My report from City Hall September 2017
My report from City Hall
No. 45: 14th August 2017 to 30th September 2017
Whilst we have been back at City Hall after the Summer break, we now have a short hiatus for the Party Conference season. Even so there is a lot to report this time, especially on policing and housing issues: please see below. Grenfell Tower and its consequences have also been to the fore. I have been advising the Mayor’s office on the Inquiry, based on my own experiences when I was a solicitor, dealing with the Kings Cross Fire Inquiry.
The London Assembly has published an Annual Report which may interest you and you can read here.
This month’s London quiz question: (answer at the end):
- Q) What was the name of Reggie and Ronnie Kray’s older brother?
Contents: (please scroll down to the sections which interest you)
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’
2 Economy Committee
The London Assembly Economy Committee has published our report ‘The fate of local news – read all about it’ The report sets out the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for local news in London. The majority of local newspapers have seen circulation fall in recent years and faced with falling sales, newspaper owners have cut jobs and consolidated to lower costs, and closed titles, as w have just seen with the closure of the Barnet Press series.
The September Economy Committee meeting started our inquiry into financial inclusion (or exclusion), particularly looking at debt and credit issues.
The recent publication of a report by the Living Wage Foundation and Child Poverty Action Group, “Moving to the London Living Wage” showed the importance of raising poverty pay. I have yet to receive a reply, when I wrote to urge Barnet to become a Living Wage employer. Camden is already a certified Living Wage employer.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has appointed Camden’s Theo Blackwell as the capital’s first ever Chief Digital Officer (CDO). Theo will play a leading role in realising the Mayor’s ambition to make London the world’s smartest city, ensuring that the capital’s status as a global tech hub helps transform the way public services are designed and delivered.
Having previously visited their studios and workshops, I joined artists from Vittoria Wharf in their protest against the LLDC (the Olympic legacy corporation) whose regeneration plans will lead to their eviction.
3 Transport and HS2
The biggest news this month is probably the decision to end Uber’s licence: I have written a full briefing on it here.
I have received an update on HS2 from City Hall planners.
I also attended the recent community meeting on HS2 and I am tabling questions arising from the meeting for the next MQT.
At a time of rising fares on mainline commuter rail it again emphasises the broken promise from Government to transfer control of these lines to TfL.
I have welcomed the announcement of new funding for electric charging points.
Goodge Street Lifts Maintenance: as part of TfL’s ongoing works programme they are refurbishing the four lifts at Goodge Street station from Monday 04 September 2017 until late October 2018. During this time station will operate as exit only between 07.30 and 10.00am on weekdays.
TfL are consulting on the first stages of their proposals to improve capacity and provide step-free access at Holborn tube station. This consultation will run until 17 November 2017. For full details and to share your views, please click here.
Turning to road safety, I have taken up the issue of Briardale Gardens on the Barnet/Camden border with the Deputy Mayor for Transport.
Finally, the Mayor’s answers to my questions on transport issues:
The key issues have been the borough mergers (and impact especially on emergency calls); police public access and engagement strategy (including station closures) and the Met Police funding crisis.
I have prepared a police funding briefing update.
The financial position remains very difficult; and has been worsened by the Government’s failure to fund the higher pay rise for police officers than was budgeted for (2% instead of 1%, though still below inflation) See the details also in my MQT answers, link below.
There is a link to the transcripts in the MQT answers at the end of this section
We also had the Mayor to question at this month’s Police and Crime Committee, where these issues came up again, as well as counter terrorism in light of Parsons Green; and the investigation into Grenfell Tower. I will circulate the transcript link when it is available next month.
On the merged boroughs, the most up to date account I have is Camden and Islington merged pathfinder BCU is now meeting the Met average for the I call targets (the most urgent, 15 minute attendance target) for this month, but it is clear that the performance deteriorated badly after the merger. I have asked for S call (the next urgent one hour target) statistics.
The Mayor has said there will be no London wide roll out till the problems are resolved; and he has promised me details of the criteria against which the ‘pathfinders’ will be assessed. He has also said that they may review the proposed configurations for the rest of London, but the driver is the financial position of the Met. I continue to argue that the proposed Barnet/Harrow/Brent configuration needs to be reconsidered.
