READERS’ LETTERS: As seen in Wokingham.Today of November 5, 2020

A new year. Picture: Harry Atkinson

The inevitable second lockdown

In March, the head of the WHO said the key to effectively managing a pandemic was to “test, test, test”.

Immunology experts agreed, nations had to start massive testing (to identify the infected), widespread tracing (to prevent spread) and ultimately containment of those with, or suspected of, infection.

Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and many other nations heeded the call and now enjoy a fairly normal, though cautious, lifestyle.

But not the UK.

This government started lifting the lockdown while there were still hundreds of new cases a day, insufficient testing and no genuine tracing programme in place.

We were promised world-beating tracing apps and testing moonshots, but months later, the bluster has dissipated and the reality is woefully inadequate.

…and now we have the inevitable second lockdown.

Will we use this time to do what we should have eight months ago?

Will we sustain lockdown long enough to lower the numbers to a level that we can test/trace – or will we declare success again because the hospitals didn’t collapse?

Will we reopen pubs, restaurants and businesses when we can safely contain the infected – or when we’re simply bored?

In short, will we finish the job of containment?

I believe this nation survived the Blitz and can certainly survive a disease that simply requires us to stay home. But this threat can only be contained, not defeated.

We deserve a government that prioritises the essential truth of a test/trace strategy; exercises competence in its duties and sacks the inept. And through these challenges, the government must support all the citizens who need help – not just support the profits of business interests.

Mr Johnson has a sizeable majority in Parliament, which has insulated him from any accountability for his government’s failure. Please join me in writing your MP, particularly if they are Conservative, in demanding competence and demanding the lockdown be linked to sufficiently high volume, effective track/trace programmes.

Tom Ross, via email

Thank you Woodley

As we approach another “lockdown” I would like to put on record my sincere thanks to the wonderful people of Woodley for all their efforts to help the vulnerable residents in Woodley.

Back in April a special Facebook group, Woodley Volunteer for COVID-19, was set up specifically to provide support for residents in Woodley who found themselves in difficulty.

It currently has more than 1,400 members who have connections with Woodley. Its two core activities are to provide a single point of contact for residents and a major collection point for donations to the Woodley Foodbank.

Woodley residents have donated nearly 40,000 items since the beginning of this pandemic and are continuing to donate in similar numbers which is simply fantastic.

But this is only one side of the equation the other being the loneliness and vulnerability of many residents across Woodley.

To address this a plan was created to have Road Co-ordinators or Volunteers to cover every one of the 312 roads in Woodley. Their role, in a nutshell, is to be there for residents.

They act as a single point of contact for any resident in the road they are allocated to. It might simply a request for a chat, collect groceries or medicine or something more complex like changing a bed for an elderly person.

This is where the kindness of Woodley residents came highly visible. 273 volunteers stepped forward to take on that role including many who are acting as back up volunteers. Recently in light of the new “lockdown” we embarked on the task of refreshing that list as many things have changed since April with some volunteers finding they could no longer carry out that role for a variety of reasons ranging from moving away to returning to full time work or university.

Approximately 85% of existing volunteers confirmed they were still willing to carry on in their role.

This meant an additional request was needed for new volunteers to fill the gaps.

As before Woodley residents stepped forward to fill those gaps showing yet again the compassion that exists in our community.

We still have not fully filled all vacancies but we will continue our search.

So to all those residents who have helped in the past and are continuing to help now can I say a massive thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to help Woodley residents get through this tragic period we all find ourselves in.

Cllr Keith Baker MBE, Coronation Ward, Woodley, Deputy Mayor Wokingham Borough Council 2020/21, Leader of Woodley Town Council

Confused of Wokingham

I’m confused by the article in last week’s paper and also the letter that went with it from our local Labour Party.

It seems that Wokingham Labour have had a big idea in calling for a citizens assembly. However, several weeks before their leader was in a meeting of the overview and scrutiny management committee where it was stated, and minuted, by an officer that Wokingham Borough Council where considering the potential of a Citizens assembly in order to increase awareness and engage with residents.

This was on September 16, and then six weeks later the Labour Party come up with this fantastic idea.

Needless to say not only have the Conservative-run council already started on this but also I’m sure Extension Rebellion have been calling for this for years.

Why are Wokingham Labour trying to claim responsibility for something they already know the council plan to do? If this is their only plan I am confident that in six weeks’ time they will have a letter in this paper letting us know who won the US election?

Cllr Daniel Hinton, Conservative group leader, Wokingham Town Council

Citizens U-turn?

In last week’s Wokingham.Today, it was reported that Wokingham Labour formally requested Wokingham Borough Council to conduct a Citizen’s Assembly on the Climate Emergency.

Eight hours later at an executive meeting of Wokingham Borough Council, Cllr Andy Croy voiced disapproval of Cllr Gregor Murray for his intention to run Citizen’s Assemblies siting “these can be expensive”.

Either Wokingham Labour support Citizen’s Assemblies or they do not.

Within half a day Mr Croy has shown his inconsistency.

This gives the lasting impression Wokingham Labour are merely concerned with “engaging in politics” with reference to the Climate Emergency, since they resist all projects and ideas presented by the Council and Cllr Murray.

Jackie Rance, Shinfield

Overweight vehicles

I wrote some weeks ago to highlight the problem of the significant number of overweight vehicles flouting the 7.5 tonne weight limit on Commons Road.

I noted the borough council’s efforts to control this and welcomed them, but as I pointed out, they were not that effective – on average, there’s one offender every 10 minutes.

I suggested that an occasional police presence might dissuade truck drivers from using this route, but I’ve yet to see any Thames Valley officers flagging down vehicles exceeding the weight limit. The closure of Old Forest Road, the cause of this offending, is going to continue for many months.

What a contrast between the indifference of Thames Valley officers, and the performance of their “country cousins” in rural Norfolk. The latter learned that they had a problem with drivers failing to stop at a stop sign at a junction in a fairly remote village so in just over an hour, stopped and spoke to 28 offending drivers.

Surely Thames Valley Police could put a car and an officer or two in Old Forest Road for an hour, once or twice a week, to divert overweight vehicles back to the Reading Road? And if they can’t, perhaps they should be invited to explain why not?

Name and address supplied

Ponder the future

After the lovely old pictures of school children in the October 22 edition of Wokingham.Today, I could not but fear their future on the announcement of yet another shutdown. This country cannot take any more punishment.

In a few years’ time, the opportunities for employment may be very limited, and will lead to serious stress and mental problems for the young who have to pay for the criminal profligacy of today/this year.

Consider the vast number of small businesses that have provided one or two jobs over the years, traditionally providing some paid activities for the young or unemployed. Possibly by the end of this year, they may have used up all their savings trying to survive but failed. Will they ever return to or restart their defeated businesses? And that in a vastly different world where ‘money’ means better times, but for the majority of our ignored society, offers little or nothing.

I paint a terrible scenario – I just wish to face the truth.

When I started writing this letter, I drafted a way to rid us of the virus – then I thought people would call me arrogant and presumptuous.

Having witnessed this weekend the behaviour of the ‘potential spreaders’ in Wokingham, their ignorance, total lack of any concern for others or the set rules – especially separation, I thought I should make a statement based on such experiences.

We need absolutely clear rules made law, and enforce contraventions with appropriate financial punishment. To do that, because we do not have enough police, we need to use our military services – all of them if necessary – operating 24 hours a day. At least one policeman per team to help enforce the law.

Unless people learn to behave and we get the ‘spreaders’ off the streets, the virus will be unmanageable and cases will be up and down just as recently, for months or years.

It would seem that the government has ignored the fundamental causes of virus spreading, preferring to dictate ruinous alternatives as easier solutions.

We need to ‘kill’ this virus as soon as we can, and that needs tough sensible management.

Reg Clifton, Wokingham

Child poverty help

As one of the more than a million people who have signed Marcus Rashford’s petition calling for children from poor families in England to get free meals in school holidays which says “no child should be going hungry” I was appalled by the reaction of the Conservatives to his petition. Wokingham’s three Conservative MP’s voted against helping children in poverty during school meals while Sir John Redwood ponders over the question ‘does shopping spreads the virus’.

At local Conservative Borough Council level there is no reaction to following the lead of many other councils and business and who are just continuing with delivering school meals/vouchers. Wokingham Borough Council’s Conservative leader does not accept the child poverty figures for the Borough yet he thanks business and others for providing free schools meals and fails to put his hand in the council’s pockets to support the scheme at an estimated cost of £60,000 to £80,000.

He even suggested at last week’s Executive meeting that if the Executive took such or a similar course of action it might be called in at great expense to the Council when in fact its every opposition group who are demanding that the Council continues to support the school meals/vouchers scheme.

No one should go hungry in Wokingham whoever they are.

Wokingham’s Conservatives seem to forget it’s their Conservative Government and their own three Conservative MPs who are all tarred with the same ideological brush that said no. Not the Lib Dems, nor the Labour Party or for that matter the Independents on Wokingham Borough Council who all say yes, yes, yes.

Marcus Rashford’s drive that no child should go hungry deserves all our support as it’s a most worthwhile cause. A proactive Council should be leading from the front not dragging its feet. But we are talking about Conservatives both local and national.

Why won’t Wokingham’s Conservatives do the right thing?

Cllr Gary Cowan Independent Councillor for Arborfield at Wokingham Borough Council

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