My report from City Hall December 2017


May I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Chanukah:

 xmas card 2017 Chanukah image 2017

Thanks to Emma, year 5 of Torriano School, for the Christmas card design: I spent an interesting afternoon visiting the school, too.

As you would expect, this month saw me at a number of Remembrance Day events, including selling poppies in Edgware and attending the Remembrance Day service there, which I helped organise, as well as at City Hall and with the Flanders Regional Authority at the Guards Chapel.

I also attended the 30th anniversary commemoration of the King’s Cross Tube Station Fire. 30 years ago, I was very involved in the aftermath professionally as a lawyer representing victims and families, including at the Public Inquiry.

This month’s quiz: rather than just pose my usual London question, I have written a Christmas quiz, fun for all the family – answers next month!

Contents: (please scroll down to the sections which interest you)

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

1 Europe and ‘Brexit’

One of my main concerns has been the issue of post – Brexit police and security arrangements, which I find rather worrying, especially since the EU chief negotiator has said that the UK will not be able to remain a member of Europol (the EU police organisation) after Brexit. See the Police section below for more details of my work on this.

We now know that London is to lose our EU agencies to Paris and Amsterdam, with consequent loss of many hundreds of jobs.

The impact of Brexit on the economy and household bills is also becoming more apparent: the National Institute for Economic and Social Research has found that the economic slowdown and fall in living standards in the U.K. with households £600 worse off were directly attributable to the decision to leave the European Union.

And a ‘no deal’ Brexit would add almost £1,000 per year to shopping bills.

Whilst other published research shows that Brexit has lost the UK economy £300m per week since the Referendum.

You may also be interested in this letter I received from Lord Kerr who negotiated for the UK the original Article 50 provisions.

2  Economy Committee

The major development this month was the Budget, on which I commented in a letter for publication.

For a more detailed analysis read here.

On a more positive note, the Mayor announced an increase in the London Living Wage to £10.20 an hour.

The Mayor has launched his Economic Development Strategy for London. It can be accessed here. The Strategy prioritises:

  • Supporting future innovation and growth through helping businesses across different industries to take advantage of the opportunities in digital technology.
  • Helping more Londoners into work by tackling barriers to employment, particularly for women, disabled people and those from ethnic minorities. This can be done by making it easier for people to develop new skills through education and training.
  • Promoting economic fairness and making London the best place in the world to work through schemes such as the Mayor’s Good Work Standard and the London Living Wage.
  • Lobbying government for an approach to immigration that allows talent from around the world to live, work and study in London.
  • Developing a new world-class, fit for purpose skills and education system that meets the needs of businesses and London’s economy.
  • Promoting London and the wider south east as a pioneer of life sciences innovation internationally
  • Securing investment in the development of the Thames Estuary Production Corridor that will be a global centre of excellence for the creative industries.

The strategy is open for comment until 13 March 2018.

I have also raised issues for SME businesses:

Support for small businesses this Christmas.

Affordable workspace for SMEs.

This month’s Economy Committee meeting was a question and answer session with London and Partners and the new Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell.

I also welcomed a new 24-Hour Post Office on New Oxford Street.

Finally, economy related MQT answers.

3 Transport and HS2

Tube noise has been a big issue this month: I           met with the Mayor to press the case for  quicker action to deal with the problem, especially after the night tube and met with residents and TfL officials at Mornington Crescent, to agree a forward plan to deal with the noise  problems there. I know there are issues elsewhere in the constituency which TfL have not prioritised, and I continue to press for action for them.

I also met with London buses to raise the continuing problems of route 13 and other service issues.

See also:

I stood up for night workers on night bus cuts.

My C11 Bus Service reduction criticism.

I was also shocked by how inadequate was Barnet Council’s response to the recent wintry weather.

On a more positive note, Mayor Sadiq Khan has frozen all TfL fares and travel concessions, ensuring that children, those over 60, veterans, apprentices and those on Job Seeker’s Allowance continue to benefit from free or discounted travel and

the unlimited one-hour Hopper fare for bus and tram transfers will be introduced early next year, with weekly capping for Oyster cards later in the year.

TfL has published their updated draft Business Plan, which covers the period from 2018/19 to 2022/23. TfL needs to absorb an average £700m per year cut in Government funding over five years, with the general grant to support operating costs removed from 2018/19.

Transport investment will be funded through the Mayor’s extensive work to drive efficiencies. As well as affordable fares, these improvements include the delivery of the Elizabeth line from December 2018, continued modernisation of London Underground to deliver more frequent and reliable services and new, additional trains on the Docklands Light Railway and Overground networks to boost capacity.

Over the next five years, London will be home to the greenest bus fleet in the world, and there will be £2.2bn investment in more healthy streets, to improve air quality, reduce car dependency and encourage more people to become more active.

TfL are also pushing ahead to develop hundreds of acres of land with work underway on a range of sites that will deliver 10,000 new homes, half of which will be affordable. The draft Business Plan can be found here.

I have also been raising issues relating to Cycle Superhighway 11 and HS2, through questions to the Mayor, along with other transport issues.

Finally, Transport and HS2 related MQT answers Nov/Dec 17.

4  Policing

This has been a very busy period on policing this month, including moped crime, borough mergers, closure of police stations, and Brexit and security, as well as the Police Inspectorate report on the Met. and knife crime.

Moped crime

Bearing in mind Camden has had more moped enabled crime than any other borough this year, I challenged the Met about this at the Police and Crime Committee and welcomed new tactics being used.

I also appeared on LBC breakfast news programme commenting on the latest police tactics.

Borough mergers

I have been concerned that the forthcoming evaluation of the borough mergers, especially Camden and Islington, is objective and based on evidence and questioned the Deputy Mayor and the Met on this.

I also raised this issue again at the Police and Crime Committee with the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and Deputy Mayor, along with police numbers and the 101 number performance

Police station front counter closures

Driven by severe budget cuts imposed by central Government, MOPAC and the Met. have now published their Public Access Strategy (Police Stations)

At a time of unprecedented pressure on the MPS’s budget – having had to save £600m since 2010 because of Government cuts and with a further £400m to save in the years ahead, decisions have been announced on police station front counter closures.

In Camden the front counter at Holborn Police Station will close, but the station will remain operational. The Borough’s 24/7 front counter will be provided at Kentish Town Police Station. In Barnet, the 24/7 front counter will remain at Colindale Police Station. The front counter at Barnet will be closed in December and the entire building will subsequently be sold.

The Dedicated Ward Officers will be based at new hubs closer to their local ward and the community they patrol, making them more visible and accessible. They will hold new well-advertised community sessions every week in every ward.  Barnet town centre will have two sessions a week due to the distance from Colindale

See also my letter for publication in response to Theresa Villiers MP on Police Cuts.

Brexit and Security

The issue came up at the Police and Crime Committee. I was concerned by the suggestions from some quarters that there was no problem with this, so I joined the debate. See also my questions on post Brexit security:

Since the PCC debate, Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator has said in terms that the UK will not be able to remain a member of Europol after Brexit, a very serious problem which I raised with the Mayor at December MQT.

HMIC inspection report

You may have heard about the HMIC inspection report on the Met. We followed this up in part so far at the Police Committee.

Knife crime

The Mayor has started a new social media campaign aimed to prevent young people from carrying a knife.

As part of the Knife Crime Strategy, the Mayor has made £250,000 available in 2017/18 to fund activities from voluntary & community groups to support grass-roots work involved in protecting young people and ridding our communities of violence.  More information and details on how to apply can be found here.

Other policing issues

The PCC has also started an inquiry into child protection; and I also raised the question of the police’s  Anti Trick Or Treat leaflets which were a bit heavy handed.

Police and Parliament: considering the Damian Green affair, I also joined the questioning on this, at the Police Committee.

I also attended a ‘round table’ with experts, looking at health care of detainees in custody.

Finally, please see the written questions and answers for November/ December that I put to the Mayor on policing and crime issues.

5  Planning, Housing and Regeneration

The Mayor has published the draft of his first London Plan for public consultation. It is a very large tome, but in summary he has proposed new policies on:

  • New growth corridors – Growth and areas of higher density have been set out alongside planned new infrastructure which will support the development of jobs and homes. These include: Crossrail 2, Thames Estuary, Bakerloo line extension, Central London, Elizabeth Line East, Heathrow, Elizabeth Line West, Trams Triangle/London-Gatwick-Brighton mainline and HS2
  • Fire safety – Using his planning powers to their fullest extent, the Mayor has set out how all developments must meet the highest standards of fire safety, minimising the risk of fire spread, including providing a fire evacuation lift to allow means of escape
  • Fracking – reaffirming his commitment to refuse any potential fracking applications in the capital
  • Pubs and culture – Stronger protection for pubs and support for plans for new public houses in suitable locations
  • Toilet provision – more public toilets must be built and should be suitable for all users, including disabled people and families with young children
  • Takeaways – Encouraging boroughs to refuse planning applications for new fast food takeaways near schools
  • Green belt and green cover – reaffirmed his commitment to protect London’s Green Belt and other important open spaces and set out plans to help make more than half of London green by 2050
  • Transport – Planning for developments to increase bike parking, the importance of public transport links, greater electric car provision outside new homes
  • New approach to working with the wider South East – exploring with willing partners opportunities for additional growth in sustainable locations outside London
  • Tall buildings – The Mayor supports tall buildings but these must be in the right places and to high design and safety standards – boroughs must identify where these are suitable in principle

You can find the whole draft plan and how to comment on it here.

I am often asked if the Mayor can intervene on a particular planning issue. He can only do so within certain parameters, to reflect the strategic nature of his planning responsibilities. I thought you might like this checklist of when City Hall has a role:

An application is referable to the Mayor if it meets the criteria set out in the Mayor of London Order (2008). The criteria includes:

  • development of 150 residential units or more
  • development over 30 metres in height (outside the City of London)
  • development on Green Belt or Metropolitan Open Land

You can read more here.

Barnet has now been designated the 17th worst borough in England for homelessness, hardly surprising with their failure to insist on a fair percentage of affordable homes in the huge number of developments coming through, and their loss of over 800 affordable homes in their council estate ‘regeneration’ schemes.

It is good to see the Mayor is now getting tough with them over this: another example of this is Sadiq’s demand for more affordability from the Barnet House scheme.

Last month, I wrote about the planning applications for a bookmaker’s shop in Colindale and an Ark Academy school in Underhill. I believe both applications were badly handled by the Council and were certainly against the overwhelming wishes of residents. I considered both were decided unlawfully, and I wrote to the Barnet Chief Executive with representations.

Whilst he did not concede the point on the Ark Academy, the Chief Executive did so on the Colindale bookmakers application which was rerun. This time the Committee refused the application, as requested by residents, a rare victory! In the meantime, the Ark Academy is now before the Mayor, and I have written further objections to him, accordingly.

Proposed developments in Barnet are still coming through thick and fast, the most recent being the BT telephone exchange in Colindale. I have met the developers and told them that in my view their proposals are unacceptable, especially due to the inadequate number of affordable homes.

6 Environment

The Mayor of London has launched a consultation on his next plans to help tackle London’s dangerous air pollution, after the 24-hour Ultra-Low Emission Zone   replaces the T-Charge from 8 April 2019 in Central London.

The Mayor is proposing to:

  • extend the ULEZ tighter emission standards to the whole of London from October 2020 for heavy vehicles (buses, coaches, lorries and other specialist vehicles)
  • expand the central London ULEZ up to, but not including, the North and South Circular Roads for cars, vans and motorcycles from October 2021.

These proposals will reduce harmful emissions across London and help clean up our dangerously polluted air. It is part of a package of action the Mayor is taking to improve London’s toxic air quality, including significantly increasing funding spent on tackling air quality (over the next five years) and cleaning up our bus fleet.

If you would like to know more please visit TfL website for further information to submit your views by completing our online questionnaire. The consultation will close on 28 February 2018.

7 Fire Authority

We have been working up the Fire Authority’s budget, in the wake of the demands on the Fire Brigade raised by the Grenfell Tower fire. The Mayor has been writing to the Home Secretary to seek the additional funds we need (£6 million in capital costs, and £6 million a year running costs), but so far, she has refused. And the Budget provided no funds either.

Regrettably, the Conservative members of the Fire Authority have refused to support the Mayor’s efforts to obtain extra funds for the Brigade and also failed to back up  the Home Secretary’s claim that post Grenfell costs should be met from reserves.

I have completed my current round of fire station visits, with Barnet and Hendon Fire Stations. I am meeting the Brigade Director of Operations in the New Year to go through the various points raised with me by the firefighters I met on my visits.

I attended a very interesting demonstration of ‘blue light’ collaboration at Lambeth fire station, where we saw exercises showing how the three services-  fire, police and ambulance-  work together to tackle a variety of simulated emergencies.

I am also chairing a working party, looking at what we would like to see in the London Plan, recently issued in draft, to maximise fire safety.

Finally, to support our current recruitment round and to attract more female recruits the Brigade has produced a short video.

8 Education

The November Budget was a disappointment for Barnet and Camden schools, which continue to face cuts.

On a happier note, I attended Barnet Interfaith Forum’s event, to promote an exhibition showing how Albanian Muslims helped save Jews during the Holocaust

9 Health

As for education, regrettably the NHS funding crisis was not helped in the Budget.

I attended a round table session organised by the London Ambulance Service, to look at their forward strategy, in the light of the continued growing pressure on the service.

10 Mayor’s report

Each month the Mayor produces a report on his activities. His 16th and 17th Mayor’s Reports to the Assembly are here.

11 Written questions to the Mayor

November MQT answers are here.

Additional November MQT Answers.

12 Problem solving and casework

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

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 104 E Barnet Rd, London, Barnet EN4 8RE