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Readers' Letters

Readers' Letters

Gazette letters: Climate change protests, violence and independent businesses

PUBLISHED: 08:30 22 February 2020

Young climate protesters outside the town hall. Picture: MIRANDA IRWIN

Young climate protesters outside the town hall. Picture: MIRANDA IRWIN

Miranda Irwin

Once again Islington’s students left their schools and went on strike over climate change, writes Benali Hamdache, Islington Green Party.

Seeing our borough's young people stand up and demand action, to save our planet, was truly inspiring.

It's such a shame that our politicians are failing them.

The Tories have installed George Eustice as environment secretary - a man who has repeatedly voted against climate measures.

Sadiq Khan is ploughing ahead with the climate wrecking Silvertown Tunnel.

And here in Islington we're still waiting for our Labour Council to publish a concrete plan on how we will become carbon neutral by 2030.

Mainstream politics is failing to address the climate crisis. Thankfully this May we can vote Green for a different kind of politics.

I'm excited to vote for Sian Berry for mayor this May - as mayor she would transform our city.

Voting Green is the best way of ensuring we see the climate action we all want to see.

It has been very encouraging to see City Hall recently announce a further £100 million of investment targeted at tackling violence in our capital, writes Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly member, North East (Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest).

It is particularly welcome that over half of this new funding will go towards addressing the root causes of crime.

Building upon the crucial work already being delivered locally through the Mayor's Young Londoners Fund and Violence Reduction Unit, I hope to see the rollout of more early intervention initiatives in Islington on the back of this funding.

To be effective in the fight against violent crime, we need a strategy that places a proportionate focus on both enforcement and preventative measures.

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This is why it is also positive that the hundreds of millions of pounds of extra investment that the mayor has put in to the Met, including the £45 million this year, has led to police officer numbers slowly starting to recover.

We have also seen the government finally intervene and pledge that over 1,000 more officers will be on our streets by next year.

However, due to the damage caused by a decade of cuts, which are still yet to be reversed, we need the government to ensure future funding is in place for the recruitment of at least 6,000 new police officers over the next few years.

I'm writing to you after hearing the sad news that the coffee and bagel shop Brill on Exmouth Market has closed Matthew Baust wrote in an open letter to Emily Thornberry MP, Islington South and Finsbury.

This is the most recent in a string of closures on Exmouth Market where numerous stores now sit empty and large chain businesses have grown in their predominance.

I read that Brill closed primarily due to increases in rent - a problem that many independent businesses have suffered from over the last decade as large chains with large profit margins have driven up cost competition for space and property prices as a whole have grown at exponential rates.

Brill was a community hub for the area, providing not just coffee and bagels but a place for locals to feel welcome and part of society. Not least for the residents of nearby social housing for disadvantaged/disabled residents who were always a large part of the cafe's familial atmosphere.

Brill was also a leading business in the area for generating LGBT social awareness and creating a friendly and welcoming environment for all members of Clerkenwell's society.

These are 'intangibles' that large national/international chains do not care about.

They are in my opinion crucially important to positive societal function and can only be brought by local people running local businesses that have a broader motivation beyond profit goals. There is a place for both to co-exist but we are moving toward a scenario where independent businesses are infeasible.

For the future, the opportunity to start and build a business is clearly being crushed by the exorbitant cost of property, leaving a generation with no alternative but to get a job in Pret and try to cover their monthly rent. Should people not have the same chance to build something for themselves and contribute something positive to the local area that previous generations have had? Are we really striving for coffee that costs £1 less, or should we be focussed on what impact this is having on the economic diversity of the area, social integration and general life experience?

There obviously isn't an easy solution to this, particularly in a free market capital driven city. One thing I was thinking about recently though was the focus on creating more affordable housing in London. Landowners are being asked to extract slightly less wealth so that some affordable housing can be provided for the benefit of society. I don't see why this principle shouldn't also be applied to commercial property.

A step in the right direction could be to ask commercial property developers/landowners to provide at least a proportion of rent-capped affordable space for small/independent businesses.

I hope that in government there can be found a way of addressing this social issue.

At the least I hope that this email keeps you up to date with the gradual degradation of social integration and increasing isolationism being caused by the impersonal, non-community oriented direction of the local economy.


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