News from your Westminster Labour Councillors
As more people are getting vaccinated and the number of people testing positive for coronavirus is falling, we hope that the pandemic will soon be coming to an end. We are doing all we can to help the local community and individual residents and their families.
Over the last month residents in Marylebone, Pimlico, Soho and the West End have raised issues with us and this is a summary of the action we have been taking, together with an update on a number of local issues. You can read our latest news on https://www.westminsterlabour.org.uk
Please let us know if we can be of help or assistance on any local issues.
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NEWS AND ACTION
We voted against the Council Tax rise proposed by Westminster Conservatives because now is not the time for tax rises. We believe the Council should be sending a message to the Government that they should be the ones to fund vital local services at this unprecedented time.
For the last decade, we have identified examples of local waste and suggested efficiency savings to help protect local services to those most in need. We will continue to suggest new ways to protect council services and, as in previous years, we will accept the proposed increase in the Adult Social Care precept to limit the cuts in care for the elderly and vulnerable, services that have proved so vital during the pandemic.
Cundy Street plans
Councillor Andrea Mann spoke at the Planning Sub-Committee meeting in February. She told the Committee:
“We supported the ‘Save Cundy And Walden’ campaign, led by resident Liza Begum – and it was pressure from this campaign which led Grosvenor to guarantee new homes on the development for Walden House residents. But we also remain hugely disappointed that, despite the residents’ and our continual requests, Grosvenor have refused to offer the same guarantee to their own tenants in Cundy Flats.”
“The Planning Sub-Committee agreed that they were minded to grant the application – but, as we requested, they agreed to defer the final decision in order for Council officers and Grosvenor to look into the implications of reducing the height of one building (A1) in order to tackle the loss of light issue to affected homes on Mozart Terrace, Ebury Street.”
You can read Andrea’s speech here
We asked the Housing Team to investigate this issue raised by residents:
“The maintenance workers at Sherborne House use leaf blowers excessively throughout the year. I can understand some use in Autumn but the level of litter and leaves in February hardly warrants hours on end of noise and air pollution when a litter picker would be almost as easy. Lots of us (and it must be even noisier in Sherborne House itself) work from home or on shifts (including for the NHS) and would appreciate an end to this.”
Following our enquiries, the Housing Team say:
“The cleaning supervisor has been instructed not to use the leaf blower in the months when there are no leaves. I have also asked if we can encourage the contractor to introduce battery operated leaf blowers, where there will be significant reduction of noise and air pollution.”
“Thanks very much for your help with this. Greatly appreciated!”
Henry Wise House
We have been helping residents in Henry Wise House who told us:
“Thank you for your help. Within a couple of days of the below email that you sent I received a phone call from Morgan Sindall (after waiting for over twelve months) who arranged for this longstanding, unfinished repair to be completed, three appointments with the contractors, it was finally finished yesterday.”
We have asked the Highways Team to investigate this issue:
“Engine idling isn’t taken seriously by the parking wardens and should be. Some drivers (mostly of diesel vans) think it’s acceptable to sit idling for 30mins or more, affecting air quality for flats nearby.”
We have assisted residents in Charlwood House who are in need of a larger flat.
We have helped residents in Denbigh Place with Council Tax issues.
Darwin House and Balmoral Castle proposals – what you say
“Thank you all for trying to put a stop to this carbuncle. A refit of Darwin and a replacement of the Balmoral is acceptable (replacement being the operative word) not a skyscraper only a few yards from Shelley House. Thanks again”
Pimlico in 1970
This film by Ian Nairn looks at the creation of the Churchill Gardens and Lillington Gardens estate
We have some good news on the long-vacant flats in Castle Lane. Land Sec have now exchanged contracts with Notting Hill Genesis and works are planned to start on site this summer 2021. Planning Officers have recently discussed a number of design amendments brought about by changes in the building regulations and fire safety requirements since the scheme was approved.
Simon Jenkins writes, “Parks have been a lifeline during the pandemic. Let’s make Buckingham Palace a public space”
Residents have raised concerns to do with the way the building works in front of Trenchard House are being conducted, including no space on the pavement for residents to walk past and a lack of social distancing among workers on the building site. We are liaising with Council officers to better regulate the scheme.
Residents and workers continued to raise concerns about the collapsed vaults on D’Arblay Street. Businesses and residents are paying the price for inaction. Councillor Pancho Lewis will continue to lobby the Council; it is unacceptable this been allowed to continue for more than three years.
West End economy
A new report has been published by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London into the future challenges and opportunities facing central London, which has suffered a sudden and rapid reduction in footfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mayor commissioned the research to help understand the emerging trends that might affect London’s city centre economy.
London’s economy accounts for a quarter of the UK’s total economic output and before the pandemic contributed a net £38.7 billion to the Treasury. The Mayor is calling for a series of urgently needed reforms to the business rates system to support the capital’s long-term economic recovery. You can read the report.
Old Compton Street
Police raided a party at an Old Compton Street flat which had been rented online for the event with some of the revellers too young to even be fined. Officers found 13 people in an apartment ignoring rules on social distancing and not mixing households. Some of the group were referred for £200 fines while others were so young the police just escorted them to their homes.
Tackling rubbish dumping and providing more greenery
The Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum is consulting residents on the problem of on-street rubbish dumping and the need for more greenery in Fitzrovia. You can give your views here https://www.fitzwest.org/consultations/more-greening-and-less-rubbish-dumping/
New Cavendish Street
We have reported this problem with the Highways team:
“We have an ongoing problem with standing water in New Cavendish Street on the corner with Great Portland Street. It’s really quite deep. It fills up every time it rains and takes ages to disappear because it doesn’t drain away, it just slowly evaporates. Passers-by get splashed by vehicles driving through it. There have barriers around it for weeks, but now those have been removed and the problem hasn’t been solved.”
Cleveland Street/Clipstone Street
The Council is consulting residents on plans to improve the public realm at the corner of Cleveland Street and Clipstone Street. Read more here https://fitzrovianews.com/2021/02/12/consultation-on-improvements-around-cleveland-street-site/
We are continuing to press the Housing Department to take action against those responsible for anti-social behaviour in Holcroft Court, involving drug dealing and stolen Santander bikes.
Lack of high-speed broadband
Residents across Fitzrovia have written with concerns about high-speed broadband installation not being allowed because housing associations and, in one case, the Council are blocking access. This is unacceptable and we’re pressing for access to be granted.
Fitzrovia in the Blitz
A BBC docudrama tell the stories of six people who worked and volunteered during the Blitz, including Ita Ekpenyon, a Nigerian-born air-raid warden who lived on Great Titchfield Street in Fitzrovia. Further details can be found at
The Council is proposing to build a 25-metre high “Marble Arch mound” to attract shoppers back to Oxford Street. We have asked for details of the costs and the operation of the proposed ‘mound’:
Residents have been in touch to voice their concerns:
“How many nurses could be paid/or have bursary funding instead of paying for this. It is an absurd venture, and will surely prove an eyesore at an iconic London location. It will also encourage groups of people – and too many people – gathering together at a time when social distancing is imperative.
I am miffed that there has been no consultation on this, or the chance to object to a mound of earth. It is not exactly environmentally sound: lorries bring in the earth and plants, causing pollution/congestion. And all this will be dismantled after a few months. Here today, gone tomorrow, with our local taxes consumed inappropriately at a time of economic hardship.”
Police have handed out more than £65,000 in fines after raiding two illegal parties in Green Street and Brooks Mews. In Green Street, they found 50 people inside and the party’s organiser, a 29-year-old man, was fined £10,000 for breaching lockdown rules. The others in attendance were issued with 50 fixed penalty notices of £800 each. At Brook’s Mews, police officers found 20 people breaking Covid restrictions and they were all were issued with £800 fines, although the party’s organiser is yet to be identified.
The Audley Pub
Residents have raised concerns about changes endorsed by Grosvenor to plans for the Audley Pub. Residents say:
“The change from a local pub with staff accommodation above, to a boutique hotel was viewed by many people as acceptable. However, the new application is for the upper parts to be meeting and events rooms for hire, instead of eleven hotel bedrooms. They propose six meeting rooms and a restaurant, which could potentially hold hundreds of people, in and out at all times of the day and night, dependent upon licencing restrictions including from time to time temporary extensions. They propose a nearly full time, i.e. 23-hour operation with cleaning staff coming in after 1am closing, until 5am and kitchen/waiting staff arriving at 6am to prepare breakfasts etc!”
Busker licensing scheme
Councillor Pancho Lewis wrote to Mayfair residents with the following news:
“I am very pleased to say that after extensive lobbying, the Council has finally agreed to put in motion the process for a licensing scheme for buskers. Thank you to everyone who supported my petition last year urging the Council to take action to stop buskers causing noise nuisance for residents. It helped pile the pressure onto the Council, together with the many complaints that have been made over the years.
