My report from City Hall, July 2016
No.35: 16th June 2016 to 22nd July 2016
May I firstly wish all my readers a belated Eid Mubarak to mark the end of Ramadan?
We are clearly at a time of great political and economic upheaval, with the consequences of the Brexit vote, the Conservative leadership ‘non-contest’ leading to Theresa May taking over as Prime Minister, and the election campaigns for the Labour leadership.
As far as Brexit is concerned, this raises serious and immediate issues for London economically and politically: I hope you had a chance to read my recent ‘Brexit special’ report on what is a fast moving subject, which I am bringing up to date as far as City Hall is concerned in this report. I will be putting further information on my website’s Brexit page as and when it becomes available.
This month’s quiz question: (answer at the end):
Q: After the arguments I had from disgruntled readers over my last month’s question and answer (which was correct!), a Great Fire question to mark its 350th anniversary on 2nd September:
What did Samuel Pepys bury in his garden during the Great Fire?
9 Mayor’s report
10 Written questions to the Mayor
11 Problem solving and casework
12 Quiz answer
1 Europe and ‘Brexit’
We continue to deal with the consequences of Brexit at City Hall. The immediate challenge is to spread the word to the rest of the world, that London remains open for business despite the vote, which is one reason why Mayor Sadiq Khan has launched #LondonIsOpen, a major campaign to show that London is united, open for business and open to the world following the EU referendum. #LondonIsOpen will show Londoners and people everywhere that London remains entrepreneurial, international, and full of creativity and opportunities, while reassuring the more than one million foreign nationals who live in London that they will always be welcome. The Mayor is asking everyone to get involved with the campaign. Please spread the word that London is united, full of creativity and open for business. We can all send this simple, positive message to the world: #LondonIsOpen.
A few things you can share about this campaign:
At this month’s Mayor’s Question Time, I asked the Mayor about the possibility of special arrangements for London, if it looked like we were being short changed by the Government’s Brexit ministers. The Mayor stressed the importance of protecting London’s jobs and prosperity, the need for London to be in the single market to succeed and the importance of more devolution to the capital. He confirmed that nothing was ‘off the table’.
I have also prepared the first of what I plan to be a series of factual briefings on the Brexit issues as they affect London.
Finally, I think that the debate at the last Assembly plenary meeting says it all about UKIP, whose sole proposal was to take down the EU flag outside City Hall.
At June’s Mayor’s Question Time, I asked Sadiq about the poor performance of broadband roll out across London, this time using an example from Totteridge. This is a theme I have raised before, and no doubt will again, until BT start delivering decent connectivity.
At the Economy Committee meeting the Tuesday before the referendum, we looked at the state of London’s economy without reference to the EU, (which we were not allowed to do, due to what I consider to be over prescriptive ‘purdah’ rules). I particularly focussed on low pay and zero hours contracts.
We had an extra Economy Committee session on the following Wednesday to have an early look at the implications of Brexit: I partly cover this in my EU briefing section above and its links. I focussed on aspects of devolution to London, including immigration policy.
I followed up on this theme at Mayor’s Question Time (see Europe and Brexit section above).
I attended the House of Lords HS2 hearing on ‘locus’ , HS2 having challenged my right and that of many others to petition against the scheme. I regret to say that the Lords rejected my right to be heard, along with the local ward councillors and all the MPs, too.
I am organising a visit for Sadiq Khan to Euston to see and hear at first hand about HS2.
Also of HS2 interest, I also visited the Old Oak Common development site (see section on planning below)
I and Labour Assembly Member colleagues have raised with the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, some of the issues that are likely to affect residents when the night tube starts, including noise from trains, track and stations, toilet facilities, and anti social behaviour by passengers who get off the tube at night.
I am pleased to say that I have secured a result, at least for the time being, concerning the ‘cross boundary’ bus services between Barnet and Hertfordshire, which were under threat due to the decision of Conservative Hertfordshire Council to cut their share of the funding for these bus routes . Val has confirmed to me that TfL will continue to provide the services.
I am also in active correspondence with Val about step-free access at Mill Hill East and West Hampstead Jubilee line tube stations.
TfL are consulting on changes to bus routes 13, 82, 113, 139 and 189 that operate in the ‘Baker Street corridor’ area serving Golders Green, Finchley Road, Abbey Road, Baker Street and Oxford Street. This is a revised proposal following feedback received during a previous consultation held in spring 2015, which resulted in extensive opposition to the plans for route 13. Further information and a response form are available on TfL’s website: www.tfl.gov.uk/consultations including full details, maps and frequency information. The consultation closes on Friday 30 September 2016. If you have any views you’d like to pass on to me too, please email me accordingly.
Finally, it looks like I might also be making some progress with road safety near Torriano School in Camden Town, after a useful site visit with TfL.
There can be little doubt that community cohesion has taken a knock post the Brexit vote, with the increase in hate crime ( see policing and EU sections above) we have experienced in the capital.
Nevertheless there are many events which work to bring people together. I attended, along with Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Ramadan Iftar at Finchley Reform Synagogue organised by the Somali Bravanese community.
