Ham&High letters: George Floyd, place names, business grants, BID and a goodbye

A lion rests in an enclosure at ZSL London Zoo, now reopened to the public. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA

A lion rests in an enclosure at ZSL London Zoo, now reopened to the public. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA - Credit: PA

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

A global movement has been ignited

Sara Callaway, Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike, Kentish Town, full address supplied, writes:

The harrowing images of George Floyd’s torture and death by police kneeling on his neck have been a wake-up call, igniting a global movement.

The UK government is being called out – from its role in slavery, complicity with Israel and the US, and selling riot shields, tear gas and rubber bullets to US police forces. Minneapolis plans to disband the current police force for a transformative system. Calls to defund and de-militarise US police are now widespread.

Racism and police violence are part of the pandemic in the UK, too. As well as 1,741 deaths in police custody, at least 500 people of colour, police also turn up with social workers to take children from their mothers. Many are children of colour, their lives ruined from being snatched from the one who cares for and protects them. Our immune systems are under constant attack by this violence, plus bad housing that no one should live in, low wages, the hostile environment, and other daily racism. It’s no mystery why BAME people, often key workers, are four times more likely to die of Covid.

Women and men in our network feel compelled, despite the lock down, to join local protests – crowds of mostly young, multi-racial groups. White people have come to support people of colour but also bring their own grievances. All of us are angry and determined after years of austerity, with authorities careless of our lives, and more worried about the stock market than the human cost. It seems all of us are expendable to this government, young and elderly, especially if we are people of colour.

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Mothers and other carers are on the front line of this crisis doing unrecognised, unwaged work of coping with discrimination, defending families and friends, and resisting every institutional violence. Women of colour, immigrant women and Irish women do much of this justice work.

Police are paid to maintain the status quo, crush protest, and crack down on people of colour and anyone who gets out of our boxes. But a re-energised movement aims for those at the bottom to eliminate the bottom, so all of us move up together.

Naming review

Cllr Liz Morris, Highgate ward and leader of Haringay Liberal Democrats, writes:

We welcome Haringey Council’s decision to review controversial street and place names within the Borough. It is right to consider the messages these send about the acceptability of racism, colonialism and other noxious ideologies.

To ensure the review has credibility it should be conducted on a cross-party basis and engage the full range of voices in the borough. It should also draw on the expertise of historians to contextualise these names and why they were chosen.

Pleased to read

Christine L Heath, Crouch End, full address supplied, writes:

I was pleased to read the Editors View and in fact the majority of the paper dated June 11.

It was much more in tune with the major events that were happening in the USA but also here.

The recent death of George Floyd and others, brought to the surface the frustration and anger of many people - Black, ethnic minority and White people - that there is still much overt and institutional racism and discrimination in all walks of life in both the USA and UK.

Over 50 years ago the first Race Relations Acts were passed, initially as a reaction to so many Asian people arriving from Kenya and Uganda from where they had been expelled, as well as before them, people from the West Indies.

The 1976 Race Relations Act was rather more positive making it “unlawful for an employer to discriminate on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, and ethnic and national origin, in the provision of goods and services, education and public functions”.

The Community Relations Council was also established and I would argue that it was left primarily to that body to campaign for the realisation of what was enshrined in the 1976 Race Relations Act. I was involved in a voluntary capacity in the Enfield Community Relations Council. The 1981 Census had shown that there were increasing numbers of people from Black and ethnic minority communities living in even outer boroughs such as Enfield, but service providers such as the local authority and health authority showed scant recognition of the particular needs of those communities. Many were the arguments with such bodies after pieces of research! Fortunately the Greater London Council provided grants to the voluntary sector to set up such things as luncheon clubs for the growing elderly West Indian population, a group for Indian women etc

The Equality Act of 2010 goes further in recognising the discrimination that so many other people experience through disability, sexual orientation etc, but clearly legislation is not enough. So many people experience racist remarks, discrimination in employment, lack of promotion and inadequate services. The government needs to take much more of a lead, to listen to ordinary people whose live are affected, and to require much more accountability from employers and services providers.

History needs to be rewritten and taught, so that there is understanding of how the UK has developed, both positive and negative, and the contribution of thousands of men and women from abroad to this country both in war and peacetime.

I trust that there is equality in all aspects of Ham&High, particularly in respect to staffing and articles representing the diversity of the population? It is good to read submissions from members of parliament and council leaders, such Joseph Ejiofor, and articles by survivors of the Holocaust are essential to our understanding of the horrors they experienced, but there are also ordinary people from all communities with a story to tell.

Business grants

Cllr Oliver Cooper, leader, Camden Conservatives, writes:

I was shocked to hear last Monday that Camden Council had lost track of grants it had left to give to businesses in the borough to help them through coronavirus. These grants are funded by the government, but administered by councils – and councils’ performances vary dramatically.

Two months after the government gave the money to Camden to distribute, 980 businesses in the borough have still not received it.

Camden’s cabinet member has been fooled into thinking that because a lot of money has been distributed, that means almost all the grants have been distributed. This is a basic error. The larger £25,000 grants for retail and hospitality were distributed quickly in all councils – and as Camden has many retail and hospitality businesses, this flattered Camden’s stats.

However, the £10,000 grants that most small businesses qualify for has required more work. And it seems Camden quickly gave up on getting those businesses this lifeline that the government had provided.

As a result, official statistics show that over a fifth of Camden businesses – 22 per cent – have still not received their grants. This means more businesses are losing out in Camden than 95pc of councils in England and all but one of London’s 32 other councils.

Sadly, Camden’s Labour cabinet member didn’t realise this, and was absolutely insistent that just 8pc of grants had not been distributed. That is, sadly, not true – over a third of the £10,000 grants have not been distributed.

This ignorance means that Camden is not making the desperately-needed changes to the scheme – which would benefit 1,000 local small businesses to the tune of £10,000 each.

Seven councils have distributed the government support to every single business that qualifies – four of those are London councils, including neighbouring Westminster. It is not difficult for Camden to follow suit, and its obstinate refusal to do so puts hundreds of local businesses and jobs at risk.

Step up, the BID

John Stratton, Thurlow Road, Belsize Park, writes:

It is somewhat ironic that two whole pages were taken in the Ham&High last week to assure us all that Hampstead is now open for business from June 15 and urging everyone to support traders when the two major features of Hampstead remain securely closed. The Post Office - the social heart of the village - “due to unforeseen circumstances”, and the Underground station, located right in the centre, thus denying any potential visitors or tourists access, the lifeblood of the village at weekends. The 46 and 268 bus routes do not give direct access from further south, and in any case TfL are discouraging their use by limiting loadings to a maximum of 10 passengers on each bus.

It is about time that the hated BID did something really useful and leant on the Post Office and TfL authorities hard - if necessary with the support of Camden - to get both essential services open again. I cannot believe that - after all this time - the virus has taken out all the staff from both locations and there are no relief backups available.

The Post Office has a perfectly adequate ticketing system ideal for social distancing and there is no difference between Hampstead and Belsize Park stations now modern lifts are installed at both. If the government is really concerned about the effect of the lockdown on the economy they should be actively pressing for such facilities to be open again now that shops are permitted to do so. We have lost the Post Office branch at South End Green so the nearest one available – by courtesy of Budgens is at Belsize Park – which also has an open tube station.

Now is the chance for BID to prove it can justify the charges it makes to retailers and is actually of some use to the local community.

Above politics

Zena Brabazon, former deputy leader, Haringey Council, writes:

I very much enjoyed my time as cabinet member for children and young people. I am proud of the service and the huge improvements that have been achieved, particularly in the field of safeguarding, children’s social care and relationships with our schools. Our responses to all the criticisms in the November 2018 Ofsted inspection report have been acknowledged to be good, and we were praised by Ofsted in their 2019 focus visit. There will never be a time when we do not live in the sad shadow of our past failings but the service has a promising future and is stable and well led, against the odds. We have attracted good staff and rooted out some difficult problems.

Cllr Ejiofor has made comments in the press which do need to be challenged. However children’s services must be above politics. The portfolio is complex and our duties to children and families will always be more important than any political career. I will always put the needs of children first. Families in difficulty are entitled to confidentiality and privacy. These requirements cannot be outweighed by political considerations. Demands for information cannot always be met.

I am immensely sorry to be leaving at a time when relationships were building. Governors, headteachers, school staff and parents are working together to meet the challenges of the pandemic. The local authority is improving its offer to schools and using resources to support schools as hubs in the community. Officers are collegiate and professional. Fellow councillors have been constructively engaged. I have made great friendships and will miss colleagues.

I wish the service well.