Letters, Thursday, July 12 2012

Police team working to make this area safer for everyone

Regarding the recent rise in thefts of phones and bags in the borough, our Angel Police Team have caught and charged eight of the most prolific thieves over the past two weeks by stepping up their plain clothes stings in bars and cafes.

They have cleared up 18 offences at the Angel by working undercover, scanning CCTV footage, identifying suspects and travelling as far as Ilford and Waltham Forest with search warrants and arresting them in their homes.

Making the Angel safer for residents and visitors is a priority for us at Angel Business Improvement District and our nine-officer Angel Police Team is paid to do this directly out of the pockets of businesses here.

They are now busy with an awareness campaign, visiting every pub, bar and caf� in the area to let staff know about the rise in bag and phone thefts, showing them pictures of suspects to look out for and making sure they tell customers to keep their bags and wallets safe and don’t put their phones on the table because they can disappear in front of their eyes.

Christine Lovett

Director of Angel AIM Business Improvement District

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‘Affordable’ homes are anything but

The stories of the residents of Cally Road milked dry by their grasping landlord as highlighted on a BBC TV documentary, The Secret History of our Streets, is shocking but by no means a surprise. I am also sure that the Cally is not the only area of Islington blighted by this problem. Having myself been a victim of a rogue landlord, who left me and my flatmate to cope alone when our flat was flooded due to a major leak in the water supply to the block, I know that being insecure about where you live is a most distressing and stressful situation to be in.

It is right that the council is now finally standing up to these landlords, and it should make them pay for breaches of planning and reversing unauthorised changes. But there is much more to be done. We must have improved security for private tenants, an ethical lettings agency that doesn’t charge the earth for simple administration, and a ‘living rent’.

Unfortunately, having seen both this and the last government sell off social housing, promote buy-to-let and do anything they could to promote a housing boom that has left the country divided in to property haves and have-nots, it is understandable that people feel hopeless.

It is left to landlords to plug the gap left by the lack of affordable housing in the borough, because the council is letting developers get away with a scam of their very own. Some of the so called ‘affordable’ housing that the council is so proud of providing, is on the market for �500,000, even up to �700,000. These are sold on part rent-part buy, so by the time the charges for mortgages, rent on the remainder and service charge are added these would wipe out the income of all but the most well off people. This is a scandal and the council needs to be honest about the true affordability of developments in Islington.

The council has taken a stand over rents for social housing tenants, which Islington Greens support, but believes that much more should be done around the private rental sector and so called affordable housing. We will continue to call for action where appropriate at both local and national level.

Caroline Allen

Islington Green Party

Tenancies for life penalise needy

Labour’s ‘triumphant’ defeat of the move to end tenancies for life in Islington was a victory for the petty egos of our local politicians, not for those on the housing waiting list. A display of the purest self-defeating immaturity for the futile sake of giving two fingers to the government.

Labour constantly brandish the figure of 13,000 on the housing list to emotionally blackmail residents to capitulate to new housing on educational land, open space, and valuable car parks; so opposing this measure is obscene.

It is a simple fact of fairness that tenancies for life are not fair at all. Those on large salaries should not be in social housing, and older couples and individuals who no longer have children should not be in homes with surplus bedrooms.

Removing tenancies for life is right, so a public and finite resource like housing can be fairly and flexibly reallocated to those desperately needing it such as young families or the overcrowded. Building new houses alone will never ever fully slake the demand, and social housing must serve those in need, not those who simply got there first.

Common sense dictates that building new houses must go hand in hand with a more manouverable system allowing property rotation between those of greatest need, Labour’s upholding of tenancies for life shows that Labour are more pre-occupied with gesture politics than reality.

Nick Southworth

Deputy chairman of Islington Conservatives

Current system is encouraging abuse

Last week’s front page story (Scourge of addiction in Islington, Gazette) was enlightening. Islington has 10,000 people who are addicted to substance abuse and what’s shocking is that is not the real figure, just the numbers that the council is aware of. The government spend billions on trying to restrict the flow of drugs, yet this action reduces the supply so the street price goes up. This means the dealer smuggler gets more profit for less, it means the reliant people have to gather more cash just to maintain their habit which means more crime, more police costs and more victims of crime. Hence I think the current drugs policy is insane, and attacks the society it is meant to protect. The current system seems to want to manage the problem and thus maintain it. The cash which could be ploughed into these folks is wasted on management systems, while the simple answer is to create locations controlled by the state not profit type organisations where people in these type scenarios can turn up to detoxify, no waiting lists, no appointment necessary and return if you fall at the fence. That way the public cash is harnessed for the good of the society, and focuses on education of young people to the reality of drink and drug addiction.

Michael Mcelligott

Amwell Street, Islington

Councillors are now responsible

During last week’s Full Council meeting in the town hall, in order to ward off terminal boredom, I occupied myself by conscientiously reading through the four inches of written reports pertinent to the proceedings, and discovered, buried deep within the body of the official agenda, a reference to the council’s annual review of the constitution, which outlines proposed amendments to the council’s high value procurement processes.

Notably, the principal change proposes that…“in future the Executive receive tender strategy reports, for the types of contracts in respect of which, currently, they only receive award reports. This will enable the Executive to have input into the design of the contract and tendering process...”

Hopefully, if my brief reading of this amendment is correct, this will mean that in future our elected councillors, upon being elevated to the Executive, will be no longer be able to disclaim responsibility for awarding grossly overpriced contracts, since it will be them who are personally culpable, thereby finally allocating accountability where it morally belongs, to those we pay to accept such responsibility – our elected councillors.

Initially, though somewhat naively, I assumed that my constant barracking in the local press had finally prevailed and forced the council to concede a point, but upon further reflection it is of course quite simply another means of reducing the council’s financial outlay during the present period of economic austerity.

By controlling the size and issuing of contracts personally, rather than allowing council officers to dominate the process, they control the flow of public cash and are at liberty to either reduce or even veto contracts which strain the public purse.

Still, on the whole, this appears to be a step in the right direction and I enthusiastically look forward to observing the results of this amendment in action, I.e contracts that provide the borough with genuine value for money for a change.

Dr Brian Potter.

Chairman Islington Leaseholders’ Association/Federation Islington Tenants’ Association