Letters: Public toilets, Elm Park takeaways, climate change and an alternative budget

An automated toilet in Avenue Road, Harold Wood

One of the automated toilets, in Avenue Road, Harold Wood, that Havering Council has decided to remove. - Credit: Google

I'm fast becoming housebound due to the lack of public toilets

Name and address supplied, writes:
I have just read the article in the Romford Recorder about the removal of automated toilets in Harold Hill, and I am appalled at this decision

If the council are going to remove the automated toilet facilities then they need to provide alternative public toilets! 

I have a bladder problem which prevents me from going to any place where there are no toilet facilities. I find this health issue very debilitating, it prevents me from leading a normal life. It is embarrassing and as a rule I hate to talk about it. 

It is hard to describe what it is like to live with this problem, except perhaps, that it is a bit like a bathroom tap that is forever leaking!! 

There are many women and some men who live with the condition. It is not just older people living with it.


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I’d love to walk around the country parks or travel to places, as well as be able to shop in all shopping centres, including local shops, Harold Wood, Hilldene, etc as well as many other places around Romford and further afield.  

I have to plan and prepare for any journey I take. I can’t just jump on a bus to go somewhere, or walk to any place where there are no toilet facilities.

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Even prior to the pandemic large stores like M&S and BHS etc were closing some of their stores, and as a result of the pandemic even more stores are closing. 

I am no longer able to pop into the shops and use their toilets as most local stores do not provide toilet facilities. 

Cafes do not want you to use their toilet unless you make a purchase, and when you are desperate, you cannot stand there waiting to be served when you need to go. 

The last time I was in Hilldene, over a year ago, the automatic toilet was in a very disgusting state, where people had made a mess and vomited over the floor and toilet, with a strong undesirable odour too. I had thought it was self cleaning! 

It was often closed on many occasions when I needed it most. Without that facility, where else can I find a toilet? It means I cannot nip to the shops or go to my bank or buy bread and milk. 

As a result of this condition, I was already limited to where I could go and how I can get there. It feels like I am penalised. I am fast becoming more housebound, not able to go out anywhere, not just because of the pandemic. 

I am not the only one that relies on these facilities. 
What about disabled people, where will they go? Surely there are laws for these to be accessible to disabled. 


Elm Park has too many takeaways

Adalaine Manning, address supplied, writes:
There are too many takeaways in Elm Park town centre. No wonder the area has deteriorated a lot.

Every good or worthwhile establishment needed for the area, like pubs, hotels, hobby shops, swimming pools for community events, have now gone. No wonder people are getting obese as when they close, another takeaway opens in its place.

What a massive error. The local councillors should really take this into consideration. We are supposed to be getting healthy.
Surely a lot of other people agree with me.


No CCTV means no investigation

Malvin Brown, Corbets Tey Road, Upminster, writes:
About eight weeks ago I had my car stolen from my driveway in Corbets Tey Road, Upminster, during the daytime hours of 4.30pm and 9pm.  We were at home at the time but heard nothing.

When I reported the theft to the police I received a crime book reference to enable me to make an insurance claim. So far so good. 

I expected an officer to call to investigate the crime but I heard nothing from them. 

After two weeks had gone by I telephoned the police to enquire if the crime was to be investigated but was told unless there was CCTV at my home or in the street then they would do nothing.

When you contrast their failure to do anything with the arrest of an old granny for walking on the beach during lockdown it does confirm that not only has the world gone crazy but that a police state is not a very nice state to be in. 


Energy efficiency reduces bills

Ian Pirie, Havering Friends of the Earth, writes:
It is one thing for Cllr David Durant to object to a planning amendment which would remove some bathroom windows on new housing at Dovers Corner, but it is simplistic to blame this decision wholly on the need for us to reduce our carbon footprint.

On the other hand, his attempt to make some sort of political capital out of the Grenfell Tower tragedy by linking it to reducing our carbon footprint, is not just simplistic, it is appalling.

The problem at Grenfell was not that it had cladding but that the cladding was not fire-proof, as the enquiry is making obvious.

If Cllr Durant had put any thought into what is meant by “energy efficiency” he would appreciate that this means not simply reducing CO2 emissions but ensuring that a house is warm, and that the householders’ bills for electricity or gas are affordable. 

The Climate Change Committee, in the Fifth Carbon Budget, in fact estimated that the planned improvements in energy efficiency (to meet our carbon reduction targets by 2050) would save the average household £184 a year.

Yes, there is a Climate Change Act, which was passed by our Parliament in 2008, and which most people regard as progressive – even if for some of us it doesn’t go far enough!

According to the Act, we need to reduce our UK carbon footprint by 80per cent by 2050 to avoid extreme global heating caused by greenhouse gases. 

The DECC’s United Kingdom Housing Energy Factfile, drawn up by consultants and experts from institutions including UCL, and Cambridge and Loughborough Universities, points out that “housing is responsible for a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions” and that “it will be impossible to meet the 2050 objective without changing emissions from homes”.

The Act was drawn up in order to try to stop what the Secretary General of the United Nations calls a “senseless and suicidal...war on nature” as a result of climate change, biodiversity decline and pollution. 

He adds: “The consequences of our recklessness are already apparent in human suffering, towering economic losses and the accelerating erosion of life on Earth.”

So, Parliament, universities and scientists, and the United Nations all agree. But of course Cllr Durant knows better!


We regularly challenge council

Cllr Ray Morgon, Leader of the Opposition, Havering Council, writes:
I was amused to read Cllr Dilip Patel’s comments in last week’s letters page.  

During the past year, group leaders within the Resident Association Groups have met online on a weekly basis to discuss council matters and, whilst being supportive of the work carried out by the council during the pandemic, we have also provided challenge through the regular submitting of questions. 

In fact, it seemed that shortly after submitting our questions, the Conservative administration was spurred into action. 

Examples of this include the bringing back of the green waste collection and the opening up of the council’s amenity sites such as Gerpins Lane shortly after raising the issue. We always seemed to be ahead of the curve.   

The pandemic has been a fast moving and often deteriorating situation and even now we do not know the full financial effects of the pandemic on the council’s finances. 

This is underlined by the fact that the chief finance officer has made a 10per cent provision against the £17million savings package in case they are not realised. This is a sensible and prudent step.  

In light of the above, it was decided not to divert valuable finance officers’ time away from more important tasks to help put together and check our alternative budget proposal.

Strangely, in the previous year, we did put together an alternative budget which would have provided support to our high streets in Hornchurch and Upminster by reducing the budget for corporate events, communications and councillor allowances. The Conservatives rejected our proposals and ridiculed them saying that they were not viable even though the council’s chief finance officer had signed them off as perfectly viable. 

The phrase “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” springs to mind. 

In any event, if the Conservatives are not worried by the opposition calling them lazy, incoherent and without vision why did they spend so much time at the council tax setting meeting attacking the Resident Association Groups?   

Cllr Patel states there is a lack of willingness and desire to offer challenge. Perhaps, I could remind him that it is he and his colleagues who have supported his leader of the council over the past three years in systematically reducing the opportunity for challenge by opposition groups.  

I suspect that this was done to try and weaken the opposition, but it has done exactly the opposite and has galvanised the Residents Associations across Havering. 

In the run-up to the local elections in May 2022 Havering’s Residents Associations will have a strong, clear and compelling vision for Havering.


HRA should consult residents

Mr W Ramsay, Stephen Avenue, Rainham, writes:
In last week’s letters, Cllr Patel of the Conservatives taunted the opposition on the council for failing to provide opposition as they should have done in the case of the council budget. 

But a report earlier in the paper has the principal opposition, the Havering Residents Association, explaining that an exception had been made to the practice of presenting an alternative budget owing to the burden it would have placed on council officers “at this difficult time”. 

The question is whether this decision is to be viewed as a noble and exonerating sacrifice.

Cllr Patel states that “political parties are vehicles designed to advance a certain point of view”. 

So they are, and when it comes to ones claiming to be residents’ associations the point of view should as the name implies be that of residents. But there is no evidence, so far as I am aware, that residents were consulted over whether the priority should be the workload of council officials. 

Such consultation is given particular point if, as Cllr Morgon anticipates, “many residents will be shocked by the 4.5per cent increase in council tax…whilst having reductions in services”.

It may be exceptional times but there is nothing exceptional about the approach taken here, whereby consultation with residents is limited to relatively minor matters. The main problem of representative democracy is its failure to represent, and this is not confined to the national parties.

It should be added that the HRA is an umbrella body comprised of residents’ associations that affiliate to it, and includes South Hornchurch councillors, including Cllr Williamson, who I understood formed part of the IRG led by Cllr Tucker. 

Very complicated, especially, in view of the above, when under the auspices of his National Liberal Party Cllr Williamson favours direct democracy and on the NLP website we find the slogan “Government by referendum now”.


Council determined not to hear dissenting voices

Residents Action Havering write: 
Councillor Dilip Patel entirely missed the point in the letter of last week: ‘No alternative budget proposed’. 

In the current Conservative/RA administration, in which they have manipulated control of every committee, and coerced a majority that the residents of this borough did not vote for, there is a determination not to hear dissenting voices, from the leader downwards. 

This is borne out by the effective filibustering of recent council meetings. In such a situation, it is understandable that opposition groups will not waste their time talking to people that will not listen. 

The people of Havering are listening, and that’s who we are talking to.
 

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