Brompton by-election shakes Kensington and Chelsea Council apathy, as fed up Tories vote Labour.
A shock result in the Tory ward of Brompton, covering Knightsbridge and South Kensington, saw Conservatives lose 9.3% of their vote in one year, as some life-long Conservative supporters voted Labour for the first time. This signifies a 4.8% swing from Conservative to Labour in a single year, since the June 2011 by-election.
Labour candidate Mark Sautter met dozens of residents and business owners who are furious at the complacency of the Council and the inaction of their ward Councillors.
As Mark said: “It’s all about local issues. We heard again and again that the Council does not listen to residents’ concerns or take them seriously. The Council paved Exhibition Road with £20m of taxpayers’ money, yet they ignore local concerns. We were totally shocked at some of the stories we heard, where residents had been turned away, ignored, or even felt insulted by Councillors.”
K&C Labour Opposition Group appalled at Council decision not to tighten standards regime in wake of second child pornography case.
After a bad-tempered Council meeting on 18 April, Kensington and Chelsea Labour opposition councillors have expressed their disgust and shame at the ruling Conservative group’s decision to dilute further the Council’s standards regime rather than introduce additional protections proposed by Labour. Changes to the standards regime are required as from 1 July under the Localism Act.
In the wake of the conviction of former Conservative councillor Andrew Lamont on child and animal pornography charges, Labour argued that it was essential to introduce a more robust system in Kensington and Chelsea to address any possible similar situations.
Lamont, who was convicted and placed on the sex offenders’ register on 2 April, told the Tory Leader and Whip in November 2010 that he was facing accusations of downloading extreme pornography and that obscene magazines had been found in the house by his wife. The Council leadership kept these accusations quiet in view of his protestations of innocence.
The Kensington and Chelsea Labour Opposition Group will not comment on the outcome of this criminal trial, except to say that we acknowledge that justice has taken its course.
However, the Labour Group believes it is time for the Council to review the procedures and protocols covering Councillors who may face criminal charges. As in any other area of public life, a person who has been arrested and faces possible criminal charges should immediately be requested formally to withdraw from his or her duties. This can be done either by resignation or by an agreed suspension of duties. It is simply not enough, as in the case of former Councillor Lamont, to make a private agreement that the individual ceases to attend meetings.
The Labour Group challenged the Council leadership through the Standards Committee, and subsequently at appeal, suggesting that existing procedures were not followed, the Code of Conduct was breached and as a consequence the Council had been brought into disrepute. The Standards Committee response, given on 28 February, stated that no further action would be taken as the Council had followed its existing procedures correctly. The response said that the Committee ‘could not establish how matters might have been handled differently, however unsatisfactory this might have appeared to other Members or members of the public’.
At the Kensington and Chelsea Council Budget meeting on 7 March, Labour Opposition Councillors announced a recent GLA report placing Golborne ‘joint first’ most deprived ward in London on extent measure, with Northumberland Park in Haringey.
At the meeting Labour was challenged by the Leader Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell who suggested that this statistic had been invented, stating that they “should get out more and drive about like I do”. However, the Council has now released a report on the GLA findings that confirm Labour’s announcement.
As understood by Labour at the time, the report states that in Golborne Ward five out of the total six Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs, which are neighbourhoods of 900 households) are in the worst 10% and the sixth is in the worst 20%. On that basis, downplaying the “severity” of deprivation in Golborne is disingenuous.
Councillor Emma Dent Coad said: “The fact that 99% of the Ward’s population is suffering some kind of deprivation and that the level of deprivation they suffer is likely to place them within the most deprived 10% in London is not a good excuse to do nothing; rather, it is the time to ask ‘why isn’t the Council doing more?’
“We had some excellent proposals in our alternative Labour Budget to improve education prospects and health outcomes, but these were voted down by Tory Councillors and not supported by Liberal Democrats.
New figures naming Golborne in North Kensington as the joint poorest ward in London on ‘extent measure’ has prompted local Councillors to propose urgent cross-party action.
Councillor Emma Dent Coad, who brought the report to light at a rowdy Council meeting last week, states: “Extent measure is possibly the most devastating as it shows how widespread is the depth of deprivation. K&C Tories may be surprised, but for Councillors working in this vulnerable area who have already seen endless cuts – not to mention those for the coming year – it is no surprise at all. We are seeing appalling dental health in young children, people of all ages economising on food, threats of eviction, debt, ill health and depression.”
Councillor Dent Coad is already working with local groups, who are experiencing cuts themselves, to see how best to work together to target the most needy.
As a longer term measure, at the next Council meeting in April, Labour Councillor Pat Mason will propose setting up a cross-party working group to review how a North Kensington Crossrail station – to be named Golborne Station – can be used to regenerate the area. Building on the ruling Conservative Group’s proposal for a Kensal Crossrail station, Labour Councillors will take this further with a new plan that would inspire real community engagement and enthusiasm.
This plan considers some earlier ideas from Golborne Councillors for a more modest renewal of the former Kensal gasworks, and links them with plans to tackle some of the obstacles that may delay or obstruct the development of the new station.
Kensington Labour fights to protect residents as brutal cuts are proposed by Kensington and Chelsea, ‘the richest borough in Europe’.
A £.5m Youth Fund, £5m Housing Benefit hardship fund, £.5m for the voluntary sector to support employment opportunities, and free swimming are some of the highlights of the K&C Labour Opposition Group’s alternative revenue Budget. The alternative capital Budget funds the renovation of Grenfell Tower, creates new social rented homes, researches the feasibility of a Heath and Well-Being Centre in Golborne, and of attracting the Dyson School of Design Innovation, and sets up a shop for the new credit union. All expenditure is fully funded from existing resources.
