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Ham&High letters: Abacus Primary, police funding, People's Hall, libraries, climate, EU voting, Trump and garden volunteers

PUBLISHED: 16:30 13 June 2019

The former Hampstead Police Station which Abacus Belsize Primary School want to turn into a school. Picture: HARRY TAYLOR

The former Hampstead Police Station which Abacus Belsize Primary School want to turn into a school. Picture: HARRY TAYLOR

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

Former police station 'perfect' home for school

Emily McCarron, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

The planning application for Abacus Belsize primary is not about whether there is a need for the school.

Abacus is an existing school which opened in 2013 under the Free Schools Programme to help meet the local need for school places.

Before 2013, families in Belsize Park struggled with where to send their kids, unable to get places in the existing schools in Hampstead and Primrose Hill because they lived too far away.

The old Hampstead police station will be the perfect home for Abacus children. It is in NW3, so children will walk to school.

The limited use by the school, Monday to Friday, during the day, with many holiday breaks throughout the year, will be a fraction of the use the building has had for 100 years as a police station.

There will be no noise in the evenings and on the weekends.

Despite the repeated claims by the opponents to the development, there is no alternative site in NW3.

For the benefit of the children already at the school, and for those future pupils, we as parents hope that ultimately, Abacus will be supported and welcomed for what it is: an inclusive, secular, state school, much loved by its existing pupils and families and the broader Belsize Park community.

- Do you agree? Email letters@hamhigh.co.uk

If residents will not pay more for extra police then redirect other funds

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, Hampstead campaigner, writes:

NW3's bobbies on the beat are disappearing. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan ordered a cut in the Met's numbers of over 1,000 officers in last year's budget.

Sure, the government has not given him the same quantum towards the Met as it has in the past. But, he has to make ends meet. He is failing in his duty to Londoners. Burglary and robbery has increased with cases being closed as they are opened for lack of evidence and resources. Young Londoners are dying on our streets.

Andrew Dismore (Labour London Assembly Member) said that he would ask the mayor to consider holding a referendum of Londoners to increase council tax by up to 50 per cent if I obtained at least 250 signatures from Camden residents to this effect. I later clarified that council tax would only need to rise by 20 per cent to bring the Met back up to strength. Having tried over many weeks, I have only obtained 117 signatures to date. I guess Camden residents are not enthralled with the idea of paying more for their police.

But something must be done. The Donald Trump blimp was a distraction from the hard reality of crime and cyber crime numbers which are soaring (cyber crime being counted separately to other crime). The mayor must now get back to work to plug the funding gap in the Met.

Transport for London (TfL) is running a £1bn deficit and unable to upgrade its roads, including the Marylebone flyover. The Hammersmith Bridge is closed and will remain closed because the mayor, via TfL, won't fund its refurbishment which is estimated to cost £11m. It's the local council's responsibility to keep the bridge open but it relies on TfL for the funding of major projects.

The mayor can find at least £400m (yes, you saw that number correctly) to build a new pedestrian/cyclist only bridge at Rotherhithe. All the cycle lanes together cost hundreds of millions. He spends £11m for his culture budget, £22m for staff and £400,000 on a beach party in Newham, not to mention his PR budget. Why aren't those funds being put towards the Met?

I recognise that his 2019/20 budget allocates funding for an additional 300 officers in addition to 1,000 more officers he is funding from retained business rates.

But, this is not enough and the public continue to be the victims of his inability properly to resource the Met.

Music event for under threat hall

Sally Donati and Tamar Swade, Save the People's Hall Group, write:

In our efforts to save the People's Gospel Mission Hall (also called the Fresh Youth Academy) from being demolished, we are having a fun music event for all ages on Sunday, June 16 from 12.30 to 7pm at the hall, 25 Bertram Street, N19 5DQ.

There will be a full range of music to make the most of this wonderful space unique for its acoustics and stage and screening facilities.

Songs from the period the hall was built will be sung by Sophia Brumfitt accompanied by Matthew Power; a family concert/workshop to join in with; Zumba from Keisha for kids and adults; Balkan and Gypsy music from duo Bow and Bellows; a real harpsichord played by Timothy Roberts; Wing-It Singers entertaining with European songs and Nicola Hadley playing international songs on an accordion.

There will be home made refreshments to keep you nourished while singing along, dancing or just listening. What a great way to treat your dad on Father's Day. Help us to save this special building from council plans to turn it into luxury housing. More information can be found at facebook.com/The-Peoples-Hall-2302710853351628/

Ongoing fight to protect libraries

Keith Martin, Friern Park, Finchley, writes:

Further to my letter of June 6 titled Barnet's libraries debate is historic, the meeting of the council's community leadership and libraries committee was duly held on June 11.

Given the contrast between the council's lack of enthusiasm for education, personified by a policy of trying to run libraries as a business venture, and the fervent activism of the Save Barnet Libraries (SBL) group, a draw was always a likely result. SBL will feel they won on points though.

The recommendations before the committee called for approval in principle of the evaluation of the library service, and the appointment of an independent agency to conduct a series of focus groups, which had been used to whitewash council policy on other public services.

Recommendations were agreed, with the amendment that the scope of the evaluation included the inadequate access to toilet facilities and children having access to pornography in the library.

Among the suggestions for action were an invitation to guide and advise library staff to Will Self and Michael Rosen; to CILIP, the former Librarians Association; to the trade journal The Bookseller and the trade union Unison. Would the remit include the study of the best international examples of library services provision? A call was made for the legitimacy or otherwise to be determined of what was described as a decision by the secretary of state for culture not to order an enquiry into whether or not Barnet is meeting its statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service as required by the 1964 Act. Should the decision be withdrawn as flawed?

The principle of the public interest in protecting libraries from falling below the standard required by the Act was incontestable. The committee remained undecided on the crucial question; should it proceed with its policy of defying the 1964 Act, or should it comply with the law? The meeting did not begin to address the issue of the public interest. It was a concept too big for the councillors to appreciate.

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Have your say on climate crisis

Cllr Adam Harrison, cabinet member for a sustainable Camden, writes:

This summer, Camden Council is running what may be the country's first Citizens' Assembly on the Climate Emergency.

The assembly will be made up of people with diverse views about the climate crisis and be representative of backgrounds across Camden.

Over three meetings the citizens will learn how the climate crisis is already affecting Camden and communities around the world. They will develop an understanding of how significant CO2 reduction can be technically achieved in Camden - as well as the trade-offs and costs required to secure the deep decarbonisation needed to limit global temperature rises. We need to understand where people are at, how far citizens are willing to go, and understand how this measures up against the scale of the challenge.

The assembly will report back to a dedicated full council meeting slated for October 7, for discussion by Camden's councillors. We will incorporate this into the heart of the new Environment Plan for the 2020s that Camden will introduce next year.

But you can get involved now. We are asking residents, businesses, environmental groups, our voluntary and community organisations - anyone who cares about the crisis - to share your ideas for change via our online Commonplace platform. You can submit ideas to the assembly on how we can cut CO2 emissions in four different areas: At home, In my neighbourhood, My council and My country.

Camden has reduced its CO2 emissions by 32 pc since 2010, which is good progress. But we now need everyone to pool resources to drive bigger lasting change. Please have your say now by going to: camdenclimateassembly.commonplace.is/

Don't say we didn't warn you

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

The Tories can't say they weren't warned about the risk of EU citizens being denied a vote in the recent European elections.

I was granted an urgent question on the issue in Parliament back in April, when there was still ample time for action to be taken.

The government refused to listen and refused to make simple changes to allow the additional form for EU citizens to be completed at the polling station.

Shamefully, the minister dismissed my concerns and suggested EU citizens could vote in their "home countries" when for the 42,000 EU citizens here in Haringey, the UK is their home.

Everything I feared came to pass and my office has heard from scores of constituents who wanted to vote but were prevented. It's a shameful picture that has been repeated across the country and this government could have prevented it. How can we hold up our democracy when thousands of people have been disenfranchised from their basic right to vote?

I have already written to the Electoral Commission to call for a full investigation and in Parliament this week I challenged the minister to set out exactly what action will be taken to prevent this scandal ever happening again. If you've been affected, please let me know on westc@parliament.uk

We should have taken Trump to task on issues

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, writes:

One month after his inauguration, the House of Commons debated whether Donald Trump should be given the honour of a state visit.

The debate was triggered by a petition, signed by millions of British citizens, urging the government against rolling out the red carpet.

As the daughter of a political asylum seeker and perhaps worst of all for Trump, a woman with strong opinions, it may be unsurprising to learn that I argued against the state visit.

With the President's circus now firmly out of town, I want to offer two key reflections.

Primarily, I believe that the visit underlined a key threat facing Britain, should Brexit go ahead. Donald Trump's admission that "everything is on the table" in future trade negotiations - including the NHS - was the most memorable aspect of his trip and will ring alarm bells across the country.

The USA will be a crucial trading partner for decades to come, but the notion that universal healthcare should be placed on the sacrificial altar of Brexit will appal many. An NHS ravaged by US pharmaceutical giants will deal an irreparable blow to a service that should be free at the point of use.

My second reflection on Trump's visit was that we must redouble our efforts in the fight against narrow-minded nationalism and bigotry.

Even before Air Force One had touched down, the President was tweeting abusive missives at our elected Mayor of London. That the President's visit cost the taxpayer £40m is galling enough, but the disrespect with which he treated our elected mayor even more so. It doesn't take a "very stable genius" to understand why Trump specifically targets Sadiq Khan, and decent-minded people everywhere must choose a side in a dispute that represents much more than a "war of words".

In this month of World War II commemorations, it is worth reiterating, however, why our relationship with the United States itself is so important. The relationship, built on many decades of shared values and sacrifices, will always transcend the behaviour of individual politicians.

However, as Sadiq Khan says, if we are to ensure the relationship remains strong and mutually beneficial, we must feel empowered to tell our friends when our values diverge.

In that regard, I truly regret that a week has been spent pandering to Donald Trump, instead of forcefully taking him to task on climate change, women's rights and so much more.

As Britain continues to decide its place in the world, I hope we ultimately choose to settle on something more dignified than what this state visit represented.

Give your time to gardening group

Linda Grove, community campaigner, full address supplied, writes:

Why not join our gardening group and help make your community environment a special place for you and your family?

I formed the group three years ago and you will have witnessed the transformation to the gardens on Pond Street. If you would like to work with this friendly group then let's hear from you. If you're a gardener that's great but it's not essential, we welcome everyone. There's a job for all from watering to researching plants that can grow in this area.

I have just started a new garden on a derelict site behind Pond Street which is for the Royal Hospital staff and, therefore, I am looking for a team of people to help progress the space further and maintain it with Jane who is a RFH employee.

You will find working in the garden therapeutic and rewarding.

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