Westminster Labour Councillors have written to Council Leader, Rachael Robathan and her collegues expressing their concerns about another ‘Super Saturday’ street party in Soho this weekend
Dear Rachael, Matthew, Stuart, and Kevin,
As today’s meeting between Cllr Lewis, Kevin Goad and others was cancelled, we are writing to set out our concerns ahead of this weekend in regards to preventing and managing large crowds from gathering in Soho.
We welcome the decision to bring forward additional measures as per yesterday’s press release. However, we remain very concerned that these measures alone will not prevent the scenes we saw last weekend occurring again.
We hope you will agree these constituted a very significant public health risk. Indeed, it should go without saying that this is a virus which very much remains at risk of spreading further into the community, something we must strain every sinew to prevent.
It is therefore very alarming that the Council did not respond immediately after what happened on Saturday with a public acknowledgement that these scenes were unacceptable and must not occur again. Instead Council communications appeared to seek to downplay these scenes as “isolated incidents”. This failure to recognise the obvious is unacceptable and our communities, not least in Soho, deserve far better.
We recognise that managing and preventing large crowds from gathering on the streets in the context of limited powers is not an easy task. However, we are not willing to accept an outcome which achieves anything less than ensuring safe levels of social distancing are maintained and residential amenity is protected. If need be, emergency powers must be sought from national government – indeed we note that the Business and Planning Bill is currently passing through Parliament and this may provide an opportunity to amend local authority and police powers.
A wide array of measures should be considered to maintain safety for the public, including limiting the number of people who are allowed onto specific streets, for example Old Compton Street and heavily restricting and regulating the sale of alcohol for consumption off premises (as we say, additional powers should be sought if need be). Un-pedestrianising the streets can’t and shouldn’t be taken off the table either.
We will be keeping a close eye on developments this weekend.
Councillor Pancho Lewis, West End Ward
Councillor Geoff Barraclough (Shadow Cabinet Member for Business & Planning)
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg (Shadow Cabinet Member for City Management)