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

Westminster Council urges Conservative MPs to rent £500 a week former Council flats in Pimlico

Following the resignation of former Conservative Minister, Mark Simmonds MP, because his allowances of £27,875 a year would not be enough to maintain a family home in Westminster, Westminster Council is urging other Conservative Members of Parliament to rent former Council flats on the Churchill Gardens Estate in Pimlico as the cost of £500 a week has “heating and hot water bills included in the rent and (they) would have change from (the Parliamentary) allowance”.

A posting on the City West Homes Rental (the housing management arm of the City Council) website claims;

“Minister quits because of inadequate housing expenses with a budget of £27,875 – See what he could have had through CWHR

In the same postcode area as the Houses of Parliament and indeed 24 minutes’ walk from the Houses of Parliament – but alas recently let, and now for sale as an ongoing buy to let investment with a rent £26k per annum – the former Africa minister could have rented this delightful property in the Churchill Gardens conservation area SW1V. The former Africa minister would have had heating and hot water bills included in the rent and we would have had change from his allowance. There is also a garden for the kids, permit parking in the estate and easy access to the A4 to commute to Lincolnshire, and of course, according to Google maps – 24 minutes’ walk from the Houses of Parliament – an enviable commute walking through the delightful residential streets of Pimlico SW1. Details of the property can be found here

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

“It is beyond belief that Westminster Conservatives should be encouraging the buy-to-let market in Pimlico as this will further reduce the number of Council homes available to families in housing need. Of course Conservative MPs want to live in Pimlico to be close to Parliament, but there are many private flats available for rent without the City Council fuelling the already out-of control buy-to-let market. “

“Westminster Council should be building more homes for local residents in housing need and not trying to fill former Council flats with Conservative MPs”

Last year saw 40 per cent of new build homes in Westminster sold to buy-to-let investors, according to research by specialist fund and asset managers London Central Portfolio.

Posted in Buy to let, Churchill Gardens, Housing, Labour Councillors, Pimlico, Social Housing, Westminster Conservatives | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Churchill Gardens plans under the ‘Mirror’ spotlight

Ros Wynne Jones writes in the ‘Mirror';

Churchill gardens plan

“A few weeks ago I went to a public meeting at the heart of a sprawling 1950s council estate in central London. The community centre was packed and airless. Tempers were flaring.

“You say you’re regenerating the estate, but how come our kids are losing their playground?” one mother shouted. “Why should we believe a word that comes out of your mouths?”

Families in the meeting at Churchill Gardens showed me an ­architect’s drawing that had an old people’s home on top of a huge section of the local primary school’s playground.

A previous public meeting had been told the ­playground would move underground. Now, local Labour councillors have launched a petition to save it.

“You’ve never heard anything like it,” Emma Taylor, 43, a mother of five whose daughter attends Churchill Gardens Academy, told me. “An underground playground! Because our kids don’t deserve fresh air, do they? Or apparently daylight, since the three-storey height of the building will take the light from the classrooms.”

Churchill Gardens Academy supports many children with special needs.

“God knows how those children would cope with an underground playground,” Emma says.

The school is one of Lord Nash’s academies, run by his Future schools trust.

The former venture ­capitalist also happens to be the Academies Minister in the current Tory-led Government.

But when the school was recently acquired by Future, the Conservative council didn’t grant a large section of the playground to the school. It is that part that would be built on.

In fact, there is already provision for elderly people on Churchill Gardens – on church land, adjoining the estate.

But this land is being cleared for luxury apartments overlooking the Thames and the multi-billion-pound Battersea power station development. Flats that no one in the overcrowded Churchill Gardens estate will be able to afford.

Churchill Gardens is one of the finest social housing estates in London. It pioneered “district heating” and still has a heating tower that provides the estate’s heating and hot water.

Built where the Blitz had levelled Victorian housing to rubble, it was made a ­conservation area in 1990, and some blocks and the water tower are Grade II listed. Some of its flats have river views, and it’s a heartbeat away from the ­tree-lined Embankment. Its neighbour is the affluent Dolphin Square, where many MPs live.

Residents in ­Westminster lived through the Dame Shirley Porter scandal in the 1980s, when homeless shelters were sold, nurses and students forced out and social housing ­engineered to ensure a Conservative council victory.

This week, it was revealed two ­property developers have been leafleting council properties in Westminster offering families money to sell their homes.

No wonder that when the current Tory administration said they wanted to talk to the people on the estate about ­“regeneration”, ­residents immediately suspected a landgrab.

As one resident asked the man from the council: “If you’re going to haul the estate down around our ears, you’d better tell us what do you get out of it?”

Last year, a 16-year-old boy, Hani Abou El Kheir, was killed on the estate in an attack using knives and meat cleavers.

