Ham&High letters: Local volunteers, water leaks, Osborne Grove Nursing Home, Royal Free, Childs Hill, Phil Rosenberg and basements

East Finchley Library protest on World Book Day. Picture: JON KING

East Finchley Library protest on World Book Day. Picture: JON KING - Credit: Archant

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

Barnet volunteers should be tapped into

Stephen Gardiner, Ridge Road, Crouch End, writes:

I was heartened to see a picture in last week’s Ham & High of deliveries by Thames Water of free bottled water to the needy residents of Hampstead, a well-known under-privileged suburb of London.

No such luck for several hundred people in Crouch End who lost their water supplies for six days as the big thaw began and a mains pipe burst in Granville Road.

This apparently happened on Wednesday (February 28) and was first reported by local residents the next day.

I spotted the water still surging down the road on Thursday night and telephoned Thames Water first thing on Friday morning. No, they did not have a report of it but would get onto the leak now that I had told them about it. I called again on Saturday morning because gallons or water were still gushing away into the drains and my taps remained dry. No, they knew nothing about it. When I pointed out that I was one of a growing number of people who had reported the problem they said they really would get onto it now, they gave me a job reference number and offered me text updates. That evening, I received a text to say the problem was fixed and my water would be back on. Oh no it wasn’t.

With weekend news bulletins full of advice from Thames Water for everyone in the South East to conserve water, usefully advising us not to wash our cars, I called again on Monday evening, the fifth day now that water had been flowing away and we locals had no water in our taps. No, that reference number they had given me yesterday didn’t exist. They still couldn’t find a report of this particular leak. Repair crews had been to the area but couldn’t find the problem. So I escalated my call to a Team Manager who after an hour of her own researches, came back apologising and saying they were now aware of the burst and she absolutely promised me it would be mended and services restored by the morning.

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That morning, no change, water still flooding down the drain, and with impeccably good timing the post contained Thames Water’s bill for the coming year. Charges had gone up 4.1 per cent over last year. Not bad I guess, but will Thames Water give us a 2pc rebate for the week we had without water as a result of the stunning ineptitude of their reporting processes, their despatch team and their repair crews.

But wait… there’s probably no money left for any such rebate after a couple of years ago whenThames Water awarded big pay increases to top executives. As Michael Kavanagh reported in the FT at the time: “Martin Baggs, the (then) chief executive, saw his total pay increased to £2.06m in the year to March, from £1.29m a year earlier (an extra 62pc), while (then) chief financial officer Stuart Siddall’s total pay rose from £785,000 to £1.41m (a miserly 56pc raise)”.

Don’t you just love monopolies.

Osborne Grove battle on

Mary Langan, Crouch End, full address supplied, writes

As Jon King reports families of residents of Osborne Grove Nursing Home in Tollington Park are determined to carry on the fight to keep open Haringey Council’s sole surviving care home.

With the support of local campaigners, they have launched a legal action to stop the process of evicting the remaining frail elderly residents, many with dementia and other disabilities.

Only last year, after Haringey had closed down all its remaining care homes and most of its day centres, the council pledged to maintain Osborne Grove as a flagship social care enterprise, providing nursing care and reablement programmes for senior citizens in the borough. Since then it has allowed the service to be run down, blocked new referrals, laid off skilled and experienced staff, and, inevitably, received a series of adverse inspection reports.

The outgoing council leadership under Clare Kober rushed through the decision to close Osborne Grove at the last meeting before business is suspended in the run up to the May elections. Having overseen the decline of standards at Osborne Grove, social care managers are now trying to decant the remaining residents without due care and consideration or even proper consultation. Plans to discharge one resident with dementia have been made by telephone.

Local elections on May 3 offer an opportunity to voters in Haringey to demand that candidates for council office give a commitment to maintaining – and improving - the vital services provided at Osborne Grove. Why should the elderly and infirm of Haringey be obliged to seek the support they need in the private sector or outside the borough?

Haringey should seek alternatives

Gordon Peters, chairman, Haringey Over-50s Forum, Alexandra Park Road, writes:

I was glad to see your prominent coverage of the immanent closure of Osborne Grove Nursing Home by Haringey Council and the legal action taken by relatives.

Osborne Grove is a very well designed building with wings optimally suited for residential care and also for related support and care activities such as rehabilitation and short term respite. It is the last such home run by a public authority in Haringey. It has a mostly very good track record but unfortunately in the last few years has been subject to Haringey Council’s approach to dealing with demands on social care and insufficient funds by a policy of ‘managed decline’. They don’t use these words, but that is exactly what has been allowed to happen, with management failure and embargo on new admissions, using a CQC inspection as excuse for closure when the latest CQC report saw significant improvement on the previous one which highlighted failures. And all the time the work on Options Appraisal for best future use has been withheld so that closure can go ahead on one of the most valuable sites and locations in the borough.

