A selection of letters to the editor this week.
Council Tax rise leaves a bitter taste in the mouth
The decision of the Conservatives on Herts County Council to increase Council Tax by almost 2% is in sharp contrast to the two Liberal Democrat run councils in Hertfordshire – namely Three Rivers and Watford – which have yet again frozen council tax - in the case of Three Rivers for the 10th year running.
The County Council has rejected the Coalition Government’s offer of £5.2m extra funding which would have been available had it not increased Council Tax.
Instead it has decided to increase the tax, make cuts to services as well as increase its reserves of money for a “rainy day” from £146m to £154m. The council also has a current ‘collection fund’ surplus of £5.9m – money collected from council taxpayers in excess of what had been budgeted for in previous years.
I am appalled. The County Council clearly has to be careful and look after taxpayers’ money properly, but right now putting up Council Tax by almost 2% while at the same time hitting services to the elderly and vulnerable leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
We all know times are tough, but the Liberal Democrat Group has looked long and hard at the options available to us and we posed an alternative budget that would ring-fence essential services, restore cuts, freeze Council Tax, cut waste and non-essential spending and maximise income.
Included in the Liberal Democrat budget amendment was an extra £4.4m revenue spending that would have reversed mobile library cuts, bus service cuts and school crossing patrols cuts.
We would also have allowed for councillors to restore street lighting at night, funded the gritting of roads outside schools, provided money for school uniforms for needy families and extended the apprenticeships scheme.
On the capital side the Liberal Democrats proposed £2m on a new flood relief programme, £6m extra on highways and footway repairs and £1.5m extra on a schools maintenance programme, all without increasing the council tax.
This was possible by cutting back room services like publicity, using the collection surplus, and driving down building and mileage costs.
I am disappointed to say that the Liberal Democrat budget amendment was lost and was very surprised that Labour Councillors refused to support our move to protect vital services.
One has to ask why this year to increase the Council Tax with so much in reserves. Could it be that because it’s a General Election year they hope their tax rise will go unnoticed?
Or perhaps they are putting money away to save up to try to cut the council tax in two years time before the next County elections - we will see.
Lib Dem Group Leader and Leader of the Opposition Central Oxhey division
I can For-see a car parking nightmare
I was frustrated to see that the councillors have given permission for the new Forum building despite knowing that it has not got nearly enough parking spaces.
Have they looked out of the window at the parking around the Civic Centre?
I foresee that it will not be long after it is built before lines appear in the nearby car park marked ‘Forum staff only’ thereby depriving shoppers and indeed those wanting to visit the Library , Police Station or Civic Building.
Surely the Council realises that, no matter how much is spent tarting up the Marlowes, people will only shop in the town if they can park easily and at a reasonable price, preferably free.
I support trying to get people to use bicycles (in hilly Hemel) and public transport (what’s left after the County have slashed it) but there are other ways to go about it than the ‘stick’ approach reported in your paper.
This is a very short sighted way of trying to save money, I presume so they can sell the rest of the site, or is this a way of making sure that only local people get jobs in the Forum as they will be the only ones who can work there without using their cars?
No planning committee should give permission for developments where there is not enough car parking but it happens so often and the rest of the community pays.
Eileen Heylin Hemel Hempstead
Let’s not cloud the issue, its lenticular
Re: the reader’s picture in the Gazette dated 25th February, which shows an unusual cloud formation.
At a guess I would say that the nearest formation to this would be the lenticular cloud, which is quite rare in an area like Hemel Hempstead, but I believe it is formed by very cold air.
I photographed one in North Wales last year, on a very cold and windy day in April.
Local evidence of the power of UKIP
It is with great pride that I have been following the developments regarding Hemel Hempstead hospital since my speakers corner piece.
I have been overwhelmed by the support shown by the electorate at our recent street events (cross party!).
I now see that Mr (Andrew) Williams (leader of Dacorum Borough Council) has an article on the Pavilion!
If this is what UKIP can achieve now just imagine what we can achieve for the people of Hemel Hempstead if elected. Even the Liberal Democrats have written a letter to the editor this week.
So if there are any issues that you feel should be dealt with please do not hesitate to contact me and I will start the ball rolling.
There is nothing like general and local elections to focus the minds on the broken promises of those currently elected.
Dr Howard Koch PPC UKIP Hemel Hempstead
A41 is a disgrace but nobody cares
I am deeply grieved at the state of the verges along the A41 – this must rank as one of, if not THE, dirtiest, most litter strewn roads in the country.
Never have I seen so much litter, filth and detritis along a carriageway which now resembles nothing so much as a linear rubbish tip.
We are privileged to live within the Chilterns which are an astonishingly beautiful area, but one cannot help but wonder what visitors to the area must think if they are unfortunate enough to have to drive along this disgraceful road.
What sort of impression does this give other than that they are entering a Borough which clearly cares nothing for its environment.
I accept that, to a degree, there will always be a certain amount of windblown litter, but that does not account for the dozens of discarded tyres, abandoned road cones, builders buckets, polyproylene dumpy bags, vehicle parts, timber and goodness knows what else, not to mention other litter which has obviously been thrown from passing vehicles and, from my observation on my daily commute along this route, much of which has been lying around for months.
The A41 verges play host to a huge variety of wild flowers through the spring and summer, but I cannot help but wonder if any will appear this year, having given up the unequal struggle of trying to force their way through the multitudinous mountains of dross accumulated along every yard of verge.
I am pragmatic enough to appreciate that you cannot change human behaviour and there will, of course, always be an element of humanity who could not care less about discarding their litter by the simple expedient of throwing it from the window of their vehicle in order to desecrate the environment, but my major beef is that our esteemed Dacorum Borough Council do not seem prepared to take any action to keep the verges clear of litter.
Does nobody at the council care? Does anyone care – it would appear not?
Surely a litterpick on the odd occasion would not be beyond the financial and staffing resources of the council in order to present the borough in its best light?
Where the Dickens is old friend Robin?
I’m hoping you can help me find an old friend from way back. Does anyone know Mr Robin Dickens?
I have been trying to find Robin as our fathers were in the Second World War together. His parents and my parents were married in 1941 and were great friends for many years. I am now 70 years old and Robin is eight months younger than me.
We lost contact with him in the 1960’s. I know his parents lived at Abbotts Langley for years and are both dead as are mine. We would really like to know where he is and if he would like to contact me.
Hoping you can help.
Ann Tarbox (Nee Collier) firstname.lastname@example.org
Time for some Pavilion home truths
Many of your correspondents and the signatories of a petition in support of a new Pavilion seem to ignore some home truths.
They claim that it would be better if the Council built a replacement Pavilion rather than a cinema as part of the town centre regeneration.
But I have checked with the Council and the fact is that it is not the Council that is building the cinema and restaurants – it is a private sector scheme.
Now, whether we like it or not, the private sector only invests if there is money to be made and unfortunately there is no money to be made out of running a theatre or a performing arts centre.
As a keen theatre-goer myself, I have researched this matter carefully and found that in its last year of its operation the Pavilion was subsidised by £700,000 by the Council Tax payer.
Apparently, it also needed £2mil just to keep open for a couple more years.
Like me, a lot of people have great memories of the building but they must have noticed the fall off in numbers that made it impossible for the pavilion to break even.
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre is held up as something that we should do as well, but I am told that it cost £47m to build and needs a subsidy of over £500,000 a year to keep going.
In Hemel I calculate that this would require a 5% increase in Council Tax, which no-one would be prepared to pay.
Furthermore, a loan to cover this build cost would demand an annual payment of £1.9M in interest – implying a staggering 19% increase in Council Tax!
Some of the ideas for Market Square are great – bowling alley, children’s play zone – but unless they make money no one will come in and build them.
As for the Council taking on the burden, do people really want the Council running businesses and restaurants?
In my view, it is sufficient that the Council runs the modest theatre and arts venue at the Old Town Hall.
It is a wonderful venue but even that needs a small, albeit more affordable, subsidy.
Times have changed and outside of large populous cities like London, theatres are just not financially viable without a subsidy.
A lot of people who mourn the loss of the Pavilion want a world that doesn’t exist any more.
Having said that, if any private sector investor was willing to build and bear the cost of running a theatre or arts centre in Hemel Hempstead, I for one would welcome them with open arms.