I publish a newsletter every two to three months which details my work at the Assembly, the constituency and the GLA's work around London.
You can read my latest newsletter below.
You can download a copy of previous newletter in PDF format below:
June 2011 newsletter here.
Please contact me for a paper copy of the latest or past newsletters. If you are an organisation and would like more than one copy, please let me know how many you would like.
QUEEN’S DIAMOND JUBILEE: Brent and Harrow’s communities come together
The June Bank Holiday weekend was a fantastic opportunity to see the very best of what our communities have to offer.
I attended a number of successful street parties across Brent and Harrow, where I was welcomed with amazing hospitality from residents. The originality, inventiveness and sheer friendliness of everybody I met over the Diamond Jubilee Weekend has left me proud and honoured to represent the residents of North West London and to be a Londoner, especially this year when London will be putting on the London Olympics.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Fire Warden receives award for long service
I was pleased to celebrate the work of a remarkable and dedicated firefighter from Harrow. Pierre Marsh, was commended for his 25 years of work in the Fire Brigade and helped establish a national support group for black and Asian members in the service.
The Harrow fire station watch manager joined the London Fire Brigade in 1987 and has played an important role over the past two-and-a-half decades. He was a founder member of the Black and Asian Firefighters Group, which is now recognised as a national support group.
Pierre said: “I am extremely happy to have won this award and to be recognised for my service to the London Fire Brigade over the last 25 years.”
HARROW ASIAN DEAF CLUB: Visit to City Hall
I was extremely happy to welcome the Harrow Asian Deaf Club to Mayor’s Question Time in July. I invited them to thank them for the fantastic Jubilee
Celebrations they organised and their brilliant work in the community.
In recognition of their hard work, I presented the HADC members with a Certificate of special thanks for volunteering. They in turn asked me to be an Ambassador for Harrow Asian Deaf Club which I readily agreed to and I look forward to working with them in the future.
Proposals to close Custody Suites
The Mayor of London’s proposals to close Harrow’s police custody suites are highly controversial. I cannot see any benefit to Brent or Harrow’s police if they are continually travelling to and from Brent, ferrying 5,000 individuals a year to cells in Kilburn or Wembley.
I have questioned the Mayor directly about this and will continue to fight against these proposals. I fear that the closing of Harrow’s custody suites would result in significant inconvenience for victims as well as families of criminals.
Depleted Safer Neighbourhood Teams
A recent survey of Brent and Harrow Safer Neighbourhood Teams uncovered that most of the wards in these two Boroughs have depleted SNT. Many neighbouring wards are currently sharing a sergeant and in some cases that is only accompanied by one officer, or one community support officer.
When I questioned the Mayor about this ridiculous situation, I was told: “Recruitment plans are under way and successful candidates will begin training from September 2012. Vacancies will be filled at the earliest opportunity.” This is not good enough. Crime in Brent and Harrow has continued to rise. More needs to be done now to ensure that people in Brent and Harrow have the strength of Police that they deserve.
Future of the Harrow Police Community Consultative Group
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime continues to neglect Harrow’s urgent need for a Community Consultative Group. This has been the case since the HPCCG was dismantled in January this year.
I pressed the Mayor and the former Chief Executive of MOPAC, Catherine Crawford, to urgently review this. It is essential the HPCCG is supported. This is an important forum to check and balance Harrow’s policing and crime.
HARROW-ON-THE-HILL: Disappointing response
I am disappointed by the Mayor of London’s response to the 500-signature strong petition submitted in March regarding the lack of accessibility at Harrow-on-the-Hill station.
The petition stated residents and visitors to Harrow want the Mayor to restore funding, previously agreed with the former Mayor and TfL, to make Harrow-on-the-Hill fully accessible and integrated with Harrow Bus Station.
The response to the petition, sent by Deputy Mayor for Transport, Isabel Dedring, said: “The Mayor recognises that there is more to do to further enhance the accessibility of London’s transport system. Harrow-on-the-Hill has been identified in this plan as being in an area for the LU network which should be considered for additional step-free access provision.”
