Labour pledge to end Westminster Council’s outsourcing culture

From the national scandal over Carillion to local resident frustration with the new CityWest repairs contractor Morgan Sindall it is clear that change is long overdue to the culture of outsourcing in the public sector.

For years Labour in Westminster have called on the council to end its culture of endless subcontracting. All too often where residents expect the council or CityWest Homes to provide a service they are told that “sorry the work can’t be done because of a problem with a contractor’s sub-contractor” or even more convoluted forms of buck passing.

If elected to run Westminster Council in May, Labour is committed to introducing an ‘in-house’ test whereby the council must fully consider the feasibility of bringing a service back into direct council management when any contract comes up for renewal. Such approach would seek to improve democratic control, public accountability and service quality. Where this ‘in-house’ approach is not possible at the present time the Council would also be required to explore how to better involve the voluntary sector and work with smaller and more local businesses as part of such contracts.

Westminster Labour will continue to support efforts by the national Labour Party to seek urgent reform of the outsourcing sector and its plans to return more work to the public sector and to properly support local government services.

With many long-term contracts locked in by the Conservatives changing the organisational culture will take time but Westminster Labour is committed to ensuring that Council services become more accountable and responsive to the needs of local people.

Westminster Labour Group Leader Adam Hug said “It has been clear for a long-time that the sub-contracting culture in public services has not delivered for local people. If Labour is elected to run the council in May we will deliver real change that supports a Westminster for the many not the few.”

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Westminster Labour calls on the Council to stop dragging its feet on cycle hangers

Labour have hit out at Tory delays to plans to roll-out secure cycle hangars across Westminster. Secure bike storage is an essential part of supporting cyclists in an area where living space is at a premium and Westminster lags far behind many neighbouring boroughs who have installed hundreds of secure hangers to support their residents.

Despite years of lobbying from Labour, Westminster Conservatives have only installed one such hanger, as a trial, in Ilbert Street in Queens Park. This trial was supposed to trigger a roll-out of hangers to areas desperately in need of them but Labour is disappointed to discover that Westminster Conservatives have kicked the plans into the long-grass with no decision due until after the May 2018 Council Elections.

Westminster Council’s former Chief Executive Charlie Parker had confirmed to the Labour Group that the Council would be actively preparing to roll-out the scheme after the installation of the pilot. In an email of 26th October 2016 Parker confirmed previous verbal arrangements that:

‘The Ilbert Street hangar is with planning for the next 12 weeks and all being well, the hangar will then be installed after that. A decision on the implementation of any further secure storage units will be taken once the results have been assessed after ca. 6 months to allow a fair amount of time to collect data.’

The installation process for the hanger was delayed until May 2017 but even then a six month evaluation period would have been completed in November 2017. Yet Westminster Tories have now decided to extend the evaluation period to a full year (the length of the initial Ilbert Street planning permission).

There is clearly a demand for cycle hangers from Westminster residents. As of September 2017 there had been requests for 90 different sites, with more proposed sites likely since then. Labour is of course mindful of the impact on parking so where possible it would encourage the use of wide pavement areas and piazzas with dropped curbs to reduce the impact on parking spaces. However the public benefit of secure bike storage hangers is clear and if elected in May Westminster Labour would act quickly to deliver them.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “It is clear that Westminster Tories are dragging their feet on secure cycle storage. If elected in May a Labour administration of Westminster Council would move swiftly to deliver a substantial roll-out of secure bike hangers in areas where residents have demanded them.”

Posted in Cycling, Cyclists | Leave a comment

Churchill Ward Labour Councillors ask for clarification on Tory Balmoral Castle leaflet

Churchill Ward Labour Councillors Shamim Talukder and Jason Williams have written to Cllr Rachael Robathan, Westminster Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, for clarification on the recent Tory leaflet distributed in Churchill Gardens about the long-vacant Balmoral Castle pub site. The leaflet claims that there are plans by the Council to turn the site into homes for older people.

Cllr Jason Williams said: “Westminster Tories have been responsible for keeping this vacant pub shrouded in scaffolding for 13 years – running up a bill of over £200,000 and a huge waste of public funds – and failing to come up with any plans for the site.

“We are therefore very surprised to see them now running a belated campaign to build on the site, when they run the Council and have been the ones who have kept it covered in expensive scaffolding for so long.”

Cllr Shamim Talukder said:

“Rather than trying to tackle the issue – which they have had the full power to do so for 13 years – Westminster Tories are instead seeking to play party politics and blame Labour for their own failure to develop a disused site.”

The Labour Councillors also strongly deny claims by Westminster Tories that they have rejected any ideas for the site.

Cllr Williams said: “The Tory leaflet claims we rejected their plans – which is simply not true. Our response has always been that the community must be involved in any resolution to the issue and any plans for the site should involve full, genuine consultation with local residents.”

Cllr Talukder added: “Residents won’t be fooled by this rather desperate, blatantly political stunt by a Westminster Tory party which is only now, just ahead of an election, looking into an issue they have had 13 years to fix.”

Posted in Balmoral Castle, Churchill Gardens, Council housing, Uncategorized, Westminster Council waste | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Karen Buck MP wins backing for laws helping tenants to take on rogue landlords

Tenants will be able to take legal action against landlords who fail to maintain rented homes to a safe standard after the Government announced it would back new laws proposed by Karen Buck MP.

