Just four anti-social dog owners prosecuted in Westminster over the past year for failing to clear up dog mess

Labour Councillors are calling for tougher action to be taken against anti-social dog owners who do not clear up their dog’s mess, after information revealed by the Council shows that only four dog owners have been prosecuted over the past year in Westminster for failing to clear up dog mess – and only two of them have paid their fine.

Council officers say;

“In the last 12 months 4 penalty notices have been issued for failing to clear dog fouling from the public highway, 50 % of which have currently been paid and 50% are still pending. 10 verbal warnings have also been given for failure to dispose of bagged dog waste correctly, which was a key issue in some wards, and saw many of our litter bins stickered to show that bagged waste could be disposed in them. Every ward has their own dedicated Local warden who in addition to the Animal warden monitors identified target streets, and is responsible for issuing penalty notices to offenders for failing to clear up after their dogs. Despite this, dog fouling enforcement is still very difficult to carry out as the offence needs to be witnessed and the owners would need to give their details to the issuing officer, which in some cases could mean the offender just walking off or verbally abusing the officer. Those repeat offenders that are identified could face prosecution but this would not mean them losing their dog or limit them from owning dogs in the future. Those penalties are more common in cases where dangerous dog and animal cruelty offences have been committed. In addition to the 600 signs we have installed citywide we have continually been raising awareness through planned free micro chipping events (currently 26 events across 16 ward areas) advertised notices through Westminster’s resident newsletters and social media, which have also been put into relevant housing newsletters.”

Labour Councillors say that this type of anti-social behaviour by a minority of irresponsible dog owners is plaguing the lives of many residents who are faced on a daily basis with having to dodge piles of dog mess left on the streets.

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

“This everyday problem needs more attention and more resources to tackle those irresponsible dog owners who make life difficult and unpleasant for everyone else. The Council and the police need to take tough action against those who do not abide by the law. This may not be the most high-profile issue but it is one of the most common problems raised by residents right across Westminster.”

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Westminster homeowners ‘will be protected’ in mansion tax scheme

The ‘Wood & Vale’ reports;

“Labour’s shadow chancellor Ed Balls has moved to reassure homeowners in Westminster that they will not be forced to sell up due to his proposed mansion tax – insisting the policy will be “fair and proportionate”.

Writing exclusively for the Ham&High series, Mr Balls said he had noted concerns raised by his colleagues, including Westminster North MP Karen Buck, and will ensure there are “protections for pensioners and others on modest incomes” living in homes worth more than £2million who would be unable to pay the proposed tax, which would be used to help shore up the NHS.

Mr Balls’ comments are seen by some as an exercise in damage limitation for Labour candidates set to fight next year’s General Election in constituencies hardest-hit by his mansion tax, including Westminster North where two-bedroom flats in some of its most desirable streets already sell for £2million or more.

Mr Balls maintained that “less than three per cent of homes” in London would fall into the mansion tax bracket, helping raise £1.2billion each year towards ensuring the nation has the GPs and nurses it needs – but the tax would affect almost one in five private homeowners in Westminster North.

Elaborating on the “difficult but fair” tax, the shadow chancellor reveals that anyone living in a £2m-plus home and earning less than £42,000-a-year will not have to pay the tax until they sell their home, at which point the government will take an accumulated amount.

And, contrary to early fears that the tax could be as high as £12,000 per year, those living in homes worth between £2million and £3million at today’s prices would be taxed £3,000 per year, roughly the same as the top band of council tax.

Lindsey Hall, who will fight Ms Buck for the Westminster North seat on a Conservative ticket next year, branded it a “tax on aspiration and on ordinary family homes” in which families and pensioners will be “pulled down because of the politics of envy”.

But Ms Buck told the Wood&Vale she backed the mansion tax now that safeguards have been built in.
“I think it is basically right that we seek to be sure that people in high-value properties are making a greater contribution,” she said.

“We are avoiding people having to sell their homes by building into the system the ability to defer the charge. The critical thing is to ensure people who have high-value properties who don’t have high incomes are not forced to make a difficult decision.”

She added: “If we want to offer a decent quality National Health Service, we have to ensure there is a reasonable fund in order to pay for that.”

Asked if it was unfair that cash-poor residents who happen to live in homes which have rocketed in value over the years should be forced to pay another tax, even if only when the home is sold, Ms Buck said: “If it isn’t fair then somebody would have to abolish the inheritance tax as well, and the principle of existing council tenants deferring their major works bills.”

She said there existed “a fundamental unfairness in the way we treat property,” with homes worth £50million currently subject to the same taxes as those worth £1million, and backed the proposed “progressive banding system” that tracks house values as they rise, unlike council tax.”


Posted in Council Tax, Karen Buck MP, Mansion Tax, NHS, Westminster North | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Westminster Council faces High Court challenge over crisis payment conditions

According to ‘Inside Housing';

“The High Court has given the go-ahead to a legal challenge that could prevent councils forcing people to join a work programme or move home as conditions of receiving housing crisis payment awards.

Anti-poverty charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust has been given permission to pursue a judicial review against Westminster Council for making receipt of discretionary housing payments (DHP) conditional on seeking work and searching for more affordable properties.

DHPs are time-limited payments to help people who are struggling to meet their housing costs.

In a legal document setting out the grounds of the challenge, seen by Inside Housing this week, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust says Westminster Council’s policy on deciding DHP claims for tenants affected by the £26,000-a-year total household benefit cap is unlawful.

In the legal document Westminster Council set out its policy: ‘Conditionality will be linked to the claimant being able to show engagement with work programmes and/or action to find alternative accommodation.’

The challenge was given permission to be heard in court in July, with a hearing likely in February.

The document stated that some DHP claimants had been expected to attend all interviews arranged by Jobcentre Plus.

Zacchaeus 2000 Trust alleges Westminster Council does not have any lawful power under the housing benefit regulations to impose these conditions on awards of DHP, or to require a DHP recipient to agree to conditions as a pre-condition of DHP.

It is not known how many other councils are imposing these conditions

Giles Peaker, partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors, said: ‘Councils are creatures of statute, so if there isn’t something which says “you can do this at your complete discretion”, then they can’t really do it. I think it’s a viable case.’

In January a disabled couple were given permission to bring a judicial review against Sandwell Council for taking disability living allowance into account when deciding how much DHP to give out.

Inside Housing reported in August last year that Edinburgh Council was denying DHP to bedroom tax tenants if they were deemed to spend too much on alcohol or cigarettes.”

Posted in Advice services, Discretionary Housing Payments, Housing, Housing Benefit, Jobs | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

20mph is plenty on Fernhead Road


Labour Councillors have organised a petition calling for a 20mph speed limit on Fernhead Road after receiving this information, the latest in a regular call for reduced traffic speeds in the area;

“I live in Fernhead Road between Carlton Vale and Shirland Road junctions and I have witnessed daily over recent years the increasing breaking of the 30mph speed limit. The speed indicator alerting motorists to when they are over 30mph travelling towards Shirland Road is obscured by a tree for traffic towards Shirland Road. It is clear from SLOW markings on road and notice about traffic calmed area at Carlton Vale junction that 30mph should be limit. However I have frequently observed light warning sign being repeatedly triggered. I would support 20mph limit in Westminster as this would dovetail with surrounding boroughs, however it needs enforcing, as even with 30mph limit drivers completely and deliberately ignore. I look forward to your response and any useful information for me as a resident of this stretch of primarily domestic road with a nursery one end and a school the other. Its great having buses here, and I understand emergency vehicles need clear route, but ordinary traffic needs to be safer.”

You can sign the petition here http://petitions.westminster.gov.uk/fernhead20mph/

Posted in 20mph speed limit, Harrow Road, Labour Councillors, Queen's Park, Road Safety, Westminster North | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

West End Conservative Councillor advertises for ‘executive assistant’ to answer questions from the public

The ‘West End Extra’ reports;

“A CONSERVATIVE councillor has come under fire for trying to employ an “executive assistant” to help carry out his duties at City Hall, including responding to questions from “the general public”.

Jonathan Glanz, who was elected to represent residents of the West End, is advertising for the full-time role on a recruitment website which is usually reserved for those working in the Houses of Parliament.

His assistant’s duties will include “responding to emails and letters” and “dealing with all correspondence in a sensitive and confidential manner,” according to the listing on not-for-profit site http://www.w4mp jobs.org.

Cllr Glanz, who is the director of property company 45West, is also employed as a consultant to advise the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) on the best way to sell former Met buildings, including the recent sale of dozens of axed police stations.

The job advertisement explained that the successful applicant would help Cllr Glanz with his “wide ranging political interests” and would need to “liaise with relevant groups / personnel both for Westminster City Council and MOPAC commitments, including liaison with outside organisations and the general public.”

One Westminster resident who spotted the advert wrote (see Letters) to the West End Extra: “Maybe I am old-fashioned but if I write to my local councillor I want a response from the person I elected not somebody hired to generate stock responses to me.” She asked: “Are we entering a culture where councillors no longer deign to undertake the work they were elected to do?”

Cllr Glanz said the assistant would be paid “significantly more” than the basic £9,000 a year allowance given to councillors, adding: “This is basically someone who is my assistant in my business, who will help to make my life do-able.

