Councillors are accused of scaremongering over their opposition to car park fees increasing in the letters page this week.
GET THE FACTS RIGHT
Having watched the district council meeting last Wednesday evening on webcast, I was appalled at the political shenanigans that bashes our town. During the debate about car parking charges, the amount of inaccuracies was quite unbelievable.
Claim: “The footfall in the town is going down forcing shops to close down.”
Fact: The footfall in the town has shown a consistent average increase over the past 2 years against a consistent decrease nationally.
Claim: “There are many empty shops in the town and it’s getting worse.”
Fact: Empty shops in the town is less than 2%, (with a number of shops under negotiation) against a national average of 11%.
Claim: “Tilburys closed down because of falling business caused by poor footfall.”
Fact: Colin King, the owner, has been serving the residents of Aylesbury with fresh meat and produce for more than 50 years, he has been planning to step back at some stage in the future but the sad early death of Tony the very popular manager at the Jansel Square branch forced him to bring his plans forward. He has now consolidated his business to this branch in Jansel Square where you can still get the same quality produce, a lot of it sourced locally. He is now stepping back a little to take some well earned quality time with his family, and although he will be missed in the town I think we should all wish him well.
Friars Square are still enjoying a healthy footfall despite all the work going on building the new branch of Metro Bank. The University Campus of Aylesbury opening it’s doors in October, eventually bringing more the 2,000 people into the town - adding to the footfall. The North Side of Exchange development plans are progressing, again increasing the attraction of the town. The all year round events calendar attracts people from far and wide.
I just wish these scaremongers would stop bashing our town giving negative stories to make political points, they don’t help anybody.
There are many people working very hard to ensure our town has a healthy future, stop knocking it.
Nearly ten years ago in my role as chair of the local PCT I was made aware of alleged exploitation of girls in the care of the County council.
I requested a meeting with the then cabinet member for children’s services and the chair of licensing at AVDC, officers of the county council and the police.
The police did not attend. I was told of the measures the County were taking to protect children thought to be at risk, including placing them in foster homes as far away as Norfolk or Newcastle, and that an ongoing criminal investigation was taking place in conjunction with Oxfordshire. However, I was informed that the main difficulty preventing prosecutions was that the witnesses were ‘unreliable’.
That itself speaks volumes. No doubt CSE is a complex and difficult crime to bring to justice, but under new leadership at Thames Valley attitudes have changed and progress has been made.
Meanwhile at Bucks County Council despite the highly regarded RUSafe programme children’s services has never been the top priority among competing priorities, and last year’s damning Ofsted finally got the measure of years of low priority, poor middle management and under investment.
Time and time again at private meetings, select committee investigations and full Council, members of my group have spoken and evidenced through their casework and work on the budget reviews that the ruling Conservative group, not necessarily the individual cabinet member, have got their priorities wrong and exposed not only the council but children in their care to unacceptable risk.
Sue Imbriano, former director of children’s services, wrote to the chief executive making exactly these points about 18 months before the Ofsted inspection, which you published in your paper.
Things have moved on. Prosecutions have been made, the County has a good Ofsted recovery plan and good new officers, a select committee is reviewing the adequacy of protection from CSE for all children. But the risks are still there unless children’s services are given the highest priority, as budgets will be cut still deeper and the leadership gives in to the temptation to paper over the cracks.
Councillor Avril Davies
Liberal Democrat leader, Bucks County Council
IMPACT ON THEATRE
Last week AVDC council approved the increase of car parking charges in Exchange Street.
A motion put in by Labour Councillor Mark Bateman was defeated asking the Council to rethink. The Conservatives with the exception of one, who abstained, voted for the increase. There was a big debate with a lot of councillors indicating that the increase was only 50p, but that is not the case.
My concern was in respect to the effect it might have on the Waterside Theatre. We are already subsidising the Theatre quite considerably. From the 1st September if you park in the Exchange Street car park between 5 and 6pm, with a view to eating in say the White Hart, and you then go to the Theatre your parking will cost you £4.00. From 6.30pm the charges will rise to £2.50 from £1.00. I appreciate that there are other car parks but they are not as convenient. I think that we should be trying to encourage people to our town centre and Theatre.
I only hope that the opposite is not going to happen.
UKIP district councillor
GET HELP EARLY
I read with interest last week’s online article concerning the level of council tax arrears in Aylesbury Vale.
Firstly, I would like to say that I strongly support the work of National Debtline in helping those experiencing difficulty in paying council tax. However, I felt that your readers might appreciate some explanation of the numbers quoted.
As you know, council tax pays for the essential services that residents of the Vale both enjoy and value, so we have a duty to the taxpayer to use all reasonable means to ensure outstanding money is collected. We will not write off any arrears if we have an arrangement or if we believe we have a realistic prospect of recovering the outstanding amounts. For this reason the quoted arrears figure of £5 million includes some amounts going back as far as 1997.