The £25 million of investment for regeneration and step-free access to Harrow-on-the-Hill Station that the Mayor of London cut in 2008 is desperately needed to make this station a viable transport hub. One in ten Londoners are excluded from large parts of the transport network because of mobility issues and in Harrow only 4 tube and rail stations out of 14 have step-free access. This is not good enough.
PRIVATE-RENTED SECTOR: London’s housing crisis
I chaired a conference in the Sattavis Centre to discuss the challenges facing London’s private-rented housing sector. The event was organised by Jacky Peacock OBE, the Secretary of the National Private Tenants Organisation and the well-known Director of Brent Private Tenants’ Rights Group.
The conference examined the critical issues facing private tenants, the private-rented sector itself and how the current dire situation can be addressed through better partnership working. The private-rented sector has been growing at an unprecedented rate. From 2005 to 2009 the sector grew by one million homes (to around 3.8 million) and all the indicators are that it is currently expanding at an even faster rate. Estimates now stand at nearly 4.5 million.
The increase in London is running well ahead of the rest of country. Brent has one of the largest private-rented sectors. It’s not difficult to see why. House building has plummeted as the number of households is expanding. Property prices are at an all time high and lending at an all time low. Brent is typical of London boroughs in managing to house only a fraction of those needing social-rented accommodation.
JUBILEE LINE: Problems continue to occur
Stranded passengers on the Jubilee Line in May were stuck underground for four hours at the height of the rush hour. Angry passengers said they weren't given any information. I questioned the Mayor about this at a recent Mayor’s Question Time. He said: “TfL accepts that more could have been done to explain how long it would take to fully resolve the situation and to get passengers off the trains following the incident on the Jubilee line on 23 May.”
The cause of the problem was a defective train and TfL’s efforts to push the train out of the way with another train were dashed. Affected passengers were given £40 in compensation.
RETURN TO CITY HALL: All change at the London Assembly
The Mayoral and London Assembly election in May has brought with it a different complexion to the London Assembly. The Labour Group now has four new members, bringing the total number up to 12. I am pleased to welcome my colleagues Andrew Dismore, AM for Barnet and Camden and Onkar Sahota, AM for Ealing and Hillingdon, as well as London-wide AMs Fiona Twycross and Tom Copley.
The Committee structure has also had an overhaul with many committees being reviewed and changing their terms of reference. I am now on the following committees and authorities:
- Police and Crime Committee, responsible for scrutinising the Metropolitan Police
- Planning Committee, responsible for overseeing the Mayor’s London Plan
- Vice Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (London Fire Brigade)
My colleagues on the London Assembly will also be undertaking investigations with the following new committees:
- Economy Committee
- Health and Environment Committee
- Housing and Regeneration Committee
- Transport Committee
THE MAYOR’S BUDGET: The Squeeze on Londoners
Last month, together with my Labour Assembly colleagues, I urged Boris Johnson to make his budget fairer for Londoners, to reverse his huge pay rises for his advisers, to cut fares, to increase police numbers and tackle unemployment.
Mayor Johnson’s proposal of one per cent cut to council tax means annual savings of £3.10 for the average Londoner, or 26p a month - enough to buy one onion. This measly sum is meaningless compared to the £110 extra a monthly zone 1-4 travelcard will cost you this year, or the £46 extra you are forking out for a monthly bus pass since last year.
The Mayor's transport fare rises are costing Londoners a lot more. He could have made a real difference to Londoners if he had supported Labour's plan to cut transport fares but he has chosen not to. The examination of the Mayor’s contribution in the last four years shows he has achieved next to nothing. He’s completed, with varying degrees of success, projects started by his predecessor.
We have seen his vanity projects like the new ‘routemaster’ bus that has cost £12 million for five vehicles. Hire bikes paid for by increased fares are becoming more and more unpopular with Londoners. And the City Hall’s council tax freeze, saving
Londoners pennies, is wiped out by the serious impact on the quality of life of Londoners with his huge fare increases, the reduction of police numbers on our streets and failing to deliver affordable social housing.
Mayor Johnson has failed to deliver on the key areas affecting London’s communities. As in previous years I have supported the Mayor’s decision not to put up his share of the council tax, and the one per cent cut in his precept this year. But this fails to provide meaningful help to our communities during this period of financial hardship.
