Labour demand information on Westminster Council plans to charge homeless families £12 a week to store possessions

Labour Councillors have called on Westminster Council to release all the internal emails and reports about a letter which was sent to households in temporary accommodation telling them their possessions could be destroyed if they did not pay a weekly storage charge.

The letter stated that from 1st May, households in temporary accommodation would be charged £12 a week for each crate of items the council holds in storage. The council does not charge for this service under its existing policy. The letter to families in temporary accommodation said that if payment was not received by 1st May then the possessions would be destroyed. The letter added one storage container would normally hold one flat’s worth of possessions.

The Council claims the letter was sent by mistake.

In a letter to Council Chief Executive, Charlie Parker, Queen’s Park Labour Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg said:

“Please can I have copies of all the letters, emails, background papers and other written material relating to the Council’s proposals to charge homeless families £12 per week per box of possessions in storage or the contents will be destroyed. I understand that these proposals have now been withdrawn but would like to understand how such a mean and nasty proposal could ever be conceived by the Council.”

Posted in Council finances, Council tenants, Homeless Families, Labour Councillors, Westminster City Council, Westminster Council waste | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Labour calls for housing associations to be held to account

At the recent Westminster Fairer Housing Conference, organised by Karen Buck and Westminster Labour group, the deep worries about the behaviour of housing associations in Westminster was the main concern for many attendees, as reported by this article in the Guardian. Many housing associations have been increasingly focused on housebuilding, often for private sale and for homes that stretch reasonable definitions of affordability beyond breaking point, egged on by a Conservative government that slashed investment in new homes after the election in 2010.

Now, as part of a dodgy accounting trick to remove housing association debt from the government balance sheet, the 2016 Housing Act has removed a whole range of protections that had been in place to try and ensure housing associations serve the best interests of their residents. Even under the old rules housing associations had been selling off hundreds of social homes in Westminster and not replacing them here, but deregulation will make the problem even worse by removing the need for the regulator to approve sales, even to private companies and with tenants still living in those homes. The housing associations will now be free to spend the money from sales of properties funded by government grant on whatever they want. They will also no longer need approval to change their constitutions and boards, making it easier for them to become even more commercial in the way they behave.

Despite multiple Tory U-turns on making it compulsory, there is still pressure on housing associations to ‘voluntarily’ apply a ‘pay to stay scheme’ for families with total household incomes before tax of over £40,000. Karen Buck and Cllr Adam Hug have recently called on the Valuation Office Agency to reject proposals by Genesis Housing to hike rents for secure tenants by between 20-50% and there are fears that deregulation will lead to further rent hikes.

Nationally Labour are opposed to the Tories’ pernicious 2016 Housing Act, which also threatens huge damage to Westminster’s Council homes. Locally Labour are calling for Westminster Council to set up a preferred provider system so that housing associations that treat residents poorly or sell off social homes without replacing them are not eligible for Section 106 contracts as part of private housing schemes and are not able to partner with the council on joint projects.

Housing association residents are mobilising to hold their associations to account, so that they comply with their original missions to provide decent homes for those on lower incomes. Labour stands with them both nationally and here in Westminster.

Posted in Affordable Housing, Genesis, Housing, Housing Associations, Social Housing, Social Housing Rent | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Register to Vote – www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

The deadline to register to vote is Monday 22 May and residents can register at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Anyone who is already registered to vote does not need to re-register. If you have moved home in the last few months and have not registered to vote at your new address you still have time to register at your new location.

The other key dates to note are

  • the postal vote application deadline which is 5pm, Tuesday 23 May
  • the proxy vote application deadline is 5pm, Wednesday 31 May

More information can be found by visiting www.westminster.gov.uk/general-election-2017

Posted in Karen Buck MP, Voter Registration, Westminster City Council | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Success for Labour’s Rita Begum at Paddington Rec

Labour Councillor Rita Begum’s campaign to get baby changing and wheel chair facilities located in the Pavilion toilets at Paddington Recreation Ground has been successful.

Labour’s Councillor for Maida Vale has received the good news from Sean Stewart at the Council who told her:

“I’m pleased to be able to tell you that we have had the prestart meeting for the works to refurbish the gym including the  provision of new toilets and baby changing facilities in the main pavilion and a new fully accessible toilet and baby changing facility in the main café area. The new toilet in the café area will have a ‘radar key’ facility which will ensure only appropriate patrons of the cafe will be able to use this new facility.”

In March 2017, Councillor Begum submitted a petition to the Council, signed by 38 residents, calling for baby changing and wheelchair facilities in the main pavilion. The petition argued:

“There is no baby changing or wheel chair user toilet available inside cafe and a lot of the users have to go out of the cafe to use the toilet located on the other side of the building. Especially in cold weather it causes so much inconvenience for parents of young children to go out when their child is in desperate need of using the toilet facility.”

