This is what you have been writing to us about this week.

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Please note, any letters sent to the Bucks Free Press office are only being picked up periodically as all staff are still working from home.

Letter of the week - Heartfelt thanks to charity's supporters

Due to the pandemic, it has been a particularly difficult year for many local charities including Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research.

I would like to send a heartfelt thank you to all our wonderful supporters, including individuals, community groups, businesses, volunteers, and organisations, who have continued to help and support our work in spinal cord injury (SCI) research which affects over 50,000 people in the UK alone.

Earlier this year we were delighted to announce the funding of over £200,000 towards three new life changing research studies into spinal cord injury (SCI) that are designed to improve the lives of those living with SCI, giving them greater independence, and allowing them to engage more freely in work, hobbies, and family life. 

The projects are now underway, and we hope to have some interim results to share next year.

The impact of Covid-19 has meant that most of our planned fundraising activities were unable to take place this year, so we are now busily preparing for 2021 in the hope that we will be getting back to something more ‘normal’ towards late spring/summer.

With this in mind, I would like to share with readers who might be interested in taking on a challenge in the new year, that we have 10 charity places available for the ASICS London 10K taking place on Sunday, July 25.
Contact Charlotte Minoprio via email at: to find out more.

On behalf of everyone involved with Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research, we would like to wish readers a very Happy New Year.

Nigel Henderson, Deputy Chair of Trustees


‘Basking calmly in the serene light of Brexit’

I am writing this letter in the last weeks of 2020.

If you are reading this in the first days of 2021, then we will all be basking calmly in the serene and pure light of Brexit.

I am sure I speak for many local people when I say I would like to thank Steve Baker MP, for all that he has done over the last four years to accomplish the semi-miraculous “dream of Brexit” as Boris Johnson called it on one occasion.

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, as the oven-ready Brexit emerges steaming appetisingly from the oven, we will have achieved sovereignty, freedom and the control of our own money and borders, possibly with £350 million per week for the NHS.

We will all feel more free as the ending of Brussels red tape makes travel easier, and food, medicines, and other goods cheaper, and more easily available, in this country.

We will have at last reached this sunlit upland, despite the dogged refusal of the EU foreigners to immediately cooperate with us, and to a considerable extent it is thanks to Steve, and his colleagues in the ERG, that we will have finally achieved this highly desirable outcome.

A heartfelt thank you Mr Baker, and thank you also to Wycombe Conservative Party for choosing him as their Parliamentary candidate, and the electors of Wycombe District for patriotically electing this fine man to conduct us to this moment.

A happy and prosperous New Year everyone!

Lawrence Linehan, Wooburn Green

Intent matters in ‘life’ sentence

Roy Craig’s attitude risks profound injustice, not justice, re. the sad case of a thirteen-year-old boy killed by a drug-driver (BFP letters, November 6). Intent matters.

Mr Craig wrote that the driver, James Lavine, “should have got life”. Does Mr Craig understand what ‘life’ means?

If you get a life sentence, you could be let out after a minimum term, but only if you are not considered to be a risk to the public - and there are conditions.

It may come as a surprise how strict the standard conditions are. You have to keep in touch with your responsible officer.

You have to ask permission to stay away from home for one night; to change your job; or to go abroad.

You can be put back in prison for behaving “in a way that undermines the purpose of the release on licence”, or for any offence.

There is a list on of offences where the maximum sentence is a life sentence.

Some of them are kidnapping, racially-aggravated arson endangering life, and offences related to the Channel Tunnel.

A ‘whole life’ sentence means there is no possibility of being released, except by the Home Secretary on compassionate grounds (e.g. very poor health).

But intent matters. That is what Mr Craig seems to fail to get.

Lavine did indeed have a lamentable record, and that can be taken into account when deciding a sentence. But if there was no intent, then that surely matters?

I feel that it is better to refrain from calling for greater retribution upon the heads of others.

While researching this letter I noticed that “seriously culpable behaviour” includes knowingly driving without adequate sleep or rest.

If you drive, can you truly say that you have never ever broken that rule, not even just a little bit?

Phil Jones, Bourne End

‘No room for political ideology in national crisis’

In your edition of December 25 you reported Wycombe MP Steve Baker bemoaning the fact that Tier 4 rules were brought in without a vote of the House of Commons.

Mr Baker’s hypocrisy know no bounds after citing the European Convention on Human Rights to challenge the Government’s coronavirus policy.

At a time of a national emergency we do not need political ideology.

We need, but don’t have, a strong Prime Minister leading us through this terrible pandemic and relying on the unfettered scientific and medical advice without a faction of his own party constantly putting him under pressure to ignore such advice.

The Prime Minister has made some horrific mistakes in this pandemic but he is being manoeuvred politically and this is assisting in exposing his weaknesses in a crisis.

Mr Baker constantly refers to measures brought in to counteract the spread of Covid as being a major infringement on a right to a family life.

Tell that to the the tens of thousands of families who have lost a loved one : try telling that to the NHS staff (and care home staff) who put their lives at risk everyday and are being overwhelmed by the number of cases.

The basic fact is that Covid spreads by human contact - the more we are separated the better chance we have of not spreading it to others.

We owe this to each other. When the vaccine arrives properly that will be great although it won’t be the end of things as I can see that there will be a requirement for future vaccination.

In the meantime Mr Baker I don’t need you to preach what infringes my family life.

My right to a family life is to actually retain my life and that of my family and not spread Covid to others.

Stephen Wildman, Chesham

Discuss assisted dying in the UK

Letters on September 25 and October 9 and 16 recorded an interest in assisted dying.

Further support is indicated by a Parliamentary inquest now being planned.
Assisted dying is not a common interest among the fit and active so some significant social changes are offered here.

Before the NHS was set up in 1948 people had to pay to see a doctor. 
Many could not pay so signs of disease could be overlooked, and few people lived to be 90.

In the 70 years of the NHS since 1948, thousands have had excellent health care readily available.

In 2018, national statistics reported 500,000 UK citizens living in their nineties and a further 13,000 who were 100 years old and more.

But sadly, such prolonged old age can be very unhappy, even when there is no incurable disease, perhaps no surviving loved family, with old age advancing and possibly disagreeable living arrangements.

Such aspects offer support to assisted dying by request, with it being more easily available to those of 85 years or more.

This is now being actively discussed in many different countries and it is to be hoped the UK will actively join them.

Elsa Woodward, High Wycombe

Possible grants for community sports

There has been an absence of Government coronavirus financial support specifically targeted at grassroots sport.

I have long argued for additional support through the tax system for registered local community sports organisations e.g. via gift aid.

Recently there has been better news on the grant aid front for local businesses generally; many of your readers may not be aware of Buckinghamshire Council’s Business Grants and Schemes package just launched with £12 million of central Government funding.

Community sports clubs registered for business rates may apply for grants if they have been told to close or have been severely impacted by the tier restrictions during December.

The amount of the grant will depend on the club’s rateable value for business rates purposes but could be as high as £1,050 per 14 day period for those clubs that are open but severely impacted.

For those sports clubs without their own premises a separate grant may be available if the club has experienced a reduction in income of 30% or more during December.

The level of this one off grant depends on the number of its employees but could be a minimum of £2,250 if the grant conditions are met.

Whilst all of this may seem daunting for the club’s volunteer treasurer, investigating what grants may be available and making a claim may be worthwhile.

Buckinghamshire Council’s website has some useful information on its business grants and schemes, with a relatively straightforward online application process.

Richard Baldwin, Seer Green

More ‘responsible’ aviation policy

The Supreme Court ruling on the Heathrow expansion has put the spotlight on issues such as the Government’s new plan, in the build-up to hosting the COP26 UN Climate Change conference in November 2021, for a target of 68% reduction in CO2 by 2030, and its “levelling-up” agenda for Midland and northern regions.

Heathrow conveniently omits the CO2 and noxious gases generated by existing aircraft and an extra 700 planes a day, from its expansion plans, which will put into serious doubt their ability to meet Net Zero emissions targets.

Further, the Government’s own Climate Change Committee recently outlined that emissions from aviation must reduce by 80% by 2035 and that expansion at Heathrow would require constraint at, or closing, regional airports.

They estimate that bio and sustainable synthetic fuels for aviation will only make up to 50% by 2050.

The Supreme Court confirmed that any Heathrow planning application would need to meet these laws in order to obtain planning approval.

We must urgently develop a more responsible ‘national’ aviation policy, not just about Heathrow, and within the framework of the Government’s new climate and ‘levelling-up’ objectives.

Heathrow should stop wasting huge amounts of public money and effort pursuing its dead cause for expansion.

The pandemic has prompted a reassessment of priorities not to live by past standards. Let’s use the opportunity to grow back better.

Geraldine Nicholson, Stop Heathrow Expansion

Huge thanks to hospice supporters

I would like to take a moment to thank everyone across Buckinghamshire for their support for Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity during what has been an exceptionally hard year.

When the crisis first hit we had to close our shops, our head office and cancel our fundraising events, including our biggest fundraiser, the Midnight Walk. 

Even more difficult to manage were the restrictions on visitors to the hospice, the closure of the day hospice to patients, the cancellation of face to face bereavement support and the increased strain on our new service, FNH@Home.

Despite these challenges, we were greatly touched by shows of support we received from our local community.

From unsolicited donations of PPE and knitted hearts for the hospice, to the financial donations to the charity, some fantastically inventive virtual challenges taken on by supporters and the huge turnout for our virtual Not the Midnight Walk in June.

Whilst we go into 2021 facing a large fundraising deficit in our budget, we are confident that we have the support of our local community to come through these challenging times and continue to provide hospice services across Buckinghamshire. 

It is only due to your time and generosity that we can raise the £1,000,000 needed every year to fund end-of-life and palliative care services to patients and their families in Buckinghamshire.

So, on behalf of everyone at the charity and the hospice, I offer a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported the hospice in 2020 and wish you all the best for 2021.

Jo Turner, CEO, Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity