Letters appearing in this week’s Bucks Herald newspaper include:
VALUE OF ‘SPIN’
I am writing in response to the front page article (February 5) - the unbalanced article on ‘PR and Spin’.
As a taxpayer, that report would have left me feeling angry – the crux is that local authorities’ communications departments are a waste of money, when cuts are being made.
Given my experience of AVDC’s communications team, I have total confidence that they offer great value for money and would like to offer some balance.
The report criticised the £203,000 spent on six communications roles.
What it didn’t tell you was that this department has a huge remit, which includes supporting the Vale’s economic development and helping to attract companies such as Waitrose and Travelodge to Aylesbury.
Comparing these roles to the 13 ‘axed’ planning posts was simply curious. (For the record, two roles were compulsory redundancies.)
The Aylesbury Vale Times is used as a cost-effective communication channel, alongside the website.
While production costs have increased, the overall product is cheaper because we get more advertising and use thinner paper.
Before we expanded the magazine, the average price was 18p a copy.
Our last edition was 14p.
This may change slightly depending on advertising revenue and postage costs but a price in this region offers excellent value in so many ways.
Some examples: every edition has important recycling information – if we increase recycling, we cut landfill costs, saving money; we can publicise consultations on policy change (key to democracy) – separate publicity campaigns would cost a fortune; the magazine enables us to explain, accurately, why we are having to make cuts; we can let people know about important decisions councillors are making on their behalf.. the list goes on.
Some authorities spend in excess of £100,000 a year on their publications; our costs are only around a third of this.
My only grumble is that we can’t use the magazine for notices which we are legally required to place in the Public Notice section of local newspapers.
Planning notices, proposed and actual changes to our parking arrangements are all caught by this outdated and archaic practice which also happens to be a very expensive use of taxpayers’ money.
In 2012/13 nearly £60,000 was spent by AVDC on these notices and, for those who wanted a copy of the Public Notice, a further 80p,(in the case of the BH) for the newspaper!
Another area the department (and the wider council) now spends time and money on is answering a number of Freedom of Information Requests from the Bucks Herald.
These occasionally yield column inches but they take time to complete.
They also offer little context and since, in this particular case, not even a response was sought from us, you end up with what I consider to be a very unfair article.
Pretty much every successful company or organisation invests in communications.
There is a reason for this – it makes total business sense and, in our case, it also enhances democracy.
I rest my case.
Cllr Pearl Lewis
Luffield Abbey Ward, Aylesbury Vale District Council
WHERE ARE THE PARKING SPACES?
With the recent decline of office occupancy in Aylesbury Old Town and the relaxed rules governing change of use planning, AVDC planners have, and are about to approve, nearly 100 residential units in the town centre.
Fifty flats are to be created above Friars shopping centre and another six separate conversions will create 47 more.
This trend to rejuvenate Aylesbury Old Town by breathing new life into it and creating community, does however come at a price and it is the existing residents that will have to pay for it.
AVDC planners have totally ignored the Government’s SPG guidelines which stipulates that new builds are best served with one allocated parking space per residential unit and one visitors space for every two.
The combined 7 conversions are a staggering 77 spaces short of these guidelines.
This means that 27 new residents will have nowhere to park.
But not to worry…..help is at hand. The existing residents, who compete daily for the measly 20 resident spaces currently available, will happily give them up and will park on their rooftops instead.
As for the 48 new visitors without parking, the residents have got that covered too. They plan to build a very long tunnel which will lead from Rickfords Hill to a massive underground car park situated directly underneath the disrict council’s planning office in the Gateway.
We still haven’t worked out if our planned car park roof will be able to withstand the colossal weight of planning excellence above, and we haven’t got enough shovels…..but we are working on it.
DON’T DESPAIR OVER HS2
The last few weeks have brought more news on HS2.
The failure of the most recent legal challenge and the realisation that the HS2 Hybrid Bill will soon have its Second Reading, which will approve the principle of the project, are discouraging developments but arguably they were always likely to happen given Cameron and Osborne’s determination to force HS2 on the country and this county.
Meanwhile however the inexorable decline in the credibility of the project continues. The Government’s refusal to publish the Cabinet Office’s apparently damning report on HS2 from the Major Projects Authority received wide publicity and shows how little scrutiny HS2 can bear.
Its Business Case’s feeble £1.10 or so benefit per £1 spent - officially a ‘poor value’ project on the Department for Transport’s own criteria would much lower had not somebody suddenly decided that business travellers would be much more numerous than previously assumed.
