Westminster Tories Slash Rough Sleeping Budget


Westminster Conservatives have slashed the Council budget for rough sleeping and supported housing just weeks after the Council’s own figures showed the number of those out on the streets had more than doubled. At last week’s full Council Westminster Conservatives passed the annual budget including cuts of over £800,000 to the rough sleeping budget. The cuts were opposed by Labour Councillors who were sceptical of Conservative claims the cuts could be delivered through ‘efficiencies’ without effecting front line services. 30 bed spaces have already been lost in 2015 with the closure of the Bayswater hostel.

Labour Housing spokesperson Councillor Tim Roca said:

“It’s scarcely believable at a time when rough sleeping is the worst it’s been for decades, that Westminster Tories would choose now to slash funding. Saying that the cuts can be delivered without effecting front line services misses the point that more money not less is needed, in…

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Harrow Road Fire

As many will know, a significant fire broke out on Friday morning (24th February) on the Harrow Road. Ten fire engines and over seventy firefighters were involved in bringing the blaze under control. Thankfully there were no reported injuries.

Unconfirmed reports are that it started in a Lebanese restaurant but London Fire Brigade are investigating and this has not, repeat, not, been confirmed.

The block is managed by Westway’s Letting Agents and there were eight flats affected, although we are unsure how many residents in total occupied them. Westway’s and their insurers are supporting those affected.

A hoarding has been erected to protect the public from any possible collapse of the building, which will likely need demolishing. In the meantime, a contra-flow system has been put in place to allow some movement of traffic along Harrow Road.

Karen Buck MP and local Councillors have praised the emergency services for their response to the fire. However, they remain concerned that in the aftermath traffic is not being properly managed in the area and have called on the Council and Police to help improve the situation.

Please see the latest photo from the site. It is hoped that the scaffolding construction works at the scene will be complete this evening (28th February). The missing signage at Elgin Avenue has been replaced and traffic is not turning into Harrow Road.

Before the road can be partially reopened they will need the traffic control measures (contra-flow controlled by traffic lights) put in place – this is still not sorted.

Labour slam Westminster’s plans to put its new council homes in Hounslow


Labour Councillors have slammed new Westminster Council proposals to use funds generated from selling off properties in Westminster to build new 24 council homes, not where they are needed locally, but in the outer London borough of Hounslow.

Westminster Council’s ‘Housing Investment Strategy and HRA Business Plan 2016/17’strategy floated the potential for out of borough purchases to be considered but this major new scheme to transfer residents to outer London sets a deeply troubling precedent. There is little clarity about how these residents would continue to access Westminster Council services and support.

A separate plan to build new family sized Council homes on Westminster Council owned land is likely to require affordable housing funds from private developments in order to be delivered, as core funds are being allocated to the Hounslow project.

Labour believes that housing funds should be used to deliver new social and genuinely affordable homes…

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Westminster Labour anger at Tory plans for huge library cuts


Westminster Labour Group is deeply concerned and angered by proposals from Westminster Council that would see massive cuts to our vital library services.

The Conservative Council has produced plans that would cut £750,000 per year from the Westminster Libraries budget and at the heart of these cuts are plans to remove the equivalent of 17 ½ full-time members of staff. Overwhelmingly the roles that would be lost are the qualified librarians whose expertise and passion for reading help make Westminster’s libraries a hugely valued part of our community.

Westminster Labour believes the Council must think again about how to support our vital library services. It could instead look at innovative ways to raise revenue, for example through improved (international) digital access to the council’s treasure trove of rare books and maps in the City Archives. At present there do not seem to be plans to consult the public about the…

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14 storey tower foisted on residents as Westminster Council ignores local opposition


Westminster City Council Planning Committee returned to its usually poor form last night, defying the wishes of local people and ignoring its own policies. After listening to substantial representations against the proposal from local Councillor Adam Hug, the Committee went straight ahead and approved a 14 storey residential block (Hathaway House) on Woodfield Road in Westbourne Ward. This was despite the proposal being opposed by 132 local residents, Karen Buck MP, all 3 local Westbourne Labour Councillors, and the neighbouring borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

This opposition didn’t stop the 3 Conservative members of the committee approving the plans despite it breaching the Council’s own policies on tall buildings and provision of affordable housing for working people.

