Labour Harrow Road Councillor Guthrie McKie calls on Westminster Council to follow a new direction:
“The forthcoming Council Budget will plot the course of how Westminster is to develop. If it continues in its present course we will see even greater social and economic divisions. A City with a growing section of the population in need of low cost housing and continuing support coupled with a growing number of wealthy absentee property owners letting out accommodation to wealthy short terms letters.
Middle class families are leaving Westminster in growing numbers. All the talent and innovation will be imported from outside the borough and that innovation will search for more inclusive and socially mobile communities, which will likely to be other parts of London.
We can change this by committing to a rebuilding of Westminster in order to house those families in housing need and to house families on middle incomes.
Some statistics are relevant to this argument:
• There are currently 1,500 families living in overcrowded accommodation
• There are 2,300 families in temporary accommodation
• Even when the areas of regeneration (Church Street, Tollgate, Ebury Bridge) are completed, the levels of housing need will remain roughly unchanged.
• In Church Street there are 22% overcrowding, 67% lone parents not in employment and 55% live in social rented housing. None of the new “affordable” housing will be available to these groups.
We have to build our way out of this deep rooted neglect so that communities can grow and contribute to the well being of the City. This will mean drastic changes to the way Westminster structures its financial models.
We need to review the policy of the disposal of Council owned land. We should set up a cross party working group to look at how Dudley House and Moxon Street can be used to contribute to the housing shortage and other community needs, like nurseries, play centres and youth facilities.
We should seek a review of the plans for the Jubilee Centre. There should be a greater mix of housing at that site, together with nursery and play facilities.
We should follow the lead of other authorities by allowing business rate discounts to businesses that pay their employees no less than the London Living Wage.
These measures will allow unemployed parents to find work as there will be more affordable nursery and play facilities. More social and intermediate rent properties will reduce the number of families in overcrowded and temporary accommodation.
A reduction in poverty levels in Westminster will contribute to a growth in economic activity. It will also contribute to a greater degree of social mobility.”