LETTERS: Comet November 1
THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, November 1.
POLICE COMMISSIONER FARCE
SIR - In my opinion the vote for a police commissioner will be a total waste of time and money.
In the last 10 years, I have contacted the police on a number of times. On one occasion two police officers were walking in Letchworth when a car alarm went off close by. They took no notice and when I approached them to ask why they didn’t investigate, I was told it wasn’t their problem.
On another occasion I reported young children playing on the roof of the school in Norton when the school was closed. I waited well over an hour but no one arrived.
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I telephoned the police when I found asbestos dumped by fly tippers in the car park at Wilbury Hills near the picnic area. I suggested that they roped off the car park as there was a wind blowing clouds of dust from the heap. They were not interested and told me to contact the council. It was a Friday evening and I was unable to contact the council until Monday morning. How many people were exposed to the asbestos is unknown.
When I was crossing the road in Shefford, a speeding car ran over my foot, the car was found and I was told to wait outside the person’s house. I waited and waited but no one arrived. A further two appointments were made for a home visit but these were not kept or even an apology given. In my opionion they are overpaid bunch of hypocritical and lazy people who will lie to get convictions and who join the police because they enjoy bullying.
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NAME AND ADDRESS
Sir - I was pleased to see at last the names of the four candidates who will be standing for the election to the post of Police Commissioner for Hertfordshire and together with their manifestos.
While I am sure that all four candidates are well-intentioned public-spirited individuals, sadly their pledges are largely meaningless non-controversial platitudes. In addition, I note that all four have political affiliations, three are currently councillors and one is an ex-councillor; so much for the much vaunted government philosophy of seeking independent-minded persons to take on the role. However, is this surprising when I read that in Bedfordshire, one prospective independent candidate failed to meet the deadline because her two colleagues, who were bringing the �5,000 sum for registration, were 10 minutes late? How many ordinary independent members of the public can readily find �5,000?
I assume that, should any of the sitting councillors be elected, they will resign immediately. I note that councillor David Lloyd, who has recently stepped down as chairman of the Herts Police Authority, says: “I have frozen council tax”. Firstly what has this statement to do with the role of the commissioner, and secondly I had assumed that the county council collectively makes decisions on council tax, not a single individual?
Two of the candidates stress the importance of the maintaining the independence of the chief constable and the police in general from political pressure, with which I totally agree. While the current system may not be perfect surely a local police authority, comprising people of varied or no political affiliations, is more likely to be impartial than a single person who, in the case of the four candidates in Hertfordshire, will obviously have a political affiliation. Thus the appointment and dismissal of the chief constable and the role of the police could become much more political in the future.
Sadly, as someone who is proud to have voted at every local and national election, as well as referenda, since I was eligible to vote at the age of 21, I will be following the advice of former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Ian Blair by not voting. The whole concept appears to be an ill-conceived, pointless and expensive gimmick.
SIR - There have been numerous readers letters published in the national press decrying the creation of the Police and Crime Commissioners organisation and of the lack of information on the candidates. I can, therefore, only add my own view which is to condemn the folly of expecting politically nominated amateurs to be able to ‘supervise and guide’ the performance of the top level of the police professionals.
Even more do I condemn this creation of yet another level of public funded bureaucracy. This new PCC will, firstly, require not only highly paid PCCs but also a significant support staff with multiple facilities and the empires they will inevitable build. Secondly, their very function will divert the existing professionals from their proper duties.
I accept that recent events have shown that there are many faults with the present policing system and staffing but I suggest that few ordinary folk are competent enough in matters of professional policing. The Government is paid by us to take such decisions and is only shirking its responsibilities in washing its hands of the matter by passing the buck down the line.
But, above all, I have a problem. I firmly believe that it is incumbent on all taxpayers to vote at all elections so I cannot just ignore the election and abstain by staying away. However, in this case, we are not being asked to vote whether or not we want the PCC creation – merely on the choice of its leading staff.
I do not agree with its creation and do not wish to vote for anyone. I think that the whole concept is ill-conceived and badly formed. We need to see the appointment of politically nominated amateurs reversed and I therefore have decided to submit my ballot paper unmarked in protest. The present Government may, if there are sufficient negative votes, realise the folly of this creation. Perhaps a vain hope; but I see no other choice acceptable to me and, rather than abstaining in protest, I commend my actions for consideration by my Letchworth taxpayer friends.
