Westminster Council to go ahead with closure of the Jubilee Sports Centre and replacement of the Moberly Centre
As expected. Westminster City Council has now formally approved the decision to close the Jubilee Sports Centre and build a new, larger centre on the Moberly site on Kilburn Lane.
It is not in dispute that the new centre will upgrade and improve sports facilities locally. Westminster has also agreed to provide a new sports hall on the re-built Jubilee site in recognition of the widespread opposition to their plans. Some people are strongly in support of the proposals, and feel they will be of benefit to the area.
However, the Queen's Park ward councillors and I, along with many local residents who have been in touch, do not believe that concerns have been properly addressed.
• The central objection to the re-location of the swimming pool. Most local people we have spoken to believe that the Jubilee is a better location for the pool, and that the Moberly site is less convenient
• Access to synthetic-pitch football, which will be lost from Moberly, and is to be re-located onto Queen's Park Gardens, in turn, reducing capacity for open-access play.
• The loss of the open-access basketball court in Lancefield Street, which provides for young people from the Mozart estate and elsewhere.
Whether the Council's projections for the increased use of the new sports centre will reflect the wishes and needs of local people, as well as draw in more users from across the borough, Brent and further afield. We know that the Council is projecting a 65% rise in attendance at the New Moberly, compared with existing facilities, but no-one has satisfactorily explained how they come to that figure, nor why local people NOT using Jubilee/Moberly now will start using the New Moberly.
• The poor quality of the consultation process, which meant many local people had no idea about what was being suggested.
• The absence of any ‘affordable' homes out of the 120 to be built on the Moberly and Jubilee sites.
Westminster will now go ahead with seeking planning permission to re-build the Moberly Centre and to build new homes on the Jubilee site, so there will be further opportunities to raise concerns during the planning process.
In the meantime, your councillors and I are also pressing Westminster on:
• How they intend to fund the security and activities at the replacement facility proposed for Caird Street. The worst possible situation would be to have a sports hall on this site which was closed more often than not, and not meeting local needs or not affordable to local people.
• The need to include an open-access outdoor play/activity area, to replace the well-used basketball court in Lancefield Street.
• Whether the financial plans under-estimate the value of the homes being built for open market sale, and whether there is, thefore, scope to insist on some affordable housing to meet local needs within the new development.
Your views continue to be welcome so please keep on contacting me.
Major changes to hospital services and health care in North West London
NHS North West London is recommending changes to the way healthcare is provided to hospitals across the area. Radically reducing the number of Accident and Emergency units, and affecting some services at the Chelsea and Westminster, Central Middlesex, Charing Cross, Ealing, Hammersmith, Hillingdon, Northwick Park, St. Mary's and West Middlesex hospitals
Although neither St Mary's nor Chelsea and Westminster are on the list of hospitals likely to lose their Accident and Emergency units, there will be knock-on effects locally as demand will increase for services locally, and investment will be needed to cope. Will there be the funding, and the capacity, to manage with rising pressures at a much smaller number of Accident and Emergency units?
The consultation ends on the 8th October 2012.
Local people need to make their views known, and to ask questions about what the changes will mean before the consultation ends on October 8th.
You may want to attend the public meeting on this issue, which is taking place on October 1st, between 6 and 8pm, at Westminster Academy, The Naim Dangoor Centre, 255 Harrow Road, London, W2 5EZ (Paddington or Royal Oak stations or 18 and 36 buses).
There is also a consultation event on Saturday 6th October. Drop-in between 10am and 4pm at Hinde Street Methodist Church, 19 Thayer Street, London, W1U 2QJ.
Other ways to find out what is being proposed:
Call: 0800 881 5209
See the NHS North West London consultation document for details of the proposals.
Key consultation areas
• Which five hospitals should become Major Hospitals with A&E, Obstetrics and Pediatrics, and which should be Local Hospitals with a 24/7 Urgent Care Department (but without a full Accident and Emergency unit)
• Changes being proposed by Imperial College Health Trust to transfer eye services from Western Eye Hospital and the Hyperacute Stroke Unit from Charing Cross to St Mary's Hospital.
• How services can be improved within a community setting to reduce the need for hospital admissions- what they might look like and how they will be funded.
Even though St Mary's Accident and Emergency unit is not listed for closure, It is still important to have your say as the consultation extends across is across North West London, and it remains possible that the NHS may change their plans in the light of responses elsewhere!
Karen Buck MP
Westminster Council to go ahead with closure of the Jubilee Sports Centre and replacement of the Moberly Centre As expected. Westminster City Council has now formally approved the decision to...
