Leader of Westminster Labour group says he’ll ‘still be a thorn in Tories’ side’ as he steps down after 11 years

The ‘West End Extra’ reports:

Paul“The Leader of Westminster’s Labour group is stepping down after 11 years at the helm.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, who will remain as ward councillor for Queen’s Park, made the announcement at a council meeting in Porchester Hall, Bayswater, on Wednesday night.

Speaking to the West End Extra, he insisted he was “not going anywhere” and would continue to be “a thorn in the side of the Conservatives”.

 He said: “There is a time to go. I’ve been doing it for 11 years and you have to hand over some time, and the best time to hand over is when there are people available to do the job. I’ve got no doubt that whoever is elected will do a great job.” 

He added that a replacement would be decided at Labour’s annual meeting on June 8, and that the “obvious candidate” to succeed him would be Cllr Adam Hug, the current deputy leader of the opposition, but that whoever re­placed him would do a “great job”.

Councillor Dimoldenberg was first elected to the council in 1982 and was previously leader of the opposition between 1987 and 1990.

He is credited with helping to expose the disgraced former council leader Dame Shirley Porter, who was convicted of gerrymandering in council wards.

Author of a book on the “homes for votes” scandal, he later faced the prospect of being banned from public office after leaking secret High Court documents to the BBC Today programme in 2003, revealing the slow progress of recovering a £27 million “surcharge” from Dame Shirley.

 He runs a public relations firm called Quatro PR and is a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

Councillor Dimoldenberg received a round of applause from his fellow councillors on Wednesday after giving a short speech. He said: “This is my last speech as leader of opposition. I will be stepping down as leader of opposition at our AGM on June 6. After 11 years as leader it is certainly time for someone new to lead us forward in the future. After seeing four more councillors elected in May, and helping Karen Buck secure five more years in Westminster North, I am confident we can continue.”

There are 16 Labour councillors elected to Westminster Council.”

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Help Bring Superfast Broadband to Westminster

BT Openreach has said it will improve the availability of superfast fibre broadband in Westminster where there is sufficient demand to make it financially viable for them.

According to Ofcom, just 47% of Westminster’s premises have access to superfast fibre broadband, despite being home to key economic hubs such as the West End where start-ups and entrepreneurs depend on fast connection speeds. Businesses in Westminster can currently access high-speed connections using business-grade broadband, yet many smaller businesses simply can’t afford these services.

We are calling on businesses and residents to show BT that demand for superfast fibre broadband in Westminster exists, by registering their interest at the following link: www.westminster.gov.uk/broadband

Superfast broadband is a top priority for the council, and it would be appreciated if you could help us promote this campaign as widely as possible through your contacts and networks by sharing the link above.

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The Star public house, St John’s Wood Terrace – latest update

the-star-st-johns-wood

The Planning Officer investigating the current situation at The Star public house in St John’s Wood Terrace says that, after considering all of the evidence available, the planners are of the opinion that a material change of use requiring planning permission has taken place at the site.

The planners have written to the freeholder and the tenant requesting that the pub ceases to be used other than a public house within 28 days, otherwise formal action will be considered.

The Council cannot force the owner to open as a pub, but only a pub use will be lawful. If the owners fail to cease using the building other than as a public house, and if an enforcement notice is served, the owner will have a right of appeal.

We will keep you posted on any further news we hear.

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Call to Westminster Council to replace damaged RAF plaque at 80 The Strand

RAF plaque
Labour Councillors have called on Westminster Council to replace the damaged plaque commemerating the formation and the first headquarters of the RAF at 80 The Strand, on the site of the fomer Cecil Hotel, on 1st April 1918.

The existing Council plaque and has been damaged by the elements in the few years since it was unveiled. Labour is calling for a more robust plaque to be erected.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;

“Replacing the existing damaged plaque with one that is more robust is the least the Council should do to remember the thousands of RAF personnel who fought and laid down their lives for their country.”

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Why the rush to elect a new Labour Leader?

The next General Election is not for 5 years and Labour needs time to analyse why we lost and how we can win next time. From the blogs, articles and comments I have read in the past few days there is certainly no consensus on the answer to either question. Like most Labour members I have an open mind on who can win in 2020.

So why don’t we learn from the past? In 1992, after another unexpected and traumatic defeat, John Smith was elected as Leader and served until his untimely death two years later. In that two year period two MPs emerged as the potential next Leader – Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. That two year period gave both men (and others) the time to grow their political reputations, experience and profiles through their day-to-day combat with the Tories and to develop their ideas on the winning strategy for the next election.

In 1994, when the time came unexpectedly, Tony Blair emerged as the obvious choice as Labour’s next Leader – because we had all seem him in action and his high profile in the media had given him a popular appeal right across the country.

Alan Johnson
My view is that we need Alan Johnson to be Labour Leader for the next two years, with Harriet Harman as his Deputy, to lead a team of the young aspirants for the Leadership job. Alan and Harriet would be the wise and experienced Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, giving Front Bench jobs to all the leadership contenders so that they can show us – and more importantly, the country – what they are made of.

Alan Johnson commands wide respect and affection across the political spectrum. He talks human and knows about life. He can be the bridge between yesterday and tomorrow. Alan has already done more than most for both the Labour and Trade Union movements, but this would be his greatest service.

Of course, Alan has said many times he does not want to be Leader. But he can do it his way, not the traditional way. He can, for example, transform Prime Minister’s Questions by taking a totally different approach to the ‘yah-boo’ shouting match that currently alienates so many people.

That two years, up until the EU referendum, would give the Labour Party the time and space to reflect on the General Election result. More importantly, we can do that refection at the same time as holding the Government to account.

Let’s be grown up about this. Let’s see this as an opportunity. Let Alan and Harriet take the reins while we sort ourselves out and do the job we have now been elected to do – oppose the Conservative Government

When Tony Blair was elected Leader he had just three years to build on the foundations laid by John Smith and to get the Party in the position to win. The rest is history. We are not ready to elect a Leader for 2020, so let’s not be hasty.

If you agree email Alan at johnsona@parliament.uk and encourage him to run.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg
Leader of the Opposition
Westminster City Council

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Demolition of Strand properties halted by DCLG Minister

Following Labour Councillors’ support for SAVE’s call to halt the demolition of a group of threatened properties on The Strand, according to press reports:

“Plans to demolish a row of Georgian and Victorian properties on the Strand have been halted after an intervention by the government. Greg Clark, the communities and local government secretary, yesterday issued a holding direction that temporarily suspends permission for King’s College London to go ahead with the development. The instruction is an embarrassment to the college, its architects, and to Westminster City Council, which brushed aside protests from conservation groups to grant planning permission. King’s College London wants to demolish four Georgian and Victorian properties and leave only the facades of two others, which are Grade II-listed. Almost 8,300 people have signed a petition asking the college to shelve the proposals.”

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Labour urges Clark to ‘call in’ King’s College Strand demolition plans

SAVE Strand
Labour Westminster Councillors have joined SAVE to urge the new DCLG Secretary of State, Greg Clark MP, to call in plans by King’s College London to completely demolish a group of four buildings in the Strand Conservation Area and retain the façade of a fifth Grade II listed building. They would be replaced by a new building which has been given planning permission by Westminster City Council.

The entire group of threatened buildings are in the Strand Conservation Area, while one of them is listed Grade II. The ones condemned for demolition are singled out in the Conservation Area Audit as Unlisted Buildings of Merit, which contribute to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area. The campaign to save these buildings is also supported by 8,000 people who have signed the SAVE petition and demonstrate the extent of the national interest in this proposal.

Labour Councillors say that a change in the original view of Historic England’s is a strong reason for the Secretary of State to call-in the demolition proposals.

In a statement on May 11th Historic England say:

“We recognise that some people place great value on these buildings. We have treated these buildings with great respect in arriving at our advice. Our advice is that losing these buildings causes harm to the Conservation Area and that harm can only be justified if it is absolutely necessary to deliver the wider public benefits that the University has identified.”

However, in their original letter Historic England say:

“Whilst the loss of the unlisted buildings is regrettable their demolition, allied to the physical changes they have already undergone, does not strike at the heart of the significance of the Conservation Area, why it was designated. Their loss would therefore be considered “less than substantial harm” and when weighted against the public benefits. I consider that these benefits outweigh the harm.”

Crucially, in their original letter, Historic England came to the conclusion that the benefits outweigh the harm and that the harm is not substantial. Now they are saying that there is harm.

Councillor David Boothroyd, the only Labour councillor on the four-person Westminster Planning committee and who asked for his vote against the proposals to be recorded formally, said;

“The new Secretary of State should call-in this proposal given the significant change in Historic England’s comments and the huge national interest. The current proposals would not only mean a loss of this lovely terrace of historic buildings, but would be a repeat of the mistakes made in the 1970s when King’s College was allowed to build a Brutalist development which was totally unsympathetic with The Strand and nearby Somerset House.”

SAVE Britain’s Heritage objected to the application along with the following: the Ancient Monuments Society, the Victorian Society, the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, the Council for British Archaeology, the Somerset House Trust, the Courtauld Institute, and over 64 others. The Somerset House Trust and Courtauld Institute’s objections centre on the proposed new tower extension to the Kings Strand building and the impact it will have on the setting of Somerset House.

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