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Recorder letters: Libraries, parking, TV licence fee and answers to readers' letters.

PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 July 2019

New Windmill Hall, St Mary's Lane, Upminste.

New Windmill Hall, St Mary's Lane, Upminste.

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Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

Hall asked for rise in parking tariff

Cllr Jason Frost, former deputy cabinet member for the Environment, writes:

In response to the Upminster & Cranham Residents Association letter, Public protest over parking (July 5, 2019), I feel it is necessary to offer a point of information to readers.

Cllrs Hawthorn, Ower and Wilkins attack the rise in the cost of the parking charge at the New Windmill Hall as "grossly unfair" and yet, it may surprise the councillors to know, that an increase in the parking tariff was actually requested by the operators of the New Windmill Hall as far back as 2016.

I know, as I happen to be one of the lead members responsible for this area of policy.

The operators pointed out that due to the New Windmill Hall being in an anomalous position of charging just 20p to park, the car park was being monopolised by commuters and shoppers on a regular basis.

This was having the effect of actually denying the hall users parking space.

Indeed, I recall receiving a letter from one of the user groups stating that they were effectively being driven out of the space due to non-user parking.

Yes, parking is (and will remain) a very controversial area of policy.

However, rises in tariffs (like the introduction of residents' parking) are sometimes more welcomed than some in the chamber like to think.

If community doesn't run libraries they will close

Andrew Curtin, Meadway, Romford, writes:

The Conservative adminstration's proposals for Havering's libraries are extremely concerning.

Despite the fine words at the start of their consultation document on these and children's centres, in truth (as the document says on page 13): "Until and unless community groups are identified who are prepared to run the five council-supported libraries, it is not possible to determine how many hours per week these libraries would be open".

In plain English, for those of us who live in Gidea Park, Collier Row, Elm Park, Harold Wood or South Hornchurch, the Conservatives would close our libraries.

And yet this is a situation entirely of their own making.

After 2014, the administration reduced opening hours at all of these libraries by 54per cent. As many of us pointed out at the time, this resulted in an almost exactly parallel reduction in usage of those five libraries.

Visitor numbers fell at Gidea Park by 52pc, South Hornchurch by 53pc, Harold Wood by 51pc, Collier Row by 46pc and Elm Park by 43pc.

The argument that library services, with all of the social and cultural benefit which they bring, should be threatened for those of us living in these communities because these libraries have low usage is, therefore, wholly fallacious.

Residents throughout Havering value reading and the public library service for all the benefits which they bring.

The reason why we use these five libraries less than we used to is because the administration has changed their opening hours from ones which were convenient and accessible to ones which are awkward and inconvenient.

The solution to the problem is obvious, and it does not revolve around threatening our libraries with closure or insisting that we volunteer to run services which require professional knowledge and which we already pay our council tax to provide.

We did not ask to pay more to park

David Reynolds, Ingrebourne Gardens, Upminster, writes:

It was interesting and insulting to read Cllr Osman Dervish's comment that the hike in car parking charges is down to us residents who took part in the consultation of how we would like our money spent.

At no time in the consultation was there any mention that the council would have to hike up the car park payments to pay for it. Does Cllr Osman Dervish take us all for idiots?

By raising the car parking charges for Upminster, Romford and Hornchurch (though Hornchurch does have the free to park Sainsbury's/town centre car park) this action will only make people drive away from these areas to where free parking is still available and force shops to close down and then the council will lose the business rates.

Sorry Cllr Osman Dervish, this is a blinkered and very short sighted policy, one of making a quick buck now, but losing out big time financially when the shops close.

We will then have very fine roads, but only used to drive from Havering to Thurrock to spend our money with free parking.

MPs quiet on TV licence fee

Cllr Denis O'Flynn, Harold Hill ward, Pettits ward resident, writes:

For many years I have enjoyed reading the various letters in the Romford Recorder on a wide range of subjects, ranging from sport, social events, politics and residents points of view on many personal and domestic matters.

Imagine my surprise and disappointment finding the space normally given over to our MPs and GLA councillor to be totally devoid of any contribution from our elected representatives on such a sensitive subject as the introduction of charging over-75s for their TV licences.

I make this point in view of the controversy raging in our community and the number of victims of this totally unnecessary financial burden.

Many of our over 75s who lose out of receiving Pension Credits because they are as little as 75p over the limit of personal income and again many of our residents who have struggled to buy their own home but do not have large bank accounts but have worked to protect themselves from poverty in their old age will be victims.

I, and many other residents, have received a letter telling them who will be paying for their TV licence after June 2020 and even that is confusing as one person I spoke to is told she will not have to pay for her licence as she receives Pension Credits but as her daughter is living with her she will have to pay the full licence fee.

Now is the time to advise these people and try and remove the worry of what 2020 holds for them.

For my own MP, I regularly get a newsletter from him stating he is working for Romford, working for Havering, working for Britain.

Now, Andrew, is the time to work for the sons and daughters of this community who worked for this country and gave a great service at a time when it was needed most.

You may also want to watch:

You have said recently a certain person will be a friend to Havering if he is elected prime minister - now is the time to show our real friends and remove this misery hanging over their heads and stop this winter being one of misery and fear of the future.

TV licence is not fit for purpose

William Swain, Barnstaple Road, Harold Hill, writes:

Further to Cllr Denis O'Flynn's and Eamonn Mahon's letters in the Recorder, I would very much like to elaborate on their learned comments and the controversial subject of free TV licences for the over 75s.

Mr O'Flynn was correct when he stated that prisoners in various penal institutions can watch TV free. This also applied to prisoners serving time for non-payment of the TV licence and not paying the fine - a somewhat strange and bizarre paradox in the circumstances.

I am advised that a staggering 70per cent of magistrates' valuable time is taken up with TV licence issues. This is, indeed, a wanton waste of tax payers' money!

It is not fair of the BBC to start taxing the elderly when they should be looking more closely at their questionable expenditure and budgetary plan. Moreover, it is grossly unfair and immoral for the BBC to charge people (of any age) for basically owning a TV set or any device that can receive a live TV signal.

The BBC should be subscription based and clearly it is time for the BBC to be run on commercial lines and the TV licence phased out as it is not fit for purpose in a modern world. I fully concur with Mr O'Flynn that we want action from Havering MPs.

Answers to readers' letters

Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford, writes:

I would like to address a number of points raised by readers, Romford Recorder (June 28, 2019).

Firstly, I would like to assure Eamonn Mahon that I believe it is scandalous that the BBC have ignored the government's recommendation to keep free TV licences.

Our older British citizens, who have paid their taxes, worked hard all their lives and in many cases, have served in our military, deserve this benefit and it should not be taken away from them. The government have been very clear that they want and expect the BBC to continue this concession to the over 75s. The BBC should think again and reverse this disgraceful change.

Your readers will be pleased to know that I frequently meet with the minister for local government to discuss the impact of adult social care in our ageing borough, and the need to retain the transition grant for Havering.

I passionately believe in the provision of affordable social and health care, especially for the elderly. That's why I am happy the government has kept in place a number of pensioner benefits, including winter fuel payments, free bus passes, and free prescriptions. Cold weather payments have also been increased, and the Warm Home Discount introduced to provide vulnerable pensioners with a £140 rebate on their energy bills.

Denis O'Flynn claims my assertion that Boris was a better London mayor is a matter of "political convenience", yet I am happy for the facts to speak for themselves. One glaring example is that Sadiq Khan and Labour Members in City Hall decided to vote down an amendment to the mayor's draft budget, which would have freed almost £83million, enough to invest in 1,400 new police officers.

In addition, the gradual year-on-year decrease of knife crime that was happening under Boris Johnson has been reversed since Sadiq Khan took control as London mayor in May 2016, as confirmed by the UK Statistics Authority.

The current mayor is failing in his basic duty to keep people safe. The current obsession with political correctness, micromanagement and blaming others for his poor record distracts from any real reform of policing.

Lastly, I read with interest Mrs Archer's letter regarding my support for Boris Johnson as the next leader of the Conservative Party. I respect Theresa May greatly, however it was clear that her Withdrawal Agreement failed across a plethora of key areas and did not deliver the Brexit our country voted for.

The so-called "level playing field" commitments set out in Annex 4 would tie the UK to EU laws on taxation, environmental protection, labour standards, state aid rules, and competition policy. In practice these laws amount to a further stifling of the competitiveness of the UK outside of the European Union.

I agree that the result of the EU election demonstrates what dire straits the Conservative Party is in after three years of indecision and capitulation over Brexit.

Boris knows that if we are to ever win over those who voted for the Brexit Party, we must Leave on the next scheduled withdrawal date of October 31, 2019. No more delays are acceptable to the British people and we need a prime minster who gets that.

Pedestrian refuge will be unsafe

Cllr David Durant, Highways Advisory Committee, writes:

At a highways committee meeting the chairman, Harold Wood Cllr Brian Eagling promoted two approved pedestrian refuges on Shepherds Hill to improve safety after a fatal accident, which were voted on separately.

I voted against the refuge outside The Shepherd & Dog pub as I thought it would undermine safety as it's on a hill and the road isn't wide - raising the prospect of an accident, particularly if the reflector bollards are damaged.

The works are in progress and there is some road widening taking place, but I realised another hazard I hadn't mentioned at the meeting.

On summer days, the sun is directly above the road and the glare is blinding even with sunglasses.

This means, even if you know the refuge is there in the middle of the road as you go towards Brentwood you will have difficulty seeing it.

I have informed Cllr Eagling and the cabinet member for public safety Cllr Osman Dervish of this and I'm writing this letter as a record of why I believe the works should be halted.

This is reason for road closures

Cllr Osman Dervish, Councillor for Pettits Ward, cabinet member for environment, writes:

In response to a letter sent in by a Hornchurch resident in last week's paper - Why mysterious road closures? - I would like to clarify the reason for those closures in sections of Park Farm Lane and Hacton Lane.

In Park Farm Road, work was carried out on the reconstruction of the bridge along with resurfacing and putting in new sleeper lines.

In Hacton Lane, we were asked to close the road so that utility company Freedom Electric could carry out installation of electric cable ducts.

Both closures were issued under a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order and advanced notices were put on site prior to the works along with a signed temporary diversion route for the duration of the works.

We also ensured notice of the closures were in our weekly travel e-newsletter, which goes out every Friday to just under 6,000 residents.

Ward councillors were also informed in advance and advertisements were placed in local media.

Improvement works such as these are required so we can help residents get around the borough safely, and at times we will need to close roads for the vital works to be carried out. This will always be done with the minimum disruption.

We have recently launched our investment of £40m over the next four years into fixing roads and pavements plus potholes, across the borough. Residents told us that this a top priority for them. We listened to their concerns and that programme of works is taking place now.

This investment will help us achieve a Cleaner, Safer, Prouder Havering, Together.

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