Ham&High letters: Social distancing, traffic, Chalcots, NHS, children, social housing and Brexit

Adele Wright's 95-year-old Horace, the tortoise and two-year-old English setter Rupert will not soci

Adele Wright's 95-year-old Horace, the tortoise and two-year-old English setter Rupert will not social distance. - Credit: Adele Wright

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

What distance?

Adele Wright, Greenfield Gardens, Cricklewood, writes:

New rules for social distancing? Someone should tell my 95-year-old Horace the tortoise and my two-year-old English setter Rupert. They have become great friends during lockdown.

A chance to deal with the traffic

Linda Grove, Belsize Lane, Belsize Park, writes:

One of the positive things, I think we will all agree, during the lockdown is the lack of traffic going through NW3. Everyone can appreciate life without traffic clogging up our streets which is mostly caused by the private school run.

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Here’s an opportunity for our local elected councillors to push Camden to make pavements wider to encourage, keep pedestrians safe and insist that the private schools organise buses that bring their children to school. We all feel so much calmer and happier without the huge four wheel driver delivering one child to school.

Caroline Russell, Green Party London Assembly member, writes:

The Ultra Low Emission Zone and Congestion Charge were suspended at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in London when there was concern about key workers’ ability to get to work safely.

However, with the push from government to increase activity, especially construction and manufacturing businesses, I am concerned that London will face polluted gridlock again. The mayor must act now to reinstate the traffic and pollution-controlling ULEZ and CC to protect public health. Bringing these back would reinforce the urgent need to shift travel from motor traffic and public transport to walking and cycling along with the newly widened pavements and temporary bike lanes. Walking and cycling are the only ways to travel that support safe social distancing and make our city fit for the future.


Cllr Steve Adams, Belsize ward, writes:

After over a year of waiting the Chalcots contract with Wates originally agreed at £86.5m, but which was climbing far higher than that, has collapsed and been proven unfit for purpose. The decision not to continue with it is inevitable but nobody should accept the gargantuan waste of millions of pounds and creation of yet more years of disruption and anxiety for Chalcots’ residents that Camden’s delay in taking this decision has caused.

I have stated for over a year that things were going badly wrong as have residents. Over the last year, I have asked several times - in writing and in council meetings - whether Camden’s leader maintained her confidence in the procurement process for these works. The enthusiastic confirmation that she did was echoed in the firm nodding of many of cabinet members and other Labour councillors. Their confidence was misplaced and has put Chalcots residents through great hardship. It illustrates the clear downside in believing unquestioningly in the advice of officers and consultants.

The whole process should be given a health check by a qualified expert who would be free to declare the shortcomings and agree on the route out of the mess.

I proposed a motion at my first full council meeting two years ago calling for the chairman for the phase 2 technical review into the flawed PFI works and evacuation to be determined independently by a recognised national professional body with technical expertise. This matter is languishing deep in the long grass, its modesty protected by the supposed need to resolve legal matters before any further understanding of what went wrong is exposed. This is a neat excuse for the protection of those who had a part in that contract.

I do not want this current debacle to arrive at a similar dead end. The need for swift consideration of the mistakes which have been made by Camden and its professional advisers is evident and must not be dodged. There has been too much time wasted just trying to prove superficial engagement with residents but without nearly enough open-minded listening to the many voices which have been predicting this would end unhappily, including mine.


Betty Cairns, Victoria Road, Muswell Hill, writes:

Governments are formed by politicians. The present government is formed from and by Conservative politicians (including Boris). In the nine years that government has been in office the NHS has been starved of cash. As a result beds,wards and hospitals have been lost. The pay of nurses has, for five years,been capped below the cost of living.

I agree with Mrs Woolley’s admiration for the NHS. I cannot, however, share her view that the current governing politicians (including Boris) have any affection whatsoever for the NHS or any intention,once the pandemic is over, of funding it adequately or adjusting the pay of its staff.

Nick Davidson, Haringey Keep Our NHC Public (KONP), writes:

Members of Haringey Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), an NHS support and campaign group, local trade unionists and people from the surrounding community gathered outside St Ann’s Hospital in Haringey on May 6 to place on very public record their support for the NHS and its workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic. They were joined by staff from the hospital on their lunch break. Dr Toby Stevens said he and his colleagues very much appreciated the thanks and support the public were giving them. The banner was later attached to the railings of Chestnuts Park, opposite the hospital, for passers-by to see.

