Is there a North Westminster rubbish dumping epidemic?

Westbourne canal dumpingLisson Street

Reports have been coming in to us and to Karen Buck MP of a worsening fly-tipping and rubbish dumping problem affecting many parts of North Westminster- and getting worse in recent months. We have collecting examples of this and reporting them to the Council, and residents have been adding their own views.

Bins are often full to over-flowing, and bulky items like mattresses have piled up in places like Shirland Road and Marban Road, W9, Chippenham Road, Carlton Vale, near the Jubilee Centre W10, along the canal, Westbourne and in Lisson Street NW1, Church Street.

Westminster Council say this is not because of reduced collections or the higher charges for collecting large household items- but what else explains why things have got worse recently? What do you think?

Posted in Church Street, Karen Buck MP, Rubbish collection, Rubbish dumping, Westbourne, Westminster North | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Call for Westminster Council action against Churchill Gardens ‘slum landlord’

coleridge 1 (4)coleridge 2 (2)coleridge 3 (2)

Westminster Labour Councillors have called on Westminster City Council to take action against the landlord of a former Council flat in Coleridge House, Churchill Gardens, Pimlico.

The two bed former Council property is rented by the Council from a private landlord and used by the Council as temporary accommodation to house a vulnerable single-parent family with three children with special needs. The rent is £500 per week and is paid for by Housing Benefit.

In July 2014 the property was inspected by the Council’s Environmental Health officers. That inspection found various hazards, including exploding electrical appliances and sockets which pose a serious risk to the residents. Other problems at the flat include mould and damp, the front door has no proper locks and bolts have to be used to keep the door secure. Over the past two months these problems have got worse as the landlord took no remedial steps to repair the problems.

Labour Councillors are calling for the Council to issue an Enforcement Notice on the landlord to require him to do repair these problems without further delay.

Councillor Murad Gassanly, Labour Councillor for Churchill Ward, said;

“The issue here is that this was a council home once. Now it is a slum, and a private landlord is milking the system by renting what was a public property back to the Council at full market rate rent, whilst neglecting the property, ignoring Council requests, and mistreating the residents. On top of this, the flat is not suitable or liveable and is a danger to the residents and their neighbours due to fire hazard.

“Whilst many Westminster landlords, working with the Council, are socially responsible partners, there are unfortunately some who abuse their position. We call for robust action against these bad landlords. It is a scandal that former council flats are used to milk the Housing Benefit system and exploit local authorities. It is even more disturbing when bad landlords neglect their properties allowing them to fall into disrepair. By ignoring their responsibilities these bad landlords are putting residents’ health and wellbeing at risk. Westminster Council must do more to ensure stringent adherence to our health and environmental safety standards.”

Posted in Bad landlords, Churchill Gardens, Housing, Housing Benefit, Housing Repairs, Labour Councillors, Pimlico, Private rented housing, Temporary accommodation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

17 Westminster Conservative Councillors fail to submit election expenses by the due date

Seventeen Westminster Conservative Councillors failed to submit their election expenses by the due date and then subsequently voted on on matters at Council meetings, contrary to the Representation of the People Act 1983. Those involved, include Conservative Candidate for Westminster North, Lyndsey Hall, Deputy Leader of the Council, Robert Davis, Conservative Chief Whip, Melvyn Caplan and Housing Cabinet Member, Daniel Astaire.

In a letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, David Boothroyd said;

“Representation of the People Act 1983 s. 181: Elections to Westminster City Council

Dear Ms Saunders

Under section 181(1) of the Representation of the People Act 1983, I want to draw your attention to an apparent breach of section 81 of the Act. An election of City Councillors was held on 22 May 2014 and the results were declared on 23 May. Under section 81, the election agent of every candidate must deliver a statement of election expenses to the Returning Officer within 35 calendar days, which is 27 June.

I made arrangements to inspect the returns on 29 July, but found that there were no returns from 30 candidates. On the following day, I was informed that the missing returns “had not in fact been submitted” and that they had been delivered that morning, 30 July.

I should also like to draw your attention to the fact that 17 of these candidates were declared elected as councillors, and were therefore subject to the provisions of section 85 of the Act which makes them liable for a fine of £50 if they sit and vote in the council for which the election was held. “

A copy of the letter to the DPP is here DPP letter

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;

“This is a very serious matter which must be thoroughly investigated by the authorities without delay. The public needs to know that candidates keep to the rules at all times and, when they do not, the relevant sanctions are applied”.

Posted in Council elections, Westminster Conservatives, Westminster North | Tagged , | Leave a comment

First £1 million ex-Council flat in Westminster gets closer

The prospect of the first £1 million former Council flat sold by Westminster Council under the Right to Buy for a fraction of that amount is getting closer with a flat in Robin House, St John’s Wood on the market for a staggering £875,000. Labour Councillors say that this flat is likely to be bought by a Buy-to-let investor and let out at a rent in excess of £2,500 a month.

Advertised on Rightmove, the flat is described as;

“A newly refurbished four bedroom apartment on the raised ground floor of this purpose built block. The property benefits from well laid out bedroom accommodation with good storage and a long lease of 95 years. Robin House is located within a short distance from St John’s Wood underground station (Jubilee Line) and the shops and amenities of St John’s Wood High Street as well as the open spaces of Regent’s Park.”

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;

“The continued sale of Westminster’s dwindling number of Council flats is adding to the housing crisis locally. Large flats like this one in Robin House were built by St Marylebone Borough Council before the last war to house local residents in housing need. To see them for sale for nearly £1 million when housing need is just as acute as it was all those years ago is completely wrong. Turning homes for those in housing need in to buy-to-let investments is destroying local communities and making places like St John’s Wood even more of a ‘no-go area’ for people on middle and low incomes.”

Posted in Buy to let, House Prices, Housing, Labour Councillors, St John's Wood | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Labour calls on Westminster Council to use £1.7m underspend on showers for the elderly

Labour Councillors have called on Westminster Council to use the £1.7 million underspent on the Adult Services budget on installing showers to the flats of elderly residents who have difficulty getting in and out the bath.

Labour say that the money could pay for nearly 300 showers to be fitted to the homes of elderly residents in all parts of Westminster and help to transform their lives for the better.

Church Street Labour Councillor Barbara Grahame said;

“The Council should spend some, if not all, this underspending on showers for older or frail residents and make a lot of people happy. At a cost of around £6,000 a time, the Council could give nearly 300 older people the means to have a regular shower in their own home. The money is there so what is stopping the Council from getting on with it?”

Posted in Adult Care, Older People | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Westminster Labour Councillors challenge substandard care at Forrester Court care home

Westminster’s Labour Councillors are deeply concerned that Care UK’s Forrester Court care and nursing home in Cirencester Street, Paddington, has been slammed by the Government’s Care Quality Commission in a new inspection report for failing its core standard of Providing care, treatment and support that meets people’s needs, despite having been warned about possible failings earlier this year by Westminster’s own Healthwatch advisory group.

The CQC’s July inspection found:

• Evidence that indicated care plans were not always being followed and that recommended actions were not always undertaken
• Concerns over the level of training of staff to deal with falls and consistency of record keeping.
• That people did not have access to call bells whilst sitting in the day room and that staff were not always present to supervise and that call bells in people’s rooms were not always easy to access.
• A significant number of people were left alone in their rooms and not engaged in any form of activity, a breach of their care plans, and that many residents in day rooms were not being occupied or being able to take part in activities.

Care UK had been warned of problems at Forrester Court by Westminster’s Healthwatch in May 2014 and was expected to respond to these concerns within 20 days. The Healthwatch report identified potential areas for improvement around: Eating and nutrition, Bathrooms, Environment, Activities, Privacy, Residents’ safety, Residents’ wellbeing, Call bells, Staff communication and Complaints and abuse. A number of these failings were confirmed by the recent CQC report. The vast majority of the residents at the home came from Westminster, with most of the places funded by Westminster Council.

Labour Councillors have called on Westminster Council to put pressure on Care UK to get them to rapidly address the problems in the standards of care at Forrester Court and called for an urgent meeting of the Council’s Adults, Health and Public Protection Policy & Scrutiny Committee to question Care UK about their failings. Labour Councillors want to ensure that these failings are addressed before Care UK is considered for new contracts to deliver care services in Westminster.

Councillor Adam Hug, Deputy Leader of the Labour Group, said:

“Care UK needs to act fast to improve the quality of care it provides to Westminster’s elderly and vulnerable citizens at Forester Court. It is deeply concerning that a significant number of residents at Forrester Court were being left alone and isolated, without being given meaningful activities to keep their spirits up. Westminster Council must get answers about why our residents have been let down like this.”

Care UK, a private company with 2013 operating profits (EBITDA) of £56.2 million currently operates four care homes in Westminster.

Posted in Adult Care, Labour Councillors, Older People, Westbourne, Westminster North | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Labour calls for a stop to Westminster Council’s campaign of celebrating huge increases in rents for former Council flats sold under the Right to Buy

Labour Councillors have called an urgent meeting with City West Homes Chief Executive, Nick Barton, after the Council’s Housing Management arm continued its campaign of celebrating huge increases in rents for former Council flats sold under the Right to Buy. Labour say that the Council should stop this campaign which is forcing up private rents in Westminster.

The latest posting on the City West Homes website aimed at buy-to-let investors claims;

“8.5% increase in market derived, private sector rents for ex-council flats in Westminster in 24 months
We understand each micro area within Westminster has an average rent, however taking Westminster by enlarge within the last 2 years, ex-council private sector rents have gone up by over 8%. We believe that Pimlico and Maida Vale have contributed the most to the increase comparing average rents now and 2 years ago.

We believe also that the average rent across the whole of Westminster for ex-council property is £480 per week or £2080 pcm. Data from the April 2014 HomeLet Rental Index shows the average cost of renting a home in Greater London reached a new high, after increasing by 9.4% versus April 2013 to £1,348 per month.

Taking into account our figures are focused just on Westminster ex-council it would suggest that such housing stock is keeping pace with other types of housing stock within London demonstrating it’s quality as an ongoing investment and any ‘stigma’ of ex-council is becoming less and less significant”

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;

“We have called an urgent meeting with City West Homes to express our extreme dismay at its repeated irresponsible celebration of rapidly rising private rents in Westminster. So far almost 40% of the 10,000 Council flats sold under the Right to Buy are now in the hands of Buy-to-let investors who charge on average nearly £500 a week, around three times more than charged by the Council. Encouraging the sale of more former Council flats to buy-to-let investors simply pushes up private rents, as well as reducing the stock of properties available to prospective home-owners trying to get their foot on the home ownership ladder. We want City West Homes to concentrate on managing the Council’s housing stock better, rather than trying to compete with local estate agents – of which there is absolutely no shortage!”

Posted in Buy to let, Council rents, House Prices, Housing, Labour Councillors, Private rented housing, Right to Buy, Social Housing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment