West End Labour helps Curzon Mayfair fight off closure threat

Following an outcry of protest from the local community and a petition led by the West End Labour Action Team, the much-loved Curzon Mayfair cinema has moved closer to staving off the threat of closure.

This week developers Vevil International and 38 Curzon Ltd presented proposals to Westminster Council seeking permission to install additional sound proofing to prevent noise from reaching recently refurbished luxury flats above the cinema.

This represents a radical departure from the approach taken by the developers last year, when they brought an action of forfeiture against the cinema. If the action had been successful, the cinema would have had to leave the premises. It appears however that this approach has been dropped in favour of compromise.

The U-turn follows pressure from the local community and the West End Labour Action Team who set up a petition, backed by more than 27,000 people, to save the cinema.

Launched by Pancho Lewis, the petition backed the Curzon cinema’s management team who had argued that the cinema is a unique community asset that had to be saved. Cinema-goers across the country also rallied behind the campaign to protect the historic venue.

Upon receiving the news, Pancho Lewis said:

“This is a great step forward in the campaign to save the Curzon Mayfair. It goes to show that by pulling together we can send a strong message and protect cultural venues in the West End, putting the needs of the community above those of luxury flat developers. The campaign doesn’t end here though. We need to remain vigilant and continue to work to protect this cinema and indeed all cultural venues in the West End. Too many places are under threat of closure. It is no exaggeration to say that arts and culture in the West End faces an unprecedented threat in today’s day and age. Curzon Soho is also under threat, and groups like Save Soho are doing a great job to raise the profile of the issue – we need to rally behind them.”

The campaign was covered in the Evening Standard: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/historic-mayfair-cinema-faces-closure-in-row-over-noise-from-films-in-flats-above-it-a3345416.html

The petition read: ” We the undersigned call on the Mayor of London and Westminster City Council to step in and save historic cinema Curzon Mayfair from closure.

It is an absolute travesty that developers 38 Curzon Ltd have called on the Curzon to fork out £500,000 to soundproof luxury properties they are building above it.

They know that the cinema doesn’t have the funds. They know that the venue is listed and would face an uphill struggle to get permission to change its interiors. This is a de facto attempt to close the Curzon through the backdoor.

Curzon Mayfair must be protected. We simply cannot afford to lose this much-loved, iconic venue.”

Posted in Curzon Mayfair, Mayfair, Pancho Lewis, Planning Committee, Planning permission, West End | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Churchill Ward Labour Councillors slam further delays and broken promises on the Ebury Bridge Estate


Churchill Ward Labour Councillors Jason Williams and Shamim Talukder have slammed Westminster Council for further delays and broken promises on the Ebury Bridge Estate.

In a strongly-worded letter to new Housing Cabinet Member Rachel Robathan, they say:

“We were concerned to read in your report to the Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee on Monday 6th March 2017 that “the project team has concluded a detailed review of the Ebury Bridge project. Proposals will be put to members in April on how to implement a viable and affordable scheme based on the 2013 vote.” As the Ward Councillors, this was the first we had learned that a detailed review had been completed and that proposals were going to be put to members next month. We therefore ask for an urgent briefing on the plans and how they can be achieved without going for a second referendum.”

“In her report to the same committee Barbara Brownlee writes that “a clear learning outcome for Ebury Bridge is … [that] there is a need not to over promise about what can be achieved and by when.” We acknowledge this admission that there have been a series of issues in the management of the process and seek a firm commitment that the project will not experience any further delays.”

“In his letter to us dated 20th November 2016 Cllr Danny Astaire wrote that the Council was supporting residents in Edgson House to find and move to new homes and that the date for demolition was dependent on the achieving vacant possession of the blocks. We have received feedback from former residents from Edgson House who tell us they had to leave Edgson House on the basis that a strict timeline was in place for demolition. These residents are therefore, very concerned to see that not only that the project has stalled, but that the current temporary tenants moved in and continue to live in the block. The Ebury Bridge Regeneration Project has not been well managed and has caused considerable stress for residents. Those who have made their homes on the estate for a number of years have faced uncertainty and, in some cases, have moved out of the area as they couldn’t face the further delays from the Council.”

