Gazette letters: Graveyards, building fears, council tax and Zafar’s success

PUBLISHED: 08:30 18 November 2017

Toppled gravestones in Abney Park Cemetery. Picture: WILL McCALLUM

Toppled gravestones in Abney Park Cemetery. Picture: WILL McCALLUM


Graveyards are a regular feature of this column, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

London’s final resting places are known for being wildlife havens: there are shrews, owls, and the only place in Hackney I’ve ever seen a giant puffball.

Graveyard nature watch, however, is also an exercise in the observation of entropy. Left to their own devices, these patches of sacred land bear witness to the slow decay of the world around us.

No time is this felt more strongly than in autumn. Leaves scattering with every breeze perform a ritual dance of death; the darker afternoons cast longer shadows; and the colder weather forces summer’s greenery to take flight.

Running through Abney Park Cemetery I stopped to look at four tombstones, toppled in perfect choreography by nature’s unseen forces. The foliage crowded around their bases was beginning the long business of destruction; unobservable except over the course of a generation.

Watching this falling apart need not be as miserable as at first it might appear; instead we can choose to focus, if it helps, on how in the natural world death begets life. Without autumn there is no spring (or at least that’s what I endlessly repeat to myself each morning).

Having read the article in the Gazette, “Britannia protesters hold meeting over demolition plans”, I feel I must write to you to voice our concerns here in Hoxton., writes Les Harrison, board member, Arden Estate tenant management organisation.

One of the points raised was how every major build of tower blocks, be they offices or residential, falls on this part of the borough, Shoreditch. Go to the East Road and see how the sky has disappeared because of the way this council allows developers to build blocks with no regard for the people already living there.

The council seems to want to prioritise the Britannia type of scheme. While doing this they have alienated the locals whose families have lived here for years. In February this year, the mayor came to the same hall that held the public meeting and told the residents of Caliban Towers that in July (of this year) work would begin on their new heating system. The hot air blowers they now have should have been replaced 20 years ago. It’s now November and not one bit of work has started. So before I see another picture of a grinning mayor, complete with hardhat, on the front page of Hackney Today, I say: “Mr Mayor, please come and sort out Caliban Towers as you promised.”

A point that was raised privately at the meeting was the police investigation into Hackney Homes [which began in 2015 and saw two workers sacked in 2016 – ed]. Have any TMOs or tenants’ associations been visited by the police regarding the investigation into repairs? They haven’t been to us.

I am responding to the letter from Alan Gibson, of the Trade Union Council, writes Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney.

he reason we’re consulting on the proposals is so we can gather evidence and opinions, like Alan’s, to help us make an informed decision. But it’s not going to be easy.

Increasing the minimum amount working age adults have to pay for their council tax is not something we want to do. We want to support low earners and those on benefits, but the government’s relentless attack on local councils’ finances leaves us few options if we are to continue to provide other important services.

When the government handed responsibility for administering council tax-related benefits to local government, it did so with a massive funding shortfall.

The scheme was introduced in April 2013 and no longer aligns with other means-tested benefits, like Universal Credit.

Of course, we will continue to provide extra support for the most vulnerable people. Care leavers are now exempt from paying council tax and those fleeing domestic abuse will not have to pay it for a second property.

We’ll now take some time to analyse and understand the feedback from the consultation before reporting back to cabinet in the New Year.

Your report on Hackney teenager Zafar Tandel’s success at the Young Builder of the Year awards is proof that with the right encouragement and support, young people can overcome challenges and flourish, writes Rosie Winstanley, Barnado’s.

Zafar should be enormously proud of all he has achieved, and of the positive future he is shaping for himself.

Zafar’s route to success in the construction industry is due in large part to Cathie Short and her colleagues at New Regent’s College in Hackney, whose expertise in alternative education have enabled Zafar and many others to find the right learning environments following exclusion from mainstream education. I would like to thank Cathie for her commitment to young people in east London, and also to clarify that in Zafar’s case, his initial exclusion was from The Petchey Academy, and not New Regent’s College as mistakenly stated to the Gazette.


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