News from the Labour Action Team in Soho, Fitzrovia and Mayfair – Pancho Lewis, Patrick Lilley and Caroline Saville.
Soho GP practice
We have written to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to ask him to take action to save the Soho GP practice:
“We are writing to you to express our deep concerns over the ongoing situation at the Soho Square GP practice and the failure of the contract between the Central London CCG and the operator Living Care Medical Services.
All the undertakings given by the operator in December 2017 have not been met. The GPs that had been working at the practice have left and been replaced by locums, which have on several occasions resulted in the practice having no medical staff who could see patients or authorise repeat prescriptions.
We are very concerned at the failure of the CCG to deal with these problems and call on you to investigate the serious issues at the Soho Square practice and difficulties in working with the CCG. We also urge you to request the Care Quality Commission to arrange an inspection of the Soho Square practice as soon as possible and to report to you with their findings as a matter of urgency.”
We have asked the Council to urgently look into the situation behind the closure of what is believed to be the oldest shop in Soho – the lighting shop W Stich on Berwick Street (http://www.wsitch.co.uk/ ). This reinforces the need for urgent action on rates and rents for SMEs on Berwick Street and across the West End as a whole.
We have also asked the Council to fix a bent sign post on the pavement on Berwick Street, just north of the junction with Broadwick Street.
We have asked City West Homes to take action to deal with mould and damp in a flat in Green’s Court.
William Blake House, Dufour’s Place
We have asked City West Homes to investigate a number of issues raised by residents of William Blake House.
We are again supporting residents in Dufour’s Place who are battling with Soho Housing Association to allow them to control the heating in their flats. Residents say:
‘The building is already over-heating and with temperature increases forecast this week the boiler does not need to be on 24 hours a day. As has already been established, it is unnecessary for it to run 24 hours a day; even in winter. If the system was networked this adjustment could be easily achieved without incurring call out costs for a visit to the Plant Room”
We have written to Sanctuary Housing and asked that the following be repaired:
- the door on the top floor has glass missing from the top panel
- the light in the lift is not working
Standing up for Soho’s Small Businesses
Small businesses are integral to Soho’s unique identity and heritage. But they’ve fallen victim to rising rents and rates. The Conservatives in Westminster Council have chosen to side with powerful landlords and developers instead of helping small businesses.
We pledge to champion small businesses. We will stand up for small businesses and fight for them. We pledge to:
- Send a strong message to developers and landlords. We will tell them that Soho’s existing small businesses need to be supported.
- Oppose any development projects that give local residents and small businesses a bad deal.
- Use the Council’s powers to create a Special Policy Area in Soho to protect and grow small businesses.
- Work closely with small businesses to challenge rent reviews.
- Lobby central government to bring down crippling business rates.
Peter Street – what you say
“Temporary blacktop paving does seem best. About a year ago I saw men replacing concrete paving slabs, which, thanks to construction and other large vehicles, were crushed by the next day. With a hotel on Hopkins Street traffic will be increasing around there. What with that, maybe a shared street without kerbs and with rugged paving would be best.”
Broadwick Street – what you say
“With repaving work in Broadwick St, as well as construction work in both Hopkins St and Peter St, and with both misleading and unreadable traffic signs at the top of Ingestre Place, traffic is a mess around here. Much backing up and reversing by drivers trying to get out.”
Haddon House, Hanson Street
The handrail on the top floor of the stairs at Haddon House is coming loose as one of the brackets has lost its screws. We have asked City West Homes to fix this.
We have repeatedly asked the Council to take action to stop regular rubbish dumping outside 24 Mortimer Street (which has an entrance on Wells Street). The piles of rubbish cause a hazard to pedestrians and residents.
Mortimer Street – update
Following our report about a blocked gully on Mortimer Street, the Council says:
“We have attended site, but unfortunately, the crew were unable to fully raise the gully lid as the kerb is leaning over the gully. We have already raised this as a defect and I will come back to you with a date for the works to be carried out on the kerb and the gully cleaned.”
Residents say the Council does not seem to do regular sweeping on Middleton Place and we have asked the Council to investigate. Residents say
“The landlord at the Yorkshire Grey does his own sweeping within his premises, and it would help with upkeep of the area if the Council helped with its sweeping duties too. Can this be looked at? “
The Council say
“Sweeping schedules are largely designed to match pedestrian footfall patterns. As a relatively quiet side street, Middleton Place is swept each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Further sweeping can be provided if required on other days and this should be flagged by reporting litter on the Report It tab on the council website – this data is reviewed on at least a weekly basis and sweeping schedules adjusted in response to changing usage patterns.”
We have again reported rubbish dumping in Langham Street and called for cctv cameras to catch the dumpers and for stronger action by the Council:
“I’m becoming a bore on the subject of rubbish (corner of Gosfield Street andLangham Street particularly). Huge pile all yesterday afternoon and stillthere at 9am this morning. I see people on their way to work, justdropping off a bag as they go. They know it will be collected; this isthe place to leave it. *No one thinks of it as dumping*. we need biggerdifferent posters – “please don’t leave your rubbish here. Take itto…” or something. The other day I did call out from my flat tosomeone leaving bags there, pointed out the sign, which he hadn’tnoticed. said how I hated staring at a pile of rubbish. He said he wouldtoo, had missed the time when he was supposed to leave it outside thatmorning, and asked where to take it. I mentioned some bins in RidingHouse Street, and he kindly took them there. Threatening fines is ridiculous- who is going to catch them? and anyway they don’t think it applies tothem.”
We have asked the Council to replace two lampposts which are broken on Foley Street
Queen Anne Street/Mansfield Street
We have asked the Council to move dumped rubbish at this location.
We have asked the Council to fix a dangerous pothole in Brick Street.
Mount Street/Berkeley Square
We have asked the Road Safety Team to investigate the crossing between Mount Street and Berkeley Square which is dangerous for pedestrians.
The Council say:
“We are currently developing a public realm scheme which will prioritise pedestrians and reduce vehicle dominance at the Mount Street/Davies Street junction. Some of these include:
- Traffic signals removal
- Mini-roundabout installation
- New wider footways
- New narrow carriageways (shorter crossing points)
- 3 informal crossing points
The above will be implemented as part of the wider construction programme anticipated to commence in early summer 2018 and continue for a period of 12-16 months.”
We have reported regularly rubbish dumping in Hanover Street.
We are making enquiries with BT Openreach about the slow broadband speeds in Curzon Street.
WEST END WIDE ISSUES
Oxford Street – where we stand
We continue to oppose the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street because residents’ concerns have not been answered by Westminster Council’s leaders, by Transport for London (TfL) nor by the Mayor of London.
Westminster Council are entirely responsible for Oxford Street. The plans could never have got this far in the face of residents’ fears without Conservative Council leaders fully supporting it.
We oppose the plans; they should be paused and all options remain on the table. We believe there has been:
- insufficient information or planning on traffic displacement
- a lack of ideas on how those with limited mobility will continue to enjoy Oxford Street
- uncertainty on safety on Oxford Street at night
- late night visitors to Soho needing buses would have to walk a few blocks north past Oxford Street increasing potential related ASB into Fitzrovia and other wards
- the consultations appear to residents to be rushed and unprofessional. This has made residents fear they were not being listened to
- ideas to improve Oxford Street need to include the whole area to reduce traffic, including how they could enhance life Fitzrovia, Mayfair and Soho and beyond.
Our position has consistently put residents of the West End first. For years of Conservative rule in Westminster residents have not been allowed a voice and the Council has had far too close a relationship with powerful property developers. The Conservatives had years to oppose pedestrianisation and put forward alternatives – and they have done nothing.
We have been listening to residents for over 2 years, having thousands of conversations. We have consistently said we would oppose the plans if residents’ genuine fears about traffic displacement are not addressed; if those with limited mobility are not able to access Oxford Street fully and if ASB is not reduced. We have raised these issue for many months with TfL and the Mayor.
It is now time to pause the scheme and continue to listen to residents. Failure to do so could ruin Oxford Street itself and the 1,000 businesses that are already threatened by out of town shopping malls and crippling rent and business rates.
Rushing could also ruin the wonderful character and lives of many in neighbouring areas of Fitzrovia, Soho and Mayfair who we seek to represent.
Residents want less pollution, cleaner air, less traffic and fewer accidents for the whole area, not just moving traffic around.
We have consistently passed on these concerns to TfL and the Mayor. If elected we will continue to put residents of Soho, Fitzrovia and Mayfair at the heart of decisions, not the big property developers.
And another 25 more ‘Nightmare Stories from City West Homes’
We have issued a new dossier of another 25 more ‘Nightmare Stories from City West Homes’ this year, following our first report in January 2018, which included 20 Nightmare Stories, and our second report in March with details of 25 more Nightmare Stories.
Once again, we have had reports from tenants and leaseholders living right across Westminster – from Pimlico to Paddington, from the West End to Westbourne – all expressing anger at the incompetent and heartless way in which City West Homes treats its 22,000 tenants and leaseholders.
Service standards have deteriorated badly following Conservative council cuts to the housing management budget, the closure of local estate offices and the bungled introduction of a new call centre and repairs contract.
In 2018, it is hard to believe the almost Dickensian situation some people have to live in and which is summed up by this report about a 70 year old woman in Dowland Street, Queen’s Park who “has been without electricity for 6 weeks. Contractors turn up and never finish the job. She is now lighting her flat with candles.”
We will immediately put CityWest on notice so that if its performance does not rapidly improve it will be stopped from managing the council’s properties. We have set out our plans for change if we are elected to run the council on May 3rd.
Labour’s Five Point Plan for CityWest Homes
- From day one, Labour will take action to end the repairs crisis and improve the way CityWest treats residents. If it doesn’t urgently improve Labour will scrap it.
- We will re-establish local estate offices.
- We will urgently look at further ways to improve the failing call centre system.
- We will give residents a greater say over how their homes are managed.
- We will introduce a new leaseholders’ charter to improve support to resident leaseholders and look to limit huge major works bills
Standing up for our EU residents
In the EU referendum in 2016, Westminster voted overwhelmingly to Remain.
If elected in May, Westminster Labour will fight to support our EU residents at this difficult time by expanding EU residents’ access to specialist legal advice and support services.
We will also play an active role in challenging the Government’s attempts to weaken EU citizens’ rights and demand that all existing rights are retained in the future.
We will appoint a Council Champion for the issues facing EU nationals and create a working group of local residents from the EU27 to help address future issues.
EU citizens are eligible to vote in the Council Elections on Thursday 3rd May.
Labour’s Manifesto for the 2018 Council Elections
After decades of the Conservatives taking Westminster for granted, residents have a real chance to change the future of this city. Years of cuts have taken their toll on local services, particularly for the most vulnerable.
The Conservatives have put the needs of developers above the needs of the vast majority of local residents. For generations they have failed to build the Council (social rent) and lower (intermediate) rent homes that Westminster needs to give the City a viable future.
Labour has a credible alternative plan that can be delivered today despite the damage being done by the current government. Our communities are calling out for change, and in this manifesto Labour sets out a vision for how things could be run differently, how we will deliver a Westminster for the many not the few if we are elected to run the council on May 3rd 2018.
Latest on the West End Ward candidates
The ‘Mirror’ published this story recently:
And Andrew Murray’s latest ‘State of Soho’ blog focuses on the local election issues
Problems paying Water Rates?
Thames Water is running a project with Citizens Advice Westminster to help people who are having problems paying their Water Rates. They can help to access hardship funds and apply for grants to pay off water rate debts. They will provide budgeting advice and negotiate regarding other household debts.
Contact the Gateway helpline 03003301191.
There is also an on-line enquiry form at:
What you say
“I was most interested and (as always) very grateful to receive your latest action report, together with the very welcome pledges which you are making as we come up to the local elections – in which, as I am sure you know, I wish you the luck you so much deserve.”
“Thanks once again for your report and for your support of local residents.”
“I want to wish the Labour Team well in the coming election – you know how much I hope you will all get in. The situation in Soho is at crisis point – the behaviour of property developers in Poland Street who constantly obstruct the pavement, when added to the closure of Broadwick Street, has reduced at least one lady in her nineties to tears, because like me she has to use a shopping trolley and cannot get up and down the kerbs. Added to this, cyclists are now using all available pavements, which is terrifying.”
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Pancho Lewis, Patrick Lilley and Caroline Saville
West End Ward Labour Action Team
You can contact Pancho, Patrick and Caroline at
Promoted by Robin McGhee on behalf of Pancho Lewis, Patrick Lilley and Caroline Saville all at 4G Shirland Mews, London W9 3DY