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Recorder letters: Dial-a-Ride, council budget, Conservatives in Elm Park, council constitution, only men fought in First World War, and reform of council funding

PUBLISHED: 09:29 26 November 2018 | UPDATED: 09:29 26 November 2018

Dial-a-Ride representative Michael Lloyd.

Dial-a-Ride representative Michael Lloyd.

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Letters sent in from Romford Recorder readers this week

Dial-a-Ride must be protected

Michael Lloyd, address supplied, writes:

I would like to thank the Recorder for their support of local Dial-a-Ride users in Havering and across east London over the past 10 years.

I shall highlight the system’s inefficiencies in the meeting with the Deputy Mayor for Transport in late December; this has no reflection on its wonderful, compassionate drivers.

Eighteen months ago Dial-a-Ride implemented a new app system at the cost of £4.7million.

It was developed to simultaneously work with the Dial-a-Ride trapeze scheduling system and deliver more completed trips in real time and re-distribute slots made available due to cancellations, which will help drive down refusals.

However this was a catastrophic failure, and stats show that in 2017/18 Dial-a-Ride suffered the worst performing year in the history of the service in terms of refused jobs and trips made.

At times, the system has become so bad that senior Dial-a Ride management have contacted a number of drivers from all 32 London boroughs and asked them to be champions for their borough.

Across London there are drivers using pen and paper scheduling their daily trip sheets into an efficient working order. The management will implement the changes into their computer system.

Dial-a-Ride is a vital service supporting thousands of vulnerable Londoners, and it needs to be protected.

Thank you to the Recorder for helping keep such an important issue in the spotlight.

Budget: We listened to you

Councillor Damian White, Leader of Havering Council, writes:

The spending decisions taken in this year’s council budget will affect every part of life in our borough – our streets, roads, park, schools, as well as the quality of care that is given to people who are more vulnerable.

The decisions also taken will form part of a much bigger conversation about how we can make Havering an even better place to live than it is now. However, before we set any council budget, the most important thing is to listen to what people have had to say.

This is just what we have done and people told us that one of their major issues is the state of our roads and pavements. And, even though Havering is a safe borough, people are worried about safety after dark.

We also heard that the quality of care provided to people who are more vulnerable should be a priority, while people value their weekly bin collection.

Despite the significant savings that the council has to make over the next three years, which is as our contribution to reducing the national deficit, we have managed to take on board all this issues as part of our proposals for the 2019/20 budget and beyond.

This week we are announcing plans to spend £30million over the next three years on improving the quality of our roads and pavements. Hundreds of roads and pavements will be resurfaced and thousands of potholes fixed.

In doing so, we recognise just how important the quality of roads and pavements is when it comes to getting round the borough.

To help fund the improvements we are looking to increase parking charges by bringing them into line with other boroughs.

I know this may not be popular with some, but the money will be spent on solving one of Havering’s biggest issues, which is dealing with the state of our roads.

Rather than burdening council tax payers with all the cost, I think it is fair to also ask people who do not live in our borough, but use our roads, to make a contribution.

In the budget you will also see that we are maintaining a weekly refuse collection, largely protecting spend on social care that makes such a difference to people’s lives and investing in CCTV to improve community safety.

Through this process we will make £14.6million of savings as part of the £37m that we need to save over the next three years.

While we are doing everything we can to make those savings in ways that you won’t notice – for example by continuing to cut our back office costs and delivering services in a different way– there is no doubt that we will face some tough decisions.

We face these headwinds while being hugely ambitious for Havering.

We want to make sure that you are proud to live here which is why, separate to the budget, we are attracting more than £3bn of investment in the borough to improve our neighbourhoods and town centres, build more genuinely affordable homes and create new job opportunities.

The future for Havering is bright indeed.

Conservatives targeting Elm Park

Maria Stubbs, Elm Park, writes:

A recent Conservative Party leaflet was delivered through doors of Elm Park residents.

Advertised on the leaflet was a “councillors’ surgery” which was held by Havering’s leader of the council Damian White.

Not one Conservative candidate was elected to Elm Park in May. Clearly Havering’s Tories are strategically planning to gain attraction in areas they usually struggle to find support.

I personally think it’s disrespectful to sitting councillors for the leader of the council to abuse his power in wards with no Tory links, simply to gain some votes.

Council should uphold constitution

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

A previous administration, led by Cllr Ramsey, changed the constitution to stop national issues being debated at council.

The change included giving the unelected monitoring officer, rather than the elected mayor, the final say over whether motions should be allowed. Cllr Eagling was mayor at the time and said he had no objection to the change.

But this was an anti-democratic thing to do, as sometimes it’s appropriate to debate national issues and it undermines the impartiality of officers to give them, rather than the mayor, the final say over whether political motions are allowed.

This mattered at the November 21 council meeting, because the Conservative “thought crime” motion was a national issue, a political statement about antisemitism promoted by Conservative central office to embarrass the Labour party and so shouldn’t have been allowed on the agenda, without first changing the constitution.

The point isn’t about the merits, or otherwise, of the Conservative motion, it’s about due process and upholding the constitution, as it undermines democracy if the rules are applied or ignored in a partisan way in favour of the administration.

Hence why I voted for the IRG amendment to uphold the constitution and support those essential British values of free speech, tolerance and honest debate.

Admit only men fought in First World War

Mr W Ramsay, Stephen Avenue, Rainham, writes:

These days, unlike in the past, it is seemingly not to be mentioned or suggested that only men died fighting in the First World War, in marked contrast to the fact that until 1918 only men had the vote.

Remembrance coverage in last week’s paper certainly confirmed this aversion on the part of those who were quoted; “those” indeed being the preferred term of reference rather than anything gender specific. It is quite a general tendency.

The other week Osborne’s Standard spoke of “the soldiers who died on the final morning of the First World War”.

How far do we honour past sacrifice if we sacrifice the truth to contemporary values, even if those values make the truth unacceptable?

Reform of council funding needed

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

It was recently disclosed that residents of Westminster raised some £400,000 through a voluntary council tax top-up scheme.

While the residents are to be commended for their charity, there is surely something wrong when the average household in Westminster will pay £711 council tax per year while the average household in Havering will pay £1,658 – for pretty much the same set of public services!

While a voluntary contribution is always welcome, a fundamental reform of local council funding is even more welcome.

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