Gazette letters: Savoy cinema, student thanks, housing regulator and banks

The derelict cinema in September 1984. Picture: AMIR DOTAN

The derelict cinema in September 1984. Picture: AMIR DOTAN - Credit: Archant

I was thrilled to hear of the proposal to restore the Savoy cinema in Stoke Newington High Road, writes Terry Orford.

I used to attend Saturday morning pictures here in 1950’s as a young boy (10 years old). I passed by on a bus the other day and was sad to see its current condition.

I recently completed my GCSEs as a mature student at Hackney Community College, writes Brylee Christensen, recent GCSE student, Hackney Community College.

I had such a wonderful experience, especially in the case of my maths teacher, that I wondered whether you might consider publishing a small thank-you – both for the sake of good press for the college and acknowledgement for a person who went above and beyond, despite ever-shrinking budgets and challenging times.

Too often we use our voices to deplore those we feel have wronged us. Too seldom do we sing the praises of those who have helped us. And so, after receiving my GCSE results, I write to thank a highly skilled, faultlessly dedicated and truly selfless teacher for all her hard work over the past year in inspiring a class of mature students from all walks of life to give GCSE maths one more go.

Tracie Morrison has a unique gift in engaging and motivating others to believe in themselves and grasp any equation put before them. She simply is the best teacher I’ve have had and I am so grateful for her!

Kevin Long, a housing solicitor at Hackney Community Law Centre (HCLC), has raised a really important point about the toothlessness and inaction of the so-called housing regulator Homes and Community Agency (HCA) about who is responsible for the Grenfell Tower deaths, writes Cllr Ian Rathbone, chairman, Hackney Community Law centre.

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The HCA is a national body set up in 2008 with a duty to regulate social housing providers and uphold standards in the sector.

It is supposed to regulate registered social landlords (RSLs) – or housing associations, as we used to call some of them. But there is no real regulation of these RSLs, little monitoring of them or their performance, and poor accountability.

And this is reflected in my casework as a ward councillor involving tenants of RSLs in Hackney.

Some of it has been shocking: long delays to repairs, slow tackling of tenants’ anti-social behaviour, disinterest in the problems of elderly and disabled people, and so on. Some are better than others, but in Hackney I could name several RSLs who are definitely not up to standard.

With council tenants, as councillors we have some accountability with Hackney Housing – they are answerable and monitored. It could work better, but it works.

As Kevin says: “There are powers to compensate a tenant or groups of tenants where a provider has failed to meet the standards. [The regulator] can replace councils, ALMOs (arm’s length management organisations), TMOs (tenant management organisations) and housing associations as property managers where there is social housing mismanagement. And yet the regulator has a record of non-intervention.”

Social landlords need to be more accountable, to their own tenants as well as the wider public; they need regular monitoring by a body that can come down heavily on them if they are not doing their job of serving their tenants, many of whom come from the council’s homeless waiting list.

In my view, some RSLs have sparse local management and too much reliance on contractors. As for the HCA, I agree with Kevin: “The regulator, amid its sector’s greatest catastrophe, appears to be airbrushing itself from existence. As part of the ongoing search for justice, this must be brought to light.” Justice for the Grenfell Tower residents and families, and justice, too, for all the other tenants of RSLs who have had to suffer rejection and be overlooked.

NatWest closed the Finsbury Park branch almost one year ago and is now about to close the Stamford Hill branch offering online facilities, writes Norman Bright, East Bank, Stamford Hill.

Is this not like a baker saying “we no longer bake but we do sell other shops’ goods”? Has it not occurred to the managers of NatWest that their customers can leave for, say, TSB have a branch a couple of feet from NatWest?

Perhaps employees will look around – and what about their share price?

I note that Royal Mail now show a profit thanks (sic) to staff redundancies and an increase in the cost of stamps. As Royal Mail have a virtual monopoly on letters but not parcels they can perhaps get away with this. But NatWest have no monopoly and little loyalty. What stops the bank going out of business?