Karen Buck

Working hard for Westminster North

News

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Dear Karen,

In response to your recent email regarding resident concerns in and around the Maida Hill/piazza area, please find below an update on the work currently being undertaken across this department to address these issues.

We have a number of local teams working jointly to respond to concerns raised, including local City Inspectors, response teams working outside of core hours, Market City Inspectors, and the local Neighbourhood Problem solving Coordinator, Debbie Heath. These teams are in regular contact with the local Police teams and waste services.

Street drinkers:

Activities are controlled during market hours through :

  • Controlled drinking signage and communication with street drinkers to encourage them to move away from the area voluntarily
  • Market traders warned about using street drinkers for cheap labour
  • Police intervention through verbal warnings, de-canning and Community Protection Notices

Whilst this has assisted with reducing daytime numbers, after the market closes it becomes an open space with seating which makes the location desirable for groups to congregate and drink.  In terms of a forward strategy the removal of benches would assist, but it is recognised that this would disadvantage other residents. 

Future actions:

I have now asked for a problem solving plan to be prepared and implemented, which will include a series of proactive measures to supplement what is already underway.

  • The local police team will look to increase resources to facilitate more regular patrols to deal specifically with street drinking and associated behaviours.
  • The City Inspectors will carry out ad-hoc inspections to disrupt activity, enforce litter offences if observed and monitor any anti-social behaviour reported – during day, evening and night time shifts.
  • A letter will be distributed to local off-licences regarding the sale of high strength alcohol to those who are already intoxicated or known street drinkers.  This will also include education and follow up work in respect of their licences where there has been a failure to comply.
  • Contact will be established with outreach services to ensure that those who are vulnerable or have mental health issues are receiving the correct levels of support. 
  • All City Inspectors are being trained to issue Community Protection Notices (under the new ASB legislation) , and are being encouraged to issue formal warnings and  notices for ASB linked to street drinking.

Waste and cleansing:

Waste and cleansing for the market traders has been reviewed already, and enforcement monitoring has been carried out frequently through the various teams.  Enforcement action will continue where evidence can be found that links waste to a particular business or individual.

Action taken so far:

  • The City Inspector for the market regularly monitors waste throughout the trading day.  Enforcement action has been taken against a couple of local businesses found to be in breach of their duty of care.  This has resulted in subsequent compliance and sign up to authorised waste carriers for legitimate waste disposal.
  • The market waste bin has been changed to a lockable bin that can only be used by the market traders.  Traders have also been reminded of their duty of care.
  • A specific collection point is used for market traders waste in line with the Harrow Road collection time band.  During monitoring, a City Inspector from the 24 hour team observed a local business dumping raw meat and cardboard with the market waste, the business has been reported for the offence and prosecution action is being pursued.
  • City Inspectors (Residential) have been carrying out early morning sweeps over the past month in the Harrow Road area to tackle waste related breaches.
  • City Inspectors (Residential) have been visiting local businesses to request evidence of waste transfer notes.  Failure to provide the documentation will result in notices issued which can be followed up through penalties and/or prosecution action.

Future actions:

  • City Inspectors (City Co-ordination) will carry out ad hoc enforcement operations to tackle any waste issues in the evening and during the night time (including Goldney Road)
  • City Inspector (Markets) to continue daily monitoring/review of traders waste and others during market hours.  Market recycling requirements will also be reviewed.
  • Extension of the market – cleansing requirements will be reviewed in line with any increase in trader numbers. 

Food safety

The Environmental Health team carry out a number of checks before food traders are permitted to operate.  The checks include the following:

  • Trader operates in accordance with a written food safety policy (as required under The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013)
  • Trained to at least CIEH Level 2: Food Safety in Catering or equivalent
  • Unit structurally suitable, e.g. preparation surfaces, facilities for hand washing, canopy made of fire retardant material etc.
  • Suitable storage facilities and refrigeration if required (cool boxes often sufficient)
  • Gas and electrical inspection certificates if using electricity and/or gas equipment

Operators are also advised that the amount and type of cooking carried out on site must be such that it does not cause odour, smoke or fume nuisance to local residents, other traders or commercial premises in the area.

Once a trading licence is granted the traders are subject to regular inspections based on the Code of Practice under the Food Safety Act 1990.  Inspections are also carried out following specific enquiries regarding a pitch or complaints. 