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said he supports the draft legislation which will protect tenants in both the social and private rented sectors.

Under Karen Buck’s proposals, tenants will be able to take landlords to court for a breach of contract if they fail in their duty to keep homes fit for human habitation.

Rental properties must meet the required standard at the beginning of the tenancy and be kept to it throughout.

She tweeted:

“Delighted to confirm that the Government will be supporting my Private Member’s Bill to strengthen tenants’ rights and ensure homes are fit for human habitation. Now let’s make it law.”

The measures come amid a crackdown on rogue landlords who now face heavy fines or being banned from letting properties altogether if they provide unsafe or substandard homes for their tenants.

Local authorities can fine failing landlords up to £30,000 and, from April, will be able to issue banning orders or expel them from the market altogether.

 

Posted in Bad landlords, Council tenants, Housing, Housing Repairs, Karen Buck MP, Private landlords, Private rented housing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Labour call for urgent revisions to the Church Street Masterplan to maximise the amount of social housing.

Labour Councillors have called for urgent revisions to the Church Street Masterplan to meet residents’ concerns and to maximise the amount of social housing.

In a motion to be debated at the next Council meeting on 24th January, Labour say:

“The Council notes the recent Church Street Master Plan consultation exercise. It notes a number of positive aspects of the current proposals, including ideas to improve the local public realm and support the future development of the market. It however notes resident concern over the current housing proposals and the need to improve the Council’s offer to local people on this critical issue before any scheme proceeds.

The Council believes that the regeneration of Church Street is a strategic priority for Westminster and an important opportunity to improve the lives of our residents. It believes the regeneration must prioritise the needs of existing local residents, while also focusing on providing new opportunities for Westminster residents in housing need and for local people and families on or below average incomes as desired by a majority of respondents to the Masterplan consultation.   

It further believes that if the Council is to deliver the number of social and genuinely affordable homes that the Westminster needs it is essential that the council maximises the proportion of public housing built on public land.

The Council resolves to urgently revise the masterplan in order to move swiftly forward with a plan that commands wider public support. The council resolves to:

  • Redraft the proposals to better take into account concerns raised by the Church Street Ward Neighbourhood Forum and other residents during the initial consultation phase.
  • Look at ways to limit the amount of demolition being proposed to levels more in-line with residents wishes.
  • Review the current assumptions on the potential height of the proposed new blocks.
  • Amend the housing mix in the development sites identified in the 2012 Futures Plan that are being brought to planning in 2018 in order to increase the amount of social housing in these schemes thereby expanding the amount of local decant opportunities to assist with the delivery of these new proposals.
  • Enshrine a commitment to replace not only existing council homes but where possible any Westminster owned temporary accommodation units with a like for like replacement.
  • Ensure that the plan requires at least 50% of the additional units built are social or genuinely affordable homes, at least 60% of which should be social units in line with Westminster’s existing policy framework.
  • Develop an effective local lettings strategy that gives priority to Church Street residents.
  • Ballot residents impacted by the scheme before the masterplan is implemented. “
Posted in Church Street, Church Street Market, Council housing, Labour Councillors, Regeneration | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

West End Labour call for new operators for the Windmill Theatre following licence loss

Patrick Lilley of the West End Labour Action Team says:

“It would be tragic if this this hugely historic venue closed for good and was replaced by a bland and faceless chain store or restaurant.

It’s a really special place, with a hundred years of history as a theatre, a comedy club, became famous for burlesque and was visited by both male and female members for the Royal Family.

It was the West End’s Moulin Rouge and stayed open during the Blitz with the slogan Never Closed (though some changed that to, Never Clothed!) The staff and performers hid in the basement during the worst of the bombing. But a long history doesn’t mean it can ignore the regulations.   Especially those designed to protect women.

The current operators and management have failed miserably and Westminster Council are absolutely right to revoke the license.

The West End Labour Action Team want a brand new operator, with responsible management, to come up with a plan to reopen the Windmill.  Whoever takes over must have a first class track record and bring it back to its former glory to contribute to the West End’s allure.

Licensed premises have to work in their environment, not only in terms of complying with the regulations and best practice, which the current operators clearly failed to do, but also not disrupt the lives of residents.  

We’d like to see the Windmill run professionally and creatively by one of the many excellent operators in Westminster.

There are enough challenges to the West End entertainment industry, like crippling rent and business rates rises, to add bad management to that list.”

Posted in The Windmill, West End, Westminster City Council | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Churchill Ward Labour Councillors call for action on Ebury Bridge Estate lifts

Churchill Ward Labour Councillors Shamim Talukder and Jason Williams have written to Jonathan Cowie, CEO of CityWest Homes, asking for a review of the lifts on Ebury Bridge Estate following several breakdowns.

In recent weeks there have been issues with lifts in Doneraile House and Victoria House, where there have been a number of breakdowns.

Councillor Jason Williams commented: “I have had a number of reports about lifts breaking down on the estate – including those where residents have been trapped waiting for assistance. Residents need assurances that the lifts are being regularly checked and are in working order.”

He went on to say: “I have also spoken to residents on top floors who have mobility problems who are particularly affected by lifts breaking down.

“It is a cause for concern that no major works have taken place on the estate for 10 years. During the regeneration scheme consultation, it is important that day-to-day maintenance of the estate isn’t neglected.”

Posted in Churchill Ward, City West Homes, Ebury Bridge Estate, Labour Councillors | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment