Ham&High letters: Coronavirus, garden waste and fly-tipping

Melati, London Zoo's female Sumatran tiger plays with an Easter egg which contains a dead rabbit in

Melati, London Zoo's female Sumatran tiger plays with an Easter egg which contains a dead rabbit in the new tiger enclosure at London Zoo, Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire - Credit: PA

National emergency

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, writes:

We are in the middle of a national emergency. With coronavirus posing an unprecedented threat to our health, economy and society, we are relying on the government to do its job well so that we can save lives and save jobs. It has never been more important to have a strong opposition to hold the government to account.

So, I am delighted that Keir Starmer has been elected as Labour Leader. Keir and I were both elected as MPs for the first time in 2015 and, as constituency neighbours, I have seen first-hand that he has the vision, experience and values to lead us through this crisis and rebuild trust in the Labour Party. That’s why I nominated him to be leader, and I was pleased that the Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party did too.

As Keir has already said, Labour’s job in this crisis is to support the government when they get things right but ask the difficult questions when there are problems so that they can be fixed. Under Keir’s leadership, I know that the Labour Party will be a strong, effective opposition, and a force for good at this very difficult time for our country and the world.

I am particularly encouraged that Keir took his first opportunity as leader to apologise to the Jewish community for the Labour Party’s handling of antisemitism. That Keir spent his first day in the job reaching out to Jewish community leaders shows that he has a real understanding of what Labour has got wrong in recent years, and a real determination to put it right.

Food shops in hospitals

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Jonathan Lane, Highgate West Hill, Highate, writes:

Please use the Ham&High’s influence to advance a simple idea to improve NHS workers’ and support staff’s access to essentials.

Both the Royal Free and Whittington have small shops selling snacks, flowers, cards etc. Both hospitals are also within 100 yards of an M&S food store. These local M&S’s should adopt the shops and stock them with basics (if needed several times a day). They would be available only to NHS and support staff working in that hospital.

Staff would then have access more flexibly to a shop at hours which suit them, and without additional journey time when they are exhausted; the supply logistics leverages the main M&S; they could ensure Perspex screening and suitable distancing protects till staff and shoppers alike. M&S would be providing a valued service (and get great PR).

Clear dog waste

Shimon Cohen, full address supplied, writes:

Every day of the quarantine I have taken my exercise by marching up and down Bishop’s Avenue.

I would so love to gaze at the mansions and admire the architecture as I go whilst listening to my podcasts. However, I can’t as I have to dodge the bags of dog waste that litter both sides of the road.

Now, recognising that most of the residents who have dogs don’t actually walk them themselves, may I issue a plea through the Ham&High to Bishop’s Avenue residents? Please ask your dog walking staff to take away the dog waste that they so dutifully bag up and dispose of it in a bin. I for one would be very grateful.

Spanish greyhounds

Angela Humphery, Willoughby Road, Hampstead, writes:

Interested to read Simon Laing’s letter about him being shocked that London Zoo had put out an appeal to the public to raise funds for survival during this Covid-19 crisis.

He also raises the question as to whether they should be a charity in the first place, saying that the government should be funding them.

I cannot comment on that but can only highlight the plight of all charities – animal charities in particular, and those with animals in their care – mouths to feed and staff to pay as there does not appear to be a bail-out for them.

My husband is a trustee of a small UK charity working in Spain rescuing ‘galgos’ (Spanish greyhounds) used for hunting and then either hanged in the olive groves or abandoned to starve to death at the end of the season, their owners not wishing to feed their dogs in the intervening months.

The end of this year’s hunting season has coincided with Spain being in lockdown and our shelters there are bursting at the seams with galgos waiting to be rehomed, many destined for Northern Italy – also in lockdown – so no dogs are going anywhere. What will happen to all the animals being cared for if, and when, the charity in whose care they are, goes bust?

Garden waste collection

Steve Cameron, Parkhill Road, Belsize Park, writes:

Is anyone expecting to be able to renew their garden waste collection service from April 1? Well it seems that Camden have closed the service down (try to book your annual subscription on Camden.gov.uk) and it is no longer available.

In the lockdown of Covid-19 more than anything residents will be taking the opportunity to work on their gardens. Covid-19 is not an excuse either as the bags are less contaminating than the hard plastic bins.

So there will be a lot of garden waste that will need to be collected. If it is not, then we will have a repeat of a couple of weeks ago when a resident burned their garden waste in their back garden – something that is absolutely against the interests of all London when it comes to reducing smoke pollution. Thankfully, Camden environmental services responded quickly and effectively in enforcing compliance – but this will very quickly become out of hand and un-enforceable.

Please Camden, reinstate the garden waste collection services immediately.


David Reed, Eton Avenue, Primrose Hill, writes:

It’s no surprise to see that fly-tipping in Camden has soared over the last five years: it directly mirrors the period since the council signed the ridiculous rubbish-collection contract with Veolia (‘Camden’s spending on fly-tipping doubles to £800,000’, Ham&High, March 12).

This is the one which makes residents do half the work and sees rubbish bins littering streets across the whole borough for most of the daylight hours at this time of year. And this, as surely as anything, encourages people to dump their own rubbish near these bins.

But in Swiss Cottage, it’s even worse than that. We had a set of large green and black bins at the top end of the Market Square on Eton Avenue, near the tube station. These regularly filled up and were not emptied very often, so then fly-tipping started. So did Veolia increase the number of times these bins were emptied? Of course not. They took them away, and replaced them with a set of bike racks.

Not that these are used properly: the plague of hired bikes being dumped on pavements across the city – red, yellow and green – is now a genuine hazard to anyone with sight or mobility difficulties, and a major source of annoyance to the rest of us. Why are the users of these bikes so stupid when they stop using them?

But, to return to the topic in hand, if Camden wants to control fly-tipping, they first have to reinstate the old rubbish collection regime which has seen our bins emptied by council staff or contractors for over 120 years! In our case, and similarly down most of the local streets, houses are multi-occupied and have suitable storage areas beside the houses, readily accessible from the road (in our case, about five metres/15 feet from the pavement).

Now, Veolia insist we must move our bins into the front garden (about five feet from the bin area). And then, if they can be bothered, they are supposed to return the bins there but usually don’t, hence the cluttering of our streets with bins for hours after have done their worst.

The process is obviously not working, I wonder if Veolia get away with such shoddy service in Paris where the company is based?

And the ‘we’ referred to is household residents, most of whom are working their socks off and don’t have time to do this, so who ends up doing the work? The older retired residents like myself (or, if I’m honest, one of my other retired neighbours), no one else is around until the evenings.

Ssince the local elections have been postponed until next year, the Labour Group supposedly in charge at Camden can act on this issue by reinstating the old collection regime: collecting our bins from suitably located storage areas. Where there is no suitable location, they must discuss with residents and home owners to create a suitable location. Anything less will be a failure and I, for one, will not vote Labour in the local elections until this change is made, and I have been a supporter for all my long adult life.