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Readers' Letters

Readers' Letters

Gazette letters: Climate change, diverse Islington, cyclists, fire safety, austerity and Brexit

PUBLISHED: 08:30 15 February 2020

It is now possible to measure your carbon footprint. Picture: PA IMAGES

It is now possible to measure your carbon footprint. Picture: PA IMAGES

PA Wire/PA Images

Claire O’Neill clearly has an axe to grind, but the sacked head of the climate summit (the COP26 UN meeting due to be held in Glasgow this autumn) reckons PM Boris Johnson doesn’t get climate change, writes Nicola Baird, Islington Green.

Islington Council, despite declaring a climate emergency, is also having a tough time bringing carbon counting into its budget. Tackling climate change seems to be getting more complicated now it's awash with mathematical language about carbon neutral, carbon net zero or even zero carbon lifestyles. All requiring us to cut our fossil fuel use dramatically.

I've just tried WWF's carbon footprint calculator to discover if I am using less carbon each year for heating and lighting my home, getting around, choosing food and dealing with waste. WWF reckons families need to be using no more than 10.5 tonnes (twice the world average) in order for the UK's footprint to be zero carbon by 2045. At the Paris climate summit in 2016, the world agreed to reduce global carbon emissions to net zero by 2045.

Now that I've done WWF's quiz and found that my carbon footprint measures 8.5 tonnes as a vegan (thank you Veganuary!) and 8.8 tonnes as a vegetarian, I'm more aware of how far I am from a carbon net zero lifestyle. In Islington we all are going to need a lot of help insulating where we live whether tenant, landlord or homeowner. That said, many people without cash flow issues could opt for 100 per cent renewable electricity (try asking neighbours for their favourites).

As we move into 2020 anyone with low carbon aspiration should take inspiration from local activist, Rosalind Readhead, who is experimenting by living on just one tonne of carbon for a year. She's figuring out her carbon instincts by calculating the carbon cost of everything she does from tweeting to eating using guidance from Mike Berners-Lee's book, How Bad Are Bananas: the carbon cost of everything. Readhead's budget is 2.74kg of carbon a day, which is less than watching a football match on a tablet. Follow her @privatecarfree and rosalindreadhead.wordpress.com

What a great event Islington Council held last Saturday, making it clear to people from all over the EU how welcome they are - today and forever - here in wonderful Islington, writes Cllr Dave Poyser, Hillrise ward and Islington Mayor - 2018-2019.

Everyone really enjoyed the atmosphere.

Unlike so many parts of England at the moment, we are proudly multicultural - our diversity is an asset not a 'problem'. Once again, I felt truly proud to be an Islingtonian.

Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn, all the council staff, councillors and Islington in Europe and everyone else who made it such a success.

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Following your publication of our Open Letter last week, write XR Islington and Bunhill XR:

Extinction Rebellion would like to invite readers of the Gazette to a People's Assembly at Islington Town Hall on Monday, February 24 at 7pm to discuss the provisions in the council's draft budget that do relate to the climate emergency as well as the council's emergency plan that we are expecting to be published on February 19.

Cyclists please note... for every one of you there are 17 of us, writes Jack Turner, Roseberry Avenue, Clerkenwell.

We are the old, the infirm, the children, the babies, the fearful, the physically challenged, the untutored, the poor, the laden, our carers and essential travelling companions and any combination of these.

So, should you think you have an inalienable right to drive your cycle paths over our bus lanes, litter our walkways with your cycles, ride at us on pavements and canal paths, insist on the public purse subsidising you, strongarm the planning process and drown out the voices of the vulnerable- then please remember us

We are the 17 just trying to get along in what you clearly see as your world.

The long delay in replacing more than 4,500 front doors that fail to meet fire safety standards in Islington Council tenanted properties is very worrying, writes Cllr Caroline Russell, Highbury East ward.

It raises two important questions about fire safety inspection standards in general and the relationship between local and central government when it comes to covering the costs of institutional failures of this kind.

2,700 of Islington's 4,500 defective front doors were replaced with Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) fire doors between 2014 and 2018, when the serious defects in the GRP doors came to light.

