Update: Chippenham Pub

The Chippenham Pub on Shirland Road was considered at a third planning committee last week.

As many of you will know the owners applied in December for a certificate of lawful use, to allow the Chippenham to become a shop. The pub was closed in early 2015 after being purchased by developers. The dilapidated ‘shop’ running out of the ground floor seemed a clear attempt to circumvent planning rules and the protections put in place for pubs. Local residents and councillors have been making representations against this application since January. I spoke on behalf of residents at the planning committee in March, April and again last Tuesday.

We’ve known from the start that this was going to be a difficult fight because the planning rules that effected the application were so weak (they’ve since changed). Certainly not being in a conservation area or listed added to that difficulty.

I’m sorry to say that the Committee ultimately approved the certificate. Although the item was held in private I was able to make representations and the Committee were very sympathetic, and cross examined the Council Officers about the options and pressed them on all the points we raised. Nevertheless, the law is very restrictive in this area.

I can’t tell you how unhappy I am at this decision especially after the so near yet so far experience of the last committee – which until the final seconds essentially supported our position.

We are establishing contact with owners about their plans going forward, to make sure the community has an input in any future development.

I’ll be arranging another general pubs meeting in the next month or so (please email me if you want details), and will keep you all updated.

Thank you for your support.

Cllr Tim Roca
Harrow Road

Security concerns as Westminster Council plans to switch off all its CCTV Cameras

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Labour councillors have responded with concern to Westminster Council’s announcement that it is planning to switch off all of its crime and disorder cameras across the city, only three years after Conservative Council Leader Cllr Philippa Roe declared in her budget speech that “Westminster has been a beacon in the use of public realm CCTV for many years. Our camera deployments are proportionate, appropriate, based on evidence of need and have a clear value in protecting our communities.”

Now Conservative Government spending cuts are biting so hard Westminster cannot maintain the system they made central to their crime and security agenda. It is important to keep reviewing the best means of ensuring an effective crime and security response, and that current CCTV network needs further investment to remain operational. However we are deeply concerned that this decision is financially driven and that an alternative strategy is not yet in place. The public…

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Supporting our Community: Money for local projects

I thought it might be useful to write a quick post about our ward budget.

This is the pot of money councillors have to spend on local projects in their area – about £46,000 per ward per year. The money is meant to allow us to support issues and priorities that matter to residents. Different wards have different priorities, as you’d expect.

We generally rely on community groups and others making applications to us for support for a particular project – the problem is we don’t do a good enough job of publicising that we have this money in the first place. This post is partly trying to address that problem, but also letting people know the sort of things we’ve helped fund in the past 12 months. I’ve listed some of these below:

 

Avenues Youth Project

The Library Film Project

Planting Bulbs on the Lydford Estate

All Sing! Harrow Road Community Choir

Black History Month

Harrow Road Christmas Lights

Paddington’s Got Talent

Elderly Day Out

Queen’s Park Film Festival 2015

 

The ward budget is for the benefit of our community and it would be great to see more applications submitted.

You can find out more about how to apply for ward funding here: https://www.westminster.gov.uk/ward-budgets

If you want to have a chat about the process drop me a line at the contact details here on the blog.

Welcome to the blog. – First post: Education

Welcome to the blog. – First post: Education

 

Welcome to my blog as a local councillor for Harrow Road in Westminster! I’ve started this blog as a way to let people know what myself and your other ward councillors (Ruth Bush & Guthrie McKie) are doing to represent our community.

To start off I want to talk about Education in Westminster.

This is because it’s an important issue and there are some serious challenges facing our Schools. I spoke about these and Westminster’s response  at a debate on Wednesday night at full council.

The first of these challenges is about money. Sadly, budget cuts are on there way and by some estimates spending reductions of £500  per pupil will hit Westminster Schools in the coming years. That’s a total of 8.9%. Education spending has only been cut in real terms on two occasions in the past: in 1994 (3%) and 1982 (4%). I’ll leave others to point out who was in power then…

Needless to say difficult times are on the way.

These budget cuts are coming at the same moment that Westminster Schools (mainly Primary Schools) face having to convert into ‘academies’. Now, take aside that “there is no convincing evidence of the impact of academy status on attainment in primary schools” – not my words but the conclusion of the House of Commons Education Select Committee. Just think of the upheaval the change is going to cause.

The average time for a school to convert to become an academy is 7 months, meaning that for two thirds of the School year Westminster school leaders will be spending time, money and energy on the government’s obsession with academies, instead of standards. What makes it particularly barmy here in Westminster is that the vast majority of our Schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.

One of the big criticisms of academies is that there is not enough accountability of ‘Academy chains’.  Yet to make matters worse the plans include removing parent governors. All of this is happening during a national crisis in teaching, with recruitment targets missed and teachers leaving the profession in droves (an 11% increase between 2011 and 2014).

The Labour Group on Westminster Council has challenged the Tory administration to join other Councils in opposing the Government’s plans. There was some indication on Wednesday that they will finally speak out on at least some of the problems I mentioned above.

My concern is that as ever the Council’s response is too slow, and Westminster is at the back of the class, hands down, coasting as it does on so many issues. I’ll write more in coming weeks about this issue, but please do write to me with your views on this or comment below.