My report from City Hall July 2017

My report from City Hall

No. 43: 12th June to  14th July  2017


My last report ended on 12th April: with the calling of the General Election, City Hall went into ‘purdah’ for the election, shutting down till 8th June. We have now picked up again as from 12th June, so this report now recommences my report series from then. I attended a rally for Cyprus during the purdah period.

I don’t intend to write much about the recent terrorist attacks – London Bridge and Finsbury Park, and of course Manchester – and the tragedy of Grenfell Tower, as there is little I could add to what has appeared in the media, save to give heartfelt sympathy to the victims and bereaved and to acknowledge again the enormous and brave contribution of the emergency services. In this context was very pleased to see the bravery of PC Keith Palmer recognised with the George Medal. I write more about Grenfell Tower in my section on the Fire Authority, below.

Cllr Georgia Gould has been elected leader of Camden Council, after Cllr Sarah Hayward stood down.

This month’s London quiz question: (answer at the end):

Q: Where is the burial place of Michael Faraday, John Galsworthy and author Douglas Adams?


1 Europe and ‘Brexit’

2 Economy Committee

3 Transport and HS2

4 Policing

5 Planning, Housing, Regeneration

6 Environment

7 Fire Authority

8 Education

9 Health

10 Mayor’s report

11 Written questions to the Mayor

12 Problem solving and casework

13 Quiz answer 

1 Europe and ‘Brexit’

After Article 50 was served, I wrote about my own views in the Ham and High and in the Barnet local papers, two letters for publication.

I was also a cosignatory in an open letter of a coalition of Londoners calling on the Government to recognise that a trade-off between free access to European markets and restrictions to freedom of movement would be a false and damaging choice for London and the UK.

I have also put on my website links to a couple of interesting items on the EU’s position:

Speech by Michel Barnier at the press conference on the adoption of the commission’s recommendation on draft negotiating directives

EU Brexit Directives: what they said and what they meant.

The European Commission has demonstrated that it has the power to inflict real economic pain on London as a consequence of Brexit through so-called “euro clearing,” which is estimated to cost banks £63 billion and deprive the U.K. of 83,000 jobs


Here is also a rather worrying article on Japan’s approach to trade and investment post Brexit.


2 Economy Committee

The Economy Committee has started an inquiry into the night time economy The draft transcript of the first meeting is here.

I also raised the issue at MQT.

I have exposed the cost to Londoners of the Government’s deal with the DUP top keep the Government afloat, post-election.

You may also be interested in my letter for publication on women in engineering

The Mayor has announced plans for a new £300,000 fund for businesses impacted by recent terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire.


3 Transport and HS2

The Mayor has launched his draft Transport Strategy which sets out his vision and ambitious plan to reshape transport in London over the next 25 years. The public consultation will be open until 2 October 2017. You can find details about this here.


After a long campaign, Transport for London has announced that Mill Hill East will be one of the next six London Underground stations to be made step-free as part of the Mayor’s £200m investment in tube accessibility. Work will start next year.


TfL have continued to develop their plans to upgrade the capacity of Camden Town Tube station. They are holding a second public consultation until 18 August 2017. For full details and to share your views, please see here.


I have continued to campaign on the issue of tube noise, presenting a petition about night  tube noise to the Assembly.

I published information I had obtained, showing a trebling in tube noise complaints.

I have also raised staffing levels on tube stations, and consequent safety issues.

A serious issue has arisen over cars used by Uber drivers taking up substantial numbers of parking spaces in residential streets in Colindale. I have taken this up, but Barnet Council are failing to respond effectively. Since raising the issue in the Assembly, I have been approached by Uber for details, so I hope that they will be able to assist in dealing with the problem.

Turning to the buses, I have been getting very unsatisfactory responses from TfL about a number of routes, especially the poor service on the renumbered route 13. I am arranging a meeting with TfL to go through all these issues.

On a more positive note, we will see fully electric buses on some Camden routes.

I have also been raising the refusals of some embassies to pay the Congestion Charge, and have raised their approach to the forthcoming T charge.

Thameslink are consulting on their 2018 timetable. Details can be found here. The consultation into the weekday timetables runs until 5pm on Thursday 27 July 2017.  Weekend timetables will be shared later in the year.


Disruptive TfL works:

TfL are upgrading the traffic lights on the A1 Watford Way at the junction with Page Street. Works start on 18 July.


TfL are refurbishing the lifts at Chalk Farm Tube station as part of essential works to keep lifts safe and reliable. On the weekend of Saturday 22 July until Sunday 23 July 2017 the station will be closed and from Monday 24 July 2017 until mid-August 2018 the station will operate with a reduced lift service.


TfL will commence maintenance works on the four lifts at Goodge Street Tube station from 04 September 2017 until late-October 2018. During this time station will operate as exit only between 07.30 and 10.00am on weekdays.


