Bryanston and Dorset Square Labour Action Report - Feb 18

 

News from the Labour Action Team in Bryanston and Dorset Square Ward 

Blandford Estate, Harewood Avenue

We reported this issue to City West Homes:

“I live on the Blandford Estate, Harewood Avenue. My neighbour called the CWH Customer service centre to report a defective heater in her living room.  She was informed by CWH that it could take 20 days to get a contractor out to repair the heater! She is elderly and not in good health and was informed by the customer service centre to sit in another room or go and stay with her daughter. She is at present using an electric heater which will cost extra money to her electric bill.

Since CWH’s have changed their system it is to the detriment of all residents.  We can only contact the customer service centre, we are no longer allowed Housing manager’s phone or email details.  They are in effect keeping residents at more thane arms length and are not providing an effective robust customer service or indeed, answering repairs or complaints in a timely manner.  In effect we are paying for a service that we are not receiving!!”

Following our intervention, the problem has been found and resolved. City West Homes say: “The issue appears to have been related to the main switch in the distribution board which was jammed, this has been removed, cleaned and it may be that a new board is required, so we will monitor the situation very closely.”

Harrowby Street/Edgware Road/Brendon Street

We are making enquiries about this issue:

“Has anyone approached you about the disastrous plan for the Harrowby St/Edgware Rd junction and associated plan to reverse traffic flow in Brendon St?  We are very concerned about how this will work and whether it will bring more lorries up past the local primary school and about the plan for a permanent parking spot for lorries in Brendon St. IF you could let me know I would be grateful. “

The Council say

The changes to the flow of traffic in Brendon Street from one-way southbound to one-way northbound is required in order to facilitate the banned left turn from the southbound lanes of Edgware Road into Harrowby Street.  The Brendon Street proposals were developed by Westminster and will resolve the above concerns by proposing: 

  • A loading provision, which can be used by Waitrose lorries to be built into the western footway of Brendon Street. This space will be available for vehicle / resident parking outside of delivery hours. The permitted hours of loading will be in-line with what is currently permitted in Brendon Street.
  • Minor kerb works and paving works at either end of Brendon Street
  • Several parking bays to be relocated from Crawford Street
  • An extension of the Double Yellow Lines on the south eastern side of Brendon Street to enable HGV’s to make the turn from Harrowby Street into Brendon Street.

Currently, the HGV’s which use Brendon Street are vehicles that service Argos, Waitrose, Grosvenor Hotel and the Lord Wargrave Public House. Following on from discussions with Waitrose and Argos, these movements are defined in their business traffic plan to enter and exit from Edgware Road.   

The proposals have not yet been approved by Westminster and there is a meeting currently being planned between councillors and residents to further explain the proposals ahead of a decision and the formal Traffic Order process. The proposed ‘loading bay’ will operate in a similar fashion to the current parking an loading restrictions that exists in Brendon Street and will provide additional resident parking outside of loading hours.”

Residents say:

“I am grateful to you for pursuing this. This provides me with me with more information than we have had to date and I am sure that the members of our residents’ association will be very interested to read this. “

“Very interesting. I particularly note that it says that we are to have a meeting where it is to be explained to us and that then the traffic order will be placed. It doesn’t say that this is consultation, but rather, explanation. However, it does say that WCC have yet to decide, so perhaps it is consultation.  There is a lot about extensive consulting with Argos and Waitrose and little about having consulted residents, which is a pity in a residential street”

Marylebone Library 

Proposals to build the new Marylebone Library at Seymour Leisure Centre have been announced. The Council is seeking views on the proposals and has arranged the following consultation events at Marylebone Library, 9 – 11 New Cavendish Street W1G 9UQ

  • Tuesday 27th February, 3pm – 8pm
  • Wednesday 7th March, 8am – 10am

You can also view the design proposals and comment online at
www.westminster.gov.uk/marylebone-library-update

Baker Street two-way 

We are making enquiries about this issue:

“Apart from the disruption being caused round the area by works to convert Baker Street to 2-way traffic, a bus driver told me that further disruption will be caused this year until 2019 by major sewer works needed for the huge hotel conversion of the American embassy in Grosvenor Square! Wondering if you know more?”