Over this time we will have collected around £1.5 billion in council tax to support the important work of Bucks County Council, the police authority, the fire and rescue service, the many parish and town councils and, of course, ourselves. The amount outstanding is only a tiny fraction (less than one third of a percent) of the total due over this time.
Our performance in collecting the amounts owed has always been above average and in recent years has consistently been amongst the best of all councils in the country.
However, collecting outstanding amounts has become harder over the past few years as more individuals find themselves required to pay part or all of their council tax bills because of the changes to the welfare system.
In this respect, we applaud the work of the National Debt helpline together with that of local agencies, such as the Citizen Advice Bureaus, who work so hard to help those in difficulty.
We also encourage people who may be eligible for a council tax discount to apply for it, so as to ensure they’re not paying more than they need to.
For those that find themselves experiencing difficulty we urge them to get in contact with AVDC or a local advice agency to seek help early.
By working together a solution may be found at what might be a difficult time in your life.
Councillor Howard Mordue
Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources and Compliance
MY LITTLE PONIES
I’m Diane, 40, single and I’m so proud of Thame, Chinnor and Aylesbury, because they’re very pretty towns.
They’ve some of the finest shops, good pubs, great cafes and finest local sites and listed buildings.
Can someone tell me more please? I’m into freecycling which is an immensely popular scheme where people are willing to give away useable items to people who can reuse them. I’d love donations of Hasbro 1980s and early 1990s chunky My Little Ponies such as Earth, Pegasus, Unicorn, Carousel, Flutter, Glimmer, Shummer, Birthday, Luminous and other types of these ponies, to be sent for free or delivered free of charge.
Anyone who can’t help can kindly pass on my address to anyone who can.I’d love urgently penpals of any age. I’m so grateful.
18 Downside Crescent, Allerton, Bradford, BD15 7LE
PUPILS’ SAFETY PLEAS
The following are letters from pupils at Turnfurlong Infant School urging people to drive safely near their school:
We are writing this letter to inform you about trouble in the road because lots of people are driving and making the road very busy. The road is getting very busy so please can you help us keep children and pedestrians safe?
These are some reasons drivers could do to make the road safer.
> Don’t do another thing while driving a car as it might cause an accident.
> Do not get distracted.
> Don’t park on the pavement.
> Don’t make your speed limit higher than 20mph.
> Do not park on the zig zag lines in case children are on the edge of the pavement then fall over.
> Look out for children or pedestrians especially between parked cars.
Please can you listen to this letter please.
We are writing to you to ask for your help to keep us safe outside our school.
We have a problem. The problem is that cars are going over 30mph. People are parking on pavements which is not good because pedestrians are walking on the pavements.
We could get badly hurt.
People are parking on the yellow zig zag lines that say school in between the zig zag lines, in addition adults are driving and using their phones at the same time.
Look out for children, especially between parked cars.
Adults aren’t concentrating on the road ahead.
We are writing this very important letter to you to ask for your help to keep us safe on the road outside our school.
You should not park on the pavement because one might go on the pavement and hit a pedestrian on the edge of the pavement!
Instead of driving there are other ways to get to school like riding a scooter or walking or going on a bike or things like that! You have to watch out for children especially between cars because you can’t see in between the cars until you get to where they are standing!
Do not get distracted by anything so you don’t have an accident and hurt the pedestrian. Don’t park on the zig zag lines because if ran out the gate there would be no cars!
Definitely do not talk on your phone when you are driving because you might have an accident.
We are writing this letter to you, to ask for your help to keep us safe outside our school. Please can you write in your newspaper that outside my school is not safe?
And write this.
Don’t park your cars on the pavement and look out for children crossing the road.
And tell them not to park on the zig zag line. Do not get distracted while they are driving on the road. They are only allowed to drive 20mph or maybe 30mph. Or maybe think another way to get to school. Tell them not to go on the phone when they are driving. Tell them not to get their eyes off the road.
Watch pedestrians in between cars.
Keep us safe.
HELP SAVE LIVES
Figures published this week reveal 48 Buckinghamshire residents have died waiting for a transplant in the past five years and 110 people in the county are currently waiting for a transplant.
Across the UK in 2014/15, the number of people donating organs fell for the first time in 11 years. On average, three people in the UK die each day in need of an organ transplant. Currently, four out of ten families don’t give permission to donate when approached.
The latest figures show that last year in Buckinghamshire, 39 people’s lives were saved or improved thanks to deceased donation. More lives would be saved if more families agreed to donate their loved one’s organs after death. In Buckinghamsire, 20 people also benefitted from a living donor transplant where donors gave a kidney or part of a liver. NHS Blood and Transplant is asking people in Buckinghamshire to join the Organ Donor Register and then tell their family and friends about their decision.
To join the NHS Organ Donor Register visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 2323.
NHS Blood and Transplant’s Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation