My report from City Hall No. 57: 24th March to 27th May 2019
This reporting period included the Easter recess and the Assembly’s AGM where we had a small reshuffle. For the forthcoming year (my last before my retirement in May 2020) I will be chairing the Fire Resilience and Emergency Planning Committee; I will continue as a member of the Police and crime Committee; and I have switched from the Economy to the Regeneration Committee.
I attended the annual meetings and ‘mayor making’ in both boroughs, Camden and Barnet.
At the Congress of Europe spring session, I made two speeches- one on the role of the Mayor in safeguarding democracy and the rights of Londoners; and the other on the risk to open government caused by privatisation and so called ‘out sourcing’.
I attended the 80th anniversary service at Belsize Synagogue; and the 70th anniversary afternoon tea of Mill Hill Synagogue.
I congratulated Barnet Cllr Sara Conway on her selection as Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Finchley and Golders Green. Sara is an excellent choice and will make a first class MP if elected.
This month’s London quiz:
Q: how many roads are there in the City of London’s square mile?
Contents: (please scroll down to the sections which interest you)
1 Europe, ‘Brexit’ and the economy
2Transport and HS2
4 Planning, Housing, Regeneration
6 Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning
9 Mayor’s report
10 Written questions to the Mayor
11 Problem solving and casework
12 Quiz answers
1 Europe, ‘Brexit’ and the Economy
At the time of writing, the results of the European Parliament elections have just been given. Whilst everyone will have their own view of the results, I read them as showing that London remains a very strongly ‘remain’ city; and whilst the Brexit Party topped the poll, the combined votes of those advocating remain and a second referendum amounted to a greater number. I am more than ever convinced that the only way to find a solution, given the deep divisions in the country, is a second referendum ‘People’s Vote’.
It was the most infamous lie of the referendum, £350m a week for the NHS. But the reality is that far from receiving a Brexit dividend, the health service is suffering from a reduction in the number of registered nurses and midwives from Europe. Figures published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council show the number from EU27 countries decreased by 5.9% between March 2018 and March 2019. Almost 5,000 have quit in the past two years with many blaming Brexit fears. The number of EEA nurses and midwives registering for the first time was just 968 between April 2018 and March 2019, up from the 805 who registered in 2017-2018 but a massive decrease compared to the 9,389 who registered in 2015-2016, before the Brexit referendum. I raised the implications of this at Mayor’s Question Time.
I commented on the “Revoke Article 50” Petition” on Parliament’s website that attracted over 6 million signatures, including 100,000 in Barnet and Camden:
I welcomed the Mayor’s support For EU nationals in Camden
Moving on from Brexit, I wrote to Cllr Cornelius (then Conservative leader of Barnet Council) about the delays in reproviding Glengall Road Post Office, in Hale ward.
I also expressed my concerns over the 28% rise In foodbank usage In Barnet and Camden.
2 Transport and HS2
Some good news at last for the put-upon users of the Gospel Oak to Barking Overground line. The new four-car Class 710 electric trains are now approved for passenger service. Issues with software development on the new trains resulted in them being delivered late, but they have now been approved by the rail regulator for passenger service on the line. The new trains can carry nearly 700 people, almost double the capacity of the old diesel trains that have been operating on the line. The new trains will be much better for air quality and the environment. Two trains were brought into service on 23 May with more to follow in the coming weeks. These walk-through, air-conditioned trains with USB points and real-time information screens will deliver a much-needed capacity boost. It is expected the regular 15 minute / four trains per hour frequency will be restored later in the summer. TfL will be in contact with passengers on the line in the next few weeks over the offer of a month’s free travel in September, in compensation for the long-standing problems they have suffered.
Step-free access for Mill Hill Broadway Thameslink looks to have come a step closer.
I met with TfL to press for progress on making West Hampstead Tube station step free: this is a very complex engineering problem, given the constraints of the site, but TfL are working on options for this.
I met with the Chief Executive of Crossrail 2, for a briefing. The project, as you might expect, has suffered from the delay and overspend on Crossrail 1 and is now with the Treasury for approval (or not). After the Assembly AGM we held a special MQT on Crossrail 1 with the Mayor and the new leadership of the scheme to look at progress.
I prepared an update after meeting with TfL on a number of local bus routes that have been underperforming or have undergone changes in the service.
