LETTERS: Comet April 18
THE letters in the Comet on Thursday, April 18.
Sir- Re: Mrs Margaret Thatcher
It is right and proper that we should mourn her passing. She had an immense influence for good throughout the world especially for those in Eastern Europe and elsewhere who were under the dead and repressive hand of socialism. The only major mistake was the community charge (the ‘poll tax’) which was manifestly unfair to the poorly paid and so damaged support for the Conservative party for years afterwards.
I met Mrs Thatcher only once, and that was in our Garden City. She was Minister of Education in Edward Heath’s government. She arrived by train at our railway station to give a talk on education at the Broadway Hotel and I escorted her from the platform. As we left the station exit with the line of taxis in front of us, there were, at the entrance to the station forecourt, a large, left-wing district councillor and a shop steward, both shouting “Thatcher, milk snatcher!” People there were looking at them and us and Mrs Thatcher said to me “Mr Burrows, where are we going” and I replied “Over there, Madam”, diffidently pointing past the two of them and to the Hotel. She said “Well, let’s go then!” and walked straight towards the two shouters and I followed. They soon stopped shouting and became highly embarrassed and we walked past (almost over) them to the hotel, while they just stood there sheepishly.
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I thought at the time that, if it had been a male minister, he might have suggested we take a taxi. I also decided that so far as politicians go, that was the one for me.
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Business Centre West
Letchworth Garden City
Sir - Many must have been quite disgusted by the outpouring of vile bile which started immediately after Margaret Thatcher’s death was announced. The street performers must have had their placards made with scrawled obscenities well before her death was announced. Most of those out on the streets were not even born when she was prime minister but had obviously been well indoctrinated with bias.
One of her most notable achievements was taking on a large section of the unions who in the ’70s had become out of control and holding state and private industries to ransom, and in the process almost crippling the country. Her predecessors Wilson, Callaghan and Heath did not have the guts to take them on. The left states she destroyed so many jobs in industry but in truth, these industries were, with union help, not competitive and relied long term on unsupportable government subsidies.
We had had continuous union disruptions throughout the ’70s with much of the car industry reduced to a joke with its constant – often trivial – demands leading to strikes, with the country, for good reason, becoming known as the sick man of Europe. As well as their official union demands they attempted, with some success, to become through their Labour Party connections involved in government and council matters for which they had no mandate.
The poll tax was wrongly designed in charging all wage earners in homes a flat rate, although there were some discounts. This meant that high earners paid no more than those on low incomes, and was therefore bound to be rejected on the basis of being unfair. Had there been a graduated charge on all earners based on income it would have been fairer than the charge we now have where a home owner, or tenancy holder, pays on the value of the house they live in regardless as to their financial situation. We all benefit from council services, not just home owners and tenancy holders.
Apart from its mass rejection, administration was not viable, largely due to the difficulty chasing those who would refuse to pay due to their, and others, movement of location.
FINE IS MAD
SIR - Quote from Oliver Heald re the article; ‘Ambulance service will be hit with £2m fine’ is: “There aren’t enough full-size ambulances to respond to patients’ calls in time. There’s not the right balance between number of cars and ambulances.”
My question is this. Why can’t the £2m be used for getting the service upgraded, ie, get the number of ambulances to improve the service? What is the point of slapping such a ludicrously huge fine on an organisation that is already in a financial black hole?
Would now be the time to set an example as has been seen in civil courts where litigation cases have, to some degree, been thrown out as a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. I suggest that it seems a fairly logical and simple housekeeping question, “...if you haven’t got the money, you can’t pay the fine...” .
Perhaps the answer to my first question is that the newly-installed Care Quality Commission has to be seen as doing its job and making its presence felt which in this case is an unbelievable example of completely refusing to use any common sense.
If, as appears, a complete dearth of common sense is more of a generic problem with CQC, perhaps contact should be made with David Halpern, director of Behavioural Insights Team which, according to an article in The Guardian on February 5, states, ‘We try to avoid legislation and ordering’. The unit is also known as the ‘nudge unit’, with plans and ideas to save the state billions by getting us to change our behaviour.
SIR - Experiencing signs of dementia can be worrying enough for people and their families without the agonising wait for help. At the moment the 800,000 people living with dementia can face a dual challenge – firstly getting a diagnosis from a specialist memory clinic followed by the wait for the support that can help them live well with the condition.
In the best performing areas, referral to a memory clinic can be as little as 24 hours. In the worst, it could be nine months. We need to make sure the postcode lottery for waiting times becomes a thing of the past. Things are beginning to change for the better. Thanks to the work of Alzheimer’s Society campaigners there is commitment to a maximum referral of three months but there is still more to do.
Ensuring that more people get a diagnosis of dementia earlier is a key priority for our campaigners. We need to tackle the parts of the system which block this. To find out how you can help, visit alzheimers.org.uk/earlydiagnosis
We need to make people aware that a memory clinic is available and is the first course of action, even doctors need to be reminded of this, having nursed my mother through vascular dementia I know how important this is. You have the power to help change things and make life a little easier to cope with!
SIR - It is clear from last week’s article on the town council that the key reason HELP were opposed to it was because it had endowed the town with a new ‘chain and crest’.
