Health first

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The best part about being a human is being as healthy as possible. At least that is what we are striving for.

Here in Tower Hamlets, school children are thought to have 10% less lung capacity, compared to children in rural areas.

Tower Hamlets schools are normally encoached in busy traffic areas, with roads, right, left and centre.

For example Bishop Challoner School is unfortunately a good example of a school being in a totally traffic polluted area. The school is judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted because of exam results only. The school is siutated in Commercial Road.

For Ofsted good results are everything, they do not consider other health considerations when they judge a school, which I think is very sad indeed.

On the other hand, Raine’s Foundation school, is a secondary school situated near Victoria Park, an area classified as almost suburban, with leafy streets, access to Victoria Park for PE and much less traffic, as roads around the building are one lane only.

Raine’s Foundation school is classified as ‘in need of improvement’ by Ofsted and because of this, parents won’t apply to send their kids there.

Parents as well as Ofsted only care about exam results.

Tower Hamlets Council  now wants to close Raine’s Foundation school because of the poor exam results, poor in comparison to national results.

Why does nobody care about the children’s health? Isn’t it better to run a school in a healthy area because the kids will be better off throughout their life, if their lungs breathe healthy air?

I personally want to fight to keep the school open just to give children the chance to attend a healthy school. Because sacrificing health in exchange for good exam results will have long-lasting effects on the children’s health.

Access to green spaces, a nice playground, a nearby park will have a great effect not only on children’s mental health but also the physical health.

I want everybody to write to their MP to ask for support to change the classification criteria for schools in respect of a healthy environment.


Having lives before politics

I am astounded to read that

  • Michael Gove took Cocaine
  • Rory Stewart smoked Opium
  • Jeremy Hunt had a Cannabis Lassi
  • Boris Johnson snorted cocaine and smoked drugs as teenager

Although these events are kind of ancient, e.g. they have been described by

Mr Gove who told the Mail: “I think all politicians have lives before politics. Certainly when I was working as a journalist I didn’t imagine I would go into politics or public service.”

I think that is the source of the problem of our increased drug culture in Britain, that taking them is seen as having a life.

On the front line, living in Tower Hamlets, a borough that has a high drug dealing problem, we find that it’s the social users, the ones that have jobs and earn enough money to consume drugs, have a substantive responsibility towards the drug dealing problem. If they wouldn’t buy the drugs, the dealers would have less reason to sell.

I can only hope that people are starting to realise that it would be better for all of us not to take any class A, B, or C drugs whether in politics or not.

Tower Hamlets Council is currently  conducting a substance misuse strategy survey on how to best combat drug use and how to educate people about it. They suggest that care leavers and high risk groups like pupils who have been excluded from schools should be educated about the dangers. Yet, the council seems to forget that it is those established high earners and middle class university graduates that also need educating.

Drugs are very common these days and it is definitely not easy to say no.

Yet if a pupil in a school these days would be caught out in any way with drugs whatsoever, they would be expelled and had little chance to ever enter a high-profile political post.  It doesn’t help to play down the drug taking of major politicians and put it down to life before politics.

What should happen is that children who nowadays get themselves in trouble whilst in school should not be expelled but helped instead so that they have a future equally as those politicians who now admit their failures once they had a career.

It is more than cynical that Michael Gove feels fit to admit his drug taking when he used to be Minister for Education who fell through the net.

Perhaps also our alcohol drinking culture should be called into question as this also has severe health implications both on our minds and on our bodies.

But the moral of the story is though that nobody is perfect after all.


Peterborough for Labour

I must say I like it that Labour won Peterborough ahead of the Brexit Party. It is a clear indication that people voted against Brexit in an area that previously was predominantly pro-Brexit.

Now, that most of the lies and rumours about how glorious Brexit is, have been dispersed, people vote for remain.

I think Brexit was all along a red herring to keep people’s attention on a right-wing nationalist agenda for the purpose that the Conservative government could re-create Victorian values in Britain.