“We seek your assurances therefore, that the project team will now prioritise effective and on-going communications with residents and a workable timeline for the development will be published. We are now approaching the fourth anniversary of the Regeneration Referendum and residents feel justifiably disappointed that the much-promised regeneration scheme has not started and that the intervening period has been marked by such poor communications and on-going delays.”

A copy of the letter is here 06-03-17 Cllr Robathan

In January 2017, Labour Councillors revealed that an eye-watering £29 million has been spent on the Ebury Bridge Estate regeneration scheme before a brick has even been laid. Residents in the Ebury Bridge Estate in Pimlico have been waiting over 3 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.

However, the Council’s plans are many years behind schedule and it now appears over £29 million has been spent and a further £14.8 million will be spent (totalling £43.8 million) before work will even begin. The majority of the money has been spent on purchasing properties on the estate, but other costs include over £700,000 on Architects’ fees and Sitex security doors.

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

Westminster Tories Slash Rough Sleeping Budget


Westminster Conservatives have slashed the Council budget for rough sleeping and supported housing just weeks after the Council’s own figures showed the number of those out on the streets had more than doubled. At last week’s full Council Westminster Conservatives passed the annual budget including cuts of over £800,000 to the rough sleeping budget. The cuts were opposed by Labour Councillors who were sceptical of Conservative claims the cuts could be delivered through ‘efficiencies’ without effecting front line services. 30 bed spaces have already been lost in 2015 with the closure of the Bayswater hostel.

Labour Housing spokesperson Councillor Tim Roca said:

“It’s scarcely believable at a time when rough sleeping is the worst it’s been for decades, that Westminster Tories would choose now to slash funding. Saying that the cuts can be delivered without effecting front line services misses the point that more money not less is needed, in tackling a problem which is now Dickensian in its proportions. How Conservative Councillors can support such cuts, whilst refusing to roll back on free dinners for Councillors or making savings in the Lord Mayor’s Office shows a heartlessness that can barely be conceived.”

Westminster counts data (the number of individuals counted on one night within a month) shows that rough sleeping has increased by 136% (when March 2012 counts are compared to November 2015 counts –  the latest data used by Westminster in framing its Rough Sleeper strategy). The Greater London rough sleeping numbers have increased by 33% when the 2011/2012 figures are compared to 2014/2015.

Posted in Council Budget, Council cuts, Labour Councillors, Rough Sleepers, Westminster City Council, Westminster Conservatives, Westminster Council waste | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Westminster Labour challenge loss of the Chinese Coordinator at Charing Cross Library

Despite the strong community protests and a campaign supported by Westminster Labour Group in autumn 2016 Westminster Council Conservatives have pushed ahead with their plans to cut £750,000 from Westminster’s library budget. Although our public pressure helped to save a few of the frontline posts, it has become clear that the cuts have included the post of Chinese Services Coordinator who manages the work of the Westminster Chinese Library at Charing Cross Library, home to one of the largest collections of Chinese materials in the country with over 50,000 Chinese language books and other resources. The council plans to replace this hugely experienced specialist with a ‘Community Development Manager’ covering resources for members of all of Westminster’s hugely diverse BAME communities.

This short sighted decision has caused deep anger in London’s Chinese community as the library is an important resource for nearby Chinatown. Labour Councillors Adam Hug and Paul Dimoldenberg have written urgently to Westminster’s Chief Executive and the Director of Libraries and Archives demanding an explanation and challenging the lack of prior consultation with the Chinese community about this damaging change.

Posted in Chinatown, Library, Library cuts | 3 Comments

Standing up for private renters: West End Labour wants to hear your views

WE action teamThe West End Labour Action Team has launched its 5 point plan for private renters.

The team is calling on residents, businesses and workers in the West End to feedback their views. Click here to get your voice heard.

The plan brings forward ambitious proposals to tackle the fact that private tenants are paying more and more in rent and yet many have to put up with poor living conditions like damp.

