Ham&High letters: Remember the Holocaust, Ravenscroft Medical Practice, Hampstead High Street plan, parking, PM’s subterfuge

Mike Freer MP at the opening of travelling exhibition - Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center

Mike Freer MP at the opening of travelling exhibition - Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center - Credit: MP Mike Freer's office

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

Educate youth on Holocaust horrors

Mike Freer, MP for Finchley & Golders Green, writes:

I am pleased to sponsor the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC) travelling exhibition taking place in the Upper Waiting Hall in the Houses of Parliament this week.

The exhibition, which coincides with International Holocaust Day (January 27), commemorates the massacre of Babi Yar in Kiev in 1941.

The opening of the exhibition was supported by many distinguished guests including ambassadors for Ukraine and Israel, together with the Rt Hon Lord Pickles, special envoy for post-Holocaust issues.

These atrocities are close to my heart, as I fear that had I been alive during this time, my life would not have been spared. With fewer and fewer survivors left alive to give their testimony, it is more important than ever to educate the next generation about the horrors of the Holocaust.

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Holocaust survivors raise concerns about proposed GP move

A group of elderly patients of Ravenscroft Medical Practice, full contact details supplied, write an open letter to the practice mananger:

We are writing as a group of elderly patients registered with the Ravenscroft Medical Practice in Golders Green Road.

We all live in Selig Court, which is home to a group of vulnerable and frail survivors of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, most of whom are aged in their late 80s and 90s.

We have heard there are plans to possibly relocate our nearby GP practice at Ravenscourt Medical Practice to Finchley Memorial Hospital which is three to four miles away in North Finchley. Many of us from Selig Court who are patients of the Ravenscroft Medical Practice are very satisfied with the care and many services it provides under one roof and the fact it is very easily accessible to Selig Court.

We have not been consulted or received any direct mail from the GP surgery, but we are extremely concerned because we use these resources frequently, and we worry about the detrimental impact that such a possible move could have on the lives of many of our elderly patients.

Surely such a move would not be in keeping with Barnet’s intended “Care Closer to Home” policy, and Regulation 15 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 which says that: “All premises must be [...] appropriately located for the purposes for which they are being used.”

Travel to the hospital by public transport at present requires three buses as well as considerable distances of walking on each journey.

What arrangements would be made to support the many elderly patients who would be quite unable to undertake these journeys to the far distant Finchley Memorial Hospital because of their mobility needs, the need for frequent or urgent visits, and/or the considerable costs involved in hiring taxis and paying for carers as escorts?

How would end-of-life care be facilitated from such a large distance?

We are also concerned that there may be large numbers of patients of the Ravenscroft Medical Practice who also live in our local community, including those in local Nursing or Care Homes, who might equally be adversely affected by a possible relocation of our local practice.

High street plan not good enough

Cllr Stephen Stark (Tory), Hampstead Town ward, writes:

The consultation for Camden Council’s proposed changes to Hampstead High Street has just closed (but if you are quick Camden may still accept comments).

Changes involve the extension of a bit of pavement, painting of some white lines, and a new diagonal crossing by Hampstead Tube station and the suspension of some parking spaces in front of Greenhill. And, oh yes, the removal of a zebra crossing in Hampstead High Street by Oriel Place in favour of a traffic light crossing. This is sheer lunacy. You can see what happens at the Heath Street pedestrian traffic light crossing where pedestrians wait and wait to cross, forming a double-line of pedestrians. Often vehicles then block the crossing so that when it is time to cross pedestrians have to zigzag and mothers with prams and the disabled are stuck. Others are so bored of waiting and take their life in their hands to cross on a red light. Didn’t Camden’s traffic officer see that? Maintaining the zebra crossing in Hampstead High Street is of fundamental importance to ensure pedestrians are given precedence over vehicles when crossing the road.

Other changes are supposedly to help the buses to run more smoothly and faster through Hampstead but, if this works, it will attract more vehicles, which will slow down traffic and add more pollution. Hampstead does not want more traffic. It wants less traffic and better air quality and more walking and cycling. This scheme does not address this.

As a chartered civil engineer, I pointed out some time ago that the wall in front of Greenhill was unsafe. Camden Council acknowledged this and set about doing piecemeal repairs. As I suspected, the whole wall needs rebuilding, but Camden Council – wanting to save money – is doing short lengths which are now increasing as it discovers more problems. I had met Camden officers, TfL and the Heath and Hampstead Society to discuss a bold new scheme to remodel the area and improve the landscape and amenity, but short sighted Camden Council decided it would be too expensive. If it had adopted my scheme, the money could have been used for the better outcome.

Even now, if the work had been co-ordinated with TfL, savings could have been effected and perhaps the partial suspension of parking could have been avoided.

As part of the scheme, Camden Council is proposing to suspend parking on Hampstead High Street to the front of Greenhill. But this does nothing to address the rat run on the upper road in front of Greenhill.

I have previously raised my concern about the narrow footpath adjacent to the upper road which pedestrians including many children walk along at risk of being hit by vehicles. I have also raised my concerns with the crossing point at Prince Arthur Road. Camden Council has taken no action.

Camden Council is looking at other road traffic schemes for Hampstead including the junction at East Heath Road/Heath Street and New End but these proposals have not been evaluated holistically for knock-on effect. There are also recognised problems with speeding vehicles using side roads as rat runs and this has not been considered.

A holistic scheme is required and, whilst I am not a fan of long term plans, some vision of the future is needed.

At present this scheme is a half-baked design. What we want is fewer vehicles, HGVs and co-ordinated deliveries – and, when deliveries are made in Hampstead, smaller vehicles should be used.

The introduction of vehicle weight and width restrictions in Hampstead roads needs to be considered.

The electric 46 bus is welcome but what about the 268 and 603? When are they going electric? What about electric charging points? Also reversing the extended times between buses. We want more pedestrians, cycling and public transport use.

We want to see an improvement but without considering all these factors it is hard to see how air quality and public amenity space can be improved.

Unfortunately this scheme fails to address any of this.

Met desperate for more funding

Andrew Dismore, Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, writes:

I think Cllr Oliver Cooper is once again trying to pull the wool over your readers’ eyes.

He suggests that as the average Londoner pays more tax centrally, it would cost Londoners more to fund the police from central government than it would by funding through local taxation.

As a tax economist, Cllr Cooper knows full well that the only alternative to central government funding is the council tax – one of the most regressive taxes there is, with less well off Londoners paying disproportionately far more of their income than wealthy Londoners with homes in the top council tax bands – bands which are set so low and which have not been reformed or revalued since council tax was introduced as a quick fix for the discredited Conservatives’ poll tax 30 years ago.

We should surely all be concerned that the government and Cllr Cooper wish to continue to shift the burden of police funding from government grant to council tax – which hits the poorest the hardest.

London pays far more taxes to central government than elsewhere. Data from the Office for National Statistics have shown that only three regions of the UK – London, the south-east, and the east of England – ran a budget surplus in the 2015-16 financial year (the latest year for which figures are available) – something Brexiteers in other regions should bear in mind when considering the subsidy they get from London, when Brexit is going to cause such harm to our capital’s economy.

A study by think tank the Centre for Cities found London generated almost as much tax as the next 37 largest cities combined and London’s share of “economy taxes” underpinning the Treasury’s finances is 30 per cent.

What this amounts to is that, on average, a Londoner pays £3,070 more in tax revenues to government than they receive in public spending (source: ONS).

70pc of the Met’s funding is controlled by the government and ministers have repeatedly refused to reverse the cuts they have forced the Met to make, equivalent to 40pc of its original budget. As a result, the Metropolitan Police has already had to make savings of £850m and this trend is set to continue. The reality is the Met still has to make further cuts of £263m by 2022-23. If these required savings were to be delivered through officer reductions, this would reduce the number of police officers to 28,215 – a 15-year low. Even the home secretary has spoken out about the need for more government funding in order to tackle violent crime, but ministers have failed to back that up. Presumably, therefore, Cllr Cooper disagrees with his own Conservative Party’s home secretary.

