Monthly Update: Reporting back to you from City Hall: October – November 2012
My report from City Hall
No.5: 5th October to 14th November 2012
In last month’s report to you, I particularly focussed on the dire position facing the London Fire Brigade as a result of the cuts being demanded by Mayor Boris Johnson: over the next two years, cuts of £64.8m about 25% of the Fire Brigade’s total budget. I also gave the background last month, to the campaign to get the details of the cuts into the open, blocked by the Liberal Democrat and the Green Parties working with the Conservatives, and what this scale of cuts was likely to mean.
Over the last month, the City Hall Labour Group has had a real push on the emergency services cuts – fire, police, and Accident and Emergency hospital services – including at Mayor’s Question Time where I challenged the Mayor and the chair of the Fire Authority over the scale of the cuts.
Belsize Fire Station under threat
We now have further details of the fire cuts, as the result of a leak to the BBC. 17 fire stations in London are on the “preferred list” for closure, but with only 28 stations guaranteed not to close, even the remaining 84 cannot be considered safe.
Whilst the “preferred list” is not final, as this will depend on the ultimate budget which will not now be set till the New Year, on this list is Belsize Fire Station, which must be seen as very vulnerable. The impact, if this fire station closes, is of course way beyond the immediate neighbourhood of Belsize, as fire stations support each other when more than one fire engine is needed. An example of this is a relief appliance from Belsize Fire Station that was sent to the recent fire at a mansion on Bishops Avenue, only a few days ago. If there is a large fire, dozens of fire engines are on the move, either to the fire itself or to provide cover at stations from where their fire engine has been called to the emergency.
I have started a consultation campaign about the future of Belsize Fire Station. To download this, click here.
We are still waiting to see the impact of the next round of Mayor Johnson’s police cuts: the Met has been told it has to find a staggering £500m.
At Mayor’s Question Time and (in subsequent correspondence) I asked the Mayor about the plan to merge the Barnet and Harrow Borough commanders’ posts into one, based on the briefing I had received from the Barnet Borough Commander. We now have a victory of sorts, as since then, the Mayor has said that he will not approve this downgrading, this may still be a risk, as the Police Commissioner considers this to be an operational matter for him to decide, an issue we flushed out during the Budget committee questioning of the police senior management over the implementation of the cuts (LINK). Harrow & Brent’s Navin Shah AM and I wrote jointly to the Mayor about this proposed merger. The Mayor has replied insisting that these plans have been shelved.
We also know that police stations will close, but no list has yet been formally provided. Those under threat must include Hampstead and Whetstone, but with the Mayor only committed to one 24/7 police station per borough, this raises questions also over the future of Kentish Town, Albany St, Golders Green and Barnet, all of which could be closed and possibly replaced by a part time counter elsewhere, in a supermarket for example.
The Peel Centre, the police training college in Colindale, is also in large part for the chop, with a proposal for a massive private housing scheme on the site. I am concerned that with all the other development in the area, the local community and infrastructure will not be able to support this: I have launched a consultation amongst local residents. The consultation can be downloaded by clicking here.
Last month also saw the transfer of Camden‘s well respected Police Borough Commander, Ch. Supt. Sutherland, with no notice or consultation, making nonsense of partnership working. I expressed my dissatisfaction about this to the Deputy Mayor for Policing.
Police numbers in both the Boroughs are not what they should be either, with huge cuts since the Conservative/LibDem coalition government came to power. I regularly ask for the details at Mayor’s question time. For up to date figures for Barnet click here: and for Camden, click here.
Mayor’s Question Time: other issues
I also challenged the Mayor, over his claim that TfL staff are all paid the London Living Wage, having established that cleaners on the DLR do not get this, (and indeed it appears seem may not even get the national minimum wage) based on what I was informed by their trades union. The Mayor does not seem to be in any hurry to rectify this appalling state of affairs. To read the transcript of this meeting, click here.
As usual, I also tabled a full range of written questions, mainly raising constituency issues affecting Barnet and Camden, the questions and answers can be found (LINK).
If there are any questions you would like me to put to the Mayor in the next MQT round, please email my assistant Adam (details below) to let me know.
This City Hall committee, which I chair, has now concluded the evidence gathering phase of our inquiry into the problems of the high street with our last formal evidence session at City Hall. I expect our report will be out in the New Year.
I sit on the Transport Committee at City Hall. We are about to publish our report on cycling in the capital.
Our last session concerned an update question and answer session about the tube with TfL managers, and I took the opportunity to raise a number of Northern and Jubilee line issues. You can watch it by clicking here.
The details of the Mayor’s next year’s extortionate fares increases have also now been published, put out on the same day as the US presidential elections, “conveniently” pushing the announcement down the news agenda. Mayor Johnson has presided over a 26.3% increase in transport costs since becoming Mayor in 2008.
I also sit on this committee. I have referred above to our session with the police, over the cuts. We also had an evidence session over the Olympics finances, and published our report on the compensation arrangements for last year’s riots.
My consultations currently open
If you wish to comment as part of the following consultations please do so:
Press releases and public letters
I have published a number of press releases and letters, links as follows:
Barnet (Andrew Dismore) & Enfield (Joanne McCartney) Assembly Members object to Cat Hill development
Problem solving and casework
My Research & Support Officer is Adam Langleben, who manages incoming correspondence, casework and my appointments firstname.lastname@example.org
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Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden