Monthy report from City Hall, Jan 17
My report from City Hall
No.39: 7th December 2016 to 6th January 2017
May I wish all my readers a happy and successful New Year? After the upheavals of 2016, let us hope that 2017 will be a little more stable, but with the uncertainties over Brexit I suspect things may still be up in the air for much of the New Year.
For me, the next month will primarily be taken up with scrutiny of the Mayor’s first budget: se the links below to this.
I have also included a special section this month, over some disturbing developments in our local NHS.
This month’s London quiz question: (answer at the end):
Q Which famous 18th century London writer had a cat called “Hodge”?
Please click the links to the issues that interest you:
2 Economy Committee
10 Written questions to the Mayor
11 Problem solving and casework
12 Quiz answer
1 Europe and ‘Brexit’
At the December Assembly Plenary, I raised the consequences of Brexit on London’s Life Sciences sector.
I also proposed a motion on Medcity.
I have prepared two more detailed Brexit briefings:
Brexit Briefing: High Tech, Life Sciences and Pharmaceuticals.
Sadiq Khan has unveiled his new panel of business leaders, investors and academics who will advise him on the risks, challenges and opportunities for London following the vote to leave the European Union. This new Brexit Expert Advisory Panel will provide on-call advice and guidance to the Mayor. It includes leaders from sectors including financial services, technology, science and the media. Members of the Board are not paid for their roles. Ranging across London’s key economic sectors, members of the panel include Sir George Iacobescu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Canary Wharf Group, Sherry Coutu, Executive Chair of Scaleup Institute, and the former European Trade Commissioner Lord Mandelson. They will be joined by Baroness Vadera, chair of Santander UK, Xavier Rolet, chief executive of the London Stock Exchange Group, and Julia Onslow-Cole, Partner, Legal Markets Leader and Head of Global Immigration at PwC.
In a strongly-worded recent report Parliament’s influential Joint select Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) (which I chaired when I was an MP) highlighted the political uncertainty over the residential status of both EU citizens in the UK and the 1.2 million Britons believed to be living elsewhere within the European Union. Mass deportations of the estimated 2.9 million EU nationals living in the UK would be impractical and they should not be used as a “bargaining chip” in Brexit negotiations, the JCHR warned.
‘Brexit’ — the term most often used to describe the U.K.’s exit from the bloc — contains four sub-definitions in the briefing document, published by the House of Commons library.
You may also be interested in this article in the Guardian, with 20 reasons why Brexit will be even trickier than we thought.
2 Economy Committee
The Economy Committee also focussed on the implications of Brexit for the high tech and pharmaceutical industries.
3 Transport and HS2
The start of January has seen the Mayor meet his pledge to freeze TfL fares, though increase have gone ahead for suburban rail lines, over which the Mayor has no decision making powers, this being for the Government to decide. I think these increases are wrong, especially given the poor service commuters suffer.
What makes things worse was the Government’s decision in December to renege on their promise to devolve the suburban rail lines to TfL including Thameslink and Great Northern.
See also my letter for publication to the local papers.
And even worse than that was the revelation that the Transport Secretary had previously written to the former mayor, saying he would not support such devolution, so as to keep the lines out of the hands of a Labour Mayor, ignoring the interests of hard pressed commuters. I challenged the Minister for London over this, at the December plenary.
As you may have seen, the House of Lords HS2 Select Committee has issued its final report. It contains some significant victories for Camden, and is testament to a long and hard-fought campaign. In particular, the report recommends:
- some significant changes on compensation for specific areas of the borough and for urban areas more generally;
- that the split design processes for the HS2 and Mainline stations at Euston puts at risk the achievement of a world-class station, and calls on the Secretary of State for the funding for the second planning stage to be provided as soon as possible;
- the removal of unnecessary compulsory purchase powers from the Bill
I am tabling Questions for January’s Mayor’s Questions, to follow this up in detail.
We also saw the results of TfL’s Cycle Superhighway 11. I think the scheme still needs further work on it.
On a more positive note, I welcomed TfL’s announcement of investment in Holborn and Camden Town stations upgrades
The station upgrade at Tottenham Court Road is also progressing. TfL has opened the final two entrances and improved pedestrian spaces. So far, the improved station has delivered three, new higher-capacity entrances and a completely refurbished and modernised fourth outside the Dominion Theatre. TfL aim to finish the remaining works and to deliver step-free access from street to train on the Northern line and from street to platform on the Central line, by early-2017.
The Upper Holloway Bridge replacement has meant that A1 Holloway Road remains closed for a little longer, to 16 January 2017
I have been very critical of TfL over the Archway Gyratory Scheme, where they ignored the outcome of the consultation which showed a very high level of opposition and problems for bus users.
The Mayor has also issued new proposals for bus drivers. These include:
- A new ‘minimum professional London bus driver wage’ will be introduced to apply to all new TfL contracts awarded to bus companies from April
- Bus companies will be required to pay drivers at least £23,000 per annum reflecting the challenging nature of the bus driver role, which now includes a greater focus on customer service. TfL will apply this for all new contracts awarded from 1 April 2017 next year, and rising with inflation thereafter.
- A ‘Licence for London’ will be introduced no later than April, allowing drivers to move between companies, taking with them their qualifications and driving record, without having to go on a lower new starter rate. This will form an enhanced reference for their new employers and enable employers to bring drivers into relevant local pay structures reflecting their experience.
- The Mayor also expects TFL, Unite representatives, and the operators to continue working towards introducing a London-wide pay structure for minimum levels of pay based on three and plus five years’ experience. Because of the wide range of pay levels and arrangements across London this will take longer to implement.
- TfL will also work with Unite representatives and the bus companies to better support the progression of London’s bus drivers through to management and other industry positions, including addressing historic under-representation of minority groups. TfL will work with Unite representatives and the operators to develop an equality and diversity programme to build a working environment that fully represents the diversity of London bus workers at every level in every company.
- There will also be continued work to address a range of other issues such as inadequate provision of toilet facilities and regular late finishes to shifts.
Finally, a full list of my Mayor’s December MQT Transport Questions and answers.
Government cuts of £17.4m lead Mayor to propose 8p a week council tax rise to defend police officer numbers
In the Autumn police funding settlement for the Metropolitan Police next year, the Government has recently confirmed there will be a cut in central Government funding of £17.4m compared to 2015-16, because of the decision of previous Mayor Boris Johnson to cut the Metropolitan Police’s funding police precept in the current year’s council tax..
In the 2015 Autumn Statement, the Government announced that police funding will be maintained at current levels, as long as the local police precept is increased by 1.99% a year. Any area that did not provide this additional funding from council tax would see a cash cut in police funding, which is what has happened.
In response to the cut, Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced proposals to increase the policing share of council tax bills by an average of 8p a week at Band D from April 2017(a 1.99% increase) in order to help maintain police officer numbers across London, avoiding even bigger cuts to police funding and defending the strategic target of 32,000 officers across London
Government funding decisions mean that the Metropolitan Police currently faces a total funding gap of £420m between 2017 and 2021, which can only be met by a combination of reducing police expenditure or council tax rises. This is on top of the £600 million already cut since 2013.
One Met Police Model
The ‘One Met Police Model’ sets out the future strategic direction of the Met. These slides help explain the programme.
I join the first ever ‘Walk the Met’
I joined local Camden officers PC Gerry McGann and PCSO Mandy Nutt to walk the beat for an afternoon in Camden to get an insight into the extra demands placed on officers keeping London safe throughout the festive period. I spoke to local residents and traders about their concerns. Some of the issues raised included anti-social behaviour and moped enabled robbery.
It was a chance to see first-hand how officers have responded to growing pressure on resources and it was impressive to see that they are still able to deliver a professional service with diligence and dedication. I am very supportive of the ‘Walk the Met’ initiative and hope it becomes a new Christmas tradition for Barnet and Camden and indeed for London as a whole.
All new police officers in England and Wales will have to be educated to degree level from next year.
A paid three-year “degree apprenticeship” is among three options open to people wanting to join all forces, including the Met, under changes unveiled by the College of Policing. The College will use its powers to force through the changes, which would mean “the public should receive the same level of service regardless of where they live”. The current recruitment system varies from force to force.
Would-be police officers can alternatively do an unfunded degree in policing or a funded postgraduate conversion course if they already have a degree in a different discipline.
The apprenticeship, due to be introduced next year, will see recruits undertake a three-year course, while receiving a salary and having the university academic component funded by their respective force.
The postgraduate conversion course would last six months and would also be funded by police.
The policing degree would have to be self-funded and the student would still have to successfully apply to become a police officer after completing it.
The college is in discussions with 12 universities about the new system.
Other changes that will be introduced include a national set of qualifications for officers following promotion, including a requirement that all applicants for the rank of assistant chief constable or above have a master’s degree.
A higher-paid “advanced practitioner” position will also be created to entice people to remain in specialist areas such as cyber crime, instead of seeking a promotion that would take them to a different area.
Police and Crime Committee at City Hall
The draft minutes of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee’s meeting held on 1 December 2016 are now available on the Greater London Authority’s website here.
The meeting was used principally for a question and answer session on policing and security in and around the London Stadium. (Item 6)
You may find my exchanges Commander BJ Harrington (formerly Borough Commander in Camden) and with Karen Brady of West Ham interesting!
Item 10 was a q and a with Commander Nick Downing as an introductory session on the very damning HMIC report on child protection issues in the Met. With Commander Downing, I particularly raised the implications for merged boroughs like Camden and Islington.
We returned to the HMIC report in detail at our last meeting on 15 December. I will send a link once the transcript is available, in my next report. I focussed on child protection training, children in custody, and the ‘historic’ football coach abuse investigation.
Also on 15 December, we held our first of what is likely to be three sessions on the draft police and crime plan 2017-2021. The draft minutes are here. I raised the implications for setting priorities in merged boroughs and was given an assurance that each borough will still be able to set its own priorities, even if different from the other boroughs in the merged command. We also looked at the issue of ‘hit and run’ drivers and the redundant water cannon.
Mayor puts ‘redundant’ water cannon up for sale
Sadiq Khan has revealed the full cost to Londoners of maintaining the three unused water cannon bought by his predecessor as he announced the redundant machines are now for sale via the Ministry of Defence. While the process will incur some fees, remaining funds from the sale, alongside saved maintenance costs, will be channelled back into communities and youth projects towards helping tackle gang crime.
The Mayor will only permit a sale to a buyer who meets the most rigorous ethical standards, to ensure the water cannon are not in any way misused in the future.
Since the previous Mayor’s decision to purchase the water cannon in 2014, more than £322,834 has been spent by the Met Police on purchasing, fitting out and repairing the three machines – despite the fact that they cannot legally be used in the UK and have languished in storage for two years. Around £21,000 per year has been spent maintaining them. By selling them, the Met. will save almost £175,000over the next eight years which can instead be spent on frontline services.
Mayor’s answers to my policing and crime questions
The usual range of questions. You will see I particularly focused on the delays in DBS checks, which are posing a serious problem to some people waiting for checks, so they can take up jobs or volunteering opportunities. I also kept up the pressure, about the cost of policing football. Unfortunately, there are again still too many with holding answers.
Mayor’s draft Police and Crime Plan
Please remember that the consultation on the Mayor’s draft Police and Crime Plan ends on the 23 February 2017. There is still time to comment if you wish to do so and haven’t already done so.
5 Planning, Housing and Regeneration
At the December Plenary, I questioned the Deputy Mayor for Housing over landbanking, in the process exposing the slow pace of building Millbrook Park in Mill Hill.
The Mayor has published a draft new guide on estate regeneration, which if it had been in force at the time of some of Conservative Barnet’s worst excesses, might well have prevented them. A real rebuke to the Barnet way of doing estate regeneration.
The Assembly Regeneration Committee meeting held on 7 December 2016 was a session on the future of regeneration funding and on the Mayor’s review of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation. The draft minutes and transcript is here.
At MQT, I again raised the need for key worker housing for emergency service workers.
In December, Sadiq Khan set out plans for a £50m fund to help homeless people, including former rough sleepers and victims of domestic abuse, by delivering properties specifically earmarked for people needing to move on from hostels and refuges. The move-on accommodation will help homeless people, including young people and women, who are ready to move into a home of their own after spending time being supported in hostels and refuges. The funding is available to housing providers as part of the Mayor’s £3.15bn Affordable Homes Programme. The Mayor invests a further £9m annually in services for rough sleepers in London, and recently launched his ‘No Nights Sleeping Rough’ taskforce – bringing together government, boroughs and key agencies to focus on how to prevent rough sleeping and help entrenched rough sleepers.
Turning to planning, you may be interested in these slides, presented to us at a briefing on the development of the next London Plan, which also explains why it takes so long to put it in place.
I have submitted objections to the plans for Hasmonean Boys’ School to move to Copthall, due to the loss of a substantial slice of green belt land.
Finally please see my Housing Plenary Written Questions and Answers.
For many years we have been pushing as the GLA Labour Group for a London-wide version of the Islington and Camden. SHINE Fuel Poverty Referral Scheme, in which residents who are considered to be at risk of fuel poverty are referred to council officers for a full energy audit. They also are then put in touch with other agencies who do benefit entitlement audits, smoke alarm checks and so on. The SHINE scheme is now be able to take referrals from anywhere in London, including Barnet as well as Camden, so this could make a significant dent in fuel poverty locally. So if you are concerned about fuel bills, or know somebody who is, go to http://www.shine-london.org.uk/
I have continued to support the campaign over the loss of diving facilities at Copthall pool: see my letter for publication.
7 Fire Authority
The LFB ‘pop up’ museum has now opened (appointment needed) , behind the old LFB HQ on Albert Embankment. This building is to be redeveloped and will include a purpose built museum in the scheme as well as a fire station.
The consultation on the draft London Safety Plan 2017 is still open if you wish to contribute to it.
8 National Health Service
Although the NHS is not a GLA function, I have been concerned about recent news about the NHS locally.
The Royal Free has missed its waiting time targets in every month of the last year.
I suspect that the problem is primarily caused by Barnet Hospital, which is part of the Royal Free group, but the figures are not published separately.
Of even greater seriousness, is the Government’s plans for cuts in our local NHS budget, through their secretive ‘Sustainability And Transformation’ Plans, which I raised at Mayor’s Questions. The one that includes Barnet and Camden means cuts of £900 Million.
The plans themselves are full of ‘high level’ generalities, so it is difficult to see where the cuts will fall in detail.
9 Mayor’s first budget
Sadiq Khan, has published his first draft budget, which the Assembly is scrutinising in detail over the next 3 months.
The draft budget confirms plans to invest £3.2bn to deliver affordable housing, doubling the amount spent on tackling London’s poor air quality and freezing all Transport for London fares for four years.
The Government is making significant cuts in the Met’s funding for next year. (see the section on policing in this report for details). In response, the budget proposes to close this gap, partially through proposals announced to increase the policing share of council tax bills by an average of 8p a week from April 2017 to help maintain police officer numbers across London.
The draft 2017/2018 budget covers the entire Greater London Authority Group – including Transport for London, the London Legacy Development Corporation, the Metropolitan Police service and the London Fire Brigade. Its plans include:
- A record-breaking investment of £3.15 billion to support 90,000 new genuinely affordable homes in the capital over the next five years;
- A freeze on all TfL fares for four years, while protecting concessions and extending the new Hopper bus fare;
- Maintaining the strategic target of 32,000 police officers for London against the backdrop of significant Government cuts to police funding for London, with real neighbourhood policing for all and better support for victims;
- Tackling London’s filthy air that is resulting in 9,400 deaths every year by doubling the amount spent on improving air quality from £425m committed by the previous Mayor to £875m through to 2021/22;
- Record investment in modernising our transport infrastructure including the biggest Tube capacity growth London has ever seen, extending the London Overground and Northern lines, starting planning for the Bakerloo Line extension and progressing new east London river crossings;
- Continuing to work with London’s businesses, investors and innovators to ensure London’s key sectors are protected and Londoners’ economic opportunities maximised during the forthcoming negotiations to leave the European Union.
- Launching a Skills for Londoners taskforce, to ensure skills training meets the needs of London’s economy.
- A proposed additional commitment of £4m on culture as a top priority for London, to fund new projects including London Borough of Culture, Creative Enterprise Zones and a vision for 24-hour London.
- A shift towards more active and healthier travel for Londoners, by making walking and cycling easier, safer and more attractive;
- A target to dispatch a fire engine within 10 minutes to any incident anywhere in London 90 per cent of the time. This is an improvement on the current standard;
- A commitment to speed up the delivery of housing on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park;
- Support for London’s largest opportunity area through the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation.
A consultation document that sets out the Mayor’s proposals is available on the Greater London Authority website at: www.london.gov.uk/budget
10 Written questions to the Mayor
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: Which famous 18th century London writer had a cat called “Hodge”?
A: Samuel Johnson
Andrew Dismore AM
Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden
Reproduced from an email sent by the Labour Party, promoted by Ammar Naqvi on behalf of Barnet & Camden Labour Parties both at 79 The Burroughs, London, NW4 4AX