Council refuses to answer questions about its damaging homelessness strategy

Labour Councillors trying to scrutinize Westminster Council’s controversial homelessness policies have been denied access to information about the legal advice the Council commissioned around the scheme that will formalise sending everyone except those with high care needs or kids doing major exams out of London and see many dumped into the private rented sector, ending the council’s duty to house them.

Not only will the council not share the legal opinion it has received due to fears of imminent legal challenge but it refuses even to share, in confidence, the questions it asked of its tax-payer funded lawyers. Such information used to be shared with Labour councillors but now it seems Westminster is no longer willing allow its councillors to know what is being done on behalf of local residents.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “we have been politely requesting this important information for months now and have been denied at every turn. What is the council asking its lawyers about the implications of its new homeless policies and why won’t it tell us? What has it got to hide?”

Posted in Affordable Housing, Homeless Families | Leave a comment

CityWest Homes plans major estate office closures

CityWest Homes-the organisation that runs Westminster Council’s 21,000 council and leasehold homes is planning massive cuts to its network of estate offices in local communities across the city.

Under plans set out to councillors this week it seems that CityWest Homes are looking to close almost all of its free-standing estate offices, leaving only the four area service centres remaining. This is part of a service redesign aimed to cut over £5million in costs and encourage more people to use online and phone services. CityWest have confirmed that they plan to close six estate offices at Church Street, St John’s Wood, Little Venice, Westbourne Park, Paddington Green and Charlwood Street.

Westminster Labour Councillors are opposed to these massive cuts to CityWest’s presence in local communities. While many residents may not use the office all the time it is important to know it is there when needed, and there remains a significant proportion of residents who either lack regular internet access or whose lack of confidence communicating in English makes phone or internet contact more difficult. CityWest Homes says that it wants to see staff spend more time out and about on our estates, yet basing them all out of centralised area service centres will see staff spending time further from the communities they are supposed to be managing. CityWest have talked about possibly holding drop in sessions or surgeries in areas hit by the cuts to estate offices. However this will not be enough to deal with the needs of vulnerable residents looking for face-to-face contact with their housing officers when they need it.

Westminster Labour will stand with local residents who want to fight to save their local estate offices that are valued by their local communities. If estate offices are ultimately closed, Westminster Labour are demanding that CityWest Homes and Westminster Council ensure that they are replaced by a permanent base for estate teams to work from in a nearby community building that is both accessible and has a staff member present to assist resident enquiries. Furthermore CityWest must commit to protecting the future of the residents halls whose operation may be hit by the cuts to estate offices.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “These drastic estate office closures are yet another sign of the retreat of council services from our local communities. Many of our estate offices are a valued part of the community and in particular older and more vulnerable residents would really feel their loss. CityWest Homes and Westminster’s Conservative Council need to think again.”

Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr Tim Roca said “Shutting offices which had over 13,500 visits in a nine month period last year alone, before having a website fully functioning and ready is only one among a number of concerns we have with the closure and redundancies envisaged by these proposals. It is clear these cuts are being foisted on CityWest Homes by Westminster’s Conservative Council, and there needs to be much more time spent listening to what residents need rather than what the Council wants.”

Posted in Affordable Housing, City West Homes, Council housing, Estate Office | 1 Comment

Berwick Street Market privatisation U-Turn welcomed by Labour

Labour Councillors and the West End Labour Action Team have welcomed Westminster City Council’s U-turn on plans to privatise Berwick Street Market following a year-long campaign from market traders who organised a 37,000-signatrure petition against the privatisation proposals.

With just days left before the new market contract was scheduled to start on 1st April, the Council has announced that its privatisation plans are in tatters and that it will continue to run the centuries-old market directly. Previously the Council had defended its decision to privatise Berwick Street Market by claiming that it “did not have the expertise to run a market”. Now the very same Council has decided to ‘take back control’ of its own market.

Over the weekend, Labour Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg wrote an angry email to Council Chief Executive, Charlie Parker, demanding answers to questions about the future of the market. He said:

“Please treat this as a formal complaint about the Council’s failure to deal with the applications from Berwick Street Market Street traders for permanent licences in a timely and efficient manner. Please can you explain why the applications have not been processed and why your staff refuse to answer calls and emails from traders?

I am also appalled at the callous disregard for the jobs and businesses at Berwick Street shown by the Council over the past year and more. Please can you explain why you have allowed the market to deteriorate to the situation where one business after another after another has left Berwick Street?

I am also shocked at the clear indifference displayed by members of the Conservative administration and the incompetence shown by some of your senior colleagues who appear to be totally unable or unwilling to manage the existing market to the benefit of traders, residents and visitors to Berwick Street. Please can you explain why you have allowed this appalling situation to continue.

The new market contract is supposed to start on 1 April and yet, two weeks beforehand, despite repeated requests for an update from traders and Councillors you are unable or unwilling to provide any information whatsoever.

What sort of organisation are you running? Is anyone at the Council taking responsibility for the lost jobs, lost businesses and trashing of the iconic Berwick Street Market brand?”

Following the Council’s U-turn announcement Councillor Dimoldenberg said:

“For the past 12 months, Berwick Street Traders’ lives have been made a misery by an incompetent and malicious Council that has put political dogma before common sense. Privatising the market never made any sense and Labour Councillors and the West End Labour Action Team have been proud to have stood side by side with market traders and local residents in fighting this madness. The campaign continues. We now want to know what new resources will be brought in to the Council to manage Berwick Street Market properly and what new investment will be put in to the market so that it has the necessary facilities to make it a success once again.”

Patrick Lilley of West End Labour said: “These pointless plans to privatise the market have led to enormous stress and anxiety for market traders and their families. On top of that, it’s all been a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money. Indeed, that’s why the West End Labour team is demanding that the Council tell us how much money they’ve spent on this whole process – all of this wasted money could have been spent on other things like easing cuts to youth centres.”

Pancho Lewis also of West End Labour added “We welcome the Council’s decision to backtrack on these privatisation plans. 300 year old Berwick Street market is a historic community asset which brings the whole community together. Frankly though, it’s come far too late and all of this could have been avoided if they’d listened to the community in the first place.”

Posted in Berwick Street market, Labour Councillors, Paul Dimoldenberg, Soho, West End, West End WArd Labour Action Team | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Churchill Labour Councillor meets with Wandsworth Councillors to discuss opposition to Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge

Churchill Labour Councillor Shamim Talukder has met with Labour representatives on the London Assembly and Wandsworth Council as well as local activists to discuss residents’ opposition to the proposed Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge.

Labour London Assembly Members Andrew Dismore and Leonie Cooper and Wandsworth Labour Councillors Fleur Anderson, Annamarie Critchard and Aydin Dikerdem attended the site visit.

Councillor Shamim Talukder showed them the proposed landing sites in Pimlico and the impact they will have on our community.

Councillor Talukder commented: “Churchill Labour Councillors have been opposed to the bridge at any location in Pimlico from day one and have been continuing to lobby Wandsworth to cancel this expensive white elephant. The money spent on this project could have been funding social housing which is urgently needed. The Mayor has made it clear that any bridge would need support on both sides of the river, it certainly does not have any support in Pimlico.”

London Assembly Member Andrew Dismore said: “It was helpful to visit Pimlico and see the problems on the ground. It is very difficult to see any scheme to build a bridge here that would not cause significant disruption. I don’t know why the Conservatives in Wandsworth persist with this scheme, which has no support in Westminster, and waste £500,000 of scarce public money. I’m sure there are plenty of schemes in Wandsworth they could consider to improve public transport and connectivity there.”

Posted in Andrew Dismore, Churchill Ward, Labour Councillors, London Assembly, Nine Elms to Pimlico bridge, Pimlico, Wandsworth Council | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Churchill Labour Councillors take action on Coach Parking

Churchill Ward Labour Councillors Jason Williams and Shamim Talukder have been working with Council officers to ask for urgent action on Coach parking on Ebury Bridge Road and Pimlico Road.

Residents have been contacting Councillors with examples of Coaches parked on Pimlico Road as well as by the Chelsea Barracks site on Ebury Bridge Road.

Councillor Jason Williams said: “It’s clear the removal of the Coach parking facility in Nine Elms due to the redevelopment work there has had an effect on moving the issue to our streets while they wait for a slot at the Victoria Coach Station.”

Councillor Shamim Talukder said: “Our local streets are not designed to be used as a Coach parking lot and urgent action needs to be taken to resolve this issue.”

Council Officers, following lobbying by Councillors, are commissioning a feasibility study to look at how to reduce the extent of Victoria Coach Station coaches being driven around local roads, parking and engine idling.

Cllr Williams and Cllr Talukder has asked residents to continue to keep them informed on examples of coaches parked by emailing them
on jwilliams@westminster.gov.uk or stalukder@westminster.gov.uk

Posted in Churchill Ward, Coach Parking, Ebury Bridge Estate, Labour Councillors, Victoria, Victoria Coach Station | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Westminster Fairer Housing Conference- April 11th

Date: April 11th 2017, 7pm-10pm (doors from 6.30pm)

Venue: Stowe Centre, 258 Harrow Road, W2 5ES, (near Royal Oak tube).

Speakers include:

  • Karen Buck MP, Westminster North
  • Tom Copley AM, Labour GLA Housing Spokesperson
  • Joanna Kennedy, former Chief Executive of Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K)
  • Steve Hilditch, Red Brick Blog
  • Heather Spur, Policy and Campaigns, Shelter
  • Genesis Residents
  • Andy Watson, Chief Executive, WECH- Walterton and Elgin Community Homes
  • Cllr Adam Hug, Leader, Westminster Labour Group
  • Cllr Tim Roca, Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing
  • Further speakers to be confirmed shortly

The Westminster Fairer Housing Conference, supported by Karen Buck MP and Westminster Labour Group, is a public meeting for anyone interested in the finding out about how to tackle the housing crisis in Westminster and beyond. The event will look the lack of social and genuinely affordable house building, Westminster’s unfair homelessness policies, the pressures facing truly independent resident representation, the closure of estate offices, what government policy means for rents and repairs, the lack of proper regulation on standards and rents in the private rented sector and lots of other housing issues that matter to local people.

The event is free and open to all. Refreshments will be served

Posted in Affordable Housing, City West Homes, Council housing, Council leaseholders, Council rents, Homeless Families, House building, Housing, Housing Associations, Housing Benefit, Housing Repairs, Intermediate Housing, Private landlords, Private rented housing, Private rents, Social Housing, Social Housing Rent, Temporary accommodation | Leave a comment

Churchill Labour Councillors lobby MOD on low flying helicopter noise

Churchill Labour Councillor Jason Williams has written to the Ministry of Defence to raise residents’ concerns on low flying helicopter noise in Churchill Gardens Estate.

Councillor Williams said “noise from military helicopters has been a nuisance to residents of Churchill Gardens for a number of years. We have received complaints from residents and I have seen the helicopters flying at low levels across the estate on a number of occasions.” 

Councillor Williams contacted the MOD in December 2016 and was told that there no military aircraft operating in Churchill Gardens at the time. After appealing for residents to contact him with examples of flights he has again written to the MOD asking if the flights are operational and what can be done to mitigate the noise of the flights.

Councillor Williams said “the MOD have a duty to reduce the noise impact of any flights particularly at night on residents. If there is a genuine operational need for these continual flights across Central London then they need to be working with us and local residents to reduce low flying and the resulting noise from the helicopters.”

Councillor Williams has asked residents to let him know any incidents they have of these flights including times and any other details.

Posted in Churchill Gardens, Helicopter noise, MoD | Tagged , | Leave a comment