Letters: CCTV facial recognition, Covid and tenants' manifesto

PA Picture of a CCTV camera

Sian Berry says private CCTV cameras should not have facial recognition technology - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Ban secret CCTV facial recognition

Sian Berry AM, Green Party candidate for mayor of London, writes: 

London’s new rules for developers of new public spaces must ban the use of facial recognition cameras, and I’m calling on the mayor to make this happen.

Since 2016 I have worked with campaigners to win new policies from the mayor to stop arbitrary rules being imposed in new public squares. The freedom to sit, socialise and exercise free speech in public spaces is so important, but it is being eroded every time a new public space is created, and developers ban activities like playing, protesting or simply being homeless.

We have also seen the even more sinister practice of private CCTV fitted with facial recognition being used on us secretly without our consent. In 2017 the London Assembly passed a motion I proposed for new planning policies to fix these problems when new spaces are planned, but we have waited more than three years for the mayor to produce the policy he promised.

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I know how important freedom and civil liberties are to Londoners and I hope many of you will join me and call on the mayor to make this policy stronger and to ban facial recognition in private CCTV systems in the new public spaces it will control.

NHS staff pushed to breaking point

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

The mayor of London has declared a major incident in the capital as Covid-19 cases continue to surge with the arrival of a new, significantly more infectious

In London, one in 30 are thought to be infected, and this rate increases to one in 20 in some boroughs. The situation could not be starker, and our hospitals and heroic NHS staff have been pushed beyond breaking point.

Urgent operations are being cancelled, ambulances are stuck queuing outside hospitals and critical care is under intense pressure.

This is why it is absolutely vital that we stay at home, and only leave our front doors for essential reasons. Each bit of unnecessary contact we have, puts ourselves and others at risk.

I am encouraging members of our community to also go further than the guidelines and wear masks in busy outdoor spaces, such as supermarket queues and town centres.

Whilst we play our part in containing the virus, the government must immediately increase the support available for those who need to self-isolate, increasing Statutory Sick Pay so it is equivalent with the London Living Wage and abolishing No Recourse to Public Funds.

Join Zoom call on tenants’ manifesto

Pauline Hutchison and Pat Turnbull, regional representatives, London Tenants Federation, write: 

On Tuesday, January 19, social housing tenants and leaseholders from across London are invited to come together for the launch of The London Tenants’ Manifesto.

Just over a year ago, tenant reps from across London met to begin drawing up a vision of a positive future for social housing in London. Since then, Covid-19 has shown us that this tenant-led vision is more timely than ever. 

The Health Foundation is now making the case that social housing is essential to the Covid-19 recovery phase. Yet each scandal, disaster and sham consultation tells us that the quantity, quality and management of social housing is far from where it needs to be. We, as tenants, should be at the heart of discussions as to how this can change, but too often we feel unheard.

On January 19 we will be looking at how this could be turned around. We want to ensure that, when it comes to our homes, social housing tenants and leaseholders are respected as experts and involved from the outset in overseeing all aspects of the safety, design and maintenance of our homes.

The launch will take place at 2pm on January 19 via Zoom. To all interested, please email info@londontenants.org to find out more and book. We hope to see you there.

Help for former RAF personnel

Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, chief executive, RAF Benevolent Fund, writes: 

Earlier this month the prime minister announced a third national lockdown. Although necessary, these measures mean many of our veterans will be facing the next several weeks – or months – completely alone.

And while the vaccine rollout out across the country provides some hope, social isolation and loneliness poses a real threat to our elderly this winter, among them many former RAF personnel and their partners supported by the Fund.

To help combat this, last year the RAF Benevolent Fund introduced a weekly Check and Chat service to support members of the RAF Family experiencing loneliness. The Fund also facilitates weekly Telephone Friendship Groups, provides access to a Listening and Counselling Service, relationship counselling support, and an online wellbeing portal to help support emotional wellbeing amongst the veteran community. 

We are calling on the people of London to consider whether they know any RAF veterans, or their spouses or widows, who may be experiencing loneliness. To refer someone to the RAF Benevolent Fund, please visit rafbf.org or call 0300 102 1919.

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