Marylebone Road traffic 

Following our enquiries about traffic travelling north-south/south-north jumping the lights along Marylebone Road, TfL say:

“As a result of the lane closures that are in place for the Baker Street works, to introduce two way traffic on Baker Street and Gloucester Place, unfortunately some green signal time has had to be reallocated to Marylebone Road. This is because as it holds a considerable proportion of the traffic travelling around central London. Unfortunately, this has meant a slight reduction in green signal time to the side roads. Increasing the green time to the side roads will result in significant levels of queuing on Marylebone Road which would eventually cause gridlock of the whole network as you can understand. The traffic team are continuing to monitor the traffic signal strategy in the area during the works and have engineers constantly reviewing the signal timings.”

Oxford Street proposals

We have been pressing TfL on a range of issues raised by residents. Our priority is to make the transformation of Oxford Street work for everyone – for residents, for businesses, for shoppers and for visitors. We also want more public toilets, transport for disabled people and more use of quieter, electric delivery vehicles. As ever, the ‘devil is in the detail’ and we look forward to seeing a practical and common sense plan that works. Until then, we will keep fighting to get the best deal for local residents and businesses.

https://labourwestminster.wordpress.com/oxford-street-transformation/

If you have any issues you would like us to take up please us know.

Cleaning up Westminster’s Planning system 

We have pledged to clean up Westminster’s Planning system if we are elected at the Council elections on 3rd May.

There is a clear perception that senior Conservative Councillors have very close relationships with developers. For example, the Conservative CEputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Robert Davis, has disclosed that since the start of 2015 he has received hospitality related to his role as a City Councillor from developers, big business and other interests a record 514 times. This equates to a staggering 14 cases of declarable hospitality a month, peaking at 47 cases in December 2016. We believe that such an approach does not help build public trust that the Council will put the needs of residents before those of property developers and business interests.

If elected to run the Council in May, Labour will engage with industry representatives in open settings to share views and push for residents’ priorities, but we will do so whilst working to achieve the highest standards. Labour commits that:

  • Labour Cabinet Members and Councillors will not accept hospitality from individual developers and their agents.
  • Labour will require the Council to formally record all meetings between Cabinet Members and developers when discussing individual schemes. There will always be an officer present.
  • A record of these meetings will be posted on the Council website within two weeks.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/19/westminster-councillor-received-gifts-and-hospitality-514-times-in-three-years?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+main+NEW+H+categories&utm_term=264724&subid=12834692&CMP=EMCNEWEML6619I2

Policing

There is a new Chief Superintendent in charge of Westminster Police and we hope to meet with him soon to discuss his plans. We will keep arguing for more police to keep our streets safe and for the Government to halt the cuts to the Metropolitan Police budget. In particular:

  1. There have been huge real-terms cuts to policing budgets across the country. In London alone, £700 million has been cut from the Met Police’s budget.
  2. These cuts mean that in London, we’ve lost 2,495 Police officers and 3,261 Police Community Support Officers.
  3. The Met Police still needs to find a further £370 million of savings by 2022 – meaning police numbers could fall below 27,500 by 2021 – the lowest level since 2002.

We have started a petition to stop the police cuts https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/203543

Rubbish Dumping 

In response to the regular concerns expressed by residents, we have put forward the following ideas:

  • Reinstate a free service for standard household bulky refuse collections and introduce a paid-for service for express bulky refuse collections
  • Use mobile cameras to help enforcement at fly-tipping ‘hotspots’.
  •  Increase fines for dumping.
  • Consult residents to decide where extra bins might be of assistance and improve signage and communication with residents
  • Offer residents the chance to report dumping via Twitter, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger
  • Target Council inspections and waste collection to the worst-affected areas to tackle the scourge of fly-tipping.

What do you think? 

Pedicabs

We have written to Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, and Jo Johnson, Minister for London, requesting that they ensure the scandal of unregulated pedicabs in London is ended and support the Private Members Bill proposed by MPs Paul Scully and Karen Buck gets government approval.

 “This Private Members Bill has cross party support the lack of regulation of pedicabs means they are less safe, they cause nuisance, drivers and passengers are uninsured. Drivers are not checked, prices are inconsistent and arbitrary. You and your officials can read key points here.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-01-23/debates/A37EAF8A-897E-4B44-9293-E48F01306954/Pedicabs(London)

Let us know what action you plan to take to resolve the anomaly that pedicabs are regulated all over England except London where most of them are and putting the appropriate authorities (TFL, Mayor of London) in charge.  We have been campaigning for this for some time and previous efforts by Westminster Council amongst others have failed. This Bill needs your support.”

Dealing with Airbnb 

Research by the Residential Landlords Association published in December 2017 found the number of Airbnb rentals in London has increased by 187% since 2015. Karen Buck MP (Labour) said the number of properties advertised in Westminster North on Airbnb has more than doubled – from 1,603 in 2015 to 3,621 in 2017.

“In blocks of flats, long-term residents find themselves living in a hotel but without the services to support it, like staff and security. They have to deal with constant comings and goings, security concerns, noise, rubbish. These properties turn over every few days so you feel you aren’t living in a residential community.”

Karen Buck said short-term lets were also contributing to housing shortages.

“The original concept of Airbnb was you rent your flat out when you’re away or your spare room. That still happens and that’s absolutely fine. But what’s also happened is professional landlords have moved in, who in many cases own multiple properties.”

Research by Westminster City Council found that renting a one-bedroom flat in the area will make £495 a week for an ordinary tenancy, but £1,561 a week on a nightly basis.

Two years ago, the law changed to allow London properties to be let for up to 90 days a year without permission from the council. In January 2017, Airbnb introduced a block on London hosts renting out homes for more than 90 days a year, to ensure users complied with the law.

But some landlords are finding ways around the rules, including re-listing a property under a slightly different address or advertising a whole flat as a single room, which is not covered by the 90-day limit. People also advertise on alternative platforms to get around the cap.

Karen Buck said it was difficult for councils to enforce the 90-day limit and has put forward a bill to Parliament calling for all short-term lets to be registered

“It’s difficult to monitor. Local authorities have to spend a lot of time and money trying to catch the people breaking the rules. My suggestion is very light touch. People who are staying within the law are fine and just need to spend 30 seconds registering their property online. There’s no question of denying permission. But for people that are breaking the rules, we have a means of bringing them to justice.”.

City West Homes ‘Nightmare Stories’

We have published a dossier of ’20 nightmare stories’ from City West Homes’, based on the experiences of CWH tenants and leaseholders over the past few months across Westminster. All have been reported to CWH for action and some problems have now been resolved – but only after a Labour Councillor had intervened. This is not the way to run an organisation responsible for 12,500 tenants and 10,000 leaseholders. How many more similar stories of incompetence and neglect go unreported because the tenant or leaseholder has not been able escalate the problem by reporting it to a Labour Councillor? City West Homes is in need of a radical overhaul and Labour is pledged to do this following the May Council elections.

To see the report go to https://labourwestminster.wordpress.com/2018/01/24/westminster-labour-launches-dossier-of-20-nightmare-stories-from-city-west-homes/

Please let us know if you are having problems with City West Homes. 

The Blitz in Westminster

This website shows where bombs were dropped during the Blitz. You can find out how close they got to your home

http://bombsight.org/explore/greater-london/westminster/

What you say

“Thanks very informative and interesting” 

“Thanks for your excellent and totally invaluable newsletter. Glad to see the Samaritan hospital issue raised again”

“Thank you so much for your help without your intervention this repair would still be outstanding. Once again CWH’s are operating on a daily basis without any regard for residents and have made it impossible for us to engage with any of their personnel.  I no doubt will be contacting you again. Thank you so much for your help. My vote is for Labour!!”