Labour calls for further answers on fire safety

Westminster Labour Councillors, particularly Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing Tim Roca and Westbourne ward Councillors Adam Hug (Labour Group Leader), David Boothroyd and Papya Qureshi have been working with Karen Buck MP to continue to try to get answers to the vital issues around fire safety in Westminster´s Tower Blocks and other council housing.

While the Council and CityWest Homes have been working to try and respond to the issue, particularly in relation to the Little Venice Towers on the Warwick and Brindley Estates there are a number of areas where further information and action is still needed.

Labour:

  • Requests that the costs of the proposed sprinkler installation option and of the range of different cladding removal options are made clear to residents to improve transparency. The council must show that cost is not a factor in its decision making over what actions will make residents most safe and limit unnecessary disruption to their lives. Guarantees must also be in place to ensure leaseholders do not face bills for this necessary work to urgently make the blocks safe.
  • Calls for greater measures to ensure that council information letters are received by every household and for residents to be given the option of face to face discussions within their homes. This information should also be more readily available in other languages to reflect the resident population, particularly in Arabic, Portugese, Bengali, Kurdish and Albanian.
  • Asks for residents to be provided with more detailed information about the findings of the London Fire Brigade and CityWest Homes audits of blocks, particularly at Little Venice, and about the remedial action being taken. This includes providing necessary information about the check on firedoors that has been taking place.
  • Calls for residents in the Little Venice Towers to be given the final say on whether the cladding is partially or full removed. While the Council´s current proposed solution of a partial removal of cladding to improve fire breaks may improve safety (in light of what the Council have said regarding information from the London Fire Brigade) while limiting the disruption to residents, understandably many residents do not yet feel reassured.
  • Asks that CityWest retains a permanent staff presence in the Little Venice Estate Office until the situation has been fully resolved in the months ahead.
  • Requests greater support to those living in the towers who feel at risk and asks the Council to develop additional mechanisms to facilitate requests by residents to be moved into temporary accommodation or permanent transfers, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable.
Posted in Affordable Housing, City West Homes, Fire Brigade | Leave a comment

Petition to stop cuts to West End schools

The West End Labour Action Team has launched a petition calling on Westminster City Council to to urge the Government to scrap the school funding proposals which will mean that all three schools in the West End will lose out, including All Souls Primary School (lose £117,000); Soho Parish School (lose £97,000) and St George’s School (£112,000)

According to the schoolcuts website, All Souls Primary School in Foley Street School will lose £117,000, equivalent to £661 per pupil, and will lose 3 teachers; St George’s Primary School will lose £112,000, equivalent to £559 per pupil, and will lose 3 teachers, and Soho Parish School will lose £97,000, equivalent to £615 per pupil, and will lose 2 teachers.

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

Posted in Fitzrovia, Mayfair, Schools, Soho, West End, West End WArd Labour Action Team | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Warm words but weak action from Westminster Tories in changes to City Plan

Posted in Affordable Housing, Planning permission | Leave a comment

Tower blocks in Westminster: what Labour have been asking on behalf of residents

The horrific events at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington have shocked the country. We have been united in grief and so many have been moved to acts of great generosity and compassion. These events however have underlined deep social divides that are clearly recognisable here in neighbouring Westminster, and that are now finally and rightly becoming part of our national conversation.

Since the tragic events on Wednesday, Westminster Labour councillors and Karen Buck MP have been working to ensure Westminster Council Officers and CityWest Homes staff are urgently looking at a number of key issues. It has been important that our work is focused on getting answers communicated to residents by the council and CityWest (CWH) on a number of important issues- some of which are set out here below. At present Westminster Labour is particularly focused on:

  1. Seeking clarity on the advice about whether to stay or go in the event of a fire

At present the advice to residents of high-rise blocks from the fire service and council remains unchanged but this must be resolved and clarified as a matter of great urgency across the country. If the advice changes then the Council and CityWest Homes need to rapidly install communal fire alarms in all its blocks.

