Well done Soho Dairy, Retail Business of the Year

Labour Councillors have congratulated Berwick Street Market’s Soho Dairy, which has won the Federation of Small Business London Retail Business of the Year award. This award was open to any retail business. Judges were looking for companies which:

  • Have increased or maintained sales during the past 12 months
  • Deliver a high quality service and exceptional customer service
  • Have identified or exploited new markets, income stream or opportunities
  • Demonstrate commitment to their employees through development and training and have good staff retention rates

The judges were impressed with how Soho Dairy is linked heavily to their local roots but has managed to keep a contemporary twist. They commented that the business has great concepts, expanding well, whilst overcoming some tough obstacles.

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

“Soho Dairy has been an inspiration to all for the quality of their produce, their personal service and the leadership they have shown in the campaign to keep Berwick Street Market alive. Let’s hope this is the first of many awards for Berwick Street Market traders.”

Posted in Small Businesses, Soho, West End, West End WArd Labour Action Team | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Time to get a move on with Church Street regeneration say Labour

Church Street Labour Councillor Barbara Grahame says:

“In 2010 the council published its Housing Renewal Strategy which identified Church Street for renewal. Church Street was selected because with 11,000 residents in 5,000 households it had:

  • 78% children lived in income deprived households
  • 22% residents were overcrowded
  • 19% unemployed
  • The life expectancy gap between Church Street and Knightsbridge was around 12 years
  • The council owned 80% land in the Ward as the predominant freeholder so had the power to intervene and develop.

So why not regenerate? A Futures Plan was developed in 2011, taken to Cabinet, procrastinated, an infrastructure plan followed and in May 2013, 87% residents in a 25.5% turnout voted in favour of the council’s regeneration proposal. That’s actually a fantastic turnout for a ballot of this kind.

So, an ideal situation for the Council:  well informed residents and stakeholders who voted in favour of redevelopment, who understood the challenges of decants and demolition.    And the council as landlord owned all the development land.   So, what could go wrong?

What has been achieved against target outcomes?

The target outcomes were:

  • Between 275 and 315 new private and affordable homes spread over 4 sites, plus the re-provision of an old peoples’ home;
  • Improvement to retained blocks closest to the development sites
  • Improved community and health facilities and a new children’s play space
  • Alongside an improved Church Street Market, improved public realm and greening, better maintenance, and targeted local employment.

What is to be seen on the ground?

  • Today, in 2017, only 3 new exemplar flats have been built, massively over cost so they cannot be replicated.
  • Contractors still scrabbling underground to dig foundations for the new old people’s home whilst the old people wonder if they’ll still be alive by the target completion date of 2019.
  • The valuable Luton Street and Cosway Street sites have been left undeveloped because of council delays and indecision.
  • Just one community facility completed, Tresham House, now a hive of activity with 2 nurseries, a play centre including disabled children, and an Evangelical Church on the roof. Wonderful, but clearly nowhere near expectations.

And of course, in the meantime the property market has moved downwards so valuable sites will not generate the estimated funds to pay for affordable housing and other benefits.

There is a feeling in Church Street that the council is actually frightened of taking the next step.

The Council’s new Masterplan is being developed in near secrecy. It will be ‘launched’ in September hidden from view, inside 99 Church Street, to invited guests and the minimum residents.

Church Street Labour Councillors say – Get a move on and start building!”

Posted in Church Street, Church Street Market, Council housing, Futures Programme | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Labour Councillors call for a referendum on any Ebury Bridge Estate Regeneration Plans

Churchill Ward Labour Councillors Jason Williams and Shamim Talukder have called for residents to be at the heart of any new plans for Ebury Bridge Estate and for the final plans to be agreed by a referendum of all residents.

At a meeting with Ebury Bridge Residents last month Tory Leader Cllr Nickie Aiken admitted that the Council’s plans for the regeneration of the estate had failed and they had not found a developer who can take the scheme on. Her solution is to go back to the drawing board and start the process again.