At a time when the prospect of home ownership remains a distant prospect for many, the West End Labour Action Team is calling on Westminster Council to stand up for ‘Generation Rent’ and make sure tenants get a fair deal.

Pancho Lewis, of the West End Labour team said: “More than 40% of residents rent, and the average tenant pays nearly half of their income in rent. And yet far too many tenants live in substandard accommodation. It’s just not on – we need to tackle this issue. Our 5 point plan puts forward ideas to make sure tenants who are being let down are given a fair deal“.

Patrick Lilley, also of the West End Labour Action Team, said: “We’re calling on the community to give us their views on our proposals. We want to work with residents in the West End to develop these ideas so we can make a real difference to people living in the private rented sector.”

Click here to feedback your views.

West End Labour proposes a five point plan to:

1. Support the Mayor’s London living rent policy.

Rent levels would be set at one-third of average local incomes. This will help households typically earning between £35,000 and £45,000, who are currently renting privately. Westminster Council should lead the way in embracing the London Living Rent.

2. Set up a not-for-profit lettings agency for good landlords.

This would give renters confidence, helping do away with the high fees tenants can be charged as well as promoting longer-term tenancies and stabilising rents.

3. Celebrate landlords who do a good job, and name and shame those who don’t.

We will name and shame rogue landlords whilst celebrating landlords that punch above their weight in providing tenants with a high quality service.

4. Protect renters from revenge evictions.

Tenants are often evicted for requesting repairs to badly maintained properties. A new law brought forward in 2015 to help prevent revenge evictions has failed. New rules are needed so that when landlords fail to carry out repairs within a reasonable time frame, tenants can carry out repairs and have the costs deducted from rent.

5. Encourage more build-to-rent developments.

This will mean young professionals and middle income families can afford to live in Westminster.

To feedback your views please complete this form here.

Posted in Private landlords, Private rented housing, Private rents, West End, West End WArd Labour Action Team | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Labour Councillors call for an end to Tory spin on the Nine Elms Bridge to nowhere

nine-elms-bridgeChurchill Labour Councillors Jason Williams and Shamim Talukder have criticised Wandsworth Council for pushing forward its controversial plans for a pedestrian and cycle bridge from Nine Elms to Pimlico.

Cllr Shamim Talker said: “Residents were surprised to hear that Wandsworth are still continuing to pour Council Tax payers money into funding a bridge to nowhere. The Mayor has already made it quite clear that the project can only go ahead with support in Westminster which the project has not got.”

Cllr Jason Williams and Shamim Talukder have written to Westminster Council Leader Nickie Aiken asking her to outline what the Council has done in the past two years to lobby their Tory colleagues in Wandsworth to drop their plans for a bridge and to ask for a commitment that the Council is against landing spaces in Churchill and well as in Tachbrook ward.

Cllr Williams said:

“Tory Councillors were promising residents there would be a Public Inquiry into the bridge when this only really resulted in it being on the Environment Committee agenda in January 2016 and no follow up since. Pimlico doesn’t want this bridge at any location and we need firm action from the Council not more Tory spin.”
Please help us send a clear message to Wandsworth that the bridge is unwanted by signing our petition at: http://www.westminsterlabour.co.uk/nineelmsbridge

Posted in Churchill Ward, Labour Councillors, Nine Elms to Pimlico bridge, Pimlico | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Westminster Labour challenges huge proposed rent rise by Genesis Housing Association

Cllr Adam Hug, on behalf of Westminster Labour Group, and Karen Buck MP have written to the Valuation Office Agency, the Government body that adjudicates changes to regulated tenancies, to oppose plans by Genesis to hike rents for secure tenants by between 20-50% as they attempt to raise their secure rents to ‘target rent’ levels. This move would have a significant and damaging impact on tenant’s finances, and given Genesis’ track record poor customer service and selling off, but not building, social housing in Westminster there is no guarantee that the residents would see any benefit from such a rent rise. They have also written to Genesis Chief Executive Neil Hadden to express their opposition to the proposals.

A copy of the letter to the Valuation Office Agency is attached here.

Posted in Affordable Housing, Genesis, Housing, Housing Associations | 1 Comment