Angela Piddock is Labour’s candidate for the Lancaster Gate by-election on 22 November

Angela Piddock is Labour’s candidate for the by-election on 22 November when local residents will choose a new Councillor for Lancaster Gate Ward.

Angela is the local candidate. She has lived in Lancaster Gate for over 40 years and is a former headteacher. She is a governor of two nursery schools and a secondary school, all in Westminster.

Angela’s Priorities for Lancaster Gate:

  • More properly affordable homes and increased powers to protect private tenants and tackle illegal short-lets.
  • Brexit: defend the rights of our local EU citizens and campaign for a ”People’s Vote” on the final deal with the option to remain in the EU on the ballot paper.
  • Cleaning up our streets: CCTV at dumping hot-spots, an express, affordable collection service for bulky items and tough action against fly-tippers.
  • Reform of the planning system: residents, not just private developers, to have a real say about what’s built in our area. The Conservatives are already back-tracking on their promise to allow residents to speak at planning meetings.
  • More Police on our Streets: Angela will keep campaigning for the Conservative Government to reverse the reckless £600 million cuts to the Met Police and for more police on our streets to keep Londoners safe.

This by-election is being held because one of the Conservative Councillors for this area has resigned in disgrace. He accepted gifts and hospitality, including from private developers and property owners, nearly 900 times in the past 6 years – all while he was making decisions about what got built in Westminster. The gifts included expensive meals, hotel stays, trips abroad and theatre tickets.

His Conservative colleagues on the Council knew this was going on but did nothing until Labour exposed the scandal earlier this year.

Angela says:

“Westminster Council Tories have let us down. They allowed a Councillor for our area to accept hundreds of gifts and hospitality while he controlled what got built in Westminster. Lancaster Gate residents deserve better.

It’s time for change. If elected I will always put the interests of residents first, not those of property developers, giving you a real voice at City Hall. This is your chance to send a message to the Conservatives and elect the first every Labour Councillor for Lancaster Gate Ward. Please vote for me on 22 November.”

Only Labour can beat the Conservatives at this by-election. The Lib Dems got just 15% of the vote at the last election in May.

Vote Labour, vote Angela on Thursday 22 November

Promoted by Margaret Lynch on behalf of Angela Piddock, both at 4(G) Shirland Mews, London W9 3DY.

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Pancho Lewis – Soho’s Labour Councillor – writes about the challenge of over-development in Soho and the future of social housing in Westminster

This is Pancho’s article for the next edition of  the ‘Soho Clarion’

When Jane asked me to write a piece for the Clarion, I decided write about what I think some of the key challenges and opportunities facing Soho are, and tell you a bit about the work I’ve been doing recently.

Below I’ve written about two key areas. There are other issues which are also very important (for example how to safeguard the future of the Soho Square GP service as well as what will happen to Oxford Street) but here I’ve focused on two issues.

Please write to me with any thoughts you have about what I’ve written, or just to say hi and introduce yourself if we haven’t met yet. My e-mail address is plewis@westminster.gov.uk

Overdevelopment

Overdevelopment is a real threat in Soho. Infrastructure like Crossrail and building more and more luxury hotels have a massive impact – they lead to endless road closures and the constant din of drills and diggers which are very disruptive to local life. Overdevelopment can also undermine Soho’s character and sense of community. Soho is special because of its mix of residents, people working in the arts and creative sector, small business owners, and market traders. Local people are the glue that bring Soho’s communities together and give the village its unique identity. But hotels undermine this sense of place and community, making Soho feel more transitory and bland.

There are many examples. But the most glaring example is Berwick Street. Building works have gone on for years now and there is still no end in sight. Those who have suffered the most are residents, market traders, and independent businesses – meanwhile developers make a profit. At the end of the process there’ll be a Premier Inn on Berwick Street that most people didn’t want in the first place. Which brings me onto my next point. Local people feel like they haven’t had any say in shaping and influencing change in Soho. Decisions have been made in a top-down way without genuine consultation or community involvement. This is totally unacceptable and needs to end.

