Gazette letters: Borough boundaries and damp housing

How the borough could look under the proposed changes

How the borough could look under the proposed changes - Credit: Archant

I would like to add something to the letter in last week’s Gazette on the subject of the new boundaries for Islington, writes F G Atkin, Pleydell Estate, Radnor Street.

Going back to the pre-coalition government the Boundary Commission had already announced Islington South and Finsbury would be merged with the City for the next election.

When the coalition was sworn in, Dave and the Lib Dem had a “scratch my back” arrangement over a bill proposed by the Lib Dems that Dave would support the new boundary changes. Dave (surprise, surprise) reneged on the deal.

Since then, a new game has started and the boundaries boys have come up with “Islington”. I couldn’t help but notice the new constituency includes all the occupied territories of Finsbury.

I will not be voting for any candidate standing for election in “Islington” next time round. Lady Em, take note!

Last week the council’s health and care scrutiny committee published a report on the impact of cold, damp homes on people’s physical and mental health, writes Andrew Myer, Islington Green Party, Horsell Road, Holloway.

The committee suggested a 10-point plan to address the problem in Islington (“Hope for families in damp housing”).

Most Read

While the committee should be applauded for this, it is depressing to read how far back the borough has slipped since the 1980s, when Islington Energy Centre was at the forefront of addressing condensation and affordable warmth in social housing. Back then both councillors and officers were helped to understand the root causes of condensation, so it’s disappointing to hear about problems today with inconsistent and poorly informed technical assessments, poor communications with tenants, and, particularly, officers’ presumptions that occupants’ lifestyle is to blame.

Condensation can be tricky to eradicate but the principles aren’t rocket science. A low income household can’t afford to heat their home all the time. If it is poorly insulated and doesn’t have an efficient heating system, some surfaces of the building will stay cold. People will have to dry their laundry on radiators and clothes horses if they’re not provided with proper clothes-drying facilities, so all the water from the drying clothes will evaporate into the home. If the dwelling is not well ventilated, that moisture will condense on the cold surfaces.

The committee’s action plan included that any council tenant with health problems who requests a move from a damp flat should be granted one, but that could throw hundreds more applications into an already overloaded housing system and will still leave a cold, damp dwelling for the next tenant to move into. Instead we need to address the cause and make sure our homes are properly insulated, efficiently heated, well ventilated, and have adequate drying facilities; and that occupants are given advice on how to use all those things – as the council was trying to do in the ’80s!

In 2000, the Primary Care Trust at Sandwell in the West Midlands teamed up with its local council to target NHS patients in poor housing, through a “Repairs on Prescription” scheme. This was aimed at patients suffering asthma and mental health problems being made worse by their living conditions, and allowed GPs to write prescriptions to improve their patients’ homes’ insulation and heating systems. Islington already has the SHINE programme, a package of measures to help reduce fuel poverty and improve the health of vulnerable tenants, but this doesn’t go far enough to eradicate damp and condensation. Perhaps it’s time for a new initiative allowing Islington GPs to prescribe genuinely warm, dry homes.

The boundary review for proposals to new parliamentary seats has thrown up an issue of representative democracy, and it’s not one that I like, writes Keith Angus, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, Islington North.

More than 10,000 voters across Islington have been excluded from the review. These are people who registered to vote since last year (the boundary review is based on May 2015 data). Islington is a borough with high turnover of residents and this shortfall in numbers is significant.

This means the analysis is based on flawed numbers. Wards worst hit include Highbury West, where almost 1,000 voters are excluded from the analysis. The May 2015 ward electorate was 10,748. But that number grew to 11,691 for the EU referendum.

I was interested to see my political adversary, Jeremy Corbyn, initially responded by focusing on how this would impact him and his job. Impact on the people of Islington really is more important.

While electoral reform is to be welcomed, this re-drawing of the boundaries based on flawed data is not the reform we badly need. A proper, proportional representation voting system where people’s votes count would go a long way to restoring the fundamental lack of trust in politics.

While political personalities should be neither here nor there when it comes to dry analysis on voter numbers and boundaries, it did amuse me that I signed up a supporter in Highbury who realised his MP – now Jeremy Corbyn – would be Diane Abbott under the new boundaries. A notion that stuck in the craw. Or, in his words, “they’re ’avin a laugh”.