Boris pushes through Budget despite majority of Assembly opposition

On Monday, I joined the majority of London Assembly Members in supporting an alternative to Boris Johnson’s 2015/2016 Budget. Despite securing the support of over half the Assembly Members the proposals were rejected by Mayor Boris Johnson at Monday’s budget meeting at City Hall and did not reach the two thirds support needed to force the Mayor to accept the changes.

If accepted by the Mayor our alternative proposals, backed by Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat Assembly Members would have:

  • Funded an additional 874 police officers – the equivalent of 28 for each London borough
  • Earmarked £308m to build new housing for London’s emergency services staff and key workers.
  • Fully reversed the Mayor’s decision to scrap the zones 4-6 PAYG cap
  • Frozen the GLA’s portion of Council Tax

Instead of listening to these common-sense proposals, the Mayor has felt it necessary to push on with his empty budget, which is largely lacking in ambition and has all the hall marks of a Mayor who is halfway out the door.

 The full Budget amendment proposed by John Biggs AM and supported by Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat AMs is available here. You can watch a video of the full meeting here.

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Barnet Housing Commission at Grahame Park tonight

The Barnet Housing Commission is holding a session this evening. 23 February 7pm-10pm at the Grahame Park Community Centre, Colindale NW9 5UY.

The following speakers are confirmed:

Cllr Mick O’Sullivan – Chair of Housing Scrutiny Committee, LB Islington and Chair of the London Federation of Housing Co-ops

Cllr David Rodgers – Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing, LB Ealing, former CEO of CDS Co-operatives, the largest co-operative housing service agency in England, President of the International Co-operative Alliance Housing from 2009-2012 and member of the Executive of the Labour Housing Group,

Bloggers Panel: John Dix (aka Mr Reasonable) and Theresa Musgrove (aka Mrs Angry / Broken Barnet)

Trades Union Panel:

Patrick Hunter – Barnet UNISON convenor, Barnet Homes

Cllr Nagus Narenthira – NASUWT

Cllr Barry Rawlings - Barnet Labour’s Spokesperson on Health and Adults Social Care

Members of the public will be able to listen to the evidence, and can also give evidence themselves in the Open Mike session of the meeting – please RSVP here.

Grahame_Park,_London_NW9_-_geograph.org.uk_-_696374

Barnet’s Labour councillors have set-up the Housing Commission to look into how Barnet can increase the supply of affordable homes, and help improve standards in the private rented sector. The Commission, which I chair, is made up of independent housing experts, local community representatives and Labour councillors.

The Commission will meet at least six times over the next 8 months, and will be taking evidence from housing professionals, other London boroughs and the local community. The meetings will all be open to the public to attend.

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Emergency Services: Casualty of Cuts?

A new report showed that over half of Londoners feel ‘fairly’ or ‘very unconfident’ that London’s emergency services are coping under the pressure of cuts and increased demand. The “Emergency Services: Casualty of Cuts?” report, published by last week by my colleague and Labour’s London Assembly Crime Spokesperson, Joanne McCartney AM, warned that the capital’s emergency services could reach crisis point without better funding from Government.

Almost 1,500 Londoners were surveyed for the report which found that the majority (57%), felt ‘unconfident’ that emergency services were coping with the increased demand, whilst only 18% said they were ‘fairly’ or ‘very confident’. The report comes just a week after the London’s population hit a record 8.6m. The Government must now act quickly to ensure London’s emergency services have enough funds to cope with rapidly increasing demands.

The report warned that a combination of cuts to services, a growing population and increased demand, could mean that emergency services are less able to respond effectively. The impact of cuts to the capital’s emergency services was also highlighted in the report following the closure of 65 police stations, 10 fire stations and with six A&Es either closed or under threat since 2010.

London_ambulance_motion_blur

Statistics highlighted in the report from each of the London’s emergency services paint a worrying picture:
• In December 2014, only 48% of ambulances hit the 8 minute response time target, compared with 81% in March 2014
• 249,100 patients had to wait longer than 4 hours in London A&Es last year.
• 5,133 police officers have been cut from London boroughs since May 2010 and violent crime on the rise
• Fire engine response times are up in over half of the capital’s wards since the 10 fire station closures

We all rely on the emergency services to be there when we need them, so it’s deeply concerning that 57% of Londoners now say they’re unconfident services are coping. With services edging ever closer to crisis point, this report makes it clear that the Government must act quickly to make sure our blue light services, including those in [Borough], do not become the casualties of cuts.

London’s population is already at a record high and is set to grow even further in the coming years. Over the past five years we’ve seen our emergency infrastructure stretched, with many of London’s A&E departments, police and fire stations closed and services struggling to hit their targets. With the emergency services warning of further budget cuts on the horizon we need assurances from Government, whoever is in power, that the burden of cuts won’t fall so heavily that these vital services cannot cope.

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Right to Buy sales set to outstrip supply of new council homes in London

A new report launched today by my London Assembly Labour colleague Tom Copley AM has found that the capital’s councils expect the number of homes sold under the Government’s reinvigorated Right to Buy scheme to far outstrip the rate they are able to build replacements over the next decade. ‘Out of Stock’ reveals a devastating scale of reduction in council housing stock and highlights the need for councils to be given new powers to properly invest in new social housing.

Drawing on new data provided by London boroughs the report estimates that based on current development plans around 10,300 council homes will be completed over the decade to 2023/24, compared to an estimated 16,100 Right to Buy sales leaving almost 6,000 fewer council homes by 2023/24.

The data shows that London boroughs expect 1.5 council properties to be sold over the next ten years for every new home that will be built. The erosion of the council housing stock is expected to be particularly stark in outer-London, where the boroughs currently forecast that two homes will be sold for every new home that is completed. This compares to 1.2 homes in inner-London.

The figures, based on London boroughs’ expectations of future council housing sales and completions, show that annual council housing completions are likely to peak at a level just below 1,900 in 2015/16, before declining starkly. This compares unfavourably to the pre-1980s peak of 27,235 council homes built in 1970.

The report also found that only 43 per cent of the revenue raised from RtB sales is expected to be spent on building new homes, while 30 per cent will be transferred to central Government, with the remainder being allocated to cover administrative costs.  The result is councils being forced to top up funding to reinvest in new homes despite rapidly diminishing budgets and central government imposed restrictions on their ability to invest in housing.

The scale of expected reduction of almost 6,000 homes over the decade to 2023/24 illustrates the urgent need for councils to be given more powers to finance new social house building.

Out of Stock cover

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Holocaust Memorial Day 2015

Earlier today I had the privilege of attending the GLA’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

Although an annual event, 2015 coincides with two important historical anniversaries – the 70thanniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau during the Second World War and the 20th anniversary of the Genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia – that make this year even more resonate.

I was touched to hear the experiences of young people who visited the death camps. Organised by the amazing Holocaust Educational Trust, the trips ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust will be learned by new generations.

The living memory of survivors helps to drive home how recently such horrors occurred. I met Freda, who as a young girl spent years in hiding during the Second World War, only for her family to be discovered by the secret police.

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Freda’s story will be told tomorrow night at 9pm as part of the BBC2 documentary Touched by Auschwitz.

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TfL should protect night buses from cuts

Following reports that hundreds of night buses which mirror night tube routes may be cut back when the much-welcomed night tube launches in September, I am concerned that if night buses were cut people could become less safe as they are left walking further from the tube station to home than they would from the many stops on a night bus. There are also concerns about the impact on disabled passengers given that many night tube stations do not include step free access unlike London’s buses.

 Whilst the night tube will be a great help to many people, night buses will still have an important part to play in London’s night-time transport system.

At night more than ever it is important that people are able to get as close to home as possible. Whilst for some the closest stop will be a tube station, the majority of people will still rely on the night buses to deliver them safely to their street.

What we don’t want to see is night buses cut back leaving people walking long distances home from tube stations late at night. That is why I am calling on TfL to commit to protecting night bus services. Any changes to the night bus network will need to ensure they do not inadvertently leave people less safe than they currently are.

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Follow up: rally for West Hendon estate

Yesterday’s rally to stop the evictions of West Hendon estate residents highlighted the issues raised in the ongoing public inquiry. I was so impressed by Paulette Singer’s evidence to the inquiry that I wanted to share it, in full, on here. Paulette Singer Inquiry

Thumbs down to the redevelopment plan from me and Cllr Adam Langleben.

Thumbs down to the redevelopment plan from me and Cllr Adam Langleben.

Read coverage of the West Hendon estate public inquiry:

The Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jan/20/barnet-council-social-cleansing-barratt-homes-west-hendon

 BBC News:

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-30942710

 The Morning Star:

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-e49e-Tenants-must-stick-together-to-beat-off-gentrification#.VMIt-H6QGrU

 London Live:

http://www.londonlive.co.uk/news/2015-01-22/hendon-west-housing

 Unite the Union:

http://unitelive.org/ten-weeks-save-homes/

 Progress Online (by Reema Patel)

http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2015/01/21/the-need-to-recognise-housing-rights/

 Broken Barnet:

http://wwwbrokenbarnet.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/a-concept-of-place-making-and-promotion.html

 Times Series:

http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/11737164._You_are_displacing_a_whole_community___Public_inquiry_into_West_Hendon_Estate_starts/

http://www.times-series.co.uk/NEWS/11739988.West_Hendon_CPO_inquiry__Tenants_raise_concerns_about_social_mix_on_new_estate/

http://www.times-series.co.uk/news/11744538.Protesters_march_to_town_hall_in_support_of_West_Hendon_tenants/?ref=rss

 LocalGov:

http://www.localgov.co.uk/Council-accused-of-social-cleansing-in-Barnet/37989

 24dash:

http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2015-01-21-Unite-plans-Thursday-protest-over-West-Hendon-estate

 Barnet Press:

http://www.barnet-today.co.uk/news.cfm?id=21935&headline=Protestors%20stage%20march%20over%20West%20Hendon%20regeneration

http://www.barnet-today.co.uk/news.cfm?id=21440&headline=West%20Hendon%20regeneration%20will%20create%20’transient%20community’%20resident%20claims

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