Brent and Harrow
5 May 2016 Vote for
Sadiq Khan Mayor of London
Navin Shah GLA Brent & Harrow
Labour Party Londonwide

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Navin's News for September 2013

Roadmap for house building will unlock thousands of London’s land banked homes

I call for an end to land banking in London and supports proposals whereby developers will have to use or lose their planning permission. The proposals would help tackle land banking in London by unlocking the 210,000 homes with planning permission but which aren’t being built and would also create the new supply the capital desperately needs.

The proposals would allow councils to impose escalating fees on developers who refuse to build, backed up by the threat of compulsory purchase orders for the very worst offenders. This would give councils the tools they need to effectively tackle land banking, where developers maximise value by sitting on land instead of building on it.

The average price for a house in Harrow in June this year was £355,716. The annual change in house prices has increased by 2.1% per cent. The average price for a house in Brent in June this year was £421,933. The annual change in house prices has increased by 8.3% per cent.

 I welcome the proposals this week, which outlined some ground-breaking proposals to tackle London’s housing crisis and build the homes that London needs.

Use it or lose it planning permission is a fair yet forceful way to shift the 210,000 homes in London which have planning permission but are not being built. Under the current system, developers find it more profitable to sit on land than to build on it. This is an innovative response to the land banking that is much to blame for our housing crisis.

Only 18,000 homes were completed in London last year and in Brent average annual house price has increased by 8.3 per cent and in Harrow 2.1%. On average, it now costs £306,414 to buy a flat in Brent and in Harrow a flat costs £244,079.

The Mayor admits he needs to build 40,000 homes a year. This is far short of the 52,000 to 60,000 that experts say are needed. There’s crying need for homes across all tenures, but especially for people on low to modest incomes.

The national house building programme is also great news for the capital. London must already accommodate a rapidly rising population, but if the rest of the southeast fails to meet its own needs, particularly for affordable housing, then the pressure on London could be even greater.

Notes

  1. Labour leader Ed Miliband gave his speech at Labour party conference on 24 September 2013.
  2. The figures for the average house prices can be found here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/in_depth/uk_house_prices/counties/html/county39.stm
  3. The Greater London Authority’s report Barriers to Housing Delivery identified 210,000 potential homes in London which have planning permission but aren’t being built (GLA, http://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/planning/publications/barriers-to-housing-delivery)
  4. The Department for Communities and Local Government says only 18,000 homes were completed in London last year (DCLG, Table 253, https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-house-building)
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27th September 2013

SWAMI SATYAMITRANAND GIRI MAHARAJ (CELEBRATION TIME)

I attend a number of diverse events of which few are memorable ones - the ones that touch your heart! Last week the event at Kadwa Patidar Hall was one of those unique ones which will remain with me for ever.

Birthday celebrations come and go but the celebration of 82nd birthday of Swami Satyamitranand Giri Maharaj last week (19 September) was truly a big occasion. Big, not for the vast number of people from across the world who attended the celebration. Big not because of the big name community leaders and politicians attended. It was a huge and remarkable occasion simply because of the message that Swamiji conveyed to the devotees and well-wishers. Having met Swamiji on many an occasions and attended such gatherings before I pretty much knew what to expect but the last week’s experience was an exceptional one.

The first message for the politicians like me was a key one. Swamiji referred to the politicians who make a great deal about ‘transparency’. He agreed how important this was but said for him transparency was like a building - a building with windows and the windows of his building were always wide open.  See what you want to! It is important that every one was as honest and open as that. Swamiji has no pretence and is full of laughter which was on display all evening. He was due to retire on a couple of occasions (to have some rest) but given his commitment and how much he enjoyed he stayed on and ‘entertained’ all of us. He asked everyone to laugh and keep smiling because he said ‘laughter and smile are your own property’. Swamiji talked about how people have to face / put up with setbacks in life due to the circumstances like the misfortune and poverty. But he said those with wealth should also learn to persevere and use the wealth for ‘seva’ (service to human kind). Another interesting comment from the Swami was about ‘Roti’ (Bread/Food). When Bollywood deals with roti, it addresses material values – roti, kapda and makan (bread, clothes and property/house) but Guruji said ‘Roti is a passage to Lord Rama’. When one is well fed the link to spirituality becomes easier – empty stomach is no good to anyone.

Swami Birthday.jpg

Swamiji is a messenger of Shankaracharya and proudly talked about ‘Bharatiya Sanskriti’ (the Indian Culture) with a special reference to secular India. He paid a significant tribute to the Indian community in the UK whom he referred as ‘Ambassadors’ of Hindus and India because of their active engagement in promoting the hindu values, cultural & religious celebrations and contribution made by our communities worldwide. 

Thankfully, unlike most community events, the gathering was spared of any speeches from politicians and the entire evening was focused on Swami Satyamitranand Giri Maharaj’s birthday celebrations. The key highlights being the spirited and humorous renderings from Swamiji and special Maharastrian flavour to the occasion with Swamiji wearing traditional maharastrian costumes and looking very impressive! Last but not least a huge thank you to Samanvaya Parivar Harrow who organised this satsang (a family occasion) and their generous donations to the local charities. I remain a dedicated friend of Samnvaya Parivar and my personal thanks to Shri Lalitbhai Thakrar for his total commitment to Swamiji and everything that Samnvaya Parivar stands for.    

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27th September 2013

PENSIONS STRIKE: PICKETS IN BRENT

This afternoon I've visited 2 pickets, first in Wembly and then at Willesden Green Fire Stations in my GLA constituency.

1. Wembley Picket 25.9.11.JPG

The latter one had crews from Willesden, Park Royal and Wembley. I was delighted to see the incredible support from the members of public - drivers hooting in support as the cars drove past and pedestrains stopping by to say thank you to the firefighters and wishing them success in the fight against the pension scheme. On radio too all I've heard last night and today people supporting the fire fighters on pension issues as well as speaking up against closure of fire stations and lashing out at the Mayor for not listening to Londoners. People are with firefighters and so am I on pensions as well as fire stations.

2. Willesden Green Picket 25.9.11.JPG

 

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25th September 2013

Stanmore Picket

I joined the CWU picket line this morning with Cllr Graham Henson and Huw Davies (CWU) at Stanmore, Parr Lane.  

1. Stanmore Picket 25.9.JPG

Pretty much all workers (98%) voting for the strike shows the depth of feelings and an extremely serious fall out between the workers on the ground and the Managers. I've heard today most shocking and horrif first hand account, from a number of employees on the picket line, of harassment and bullying. The staff have accused the management of treating them like slaves, horrific incidents of stress among the employees due to the shabby treatment they receive e.g. a staff member collapsed very recently on the floor ending up in Hospital and cases of members not being allowed leave for bereavements or ill health in their families. I have also been told about a much worse incident which I'm not at liberty to put it in public domain but if it true and work related the Royal Mail and the Management have a lot to answer for! The situation is extermely serious and if the management is serious about resolving the situation I call upon them to put in place an indepndent investigation immediately. 

2B. Stanmore Picket 25.9.JPG

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25th September 2013

450 years until all low-paid Londoners on living wage

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has come under pressure on his record in rolling out the London Living Wage (LLW). At the current rate it will take 450 years for all low paid workers in London to receive the LLW. At today’s Mayor’s Question Boris was called on to accelerate the roll out of the LLW and for London to become a full Living Wage Zone.

Boris also faced questions on the cost of living crisis that is hitting people, including the impact on BME Londoners; Boris’ fare rises; the use of Zero-Hours contracts; the cost of childcare; food poverty and rising energy prices. 

In Harrow private rents went up by 5.70 per cent from October 2011 to September 2012, which amounts to £753 a year, whilst the average change in wages has decreased by -0.70% per cent.

Londoners are struggling with a cost of living crisis with rents, food, fuel, childcare and fares outstripping wages. In Harrow, residents renting privately have seen rents go up by 5.70 per cent from October 2011 to September 2012. That works out as an extra £753 a year. But the average change in wages has decreased by -0.70% per cent.

It is time the Mayor used his position and accelerated the expansion of the London Living Wage. At the current rate it will take nearly 450 years for all low paid Londoners to receive a living wage, I do not want to live in a city where people are forced to survive on poverty pay. If employers paid a living wage it would save the taxpayer money on the benefits bill, it would provide a boost to the London economy and allow people to live and not merely survive.

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12th September 2013

KING’S DREAM

 Mahatma Gandhi inspired India and the World through his philosophy of Ahimsa (nonviolence) and successfully fought the British Raj for India’s independence. Gandhiji also fought all his life for truth, equality and fairness. Another inspirational figure who fought for the principles of equality is Martin Luther King Junior (MLK Jr) – the ‘King’ of the US civil rights movement. The March to Washington on 28th August 1963 was a mass demonstration organised by an umbrella of civil rights groups as a rallying cry for equal rights. The peace rally was to highlight racism faced by black Americans across America - particularly in southern states with the laws of segregation of black and white Americans. Anyone opposing the segregation faced violent racist attacks from the likes of Ku Klux Klansmen, who retaliated most violently bombing homes and black neighbourhoods. The demonstration highlighted a number of protests against racism that had begun when seamstress Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white passenger in 1955. This historical incident sparked a bus boycott campaign across Montgomery, Alabama.

It was 50 years ago (last week) that Martin Luther King delivered his ‘I have a dream’ speech to 250,000 people speaking from the steps of Lincoln Memorial in the heart of Washington DC. Let’s recapture some key passages of his historical message that reverberates in the minds and hearts of people even now and destined to leave a legacy for ever. 

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation….”

“When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promisary note to which every American was to fall  heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black man as well as white men  - would be guaranteed unalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness….”   

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character…."

The speech (worth reading in full) stresses his dream of America becoming a great nation by applying freedom to "all of God's children". The question is, fifty years on after this historic speech and massive demonstration how does one judge America’s record on equality and race? There are mixed views and feelings whether MLK’s dream has been achieved? I feel that there is a remarkable progress but there’s a long way to go to achieve the equality of races.    

Marking 50 years of MLK Jr’s speech President Barack Obama addressed a rally last week at the Lincoln Memorial when he honoured the contribution made by MLK as well as the many African-American & white marchers who protested for equal rights for black citizens 50 years ago. President Obama linked his own rise to the White House with the efforts of the civil rights protesters decades ago and declared ensuring economic opportunity was "our great unfinished business". The ‘unfinished business’ truly applies to the challenges facing equality in America and worldwide. The best tribute we can pay to the life and work of Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi is to do everything to achieve that dream of MLK Jr.

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6th September 2013

Death of new truly affordable housing

On 3 September, I attempted to block the Mayor’s changes to the London Plan. The Mayor’s changes will now mean that new ‘affordable’ housing will be set at up to 80 per cent of the market rate in London. This will lead to many new properties in London meant for people on low and modest incomes becoming totally unaffordable.

Today was an historic opportunity for the Assembly to reject a Mayoral strategy but a two-thirds majority could not be secured. This was the first time new powers granted to the Assembly under the Localism Act have been used.

In Brent where the household median income is £30,352, tenants would need to have a gross household income of £48,137 to afford a three bed property at 80 per cent of market rent.

Today’s vote is a hammer blow and signals the death of new truly affordable housing in London. It is a complete travesty that this has happened. Brent Council is against the Mayor’s plan as well as other boroughs of all political persuasions.

The changes will mean that, to rent a two bedroom flat in Brent at the new 80% level a family would have to earn £48,137. The median family income in Brent  is £30,352. This is why I voted against this.

The Mayor’s changes will make London’s housing crisis even worse. They will now push affordable housing out of the reach of many Londoners on low, and in some areas, modest incomes. This will also drive up rent, increase land prices and further distort London’s housing market. Boris should have accepted the recommendations of the Independent Planning Inspector, listened to local authorities like Brent Council and revised his London Plan.

Combined with the welfare reforms the Mayor’s changes will make huge swathes of inner London even more unaffordable than they already are. Today’s vote will contribute to the ghettoization of our city and put intolerable strain on a range of already overburdened local services in outer London. This is effectively giving up on ordinary Londoners on modest incomes by making it harder for them to find a home that is affordable. 

Ends

1.  The London boroughs’ concerns with the Mayor’s proposed changes to the London Plan were raised during the ‘Examination in Public’, further details can be found here: http://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/planning/london-plan/examination-in-public and the borough’s specific concerns here:http://www.slideshare.net/CityHallLabour/joint-boroughs-rema-response  

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4th September 2013