Ham&High letters: Waste collections, Labour Party conference, Swiss Cottage on TV ad, cycling, police funding anda People’s Vote

Rohan White is not happy about missed waste collections. Picture: PA IMAGES

Rohan White is not happy about missed waste collections. Picture: PA IMAGES - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

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

What a load of rubbish!

Rohan White, Camden, full address supplied, writes:

I called Camden Council about a missed waste collection, the fortnightly service that leaves our bins full to bursting, never mind prone to odours and compromised hygiene.

The staff member at Veolia (I thought I called Camden) told me the bins had not been emptied because “they were not within one metre of the property boundary”. I pointed out that the bins have been in the same place since I have occupied the property in 2003, and have almost always been collected as per schedule. They line up from the property boundary, visible and accessible.

I was informed (politely but ultimately unhelpfully) that “the system” does not allow call centre staff to request a collection, but ironically that it would allow me to request a chargeable “special collection”.

The matter has been escalated to the area manager who may (or may not) contact me.

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In the meantime, rubbish will remain in the bins for up to a month, and we will have to find space to store additional rubbish for the next two weeks.

How is this justifiable given that council tax is levied for services that the council is contractually obliged to deliver?

As a resident, one has no discretion regarding payment.

Why should the council have discretion as regards their obligations, and how do they justify an operating system that does not allow their operators to work for the benefit of residents?

Landmark motions at Labour Conference

Sara Callaway and Crissie Amiss, full address supplied, write:

We are two women of colour who were on Hampstead and Kilburn’s (H&K) 10-strong delegation to the Labour Party Conference. We first attended Women’s Conference on the Saturday.

More than a thousand delegates took part in debates and voting. Many were first-time delegates. The crisis caused by benefit cuts like Universal Credit, low pay, disability and other forms of discrimination, were among issues raised.

Two landmark motions were passed unanimously. A version of a Windrush motion passed by H&K Constituency Labour Party (CLP) was the basis of a contemporary motion.

It calls for the closure of all detention centres, an end to destitution and the racist hostile environment. Sophie Mangara (Lewisham) moved the motion saying “it dehumanises everyone”. She called on Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott to abolish racist immigration legislation as soon as Labour is in government, to end landlords, schools, employers, and health professionals being turned into “border guards” carrying out government policy.

The Palestinian motion was sensational, calling for an end to both arms sales to Israel, and the siege of Gaza.

Thousands in the hall, delegates and visitors, waved Palestinian flags (provided by Palestine Solidarity Campaign under its new leadership). They chanted “Free, Free Palestine”.

Conference gave a standing ovation to the mover – Colin Monehen (Harlow), a passionate East Ender whose parents had fought in Cable Street. When he finished, Corbyn came off the platform to shake his hand. Before this, we had attended several packed Fringe meetings where Palestinian women and men gave moving speeches calling for an end to the devastation and daily violence they are facing. The membership made Palestine a central issue of the conference.

H&K CLP aims to follow up the Windrush motion with a Black History Month event, highlighting families affected and their demands, in particular pressing for justice for Dexter Bristol, a Camden resident who died as a result of the hostile environment.

What do you think of the motions? Email letters@hamhigh.co.uk with your opinions.

New TV advert shows beauty

David Reed, Save Swiss Cottage Action Group, full address supplied, writes:

I woke up in the middle of the Harry Potter film last Saturday night and was surprised to see people flying around Swiss Cottage Park, in a TV advert for the latest mobile phone from “a major global supplier”.

It had people flying in and around the open space there, in glorious sunlight, over many fountains (some not actually there!), delighting in the space below them.

At least this shows an advertising agency can see the value and basic beauty of this tiny bit of open space in Swiss Cottage, the only part of the whole area where kids and adults, including older people like myself, can enjoy a little tranquillity.

This is utterly unlike Essential Living (claiming to be based in the Channel Islands), the greedy developer preparing to obliterate much of the park and its beautiful trees while it builds its monstrous blocks of almost 200 private flats over the present stylish and modest four to six storey office building at 100 Avenue Road.

And in order to do this massive building work, and to make life easier for themselves, they plan to run dozens of trucks a week through the tiny park and the surrounding areas for several years as they shove up their disgusting and overpowering 24-storey tower and seven-storey side blocks overshadowing the whole of this tiny space.

No more sunny advertisements when that lot is in place, that’s for sure!

I can only hope that the planning department of Camden Council can recognise the need to defend this space and make the developer run all of their demolition trucks in and out of the site directly from the Avenue Road/A41 frontage of the building.

This is right where the trucks need to be to get in and out of the Swiss Cottage area, and is massively simpler, less invasive, and much less dangerous than their plans to run dozens of trucks a week out through the Market Square and down Winchester Road and round the gyratory system as their stupid and uncaring Construction Management Plan proposes.

In addition, at a local level, it will also avoid conflicts with the re-cladding and refurbishment works on the Chalcots Estate towers.

But, if Camden’s planners won’t act to protect the community which pays their wages, I sincerely hope our elected councillors will try to protect all the local residents and users of the leisure facilities at Swiss Cottage by rejecting this awful CMP at the earliest opportunity.

Fully understand the cycling plan

Julia McCormack, Savernake Road, Hampstead, writes:

Since reading letters about a segregated cycle lane proposed for Prince of Wales Road which nobody seems to have heard of until they read about it in the local press, I have studied the consultation document “Prince of Wales Road Walking, Cycling and Road Safety Improvements”.

Nowhere can I find any reference to the removal of any let alone all refuges on Prince of Wales Road, or to two of the four at the Malden Road junction.

Allowing cycling on the pavement is mentioned, with the plan showing a small area, cutting the corner where the downhill part of Haverstock Hill meets Prince of Wales Road.

Any pavement cycling is unacceptable but you could hardly find a more dangerous piece of pavement than where cyclists turn left from steep downhill Haverstock Hill to PoW Road

Coming from a passionate cycling family, I wondered what the local cycling campaign had to say and found them very much in favour, including:

- Encouragement of members to vote for the scheme with, next to each contribution to a discussion thread, a box to click on to help responding to the consultation.

- No mention of the removal of traffic islands on Prince of Wales Road

- No mention of the width of Prince of Wales Road apart from a misleading width of 18m which included the width including the pavements. No wonder one contributor said there should be two separate segregated cycle lanes. When told there wasn’t enough space, it might have been clearer if s/he was told that with two such lanes, the space left for lorries would be substantially less than their width.

- The CCC response includes a request for vehicles to be forbidden to turn left (north) into Malden Road when going towards Kentish Town from Haverstock Hill. Not a pedestrian issue but imagine how many extra motoring miles, with exhaust fumes that would create

- Quarterly meetings with the relevant people in the council. (No bad thing provided Camden is not influenced to prioritise cyclists over pedestrians which is happening here).

It is notable that there has been nothing in the correspondence so far from either Camden or the CCC.

If and when there is, we are likely to be told that the piece of “shared space” is negligible - tell that to the marines. And that pedestrians will benefit from some pavement widening/highway shortening around the traffic islands. A swap of a refuge for a few inches of pavement. What pedestrian would see that as meaningful?

And finally, before being attacked as a cyclophobe, I am a cyclist, my family are cyclists and most of my best friends are cyclists.

Cycling campaign scores ‘own goal’

Brian Benjamin, Queens Crescent, Camden, writes:

Regarding the correspondence about the proposed segregated cycle lane on Prince of Wales Road, those who dislike cyclists - mistaken as they are - should support it.

Why? Because if it is built, they will be joined by many who were not previously hostile to cyclists.

Anyone on the pavement around the Prince of Wales junction, adults, children and disabled will be liable to be hit by a cycle mounting the pavement (legitimately) and riding through people who have always assumed they can walk on a pavement without being threatened by a cyclist.

Anyone crossing Prince of Wales Road will have to make the crossing in one go - previously they could reach the refuge in the middle and pause.

There will be no “middle”. They will in this case rightly, blame a cycle lobby many of whom have no interest in the safety of anyone but its members. As a cyclist I follow the local cycling campaign’s website. When this latest consultation came out, the full details went on its site, fair enough. But with it, you find this message from the owners of the site

“We [sic] are going to need a substantial positive response from cyclists supporting Option C ‘Segregated westbound cycle track’ to counter any car-conscious residents who are likely to favour Option A ‘Do Minimum’.”

So there will have been many “votes” for the proposed scheme (option C) when the consultation closed on September 10.

Note that the poor pedestrian is airbrushed out of consideration.

What a gift to those hostile to cyclists in general.

Typical comment being “they do what they like anyway” which only in fact applies to a (too large) minority of cyclists.

I will not support ‘barmy’ tax rises

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

In her recent correspondance Jessica Learmond- Criqui said that I “owe” her answers, over police funding and her desire for a referendum on putting up the police council tax element by 123 per cent.

What she actually means is that she does not agree with the answers I gave her - though she also refused to answer the key question I put to her.

Ms Learmond- Criqui still peddles her crackpot idea for wasting c £10 million on a referendum to increase the policing share of the council tax.

I demonstrated recently that to restore the police funding cuts imposed by the government, this would need an increase of a massive 123pc on top of the existing precept (not ‘to’ 123pc as she misquotes).

This is because of the gearing of the way the balance between council tax versus government funding is raised.

Anyone who was remotely in touch would know that to propose a tax increase of 123pc - more than double the current rate - would be met with a giant public raspberry swiftly followed by outrage at the misspending of millions on a pointless referendum which would be better spent on police officers.

I have no intention of wasting the mayor’s time with such a barmy suggestion when the answer is obvious.

The mayor is already planning an increase of 5.5pc, to help fund the police, which is the most he can raise and which the public is prepared to pay.

I asked her, if she did not agree with 123pc tax increase, what lesser figure she would like to put to the public. I still do not have that answer but only evasion, suggesting that I should enter some kind of Dutch auction, reducing the figure until she found it acceptable.

I would suggest that if she genuinely wanted a referendum, rather than playing a political game, it is incumbent on her to say by how much she proposes tax should go up, and what it would pay for in terms of extra officers.

And I would remind her that a little while ago when she attempted a crowdfunding scheme for extra officers for her ward, it attracted significant publicity for her but very little public support - or even more importantly money - before she quietly dropped the idea.

And the amounts involved were far less than 123pc.

However, in an effort to be conciliatory, if she can produce a petition to the mayor signed by only 250 Camden residents - just 0.1pc of the borough’s population - asking for £10 million to be spent on a referendum on a police precept increase of 123pc, (with recent experience after a vague national referendum such a precise question is needed) so as to show even miniscule popular support for her idea, I would be willing to submit it to Sadiq for his consideration.

Motion to back People’s Vote

Cllr Luisa Porritt (motion proposer); Cllr Flick Rea (motion seconder) and Cllr Tom Simon, Liberal Democrat Group for Camden Council, write:

Our Lib Dem Council Group has put forward a motion, to be voted on at full council on Monday, October 8, asking all Camden councillors to formally support a People’s Vote with the option to Remain.

Councillors from across the borough should support this. Camden residents voted overwhelming to stay in the European Union on June 23, 2016, with 71 per cent opting to Remain.

We have since learnt that the Leave campaign cheated on its electoral expenses.

We also know that, by its own admission, Leave lied to voters about the country’s prospects if they voted for Brexit, including with the promise to fund the NHS to the tune of an extra £350 million a week. Instead, we are already paying £500 million a week for the cost of leaving!

This has serious implications for the council’s own budget. As the cabinet member for finance and transformation revealed recently, Brexit has been added as a risk factor when considering the variety of risks posed to the council’s finances.

Camden Labour will tell residents that they have put forward their own motion. No one should be fooled into thinking this is a genuine motion on a People’s Vote, unlike ours.

Instead it is the Labour Party’s policy, which is a fudge. It amounts to no more than a plan to try and force a general election rather than a referendum. Should the Labour Party win power nationally, it has made no commitment to hold a People’s Vote afterwards. It would rather restart the Brexit negotiations, with a cherry-picking approach that is no more likely to succeed than what the Tories are currently doing.

We appeal to residents from across the political spectrum who wish to have a final say on the Brexit negotiations to write to your local councillors before Monday and ask them to support the Liberal Democrat motion.

If Camden Council votes in favour, it will add to the growing number of voices in support of a People’s Vote.

In turn, that will help build the momentum to allow such a vote to take place and give us the chance to avoid an act of immense national and local self-harm.