Sunday, 21 April 2019

West Ham fans left dreaming of VAR, after being denied three points for the second week running

West Ham 2-2 Leicester City

Honours finished even in this hard fought contest between West Ham United and Leicester City, though home manager Manuel Pellegrini thought his side were again denied the points by poor refereeing decisions.
"We have now lost five points in two big games with such big mistakes,"said Pellegrini,referring to the game last week against Man United and to a Lucas Perez goal wrongly disallowed for offside.
West Ham dominated for long spells in this match twice going in front but two lapses of concentration cost them dear.
West Ham's main attacking threat Michail Antonio was rewarded in the 37th minute when he headed home a cross in from Mark Noble.
But the ever present threat of the counter attack from Leicester came to fruition 20 minutes into the second half, when Harry Maguire put Ben Chilwell away down the left. His cross saw Jamie Vardy get ahead of Fabian Balbuena to slot home.
West Ham thought they were home and dry when a Pedro Obiang shot from outside the area came back off a post into tbe path of substitute Lucas Perez who duly converted.
Then came the controversy, when Perez, put through by Obiang, rounded the keeper to score his second. The linesman wrongly waved for offside.
Leicester though weren't done, with Youri Tielemans putting substitute Harvey Barnes through in the 92nd minute to drive home the equaliser.
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers acknowledged that a good goal had been disallowed and quipped that it's lucky we don't have VAR.
"It was a good point for us in the end, " said Rodgers, who praised Barnes for taking his chance and "adapting well " to the situation.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Real danger of going backwards to living conditions of yesteryear

There was a recent programme on TV looking back to the days of the Edwardians.

The programme covered the first 20 years of the 20th century. The grainy coloured films showed children with rickets. Crowded, bustling streets and waterways.

It was not a particularly nostalgic look back, despite the references to empire - Britain being the richest country in the world at that time.

A closer look, revealed poverty amongst the people and a real law of the jungle type existence. People worked 60 hr plus weeks. Weekends as such did not exist. Things like football matches at the weekend came in after this time because then working people simply did not have the spare time to even attend a game.

The fledgling beginnings of the Welfare State were introduced in 1911 by the then Liberal Government. This included things like a very basic pension starting at 70.

Move forward 100 years to today, the changes have been huge. People now have holidays, sick pay, a welfare state, including the NHS. The weekend has been an established part of people lives for many decades. To a large degree, the mass of people have been able to flourish.

Most of this change came about through the struggle of ordinary people, mainly through the trade union movement and Labour Party. The welfare reforms, including the NHS, of the 1945 Labour Government set the blueprint for much of what we have today. It was built upon by future governments.

Popular support for the unions and Labour Party were key to making these achievements happen. At the most basic level, it was the vote that underpinned these changes.

There have been efforts over recent years to unpick the huge advances made since those stark Edwardian times. The trade unions have become weaker. Employment rights have been eroded. Membership of the EU has helped prop up the most basic rights. The NHS has been attacked and undermined. The retirement age gets ever closer to the 70 set back in 1911.

It is a sobering thought that we now live in a country that in absolute terms is richer than it has ever been. A country of 150 plus billionaires, with more than one million people going to foodbanks. A country that cannot provide a roof over everyones head, with rough sleeping growing on the streets. These are the deliberate acts of those in government now, who, under labels like austerity, seek to turn the clock back to those Edwardian days of children with rickets and 60 hour working weeks.

The weekend has been incredibly eroded over recent years with the two days increasingly seen as ordinary working days for much of the population.

People need to remember that the transformation of life from those Edwardian days to the relative comfort of recent years resulted from the struggle of working people. It was not the result of some benevolent act of the rich.

Today, we need to realise how important the vote is. It is one of the few levers that working people have in deciding their own destinies. We also need to be aware as to how the improvements since Edwardian days came about and how easy it would be to drift backwards.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

News that life expectancy is now dropping maybe good for the insurance industry but what about the rest of us?

The recent news that life expectancy has stopped rising in the UK hardly got a mention in a news agenda dominated by Brexit.

The news should not come as a total surprise, given that there have been widening geographical life expectancy differences for some time. So for example, a person living in London or the South East will on average live several years longer than someone living in North East.

These figures have been largely ignored by government, which has used the mantra that everyone is living longer to extend the retirement age and attack pensions.

The news is good for the insurance industry, with companies who have sold annuities to people now reaping the harvest of early deaths. It is predicted that the insurance companies will make billions from this change in life expectancy – funds that they will give back to shareholders.

No one seems to be totally sure as to why there has been the change in life expectancy. Austerity policies have played a part, forcing more people into poverty and reducing support services.

Lifestyle must also be key. Today people live much more sedentary existences. The growing role of computers means much more work is stationary in nature.

The obesity epidemic is likely to be contributing to life expectancy falling. Some of the statistics of obesity among the young are truly shocking. In parts of Redbridge, one in four children are obese by the time they reach year 6.

Lack of exercise no doubt contributes to obesity, as does bad diets. Despite the nations seeming fascination with cookery programmes on TV, vast swathes of the country seem to have forgotten (or never learned) how to cook. Fast food abounds.

If we continue to move down the present path, life expectancy is going to drop downwards. The idea that everyone was living longer has been largely based on the immediate post war generations. They tended to have balanced diets, took exercise and grew up in a time when supports, like the health service, were growing. Work was also more physically active over those years.

If we are to reverse the downward trend on life expectancy there needs to be real change. This must involve moves to address things like the obesity epidemic, redistribute wealth across the country and relearn the skills of balanced diets. The support network provided by the welfare state, including the NHS, also needs to increase. We need to relearn how to cook and perhaps also grow our own food. Failure to act now will see life expectancy levels plummet.  

Friday, 5 April 2019

Bioblitz coming to Wanstead

The bluebells coming out in Wanstead Park are a sight to lift the spirits of all who come to enjoy this fantastic space.

The blooming bluebells are a real sign that spring has sprung, with the cold, dark days of winter truly behind us.

The splendour of the bluebells should this year be extended throughout Wanstead by the work of the community gardeners and Wild Wanstead. The community gardeners keep the beds in the high street around the station looking resplendent throughout the year but particularly stunning in Spring. It is quite some challenge to turn some of these settings into oasis of colour in the way that the gardeners do.

Wild Wanstead has been the driving force behind the planting of the tree pits and bringing some areas back to a more wild state to encourage wildlife. The last time some tree pits were planted it provided a magnificent sea of colour on the roads concerned. This time there are more roads planted so the town should really come alive.

The areas allowed to grow rather than being cut are on George Green, Christchurch Green and Nutter Lane, so please enjoy these spaces. Also, remember this is a deliberate policy, it is not a case of the council failing to cut the grass. It will be great to see all these initiatives extended over the coming months.

There are though other challenges on the biodiversity front. We do seem to be getting an increasing occurrence of people concreting over their gardens. This practice is the exact opposite of promoting biodiversity. It is also counter productive, with efforts to make the community spaces in the area more biodiverse, whilst parts of the privately owned land are doing the exact opposite.

Concreting over gardens is destructive to the environment, it also increases the overall flood  threat. As a recent Environment Agency presentation  on the river Roding illustrated, the less land space there is for water to flow away the more it will put pressure on existing drainage systems and rivers - increasing flood risk.

It would be great to not only see a halt to concreting over front and back gardens but also see some being taken back to green space.

We also need to do more in this area to promote trees. A number of residents have noted trees being cut off. The council will only be taking such action if trees are diseased or there is another good reason. Vandalism could be another cause.

The council have undertaken that felled trees will be replaced in the next financial year. This is likely to see replanting at the end of this year stretching into next year.

However, we do need to do more to increase the number of trees in the area, as well as other climate positive moves like bringing in green walls and hedgerows. Please come forward with ideas as to how to further green our area. There is much that needs to be done but as the initial positive response to the idea of an environmental charter for Wanstead has shown the will is definitely there to go further.   

published - Wanstead & Woodford Guardian - 4/4/2019 - paper
                                                                             - 6/4/2019 - online


Sunday, 31 March 2019

Dismal West Ham outplayed by resurgent Everton

West Ham 0-2 Everton
This lacklustre display from West Ham effectively ended any lingering hope they had of getting 7th place and qualifying for Europe.
The team selection seemed odd from the off, with Javier Hernandez, whose double strike in the last game rescued the points, left on the bench together with skipper Mark Noble.
The manager it seemed preferred out of sorts Lucas Perez and Pedro Obiang - both substituted at half time.
The game was just four minutes old when Kurt Zouma arrived unchalenged to head home Gylfi Sigurdsson's corner.
Lukasz Fabianski then pulled off a double save from Richarlison.
On the half hour, Everton doubled their lead, when Seamus Coleman got in front of Aaron Cresswell to cross for Bernard to side foot home.
Everton were by far the more fluid side and should have won by more. The closest they came was when Richarlson saw his header from a corner bounce back off the bar.
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini thought the performance to be "the worst of the season".
"It was very bad, the way we conceded the goals and they could have had more," said Pellegrini.
Everton manager Marco Silva was pleased with his side's fourth clean sheet in five games.
The manager thought it one of Everton's most consistent performances.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Time to make Redbridge a more cycle friendly borough

How does cycling get to the point in Redbridge where it is considered “a normal part of everyday life and the natural choice for shorter journeys.”

This is the target, set by the Department for Transport’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, to which we must aspire.

There were 3.27 billion vehicle miles cycled in the UK in 2017, an increase of 3% on the previous year. In terms of total mileage covered, though, that is just 1%.

Two thirds of mileage remains done by car and vans.

