Ham&High letters: Honours system, air pollution plan, heath service, settled status rule, Belsize Park homeless, Corbyn and bin service

'Mollycoddled from birth' Queen Elizabeth II with the Prince of Wales during the British Legion Fest

'Mollycoddled from birth' Queen Elizabeth II with the Prince of Wales during the British Legion Festival of Remembrance in November. Picture: CHRIS JACKSON/PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

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

Honours system shows failure to tackle social and political injustices

Cyril Meadows, Glasslyn Road, Crouch End, writes:

At a time when there is a severe national housing crisis, millions homeless and dependent on food banks and Universal Credit and local authorities’ budgets under unprecedented pressure, we have once again had to put up with the media prattling about the baubles and meaningless “titles” (eg Companion of the British Empire, Knight in The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle) handed out to hundreds of pitifully grateful recipients by a 92-year-old woman who was mollycoddled from birth and has spent her adult life being waited on hand and foot while enjoying an incomparably opulent lifestyle that has given her the best of everything on the face of the earth: none other than Queen Elizabeth II.

The Queen and her family are also the beneficiaries of the most generous public housing assistance scheme in the country, with four palatial residences at their disposal, each comprising 100-plus rooms and featuring a large retinue of servants, 24-hour bodyguards and a fleet of luxury limousines.

Why on earth should the likes of Twiggy, Michael Palin and Pink Floyd be awarded any kind of “honour”? They have enjoyed more recognition and accumulated more worldly goods than most of the rest of the population could ever dream of.

Why on earth should a mediocre woman with few if any achievements to her name and who owes her “majestic” position merely to an accident of birth be allowed to graciously bestow “marks of distinction” upon her “inferior subjects”? Surely some mistake.

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While the honours system has excited some adverse comment in the media over the last decade or so and a number of famous people have refused or returned honours, no radical reform along the lines suggested to the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee by Republic in 2004 has ever been attempted.

And so the now largely uncontested honours system, with its precise hierarchy of awards and its whiff of imperial nostalgia, continues to reflect the backward-looking mindset of a country that lacks the dynamism to undertake the constitutional, political and social reform so urgently needed if it is to come to terms with the 21st century and avoid becoming a mere bit player on a world stage dominated by three main protagonists: China, the EU, and the USA.

Have your say on air pollution plan

Cllr Adam Harrison, cabinet member for improving Camden’s environment, writes:

Last month, in a ham-fisted town-hall manoeuvre, local Conservative councillors demanded that Camden’s new air pollution plan be adopted by the council – incorporating solely their own amendments.

The Tories’ signed statement disregarded the need to consult the people of Camden, failing to recognise that cleaning up our dirty air needs the whole community behind it.

Fortunately, after the contrived delay, the draft plan went out to consultation this week – and only once we have collected in the views of residents, community groups, and businesses will the new action plan be agreed.

To pave the way to this point, last year we set up the Camden Clean Air Partnership, under UCL citizen science professor Muki Haklay and with the involvement of a wide range of groups and Camden citizens.

While transport remains an important source of air pollution, the draft plan the partnership helped devise contains an enhanced focus on pollution from construction and from buildings themselves.

Ideas include deploying the planning regime to enforce against polluting construction machinery like generators and bulldozers. We also need to ensure as many buildings as possible are retrofitted to reduce harmful emissions.

I hope as many people as possible have their say – you can find the full set of proposals at consultations.wearecamden.org

What I’ve learnt about the health service and private patients

D Shepherd, Vivian Avenue, Hendon, writes:

It was welcome to read Sir David Sloman’s willingness for the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust to be made publicly accountable.

I recollect that when the Royal Free became an NHS trust, 30,000 people were consulted. When it became a foundation trust, 3,000; and when I last attended an AGM, some 600 people were present – albeit they may have been representatives.

In the era of the National Blood Authority NHS trust, I was informed that 3 per cent of the NHS blood bank was allocated free to “private” hospitals’ out-patients.

Last year, via an FOI request, I learnt from the Royal Free that “private” patients are charged so as not to exploit the public’s generosity.

At their respective AGMs, I noted that 2.52pc of the Royal Free’s income derived from “private” work whilst, in the case of University College London Hospitals (UCLH) – the second highest “private” clientele and income – the percentage was 2.36.

According to the DHE and Laing & Buisson surveys into the King’s Fund Medical Library, “private” patients accounted for 16.6pc of health expenditure; according to the Statesman Yearbook, approximately 13pc of patients are “private” (in Barnet, one third of the patients were “private” according to an NHS officer).

Given the recent report on the smoking habits of those on low or modest incomes, I would have thought that “private” patients were less in need of emergency operations than NHS ones. According to “How should the NHS be funded?” by Helen McKenna, Phoebe Dunn, Emily Northern and Tom Buckley (March 23, 2017), 10.6pc are “privately” insured.

According to Jon Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health spokesman, 7.7pc to 8pc are “private” with another 5pc in local authority, charity and not-for-profit categories.

At the last North Central London Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (NCL STP) joint health and safety overview committee in Barnet Town Hall, Simon Goodwin, of NHS Estates, declined to reveal the value of NHS asset disposals (UCLH’s accounts included many one-off disposals), or the commissions earned (going back over several past governments) or the identity identities of his fellow/sister directors.

It’s also worth noting the CV of Bernadette Conroy, co-opted lay member of Barnet CCG, apparently representing the public, and now of NCL STP – an expert in the development of NHS estate and the manager of 10,000 east London homes and governor of an east London school.

I learnt from the Guardian that STPs range in size from 300,000 to 2,800,000 residents. According to the Royal College of Surgeons (1996) to be clinically viable a general hospital had to serve a population of at least 500,000. London’s five STPs average about 1.5m each.

I also recollect that in the case of the development of Edgware General car park, the deeds “disappeared” for a while and when they reappeared a rumoured restricted covenant, barring development, had been removed (possibly via an application to the Lands Tribunal).

The area now contains blocks of private flats.

Government’s settled status rule is disgraceful

Cllr Jonathan Simpson (Lab), cabinet member for promoting culture & community services, King’s Cross ward, writes:

It is disgraceful that government’s EU settlement scheme now means EU residents will have to pay £65 to apply for settled status to continue living in the country after December 31, 2020.

There are 24,000 residents in Camden who were born in EU countries, as well as 36,000 EU citizens who work in our borough who will now have to pay a staggering total of £3.9m just to request to continue to live and work where they are already legally allowed.

These individuals shape our communities and play a vital role within our economy and public services.

It is therefore outrageous that those valued citizens who contribute so heavily both economically and culturally are going to be unfairly penalised with both this additional expense and a perceived penalty for those who have chosen to build their lives here.

We are determined to ensure that Camden, its residents and businesses receive the best possible deal from Brexit.

If Camden, and the rest of the UK, are to leave the EU then we at least want to remain open to the many thousands of people who come from the continent to enrich our lives.

We are directly lobbying the government, as well as working with our public sector and business partners, in order to ensure Camden’s voice is heard, and the rights of our residents are protected.

Our European citizens can get useful information on their democratic rights and access to speedy document checks for citizenship, along with other guidance about Brexit online at: camden.gov.uk/Europe

I don’t believe ‘homeless’ people in Belsize Park are what they seem

A Hampstead resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

I’m sure that not everyone knows that sadly the six people who often stand outside Pizza Hut, Budgens, Hampstead Path, outside the hospital by A&E and outside Starbucks, are organised by “masters” outside Warren Street station and are not as they appear to be which is homeless and poor.

I have seen the “masters” gathering their team and dishing out the notices which all say the same “I’m homeless and hungry” in the same handwriting.

It is sad times and, yes, we do have homeless people on our streets.

Our hearts reach out to them and we try to do our bit but before you give your money to these six in Belsize Park remember they are not what they seem.

The more we give the more gangs will frequent our streets.

I mean them no harm but quite frankly they are taking the mickey out of us!

Haringey Council shows Corbyn’s government would be chaos

Cllr Liz Morris, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Haringey Council, writes in response to the news that Cllrs Zena Brabazon and Peray Ahmet have been removed from the cabinet of Haringey Council (Ham&High, January 3, page 5):

Once again a divided Labour is causing chaos at Haringey


There is already a £26million black hole in the council’s budget, Ofsted found that childrens’ services still “require improvement” and more than 9,000 people in the borough are homeless.

Residents deserve an administration focused on dealing with these issues rather than on internal Labour squabbles.

In just eight months, Labour has sacked a quarter of its cabinet and deputy cabinet members – one of them because he was convicted of drug offences.

That followed the brutal purge of non-Momentum councillors last year.

This turmoil in the first “Corbyn council” is a warning about the chaos we could expect from a Corbyn government.

Bins should be standardised to solve fly-tipping

John Sutman, Enfield, full address supplied, writes:

Now the environment minister has announced new plans for recycling all household waste.

It remains my view London needs larger NHS and council areas.

The government needs to set up five new larger council and NHS areas in London – north, south, west, east and central – all providing council and NHS services to the residents of London.

Each area needs to have standard waste bin services – a black bin for household waste, a blue bin for clean, loose recycling, a green bin for garden waste and the new brown bin for food waste.

This will stop fly-tipping.