WEST HOUSE: Bringing together the community
The William Heath Robinson Trust (WHRT) and the West House & Heath Robinson Museum Trust (HRMT) plan to erect a new building to conserve and display the unique collection of the William Heath Robinson Trust. The project will make the collection accessible to Harrow’s diverse community and importantly, it will enable participation of the wider community and voluntary organisations.
I have worked with the trustees and volunteers on this prestigious heritage site for a number of years and fully support the project. I am currently assisting the trustees in engaging with Harrow’s diverse community and its leaders in relation to a joint lottery bid.
MERTON CONTROL CENTRE: Privatisation of London’s Fire Control Centre
It was great attending the launch of the new fire control centre in London and see the impressive settings and modern facilities.
I'm confident the current staff can continue to provide a first-class and cost-effective service to Londoners, without the facility having to be sold off to a private company as planned by the London Fire Emergency Planning Service. I’d fight all the way to maintain the service in-house.
BRENT CROSS CRICKLEWOOD: The fight continues
Recent news reports suggest original plans have collapsed.
Whilst this is good news, it is not the end of the project. There are moves to plan a massive new retail development which I am totally opposed to but is supported by Mayor Johnson. I remain concerned about plans to massively increase the existing shopping centre as there will be more congestion from increased traffic, destruction of high street shops, lack of affordable housing and a detrimental impact on the regeneration projects in the adjacent boroughs.
Recent figures show the affect police cuts are having on crime in Brent and Harrow. I have called on the Mayor to reverse his police cuts.
It was revealed Brent has lost 38 officers in the last two years and Harrow has lost 40. The vacancy level in Brent's Police is 64 per cent and 46.15 per cent in Harrow. In March 2010 there were 703 officers based in Brent. By December last year the number had fallen to 665 officers in Brent. The Harrow figures show a drop from 403 officers in March 2010 to 363 in December last year.
Across London the Mayor has cut 1,700 police officers in the last two years. The most recent Metropolitan Police crime figures, released in January, revealed
total crime rose by 6.3% in Brent in the last year. While overall crime in London is down 1 per cent in the last year, certain types of violent crime including
burglary, robbery and muggings have risen significantly — see below:
Wounding/GBH up 7%
Total sexual incidents up 20.6%
Robbery: Personal up 14.7%
Burglary: Dwelling up 10.9%
Total drugs incidents up 33.8%
Total Crime up 6.2%
Robbery: Personal up 40.8%
Burglary: Dwelling up 14.1%
Theft of pedal cycles up 23.8%
The Government is cutting too far and too fast with policing and it is these local services that are being affected. People feel safe with a local police station in their area. But closures of Wealdstone and Willesden Green police stations will mean people will have to go further to report a crime in person. I have lobbied the Mayor to ensure that these stations are replaced locally as I believe it is essential people can go into a station and speak to an officer directly if they need to.
HARROW-ON-THE-HILL: Give us back our funding
At the London Assembly’s March Plenary I submitted a petition to the Mayor of London to restore the funding, which had previously been agreed, to make Harrow-on-the-Hill station fully accessible.
Around 71 per cent of Harrow’s stations cannot be used by people with restricted mobility. One in ten Londoners are excluded from large parts of the transport network because of mobility issues, according to a report by the London Assembly. The report found that in Harrow only 4 tube and rail stations out of 14 have step-free access.
There are 26,620 residents who live in the borough with reduced mobility. Harrow-on-the-Hill is a key station identified by local interest groups to have a severe lack of accessibility. I’m actively lobbying Mayor Johnson for Stanmore station which also lacks step-free access.
When the Mayor was elected in 2008 he deferred the plans of his predecessor to make 22 stations step-free. This affects a high number of residents in Harrow. The refurbishment of Harrow-on-the-Hill will regenerate the area and make it a fully integrated transport hub.
HOUSING: New estate in Rayners Lane
I recently visited the new regeneration development in Rayners Lane, which offers energy-efficient one and two-bedroom flats and two and three-bedroom houses, a children’s play area, traffic calming measures and landscaping.
The homes have solar panels, grey water harvesting and green roofs to help reduce water retention. By 2014, Home Group will have built 450 properties for rent and over 300 properties for sale. Once completed it will provide new shops and public open spaces.