Busking will now only be allowed at designated spots and the vast majority of spots will ban amplifiers, including the spots at Old Quebec Street and Vere Street. Council City Inspectors will have much more power to police and enforce against buskers.
It won’t solve all problems, and it won’t deal with the issue of Pedicabs which needs legislation, but I very much hope will help push things in the right direction.
The Council should have acted much more quickly. Residents in particular those living in north Mayfair know much better than me how enormously disruptive and stress-provoking the lack of regulation has been. I have heard heart-breaking stories about people being pushed to the edge due to the endless noise caused by some buskers; the fact that action has taken so long to come is not acceptable. But for today this is at least good news.”
Residents said: “Many thanks Pancho – a great leap forward!”
“Dear Pancho, it’s very heartening to see that Westminster will finally some action on the Busker problem.”
Vic Keegan writes about the history of Hatchards on Piccadilly
Debenham’s, Oxford Street
We have put forward a bold new plan to convert the vacant Debenham’s department store into ‘The Oxford Street Art House’ as a way of drawing UK and international shoppers back to the West End.
The response has been very positive
We are supporting residents in Sherwood Court who have raised concerns about Supper Delivery Ltd which has set up location in the Sherwood Court car park. Residents say:
“The location of Supper Delivery Ltd in the basement of a residential block is not appropriate as it creates additional noise, the risk of antisocial behaviour and a marked increase in traffic which would result in injury to one of many local primary school children. Using Sherwood Court as a base for tens or hundreds of moped riders is not in the interests of local stakeholders including the school, it’s children and local residents.”
We have asked the Road Safety Team to investigate this issue:
“Portland Place has now become a race track especially over the weekend. I was walking to Regents Park and saw several cars racing each other – including a Lamborghini, Ferrari, Range Rovers etc. speeding from one end of Portland Place to the other at what I assessed to be close to 80mph. This is a regular occurrence now and I have also seen powerful motor bikes doing the same.
I am sure that a simple speed trap at either end of Portland Place signifying what the speed limit is and that there are speed cameras. This coupled with the threat of a very heavy fine and point deduction should be a deterrent.”
Travis Perkins site
Residents in Sheldon Square have raised concerns about the plans for a new development comprising 900 student flats on the Travis Perkins site. Residents say:
“This new building may directly impact the lives of all the residents here in Sheldon Square, and no doubt this proposed new building may also in fact change the amount of light that any of the canal side apartments may receive in the future, as this new building may in fact partially block all direct sunlight from coming into any or all the Sheldon Square residential apartments canal side”
We have contacted the Noise Team about this issue and asked for it to be investigated:
“The Tyburn Convent on Bayswater Road acquired a cockerel mid-January. It starts crowing at dawn around 0600, and continues regularly all day until it gets dark. I counted the cockerel crowing at least 40 times in one hour the other day. It is driving me demented, as I am working from home. My sleep has also been affected, as it wakes me up far too early for comfort.”
Following our enquiries, the Noise Team told us:
“I have been in contact with the Prioress and have been advised the matter is in hand and will be resolved, however at this time I do not have a timescale, but would hope this will be soon.”
However, the early morning cockerel noise continues, so we will continue to monitor the situation.
Edgware Road, Praed Street and Chapel Street
Work on providing a green man crossing started at the junction of Edgware Road, Praed Street and Chapel Street on 8 February 2021. The works, which are expected to be completed by the end of March, include the following safety improvements by Transport for London:
- New pedestrian crossings, with green and red man signals
- The addition of countdown timers to new crossings
- Providing new Advanced Stop Lines (cycle boxes) for cyclists.
The green man crossings are part of an extensive package of junction improvements along Edgware Road, announced in April 2019.
The NHS Blood and Transplant service is appealing for donations from people who have recovered from coronavirus to help save lives as London moves from “medium” to “high” alert. Donating blood plasma is a simple procedure and very similar to giving a normal blood donation but the red blood cells are returned to the patient and the process takes a little longer.
The nearest donor centre is at 26 Margaret Street, W1. Anyone who has had coronavirus, either a test result or the symptoms, can offer to donate by calling 0300 123 23 23 or visiting https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk to arrange an appointment to donate.
Warm Homes Discount Scheme
You could get £140 off your electricity bill for winter 2020 to 2021 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. The Warm Home Discount Scheme for winter 2020 to 2021 will open on 12 October 2020. The money is a one-off discount on your electricity bill, between September and March. See here for more details https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme
Mayoral Election on 6th May – Voting by post
The Government has announced that the London Mayoral and GLA elections will be going ahead on 6th May 2021.
Some people may be concerned about going to the polling stations in person, having to wear a mask and waiting in a socially-distanced queue.
It will be much easier, quicker and safer to vote by post.
You can use this form to apply for a postal vote
You can email your completed form to email@example.com or post it to Electoral Services, Westminster City Council, 14th Floor City Hall, 64 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6QP.
Rita Begum is Labour’s candidate for West Central in the GLA Elections
You can visit Rita’s website at https://www.ritabegum.com/
You can read the ‘Westminster Extra’ online
Refuse collection and Recycling collection times
Recycling bags can be ordered from https://webforms.westminster.gov.uk/order-recycling-bags/
Bags will be delivered within approximately 48 hours of order.
You can check when refuse and recycling is collected from your street here http://transact.westminster.gov.uk/env/streetsearch.aspx
The doorstep recycling service concentrates on the recyclable materials most commonly produced by houses so that these can be easily separated into the different material types. This link tells you what can be put in recycling bags
Lots of other materials can be recycled but not through the doorstep collection service. The A-Z list below gives details of what and where items can be recycled or re-used: https://www.westminster.gov.uk/a-z-recycling
Also, here are details of 9 companies that reward you for donating unwanted things, from H&M to M&S https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/worklife/g15049323/brands-reward-throwing-things-away/
You can report dumped rubbish, broken pavements, defective street lights and more on the Report It service. https://www.westminster.gov.uk/report-it
Coronavirus (Covid-19) UPDATE
Free Travel to Vaccination Centres
We have welcomed the news that Age UK is now offering a free taxi transport service to local vaccination centres for anyone over 50 in Westminster. This service will run to the end of March 2021.
For further details please get in touch with Amy Shallon at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07947 188 221.
Dispelling the vaccination myths
Here is the link to a video featuring Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic celebrities dispelling myths about the vaccine and encouraging people to have the vaccination
You can see the latest data for your area here
Test and Trace Support Payments
You may be entitled to a Test and Trace Support Payment of £500 if you are self-isolating because of COVID-19 and you are either employed or self-employed. The payment is to support people on low incomes who are unable to work from home if they are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and lose income as a result.
Westminster Council’s advice and response website:
Westminster Connects COVID-19 phone line – 020 7641 1222
Beware the Coronavirus scammers
What you say
“Thank you so much for the latest Action Report, which as always was extremely impressive and showed how hard, despite the present situation, you are working.”
“Huge thanks. Really appreciated”
“You’re all doing fantastic work. I thank you, on behalf of all of us !!”
“Thank you and your team so very much for continuing to look after us all so well. As usual a very informative and helpful report.”
“Huge Thank you. I don’t know how I can thank you enough”
“Thank you very much for the newsletter which as always gives very useful information on so many important issues which are being addressed and also highlighted.”
“Thanks for taking such an interest in our interminable problem in Fitzrovia, something we could never get your predecessors to take seriously – and their indifference backfired spectacularly!”
“I started non-political but was so impressed by the help that was given by Labour councillors. To ALL. Even those of us stuck in Tory wards. Where our councillors didn’t even reply. Labour councillors facilitated even that.”
“I am amazed at the breadth and depth of your newsletter, and it keeps getting stronger and stronger. Congratulations!”
“You’re always so responsive and we really appreciate it”
“Thank you too for the very interesting and latest newsletter from the Labour Party. It is so good that so much has been done despite the very difficult conditions of the pandemic. We are very grateful.”
Please let us know if we can be of help or assistance on any local issues.
Please feel free to pass this report to your neighbours. If you know of anyone else who might like to receive this report, please send them this sign-up link http://bit.ly/signuplabnews
Please keep safe, stay well and look after yourself and your neighbours.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg
Labour City Management spokesperson
Westminster City Council
Your Labour Councillors can be contacted as follows
Churchill Ward – For full details of ways to contact Councillor Andrea Mann and Councillor Shamim Talukder, please see the Churchill Labour website
West End Ward – You can contact Councillor Pancho Lewis by email or telephone.