Karen Buck MP has sent a further letter to Councillor Daniel Astaire to seek clarification of the Council’s intentions following the Westbourne vote and any evidence of the Council’s totally false allegations that Labour campaigned for a ‘no’ vote.
Thank you very much for your reply to your letter. I am grateful that you confirm that there is still much to do in the area and we must ensure that the quality of life is improved for residents, and key problems such as over-crowding will still need to be prioritised.
Your letter also confirms that allegations made at the Council meeting (subsequently repeated by Cllr Hall) were effectively baseless. As I understand your position. the entire grounds for the claim of a Labour ‘No’ vote campaign rests on one third hand conversation with one resident.
Your latest letter does not even confirm that this alleged initial conversation was with, and reported by, Vital Regeneration. As Cllr Hall has stated in the ‘Wood and Vale’ that the Council’s position rests on reports made via Vital, Westminster/Vital either need to confirm the exact details of this evidence of Labour ‘No’ vote activity reported to you, or the claim must be regarded as fallen. I am quite sure that this cannot be done.
As Westminster cannot substantiate claims about a ‘No’ campaign, your letter broadens the argument to cover the position Ward Councillors and I took on the scheme in earlier literature. I trust you accept that there is a significant difference between claims of a ‘No’ campaign, and your critique of the ‘tone’ (in your words), of public correspondence written weeks before the vote. However, I disagree with you here, too:
* Contrary to your assertion, we stressed that there were benefits in the scheme.
My letter put this line at the top: “It is now only a few short weeks before you will be asked to vote on Westminster Council’s plans for the Warwick estate. After this one vote, there will be a major development of the area, which will have both good points and disadvantages. There will be real improvements to the look of the area, with some new low-cost homes, job opportunities and community benefits”.
The earlier letter went further saying:
“It needs to be you- and only you- making the decision about whether to go ahead with the proposal that will be put before you.
That most people locally would like to see the area improved is beyond doubt, and your local councillors and I support this completely. There are potential advantages to regeneration- replacing some buildings that desperately need to be replaced, some more affordable housing and a more attractive ‘street’ along this part of the Harrow Road.
We also support efforts to get more local people into jobs and training, the exciting project to develop the Crypt at Mary Magdelene’s Church and the work of Vital Regeneration and the Neighourhood Forum in getting people involved.”
* But our task is not to be cheerleaders for the Council- it is to press for the best possible deal for residents, not least in the context of real concerns about housing provision, affordability and reductions in community services.
I am certain that even a modestly improved offer, and better campaigning by and on behalf of, Westminster Council, could have secured a different result, and all 3 ward councillors stressed this repeatedly over many months. The experience in Church Street makes this point. What we are objecting to now is an attempt to place blame elsewhere, ignore the Council’s own- predicted-failings in communicating with residents- and make accusations against the Opposition on the basis of no evidence whatsoever.
There is nothing wrong with healthy disagreements about policy or the implementation of schemes such as this. We should all be able to learn from it and raise our respective games. What the ward councillors and I won’t accept is being accused of something we did not do, on the basis of unsubstantiated comments which (to borrow a phrase from your letter) it was considered “necessary or expedient” to make central to your justification for losing the vote.