Many northern authorities off the HS2 route have realised that HS2 means poorer rail services for them and even more concentration of activity in London.
In January, Buckinghamshire County Councillors voted unanimously to Petition on the HS2 Bill.
This vote was preceded by the spectacle of Conservative and Liberal Democrat Councillors lining up to savage their own government’s proposals.
Subsequent public meetings in the area included Europe Minister and Aylesbury MP David Lidington trying to assuage very considerable local anger about the project in Wendover and, a week later, Nigel Farage returning to the area reaffirming UKIP’s insistence that the HS2 be scrapped.
What should HS2 opponents do now? Not despair, I would say.
Polls now show two thirds of people in Britain want HS2 scrapped or seriously delayed.
UKIP therefore represents the majority view in the country on this issue. The project really has become nationally controversial. The political cost of scrapping HS2 is falling all the time as it loses credibility. The financial cost of HS2 is clearly too high. As Nigel said, Britain cannot afford it.
By 2015 Britain’s national debt will have increased from under £600 billion in 2008 to around £1,400 billion.
After the next election the pressure will be on to finally get a grip on our roughly £100 billion annual government deficit and scrapping HS2 will top of the list of easy to implement cuts.
Vanity projects are promoted by vain politicians who don’t like to back down over HS2.
However nothing focuses politicians’ minds like the risk of losing Parliamentary seats. If enough people along the route decide to vote, at every opportunity, against the Westminster parties that have ganged up to inflict HS2 on the country then it would be dropped.
UKIP county councillor, Great Missenden
LITTER LOUTS ARE TO BLAME FOR FLOODING
May I respond to your stories about flooding and fly tipping?
It seems to me from what I have gleaned from your pieces that it is futile to apportion blame to any agency for the state of our rivers, streams and brooks.
The people responsible for polluting our waterways are those who choose to dump their large items of rubbish into them.
One story mentioned mattresses and other large items. Why is anyone throwing them away in this fashion? This is surely another form of fly tipping which Bucks County Council might wish to tackle.
Regarding fly tipping in other places (one article referred to rubbish being left in the middle of roads), since those perpetrating this crime are obviously already in vehicles, why are they not taking the rubbish to the local Council waste and recycling tip?
If they are in cars this service is offered free of charge. It is only businesses using vans who have to pay.
Otherwise, for a small charge the Council will remove large items.
I am blind, and when I need any large items taking to the tip I ask a friend or relative to help me, and they are happy to do so.
Another article related to a farmer who was told that he could not clear a brook running through his property because it was not the policy of the agency he contacted.
Why on earth not? If he was willing to undertake the work, thus hopefully preventing flooding of his yard and fields, what strange bureaucratic organisation could possibly object?
Clearly this winter’s storms and consequent floods are greater than normal, but if waterways, ditches and drains were cleared by anyone who felt willing and able to do the work, flooding would be less of a problem.
Elmhurst Road, Aylesbury
PRAISE DUE ON CLEANING GROTSPOT
Most of us have experienced or are experiencing episodes of flytipping in alleys, rear entrance lanes, or in fact anywhere at all where the culprits believe they can dump unwanted items and get away unoticed.
In my area, the back entrance lane between Cromwell Avenue and Whaddon Chase, stretching as far down to the rear of housing in Buckingham Road has for years been blighted by the heavy and persistent dumping of great piles of clothing, fridge freezers, mattresses, TV sets etc and even a dismantled garden shed stacked either side of the narrow lane at the rear of Buckingham Road
In June last year, a successful campaign initiated by UKIP councillors Chris Adams and Andy Huxley resulted in a massive clearance undertaken by Aylesbury Vale Housing Trust in which a line of rubbish-filled disused garages between Whaddon Chase and Cromwell Avenue were not only completely cleared out, but partially demolished and sealed up.
The area was described in the Bucks Herald report at the time as being reminiscent of Beirut .
All remained clear for a few weeks before the spectre of blatent flytipping raised its ugly head yet again with a repeat of the practice described in the first part of this letter.
However to my surprise a few days ago I was amazed to see the whole area spotless.
Not only were the piles of heavy builders waste and timber and large electrical appliances removed, but invasive brambles which had protruded towards the centre of the bottom part of the lane on either side had been cut back to enable safe access to resident’s vehicle.
I have since learned that once again it has been down to action on the ground by UKIP councillors;locally in conjunction with Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust (VAHT) that this transformation has taken place.
UKIP and VAHT deserve the highest praise for there efforts here - such a welcome change from previous years where officials had sat on their hands over this obnoxious issue.
Local residents are extremely grateful for the work UKIP and VAHT have done here.
A final piece of advice to anyone contemplating flytipping in this area. Stay away and do the right thing and take it down the tip.
Buckingham Road, Aylesbury
HOUSING - TIME TO THINK AGAIN
I have just received confirmation that, on the suggestion of an independent planning inspector, AVDC has now withdrawn its Vale of Aylesbury Strategy Plan.
One of the main reasons for the inspector’s suggestion for the plan’s withdrawal was that AVDC were not planning for sufficient new housing across the Vale.
However, the recent storms which, we are told, could be the pattern of our future weather, have recently caused flood misery in Aylesbury, as well as in the rest of the country, and it should be remembered that, the more we build on and pave over our countryside and green areas, the more flooding we can expect in the years to come – whether the areas to be built on are flood plains or not!
So, if our country already floods with our current housing density, shouldn’t we be taking a very long, hard look at whether or not the Government’s ideas for housing more and more people in this already hard-pressed country really stand up to sane examination?
Or does government hope that, by the summer, we will all have forgotten the terrible flood damage and misery that has been suffered?
Surely, it is time for a new, stark appraisal of how much, and where, we build and it is long overdue that flood defences and drainage were a national priority.
Successive governments have under-prioritised spending on drainage and flood defences, just as they have constantly under-funded spending on maintaining our road and rail network – because such spending is not high profile enough or doesn’t bring them enough glory?
Such sound improvements to our safety and quality of life just don’t seem popular with politicians who always seem to want to leave such unspectacular work to some mythical Government in the future.
Our political masters tell us that we need massive construction projects to kick-start our economy.
What better projects could there be for the real good of the country than putting in sound drainage and flood defences and repairing, maintaining and up-grading our existing transport infrastructure?
These are the vital infrastructure projects that this country really needs to make it a safer and better place to live in.
Oh – and if the funding for such a programme of really important work means cancelling unwanted, uneconomic, vanity projects like HS2 – then so much the better!
STOP THE FARCE
Stop HS2 veterans Nolan, Ramsden and Bartram should be congratulated on their letter to David Lidington MP registering their disillusionment with his stance on HS2.
It’s important to keep our MP up to speed on thinking of some of his constituents even if it is only 200 of them.
As an MP, his dilemma is how to take account of the much greater number of us voters disillusioned by the antics of the Stop HS2/51M gang.
These people seem to believe tha they have the right to expect public money to be flagrantly wasted on more than a dozen failed legal challenged.
When will they stop this farce and concentrate on expanding the width of the compensation band either side of the line.
Bryants Acre, Wendover
WE ALL HAVE DUTY TO KEEP NEIGHBOURHOOD CLEAN
Having read the letter exchanges between Mrs J King and Colin Powell in the Herald regarding discarded items in Penn Road, I have asked VAHT and AVDC’s Recycling and Waste/Environmental Health departments to look into clearing the mess up.
While I would encourage everyone to take any unwanted items to the tip rather than dumping them outside in their garden, or on the pavement, not everyone has the resources or the affordability to do this.
We all have a duty to keep our neighbourhood clean, tidy and safe.
If you can’t possibly afford to legally dispose of large items, or are fed up with seeing your area blighted with rubbish, contact your ward Councillor.
It is our job to liaise with relevant departments and ensure our areas are safe and tidy for our residents.
We cannot tolerate fly-tipping, whether Europe is to blame or not, and must work together to make it easier for us to sort this problem out, whether it means bringing back bulk collections or giving poorer people discounts for getting rid of rubbish.
You pay your Council Tax, make us work for a cleaner, tidier Aylesbury.
Cllr Michael Beall
Labour Party , Southcourt Ward
ROADS - USE COMMON SENSE
I have written to the Bucks Herald twice complimenting planners over the improved traffic flow along Lower Road past Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
When it was announced a new Asda sore was to be built there a lot of people predicted the road would turn into a nightmare.
In fact the road works and the one simple move of stopping right hand turns into the hospital has allowed traffic to flow.
The road engineers would tell you that this was down to expert design. However I believe it was down to common sense.
For years traffic turning into the hospital had brought traffic to a halt, unable to get past as cars waited and queued to make the turn.
Had planners taken the time to look at this situation, a little joined up thinking would have sorted the problem a long time ago.
Instead it needed Asda to move in before the roads were adjusted.
I believe that if our road gurus spent more time looking closely at the Aylesbury road systems and how they worked, common sense could solve a lot of Aylesbury’s traffic problems.
But then maybe I am being just too simplistic?
Name and address supplied