Mayor of London vows to protect cultural venues following successful West End Labour campaign

West End Labour has welcomed measures introduced in the Mayor of London’s draft London Plan to prevent cultural venues from closure.

Included in the recently released draft Plan is the Agent of Change principle, which places the onus on developers to pay for soundproofing costs when building residential spaces next to pre-existing venues.

The inclusion of the principle comes on the back of a campaign led by West End Labour to protect the iconic cinema Curzon Mayfair from closure. After it was revealed that luxury flat developers had asked the Curzon to pay £500,000 in soundproofing costs – to allow them to build flats above it estimated to be worth more than £2m each – a petition was launched by Labour candidate Pancho Lewis to save the cinema. It gained more than 27,000 signatures in support, forcing the developers to agree to meet soundproofing costs.

Pancho Lewis, who is running to be a West End Labour Councillor in next year’s local elections, said:

“We welcome the inclusion of the Agent of Change principle in the draft London Plan. It’s really important that we protect venues like the Curzon Mayfair, because the last thing Londoners want is more and more venues being closed down. Places like the Curzon are the beating heart of artistic and creative life in London – it’s only right that developers who make a lot of profit should pay up their fair share.

“This is a big step forward. The Agent of Change principle has real teeth to help redress the power imbalance between developers and cultural life. But it’s clear that a lot more is needed. West End Labour will continue to campaign for a more sustainable future for the West End and London.”

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Posted in Culture, Curzon Mayfair, Mayfair, Mayor of London, Pancho Lewis, Planning permission | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Call for urgent review of standards in Westminster Care Homes

Labour Councillors have called for the Council’s Health & Social Care Scrutiny Committee to investigate the findings of a report from a ‘Which’ investigation into standards in Care Homes across the country which has revealed that Westminster is the worst in the country on the number of beds either as ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Councillor Barrie Taylor said:

“We have known about this problem in Westminster for a long time and already have agreement between the majority and minority parties on the need to press the Government to take action.

The NHS in NW London has identified a £23 million shortfall in Social Care by 2020.   The Government announced, as part of the Budget, that it would publish a Green Paper on social care next summer.  We should not wait that long and need to be making a rational case for serious improvements to the care system as a whole.”

Posted in Care Homes, Elderley People, Labour Councillors, NHS, Westminster City Council | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

City West Homes fails to pay a bill and leaves Regency Street residents without an entryphone

Labour Westminster Councillors have called on City West Homes to explain why an entryphone system at Vincent House in Regency Street, SW1 has not been working for over two months, despite residents reporting this problem on numerous occasions.

Residents say:

“I wish to make a complaint about the failure of City West Homes to sort out a serious problem with the entryphone of Vincent House, Regency Street, SW1.

On arriving at my flat in the block at the weekend, I saw that there was a notice on the entryphone stating that it had been deactivated.  I contacted the number given and found out that the company responsible had done so because City West Homes had failed to pay a bill due on 1 July 2017.  I was told that the person dealing with this matter at City West Homes could be contacted on 020 7245 2377.  I tried to do this but was placed in a queue and after waiting over 5 minutes the recorded music and the message started to play over each other in a distorted loop.  I judged that there was something wrong with the system and hung up.  For some reason communicating with City West Homes always seems to be a real challenge!

I also discussed the situation with other residents and found out that the disconnection had been reported over eight weeks ago but that nothing had been done and nor had there been any communication with residents explaining the situation.  The only information available to residents had come from the entryphone leasing company.

At present the only way to contact someone in a flat is to telephone them – but only if the number is known to the caller – and then for the resident to come to the street level door in person to open it.  If you live on the 4th floor that means a round trip of 118 steps up and down each time.  

There may be a good reason (or otherwise) for not paying the outstanding invoice but if there is, then City West Homes should have immediately made alternative arrangements whilst any issues were being resolved.  As it is, the safety of residents is being compromised by City West Homes’ inaction.”

UPDATE

Following our enquiries, the problem was fixed and residents said:

“Thank you for getting CWH moving.  It shows what it can do when it tries, but it is a pity that it can’t respond in this way as a matter of course.   Last year it took CWH a year to sort out a joint rising main that needed to be split so that two flats could have water meters and then only with regular prompting from me!” 

“My congratulations on being so effective”

Posted in City West Homes, Council Contractors, Council housing, Council leaseholders, Labour Councillors, Vincent Square | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Support for the homeless and vulnerable

We are supporting the Hotel School initiative which teaches hospitality skills to homeless and vulnerable people, matches them to sustainable employment, and supports them in their first steps into work.

Hotel School is a joint venture between The Passage (London’s largest voluntary sector homeless resource centre) and The Goring Hotel. It is supported by London’s Five Star hotel community, Westminster Kingsway catering school staff, and over 50 local businesses.

For more information see https://www.hotelschool.org.uk

Posted in Homeless, Jobs, Labour Councillors, Poverty, Rough Sleepers | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Labour call for inquiry into sale of the freehold of St John’s Wood housing estate  

Labour Councillors have called for an inquiry in to how the freehold of the entire Abercorn Place estate in St John’s Wood has been transferred from Westminster City Council to a private company, Kunta Kinte Ltd which has two shareholders, both of which are registered at 7 Bradman House on the estate.

The Abercorn Place Estate (known locally as the ‘Cricketers’ because the three blocks are named Bradman, Warner and Verity Houses after three famous pre-war Test cricketers) was built by the former St Marylebone Borough Council in the 1950s following World War 2 bomb damage

In addition, almost all the 34 leasehold interests are now in the hands of one individual.

Labour Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg has written to the Council’s Director of Growth, Planning and Housing to ask:

  • How did Kunta Kinte come to acquire the freehold of an entire Council estate?
  • If it was through leasehold enfranchisement, what process did Westminster Council undertake to ensure it received a fair price for the freehold?
  • How did the company come to acquire enough leaseholds (50%) to trigger enfranchisement?
  • If subsequent to buying the freehold, the company have acquired all the remaining leaseholds, how did they do this?

Councillor Dimoldenberg said:

“These flats were built for people in housing need. Now all 34 Council flats are in the hands of a private company and local residents have no chance of a decent flat at a rent they can afford. This sums up all that is rotten about Conservative housing policies.”

Murad Qureshi, former GLA member and now a Little Venice Ward Candidate at next May’s Council elections, has written about this issue https://muradqureshi.com/council-estate-becomes-private-estate/. He said:

When the great and the good built this Estate through the local council, they could never have imagined this could happen to the housing being provided for its residents in Marylebone in desperate housing need. What makes this quite incredible is that almost all the leasehold interests are now in the hands of one individual. On many Council Estates in Central London, you often find over 50 per cent of the flats and houses are owned by leaseholders, but almost completely by one individual via his companies, is very unusual indeed. “

You can see the freehold document here Abercorn Place Estate

See the latest here

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/council-estate-rich-london-borough-11678843

Posted in Council housing, Labour Councillors, St John's Wood, Westminster City Council, Westminster Conservatives | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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