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It will now take up to two years before the 1,800 remaining defective doors and the 2,700 GRP doors are all replaced. This leaves 4,500 Islington households with front doors that do not meet fire safety specifications.

The council should be transparent about this. People will understand they've been ripped off by Masterdor but they should be communicating with residents about fire safety and the importance of shutting doors behind you if fleeing a fire to avoid the spread of smoke.

Having seen the impact of smoke on people's ability to exit a building in a fire in a three storey block in my ward in 2018, I believe it is crucial that the council communicates clearly with residents with these doors so that they know how best to stay safe.

All councillors should be informed about any front doors that don't meet fire safety standards in estates in their wards.

Since the company that supplied the 2,700 non-compliant GRP doors is no longer in business, the council is unlikely to reclaim any of the more than £3 million it spent on them.

In retrospect it seems extraordinary that the company was able to sell tens of thousands of these to local councils across the country on the basis that they would prevent fires spreading for 30 minutes.

Tests conducted after the disastrous Grenfell Tower fire show they would do so for only 15 minutes, less than the period specified in fire safety regulations.

It is also hard to dissociate this failure from the same dilution of fire safety standards that may have contributed to the Grenfell Tower fire. An independent report commissioned by parliament in 2017 warned of the consequences of partially privatising the inspection process. Since 2013 private-sector "approved inspectors" have had authority to carry out all types of building control work.

"We have frequently heard that this leads to situations where (building control) personnel can fail to 'win business' where they will not commit in advance to approval of more risky designs and that those who do win business can become far too embedded in supporting the building design process rather than being an impartial rigorous verifier of building safety," the report said.

The other troubling aspect is that the burden of the costs is likely to fall on Islington Council and other councils, which have all already seen massive reductions in the central government contribution to their budgets.

I'm glad that Islington Council has found the money to replace the doors in its budget, but since fire safety standards are a responsibility of central government, the government surely has a duty to intervene with funds, as it has promised to do in the case of the cladding that will have to be removed from high-rise buildings for fire safety reasons.

Local authorities across the capital have been hit badly by austerity, writes Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly member for North East (Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest).

This has directly led to councils having to make difficult, but often unavoidable choices when it comes to reducing funding for certain services in order to protect child and adult social care budgets.

The government has a duty to support the most vulnerable young people in our communities and defend them from the grip of crime and gang exploitation. Youth services in all their forms play a vital part in this, but they have sadly been stripped to the bone across the capital. To mitigate against the worst impacts of the government's cuts, City Hall has stepped in to deliver significant investment in early intervention initiatives and a public health approach to clamping down on violent crime. We now want to see the government prioritising prevention measures in the fight against violent crime and better financial support for youth services is one way they can do this.

AusTERRitY Stacy, the face of Lib Dem cuts locally should just give up, writes John Greenshields, Islington, full address supplied.

In case the former Town Hall Toon missed it: "The Highbury Fields Bandstand will be demolished once a new building at Christ Church in Highbury Grove is completed so services can be provided there."

What about the SureStart my daughters can't attend because his spineless leaders Clegg, Cable, Swansong and whoever next thought it best to close them? Shush now austerry. You've had your day.

At 11pm on January 31 - midnight in Brussels - I placed lighted candles on the window-ledge of my home in sadness at the UK's departure from the European Union (Strange days have tracked us down, February 6), writes Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington.

As I did so, I heard the sound of Ode To Joy (An die Freude), from the final movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, coming from the top of my N7 street.

From the city of the post World War Two Nazi war-crimes trials came the resonant beauty of Beethoven's music and the sublime words of Schiller: "All men shall become brothers, wherever [Joy] your gentle wings hover."

At that very moment the UK was turning its back on our European neighbours. The ironies don't end there. The year 2020 may well be that of Brexit Britain, but December 17 this year will be the 250th anniversary of the great German musician's birth. Less well-known, and more significant for the UK's Brexit stance, is that Beethoven 9 was commissioned by the (then) London Philharmonic, now Royal Philharmonic Society.

As a London-born English poet reminds us: "No man is an island/Entire of itself/Every man is a piece of the continent/A part of the main/If a clod be washed away by the sea/Europe is the less."


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