News from the Labour Action Team in Soho, Fitzrovia and Mayfair – Pancho Lewis, Patrick Lilley, Caroline Saville and Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg
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 Conservative 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.
Soho Square Doctors’ Practice
We are very concerned about the situation at Soho Square General Practice. Due to what appears to be a terrible mishandling of the situation by the provider Living Care, patients are being turned away and have been kept in the dark about what will happen next to their treasured GP service.
Many of the hundreds of Chinese patients who use the General Practice rely on the fact that Dr Cheung, who is no longer working at the centre, could speak to them in their native tongue. The current situation where patients are being asked to speak to an interpreter over the phone is clearly untenable. On top of all this, these changes seem to have been made without the consent of patients.
Urgent steps must now be taken to address the situation. The local Chinese community have a right to access high quality healthcare and should not be denied this right.
Protecting Soho’s special character
We are very concerned that some of Westminster’s most iconic areas are under threat and that action needs to be taken by the Council to help protect them. Soho has fallen victim to over-development, pressures from Crossrail, rising rents and the encroachment of global high street. If action is not taken now to save it, what makes the area unique may be lost for ever.
Labour will look at the use of the Council’s ‘Special Policy Area’ powers to protect Soho, as has been done for other parts of the city.
We have reported this to the Refuse Collection Department:
“On the west side of Poland Street huge, revolting bags of rubbish are left beside a restaurant or, usually now, stacked in the entrance to the car park – again this is beside the restaurant. These bags are so repellent that I don’t know how diners can use the restaurant, and surely if the bags were not restaurant refuse the restaurant itself would have complained? These bags are there daily from morning on, without a break. Farther up Poland Street, towards Great Marlborough Street, bags of refuse are left on the pavement in the same way.”
60-62 Broadwick Street
We have written to the Council to oppose the use of the former City West Homes estate office for commercial purposes. We want it to re-open as a local office for housing and other Council services.
Poland Street/Broadwick Street
We have asked the Council to investigate a number of missing street signs. Residents say:
“I was stopped today by a mystified stranger, asking me where on earth he was – he was in Poland Street. At the Broadwick Street end of the street, the sign giving the name was removed when a development began and has never been replaced.
At the Oxford Street end of Poland Street again, the street sign has been removed and a huge development is now in its final stages, but temporarily it would have been easy to put the street sign on the opposite side of the street. From end to end of this vital street, incredibly, there is no sign with the street’s name – this despite how busy it is with traffic and pedestrians! Not even on either side of Great Marlborough Street – although that street actually retains its street sign.”
The Council say:
“Regarding the street name plate on Poland Street junction with Oxford Street, unfortunately the nameplate has gone missing, and we have ordered a replacement as is standard procedure when a street name plate is reported as missing. Please be aware on the opposite side of the road there is a development that is of glass construction and unsuitable for mounting a nameplate, however a nameplate could go on 2 posts and I have ordered a replacement name plate as is routine.”
We are making enquiries about this issue raised by a resident:
“You will find Cambridge Circus a decrepit mess, a botched scheme seemingly abandoned. Where previously we had 7 beautiful black and gold historic lamp columns, the remaining 4 (the agreed plan was to retain 5 not 4) are now neglected, cast-iron doors missing, cement everywhere. One column not even installed at all and a standard one put up in conflict with the consulted plan. It is an utterly careless, unloved mess and it was characterful and beautiful. The works are also months and months over time.”
Meard Street – what you say
“I support the complaint about the rubbish deposited at the west end of Meard Street. Unsightly and obstruction of the pavement. There’s a good bit of foot traffic crossing Wardour Street at that point too since Meard Street is a short-cut.”
Supreme, Peter Street – what you say
“I, too, am weary of the Supreme queues. The (mostly) lads are not noisy, the stewarding seem good, and the clean-up is pretty good. But the frequent queues are a nuisance since they take up the narrow pavements, especially in Peter Street. And both Peter Street and Hopkins Street are frequently blocked by cranes and other construction vehicles, which have damaged much of the remaining pavements.”
We were interested to see this recent article in The Guardian and hope that this latest news helps to control the situation outside Supreme
We have asked the Planning Department to investigate long-term Airbnb short-lets in various flats in Hanson Street. Residents say they face anti-social behaviour like loud noise coming from the stairwell, shouting, screaming, partying into the late hours.
We are supporting residents who have made the following objection to the proposals for 35-50 Rathbone Place:
“We strongly object to this change to the Section 106 agreement. The 22 units to which it relates are single aspect and have a very small floor area of 50 sq.m. It appears the intention is that they will be available to 1 or 2 people with an income up to £64k. This in our view does not constitute ‘affordable housing’ and the units are very unlikely to be purchased by anyone in genuine housing need on the waiting list. 17% is not an adequate proportion of (off site) affordable housing for a site of this size, location and value as it does not meet the Council’s requirement of 25% and the Mayor’s of at least 35%. The public was unable to see the reasons submitted by the developer for not providing this on site.
In revising the City Plan it’s essential that the Council accepts its responsibilities and fully implements the principle of attractive, mixed tenure housing developments with up to 50% genuinely affordable housing. For too long this planning policy has been flouted and evaded by accepting distorted viability statements without question.”
Residents have asked whether the proposed extension of Brock House will have an impact on light to properties in Gosfield Street. We have been told:
“The restoration and expansion work will not reduce light to the rear of Gosfield Street. The green roof will be designed to encourage biodiversity and small wildlife and there will be no public or private access to the green roof other than for maintenance.”
St George’s Buildings, Bourdon Street
Residents say that on top of St George’s Buildings in Bourdon Street there are seagulls nesting. This gets worse during spring. This can lead to very disruptive noise. At 3am seagulls can be squawking. Residents have complained about this for years and the problem hasn’t been solved. The nests on top of the building need to be removed and we have written to Sanctuary Housing to ask that action be taken.
Queen Street/Curzon Street
We have asked the Council to investigate this recurring issue with refuse bins on the pavement, which attract rubbish dumping. Residents say:
“These look unsightly and seem to attract additional dumping. It is clear that the problem arises primarily because the café and restaurants have inadequate provision for their own rubbish. This does not justify creating an open rubbish dump on the pavement. “
Brook Street/Davies Street
Property Week reports that Grosvenor is planning the wholesale redevelopment of two acres of land opposite Claridges. The company has employed Sir Michael Hopkins to draw up a masterplan under the code name ‘Project Osprey’ for the triangular site bounded by Brook Street, South Moulton Lane and Davies Steret.
The Council has given The Connaught Hotel permission to place tables and chairs outside the hotel.
What do you think?
WEST END WIDE ISSUES
As West End ward candidates, we’ve spoken to many residents on the doorstep about plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street. It is clear there are very strong concerns about the proposals. TfL and Westminster Council would do well not to underestimate the real anxieties and concerns that residents have expressed. The well-being of residents needs to be at the absolute forefront of any plans put forward – otherwise we will not support pedestrianisation.”
“We have four major concerns and call on TfL and Westminster Council to show ((a) how any additional vehicular traffic will be kept out of residential streets; (b) how air pollution levels will be reduced in residential streets; (c) how the needs of the disabled and elderly will be provided for and (d) how Oxford Street will be managed 24/7 to ensure the safety and security of residents, shoppers and visitors”
We will keep campaigning to get the best deal for local residents and businesses.
Labour’s pledge on Cleaner Streets
Mattresses and other household objects dumped on our street corners have become an all too common a sight. A Labour council will rigorously focus on fly-tipping and bulky waste dumping and we have made a number of commitments that will help tackle the problem. If elected in May 2018:
- Labour will urgently reform the fees and charges for bulky waste collection, restoring a ‘first time free’collection and reducing costs for standard collections.
- We will develop a new ‘express collection’bulky waste removal service.
- We will look further at the use of mobile cameras to help enforcement at fly-tipping hotspots and at ways to increase fines for dumping.
