Wokingham.Today

READERS LETTERS: As seen in Wokingham.Today of February 18, 2021

Picture: Andrys via Pixabay

Incredulity of vice chancellor’s compensation call

I listened with incredulity at the interview on Wednesday morning on Radio 4’s Today programme.

It was with Robert van der Noort, Vice Chancellor of University of Reading (University of Reading) seeking some form of compensation for losses estimated at £100 million over three years because of the impact of Covid.

This is the same University that has made hundreds of millions of pounds selling off prime agricultural land to build thousands of houses in Shinfield, totally destroying a rural village.

Much of the land sold was bequeathed and as reported in The Guardian (February 9, 2019) University of Reading reported itself to regulators around a crisis in £121 million land Sales.

 Most of the students have to rent privately off campus and when challenged at a community Relations Meeting on January 29, 2019 to build student accommodation on campus Robert van der Noort stated “ust imagine if you take green space away”, shortly after dismissing residents questioning the massive developments in Shinfield, saying it was necessary to sell their agricultural land for development to meet Reading and Wokingham housing targets and ‘to balance assets’ i.e. revenue stream for University of Reading.

University of Reading land and enterprises at Shinfield include a science park, dependent upon EU funding, but unsure where the remainder of funding is coming from post Brexit.

A British Museum research and storage facility and University of Reading is also going through planning stages to build a massive TV and Film studios potentially employing 3,000 people.

A bit further from home University of Reading invested heavily in a campus in Malaysia which I understand is making significant losses.

University of Reading purports to be at the forefront of ‘Green’ yet, pre Covid, quite happy to contribute to the traffic pollution created from its various enterprises.

The University of Reading receives little sympathy from residents in and around Shinfield as they see very little benefit being put into communities’, just exploitation.

Brian Wood, Shinfield

 Our distorted world

Just when we may be closer to the ‘Promised Land’ of freedom, I find myself deeply distressed at the
non-covid evils around us. I refer to the treatment of animals, children and women.

I receive many charity appeals, especially showing horror stories and pictures of injured and maltreated animals – that bring tears to my eyes. 

Very young children with Cleft Lip (Smile Charity)  often are about problems in other countries and where mothers frequently abandon them because they cannot pay for operations.

Just how many poor children are there in this world who suffer from hunger, lack of clean water, any medical or physical care, education and all the things our children have or should have?

Charities do what they can, but are dependent on us to give what we can.

Then abuse and mental stress suffered by so many women, albeit mothers or not, who are second to pubs or gambling dens where he who must be obeyed spends money that should be used for the welfare of his family or wife.

Young girls who are not protected are easily abused and sometimes killed by the uncontrolled louts or gangs wandering our streets.

Lastly I mention another serious issue – that of farm animals being injured by dogs – taken for a ‘walkies’ with no control. I wonder if the so-called human owners actually like to see them attack a peace-loving sheep etc.. Sick it is.

If readers share my opinions,
I guess they may say ‘why is it allowed – why can we not punish those causing evil?

The lack of ‘Law and Order’ is now so noticeable, things can only get worse, due to the lack of police and the legal system. By the way, we still need about 50,000 more police.

I base that on the government promise of 20.000 more immediately – a long time ago – which if corrected for shifts, absences etc., makes the figure 60,000.

We would benefit from a force of Gendarmeri or Carabinieri type – our Services would certainly be able to form such bodies.

Reg Clifton, Wokingham

Let us spay

With World Spay Day coming up on February 23, Cats Protection is urging that unneutered pet cats are kept indoors to prevent a potential kitten crisis.

We estimate that around 70% of kittens born in the UK are the result of unplanned pregnancies, which puts severe pressure on owners to arrange for their feeding, care and rehoming.

The pandemic has meant that we are currently only able to take in a small number of cats as emergency cases.

This is why we’re asking the public to help us by ensuring that unneutered cats are kept indoors, and unneutered siblings kept apart.

The coronavirus has affected many vets too. Many have had to prioritise emergency appointments, meaning access to neutering operations will vary. It is important to check with your vet for availability and make an appointment in advance if you can.

Cats Protection can help owners on limited incomes with the cost of neutering pet cats.

To find out if you are eligible, call our Neutering Line on 03000 12 12 12 (option 2) or visit www.cats.org.uk/neutering
where you can also find out more about neutering and its benefits.

Sarah Reid, Acting Head of Neutering, Cats Protection

Children and families need your help more than ever

As the coronavirus crisis worsens, more and more vulnerable children and young people are feeling the effects of repeated lockdowns, uncertainty and isolation.

The impact of the second wave is pushing a generation of the most vulnerable children in our country into a downward spiral of deprivation.

We at the leading children’s charity Barnardo’s are asking people to donate what would have been the cost of their usual daily commute or coffee to support these children and their families, so they can deal with the immediate challenges they are facing today.

We can support them with vital things, like putting food on the table, paying for heating and electricity (especially in the recent very cold temperatures), affording data so children can keep up with school online, and having access to counselling as children and young people all across the country are struggling with their mental health.

A week’s worth of coffees could mean a week’s worth of food for a child. With your help we can deliver the practical and emotional support families in crisis need.

You can help by supporting our Children in Crisis Appeal today via Barnardo’s Just Giving Page www.justgiving.com/campaign/donateyourdailycommute

Thank you.

Emma Bowman, Director, Barnardo’s South-East Region

Keep on learning

Let’s stop the Government scrapping the Union Learning Fund in England at the end of March.

This unique scheme provides lifelong learning in many local workplaces, bringing together employers, education providers and trade unions to give workers a second chance at learning by contributing time, money and resources.

Learning and re-skilling will be core to helping us recover from the impact of Covid-19 and dealing with the changing world of work because of automation.

While we welcome the Government’s plans to invest
£2.5 billion through the National Skills Fund, we are concerned about how effective that investment will be and who it will reach.

In our experience, union learning is uniquely able to engage and support thousands of ‘disadvantaged’ learners.

Most had few, if any, qualifications and would never have considered attending a college, or signing up for an on-line course, if it were not for the support and encouragement of Union Learning reps in the workplace. Union Learn reaches the workers other schemes do not.

The cost of gaining new skills shouldn’t be out of reach for low paid key workers. We are asking the Chancellor to recognise the value of union learning and provide the necessary £12 million in the Budget on 3 March. I ask readers to support the campaign by signing the online TUC petition at: usd.aw/ulfpetition

Paddy Lillis

Usdaw General Secretary

188 Wilmslow Road, Manchester M14 6LJ

An open letter to Susan Parsonage, chief executive of Wokingham Borough Council

This letter refers to Standardsgate, editor

I am sending this as an open letter and, whilst I thank you for your e-mail response to my e-mail of January 30, I am not only confused by its contents but it raises more questions than it answers.

In reference to the Constitution you state that “The Councillors and officers are aware of its contents”

Well they may well be aware now, their attention having been drawn to it by a member of the public, indeed, this was confirmed by the Leader of the Council by his acknowledging
“that they were not aware of this inconsistency with the Constitution” and this was reinforced by Mr Moulton who, when challenged at the Standards Committee meeting, quite clearly claimed that he was not aware of the requirements.

That being the case I fail to understand the relevance of your following statement “Irrespective of the cognisance of the appointing group and the officers, the members of the Council still chose to make these appointments”.

The fact that you state that they (the Councillors) “still chose to make these appointments” infers quite clearly that the decision was made
in the full knowledge of the Constitution’s requirements which is inconsistent with your claim that they didn’t know. So the issue remains, as I posed in my email to you of the January 30 “that either this was a result of gross incompetence on the part of certain councillors and Council’s officers, in not consulting the Constitution, or it was a deliberate act on behalf of certain Councillors to populate the Committee with like minded individuals in order to influence the decisions that it made.

You dispute the fact that the Council leader acted with ‘disdain, complacency and arrogance’ because he has admitted that a mistake had been made, etc. however you only have to view the video recordings of the relevant meetings. In his response to both a member of the public and councillors his demeanor can be described in no other way.

You state “I do not agree that this is a ‘storm in a teacup” and therefore by inference you are agreeing that this is not a minor issue that can be ‘swept under the carpet’.

You state that “Utilisation of funds to investigate what we already know, is not a good use of tax payer money.”

I agree, but that is not the sole reason why an enquiry is essential as it would be investigating why and how the situation arose – and those are questions which are still unanswered.

As outlined above there is confusion with regards to whether or not, despite their claims to the contrary, certain Councillors and Officers were aware of the Constitution’s requirements but used the ignorance of others to their own advantage and if they weren’t aware why not.

In particular why was the monitoring officer not aware of the issues? In addition, you agree , as your e-mail confirms, that you consider this to be a serious matter.

To reiterate, the purpose of an investigation is not merely to “investigate what we already know” but it is to find out why events happened the way they did, who caused/contributed to matters to go wrong, and to propose ways and means of preventing a recurrence.

I also believe that, in the interest of ‘Natural Justice, transparency and to promote confidence in WBC’s procedures amongst the residents, a decision relating to any further action must be taken by the full Council, not WBC Officers.

Particularly as the changes that are currently being proposed to the Constitution are a retrograde step, putting more power in the hands of the leader of the Council and undermining Democracy in the process.

I look forward to your reply in due course.

Mike Shattock, via email

We love to hear from you! Send us your views on issues relating to the borough (in 250 words or less) to letters@wokingham.today

We reserve the right to edit letters.

Views expressed in this section are not necessarily those of the paper.

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