The winning idea at the ‘Dragon's Den' style contest for best community initiative last Friday night was for a series of ‘Strictly' -styled dance classes, pitched at older residents but with a specific aim of promoting inter-generational involvement. The hoped for outcomes? Older people will have an enjoyable local activity (and useful exercise) and, because young people are involved too, their fear of teenagers might be reduced. The team putting this forward? A group of exactly those teenagers from whom too many people shrink when encountered on a dark evening on a street corner.
The young men who designed this project and the other entries ( classes for parents and children to ease the problems of secondary school transfer and help parents deal with adolescence, and a community sports and talent festival), have been working with the Brathay project at the Avenues Youth Club. In some cases they will themselves have been at risk of being drawn into gang or criminal activity. They will certainly be aware of it, for there have been simmering tensions over recent months, and a series of clashes, between what we will call, for want of a better description, ‘gangs' in Westminster, Brent and Ladbroke Grove. Yet on Friday night at the Avenues they demonstrated a degree of commitment, civic mindedness and self-awareness that would be hard to find in many more traditional corners of the community.
Theirs is no easy path. They are very aware of being demonised and labelled as ‘thugs'. Yet some have indeed been in trouble or on the fringes of it and they are painfully aware of how tough the streets and estates can be, even in a place like Westminster. Many have lived young lives of unbelievable hardship. Relationships with the police are often fraught- though an exception is often made for local Safer Neighbourhood Team police, who know and engage with them as individuals not as faceless group members. Quick fixes are thin on the ground.
Projects such as Brathay, and Working with Men, and the youth workers operating out of clubs like the Avenues, Stowe Club, Fourth Feathers, Amberlety, Paddington Boys Club, London Tigers and others are doing extraordinary work in a difficult environment and with youngsters who are at once both challenging and full of potential.
At a time when the ‘postcode' tensions between neighbourhoods seem to be hardening, when too many young people have suffered and even died on London streets in recent years, axing these youth projects is simply insane. Yet the axe is what many of them face, even though what is cheese-pared away from youth work may end up being spent many times over down the line in the criminal justice system. What has been built so carefully over recent years through these activities and a slow improvement in sports, neighbourhood management and more, could be swept away in weeks leaving us worse than where we started. Youth work is a soft target for cuts but we may all, and not just the inspirational teenagers who worked so hard to present their ideas to us last week, regret the pennies saved and the pounds- or something worse than pounds- which will be spent as a result.
The winning idea at the ‘Dragon's Den' style contest for best community initiative last Friday night was for a series of ‘Strictly' -styled dance classes, pitched at older residents but...
Floating Classroom is through to the final of the People's Millions Competition.
The group have applied for £45, 000 to develop and deliver four single week filmmaking workshops, called On the Waterfront, for schools in four Wards in Westminster North. Participants will be asked to research the history of the canal and their local neighbourhood, digging up the wealth of local stories and discovering for themselves how our part of London has changed over time. They will then develop short films based on these histories in which they will gain the chance to tackle all aspects of the filmmaking process.
To win Floating Classroom must win a public vote. The voting day is Tuesday 23rd November - phone lines will be open from 9am to midnight and a short film about On the Waterfront will be broadcast on ITV London Tonight between 6.00 - 6.30pm on Tuesday 23rd November.
Details are available at www.peoplesmillions.org.uk . The winner will be announced on 24th November.
Floating Classroom needs as many supporters as possible to spread the word about the project and vote for them. They are on facebook (Floating Classroom), on Twitter and on Flickr.
Floating Classroom is through to the final of the People's Millions Competition. The group have applied for £45, 000 to develop and deliver four single week filmmaking workshops, called On...
Before the General Election local Labour Councillors and I warned that should the Conservatives take power they would introduce plans which would effectively end social housing as we know it, by raising council rents to near market levels and ending ‘secure' tenancies in favour of short term lettings. We were regularly accused of scaremongering for doing so.
In Wednesday's Comprehensive Spending Review the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced plans that, coupled with proposals trailed in the last few weeks, will see the Con-Lib Dem coalition government alter fundamentally one of society's most basic requirements.
The Con-Lib Dem coalition has announced:
• Plans to make new tenants pay rent at 80% of market rates: In Westminster this could mean new tenants could pay up to double what existing tenants do - up to £180 per week instead of the current £93.60 average
• Proposals to end secure tenancies: new tenants will be offered five or ten year tenancies which will not be renewed if a tenant's circumstances improve
• Cutting funding for building new social housing by £4 billion: The Government has proposed to reduce the number of new affordable homes to 150,000 affordable homes over four years. This is less than a third of what Housing charities such as Shelter believe is needed.
On top of this, for the 5,000 households living locally and renting privately, many of whom are working, Housing Benefit levels will be slashed after April next year.
Combined these proposals will exacerbate the drift toward a stigmatised social housing sector occupied only by the most vulnerable in our communities, undermine the shared ideal of mixed communities and aggravate the country's housing crisis where millions of ordinary working families cannot access a secure home that they can afford.
Our fears before the election have been realised. These proposals will be a severe blow to many of the thousands of people waiting for an affordable home, or living in over-crowded or unsuitable accommodation.
Taken together they show that the Lib-Con Coalition Government has firmly turned its back on those most impacted by our affordable housing crisis.
None of the changes outlined below have come into effect as yet, and the full details of the changes are not yet available. It is absolutely essential that anyone in this situation takes advice as early as possible. Some useful information can be found by clicking the link below:
Before the General Election local Labour Councillors and I warned that should the Conservatives take power they would introduce plans which would effectively end social housing as we know it,...
This morning Karen Buck opened the latest medical facilities at Ha'penny Steps in Harrow Road. The new Centre will be open 365 days a year, 12 hours every day and is managed by General Practitioners. It is another good example of the real difference which the outgoing Labour Government's investment in local health services has made to the lives of people in communities across London.
The practice can treat any patients during their opening hours and will be especially valuable to patients needing a GP who are not registered or need help at the weekends or in the evenings. Individuals can also register with the practice, although anyone can be treated and referred back to their own GP for continuing care.
The Labour government was proud of its investment in the nation's health services and rightly so. Innovative practices such as this are a testament to that investment. The opening of these new facilities builds on the other reforms the last government introduced including more NHS dentists and the brand new Stowe Health Centre and the Harrow Road medical centre. In addition to these primary care services, St Charles Hospital has also opened a 7 day Urgent Care Service and a specialist clinic for diabetes sufferers.
This morning Karen Buck opened the latest medical facilities at Ha'penny Steps in Harrow Road. The new Centre will be open 365 days a year, 12 hours every day and...
The Conservatives have described their partnership with the Liberal Democrats as a
"progressive alliance". The Liberal Democrats have similarly tried to claim the progressive mantle and reverse the discontent among their own supporters by suggesting that they are exerting a moderating influence on the Conservatives.
Neither is the case. The affect of the Emergency Budget and the rapid and drastic cuts that the Government is making mean that the poorest and most vulnerable in society will carry the greatest burden. As the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has stated the Coalition's Budget looks "regressive". It will hit families, pensioners and the poorest hardest despite the Chancellor George Osborne's promise that he was "not going to balance the budget on the backs of the poor". Through all of this the Liberal Democrats have been unwilling, or unable, to stop the Conservatives ideologically driven proposals.
On Tuesday I held an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall to debate the impact of the Budget on low-income households.
You can read the points MPs made in the debate by clicking on this link:
The Conservatives have described their partnership with the Liberal Democrats as a"progressive alliance". The Liberal Democrats have similarly tried to claim the progressive mantle and reverse the discontent among their...
Westminster Conservatives have delivered another ‘slap in the face' to Westminster's voluntary organisations by throwing them off the main board of the Westminster City Partnership and relegating them to a toothless ‘advisory board'.
The decision to end a decade of positive contributions from Westminster's voluntary sector was taken at the WCP meeting on 4th March when Labour Councillor Guthrie McKie voted against the proposal but was outvoted by the Conservatives who forced through the proposals. Following the vote, voluntary sector representatives Drew Stevenson, Jackie Rosenberg and Voluntary Action Westminster Chief Executive Bernard Collier walked out of the meeting.
Prior to the meeting, Chair of the Paddington Development Trust, Drew Stevenson, wrote to WCP board members to say;
"My main concern is the proposal to destroy the cross sector partnership that the current WCP has been, and to replace it with a one-sector Board. I do not believe that this is in the interest of consensual working (that has dominated constructive developments in regeneration across the country for the past decade or more) nor in the interests of those whom we are all trying to serve - the residents and businesses of Westminster."
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said:
"Throwing voluntary organizations off the main board of the Westminster City Partnership is a backward step and shows how totally out of touch the dinosaur Westminster Conservatives really are. This is the reality of the Conservatives in government. David Cameron might be the smiling face of the Conservatives, but the nasty and vindictive Westminster Conservatives show their party's real mean-spirited face."
The decision to relegate Westminster voluntary groups to the toothless ‘advisory board' comes a month after Westminster Conservatives slashed over £500,000 from the voluntary sector budget, a decision that Labour Councillors are pledged to reverse after the May elections.
Westminster Conservatives have delivered another ‘slap in the face' to Westminster's voluntary organisations by throwing them off the main board of the Westminster City Partnership and relegating them to a...
Today, 73 children in a hundred leave primary school at the expected standard for English and Maths, compared with 54 in a hundred in 1997. In other words, the proportion of children leaving primary school at the expected standard has risen from half to three quarters. At secondary school, performance has been even better, with 53% getting at least 5 good GCSEs compared with a shocking 22% in 1997- the performance of our secondary schools has more than doubled.
Our heads, staff and pupils are to be warmly congratulated for their achievements. This gives the lie to those who complain about 'lowering' levels of literacy, who should stop talking down our schools and concentrate on supporting them, not least with the resources they need to do their job.
Today, 73 children in a hundred leave primary school at the expected standard for English and Maths, compared with 54 in a hundred in 1997. In other words, the proportion...
Climate change is a big deal I thought I'd make a big deal with residents of Westminster to tackle it.
That's why I am spearheading a new local campaign with Oxfam to build public support in the run up to Copenhagen.
The campaign kicked off on Monday at Oxfam in St. John's Wood High Street. We held a 'Big Deal' on the day with local residents. The idea was that residents help us fight climate change by buying items provided by Oxfam, but that they could also get those items for free by signing the local petition which Oxfam and myself will present to the Rt Hon Joan Ruddock MP, Minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, in November. Oxfam and I will also be collecting signatures for the petition over the next month at various spots in the constituency.
We need to make sure that the Government campaigns for a global deal on climate change in Copenhagen. Popular grassroots pressure is essential if we are to emerge from Copenhagen in December with a strong global deal to meet the threat of climate change. We all need to do our bit and Oxfam's Big Deal initiative and the petition we are rolling out will ensure that Westminster rises to the challenge.
Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you think you could help collect signatures to the petition.
Climate change is a big deal I thought I'd make a big deal with residents of Westminster to tackle it. That's why I am spearheading a new local campaign with...
Labour Councillors have called on Westminster City Council to provide more larger flats in order to meet the needs of over 860 families who are registered by the Council for a transfer because they need a larger property. The latest figures from the Council show that 867 families are registered by the Council for a transfer because they need a larger property. Of these, 66 have been assessed by the Council as statutorily overcrowded 835 households need a move to a property at least one bedroom larger but are not classified as statutorily overcrowded. Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said; "Overcrowding is a major problem in Westminster and the Council should be providing more larger properties so that those families who need an extra bedroom have the opportunity for a transfer. Building only 1 and 2 bed room flats will not help those families where teenagers are have to share a bedroom or where adults are forced to sleep in the living room."
Labour Councillors have called on Westminster City Council to provide more larger flats in order to meet the needs of over 860 families who are registered by the Council for...
Local Labour Councillors have asked the Council to liaise with Brent Council so that the existing dangerous route from the station across to Fernhead Road can be improved. As a resident told us:
'My concern, and that for the majority of residents in this area, is the appallingly dangerous route from Queen's Park station to Fernhead Road. A roundabout (surrounding the Falcon pub) with traffic flowing at high speed in several different directions, and with a fast route entering from Carlton Vale, has no zebra crossing, indeed there are no pedestrian crossings of any kind. It is dangerous in the extreme'
At the request of residents local Councillors asked for information about safety at this roundabout. In the three years ending 31 December 2008 there have been eight reported injury accidents (seven slight injury, one serious injury) at this roundabout. Four of these accidents involved pedestrians, although these are distributed around the roundabout, and were not concentrated in anyone area of the roundabout. The roundabout is the responsibility of the London Borough of Brent, and they have confirmed that they will be looking at this roundabout as part of a Local Safety scheme later this year.
Local Labour Councillors have asked the Council to liaise with Brent Council so that the existing dangerous route from the station across to Fernhead Road can be improved. As a...