The resignation of Robert Davis, a leading Westminster Conservative who received hundreds of gifts and hospitality from developers and other big businesses, will be welcomed by many Soho residents. He was a key player in granting planning approval to unpopular developments. But his resignation doesn’t guarantee a change of direction at Westminster Council, far from it. The challenge is now to ensure it does and that the local community is given more of a say.

That’s why Westminster Labour has been pushing for reforms to planning to put residents in the driving seat. We pushed for residents to be allowed to speak at Planning Committees, and the Council has finally agreed although they haven’t said when it’ll be introduced. We also want the Council to appoint a ‘residents’ advocate’ on major applications to put the case for local people.

There are other opportunities: the ongoing review of the Soho Audit and the release of the draft Soho Neighbourhood Plan (a stellar piece of work by local residents) may provide tools to challenge overdevelopment. Plus, change needs to happen at a higher level – at national government – so that planning frameworks do not constrain the agency of people to challenge decisions which aren’t in the local interest. We must remain vigilant of these opportunities and I will continue to work with local people to lobby for meaningful reforms.

CityWest Homes is scrapped

CityWest Homes is an independent (or ‘arms-length’) organisation which was set up by Westminster Council to manage the Council’s provision of social housing. For years tenants and leaseholders living in CityWest Homes (CWH) accommodation have been getting a terrible service. During the local election campaign and since then I’ve spoken to many CWH residents, and frankly those who have anything positive to say about the service they get are far and few between.

Over and over again I hear residents talk about the same issues: the call centre isn’t fit for purpose, there is an ongoing repairs crisis which means getting anything fixed often takes far too long (if they get fixed at all), and major works are managed poorly. To their credit, there are some members of staff who work very hard and do their best, but the system overall is failing.

I presented a motion at Westminster Council in the summer, asking for the management of CWH to be brought back ‘in house’. This would mean that the Council would take on the role of managing council housing directly, helping bring about the lack of accountability that exists and potentially precipitating a culture change. The Conservatives voted down the motion at the meeting, but I was very pleased when they later changed their mind and agreed to the proposal. The decision has now been taken to bring CWH in house, and as of April next year a new management structure – with the Council at the helm – will be in place.

This is a good step forward. But it isn’t enough. The Council now needs to show real leadership and demonstrate it is able to tackle the persistent problems residents experience. Also, there are questions that remain unanswered, like what on-the-ground support residents will get given that the Council hasn’t committed to reopening estate offices it closed down a year ago (something else I also called for). I will remain vigilant and continue to press the Council on the issues.

Pancho Lewis can be contacted plewis@westminster.gov.uk or if not you can call 020 7641 3411.

He holds regular advice surgeries on the third Saturday of each month from 10:00-11:00 at Danceworks,  16 Balderton Street, Mayfair, W1K 6TN, and 11:30-12:30 at 68 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 4QJ. No appointment is needed.

Posted in City West Homes, Pancho Lewis, Planning Committee, Planning permission, Soho, West End | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Labour calls on Council to encourage ‘plastic bottle’ payment initiative in Westminster Car Parks

Labour Councillors have called on Westminster Council to encourage a ‘plastic bottle’ payment initiative in the city’s 18 off-street Car Parks and have written to car park operator Q-Park to ask that the initiative be considered.

The pioneering green scheme, currently being trialled in Leeds, lets drivers pay for parking with plastic bottles. In a bid to boost recycling, every empty bottle – of at least 500ml in capacity – is worth 20p off at the Merrion Centre car park in Leeds. Hundreds of bottles have already been handed in and will be recycled into items such as toys and furniture.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6284015/Britain-s-car-park-lets-pay-PLASTIC-BOTTLES-opens.html

CitiPark who operate the Leeds car park say:

“This scheme is all about helping the environment. Drivers just need to come to the customer services desk with their bottles and we’ll give them a discount on their ticket. They can bring as many as they like but they do have to be at least 500ml. People have really been buying into the idea and we’ve had lots of customers turning up with bottles to exchange. One man came in here with 30 bottles and got an hour for free. Others just bring in one or two bottles. Hopefully this kind of thing could be introduced on a longer-term basis.”

Labour’s call to the Council and car park operator Q-Park to adopt the ‘plastic bottle payment’ initiative is part of Labour’s ‘plastic-free City’ plan which was launched in August .https://labourwestminster.wordpress.com/2018/08/08/labour-call-on-westminster-council-to-promote-a-plastic-free-city/

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour City Management and Environment spokesperson, said:

“This initiative should be adopted in all 18 of Westminster’s off-street car parks run by Q-Park. It will boost plastic recycling by giving a financial incentive to drivers to recycle plastic bottles rather than bin them. We hope that both the Council and Q-Park give this initiative full consideration”

Posted in Car Parks, Parking, Parking charges, Plastic Fe, Plastic Free city, Recycling | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The City West Homes Nightmare Continues – 25 more ‘nightmare’ stories

Westminster City Council’s decision to scrap City West Homes and bring it in-house has been welcomed across the city by tenants and leaseholders.

The Labour Group’s year-long campaign on behalf of Westminster’s 22,000 tenants and leaseholders has been totally vindicated.

This latest dossier of 25 more ‘nightmare’ stories exposes the scale of the task ahead for Westminster Council. THE CWH NIGHTMARE CONTINUES

As does this tale of misery suffered by a resident of the Hallfield Estate

https://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/west-london-news/i-showered-leisure-centre-six-15252793

This, together with two more reports from Labour Councillors, shows the depths to which City West Homes’ performance has sunk.

Churchill Ward Councillor Shamim Talukder says:

“There is a family in St George’s Square, Tachbrook ward, their ceiling partly collapsed for over 3 months now and they get showered every time it rains. CWH only just approved the job to be done this week, upon my intervention!”

And Harrow Road Councillor Guthrie McKie reports:

“Another CWH case yesterday. 74 year-old woman been without heating since August on the Lydford Estate”

The hard work now begins and Labour Councillors will continue the fight for a more effective, efficient and resident-focussed housing service.

The Council’s Director of Housing has already acknowledged that there is a very big job to do. She told the Council Cabinet:

“So, whilst all efforts will be to maintain service delivery if not improve it over the next six months, I would be the first to acknowledge that we will need another six months after that, of hard work, to get those services organised and delivering at a level that you and your residents would expect.”

You can read Labour’s proposals for improving Westminster’s housing service here https://labourwestminster.files.wordpress.com/2018/09/cwh-review-westminster-labour-submission.pdf

Posted in City West Homes, Council Contractors, Council housing, Council leaseholders, Council tenants, Westminster City Council | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Westminster Labour new website

Going forwards Westminster Labour Councillors will be using their new website www.westminsterlabour.org.uk to inform local residents about what is going on in Westminster. Please have a look or follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WestminsterLabourParty/

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Westminster Labour proposes big changes to Planning system to improve public confidence and to give the public a bigger say in planning decisions

Westminster’s Labour Councillors have called on the Council to make major changes to the way in which the planning system works in Westminster to improve public confidence and to give the public a bigger say in planning decisions.

Labour’s proposed changes aim to

  1. Make Planning more transparent
  2. Improve trust in decision making
  3. Improve the quality of decisions
  4. Make it easier for residents to make their voice heard

Councillor Geoff Barraclough, Labour’s Planning spokesperson, said:

“For too long Westminster Conservatives have treated residents as an afterthought in a planning process geared towards the needs of major developers. It is time for a change, particularly in the wake of the public scandal around the excessive use of hospitality by some Conservative members of the Planning Committee.”

“The Council needs to fix the broken culture at Westminster Council so that we put residents first. Councillors should have a transparent relationship with developers and other powerful interests so that residents can be assured that their elected representatives are fighting for them rather than dining out on developers’ expense accounts.”

The Council’s Review of the Planning system follows national press reports of Councillor Robert Davis’ 17-year tenure as Planning Committee chairman.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/08/westminster-deputy-leader-took-gifts-in-50-of-his-planning-cases

Labour submission to Review of how Planning works in Westminster

       Make Planning more transparent

  • All Planning Committee meetings should be live-streamed and recorded
  • All Planning policy should be consolidated into a single document which can be read without cross-referencing to another
  • Improve trust in decision making
  • Planning Committee members should declare their property interests in Westminster. There should be no exemptions available
  • Planning Committee members should accept NO hospitality from individual developers or their agents
  • Planning Committee members should only meet developers to discuss individual schemes with an officer present and details of the meeting posted on the Council’s website
  • Meaningful penalties for breach of planning orders. Even when retrospective permission is granted, there should be a forfeit for not playing by the rules
  • Planning portal to include single master cover sheet for major applications with summary of application, affordable housing contribution, S106 and CIL payments
  • Create publicly accessible database of Planning agreements and developers’ progress against meeting their commitments
  • Improve quality of decisions
  • Appoint a design panel of architects and other experts with a mandate to improve the quality of building in Westminster. The panel should make recommendations to the Committee on:
    • All major schemes
    • All minor schemes where subjective decisions about design quality are required
  • Design and Conservation Officers to be treated as internal consultants and be able to recommend approval/rejection independently of the Planning Officers’ recommendations.
  • All officers’ recommendations to be written in plain English
  • Make it easier for residents to make their voice heard
  • Produce a simple guide to the Westminster Planning System for residents
  • Appoint a ‘residents’ advocate’ on major applications to put the case for local people
  • Residents should be able to speak at Planning Committee Meetings. We favour:
    • Either two speakers on either side of the argument with a maximum of 3 minutes each; or
    • A total of five minutes on either side with supporters/opposers to divide the time between them as they see fit
    • Chair must be very strict on time limits
    • Speeches against go first
    • Committee members allowed to ask 1 question each but cannot use this as an opportunity to let members of the public make extra speeches
    • Items where there are speakers should be taken first
    • Speakers to notify the Committee Clerk that they would like to speak by 5pm on the day of the Committee
  • Maintain practice of sending residents’ planning notification letters but expand with digital communications and over a wider area for major scheme.
Posted in Geoff Barraclough, Labour Councillors, Planning Committee, Planning permission | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Churchill Gardens Parking – We push for compensation for residents

Churchill Ward Councillors Shamim Talukder and Andrea Mann met with representatives of Churchill Gardens Resident Association, CityWest Homes and Westminster Council to discuss issues with parking on Churchill Gardens estate.

Since CityWest Homes took over parking enforcement on Churchill Gardens in October 2016, they have not – by their own admission – provided the same service that was in place before then (run by Wing Parking).

Previously, under Wing Parking, cars parked on the estate without a licence were immediately issued with a ticket and fine. Under CityWest Homes, such drivers have simply been issued with warning notices, which take a long time to enforce – and it seems that even that enforcement didn’t start until later in 2017.

Put simply, Churchill Gardens residents have continued to pay the same price for their parking permits without getting a like-for-like service – a service that has led to non-residents taking advantage of the new system by parking on the estate for free.

What’s more, CityWest Homes never told residents about this change to parking enforcement on the estate – and admit they were aware that people could take advantage of the new system.

We believe that CityWest Homes should have been transparent with residents about this change in service – and that the change should have been reflected in the price of permits under the new system (i.e. reduced service, reduced permit price).

That’s why we’re calling for CityWest Homes and the Cabinet Member for Housing to agree to offer some form of compensation to Churchill Gardens residents who have paid for parking permits since October 2016. This could be in the form of refunds or free parking permits equivalent to the length of time they have been paying for parking.

We will keep residents updated on the progress we make.

Labour will work across Westminster to push the council to compensate residents for the inconvenience they have faced until Traffic Management Orders are finally implemented this autumn.

Posted in Churchill Gardens, Churchill Ward, City West Homes, Council housing, Housing, Parking, Parking charges, Westminster City Council | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments