Readers’ letters - December 23 2010

Right to protest

THE RIGHT-wing press has had a field day since the student protests, inevitably focusing on the small minority of students who committed dangerous and offensive acts. These were of course reprehensible and the perpetrators will hopefully be prosecuted.

We have spoken to several Horsham residents who have tutted and shaken their heads over this irresponsible behaviour and they have told us that any previous support for the students’ cause has been withdrawn.

We would like to redress the balance. The vast majority of people at the demonstration were law-abiding and wanted nothing more than to exercise their democratic right to protest against swingeing cuts to higher education, which the next generation of students will be forced to fund.

Our 20-year-old daughter, Leah, was amongst those protesting. She is in her final year of a politics degree at Sussex University, having previously attended Heron Way and Millais schoois and Collyer’s Sixth Form College. She has always been an exemplary student and a high achiever.

Leah is a sensible and intelligent young woman and she was not out to make trouble. She followed the prescribed route and demonstrated peacefully.

Nevertheless, she and her friends were ‘kettled’ by police in Parliament Square. They were charged noisily by about 20 shouting police on horseback - a terrifying experience.

For several hours she was confined in freezing weather conditions with thousands of other protesters, many of whom were older people. By this time she was cold, hungry, thirsty, frightened and extremely angry. She was also very worried that she was going to miss her coach back to university, but despite pleas to police, all exits were blocked.

At this point the situation became increasingly violent as students vented their anger on the police. Leah herself did not participate in, or condone, any violence, but says she can understand how it happened. Despite press reports, many more students than police were injured in the resulting confrontation.

Leah was eventually allowed to leave and made it back to her coach with little time to spare before it left. Many of the other Sussex students were not as fortunate and endured several more hours in the cold before they were eventually released at 11pm. They were forced to spend the night in London.

Our daughter is a quiet young woman who is not a troublemaker and yet she was treated like a criminal.

She is extremely upset and has lost all respect for, and trust in, the police, as indeed will have thousands of young people who attended the demonstration.

Heavy-handed tactics employing excessive force do not work; in fact, they are counter-productive.

We are well aware that the majority of police in this country are decent men and women doing a difficult and often dangerous job, and as a family we have always had the utmost respect for them.

They faced a daunting task on Thursday December 9, but there is absolutely no excuse for bully-boy tactics.

It probably wasn’t a very good day for them, but it was a whole lot worse for our daughter and her friends.

BOB and SALLY MILLER

Arthur Road, Horsham

Theatre subsidy

WHILE totally understanding the reasons behind the Government’s spending review and the subsequent financial constraints put on our county and district councils, can someone please explain to me as to why we have been subsidising the Chichester Festival Theatre to the tune of nearly £2.6m over the last nine years?

West Sussex County Council has said in defence that Chichester Festival Theatre brings immense economic benefits to the region.

I’m sure it does, to the region of Chichester.

What I find even more galling is that our own Capitol Theatre and the Hawth in Crawley have not received any support of this kind from County Hall during the same period.

In these extreme times, the hard-pressed council tax payers should not be expected to prop up failing institutions.

County Hall should remember it represents the whole of West Sussex and not just the luvvie elite in Chichester.

B. BATEMAN

Vale Drive, Horsham

Acorn benefits

SOME might have incorrectly gained an impression from Horsham District Council’s meeting (debate on Acorn Plus) that nothing has been done to improve HDC’s Project Management procedures.

In fact, in January we issued a framework including performance criteria, which was described by a member of the Opposition as an ‘impressive piece of work’, and we have continued to refine it.

Nobody should derive satisfaction from the fact that the PM framework failed to prevent an overspend on the Acorn Plus project and we are determined that lessons shall be learned from that failure.

Notwithstanding that, and with the co-operation of residents, Acorn Plus has taken waste recycling levels to around 57 per cent, putting HDC in the top echelon of UK waste collection authorities.

That not only reduces the demand for landfill but it also obviates the need for residents to transport their mixed dry and green waste to car parks and and waste disposal (amenity) sites.

In parallel with the weekly collection of landfill waste, the number of operatives needed has been reduced, along with vehicle mileage and minor injuries.

Those benefits will accrue for many years and the short term overspend should not be allowed to detract from that. The Acorn Plus system will continue to be a success, long after the lessons have been learned.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank HDC staff for their efforts to improve services and residents for their co-operation and patience and to wish all of them the best of the festive season.

ROGER J. ARTHUR

(Con, Chanctonbury) cabinet member for operational services, Horsham District Council

North Street, Horsham

Great sadness

WHEN Mr Collins was reinstated as chairman of Billingshurst Parish Council at the December 8 meeting, we in Billingshurst lost a good councillor with Mike Bobker’s resignation.

His was a voice of reason in many council meetings. His resignation does not come as a shock but with great sadness to those who know him.

The democratic vote to halt the garden project for three years due to the economic situation was not taken lightly by the parish council last July.

Headlines in the County Times of the savage cuts to Horsham District Council (‘District faces deeper cuts’) and West Sussex County Council (County Hall ‘cutting into the bone’) are proof positive that the parish council’s vote was correct.

That this decision did not sit well with Mr Collins was obvious in his subsequent action in writing a letter to the newspaper disparaging his own council’s decision.

Mr Collins’ action and the action of certain councillors in reinstating as chairman someone who could demean his colleagues, lose a vote of confidence and then resign, is certainly laughable and puts our parish council into disrepute.

This ongoing saga is definitely not an episode of the Vicar of Dibley, more of a pantomime but one which has seen Billingshurst lose a very good and principled councillor.

LESLEY WILDING

Carpenters, Billingshurst

Appeal for sign

COULD I please through your paper appeal to the person who removed the newly installed ‘37 Miles from London’ milestone which was by the railway bridge on the Southwater parish boundary.

Please let Southwater Parish Council on 01403 733202 know where this has been dumped so that it can be retrieved, repaired and reinstated. Thanking someone in anticipation.

JEREMY SENNECK

Cripplegate Lane, Southwater

Damage to cars

IF THERE is a mother, father or partner of a young blonde woman who returned home on Saturday afternoon with a severely damaged black Renault Clio of 2004 vintage and wondered as to how this could have happened, we can tell them why.

This car ran off the road colliding with both our vehicles parked on our drive, narrowly missing a pedestrian. This person then proceeded to drive off, apparently without a thought of the devastation left behind.

We are hoping the conscience of herself or family persuade her to come forward to save police valuable time as we did take note of her registration number.

We hope this moment of madness can be put to right.

G. WILLIAMS (Mrs)

Mill Lane, Storrington

Pathetic reaction

ON SATURDAY December 18, the post office in Horsham Carfax shut at 1pm without notice due to ‘the weather conditions’.

The town centre was busy and I saw no other business which had shut because of the relatively small amount of snow and ice around.

The Post Office’s reaction was pathetic.

What compounded this was that there was not even consideration for customers enough to stick up a notice to say that some services were available at the Hurst Road sorting office or where the nearest alternative post office was.

There was no thought whatsoever for any potential customers who might want to make use of the services of the post office.

TONY JONES

Oakhill Road, Horsham

Poppy success

THE POPPY Appeal in Horsham this year has raised a whopping £30,000!

Thanks have to go to volunteers, both young and not so young, who tirelessly filled nearly 600 boxes, labelled collecting tins, distributed and stood on the streets.

Then put it all away again!

Special thanks to those who counted, manned the shop, and to Wendy for her magnificant instant raffle.

Further very special thanks to Jeannette Winter who raised £436 at her wonderful Poppy Appeal dance at the Drill Hall, and to Horsham District Council for the use of the shop.

The biggest thank you of all goes to you, the people of Horsham district, for your amazing contribution once again.

I would like to wish you all the best for the season, and say you all deserve a big present from Santa!

DIANNE LOATES

Poppy Appeal organiser, Horsham Branch Royal British Legion

Chichester Terrace, Horsham