In advance of the Budget meeting at full Council on 7 March, the borough’s Labour Opposition has attacked many of the cuts this year as “unnecessary and vindictive”, stating that the poorest and most vulnerable residents will be hit “worst and first”. This year for the first time, Golborne in North Kensington has been declared the poorest ward in London for multi-deprivation, jointly with an area of Haringey.
Deputy Labour Group Leader, Cllr Emma Dent Coad, said: “There is no excuse for such depths of poverty in the borough. This Council is so rich that its Reserves have Reserves; this is no exaggeration.
Following the Hakim Berkani Employment Tribunal case where the judge stated that parking firm NSL operated a “clandestine quota system”, and BBC reports suggesting that NSL, working for Kensington and Chelsea Council, set its wardens minimum ticket quotas, which is illegal, Labour Opposition Councillors have:
* Called for a scrutiny of the role of the Council and NSL in this scandal.
* Asked why Hakim Berkani was sacked for apparently refusing to operate an illegal quota system.
* Asked the Council to clarify if they knew that NSL had continued to apply a quota system, that seems to be the implication of the Berkani judgement, despite the government outlawing such a practice in 2008. The Council stated this is ‘a matter for NSL and that they [the Council] have acted lawfully’.
* Asked if the Council signed a contract with NSL requiring wardens to give out 306,000 tickets a year and 10 per warden per shift.
* Asked if the Council was aware that NSL managers discussed taking disciplinary action against wardens who issued less than 9 tickets and hour.
* Asked why the Council is denying that NSL did anything wrong when Judge Jeremy Burns ruled that Mr Berkani was dismissed by NSL due to his opposition to a “clandestine quota system”.
Labour attacks “extravagant” streetscape scheme.
As the £25 million Exhibition Road streetscape scheme opened in South Kensington, North Kensington Labour Councillors criticised the Council’s extravagant spending on a scheme aimed at tourists.
A short bus ride away are four of the poorest areas in the country. In Golborne Ward, 51% of the children live in poverty, residents endure high levels of disability and ill health and life expectancy for men is 71 years, compared with 89 in the richer parts of the borough. Exhibition Road is sited in Queens Gate, the most affluent ward in the country. Labour is incensed that the North Kensington residents they represent consistently fail to get a fair share of funding from Kensington and Chelsea Council to provide services and support.
Labour Leader Cllr Judith Blakeman said: “we are facing a brutal package of cuts. One pensioners’ health and social care centre has already shut down; mental health day centres are closing, a Children’s Centre is to go and nursery provision will be “rationalised”. The Council is ruthlessly cutting sports for schools, homework clubs, youth centres and the vital voluntary organisations that help vulnerable residents to live independently. Despite holding reserves of over £170 million, Kensington and Chelsea Council, chooses to spend its money on Exhibition Road rather than the poor and vulnerable of the Borough. That says it all.”
The announcement that High Speed 2, the fast rail route from London to Birmingham and beyond, is to be built with a station at Old Oak Common in Hammersmith and Fulham means the prospect of a Crossrail station at Kensal Gasworks in North Kensington is very much in doubt, say Labour Councillors.
The site selected for the HS2 station, near Park Royal, will be a major new transport hub. This is not only the ambition of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, but is enshrined in HS2 route planning and includes a future link with HS1 (Eurostar) via Euston:
‘Leaving Euston, the route would descend into tunnel for about four and a half miles, surfacing at a new interchange station at Old Oak Common in north-west London . Passengers would be able to interchange here with Crossrail, the Heathrow Express, the Great Western Main Line and other local public transport. A direct link to HS1 would also run from the main high speed line at Old Oak Common,’ the HS2 website says.
This news comes at a time when the high-profile campaign by Council Leader Sir Merrick Cockell for a Kensal Crossrail station has been under intense scrutiny by opposition Labour Group Councillors.
Labour Deputy Leader, Councillor Emma Dent Coad, said: “A number of serious concerns were never addressed. The Council offered to pay for the station itself, using at least £30m of Council taxpayers’ money. This would be repaid by ‘planning gain’ from the market housing development planned by site owners, Ballymore. But the station would be built at the expense of desperately needed affordable and social rented housing.
Kensington and Chelsea Council’s Labour Group today accused Conservative Councillor Daniel Moylan (who is also Deputy Chairman of Transport for London) of hypocrisy after he skipped an important vote on the London Living Wage. The London Living Wage is set annually by the Greater London Authority and is the minimum amount needed to provide for the essentials of life in London. At the Council meeting on 7 December, the Tory majority opposed a Labour motion asking Kensington and Chelsea to pay its officers at least the London Living Wage. Transport for London is already committed to the London Living Wage for all staff.
While Moylan did not declare this conflict of interest, he left the Chamber during the debate and vote. Labour Councillor Todd Foreman, who proposed the motion, asked Moylan afterwards for his position on the issue. Moylan refused to answer, saying this was “none of your f****** business.”
Councillor Foreman said; “It is disgraceful that Kensington and Chelsea Tories are happy to pay some Council staff poverty wages. Councillor Daniel Moylan is Deputy Chairman of TfL, which is proud to pay the London Living Wage. Rather than insisting that his Council does the same, Moylan avoided the issue and swore at me when I asked him to explain his position. This hypocritical behaviour shames the whole Council.”