Gazette letters: Clean air, rough sleepers, living wills, Cllr Webbe and Frontline UK

The pollution level has dropped significantly in Islington during lockdown. Picture: TfL

The pollution level has dropped significantly in Islington during lockdown. Picture: TfL - Credit: Martin Breschinski

During lockdown we’ve all enjoyed roads that have become safer, quieter places for pedestrians, runners and cyclists as we practise social distancing, writes Nicola Baird, Islington Green.

Normally around 9,500 people Londoners die each year due to long-term exposure to air pollution. The combo of two traffic pollutants - tiny particulates called PM2.5s and the toxic gas Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) - from diesel vehicles, busy roads and tall buildings means pollution builds up in London.

But according to the Centre for Research on Energy & Clean Air the unintended bonus of the Covid-19 lockdown has seen a 40 per cent reduction in burning NO2. It’s not just that you can smell amazing air, the 30-day breatheasy has avoided 11,000 air pollution deaths, 6,000 fewer new cases of asthma in children, 1,900 avoided A&E visits and 600 less pre-term births across Europe.

Let’s imagine that lockdown has eased, big time. We’ve all got places to go, but suddenly social distancing (in our masks) seems tougher because Islington’s pavements are narrow and cars clog the roads. Even if there’s a re-jig to rush hour by changing school/office times and agreeing more Work From Home contracts, it’s time to rethink our acceptance that the car is king.

Just as we’ve all put up with climate change stasis by our leaders, pedestrians have long put up with vehicles hogging space between this - and that - side of the places we live. Surely in the borough that pioneered the life-saving and community-building 20mph speed limit it should be possible to find a way to reclaim streets as social places you can interact with the community and safely social distance?

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In Corona World cars (even electric ones) must not have dominance because it’s neither fairer nor healthier – Islington council’s famous priorities. Nor does it help us reach our climate emergency goals of zero carbon by 2030.

Islington Council are working hard to find homes for ro-ugh sleepers in the borough during the Covid-19 emergency, writes Susie Baker, Islington Homes for All.

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Islington Council are working hard to find homes for rough sleepers in the borough during the Covid-19 emergency.

They are using up vacant council homes but that is not enough, so now they are placing people in hotels.

Yet an address in Tollington Road, N7 is sitting empty and has done so for up to two years. This is a building with three flats that could help house rough sleepers.

Despite Islington Council’s efforts to solve the homelessness crisis, Clarion Housing Association, who own the property appear unwilling to help, even at this critical time.

The flats need some tidying up after two years of neglect, but surely this could be done?

Everybody in the social housing sector should be trying to help.

Since coronavirus took hold in the UK death has been very much at the forefront of the consciousness of us all , writes David Cunningham Green, Hugo Road, Tufnell Park.

But rather than hiding away from it many people have been led to confront it and put in place end-of-life plans.

The charity Compassion in Dying (0800 999 2434) revealed recently that they’ve seen a 160 per cent increase in people making free Advance Decisions (living wills), which allow you to refuse treatments you would not want in future, and an increase of over 220pc in advance statements where you can record anything else important to you about your future care. Recording your wishes in this way, alongside good end of life care, can help ensure you have as good a death as possible when the time comes. I did this many years ago and have just made sure my copy is up to date and readily to hand.

But for a significant minority of terminally ill people no amount of advance care planning or palliative care can alleviate their suffering.

A friend of mine who lives in Islington took her horribly ill husband who could not speak or even use a computer to Switzerland where he had a peaceful death.

That and other experiences of a similar nature is what led me to form and lead the Islington branch of Dignity in Dying which is part of Compassion in Dying’s sister organisation.

We campaign to give dying people greater control over the end of their lives. Coronavirus has brought new challenges, but it has not erased existing problems with dying. We must keep fighting for a change in the law on assisted dying during this crisis and beyond.

It is an outrage that Claudia Webbe is still pocketing an Islington councillor’s allowance, paid for by Islington council tax payers, when she now earns £81,900 per year as an MP in Leicester, writes Flora Page, Islington Liberal Democrat executive.

Labour Council leader Richard Watts should do what his job title suggests - give leadership - and put a stop to this money-grabbing greed.

Because of Covid-19, the by-election to replace Ms Webbe as Bunhill councillor has had to be postponed until next year. So she is only there because of this deadly virus pandemic; instead of profiting from the crisis, she should donate her councillor allowance to a local charity or fund battling to protect Islington people. Or doesn’t she think nearly £82,000 is enough to live on?

This is a shocking disregard for ordinary people whose jobs as well as health are at risk.

So if Ms Webbe won’t behave responsibly - come on Cllr Watts, step in and do the right thing by the people of Islington in this unprecedented crisis.

Jennette Arnold OBE AM, London Assembly Member for Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest, writes:

Alongside the heroic frontline workers in our NHS, emergency and care services, we should also praise the efforts of the postal workers, couriers, delivery drivers and retail and stockroom workers.

They are working incredibly hard and often placing themselves at risk to ensure that we have all the essentials we need during lockdown.

We have sadly heard outrageous reports of some companies failing to enforce social distancing measures in their own workplaces, as well as falling short on providing staff with the protection they need.

Throughout the Covid-19 outbreak, trade unions have continued to play a vital role in holding employers to account and improving conditions for workers in all sectors and industries. City Hall has also now teamed up with Our Frontline UK to provide mental health and bereavement support to key and essential workers.

However, there is clearly room for the government to play its part in more strongly enforcing corporate responsibility.

Last week, we marked International Workers’ Memorial Day with a minute’s silence to commemorate those who have tragically died whilst doing their job during the pandemic.

The government and we, the British people, must not forget what frontline workers have done for us when this crisis is over.

We must ensure they are paid fairly and have proper employment protections. It’s the very least we can do.

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