Public conveniences

Whilst owned by the City Council, the public conveniences are managed through a contractor.  An inspection of the facilities has already been carried out and a report submitted to the contractor for immediate improvement. 

I hope this goes some way to reassure you that regular operations are underway, and we are continuing to look at other approaches to manage the community’s concerns in relation to the market area.

Public Protection and Licensing

Westminster City Council

WCC response about the Maida Hill Piazza area

Dear Karen, In response to your recent email regarding resident concerns in and around the Maida Hill/piazza area, please find below an update on the work currently being undertaken across...

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Whether measured by unmet housing need, the human and financial costs of homelessness or the pressure of maintaining viable mixed communities, Westminster (..London, the country…) is locked into a housing crisis. The national, London and local housing strategies currently being implemented are wholly insufficient to the challenge and are in some cases making matters worse.

Too few homes, especially affordable ones:

It is worth remembering the conclusions of last year’s Ramidus report into the Prime Residential market in Westminster- commissioned by the Council- which said:

Westminster already has a severe shortage of affordable housing, a growing population, a very large and growing economy, and intense demand pressure from UK and overseas buyers and renters. It is inevitable that high prices are being driven ever higher, and that the cost of a home in Westminster is moving further from the reach of Londoners with ‘ordinary’ incomes.

 

It is striking that the borough has been losing lower income social groups; and the question that arises is whether this attrition is sustainable, without compromising Westminster's capacity to service itself?”

Furthermore:

The Local Housing Market Study identifies a requirement for delivery of around 1,180 social housing units each year over the next 5 years (2014-19), if the CoW was to clear its backlog in 10 years. In addition the LHMS identifies a need for intermediate housing over the period 2014-18 to of some 1,300 homes (260 homes per annum). Taking into account intermediate homes under construction and in the pipeline there is a requirement for provision of 355 intermediate homes per annum during the next 5 years.

Westminster has identified capacity for development of 1,068 new homes per annum through the London-wide SHLAA. If affordable homes account for 24% of completions as they have in the past 10 years, and this level of overall housing delivery is achieved, then about 255 additional affordable homes would be developed each year. This may be compared to the need for 573 affordable homes per annum identified in the LHMS over the long term, and the need for 1,180 social housing units over the next 5 years (2014-19)” (Wessex Economics: Westminster Housing Market analysis Dec 2014)

Westminster Council’s last Annual Supply and Allocation report confirmed the scale of the shortage of social housing- there were just 859 lettings in 2013/14, despite their being 2200 homeless households alone, even before taking over-crowding; medical needs and other drivers of need into account.

Social housing is a stable and cost-effective housing option, especially when viewed in the context of the exponential rise in Housing Benefit and the instability of life in the private rented sector. Yet the share of Westminster’s housing stock that is socially owned has fallen from 32% in 1986 to 23% now. The de facto shift of around 6000 housing units out of the social and into both the owner-occupied and (more crucially) private rented sectors over recent decades has directly contributed to the undermining of stable communities and to the high cost of homelessness = estimated to have cost Westminster over £100 million since 2010 alone.

So we need more homes, but especially more genuinely affordable homes both to rent and to buy, if the city is to remain economically and socially viable, and if Westminster is to meet its share of its obligations to those in housing need.

As the independent report by Wessex Economics study of the Westminster Housing market says:

there is a case for seeking to house low to middle income households in Westminster in terms of ensuring that those with long-standing community connections in Westminster can continue to live in the City, ensuring stability in local communities, and in the case of intermediate rented housing, a more stable form of tenure than private renting”

The Council also needs to develop a strategy for dealing with the implications of the growth of the Private Rented sector, which now accounts for close to half of all local properties. Much of the PRS locally is high value and in good condition, catering to international and business requirements. However, Increasing pressure is being generated via the short-let/tourist industry, especially in areas like Bayswater and Lancaster Gate. Even excluding short lets, the expansion of the private rented sector has an impact on communities and public services, high turnover, high cost and (at the bottom end of the market) some very poor conditions.