Councillor Begum said:

“I am very pleased with the outcome of my petition. As a parent of young children myself, I am looking forward to having a toilet inside the café. This will be so much better as parents will now not have to leave the cafe to take their children in an emergency to the toilet.  Wheelchairs users, too, will be able use the new toilets without leaving cafe. “

Posted in Children, Labour Councillors, Maida Vale, Paddington Rec, Rita Begum, Westminster North | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Karen Buck – What this Election is about

It’s about our future relationship with Europe – but much more besides

Here in Westminster North, electors voted to ‘remain’ by a margin of more than two to one. Since then local people have never stopped expressing their concerns to me- about the risk to jobs, businesses and prosperity of a ‘hard Brexit’ or, worse, ending up in 2 years with no deal at all, facing tariffs and other trade barriers with our nearest neighbours and biggest trade partner. I think Brexit- and in particular the most extreme and damaging version now being pushed- out of the single market, out of the customs union- is bad for our economy and our country. I understand, too, the reasons that drove many people to vote ‘leave’- but of course no-one, whichever side they were on last year, voted to be poorer as a result.

Many people have been horrified by the plight of EU residents here and Britons living in Europe, who have built their lives on a foundation that’s now been removed from under them. These people should not become ‘bargaining chips’ in the EU negotiations. They deserve to have their positions settled as a matter of urgency. Sadly, there has also been a rise in hate crime and intolerance since last year; totally out of keeping with our values as an open, safe and diverse city, and that is something we can unite against and declare wholly unacceptable.

I voted against the triggering of the Article 50 Bill in Parliament because I was not prepared to accept the risks that Brexit poses for local people, who had, after all, decisively rejected this outcome.

Since the referendum I have also been supporting the case for:

  • Maintenance of barrier-free access to the single market;
  • Retaining all the rights – workers’, environmental and human – we currently enjoy as members of the EU;
  • The rights of EU residents in this country;
  • A close, collaborative future partnership with the EU;
  • A meaningful vote on the final deal at the end of the Article 50 negotiations- not a ‘take it or leave it’ vote which is no real choice

The Tories used their Commons majority to vote down our amendments to the Article 50 Bill, but I will continue to press these demands and to oppose a hard Brexit.

Let be me clear, if the deal which will be negotiated over the coming 2 years does not deliver for the people of this country I will vote against it.

I’m willing to fight this election on the question of Europe and the crucial importance of not allowing what happens next to be waved through Parliament by an anti-European Conservative party.

But I also want it to be about more than that.

A society such as ours should be able to guarantee a decent quality of life for all and to make the investment- in educating our young people as much as in homes and transport- which will lay the foundations for the future. Of course, as the Conservatives have already threatened, turning us into a global tax haven and slashing protection for workers and consumers will permanently cut our ability to deliver decent services and support for the vulnerable. We must not go down that path. But even before we face any such choices, there are still decisions we can make about which way we want to go as a country.

Spending cuts hit schools for the first time in decades

Government plans to move education funding away from London, together with a funding squeeze overall, will take £7 million out of Westminster school budgets. Not every school is equally hard hit but many primary and secondary schools will lose huge sums. Westminster secondary school heads have written to me to warn, “many of the gains made in Westminster Schools will be at risk”.

London’s deepening housing crisis

Homelessness has risen 130% since 2010. That was not inevitable – in the previous ten years under Labour it fell by three quarters. But this is only the worst symptom of the housing crisis, which sees developers building luxury blocks for sale overseas, while local people cannot afford to rent or buy anything in the borough.

The government will not build affordable homes, will not give meaningful help to lower income people seeking to get onto the housing ladder and will not tackle the high rents and low standards in the private rented sector. All around we can see evidence of luxury flats under construction whilst long-term residents, including many doing the work that keeps the city going, are being priced out.

Our health and social care services

This has been the worst winter for the NHS in many years, as it suffers the biggest financial squeeze in its history. The Imperial Hospital Trust was deeply in deficit in 2016, and I am hearing more and more stories of lengthening waits and cancellations. The deep cuts to social care for elderly and disabled people – down by a third in Westminster – are trapping people in hospitals who should be able to be cared for at home, and this has backed up into problems across the whole hospital service.

And there are lots of specific local issues too.

As your MP I have never stopped campaigning and assisting local people with their concerns. In the last year alone I have responded to over 6000 problems or policy enquiries. And in the last two years I have worked on issues from the threatened closure of St John’s Wood Post Office to the ending of all council funding for Westminster’s youth service and after-school clubs, from fly-tipping to air quality, from basement excavations to the impact of short-lets and from support for our Safer Neighbourhood Police Teams to help for people facing the loss of disability benefits.

I’ll be out talking to residents from now till polling day, but you don’t have to wait until I knock on your door, though. Let me know about what matters most to you – I’ll be pleased to hear from you!

Karen Buck MP

Website: www.karenbuck.org.uk

Promoted by Andy Whitley on behalf of Karen Buck, both at 4g Shirland Mews, W9

Posted in General Election 2017, Karen Buck MP, Westminster North | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karen Buck – Launching the 2017 General Election Campaign in Westminster North

 

 

 

 

 

I am honoured to have received the trust and support of residents here in North Westminster as your Member of Parliament.

At the General Election on 8 June I will stand as a strong voice for our community, helping thousands of residents every year with issues and problems through my constituency work.

We’ve had a Conservative government since 2010, a Conservative Council since 1963 and a Conservative Mayor of London from 2008 until last year. Now Theresa May has called this election – having promised not to – to try and pack Parliament with Conservatives to do whatever they want, over Brexit and many other policies.

This risks:

  • The worst possible outcome from leaving the EU, damaging jobs and businesses, bringing economic uncertainty and already putting a squeeze on living standards
  • Going ahead with deep cuts to school budgets, hitting London schools hardest
  • Running down our NHS with longer waits for hospital treatment – having already slashed home care for older and disabled people
  • Deepening the housing crisis – building more and more luxury flats while local people can’t afford a home to rent or buy, worsening homelessness (already up by 130% since 2010)

It is more important than ever that we have the balance of a Labour MP fighting in the interests of North Westminster residents – and only a Labour vote here can stop the Conservatives.

I’m looking forward to meeting you in the coming weeks, but please get in touch if you’d like to help with my campaign.

020 8964 4848 or organiser@westminsterlabour.org

http://www.karenbuck.org.uk

Promoted by Andy Whitley on behalf of Karen Buck, both at 4g Shirland Mews, W9

Posted in General Election 2017, Karen Buck MP, Westminster North | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Westminster Labour standing up for fair pay and the London Living Wage

As part of Labour’s campaign to help give working people a fairer deal, the Westminster Labour Group have called on Westminster Council to join 15 other London local authorities and the Greater London Authority in committing to pay the London Living Wage to all their staff and contractors. The Labour Group has submitted a motion to Full Council on May 3rd that would require the Council to ensure that in any new contracts the Council ensures its contractors pay staff working for Westminster at least the London Living Wage. At present a number of major contracts including for residential care homes (Sanctuary Care) and facilities management (Amey) see contracted staff being paid below the London Living Wage for the work they do on behalf of Westminster Council.

Labour in Westminster, both Karen Buck MP and local councillors, are committed to fighting for fairness at work both locally and nationally. Labour believes the London Living Wage can improve the lives of low paid workers and help enhance the quality of service provided to the public, as well as improving staff recruitment and retention. At the coming General Election on June 8th the Labour Party is campaigning to introduce a £10 minimum wage by 2020 to help tackle poverty pay across the country.

Westminster Labour Group have also recently organised a local petition calling on Westminster Council to demand that staff at the Council’s residential care homes, currently sub-contracted to Sanctuary Care, pay the London Living Wage to their staff (over 40% are not). Please sign here the petition here http://petitions.westminster.gov.uk/livingwagecare/

Labour Group Leader Councillor Adam Hug said “At a time when many other councils are committing to treating their staff fairly, Westminster is still taking on contracted staff at well below the London Living Wage. This injustice must stop. Not only is this unfair to those who look after our elderly, clean our buildings and do many other jobs for the Council, it means Westminster will lose out to other councils who treat their staff better, hurting the service provided to residents.”

Labour’s Living Wage Motion for Full Council

The Council notes that a number of its major contractors do not pay the London Living Wage to staff who work on Westminster’s behalf.

It notes the dramatically increased rates of in-work poverty and foodbank use in Westminster and across the country.

It also notes that a number of other London Boroughs such as Camden and Islington are committed to paying the London Living Wage to both their staff and their contractors, with 15 London Authorities and the GLA accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.

The Council believes that low pay is damaging to both workers and the quality of service provision.

It also believes that paying the London Living Wage or above can help improve service quality, staff recruitment and retention.

It also believes that if Westminster does not pay its staff and contractors at least the London Living Wage it will face increasing competition for staff from boroughs that do.

The Council resolves to develop a pay and contracts policy that ensures all directly employed staff and all staff employed by contractors for work in Westminster receive at least the London Living Wage.

It also resolves to enter into discussions with its existing long-term contractors to improve conditions for contracted staff who are currently being paid below the London Living Wage.

Notes

The 15 London Local Authorities accredited by the Living Wage Foundation (and therefore are committed to paying it to both staff and contractors) are 14 Labour controlled boroughs: Brent, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and the Royal Borough of Greenwich; alongside the City of London.

More information about the London Living Wage and how councils, businesses and organisations can become accredited as Living Wage Employers please visit the Living Wage Foundation website http://www.livingwage.org.uk/

Posted in Adult Care, Council Contractors, Council staff, London Living Wage, Social Care | Tagged | Leave a comment