- As part of our support for a new Private Renters Charter we will improve the information provided to landlords, letting agents and tenants.
- We will provide a smartphone App to make it easier for residents to make use of the Council’s ‘report it’ service, helping further target the worst affected areas.
Building genuinely affordable homes
If Labour wins the Council, we will create a new type of affordable housing – Westminster Key Worker Homes. We will commit that, in addition to social housing, all new affordable housing built on council land will be at rents that are affordable to residents on average and below average incomes. We will ensure that these homes are focused on providing opportunities for long-standing residents of Westminster and key workers such as nurses, teachers, firefighters and the police.
25 more ‘Nightmare Stories’ from City West Homes
In January 2018, we unveiled a dossier of ’20 Nightmare Stories from City West Homes’. The reaction to this from tenants and leaseholders was overwhelming, with many more ‘nightmare stories’ coming to light from all over Westminster. Residents are angry with the very poor performance of City West Homes, particularly following the recent debacles over the new call centre and the repairs contract.
We have followed this up with ‘25 More Nightmare stories from City West Homes’ with details of:
- Continued long waits on the telephone to report problems to the CWH call centre
- Failure to deal with emergencies quickly
- Lack of communication between CWH and its tenants and leaseholders
- Poor communications between CWH and its contractors
- Failure of CWH to return calls from tenants and leaseholders
- Broken appointments by CWH contractors
Welcome for extra police on the beat
We have welcomed welcomed the Mayor’s decision to invest an additional £59m annually to support an extra 1,000 police officers by using income raised from business rates. This will help avoid falling police numbers due to Government cuts to the Metropolitan Police budget.
We have also welcomed the Mayor’s announcement that he is creating a brand new £45million fund to help young Londoners who are at risk of getting caught up in crime. The Mayor’s new Young Londoners Fund will see £15m invested in each of the next three years, beginning from April. Of the total new funding, £10million a year will make up a new fund into which local communities, charities and schools will be able to bid for funds, and £5million a year will be invested to scale up existing projects funded from City Hall that are already supporting young Londoners.
In addition, over 1,800 people have signed Westminster Labour’s petition to halt the Government’s further £400 million cuts to the Metropolitan Police budget.
The petition to Parliament, https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/203543, runs until 27th April.
Register to vote
The local Westminster City Council elections are on Thursday 3 May.
If you aren’t already registered to vote, you need to do so to vote in this local election. The deadline to register at is Wednesday 17 April. It only takes a few minutes. Anyone who is already registered to vote does not need to re-register. If you have moved home in the last few months and have not registered to vote at your new address you still have time to register at this new location.
The other key dates are the postal vote application deadline which is 5pm, on Wednesday 18 April and the proxy vote application deadline is 5pm, Wednesday 25 April.
EU citizens are able to vote in these local elections.
You can get more information by visiting www.westminster.gov.uk/westminster-city-council-election-2018
Council Elections – 3rd May
Another interesting article from Dave Hill on the ‘state of play’ in the West End Ward
City West Homes – what you say
“The thought that a victory for Labour in the coming elections might mean the reinstatement of CityWest Homes Estate Offices and an insistence on improvements to CWH’s treatment of its tenants would be enough to make me vote Labour, even if I weren’t going to do so already!”
What you say
“Thank you and the others in the Labour Team for the, as always, very detailed report”
“I am so very grateful to you and your colleagues for all that you do for us.”
“Thank you very much for taking up the air quality issue with Westminster Council.”
“Thanks as ever for the brilliant newsletter, that I know residents really feel empowered by, including myself.”
“I am voting for your team as so is my partner… I really hope you take the council, as do almost all my local friends.”
“I really hope you win! You are always on the right side in everything I have read in the newsletter. THANK-you for being there to look after Westminster, and constantly remind those in power that ordinary people live their lives in Westminster, and that the borough’s government should be to foster a good life for its inhabitants, not for wealthy absentees. Kind regards, and good luck in the elections!”
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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