My report from City Hall No. 58: 28th May to 26th July 2019
This report covers a longer time than usual, as I wanted to make sure I was up to date in reporting back to you, up to the Summer break.
This period coincided with a number of anniversaries, not least the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fire. I comment on this further in the Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning section below.
It was the 50th anniversary of Pride in London– I attended the event at Soho Fire Station with Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton and Deputy Mayor Fiona Twycross AM where we met Sherlock the Fire Investigation Dog.
The Assembly debated a motion about the 40th anniversary of Blair Peach, killed by the police while on an antifascist demonstration. I spoke in the debate also raising the death in 1974 of Kevin Gateley who died in similar circumstances, and with whom I was at university at the time.
I hosted a cultural event at City Hall, ‘Unreal City’ which matched photos of London with quotes from T.S Eliot’s poem ‘the Wasteland’.
I attended the Cyprus Wine and Business Festival and the Chinese Information and Advice centre fundraising dinner, where I spoke.
Attending the Congress of Europe Monitoring Committee, I spoke about the need for mainstreaming of human rights through the delivery of public services.
I was a co-signatory to the London Assembly Labour Group’s joint letter on Antisemitism.
This month’s London quiz: Q: Which underground branch line was closed to store treasures from the British Museum during the Second World War?
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
With the 31st October current deadline approaching, Brexit remains a major concern at City Hall. I raised this with the Mayor:
I was pleased to see the Mayor’s new fund set up to help small businesses in London.
On wider economy issues, figures published by the Office for National Statistics show that the amount raised in taxes from London and redistributed elsewhere totalled £34.3 billion in 2017-18, the most recent year for which the stats are available. That’s an increase of nearly £2 billion compared with the previous year and around £9 billion more than the year before that. This underlines the reality that any project to “rebalance” the UK economy- including Brexit- at the capital’s expense will impact on the rest of the country, as apart from the east and south east, every English region as well as Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales run fiscal deficits.
2 Transport and HS2
Tube noise affecting both residents neighbouring tube lines and passengers has continued to be an important focus of my work, recently through Mayor’s questions. TfL are proving pretty unresponsive to complaints. I am arranging to meet the Deputy Mayor for Transport to again press the case for speed reductions off peak, which should help.
I visited Mill Hill East tube station to see progress on the work to build a lift and step free access, which should be completed next spring.
I met with TfL to discuss the progress (albeit rather slow) on their ‘strategy’ for public toilets at tube stations, many of which are currently locked, mainly due to vandalism – apparently station staff can unlock some of them on request, in cases of need.
At Assembly Plenary I moved a motion over the threat to the Freedom Pass.
The Mayor has been consulting on plans to make 20mph the new general speed limit on TfL roads within central London by spring 2020 as part of his ‘Vision Zero’ commitment to eliminate death and serious injury on London’s roads. Speed is a factor in around 37 per cent of collisions where a person dies or is seriously injured across London. A person hit at 30mph is five times more likely to die than someone hit at 20mph. Combined with the 20mph limits already set on the vast majority of borough roads, this would mean that most of the roads in central London would become 20mph. For full details of the proposals, please visit here.
In the same vein I have joined with Labour councillors to urge the Mayor to challenge Barnet on its 20 Mph zone rules, in light of a recent accident in East Finchley.
The Mayor has also set out his plans for a major expansion of London’s electric vehicle-charging network to ensure the capital continues to be one of the world’s leading zero-emission cities. This includes commitments by businesses and retailers to transform EV charging provision in London over the coming years following the Mayor’s establishment of the world’s first Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Taskforce, bringing together representatives from 140 organisations including business, energy, infrastructure, government and the London boroughs. This plan estimates the number of charge points required in the next five years and looks at how this can be delivered with less public subsidy and without installing points which are underused or outdated. The plan includes:
- installing the next generation of ultra-rapid charging points at London petrol stations later this year
- delivering five flagship charging hubs, with the ability for multiple cars to quickly be charged in one place. The first of these hubs will be operational by the end of the year.
- a new ‘one-stop-shop’ for Londoners to request new charging infrastructure from their local authority in areas of high demand making it easier for drivers to switch to electric vehicles
- expanding electric car clubs and bringing more vehicles to market, offering greater choice to Londoners and businesses
- new online smart tools to ensure London’s energy grid continues to keep pace with demandand to help unlock private sector investment
Finally, Transport (including HS2) answers at MQT.
