My report from City Hall
No.34: 5th May 2016 to 15th June 2016
Wecome to my first update from City Hall after the elections on 5th May, and to the new regime at City Hall, with our new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
May I firstly thank all those who voted for me to continue as your London Assembly member, and for your continued confidence in me to represent you on the Assembly. If you did not vote for me, I will still do my best to represent you, as I will all my Assembly constituents.
City Hall is gearing up again under the new Mayor, as he appoints his team and as we reconstitute our committees. I will again be serving on the Fire Authority, the Polce and Crime Committee and the Regeneration Committee all as before, as well as returning to the Economy Committee.
Normal sevice is resuming and as I promised in my last report before the election, whoever became the new Mayor of London, I would do my best to carry out effective scrutiny!.
Much of the time since the election has bene taken up by the fallout from the election maladministration fiasco in Barnet (see below), with so many people losing their right to vote.
As we will soon have the referendum over the European Union, for this edition only my monthly quiz question is on the EU instead of London:
This month’s quiz question: (answer at the end):
Q:. Only one country has ever left the EEC/ EU: which was it?
2 Contents and just some of the highlights : links to headers need refreshing
11 Problem solving and casework
12 Quiz answer
1 Europe and the Referendum
By the time of my next report, the Referendum will be over and we will know our ‘Eurofate’, one way or another.
Quite a few people have been asking for objective facts about the vote. The most balanced thing I have read was the unanimous report of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed by MPs from both sides of the issue, and I would recommend it to you.
It makes no recommendations to how you should vote but analyses the various arguments for and against pretty effectively in my view.
My own vote will be for ‘Remain’.
I have a new page on my website about the EU:
and I have published some single page factsheets and put links to other materials too.
We held a debate in the Assembly on the issue, as it affects London, in which I spoke, explaining that I had voted ‘no ‘ in 1975 and how and why my opinion had changed since then. This is the motion that the Assembly passed.
You may be interested in these items too:
2 Barnet election fiasco
As I expect you are aware, Barnet’s organisation of the London elections was seriously deficient, I have a new page on my website about what has been going on, and the aftermath.
Every polling station had only the supplementary, not the full register. Luckily, the margins of the majorities for the elections were such that the result was not affected, but nevertheless hundreds of people lost their right to vote.
Whilst Barnet’s Chief Executive has left by ‘mutual agreement’, no-one has accepted political responsibility for what happened.
I have compiled a dossier of all the complaints refreed to me, which I have submitted to the different investigations and the Electoral Commission. Barnet’s acting Chief Executive has agreed that he will now write to everyone who complained to me about their individual cases, as the complaints covered a wide range of problems, not just the ‘wrong register’ issue. Rather more people wrote to me, than to the Council about their problems!
We held a debate at City Hall’s AGM, in which I spoke.
City Hall has also set up an inquiry to which I have submitted evidence, including an anonymised copy of my dossier.
Barnet Council set up its own investigation, under Mark Heath, the Returning Officer of Southampton Council, but it was woefully deficient, in that its terms of reference were confined only to the electoral register issue and did not cover the recurring systemic problems which happen all the time in Barnet elections, for example the poor state of the register, postal votes, proxy votes and polling station location and management.
I am also concerned that there were serious conflicts of interest in their investigation.
The Council has since accepted that the wider points I have been making are valid, and will investigate them ‘over the summer’, with a report by the ‘end of the year’: far too late for the referendum!
In the meantime, Mr Heath’s report, so far as it goes, can be read here under item 6. It was debated at the Council’s General Functions Committee (which in my view, as the oversight committee for elections has itself a conflict of interest), to which I submitted a list of 30 questions myself and to which I spoke and raised many oral supplementaries, but got few answers.
In view of the voter registration deadline for the referendum being extended, this time due to central Government problems, I also wrote to the Council, to establish if they were able to cope, an issue I also raised at this meeting: they assured me they would cope, but as the referendum team is essentially the same staff as the London elections team, the ‘jury is out’, as far as I am concerned.
Whilst Barnet’s Chief Executive left under a cloud ‘by mutual agreement’ with a so far undisclosed payoff, I believe that leading councillors should not be allowed to escape their own political accountability for what happened, though so far they show no sign of accepting their responsibility, even though one of the answers to my questions showed that the General Functions Committee has an elections ‘oversight’ role.
3 Transport and HS2
The Mayor has appointed Val Shawcross (formerly a long serving Assembly Member and chair of Transport Committee) as deputy Mayor for Transport. Val’s confirmation hearing was successful.
Having lodged a petition against the HS2 Bill in the House of Lords, I have been informed that HS2 are challenging my right to object. There will be a hearing soon at which the Lords Committee will decide if my petition can stand or not.
In the meantime, I used my question at the Assembly Transport Plenary session with the Mayor and Transport Commissioner to raise the issue of HS2.
I thought the Mayor’s answer was helpful and I am trying to negotiate an early date for him to visit Euston to see for himself. I also tabled written questions which can be seen here
I welcomed the Mayor’s early announcement of the hoppa bus ticket, enabling passengers to change buses once for the same fare, as the first step to a multi-transfer fare to come, when the technology has been set up for it.
4 Community cohesion
At the first Mayor’s Question Time, I raised the issue of community cohesion, after the very divisive election campaign run by the Conservatives. I also particularly focussed on the issue of Anti-Semitism.
I was pleased to see that Sadiq Khan made his first official visit to the Yom Hashoah event at Copthall Allianz Park, which I also attended.
The Mayor has appointed Sophie Linden, the deputy Mayor of Hackney, as his deputy Mayor for Policing (she will give up her Hackney role). We held a confirmation hearing for her appointment.
I have had a preliminary ‘off the record’ discussion with her about the issues that are concerning people in the two boroughs, and we have our first full formal q and a session with her early next month.
6 Planning and Housing
I took the opportunity of the first Mayor’s Question Time to raise the plight of residents in Barnet’s West Hendon and Grahame Park regenerations, who have had such a raw deal from the Conservative Council.
This is an issue to which I will return, as I am very concerned that Barnet should no longer get away with approving developments with such a small percentage of affordable homes.
In this respect, I attended Barnet’s Planning Committee and spoke against the unsuitable proposed development in Edgware at Premier Place, which Barnet nevertheless approved, as they did a similar scheme in Colindale/Burnt Oak for Imperial House, both schemes with nowhere near enough affordable homes.
It is clear that one of the key issues in the Mayor’s term will be the fight to improve air quality in London. He has already uncovered concerns that the true picture was being concealed by the previous Mayor in Barnet and in Camden.
I believe that our EU membership is vital to these efforts to improve our air:
The Barnet Abbotts Depot issue has arisen again, when it was found Barnet did not conduct proper checks before work began.
8 Fire Authority
This will be the last year of the Fire Authority before it is abolished next year. We have yet to fully reconstitute the Authority for the year, though the Mayor has appointed Fiona Twycross AM, formerly the deputy Chair, as Chair of the Authority.
9 Mayor’s report
The Mayor produces a report of his activities and announcements for presentation at each Mayor’s Question Time: I thought you would like to have a link to this.
10 Written questions to the Mayor I tabled a range of written questions. You can see the answers here. If you have suggestions for questions that you would like me to ask the Mayor, please email me.
11 Problem solving and casework Arjun Mittra has been reappointed as my City Hall assistant who manages incoming correspondence, casework and my diary: Arjun.Mittra@london.gov.uk
12 Finally, the quiz question answer: Q:. Only one country has ever left the EEC/ EU: which was it?
A: A trick question! Algeria, as part of France, was part of the EEC until becoming independent on 5th July 1962, then leaving the EEC.
Andrew Dismore AM London Assembly Member for Barnet & Camden