My report from City Hall – August 2017
No. 44: 15th July 2017 to 13th August 2017
This is my last report before my Summer holidays, but still is pretty full, especially on fire and policing issues. There are no answers to my written questions links this month, as they have not yet been published by the Mayor: they will appear in the next report.
A couple of interesting events I attended included the service to mark the merger of Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogues; and the Somali Bravanese school presentations and prize day
I also went to the launch of the City of London’s Summer and Autumn festival, Londinium, a wide range of events marking the capital’s Roman foundations: it’s well worth checking out the programme with activities for both adults and children:
This month’s London quiz question: (answer at the end):
- Q) Continuing the Roman theme, when did the Romans begin building the town which became London?
1 Europe and ‘Brexit’
2 Economy Committee
3 Transport and HS2
5 Planning, Housing, Regeneration
7 Fire Authority
10 Mayor’s report
11 Written questions to the Mayor
12 Problem solving and casework
13 Quiz answer
1 Europe and ‘Brexit’
The GLA Labour Group is conducting a survey on Brexit, a year on from the Referendum. Whilst polling shows that the majority of Londoners still want to remain in the EU, Brexit is supposed to be completed by March 2019. I believe it is important that I know from local people and businesses the issues on which you consider the Government should focus in the negotiations. We will report on the survey conclusions later in the year.
Brexit may affect the U.K. economy so severely that climate policies become a luxury the government can no longer afford, according to the head of the country’s independent Committee on Climate Change, John Gummer. Unlike other areas that risk significant disruptions with Brexit, the U.K.’s climate change policies are mostly controlled at a national level and not directly reliant on what happens in Brussels.
Rather late in the day, the Government has set up an inquiry to examine the role of EU migrants in the UK economy. The committee will be asked to report back by September next year – just seven months before the scheduled date for Britain’s formal departure in March 2019.
2 Economy Committee
The Economy Committee is conducting an inquiry into the Mayor’s policies towards the Night Time Economy (NTE). I particularly questioned the chair of the Mayor’s NTE Commission and the NTE ‘czar’ about the impact on local residents. The responses were far from satisfactory, as you can see from the transcript (app1 pp9 et seq and 19 et seq; app 2 pp4 et seq):
I suffered some social media abuse as the result of standing up for residents.
I commented on a report which showed that Burnt Oak was ranked as the 5th worst town centre in the whole country, due to Barnet Council neglect, in my view (see also below, in my fire service report section for comment on the recent major fire in Burnt Oak centre):
I also objected to the proposed changes to Kentish Town Post Office.
3 Transport and HS2
Buses have featured a lot this month especially continuing problems with the new designated route 13. I have met with London Buses for a ’frank’ discussion about the poor performance on route 13 (including other routes too) and raised the issue with the Mayor.
While on the subject of buses, there is some good news in the form of improvements to Hospital Bus Services, but Finchley Memorial must stay on the agenda.
I am sure you will have seen the frequent stories in the national media, suggesting that London gets favourable treatment from central Government, in transport investment. The Mayor has produced a detailed analysis to rebut this argument: Mayor Busts Myth London Gets More Than Fair Share Of Transport Funding.
Turning to HS2, I met the City Hall planners for an update, in light of the Government announcement of the shortlist of bidders to be invited to participate in dialogue for the Masterplan Development Partner procurement:
- Westfield Europe Ltd (Shepherds Bush, Croydon)
- Euston Regeneration Partnership – Led by Argent Related Services LLP (Kings Cross)
- Canary Wharf Group
- Land Securities Property Holdings Limited (Victoria)
- Lendlease Europe Holdings Limited (Elephant and Castle)
Although City Hall cannot be part of the evaluation process due to procurement rules, Camden, the GLA and TfL have been recently informed by HS2 that we will each be given an opportunity to meet with the bidders as part of the dialogue stage.
The shortlist for the 3 station design contracts (Euston, Old Oak Common and Birmingham) is:
- Mott Macdonald
- Jacobs/BuroHappold/Idom joint venture
All the bidders have been invited to tender for at least two station packages.
TfL are consulting on their proposal to introduce changes to the highway layout on Finchley Road between Canfield Gardens and College Crescent. The deadline for comments is Wednesday 30 August 2017.
Routine carriageway resurfacing works are planned to take place on Finchley Road in autumn 2017. As part of these works, they intend to extend the southbound bus lane by around 100 metres south of its current end point at the pedestrian crossing at the junction with Canfield Gardens. Extending the bus lane would improve journey time reliability for buses.
The extended bus lane will terminate just after the existing loading bay outside 106 Finchley Road and will operate Monday to Friday 7-10am and 4-7pm, in line with the existing bus lane further north. Buses, coaches, motorcycles, cycles and taxis would be allowed during these operating hours, as they are further north.
They say the change can be achieved without reducing capacity for general traffic. The central reservation island would be made narrower, enabling us to retain two lanes for other vehicles at all times while the bus lane is in operation. These plans are co-ordinated with, but separate from, the plans for Cycle Superhighway 11 at Swiss Cottage, which is planned to start construction later this year subject to the necessary approvals.
If you have any comments or questions you can email TfL at:
Tfl works: ‘goodish’ news:
The lift replacement serving the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines at King’s Cross St. Pancras station work was completed three weeks earlier than anticipated and the lift is now back in customer service (though when I used it a couple of weeks ago it was faulty!)
The long running saga of the Gospel Oak to Barking electrification works are to be completed in time for double length trains. Here is a link to TfL’s updated Overground closure page. And the announcement.
Disruptive TfL works:
TfL have been advised that the expansion joints on Staples Corner Flyover (A406 North Circular) are in urgent need of replacement. Works to replace them will take place between Monday 28 August and Sunday 17 September 2017. The A406 will be closed to through traffic at Staples Corner: Local access for residents and to/from shops and businesses will be maintained via the slip roads. For details of road closures click here.
TfL are planning to upgrade drainage and safety barriers and resurface the carriageway on the A1 Barnet Way, between the Stirling Corner roundabout and Courtland Avenue. The works are due from 16 July 2017 to 12 September.
As referred to above, no MQs relating to transport this report.
The consequences of the Government’s underfunding of the Met are becoming ever more apparent after the £600 million cut in the last 4 year funding cycle, with another £400 million to come.
The Mayor has warned that without significant extra resources one of the painful decisions will be the closure of around half of London’s police stations. MOPAC has published a draft Public Access and Engagement Strategy which sets out the changes which will provide one 24/7 front counter in each London borough, along with their existing commitment to double the number of Dedicated Ward Officers.
The details of all of these changes to public access are set out in the consultation document here.
This also sets out how, by closing underused buildings, we are able to invest in the front line and keep officer numbers as high as possible. Changes to front counters alone will save around £10 million a year, the equivalent of 170 front line officers. Every pound not saved by closing an infrequently visited police building is a pound we have to find elsewhere, with a reduction in police officer numbers likely.
The consultation is open until 6 October.
At the Assembly Police and Crime Committee meeting on 20 July, I questioned the Deputy Commissioner and Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime on this strategy (from p28 of the transcript), as well as leading questioning on the police response to the Grenfell Tower fire (p1) and on acid attacks (p22). The transcript is here.
The Assembly Police and Crime Committee meeting on 5 July 2017 was a session on antisocial behaviour: the transcript is here. My questions start at p5 and p36). On ASB, see also the night time economy comments in the Economy section above.
My campaign to force the big football clubs to meet the full cost of policing their games is getting traction – including an appearance on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 – with the latest figures, which show that in the last season the cost was over £7 million.
The Premier League are still refusing to cough up any more, but the battle continues.
I also spoke out over the record level of Anti-Semitic Crimes.
As referred to above, no MQs relating to policing this report.
5 Planning, Housing and Regeneration
I have just met the City Hall planning officer, to try to get some clarity as to what is going on, over the Hasmonean School application in the Green Belt , Mill Hill, after the Mayor directed Barnet to refuse the application and rumours of a ‘call in’ by the Secretary of State. There can be no ‘call in’ by the Secretary of State, unless and until Barnet formally acts on the Mayor’s direction to refuse, which they have not yet done. This is because there are discussions between the school, GLA, and Barnet to see if an alternative potentially acceptable scheme can be proposed.
City Hall have made clear that any revised plan would have to be within the footprint of previously developed land at the Girls’ School site (this could include car park areas but not undeveloped land). TfL are also due to meet the school to discuss the transport issues.
If an alternative can be proposed by the school it will then be up to Barnet to decide if it requires a new application or an amendment to the existing one. The City Hall planner’s preference is for a new application. Either way, amendment or new application, there would have to be a fresh round of consultation and referral back to the Mayor under the same procedure as before. If a revised scheme is not proposed by the school within these parameters, then Barnet will have to act on the Mayor’s decision to require them to refuse.
Barnet Council recently refused the planning application for North London Business Park.
It has now gone to City Hall for consideration by the Mayor under the normal ‘stage II’ procedure, which relates to any large planning application such as this. The Mayor has not ‘called in’ the scheme to approve it, as some local rumours were suggesting.
I also met the City Hall planning officer to discuss the scheme and to re-emphasise objections to it. The City Hall planning officer tells me that her report to the Mayor will recommend that the Mayor upholds the Council’s refusal decision. The Mayor is expected to consider her report on 23rd August and his formal decision will be issued soon after that.
I suspect that will not be the end of the story though, as we can expect the developer either to appeal, or more likely, to bring forward another revised scheme, assuming the Mayor does indeed follow the planning officer’s advice. If a revised scheme is proposed, then that will be subject to consultation (and objections) as before.
The application by Saracens to rebuild the old stand at Allianz Park has been approved by the Council, with the Mayor concurring in the decision.
The Mayor has ‘called in’ the application for the National Institute for Medical Research site, also in Mill Hill. There will be a public hearing before him at City Hall, probably in early October, where objections can be heard. Before that, the Mayor will conduct a site visit.
The Ark Academy scheme at Underhill, previously rejected by the Council, is back on the agenda with a revised application. This has not yet been formally notified to City Hall.
The Pentavia site Mill Hill application, apparently having gone quiet, has not been called in by the Mayor. City Hall and the Council are working with the developers for a ‘significantly’ revised plan. If it is not ‘significantly’ different either as an amended application or a new one, it faces refusal at City Hall.
Travis Perkins has commenced a judicial review over Camden Council’s planning consent for the 156 West End Lane site, so it will be some time before that is resolved.
I have lodged an objection to the planning application for the Victoria Park Keepers Lodge, Finchley.
The Mayor has announced a deal with councils and housing associations in London to start building an extra 50,000 affordable homes to rent and buy over the next four years in response to the Mayor’s call for bids to the £3.15bn affordable homes fund he secured from the Government in November last year. It represents almost treble the 18,000 homes secured by the final call for bids issued by the previous Mayor in 2014.
This will see an estimated £1.7bn invested in 49,398 genuinely affordable homes being built, with new homes in all 32 boroughs and the City of London. Of the total, 17,500 will be for rents around social levels, and just under 32,000 will be for a combination of the Mayor’s new London Living Rent and Shared Ownership.
I have been working with local residents in Childs Hill, over the need for effective monitoring and enforcement at a waste processing site in Cricklewood over nearby. I have taken up their concerns with Barnet Council, the Environment Agency and Thames Water.
The UK’s largest light festival, Lumiere London, is returning next January. More than 40 UK and international artists will reimagine London’s iconic architecture and streets, transforming the city into a dazzling nocturnal art exhibition. Free to visit and taking place north and south of the River Thames, Lumiere London will extend its reach across the capital. Everyone is invited.
7 Fire Authority
Clearly, the biggest issue still facing the fire service was the Grenfell Tower tragedy and its consequences for the capitals’ fire service. I raised this at Mayor’s questions , asking about the Fire Commissioner’s list of what is required and the need for Government funding to help with the £6 million procurement costs and £6 million a year extra running costs, so far refused.
The Fire Authority Resources Committee (of which I am the deputy chair) has in the meantime authorised, with the Mayor’s agreement, the Fire Commissioner to start on the procurement of the necessary kit, including very high ladders and extended duration breathing apparatus, as well as a lot of other specialist equipment. We are also reversing Boris Johnson’s cut of 27 Fire Safety Inspection Officers.
This is important, as the LFB has made a further very resource intensive change to increase the Brigade’s attendance to high rise residential building fires, following the third in the Government’s series of fire safety tests of cladding and insulation combinations, completed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE). With immediate effect when Control receive multiple calls (four calls or above) to residential high rise buildings the attendance will include eight fire engines including an aerial appliance. Where fire is reported as being on the outside of cladded buildings, the attendance will include a full 10 pump fire attendance and one aerial appliance.
You may also be interested in this ‘guest blog’ by Barnet Labour Party activist Sara Conway on her work on helping Grenfell Tower survivors.
Of course, the LFB’s ordinary emergency work continues. Ten fire engines and 72 firefighters and officers were called to a fire in a garage work shop behind Watling Avenue Burnt Oak, last month. Around 500 people were evacuated from flats and shops in the surrounding area as a precaution. I visited the scene the following day, and this confirmed my comments above (Economy section) about the neglect of this area, with huge piles of rubbish and filth creating what to me is an inevitable fire risk. I have taken this up with the council; as well as the poor support offered by the Council to the three families rendered homeless.
Whilst the Government have announcued changes to schools funding, this is really moving money around with no extra funds, an issue I raised with the Mayor at MQT, in light especially of the impact on Camden:
I also wrote about the appalling Ofsted report into Barnet Council’s Children’s Services.
I have continued to write on NHS dentistry for children.
On mental health, I have welcomed Thrive LDN coming to Barnet and Camden.
10 Mayor’s report
Each month the Mayor produces a report on his activities. His 13th Report will be linked to my next report.
11 Written questions to the Mayor
As referred to above, no MQs this report.
12 Problem solving and casework
Arjun Mittra is my City Hall assistant who manages incoming correspondence, casework and my diary: Arjun.Mittra@london.gov.uk
13 Finally, the quiz question answer:
Q: Continuing the Roman theme, when did the Romans begin building the town which became London?
A: The Romans founded London about 50 AD. Its name is derived from the Celtic word Londinios, which means the place of the bold one. After they invaded Britain in 43 AD the Romans built a bridge across the Thames. They later decided it was an excellent place to build a port. The water was deep enough for ocean going ships but it was far enough inland to be safe from Germanic raiders. Around 50 AD Roman merchants built a town by the bridge. So London was born.
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 104 E Barnet Rd, London, Barnet EN4 8RE