Ham&High letters: Abacus, general election, Hornsey Library, reading volunteers, British citizenship and Christmas tree thieves

Plans to appeal Abacus School decision puts other schools with falling rolls at risk. Picture: PA

Plans to appeal Abacus School decision puts other schools with falling rolls at risk. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

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

Abacus appeal threatens other schools

Former governor of Carlton Primary School, full name and address supplied, writes:

The elephant on the room in the planning permission battle about the Abacus Free School site is the Carlton Primary School located a few kilometres away and the overall decline in rolls across the borough.

This highlights the failure of the council to plan properly for primary pupil numbers.

It has also led to fears Carlton could be closed. This is a school rated "good" by OFSTED, has at almost 50 per cent (one of the highest proportion in England) of free school meals, a high proportion of children with English as a second language, and an unenviable reputation for promoting social cohesion.

It has some of the most vulnerable families of pupils in the borough on its roll.

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True, its roll has been falling, but there are ambitious plans by the council to build more than 800 extra homes in the immediate area and, indeed, more than 200 of these should have been completed two years ago.

It would cost the council a cool £17m (according to its own figures) to refurbish the Hampstead police station.

There is a high risk of the appeal against the council's refusal to grant planning permission for Abacus succeeding. What better way, the more paranoid amongst us might think, than to close a school to make financial provision for this.

There are a number of other primary schools with falling rolls, including some in more "privileged" areas.

The present closure cloud hanging over the school can only result in less applications of new pupils, transfers of existing pupils and staff who live locally and have worked at the school for many years looking for jobs elsewhere.

Imagine if a Tory administration had done this.

Labour election tactics wrong

Keith Martin, Friern Barnet, Barnet, writes:

It was a remarkable general election, and remarkably predictable. Both nationally and locally the Tory defensive tactic was to present very little in its manifesto in the way of policy.

In fact candidates were advised by Conservative Central Office to make no pledges on the NHS or climate; presumably to allow a victorious prime minister the flexibility to do post-election deals with Trump. Every question on no matter what subject received the identical answer from Boris of "Get Brexit Done". This meaningless mantra was a copy of Trump's "Make America Great". The tactic was insulting to any discerning voter, but successful in obtaining votes.

Labour and Lib Dem employed contrasting tactics. Jeremy Corbyn presented a manifesto for social change. A costed programme of funding the NHS, public services and libraries; free school and university education, massive affordable council housing, nationalised rail and transport, investment in nationalised eco-friendly energy, investment in industry, the media, youth and the police. The Lib Dems were surprisingly aggressive in seizing on Tory assertions of antisemitism in the Labour Party while ignoring statistics of greater antisemitism among Tories. The media made great play of publicising this debate without pointing out its fallacy. All this played into the hands of the Tories, who duly won the general election by a street. Labour and Lib Dem had each acquiesced in accepting these battle lines, and the Tories had kept their heads down and accepted their good fortune. Too late, Labour is post-election asking its supporters what should be done next time, and reminding them that the battle is shortly to be renewed with mayoral and local council elections. Advice to successful politicians is often summarised as "listen, discuss, decide and act". It is surprising how many fall at even the first hurdle.

These principles are suggesting to Labour that, starting now, they should listen to what policies are shared with the Lib Dems, and discuss how a reciprocal progressive alliance with Lib Dems would win an election. The Guardian and The Observer are leading this debate, which is both legal and common practice in most countries in Europe. Locally in Barnet it would have produced last week three Tory losses instead of three Tory holds, if Labour and Lib Dem had agreed to field in each constituency a single anti-Tory candidate instead of the traditional generous three-party choice, which enables a Tory candidate with a minority share of the vote to come out the winner.

And of course this tactic nationally would have elected a Labour-led coalition.

Work to improve Hornsey Library

Cllr Kaushika Amin, cabinet member for Corporate and Civic services, writes:

In November, work started on our £3.77million investment into the Grade II listed Hornsey Library, to further enhance and celebrate this much loved and well-used community space.

This investment includes the remodelling of the library with new interiors, carpets, decoration, lighting and making the building accessible.

Alongside this, we are improving the facilities in the library for young people, such as the children's area.

Finally, this work will ensure the building is fit for the future as we will complete essential maintenance work such as renewing the heating system and replacing the windows.

This will make Hornsey library an even better community hub than before, enhancing its integral role within the local community for years to come.

Teach joy of books as school helper

Nikki Haydon, Auden Place, Camden, writes:

If Ham&High readers are thinking of taking up a new hobby in the New Year, or looking for a volunteer role where they can make a real difference in the local community, I would urge them to consider becoming a reading helper at a local primary school.

I am a reading helper volunteer with a charity called Coram Beanstalk.

I support four children at a local primary school in Camden two afternoons a week for 30 minutes per child each afternoon.

The children I support just need a bit of extra help and encouragement with their reading and most importantly need to enjoy the experience of reading. We develop this by sharing books, chatting about the themes and characters and helping to make reading a positive experience. The children particularly like being read to as many of them don't have the opportunity for this at home.

It's great fun for me as well as the children and as volunteers, we really get to see them progress throughout the academic year that we support them for. We receive training from the charity and ongoing support through the provision of resources, refresher training and local meetups with fellow reading helpers.

It's such a meaningful thing to do and will help children who may not get the one-to-one help they need otherwise.

To find out more visit corambeanstalk.org.uk or call 020 7729 4087.

End unfair fees to register children

Jane Bywaters, Amesty International, Hornsey & Wood Green Group, writes:

Thousands of children in the UK are being denied their right to British citizenship because of a profit-making fee they cannot afford.

To register as British citizens, children are currently being asked to pay £1,012. This exorbitant fee means the most basic of children's rights is being denied to those who cannot afford it.

However, the administrative costs for processing the registration is £372, which means that currently the Home Office is making a profit of £640. No child should be priced out of their rights for profit.

Last month Amnesty handed in a 30,000-strong petition to the home office calling for an immediate end to this unfair fee.

Join us in telling the Home Office that children's rights are not for sale: amnesty.org.uk/citizenship

PM must put end to homelessness

Kelly Parker, Highgate, writes:

I was both saddened and shocked to read the recent report in theHam&High (Homeless people sleeping in Royal Free Hospital's A&E for shelter and warmth).

It's such a pity the upcoming general election was fought on Brexit and not much else got a look in through the national media spotlight.

If residents can think beyond Brexit - because there will be a life after it - please continue to look at what's important to the fabric of our society.

At the most recent homelessness count in November 2018, a recent article stated, Camden Council staff found 141 people on the borough's streets - more than three times the total of 43 in neaby Islington.

Whether you're a Tory, Labour, Lib Dem or minority party supporter this cannot be acceptable.

It's one of the many national and local issues that needs resolving. We boast of a great economy, claim to be a leader in equal rights challenging inequality here and around the world yet we have people routinely using local hospitals to sleep in waiting rooms and have a wash. It's simply not right.

PM Johnson and the Tory majority must address this issue and not kick it into the long grass.

Don't let the tree thieves steal our Christmas spirit

Chloe Blyth, Highgate, writes:

I know when Christmas is in the air when I walk past Highgate Tube Station and the Woodman pub and see the Christmas trees for sale.

It's been my journey to and from work for five years now and it's nice to see people buying their trees as the cold nights set in.

That's why it was so disappointing to read thieves had broken into the lock-up and stolen some of the trees (Ham&High).

Shame on them! They stole the trees but not our Christmas spirit.