“Given that I devote a huge proportion of my time to public service in return for a very modest emolument, I am paying this out of my money.”

Asked if residents could expect a response from him personally, Cllr Glanz said: “They connect with me, whether I physically have the opportunity to put in the strokes on the keyboard, or whether somebody mechanics that on my behalf. They would only ever be dealing with me, because that’s my role. I don’t think it’s my role necessarily to tie myself to a computer screen and keyboard 24/7.”

He said: “Like everybody else I only have 24 hours in a day and people want, and now demand, a very prompt response. The councillors’ code of conduct gives you 10 working days to respond to a constituent query. I can tell you that in these days of email, constituents expect a response within 10 minutes. I think people have to be realistic as to how that can be achieved, given that people have other things that they are obliged to do.”

Westminster Council Labour group leader Paul Dimoldenberg said: “If Councillor Glanz is unable to do the job he should stand down and allow West End residents to chose someone else who is committed to putting residents first.”

Cllr Glanz was forced to resign as housing chief last year after comparing council tenants to champagne-swilling characters from the TV show Made in Chelsea.


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Paddington Council flat left vacant for over 5 years – £30,000 lost in rent and rates

Westminster Council has lost over £30,000 in rent and rates after a one bed room Council flat in Bravington Road, north Paddington was left vacant for over 5 years. The flat, at 6A Bravington Road, became vacant in July 2009 and has not been occupied since because the freeholder failed to do necessary repair works.
According to the Council;

“6 Bravington Road comprises two properties 6A and 6B. 6B Bravington is a privately owned unit and the owner of this property also owns the freehold of 6 Bravington, having purchased this from the Council in February 1995. The council have retained a leasehold interest in 6A and this flat became vacant in July 2009. At this time it was identified that significant damp proofing works were required to the property to bring it into habitable condition. These works are the responsibility of the freeholder and despite our best efforts we have been unable to resolve this matter with the freeholder. More recently, in February 2014, the decision was taken to dispose of this one bedroom property, the sale has now been agreed and is progressing.”

Councillor Patricia McAllister, Labour Councillor for Queen’s Park Ward, said;

“It is a scandal that this property has been vacant for over 5 years when it could have been providing a home for someone and generating income for the Council. The Council has clearly failed to require the freeholder to maintain the property that was sold to them and this has cost the Council over £30,000 in lost rent and rates. This is an appalling situation for which Westminster Conservatives should be thoroughly ashamed.”

Posted in Council finances, Empty Property, Housing, Housing Repairs, Labour Councillors, Paddington, Queen's Park | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New report shows Westminster failing to secure healthy and sustainable food for its residents

Westminster City Council is failing to secure a healthy and sustainable food future for its residents, according to the ‘Good Food for London’ report backed by the Greater London Authority.

The report, which ranks the 33 London boroughs by their initiatives and progress in encouraging residents to eat healthy and sustainable food, has named Westminster as the 21st borough in London, giving it just 4 points out of a possible 11.

The figures reveal that Westminster is failing to make any significant progress in providing healthy meals for children in schools, supporting a living wage so residents can afford to eat a well-balanced diet or in supporting fair trade food throughout the borough. Westminster is also falling behind in animal welfare, food partnerships and sustainable food growing.

In response to the report Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour group said:

“The residents of Westminster are being failed by a council that refuses to implement initiatives to encourage healthy and sustainable eating. The council’s poor performance is made all the more significant with 39% of children in the borough living in poverty. Nobody should have to choose between providing a healthy meal or paying their rent, however the Council seems to have disregard for the parents on low wages who are having to make this choice every day.

On top of this the council is failing in its duty to provide well balanced meals for school children. With 25% of children starting high school in the borough classified as obese, it is important that Westminster City Council sorts out its school meals programme and provides children with a healthy lunch.

Westminster needs to learn from other boroughs in the city such as Islington, Lewisham and Haringey who are taking on initiatives including Living Wage programmes, support for new Mums and healthy eating workshops for local restaurants. All of these programmes are making a significant difference to the lives of residents and are desperately needed here in Westminster”

Speaking about ‘Good Food for London’ Rosie Boycott, Chair of the London Food Board and Ross Compton, London Food Link Coordinator said that if boroughs in London such as Westminster “took the simple, affordable and effective action outlined in the report, it would significantly improve the health of Londoners, the livelihoods of farmers and other food producers, and the sustainability of the food system on which we all depend.”

The report is available online at http://www.sustainweb.org/londonfoodlink/goodfoodforlondon2014/

Posted in Families, Food, Health, Labour Councillors, London Living Wage, Out of touch Conservatives, Poverty, Westminster Council waste | Tagged , , | Leave a comment