That wilful refusal to weigh up alternatives before taking such drastic action affecting the 13 remaining, but reducing number of, residents is bad enough. The consultation results were overwhelmingly for keeping it open, but ignored. The Scrutiny Panel recommendations to pause, ignored. Relatives, and some of the frailest people in the borough who live there, and in some cases whose lives have been extended by the care received in Osborne Grove, ignored. The high risk involved in having to move very frail older people not once but twice, through interim placements, ignored.That is a record of which Councillors Kober and Vanier should be downright ashamed, and if it were not for the courage of the daughters of residents taking out Pre-Action proceedings on Judicial Review would be a damning legacy of what social care in a ‘’Stronger Haringey’’ looks like. But with this action we look forward to Osborne Grove and its current residents remaining, and hope for better things with a renewed Council from May.

Appreciation for Royal Free

Sally Doganis, South Hill Park, Hampstead, writes:

I would like to put on the record my admiration and gratitude to The Royal Free Hospital. My experience, in contrast to the relentless press criticism that A&E seems to receive, was absolutely positive.

I would like to put on the record my admiration and gratitude to The Royal Free Hospital. My experience, in contrast to the relentless press criticism that A&E seems to receive, was absolutely positive.

I had a bad fall on the ice, and fractured my elbow, during that snowy week. I went to A&E, was x-rayed and put in plaster, all within two hours. The senior nurse said that a consultant would check my treatment and contact me the next day at 10am, which they did.

They made a further follow up appointment, which I have attended, where new x-rays were taken and the plaster was changed. Again all done very efficiently.

The diagnosis, the treatment and the advice have been impeccable. So this is a big thank you to the staff who were so supportive and helpful at a time when I was so fragile.

We are lucky to have such a well run hospital on our doorstep. ter

Labour will listen over Green Space

Lisa Pate, Anne Clarke and Nigel Young, Labour candidates for Childs Hill, write:

As long-term residents and community activists in Childs Hill, we were shocked to read the misinformation in the latest publication from the Conservatives in Childs Hill.

Under an article in the leaflet titled “Protecting Cricklewood Green Space”, we are told that Cllrs Ryde and Zinkin have “supported residents in making the Green a community asset”. It goes on to say “we will resist any Labour plans to put housing on the site”.

Firstly, the Green has been under threat of development from the Conservative council for years and it was only the local residents, led by Anne Clarke that fought back and finally managed to list the Green as an Asset of Community Value.

Secondly, as Cllrs Ryde and Zinkin know full well, Labour have never suggested any plans to develop this site. It is one of the few green spaces in Cricklewood and is a valuable community space where events such as the Cricklewood Festival are held each year.

A Labour council in May would mark a complete change in Barnet council and people would finally be listened to and represented rather than being misled and ignored.

Rosenberg makes matters worse

John Stratton, Thurlow Road, writes:

I am neither Jewish nor a member of any political party but reading all the claims and counter claims made in regard to Cllr Phil Rosenberg’s very public insults to members of his own party - “twisted individuals” “political poseurs” etc, etc, it seems to me that he has made matters far worse by his outburst.

Reading the reports and letters it is quite clear that the motion he was so exercised about was quite straightforward – an appeal to withdraw an award that according to members of the Del Singh Award founder’s own family would have conflicted with his views. Why should there be such a public storm over legitimate views of Mr Del Singh’s family ‘s wishes? They should surely be respected as being the ones closest to the founder. Mr Rosenberg’s outburst adding all the baggage about anti-semitism, racism or prejudice, especially when related to what was supposed to be a private meeting shows he has no concern for the public view of his own party, nor the founder’s family, and simply stirs the pot even more, damaging the party’s image.

Basement rules not working

Anthony Kay, Crossfield Road, Hampstead, Hall School Opposition Group writes:

Camden Council, over the next few weeks, as part of its revision of its planning policies and guidelines, has the opportunity to demonstrate that it is serious in helping residents in their opposition to basement applications; by adopting the proposal of Camden’s Residents Association Action Committee (group of over 30 residents associations and groups formed over concerns with basement developments) that construction and engineering issues should be resolved prior to determination, unlike at present when far too often permission is granted subject to these items being left to be dealt with in a basement construction plan and/or in an agreement with the applicant under section 106 of the Planning Acts.

In practise it is extremely difficult then for local residents to have any say or control to ensure these issues are dealt with properly.

The existing guidelines might sound sufficient that “basement development will only be permitted once it has been demonstrated that the proposal would not cause harm to neighbouring properties”; but time and time again these fine words have been rendered meaningless by the councillors and planners when faced with well funded and connected applicants, ignoring the engineers’ reports .

In January neighbours of the Hall School, the exclusive prep school, in Crossfield Road, Belsize Park were the latest to suffer from this; when the Planning Committee approved its application for a £20 million two to three year redevelopment project involving the demolition and rebuilding of its site with a new double basement; despite mass opposition.

Apart from the school, all of Crossfield Road is wholly residential, but the councillors were prepared to accept the Planning Officer’s comments that the policy ban on double basements was aimed at domestic developments, so an exception could be made for the school. Despite these reservations the Planning Committee was still prepared to accept the Planning Officer’s recommendation that although these issues could not be settled in advance of the planning permission being granted they could be resolved through a basement construction plan secured through the section 106 agreement.

The Planning Committee also chose to disregard the written submission for the Hall School Opposition Group with regard to the procedural irregularities with their expert’s reports having been ignored in Camden’s consultants reports, and being given much less scope to make comments in comparison with the attention given to the applicants; and the request for an adjournment to ensure that their reports could be fully considered.