To mark the UN’s Global Road Safety Week I wrote a letter for publication on road safety.
Polluting vehicles account for around half of London’s harmful NOx air emissions, and air pollution costs the capital up to £3.7 billion every year. Launched on 8 April and operating alongside the congestion charge, the world’s first Ultra-Low Emission Zone is helping address London’s toxic air health crisis that currently leads to thousands of premature deaths annually, and increases the risk of asthma, cancer and dementia. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year in the central London congestion charging zone. Since its launch, the ULEZ has already driven a significant increase in vehicle compliance with 74 per cent of vehicles driving into the zone compliant with the new standards. The number of older, more polluting non-compliant vehicles has reduced by 9,400 on an average day, a reduction of over a quarter (26 per cent). Resident discounts and some exemptions apply, which can be checked here. Autopay is now available for drivers who still operate a non-compliant vehicle. Drivers can continue to check if their vehicles meet the ULEZ emissions standards, or will need to pay a charge.
I wrote a letter for publication on electric charging points.
TfL have begun work to replace the three Northern line lifts at Belsize Park station. The three lifts being replaced are around 30 years old. In order to minimise the impact on customers, TfL will be replacing one lift at a time, ensuring that two lifts remain in operation for passenger use. As these works involve replacing all components of the lifts, it will take approximately seven months to complete work on each lift, meaning that works will be completed in early 2021.
As you might expect, on the Police and Crime Committee (PCC) we have continued to raise the issue of violent crime. We held a full q and a session with Lib Peck who has been appointed to run the Mayor’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) and tackling violence.
I also attended a meeting organised by Barnet’s Somali Bravanese for young people to discuss the causes of violence and how to respond.
Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has reported that the return of stop and search has helped to drive down the murder rate in London by a quarter over the past year; and that massive increases in its use had also contributed to a 15 per cent reduction in the number of under-25s being stabbed in London. The reduction in the murder rate is the first sign that increasing stop and search has been effective, alongside targeted policing and covert operations.
In this context I have been probing the use of section 60 stop and search powers in Camden, which allow stops without having to give a reason.
More than £39m has been lost from London’s youth services since 2011, meaning that local authorities have had their youth service budgets cut by an average of 44 per cent, resulting in the closure of 81 youth centres and the loss of at least 800 full-time youth workers in the capital. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has now announced £15 million of new investment in youth projects and programmes that are predominately in the capital’s high-crime areas in a move to provide positive opportunities for up to 40,000 young Londoners. Community groups and projects can apply for the next wave of the Mayor’s Young Londoners Fund, with £15m available to support these vital services in giving young Londoners a chance to shape their future. The deadline for applications is 12th July. Apply for the funding here.
I wrote a letter for publication to rebut a Conservative Councillor’s misdirected police petition.
At the Police and Crime Committee, the Commissioner told us that the climate change protests by Extinction Rebellion cost the police an extra £7 million and put a huge strain on the service. That included paying for overtime and kit, such as a cherry picker and barriers. The £7 million figure does not include the impact of taking officers away from other work fighting crime in London. 1,130 people were arrested during the protests which while some 10,000 police officers were deployed. The Metropolitan Police have said 69 people were charged, while British Transport Police charged three. There is a small team of officers working through the other cases with a view to prosecutions in due course.
At our recent PCC q and a with Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, I particularly questioned her over racism in the police, 20 years on after the Macpherson report into the death of Stephen Lawrence. I particularly highlighted two cases of apparent discrimination which arose in Camden; and the arguments over stop and search. The draft transcript is available on the Greater London Authority’s website here.
Our final PCC meeting in this period was a detailed focus on hate crime.
Finally, I attended both the public and the committee meetings of Camden Safer Neighbourhood Board.
Here is the link to MQT answers to policing questions I raised, March 2019.
4 Planning, Housing and Regeneration
A record-breaking number of affordable homes were started with City Hall’s support last year – including the highest number of new council homes in London in 34 years Mayor Sadiq Khan is investing £1 billion in building 14,700 new council homes, which includes 11,000 social rented homes over the next three years. He has secured a total of £4.8 billion from Government to start building 116,000 new homes in the capital by 2022.
The new statistics show 14,544 affordable homes were started in the year 2018/19 – more than in any year since City Hall took control of housing investment in the capital and exceeding the target of 14,000 agreed with Government ministers. This total includes more homes at social rent levels than ever before (3,991) and 1,916 council homes – more than in any year since 1984/85. The total number is more than double the 7,189 homes that were started in the final year of the previous Conservative mayoralty (2015/16).
I also commented on Camden Council’s delivery of more affordable housing than Barnet and on Conservative Barnet Council’s doubling of social rents.
I am sure readers of my reports will remember the battle we fought, regrettably unsuccessful, to try to prevent then Mayor Boris Johnson from closing Clerkenwell Fire Station. Since its closure, the cost of keeping the empty building closed costed £394,426 up to June last year for security and maintenance. I am pleased to report that working with the London Fire Commissioner, Islington Council and in partnership with Stonewall Housing, the Mayor has brought Clerkenwell Fire Station back into use for homelessness services, with the first to move in being the UK’s first LGBTIQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer) homeless shelter. The fire station has stood empty since the previous Conservative Mayor closed it down and has now been brought back as a venue for homeless services, while discussions around the long term development plans of the site continue. The large space offered by the Clerkenwell site is also enabling the project to run a community centre during the daytime.
I met the developers of the 100 Burnt Oak Broadway site.
I objected to the planning application for over station development at Colindale Tube Station.
I also objected to the proposed ‘Tulip Tower’ in the City.
I met TfL and their developer partners to discuss their plans for housing developments around Finchley Central and High Barnet tube stations. Together, their proposals would provide almost 1,500 new homes, with 40% affordable. The two projects will go out to public consultation in the Summer.
The Regeneration Committee’s first meeting after the Assembly AGM considered digital connectivity and London as a smart city with City Hall’s Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell The draft transcript of the meeting is here.
Finally, I attended the Mill Hill Preservation Society AGM and took questions from the audience.
I wrote a letter for publication on climate change.
I was also concerned to hear about the Inner London North Coroner’s position on invasive post mortems for Jewish people.
6 Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning (FREP) Committee
At the first FREP committee I chaired, we looked at the LFB’s safety plan, which is halfway through its effective period, so it is time to take stock, especially as the Plan predates the Grenfell Tower fire and lessons learned from it. The London Safety Plan covers:
- Prevention and protection
- Response and resilience
- People and resources
While the London Fire Brigade has made progress in the majority of its 39 commitments, four were off-target, including flood response and vehicle compliance.
We also examined an update on operations following the Grenfell Tower disaster.
I continue to probe issues around tower block fire safety, having established that
over 15,000 London homes still have Grenfell type cladding. I raised the slow progress in remediating the cladding with the Mayor at MQT.
I attended the fire safety conference at City Hall organised by the Deputy Mayor. Where City Hall has the power take action, the Mayor is ensuring new buildings are safe via the London Plan, which requires that all new developments achieve the highest standards of fire safety at the earliest planning stages. However, although Dame Judith Hackitt’s review into building regulations was published almost a year ago, there has been no clarity from the Government on the next steps for the review of regulations. The Deputy Mayor for Fire and Resilience, Fiona Twycross, and the London Fire Commissioner, Dany Cotton, have called on the Government to tighten up building regulations to prioritise the need for sprinklers and address the shortage of skilled fire engineers. They have asked the Government to: ensure new fire safety regulations cover a wider range of buildings than what is currently proposed; make installation of sprinklers mandatory in new residential buildings and any building where vulnerable people may be at risk; and address the shortage of skilled fire engineers, which is currently limiting essential preventative work.
I attended to observe a major joint blue light exercise at Canary Wharf led by the LFB
Finally, a range of answers to my FREP related questions at MQT March 2019.
I attended The Archer Academy in East Finchley for a discussion with students on crime and especially knife crime.
Nothing new to report this time.
9 Mayor’s report
Each month the Mayor produces a report on his activities: you can access his 31st report here.
10 Written questions to the Mayor
MQT answers May 19
MQT Late Answers April 19
MQT Late Answer March 19
MQT late Answer Feb 19
11 Problem solving and casework
Arjun Mittra is my City Hall assistant who manages incoming correspondence, casework and my diary: Arjun.Mittra@london.gov.uk
12 Quiz answer
Q: How many roads are there in the City of London’s square mile?
A: None. There are plenty of streets, lanes, gates and so on, but none of the thoroughfares in the City are called ‘roads’.
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