Councillor Jason Williams said:

“It is appalling that residents have been put through all this uncertainty only for the Tories to admit defeat four years later. They have mismanaged the whole process and should have engaged architects and developers from the outset. It is essential that residents are kept informed and engaged in the process and that any further plans should be subject to a referendum of all residents before they can go ahead.”

Councillor Shamim Talukder said:

“The Council have failed to deliver on what was a key cornerstone of their regeneration agenda. People’s lives have been affected and all the Tories can promise is more delays and more uncertainty.”

Previously, questioning from Labour Councillors has revealed that an eye-watering £35 million has been spent on the Ebury Bridge Estate regeneration scheme before a brick has even been laid. The money has been spent on buying back flats previously sold by the Council under the Right To Buy at knock-down prices. The flats are now boarded up. We believe that money could have been better spent on facilities for the local community.

Posted in Churchill Ward, Council housing, Ebury Bridge Estate, Regeneration, Westminster City Council, Westminster Conservatives | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Labour Plan for raising more cash for public services in Westminster

Westminster Labour Councillors have launched a 5 Point Plan which could raise millions of pounds for public services from wealthy residents who currently pay the lowest Council Tax in the UK and who want to pay more to resurrect local public services.

Currently, the most any Westminster resident pays in Council Tax is £1,376 a year, even though very many properties in Belgravia, Knightsbridge, St John’s Wood and elsewhere are worth many millions of pounds and are owned by some of the richest people in the world. At the same time, Government cuts have reduced the Council’s budget by 48% over the past 7 years.

Many wealthy Westminster residents tell us that they are appalled at the disintegration of local public services as the Government’s austerity cuts have devastated vital services which were previously taken for granted. For example, last year Westminster Conservatives axed its financial support for local youth services, forcing youth clubs to reduce their services to some of the most vulnerable young people in Paddington, Church Street and Pimlico.

There is general cross-party support in Westminster for the introduction of additional higher end Council Tax Bands to require the wealthiest residents to make a bigger financial contribution. However, the introduction of extra Council Tax Bands will require Government legislation and will take time.

Labour’s 5 point plan to raise extra money from voluntary contributions from residents is:

  • The Council would work closely with Westminster’s voluntary sector to identify five projects each year which would receive the voluntary contributions, for example, education, youth services, older people, mental health or community safety.
  • All the extra money raised would be allocated to the five specific projects
  • The Council would appoint a board composed of independent people from outside the Council whose job it would be to ensure that all the money is used on the five selected projects and not on mainstream Council services.
  • The Council would write to every G and H Band Council Tax payer in Westminster with details of the five projects to which they can contribute. They can contribute to just one project or spread their contribution across a number of projects by completing a simple direct debit form.
  • Council Tax payers on lower bands would also be able to contribute. No one would be turned away. No contribution, however small, would be refused.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour Business, Planning and Public Realm spokesperson, who initially raised this initiative at the Council’s 2014 budget meeting, said:

“Many better-off residents have been telling us for many years that they would willingly pay more to restore some of the lost public services. We believe that the key to success is to earmark all the extra money for specific projects, say education, young people, older people, mental health or community safety. That, and providing a simple way for people to contribute more on top of their usual Council Tax contributions, could unleash a wave of local generosity from many residents who believe that they should be making a bigger financial contribution to their local community’s well-being.”

Posted in Council cuts, Council finances, Council Tax, Education, Mental health, Older People, Young People, Youth Services | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Labour Councillors call for a referendum on any Ebury Bridge regeneration scheme proposal

Churchill Labour Councillors Jason Williams and Shamim Talukder have called for any regeneration proposals for the Ebury Bridge Estate to be put to a full vote of residents before they can go ahead.

At a meeting with Ebury Bridge Estate residents on Wednesday evening, Westminster Tory Leader Cllr Nickie Aiken told residents that the previous projects voted on by residents had failed as the plans were not deemed viable by developers.

Residents were concerned that after many years of failed promises by the Council that they were now starting from scratch, creating yet more uncertainty and stress for the community.

Residents in the Ebury Bridge Estate in south Westminster have already been waiting over 4 years for better housing after voting in favour of renewal plans in 2013 that would replace ageing buildings, and provide 101 additional much needed homes.

Previous questioning from Labour Councillors has revealed that an eye-watering £29 million has been spent acquiring properties on the Ebury Bridge Estate regeneration scheme before a brick has even been laid. The flats bought by the Council are now empty and boarded up with Sitex security doors.

Churchill ward Councillor Jason Williams said:

“It is not acceptable for the Council to reject a second referendum, especially after holding an initial vote on the failed scheme. The whole project has been marked by poor communication with meetings cancelled and updates failing to appear. The Council’s poor handling of this project has seen residents who have lived on the estate for decades having to move out while others have had to put up with uncertainty about their homes for over 4 years.”

“We are talking about people’s homes and lives and it is not acceptable for the Council to simply write off their past failures. Lessons must be learnt at the highest levels of the Council.”

Posted in Churchill Ward, Council housing, Ebury Bridge Estate, Labour Councillors, Pimlico, Regeneration | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Petition to stop school cuts in Vincent Square Ward

We have started a petition calling on Westminster City Council to urge the Government to scrap the school funding proposals which will mean that five schools serving families in Vincent Square Ward will lose out, including, Millbank Academy (lose £72,000); Burdett Coutts School (lose £81,000); Greycoat School (lose £630,000); St Vincent de Paul School (lose £90,000) and St Matthews School (£113,000)

According to the schoolcuts website,

  • Millbank Academy will lose £72,000, equivalent to £179 per pupil, and will lose 2
    teachers
  • Burdett Coutts School will lose £81,000, equivalent to £282 per pupil, and will lose 2 teachers
  • Greycoat School will lose £630,000, equivalent to £816 per pupil, and will lose 16 teachers
  • St Vincent de Paul School will lose £90,000, equivalent to £453 per pupil, and will lose 2 teachers
  • St Matthews School will lose £113,000, equivalent to £675 per pupil, and will lose 3 teachers.
  • You can sign the petition here http://petitions.westminster.gov.uk/VinSquarecuts/
Posted in Millbank Primary Academy, Schools, Vincent Square, Westminster City Council | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Labour calls for further answers on fire safety

Westminster Labour Councillors, particularly Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing Tim Roca and Westbourne ward Councillors Adam Hug (Labour Group Leader), David Boothroyd and Papya Qureshi have been working with Karen Buck MP to continue to try to get answers to the vital issues around fire safety in Westminster´s Tower Blocks and other council housing.

While the Council and CityWest Homes have been working to try and respond to the issue, particularly in relation to the Little Venice Towers on the Warwick and Brindley Estates there are a number of areas where further information and action is still needed.

Labour:

  • Requests that the costs of the proposed sprinkler installation option and of the range of different cladding removal options are made clear to residents to improve transparency. The council must show that cost is not a factor in its decision making over what actions will make residents most safe and limit unnecessary disruption to their lives. Guarantees must also be in place to ensure leaseholders do not face bills for this necessary work to urgently make the blocks safe.
  • Calls for greater measures to ensure that council information letters are received by every household and for residents to be given the option of face to face discussions within their homes. This information should also be more readily available in other languages to reflect the resident population, particularly in Arabic, Portugese, Bengali, Kurdish and Albanian.
  • Asks for residents to be provided with more detailed information about the findings of the London Fire Brigade and CityWest Homes audits of blocks, particularly at Little Venice, and about the remedial action being taken. This includes providing necessary information about the check on firedoors that has been taking place.
  • Calls for residents in the Little Venice Towers to be given the final say on whether the cladding is partially or full removed. While the Council´s current proposed solution of a partial removal of cladding to improve fire breaks may improve safety (in light of what the Council have said regarding information from the London Fire Brigade) while limiting the disruption to residents, understandably many residents do not yet feel reassured.
  • Asks that CityWest retains a permanent staff presence in the Little Venice Estate Office until the situation has been fully resolved in the months ahead.
  • Requests greater support to those living in the towers who feel at risk and asks the Council to develop additional mechanisms to facilitate requests by residents to be moved into temporary accommodation or permanent transfers, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable.
Posted in Affordable Housing, City West Homes, Fire Brigade | 1 Comment