Gazette letters: Free transport, fly-tipping and walk for dogs

City Hall. Picture: Ken Mears

City Hall. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

The loss of free public transport travel for school children was matched by the loss of Freedom Pass access for us oldsters before 9.30am, write Mary Pimm and Nik Wood, Gore Road, Hackney.

During lockdown, supermarkets had made special provision for us before 8am, yet we could no longer get there for free on the virtually empty buses. Genius! We didn’t find this out through Mayor Khan asking us to resist the imposition of unfair terms in the Government’s TfL bail out. We just blundered in to it.

Lockdown rules mean that highway authorities don’t have to consult residents when they want to make their roads into cycleways and the like till afterwards. Boroughs’ enthusiasm for this conveys the impression that they are gleefully pouncing on a way of working that doesn’t involve the inconvenience of actually engaging with their electorate.

The outcome of these two together is that pupils on the school run are not being encouraged out of the family car on to bikes but are being turfed off the buses.

This lack of engagement by our local politicians, both at City Hall and town hall, means that they wind up with little of the responsiveness to their localities that ought to be their strength.

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Combine this with so much of their income being in the form of central government grants with strings attached and they tend to drift away from us and into what used to be the smoke filled rooms of Tammany Hall. There they make secret plans, of Baldrickian cunning. And their perspective closes down to making the best of a bad job, while losing sight of just how bad a job it is and how much better they should be aiming for.

For instance, the initial retreat forced on the government over the ending of the ban on evictions wasn’t lead by local government housing providers. It was led by campaign groups like Axe The Housing Act and London Renters’ Union and is being pursued by them.

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For instance, the Treasury has torn up the fiscal rule book. Yet our council leaders are still cutting services and sacking staff because they are obsessed with playing by the rules rather than playing their trump card, which is our support for their leadership to get those rules removed for us at local level too.

Local government has been hollowed out by national governments over decades. When local government doesn’t have the organisation to take on the roles that should properly fall to it, from Covid, through development control and housing provision to bus fares and road closures, you get the invisible and disengaged political leadership we see exemplified by your reports.

Viral videos of a van upending wood, rubble and plastic on a quiet street in Croydon in July and another of a woman trying to dump furniture outside an Enfield resident’s gate have shocked Londoners. These videos highlight the massive increase in fly-tipping across the capital since lockdown, writes Caroline Russell, Green Party London Assembly member.

Figures from the Clear Waste app show fly-tipping has increased on average by 383 per cent between April and July compared to March.

Although many waste and recycling centres have reopened, fly-tipping is still a problem. This may be because people aren’t aware that tips are open again or they find it too much hassle to use new Covid-safe booking systems.

The big question is what will happen to this fly tipping? More than likely it will be burned, rather than recycled. In 2018-19 recycling rates in London were 33.4pc, up just 0.3pc on the previous year and well below the 50pc target. At the same time, the amount of waste sent by London’s local authorities for incineration went up by nearly three per cent to 58.3pc.

It is time for the mayor to set targets on reducing the overall waste produced in London to cut the amount of stuff that gets burnt and improve the rates of reuse and repair.

At PDSA, the UK’s leading vet charity, we provide life-saving care to pets and believe no pet should suffer due to financial hardship, writes Lynne James, PDSA Vet.

But the coronavirus pandemic has left us facing a national crisis. With the country plunged into financial uncertainly, and more than a million extra universal credit claims, we expect the number of pets needing our help to increase by around 50,000. So support from local animal lovers is needed now more than ever.

We’re urging dog owners and their four-legged friends to put their best paw forward and support our vital service by signing up to the World Big Dog Walk Challenge.

All you need to do is choose a suitable distance for you and your dog to complete during September. This could be your regular ‘walkies’ route or why not stretch yourself and take on a more challenging distance? Every small step will make a big different to the lives of poorly pets in desperate need of life-saving treatment.

Our veterinary service has been a lifeline to so many pets and their owners across the UK during the crisis so by choosing to support PDSA through this fun virtual event, we can continue our vital work saving sick and injured pets in need.

Visit for more information and to sign up.

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