On the access and engagement strategy, there is still just time to make your representations, if you have not done so. I have attended the public meetings in both boroughs to discuss the plans. I am working up my own submission, based on what came out of the local discussions and my own views: I will include a link to this in my next report.
Other policing issues include:
I met the Chief Constable and officers from British Transport Police to hear about their work, especially on counter terrorism. I was also able to raise my concerns over the cost of policing football, one of my campaigns. On top of the £7 million cost to the Met of this, BTP also spends £5m, including £3m in London.
I met with the Digital Security Centre, a not for profit organisation aiming to help small business with their technology security. I am arranging a visit to Barnet with them to meet SMEs. They are already engaged in Camden.
And with the Police Committee, I visited the Olympic Park, to learn about the policing demands and organisation for the park’s security.
MQT Policing Answers:
5 Planning, Housing and Regeneration
There has been a number of important announcements on housing policy this month.
The Mayor has published his draft Housing Strategy for London.
The Strategy provides a comprehensive plan to address the housing crisis over the next few years. This includes:
* Starting to build 90,000 new affordable homes by 2021;
* Ensuring a better deal for private renters;
* Increasing the building of more genuinely affordable homes;
* Supporting new housing providers including community builders; and
* Helping tackle homelessness, with a way off the street for every rough sleeper.
The publication of the draft London Housing Strategy also commences a wider consultation with other organisations and the public. This three-month consultation ends on 7th December, 2017.Consultation responses can be submitted online, by post or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mayor’s new Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) sets out his plan to increase levels of affordable housing, while also speeding up decisions in the planning system. It will help raise affordable housing levels from the low of just 13 per cent given permission that he inherited from his predecessor when he first became Mayor. This new approach offers developers of private land a fast-track route through the planning process – bypassing costly and protracted viability negotiations that have become the norm for applications in London – if they meet a strict minimum of 35 per cent affordable housing without public funding. Developments on public land will have to achieve at least 50 per cent affordable housing to qualify for the fast-track route.
The Mayor’s investment in Pocket Living will see work start on at least 1,059 new homes by March 2021, with a third expected to be built off-site in a factory and dropped into place. They provide homes for first-time buyers, typically one or two-bed flats, that are sold at least 20 per cent cheaper than market sales. Pocket homes are aimed at local people who must already live in the borough and be first-time buyers. The deal also ensures all homes built remain affordable for the lifetime of the building. The Mayor is investing £25m as part of an innovative deal to boost new factory-built affordable one and two-bed homes for first-time buyers in the capital. The funding package- -all of which will be paid back in full by the end of the next decade- is part of the Mayor’s Innovation Fund, using investment secured as part of Sadiq’s record-breaking £3.15bn deal with government in November last year. The investment will be used alongside £35m of funding from the Homes and Communities Agency to build homes on the first set of sites to come forward.
A new report from the Assembly Housing Committee ‘Homeless and hidden from help – London’s secret homelessness problem’ has just been published and makes a number of recommendations to the Mayor and the Government. It estimates there are thirteen times more hidden homeless people in London than those sleeping rough – as many as 12,500 each night. They may experience sofa surfing, sleeping rough, squatting or sleeping on public transport. Young people are especially likely to be affected, particularly those who identify as LGBT, as well as those who have experienced domestic violence and abuse. This can be dangerous, and leave people at risk of assault or abuse. They are hidden from official statistics, and aren’t receiving support.
Sadiq is also being proactive in defending the need for affordable homes in Barnet, by intervening in the Grahame Park Regeneration, stating that the loss of 518 social homes on Grahame Park was “wholly unacceptable”. The Stage B, Phase 1 planning application from Genesis, which includes the Concourse, proposes 1,083 new homes of which 652 would be a mix of affordable housing tenures, but only 39 of these would be for social rent compared to the existing 557 social rented homes on that part of the site. The Mayor has assessed that the scheme could be undervalued by around £17 million and therefore it is reasonable to consider that the application could provide a mix that includes more social rented housing. Barnet Council must either remedy the deficiencies or re-consult the Mayor if they decide to agree the planning application without changes. The Mayor can then decide whether to allow this, or direct the Council to refuse the application, or determine the application himself.
I have also submitted a series of objections to large developments in Barnet, where from experience I do not trust the Council:
Objection To Lack Of Affordable Housing On Barnet College (Grahame Park) Site Application.
Letter Of Objection To 912-920 High Road N12.
Objection To Planning Application For Barnet House.
Objection To Planning Application For Underhill Stadium.
I have welcomed the inclusion of several Barnet and Camden schools In the Mayor’s pilot Air Quality Audit.
With the T-Charge imminent, you may be interested in the Mayor’s T-Charge and Air Quality Briefing.
I have been working with residents, backing up their campaign over a waste processing site in Cricklewood, which seems to have been getting away with all sorts of unpleasant practices.
I also welcome the news that the Garden Bridge Trust has announced the closure of the project. The integrity of this entire project has long been called into question and with Dame Margaret Hodge’s report raining down condemnation on the way this project had unfolded, it’s astounding that the Trust has chosen to cling on for so long.
I went on the Camden Highline walk, a project to turn a disused railway line between Camden Town and Kings Cross into a walking park, which I think is well worth support.
An issue I have been pursuing for some time is tube noise, especially since the introduction of the night tube at weekends. The London Assembly agreed a unanimous motion I drafted to encourage TfL to take noise complaints more seriously, introduce a proper compensation scheme for those affected and adopt internationally recognised noise thresholds. The full text of the Motion is:
“This Assembly urges the Mayor to take a tougher line on tube noise with Transport for London.
Assembly Members regularly receive complaints from residents who face all sorts of problems associated with tube noise, from loud PA announcements, vibration and noise. This has become markedly worse since the launch of the night tube, with some Londoners unable to sleep for 2 nights of every week. This Assembly considers that in many instances TfL’s responses have been slow, with some complainants seemingly lost in the system, with lengthy delays in responding, and in some cases, little by way of remediation. The Assembly notes that whilst rail grinding and the installation of shock absorbers have been met with success in some places, they have not been universally successful.
This Assembly recommends that TfL must consider other measures to reduce tube noise, such as slowing trains where appropriate and erecting sound barriers.
In addition, TfL should also dedicate more staff towards liaising with the public, some of whom are greatly distressed by very high noise levels.
This Assembly asks that TfL introduce a proper compensation scheme for those affected and in exceptional circumstances TfL must take responsibility for those severely affected.
Finally, TfL should adopt internationally recognised noise thresholds – no Londoner should be asked to live with noise above 40dB.”
On a rather different note, I attended a presentation by Battersea Dogs Home and the RSPCA on the problems caused by the Dangerous Dogs Act.
7 Fire Authority
Grenfell continues to pose challenges, as the Government has refused the additional funding that the Fire Commissioner believes is needed, for extra equipment and staffing costs:
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry terms of reference have also been published.
On a happier note, a success! I have been campaigning for the last 5 years, to bring back into use as firefighter key worker housing the four disused (for many years) cottages behind West Hampstead Fire Station. Boris Johnson wanted to sell them off, but this was not practical due to access issues. I am pleased to say that with Sadiq, we now have a different approach and the cottages are to be restored to provide accommodation for 8 single LFB personnel.
Finally, I attended the 20 years service awards ceremony for our staff, with certificates for non-uniform staff and Long Service and Good Conduct medals for firefighters.
I was pleased to see the outcome of the campaign which I have been supporting at SOAS to reject contracting services.
The Mayor has published the consultation on his health strategy.
The Mayor does not have responsibility for the NHS in London, but has a role in public health. ‘Better Health for all Londoners’ aims to tackle the city’s inequalities and improve the health of everyone living in the capital. Health inequalities in London are the worst in the UK and the Mayor believes that focusing on reducing inequality, London can become a healthier city, as well as a happier, more prosperous and fairer one. The consultation will be open until 30 November 2017. Further information is available here.
I have continued my work on dentistry access for children.
10 Mayor’s report
11 Written questions to the Mayor
Mayoral Written Answers August 2017
Mayoral Written Answers September 17.
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: What was the name of Reggie and Ronnie Kray’s older brother?
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