Gazette letters: Private renters, Hackney Today, school funding and Dunkirk

Better Renting campaign. Picture: SEAN POLLOCK PHOTOGRAPHER

Better Renting campaign. Picture: SEAN POLLOCK PHOTOGRAPHER - Credit: Sean Pollock Photographer

Four homes, four landlords and four completely different experiences – in my 15 years living as a renter in the borough I’ve experienced first-hand the good, the bad and the ugly of Hackney’s private rented sector, writes Cllr Sem Moema, mayor’s adviser for private renting and affordability.

I’m fortunate enough to now have a stable tenancy with a considerate landlord offers long-term tenancies and won’t hike up the rent at the end of each year, charge through the nose just to renew my tenancy or ignore my calls when the boiler breaks.

But I know that many of Hackney’s 32,000 renters aren’t so lucky.

That’s why the council’s Better Renting campaign is so important. Nationally, we’re calling on the government to introduce the regulations the sector needs. And here in Hackney, we’re committed to creating a fairer and more transparent system for private renters by supporting private renters and encouraging local landlords and letting agents to do the right thing by signing up to scrap letting fees voluntarily ahead of an official ban by government.

Like many private renters, I’ve experienced awful practice from previous landlords, from renewal fees of £300 per person per year to arguments over a broken boiler in the middle of winter. I know that feeling after months of searching, when you find a new place to call home that you can afford, to be asked for extortionate and completely incoherent start-up costs before even crossing the threshold.

The vast majority of landlords and letting agents are good and work hard for their tenants. But the sector is let down by those who exploit inadequate regulations to squeeze every penny out of tenants – and the rogue landlords who ignore the rules altogether.

Like me, every renter in Hackney will have their own story. So I’m encouraging everyone – renters, lettings agents and landlords – to back our campaign, share their story and make renting in Hackney better for everyone.

Future generations who dig up the time capsule the council recently planted may ponder the logic of the freesheet Hackney Today found in it (“Council stuffs its freesheet into time capsule...but can’t fit in Gazette page”), writes Charles Webber, Haggerston, full address supplied.

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Quite why residents need nine full pages of a 108,000 print run dedicated to recycling may be as equally bemusing to them as it is me.

Indeed simple maths shows over 25million pages carry the same message each year. Quite how many of those approximately 125 tons of paper end up in landfill we can but wonder.

Your article on school funding rightly highlighted the smoke and mirrors approach of the government Meg Hillier MP, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, writes.

The announcement of an additional £1.3million from next year over two years does not offset the £3bn of savings that English schools are being expected to make by 2020. As they are part way through this process, the “extra” money does not even cover the cuts already made in many cases.

Add to this the fact that there is no new money for September and no clarity on how the new funding formula will affect Hackney – although our excellent schools still look set to lose out.

As you report, parents are not fooled and I applaud them for standing up for good education. Rest assured that I will continue to keep up the pressure so our children and our excellent schools are not short changed.

The film Dunkirk is currently showing in the cinemas and what has surprised me is that so many young people do not know what Dunkirk was or understand the significance of what happened there – or indeed why it happened, writes Christopher Sills, Dunsmure Road, Stamford Hill.

People who have seen the film have one criticism in that it does not set out at the beginning the context in which the battle took place.

To help young people understand what was going on, I will try and explain. Around May 10, 1940, the Germans attacked northern France, Belgium and Holland, who were both neutral at the time, and as agreed the British went to their aid.

Unfortunately the Germans broke through the French lines at Sedan and raced to the Channel ports of Boulogne and Calais, thus cutting off the British Army and part of the French Army at Dunkirk. This was something they failed to achieve in the First World War.

At that point they faced potential destruction because the Germans had more men and equipment and a superior airforce if not complete control. The Germans were helped by their Russian Allies, who supplied equipment and most importantly fuel.

The Russians did not change sides until June 1941 when the Germans stupidly attacked them

At that point Britain, the Commonwealth and France stood alone against the Germans and the Nazis and if we had not succeeded in extracting the bulk of our army, we would almost certainly have lost the war.

It never ceases to amaze me that the Labour party should allow self-confessed Marxists in their party after the behaviour of the Communists in 1939 and 1940 when they supported the Nazis.