Westminster Tories let developers off the hook on affordable housing……again!

Westminster Conservatives have once again decided to let developers off providing the required 30% of social housing in a major redevelopment plan in Baker Street.

The plans for the redevelopment of an entire block at 15-35 Baker Street, 88-110 George Street and 69-71 Blandford Street include 51 new homes but only 10 are affordable – less than 20%.

In addition, the Council’s planning policies require the developers to pay over £12.3 million in lieu of on-site affordable house, but instead, Westminster Conservatives on the Planning Committee on 14th November voted to accept just £5 million from the developers.

This is the latest in a series of broken Conservative promises on affordable homes.

In January 2017, new Council Leader Nickie Aiken told the ‘Evening Standard’ that she would do things differently by no longer accepting “cheques” from developers in lieu of building more affordable homes. http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/new-westminster-council-chief-i-m-throwing-down-the-gauntlet-to-boost-supply-of-homes-a3450356.html

She repeated this in June this year when she told the FT:

“My view is that too many times we have not always pushed back enough in requiring affordable homes on-site, have buckled on viability or surrendered to the idea that brutal market economics simply denies housing opportunities for most people and that is just a harsh fact of life.”

And a Council spokesman told the FT:

“We don’t want cheques any more, we want to see housing — we are going to get tough.”

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour’s Business, Planning and Public Realm spokesperson, said:

“Once again the Conservatives prove that they cannot be trusted on delivering new affordable homes for Westminster residents. The Conservatives talk tough but roll over when developers plead poverty on major multi-million pound redevelopment schemes. The Conservatives are giving the go-ahead to more luxury housing and failing those in need of an affordable home in central London.”

A copy of the Baker Street report is here

http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/s24549/ITEM%2001%20-%2019-35%20BAKER%20STREET%2088-110%20GEORGE%20STREET%2069-71%20BLANDFORD%20STREET.pdf

The most high profile examples of the Conservatives saying one thing and doing another are

  • The Old War Office in Whitehall got permission to convert to a luxury hotel and 88 luxury flats in a scheme said to cost £1bn. Under Council planning policies the developer should have paid almost £40m in lieu of providing on-site affordable housing, but only £10m will be paid
  • In Hanover Square the Conservatives accepted a £9.5m contribution for a development when the Council’s own assessors said the developers could afford £12m.

The report on the Old War Office scheme is here

http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/s21437/ITEM%2001%20-%20OLD%20WAR%20OFFICE%2057%20WHITEHALL%20LONDON%20SW1A%202EU.pdf

The report on the Hanover Square scheme is here

http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/documents/s21438/ITEM%2002%20-%2022%20-23%20HANOVER%20SQUARE%20LONDON%20W1S%201JA.pdf

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Posted in Affordable Housing, Baker Street, Conservative Broken Promises, Labour Councillors, Planning permission | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Churchill Labour Councillors take action on parking in Churchill Gardens 

Churchill Labour Councillors Shamim Talukder and Jason Williams, and Labour Action Team member Andrea Mann, have been working with residents on parking issues in Churchill Gardens estate. 

Following discussions with residents, we have reported to CityWest Homes several examples of vehicles which seem to have been parked on the estate for a number of years without a permit, and cars parked on the pavement. 

Councillor Williams said:

“We are lobbying CityWest Homes to proactively deal with the problems of parking on the estate. During our recent walkabouts we have seen cars parked without valid permits and often blocking both sides of Churchill Gardens Road.” 

Councillor Talukder added:

“Residents are paying for parking permits and yet CityWest Homes are not regularly checking permits and tackling those vehicles parked without them. This is unfair to residents playing by the rules and needs to change.” 

Labour Action Team member Andrea Mann commented:

“We are getting a large number of residents contacting us about parking on the estate. Like them, we are especially concerned about emergency services accessing the estate when the roads are so congested with parking on both sides on the street.” 

Churchill Labour Councillors have a petition calling on CityWest Homes to tackle the parking on the estate at http://www.churchilllabour.co.uk/petitions/churchill-gardens-parking/ and ask Churchill residents who have experienced issues to contact them at info@churchilllabour.co.uk.

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

Churchill Labour Councillors attack Government cuts to Police budget for the closure of Belgravia Police Station counters

Churchill Labour Councillors Shamim Talukder and Jason Williams, and Action Team member Andrea Mann, have written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP to protest at the further Government cuts to the Metropolitan Police budget which have led to plans to close the police counters at Belgravia Police Station.

