Brent and Harrow
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Sadiq Khan Mayor of London
Navin Shah GLA Brent & Harrow
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Navin's News for January 2014

London Mayor’s proposal for Harrow & Wealdstone ‘Opportunity Area’

The Mayor of London has released draft alterations to London Plan on Wednesday 15 January for public consultation closing on 10 April. The London Plan alterations have been primarily aimed at addressing key issues of housing and employment with a substantial increase projected in capital’s population over the next 25 years. London Assembly’s Planning Committee will be meeting on 25th February to consider Mayor’s proposals with invited experts.

The draft alterations to the London Plan cover a wide ranging issues including housing targets, town centres, increasing cycling, energy & waste infrastructure, Tech City, noise pollution, sustainable development and creation of new ‘Opportunity Areas’ to accommodate London’s future growth. The alterations propose five new ‘Opportunity Areas’: Old Kent Road, Canada Water, Bromley Town Centre, Old oak Common and Harrow and Wealdstone. Opportunity Areas are meant to be the main locations for new development over 25 years. The new opportunity areas are proposed to create 11,000 new homes and 8,000 new jobs.    

Currently Harrow and Wealdstone area is designated in London Plan as ‘Intensification Area’ with an overall target of 1,500 new homes and 2,000 new jobs (which were revised in Harrow’s own ‘Area Action Plan’). The new designation of ‘Opportunity Area’ propose the target of 2,800 new homes and 3,000 new jobs in Harrow (town centre) and Wealdstone.      

The proposed changes will require close examination to ensure that Harrow and Wealdstone areas don’t end up with unacceptable, badly designed high-rise blocks littering the landscape and destroying the character of the area. If the Mayor is serious about regeneration of Harrow Town Centre he must urgently release funding for the enhanced public transport hub for improved facilities including step-free access for Harrow On the Hill Station and redevelopment of the current Bus Station. I’d be closely following the development, obtain views of Harrow’s residents about the proposed changes and lobbying the Mayor to ensure that Harrow gets its fare share of funding and Harrow’s Town Centre and areas of Wealdstone do not end up being characterless concrete jungle.

 

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24th January 2014

Fare rise hike hit Brent and Harrow

Yesterday (Sunday 19 January 2014) transport fares in Harrow and across London rose for the sixth year in a row, for each of the last five years fares have risen above inflation. This year the Mayor has claimed that fares will be frozen at inflation. However, analysis of the new fare tables show that Londoners in Zones 1-4 who use weekly, monthly or annual travel cards, will actually be hit with yet another above inflation fare rise. Pay as You Go bus passengers will also see their fares rise above inflation.

The fares are calculated using July’s inflation level, which was 3.1%. The above inflation rises for 2014 include:

-       Bus and Tram Pay as You Go – up 3.6% to £1.45 - a 55p rise since 2008

-       PAYG TfL Rail Services Zone 1 – up 4.8% to £2.20

-       Zone 1-2 monthly travel card – up 3.3% to £120.60

-       Zone 1-3 monthly travel card – up 3.4% to £141.40

-       Zone 1-4 annual travel card – up 3.2% to £1800

In his budget the Mayor is planning on cutting his share of the council tax by 1.3%, or 1.1pence a day for a Band D Household. This will save the average London household just £4 a year. A Zone 1-4 Annual Travelcard was £1,744 last year, but from today will be £1,800. This means a couple in Harrow, Croydon or Redbridge who work in central London will be £122 out of pocket each year.

Many people in our borough have been hit with yet another inflation-busting fare rise. Boris has claimed he is freezing the fares at inflation, but this simply isn’t true – and many passengers will see this first hand from today. He is saving people £4 a year on their council tax but is taking vastly more from them in higher transport fares. As Chair of TfL he really needs to do a better job of helping Londoners struggling with the cost of living crisis hitting our city.

Boris is in a position to actually help people who are struggling, but yet again many fares are going up above inflation. We’ve tried to find out from TfL how many people this will affect, but they have not released the information to us. Rather than taking action to help people who are struggling with living in the most expensive city in the world, the Mayor has wasted millions on his vanity projects.

Ends

Notes

  1. London was ranked as the most expensive city in the world this week, see:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/london-comes-top-in-study-of-the-worlds-most-expensive-cities-to-live-in-9042233.html

2.    The new fares tables can be found at:http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/media/newscentre/29288.aspx

 

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20th January 2014

How many Right to Buy homes in Brent and Harrow are now privately rented?

New research has for the first time revealed that at least 36% of homes sold through Right to Buy in London are now let by private landlords, with 25% in Brent and 35% in Harrow.  The information was released in a new report released From Right to Buy to Buy to Let.

The report highlights the financial cost to taxpayers and local authorities of the Right to Buy, including increased welfare spending due to the higher Housing Benefit payments being paid to tenants in ex-council homes that are now charged at market rates. In some London boroughs, average Housing Benefit claims are as much as £100 a week – £5,200 a year – higher for private sector tenants than for council tenants.

The report also highlights that local authorities are now frequently forced to rent former homes back at higher market rates in order to discharge their statutory homelessness duties.

The report calls for urgent action to reform Right to Buy to alleviate some of the worst excesses caused by the policy in its current form.

The report’s recommendations include: 

  • Mandatory covenants on all Right to Buy properties so they cannot be let through the private rented sector.
  • The current system of discounts should be abolished.
  • A new system should be introduced whereby local authorities retain an equity stake in any property sold.
  • Local authorities should have a ‘right not to sell’ if it is not in the community interest to do so or if they believe it would harm their housing operations.
  • Replacement homes built with Right to Buy receipts should mirror the rent, size and tenure specifications of the home sold

The report shows for the first time that Right to Buy, a policy ostensibly about helping aspiring home owners, has led to tens-of-thousands of London’s former council homes being rented out by private landlords. This has helped to fuel the increase in the housing benefit bill, heaped more pressure on local authority waiting lists and led to more Londoners being forced into the under-regulated private rented sector.

This shows that Right to Buy is poor value for money to taxpayers. Not only did they pay to build the home in the first place, they then subsidised the considerable discounts offered to tenants and then missed out on the rental income that would have covered the build costs. Now, we have the indignity of London boroughs renting back their former council homes at higher market rent levels, once again costing taxpayers through the nose.

Right to Buy has played a central role in causing and exacerbating the current housing crisis. Future governments must recognise that the right of a council tenant to buy their home at a discount, subsidised by other taxpayers, cannot be at the expense of the right of the vast majority of people to have a decent, affordable home to live in.

Physical conditions in London’s private rented sector are worse than any other tenure of housing, while complaints against private sector landlords have increased by 47% since 2008. Median private sector rents increased by 12% in 2011 and 9% in 2012.

 

Ends

 

Notes

  1. Reference for the above data on physical conditions in London's private rented sector is taken from: ‘Rent reform: Making London's private rented sector fit for purpose’, London Assembly Housing and Regeneration Committee, June 2013:http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Rent%20Reforms%20-%20Making%20the%20Private%20Rented%20Sector%20Fit%20for%20Purpose%20Final.pdf
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15th January 2014