Post letters: Masks, homeless, parking zones and free travel for young

Not all Asda shoppers in Barking are wearing masks. Picture: LDRS

Not all Asda shoppers in Barking are wearing masks. Picture: LDRS - Credit: Archant

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Post readers this week.

Mask evaders must be punished

Gurpreet Bhatia, Barking, full address supplied, writes:

I just so happened to be in Asda in Barking town centre (September 16) and browsed the latest copy of Barking and Dagenham Post before purchasing it.

On flicking through the pages I came across the article about the store and their apparent lack of effort in ensuring compliance with the retail coronavirus regulations. I commend Barking and Dagenham Council for their proactive approach in listening to many concerned residents about this but also sympathise with Asda and other retailers with the predicament they have been put in.

After reading the article in store I looked up and counted the first 25 adults that came up the escalators of which 15 were not wearing any form of facial covering despite the large sign at the top informing every one of their legal and social responsibility. The store has equipped all staff with PPE if they care to use it, hand sanitiser stations and wipes to clean trolleys and baskets, plastic screens at cashier tills to protect staff and customers and initiated well placed floor signage for social distancing while shopping in a one way route around the store. Despite all these protocols in place, my observations during the pandemic over the last five months at this store is that there is a very large cohort of ignorant shoppers who will disregard all measures in place.

Asda Barking has now installed barriers at the foot of the escalators to funnel all customers past security offering free face masks, but even this measure has not had the desired affect with many people walking straight past up into the store without a facial covering. The council needs to understand why such a large contingent are unwilling to stick to guidelines and put theirs and others health at risk. If the council wishes for retailers to do more they should be prepared to adopt working alongside them with more draconian measures like refusing entry without a facial covering unless medically exempt and/or in conjunction with the police imposing fines. The deterrent I’ve found that usually works best is the real chance of losing money and/or have a court appointment to explain your actions.

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Let’s not wholly blame retailers and be more honest about the unwillingness of many shoppers to adopt practices for their own good.

Homeless need a long term solution

Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing and planning, writes:

Getting rough sleepers off the streets and keeping them safe in emergency accommodation has been a key part of London’s response to Covid-19. This is crucial for protecting public health, but it also presents a golden opportunity to reduce rough sleeping permanently.

The funding announced recently will enable London boroughs and our partners to carry on this work.

While we’re grateful for the funding, questions remain over longer-term provision for the homelessness sector. Local homelessness services need ongoing, sustained funding commitments if we’re to embed the exciting progress being made in tackling rough sleeping – and we’ll continue to make this case to the government.

Covid-19 has changed the scale of the homelessness crisis, with the emergency situation for rough sleepers taking priority and expectations of increases in statutory homeless presentation. Boroughs now anticipate that spending on homelessness and rough sleeping in the capital will rise by an extra £97 million in 2020-21 due to Covid-19.

This comes on top of London boroughs’ expenditure on homelessness, which – prior to Covid-19 – was already expected to rise to a total of £1 billion by 2021/22, and which London Councils had previously warned was unsustainable. While boroughs have welcomed the emergency support provided by the government, a considerable funding gap remains. Boroughs need assured, long-term funding for this crucial work.

Boroughs have particular concerns about the London rough sleepers who are subject to ‘no recourse to public funds’ restrictions. These restrictions leave people without welfare support and leave councils footing the bill at a time when Covid-19 has already blown an enormous hole in their finances. London not only has more rough sleepers than other parts of the country, but a far higher proportion who are non-UK nationals. It is estimated that at least 900 rough sleepers in London are subject to NRPF. London Councils is calling for an immediate 12-month suspension of no recourse to public funds restrictions.

Reserving spaces is not practical

Colin Newman, Barking, full address supplied, writes:

I don’t understand Les Underwood’s point (Your Opinions, September, 16). Other permit holders in the same Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) as him would be able to park outside his house, but without the CPZ anyone at all can park outside his house. Permits will mean far fewer people are allowed to, which has to be an advantage to residents (or at least no disadvantage), surely?

He also says the permit should be for you to park outside your own home. I assume he means so that only you can park outside your own home. So, if Les is out in his car, at work say, and a neighbour has a visitor – for an hour or two, say – that visitor shouldn’t be allowed to park outside Les’s house? Or if someone hasn’t got a car, no one else at all can park outside their house, including Les when he comes home and finds his own space occupied by a delivery vehicle, say, or an illegally parked car? And how is this supposed to be enforced? It would amount to hundreds of one space CPZs round the borough. Very expensive to enforce (and administer). How much would Les be willing to pay for someone to keep the space outside his house clear ready for him to park his car in it when he returns (or even all the time he is not using it)?

And who is the “all” who he says should “stand as one and say no no this plan”? Only the people in a particular proposed CPZ can vote for or against it. He needs to engage his neighbours: if people in the new CPZs are opposed to them, they need to vote against them in the consultation. Not bothering to vote (because “it’ll happen anyway”) is a good way to ensure it does happen.

Wrong to cut free travel for young

Unmesh Desai, London Assembly member, City and East, writes:

CPAG’s (Child Poverty Action Group) research shows the depth of despair some families are facing at the prospect of the cuts to free transport. It’s clear young people and their parents are very worried about the financial impact these plans will have on family budgets, and of course these changes are coming at a time when people are already concerned about their livelihoods because of Covid-19.

The reality is that the removal of the free travel is going to have a real impact on the ability of some children to attend school, to engage in after school activities and to experience the opportunities London has to offer them.

What the government is doing by scrapping free travel for 11-18 year olds is nothing short of cruel. The government are targeting our children – many of them very vulnerable - to score cheap political points against the Mayor of London. I urge them to do the right thing, add this proposal to their bonfire of bad ideas, and protect the futures of young Londoners.