same for our elderly then care will not improve. Time and again we see the elderly mistreated, vulnerable and unprotected. If we accept this kind of treatment for the people who were the backbone of this country, then we are as guilty as the PCT and the care agency. Care agencies and care homes are charging very high prices for very basic care but the quality is not in line with the cost. This needs to change. We need to stop pushing our elderly to the back of the queue and give them the care and the respect that they deserve at the end of their lives. It is not good enough to discipline the carer, that will not improve the quality of care, the care agency need to be taken to task and Herts County Council should also be held publicly responsible and the family should be compensated because financial penalties are the only punishments that seem to have any impact on organisations and then there should be public announcements of how care for the elderly will be improved in the future as a direct result of actions taken in this case. We have a right to demand this, we don’t need to apologise for making sure our elderly are safe and secure, and if we do not insist on this we will regret it, for young and old alike one day soon it will be our turn and we will be the vulnerable people at the end of the line. Think hard on this and demand action.





SIR - Last week the Government set out its long-term plans for rail franchising, which include extending the existing contract to First Capital Connect for a further 12 months.

The Green Party are concerned that the Government has awarded the extension without addressing the ongoing problems with our railway. All too frequently trains are overcrowded and unreliable, and standards have definitely dropped in terms of cleanliness. In addition, there are broader concerns about the franchising process. Private companies continue to make large profits at public expense. What is required is an end to private ownership of the railways, which has seen huge increases in the cost of tickets, much higher than inflation, and also at great cost to the taxpayer. The privatised rail network is badly failing the public with extortionate fares - now the highest in Europe. At a time when people are being hurt by economic mismanagement, public sector cuts and rising bills, it seems particularly unfair to punish commuters in this way.

Bringing the railways back into public ownership could save taxpayers more than £1 billion a year, allowing the Government to deliver lower fares and a better quality of service. More affordable rail fares will increase job opportunities and promote local economies, as well as reducing CO2 emissions, road congestion and pollution. Our public transport system should be renationalised and run on the principles of public need, not private greed.

Gavin Nicholson

North Hertfordshire Green Party

Walsworth Road




Sir - Hitchin councillors continue to receive concerned pleas to get street lights back in the most dangerous areas, such as Milestone Road, Strathmore Avenue and Fells Close.

We know that the county is not going to reverse its general policy, so we will will be taking the above specific concerns and others up with the county council, North Herts Safety team, and the police. What we also need is more imaginative thinking from the county about alternative ways of reducing energy consumption and light pollution, together with better and continuing consultation with residents on areas where major safety, crime and behavioral concerns are emerging.

Cllr David Billing




Sir - I would like to thank you for putting the issue that I had regarding my husband’s headstone in the Comet on March 28.

When I first approached the Co-op they did say they would rectify their mistake, but with the proviso that I would pay for the alteration. I felt that was unjust and wondered when I would be able to afford what they the Co-op were going to charge me, I even asked another Biggleswade stonemason if it was possible to alter the offending wrong date of birth from 1929 to 1927, I also got a quote from another funeral firm to replace the stone, but again it was an impossible sum for me to pay.

I wrote to the person in charge and again brought to their attention, the mistake they had made in 2003 and the distress it was causing me. They put me in touch with a member of their funeral care team, he suggested that I looked at their brochure and select a new stone. This I did, but they also requested a sum of over £240. An additional charge for the change of stone was made by Biggleswade Council .

Throughout this protracted saga, and until the story appeared in the Comet, they have not once acknowledged it was their mistake, even in February this year the women who filled in the form said to me “you signed the form”.

Vic fell against our house wall, on Friday December 7 2002, his last words to me were “Stop fussing woman” when I tried to see what damage he had done to his head and arm. The next day he was admitted to Bedford hospital and remained in a coma, he was transferred to Biggleswade Cottage Hospital, on Friday December 13 and died that same night.

Now I am glad that I did not stop fussing and justice has been made.

I shall also send a cheque to Vicky Shorrocks who is helping bereaved parents with her charity, (Angels-Gift).

Marina King

Address supplied



Sir - Who inside the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation considered that another Italian restaurant along Eastcheap - a road which already has three within 500 yards of each other - would be a good idea?

Looking forward, should we be excited and expect more Italian restaurants in the future to drive the re-development of our town centre? May I suggest ‘Ask’ or ‘Pizza Express’ next.

Alec Moffatt

Baldock Road




SIR - I couldn’t agree more with Mrs L Wenn and AJ Hollis (letters March 28) who enjoyed performances of the ballet Coppelia and Hitchin Thespians Annie Get your Gun (respectively) at the Gordon Craig Theatre.

With a group of friends I saw both of these shows and have spent many enjoyable evenings at this very comfortable and friendly theatre. We are frequently amazed at the incredibly high standard of the performances, including those by amateur dramatic groups, all of which are reasonably priced.

Mrs Wenn is right in saying that the theatre is the jewel in the crown of Stevenage leisure facilities and I, too, hope people will take a look at the huge variety of shows on offer - they could be in for some real treats.

Mrs M Filby

Fishers Green




SIR - Further to your article “Aim to kick-start community work at Top Field” in last week’s Comet and having read the impact report (available at www.hitchintownfc.co.uk ) covering five years of the similar project running at the Arena in Baldock, I can think of no better use of Hitchin Town’s Top Field stadium than to run such a project, which would also enable Hitchin Town FC to continue playing football at their home of many decades.

When the Cow Commoners’ Trust was set up to look after the land on which Top Field stands it was decided that “the land would be used for the benefit of the community. This would be through the provision of facilities for the charitable use for football, cricket or other sports, or for other general charitable purposes” – surely this project fits that bill perfectly.

Come on Cow Commoners, let’s see you work with the club to allow the building of a tremendous sporting and community facility of which we can all be proud, in the heart of the town at the club’s traditional home. The first Hitchin FC was formed in 1865, don’t let yourselves be remembered as the people who pushed football out of the town and halfway to Stevenage.

Rupert Russell

Oughton Head Lane




SIR - It is disturbing to hear yet more evidence in the Comet of the disorganisation and poor handling of patients in the Stevenage Surgicentre. I have had two such incidents mentioned to me recently, one first hand and the other via a third party. It seems that some patients are now frightened to go to their GP in case they are sent to the Surgicentre. They do not realise that they can choose to be referred elsewhere.

The newly empowered East & North Herts Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), managed by a team of local GPs, are now in their second week of operation taking charge of health services in our area . At their publicly held board meeting last December they expressed concern about the situation at the Surgicentre and stated that they were reluctant to take responsibility for this problematic organisation. So what is the situation now? When is some organisation within the NHS going to take action to put matters right at the Surgicentre and give local patients the service they expect and deserve? Is the lack of action caused by the fact that the Surgicentre is owned by a private healthcare company?

Last month, the Government announced changes to the rules for CCGs (without debate in parliament) which could force GPs to hand all health contracts to private companies. If we are not vigilant we could end up with many more Surgicentre situations with nowhere for us to seek treatment with confidence.

Chris East




SIR - I wonder if your unnamed correspondent actually read what I wrote about Wilbury House before firing off their latest misleading and inaccurate letter. My letter just explained the facts about the history of the building, which a little research would have confirmed.

Wilbury House was built as a long-term residential home. However, it has been used for most of its existence for completely inappropriate purposes. It is totally unsuitable to house disturbed teenagers, or for short term respite care with constant coming and going. The neighbours would welcome the chance to get to know the people living in the home; but this is currently not possible given that the children are only there for a few hours at a time.

If your correspondent would like to get in touch with me directly, I am more than happy to discuss the situation with them.

Cllr Ian Mantle

Address supplied


SIR - I think at the time of Margaret Thatcher’s death I would like to make a few comments about a particular free market example (or rather the internal market that has been introduced into the state sector) at Wilbury House in order for the reader to judge for her/himself whether they think it has been a ‘success’ from the neighbours’ point of view.

In essence, parents choose what type of option they desire now for their child/young person – which seems all fine and dandy from the parents’ perpectives; however, it is important to note that the parents prefer to send their child/teenager to Wilbury House during the Easter holidays and summer holidays, weekends and at those times (I am a teacher) when I would also appreciate some respite; however where is my respite? I feel pushed out of my home by a minority of parents who seem to believe that market forces are king – regardless of the consequences. In fact, if these parents get their own way (i.e. put pressure on HCC and LGCHF to change the lease) I will have to leave – is that fair? I am being punished for what? We welcomed a small long stay group of residents, but surely that’s as far as our obligation to society goes and should go? Now it’s time for parents to use the free market in a responsible manner and start showing some consideration to neighbours. In the end the free market has to be used responsibly in society for it to work.


Address supplied



SIR - If the letter by Ric Euteneuer is representative of Labour Party views and policy then I pity the future of the party in elections.

The budding politician may benefit from the advice of an older and wiser head. If you wish to win an argument it is better to argue with principle, not anger. It is also unwise to demand people support your party when that party does not offer the policies those people want. Work with people Ric. This is a democracy, not your dictatorship.

If the Labour Party expects socialists to support it, then it needs to consider reversing the position taken over the past 20 years on key matters such as housing policy, industrial policy, economic policy and welfare policy. Continuing to adopt the Tory direction for these areas is no longer as appealing to the electorate as it was. Perhaps they have realised that if they are going to have a Conservative government then they may as well have the party that originated the policies rather than one that ditched its founding principles simply to gain power by adopting the very Tory policies that broke society.

Yes, Tony Blair was correct when he said that principles without power are useless. I was there when he said that and worked hard along with many other socialists to help Labour gain power, only to be devastated when it proved to be power without principle.

If the Labour Party is still backing the sale of state assets, the deliberate undersupply of housing, the failed economic ideal of a service economy, and the further denigration of the wealth of the common person in favour of redistribution of wealth to the elite class so they may favour us through trickle down, then that is not a party any socialist would support. As a minimum Labour would need to pledge to repeal the anti-union laws (restoring the power of organised labour to at least contest the power of organised capitalists), implement a right-to-social-rent (ending the landlord subsidy via welfare payments and causing rents to be affordable to those on average earnings), pledge to ensure work paid by having work pay a living wage (ending the employer subsidy via welfare payments and causing employers to pay the worth of the job not the minimum they can get away with), and return to public ownership any former public company found to be profiteering from the false-market bought about through privatisation (ending the massive inflation in fuel, utility, transport, and manufacturing).

If Labour’s alternative is simply to attempt to pin a smiley face on Tory aggression, then seriously there is no point in Labour even standing for election. Perhaps, if this is printed then it may allow a constructive rebuttal from a more mature Labour representative.

Chris Webb

Address supplied



SIR - The recent letter from Stotfold resident, David Osborne, spelt out his realisation of the Fairfield Action Group’s case in asking for their own parish council. Stotfold residents querying the increase are getting a misleading response from the council. In the reply they state that they asked the action group if STC could manage the assets on the park and were told that it was not possible as management of Fairfield is governed by covenants in the land registry documents of each and every resident (known as a TP1). This was an accurate statement but we should point out that had it been possible to agree for Stotfold to manage the assets then the precept would have risen even further - possibly by a further third - as the costs of running Fairfield, currently met by payment of a service charge or rent charge, would have increased Stotfold’s annual expenditure considerably.

Barrie Dack

Chairman Fairfield Action