BAME communities, cats, driving charges and Barnardo's

Baby, a female cat 8y2m (approx.) at Cats Protection Belfast Adoption Centre as the animal charity h

Cats Protection is asking owners of unneutered cats to get them spayed or keep them indoors - Credit: PA

Let's make sure legacy of pandemic

Mary Pimm and Nik Wood, Gore Road, Hackney, write: 

We are not members of any of the ethnic minority communities of our society so our view is from outside them.

We can understand that the standard issue middle-aged white man in a suit who is the face of authority here does not inspire instant confidence in people of minority ethnicity.

We can see why he wouldn’t be trusted to have in his heart the best interests of Black, Asian, orthodox Jewish or any other cultural or ethnic minority person.

That is in the best of times and the current pandemic is far from the best of times. To make it worse, we are burdened with a political leadership that displays neither gravitas nor empathy.

These politicians have allowed the stresses on our society arising from the pandemic to exacerbate all the prejudices that lurk in our country. All those people who are in any way disadvantaged or dispossessed have suffered worst from both the disease and from the inconsistent imposition of constraints on our liberties and economic wellbeing necessary to get to grips with it.

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The poorest have suffered worst. Look at how people with disabilities have suffered disproportionately. Meanwhile racism, misogyny, homophobia and all the other prejudiced preconceptions have been given freedom to flourish.

When faced with this, minority communities draw together to rely on their own resources rather than trust the unreliable majority, and when these resources are religious ones they can be double edged.

The understandable rejection of all that is exemplified by establishment figures runs the risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. An all-enveloping religion can give great strength but can run the risk of drifting into fundamentalist rejection of the scientific rationality that underlies modern medicine.

The low take-up rate of vaccination in our capital city reflects our political leadership’s lack of application to the job of reaching out to our underprivileged and culturally isolated communities.

If we are not careful, the legacy will not just be a poor recovery rate from the contagion, but a strengthening of prejudice and ignorance.

World Spay Day

Sarah Reid, acting head of neutering, Cats Protection, writes: 

With World Spay Day coming up on February 23, Cats Protection is urging that unneutered pet cats are kept indoors to prevent a potential kitten crisis.

We estimate that around 70 per cent of kittens born in the UK are the result of unplanned pregnancies, which puts severe pressure on owners to arrange for their feeding, care and rehoming.

The pandemic has meant that we are currently only able to take in a small number of cats as emergency cases. This is why we’re asking the public to help us by ensuring that unneutered cats are kept indoors, and unneutered siblings kept apart.

The coronavirus has affected many vets too. Many have had to prioritise emergency appointments, meaning access to neutering operations will vary.

It is important to check with your vet for availability and make an appointment in advance if you can.

Cats Protection can help owners on limited incomes with the cost of neutering pet cats. To find out if you are eligible, call our Neutering Line on 03000 12 12 12 (option 2) or visit where you can also find out more about neutering and its benefits.

Funding for TfL

Dr Alison Moore, Labour’s London Assembly Transport spokesperson, writes:

There have been some recent media reports suggesting that motorists living outside our city could soon be charged £3.50 each time they drive into London.

We need to do some myth-busting here. For the time being, there are no concrete plans for this to happen. This is just one of several ideas that TfL is exploring to plug the gaps in its finances left by plummeting passenger numbers as a direct result of the pandemic.

The preferred option, which the mayor is lobbying transport secretary Grant Shapps for, is for London to keep hold of the £500m it generates through Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) each year.

This is all currently spent on maintaining roads outside of the capital.

In fact, this week, new government figures have shown that London’s contribution this year will pay for the entire national budget allocated to fixing potholes in other areas of England.

On the London Assembly, all political groups have backed VED retention as the way forward and it will help us to avoid the need for a boundary charge.

An even better solution would be for the government to give TfL the long-term and sustainable emergency funding package it needs to mitigate the impact of the pandemic - just like it did with the private rail companies.

Cladding crisis

The aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017

The aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 - Credit: PA Wire

Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly Member for the North East (covering Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest), writes:

Last week, the government unveiled a new £3.5 billion fund to tackle the cladding scandal, but it will still leave a significant number of our capital’s beleaguered leaseholders in the lurch. Any new funding aimed at protecting Londoners living in unsafe homes should be welcomed.

But ministers are all too aware of the scale of this crisis. They also know that whilst the £3.5 billion figure might grab headlines, it simply won’t be enough to replace dangerous cladding in buildings in London, let alone across the rest of the country.

It is also bitterly unfair that only loans will be offered to leaseholders living in low- to medium-rise buildings, rather than direct grants to cover remediation costs.

Leaseholders impacted by the cladding crisis are already facing financial hardship. They should not be saddled with yet more debt after paying for exorbitant waking watch fire patrols on top of their insurance bills, service charges and mortgages.

Ministers need to go back to the drawing board on this, and the right way forward is for the government to commit to foot the bill for remediation works in smaller buildings.

Children in crisis

Lynn Gradwell, director, Barnardo’s London region, writes: 

As the coronavirus crisis worsens, more and more vulnerable children and young people are feeling the effects of repeated lockdowns, uncertainty and isolation.

The impact of the second wave is pushing a generation of the most vulnerable children in our country into a downward spiral of deprivation. 

We, at the leading children’s charity Barnardo’s, are asking people to donate what would have been the cost of their usual daily commute or coffee to support these children and their families so they can deal with the immediate challenges they are facing today.

We can support them with vital things, like putting food on the table, paying for heating and electricity (especially in the recent very cold temperatures), affording data so children can keep up with school online, and providing access to counselling as children and young people all across the country are struggling with their mental health.

The cost of an average coffee would provide a child with a hot meal and a drink. With your help, we can deliver the practical and emotional support families in crisis need.

You can help by supporting our Children in Crisis Appeal today via Barnardo’s JustGiving page

Thank you.