Recorder letters: Covid, MSG Sphere and homelessness

Prime minister Boris Johnson washes his hands on a school visit. Picture. PA Wire/PA Images

Prime minister Boris Johnson washes his hands on a school visit. Picture. PA Wire/PA Images - Credit: PA

Letters sent in from Recorder readers this week.

War with Covid is far from over

Len Duvall OBE, London Assembly member, chair of the London Assembly Oversight Committee, writes:

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Covid-19 is going to become an even bigger issue for London over the coming days, weeks, and unfortunately months.

Our city has seen an increase in people needing tests and hospital beds. Patients being admitted to ICU is also on the rise.

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London is now on the government’s watchlist. I urge Londoners to keep a close eye on government advice.

We must protect lives and our NHS by obeying the rules. Everyone wants our war with Covid-19 to be over but it’s far from that.

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We must do the right thing and protect our city and each other from this horrible disease.

By washing our hands, sticking to social distancing, and wearing a face covering we will all be doing our bit to stop the spread of the virus.

People power can defeat MSG

Ian Sinclair, McGrath Road, Stratford, writes:

Despite significant opposition from the local community during two previous rounds of public consultation, I was dismayed to see Madison Square Garden (MSG) Entertainment are still attempting to impose their huge Sphere on Stratford (Network Rail withdraws objections to MSG Sphere).

A large global corporation like MSG has many unfair advantages over the local community in this struggle, giving it a lot of power to get its own way.

For example, MSG has tons of money, a full-time, professional press relations team and close connections with the decision makers in Newham.

Until 2016 Jane McGivern, MSG’s executive vice-president of Development and Construction, was a member of the London Legacy Development Corporation board (LLDC is the planning authority that will decide if the Sphere is built).

However, Newham residents should not be downhearted.

We have one thing that MSG will never have, and which could defeat MSG - people power.

But stopping a multinational corporation doesn’t magically happen: everyone who is concerned about the proposed Sphere needs to join together, get active and raise their voices now.

There is lots you can do - write to your MP; write to your councillor; write to the Newham Recorder; join the local grassroots group Stop MSG Sphere London ( and, most importantly, make sure you contribute to the latest public consultation, by emailing by November 13, 2020.

Fix track and trace system urgently

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

A working test and trace system is essential if we’re to stem the rise in Covid-19 cases. Yet this still has not materialised.

With the government having dished out test and trace contracts to private companies, accountability and transparency have fallen by the wayside at a time when we need it most.

There is understandably a huge amount of frustration in our community about the current lack of access to testing.

Key workers, parents trying to get test for their children and care homes have all struggled to access tests or faced long delays to receive their results.

The mobile testing centres dotted across the capital were supposed to plug the gaps by offering walk-in testing without the need for an appointment.

However, the lack of capacity built into the testing chain by the government has severely limited these vital services.

We can still turn things around. The government must urgently fix the track and trace system by working with universities and industry leaders to boost lab capacity and listen to local authorities’ expert advice about their communities.

Chance to reduce rough sleeping

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

Getting rough sleepers off the streets and keeping them safe 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 today 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 £97m 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 £1bn by 2021/22.

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