Ham&High letters: Royal Free - elective surgery, Capita, 100 Avenue Road, Labour meeting - all invited, Mitzvah Day, Brexit and winter payment

Royal Free patients needing elective surgery are to be sent to Chase Farm Hospital. Picture: KEN MEA

Royal Free patients needing elective surgery are to be sent to Chase Farm Hospital. Picture: KEN MEARS - Credit: Archant

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

Concern over surgery plan

John Lipetz, on behalf of North Central London NHS Watch, writes:

We in North Central London NHS Watch are concerned at the decision of the Royal Free to send patients for elective surgery to be treated at Chase Farm Hospital.

Journeys for patients, family and friends will be extremely difficult and lengthy, involving, from Camden, complex routes by three buses or similar bus and train journeys, and also involving some walking distances.

We are aware that travel to Chase Farm from other parts of north and central London is also difficult. This matter cannot be resolved even by introducing regular bus trips from the Royal Free. Certainly, Transport for London (TfL) could not provide an adequate solution. While the Royal Free may have produced a business case for taking this decision, it has not made out a community case, nor has it carried out any consultation.

We are also aware of the proposed reorganisation of orthopaedic services, involving the reduction of the number of sites at which these services are carried out. With discussions about the North Middlesex being absorbed into the RFH stable, there is a serious risk that the North Middlesex will not provide orthopaedic services.

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The same travel difficulties indicated above are caused by this proposal.

We should appreciate a detailed response to the concerns spelt out above. Patient satisfaction is a crucial factor.

Therefore, we hope the Royal Free can assure us that these plans will not be put into effect.

Council should kick out Capita following poor ‘outsourcing’

Janet Leifer, Barnet resident and member of Barnet Alliance for Public Services, full address supplied, writes:

Barnet Council has outsourced the delivery of its finance, call centre, IT, human resources, revenues and benefits, planning, highways, building control and pension administration to Capita.

Barnet Council is considering whether Capita should continue to deliver all these services, whether some should be taken back in-house or provided by another organisation or whether all these services should be taken back in-house.

Capita has struggled to provide adequate financial controls and monitor the council’s budget. The council is unsure whether the 2018/19 budget will be balanced and whether the overspend will be £2million or £9.5m. Both Capita and Barnet Council failed to notice a £2m fraud. Barnet children’s services have been found to be inadequate. The planning department is run jointly by Barnet Council and Capita and staff have two contracts, one with Barnet Council and one with Capita. Capita created a £2.87m hole in Barnet Council’s pension scheme. The provision of IT services has been flawed.

Eight local authorities are ending their contracts with Capita. Capita is in the news for its failure to administer cancer screening services. Is it time for Barnet Council to kick out Capita?

Communication is inadequate

Eugene Myerson, Annington Road, Muswell Hill, writes:

Your article “Barnet Capita row: John McDonnell slams ‘stark failures’ of outsourcing” (Ham&High, ) made me wonder whether either every single local government function has been outsourced by Barnet Council.

And does this include responding to letters and emails from residents, or else has a new policy been introduced by council leader Richard Cornelius to simply ignore all letters and emails addressed to him, his Tory councillors, and salaried officers employed by the council?

My experience in previous years has been that Cllr Cornelius used to answer my letters and emails; likewise Barnet officers also did. In recent months? Silence from both.

I wrote to Cllr Cornelius in July 2018 about poor maintenance in Cherry Tree Wood, East Finchley, and got no response.

I emailed him in early October suggesting (not for the first time) that the onerous hours (10am to 6.30pm Monday to Saturday) of the East Finchley Controlled Parking Zone south of the traffic lights at the junction of East End Road/High Road/Fortis Green should be changed to one hour a day, five days a week – just like the area north of that junction. To date he has neither acknowledged my email nor replied to it.

In mid-October I emailed an officer of Barnet Council about both the above subjects – an officer who in the past has been diligent about replying to my points. Now? Zilch!

Something has changed within this council. Is it all because of outsourcing to Capita? Who knows? I’d love to learn the answer. Perhaps if you publish this letter it may prompt a response from a spokesperson for the ruling party (Conservative).

Pledge support for judical review

Janine Sachs, chairman, Save Swiss Cottage, writes:

Last Thursday night, at a packed meeting in the Crowndale Centre, Camden’s planning committee voted for a second time on the construction management plan (CMP) for the controversial tower proposed for 100 Avenue Road.

With the committee unable to make a decision, the highly unpopular CMP was only passed when the chairman, Heather Johnson, who had already voted, cast a second, this time, casting vote.

The original CMP was turned down by councillors in July amid concerns about demolition and construction vehicles being routed through Winchester Road, the Eton Avenue pedestrian space and the open space.

The councillors were particularly concerned about the impact on local residents, particularly on Winchester Road, users of the open space and the Swiss Cottage Farmers’ Market. After the initial rejection of the plan in July, developers were asked to come back to the committee with clear reasons and traffic modelling from Transport for London (TfL) as to why the development could not entirely be built from the A41 (Avenue Road).

At Thursday night’s meeting, the developers and TfL still offered no facts about why the demolition and construction needed to be routed along local residential roads and the open space. Moreover, without any publicity, the developers introduced a totally new plan involving an up to 200 per cent increase in lorry movements along the most sensitive areas. This meant the plan councillors accepted on Thursday was far worse than the plan turned down in July.

The atmosphere of confusion in which the meeting unfolded was exacerbated by the fact that officers projected outdated diagrams and maps which referred back to the plan turned down in July.

Obviously the many local people opposing this plan will be very disappointed at the outcome.However, we hope to be able to continue the fight.

We are currently in discussion with lawyers and have been advised that we have grounds to judicially review Camden Council over Thursday night’s vote. Obviously, in order to proceed and stop this terrible plan once and for all, we need to raise funds as soon as possible to proceed a judicial review.

Email saveswisscottage@icloud.com to pledge support.

Capita has failed to deliver success

Martin Smith, Avondale Avenue, Finchley, writes:

How daft does the Conservative leader of Barnet Council think residents are?

He says that the Capita contract is “saving us millions” when his own council papers show us that halfway through the contract period we’ve already paid them double the agreed sum for the whole contract due to their overcharging.

And if the new test of the council services they run is now merely that they are no worse than they were before for twice the cost it’s hardly a ringing endorsement of Capita, is it?

But the real truth residents can see is that we’ve lost our food recycling, our streets remain unswept, our libraries are closed, our cemeteries are a disgrace, people report that there is effectively nothing left of adult social care, bus passes for the elderly and disabled have been cancelled... and on and on and on.

Residents are judging this contract with Capita on the terms you asked us to five years ago, Mr Cornelius. And it’s simply failed.

Like the councils of Southampton, Blackburn, Sheffield, Hounslow, Vale of White Horse, West Sussex, Birmingham and Salford, Barnet should kick out Capita in 2018.

Democracy for all in spotlight

Dorothea Hackman, Ruth Appleton, Nah Dove, Sam Louis Gisagara, Shezan Renny, Diane Pearson, Simon Pearson, Linda Sayle and Leyla Williams, write:

Next week the local Labour Party will hold one of the most important meetings in years, to democratise our party and allow all members to have a vote and a say at meetings.

At the moment more than 95 per cent are not fully able to take part in meetings of the constituency party, as once a year party branches choose only a few members to send to these meetings to vote on their behalf.

But these annual meetings of branches end up stopping our diverse membership of young, BAME, and newer members from getting involved in the party.

The system is broken and it’s high time that we changed it to reflect the diversity of our members and our political positions.

So we urge members of the Labour Party, in all our diversity, to come along to this special meeting to change this, so that we all get our voices heard and get involved with the local party in a meaningful way.

With the collapse of this destructive and shambolic Tory government looking ever-more imminent, it is vital that members of our local Labour Party are able to contribute properly to the incoming democratic socialist government that will transform this country for the many not the few, with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister.

The meeting will take place on Tuesday at St Pancras New Church in Euston Road – registration at 6.30pm.

Remember to bring your membership card or ID.

Residents mark Mitzvah Day

Cllr Jonathan Simpson, cabinet member for promoting culture and communities, Camden Council, writes:

On Sunday, Camden residents of all faiths gave their time, individually or through an organised event, to take part in Mitzvah Day.

A Mitzvah is a commandment in Jewish law that can also mean a good deed or an act of kindness. Therefore on Mitzvah Day, we give our time, not money, to make a difference in Camden and further afield.

We are very lucky that many of the borough’s residents have traditionally had a strong sense of community and willingly give their time for others, both through individual acts of volunteering, with neighbours and friends, and also through organised volunteering, much of which is supported by Volunteer Centre Camden, a valuable resource.

The centre provides information and support to people who want to volunteer, as well as promoting volunteering and access to these opportunities.

They also work with other organisations to help them develop their own volunteering opportunities.

You can find out more information on volunteering and current opportunities by visiting the centre’s website at volunteercentrecamden.org.uk.

Young people need a voice

Suha Abdul, Amelia Horgan, Eli Machover, Gabriel Mallows, Archie Woodrow and Aliya Yule, young Labour members, Holborn and St Pancras, write:

We, young Labour members in Holborn and St Pancras, call on all those in the local party to come along to the special meeting being held next Tuesday to vote to give all of us a voice at meetings.

Currently, with the delegate system, fewer than 5 per cent of members are allowed to vote in meetings, and young members are badly under-represented, which is holding us back from participating in the party. With all member meetings, which give each and every member a vote, we’ll be promoting greater diversity in our party, and making everyone feel included, not just a select few.

The policies put forward by Jeremy Corbyn at the last election, like scrapping university tuition fees, had massive support from young people whose futures are being destroyed by this Tory government.

All member meetings will make it easier for young members to get involved and have their say. If you live in Holborn and St Pancras and you’re a Labour member of any age, then please come along to St Pancras New Church at 6.30pm on Tuesday with your membership card or some ID to vote to give us all a voice!

Sir Keir can alter course of Brexit

Sarah O’Keefe, Phil Thornton, and Jonathan Livingstone, volunteers, Open Britain Hampstead, wrote:

The historic vote by a united council last week to call for a “people’s vote” referendum with remaining in Europe on the ballot paper (“Labour councillors back Lib Dem motion calling for second EU referendum”) has thrown the spotlight firmly onto Sir Keir Starmer, the local MP and front man for Labour on Brexit.

The shambolic events in Westminster have only heightened fears among both households and businesses in Camden that the UK could crash out of the European Union without a deal or with a deal that has unified everyone in their opposition.

Now is the time for Labour to get off the fence and call for a People’s Vote to allow the people to have the final say on the process that they started in June 2016.

This is why Open Britain Hampstead, a pro-EU campaign group in north London, has started a petition at change.org (bit.ly/2OOOKEd) calling on Sir Keir to back a people’s vote and to drive through a change in policy by the Labour Party.

Recent surveys show that 86pc of Labour Party members would support a final say on Brexit.

We have therefore asked people to sign a petition to urge Sir Keir to take steps to ensure a prosperous future path for his constituents and the people of the UK by:

• Tabling or supporting an amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill asking for a “people’s vote” with an option to remain in the EU on the ticket;

• Calling on the Labour Party to adopt as policy a motion to support the revoking or extension of Article 50 by the UK with the agreement of the other 27 member states;

• Accepting that the vast majority of Labour party members, Camden councillors, voters in Holborn and St Pancras and people of the UK would prefer to remain inside the EU rather than be bullied into a detrimental deal on Brexit, which is why there is huge support for a people’s vote.

We have done this to help Sir Keir and to give him evidence in shadow cabinet discussions.

Donate winter payment to needy

Nikki Morris, chief executive officer, Age UK Camden, writes:

I am the new CEO of Age UK Camden and would like to let you know about our forthcoming fundraising campaign, the first in my new role, called WarmHeartCamden.

In November and December each year, those born on or before May 5, 1953, receive £100 to £300 as a winter fuel payment.

The universal system is a good one as pensioner poverty is sadly still a reality in the UK, and a means-tested system can deter people in need from applying. With the high cost of utility bills, the certainty of a payment of £300 for many pensioners means not having to make the decision between “heating and eating”.

However, there are some wealthier older people who feel these payments can be put to better use, particularly in this era of austerity. At Age UK Camden we provide an advice service that can help those on low incomes know what they are entitled to. The number to call is 020 7837 3777.

We also run two resource centres, Henderson Court in Hampstead and Great Croft in King’s Cross, where people can sit in the warm with their friends, enjoy a hot three-course lunch and join in activities.

The donation of someone’s unneeded winter fuel allowance would go a long way towards funding these services.

To see others who have already donated their payments, visit ageuk.org.uk/camden. You may spot Alan Bennett among them!

Readers can donate via a cheque sent to us at Age UK Camden, Tavis House, 1-6 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9NA, by phone on 020 7239 0400, or by texting AUCA18 and the amount they wish to give to 70070.

Or they can go to virginmoneygiving.com, select “make a donation” and then choose us.