OLYMPICS: Dow update
Meredith Alexander resigned as a commissioner on the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 (CSL), whose job it is to assure sustainability across the Olympic and Paralympic programme, stating she no longer wanted "to be party to a defence of Dow Chemicals".
It is important that we recognise the discrimination against the victims of the Bhopal chemical tragedy. It is time the Mayor and Sebastian Coe backed down and terminated Dow’s sponsorship.
BRENT REGENERATION: Willesden Windows
Last December I attended the wonderful ‘New Windows on Willesden Green’ project, which was delivered for Brent Council and Design for London by The Architecture Foundation in collaboration with Meanwhile Space and Blue Consulting.
This was a brilliant project, attempting to revive and improve Willesden High Road. I felt it was a huge success and was very impressed by the creativity and innovation on show in the windows of the high street shops.
FUEL POVERTY IN LONDON: Report to be published
The Health and Public Services Committee is releasing a report on the scale of fuel poverty in London. More than 560,000 households in the capital are estimated to be in fuel poverty, where fuel costs more than ten per cent of their basic income. Around 126,400 households are in severe fuel poverty, with fuel costs representing more than a fifth of their basic income, equivalent to all the homes in a large inner London borough.
Fuel prices are increasing faster than incomes and warm homes are becoming unaffordable for more people. The Marmot Review found cold homes cause and aggravate serious health problems including cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and are the cause of mental health problems in people of all ages.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN PLANNING: Neighbourhood Plans — How you can have a say
The Planning and Housing Committee has recently released a report about the Government’s intentions with the 2011 Localism Act. The Act’s aim is to encourage further local involvement in planning matters by the use of neighbourhood plans.
The Act seeks to hand more power to local communities in influencing how their local area develops and how local authorities make planning decisions. However, the localism agenda is likely to play out differently in London from the rest of the country.
The report focuses on the new opportunities and challenges facing neighbourhood plans in London. It also establishes what London boroughs, the Mayor and local communities themselves could do to enable all Londoners to get involved in making plans and policy, and in controlling development. To read the report visit www.london.gov.uk.
SAFER NEIGHBOURHOOD TEAMS: Depleted Teams in Brent and Harrow
The number of sergeants working in Harrow and Brent’s local police teams has been cut. Safer Neighbourhood Teams made up of one sergeant, two constables and threecommunity support officers were rolled out to every ward in London before Mayor Boris Johnson was elected.
Earlier this year the Mayor announced the number of sergeants in the SNTs would be halved — from 630 to 330 — and wards would be merged. This comes on top of the police cuts the Mayor’s made since being elected.
Since their introduction Safer Neighbourhood Teams have been one of the Metropolitan’s big success stories and the sergeants leading the teams are an integral part of that. The Mayor's making the wrong cuts, risking crime and safety and should think again.
In September it was revealed that Brent has lost 32 locally based police officers and Harrow has lost 34 over the last year. The number of police officers across London has been cut by almost 2,000 in the last two years - from 33,404 in November 09 to 31,527 today.
OUTER LONDON SHORT CHANGED: Harrow’s funding never appears
Boroughs of Harrow and Brent successfully bid for the Outer London Fund to go towards minor town centre / local shopping centre improvements aimed at attracting more shoppers.
However, when Boris Johnson became Mayor in 2008 he scrapped the £25million promised to Harrow for the step-free access and regeneration of Harrow-on-the-Hill station.
TfL had agreed to fund the improvements but the Mayor withdrew the money without any consultation. I continue to fight for the funding to be reinstated
TOXIC CLOUD OVER LONDON 2012: Company responsible for Bhopal disaster win Olympic contract
The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) have risked the international reputation of the Olympic Games and the legacy of London 2012 by awarding a major contract and partnership deal to Dow Chemicals - the company who still refuse to take responsibility for the Bhopal disaster.
Bhopal was one of the worst industrial accidents of the twentieth century. On the night of 2nd December 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate. None of the six safety systems worked, and the gas to spread throughout the city of Bhopal.
Half a million people were exposed to the gas and 25,000 have died as a result of their exposure. More than 100,000 people still suffer ailments caused by the accident and the subsequent pollution at the plant state. In 2001, Union Carbide was purchased by Dow Chemical Company. Dow denies responsibility for Union Carbide’s liabilities and claims that a 1991 deal, which paid victims a derisory sum - £630 - equivalent to only 5 years medical cover - closed the matter.
In August LOCOG awarded Dow the contract to provide the Olympic stadium wrap, the Olympic partnership status and advertising opportunities which go with it. Dow’s name will be part of the visual centrepiece of the Olympic Games in the run up to 2012.
I have been working with India’s friends in the House of Commons to bring pressure on LOCOG (pictured above), with a cross-party campaign to support the victims of Bhopal, and stop another injustice being visited upon them.
My recent visit to Bhopal demonstrated the scale of lifelong misery inflicted to thousands of poor individuals and their families. I visited on the 27th anniversary of the disaster and joined in a protest rally that marched through the city. I also visited several medical centres including the Chinghari Trust and Sambhavna Trust. The visit proved to be an eye opener and gave me the first hand account of the tragedy as well as impressive work being done by these local organisations which offer medical and educational assistance on a day-to-day basis to the victims of the disaster and families.
NAVRATRI AND DIWALI CELEBRATIONS: Brent and Harrow light up with Hindu Festival
The exciting Hindu festivals of Navratri and Diwali have lit up London over the past two months.
For Diwali I held my annual community reception at City Hall, attended by Brent and Harrow’s fantastic community leaders. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to show my gratitude to all of the volunteers who give their time and make an immense contribution towards our community.
SAVING LONDON’S HERITAGE: Fighting closure of Fire Brigade Museum
Plans to axe the London Fire Brigade Museum were pushed through last month at a meeting of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s (LFEPA) Finance Committee.
The plan is part of a package of cuts put forward by the Conservative Group on the Authority. They have tried to put this proposal through in previous budgets, but this time sadly have succeeded in getting the proposal through. The Authority is rightly proud of its heritage and tradition in providing a distinguished service that has protected the people of London for over a century and the Museum is a valuable source of information on the Fire Service. It plays a
significant role in educating members of the public on the dangers of fire and the visits by local schools improve our relationship with young people, increasing their knowledge and respect for the Service.
The Chairman’s previous remarks about the Museum and the service it offers have caused offence to our firefighters, past and present, to the supporters of this museum and to the staff and volunteers. Mayor Johnson has said he is a “strong supporter” of the museum but has made no promises to save it from closure. I have asked the Mayor to act quickly and ntervene but he has offered no assurances.
MCNULTY REPORT: Train ticket offices face closure
A hit-list of 265 stations in the London and South-East has been drawn up for Ministers to be left unmanned in an ill-conceived money-saving exercise.
Sir Roy McNulty was commissioned by the Department of Transport and has recommended the closure, or part-closure, of one in four ticket offices across the country.
This is more bad news for passengers. Not only are fares under this Mayor rocketing but now we're being told ticket offices could be closed and stations left without staff. I'm really worried that stations that can already feel less than safe will become more intimidating places for passengers and more inviting places for criminals.
JAMAICA DAY: Celebrating diversity
I was very pleased to be asked to speak at the Jamaica Day celebrations on 8 October at Copland School.
It was an excellent day, celebrating the wonderful island of Jamaica and all the expat community has brought to the UK. The Jamaican community has been vitally important to British culture. Particularly in London there is a strong and vibrant Jamaican Diaspora. An estimated 4% of Londoners are of Jamaican or mixed Jamaican heritage.
CHILDCARE IN LONDON: Investigation
The Health and Public Services Committee, of which I am vice-Chair, have been investigating how childcare providers think we could improve Londoners' access to suitable and affordable childcare. We aimed to get their solutions to the problems posed by guests who had attended the HPS Committee.
The guests were a mixture of childcare providers (mainly nursery managers) and organisations that represent childcare providers (such as the National Childminders Association and the National Day Nurseries Association). They offered an interesting perspective as they deal with parents not being able to pay their fees, or balancing resource demands with parents' demands for more flexible hours. It was very useful to our research and I was grateful so many people have taken part in our investigation.