Letchworth Garden City
SIR - A few months ago I drove at 46mph in a 40mph limit.
For my sins, I was given the choice of a �60 fine and three points on my license, or to pay �85 and go on a ‘Speeding Awareness Course”.
I chose the course.
We were asked to introduce ourselves and explain our crimes, AA style, and to make any comments.
My comment was: “I resent being here because this is just another cash cow for the Government. I have driven for 46 years without incident. I pay hundreds in road tax, 60 per cent of my exorbitant petrol bill goes on tax, I pay council tax, pay for my driving licence and updates, and that’s before we get started with tax on almost everything we buy and income tax. Even my pension is taxed. So I object to a further ‘tax’ on motorists, which is what this is.”
I was told in no uncertain terms to leave if that was how I felt, and that all that tax money went to the NHS.
What shocked me even more than the rude and bullying stance of the two male tutors was the course itself.
They had actually brought a 30mph road sign with them to show us what they look like. I had smoke coming out of my ears. Maybe being patronised and humiliated is part of the plan. But when I asked a couple of people as we left if they had truly learned anything, I was gobsmacked when they said, “yes, lots”. WHAT! If anyone learned anything at that session they should never have been on the roads. It’s terrifying.
I would venture to say that all of us go over the speed limit sometimes when we consider it safe, without causing problems to anyone. In fact cameras have caused deaths by people suddenly spotting them and jamming on the anchors. It is all a matter of common sense, something that our jobsworth police and councils seem to have forgotten the meaning of.
Name and address supplied
AIRPORT NO NO
SIR - John Cullen (letters October 25) castigates you and “a handful of NIMBYs” for opposing the planned expansion of Luton Airport.
All his specious arguments of “much needed boost to the local economy, additional employment, new businesses” have been demolished months ago by the carefully-researched submissions to the Consultative Committee from LADACAN. He asks you to change your stance and “support the welfare of Stevenage residents”.
As a candidate in the forthcoming by-election in the NHDC ward covering all those villages to the west of Hitchin, I am finding that Luton Airport is at the very top of people’s concerns. If they are NIMBYs, it puts Mr Cullen in the role of “I’m all right Jack”.
The villagers are experiencing extreme and unacceptable noise and atmospheric pollution at present, and the threat that their suffering will increase by about 100 per cent terrifies them. Stevenage Borough Council’s support of the expansion is no surprise – they have always behaved in an un-neighbourly fashion since 1970.
As you have pointed out, the major scandal is that the expansion plans will be approved by Luton Borough Council – who own the airport, and thus stand to gain hugely. One might hope that the local MPs will use their muscle to persuade the Secretary of State to intervene in this absurd situation.
SIR - The Comet reports that Stevenage Borough Council supports Luton Airport expansion.
I doubt if the council is even aware of peak oil - where global oil supply ceases to meet global oil demand, prices become extremely volatile and shortages appear - getting worse, year after year. In fairness, local authorities seem to have no guidance from central government, which has its own problems with energy policy right now. Perhaps the council should look at the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre’s briefing, sent to all local authorities; or the study by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) - only released under Freedom of Information. DECC used a range of dates (immediate, 2020 and late 2030s), but said it was not possible to estimate when oil production would peak. Oil depletion experts have tirelessly lobbied government, but our politicians do their utmost to avoid discussing peak oil and declining energy return on energy invested. Uppsala University expect a substantial shortage of jet fuel by 2026, and kerosene substitutes are likely to be limited and relatively expensive. Unfortunately there is a profound lack of realism in policymaking, commerce and even in local responses, because our view of the future simply extrapolates current trends. Now that we are reaching all kinds of limits to growth, that policymaking can be wildly wrong; consider how the vast majority of (neoclassical) economists failed to spot the financial crisis.
So can Stevenage Borough Council see the risk in assuming that peak oil is a while away yet, and that economic activity, globalisation and air passenger demand will forever increase?
In the context of an early peak in oil production, airport expansion is not an economic benefit at all, but a wasteful diversion of attention and resources from more urgent investment in energy efficiency and re-localising the economy.
SIR - Typical Labour Party, they just don’t take any notice of the people who are against the airport expansion.
These must be people who don’t live under the flight path, are they going to pay compensation to people whose homes are blighted by constant aircraft noise 24/7?
As stated in an earlier email you can see the planes stacked up ready to come over Stevenage heading for Luton. Indeed on one night as one was coming over our property I could see the lights of the next come into view it worked out to be one aircraft in three minutes and now we find they want to double this.
At times we get woken up at two or three in the morning by aircraft, we have also found large chunks of ice in our gardens that we suspect has come off an aircraft one looked as if it had slid from a cabin window I am glad that the rules about aircraft dumping fuel has been tightened so black sooty marks on washing should be a thing of the past.
Is Stevenage Borough Council part of Luton and not Hertfordshire as I always thought it was or have I been wrong all this time.
Name and address
SIR - The wish of would-be parents living close to Samuel Lucas to minimise their own journey to school – and the contrary wish of residents to avoid worsening existing problems with traffic and parking – have both been aired but little attention has been given to the effects on current pupils. Obviously the playing field will become a builders’ yard before the new field can be created by bulldozing the allotments to remove tree stumps and to level the ground. We have now been told that building works will not be finished by September 2013 and the first enlarged intake will be housed in temporary accommodation. A linked issue is the final standard of the enlarged accommodation for both current children and the enlarged intake.
The governors’ response to consultation (on HCC web) noted that ‘the existing school has very cramped accommodation’ including ‘no room for small group work so children are taught in a corridor, ‘the staff room too small for all teachers to attend a staff meeting’ and ‘a very cramped dining area that is a small corridor and busy thoroughfare’. . ‘We are aware the new build will include small group rooms, classrooms and toilets’.
But the public meeting was told that enlarging the dining facilities was only under discussion and the school hall will not be enlarged as it is able to deliver the PE curriculum – so all-school assemblies will no longer be possible.
The sketch site plan shown at the meeting and now on HCC website shows the area of new buildings will equal only two thirds of the existing although pupil numbers will double. No improvements are shown to the entrance and drop-off to ease traffic problems.
The governors asked to be informed on feasibility studies and highways reports and to be involved in building design. As the public has been asked to agree or not the proposals, all such information should be public – but is still secret. It would be good to hear from parents and in particular from parent governors via The Comet online before the consultation ends on November 6.
SIR - I would like to reply to the parent of the child who attends Preston school from the Grays Lane/Offley Road area of Hitchin. They responded to my previous letter published on October 18.
I think that my comments about families travelling out of area to school have struck a chord here, which has resulted in insults being levelled at me. Surely there can be reasoned debate through a letters and comments page without abuse. This parent says I am in “complete ignorance” but doesn’t provide evidence of this.
I am also accused of “elitist beliefs” but again there is no reason given for their assumption. The final insult in their letter is to label me “irrational”. I presume this is because the views expressed in my letter do not reflect their own opinions. Mud-slinging of this nature is not promoting the case for or against the expansion of Samuel Lucas School, and there really isn’t any place for adults to be name-calling in a letters page in a local newspaper.
Similarly, there is no need to make personal attacks; I didn’t in my published letter on October 18. I took issue with things other people had previously written and responded, as is general custom in a letters page.
Neither did I say anywhere that I was finding it hard to be “calm and measured”. I was highlighting the fact that most parents will do just about anything if they think it is in the best interests of their child.
Furthermore, as we also didn’t get a place at the primary school chosen for our eldest child initially, I can sympathise wholeheartedly with this author about not getting a space at a chosen school. However, turning on parents whose children are already at the school isn’t going to magic a place for a child, neither is expanding the reception class at Samuel Lucas next year. You have to keep your fingers crossed for an existing pupil in your child’s year group to move out of the area and change school.
We need to bear in mind that it is the county council’s rules that deprive children of appropriate school places, not another child at the school nor its parents; nor can other parents prevent someone’s child from attending one school in favour of another; nor are local residents trying to deprive children of their local education. All parties have their own views, thankfully, and are entitled to express them in whatever way they wish. We all have to make important choices for ourselves and our children, about school places and about where we live.
So finally, I am in firm agreement with the author that “the problem is in our backyard and needs to be solved here”. Perhaps we should listen too to the children of Samuel Lucas, who learn early in their school days from their school motto that it is essential to “care, co-operate and contribute”.
Name and address
SIR - Re the Swan Lake ‘live stream’ performance at the Broadway Cinema, Letchworth GC. Congratualtions to all concerned for such an exciting evening. The cinema was full to capacity and everyone was clearly enjoying the superb performance of the Royal Ballet. This really is a great initiative from the Broadway Cinema in collaboration with the LGC Heritage Foundation. More of the same, please.