In this week’s round-up from the Herald letters page, a councillor gives his reasons for resigning from the Conservative party.
Why I quit Tories
It was with disappointment and anger, but also with sincere regret, that I resigned from the Conservative Party last week, following David Cameron’s decision to expand the war on Islamic State into Syria.
I will continue as an independent member, but will work closely, as I always have, with Cllr Mark Winn. He is a hard-working and dedicated local champion, and has always been a very valued colleague. That won’t change.
Nevertheless, my time in the Conservative Party is over. No one should doubt the seriousness of the terrorist threat.
They plot against us whatever we do and however we try to accommodate ourselves to their demands. But there is no military solution to an idea, and that idea, that cult of death, is erupting like a fever wherever there are plausible grievances to exploit or wherever our Gulf allies have exported their poisonous ideology. In Syria, we have no idea who are really our allies and who will seize power only to butcher their former enemies.
There is no way of defining a victory and there is no believable strategy. Targeting ISIS in Syria puts British lives at risk. Behind every terrorist there is a whole network of family, friends and political contacts, some of whom may feel trapped by divided loyalties. It’s much harder to reach them when we’re in the midst of a War on Terror that is seen as politically and religiously partisan.
Military action may also cause ISIS and their supporters to accelerate their plans, and give our police and security services less opportunity to prevent them. I cannot support a national leadership that behaves with such recklessness and which appears to have learnt nothing from the disaster of Libya.
That was the tipping point for me, but it is of course not the only way in which the Conservative Party nationally has let people down. Anyone who works, as I do, in the NHS can see the strain to which the health service has been put.
That junior doctors have been driven to approve strike action shows how low professional morale has been driven, and as a nurse I stand in solidarity with them.
Their determination is helping to defend not only their own pay and working conditions, but those of every nurse and health care assistant in the NHS.
For local government, it has been six years of hard news. In fact, Aylesbury Vale District Council has coped exceptionally well, thanks to agile, creative and determined leadership. People sometimes blame the Council for decisions which are quite outside its control, and are actually the responsibility of our national government. On the one hand, it promotes localism, on the other it enforces planning by appeal through nationally determined planning policies.
On the one hand it makes demands on behalf of our tax-payers, on the other it denies councils the necessary funds or the ability to raise them.
It may not be a bad thing to have another independent voice in the District Council, alongside Cllr Peter Cooper. Some people have told me that all councillors should be independent. Others have demanded I force a by-election.
That latter option would be another expense for the tax payer and would act as a deterrent-by-example to any other councillor thinking of acting on their political conscience. Besides, councillors do stand for more than a rosette, regardless of which party they belong to. Indeed
I’d like to thank the many residents, councillors and former party colleagues who have offered their continuing friendship and support. Politics is a kind and co-operative business, mostly, and I hope to represent my local ward in the same spirit as before.
If some residents do feel let down, then I can only express my regret.
It seemed to me that resigning from the Party was the only way for me to show sufficiently strong disapproval of what I believe is a bad and heedless decision.
Cllr Tom Hunter-Watts
Our busy year
I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to you and your readers on behalf of the Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity (FNHC) for your support, in what has been another busy year.
I am delighted to say, work has finally started on the new Florence Nightingale Day Hospice extension and refurbishment project, which we hope will provide a new, spacious facility; to enhance the needs of our patients and improve their quality of life.
It is with thanks to our supporters and the Walter Hazell Charitable Trust, that we are able to fund this project in full, at a cost of over £250,000, plus a further £20,000, to replace specialist soft furnishings – funds of which were raised through our ‘Home from Home’ appeal supported by Sir David Jason OBE. If all goes to the planned timescale, the building work should be completed by the end of March 2016.
Our retail arm has strengthened, with new shops opening in both Haddenham and Thame, and the relocation of our furniture showroom to a new outlet with space over two floors on Chamberlain Road.
We also recently moved across our eBay shop from its previous location in Wendover, to its new home on the first floor of the showroom.
The entire team – staff and volunteers alike, have worked hard this year to enable us to make these changes happen, so a very big thank you to you all for your commitment and dedication to the cause.
The fundraising team has seen a packed calendar of events once again, from challenge events for all the family with the move of our Superhero 5k fun run to Aylesbury town centre, and the brand new Colour Rush event, which we held in October at Green Park, Aston Clinton, which was a sell-out. The combination of both our traditional community and well-loved events, alongside brand new challenges for our supporters, helps to keep Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity, as the charity of choice for many people in the local area and generate much-needed income.
Without the continued support from the local community, businesses, schools, individuals, volunteers and staff, we could not continue to fully fund specialist services provided at Florence Nightingale Hospice, and those vital hospice care services provided for patients in the home. The Lymphoedema Clinic cared for 554 patients this year – helping people to alleviate symptoms often associated with cancer and improve mobility. The Nightingale 24/7 end of life care team made 1,371 visits to patients in the home last year; helping to provide ‘hands-on’ care at a crucial time of need.
The Florrie’s Children’s Team, which supports children from birth to 19, on average, cares for around 50 families in our local area; providing respite care for the entire family when they need this support the most.
As chief executive of Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity, I am privileged to work for such a wonderful organisation. From personal testimonials and letters of support I receive, as well as speaking to local people, it is clear Florence Nightingale Hospice has a special place in many people’s hearts.
As we move into the festive season, we all think about our loved ones and those no longer with us. Indeed, some of our patients will still need specialist care and support over Christmas, so please spare a thought for the wonderful nurses, carers and volunteers, at this special time of year.
With the non-profit sector becoming a more competitive environment, with so many good causes fighting for your £1 donation, I can only say that by helping to raise funds for Florence Nightingale Hospice, you are contributing to the much-needed hospice care for families in our LOCAL area – here in Aylesbury on our doorstep. Your relative, friend, work colleague or neighbour. By working together, we can really make a difference to people’s lives in their time of need.
Thank you all for your continued support. On behalf of everyone involved with Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
See you in 2016.
Chief Executive, Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity
Keep up good work
RE: Bucks Herald Farming Matters column by Heather Jan Brunt.
If I may make so bold.
Just to let you know that I regularly read and enjoy your columns.
I come from farming stock, though because of circumstances I was never actively involved except for a very short time upon leaving school.
Regarding HS2 madness, I fear we have long passed the point at which it could be called off – it will be claimed that as so much has already been spent on it, that it would be silly not to go ahead.
I hope with the arrival of miserable weather, you are no longer picking up golf balls.
Keep up the good work. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
I do hope, most sincerely, that farming goes well for you.
Stephen R Ramsden
Excellent news to hear that the east-west rail route is back on track (Bucks Herald 2/12/15).
Many people were very concerned that the line was to be put on hold again.
Many aggravated commuters and shoppers alike will be pleased that the Hendy Report still lists the 2015-2019 schedule.
Passengers can now anticipate another mode of transport, and accessibility to a much wider rail network.
We now have to hope that there will be no cancellation to the government commissioned report.
David F Mason
Neighbourhood Plans are under attack in Aylesbury Vale.
Members of the community are encouraged by the Government to use them to decide where new houses should go.
Yet in the Vale, where 31,000 new homes may be built by 2033, the plans are being subverted by predatory developers. To make matters worse, AVDC is supporting them.
As recently as last July, 51% of Haddenham residents voted on the village plan and 86% of them supported it.
Haddenham accepts it will have 600 new houses. Yet, at a planning inquiry late last month, developers tried to rubbish the plan and argue it should not be followed.
They have even taken legal action to try to overturn the plan as a whole. We can expect similar legal tactics - including aggressive and unpleasant cross-examination - at forthcoming inquiries affecting other parts of the Vale; Great Horwood will be the next.
Meanwhile AVDC are using their failure to make their own plan as an excuse to ignore neighbourhood plans.
This is a negation of local democracy. It is absurd that residents, who have been encouraged to devote years of voluntary time and effort to make a plan, should be accused of self-interest and nimbyism when they do so.
Haddenham Parish Council has been forced to spend over £20,000 so far on lawyers and consultants to defend its plan. That sum is more than the income of most parish councils – how will they be able to defend their plans?
The Government ought to step in to make it clear that neighbourhood plans are not like other council decisions.
They are the will of the people, expressed in a referendum. AVDC, instead of resisting plans, should be enforcing them. Developers, with no interest in the Vale beyond the money they can make, should rein in their lawyers.
Sir Roderick Floud
Flint Street, Haddenham