HOUSING: Private-Rented Sector
The Planning and Housing Committee are currently investigating the condition of the private rented sector, which is home to a quarter of Londoners. The aim of the investigation is to assess London’s private rented housing sector in relation to its state of repair, the standard of facilities provided and the degree of comfort, health, energy and water efficiency it provides.
Also, it was necessary to assess wider opportunities for improving London’s private rented housing as the number of Londoners in this sector is continuing to grow. I recently chaired a Private Tenants Meeting in Brent, with Cllr Janice Long, Shadow Minister Chris Williamson MP and Jacky Peacock OBE of the Private Tenants Association on the panel. It was extremely well-attended although it is apparent that many private renters in Brent will be badly affected by the Coalition Government’s plans to reform housing benefit.
I was dismayed at this year’s Budget meeting in March to see that Londoners will be bearing the brunt of the cuts. Boris Johnson is responsible for London’s £13.6 billion budget and has slashed funding for transport and police making life harder for working families.
The government has taken away £200 from every London household. This is on top of the mayor's record tube and bus fare rises in January this year which hit everyone in London extremely hard. The Mayor raised fares for a third time in a row this January, when hard-working Londoners are already struggling financially. Boris’ increase in fares cancels out the saving people get from the freeze on their council tax precept.
The Labour Group put forward alternative proposals to the Mayor to highlight just how out of touch Boris is with the lives of ordinary Londoners. We proposed increasing police numbers, funding crime-prevention and reducing fares on public transport without raising the precept.
The Coalition government’s grant to the Metropolitan Police Authority, London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Greater London Authority, TfL and London Development Agency was cut by £618 million this year alone. This cut comes on top of the cuts Mayor Boris Johnson has been making since he was elected in 2008. Police numbers will fall by nearly 750 by 2012 and the number of sergeants in Safer Neighbourhood teams will be reduced by 100 this year and 200 next year.
Rather than showing the leadership London needs and standing up for the city against the government's unfair cuts, Boris Johnson has championed them.
OPENING OF SWAMINARAYAN MUSEUM IN AMDAVAD
Spectacular project in my hometown
I had the privilege of attending the grand opening of the Swaminarayan Museum in India in March this year and the opportunity to view the exhibits of historic memorabilia, covering many aspects of the Swaminarayan faith, collected from Gujarat and other places in India.
The formal opening ceremony held in the Museum’s forecourt was a colourful and great social occasion and one almost felt as though you were somewhere in Harrow or Brent because of the number of our residents and community leaders visiting the launch of the Museum. It was great to meet leaders and volunteers from the SKSS Temple in Kenton and Willesden Temple. The celebrations were rich, colourful and spiritual with the highlight of the evening being the handing over of the Museum keys. To me, the most exceptional value the museum offers is its ‘Preserve PLUS’ concept with a commitment to the building being sustainable. Furthermore its focus on bringing awareness of the history of the Swaminarayan to a wider community makes the museum a focal point for humanity and ALL communities.
ST BERNADETTE’S ATTEND MQT
School Council meet their Assembly Member
I was delighted to be visited from St Bernadette’s Primary school council. The pupils attended Mayor’s Question Time and were shocked to see how unruly the meetings can become.
Pupils asked great questions about my work on the London Assembly, politics and the Greater London Authority. I was able to take them on a tour of the building, show them the view from the balcony and inside the Chamber. I am delighted to welcome my constituents to City Hall so if you would like to visit please get in touch.
REFORMING THE NHS: How it will affect you
Plans to reform the NHS have been met with confusion from politicians, healthcare professionals and patients. The Government White Paper proposed that Primary Care Trusts will be replaced with GP Consortia, who will be in charge of commissioning services their patients need.
It is evident that professional organisations are largely opposed to the proposals in the Bill, but the Government is pressing ahead and providing no money to cover the costs of transition. As a result, the Government has been forced to slow down its pace for reform. However, cuts to the NHS are happening too quickly and many hospitals across London are or will be affected. It is expected that more then 2000 nurses, midwives and hospital staff will lose their jobs over the course of this year.
The North West London Hospitals remains financially challenged. It is facing a £1billion funding shortfall in four years’ time, despite the recent loss of 400 jobs and £32million in land sales. One way of meeting the shortfall has been to merge NHS Brent with NHS Harrow, sharing the management of the two Primary Care Trusts locally.