“The council are pretending they are worried about our safety from drugs gangs,” another ­resident said afterwards. “But none of the attackers were from the estate. We can see right through them.”

Yesterday, Westminster council said that in light of residents’ protests, it is now “pausing” its plans for Churchill Gardens.

“We are taking time to consider their concerns fully before continuing the conversation in the autumn,” says Cllr Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for housing and ­regeneration.

In 2012, when he was seeking ­re-election as London Mayor, Boris Johnson spoke out against the “Kosovo-style social cleansing of London”.

But for many communities that is exactly what “regeneration” has meant.

When the vast Heygate estate in Elephant and Castle that once housed generations of ordinary Londoners is rebuilt, only 79 of 2,500 new homes on the site will be available as social housing.

Meanwhile, the “regeneration” of the West Hendon Estate, which ­overlooks the “Welsh Harp” reservoir, will see it recreated as Hendon ­Waterside, with only 25% social housing and the nature reserve under threat.

Where developers fail, the benefits cap is also clearing families out of the capital with councils forcing people to take flats as far away as Stoke and Derbyshire.

In the place of Londoners will come thousands of high-rise, ­high-priced luxury apartments owned by overseas investors from Russia and Dubai, like those currently buying up discarded embassies throughout central London.

They will be lived in for a few weeks a year, or rented at ­exorbitant prices.

In April, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said he had commissioned Savills, the upmarket estate agent, to look at “regenerating” estates across London using private capital.

Council estates should be looked at as “brownfield sites”, he said, adding there were implications not just for London but “also in other areas with high housing demand like Brighton, Cambridge and Oxford”.

Churchill Gardens residents spoke for millions of Londoners at that public meeting.

“Seventy years I’ve lived on this estate,” one man told the council.

“What you need to understand is that we – people here – are Churchill Gardens. It’s just an estate to you. But it’s our whole lives.”

Posted in Churchill Gardens, Churchill Gardens Primary Academy, House building, Housing, Labour Councillors, Regeneration | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Call for inquiry in to Westminster Right to Buy sales

Westminster Labour Councillors have called on the City Council to mount an urgent investigation in to a Sunday Times report that uncovered that

“A PROPERTY investor has been caught boasting how he hopes to make so much money by snapping up cut-price council houses under the coalition’s right-to-buy scheme that he will “never have to work again. Nicholas Carlino, a director of London Investment Property Group (LIPG), told an undercover reporter how easy profits are available because councils are massively undervaluing the properties, which he can buy from tenants and resell for much higher prices.”

Labour Councillors say that the activities of this company might be connected to the fact that almost 20% of RTB sales in Westminster since 2012 have been to people in receipt of Housing Benefit.

The article identified First Avenue in Queen’s Park, Westminster as one of the areas being targeted by the company.

Queen’s Park Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, has written to the Council’s Chief Executive, Charlie Parker demanding an inquiry.

“I was concerned to see this story in yesterday’s Sunday Times and wondered whether the increase in the number of HB recipients making RTB applications is in some way connected to the activities of these two characters?

I believe that the Council has a responsibility and duty to investigate further those on Housing Benefit making RTB applications. I am particularly concerned to see that properties in Queen’s Park are being targeted. It is completely unacceptable for the Council to shrug its shoulders and say that the RTB legislation does not require the Council to make detailed enquiries about where the money comes from to exercise the RTB.

Can I also remind you of the Question I asked at the last Council meeting to which I got a very ambivalent response from Councillor Astaire;

To the Cabinet member for Housing

Can he explain why almost 20% of RTB sales since 2012 have been to people in receipt of Housing Benefit?

Can he explain how people on HB can (a) afford to buy property worth hundreds of thousands of pounds (b) can afford to put down a substantial deposit running into tens of thousands of pounds and (c) afford the monthly mortgage payments?

Is he not concerned that there might be huge fraud taking place right under his nose and why is he not taking urgent action to stop the loss of council property and millions of pounds of public money?

Please can you give this urgent attention.”

Sell us your council house and we’ll split the profit

Nicholas Hellen, Kate Mansey and Robin Henry Published: 17 August 2014

Nicholas Carlino and William Johnson offered money to council tenants to sell their homes

A PROPERTY investor has been caught boasting how he hopes to make so much money by snapping up cut-price council houses under the coalition’s right-to-buy scheme that he will “never have to work again”.

Nicholas Carlino, a director of London Investment Property Group (LIPG), told an undercover reporter how easy profits are available because councils are massively undervaluing the properties, which he can buy from tenants and resell for much higher prices.

“It’s a joke, isn’t it?” said Carlino, whose firm has leafleted 60,000 council house tenants with the offer of six-figure financial rewards for working with him. He explained that councils are losing public money.

An investigation by The Sunday Times into the scheme, which is entirely legal, has sparked condemnation of the right-to-buy policy.

Critics say the legislation was badly drawn up and accuse councils of failing to ensure that properties go to deserving buyers rather than opportunistic developers.

Chris Williamson, a Labour MP and member of the communities and local government select committee, said: “This is profiting at taxpayers’ expense. The big players are able to use their financial muscle to scoop up a large number of dwellings and either sell them on or rent them out at inflated prices.”

The leaflet distributed by LIPG, designed to resemble the front page of a tabloid newspaper, carries the headline: “Right to buy tenant moves & scoops £100,000”. It says: “A lot of tenants are unaware that if they have a right to buy offer or they use their right to apply, then they could gain anything from £20,000 to £100,000.”

It cites case studies including a “Mr Jacobs” who “had been yearning to return to Jamaica but it was merely a dream until he received £100,000 which made his dreams come true”.

A reporter posed as a council tenant living in a two-bedroom terraced house in First Avenue in west London, one of the streets leafleted and where a former local authority house recently sold for £925,000. The reporter met Carlino last week to discuss the possibility of signing up with LIPG.

Carlino said councils “always undervalue properties”, adding: “If they value the property at £550 [thousand] and it’s worth £650 [thousand] to me on the open market, that’s where I can give you money.”

He said he would give the £550,000 to the council and on the same day “my solicitor would give you whatever [sum] we agree . . . and the property would come into my name or I may even sell it on”.

Carlino said LIPG would cover legal bills and stamp duty and emphasised that even if the tenant received a right-to-buy discount, which can be up to £102,000, it would be irrelevant because the firm would have to pay it back to the council. Asked if the scheme was basically exploiting a “legal loophole”, he replied: “Exactly and that’s why if Labour get in they’ll probably close it because a) they’ll reduce discounts and b) they like social housing and they don’t want to sell them . . . If I get 500 or 1,000 of these [properties] in my cabinet, I’ll never have to work again.”

London Investment Property Group has leafleted 60,000 council house tenants

Carlino, who claimed LIPG had completed 19 such deals and was looking to buy a further 132 properties, said councils did not object to the scheme. “They want the money in as much as anyone. The council gets a lump sum, you get a lump sum and I get a property. Everyone’s quite happy,” he said.

William Johnson, managing director of LIPG, later said the firm had yet to complete any deals and insisted there was “no grey area” in the way it bought the properties and therefore was not exploiting a loophole.

Carlino told the undercover reporter that LIPG complies with all “buy back” rules.

“We have to write to the council and say, ‘Look, I’m going to sell this property on the open market. Do you wish to buy it?’,” he said.

“And they always write back and say, ‘Thank you very much for the opportunity but on this occasion we won’t’.”

The businessmen said they require tenants selling to LIPG to prove they have firm plans to move elsewhere so are not a burden to the council. “I won’t deal with . . . single mothers who want a few quid now and will be knocking on the council’s door in two years’ time,” said Carlino.

The property investor said councils are massively undervaluing their houses (Getty)

Daniel Astaire, Westminster city council cabinet member for housing and regeneration, said: “If we have reason to believe attempts are being made to exploit the system . . . we will take thorough steps to thwart them.”

The council conceded that “given the state of the property market in London there is likely to be a significant discrepancy between value at valuation and value at completion” but denied undervaluing properties.

Brandon Lewis, the housing and planning minister, said: “The reinvigorated right-to- buy is both increasing housing supply and reducing waiting lists, as every additional home sold is now being replaced with a new affordable home for a new social tenant.

“Critics of right-to-buy are enemies of home ownership and fail to appreciate the wider benefits of helping people to move on and up the housing ladder.”

Posted in Affordable Housing, Housing, Housing Benefit, Labour Councillors, Queen's Park, Right to Buy, Social Housing | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Is the Chippenham pub under threat?

The ‘Wood & Vale’ reports;


“Local businesses are watching nervously as rumours continue to fly about the future of a Maida Vale pub after it was sold to mystery developers.

The Chippenham Hotel, in Shirland Avenue, has found itself at the centre of concerns as it is believed Tesco could be interested in taking over the premises.

The building was sold by Punch Taverns to an investment company called Portinex back in May, and speculation has grown in recent weeks that the supermarket giant could be moving in – much to the dismay of residents and business owners.

A sitting tenant remains in the pub and Tesco has neither confirmed or denied the rumours, telling the Wood&Vale: “At this time, we would not be able to say, but we have not signed a deal with them. We are always looking for new opportunities.”

All the same, the possibility has left neighbouring shops feeling unsettled.

Jihad Beaini, owner of West Way Food and Wine in Chippenham Road, said he would organise a petition opposing Tesco’s plans if the whispers were proved true.

He went on: “It’s a pub and it should stay as a pub. We don’t want a Tesco in the area. Nobody likes Tesco, they like small 

The shopkeeper at News and Wine in Shirland Avenue, who asked to remain anonymous, said Tesco would kill off her business, adding: “If it comes, it’s a real problem. They won’t care about affecting other shops.”

Maida Vale already has two small Tesco stores, in Clifton Road and in the Esso petrol station, but, according to Mr Beaini, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain has been interested in expanding for some time, even approaching him last year to see if he would sell his premises.

Across the country, Tesco has built up a reputation for snapping up pubs and turning them into convenience stores despite often facing resistance from the local community.

Paul Charlton, from the Campaign for Real Ale’s (Camra) west London branch, said if The Chippenham Hotel were to disappear, it would be a “sad loss to the community”.

He continued: “It is an interesting pub from Camra’s point of view because it’s got a recognisable historic interior.

“It’s a large corner site and I can quite see why convenience-store operators would wish to have it.”

The Chippenham Hotel’s landlords were unavailable for comment at the time of going to press”

Posted in Harrow Road, Planning permission, The Chippenham, Westminster North | Tagged | Leave a comment

Westminster Council is deliberately fuelling the buy-to-let market in north Westminster

Westminster Council is deliberately fuelling the buy-to-let market in north Westminster through City West Homes, its council property management arm.

A posting on the City West website says;

Where to buy next in Westminster for buy to let?

The property we deal with is often the best performing property in the whole of Westminster in terms of rental yield return as the majority of the properties we deal with are ‘ex-council’ with returns over 5%.

Church Street NW8: The regeneration of the area is in the short-term pipeline. There is also going to be a host of redevelopment on the southern end of the Edgware road.Three bedroom properties can be bought for around £470,000 and can be let for up to £500 per week to professional sharers and students for example. A good return, and the opportunity for growth based on a non-market driver i.e. area improvement.

Westbourne Park W2: This area not too far from uber trendy Notting Hill and is underrated (and in London terms undervalued) in our opinion as there are 2 bedroom flats available in the Brunel Estate that can be purchased at £450,000 offering a return of over 5% with the capital value driver of Notting Hill and Westbourne Grove under a mile away.

Lisson Grove NW1: Around 5 minutes from Marylebone this area will easily ride the fortunes of the locality. Currently a 3 bedroom property can be obtained for under £650,000 offering a return of over 5%. This micro area is next to a prime zone 1 station, Regent’s University and has BNP Paribas as another pull for tenants. Next month we will be looking at additional areas in Westminster and our experiences on tenant requirements for an ex-council buy to let landlord to consider.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, has written to the Council’s Chief Executive, Charlie Parker, to ask;

“Why is City West Homes doing its best to fuel the buy to let investor market in Church Street and Westbourne and price out ordinary families?

Under the FoI Act, please can I have all your documents relating to the Council’s plans for “a host of redevelopment on the southern end of the Edgware road”.

This is clearly a case of Westminster Council and City West Homes working against the interests of residents and in favour of financial interests from everywhere else. How can you possibly justify this? How does this fit with any of your so-called ‘regeneration’ plans?”

Posted in Buy to let, Church Street, Housing, Labour Councillors, Out of touch Conservatives, Private rented housing, Regeneration, Right to Buy, Westbourne | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Dance Bus checks in at the Paddington Festival

Pad Arts Dance Group

Not deterred by the fierce wind and rain, the Big Dance bus parked up on 10th August at Maida Hill marketplace and immediately set about getting themselves ready for an afternoon of free dance performances and activities.

The Big Dance Bus has its own dance floor, pumping sound system, DJ and a professional touring dance company, who present a programme of different dance styles – including Street, Swing, Tango, Dancehall, Breaking, Folk and Bollywood. A special appearance was also made on Sunday by a pair of modern ballet dancers. The event was the 13th of 17 events in 2014 across the UK. It was promoted by Paddington Arts – who also introduced spectacular performances by local youth dance groups. There were plenty of opportunities for everyone to take part with the free workshops in a range of dance styles.

Paddington Arts, led by Steve Shaw and Eldora Edward, were not surprised by local people not being fazed by ‘Bertha’. On the contrary, there were serious periods of high sunshine, when the dance floor became crowded with budding dancers and professionals.

Barrie Taylor, Paddington Festival Chair, had this to say about the event,

“Performers and local people displayed true Londoners’ grit and desire to face out the elements in order to take part in the dancing. Many of the children present, including one of my own grandchildren, were spellbound by the performances – especially the hula-hoop and the ballet.”

Big Dance Bus – The Foundation for Community Dance manage the Big Dance national programme. Phone: 011 62 53 34 53
Paddington Arts: phone: 020 72 86 27 22

Paddington Festival – Free programme + sign up for weekly enewsletter more photos:

Posted in Maida Hill Market, Paddington, Paddington Festival, Westminster North | Tagged | Leave a comment