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Ham&High letters: CS11, NHS, police cuts, the Heath, elections, Highgate Forum and vulnerable children

PUBLISHED: 08:00 26 May 2018

Children standing at the top of Haverstock Hill to highlight the dangers of pollution from CS11. Picture: JESSICA LEARMOND-CRIQUI

Children standing at the top of Haverstock Hill to highlight the dangers of pollution from CS11. Picture: JESSICA LEARMOND-CRIQUI

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Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

CS11 pollution is a threat to our children

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, of the campaign against CS11, writes:

Swiss Cottage gridlock will cause polluting emissions and threats to access for school children, hospital patients and the elderly to vital services. We have launched a campaign this week to challenge TfL to undertake urgent assessments of the likely impact of the closing of roads and the planned new Swiss Cottage gyratory system.

TfL is undertaking this work in July and notices have geen placed on Avenue Road which will lead to gridlock affecting Hampstead, Belsize, St John’s Wood and surrounding areas.

Our campaign organised with representatives from local schools and community groups, is calling on parliament ‘s Transport Select Committee, North London MPs and the London Assembly to challenge TFL and the mayor.

It is hoped that schools, GP surgeries, hospital staff and community groups will support urgent action to stop the plans for the new gyratory system. The Parliament Transport Select Committee needs to ask the London Mayor and TfL to explain why no impact assessments or cost/benefit analyses have been undertaken before the work commences. The Transport Select Committee should ask why this Swiss Cottage cycle superhighway is being started without the agreement of Camden and Westminster councils and the Royal Parks authority who have not agreed for the cycle superhighway to be built. Questions need to be asked about the agreement between TfL and developers of 100 Avenue Road and whether the start of work on CS11 at Swiss Cottage is connected.

We must protect our vital NHS services

Sharon Lytton, Cromwell Avenue, Highgate, writes:

Selling what was once a top notch NHS rehabilitation centre, the Queen Mary House in Hempstead, looks to be the beginning of flogging precious local and national NHS assets.

To lose such invaluable NHS public properties for all time when the need for health and social care is growing apace is an invidious and deceptive strategy.

It does nothing to compensate for or address the long term underfunding and the waste of billions of pounds every year on marketing in the NHS. A profound widespread sense of grievance over the loss of a genuinely public NHS is rising.

Promoting the sale of our NHS hospital and community assets without authentic public discussion or public accountability is wrong. This was never voted for by the electorate, councils or MPs but is being imposed from on high by government reports, back door manouevres and secretive deals.

The public have a right to object and can make their voices heard by contacting their elected representatives.

Led by Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition and supported by local papers and MPs many thousands protested at the proposed Sell Off of Whittington buildings only several years ago and successfully reversed the management decision. The community of patients, staff and residents does matter a very great deal and every voice can help make a difference.

We don’t have to accept this deal being foisted on us against the real needs and interests of the community. How many people want Rydon/Ryhurst at the heart of major decisions over the future viability of our hospital and local clinics? In whose interest would this property company be acting? Are we really expected to believe they care more for patients than their pockets? That they are similar in ethos and purpose to some kind of public spirited charity? It’s nonsense through and through.

The Whittington’s Strategic Estates Partnership (SEP) proposed deal with a subsidiary of property company Rydon of Grenfell (and Camden Chalcots) cladding ‘fame’ is another example of the unaccountable use of public NHS resources.

There is no transparency whatsoever about how Ryhurst of Rydon would be paid - other than from selling parts of the hospital - nor how the disposal of enormously valuable real estate would be decided and effected. Instead the public is being treated to a lot of obfuscation and propaganda surrounding the deal.

It appears that the new monitor called NHS Improvement is an aiding and abetting tool in this unethical and highly controversial private partnership arrangement. Rydon/Ryhurst are also responsible for many PFI deals. They see their SEPs as a way to overcome objections to the hugely profitable exploitation of our public service resources. It looks like the SEP is just another such vehicle for overblown profits and costs at the expense of the NHS and our care.

Serious questions from the community about the deal have so far not been answered and the five local councils concerned have not been consulted. Their health scrutiny committees appear to be in the dark about what is really at stake here. Yet these councils’ Joint Overview Health Scrutiny Committee which has key statutory powers has strongly opposed the five year Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) which would be directly linked to the Rydon private partnership deal at the Whittington.

The STP involves nearly £900 million to be taken from public NHS patient care across the five councils (Camden, Haringey, Islington, Enfield and Barnet).

The Whittington management have claimed that if the deal does not go ahead the government will take over the sale of some hospital buildings and keep the proceeds and/or that the hospital would close.

This is a most serious and frightening threat and one wonders what’s really in it and behind it. For a great community district hospital and connected community health facilities to be forced into a shot gun marriage with Rydon/Ryhurst on this basis is no way to run the NHS.

Perhaps the secretary of state for health could clarify the position?

CS11 is a cycle route to nowhere

Clara Weiss, Hampstead, writes:

I used to be a keen cyclist until I was hit by a car near the Swiss Cottage gyratory and dislocated my shoulder. So I am all for safe cycling in London.

However, in his eagerness to promote CS11 (“Gyratory redesign welcome news for all” ), Simon Monk from the London Cycling Campaign, and promoter of a ‘Mini Holland’ for London, has avoided mentioning that there’s been no agreement for the remaining stretch of this Cycle Superhighway into London Town. Which means he is only promoting a mini Cycle Superhighway to nowhere.

Has Mr Monk, from Waltham Forest studied or visited this area? I remember when the Gyratory was a one-way system and because that didn’t work it was changed into the system it is now.

Does he realise that this country’s major north to south artery will have five out ten lanes unceremoniously dispatched into our local side streets, which will bear the brunt of reassigning, polluting traffic and cause a major snarl up at this junction?

Restricting some car cut-throughs will only mean exacerbating the bottleneck along the Finchley Road and A41 tail back (all the way to Birmingham!) negatively impacting delivery times for this nation’s commercial industry.

‘Modal Shift’, where everyone eventually gives up their cars, is a theory based on small towns in Holland and Denmark. The only way to reduce pollution is to heavily subsidise both public and private vehicle electrification.

I agree - doing nothing is certainly not the answer. But CS11 is certainly not the answer or ‘welcome news for all’ who live in here in NW London (and not in Waltham Forest).

Blame Tories for cuts not mayor

John Stratton, Thurlow Road, Belsize Park, writes:

Congratulations to Andrew Dismore (Assembly Member) on his letter rebuffing Jessica Learmond-Criqui’s persistent, unfair, wearing and tiresome tirade against London Mayor Sadiq Khan in relation to his alleged police cuts

It is quite obvious to anyone except Ms Learmond-Criqui that the mayor was elected to run London, not just the police, and he is not only responsible for them, but also transport, housing, taxi licensing, environmental/pollution matters and many other equally important London concerns and the numerous aspects of his job have a heavy call on public funds.

All the so-called cuts come back to drastic government budgetary reductions and she would be better occupied lobbying (and slagging off) the prime minister, the home secretary and the treasury instead of the ceaseless and unjust onslaught on the mayor for something he can do little about other than cutting other vital services – which of course she fails to name. How about HS2 – now that would be something to get her teeth into, saving the government millions of pounds and avoiding destroying half of Camden.

Her ludicrous suggestion of a referendum on increasing taxes to fund extra police is unbelievable when one considers the enormous cost and administrative burden of holding one – who would run it, and who would pay?

The government has also slashed the Transport for London (TfL) budget with worrying implications for bus and tube services and together with Chris Grayling’s refusal to let the mayor integrate the South London suburban services into the Overground network because “I don’t want it to fall into Labour’s hands” says it all – never mind the public interest and convenience. I agree with Andrew that her politics are all too clear.

Why Heath rules are important

Robert Sutherland Smith, writes:

Although one would not know it, there has been a bit of a ‘brouhaha’ on the Heath, concerning friendly dogs and their owners and bathing trunks.

Not even my most inventive comic attempts to lighten the mood and portray the agitation as if a scene from an old Ealing comedy, has brought a flicker of illumination of the great principle involved.

That is to say, the logical truth that a Hampstead Heath byelaw should always be based on need for it, evidence of that need and finally and most importantly, be in keeping with the objectives and spirit of the 1871 Hampstead Heath Act to which we all owe a debt of gratitude and loyalty.

I was not elected due to my gender

Cllr Maria Higson, Conservative, Camden, writes:

I was disappointed to see Rebecca Shirazi’s vitriolic and baseless attack on elected councillors in last week’s Camden New Journal (rival publisher)

Yes, I am the only female Conservative councillor, but I was elected equally alongside my colleagues on merit, not gender. She claimed that I’m middle-class, despite me coming from a working-class family in Warrington. She then pointedly attacked me for attending Oxford – which apparently Labour think is something for a working-class woman to be ashamed of!

I note that she didn’t mention any of my more relevant qualifications – perhaps my work for the NHS, my being a governor at the Royal Free, or my volunteering at two local homeless shelters.

Instead, she pried into my and others’ personal background. I’m not sure stalking a woman online so you can criticise her for going to a good university is the act of a feminist. It’s also hardly “kinder, gentler politics”.

This attack is particularly frustrating because I am a proud and vocal feminist. Indeed, I’m Hampstead & Kilburn Conservatives’ women’s officer, and the local party and I are strongly dedicated to getting more women involved in politics.

I think all parties have a long way to go before any of us have fully made use of the talents available. However, if we’re talking about candidate selections, then you should also look at the Conservative candidates that were sadly defeated.

I was greatly disappointed to see the Conservatives lose councillors in Swiss Cottage and Belsize. Of the five Conservatives that were not elected in those wards, two are immigrants, three are black, three are women, and all five come from working-class families.

I believe Camden would be better represented with them on the council. They sadly didn’t win, but for Labour to try to score cheap political points because we DIDN’T win is a little ludicrous!

It also betrays that Rebecca is trying to hijack a serious issue for personal gain, which is the opposite of what we want from people aspiring to public office.

If you are interested in seeking public office, regardless of gender, race or background, please don’t be deterred by such attacks, and get in touch at maria.higson@camden.gov.uk, so we can support you to get involved.

Don’t miss our Highgate AGM

Maria Jennings, secretary, Highgate Neighbourhood Forum Committee, writes:

If you live or work in the Highgate Neighbourhood Forum plan area then you are a forum member.

In 2012, residents and councillors decided to set up the forum to create the Highgate Neighbourhood Plan. In 2017 that plan was agreed by a local referendum of registered voters living in the plan area.

Our AGM takes place at Lauderdale House, Highgate Hill, N6 5HG on June 7 at 7.30pm. Speakers from each political party with elected councillors in the plan area have been invited. Cllr Sian Berry AM (Green Party), Cllr Bob Hare (LibDems), Camden Labour Party have been asked for a speaker to represent their elected councillors. There will be an opportunity for you to ask questions of your local councillors, and a chance to meet forum members over refreshments at the end of the meeting. You are warmly invited to our AGM as a member of the forum.

Please visit our website Highgate Neighbourhood Forum | Planning Highgate’s Future or get in touch if you would like to know more about our work.

Vulnerable kids need our support

Lynn Gradwell, director, Barnardo’s London, writes:

Too little is being done, too late to tackle the mental health crisis facing 125,000 vulnerable children and young people in London.

It’s estimated one in 10 school children – roughly 45,000 of those aged five to 16 in inner London and another 79,000 in outer London - has a diagnosable mental health condition. Many do not receive timely, appropriate support.

Theresa May said a new approach was needed from government, but actions speak louder than words. On May 9 in Whitehall, Barnardo’s kick-started the debate with our inaugural annual lecture.

Barnardo’s wants experts to consider the growing evidence that adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs – which include physical, emotional or sexual abuse, being from a household where there is substance abuse, being exposed to domestic violence or having a parent in prison – are a key risk factor in poor mental health and wellbeing.

We are calling on the government to ensure the evidence around ACEs is a key part of its long-term mental health and wellbeing strategy.

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