Ham&High letters: Elections, police, Brexit, anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism, basement builds, remove gyratory, Pears building and school cuts

Make your vote count. Picture: RUI VIEIRA/PA IMAGES

Make your vote count. Picture: RUI VIEIRA/PA IMAGES - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

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

Make vote count

Jonathan Livingstone, of Frognal Gardens, Hampstead, writes:

Average turnout across the two Camden constituencies was 68.6 per cent in the 2017 general election compared with only 38.7pc in the 2014 local Camden elections.

This voter apathy in local elections also contrasts starkly with the 2016 EU Referendum; over 10,000 more votes were cast for remaining in the EU than voted in total in the preceding local elections.

Vote Leave’s mantra ‘Take Back Control’ struck a chord with many but the control we need to take back is over our politicians by holding them to account.

Therefore if you are someone who does not usually vote in local elections but are concerned about Labour and Conservative Brexit policies you must make your voice heard on May 3 by voting for an anti-Bexit party or for an independent.

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Urgent need for more police funding

Cllr Martin Newton, Lib Dem opposition spokesperson for Crime and Community Safety, Haringey, writes:

Haringey has seen two killings in a single long weekend.

One of the victims was just 17-years-old.

We offer our condolences to the victims’ families and urge anyone with information to contact the police.

This escalation in levels of violent crime in our borough, means that now is not the time to cut police numbers.

Just last month the Haringey Lib Dems put forward a motion to full council, urging the mayor and the home secretary to provide sufficient funding to keep Haringey residents – and especially our young people – safe.

Sadly, in just a few weeks that call has become even more urgent.

There is good practice in the rest of the UK that London could learn from as research by our Lib Dem colleague at the LGA Caroline Pidgeon AM illustrates.

For example, we should be placing youth workers in more A&E departments, so they can talk to victims of violent crimes, and in the process collect information and discourage retaliatory attacks.

While there is no way to end all crime, that does not make what we have seen in Haringey in recent months acceptable nor does it make it inevitable.

There are reasonable steps we can take to reduce violent crime and with teenagers dying, we have no excuse not to.

Proud to stand on our record of fighting Brexit

Sorin Floti, Cllr Richard Olszewski, Cllr Lorna Jane Russell Labour and Co-operative Party candidates for Fortune Green, write:

As your Labour and Co-operative Party candidates for Fortune Green, we are staunch Remainers who stand firmly against Brexit.

Sorin is an EU citizen from Romania. If elected, he would become the first Romanian local councillor in the UK, ever.

Richard is of Polish origin and has an EU flag flying high in front of his home, while Lorna has close family in Germany. All three of us see ourselves not only as British, but as proud Europeans.

However, we do not stop at words – we are proud to stand on our record of hard work fighting Brexit and its effects.

We have campaigned against Brexit both before and after the referendum, have demanded the protection of the rights of our EU residents, and pushed for retained membership of the Single Market and Customs Union.

In Fortune Green, we co-organised a free informational event for EU nationals at Sidings Community Centre, where, together with a charity working to integrate migrants, we helped participants understand the Brexit process, their rights throughout, and what Camden Council is doing to help.

We have helped many of our EU residents register to vote and have sent a letter about their right to vote in local elections to every single one of the 1,300 who are registered.

Labour-led Camden Council has set up a cross-party Brexit Working Group to hear testimony from residents, businesses, and charities and come up with helpful recommendations. If elected as Fortune Green councillors, we will also ensure that Camden continues to provide EU citizens with advice and support in these uncertain times, and we will support Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, with pro-European policies such as the London visa. We think Theresa May’s ‘bad deal or no deal’ ultimatum is unacceptable and will campaign for the People’s Vote guarantee that the final decision on any Brexit deal not be taken before democratic legitimacy has been secured.

We will campaign to ensure the rights of EU nationals to live, study, work, and vote here are protected.

We want Camden to remain an inclusive community that has the closest possible relationship with Europe. When it comes to fighting Brexit and its effects, it isn’t just about what we say, it’s about what we have done and will continue to do!

Anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism

Alan Bernstein, John Bolgar, Ron Cohen, Sylvia Cohen, Colm Doherty, Janette Evans, Debbie Friedman, Deborah Knight, Fred Leplat, Keith Martin, Cristina Navarrete, Roberto Navarrete, Carlos Soto, Lisa Pate, Svetlana Rakocevic, John Richardson, Gerald Shaw, Tirza Waisel - Finchley and Golders Green CLP; Nilofer Alaud-Din, Jenny Malca Brown, Michelle Burke, Kieran Crowe, Patrick Hunter, Lorna Jeans, Firinne Ni Chreachain, Jasmin Parsons, Carole Symons, Jamil Versi - Hendon CLP; Linda Benjamin, Hugh Jordan, Bahir Laattoe, Geoff Palmer, Shereen Pandit - Chipping Barnet CLP write:

We, Labour Party members in Barnet, are firm opponents of all forms of racism, fascism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and all other kinds of oppression.

Many of us have been actively campaigning against them for many years, often alongside Jeremy Corbyn.

We know antisemitism exists in society and needs to be combated, including in political parties. But we are seriously worried about the current climate in the Labour Party, where criticism of the actions of the state of Israel is too often conflated with anti-Semitism. But anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism.

What we are now seeing is an attempt to deflect criticism of Israel and Zionism, thereby weakening genuine anti-racism and opposition to antisemitism.

The real target of these critics is Jeremy Corbyn, because they oppose both his record of internationalism, in particular his lifelong support for the rights of the Palestinians, and his commitment to socialism.

In the last two years, more than 300,000 people have joined the Labour Party to support its progressive politics.

Not all of them will have much experience of, for example, recognising anti-Semitic tropes. We believe the best way to combat any such naivety, lack of knowledge or problematic choices of words among Labour’s membership is through open debate and discussion.

We therefore welcome the direction by Jeremy Corbyn to the new Labour general secretary, Jennie Formby, to at last implement the recommendations of the 2016 Shami Chakrabarti report about the party’s disciplinary procedures, based on natural justice and due process.

We pledge to mobilise with members of all faiths and none to end the attacks against the Labour Party, which damages the party’s effectiveness in helping those people most harmed by the austerity and cuts-obsessed Conservative government and Barnet Council.

Weaponising anti-Semitism is an insult to dead

Agnes Kory, Finchley Road, Hampstead, writes:

Further to two letters in Ham & High during the past fortnight (Swiss Cottage concerns; Stop denying anti-Semitism) please allow me to respond. Both letters manifest fear which is being played upon in the current political climate.

Your anonymous writer (‘Swiss Cottage concerns’) reports a meeting which s/he did not attend but, nevertheless, attacks and names a prospective Labour candidate as someone who allegedly did not vote for a particular motion against antisemitism at the meeting.

Jonathan Glass (‘Stop denying anti-Semitism’) does not hide behind anonymity; he fears (and openly protests against) what he believes is antisemitism in the Labour party.

I am a Jewish Holocaust survivor and have been fighting anti-Semitism all my life. I am a member of the Labour Party as well as Momentum. There is no more antisemitism in the Labour Party or in Momentum than in any other political party and in society on the whole. Weaponising anti-Semitism for political gains (and increasing fear among the Jewish community) is an insult to the six million who died because of real anti-Semitism.

Camden must do better to monitor basement builds

Cllr Leila Roy, Kirsty Roberts and Steven Adams, Belsize ward conservative team, write:

The protection of our existing buildings in Belsize is compromised by the continuing pressure for basement developments.

These should not essentially be a bad thing but in too many cases lead to damage to neighbouring properties and unreasonable disruption. There is one underlying cause for the difficulties. Far too much reliance is given to the paperwork exercises at the planning stage and too little to the actual execution of the developments.

Camden, like many other boroughs require a Basement Impact Assessment and Construction Management Plan to be included with any planning application.

While these should deal with the method of the building, the protection to the neighbouring properties and the effect of the work on the adjoining ground and water courses, in practice many of the issues that lead to damage are due to poor working practices. This aspect of construction is not sufficiently monitored.

One way to improve this would be to join up the construction criteria agreed at planning with the checking regime that the Building Control Surveyors carry out. Surely it makes sense to have qualified inspectors visit higher risk works on a regular basis with a view to spotting poor practice before problems occur.

On the very large basement projects the checking stage that is part of the planning process is also far from perfect.

There is a common complaint from those potentially affected by much larger schemes such as the Royal Free Pears building and the Hall School development, that the checking by Camden’s appointed consultants, is too much of a tick box exercise.

This has lead to private groups funding expensive structural engineering checks themselves.

This cannot be the fair way for the planning process to be run.

The remit of Camden’s checking consultants should be reconsidered so as to remove this burden.

London, and especially this part, is already relatively dense and this trend will continue. It is imperative that the council react better to problems in both small and large building projects.

Campaign for gyratory removal

John Chamberlain, coordinator, Camden Cycling Campaign, writes:

In last week’s Ham & High Janine Sachs invites readers to write to Sadiq Khan and Andrew Dismore to ask them to stop work on the removal of the gyratory system and conversion of Adelaide Road to pedestrian, cycle and bus use until 100 Avenue Road is complete.

She refers to the scheme as ‘CS11’ implying it is is all about cycle facilities whereas it is mostly a scheme to improve the environment for pedestrians and visitors to the area.

Unfortunately the developer also refers to the scheme as ‘CS11’ in their construction management plan, no doubt for convenience.

It is clearly wrong that HGVs should use Winchester Road and Eton Avenue for access to and from the site, with the impact it will have on residents, market stallholders, pedestrians and cyclists but this is not a result of the plans to remove the gyratory but rather for the convenience of the developer.

The CMP shows how they can use Adelaide Road during and post-removal of the gyratory, with HGVs safely separated from pedestrians, bus users and cyclists, and this is what we should all be campaigning for.

Removal of the gyratory should not be delayed to suit the developer.

Our purpose is to protect residents

Linda Grove, from Belsize Park, writes:

To set the record straight. The community working group , has come together, not against our wonderful Royal Free Hospital or the Pears building, but because of the lack of consultation with the community by Willmott Dixon, “The Build champion ” within the charity and our local Conservative councillors.

Our sole purpose is to ensure that residents do not have to suffer more than necessary with noise, pollution ,health and safety and that we as residents are part of the consultation process.

We have made progress , I’m happy to report, in communication with our helpful officers at Camden Council and The Royal Free Build Champion and I would like to thank our group for its time and efforts.

Pledge to protect schools from cuts

Oliver Lewis, Maddy Raman and Anna Wright, Labour candidates, Highgate ward, write:

As governors of local schools we have seen first hand the serious challenges posed by government cuts to our schools.

That’s why we have joined parents campaigning for fair funding for schools in Camden and across the country.

And that’s why we are pleased Camden Labour is committed to giving our children the best start in life, is investing in early years education for disadvantaged children, and new buildings and classrooms for schools like Parliament Hill and William Ellis in Highgate ward. If elected on May 3, we pledge to continue to support our schools in Camden, to fight for continued local accountability and to campaign for proper government funding for the education of our children.