Since coming to power in 2010, the Conservative government has cut the budget for the Metropolitan Police by £600 million and plans at least another £400 million in cuts to London’s police funding. Theresa May and Amber Rudd must end the austerity that has so damaged our vital public services and instead protect Westminster’s police numbers and front counters.

Councillor Jason Williams said;

“The Belgravia Police Station is a vital community resource and the closure of the front counter service is a major blow. It will mean that residents will have to travel to Charing Cross Police Station – which is already a very busy station.”

Councillor Shamim Talukder said:

“This closure will undoubtedly impact the most vulnerable members of our community, along with those who don’t have access to report crimes or raise concerns online.”

In a reply to Councillors Williams and Talukder Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden reassured residents that the Police will do all they can to maintain services in the face of further Government cuts. She said:

“The front counter at Belgravia will be closed in December but the rest of the building will be retained. MPS operational leaders are clear: the closing of a police station does not mean the withdrawal of policing from a community, rather it means we can support officer numbers as much as possible at a time of real pressure on policing.  The changes will not affect the service people receive when they dial 999. As they have been for many years, emergency response officers spend their shifts not in police stations, but out on patrol, being directed to incidents by the control room as and when they arise. We anticipate no impact on response times arising from these changes.”

Councillors Williams and Talukder will be monitoring the situation and ask local residents to get in touch if they experience any problems or issues as a result of the front counter closing on info@churchilllabour.co.uk.

You can sign the petition again the Police budget cuts here https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/203543

Churchill Labour Action Team have written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd MP protesting at the cuts and making a case for Belgravia Police Station front counters to remain open.

Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP

Dear Ms Rudd,

We are writing as the ward Councillors for the Belgravia Police Station to ask that funding cuts to the Metropolitan Police are reconsidered to enable the Police Station to remain open.

The Belgravia Police Station serves a wide area across south Westminster and the closure of front counters would mean that residents would have a much longer journey to the nearest counters at Charing Cross Police Station.

We are greatly concerned at the impact the closure will have on the most vulnerable members of our community and those who would not have access to report crimes or raise concerns online.

At this time of increasing public safety concerns it is essential that communities have confidence that they can contact the police and that the Police Station remains a vital part of their community.

CC Sadiq Khan. Mayor of London.

Posted in Belgravia, Belgravia Police Station, Churchill Ward, Police, Police Station closures | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Churchill Labour Councillors call for urgent review of CityWest Homes call centre

Churchill Ward Labour Councillors Shamim Talukder and Jason Williams have written to Jonathan Cowie, Chief Executive of CityWest Homes (CWH) to call for an urgent review of CWH’s call centre.

Councillor Williams said:

“We are getting continual reports of residents who can’t get through to the call centre – and not getting an adequate response if they do make contact. From my own experience, what should have been a simple request has taken over two weeks and still hasn’t been resolved.”

In their letter Councillors write:

“When the call centre move was first mooted we were promised a more efficient service, with officers being freed up to go out and talk to residents and deal with problems effectively. The reality is that there has been a real diminution of service, leaving residents feeling cut off and neglected.

“Our concern is that vulnerable tenants will be especially affected – and the continued lack of response from the call centre may lead them to give up trying to contact CWH to request what could be urgent repairs.”

The Churchill Labour Councillors have asked Churchill residents who have experienced similar issues with CityWest Homes to contact them on info@churchilllabour.co.uk

 

Dear Jonathan,

CityWest Homes Customer Service

We are getting increasing reports of residents who have experienced poor customer service from CityWest Homes since the move to the centralised call centre.

One resident reported repairs needed for a window handle replacement, which she tells me it took seven weeks to organise, and a blocked bath, which she informs me took two weeks to resolve. When she had problems with her heating – which needed emergency repairs – she had to spent 10 minutes on the telephone; when there wasn’t a response to this, she called the emergency line and was cut off after being told she was 13th in the queue.

This is becoming an increasing occurrence with residents trying to contact the call centre – and if and when they do finally get through, they are not getting an adequate resolution to their issues.

One recent example from my own experience of trying to get an update for a resident needing repairs to her kitchen started with my initial email on 27th October when I was promised an update within five working days; when this response didn’t materialise I emailed again on 5th November asking for an urgent update. With no response I followed up again on 10th November and then received a reply promising me a response in a further five working days.

This situation is having an increasingly negative impact with residents feeling concerned that they can no longer get an adequate service from CityWest Homes. It gives the distinct impression that CityWest Homes are withdrawing from the estates and disinclined to proactively manage even the most basic maintenance requests.

When the call centre move was first mooted we were promised a more efficient service, with officers being freed up to go out and talk to residents and deal with problems effectively. The reality is that there has been a real diminution of service, leaving residents feeling cut off and neglected.

Our concern is that vulnerable tenants will be especially affected – and the continued lack of response from the call centre may lead them to give up trying to contact CityWest Homes to request what could be urgent repairs.

Over the summer we were told that issues with the call centre were due to impact of calls after the Grenfell disaster, and that more phone lines and staff were being introduced to improve the service. Despite this, some months on we have yet to see an improvement in service for residents.

At last week’s Full Council meeting the Leader claimed 58% of calls were being answered: we do not believe this is an acceptable level of support for residents.

Can we therefore ask that an urgent review of the call centre be undertaken by CityWest Homes senior management, that a plan be developed for improving the response times from CWH to residents, and that response times and other key data are regularly reported to monitor progress.

Posted in Churchill Ward, City West Homes, Council housing, Council leaseholders, Council tenants, Westminster City Council | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Labour alternative to divisive Tory budget cuts

Westminster Tories have called an extraordinary Budget Council meeting to approve their plans for the 2018/19 budget. This comes despite many of their proposals not being ready for public scrutiny and with no clarity about upcoming Government funding decisions or on the level of Council Tax.

At the meeting tonight (Wednesday 8th November) the Tories are proposing a further £37.697 million (gross) in ‘savings’ (a net figure of £30.8m in cuts and required new revenue streams, with some money already identified). This comes after three previous years in which £130 million in cuts have already come out of the Council’s budget, cutting many services to the bone.

Labour have proposed two amendments that set out a better alternative for the council. Our first amendment sets out only a fraction of the new savings and reallocation of resources that would be possible were Labour to take charge of the council but these proposals, fully costed by the Council’s own finance team, show the priorities Labour want the council to focus on.

Labour are calling for funding to reinstate council support to Westminster’s Youth Clubs, though ongoing support to fund staff members and a one-off grant to the Young Westminster Foundation. We demand more support for our Children’s Centres, for children’s stay and play sessions and for targeted outreach to vulnerable families. While Labour is again urging the council to invest more in adaptive technology to support the elderly and vulnerable to live independent lives, a move that also saves the council money.

In this amendment Labour sets out alternative ways to protect vital support to Westminster’s Rough Sleepers through reducing Tory cuts to outreach services and developing a new social impact bond to address the most important challenges facing people on our streets. Labour would also protect important Health Check services being provided in less well-off parts of our city.

Labour is offering a cost effective way to support small businesses to comply with the London Living Wage by offering 500 independent firms a year who employ up to 30 people between a £250 and £500 business rate discount when they become accredited with the Living Wage Foundation.

Labour would also ensure the council continues to inform residents about planning and licensing applications by continuing to send written notices.

Labour’s second amendment seeks to remind Westminster Conservatives about their broken promise to introduce an emissions based resident parking charge scheme to help tackle the vital issue of air pollution in Westminster. Any policy Labour would seek to implement if in power would be more nuanced and detailed than proposed tonight in order to only target the most polluting vehicles. However this simple model shows the Tories how a reformed parking charge system could work on a revenue neutral basis, so that a modest increase paid by diesel and higher polluting petrol vehicles could cut costs for less polluting cars- by £58 for lower emission vehicles in this simplified scheme.

Whatever happens tonight Labour will continue to fight for a fairer Westminster that works for the many not the few.

Amendment 1

In point (i), after “approved”, add “with the following amendments in Schedule 4:

Additional savings

£39,000 Private Health Care

£758,000 Temporary and Agency Staff

£202,000 Westminster Reporter

£21,500 Catering

£51,000 Members’ allowances, to delete payments to deputy Cabinet Members

£40,000 Chief of Staff

£40,000 Policy, Performance and Communications

£100,000 Lord Mayor’s Department

£15,000 Forecast saving from TA Purchase

Deletion of savings items

£100,000 Planning and public realm – Electronic consultation

£65,000 Public Protection and Licensing – Electronic consultation

Additional growth items

£200,000 Children, Families and Young People: Youth Clubs (to restore at least one centrally funded post in a number of youth clubs spread across the city)

£200,000 Children, Families and Young People: Early Help (to restore stay and play options and support Children’s Centres)

£300,000 Public Protection and Licensing: City Management (restricting budget savings on the ‘Better Working in our Neighbourhoods’ programme to £600,000, in order to support street based services)

£308,500 Housing: Rough Sleeping (to protect outreach and support services)

£50,000 Adult Social Services and Public Health: To support the Health Trainer Service to continue to provide community health checks”

£43,000 City Treasurer: Scheme to promote London Living Wage Accreditation for 500 Small businesses (under 30 staff)

In point (v), after monies, delete all and add: “to long-term investment spending for the benefit of Westminster residents, with a provisional allocation of:

£600,000 to the Young Westminster Foundation for matched funding

£750,000 to create a Westminster Rough Sleepers Social Impact Bond

£750,000 for Temporary Accommodation

£882,000 for Adaptations and Transformations for Adult Social Care.”

Amendment 2

In point (ii), at end add “together with an additional consultation on an emissions based parking charge scheme, whereby the annual resident parking charges for diesel cars and petrol-engine cars above 2,500 cc would rise to £200. The funding raised would be utilised to reduce resident parking charges for petrol cars between 1250-2500 cc to reduce to £87 and petrol cars with engines smaller than 1200 cc to £45.”

Posted in Council Budget, Council cuts, Council finances, London Living Wage, Low Emission Neighbourhood, Parking charges, Pollution, Public Services | 1 Comment

Churchill Labour Councillors outline their approach to Ebury Bridge Estate regeneration

Churchill Labour Councillors Shamim Talukder and Jason Williams, and Labour Action Team member Andrea Mann, have been continuing their work to support residents on Ebury Bridge Estate, speaking to them about Westminster City Council’s regeneration plans and the need to tackle issues such as overcrowding.

Councillor Talukder said: “We support any scheme for Ebury Bridge Estate that both benefits local residents and helps tackle Westminster’s housing crisis. I have dealt with a great number of cases of overcrowding and poor housing on Ebury Bridge Estate and in the ward as a whole.”

While Westminster City Council are still failing to promise residents a referendum on any final plans – even after offering one on the original scheme, which was then followed by years of broken promises and wasted taxpayers’ money – the Labour team in Churchill Ward is offering a different approach.

“Our solution would be a radically different one than the opaque approach of Westminster Tories,” said Councillor Jason Williams.

“We would work with residents to draw up a People’s Plan for social housing – involving tenants and leaseholders in a transparent, collaborative conversation – and give them a referendum to ensure they have a full say on any final plans.”

Churchill Labour Action Team member Andrea Mann said:

It’s clear from our conversations with them that Ebury Bridge Estate residents feel a great deal of uncertainty  – caused first by the way the Council mishandled the project initially, and now by the way they are going about managing the new scheme. We would work to rebuild this trust with the community, and urge the Council to do the same.”

We want to hear your views on how you think Ebury Bridge Estate could be redeveloped for the benefit of the community. To let us know your views, or to be kept updated on our campaigns on the estate, please contact us on info@churchilllabour.co.uk.

Posted in Churchill Ward, Ebury Bridge Estate, Housing, Labour Councillors, Regeneration, Westminster Council waste | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Westminster Labour calls for halt to further Metropolitan Police cuts

Labour Councillors have launched a petition calling on the Government to halt its cuts in the Metropolitan Police budget immediately. 

Labour say that the further police cuts will make it more difficult for the police to keep neighbourhoods in Westminster safe and secure, as well as dealing with the increase in everyday violence and the constant terrorist threat.

The petition to the Government reads:

“Halt the cuts to the Metropolitan Police budget. Having lost £600 million in real terms over the past 7 years, the Metropolitan Police face a further £400 million cut over the next 4 years. 70 per cent of all police spending in London comes from the Home Office, meaning that any change in that funding has a disproportionate effect.”

You can sign the petition here https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/203543

Councillor Patricia McAllister, Deputy Leader of the Labour Group, said:

“Safety and security is very high on the residents’ priorities and it is essential that the Government halts the cuts to the Metropolitan Police. The bravery of the police protects us every single day, as well as at major incidents of which there have been many over the past year. The success of Neighbourhood Policing cannot be allowed to be wasted by further cuts to the police budget. We urge everyone to sign this petition, including Conservative Councillors, many of whose constituents regularly contact us to complain about the impact of Government cuts on local policing.

“With the recent increase in knife violence and a number of tragic deaths of young people in Westminster, we believe that the Government cuts to the Metropolitan Police budget must stop immediately. The Metropolitan Police has seen a real terms budget loss of £600m over the last 7 years and faces further reductions of £400m over the next 4 years as government funding is frozen and as costs rise dramatically. This level of cuts cannot sustain the proper policing of Westminster and we call on the Government to provide the Metropolitan Police with the financial resources necessary to protect the public.”

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