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Gazette letters: End first past the post, social housing needed and new prime minister

PUBLISHED: 08:30 20 July 2019

A litter bin turned into a first past the post ballot box during the Make Votes Matter campaign in Dalston. Picture: NIC LEE

A litter bin turned into a first past the post ballot box during the Make Votes Matter campaign in Dalston. Picture: NIC LEE

Nic Lee

For longer than I can remember Hackney has returned two Labour MPs with typically around 60 per cent of the vote, writes Nic Lee, Make Votes Matter, Dalston.

This means that around 40pc of voters and their views in Hackney are not represented in parliament. And this is before you count voters who vote tactically for Labour. This is clearly unfair.

Residents in Dalston joined a groundswell of public opinion in the UK to call for an overhaul of the voting system on Saturday, July 6. To show their support for Demand Democracy Day, campaigners ran a street stall at Ridley Road Market with a petition to MPs Meg Hillier and Diane Abbott calling for a form of proportional representation.

Campaigners turned litter bins into first past the post ballot boxes in protest at the UK's antiquated voting system. The action was organised by campaign group Make Votes Matter who stress that democratic reform is just as urgent as - and is needed to fix - issues like the global climate crisis.

The street stall was one of around 90 held across the UK - from Bristol to Belfast - in what has been described as the largest mobilisations for proportional representation in recent history.

The current voting system denies millions of people a voice in parliament, forces millions more to vote tactically, and distorts the will of the British people. The Conservatives and DUP won a majority of seats in the House of Commons, despite receiving just 43pc of the vote in 2017.

If you want to help campaign for a fair voting system, join the movement for proportional representation at makevotesmatter.org.uk

The council announced they are acquiring 25 luxury dwellings from developer Anthology, writes Pat Turnbull, Hackney, full address supplied.

They are part of the 198-flat, two-tower Hoxton Press development, on land on Colville Estate sold to Anthology by Hackney Council.

The council says it plans to rent them out at market rents with a view to eventually selling them at market prices.

With part of the proceeds they say they will change eight properties on the Bridge House regeneration scheme from market sale to London Living Rent. This, they say, will be at approximately £1,000 a month rent for a two-bed property, and is aimed at households with an income up to £60,000 a year.

Unfortunately, not one extra council social rented property will come out of this arrangement, and it is social rented housing that is desperately needed by the 13,000 on the council waiting list and the 3,000 in temporary accommodation.

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The council plans to build another 400 flats for market sale on the neighbouring Britannia Leisure Centre site. That sale is supposed to fund the building of a school and new leisure centre already going ahead on the site, as well as 48 social rented homes and 32 for shared ownership, a part of the scheme which has been postponed for a year.

The deal also begs another question. What funding is going to fill the gap in the Colville Estate regeneration programme, which was supposed to be funded by the Anthology development?

Is it going to come from the housing revenue account, which is made up entirely from council tenants' rents? Maybe the council can tell us.

The first 41 council households rehoused on the Colville regeneration when their homes were demolished are sitting in Bridport House, swathed in scaffolding, wondering what is going on with construction of their eight year old homes.

Hackney Council tenants and people who need a council home may, therefore, be entitled to ask what is the benefit for them of regeneration schemes like the Colville?

A number of people and commentators who ought to know better have suggested the current debate as to whether Boris or Jeremy should be prime minister is a waste of time, writes Christopher Sills, Dunsmure Road, Stamford Hill.

Last time this debate did not take place and if it had it is clear that the current prime minister would not have won because her shortcomings would have been exposed.

I understand that somebody has claimed on Twitter that I support Boris. This is a lie because I have always said that I will make up mind at the last minute.

I believe both candidates would make an excellent prime minister - the question for me is which would make a better one

I hoped the home secretary would have made it to the final two and regret that Esther Mcvey did not do better but she had the disadvantage of being out of the House of Commons between 2015 and 2017

I started the campaign leaning towards Boris and at the time of writing I am leaning towards Jeremy but I could easily change my mind two or three times before the vote closes. In 1968 the Conservatives won control of Hackney Council by just four votes and I believe it will be much closer than the press currently imagines with a tie not being impossible.

I am, therefore, treating my decision as the one who actually decides the issue and my time on the council between 1968 and 1971 trained me to take difficult decisions on the spur of the moment if necessary so I shall take my responsibility very seriously.

It is claimed that with Britain due to leave the European Union on October 31, 2019 the leadership contest is wasting time. I disagree because whoever wins will be a tougher negotiator than Mrs May and there are clear signs that the European Union understands this.

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