Gazette letters: Climate emergency, Ocado, St Aloysius College, electoral system and Labour policies

Vegan heaven near Angel�s buses. Picture: NICOLA BAIRD

Vegan heaven near Angel�s buses. Picture: NICOLA BAIRD - Credit: Nicola Baird

Watching and reading news about the fires in Australia it’s clear that even people in richer countries can very quickly become climate refugees, writes Nicola Baird, Islington Green.

The closed roads, wind-sped flames, ash-choked air and communities gathering by the beach is the stuff of psycho-drama.

The question is will those 40 degree days end up just making it to the weather records - in the same way that the huge Arctic ice melts of 2019 did - or will they trigger some kind of public change? Last year Islington saw hundreds of students join the school climate strikes and local Extinction Rebellion (XR) groups form… but in a borough of 200,000 people how do we go further to slash our community's fossil fuel addictions? For example, making homes properly energy-efficient, switching to renewable energy suppliers and using private cars far less.

Robert Cialdini is known for his persuasive texts - recently he was quoted in the blog of controversial Islingtonian Dominic Cummings who was requesting "wierdos" and lateral thinkers to apply for jobs as spads and Downing Street officials. Famously Cialdini claims that the "more we identify ourselves with others, the more we are influenced by these others". If people experiencing Australia's burning world and car-closed roads pointed fingers at Scott Morrison PM, and leaders who aren't making enough efforts to tackle climate change, perhaps then we'd get helping.

Until then all of us need to improve our greenwash-radars. Going vegan like Greta Thunberg - my own January resolution - can be good for the planet, or bad, it just depends how you source your ingredients. In the same way it's hard to take seriously that nearby London City Airport's operations are now carbon neutral for its "work in managing, reducing and offsetting all the CO2 emissions under its control". Flying less is a key part of fossil fuel reduction, yet this Airport Carbon Accreditation focuses predominantly on the site and not its job (flying planes).

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Here's to a happy and healthy climate-aware new year.

The application to build a supermarket distribution hub in Junction ward was submitted to Islington Council in September (Ocado's plans for delivery depot near Archway school spark anger), writes Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington.

So why has it taken three months for the council to raise objections to the scheme (detailed drawings of the proposal P2019/2597/FUL can be seen online - Some residents expressed concerns at the time, in response to the consultation letter which specifically mentioned the "installation of a diesel generator, three fuel pumps and associated fuel tank". Why didn't the word "diesel" jump out at ward councillors - or the then-executive member for transport and the environment - prompting an immediate response? Perhaps this delayed reaction explains why council leader Watts has belatedly intervened, writing to Ocado's chief executive jointly with Claudia Webbe's replacement and Jeremy Corbyn, on December 19: "The increase in polluting vehicles and the installation of diesel pumps and a fuel tank... raise significant concerns around health and safety, air quality and carbon emissions."

It is disconcerting to read the Gazette's piece on the continued NEU concerns for staff/support staff at St Aloysius College (Lucas Cumiskey), writes Michael Cosh, Corinne Road, Tufnell Park.

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For many years the college achieved excellent performance results and that was directly due to the high expectations of pupils, parents and staff alike. The blame for what is reputedly happening at the college lies directly at the door of the Diocese of Westminster and Islington Council. There are seven successful potential feeder catholic schools in Islington for the college, and the fact that the present Year 7 are undersubscribed begs all manner of questions.

If I were to wager a bet it would be that St Aloysius College will become an academy before the end of 2021.

Our out-dated first-past-the-post electoral system (FPP) is no longer fit for purpose. 53 per cent of UK voters in the general election chose parties supporting a people's vote but FPP gifted Boris Johnson a huge pro-Brexit majority, which the rest of us will now have to live with, writes Andrew Myer, Islington Green Party.

Nationally in December the Green Party vote increased nearly two thirds from 2017, even in a FPP election where most people knew their preferred party candidate wouldn't win. So the votes of more than 865,000 people only resulted in a single Green MP being elected - admittedly Brighton's wonderful Caroline Lucas - while the Tories needed less than 40,000 crosses on a ballot paper for each of their MPs. Just think how many more people might have voted Green in a fairer, proportional system.

If you think it's time to change this archaic system, you can sign the already 300,000 strong petition for general elections here. Then look forward to our next London elections - only four months away - when the fairer processes for choosing the Mayor and Assembly will allow you to vote for your party of choice knowing your voice will actually be heard.

Much has been written about the Labour Party's election result - most of it facile or recriminatory or both, writes Michael Edenborough, Cloudesley Road.

Many of the manifesto proposals were popular, and importantly they were feasible as shown by similar schemes in other countries.

However, as ever with Labour, the big problem was the credibility of how to fund them. The people simply did not believe that everything could be funded by increasing the tax paid by the top five per cent. The people were right to be sceptical.

A different way needs to be found to fund the causes proposed. Rather than taxing more heavily the successful and the aspirant, would it not be better to ensure that those who benefit from society but who currently don't contribute should be made to contribute? There are two principal aspects to this approach: first, to ensure corporate entities pay tax locally, rather than moving their profits offshore; secondly, to ensure that wrongdoers disgorge their ill-gotten gains.

Many companies have successful businesses in the UK that depend on the relative wealth of the UK population. They have large turnovers, yet they avoid paying significant sums in tax by moving profits overseas by various accountancy mechanisms. If the revenue is generated here, then the tax should be paid here. Those business cannot move their customers overseas, and so if the taxation is levied in accordance with the customer base and their consumption, then the tax benefit will remain here.

Criminals rarely pay tax, yet they benefit financially from their wrongful acts. There should be a change in emphasis in the way in which they are punished. They should be stripped of their gains. Further, more money should be invested in detection and prosecution in order to increase the likelihood that they are caught.

Together, these two policies would ensure that money earnt here, is taxed here, and that crime really doesn't pay. These measures would be popular with honest tax-payers, and would go a long way to funding the proposals that would benefit society as a whole, which surely is Labour's aim.

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