CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

As winter approaches, we really must focus on the homeless

14 September, 2017

The compassion expressed by Conservative councillor Jonny Bucknell over a man sleeping rough on the bridge in Primrose Hill will no doubt be felt by many over the coming months, as winter sets in.

The wretched sight of people bedding down for the night in high street tents, or huddled in doorways, has become an all too familiar sight.

Figures published by the National Audit Office this week show that the numbers of rough sleepers has more than doubled, nationally, since 2010.

The sharp rise has been fuelled by welfare reforms, increasing private sector rents and cuts in housing benefits.
Theresa May’s Homeless Reduction Act is set to pass responsibility for the homeless directly to councils, but will transfer little extra money as part of the deal.
The concept of a homeless rapid response team could only work properly on a Londonwide basis, responds Labour’s Abdul Hai.
What he may mean here is that the aspiration would be better met with funding from City Hall.
Camden’s homeless outreach team no doubt do what they can in difficult circumstance. It is in some ways surprising such a service still exists, following so many years of austerity.
It is no wonder, as Cllr Bucknell points out, that the system is broken.

Confusion at Chalcots

THE fire alert in a tower block on the Chalcots estate on Saturday underlines the problems that remain unresolved.

Tenants were given conflicting advice after the alert, it seems – the fire service said they should stay in the flats, the fire wardens told them to leave.

The “stay put” strategy promoted by the fire service is based on the concept that fire can be “compartmentalised” within flats.

This is sound if the flats are built in such a way they are, in effect, fire-proof.
But what if the flats are shoddily built?

The Chalcots estate was refurbished in 2006 under “private” contracts that cut corners. But it is not a question that the council got the cheap job it settled for. All evidence points to botched workmanship – the shoddy removal of gas fires to make way for central heating, the use of cheap plastic window frames, leaving links between flats.

This is what the promised inquiry by Labour should probe.

Meanwhile, as the Grenfell inquiry opens today (Thursday) the call for sprinklers to be retro-fitted into all tower blocks – and that would include those in Camden – by the head of the London Fire Brigade, Dany Cotton, should be heeded.

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