They forget that the old ones were held in a basement by Stuart Kenny’s regime at the Heritage Foundation and he spitefully refused to loan them or allow them to be used by the council. To be fair the HELP group were also angry about donations made to the British Legion, free trips for old age pensioners and plans to reform the Foundation’s double planning scheme. (We proposed instituting an independent appeals committee). As for the council it was well run, invested in offices and equipment, councillors worked for free (unlike NHDC) and it gained Quality Town Status – one of the few in the country to have. It spent its money on community events and groups, funded a community policeman and proposed cheap allotments, a record of which we are all proud of. The council tax was below average for Hertfordshire – about 80p a week per household. But people didn’t like paying it, so fair enough. When we left office, having gained 47 per cent of the vote, there was around £625,000 of cash in the bank plus other assets. Today all HELP have left is £17,000. Over half a million spent on abolishing opposition.
The town was divided but now it is time to put aside past differences and put forward the hand of friendship and reconciliation. There is new leadership at the Foundation and it is time for a fresh start and I hope people will engage and get involved with them. The aim of the council was to build a progressive caring, better and fairer town. That goal remains, the council was just an instrument in trying to achieve it.
Mayor of Letchworth 2007-9
SIR - UK food prices have risen by 32 per cent since 2007, putting huge pressure on people on lower incomes. In many developing countries, price rises are even more severe, in parts of Malawi, the price of the staple maize doubled between 2011 and 2012.
In a world where nearly a billion people are hungry, we urgently need to stem the high cost of food. Banks like Goldman Sachs are making millions speculating on food prices, and this has the effect of driving up prices. So, to tackle high prices, we must curb this excessive speculation.
Legislation to do just this is currently under discussion in Europe, but the UK government, to its shame, has so far refused to back strict rules. For the sake of people in poverty both at home and abroad, the government should put the human right to food before banks’ profits.
Sir - Residents frequently tell us about dangerous speeds on many of Hitchin’s residential streets and near schools. We are determined to use the government flexibility for speeds introduced as long ago as 1999, to introduce a 20mph limit in the whole of Hitchin. Many towns and cities in the UK have been able to do this cheaply by just installing signs, without awful, massively expensive humps or narrowing arrangements.
However, in Hertfordshire we are still waiting for the county councillors to get their act together to change the county’s speed management strategy. Two local county councillors have been helpful, and after the county council elections on Thursday, May 2, we should have some more county councillors who will be committed to ensuring these changes are rapidly made, so we can get on with the full 20mph limit for the town. There will then be nothing to stop Letchworth, Baldock, Royston and significant village settlements doing the same if they wish to.
Speeds are not just a highways matter, but also affect public health. Lower road speed limits have been found in other towns and cities to encourage walking and cycling, and parents feeling it is safe to encourage children walk to school. Britain had one of the highest pedestrian levels of road fatalities in Europe and one of the lowest levels of children walking or cycling to school. Motorists also feel benefit from fewer casualties, lower fuel consumption and carbon emissions, and collision damage tends to be relatively minor compliance with limits tends to be higher as there are no changes in speed limits from one area to another; although motorists’ speeds do not always come down to 20mph, they are less and certainly safer than in a 30mph area.
Raising speed awareness with 20mph signs will make a fantastic difference to the way people think and drive. The debate has gone on for far too long and it is now time to act.
North Herts Labour Group
SIR - Re ‘Man conned in A1(M) fraud’ (Comet, April 11), the police should have warned your readers that the fraud was a variant of the ‘Gold ring scam’. On March 14 last year the Kensington and Chelsea Chronicle reported that local police saw a young Romanian man pick up a ‘gold ring’ off the floor, approach a man, ask the man if the ring was his, and then offer the ring to him for less than £20. On November 24 the Bicester Advertiser and Review reported an identical fraud on the A421 bypass to the A1(M) fraud. A Google search on the gold ring scam shows that the scam has a history going back to at least 2007.
SIR - The opening night of Peter Pan at the Gordon Craig Theatre was truly amazing, the flying through the air by Peter Pan and the Darling children remarkable. The Lost Boys and Indians completely drew you into the stage.
SIR - The Knebworth Players excelled themselves in their last production Prepare To Meet Thy Tomb. It was a great evening and was a marathon of remembering. Their next production is at the Gordon Craig Theatre and I hope to be there – cheering.
Keep me company.
SIR - In response to the article about the ambulance service, I wondered whether anyone else had the same experience as me.
I was taken into A&E recently and, yes, there was a delay in the ambulance arriving but once we arrived at the Lister we realised why: there was a queue of four ambulance staff and their four patients waiting to be admitted. The paramedics are, rightly, expected to stay with their patient until the handover. The logjam in A&E is the cause of the delays not the ambulance service who were superb and very frustrated at not being able to drive to their next patient.
SIR - I read with great interest your article on Nadeem Leigh “Has Nadeem found what he’s looking for?”
I was Nadeem’s head of year for a couple of years at the John Henry Newman School and recall the difficult times he had, but he was always a delight.
If you have means of contacting him [I assume you would not be in a position to give me his contact details] please tell him that I am thrilled to hear of his success and wish him well for the future.
SIR - I read Cllr Robin Parker’s letter regarding vehicle parking with much interest. He goes into great detail about the why’s and wherefores of the problem and the great cost of everything.
There have been other letters in your newspaper about the same problem but no one ever mentions what I consider to be an important point.
Many residents have garages and what is a garage for? It is for putting your car inside. Not for putting furniture and junk in, and then moaning that there is nowhere to park. I have rented a garage from the council for 50 years and always put the car inside it. For this I now have to pay over £11 per week – out of my pension. Stevenage Borough Council is always advertising garages for rental. If they lowered the rent perhaps more residents would take them up and at least the council would revive some income. They may also like to charge some residents for the damage they are doing to the grass verges outside their homes through their selfish parking. Other residents have to put the unsightly mess that they are making and it is about time some local bylaw was passed so that our streets could once again attractive to live in.
Mrs T McLellan