Knife crime, especially affecting young people remains high on the agenda as you would expect. The Mayor has produced a detailed analysis on what has become known as the ‘Public Health’ approach to serious youth violence.
In this connection, the Mayor has published a report of the London Countering Violent Extremism Programme. The programme was set up to undertake in-depth consultation with communities, local authorities and other stakeholders, to assess current counter extremism delivery in London, including the work of the Government’s Prevent programme. The report summarises the findings from the consultation and makes 70 recommendations for improvement. It can be found here.
At the Police and Crime Committee, I have raised the policing of protest (given the tactics of the Extinction Rebellion protest group) antisocial behaviour, violent crime and the role of Independent Custody Visitors. The committee has also had a briefing from rape crisis centres, in light of our ongoing work about violence towards women and girls.
4 Planning, Housing and Regeneration
The Regeneration Committee on which I sit is inquiring into the availability and disposal of surplus public land, to see what can be done to increase the supply of affordable homes.
One of the problems we face are the Government’s Permitted Development Rights, which allow, for example, office blocks to be converted to residential, without needing planning permission- and thus without any requirement to provide a proportion of – or indeed any – affordable homes in such developments.
On a more positive note, I have welcomed the new digital map of underground pipes and cables, which will help speed up construction projects. The Mayor wrote back to me to confirm that Camden would be part of the scheme.
The Mayor has warned that the Government must take urgent action as a new report has revealed the amount of grant funding required to deliver the affordable homes Londoners desperately need is £4.9bn a year – seven times more than the capital currently receives, currently around £700m affordable housing grant per year. Last year City Hall started a record 14,544 affordable homes, including nearly 4,000 at social rent levels – 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.
The Mayor’s current Affordable Homes Programme, launched in 2016, runs until March 2022. Working with the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations, councils, and other housing sector experts, City Hall examined how much grant funding is needed to deliver a 10-year programme to follow this, until 2032. Based on the Mayor’s draft London Plan, which identifies need and capacity for 65,000 new homes each year of which 50 per cent should be affordable, this programme aims to deliver 325,000 new affordable homes. Of these, 70 per cent would be social rent (22,750 homes a year), 20 per cent shared ownership (6,500 homes), and 10 per cent intermediate rent (3,250 homes).
Delivering this number of new social rented and other genuinely affordable homes will require significant subsidy compounded by construction costs, estimated to increase by 3.4 per cent each year until 2023 which, alongside inflation and a variable housing market, mean the subsidy needed to deliver the homes London needs is far greater in cash terms than a decade ago.
London’s town centres, high streets and local regeneration projects will benefit from £20 million made available by the Mayor to fund the third round of his Good Growth Fund. The next round of the Fund will open for applications in September.
I have been looking into several developments in Barnet. I have met and made informal representations (pending formal planning applications) to the developers of the Sainsburys Colindale/West Hendon site; and to the developers of Imperial House Colindale/Burnt Oak.
I have written to the Council about what appear to be distinctly fishy goings on about the Sweet Tree Field planning application, Mill Hill.
The Pentavia site application, Mill Hill, (for which I had tabled (and spoke to) objections, together with local amenity organisations and residents), called in by the Mayor had its public hearing. The Mayor decided to grant planning consent on the basis that the number of affordable homes in the scheme trumped the other planning considerations, including against tall buildings in this area.
Finally, Barnet is now the 12th most expensive place to rent in the country on local average salary.
Air quality continues to be a major concern. I raised issues about Barnet’s approach with the Mayor of London: here is his response.
The Mayor has invested £6 million from his Air Quality Fund in 15 new projects being established across London with the aim of improving the capital’s air quality and tackling our climate emergency. Camden is to receive a share of it. The new schemes include initiatives to cut pollution as well as establishing car free and pedestrianisation schemes. Four new Low Emission Neighbourhoods (LENs) will be established, including one in Camden. This funding will be matched with almost £3 million from the relevant boroughs. Boroughs across London will also work with the Mayor to deliver further projects to improve air quality, including in Camden. These projects will share £4 million from the Mayor, match funded with almost £6 million from the boroughs. The Camden projects:
- Camden Town, Camden – includes a trial closures of the High Street on select days during summer and Christmas as well as a low emission route to the market, and a host of upgraded walking and cycling routes.
- Camden Cargo Bike Network – providing extended loans of cargo bikes to help businesses make the switch from polluting vehicles wherever possible
The Mayor’s initiative, London’s first Climate Action week, took place from 1-8 July 2019. The action week focussed on climate solutions and involved industry leaders and campaigners of all ages who are helping drive global climate innovation. Events explored clean energy and energy efficiency; zero emission transport; adaptation and resilience; climate finance and investment; and campaigning for stronger legislation and engineering while promoting green business development and investment, and highlighting London’s green spaces, wildlife and waterways.
The Mayor’s ambition is to make more than half of the capital green and increase tree canopy cover by 10 per cent by 2050. He has updated the London Plan to prevent the loss of green belt and increase ‘greening’ in new developments. City Hall has also funded the planting of a record 170,000 trees in just three years, 200 green space improvements, and has developed pioneering high-tech mapping of London’s green cover to ensure these targets remain on track. From 19th July, the National Park City Festival launched with 10 days of free events in celebration of London’s green spaces, wildlife habitats, green rooftops and waterways. Working with the independent National Park City Foundation and partners including the National Theatre and London Wildlife Trust, the events aimed to get Londoners to enjoy the outdoors, highlighting the importance, beauty and breadth of London’s green spaces.
I have also been pursuing issues to do with water. Resilience of supply was behind the motion to the Assembly Plenary I seconded which noted the increasingly urgent need to secure London’s water supply. With an estimated population growth of two million, urgent warnings from the Environment Agency that England could face severe water shortages within 25 years due to climate change and the increasing likelihood of droughts in the immediate future, the need for a sustainable solution is paramount.
The Environment Agency is responsible for flood defences, and I have been raising concerns about local flooding risks from the Silkstream in Colindale.
On a happier note, I welcomed the Mayor’s announcement of three more water refill stations in Camden.
I also wrote to the local press about developing more electric vehicle charging points.
6 Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning (FREP) Committee
As indicated in my introduction, the Grenfell Tower fire second anniversary was in June. As the chair of FREP I have continued to pursue relevant issues with the Mayor:
The July FREP meeting also focussed on the problems of tall buildings, cladding and fire protection; the transcript is not yet available at the time of writing, but will be published here.
I have also written two articles on the subject:
And my column in the Ham and High.
It is not just tall buildings that face problems, either as the Barking flats fire demonstrated an urgent need to tackle flammable cladding and materials in lower height buildings.
In addition to the above, I attended the annual service for fallen firefighters, held at the Fire brigade memorial in Highgate Cemetery.
I also commented on the major 20 pump fire in Walthamstow.
I chaired the May FREP Committee meeting: the draft minutes and transcript of what was principally a question and answer session on the London Safety Plan, .are available on the Greater London Authority’s website here.
With Boris Johnson now installed as Prime Minister, my exchanges with him as Mayor over fire brigade cuts continues to go viral, including now being on network TV in the USA!
Finally, you may have heard of the decision of the London Fire Commissioner, Dany Cotton, to retire next year after 32 years’ service in the Brigade. As the first woman fire service chief in London, her achievements are remarkable.
I visited Martin Primary School East Finchley to discuss road safety, especially given the recent fatal road accident nearby, and air quality issues.
I also visited the Phoenix canoe club at the Welsh Harp to hear about their difficulties with Barnet and TfL.
I am supporting the Totteridge Academy crowdfunding bid to the Mayor to transform an empty field in Barnet into a thriving working farm to teach children and the local community about food, nutrition and the environment.
No report this time.
9 Mayor’s report
The 2018-19 Mayor’s Annual Report has also been published with supporting appendices. It can be found here.
The Assembly’s Annual Report 2018/19 has also been published: a PDF ‘How the London Assembly works for you’ is here.
10 Written questions to the Mayor
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: Which underground branch line was closed to store treasures from the British Museum during the Second World War?
A: Holborn to Aldwych on the Piccadilly line.
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