A41 Brent Cross Flyover: Overnight surveying works planned from 3 July to 23 August 2017. To carry out the investigations, TfL will need to temporarily close a lane in each direction on the A406 and also close the flyover. To keep disruption to a minimum, the surveys, lane closures and diversions will occur overnight.


Finally, here is the link to my MQs relating to transport for June and July.

4  Policing

Our first full meeting of the Police and Crime Committee was a Q and A session with the new Commissioner, Cressida Dick and the Deputy Commissioner, Craig Mackey. The draft minutes and transcript of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee are here. I particularly focussed on the funding gap the Met. currently faces (towards the end of the meeting from page 27) , being the £400 million cost pressures over the next 3 years, and the shortfall on the National and International Capital City Function grant. The Commissioner confirmed that unless more funding was provided by Government, then numbers of police officers would inevitably reduce. See also here and here regarding the Manchester atrocity and police cuts:

On the PCC, we have started a new thematic inquiry into the subject of anti social behaviour, and held our first evidence session:  when the transcript is available I will include it in my next update. I have produced a short note on the powers that are available to various authorities to deal with it, which you may find interesting.

The Police and Crime Committee has also published an annual report on our work:

We have had a full Assembly plenary on policing issues, attended by the Mayor and Deputy Police Commissioner (the Commissioner was at a funeral). I questioned them over further police station closures and borough mergers.

The Mayor indicated that the closures were being forced on him by Government underfunding of the Met., and that there would be a consultation before decisions on further closures were taken.

I raised the importance of alternative arrangements for the public to contact the Met. being in place before any more closures, and that those measures have the confidence  of the public, for example the 101 number, as I have had worrying reports, post the Camden borough merger, of people waiting 20 minutes or more for calls  to be answered, then hanging up in frustration.

Another issue, especially in outer London, is how far dedicated neighbourhood  ward  officers have to travel from where they parade at their station, to the wards in which they work, often several miles away. This can be a long or difficult journey by public transport in Barnet for example from the current 24 hour Colindale station to the borough’s northern and eastern wards.

The Deputy Commissioner indicated that he agreed that arrangements to contact the Met other than through stations had to work properly, and they accepted there were problems in some places with the 101 service, which they were rectifying. In a young city like London, he argued that other ways to contact the police on line and digitally were important and improved access.

Whilst he thought it would not be possible to parade officers at the start of their shifts in their wards, he wanted to address the question by, for example, co-locating with other public or emergency services in their premises.

The Deputy Commissioner accepted that they had not got everything right with the Camden and Islington Borough merger, there was more to do, and they needed to learn from the ‘pathfinder’ mergers like Camden and Islington and make amendments before proceeding with other mergers.

I highlighted the problems with 101 calls; complaints about a lack of engagement with communities and ward panels by senior officers; and what can only be described as ‘odd’ responses to some crime reports, about which I have tabled written questions for detailed answer, (see below for link to policing answers)  including the police response to complaints about drug dealing and anti-social behaviour in Seven Dials, where the answer seemed to be to move them off the patch into Westminster; and the failure to respond to a complaint  about a motor bike theft.

I also raised the rather anonymous naming of the merged command by reference to compass points rather than a named geographic area: what was wrong with calling it the ‘Camden and Islington Boroughs command?’

The Deputy Commissioner accepted the arguments and said these were issues that would need to be addressed.

I continue to pursue the issue of Moped Crime.

The Mayor has announced his new knife crime strategy, this includes a further £625k from the Mayor, taking total MOPAC spending on knife and gang crime projects to £7million per year. This is composed of £500,000 for gangs exit programmes, £444,615 for major trauma centres, £168,000 on Information Sharing to tackle Violence, £360,861 on Victim Support and Children and Young People and £5,295,717 on various borough projects through the London Crime Prevention Fund.

New areas of action include: every borough to have a dedicated knife crime strategy; aim for 90% pre-sentence reports and victim personal statements completed for knife crime offences; greater focus on community sentencing; create London guidance and support retailers to prevent sales; targeted action in high risk areas such as transport hubs and at school closing time; target online companies that host videos promoting or glorifying knife violence and producing a counter narrative to be advertised online; toolkit for schools and community groups

Notting Hill Carnival continues to be a concern, given the size of the crowds in light of recent events: these (redacted) documents may be of interest.

I also spoke out on the Al Quds Day march.

Finally, the latest answers from the Mayor to my written questions.


5 Planning, Housing and Regeneration

The Regeneration Committee has published our report on digital connectivity: this is an issue we will be returning to consider again before too long.

Having submitted extensive objections, I was pleased to see that Barnet Council Planning Committee rejected the application for a major development at the North London Business Park, though I think they should also have rejected it on the  grounds of insufficient affordable homes, an issue Barnet is hopeless at taking into account.

The Mayor has ‘called in’ the application for another huge development at the Medical Research Institute site in Mill Hill.

See also my letter for publication, a rebuttal to Cllr Thomas on the NIMR site call in.

I was pleased to see the Mayor has approved the Med City Funding And Business Plan.

I submitted an objection to the Garrick Industrial Centre Planning Application.

6  Environment

I supported Colindale residents In opposing a new betting shop, but Barnet Council’s Licensing Committee approved it.

The Mayor has announced the competition is open to be ‘London Borough of Culture’. Barnet has decided not to enter, though Camden is doing so.

I know there have been concerns over plans for development at Golders Green: I have been seeking assurances form the Mayor: more on this next time.

7 Fire Authority

Clearly, the biggest issue facing the fire service was the Grenfell Tower tragedy. This put huge demands on the Brigade and its firefighters and control staff. Our firefighters were most courageous in going into the building, without knowing if they would come out alive. The control staff faced unprecedented demand and stress, taking emergency calls and advising those trapped in the fire by phone on what they should do.

I visited the scene the day after, and the extent of the destruction and distress was utterly horrific.

I raised the ‘early lessons’ with the Mayor at MQT.

As a member of the Fire Authority, we have been given clear legal advice that we cannot comment much, due to the ongoing police investigations, but even so there are a few points I can helpfully make.

As you may know, prior to going into full time politics I was a solicitor who specialised in the fire service and in that capacity was heavily involved in the 93 days of hearings at the King’s Cross Tube Station Fire Inquiry. I have been advising LFEPA lawyers, the Mayor’s Office and Labour’s front bench on the Grenfell Inquiry, based on my previous experience.

I am pleased that the Mayor has asked the Fire Commissioner, Dany Cotton, who demonstrated exceptional leadership at the fire, to review London Fire Brigade resources in light of the fire, and make recommendations as to any changes and additions we may need in the future.

The Grenfell Fire is clearly a ‘game changer’ in tower block safety, and I am pleased to see that both boroughs in the constituency have acted responsibly and swiftly to respond to the immediate fire safety issues in their towers.

The Brigade has also produced a helpful briefing on the legal and regulatory framework which you might like to see.

Finally, I have created a new page on my website for Grenfell Tower issues where I am placing information which is in the public domain, including relevant briefings from the Grenfell Fire Response Team, who are supporting local residents and victims.

Other Fire Brigade news:

The Government’s plan to abolish the Fire Authority has been delayed due to the General Election, so we won’t be abolished until April 2018.

We have also changed the rules for our trading company so we can take ethical issues into account. Previous Mayor Boris Johnson would not allow this, forcing the brigade to bid for work in Qatar against our wishes, for example. The new Mayor has a far better approach to this!

8 Education

The OFSTED report into Barnet has been nothing short of hyper critical.

You may also be interested in this campaign that I have been supporting, to provide sanitary products to school girls for free, which has attracted 2,000 supporters so far.

9 Health

A 31 page internal NHS cuts plan to plug the £183.1m budget gap in North Central London NHS uncovered by The Guardian (Leak shows ‘devastating’ impact of planned NHS cuts in London, The Guardian. 20th June 2017) would  mean patients in Barnet and Camden,  waiting even longer for operations, patients being denied access to an increased number of treatments, cuts to financial support for patients with serious, long term conditions including brain damage, downgrading or closure of hospital units and doctors spending less on drugs. Clinicians and NHS staff have expressed deep concern, with the Royal College of Surgeons calling the changes “devastating” to healthcare provision. I raised the issue with the Mayor at MQT.

Having recently been in hospital myself for an operation, I wrote about my own experiences of the NHS.

I successfully moved a motion at the Assembly plenary on access to NHS dentistry for children, which is free on the NHS but not widely known. There are real differences across London, with 10,000 London children a year needing extractions under general anaesthetic. In Barnet, 32% of 5 year olds have tooth decay, and in Camden 24%.

The number of nurses from the EU registering to work in the U.K. has fallen by 96 percent since the Brexit vote, according to figures collated by the Nursing & Midwifery Council. The number of new applicants from the EU fell from 1,304 in July last year to just 46 in April this year.

Finally, a couple of pieces I wrote about care for the elderly:


10 Mayor’s report

Each month the Mayor produces a report on his activities. Please see his 11th report here and his 12th report here.

11  Written questions to the Mayor

For answers to my written questions to the Mayor, see:

Late April MQT Answers

More Late MQs April 17 MQT

Full June MQT Answers

12 Problem solving and casework

Arjun Mittra is my City Hall assistant who manages incoming correspondence, casework and my diary:

13 Finally, the quiz question answer:

Q: Where is the burial place of Michael Faraday, John Galsworthy and author Douglas Adams?

A: Highgate Cemetery

Best wishes,

Andrew Dismore AM

Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden

Twitter: @andrew_dismore

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