Ham&High letters: Cyclist safety, HDV plan, NHS march, free bags, C11 parking, in-house council and spending cuts

A parliamentary candidate is calling for increased safety measures for cyclists. Picture: PA WIRE

A parliamentary candidate is calling for increased safety measures for cyclists. Picture: PA WIRE - Credit: PA WIRE

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

Council must act to protect our cyclists

Stephen Crosher, prospective parliamentary candidate for Holborn and Saint Pancras, Liberal Democrats, writes:

Several cyclist deaths and numerous other serious injuries have occurred in the last five years on Camden Road.

I am upset and disturbed to hear of yet another such accident: on Wednesday, January 10, a car hit a cyclist at the junction of Royal College Street opposite Camden Road Station. The poor cyclist was left fighting for his life. The stretch from the junction of Camden Road and Brecknock all the way down to Sainsbury’s is a death trap. Junctions with one-way streets crossing over Camden Road in this stretch have also seen horrific car accidents over the years. Newspapers point out that the driver failed to stop at the scene.

What measures are being taken by Transport for London (TfL) to protect the many cyclists travelling on Camden Road, a red route? The only remedial measure I am aware of is a mirror put up at the junction of Camden Road and St Pancras Way. This was only done after that poor Polish girl was killed. It’s simply not good enough. At the same time, we have seen far too many car accidents at the junctions of Brecknock Road, Camden Park Road and Camden Road, where one-way streets cross over the red route.

Residents deserve to know what pressure Camden Council is putting on the mayor and TfL to prevent Camden residents from being killed and injured on this stretch of road. Camden Road must become a safe route for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers, with special attention paid to its many junctions.

Support for HDV plan is ‘irresponsible’

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Gordon Peters, Muswell Hill, full address supplied, writes:

So the outgoing Labour leadership of Cllr Kober is determined to make the HDV their legacy, despite the fact that it remains subject to a Judicial Review and does not have a legal mandate, and despite the majority of candidate councillors for May, Labour as well as LibDem, declaring against it.

In this situation, continuing to commit money to sub-contractors such as Price Waterhouse and Grant Thornton to undertake new work related to the HDV is being irresponsible with the public purse. Any foreseeable council after the May elections will seek to withdraw from the HDV, or at very least re-cast the whole exercise (as the council’s own Overview and Scrutiny Committee proposed, but was then over-ruled by Cllr Kober’s cabinet).

What is it about this arrogance of power which consults, and when it does, only ignores and refuses to acknowledge the real concerns of people who will lose their neighbourhoods, in some cases their businesses, and in many cases their homes? All for far away promises of new jobs and new homes, but no figure at all for social housing, and top-down new templates for urban renewal, and a business model designed to branch into areas and places it knows nothing of, and for which it will depend on raising debt-laden investment. Lendlease are now seeking a ‘’Community Engagement Officer’’ to help the council re-make Haringey. Any doubt of the pie in the sky nature of the HDV and mortgaging our local authority future to a speculative and untested private enterprise vehicle can only be underlined by the liquidation experience of Carillion and its maze of sub-contracting and over-reaching, and in so doing bringing large public service works to a halt. And yet, as well as the HDV, it seems the cabinet now want to sell off buildings and land, on the cheap, while they can. It could be called slashing and burning the public world.

If the current crop of ruling councillors wish to be remembered in any positive light at all then in the short span remaining to them they should have the grace to admit they over-reached. Otherwise will they be just like the Carillion directors who go on pulling in the benefits while the public realm for which they had responsibility is left to bale us out of their utopian business mess?

Support the march to save our NHS

Amy Kenyon, Finchley and Golders Green Labour, writes:

Noam Chomsky once said, “If you want to privatise something and destroy it, a standard method is first to defund it, so it doesn’t work anymore, people get upset and accept privatisation.”

After seven years of austerity rule and the passage of the Health and Social Care Act in 2012, this could soon be the story of our NHS, locally and nationally.

This year may present our last opportunity to halt the devastation brought by the 2012 Act, which not only removed the health secretary’s duty to provide a comprehensive health service, but put into place compulsory competition for NHS contracts. This last measure empowered the private sector to increase massively its presence in UK healthcare. So now, behind our iconic NHS logo, other logos are gathering, the signature marks of private companies (Capita, Circle, Virgin, and the now-failed Carillion) that bid for the most profitable healthcare contracts. Our NHS is, in a manner that is largely invisible to us, being carved up and delivered to providers that are, by definition, market-driven.

At the same time, each perceived weakness of the NHS has been held up by the Tory government without analysis or admission of how its own policies created that weakness. Of course, the NHS must come under scrutiny like any other service, but not without signalling the fragmentation brought by private contracts, and the chronic underfunding and understaffing that followed in the wake of the Act. So to our current crisis, in which our undervalued and increasingly demoralized health workers are struggling to maintain the wonderful NHS we all take for granted.

As a member of the Finchley and Golders Green Labour Party, I am pleased that we are supporting the emergency march organised by the People’s Assembly and Health Campaigns Together. We hope all local residents, patients and healthcare staff alike, will join what promises to be a huge demonstration and an ongoing fight to save our cherished NHS.

Why consult over extending charge?

Justin Hinchcliffe, Fortis Green Lib Dems, writes:

In a cynical and desperate ploy to try to win over young people to her party, Theresa May’s Brexit Conservatives have announced plans to extend the 5p charge for plastic bags to all retailers (small ones are currently exempt).

Well, where to start? This proposed ban on free bags, is Britain finally accepting an established and sensible EU regulation which the government has signalled it now wishes to adopt (don’t you just love irony?).

A complete ban was first suggested by Lib Dems in government - only for the likes of Michael Gove (now at DEFRA) to kick it into the long grass. The introduction of a small fee for plastic bags in our supermarkets has seen an 80 per cent fall in take up - meaning a record number of people are re-using their bags when doing the groceries.This is evident to me as I walk my dog, Dexter: I only spot those little “free” white or blue bags blowing over grassed areas or caught in-between tree branches.

Despite the extension being supported even by the industry representing small retailers, green groups and the overwhelming majority of members of the public, the Tories want to put this to a “consultation”- rather like asking Labradors if they like food! Don’t bother, on this occasion, with a consultation, PM - it will be costly and time-wasting - just get on with it for EU’s sake!

Hold fire on HDV until elections

Norman Beddington, Barrington Road, Crouch End, writes:

So Cllr Claire Kober is reported as holding that there is no protocol that sitting councils should not take major decisions in advance of council elections.

The implication is that the current council leadership will press on with detailed arrangements for its £2 billion Haringey Development Venture gamble. Common sense should dictate that it is unwise for the current administration to tie the hands of the next one when potential costs of millions of pounds are at stake.

Most current cabinet members are not standing for election this May. Both Haringey MPs and both constituency Labour parties have come out against the HDV, and now the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee has asked Haringey to re-think the scheme, so support is ebbing away fast. Of course Claire Kober is dismayed that her undoubtedly well-meaning efforts to solve the borough’s housing crisis have come unstuck but the correct response is to accept that a different approach is now needed. Key to this is understanding that many residents do not see how demolishing 1,200 reasonably sound council housing units in Northumberland Park in Phase 1, with all the disruption involved, and replacing them with 7,000 new ones is a viable approach. Of the new units 40 per cent will be ‘affordable’, and only half of these, or 1400 units, will be social housing.

This new approach should be based on thorough consultation with council tenants and other Haringey residents and discussions with other North London boroughs such as Enfield, Hackney and Camden on their approach to regeneration, and what new avenues are available. This is generally based on smaller-scale redevelopment of existing estates, but still often producing 100’s of new social units, and making use of majority council-owned development companies, so not losing control of the process.

Until Labour wins a national election councils may not receive permission to borrow much more, but that is not a reason for boroughs to sell their soul to developers only interested in maximising their profits.

C11 parking needs solving

Martin Upham, Hillfield Avenue, Hornsey, writes:

Your correspondent Cllr Harrison invites C11 users to make their voices heard on TfL cuts to the service.

All such cuts are regrettable, but what about the responsibility of Camden Council, of which he is cabinet member for ‘improving the environment’?

Why, for example is parking on both sides permitted on the C11 route in Chester Road, forcing harassed bus drivers to slow right down and squeeze through? I was once on a C11 that found this impossible and walked the rest of the trip. What indeed about Magdala Avenue, where excess parking is also permitted and two C11s cannot pass, one having to wait for the other? Similar observations could be made about a lax approach to parking permissions in St Albans Road, Swains Lane and on other parts of the route.

I regularly use the C11 and deplore reductions in frequency. But before Camden casts stones at TfL it should ask itself some searching questions about what it is doing to facilitate a fast and reliable bus service. Prioritising lazy car drivers over public transport is hardly improving the environment is it?

Council services must be in-house

Rebecca Shirazi, Richard Chadwick, Gail McAnena Wood, Labour candidates for Frognal & Fitzjohns ward, write:

The Carillion scandal has highlighted the fact that the public sector should now be the default provider of public services.

If we win Frognal & Fitzjohns ward from the Conservatives in the local elections this May, as your councillors we will do everything in our power to ensure public services provided by the council are brought in-house wherever sensible and possible.

We would also like to see when services are contracted out to the private sector, as in some cases this may be necessary, that locally run businesses are the beneficiaries of such contracts.

What is reason for fresh meeting

Pippa Connor, Liberal Democrat councillor, Haringey, writes:

It is disappointing to note that your coverage of the Labour NEC intervention into Haringey Council affairs doesn’t allude to the reason for its action.

It is the Opposition Liberal Democrat group’s request for an extraordinary full council meeting last week that has brought the NEC into the fray.

Community groups and others have been protesting about this scheme for the last 18 months, even triggering a judicial review in the High Court, whilst Liberal Democrat councillors have been fighting hard to try to get a full council debate on this issue, which would allow all Haringey councillors to have a vote on the proposals. Tricky when it is a group of eight Lib Dem councillors facing 49 Labour councillors.

It is the request by the Liberal Democrat group for an extraordinary full council meeting that has forced the hand of the local Haringey Labour councillors to go to their ruling body, asking for support if they choose to go against the party whip and vote against this unpopular joint venture.

This is a demonstration of opposition in action and we call on all councillors who are opposed to the HDV to vote with our motion on February 7.

Public fighting back over cuts

Rebecca Shirazi, Labour councillor candidate for Frognal & Fitzjohns Ward, writes:

I appeared on BBC Question Time last week in the City where I was born and raised Hereford, sat beside my mum who has worked for the NHS since the 1980s.

After numerous nurses spoke critically of the Conservative government’s treatment of them, citing the terrible working conditions, record low levels of pay and the scrapping of the bursary for student nurses all contributing to the huge staffing shortages in nursing and low morale.

I put the question to Conservative minister Margot James that given the huge amount of public support for paying our nurses more, reinstating the bursary programme and putting more resources in our NHS, why are the Conservatives not doing anything? Perhaps this Conservative government is “ideologically underfunding the NHS so they can make the argument for privatisation.”

Cue a huge round of applause from the audience, in what is considered a safe Tory seat. The minister responded, “I’m very sorry there’s such enthusiasm for what you just said because it is utterly untrue. I’ve been accused of setting the NHS up to fail so that we can privatise it. Nothing could be further from the truth.” The audience interrupted her with shouts of liar and heckling.

There was such support for what I said even in this strong Conservative constituency, this gives me real hope that things are changing, that the public consensus, regardless of political leanings has turned against the ideological cuts the Conservatives are making.

People can see this false austerity narrative for what it is, privatisation of our public services by stealth.