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The high cost of retreat as elderly are hit in pockets

04 August, 2017

Laurie White with Hampstead School of Art’s Isobel Langtry on his last day at work 

NO matter how one attempts to square it, the decision by Age UK Camden to charge patrons fairly hefty daily charges to use Henderson Court in Hampstead comes down to money – that is, a shortage of it.

Sadly, there are two victims – Laurie White, who has resigned as manager and, no doubt, those elderly people who may not be able to enjoy the centre’s facilities because of the new charges.

There are also two ways of looking at the problem: you can either put a spin on it and convince yourself and others that it is part of changing attitudes and will prove beneficial, or you can look it in the face and decide to oppose it.

The fact is that the government is faced with a paralysis over how to maintain a healthy standard of living for the elderly. Disgracefully, it wants to extend the pensionable age – and this at a time when civilisation would be expected to be marching ahead.

The same can be said of the savage cuts in local authority funding – you can either muddle along and try to absorb them and, in the case of Camden Council, make up for them by trying to make a bit of profit on the side through private housing development, or oppose them.

That there is a growing constituency for opposition was, to some extent, reflected in the surprising high vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the last election.

The trouble with a policy of retreat is that you can only retreat so far before a tipping point arrives for a demoralised public to seek salvation in anti-democratic extremist policies.

Signs of safety

SOMEWHERE along the line in decision-making the buck has to stop.

There is little doubt that minds are now being concentrated in the top echelons of building companies and at the offices of Kensington and Chelsea local authority, now that the police have decided to investigate the possibility of bringing manslaughter charges over the Grenfell inferno.

Generally speaking, council officials or elected councillors have to brace themselves at times – though it is very rare –for heavy fines and loss of office for misuse of public funds. Now, in certain circumstances they can expect to have the police breathing down their necks.

This week Camden councillors and officials will sigh with relief at the thought that tenants are now returning to the Chalcots estate on the grounds that the fire service has deemed it to be safe. But, technically, decisions affecting buildings should be signed off – by the senior supervisors as well as the leading players. Signatures are important. It is still not known who “signed off” the obvious poor workmanship carried out in the privately funded refurbishment of the estate 10 years ago.

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