The recent suggestion from the Policy Exchange think-tank that social housing in valuable areas should be sold and the profits used to build more homes in cheaper places, re-hashes an old argument but predictably grabbed the headlines.
Doesn't it make sense, with 4.5 million people in housing need, to boost supply? Surely those in need and on low incomes should not expect to be housed centrally anyway (the myth-makers like to refer to ‘Mayfair' or 'near Harrods' as if these neighbourhoods of the global mega-rich are stuffed with council estates).
Well, not this way it doesn't. I'll start and finish with the importance of 'mixed communities'. 'Social' housing has existed in inner London for 150 years, when the big philanthropists like the Peabody Trust started replacing the slums which had scarred the city from Parliament to Covent Garden to Holborn. Swathes of what now include some of the country's most expensive properties were once desperately poor. Even as recently as the 1960s, the Notting Hill Housing Trust started by buying and replacing private homes that were a by-word for slum landlordism- somewhat ironically paving the way for the regeneration which now sees houses there sell for many millions. London has always been socially mixed, is now highly ethnically mixed, and has benefited economically, culturally and socially as a result- and social housing has helped make that possible.
More recently still, certainly in Central London, the international property market has changed the landscape significantly. It has been estimated that 60% of new sales in central London go to overseas buyers and £5 billion a year is flowing into London's 'luxury' housing market. This is helping to feed the house price bubble and freezing out low and middle income buyers and renters alike. Now, foreign ownership of property is an accepted reality- but equally, the scale and impact should not be permitted to distort our own civic life.
Then there is the effect on tenants. Government Ministers praise a mobility scheme which gives tenants a chance ‘to improve their job prospects, live closer to family or simply move to a home better suited to their changing needs'. Sound objectives, but they depend on a varied stock being available. One example given is of a woman living in the countryside who swapped her council house for one in town, closer to her job. But under the Policy Exchange scheme, the village house would be sold off, not re-let. And someone has to do those low-paid jobs in Central London, too- especially those which involve unsocial hours.
Nor is it true that 'existing tenants would not be affected', as claimed. Certainly, the property being sold would be vacant, but what about the family down the road in over-crowded accommodation, or the disabled person needing a medical transfer? They would be either left for longer in poor, sometimes terrible, conditions, or required to move out, regardless of their history, their connections, their responsibilities.
Sales are not the only way to deal with the investment shortfall anyway. In the 1960s Notting Hill Housing Trust bought properties to protect poor people from slum landlords, but as these grew massively in value the balance sheet of the organisation strengthened and became the foundation for hundreds of millions of pounds of prudential borrowing for more social homes elsewhere If you decide to buy a second home, and you have a first house on which you don't owe very much, the best way of raising money is often to extend your mortgage on the house you already have. Councils and housing associations have, on average, outstanding debts of only £17,000 per house and already sweat their assets, so the last thing they want to do is to lose the most valuable of them. New investment made sense in itself, too, which is why the previous government had an £8 billion investment programme. That programme passed the value test - creating an asset that will make a profit in its lifetime, and pay off in jobs created and benefit bills reduced, but it was slashed by 60% by the current government.
Of course, the number of council homes has plummeted over the last 30 years, with Right to Buy massively reducing the rental pool. Lots of new homes would be built from the proceeds, went the promise, but the sold homes were never replaced and most of the money disappeared into the Treasury. Many ex-council homes were rented back to low-income and homeless households at much higher prices- helping fuel the rise in Housing Benefit. People who would once have been eligible for a council home ended up in expensive private rented homes, with the same effect. So the promise was made and broken before. Would it be different now?
Finally, let's return to the issue of mixed communities. We hear a great deal about promoting mixed communities in poor places, like Newham, or Southwark. Fair enough everyone understands that concentrating poorer people in poor neighbourhoods is bad- for their life chances and for the wider community, as was debated last August during the riots. Those councils want a better mix, with more home-ownership and greater affluence. Yet the same logic applies where low cost housing is currently limited, because those areas have become more valuable, or because they are away from the inner city, in suburbs, towns and even villages elsewhere. Will London's outer suburbs, or market towns in the surrounding countryside build hundreds of thousands of new council homes and, crucially, offer them to those people, outsiders by definition, squeezed from the inner city?
Or, as seems likely, will already affluent areas become ever more so, communities be broken up and the millions in housing need become more marginalised still?
The recent suggestion from the Policy Exchange think-tank that social housing in valuable areas should be sold and the profits used to build more homes in cheaper places, re-hashes an...
It was my great pleasure to host an event on the 10th of July aimed at young people not in employment, education or training. With the support of CH2MHill, we worked together with HR professionals to deliver a couple of really productive sessions to the 50 or so young people from the area who attended. The first session focused on CVs and how best to communicate your skills clearly and effectively to potential employers. It is always amazing how even a few changes will make a difference to your CV and get you noticed.
Lunch provided a chance for attendees to have a look around the stalls. We have some great organisations for young people in the local area and some fantastic people - Gareth Owen from the Volunteer Centre, Chris Joseph from the Westminster Adult Education Service, and Richard Spencer from Westminster Council's Sports Unit in particular, who gave brilliant presentations.
We also had representatives from the Princes Trust, the London Apprenticeship Company, Vital Regeneration, JobCentre Plus and City of Westminster College. All offered a wide range of opportunities open to young people - apprenticeships in the music or finance industry, or more personalised help with CVs and interview practice.
The afternoon session focused on how to succeed at interviews - getting over nerves can be difficult, but we learnt that you can never prepare too much for an interview. Thinking about the questions you are likely to be asked and writing down answers can help - even saying them out loud so that in the interview you can aim to speak clearly and confidently having gotten used to the feel of saying the words.
Massive thanks go to Tina Rycroft from the Plus team who gave the presentations, and of course to our excellent stallholders who were so helpful in answering young people's questions and giving them advice. We were also able to put on a prize draw with donations of 2 vouchers, each for meals for two, from Bayswater Nando's.
I'd also like to say a special thank you to staff at Sainsbury's in Ladbroke Grove who donated some sandwiches for lunch, and to Waitrose in Bayswater for their generous additions of drinks, crisps and biscuits for the event.
It was my great pleasure to host an event on the 10th of July aimed at young people not in employment, education or training. With the support of CH2MHill, we...
Some of you may know about Westminster City Council's plans to close the Jubilee Sports Centre, build housing on the site and re-develop the Moberley Centre on Kilburn Lane instead. However, although Westminster claims to have ‘leafleted all homes within 2 miles of the Jubilee', very few people actually seem to be aware of the plans and most of those people who have heard are worried about them.
The Council say:
* ‘Both centres are very dated and in need of significant investment'
* ‘The cost of running both existing sports facilities, which are very close to each other (0.6 miles apart), is ..significant. In these challenging financial times and because of their extremely high combined annual subsidy of £600,000 p.a. there is unlikely to be the public funds available in future to maintain, update and refresh the two sites'
Your Queens Park Ward Councillors and I have many concerns about the plans:
· The Moberly Centre, which will be where all the new sports/leisure facilities are based, is actually in Brent, and could change the user base away from north Westminster
· It will be further away and less convenient for many Westminster residents than the Jubilee
· The Jubilee is in the centre of a very deprived community, including the Mozart estate, and serves an area with the highest population density in the country.
· There is a desperate need for more facilities for young people, not fewer.
· It is used for community purposes other than sport
· New housing on the site will not be ‘affordable' and will not relieve housing need in the area.
It is very important that we find out what people think of these plans before all the decisions get made.
If you have any views on the issue, please send me your comments/concerns about closing the Jubilee Centre to :
· E-mail at email@example.com
· Write back to me at the House of Commons, London SW1A OAA ( or FREEPOST to me at 4G Shirland Mews, London W9)
Karen Buck MP
Some of you may know about Westminster City Council's plans to close the Jubilee Sports Centre, build housing on the site and re-develop the Moberley Centre on Kilburn Lane instead....
Central to the public sense of fair play, central to the government's welfare strategy (central to the Labour government's welfare strategy, come to that) is the belief that work should pay and work is the best route out of poverty. All right thinking people agree. No- one should languish out of work unless they are incapable of work. Sp what should be of the utmost concern to us is that work all too often doesn't pay. Not because social security levels are so generous that they enable a comfortable lifestyle over the long term- they don't- but because millions of people do not earn enough when employed to make ends meet.
The minimum wage provided a welcome income boost for around 2 million people at the time it was introduced, and despite the doom-mongering of the Conservative opposition who voted against it, it did not lead to substantial job losses. But welcome though the minimum wage is, as a floor below which hourly rates cannot fall, those wage rates have been insufficient to protect against the growth of the category we call the ‘working poor'. Currently, 57% of children in very low income households have at least one working parent- a statistic we should all be alarmed by.
Hourly rates of pay aren't the whole story, of course. One of the characteristics of the recent years of recession has been under-employment- that is, people having no choice but to work fewer hours than they would like, and/or than are necessary for them to keep their heads above water.
Low pay forces the government to spend more as ‘in-work' benefits rises, so we subsidise low pay by around £28 billion. Tax credits, introduced by Labour in the late 1990s, acted as a top-up for low wages, ‘making work pay' in the positive style ( the other method is to cut out of work benefits, though that does nothing to improve people's incomes, or put demand into a demand-starved economy). Together with other ‘in-work benefits' like Housing and Council Tax Benefit, individuals and families were kept in work, even with frozen or falling real incomes and on reduced hours. And we want people to remain in work- unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, is catastrophically wasteful of money and human potential.
But surely we could do better? If leaving people languishing out of work is seen as an unequivocally bad thing, then trapping a substantial and growing section of the population in in-work poverty must also be wasteful. However, in-work benefits, like tax credits, are taking a hit as part of the £18 billion scaling back in ‘welfare' spending. The government will argue that its new integrated ‘Universal credit' will be a solution, but welcome though some elements may be ( like its smoothing out of the often ludicrously steep level at which tax and benefits are withdrawn) it won't solve the problem of low pay and under-employment.
The think tank for the ‘squeezed middle', the Resolution Foundation, is the latest to campaign for action on a ‘living wage', which voluntarily builds on the minimum wage to tackle the scale of low pay. Its authors point out that there are an estimated 540,000 workers in London earning less than the London Living Wage of £8.30 an hour, yet only 10,000 London workers won a living wage in the six years between 2005 and 2011. When it comes to contemplating the implementation of a living wage, it would appear that the vast majority of employers remain concerned about costs and sceptical about the business case that living wage activists have placed at the centre of their campaigns. Yet in a number of key sectors of the economy, a living wage is shown to be affordable to business and even more so if phased in.
Governments will continue to have a role to play in tackling unemployment, under-employment and the scandal of low pay, because it is in all our interests- economic as well as social- that they do. But on issues like the Living Wage, is it not time that business looks harder at the contribution it can make?
Central to the public sense of fair play, central to the government's welfare strategy (central to the Labour government's welfare strategy, come to that) is the belief that work should...
NHS North West London has produced a ‘medium-list' of options for hospital closures and shifts in service provision, which will be formally consulted on after this election period is over.
It is expected that only 5 out of 9 hospitals will continue to operate as now.
The nine current hospitals Hospitals have been paired up, with the expectation that only one of the two would remain as a major, 24/7 acute hospital.
This is detailed by Westminster Council's Health Policy committee as meaning:
HAMMERSMITH vs ST MARY'S
CHARING CROSS vs CHELSEA and WESTMINSTER
EALING vs WEST MIDDLESEX
Central Middlesex is already reported as being too small to continue as a major hospital, and Northwick Park and Hillingdon are expected to remain as they serve areas of outer London with fewer alternatives.
The dramatic reduction in the number of Accident and Emergency units being proposed is based on two concepts:
· That better emergency outcomes can be achieved with a smaller number of more specialist hospitals
· Many people go to Accident and Emergency units unnecessarily when they could be better treated in local GP/community facilities ( and attendances at Accident and Emergency have soared in recent years)
These proposals have been in the public domain for some weeks but will not be formerly consulted on until later this summer .
My big worry is that alternative GP- based or community services will not be in place BEFORE Accident and Emergency units close, especially given the massive cuts now facing the London NHS, and the huge reductions in social care for elderly and disabled people made by local authorities, including Westminster Council.
I have written a short article for the local press on this issue, which you can see by clicking on the hyper-link below:
The particular challenges for London- including the urgent need for a proper London-wide leadership on the NHS, is described in this article by health think-tank, the Kings Fund, here:
I will be making sure that as many people as possible reply to the official consultation when it comes out, but I thought it was important to give you advance warning! These changes will be some of the largest and most controversial in recent NHS history and it will essential to have a well-informed debate and build community health provision before A and E closures actually take place.
Karen Buck MP
NHS North West London has produced a ‘medium-list' of options for hospital closures and shifts in service provision, which will be formally consulted on after this election period is over....
Later this summer one of the most explosive consultations on the NHS in modern times will be launched as up to 3 out of 7 hospitals serving North West London face the closure of their Accident and Emergency units. Expect fireworks as plans are set out for the future of hospital services, against a backdrop of the worse squeeze on NHS spending ever seen. St Mary's, the Chelsea and Westminster, Hammersmith and Charing Cross hospitals will all be in the mix- and at least one, possibly 2 of these will end up without ‘ blue light' Accident and Emergency units, which will mean becoming very different types of hospital.
As is so often the case, the story behind this is complex. Although the number of people attending Accident and Emergency units has been rising sharply, by no means all are doing so because of severe or traumatic illness or injury, and it would be far better to be able to treat some of these patients GP led clinics instead. The future of health care lies in improving community based care for older people and patients with chronic conditions, with a smaller number of highly specialist units for emergencies that give people suffering strokes, heart attacks or serious injuries much better chances of survival.
The problem is that the improved community services- NHS and local authority provided- should be visible and delivering results before lots of hospitals start shutting their Accident and Emergency units down. And yet what have we seen from Westminster council this last year? Social care slashed, Taxicards taken from frail elderly and disabled people, and the Centre for Independent Living in Bayswater closed. So enthusiastically have Westminster hacked away at provision for older and disabled people that they have cut by £4.4 million MORE than originally budgeted! None of this gives any grounds for confidence that Accident and Emergency unit closures will be offset by the quality early-intervention services which could prevent, or at least reduce the demand from, people needing emergency admissions. If the government expects public support for these changes- some of which may be necessary and justifiable in principle- they must show they understand and can respond to the very real concerns patients and families have about the level and quality of the alternatives available. Public support for hospitals is not based on sentiment alone. It reflects a genuine fear that warm words and promises count for less that hard evidence of a better alternative.
Later this summer one of the most explosive consultations on the NHS in modern times will be launched as up to 3 out of 7 hospitals serving North West London...
Many thanks to the hundreds of you who have been in touch in recent weeks to express your concerns about the NHS and Social Care Bill. This finished its passage through Parliament last night, despite
· massive opposition from right across the medical and nursing professions
· 1,000 amendments during the Parliamentary process
· the refusal to publish the NHS Risk Register, which would have allowed MPs to properly evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the changes
You can read the final debate on the link above. So I am asking you to help monitor the impact, by keeping me informed about the local impact- what you hear, what you see and how the combined impact of spending cuts and re-organisation impact on the community.
Why are we so opposed to the NHS Bill?
Not because we are against putting GPs at the heart of decision making, but because the NHS is facing the biggest financial challenge in its history and at the same time, the Government has launched the biggest top-down reorganisation since 1948.
It is widely recognised that this combination of events has exposed the NHS to greater risks. This was acknowledged by the Chief Executive of the NHS when speaking to the Public Accounts Committee:
"I'll not sit here and tell you that the risks have not gone up. They have. The risks of delivering the totality of the productivity savings, the efficiency savings that we need over the next four years have gone up because of the big changes that are going on in the NHS as whole."
What's already happening?
Referral to treatment waiting times
· Referral to treatment waiting times published on Thursday 15th March revealed a worrying increase in the number of patients who waited over 18 weeks for treatment.
· There has been a 25% increase in the number of patients who waited 18 weeks since May 2010. In May 2010 20,662 patients waited 18 weeks, in January 2012 25,823 patients waited 18 weeks.
· The median waiting time has gone up to 8.7 weeks in January 2012, compared to 7.7 weeks in December 2011 and 8.4 weeks in May 2010.
· 32 Trusts missed their target of 90% of patients treated within 18 weeks.
Source: Monthly Referral to Treatment (RTT) waiting times for completed admitted pathways (on an adjusted basis).
A&E waiting times
· For the last eleven weeks running hospitals have failed to meet the Government's own lowered A&E target.
· One of Andrew Lansley's first acts on becoming Health Secretary was to downgrade Labour's A&E waiting time standard that the NHS should see 98% of A&E patients within four hours, to the lower standard of 95%. Since then, NHS A&E waiting time performance has consistently been below that achieved under Labour.
Source: Department of Health, A&E weekly activity statistics, NHS and independent sector organisations in England
Diagnostic waiting times
· Diagnostic waiting time figures published on Wednesday 7th March show an increase in the numbers of patients waiting more and 6 and 13 weeks for 15 key diagnostic tests like MRI, echocardiography or audiology tests.
· Since the election, there has been a 157% increase in the number of patients waiting longer than 6 weeks for key diagnostic tests. (May 2010: 3,495 patients, January 2012: 8,973 patients).
· There has also been a 270% increase in the number of patients waiting longer than 13 weeks (May 2010: 214 patients, January 2012: 792 patients)
· There has also been an increase in the last month in the number of patients waiting longer than 6 weeks. (December 2011: 7,990 patients, January 2012: 8,973 patients)
Source: Department of Health, Waiting times and activity for diagnostic tests
Cuts to the frontline
· Already, since the election 3,500 nursing jobs have been lost, and figures suggest that as many as 6,000 could be lost over the course of this Parliament.
· A survey by Bliss last year reported that:
"One in three hospitals have or will be making cuts to their nursing workforce over the past year or in the coming 12 months. This is through redundancies, recruitment freezes or down-banding nursing posts (demoting nurses or replacing experienced nurses who leave with inexperienced or non specialist nurses)."
· Spending on the NHS was cut in real terms from £102,751 million in 2009-10 to £101,985 million in 2010-11. The Financial Times estimated this was a £750m real terms cut, and £900m less than Labour would have spent.
Hospitals falling behind on efficiency savings
· According to FOI responses received by the Health Service Journal, 68% (or 2 out of 3) of acute trusts missed their savings targets for first 6 months of Nicholson challenge
· At least 5 trusts have made less than 20% of their planned savings for the year
· The NHS trust sector has missed its savings target by £79m or 15%.
We expect the NHS Bill to become law next week. I am writing this to tell you that this will not be the end of the campaign, but with your help, it will be the beginning.
Karen Buck MP
Last night, the Conservatives and Liberals passed the NHS and Social Care Bill through Parliament. Labour will overturns it at the first opportunity. Many thanks to the hundreds of you...
I have again pledged my commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day by signing a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons to honour those who perished in the Holocaust.
With 27th January marking the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Holocaust Educational Trust places a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons every year to give MPs the opportunity to remember those who were persecuted and murdered during the Holocaust - and to support a ‘Legacy of Hope', learning from Survivors' experiences to help create a future free from hatred and prejudice.
In the weeks around Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. This year, people will also be encouraged to take a stand against racism and prejudice today - and to speak out against hatred wherever they encounter it.
I wanted to pay tribute to those remarkable individuals who survived the appalling events of the Holocaust and who have since dedicated their lives to educating younger generations about the dangers of allowing persecution and intolerance to take hold in society. I encourage all constituents to mark the day and to commit to ‘speaking up and speaking out' against prejudice today.
This year is the eleventh year that Holocaust Memorial Day has been commemorated in the UK.
I have again pledged my commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day by signing a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons to honour those who perished in the Holocaust. With...
Conservative-controlled Westminster City Council's parking controls, and particularly their most recent round of proposals, have generated more local controversy than almost any issue I can remember. And although much of what is proposed and under discussion relates to the west end, Westminster council's parking policies have an impact far wider than that specific local dimension.
That is becaise the issue of parking income, and how it is generated and distributed, needs to be seen in the wider context of revenue-raising and local taxation. As a result, everyone in the local authority of the London borough of Westminster has a legitimate interest in how that income is generated and used. Indeed, the wider issues of congestion, displacement and road management are important to everyone in the community.
It also matters because what happens to the economy of central London is a legitimate matter of concern for us all, since millions of Londoners are affected in their capacity as employees, workers, shoppers, business men and women, worshippers and people who enjoy the cultural and recreational opportunities that central London offers. It is in that context that the Westminster parking proposals have generated such an exceptional level of media interest, particularly, but by no means exclusively, in the Evening Standard. The Evening Standard has, I think, grasped what the majority party on Westminster council seems not to have grasped-that Westminster's financial problems cannot be solved by any means to hand, without a proper recognition of the impact on the wider economy of London.
It is for these reasons that I held a Westminster Hall debate in the House of Commons yesterday to discuss the issues surrounding Westminster City Council's latest round of parking proposals.
You can read that debate by clicking on the following link: http://bit.ly/AzRBuI
I entirely accept that parking income is a legitimate source of revenue-raising for local government, particularly given the severe constraints on the raising of income by other means, and the critical importance of maintaining decent services for residents.
However, the law is clear on the issue, and the law, common sense and political calculation all demand honesty and transparency in the process, as well as that the charges should be fair and proportionate.
There has not been adequate honesty and transparency about Westminster council's financial pressures, and Councillors have been found out.
They did not tell it straight to local people, but instead have given the impression that they have discovered the philosopher's stone-a way to provide comprehensive, quality services without an adequate tax base. They are paying the penalty for that mistake.
Conservative-controlled Westminster City Council's parking controls, and particularly their most recent round of proposals, have generated more local controversy than almost any issue I can remember. And although much of...