Letters: Ben Cohen, housing, vaccine, Brexit and St George's

The Betty Strathern Centre in Harold Hill

The memorial plaque to tenants' leader Ben Cohen has been removed from the Betty Strathern Centre. - Credit: Google Maps

Please replace Ben Cohen plaque

Andy Walpole, Leyburn Road, Romford, writes:
It has come to my attention that the plaque of the late tenants’ leader Ben Cohen has been removed from the wall of the Harold Hill Tenants’ Association Hall now known as the Betty Strathern Centre.

Ben, who passed away in 1977, was a leading figure in the Harold Hill Tenants’ Association in the 1960s and 1970s. The Ben Cohen memorial plaque was unveiled when this was a fully owned and operated London Borough of Havering building, and with full approval of our council’s then housing department.

I would ask that the Briar Community Association place the plaque onto the wall from where it is removed or, failing that, hand it over to concerned local residents who cherish Ben’s memory and who will endeavour to find a suitable alternative location.

Decision to raise amount waiting list applicants can earn is perverse

A Romford resident, full name and address supplied, writes:
Havering Council’s decision to raise the amount applicants can be earning to become able to go on the waiting list for social housing is perverse. 

For many years it’s been known that what is described as “affordable housing” clearly isn’t affordable for many people who are in most need. 

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So what does Havering Council do? It says, I know - instead of making housing actually affordable, we’ll make it available to those earning twice the average wage! 

To add insult to injury, they then increase the time applicants have had to be resident in the borough from six years to 10; I wonder if anyone who has been subject to councils’ temporary housing policy (where people can be moved to other boroughs) stands a cat in hell’s chance of being housed in the borough, and yet these are the people in most desperate need of local and genuinely affordable housing. 

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Many years ago now I did A-level sociology and discovered that the greatest recipients of taxpayers’ money were the middle classes.

This doesn’t happen by accident: it’s the result of policies brought in by self-serving local and national government. 
This proposed change to housing application policy is shameful.

All councillors representing local residents should vote against it and stop Havering becoming a borough that works against those most genuinely in need.

Time to see sense on house-building

Cllr Graham Williamson, South Hornchurch ward and co-chair PRESERVE, writes: 
It is true that Havering and other boroughs have failed to meet their so-called housing needs (Borough failing to meet new homes targets, latest figures show, Recorder 29/01) but the picture is not all it seems. 

Firstly, as the council leader says, the amount of properties actually built is significantly lower than those approved. This is often the case but in recent times the discrepancy has grown even further. 

In the south of the borough, along the A1306, which was expected to deliver a very large proportion of the borough’s housing target over the next few years, a number of approved developments have not been built. 

We believe this is because the developers are waiting for the opening of the, yet unbuilt, Beam Park station. 

Overall, quite without precedence, some are holding up construction as they hope to vary their plans in the hope of squeezing in more properties. 

All of which is outside the council’s control.

Fundamentally however, the problem is Havering is expected to accommodate excessive numbers of housing. 

Firstly, it is not to meet Havering’s needs but rather London’s and even then it is based on an increase in London’s population projected for the future. Given our large green belt, such numbers can only be achieved by building ever taller tower blocks.

Secondly, every development creates a new demand for more health services, school places etc but the monies offered to council from developers and others is woefully short. 

Frankly, we must make the government see sense on these numbers, otherwise outer boroughs like Havering will end up as a high rise, overly dense, urban borough with new and existing residents competing for services. Time is running out.

Don’t make us go so far for vaccine

Alan North, Falkirk Close, Hornchurch, writes:
My wife will be 69 in April and has just received her letter from the NHS inviting her to apply for her coronavirus vaccination.

As instructed in the letter we attempted to book an appointment online at a vaccination hub. However, scrolling through the list of venues we discovered that most of them were well over 10 miles away (eg Chatham being 17.5 miles away from Hornchurch).

Of those under 10 miles away each would have involved a journey on public transport (which we are currently very reluctant to use for obvious reasons).

As I have already had my first vaccination at Hornchurch Library my wife rang our GP (who I will not embarrass by naming) asking if she could not attend there as well.

An extremely rude receptionist then advised my wife that they would no longer be handling that particular age group and if she could not attend one of the vaccination hubs mentioned above then she would just have to do without the vaccine, something that goes totally against NHS and government advice.

She also stated that even further down the line there would be no follow-up from the GP about the vaccination despite the official NHS letter stating categorically that “If you prefer to be vaccinated through your local GP services you would be contacted by them shortly”.

Understandably, being somewhat upset and despite following the NHS instructions to the letter, I managed to get my wife an appointment for her first vaccination at Queen’s Hospital vaccination hub just two days later, a journey of no more than 15 minutes.

The least that this particular receptionist should be doing is advising patients that Queen’s Hospital have plenty of vaccinations available, something that wasn’t even mentioned.

I voted in the 1975 EC referendum

Ian Sanderson, Liberal Democrat candidate for Romford in 2015, 2017 and 2019 general elections, writes:
A brief reply to three letter responses last week. Two respondents seemed to be questioning my depth of knowledge and experiences. 

My father was intensely interested in politics so in the 1950s the 6 o’clock news and Any Questions were essential listening. 
I remember the Suez Crisis and resulting humiliation of Britain and France, which led in turn to Harold Macmillan’s approach to decolonisation and his decision to seek membership of the Common Market.

I’ve barely missed a chance to vote since 1964. 

In the first Referendum in 1975, I voted to stay in, as we were urged to, by Edward Heath, Roy Jenkins and Margaret Thatcher!

Propaganda often uses the term “faceless bureaucrats” for the people who run the EU, but that is for two reasons: firstly, like our own civil service, officials are not in the public eye and secondly EU politics is virtually ignored by our newspapers, unlike the detailed coverage of Westminster found in our broadsheets. 

They get their jobs in ways just like their equivalents in the UK. The EU’s civil service is about a tenth of the size of the UK’s.

I respect the respondents for their long-standing Euroscepticism, but I believe Brexit is an event that many will come to regret, and its consequences will rumble on for 10 years. 

Our vote in EU of no consequence

Roger Loveday, Main Road, Gidea Park, writes:
Ian Anderson responded to my letter featured in the Recorder, January 29.

I noted that Mr Anderson was a Liberal Democrat candidate in the last three elections and received a very small number of votes as compared to the Conservative candidate on each occasion. 

This must tell us what the people of Romford think of his views on the EU and Brexit. However, Mr Rosindell understands the feelings of his constituency and had very strong opinions on our getting out of the EU.

Mr Anderson says the UK were involved and represented in the decision making at the Commission of Council Ministers and the EU parliament. But our vote was of no consequence as the French and Germans held sway over all the other members as they were all takers and not givers. Therefore, they did not want to upset the hand that was feeding them with our money.

With a ‘no deal’, EU members would not have been able to fish in our waters and they would soon be aware we would not allow ourselves to be walked roughshod over and they, before long, would be begging us for a sensible deal. Mr Anderson however wanted us to surrender to the EU mafia. 

I suggest he gives up standing as a candidate, stay at home and read his Guardian!

Readers can make own judgement

Mr W Ramsay, Stephen Avenue, Rainham, writes: 
The report in last week’s Recorder on Covid dissent, allegedly involving a member of the Queen’s Hospital staff, refers to “an absurd post” in which the person complained of for this is said to “rant”.

But the point of view that emerges from the report is not dissimilar to what is encountered in the letters page from a councillor whose surname coincidentally incorporates the latter derogatory term. 

I am assuming that the words I have put in quotation were, as they appear to be, from the reporter rather than the complainant. 
If so they were of a piece with a journalistic convention that has become established of calling exceptionable pronouncements “rants”, as if to suggest they should be disregarded; especially so where they contradict the prevailing view of things. 

The practice is, of course, most frequently encountered in connection with Trump, but has also occurred where those committing terrorist outrages state their motivation.

What we have here is covert editorialising. Readers should be entrusted to form their own judgement of what is reported to them rather than receiving subliminal guidance as to how to view it.

Tireless lobbying over St George’s

Cllr Jason Frost, cabinet member for Health and Adult Care Services, Havering Council, writes:
I am very grateful for Cllr Ray Morgon for shining a spotlight on the exciting proposals coming forward for a brand new health facility to be built as part of the redevelopment of the former St George’s Hospital site.

The new facilities located at this centre will provide significant benefits for all Havering residents, helping to ease the pressure on Queen’s Hospital and boosting access to the wider health system.

However, it is worth noting that these plans have only come about thanks to tireless lobbying by Havering Council’s administration to government. 

The extra cash to fund the project is part of the government’s commitment to increase and improve local health facilities across the country.

Had it not been for a long-running campaign – spearheaded by the Conservative administration – it is likely that St George’s would have been left off the list. We were not prepared to have Havering residents overlooked.

The establishment of this new health facility represents another example of how this administration is putting the needs of residents first through the delivery of sustainable infrastructure-led regeneration. 

We hope that all councillors will get behind this administration’s efforts to ensure we do all we can to provide for the present and future needs of our borough.

No plan for fee to drive into capital

Dr Alison Moore, Labour’s London Assembly Transport spokesperson, writes:
There have been some recent media reports suggesting that motorists living outside our city could soon be charged £3.50 each time they drive into London.

We need to do some myth-busting here. For the time being, there are no concrete plans for this to happen. This is just one of several ideas that TfL is exploring to plug the gaps in its finances left by plummeting passenger numbers as a direct result of the pandemic.

The preferred option, which the mayor is lobbying the transport secretary, Grant Shapps for, is for London to keep hold of the £500m it generates through Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) each year.

This is all currently spent on maintaining roads outside of the capital. In fact, this week, new government figures have shown that London’s contribution this year will pay for the entire national budget allocated to fixing potholes in other areas of England.

On the London Assembly, all political groups have backed VED retention as the way forward and it will help us to avoid the need for a boundary charge.

An even better solution would be for the government to give TfL the long-term and sustainable emergency funding package it needs to mitigate the impact of the pandemic - just like it did with the private rail companies.

Give daily coffee price to Barnardo’s

Lynn Gradwell, director, Barnardo’s London Region, writes: 
Children and families need your help more than ever - donate your daily commute or coffee.

As the coronavirus crisis worsens, more and more vulnerable children and young people are feeling the effects of repeated lockdowns, uncertainty and isolation. 

We at the leading children’s charity Barnardo’s are asking people to donate what would have been the cost of their usual daily commute or coffee to support these children and their families, so they can deal with the immediate challenges.

We can support them with vital things, like putting food on the table, paying for heating and electricity (especially in the recent very cold temperatures), affording data so children can keep up with school online, and having access to counselling as children and young people all across the country are struggling with their mental health.

The cost of an average coffee would provide a child with a hot meal and a drink. You can help by supporting our Children in Crisis Appeal today via Barnardo’s Just Giving page justgiving.com/campaign/donateyourdailycommute

Keep unneutered cats indoors

Sarah Reid, acting head of neutering, Cats Protection, writes: 
With World Spay Day coming up on February 23, Cats Protection is urging that unneutered pet cats are kept indoors to prevent a potential kitten crisis.

We estimate that around 70 per cent of kittens born in the UK are the result of unplanned pregnancies, which puts severe pressure on owners to arrange for their feeding, care and rehoming.

The pandemic has meant that we are currently only able to take in a small number of cats as emergency cases. This is why we’re asking the public to help us by ensuring that unneutered cats are kept indoors, and unneutered siblings kept apart.

The coronavirus has affected many vets too. Many have had to prioritise emergency appointments, meaning access to neutering operations will vary. It is important to check with your vet for availability and make an appointment in advance if you can.
Cats Protection can help owners on limited incomes with the cost of neutering pet cats.

To find out if you are eligible, call our Neutering Line on 03000 12 12 12 (option 2).

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