Bearing in mind how much London pays in, as opposed to how much we receive from government for our public services, it is only right and fair that government should not expect Londoners to pay even more through the council tax as Cllr Cooper suggests, beyond what the mayor is already having to raise – an increase next year of 9pc for the police and fire brigade. We should get more back from what we pay to the government, to help fund the Met and tackle the serious problems we face, like violent knife crime.

Parking should be for those in need

Jeffrey Salmon, Highgate Village, writes:

I write in my capacity as both a resident and a business owner in Highgate Village.

I was one of nearly half of those who did respond to the Camden questionnaire relating to timing preferences, specifically in the Pond Square locality. I was very much torn between leaving the timings as they are (10am to midday) or to opt for 8.30am to 6.30pm.

We care deeply about the High Street which we know is having more than a torrid time at present and the effect that the longer parking restriction hours, if chosen, might have on the shopkeepers as well as the patients that visit our clinic. (Yes, we have limited car parking space for the clinicians, but nowhere for the patients to park other than off-street parking.)

However, in this particular case my decision was based, if you like, on selfishness and the good of my own family and perhaps other families in a similar dilemma in the village.

As I stated at the meeting on Monday in the village (p2), to find a parking space is difficult enough in the village at any time, but between 1.30pm and 5.30pm it is nigh on impossible. As I confirmed at the meeting, we actually have to take a taxi to and from the supermarket because there is, more often than not, nowhere to park on our return and sometimes we had to end up parking 200 to 300 metres away from our home.

However, I also made clear at the meeting that a major cause for the lack of parking in and around Pond Square are, among others, many of the employees of shops with multiple staff (to be clearer, those with four staff or more) who we see every day parking their cars at 10.30am and paying for one-and-a-half hours until the current parking restriction at 12 midday ends, and then leaving their car for the whole day.

Of course, this doesn’t only take up space that we, as residents of the village, desperately need, but it also must not be forgotten that this is a double-edged sword and it also makes it very difficult for their own customers to park!

In short, certainly I would change my preference to either leaving the CPZ as it is (or eliminating it totally!) if those employees parked maybe a few hundred yards away and thus had a short, healthy walk to work and left many more spaces for those who really need them.

PM’s subterfuge is nothing new

D Shepherd, Vivian Avenue, Hendon, writes:

Should Jessica Learmond-Criqui read the issue this week of your sister paper, the Islington Gazette, she will learn of the lengths taken by the Labour Party, via its members, to devise a policy which alone offers some strategic thinking in the wake of the Tory hash.

I note that it appears a smaller sample is required to assess 540,000 party members’ willingness to accept a “People’s Vote” than the one used to gauge the Tory Party’s 140,000 members’ opinion on the same issue. I also observe that, in contrast to Mrs May’s election by Tory MPs, Corbyn has been twice elected by the members of the largest party in Europe.

I further noted that neither of the two organisations tasked by Cameron to identify the “leaders” of the two broad coalitions, the Electoral Commission and the certification officer, noticed that elements of both sides were lying and/or breaking funding rules – although the Electoral Reform Society did so. Presumably, the leaders so identified benefited from the £7m budget Cameron established for each broad coalition.

Further, whereas trade unions are elective and representative, employers’ organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry, Institute of Directors (IoD) and British Chamber of Commerce are not. The 190,000 members of the CBI cannot vote for a national officer and, on the basis of a few hundred responses, the CBI claimed seven or eight out of 10 bosses were in favour of Remain, while the IoD’s 30,000 UK members estimate the (collective?) view of firms, and the BCC needs to sack its director, rather than permit him to campaign for Brexit.

The ASA was unable to scrutinise the Tory Party’s 1983/84 “Like your manifesto, Comrade” poster which was factually mendacious – because it considered the Tory Party a democratic party. Yet neither Mrs May nor Alec Douglas-Home was elected leader by the party members – and a local paper noted that, when Michael Ashcroft introduced US-style primaries into its selection of candidates in 2010 in the constituencies of Hendon and Hampstead and Kilburn, non-Tory Party members were permitted to stand as hopefuls.

Mrs May‘s subterfuge and prevarications are not an innovation in the Tory Party.