Gazette letters: Magpies, parking costs and LD50

A file image of a magpie. Picture: TONY HISGETT/FLICKR (CC BY 2.0)

A file image of a magpie. Picture: TONY HISGETT/FLICKR (CC BY 2.0) - Credit: Tony Hisgett/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Magpies are great, but won’t make you richer, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

Sentries keeping watch over our every move, magpies guard our neighbourhood streets. Alone or in pairs, they seem to always be there. I cannot walk through de Beauvoir on my way to work without being spotted by at least a couple.

In the north-west corner of Victoria Park there always seem to be a small parliament (or, as some say, a tiding). Whenever I see three or more together I cannot help but remember the old rhyme, hoping that I might catch sight of five (for silver) or six (for gold) to finally clear my student debt. It hasn’t worked out yet.

Popular myth tells us their beady eyes seek out shimmer and shine, collecting fools’ gold from gutter and garden in equal measure. Recently this has been questioned by scientists, who claim they would always rather pick up more familiar objects – it is just that we notice more when the objects hanging from their beak glint in the sun. But the same scientists made clear they were only observing “married” magpies (they mate for life). Perhaps single magpies, known to be more unpredictable in their behaviour, are the ones collecting sparkly trinkets to impress future lovers.

Brought up in a superstitious household, I sometimes struggle against the urge to salute a lone magpie as I run through the park. Slowly but surely, though, I am training myself instead to admire these handsome birds and ignore the rumours of arrogance, theft and bad luck that people have ascribed to them for so long.

After some years questioning Hackney Council about its borough-wide parking scheme, my conclusion is the council seems at least very badly advised, writes David Plows, full address supplied.

A court case brought by Barnet residents in 2013 challenging their parking scheme brought a very clear court ruling – no raising of surplus revenue for the council coffers is allowed. Put simply, the High Court ruling from Judge Lang stated a council should collect no more than 10 per cent excess over the expense of the scheme. Any surplus had to be accidental. The parking scheme could not be used to supplement council income.

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No other schemes should be subsidised by revenue raised as it placed an unlawful and unfair burden on what is actually a small portion of the community.

Also, the pollution element included in the scheme [parking permits are priced in line with CO2 emissions of each vehicle – ed] is in my mind unlawful as the court found it was unlawful to collect any money for anti-pollution schemes unless it was transferred from the original budget – not from any surplus.

I would like to know the cost of the parking scheme and the total revenue, because they should be within 10pc of one another. That was the court ruling.

The sums involved are considerable, probably amounting to tens of millions, and as no officer seems to want to discuss figures it’s very hard to find the true returns.

When I did speak to the manager of the parking scheme I was told: “Well, with the cuts these days, this is where we are raising money,” and: “The pollution charges are a punitive levy to hit the motorist.” All fair, then, and very equitable.

•Transport boss Cllr Feryal Demirci told the Gazette: “All revenue generated from parking is ringfenced and must be invested back into transport related work such as freedom passes, highway and street scene improvements, and safer car parks.”

Regarding LD50 art gallery, I think the key questions are these, writes Josh Loeb, Cowper Road, Stoke Newington.

Is there evidence that art displayed at this gallery or people given platforms there incited violence?

If not, might it be undesirable, or indeed futile, to attempt to ban their ideas, however nasty?