Later the same evening 3 out of the 4 members of the Planning Committee decided to ignore Council Policy for a second time. Westminster Council planning officers advised the committee to reject a plan for 18 homes in 33 Westbourne Terrace to be transformed into 6 luxury properties…

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Chance To Improve Our Streets

The Council is planning its 2017/18 maintenance schedule for highways and public lighting.
Can people email me any locations they feel could be taken into account that I can push for? (troca@westminster.gov.uk)
In responding can people let me know:
– the name of the street(s)
– the problem, e.g. poor condition of the footway, road or public lighting (or lack of lighting)
– the precise location and extent
– any suggestions for repair or improvement works
Many thanks,

Tackling Youth Violence

I thought it might be useful to share information myself and other representatives have received following the spate of stabbings earlier in the year and my own and other local councillors thoughts on some of the issues. Most of the information I’ve provided has come from the Council and the Integrated Gangs Unit (IGU). It also follows meetings Councillor’s and Karen Buck MP have had with the Borough Police Commander and others.

The Council deals with youth violence through a strategy called Your Choice.  This strategy is aimed at preventing and diverting young people from gang and youth violence by providing opportunities for employment and training, with enforcement action taken if necessary.

At the forefront of this is the Integrated Gangs Unit I mentioned, a team from various agencies who all work together. These include dedicated police officers, Gang Outreach Workers from various backgrounds, a Child & Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHs) specialist, an ex-offender (St Giles Trust), Senior Probation Officer, Girls & Gangs worker, an Analyst, Employment Coach and council enforcement officers.

Between 13th March 2016 and June, there were ten incidents involving suspected drug dealers and violence, seven of which have direct connections with North Westminster, and three with possible connections.

The police response included:

  • The arrest of a 17 year old who lives in Queens Park for attempted murder in relation to a violent incident involving a Ladbroke Grove male on 18th This incident happened at the junction of Harrow Road and Third Avenue.
  • Two further arrests of young people with links to Westminster, but no longer live on the borough.
  • Warrants were conducted at the homes of four local gang members. Two influential members were arrested for possession of drugs with intent to supply.

Current IGU activities in response to recent incidents included:

  • A ‘Stop Violence meeting’ with the Mozart ‘youngers’ on 20th April. This is in line with other meetings that have taken place across the borough linked to violence reduction. This is the second one to have taken place on the Harrow Road/Queens Park.
  • Close links, support, and liaison with local Youth Projects, including a recent meeting with community representatives and members of the voluntary sector focused on tackling local problems and behaviour.
  • Regular street work sessions around Harrow Road / Avenues
  • Mediation sessions between RBKC and Mozart individuals
  • Sessions to groups in specific schools affected – primary / secondary and Westminster City College
  • Information sharing between Brent, Kensington and Hammersmith on youth violence and peer to peer child sexual exploitation, with specific focus on Harrow Road.
  • Support and enforcement on individuals consistently involved in violence. Including restriction of movements and activities through post-conviction Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBO) and civil injunctions where required.
  • Increase in policing presence around the Harrow Road area.

As local Councillors we will work with Karen Buck MP and do our part in lobbying for continued funding for the IGU, which does such important work. We also want the Council, Police and other agencies to communicate better with residents and community stake holders.

Labour Councillors think work on scoping out how we can better identify those children/teenagers who might be at risk of becoming involved in gang activity, is incredibly important. We also have pushed to ensure the Council intends to bring together stakeholders on this issue on a regular basis, and that the Police will also aim to improve their communications with local groups.

It was clear from the Borough Commander that a new approach to local policing is in prospect due to the changes in City Hall with Mayor Sadiq Khan. This is something we all welcome.

Myself and other Councillors are deeply concerned about the cuts to youth services, and the impact that the ripping out of this important social infrastructure will have on our communities. Youth violence and ASB is on the rise in the areas where these services are either under threat, or already shut down. The work that these groups do cannot be understated, yet is sadly at risk.

It cannot be far from anybody’s mind the tragedy of how young the people involved in this violence are, and the alarming thought that a number of the recent stabbings could very well have been fatal.

I’ll keep people updated as things develop.