01:00PM, Saturday 12 September 2020
Only thing I want to pick up is grandchild
As a grandparent who has been in the shielding group, I was asked to do the school collection run at a local primary school.
The parents were waiting outside the school grounds socially distancing appropriately.
As soon as they were invited onto the school grounds, which was done in year groups where queues formed for each teachers’ pupils, the parents’ behaviour changed dramatically.
They threw social distancing out the window.
They were standing considerably less than a metre apart and the only masks I saw were the one I hurriedly put on and that worn by one teenage boy.
I have never been so frightened.
Their irresponsibility will most likely cause schools to be closed as they are putting the teachers lives at risk and the extended family of the pupils.
Perhaps the schools should be educating the parents and perhaps the parents should learn to behave responsibly.
Taking an empty role with full pockets
I was appalled to read in last weeks Advertiser the amount of money spent on councillors’ so called ‘allowances’ (£543,087 in the last financial year) especially in the case of Cllr Bowden who received an ‘allowance’ of £5,253 as chair of the development management panel when they never met as a panel.
In effect the ‘allowances’ have become a salary for being a councillor.
This is particularly annoying to me because public service is not treated fairly across the board.
I chair two multi-academy trusts and Government will not allow us to be paid so we can only receive ‘out of pocket’ expenses in a limited way.
Over the many years that I have chaired governing bodies and latterly multi-academy trust I have never claimed a penny because I have a conscience that requires me to be straight and above board and free from any claim that I have taken advantage.
As a chair of a multi-academy trust we have responsibility for a budget of many millions of pounds, the trust employs all staff, is responsible for the payment of the CEO and all staff and is accountable to Ofsted for improving standards in our schools etc.
The responsibility is enormous and yet no ‘special responsibility allowances’ are paid let alone able to be claimed.
I do not make these points because of envy as I would not want it to be otherwise but when I see that councillors are ‘milking’ the system the way they are and what is more I am paying for this, along with all council tax payers in our council tax, it makes me very cross!
There is a big emphasis these days on equality but where is the equality in public service?
The claim will be that unless ‘allowances’ are paid there would be a bar against councillors standing for office and we would not get the right skills and quality that is needed to run our local services!
I rest my case!
Why change the parking system?
In February 2020 Maidenhead and Windsor council, behind closed doors and with no public consultation, decided to remove the self-administered parking scheme on March 31 2021 – a scheme which the council proudly instigated some years ago and cost the council nothing.
In the new scheme all the residential parking areas will be divided into zones and the occupants in each zone will have to decide, by a majority decision, to have unrestricted parking or adopt the new system.
If adopted, all the residents in that zone will have to purchase permits annually for the their first car, £50, for the second car, £70, and for all additional permits £100.
However this does still not guarantee you a parking space in your zone or any other zone.
I already pay road tax for my car, yearly insurance and MOT.
The council tax also includes a charge for road maintenance in the area.
In April 2020 the Maidenhead and Windsor council tax increased by 2 per cent.
Do they spend money wisely?
How much was spent on the unnecessary traffic alterations by the railway station?
This new parking scheme is being imposed simply to raise money for an inefficient council to waste money on inept projects.
Why not keep the original systems ?
Community-managed schemes dismissed
There are 30 successful community-managed road parking schemes in the borough.
The council has unilaterally cancelled these, without consultation or explanation.
Our Conservative councillors, at least one of whom campaigned for election as a supporter of such schemes, have gone along with this.
It is difficult to avoid the notion that we are suffering from councillors who are prepared to resort to any measure to increase revenue without raising council tax, all in the interest of being poster children for Conservative right-wing policies.
If we want decent services, we need to pay for them through a sensible council tax charge.
In Maidenhead we are all too willing to vote for insensate blue sheep, who lead us to the abattoir of community cohesion and public services.
In Lock Avenue, we have had our own self-managed parking scheme for several years, established with the strong support of our then ward councillors, including the wonderful Adam Smith, now deceased.
Adam was a true intellectual, who understood the real role of ward councillor. We miss him greatly.
Our community-managed parking scheme operated throughout lockdown, is free for road residents, has never resulted in an innocent party being ticketed, and has allowed the council to raise revenue through legitimate parking tickets.
By contrast the council scheme in use in nearby roads did not operate during lockdown, had poor enforcement at weekends, ticketed several innocent victims, and incurred administration costs.
As far as we can tell, no more money was raised than would be with a fairer community-managed scheme.
Our scheme was developed over several months, had the unanimous support of residents in our road, took a huge investment of our time, and was beautifully tuned to meet our needs.
It did an awful lot to improve community cohesion in the road, where residents are no longer strangers or adversaries.
Now, at a stroke, our scheme has been abolished and replaced with an expensive and less effective council bureaucracy.
We would also like to point out that residents in our area had to spend thousands of pounds of their own money to try to force the council to extend the Boulters Lock car park just along from our road, something that the council initially denied being needed.
The council has still not extended the car park, and neither has it properly maintained car park machinery such that it can maximise revenue and minimise disorder.
Car parking charges could be flexed to reflect seasonality, but they are not.
In summary both our councillors and the council are failing to manage parking charges in the borough in a fair and reasonable way.
Road parking is fast becoming a retrogressive form of taxation; the poorer you are, the less likely you are to have off-road parking, and the more likely you are to have to pay to park in your street.
This is how our councillors add to income inequality in the borough, while parking their gas-guzzling cars in their large drives – for nothing.
I urge our councillors and council to reverse their inequitable decision to abolish community-managed car parking schemes, without consultation.
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED
Serco will be held to account over faults
Firstly, can I apologise to every one of our residents for the current situation on the collection of waste and recycling?
The reason that I took this responsibility over last week was because in a former life I managed multi drop deliveries for a large national company based in Windsor so have an understanding of the current issues.
My first objective is to ensure all residents who have not had their bins collected for two weeks or more get them collected and we get back to normality as soon as possible.
When the previous contract came to an end, officers invited tenders and made a recommendation based on service and then price.
This is obviously a legal requirement and ensures best value.
Three companies competed and the contract was given to Serco based on evidence of service and price.
Upon taking on the contract Serco identified correctly that there were two ways to improve environmental impact and efficiency; first, they introduced new vehicles that enabled black bins and food waste to be collected at the same time and the blue bins and green waste to be collected at the same time.
In theory this would enable a reduction in the number of vehicles calling at properties from three to two whilst maintaining the service.
This was possible because less than 50 per cent of residents use the food waste bin and less pay for the green waste collection.
The second and more significant change was to propose that we changed the routes.
Over time we have seen a significant increase in properties across the Borough but have not adjusted the routes which I would have done in my previous life at least once a year. In theory these operational changes make sense.
Because of the COVID-19 situation this action was delayed and when we returned to weekly collection this change was implemented and we all know the result.
Serco have failed to meet their contract and have let down virtually every resident.
I know that many of their staff live in the Borough and I am sure that they are as frustrated as we are.
We will be holding Serco to account for their poor service and looking at enforcement actions within the contract, including financial penalties.
In the meantime, together with officers and working closely with Serco, we are working to get this back on track.
The leader of the council, Cllr Andrew Johnson, the managing director and I have met and continue to communicate with Serco directors on a regular basis.
Our officers, who I have to say have done an excellent job, are managing the contract on a daily basis.
Serco have brought in additional vehicles from other contracts to increase capacity on peak days which will hopefully go a long way in addressing the problem.
We will continue to work to fix this contract and give you the service you deserve.
Again, my sincere apologies on behalf of myself, all councillors and officers for this situation.
Cllr DAVID COPPINGER
Lead member for environmental services, planning and Maidenhead
Supporting the hospice not over-development
Responding to Pamela Gilbert (Viewpoint, September 3) of Rushington Avenue (how much traffic does that cul-de-sac see?), there is no doubt that the Thames Hospice does a great job in caring for the sick, as outlined in her letter.
Indeed, I contribute the small amount of £2 per month, and have done so for years; and in addition, my wife and I have given things for sale in their shop which have raised £325.54 in the past tax year.
Pamela indicates that cancer patients should have access to a nearby hospice, and thinks that no one should object.
But a hospice, wherever it is, will not be nearby to everyone.
The location its team proposed, to which RBWM agreed, on ex-Summerleaze land on the Windsor Road, was and is in the wrong place.
The fields that she refers to as scruffy were as nature intended.
The residents of Windsor Road have indeed been subjected to problems during the building, and will have more problems due to the ongoing hospice traffic increase that will follow.
The hospice is the thin end of the wedge.
Summerleaze intends 100 houses next to it. And on the Windsor Road the Local Plan indicates another 500 houses.
All of this increases traffic.
The A308 had 18,000 vehicles a day using it in 2017.
The hospice building has added 584 movements to this number per day in a 12=hour period.
Such problems can sometimes lead to the cancer to which Pamela refers.
In my objections, I have often thought that perhaps I would have need of the hospice should I become sick.
But due to my objections I think I would not dare to try to use it; but still I have to continue to voice my displeasure at the way that the agreement to build was reached.
Many more car spaces than beds for patients
Responding to the letter by Pamela Gilbert, with sincerity I’m glad to hear that she has fully recovered from the terrible illness.
Profoundly, I would never wish for anyone to have this illness and be subjected to suffering.
We had experienced that situation in our family and sadly lost a loved one.
I am sure the hospice has been contributing good support and care for the community, and we, the residents on the A308, do not disregard that.
But, this is NOT about the caring hospice…
1. The building is a headquarters for a large organisation with 28 hospice beds attached, and 200 car park spaces.
The road is already too busy and narrow to accommodate the existing traffic.
2. The hospice has been approved and built on the flood plain, greenbelt land and a haven for wildlife – NOT some grim, scruffy land.
All this has now gone with the urbanisation of the site. Instead, all we have are migrating rats and bats, that local residents have experienced and endured.
3. For us that live directly opposite the entrance of this site and the local residents close by, we all have been subjected to relentless disturbance and inconvenience of this building construction with noise, traffic, dirt, and dust pollution resulting in residents’ cars and houses constantly covered with thick dust.
We have to keep our windows closed even on a warm summer day.
We could not even enjoy the peace and tranquillity in our garden, because of the unbearable noise, suffocating smell of fuel and vibration on the ground.
We also get disturbed at all hours.
This demonstrates a total disregard and lack of consideration for nearby residents.
For the local residents of Windsor Road, we have been denied, disregarded and unfairly represented.
The 13 councillors of this borough who approved this completely lacked consideration for the local residents despite our numerous letters, begging for help and consideration.
4. Most disheartening for us, the person in charge of the hospice and contractor have never made any effort to communicate with their neighbours.
When starting a large building contract like this, the first thing the contractor and its client should do, is to set up a dialogue with the surrounding residents and, in this instance, with Bray Parish Council (BPC).
This is to keep everybody aware of what is going on, and to address problems as soon as they arise.
Instead we have been kept in the dark with very little communication through BPC.
We have been suffering relentlessly for two years, with this construction in front of our home and, for the residents of Windsor Road, this is just the beginning.
The greenbelt land next to the hospice will probably be developed for 100 houses, using the same entrance right directly in front of our house.
The local residents of this community are totally devastated of the continuous disturbances and miseries.
We do not object to end-of-life patients using the hospice, but this extremely enormous building has conference space, a training centre, a retail cafe and a big kitchen.
The Windsor Road will not be able to cope with the current situation of increasing traffic pollution on this very narrow and busy road, often in gridlock, when the M4 motorway has problems and shuts.
Lazy litterers could ruin island for all of us
Today three of us collected three garbage bags of rubbish (beer cans and bottles, sandwich and sweet wrappers etc) from the island in Guards Club Park.
Much of it was thrown into the undergrowth by these idiots, evidently thinking this would make it invisible.
If any of the offenders read this letter, please take your rubbish home in future.
Otherwise the Royal Borough may close off the island permanently rather than when the swan is nesting there, and then we all suffer.
Champions for people using health services
Last year the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Slough and Bracknell Forest made the decision to jointly commission a single Local Healthwatch Service across east Berkshire when the current individual local authority contracts expire in January 2021.
Following a competitive tender process, the new contract has been awarded to the existing Healthwatch provider in Slough, Help and Care.
The Healthwatch service undertakes highly valuable work on behalf of our residents and will continue to support the NHS and social care over the coming months and into winter, as we transition to the new Healthwatch provider.
One of the key functions of Healthwatch is to champion the voice of people who use health and care services through working with local communities, getting feedback on patient experience of using the NHS services – highlighting what has gone well and what has not gone so well.
Healthwatch has teamed up with the Care Quality Commission and recently launched the #BecauseWeAllCare campaign, where people can report on their experience of using local health or social care services, such as making an online GP appointment, accessing care or support from a health/social care service during the pandemic.
Ensuring the voice of people using our NHS and social care continues is a key focus and, as we head towards winter, local residents can rest assured Healthwatch will ensure they have their voices heard.
I am totally committed to this imperative and advancing the resident voice.
As Healthwatch makes the transition to the new service in January, our Council’s commissioners will be working very closely with our partners to ensure a smooth handover and to ensure the new east Berkshire service is ready to go from day one. In the meantime, our Healthwatch provider will continue to deliver the same impartial role, acting as ‘critical friend’ to our NHS and social care.
Cllr STUART CARROLL
Con, Boyn Hill
Deputy chair of cabinet
Lead member for adult social care, children’s services, health and mental health
Prevention is cheaper than cure
Royal Borough councillor Stimson (The Advertiser, September 3) says that financial restraints hamper a more ambitious strategy to counter climate change and that 2030 is too early to achieve zero carbon emissions.
But climate change will not wait for her pleas for funds to be found nor slow down to suit our convenience.
By all means lobby this ineffective Government to take this crisis more seriously, but we cannot keep passing the responsibility to someone else.
Already the effects of a relatively modest rise in temperatures are apparent in fires, floods, harvest destruction, refugees etc.
Can we continue to tell our children and grandchildren that we spent our money as we wished in planet-destroying ways and left them to deal with the mess?
Every citizen must look critically at priorities and the reality of where we are heading.
RBWM must do the same.
One reason that RBWM are short of money is that they have kept council tax low for their relatively wealthy residents.
The average price of a house in Slough is £401,000. The average prices of houses in Windsor and Maidenhead are £574,000 and £578,000 respectively.
Yet the average council tax on a house in Slough is £1,317 and in RBWM it is little more at £1,368.
Other councils have been successfully innovative in creating incomes from green schemes such as investments in solar energy and work place parking levies.
It will cost us MORE in the long term if the funds are not found in the short term.
Prevention is cheaper than cure.
RBWM need to get their act together, set a 2030 zero carbon target date, set clear objectives and find the money to achieve these pronto!
East Berkshire Green Party
Speaking out on ’themed’ crossing
Well done long-serving councillor Leo Walters for speaking out against councillors Joshua Reynolds and Gerry Clark’s bizarre virtue signalling themed crossing proposal.
How they can consider such an obscene waste of public money is beyond me.
I urge residents to visit the RBWM online consultation and register their objections.
The silence from other councillors is deafening.
Do they have a backbone?
A good excuse for inadequate service
Have others noticed how organisations blame COVID for their own under-performance?
Try calling your doctor, energy service provider, telecoms people, council binmen, customer service departments.
No chance of talking to a real live person – recorded messages direct you to some website, email address chattered out so you have to dial the number a few more times to write it down – or listen to a load of options and press the right button – which refers you to another website.
I say bring back telephone switchboard operators who plug the line into the extension.
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