I also attended ‘Gefiltefest’ at JW3; the Cyprus business exhibition and wine festival at Alexandra Palace ; the Georgian community event in Boundary Road; Barnet’s Multi Faith Forum; and the consecration of the new St Peter’s Church, Edgware, amongst a number of such events.
Given the importance of the issue, I now produce a separate, more detailed report on policing issues, which you can access here.
If you would like to be added to my email list for these, please email me back, accordingly.
This month’s Assembly full plenary session was on the subject of policing and crime with the Mayor and Police Commissioner. I questioned them on the surge in Race Hate Crime, post the Brexit Referendum.
Our 29th June Police and Crime Committee meeting was our first ‘Q and A’ session with Sophie Linden , the new Deputy Mayor for Policing and with the Deputy Commissioner. Subjects I asked about were safer neighbourhood policing and the probable borough mergers; the upsurge of moped related crime and displacement of this crime from Camden northwards; and the decision of Westminster Council to withdraw CCTV from the West End.
Our 14th July the Police and Crime Committee meeting was on the subject of serious youth violence: I focussed on the main ‘drivers’ of these offences.
The 19th July session was another Q and A session with the Deputy Mayor and Deputy Commissioner. I again asked detailed questions about hate crime. The best estimate is that 80% of these offences go unreported, so there is much to be done to make ‘zero tolerance’ a reality.
I also led the questioning on the Met.’s budget, including the uncertainties of the funding formula review and also the way the Government does not properly reimburse London for the policing costs of our capital city functions.
More importantly, though, I challenged the panel in some detail about the budget implications for safer neighbourhood policing in both boroughs, as I had learned that inspectors and sergeants were being cut to pay for the increase in centralised firearms officers, having previously been assured that safer neighbourhood policing would not be affected by this.
I returned to this theme the next day at the last MQT before the summer, as it is clear the Met are still implementing the policies of the previous Mayor, reminding the new Mayor of his pledges to implement ‘real’ neighbourhood policing in the forthcoming Policing and Crime plan.
The following day, Sadiq Khan announced that every London ward will have two dedicated Police Officers plus a Police Community Support Officer by the end of next year. This seems to have begun in Barnet already. The object of the allocation of a second officer to each ward will help the Met. improve relations with local communities and deliver on the Mayor’s pledge to “re-establish real neighbourhood policing.” The officers will be drawn from existing resources and will be ‘ring-fenced’ from being called away to other duties. As this is very recent news, the information is still quite sketchy and I am trying to find more details of what this means for the wards in our two boroughs. I will report further on this next time after I have met both Borough Commanders which meetings are scheduled over the next month.
I also raised with the Mayor the consequences of the apparent impunity of those who wave the flags of proscribed terrorist organisations on protest marches.
As usual, I asked a full range of written questions to the Mayor about policing.
6 Planning, Housing and Regeneration
The Mayor has appointed Jules Pipe, currently the Mayor of Hackney, to be his Deputy Mayor for Planning. Jules will take up his position shortly.
In the meantime, I have had a preliminary discussion with the Deputy Mayor for Housing, James Murray. Whilst the Mayor cannot overrule previous decisions of the former Mayor, including those that had already had a ‘stage 1’ ruling from him, it has now been made clear to Barnet Council that the Mayor will be expecting a much higher proportion of affordable homes in planning applications put to the Mayor for approval.
The key to really being able to make progress on this vital issue is the need to make alterations to the London Plan, which sets out the policy framework. We are expecting a draft for consultation in the autumn.
Old Oak Common in West London is one of the biggest regeneration sites in the capital. I visited this huge site on 14 July with the Regeneration Committee, particularly to look at the HS2 angle- there will now be an HS2 /Crossrail 1 interchange; I have been arguing that HS2 should terminate at Old Oak Common and they confirmed that they could cope with this.
The Regeneration Committee formal meeting was to start our inquiry into the role of culture and regeneration creative placemaking.
Finally, regeneration can lead to strange results in Barnet, where they didn’t seem to know that the new streets in Grahame Park are actually in the borough!
The Mayor has announced an important consultation on measures to improve air quality in the capital to which you may want to contribute.
See also my call for a diesel car scrappage scheme.
Flash flooding has become a growing problem in parts of the constituency, especially in the west of Barnet where overdevelopment is, in my view, contributing to the problem. I also met Thames Water senior managers to discuss the problem with them, having previously held a site visit with Barnet Council officers and the Environment Agency, who have yet to deliver on their promises of action.
At June’s Mayor’s questions, I raised with the Mayor the forthcoming Fire Safety Plan, due in 2017, and in particular, whether it was going to be cost driven or risk driven.
I attended the Finchley Fire Station Open Day; and the Highgate Cemetery memorial service for firefighters who over the years gave their lives in the line of duty.
9 Mayor’s report
10 Written questions to the Mayor
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 is my City Hall assistant who manages incoming correspondence, casework and my diary: Arjun.Mittra@london.gov.uk
12 Finally, the quiz question answer
Q:. With the 400th anniversary of the Great Fire on 2nd September, a Great Fire question: what did Samuel Pepys bury in his garden during the Great Fire?
A: His cheese.
Andrew Dismore AM Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden