Ham&High letters: Citizens assemblies, waste collections, Brexit and 5G

One of a three-session Citizens' Assembly on climate change hosted by Camden Council. Picture: VANES

One of a three-session Citizens' Assembly on climate change hosted by Camden Council. Picture: VANESSA BERBERIAN - Credit: Archant

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

Our citizens' assemblies must be independent

Kathie Conn, Camden resident and Extinction Rebellion, National Citizens' Assembly Working Group, writes:

Citizens' assemblies (CA) are a form of deliberative democracy, where ordinary people make decisions to resolve contentious issues.

Randomly chosen people representative of our society study an issue in depth and consider solutions favourable for the common good. It is independent of local or national government, otherwise, quite simply, it's not a citizens' assembly.

Independence ensures it is not just rubber stamping government directed options. No vested interests, no hijacking the agenda, no directing the outcome. Unless empowered it becomes just another expensive advisory process.

Camden Council led organising their CA, selected the speakers, appointed the advisory body, directed presenters to include three actions for Camden. Essentially, it was vetted by the council. Camden's in house community researchers, recruited across the borough.

Most Read

Older people were over-represented. The demographic profile used in the "random" selection has not been provided. However good one's intentions, it's questionable how "random", selecting which door to knock on and who to stop in the street actually is.

There was insufficient time for learning leading to in depth knowledge prior to deliberating and making recommendations. Ten-minute presentations, 15 minutes of reflection and eight minutes' discussion doesn't quite cut the mustard.

Hats off to Camden for staging a high quality community consultation but cash strapped councils should consider other, less costly, alternatives.

To stand a chance in the fight against extinction, citizens' assemblies must comply with basic standards to be valued as a legitimate supplement to government. They need the time and scope to examine the cause, not just address the symptoms. Drastic changes are needed, and it's only through independent CAs that we will be able to effectively make them.

Scrap charge for waste collections

Greg Gordon, Muswell Hill, writes:

The good intentions of Cllr Seema Chandwani are to be applauded.

But can we have a commitment to abolishing the bulk waste and garden waste charges? A lot of garden waste must now be finding its way into the "grey" bins and causing problems at land fill sites.

C4 did a programme recently on the inspection work some councils do to try and identify the sources of fly-tipping, looking for any addresses on dumped boxes for instance.

Homeowners should also be reminded that they are responsible for fly-tipping caused by their builders.

I never expected a future like this

Liz Thomson, Fortis Green Road, Muswell Hill, writes:

Catherine West has fought the good fight against Brexit and has been a highly credible MP for Hornsey and Wood Green so I hope that she retains her seat for Labour - though bizarrely Electoral Calculus is giving the Liberal Democrats a 50 per cent chance of winning it, despite being 30,738 votes behind.

Yet in Finchley and Golders Green, the lacklustre Conservative MP Mike Freer, his majority slashed to around 1,657 in 2017 because of his toadying support of Brexit in a Remain area, is predicted to hold a seat which must be a prime target for the LDs. In Chipping Barnet, Theresa Villiers is also predicted to hold her seat for the Tories with a precarious majority of 353. Villiers, remember, was Northern Ireland secretary at the time of the Referendum and she voted for Brexit. Go figure.

Despite its reputation as a data analyst, Electoral Calculus has often called it wrong. Let's hope it's done so this time. For it seems inconceivable that any but the most rabid right-winger and Brexiteer could vote to return this government of knaves and dunces intent on wrecking the country for their own free-market gain. It's to be hoped that across this now-Sceptic Isle people will vote tactically to deny Boris Johnson and the Tories a majority.

And we have to hope that supposedly honourable Tory MPs - all those who have loudly proclaimed they would never serve under Johnson - keep their word. That they think of their country and not of themselves, even if that means losing their jobs. I wish Jeremy Corbyn were gone - if Labour were led by Keir Starmer we wouldn't be in this mess - but MPs are wrong to dismiss the very notion of rallying round him. They have to rally around someone if we're to stop Johnson, stop a calamitous Brexit and press the pause button. So, if necessary, Corbyn and Labour should agree to Kenneth Clarke as a caretaker PM, or the Conservatives to Harriet Harman or, better still, Margaret Beckett, who led the opposition following John Smith's untimely death.

If Johnson and Cummings can't be stopped and use anti-democratic means to take us out against the will of Parliament and the people there has to be a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience: withholding taxes, withholding labour. As with Martin Luther King in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, we must fill the jails.

I wasn't in the least surprised by the EU result - I always felt that if the public was given a say they would vote to leave. But the present chaos is well beyond my wildest imaginings. My parents - my father an Atlantic and Arctic convoy man, my mother a nurse - would be aghast at this colossal act of self-harm. Macmillan-style Tories, neither was uncritical of the EU but they would have voted Remain recognising that, whatever its faults, we were better in than out, and that untangling ourselves after so long would anyway be impossible. I'm glad they're no longer here to suffer this horror show.

Anniversaries are funny things, a pause for thought. Forty years ago, in 1979, I graduated from university with high ideals and a belief in a better tomorrow - not an ambition to be rich but an ambition to do something interesting, and I've been lucky. Fifty years ago, Woodstock marked the high point of the 1960s, a decade that brought real progress and hope, whoever and wherever you were. The festival wasn't a revolution, but 400,000 people came together in a spirit of peace and love and sharing and no one died.

Eighty years ago next month, on September 3, 1939, World War Two began. Is this really the better tomorrow for which our parents sacrificed their youth? I find myself thinking a lot about that summer of '39 and what it must have felt like, blinded by the lights of the oncoming train which they really were powerless to stop. When our so-called Prime Minister wraps himself in the flag at some commemorative service the spectacle will be one of utter hypocrisy. Respect would require him to honour the democracy our parents and grandparents fought and died for.

I will never forgive those who have visited this upon us and who refuse, against all the evidence, to recognise their folly. Life will be ruined for everyone (except the very wealthy, of course) for a very long time. Back in 1979, the idea of being 60 was something I couldn't imagine. But in my wildest nightmares, I never expected to be living my 60s in this horror show. I'm just glad I don't have children.

Concerns about the rollout of 5G

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, full address supplied, writes:

I am writing in response to Peter Rutherford's letter last week ("More reasons to block 5G roll out"). At the time I wrote my original article, I was unaware that there was opposition to 5G rollout in Glastonbury, Wales, Bristol and Liverpool or that there was a debate in Parliament on the health-related effects of electromagnetic fields on June 25, 2019 where Labour's Antonia Antoniazzi raised deep concerns about EMFs to the parliamentary under secretary for public health and primary care, Seema Kennedy.

Based on the health concerns, I have set up a petition to the government and others: you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/5g-suspend-and-review-rollout-of-5g-infrastructure.

Mr Rutherford asks interesting questions - how many units will be needed to be installed for 5G coverage and how much electricity each unit will use. I have worked with a knowledgeable resident on these questions. There are two potential levels of 5G. First, a low- to mid-band 5G network (below two gigahertz) using the current network and second, a higher band spectrum network (above two gigahertz) which delivers the promised performance of 5G which would need at least 15 to 20 sites per square kilometer in highly populated urban environments, as opposed to two to five sites today - so at least a five-fold increase.

High performance 5G needs an antenna every 150m (45ft). In 2012, there were 144,320 masts in the UK. Assuming full 5G rollout in high population density areas, we estimate that at least 765,000 antennae would be needed (including current masts) for coverage in the UK.

Re electricity consumption, there are many variables, but if we assume all four operators fully deploy 5G to 95 per cent of the population adding it to the existing consumption of 2G/3G/4G networks, then potentially a further 1,560 megawatts (MW) is needed than currently in use, bringing the total consumed by 2G/3G/4G and 5G to approximately 3,500MW. For reference and comparison, the output of one of the largest UK power stations (Drax in Yorkshire which is a large biomass and coal-fired power station) is 2.6GW capacity for biomass and 1.29GW capacity for coal. Its total generating capacity of 3,906MW is the highest of any power station in the UK, providing about 6pc of the UK's electricity supply.

So all four operators together will, for 5G, be consuming around 40pc of Drax's total output, and their 5G networks plus all the earlier networks will be consuming almost Drax's total output, or about 7pc of the UK's total electricity supply. That is one heck of a cost and a huge incremental volume of CO2 production, if the source is not a sustainable fuel!

And to top it all off, the government and Ofcom are planning to ensure 5G small cells can be deployed under the permissive development rights regime, by making it easier for operators to secure small cell sites including planning to enact a "right of entry" by operators to flats occupied by tenants!

The industry uses the 1998 ICNIRP guidelines as a shield for its activities. Updated in July 2018 and still out for consultation, they cite research which is 30 years old and does not address the health issues raised in more recent papers. They do not mention the WHO's 2010 warning that EMFs are potentially carcinogenic and dismiss the myriad reports that show health effects caused other than by the heating of the body. Our government must pause 5G given ongoing health concerns.

Separately, the black spot in Hampstead mentioned in Adrian Zorzut's article ("Businesses counting the cost in mobile phone blackspot as providers plan site 'upgrades'") may be due to EE's mast on the Royal Free being out of action for the last few weeks. The adverse health effects of masts is a reason not to have any more until they are properly investigated. In the meantime, BA&SH may wish to invest in some wi-fi so their customers can continue to use their devices while shopping with them.