  1. Getting answers about the cladding of Westminster’s Tower blocks

As events unfolded on Wednesday it quickly became clear that the cladding at Grenfell may have been a contributor to the disaster that unfolded and that the same cladding company had been involved in installing cladding on the Little Venice towers (on the Warwick and Brindley Estates in Westbourne Ward). We urgently requested that the council investigate the safety of the cladding on Westminster’s tower blocks, and both we and residents have been informed of that independent investigators have been appointed by Westminster to examine this.

Westminster Council has informed residents that all fire and building regulation standards have been met regarding the Little Venice cladding and the type of cladding used appears to have been different to that used at Grenfell. However it is imperative that the independent investigators are urgently able to confirm that the materials used on the Little Venice towers and other blocks are both safe and correctly installed- this includes confirming that there is no cavity between the cladding and the concrete, while also examining the safety of external decking that has been put on some of the blocks. Such checks must yield results as quickly as possible to provide reassurance or facilitate urgent action that can help ease the worries of thousands of local residents. If action is required to alter or remove the cladding on the Little Venice towers (or others in the city) it is important that leaseholders, who faced huge bills for the installation of the cladding, are not made to pay yet again.

  1. Improving fire safety: The provision of sprinklers and secondary means of escape

Westminster Labour have asked for clear information about whether any of Westminster’s council-owned tower blocks currently have sprinkler systems installed. From our own knowledge, and the fact that such systems were not mandatory on new buildings until after 2007, it is clear that there needs to be work urgently done to retrofit sprinklers to all of Westminster’s tower blocks. We are urging the council to move forward with such plans and they have said they are looking into this. It must be done as a matter of urgency. Karen Buck MP and Cllr Adam Hug have also written to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to call for the government to provide resources to assist Westminster and other local authorities to do this.

Furthermore there needs to be further work done to investigate the feasibility of the installation of secondary emergency staircases in blocks to provide an alternative method of exit.

  1. Understanding who is living in our blocks

Over recent months Labour Councillors have been raising concerns about the lack of information the council and CityWest hold about the people living in their blocks, while Karen Buck has been actively campaigning against illegal short-term lets.  While CityWest are believed to be reforming tenancy checks on properties they manage, something that may start to address issues of illegal subletting, the challenge is even greater in the leasehold properties that make up 40% of the CityWest estate. In a number of CityWest blocks a substantial number of flats are owned by Housing Associations who often do not provide CWH with up-to-date information about their tenants, and the situation is even more piecemeal in terms of private landlords informing the council and CityWest who is currently living in their flats. Westminster Labour have been pressing the council for action for some time and the tragic events at Grenfell show that this is extremely important work that needs to be prioritised. Greater pressure to improve performance must be placed on Housing Associations, and the council’s legal team needs to look at what more can be done to push private landlords to provide accurate information.

  1. Fire safety standards in leasehold flats

Karen Buck MP and Labour Councillors have been raising issues around the enforcement of fire safety standards in leasehold flats. We have requested clarifications on what can be done to ensure leaseholders comply with the gas safety standards expected of tenanted properties and whether action can be taken to ensure that fire doors are present within their flats, something that is again mandatory in council-owned properties. More broadly the council must provide advice and support to leaseholders about some of the long-term implications of the tragedy for their properties.

  1. Rubbish dumping

While the issue of the dumping of potentially flammable material does not seem to have been a factor in the Grenfell tragedy it remains a significant fire risk on our estates. In recent months Labour councillors have been working with local residents to push for a swifter response from CityWest Homes’ cleaning teams to remove potentially hazardous materials that are dumped, particularly at weekends when most CWH staff are not on duty.

Moving forward

There are many deeper questions that relate to how our city functions and how it treats its less well-off citizens that are an integral part of Westminster Labour’s ongoing work and will be a central part of the debate going forward. However the immediate priority is to get answers to these and other questions to ensure our residents are kept safe.

From Karen Buck MP and Westminster Labour Group

Posted in Affordable Housing, City West Homes, Fire Brigade, Housing, Karen Buck MP, Social Housing | Tagged | 1 Comment

Orange Square success for Churchill Labour Councillors

Work has now begun to introduce dividers on benches in Orange Square following a successful campaign by Churchill Labour Councillors Jason Williams and Shamim Talukder, working on behalf of residents concerned about reports of anti-social behaviour on Orange Square.

Following lobbying by Labour Councillors officers have begun adding dividers onto the benches in the square to prevent rough sleeping. Councillors have also been working with the Council on the closure and removal of the disabled toilet on the square which has had previous complaints from residents. Previously, Churchill Councillors organized the securing of the entrances to the underground toilets which were being used for anti-social behaviour and drug use.

Councillor Jason Williams said:

“We are delighted that our campaign on behalf of local residents in Orange Square has been such a success. We have had a number of reports from residents about the impact this is having in Orange Square and we have been working hard with the Police and Council officers to ensure the problem is dealt with and residents can continue to enjoy the square. We would like to hear from any residents with concerns about Orange Square and will continue to monitor the situation. We cannot tolerate anti-social behaviour in our community having an impact on local residents and will continue to work with the police and officers to ensure firm action is taken.”

Posted in Churchill Gardens, Churchill Ward, Labour Councillors | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Labour says Westminster Council must stand up for its European residents

While much of the dust refuses to settle after an extraordinary election, what remains clear is that thanks to a dodgy deal with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party Theresa May is determined to try and push ahead with a destructive hard Brexit. Labour will continue to fight for a better alternative that delivers for the many not the few but in the meantime it is essential that action is taken now to end the crippling uncertainty faced by the many Westminster residents who are EU nationals.

Westminster Labour is calling for the Council to take at least five key steps in response to Brexit:

  • The Conservative City Council must urgently lobby the Conservative-DUP government to ensure the rights of everyone in Westminster are protected by committing to allow our EU national residents to stay here and carry on their lives as before. Clearly the Government must push for reciprocal rights for UK nationals in other EU member states but Westminster residents must not be held hostage in the negotiations. As the 2017 Labour national manifesto said EU nationals living here ‘are part of our society and should not be used as bargaining chips’. Westminster Council has a duty to stand up for its residents, engage with EU nationals’ fears about the future and do all it can to support them.
  • The Council must protect local services from Brexit. It is clear that damage is already being done to the NHS as shown by the 96% drop applications from EU nurses but Westminster must conduct an urgent audit of its staffed and contracted services to examine and understand the impacts of the impending Brexit process on local provision. This is particularly important in areas such as social care with a high number of staff who are EU nationals.
  • The Council must also urgently examine the impact of Brexit on the future of Westminster’s primary schools. With primary school rolls already falling due to the impact of Tory welfare cuts and demographic change, given the high number of primary pupils who are EU nationals, Westminster must work to deliver stability in primary school numbers and resources for the sake of all its pupils.
  • The Council must further examine the economic impact of Brexit on our city, not only in terms investment but particularly on the impact to Westminster’s small businesses.
  • The Council must also continue to examine and monitor the impact of a potentially bruising Brexit process on community cohesion in our city. This can be done by continuing and fully resourcing the work of the Community Cohesion Commission and ensuring the council works with the police to address any rise in hate crime.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “Westminster Council needs to stand up for its residents and fight to give our EU national residents a future in this city. Westminster Labour will fight against a Tory-DUP hard Brexit and Conservative-led Westminster Council must stand up to their colleagues in Government to protect our residents.”

Posted in EU Nationals, EU Referendum | Leave a comment

Karen Buck increases her majority in Westminster North and Ibrahim Dogus slashes Tory majority in Cities of London & Westminster

Labour’s Karen Buck has been re-elected as MP for Westminster North  with an increased majority of over 11,500. The full result is

Karen Buck (Labour) – 25,934

Lindsey Hall (Conservative) – 14,422

Alex Harding (Lib Dem) – 2,253

Emmanuelle Tandy (Green) – 595

Independent – 91

 

 

 

And in Cities of London & Westminster, Labour’s Ibrahim Dogus slashed the Conservative majority from over 10,000 to just over 3,000. The full result is

Mark Field (Conservative) – 18,005

Ibrahim Dogus (Labour) – 14,857

Bridget Fox (Lib Dem) – 4,270

Laurence Francis (Green) – 821

Anil Bhatti (UKIP) – 426

Independent – 173

Independent – 59

Independent – 43

Posted in Cities of London and Westminster, Ibrahim Dogus, Karen Buck MP, Westminster North | Tagged | Leave a comment