The Conservatives lost many councils in the recent council elections for the reason that people are fed up to the teeth with the cut-backs they have to suffer to do with care for the elderdy, children, schools, rubbish collections and so forth.

Councils are running out of money and its this Conservative goverment that is responsible for it.

Whilst the government keeps on saying people didn’t vote for the Conservatives because the Conservatives failed to deliver Brexit, the reality is that people didn’t vote for the Conservatives because of the severe cut-backs on local council spending and overall policies.

Policies, which saw the wider introduction of Benefit cut-backs for the disabled, the Universal Credit, that left people queueing for Food banks to be able to survive, Zero hours contracts and a reduction in overall wages value by 6%.

Obviously Nigel Farage was very deflated about the second place in Peterborough but I think it indicates the line of pro and against Brexit voters in favour of the against.

Yesterday’s D-Day 75. Anniversary, saw veterans in tears over Brexit planning because they fought for freedom in Europe and want to keep it that way.

This article is not meant to be a blank cheque of support for Labour, who have many faults but it just shows that on the political strategy people voted tactically for the party that could counter the Brexit party in that local by-election.

Added on 7/6/19, the newly elected MP Lisa Forbes was caught into questions over alleged anti-semitic behaviour.



Tower Hamlets Council refuses to give residents appointments for gas checks

The council just sends inspectors round to people’s addresses without appointment. That is in breach of established safety procedure.

Bogus callers are an all too common problem in Tower Hamlets. The Bogus Gas inspector has robbed many pensioners of their live savings. To help protect residents from bogus callers a best practise became established, which had the following routine.

Council sends appointment to resident advising them of a contractor coming to carry out some work. Resident could agree on a password for the contractor to use.

Contractor had to show the resident their ID card and allow resident to call the council to make sure they are genuine.

But now the council has refused to even make appointments and just sends contractors to people’s houses and if they are not in, they do not leave a calling card. In fact it is not possible at all any longer to even know when a contractor called.

The council now takes people straight to the Magistrates Court to obtain a court order to enter a premises on the excuse that they have been refused entry to carry out gas checks.

I just wonder why they now terrorise people in that manner.

Especially as this does not ensure that the gas check is actually carried out within the statutory 12 months of the previous one. To ensure that gas checks are carried out the landlord or council must send out appointments so that residents can arrange a more suitable time to carry out this gas check if the proposed appointment is unsuitable.

In fact I just had such a letter advising me that there is going to be a court hearing in July to obtain a court order to break into my flat to carry out a gas check, when I wrote to them asking for an appointment so that I can have my gas check but they just do not want to give me this appointment for a gas check.

I have been a resident here for over 35 years and each year I have had my gas check without problems, now the council does not want to give people appointments any more but just seeks orders to enter by force.

A burning issue

The Mayor will have to take legal action against the Fire Brigade because the LFB refuses to comply to a requirement, set by the Mayor Boris Johnson, to carry out a consultation with the aim of closing fire stations in various London boroughs. The thought behind this is to cut 7p of council tax and also statistics show that the LFB attended less fires recently. LFB argues that a freezing of council tax will pay for the stations to stay open.

Yet it is quite clear that the fires they attend are often in multi-storey buildings, especially in London. Fires nowadays often need more than one engine because of our density of buildings and the high-rise nature of them. There is nowadays better fire prevention in wiring and most appliances and fittings are safer, but once something does happen, it tends to be enormous rather than little.

It is in a way good that the whole problem will come before a judge because both sides are heavily biased. The Mayor is obsessed with cutting council tax and the Fire Brigade of course doesn’t want to close stations or loose fire fighters. A court will put a very objective viewing on the problem.

Councils turn into businesses

Since Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has challenged councils to make money and sell their services to adapt to the current climate, it seems only reasonable to expect that councils should also be allowed to publish their own papers as this would make service delivery more viable and would also construe a profit making line of business as advertisements can be sold in papers.

Yet Eric Pickles is particularly clear that he does not want councils to print their own papers and has practically outlawed this. There is an obvious contradiction in strategies.

Ii think in an area like Tower Hamlets, the council can make something of Eric’s proposals because council is here the biggest employer anyhow and many services are run central to the local authority or in partnership with it.

Normally every business must make their own publications as a ‘Cost of Sales’ strategy and advertise what they do surely, Mr Pickles can not allow one law for some and another for others? Or what is the exact legal basis for his speech in the House of Commons?

So far councils cannot keep all the revenue from sales of homes and rents, which is partly what Boris Johnson wants to have for the City of London. Where rent revenue and stamp duty make a large part of a council’s income it is essential that this revenue can be kept to churn out better services for those providing the funds in the first place.

I think Mr Pickles wants the best of both worlds, the council that works as local authority and provides funding for central government with the revenues the council’s create but also Eric Pickles wants councils to be entrepreneurs. But where is the proper definition of  the new business status that councils have gained?

It has to make sense and not be some kind of hybrid part business philosophy that sounds good and romantic but is legally unworkable and not viable.

Obese get a star on their coat

Oh no, I forgot to mention the government doesn’t just plan to hunt down all obese people, they only want to punish those obese people who are on benefits. This news has turned up on various news sites and I first thought it was a joke, but the more I search, the more it creeps up in mainstream media. There is the BBC article, the Mail online and the Guardian, to name a few. As far as I understand current comments, all those reporting sites think the idea is bonkers. Bonkers is in fashion lets not forget it.

I am just wondering how this is to work in practise. In my experience a vast amount of obese people work in the health service and in social services, council services and other related community care services. Would it look like this that if an obese benefit claimant comes for their money, that an obese worker can tell them the benefit claimant is too obese to get the money but the obese worker can stay in their job obese simply because they got a job?

Currently the government already suggest to discriminate against overweight police officers and wants to stage police pay according to physical fitness. But that is already questionable; yet to apply the same principle to benefit recipients would mean that benefit recipients get treated like government employees to some extent as both police officers and benefit claimants would get a reduction in pay because of obesity.

Yet other employees can happily stay fat.

This however means that the demand on health services would be higher from obese employed persons rather than those on benefits. Isn’t that just discrimination?

Well, I remember well the picture in my mind, that Hitler forced young men to do wheelies on a beach to keep fit. I know plenty of gay people who are perfectly slim and they are then model citizens to us all because they are gay but slim?

It seems that this government concentrates on benefit claimants and puts them under more and more pressure. But the amount of health care employed people use also affects the benefits others can get because health care costs are part of the common pot of money that is available to us all.

Lets not forget very efficient service providers want to cut costs all the time, they want to cut jobs, all that will create jobless and those jobless are going to get treated like outcasts simply because they fell victim to the latest economy drive. So it can happen, that an obese worker one day tells an obese benefit claimant is unable to get their money but when the obese worker finds themselves out of a job, they get no benefit either. People we are all in the same boat so to speak.

I think it would be much more clever to ask ourselves why people feel so stressed that they feel a need to over-eat, over-drink, over-smoke and do other things in excess too.

The problem with Neighbourhood Watch in Tower Hamlets

When you go to the Metropolitan Police Website and turn onto the Tower Hamlets Pages, you see a tab that is called getting involve.Within that is my picture not only once but twice and it says that I encourage people to build Neighbourhood Watches in Tower Hamlets.

I do accept full responsibility for that but now have had to resign that post of chair person of the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhood Watch Association, in a situation that I would call constructive dismissal.

There are many factors that led to my resignation. One is the new housing legislation that doesn’t allow tenants to occupy a flat with a spare room. The legal frame work of neighbourhood watch requests that a chief local coordinator makes their own address available for contact points. Here in Tower Hamlets the Police expected me then to administer all Neighbourhood Watch records but no office room was made available for that purpose. I am not allowed to have a spare room in my home as I am a tenant. That automatically discriminates against social housing tenants becoming Neighbourhood Watch coordinators, which is something that I wholly despise.

When I look at boroughs like Wandsworth where Neighbourhood Watch displays the best model of how it’s done, I thought I could establish a similar model in Tower Hamlets. Yet in Wandsworth the council heavily supports Neighbourhood Watch also in the aministrative functions, they create and distribute promotional material including stickers, leaflets, watch signs etc.

Here in Tower Hamlets the council refuses to do any such tasks, I had been asked to collect all window stickers from the town hall and keep them in my bedroom. I had ordered 50 Neighbourhood Watch signs, which I could not store in my flat any more either. Yet when I called the Town Hall to enquire how to get permission to put up the signs, nobody could help, I was given a telephone extension that was never answered.

All the council does in Tower Hamlets is provide a couple of Internet pages that explain about Neighbourhood Watch and has links to associated websites. Yet as explained in my previous post, other councils actively support Neighbourhood Watch schemes and also administer them but not in Tower Hamlets. No Neighbourhood Watch Association can exist alone. There are so many problems that require data sharing and if its only the knowledge which housing landlord is responsible for which estate, basic things like that.

Whilst I was given the opportunity to be the chair of the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhood Watch Association lately there was  not one other watcher who would actually become a member of the board and act as Secretary, Vice-chair, treasurer. I ended up doing all those jobs.

Furthermore in Wandsworth all watch coordinators have to undergo a Criminal Bureau Records check whilst here in Tower Hamlets there is nothing of that sort even in place. Not even the police check up on watch coordinators unless they are the top people like myself. I have been checked many times over in recent years and there is no black spot in my life but I am not certain abut other coordinators in the borough. I personally had extended CRB checks done because I volunteer in schools.

On the Ourwatch website, anyone can register, draw around an area and call themselves a watch, with the benefit of getting tailored crime reports for the area they are registered with on the site and they can also make use of the excellent communication system that the site brings with it but that doesn’t mean that anybody seen on the site as a watch is actually a properly registered watch. Now the legal system has changed and only approved persons can use the Neighbourhood Watch logo and produce material using the wording and the picture logos as they can be downloaded from the Ourwatch website.

But there is still no requirement that any person wanting to be in neighbourhood watch must have a criminal record check, any watch coordinator can have a criminal record or even be a registered sex offender. Though I must admit that it is unlikely that criminals would want to be watch coordinators but not impossible.

Without the pro-active support of the council and little checking of individual coordinators in Tower Hamlets I see little chance of this getting to be a good system. I have even resigned from my local SNT panel because I do not like to be discussing problems with ever changing PCSO officers and cannot see how the current system reduces crime in the long run. The statistics show that Tower Hamlets has twice as much crime as the City of London on a permanent basis. Sorry to Commander Rickett who says crime could not get any lower in the borough, I disagree.

Please see also my previous post to explain in length how my perceive the problem with policing in the area.

I think that Neighbourhood Watch is an excellent system in boroughs like Wandsworth or Bexley where there is at least good and active council support in both boroughs, though Bexley does not carry out a CRB check on coordinators but for Tower Hamlets where there is no proper infrastructure, I feel a lot of work has to be done. Now at least some money has been allocated to us and we can hope againl. I think that Neighbourhood Watch is a viable in most areas and especially in areas where there is a good infrastructure supporting it from the council as well as the police.

I found myself loading a pram full of boxes and bags and carting the lot to my local police station and giving it all to them because I needed some storage space for materials. I still have my endorsement for Neighbourhood Watch in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets on the Met Police website.

PS: in up-date to this post, I continue to do the daily work and hope to engage more with both council and local residents to build up a better and stronger watch network. It’s a matter of more engagement and getting to know local watches and encouraging others to ask the council to hold a bigger stake in Neighbourhood Watch. Also policing will change in the autumn, I hope for the better, at the next Association meeting we will get more details,all wait for 19 June.

Bring back successful concepts

I am immensely excited by the news that one area of Britain, Queen’s Park in London,  might soon be getting a Parish council because 87% of those who responded to a consultation were in favour of it. Church Parishes have a great source of local knowledge, and a well manifested network of social care. for a lot of people being in the church registers is a must whilst also then getting into the registries of the town halls.

A Parish council could be the first stepping stone to alternative local service provision and it would help the cash stricken churches to get some income, instead of having to close down or be converted into flats, as so many churches do now. People would be less dependent on political swings than they are now if there is another source of social network in place that does not strictly rely on 5 yearly administrations. Church parishes usually last longer than that.

Congregations were much bigger in the times when church going was more compulsory either because of social pressure or legal obligations and bringing back church councils back now will restore some of that proven reliability that served our communities always well.

Another, though not so commendable older rule I came across today, that reminded me of plans to bring in local pay differences for public servants, I read in a children’s book about local differences in time because clocks were set by the sun and that made time differences throughout the British isles quite more frequent than they are today. Each town practically had a different time for their main clock tower according to the movement of the sun until all times were set the same by the railway time, as it was then called.

I suppose that is not a very good idea to bring back greater localisation for pay because similar to the various clock towers ringing at slightly different times we would get a bit of a muddle wanting to create payment tables for different areas because Britain is so small. I suppose if one rich person would move in or out of an area that could change the payment tables for local civil servants and where would one draw a line as geographical areas in the UK are relatively tiny compared to the US where there are vast areas of land.

Working realities of life

It has now been officially confirmed with the latest research that the more contact a young person has with employers / employment, the less are they likely to drop out of education. What worried me about my own borough, Tower Hamlets a lot is the fact that some industrial estates have been demolished to make room for more housing. I loudly complained about this repeatedly but had been told that the Mayor Boris Johnson has earmarked Tower Hamlets mainly for housing.

Of course you could argue, there is amply employment opportunity available at the Canary Wharf development, which is the showcase for success but many youngster in Tower Hamlets do not live in the vicinity of the complex nor do they have cause to go there.

What is really needed is a business structure that is inter-woven with the domestic arrangements, so that you can have a small business there and then. Instead in Tower Hamlets we have lots and lots of housing. Whilst that in itself is not too bad if it’s all houses and gardens with middle class residents who can get out for social activities and whose residents often are in work, like Los Angeles suburbs for example, the idea to make Tower Hamlets a housing borough is very badly conceived.

Wherever there are lots of poor people perched together the atmosphere smell of ghetto rather than housing.

Sure enough there are many different building styles and home ownership is around 50% in many parts of the borough but there is still not enough employment for local youngster and there are not enough employers for local youngsters to aim for.  Employment is something that is far away for many locals. It is quite a difference whether you reside somewhere by choice or because of having no other choice.

Business centres in Bishops Way and near Three Colts Lane were served with notices and businesses demolished with nowhere to go. All the Olympic excitement doesn’t make up for the fact that Tower Hamlets doesn’t have a soul. By soul I mean an atmosphere that oozes living. Like Hackney for example they have arts, theatres and fashion, Greenwich has just been declared a Royal Borough over its strong relationship to naval history and sciences. Camden has the distinctive Boheme art scene settled there. All Tower Hamlets has to offer is lots of housing and blue chip business that does little for the little man.

I am not so over-enthusiastic about that City application as many are who seem to think Tower Hamlets stands a realistic chance of getting it.

Tower Hamlets economy is either very big or small and domestic with little in between. I would like to see much more support for small business in the borough with sponsored business units for small entrepreneurs.

Even the daily impressions I get from the borough are not yet what I am really looking for. I miss cafes, with tables on pavements where people sit and chat. Yet ironically the Boris bikes are an ideal method to centre communications around on. There is a good reason to open little street cafes in the vicinity of Boris bike stands for example.

But whilst Boris bike stands spread around the borough, the traffic infrastructure is far from ready for safe biking. I left a planning meeting for cycling routes at a council building in disgust at how little concern was shown for the safety of riders.  The cycling routes were not suitable for cyclists to ride safely.

The restauration Grant for Wilton’s Music Hall gives us a shimmer of hope that Tower Hamlet’s lost soul will be restored. Tower Hamlets needs a cultural focus that brings people together, a focus that is neither racially nor otherwise divisive. 

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