Gazette letters: Council contractors, Extinction Rebellion and air pollution

Clayeon McKenzie, cabinet member for housing services, says Hackney Council will be looking at contr

Clayeon McKenzie, cabinet member for housing services, says Hackney Council will be looking at contracts. - Credit: Archant

Two years it explored the behaviours of some building contractors we employ to carry out work to homes and estates (“Probe into Hackney Council’s contractors reveals aggressive pricing, excessive claims and ‘dishonourable’ culture”, Gazette), .

There will always be challenges in managing large and complex contracts, but we will never stop looking to better our ways of working. Our procurement team has been given dedicated resources to help with construction contracts; in future, external expertise will be sought where specialist advice is needed. Officers have been looking at a wide range of contract types and terms to ensure new contracts build on lessons learnt.

At front and centre of our improvement strategy is our vision and total commitment to identify opportunities wherever feasible to use our in-house repairs and maintenance team instead of external companies. Under our new procurement strategy, our in-house team will be considered first for all jobs.

I welcome the report from my fellow councillors and the recommendations they made, all of which we have implemented or we are in the process of doing so, I recognise that one issue with a contractor is one too many, but we must be clear about the scope of the review: the findings relate to the performance of one specific partnering contract, that was ended, and a single discussion – some two years ago – focusing on the general benefits and risks with our partnering contracts.

The vast majority of our partnering contracts are delivered successfully, effectively and for value-for-money, and we appreciate the difficult work our contractors do for us and our residents.

Many people in London will have seen the roadblocks by Extinction Rebellion as a nuisance and will be glad now that much of the city is back to “business as usual” as Sadiq Khan (mayor of London) put it, writes Alex Armitage, full address supplied.

I read last year’s United Nations climate change report, and am truly terrified by the predictions of the future of humanity and of this planet if we don’t urgently change the system. “Business as usual” is killing us. I’m not a climate scientist, but it isn’t hard to understand a graph to see where we are heading.

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As a doctor, risking arrest means risking my medical registration so I volunteered for Extinction Rebellion in a supportive role by speaking to journalists and getting our message out on social media. Hackney Rebels were primarily responsible for blockading roads around Marble Arch but also were on duty to respond rapidly to other rebel-held sites such as Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square that were threatened by police clearance.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) has been described as a “chaotic mob” but my experience from the inside is that it is a slick, highly organised movement with a well thought-out strategy – which is clearly having an effect. Other environmental organisations ask for financial donations but XR is totally different – it depends on the passion, organisation, initiative and creativity of people. Personally, I have found new friends, learned new skills, lost 3kg and seen my mental health improve. One of things that you often hear being said in XR is that “everyone is welcome and everyone is needed”. It’s amazing to be part of a movement that could change everything.

I don’t blame parents for coming out to protest against pollution on our streets (Gazette). That’s what all parents want to see, writes Anna Williams, Brighton Road.

However if this march is successful, they have marched to stop progress on reducing pollution, encouraging cycling, incentivising people to make fewer car journeys and making safer streets for all children in Hackney.

Frankly what the mayor and Feryal Demirci are trying to achieve in Hackney is groundbreaking. But you can’t begin to make progress with pollution on the main roads until you have dealt with the rat runs. It’s simple logic. Rat runs on residential roads must come first, otherwise you are just diverting cars off main roads into the places where people live that were not designed for this.

Drivers are using our streets constantly to shave a few minutes off their journeys. They have little interest in being considerate or slowing down. They don’t care about using their horn at 2am in the morning just as you have got your newborn back to sleep. It’s not them breathing in the air as they walk down their street with a pram just at the level of the exhaust as they wait to squeeze through the queue of cars trying to pass each other.

And it’s not just pollution we’re worried about. In fact if anything the biggest concern is the danger of these drivers racing down these streets in the worry they might meet another car and have to wait for it to pass. It is well known that children are disproportionately much more at risk on residential streets because there is poor visibility for small children where there are parked cars. The figures back this up – trauma (of which traffic incidents make up 80 per cent) is the second biggest killer of school-age children (only cancer is higher) in east London. We don’t have pedestrian crossings, lights and zig zags like Albion Road and Church Street.

This is what we are fighting for. We understand traffic is too high in Church Street but you can’t begin to address it until you close these roads. We want a safer healthier Hackney for everyone. The better solution CA4S are arguing for is to do nothing. We can’t wait for a fatal incident to show them they are wrong. The council must act now.

In Walthamstow Village, a similar scheme has stopped 10,000 car journeys a day as, by removing rat runs and reducing the convenience of short journeys, drivers have simply changed their behaviour.

I demand the council act now and prioritise the safety of children over cars.