My report from City Hall February 2018
No. 49: 16th 31st January to 9th March 2018
In my last report no. 48, I explained the action the Mayor had taken to help rough sleepers at times of cold weather, opening shelters: his measures have been shown to be pretty important with the recent freezing temperatures.
This month also saw the tragic knife murders of two young men in Camden: see below in my policing section for what action is following.
Events I have attended include the Barnet Council ceremony to grant freedom of the borough to Saracens Rugby Club; the memorial service for the victims of the WW2 bomb in West Hendon, which killed a huge number of residents; People’s Question Time with the Mayor in Hounslow; and the St Paul’s service of thanks for the life of Mary Turner, a long-time friend and prominent London trades unionist. I had a short day visit to Strasbourg, to speak on human rights at the Congress of Europe.
I also met with the RNLI to discuss safety on the river. Annually it is a little-known fact that substantially more people drown in the river than are killed whilst cycling in London. Whilst we are taking action over cycling deaths we need to do more about the river, an issue I have followed up by promoting a motion, passed unanimously, by the Assembly.
Please note that the Assembly will shortly go into ‘purdah’ for the period of the local election campaign, so this will be my last report till after the elections in May.
Finally, may I wish all my readers a belated Happy Chinese New Year of the Dog?
This month’s quiz:
Q What football club is the oldest in London?
(answer at the end)
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 answers
1 Europe and ‘Brexit’
The Mayor has announced plans to help make it easier for EU citizens who live in the capital to access online the information they need so that they can stay in the UK after Brexit. There are approximately one million EU citizens living in London – and while their rights post-Brexit have not yet been agreed whatever the outcome of negotiations, EU citizens need access to accurate and up-to-date information and advice about their rights. The Government has stated that they will need to apply for ‘settled status’ to remain here after Brexit. This could lead to unnecessary worry for EU nationals and their families in London and around the country who have faced uncertainty since the referendum. In particular, they may have concerns regarding a possible language barrier, their employment status and ability to access services or understanding legal processes. The new website will direct users to expert legal advice, support services and guidance on employment rights.
I wrote a letter for publication in reply to Theresa Villiers MP’s views on Brexit.
you may also be interested in the speech by Jeremy Corbyn, on Labour’s developing position towards customs union.
And in Tony Blair’s recent speech on Brexit.
See also the Health section below, for the recommendations from the City Hall Health Committee concerning Brexit.
2 Economy Committee
Partly continuing the Brexit theme, this month’s Economy Committee meeting scrutinised the Mayor’s Economic Development Strategy: I particularly focussed on the impact of Brexit and on the position of apprentices and skills.
The Committee also published our report on the night time economy. The report includes the importance of mitigating any impact on local residents.
The Regeneration Committee also considered the roll out of the digital economy.
I also commented on the impact of the Conservative Governments’ welfare reforms on child poverty in London.
3 Transport and HS2
The Mayor has published his long term 25 year Transport Strategy which will ensure affordable public transport for all, support London’s economic growth, and create a fairer, greener and healthier city.
The strategy includes a new commitment to a West London Orbital rail line for which I have been lobbying. This new line delivered through TfL, the West London Alliance, boroughs and Network Rail will connect through from Hounslow to Cricklewood and Hendon via Old Oak, Neasden and Brent Cross.
The Strategy continues record investment in improving transport capacity, with new rail lines, more frequent tube services, thousands of clean buses and more accessible transport over the next two decades, focuses on walking and cycling, and a commitment to make the entire transport system zero-emission by 2050. The strategy also reiterates how vital Crossrail 2 and a transformed suburban rail metro service are for the capital’s future economy, jobs and homes including the long awaited proposal for the West London Orbital Rail Plan.
TfL’s budget is £700m a year lower after the Government’s decision in 2015 to remove the operating grant. In 2014/15 TfL received an operating grant of £842m – which made up 12 per cent of its revenue. For the coming budget year, 2018/19, this operating grant has been completely withdrawn. The previous Mayor failed to defend London’s transport subsidy when the Government decided to withdraw it. London is one of the only major cities in the world with a public transport and road network that doesn’t receive Government funding to support its operating costs.
Despite the Government’s cuts, the Mayor and Transport for London are protecting frontline services and the massive investment needed to modernise the transport network. To achieve this, the Mayor instigated the overhaul of TfL, which is reducing the organisation’s operating costs for the first time, with a £153m reduction last year.
There are obvious consequences of a £700m per year cut in Government funding: this cut means that all non-essential road improvements have been paused for two years unless other funding can be found.
The Government has also announced that, from 2021, the £500m raised yearly through Londoners’ Vehicle Excise Duty will only be invested in roads outside the capital. This means that Londoners are paying for roads across the UK with no contribution towards the upkeep of roads they use; and the costs of running London’s roads are subsidised by public transport farepayers. The Government has also blocked the capital from accessing the new £220m National Clean Air Fund.
At the Assembly Budget Question Time, I questioned the Mayor over outer London Bus Services.
Passengers using ‘pay as you go’ can now make as many journeys as they want on the bus and tram within an hour for the price of one, as the ‘Hopper’ fare has now been extended.
Also I was also pleased to see TfL agree to give Woodside Park Station a ‘face lift’.
Tube noise on the Northern Line continues to generate a lot of complaints. The remedial work I negotiated at Mornington Crescent is underway; and I arranged for TfL to meet residents at Kentish Town to hear of their problems. TfL have agreed to start the work soon after the Mornington Crescent works are completed.
When the Assembly scrutinised the Mayor’s Transport Strategy at our March plenary I also raised the need for more responsive progress on tube noise issues and obtained commitments from the Transport Commissioner to look at prioritising and resourcing remedial work.
I have also been chasing up step free access for Brent Cross tube. This is being provided through a Section 106 agreement with the Brent Cross Cricklewood developers. Funding will be released when the developers start their construction works for the extension to the shopping centre and new bus station in early 2019 with the aim of having the lift operational by 2022.
I met the Mayor’s walking and cycling commissioner, Will Norman, to discuss CS11 and the Camden High Line. It looks like modified plans for the CS11 are progressing; and while the Mayor supports the Camden High Line, there are no funds available to the Mayor for it.
I presented to the Mayor a mural and accompanying letter about the premature and unnecessary destruction of trees by HS2 in front of Euston Station
I think I should start this section of my update with comments on the horrific double knife murder in Camden recently, a real tragedy of loss of life of more young people. This was a real shock and, as if we needed it, a wakeup call re knife crime: The Mayor is making more resources available for this: see below; and I have been following the investigation closely, which seems to me to be making good progress with arrests and charging of the alleged assailants.
At the February Police and Crime Committee, (PCC) I raised the incidents with the Deputy Commissioner: this video link contains our exchanges near the start of the meeting. Knife crime is a real challenge, having started to rise in 2014. You can read the transcript here.
Later in the meeting I also spoke on the borough mergers, which we probed in detail, and the investigation into the failed evidence disclosure issue, which led to discontinued trials. The meeting also looked at the Worboys case, and the delay in publishing the Violence against Women and Girls policy, (which has now been published as of 9th March I attended the launch in Camden with the Mayor); and a Notting Hill carnival update.
Staying with Borough mergers, the evaluation of the ‘pathfinders’, which includes the Camden and Islington merger, has been published, which document includes the lessons learned. The good news is that the original problem with response times has been addressed and they are back to where they were, or better.
The London wide merger rollout is beginning: above, including the announcement re the merger of Barnet, Harrow and Brent from DCS Simon Rose, currently BCU commander in Barnet who will be in charge of the new merged North West BCU. You will I am sure appreciate that this is something we have been following, and will continue to follow, very closely on the PCC, especially probing performance and the savings claimed for the merger of a net £73 million. As a result of the funding issues, across the capital the Met. will have 1500 fewer posts in territorial (i.e. BCU borough) policing. This includes the deletion of 100 posts in these merged 3 boroughs- though this is not a loss of actual officers as the posts are currently unfilled anyway, due to the budget constraints.
I attended Barnet Safer Neighbourhood Board, where we discussed the issue in detail. Putting the Met.’s budget for the forthcoming year in context, as you will know there has been a significant cut in central Government funding for London’s police. This means that for 2018/19, the Mayor will be funding from the resources and taxes at his disposal 23% of the Met budget, compared to 18% in 2010; this moves more of the cost of financing policing the capital city away from general taxation and onto Londoners. The Mayor is doing the best he can, to mitigate the effects of central Government underfunding. See also my Letter for Publication: Police Cuts and Funding rebuttal.
Here are the details of the Mayor’s policing budget:
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is committed to investing an additional £110 million into the Metropolitan Police in the next year. The Mayor confirmed this investment when his Budget was considered for approval by the London Assembly recently.
Since 2010-11, the Met’s general grant funding from the Government has fallen by more than £700 million, or nearly 40 per cent in real terms, on a like-for-like basis. In recent years, the Met Police has had to find roughly £600m of savings and the Mayor has found a further £150 million of savings since he took office. A further £325m of savings must be found by 2021.
These funding reductions have led to the loss of a third of police staff posts, which are down from 14,330 to 9,985, as well as two-thirds of police community support officer (PCSO) posts, which are down from 4,607 to 1,591. In addition, there are now 114 fewer police station front counters and 120 fewer police buildings. The Met. expects to reduce from 32,000 officers to 30,000 by April this year and to have to make further significant reductions in numbers by 2021.
With further savings needed, the Met is running out of options and police officer numbers in the capital could fall significantly below 30,000 before 2021
The Mayor’s budget will include the following additional investment into the Metropolitan Police in 2018-19.
- £49 million to be raised by a 5.1 per cent council tax increase. This will be spent on combating knife crime, (£15 million); funding the two per cent police pay increase; and supporting officer numbers. See also Dismore questions Mayor over increase in Council Tax for Police.
- £55 million raised from business rates income so the Metropolitan Police do not have to borrow the amount previously planned for investing in police buildings and new technology. This will lead to a £3.3 million annual saving in interest payments that will be spent on improving support for those taken in by the police with mental health problems.
- £5 million to be spent on recruiting additional police officers in the coming year.
- From 2019-20, Sadiq Khan will invest an additional £59 million annually, raised predominantly from business rates income to support an extra 1,000 police officers that would otherwise be unaffordable.
And youth funding:
As a result of Government cuts over the last eight years, councils have been left with no choice but to take more than £22 million from youth services since 2011, closing 30 youth centres, with at least 12,700 places for young people lost.
The Mayor is creating a new £45 million fund to help young Londoners – particularly those who are at risk of getting caught up in crime. The Young Londoners Fund will see £15million invested in each of the next three years. £10million a year will be used for a new fund into which local communities, charities and schools can bid for funding, and £5 million will be used to scale up existing City Hall projects.
Burglary remains a cause for concern: here are links to police advice on burglary prevention, and for anyone who is unfortunately a burglary victim.
On the PCC, we have been concerned about the continuing problems the Met faces in dealing with child protection issues. The most recent report from HMICFRS has just come out; you may have seen news coverage, but if you would like to see the report itself, the link is here.
We also held hearings with the three London Police forces (the Met, British Transport Police, and the City of London Police) together to look at how they work together, including on counter terrorism, fraud and public order.
The other PCC meeting this month focussed on the Tower Hamlets election misconduct investigation, and the lessons to be learned for the forthcoming local elections. The draft minutes and transcript of the PCC meeting.
HMICFRS have also just published their 3rd progress evaluation report on this.
The PCC also held hearings on our ongoing inquiry into healthcare in custody, when I focussed on children and vulnerable adults detained by the police.
We visited Scotland Yard for a confidential briefing with Asst. Commr. Rowley, the outgoing national counter terrorism chief; and to see demonstrations of some of the new technology the Met is rolling out across the capital. AC Rowley is to be succeeded in the counter terrorism role by newly promoted AC Neil Basu, whom some will remember as Barnet Borough Commander a few years ago. I have written to congratulate him on his appointment.
I was pleased to see the police following up on Watling Avenue, Burnt Oak incidents.
I attended the CST annual dinner, to maintain links with this important voluntary organisation that provides security volunteers for the Jewish community.
Finally, recent policing answers from MQT.
February Policing MQT answers.
5 Planning, Housing and Regeneration
The Mayor has published his ‘Better Homes for Local People’ good practice guide, launched at the West Hendon estate a Barnet example of how things can go badly wrong. Jeremy Corbyn attended as did I. While the Mayor has limited sway when it comes to estate regeneration, he will use his funding and planning powers to protect social housing and give its residents a voice. The guide explains what those living on social housing estates should expect when regeneration is proposed, with full consultation and involvement from the outset being crucial. Where demolition is proposed, the Mayor wants to see
- an increase in affordable homes; and as a minimum, no loss of social housing;
- full rights to remain or return for tenants;
- a fair deal for leaseholders and freeholders.
He proposes mandatory ballots of residents for schemes where any demolition is planned as a strict condition of his funding. This will be separately consulted on for two months. A copy of the guide and details of how people can comment on plans for ballots can be found here.
The Mayor is investing £15 million in a new scheme to purchase homes for Londoners who have been, or are at risk of becoming, homeless. The scheme will purchase around 330 existing private properties in good condition, and let them at genuinely affordable rents to vulnerable Londoners who are ready to move on from hostels and other temporary accommodation and to live independently in a stable, affordable home. Tenants will also be able to access wider support to help them move into training and employment. The scheme builds on the success of two similar projects. All three funds have housed approximately 1,300 people to date, with data from the longest-running fund showing 100 per cent of tenants sustained their tenancy for more than six months, and 44 per cent now in employment.
The second round of £200,000 for grants from the Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Innovation Fund is now available for small-scale, innovative projects to pilot original ideas and develop new services. Seven projects were awarded grants in the first round of funding. Grants range from £10,000 to £80,000 and bids that include match-funding will be prioritised. http://London.gov.uk
Turning to planning issues, I attended and spoke at Barnet Planning Committee against two schemes, Barnet House and Cricklewood aggregates superhub, where crucial were documents not made available to residents ahead of the decision making meeting.
I also met the developers of the Pentavia scheme, Mill Hill. I told them I could not support the scheme, due to inadequate affordable housing; and overdevelopment. I am composing formal objections.
I also objected again to the 141 High Street planning application in High Barnet.
Given the problems caused to many constituents due to water cuts after broken mains, I have written to both Thames and Affinity water, expressing my concerns as to their failures of supply which they should have been prepared to avoid.
I had previously met with Thames Water to raise concerns over leakage generally; (events have shown their assurances were a little optimistic) and flooding in Colindale.
While on the subject of water, the Mayor of London has announced £6 million further funding for protecting the environment and improving green space in the capital. The fund will deliver the roll-out of more new public water fountains on top of the initial 20 the Mayor previously announced: the first ones will be installed this summer. It will also create better local green spaces including in areas with little access to parks and community spaces.
The Mayor is working to introduce a refill scheme so that Londoners can reuse their bottles and cups to top up free tap water from local shops and businesses. He is also considering the potential for a plastic bottle deposit return scheme that gives Londoners money back for recycling bottles.
The Mayor and Transport for London have announced £766,000 of new funding matched with around £875,000 from the London boroughs involved, for three local boroughs to help accelerate the switch to zero emission vehicles to tackle London’s toxic air pollution. I was pleased to see that Camden has won funding to improve air quality near some of its schools, where 23 schools will benefit from a School Low Emission Neighbourhood in the Frognal and Fitzjohns area costing £720,000. Streets in the vicinity will be restricted to electric vehicles and local access, with electric vehicle charging points in school car parks and points to charge up cars at lamp posts.
Details of the Mayor’s £34million ‘Energy for Londoners’ scheme have been announced. These include amongst others:
- The Mayor’s new £2.5 million package of fuel poverty measures will help some of the most vulnerable households who receive eligible benefits including home owners with disabilities and older Londoners who live alone. We have an estimated 335,000 households living in fuel poverty. Available are free home energy improvements including boilers, heating controls and insulation worth up to £4,000. Londoners can apply for Warmer Homes grants here.
- A £10m commercial boiler scrappage scheme – the first ever in the UK – will start in the spring, will offer small businesses across the capital grants to replace old, inefficient and polluting boilers with new, cleaner boilers and heating systems which will also help improve indoor air quality, reducing harmful NOx emissions.
- Transport for London are set to expand their solar power usage and install energy efficiency measures across a variety of TfL owned buildings including bus stations and office buildings, in a new £4.5m refurbishment project.
- During a 12-month pilot scheme, City Hall will buy locally generated cleaner energy and use it to power TfL buildings. The scheme, which went live in January 2018, will use energy bought from Peabody Services and Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE Heat Networks), to help power two Transport for London depots.
I congratulated Camden Council on their Cultural Impact Award from the Mayor.
I also visited St Margaret’s Church Edgware to talk through their proposal to develop their Churchyard into a sanctuary for the community to enjoy, part funded from City Hall.
You may remember that I reported some time ago, about the problems facing residents at Strawberry Vale, who had their gas cut off for a prolonged period. I am pleased to say that at long last, their social landlord has agreed to pay compensation, given the much higher electricity bills incurred.
7 Fire Authority
We had our annual Assembly plenary with the Fire Commissioner and LFEPA: I led the questioning of the Commissioner and Chair of Fire Authority over the future of London Fire Brigade.
I also attended the Brigade’s 30 years’ service awards ceremony.
The constituency has done pretty well with skills grants from City hall, this month:
City Lit won £600,000 from Mayor’s Skills Fund.
And the Working Men’s College in Camden won £200,000 from the same Mayoral Grant;
as did Woodhouse College.
I was outraged by Barnet Conservatives’ scheme to reward the councillor responsible for wrecking the borough’s libraries and childrens’ services:
I also attended the opening ceremony of Alma Primary School in Whetstone.
The London Assembly Health Committee has been looking at the implications of Brexit for the NHS.
The problems involving the Inner North London Coroner have continued, as the court date for judicial review approaches:
The Assembly unanimously approved my motion.
I wrote a letter in local papers.
And finally the Chief Coroner stated that the “Cab Rank” Rule Is unlawful.
10 Mayor’s report
Each month the Mayor produces a report on his activities. His 19th Mayor’s Report to the Assembly is here.
11 Written questions to the Mayor
Late February MQT answers.
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 Quiz answer
Q: What football club is the oldest in London?
Andrew Dismore AM
Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden