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Ham&High letters: Tessa Jowell, elections, housing, disabled badge renewal and police cuts

PUBLISHED: 08:00 19 May 2018

Hundreds of people opposed to Haringey Development Vehicle marched through the streets in protest. Picture: JON KING

Hundreds of people opposed to Haringey Development Vehicle marched through the streets in protest. Picture: JON KING

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

Chris Roche, architect and Muswell Hill resident, wrote an open letter to the new leader of Haringey council:

Congratulations on your recent appointment as leader of Haringey Labour Party, and congratulations to you, and your colleagues on being re-elected to serve the people of Haringey. This was not an easy task given the controversies which have over-shadowed Haringey Labour Party in recent years: - the Haringey Development Vehicle; the sale of Hornsey Town Hall; and threatened closures/relocations of Muswell Hill and Highgate’s libraries.

Clearly a new council will have new priorities, new aspirations, and a new mandate - despite the on-going problems of funding shortages, and increased demand for stretched public services. Hopefully, despite government cut-backs, solving the current housing crisis will continue to be an important issue, as it is a critical problem which affects all residents. Community self-build housing, is one potential solution to this crisis which I urge Cllrr Ejiofor to consider, as it can eliminate the role of a developer, can provide affordable homes and can give communities a stake in shaping both their futures, and their local environment. Typical of a site which lends itself to a community self-build project, is the land at the rear of Muswell Hill library, which is owned by the council. Moreover, funds from the sale of the land to the local community could be used to provide a modest extension to the library incorporating essential disabled and buggy access, together with providing toilets and a community meeting room. I urge the new council to ensure it is developed for the benefit of the local community within the lifetime of this council.

Tribute to our true ‘fighter’ Tessa Jowell

Cllr Roger Robinson, St Pancras and Somers Town ward (previously St John’s Ward, Kentish Town), writes:

It is with deepest sadness that I heard of the death on Saturday of Tessa Jowell, former Camden councilllor, then MP and minister and later member of the House of Lords.

Fighter for truth and reason and a person of kindness and caring who fought to the end of her sad and fatal illness of brain cancer with bravery. She always thought of others and the needs of society and that the battle should continue despite serious and fatal illness.

I knew Tessa when she was a young person who stood for election to Camden council and her first husband, Roger Jowell, stood for Camden council as well.

She brought extreme hard work and dedication to her post as councillor and was highly respected for it, always with a smile and caring too and she went on to be a wonderful comrade.

I was fortunate to serve on the council then at the same time as Tessa and Roger and thought so very highly of this dedicated comrade then and always when she was a MP later and then member of the House of Lords.

Tessa, dear Tessa, rest in peace and so many thanks from all of us for being with us then and always in our minds and hearts in the past of pain you suffered but with hope and thanks for giving Camden and its residents so much caring and understanding.

Bless you!

Jewish voter anger did not sway vote

Gary Smith, Asmara Road, West Hampstead, writes:

I do not buy this argument that Jewish voters reign supreme in Barnet. That Jewish voters sealed the recent local government victory for the Conservatives as if all alone.

Barnet has been an atrocious council for many years. Outsourcing is the name of the game leading to shoddy services.

It is a London time warp among other boroughs.

A more careful analysis of how Barnet voted this month is one encompassing facts such as the immensely disproportional number of rented homes.

This can often mean citizens are on the move and lack roots and have vested interests elsewhere especially as the bulk of the rentals are private. Barnet has a low concern for social housing.

Barnet likes to raise money by harsh means - traffic yellow boxes are a typical ploy.

Barnet allows not one inch into a box and there is NO appeal losing a hearing.

Barnet is a very ’non inner city’ borough. It is called Barnetshire.

Schools are poor and private education thrives as almost a necessity.

The comparison with Camden is vast but of course Camden is richer.

Barnet has little Labour history. It has no industrial background. The aviation factory of Handley Page went years ago like lots of British aviation production.

It has poor libraries and bad roads.

So why do voters still vote Conservative in Barnet. The answer is national. The Labour Party is one unholy mess with a far left leader who is himself a decent honest man but is surronded by hard left former communists.

Worse still these Momemtum people are anti EU and the rest of London thrives on the EU but much of the rest of London is nearer the City the epicentre of UK trade.They probably place EU trade over petty wranglings by political lost causes. Remember Foot got trouced and Kinnock lost two elections. All were too left to be taken seriously.

Barnet is a funny place. Very strange in the world of 2018. Jewish citizens are a minority and lots of little old ladies of Anglo Celtic heritage in semis essentially cannot vote anything but Tory along with many immigrants who can considered to be genuinely socially climbing and are not akin to immigrants in south London boroughs or Camden where they are far more linked to social welfare.

All this cultural. Many in Barnet of Greek or Turkish or European heritage are working for themselves.

Many of African and Carribbean heritage in other London boroughs are either not working at all or forced by education and lack of social connections to take low salaries. This situation used to be the case for Asians except now promoted by both political main parties a Pakistani heritage gentleman is London mayor and another is home secretary. Both their fathers were bus drivers on arrival in UK.

I cannot begin to comment on Chinese heritage people in Barnet as I see few but the Japanese always like it there and especially in Golders Green area and Japan is never a socialist country to say the least. There never was a Japanese Labour Party.

Housing number one priority

Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, writes:

I am delighted that the St Ann’s Hospital site in Haringey will be the first purchased by the Mayor of London’s brand new City Hall Land Fund, and that half of all the new homes built will be genuinely affordable.

I’ve been arguing for years that the original planning permission for the site was unacceptable, with a pathetically low 14 per cent affordable housing, and I’ve been a strong supporter of the active St Ann’s Redevelopment Trust (StART) campaign for a community-led development.

Housing is the number one issue people come to talk to me about at my regular advice surgeries, and far too many people in Hornsey & Wood Green are living in unsuitable, inadequate, expensive housing.

We desperately need homes that local people can actually afford to live in, and this deal will provide hundreds of genuinely affordable homes as well as a much-needed new mental health facility. It shows what a Labour Mayor can achieve for London – and I hope it’s the only the first of many such schemes across the capital.

Why Labour failed in Barnet

John McPartlin, Creighton Avenue, East Finchley, writes:

In order to understand the failure of Labour to win control of the council in Barnet (Tories snatch control) it is important to understand the context in which this happened, which was against a background of fabrications made in response to rising support within Labour for the Palestinian struggle.

Support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement has grown both here and internationally and has threatened to undermine Israel’s legitimacy, and it is this that these claims seek to counter.

They should be seen for what they are: a politically motivated attack that seeks to conflate anti-Zionism and support for Palestinian rights with a witch hunt against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left.

Corbyn is a novelty in that he is now the leader of a party that has in the past never had more than a token socialist fringe but is now one that is likely to win the next general election.

The right of the party fear the prospect of a potential prime minister who has been a leading influence in the anti-war movement, a supporter of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and who is committed to redressing many of the great inequalities in society where so many have so little.

It is around these issues that the election should have been fought, the undoing of Tory failure, but these fabricated allegations ensured that this did not happen.

Improve disabled badge renewal

D Bindman, Clifton Road, Crouch End, writes:

Why is it so much easier to pay a Haringey parking fine than for a disabled person to pay the fee for renewing a blue badge?

When I came to renew my badge I sent in my renewal form three weeks before the old badge expired. Since Haringey has an obligation to renew it because I receive the government’s higher rate of mobility allowance, I assumed this was plenty of time.

I followed it up with a phone call (35 minutes waiting time), only to be told I hadn’t paid the £10 fee payable for renewals and it would therefore be delayed. The existence of this fee is buried in the online application ‘guidance notes’ and not mentioned at all on the main blue badge web page.

What’s worse, the £10 can only be paid by cheque or postal order, despite a blue badge renewal application by definition being made by a seriously disabled person, for whom a visit to post box or post office is difficult.

Paying a parking penalty notice can be done simply by telephone with a credit card, but paying a blue badge renewal fee can be done only by old-fashioned snail mail. Why?

Mayor must act over police cuts

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, Partner – Employment & Executive Immigration Law at Learmond Criqui Sokel, Solicitors, writes:

I write in response to the article by Louise Haigh MP’s in the Ham&High recently on police cuts.

While Ms Haigh MP makes the point about the government making cuts to the police’s budget, the fact is that the Bank of the United Kingdom, aka, the chancellor of the exchequer’s cheque book is firmly closed.

So what if the government won’t fund any more to the Met – as the head of the Met, it is the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s job to find other ways to keep the communty safe and police numbers high.

If he won’t do this job, then he should get out of the way and let someone else get on with it.

The government won’t give more money. So the mayor is sitting on a powder keg of increased crime and reduced ability to deal with it.

Something has to shift and the only thing available is asking Londoners to pay more which he won’t do and that’s irresponsible.

Other police forces, eg Surrey get around 50 per cent of police funding from their residents.

The Met get around 17pc of their cost from Londoners, one of the lowest contribution rates in the country.

Would you rather pay more for police or be a victim. The choice facing voters is stark.

This article from the Shadow Minister for Police is outright electioneering and is wrong. Local elections have nothing to do with police cuts and can’t influence them.

Sadiq Khan ordered a reduction of police numbers in his March 2018/19 budget. He did not refer to the efficiencies to save money other than by officer number cuts.

This blame game on the government is partially true but mayor Khan is electioneering too and pointing a finger at the Tories when his hand is on the trigger.

The mayor has been elected to do a job which he is not doing – namely, keeping Londoners safe. While he has his battalions on tap to pummell constituents who point at him and declare that “The Emperor has no clothes on”, Londoners face unprecedented dangers on the streets and in their homes.

It is time for this charade to stop and for the mayor to do what he was elected to do.

Police cuts: mayor is not to blame

Andrew Dismore AM, Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, writes:

At the risk of perpetuating an argument, Jessica Learmont-Criqui still doesn’t get it, concerning police numbers and funding.

She again says the mayor ‘issued a diktat’ to cut the police in Camden: I challenge her to produce any document which states this in the bald terms she asserts.

She again fails to recognise that the root cause of the fall in officer numbers is due to the Conservative government decision to cut the Met’s grant by a billion pounds. Why? I would suggest it is self evident to every objective thinking Londoner that you can’t slice almost a third off a budget when 80 per cent is spent on pay without it having an impact on officer numbers.- yet not a peep of criticism from Ms Criqui.

She again fails to recognise that 4/5ths of the police budget is from government grant, so to make up the shortfall on that ratio, council taxes for the police precept would have to go up fivefold to the amount needed to cover the gap.

She suggests the mayor could divert funds from elsewhere, which he is doing, as well as increasing the precept to the maximum he can and using business rates to supplement the budget, creating the £110 million that keeps 1000 officers on the front line.

She fails to recognise the cuts in government support for other services too: for example the axing of the entire revenue support for TfL from government - another £500 million gone from London. In failing to do so, she also does not recognise that the mayor has many other services to fund from his resources: what does she say he should cut instead? Silence from her on that one, too.

She fails to see the previous Conservative mayor froze and cut the precept, contributing to the problems we now have in the funding of the police.

She suggest a ’referendum’ but does not say what her figure to increase the council tax would be to meet her demands for police numbers: I challenge her to give that figure- and in doing so remind her how her proposal to ‘crowd fund’ extra policing for her area fell flat on its face through lack of public support a few years ago.

She also fails to declare her political allegiances and ambitions, which I suspect are now rather clear to all. My allegiances are there for all to see: I challenge her to be upfront over hers.

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