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Recorder letters: Elm Park lights, The Retailery, Brexit, box junctions and Tories misleading residents.

PUBLISHED: 12:00 16 December 2018

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

Thanks for hard work on Elm Park lights

Karen Ames, secretary, Elm Park Regeneration Christmas Illuminations, writes:

Elm Park Illuminations were the best ever this year, with Paw Patrol turning on the Christmas lights and record numbers of people attending.

Although there are too many people to name individually, I would like to give a special thank you to the Co-op, R G Cole, Elm Park Private Dental Clinic, HSY Accountants and Readings

Estate Agents for their sponsorship.

I would also like to thank all the many shops and businesses who gave raffle prizes and participated and contributed on the night

It is the sponsorship and raffle money that paid for the entertainers such as the carousel and stilt walkers and other attractions.

I would also like to thank Rev Amanda and Father Tom for judging the Best Window Display and Best Dressed Shop Assistant and the mayor for participating with shops and families and also Havering Council for all their help.

A special mention too for Benhurst and Elm Park primary schools for their combined choir by the Christmas tree. They practised as a group and were excellent on the night.

I would also like to thank our local ward councillors and Street Watch for organising the marshals and our local police officers and St John’s Ambulance for their support and the Rainham Newtonettes for starting off the event.

Thank you also to Father Christmas in the Eye Clinic grotto this was again a huge success and all the charities and businesses who had stalls on the night.

The Elm Park Illuminations is a family event and also a chance for the Elm Park town centre to show what it has to offer.

Of course the event doesn’t just happen on the night and would not be possible without the small team who organise it each year and I would like to thank the Elm Park Regeneration Team of Judy Gough, Karen Ames, Ray Button and Cllr Stephanie Nunn for all their hard work putting the event together.

Like Things Made Public, the council is not a charity

Councillor Damian White, Leader of Havering Council, writes:

The council is a huge champion of independent and diverse local business and leisure spaces like The Retailery, but it is not right for us to keep supporting the current operators at cost to the taxpayer.

I understand The Retailery is a great asset to Romford town centre. It has become a hub for many community groups, again something the council fully champions and pledges to protect.

The Retailery was opened two years ago with support from the council and with funding from the GLA, which has meant that the premises has been offered rent and rate free for almost two years.

The purpose of this was to give sufficient time so that the company that runs it, Things Made Public, can stand on its own two feet.

Sadly that has not happened which means that the council now has to find another organisation who can run the business without funding from taxpayers. Fortunately there are other providers who are interested which means that the future of The Retailery looks secure.

At a time when the council is making significant savings, it simply is not fair to ask taxpayers to subsidise any business in the long-term. We have a huge role to play in giving businesses a helping hand and encouraging them to grow, but this has to be on the basis that they eventually stand on their own two feet and become self-funding in the way that any other business has to.

The council is facing a budget gap of almost £38million. In these challenging times, we have to ask ourselves do we spend the limited funds we have on protecting our most vulnerable, and maintaining frontline services, or do we use residents’ money to prop up what is essentially a private commercial enterprise?

During a period when the council is faced with making difficult choices, the only responsible thing to do is to look for someone who can run The Retailery without taxpayer support.

We have pledged to offer business rate relief to registered charities and we will continue to do so. However, unfortunately, this does not apply to Things Made Public because The Charity Commission deemed that they are not eligible for charity status.

Things Made Public has enjoyed more help than any new business could hope to receive and in fact there are businesses which started out in The Retailery which have grown to become bigger and more successful without the need for council support.

Just like Made Public, the council is not a charity. At a time when the purse strings are so tight, it would be wrong to keep supporting a private business with public money.

We are now looking for an operator who can afford to pay the rent and business rates and will protect the current businesses housed in The Retailery, as well as providing a space for new ones to grow.

Stand up for local businesses

Nicholas West, chairman, Havering & Dagenham Young Labour, writes:

This week it was announced that The Retailery will be closing its doors early next year.

This will be yet another business having no choice but to leave Romford’s town centre, directly stating that this is down to Havering Council’s anti-business approach.

The Retailery is a truly unique place which start-up businesses can use as a springboard to become independent and self sufficient companies.

The Retailery has therefore created a positive ripple effect with past Retailery alumni making their living all across the local area. It’s such a shame the council don’t recognise that a venue like this plays a vital role in our local economy and in saving our struggling high streets.

When you walk through Romford Market, it’s nothing like it used to be. It’s in decline and it’s time for the council to take action.

Instead the leader of the council has gone on to local radio, disregarded a 3,000+ strong petition and has been economical with the facts about the situation. To the leader or the council I say this, stand up for local businesses, support local businesses and save The Retailery.

Lack of empathy over The Retailery

Cllr Clarence Barrett, group leader, Upminster & Cranham Residents’ Association, writes:

The refusal by Havering Council to provide an element of discretionary business rate relief to The Retailery shows an astonishing lack of understanding or empathy in the need to support diversity and choice in our local economies.

Unlike standard businesses, the Retailery is run as a community interest company whose surpluses are principally reinvested in the business for the benefit of the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders.

Even more worrying is the bizarre suggestion by the leader of the council that residents could make a voluntary additional payment on council tax through a community contribution scheme to provide the extra funding, just as they do in Westminster Council (where average council tax is £710 compared with Havering at £1,658) – except the Westminster scheme is aimed at properties in excess of £10million!

Funding decisions should be based on sustainable solutions which reflect the priorities of the community while supporting our embattled local economies, not relying on flaky voluntary contribution schemes.

We did not vote leave to be poorer

Eamonn Mahon, chairman, Brooklands Residents Association, writes:

Britain would face its worst crises since the 1930s following a no deal Brexit, or a hit to the economy of around £100billion in lost growth under Theresa May’s deal, finance experts have warned.

The figure might seem abstract but the consequences are real.

A contracting economy puts jobs at risk, leaves households worse off and means less money for public services.

This alarming analysis is the calculation of Mrs May’s own government.

The treasury, backed by the Bank of England also warns wages would tumble, borrowing balloon to £120billion and manufacturing could be devastated.

When people (including myself) voted to leave, they did not vote to be poorer, and now this great country is at the mercy of this rotten Tory government to negotiate the best deal in all our interests, and who in my opinion, could not negotiate their way out of a cul-de-sac.

Box junctions not really the answer

Cllr David Durant, Rainham and Wennington Independent Residents Group, writes:

The council’s new parking strategy is called Keep Havering Moving but it should be called Dick Turpin Rides Again, because it forecasts raising £250,00 a year enforcing yellow box junctions.

However, enforcement doesn’t raise money if drivers are alerted with well placed camera signage, as no one would break the rules if aware it will result in a fine.

So it appears the aim isn’t keeping box junctions clear, but simply to raise money from people breaking the rules, which will bring the council into disrepute. The dilemma facing the council is without fines there’s no money to set up an enforcement regime, but if fines are issued, it means genuine enforcement isn’t working!

This new enforcement of yellow box junctions will involve a £160,000 set-up cost and £45,000 annual monitoring costs, but is it a good idea, because in practice it’s almost impossible for drivers to adhere strictly to box junctions rules and will create more congestion at peak times if no one dared enter them in fear of a fine.

Some box junctions are abused and need policing, but over enforcing them won’t keep Havering moving.

Tories misleading residents

Terence F Matthews LL B (Hons) - Focus Editor, Hornchurch Residents Association, writes:

“Councillor surgeries” are being advertised on Conservative leaflets in Elm Park when the elected councillors are Hornchurch Resident Association

councillors.

At the council meeting on November 21, Cllr Stephanie Nunn (Elm Park) questioned the leader of the council Damian White, as to who pays for the room. The first one was held in Elm Park Library, with a staff member accompanying Cllr White.

The (non) answer was that Meet the Leader surgeries have been moved to the council’s libraries.

He was then questioned as to how could he justify the Conservative party advertising surgeries paid for by the residents of Havering, especially as they had no councillors in Elm Park - Mr White failed to answer that very important question.

Another example of Conservatives wasting residents’ money and also misleading residents.

Cllr Sally Miller (Elm Park) also asked a question at the council meeting as to the details of the “purchase” of Hornchurch Police Station.

The very long winded response, in a nutshell, was that there is an option to purchase but no purchase yet.

A further question as to why Conservative leaflets distributed in Elm Park (also in other Hornchurch wards) stated that the police station had been purchased?

This was denied by the leader of the council, despite him being photographed outside the police station, the photo appearing with the article.

A copy of the leaflet was available for all to see at the meeting.

We are still waiting for a apology from Cllr White for basically calling our councillors liars.

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