Safety first for our children

Cllr Tammy Palmer, Crouch End ward, Haringey Liberal Democrats spokesperson on children and young people, writes:

Children seem to have been largely forgotten about during this crisis. Although they appear to be less vulnerable to the virus than adults, the short and long-term effects of the lockdown on their health, wellbeing and education will be far reaching – particularly for the most vulnerable children in our borough. As the parent of a primary aged child, there is nothing more I would love than for my child to get back to his classmates and his teacher, but this can only happen with a great deal of thought and collaboration, rushing it could have dire consequences for both children and staff.

It is clear that this virus may well be with us for quite some time and it is vital that this government commits to providing long term support and funding for schools to enable them to move forward and to ensure that no child is left behind during lockdown.

That is why I was glad to have the opportunity to sign the National Education Unions’ open letter to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson MP, raising concerns over the lack of transparency around schools reopening. Before, this happens there must be proper engagement with both schools and local authorities, and a guarantee that schools can and should only reopen when it is safe to do so for both children and staff. In the meantime, it calls for greater support for disadvantaged children and their families – many have been struggling to access the voucher scheme implemented by the government meaning that thousands of parents are being forced to make almost impossible decisions around food. I urge all others councillors to sign it.

Manage foreign interference

Doug Crawford, Hampstead, writes:

During the Brexit debate much was made of the importance of British sovereignty: the need for us to take back control, the belief that the UK was better equipped than other countries to chart its future course and that the British government knew best how to manage the affairs of UK citizens.

The Covid-19 crisis provided an early opportunity for the government to put its mantra to the test and show that the UK could indeed manage without ‘foreign interference’; it chose to ignore offers for ventilators and PPE from the EU, it disregarded WHO recommendations and advice, it failed to heed the lessons from other countries, in particular those that had experience of dealing with similar outbreaks such as SARS, and it consistently ploughed its own furrow with regards to testing and tracing despite evidence that its strategy was at odds with what other countries had successfully adopted.

The outcome has not been a happy one and the closed mindset, arrogant attitude and blinkered and dogmatic approach demonstrated by this government has sadly cost lives. It has been a high price to pay and many families have been left devastated as a result. Sovereignty may be a powerful weapon but it needs to be wielded wisely – in the hands an incompetent government it can be extremely dangerous, as we are now coming to realize.

Social housing

Trevor Ellis, full address supplied, writes:

The Land That Time Forgot, is, of course, the name of the 1975 British-American fantasy/adventure film based upon the 1918 novel, The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Hampstead,and Kilburn, are not only rapidly becoming boroughs that politicians of all persuasions forget, in regards to social housing, but also that the politicians resemble the ancient Greek mythological god Atlas, trying to bear the weight of the country on their shoulders.

In order to prove my point, I have to go back in time, to show how, politicians have become complacent and merely use soundbites to justify their neglect. The Addison act was passed in 1919 by parliament for the purpose of building ‘’decent houses’’. The Blair government introduced The Decent Homes Standard, which suggests that the aforementioned act had failed to live up to its ideals.

In September 2010, figures for London, showed that a quarter of council homes still fell below the standard set by the Labour government. A study, by housing charity Shelter, in September 2017, found that 307,000, or one in every 200, people were either sleeping rough or in temporary accommodation. Unsurprisingly, government welfare changes, including the introduction of Universal Credit and cuts to housing benefit, were blamed for the crisis.

Now that coronavirus is wreaking havoc across the country, the government, has had, to borrow, more money, from bond market investors just to fund the huge increase in public spending.

Isn’t it painfully clear, that the government is struggling to cope as the country remains in lockdown?

My question to local residents is, do you have faith that your needs will be met by the government?

If 101 years, 8 months has passed since The Addison Act was passed and social housing is still a huge problem for the government, how much longer will it take before the purpose of the aforementioned act is fulfilled?

The weakness of the British government is clear for all to see and time proves that the flag waving and tiresome speeches from them are vain and worthless.

After all, if the current generation remains in want even for social housing in spite of numerous acts of parliament passed in recent times for your benefit, where is the basis for hope, faith, trust and respect in the British government?