Figures from Sport England show that just 35.2% of people in Redbridge either cycle or walk five times a week. This rises to 46.5 for three times and 72.1 for once a week. Some 79.3% cycle or walk once a month (Active Lives survey from Sport England). These stats make the population of Redbridge appear somewhat sedentary.

The national figure for trips to and from school remains disappointingly low at 2%.

Safety is a major issue stopping people cycling, with two thirds of adults saying “it is too dangerous for me to cycle on the roads” (British Social Attitudes Survey).

In London, there have been major moves by local authorities led by Mayor Sadiq Khan to get more people walking and cycling. These forms of travel have to increase if the Mayor’s target of 80% of all journeys being by cycle, foot or public transport by 2030. There has been success, with cycling in London growing by 62% over the past decade.

So, there are positive signs but still much to do - especially in Redbridge. The public transport model that we should be aspiring to must be the mini-hollands type culture seen in Waltham Forest (WF). The aim is to prioritise the pedestrian, cyclist and public transport user. People are encouraged to cycle to transport hubs like train stations, where they can securely park their bikes (in hangars) and continue the journey by public transport. Traffic, of which there is less, is in the main driven from the side roads onto the main arteries. Health benefits are already being seen.

In Redbridge, the cycling network can at best be described as piecemeal. Cycle lanes often expose the cyclist to the full force of the traffic, no doubt playing to the fears that keep people off the roads.

Cycle routes sometimes inexplicably end, leaving the cyclist nowhere to go other than out into the busy road.

There are though plans to make Redbridge more cycle friendly. The £3.3 million provided by Transport for London through its Liveable Neighbourhoods programme offers a real opportunity to get things moving. Details have yet to be worked out but better connections between Wanstead, Ilford and connecting boroughs should result.

The council is keen to get more of the hangar type facilities seen all over WF out in Redbridge. These will ensure people have got somewhere safe to put their bikes.

There is so much that can be done with a little imagination. Redbridge has fantastic parks. Why
not link them, so there can be an easy green cycling route. Maybe we could kick this idea off with a Redbridge Cycle Day, when people come together – including all those cycling councilors – to cycle the route.  

We need imaginative ideas to get more people on their cycles travelling around Redbridge. The enthusiasm must come from the citizens of Redbridge, the council’s challenge is to provide the infrastructure to make cycling a more enjoyable and safer experience.

published - Wanstead & Woodford Guardian - 28/3/2019 - paper
                                                                            30/3/2019 - online

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Time to recycle but more important stop creating the waste in the first place

There has been a growing awareness of the need to clear litter and clean up Wanstead.

The councillors have been leading monthly litter picks (on the third Saturday of each month), which have grown in popularity with local residents.

The question, though, that regularly occurs, when picking up the rubbish, is why do so many people drop the stuff in the first place? Do they have no pride or respect for their fellow human beings? What other creature on the earth behaves in such a way?

What the recent programmes, like David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series, illustrate is how human being are choking the planet. The dumping of rubbish, particularly plastics, show the urgent need to get to grips with this crisis. First, human beings need to stop producing this waste, second, serious clearance need to begin of the rubbish already out there clogging up the world.

Redbridge Council’s new Waste and Recycling strategy is set in this preventative culture, seeking to encourage people not to create the waste in the first place. When they do, the emphasis is on recycling and re-use of materials – not just chucking them in the bin or worse.

Some 70,172 of residual (black bag) waste was produced for the year 2017/18. Just 24% of waste was recycled, putting Redbridge amongst the 10 worst performing boroughs in the country. Under the Mayor of London’s guidelines the level of recycling will have to come up to 65% by 2030, so there is a big challenge for Redbridge council and residents.

Food waste has been found to make up 50% of the contents of the residual waste. People need to stop producing this waste. Research by Recycle for London shows food waste costs a family of four £70 a month. Why not just buy (or better still grow) what you eat?

Some 58,800 disposable nappies are sent to landfill in Redbridge each day, why not use washable nappies?

Some 300,000 tonnes of used clothes go into landfill in the UK each year, why not recycle clothes – or buy less?

The new strategy will include the introduction of wheelie bins and taking the waste collection service in-house. However, much of the emphasis of the strategy is on producing less waste.

Single use of items is to be discouraged. The council can use its licencing powers to ensure events do not use single use items but re-usable ones. This practice will also be adopted in council offices and buildings.

This policy can open the way for areas like Wanstead, under its new Environmental Charter, to look for a ban on single plastic use on the high street. Such a move will ofcourse mean working with local businesses to find a way of achieving such a goal. Possibly an environmental audit?

There are many innovative ideas that can be used to cut waste production. It is vital because humankind is destroying the world on which we all live. Cleaning up is important but addressing why we create the mess in the first place is equally so.

published - Wanstead & Woodford Guardian - 21/3/2019 - paper
                                                                             - 23/3/2019 - online