I support the key points made by my Labour councillor colleagues in their submission:

The draft Westminster Housing Strategy sets out a target of 250 per year (1,250 over 5 years) for the building of new affordable homes. Thought not currently stated in the document the Council says that this refers to building inside Westminster, and Labour asks that this be formally clarified in the strategy. Westminster has decided to set a 250 per year target despite the strategy admitting that there is (at least) a 420 per year need for new affordable housing in Westminster, while over 6,000 households are waiting, on heavily restricted lists, for new social and intermediate housing.  The Mayor’s London Plan sets out a 1,068 per year overall house-building target for Westminster and a London-wide target of 17,000 affordable housing units annually. This means that Westminster’s current plan would see just over 23% of the new-build housing in Westminster be affordable, contributing only 1.47% towards London’s annual affordable housing target.[1]

There is therefore a gap of 7% between proposed new affordable house-building and Westminster’s planning policy target of 30% or more of all new housing development in the city being affordable. This gap will in part be plugged by the council purchasing properties from housing associations[2] and the private sector. While helpful in housing management terms in particular circumstances, housing buyback should not be such a significant part of Westminster’s current and future new affordable homes strategy, particularly at such a low proposed level of new build, as they are not truly ‘new housing’”

We need:

 1. ….Greater ambition in securing more genuinely affordable housebuilding. This should include:

 

-          A higher percentage of new homes being affordable. Westminster’s current plan would see just over 23% of the new-build housing in Westminster being “affordable”, and that is on the narrow definition of affordability now in use.

 

-          An affordable housing target of 40%, not 30% of new developments. The 30% affordable housing target itself is the core of the problem with the proposed strategy. This is lower than in any other Inner London Borough. 40% (427 out of 1,068) is not an unreasonable starting point for a housing target, given that the majority of inner London boroughs (including our tri-borough partners) have set this goal or higher.

 

-          Whilst there is undoubtedly a need for additional ‘intermediate’/ sub-market properties, for rent and for sale, there is no justification for reducing the proportion of social housing in new developments, given the scale of need and the human AND financial cost of failing to meet it.

 

-          A more realistic definition of what is ‘affordable’—properties are not ‘affordable’ when they require an income of £80,000 in order to cover the cost whilst spending no more than 40% of household income on housing.

 

-          Following the example of other local authorities now pressing more strongly on developers’ viability assessments, to ensure that the process is more rigorous and transparent.

 

 2.……To avoid making a bad situation worse through further loss of stock- particularly family-size homes- as a result of forced sales of social housing to fund HA ‘Right to Buy’ (and other disposals). Exact figures are not yet available but lettings would be at least halved under current proposals- and possible worse. The replacement ratio for properties sold under Right-to-Buy is around 1 in 11- it is simply unrealistic on the basis of past performance to believe that sales will be balanced by local, equivalent replacement.

 

 3. …..Tougher action to ensure vital housing stock is not lost in scale to the ‘short let’ hospitality industry. The government has enacted measures in the De-regulation Bill that make it easier for owners to let their properties for up to six months in a single year, without the safeguards Westminster Council demanded. This creates opportunities for the systematic use of property for these purposes- not a ‘casual holiday let’, but a commercial venture. There should be renewed efforts to get these safeguards.

In addition:

12% of Westminster properties do not have anyone registered as a permanent resident. This is socially damaging and represents a poor use of homes. We need stronger action against ‘buy to leave’ investment and empty homes, again in line with good practice in other London boroughs.

In the light of recent revelations concerning alleged money-laundering and related criminal activity in the top end of the London residential marker, Westminster should be taking a lead with the government to lobby for tougher rules governing disclosure of and company ownership of property.

 

 4. …….A far better deal from the government in respect of Discretionary Housing Payments to cope with the impact of the Household Benefit Cap and other benefit cuts (there are still 817 households affected by the Bedroom Tax 2 years in, and new additions all the time) on households in housing need. Westminster has already had to contribute £1.1 million this year to cover for reduced Government funding. These pressures are certain to intensify with the proposed reduction in the Household Benefit cap and LHA freeze, and as more new households become subject to the Bedroom Tax over time.

Westminster should also agree to exempt Disability Living Allowance from any income calculations when making DHP decisions.

 5. …..A comprehensive assessment of the impact of homelessness and housing need in Westminster on health, well-being, educational achievement and life changes. Homelessness, over-crowding and housing need cannot be seen solely as a housing problem but in the context of public health, child welfare, education and economic development.

 At last count, Westminster had 2420 households in (expensive, unsuitable, often ex-Right to Buy) Temporary Accommodation properties. Homelessness continues to rise although the Council originally anticipated pressures would be easing by 2014/15. Many homeless households experience frequent moves, including moves to the other side of London and beyond. Schools are reporting more cases of children travelling for several hours a day to get to school. Parent’s employment and children’s education and well-being are severely damaged- and that is even before the financial cost of homelessness is factored in.

-          Westminster should also not be lobbying the government for a change to the law enabling permanent homes to be provided outside the borough. Out-of-borough Temporary Accommodation may sometimes be unavoidable, but Westminster should be lobbying for support to keep all vulnerable households and those with local family connections/children in Westminster schools in or close to the borough.

 6. ……Westminster has lost a number of recent court cases in respect of homelessness decisions (on out-of-borough placements, ‘reasonable preference, single homeless priority need)  and there have been many other cases that should have been resolved without the need to go to court. This is expensive and bureaucratic, as well as adding to the stress on already vulnerable individuals and families. The gatekeeping and decision making processes should be reviewed to reduce the number of cases brought against the Council.

 7. …A strategy to tackle over-crowding in both CWH and Housing Association properties,  and to increase the range of options open to the adult children of local tenants, in line with the Mayor of London’s original commitment. It is unacceptable that Housing Associations are failing to meet their own obligations to reduce over-crowding (especially whilst also selling local stock) and many local families are caught in extremely difficult circumstances, with the Housing Association offering no prospect for a move and the Council unwilling to assist.

Whilst agreeing with the importance of ‘intermediate’ housing options (for rent and purchase), these should be  aimed at those on average and below average earnings, so as to support local people and provide some of the same opportunities which were previously available via the Family Quota scheme.

 8. …Tougher action by the council to ensure that Housing Associations fulfil their duties as landlords (my recent survey of standards in Genesis property revealed the extent of the problem in relation to one large local provider, but there are also problems with other HAs, ranging from repairs to transfers to neighbourhood management.

 9. …A ‘Lessees Charter’, clearly specifying Westminster’s mutual rights and responsibilities, and with a commitment to greater speed and transparency in dealing with leaseholder’s concerns. A substantial proportion of my casework, and that of councillors, is generated by leaseholders unhappy with the quality of Major Works and Services; inadequate consultation procedures and poor billing and the clarity of financial information (a level of dissatisfaction borne out by the significantly lower level of satisfaction with CWH among leaseholders than amongst tenants).

 10. …A strategy for the the growing Private Rented sector in Westminster- up from 32% to 43% in a decade, and covering a wide range of properties, from the top of the luxury market catering to international and business tenants to ex-Right to Buy properties and properties in multiple occupation, some of which is characterised by poor conditions and bad landlords.  Apart from the fact that the entire sector is characterised by very high turnover; tenants across the spectrum can be at risk from exploitative letting agency fees and risks to deposits and there is a substantial need for better advice to this group.

Tenants need better access to advice and advocacy (see below); and Westminster could do more to promote the London rental standard and the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme. The Council should also be supporting measures to encourage longer tenancies for those who want them, to mitigate the impact of high population churn.

Two last comments:

11. ...I welcome the commitment to further action to tackle excess cold and damp in council properties (although Westminster should acknowledge the problems that have been caused by excessive delays in Major Works in some areas, such as the Hallfield Estate). However, it is often private and Housing Association properties were many of the most serious problems occur. Excellent work is being done by the Residential Environmental Health team but prevention would be greatly preferable to intervention after the event, when the resident has already suffered months and sometimes years of life in sub-standard accommodation.

12. The Council’s Housing Advice strategy was based on a comprehensive piece of consultancy five or so years ago- and never acted upon. The impact of the shortfall in advice was spelt out in the recent ‘Reform Advice in Westminster’ report and in the annual reports of the CAB, Law Centres and Z2K.

In the light of the loss of legal aid in many areas of housing/welfare/debt, and the high and rising level of need, Westminster needs to recognise the importance of advice, advocacy and representation- not only to residents, but to the Council itself- costs can be lowered, income can be maximised and homelessness applications sometimes avoided with the right intervention.

Finally, I agree with the comments from the Labour Group regarding the importance of tenant participation and consultation- this has been a fraught relationship for a number of years- and the benefits of an integrated and out-reach-based approach to raising skills and reducing worklessness and poverty locally. Westminster Council needs to better appreciate the complex demography and social factors (such as high population churn) which cut across many of its strategic objectives in these areas. There have been some examples of good practice (such as in Church Street and Harrow Road) with some genuinely good partnership working, but these are rarely sufficiently comprehensive enough, so that good work done by one team of officers is contradicted by Council actions in another area. Neither the establishment of genuinely ‘mixed, stable communities’, nor neighbourhood regeneration, nor an improvement in life chances for the poorest can be achieved without whole-hearted and sustained commitment.

Karen Buck MP

July 2015



[2] Please note that for ease of public understanding this document uses the term ‘Housing Association’ to denote all types of Registered Social Landlord/ Registered Provider.

My response to the Westminster Housing Strategy

Whether measured by unmet housing need, the human and financial costs of homelessness or the pressure of maintaining viable mixed communities, Westminster (..London, the country…) is locked into a housing...

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Dear Westminster Planning Department,

I am writing to oppose the granting of permission for a change of use in respect of the former Prince of Wales pub, Maida Hill- specifically to enable these premises to operate as a betting shop..

As a local resident, with a local workplace, and as a frequent user of the shops and market at the ‘Prince of Wales’ junction, I am convinced that a betting shop on this dominant site will be harmful to the area.

Considerable efforts have been made in recent years to improve the ‘piazza’ opposite the Prince of Wales, which had been plagued by crack-dealing and street drinking. It was necessary to have a dedicated police team just to deal with the problems in the area. Despite the combined efforts of the Council, Local Area Partnership, traders and residents, this has not been a quick or easy task and whilst much progress has been made, the area still faces challenges In recent months, there has been a significant increase in levels of street drinking at the junction, and this is heightening concerns amongst residents and traders that long-term improvements may not be sustained. There is a high level of deprivation in the surrounding streets and estates and several services close by providing support for vulnerable people, including Westminster Drugs project, Central and North West London Mental Health service and City Living for people with learning disabilities, so additional ‘stress’ to the area should be avoided.

Whilst it is important that a betting shop in this location would be the 8th within a short radius (not least because recent figures indicate that £5m was lost to Fixed Odds Terminals alone in north Westminster last year) what is particularly significant is the importance of this site. Any sustained improvement in the area must start with the ‘corner’ premises of the junction- of which the former Prince of Wales is easily the most physically significant. This site becoming a betting shop sends a signal that we have ‘lost’ the square as a managed, mixed, safe and potentially vibrant part of the community.

I therefore very much hope that Westminster is able to act in the community interest and refuse a permission for a change of use.  premises.

Yours sincerely,

Karen Buck MP

Planning permission objection - Prince of Wales

  Dear Westminster Planning Department, I am writing to oppose the granting of permission for a change of use in respect of the former Prince of Wales pub, Maida Hill-...

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Best wishes for a very happy Eid

Karen Buck MP

Happy Eid

Best wishes for a very happy Eid Karen Buck MP Read more

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We wrote to all parties with an interest in the land requesting that the unauthorised use cease within 28 days. That timescale has now passed and the unauthorised use has not ceased. I have drafted an enforcement notice report which is currently being checked by our Legal Services department. Once agreed, Legal Services will be instructed to serve the notice requiring the unauthorised use to cease. It is not possible for the notice to require the public house use to re - open,  although that remains its lawful use, in my opinion. There will be a right of appeal against the notice, and I would expect the freeholder and/or tenant to challenge the notice.

An application for a certificate of lawfulness for an existing use has recently been received (ref: 15/05273/CLEUD), claiming that the current use of the site is lawful. Nathan Barrett is the Area Planning Officer dealing with the application in Claragh's absence - I have copied him in on this email should you need to contact him with any queries regarding that application. Again, the applicant will have a right of appeal if the application is refused. This application relies purely on legal arguments, and as such, comments are not normally invited from members of the public. That said, the application documents are publicly available on our website, where comments can also be submitted.

I believe the ACV status of the building will remain intact for 5 years from the date it was listed (February 2020). However, I am awaiting confirmation of this from Legal Services.

WCC response on the Star Pub

We wrote to all parties with an interest in the land requesting that the unauthorised use cease within 28 days. That timescale has now passed and the unauthorised use has...

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Thank you for contacting me recently regarding neonicotinoid pesticides and bees.

This is an issue with which I have been involved for several years and which concerns me greatly.

I appreciate the increased amount of correspondence from constituents which shows growing public awareness about declining bee numbers and the impact this could have on food production, the economy and our countryside. 

As I am sure you are aware, the EU Commission announced in April 2013 that it would restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to crops that are not attractive to bees and other pollinators for two years after the European Food Safety Authority concluded that three commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides posed an unacceptable danger to bees. I support the current EU moratorium on the use of the three neonicotinoid pesticides.

The Coalition Government opposed the European ban on neonicotinoids but the decision to enforce the ban was taken by the Commission after a qualified majority could not be reached amongst member states. 

As you know, it has recently been reported that the National Farmers Union (NFU) has applied for the ban on neonicotinoids to be lifted this autumn to allow these chemicals to be sprayed on rapeseed in order to help prevent crop damage.

I believe the Government need to reject the calls from the NFU to lift the ban to allow for the effect to be properly analysed. It is important to take a science-led approach to the use of pesticides and to consider how best to support farmers, to protect wildlife and reverse the decline of pollinators.

I also believe that the Coalition Government's 10-year national pollinator strategy for bees and other pollinators, which was published in November 2014, did not go far enough. It does not, for example, tackle habitat destruction, damaging farming practices, bad planning decisions and neonicotinoid use, which are the primary causes of pollinator decline.

I hope the current Government listen to the concerns that have been raised about this issue and I can assure you that will continue to follow developments closely and fight for the protection of our natural environment.

Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views. 

Kind regards,

Karen Buck MP

My response on the bees issue

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding neonicotinoid pesticides and bees. This is an issue with which I have been involved for several years and which concerns me greatly. I...

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I am extremely sorry that due to pressure of other Parliamentary business I was unable to take part in the rally/lobby but I can promise my continued support for this crucial campaign.

I agree that tackling climate change is an environmental and economic necessity and the most important thing we must do for our children, our grandchildren and future generations. I also appreciate that the effects of climate change hit the poorest hardest and that eradicating global poverty will only be possible if we tackle climate change.

We must, therefore, have a strong global agreement at the UN Climate Summit in Paris that sets ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions and has a goal of net zero global emissions in the second half of this century.

Climate change should also be a key priority for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will replace the Millennium Development Goals in September. It is very disappointing that the current Government does not support the inclusion of climate change as a standalone goal in the SDGs but I hope there is still time for the Government to reconsider this.

The previous Labour Government had a good record on international development and climate change and I believe the current Government should be doing more to support a low-carbon economy here in the UK and to push for more ambition internationally. The last Labour Government introduced the Climate Change Act, which enshrined the world's first legally binding emissions reduction targets. UK Carbon Budgets - enshrined under this Act - already require deeper cuts in emissions than those currently proposed by the European Union and I would like to see the Government work with other European governments to pursue more ambitious targets.

Domestically, I believe we need an additional legally binding target to take the carbon out of our electricity supply by 2030. I am also concerned that the Government's plans to end subsidies for new onshore wind farms shows a lack of commitment to tackling climate change at home and may lead to higher bills for consumers in future. The transition to a low carbon economy is a huge opportunity with the potential to create jobs and growth but I believe the Government's mixed messages and failing policies have led to the UK falling behind with investment in green growth.

I believe the UK Government must show leadership on clean energy at home and show international leadership, especially in Europe, to push for ambitious emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of progress made towards limiting a global temperature rise to below 2°C. I therefore supported a House of Commons motion tabled by my Shadow Frontbench colleagues on 10 June which called on the Government to push for more action on climate change. The motion was passed without a vote.

I hope that the Government takes note of the lobby and will push for an ambitious deal in Paris and I can assure you I will continue to press the Government to support a low-carbon economy in the UK and to push for the best possible global deal on reducing emissions including steps to ensure richer countries provide support to poorer nations in combating climate change.

Kind regards

Karen Buck MP

My response to the Climate Change Lobby

  I am extremely sorry that due to pressure of other Parliamentary business I was unable to take part in the rally/lobby but I can promise my continued support for...

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With regard to the proposal to find government time for a free vote to repeal the Hunting Act. I share the appreciation of many of my constituents for the protection of the British countryside and believe that we need to do more to support rural community life.

That is why I believe the Government should prioritise the wider issues affecting rural communities such as transport, low wages, the shortage of affordable housing, improving infrastructure and protecting vital public services.

I know from what has amounted to thousands of e-mails and letters I have received over the years that there are strongly held views on both sides regarding the Hunting Act (although a substantial majority of those who have contacted me have always been firmly for the ban/against repeal). I voted for the ban when this came before Parliament a decade ago, on the basis of the animal welfare argument, and have heard nothing to change my mind on the matter since.

As you know, there has been speculation that the current Government may soon schedule a debate and vote on repealing the Hunting Act, although no date has yet been announced and it has not featured in the Queen’s Speech. However, Liz Truss MP did confirm for the government that such a vote would be taking place at some point in the Parliament.

I will, of course, continue to listen to the views raised by all constituents on this issue and how we can do more to support rural communities. I cannot, however support repealing the Hunting Act nor the continuation of the programme of culling badgers in a vane and scientifically discredited attempt to stop the spread of bovine tuberculosis

Kind regards

Karen Buck MP

My response on the retention of The Hunting Ban

With regard to the proposal to find government time for a free vote to repeal the Hunting Act. I share the appreciation of many of my constituents for the protection...

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I am appalled by what has been trailed for next week’s budget regarding £12billion of cuts to tax credits and disability benefits. If George Osborne cuts taxes for the highest earners –those earning £150,000 and more- at the same time, this will be even more shocking.

I believe that tax credits have been a force for good- helping to ensure that ‘work pays’ and making a substantial difference to the income of low earners and (especially) families with children. There are 607,000 London households who get some tax credit- 67% of them in work.

Slashing tax credits will reduce the living standards of millions of people and it will hurt children the most. As it is, there are 500,000 more children living in absolute poverty in this country compared with 2010- and progress on reducing ‘relative’ poverty has stalled. For the first time, the number of households in poverty where someone is in work has exceeded poverty in workless households. This is shameful.

Of course, we all agree that it would be good if employers raised wages, so fewer people needed to top up their incomes with tax credits. The Labour government brought in the Minimum wage so that there was a floor beneath which wages couldn’t fall, and I have been a strong campaigner for the London ‘Living Wage’. Yet the truth is the number of Londoners earning below the Living wage has actually gone up, not down- more people are low paid!

If the Conservatives cut tax credits by up to £5billion, as has been predicted, the National Minimum wage would need to jump by 25% overnight to fill the gap. Can anyone see that happening?

I can assure you I will do all I can to oppose any measures which take money away from low income working people and those who need help, whilst continuing to campaign for better pay and measures like cheaper childcare to support working parents. I believe very strongly that those who can work should do so, but wages should be fair and government should do what it can to support those who need support.

Kind regards

Karen Buck MP

My response on Tax Credits

I am appalled by what has been trailed for next week’s budget regarding £12billion of cuts to tax credits and disability benefits. If George Osborne cuts taxes for the highest...

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Dear Sir or Madam,

I write to add my voice to those urging the Planning Inspectorate to permit a public inquiry into the recent events involving the unauthorised demolition of the Carlton Tavern, in Carlton Vale, Maida Vale. The action taken by the building’s owners, CLTX Ltd, following Westminster Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for its re-building, has caused shock and outrage in the local community, and touched a nerve much more widely.

The Carlton Tavern has been an important local feature within this area for almost a century, and was, as we know, being recommended for listing by Historic England. Its location- at the entrance to Paddington Recreation ground- demands that the building be maintained or adapted sympathetically and in line with the Council’s planning policy. It is wholly unacceptable that a develop can be permitted to flout the rules as CLTX has done- and even more so when the flouting was accompanied by such radical and destructive action as overnight (semi)demolition.  Residents, and those following the story of pub closures and the development of similar buildings in high-value areas, will be seeking reassurance that such actions are not permissible and redress can be obtained. There is a widespread belief (whether justified or not) that the ‘developer pound’ can over-ride the community interest, and it is essential that trust in due process must be restored and seen to be- in public. There is no doubt that the strength of public feeling and wide interest in what happens demands that the appeal should not be a paper exercise.

I look forward to the confirmation of your decision.

Kind regards

Karen Buck MP

Carlton Tavern Maida Vale - request for a public inquiry

    Dear Sir or Madam, I write to add my voice to those urging the Planning Inspectorate to permit a public inquiry into the recent events involving the unauthorised...

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