Meanwhile, local providers of primary care are also facing problems, compounded by the costs of transition to GP consortia. NHS Harrow has a deficit of £32 million and admitted in January that its “financial challenges in Harrow are probably bigger than any other PCT in London”.
Outer London takes a hit
The Metropolitan Police Service is due to cut the number of Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) sergeants over the next two years by half. This will mean that many SNT wards in Brent and Harrow will share sergeants.
Figures show that it is Outer London boroughs that have the lowest number of notifiable offences and are therefore more likely to lose their sergeants.
However, Mayor of London Boris Johnson would not accept that this was the case at Mayor’s Question Time in May this year. This financial year the Met is set to axe 100 Sergeants from their SNT posts and another 200 would go in 2012/13.
Wealdstone Police Station to close
Harrow is facing the closure of its 106 year-old station in Wealdstone.
When questioning the Mayor on the closure of Wealdstone Police Station, I was told that this beacon of security is ‘not conducive’ to modern day policing. The Mayor conceded that ‘people understandably are reassured by the physical presence of a corner police station’, yet continues with the closure of this, and other stations.
I feel, as the Mayor did during his 2008 election campaign, that no station should be closed without an alternative being opened. The results of the consultation on access to the police will be published in the Autumn but let’s hope the Mayor listens to what Londoners say.
BEHIND BARS IN HARROW
Raising money for St Luke’s Hospice
Following my 'brush with the law' in 2009, I was delighted to be raising money for St Luke's Hospice again at the beginning of April.
I participated in the Jail and Bail event at Wealdstone Police Station. I and other 'jailbirds' from Brent and Harrow were locked in the cells until we were able to raise the £1,000 bail each. Luckily we had our mobiles to help us.
All the funds raised went to St Luke's Hospice in Kenton Grange. St Luke's provides palliative care for the dying in Harrow and Brent, supporting North West London with a vital and dignified service. I've long supported this wonderful local resource and I'm more than pleased to be doing more 'time' for St Luke's.
CONTINUED PROBLEMS - JUBILEE LINE
The Mayor of London admitted there were months of uncertainty ahead for Jubilee Line users as he was unable to name a date for the end of the “teething problems” of the much prolonged line upgrade.
I questioned the Mayor at the Mayor’s Question Time in May in an angry reaction to the Mayor’s attempts to ‘bury bad news’. I have repeatedly questioned the Mayor on this and never been given a straight answer. TfL did not admit the line closures would continue past Easter Monday 2011 until the day after, April 26th.
The Mayor made no apology for the continued weekend closures or lack of information given to long-suffering passengers and stated that although weekend closures would end in June, he anticipated “teething problems” in July. Improvements in train frequency will begin “in the Autumn”, with an increase from 24 to 27 trains per hour, with the hope of increasing this to 30 trains per hour “next year”. North West Londoners were promised these weekend closures would end over a year ago and sadly, still the Mayor has absolutely no grip on this.
Committee Work Update
London Ambulance Service
The London Ambulance Service is set to cut 890 jobs over the next two years. The job losses are a direct result of £53 millions worth of cuts to the service, implemented as part of the Coalition’s comprehensive spending review last year. The Health and Public Services Committee met in March and April to discuss ways the LAS could be protected going forward and to discuss with senior managers how they envisaged the reforms would affect the LAS.
The Committee examined whether the LAS should be answerable to the Mayor, as currently, it is the only emergency service that is not. Demand for the Ambulance Service has been increasing each year, by 4.5%. The Committee met again with the LAS in view of the announcements about job losses. Report about the LAS is due out this summer.
AFFORDABLE AND SOCIAL HOUSING
This April the Planning and Housing Committee concentrated on affordable housing in the capital to see how the changes to housing benefit will affect London’s poorest neighbourhoods. The Committee questioned a number of London’s largest housing associations as well as the Mayoral Advisor on Housing, Richard Blakeway.
London has a severe lack of good, affordable housing and the Committee is evaluating the Mayor’s record on this problem. The need for new homes is higher in London then anywhere else in the UK and cuts from central Government mean that local councils will find it increasingly difficult to meet the demand for housing in their area.
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