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

House prices in Westminster 20 times average salary

The ‘Wood & Vale’ reports

“New figures show the ratio of house prices to average earnings in the borough is more than 20.3 – in stark contrast to 1997 when the ratio was just over seven.

According to figures compiled by the TUC, Westminster is the second most expensive place to live in London, but far behind neighbouring borough Kensington and Chelsea where house prices are said to be more than 32 times the average salary.

Nearby Camden has also seen a steep rise in property prices over the last 16 years where the affordability ratio is 15.2, and it was a similar story in Brent, which comes in slightly lower at 11.6.

The TUC said the data was particularly significant as the Bank of England recently instructed banks to limit the proportion of mortgages they offer that are more than 4.5 times applicants’ salaries.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Over the past 16 years, the increase in house price rises in London has outstripped the increase in peoples’ pay packets. There is now not a single borough in London in which housing is affordable for those on an average local salary.

“This has a massive impact on families and communities, and also on the transport system, congestion and our environment, as more and more people can no longer live near to where they work.”

Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of Westminster’s Labour opposition, said the figures are “unsurprising” and people have struggled to buy a first home in the borough for decades.

But he added: “The situation is getting worse because more and more flats that would have been open to first-time buyers are now being bought by buy-to-let investors, and many former council properties that might have been an alternative for a first-time buyer are also becoming far too expensive because of buy-to-let investors snapping up properties.

“There’s a very straight forward way to begin tackling this problem by building more social properties that will help provide somewhere that people on low incomes can live so they don’t have to rent properties at exorbitant rents.”

Posted in Affordable Housing, Buy to let, Cost of Living, House Prices, Housing, Labour Councillors, Right to Buy, Social Housing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Westminster Chief Executive visits Queen’s Park Ward


Westminster Council’s Chief Executive, Charlie Parker, visited Queen’s Park Ward on 27th August to familiarise himself with the area and understand some of the hot issues. We drew up a schedule of sites for his visit and officers to meet. The visit comprised:

• Meeting with representatives of the Queen’s Park Community Council and the manager of the Beethoven Centre
• Visiting Mozart estate to view the derelict estate office site
• Viewing sites in Lancefield Street
• Jubilee Sports Centre and the surrounding ex-Genesis social housing which are in very poor condition
• Stansbury Square to discuss the latest ASB problems
• A stop-over at Avenues Youth Club
• Queens Park Gardens to view the Wildlife and Children’s play areas;
• Ilbert Street, Droop Street and Queens Park Court
• Shops in Harrow Road (including All Stars Boxing Club)
• The declining state of Canal Terrace as the ‘gateway to Westminster’
• The junction at Ladbroke Grove/Kilburn Lane and the need to improve pedestrian safety
• Moberly Centre site
• Fifth Avenue housing improvements
• The shopping area at the top end of Kilburn Lane and
• The proposed HS2 vent shaft and electricity substation site at Premier Corner


During the course of the visit we pointed out many of the detailed problems and issues that need to be tackled.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg said;

“We were delighted to welcome the Chief Executive to Queen’s Park to see for himself what is happening. We raised a number of issues with him and we will continue to press for action on local priorities on behalf of local residents. In particular, there are now a number of sites in the Ward that will be blighted by developments over the next few years and we will be asking what can be done to ensure the local quality of life is not badly affected in this period”

Posted in Anti-Social Behaviour, HS2, Jubilee Sports Centre, Labour Councillors, Moberly Sports Centre, Paddington, Queen's Park, Queen's Park Community Council, Uncategorized, Westminster North | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Another £80,000 goes to Westminster Conservatives’ huge election ‘war chest’

Westminster Conservatives have accepted nearly £80,000 in political donations in the three months from April-June 2014, according to information from the Electoral Commission, including a donation of £14,600 from the Offshore Group Newcastle Limited (OGN) which is owned by Russian oligarch Alexander Temerko. Mr Temerko, who paid £90,000 for a bust of Prime Minister David Cameron at the Tory party’s 2013 summer party, saw his wind farm firm receive £4.5 million out of the Department for Business’s regional growth fund at the end of 2012. As of July this year, Mr Temerko had personally donated £259,230 to the Conservative Party, while OGN had donated £185,325.

In comparison, Westminster North Labour Party received just £11,650 in political donations in the 6 months from January-June 2014, the largest of which was from Westminster’s Labour Group of Councillors who donated a total of £6,150, together with donations of £3,000 from Unison and £2,500 from the GMB.

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

“While Labour gets its money from hard-working local Labour Councillors and donations from individual trade union members, Westminster Conservatives rely on massive donations from the rich and powerful, some of whom appear to have no connection at all with Westminster. Clearly Westminster Conservatives are amassing a ‘war chest’ so that they can attempt to ‘buy’ the 2015 General Election locally”.

The list of donations received by Westminster Conservatives from April-June 2014 is as follows;

Cities of London & Westminster Cavendish Corporate Finance LLP, 40 Portland Place £1,900.00 26/06/2014
Cities of London & Westminster JCB Sales Ltd, Lakeside Works £3,900.00 30/04/2014
Cities of London & Westminster Mr Jeremy C Warner Allen £2,280.00 08/04/2014
Cities of London & Westminster Mr Patrick R Evershed £4,930.00 30/04/2014
Cities of London & Westminster Mr Philip K Gibbs £4,890.00 11/04/2014
Cities of London & Westminster Ms Annabel T Keswick £3,900.00 01/05/2014
Cities of London & Westminster Ms Clare E Hambro £1,900.00 03/06/2014
Cities of London & Westminster Ms Lubov Chernukhin £1,900.00 19/05/2014
Cities of London & Westminster Ms Sheena A Evershed £4,930.00 30/04/2014
Cities of London & Westminster Offshore Group Newcastle Limited, OGN House £14,600.00 30/06/2014
Westminster North Mr Alan Bekhor £5,000.00 15/04/2014
Westminster North Mr Hardy B McLain £2,500.00 07/06/2014
Westminster North Mr Lev V Mikheev £10,000.00 30/05/2014
Westminster North Mr Mark E Thompson £5,000.00 23/04/2014
Westminster North Mr Richard C Girling £10,000.00 07/06/2014
Westminster North Mr Simon Wolfson £2,000.00 02/04/2014

Posted in Cities of London and Westminster, Labour Councillors, Political donations, Westminster Conservatives | Tagged , , | Leave a comment