January 2017 E-Newsletter
In Parliament this month
Winter crisis in the NHS
Paddington Festival awards night celebrates local talent
Keep warm this winter
Winter crisis in the NHS
The NHS is experiencing the deepest financial squeeze since it was founded, at a time when a number of pressures are intensifying, specifically the rising number of very elderly people and a dramatic increase in the number of people attending hospital with severe mental health problems. We should of course be celebrating the remarkable increase in life span, but it does mean making sure both health and community-based social care services are in place. And local authority social care has been particularly hard hit as government funding has been falling in recent years. I raised this issue in Parliament, and was rather surprised to hear the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, blame our local council for the problems.
• Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab)
"The fabulous team at Imperial, St Mary’s in West London are featuring in a television programme this week, and the Chief of Service for Emergency Care is reported as saying:
“We’ve just had our worst 10 days on record. There’s nowhere in the hospital to move anybody. What’s happened in the last two years is the whole system, countrywide, has ground to a halt.”
That is partly because there is more than the equivalent of a ward of patients at any time who cannot move out of the hospital because there is nowhere for them to go. Does the Secretary of State accept that his Government have gone too far in the destruction of local government finance, including for social care and does he accept that next year, despite all the rhetoric, local government finance will go down, not up?"
• Mr Hunt
"First, I would like to thank the staff at Imperial, who, alongside other NHS staff, have done a fantastic job over a very difficult period. I would say to the hon. Lady that 50% of councils have no delayed discharges of care. It is a problem in many hospitals, but there are many areas that are managing to deal with it. I suggest that the local authorities that serve her constituency should look at the other parts of the country that are dealing with this problem."
The Imperial NHS Trust features in a new TV documentary stating this week, and I strongly recommend everyone watch it! You can read the Mirror story about the programme here.
The two specialist committees to which I belong have both brought out reports in the last few weeks.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights produced a report on the Human Rights implications of Brexit, which you can read in full here.
Fundamental rights not a bargaining chip for Brexit, says Committee
19 December 2016
The Joint Committee on Human Rights report says the Government must not use fundamental rights as a bargaining chip. The Committee calls on the Government to give an undertaking to protect the residency rights of EU nationals in the UK.
While many fundamental rights are underpinned by EU law, the Committee says that it is not clear whether the Government intends to remove any rights which UK citizens currently possess under EU law - and, if so, which rights are under threat. It demands that any future legislation should include safeguards and Parliament should have the opportunity to debate, amend and vote on any proposed changes to fundamental rights.
It is estimated that there are currently 2.9 million EU nationals resident in the UK.
The Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox has reportedly described EU nationals in the UK as one of the "main cards" in Brexit negotiations and the Minister for Human Rights, Sir Oliver Heald told the Committee that the Prime Minister was seeking an "early agreement" on the status of UK nationals in Europe and EU nationals in the UK. He confirmed that the Government’s view was that to agree a unilateral position on the issue would not be helpful.
"The Government must not use human rights as a bargaining chip. Moreover, the Government will continue to have obligations under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as we set out in our Report. The UK Government could not deport the large numbers of EU nationals currently in the UK."
The actual position of such individuals is underpinned by the Human Rights Act and will depend on length of residence and other factors, but Government intentions for both UK and EU citizens remain far from clear.
Under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), individuals are entitled to respect for their private and family life and home. However, these rights are not absolute and do not provide the same protections as offered by EU law, and restrictions on them can be justified in certain circumstances where they would not be under current EU law.
However, even with restrictions it would not be possible for the Government to establish a rule that would allow the deportation of EU nationals merely on the grounds that they had only been resident for a fixed period of time. Other factors such as family connections and the residence rights of children would be relevant and each case would need to be considered on its own facts.
"In the unlikely and unwelcome event that the Government sought to deport EU nationals there could be the potential for significant, expensive and lengthy litigation leading to considerable legal uncertainty for a prolonged period of time. These cases would have the potential to clog up and overwhelm the court system"
How to protect fundamental rights in the future.
The Committee recommends that the Government should set out a full and detailed list of fundamental rights currently guaranteed by virtue of the UK’s EU membership and what approach it intends to take towards them.
The Work and Pensions Committee has produced two new reports
'Support for ex-offenders’ looked at ways of increasing the employability of former prisoners, not least as one means of reducing the estimated £15 billion cost of re-offending. You can read the report here.
'Defined Benefit pension schemes' looked more widely at some of the issues governing these schemes after our inquiry into the collapse of British Homes Stores, and includes a number of recommendations for better regulation and incentives.
Local News round-up
Lancaster Gate tube station closure for lift replacements
Many local residents were furious about the last-minute nature of the announcement (I have made it VERY clear how annoyed I was about this) and questions were asked as to why TFL couldn’t have kept one lift running at a time rather than close the station entirely, as happened at Caledonian Road. I did pursue this with TFL, but unfortunately it genuinely does not seem to be possible. Here is their full reply:
‘Walking the Met’ and discussing the Mayor’s plan to strengthen Safer Neighbourhood teams
I joined Paul Reading from the Little Venice Safer Neighbourhood Team and Elizabeth Virgo, Chair of the Little Venice Safer Neighbourhood Panel, for a walk around the ward as part of a wider ‘Walk the Met’ initiative intended to get MPs and others ‘on the beat’. Westminster has lost a third of its police strength in the last few years, and there are further cuts being made to the Met budget, but I very much welcome the Mayor of London’s commitment to boost the local Safer Neighbourhood teams over the course of 2016, so there will be more capacity at the very local level.
The Mayor of London has now issued his A Safer City for all Londoners: Draft Police and Crime Plan for London 2017-202 and the consultation runs until February 23rd. You can find the report here.
Schools funding shake up hits London
London schools got bad news before Christmas when then Government announced a new national funding formula for schools which moves money away from the capital.
More than two-thirds of schools in the city — about 1,500 — face budget cuts, with initial analysis suggesting inner London boroughs would be hit particularly hard. Overall, Westminster has not suffered as much as some other boroughs, but not only do many local children attend schools outside the borough, there will be winners and losers within our area as well.
More schools in London will see reductions in their allocations in 2019-20 compared to all other regions.
A total of 1,536 schools (70 per cent) will receive less funding, followed by 58 per cent of schools in the North West and 53 per cent of schools in the West Midlands. With 70 per cent of London schools set to receive less money, by as much as 3 per cent from 2018/19, there will be considerable concern amongst school leaders about how this can be managed and the possible impact on school standards. While some may argue this is a relatively small amount and schools should be able to absorb this easily, it is unlikely they will be able to do so in addition to the wider budgetary pressures highlighted recently by the National Audit Office (NAO). The NAO’s report into the financial sustainability of schools found that schools in England face a £3 billion funding shortfall by 2020 (8 per cent of the current schools block) as a direct result of per pupil funding not increasing with the rate of inflation. In addition schools are facing extra costs including salary increases.
Airbnb and the short-let industry
The rapid growth of the ‘short-let’ sector in London has raised many concerns, from the loss of residential homes to negative impacts on communities finding themselves a virtual extension of the hotel industry. I met with Airbnb representatives (along with the new Leader of Westminster Council, Nickie Aitken and Cllr Heather Acton) just after the company had announced plans to limit property owners from renting out for longer than the permitted maximum of 90 days a year. This announcement is very welcome - but unfortunately there are loopholes, including the scope for those determined to avoid the regulations by switching properties between sites. Our next task, therefore, is to make sure other short-let ‘platforms’ agree to the same measures.
City of Westminster College host the ‘Crisis’ Christmas homelessness project
With the Homelessness Reduction Bill making its way through Parliament (I’m on the Committee), it seemed a good idea to drop in to this year’s ‘Crisis’ Christmas project providing shelter and services to homeless people over the Christmas holiday. City of Westminster College on Paddington Green hosted one of the London centres again this year, and their support was hugely appreciated by Crisis. I talked to some of the amazing volunteers who give up time to cook and serve food, provide advice and offer lots of services, from haircuts to music classes. Rough sleeping has soared in the last few years, for a number of reasons, but every single person has a unique story explaining how they ended up on the streets - to say nothing of the dangers they face there, from the cold and violence.
Hopefully the Homelessness Reduction Bill will provide more support to single people than most currently receive, but we are still waiting to know how much financial support the government will give to make this a reality.
Looking for work? There’s a jobs fair at the College on the 25th
Come along (preferably with your CV...)
Places still available at my next free LEASE advice session for leaseholders
Leaseholder issues are a major concern for many home owners. If you are having problems with your lease it is important to get good advice quickly.
I have run a series of well attended lessee advice sessions in recent years and I have invited the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) to put on another local information event to offer free and impartial advice on residential leasehold law to local residents. You would be very welcome to join me on:
Saturday 04th February 2017 at 1pm
Paddington Arts – 32 Woodfield Road, London, W9 2BE
The afternoon will consist of an introduction to the services LEASE can offer, a general Q&A session and individual appointments with LEASE advisers. My staff and I will also be on hand to talk through any concerns and refreshments will be provided.
To make the most of the specialist advice available, I would be grateful if you could pre-book a place by emailing my office on email@example.com if you would like to attend. Please also state whether you would like a one-to-one appointment (subject to availability). It would also be useful if you would provide a contact telephone number you can be reached on.
Appointments with specialist LEASE advisers are limited and are therefore available on a first-come first-served basis.
Paddington Festival awards night
Paddington Arts hosted the second awards night for local people whose talent, effort and commitment help make our community
Here’s Gianni Joseph receiving an award for entrepreneurship from Councillor Dimoldenberg
Keep warm this winter
The Seasonal Health Interventions Network (SHINE) is being rolled out in Westminster. The service is available to any vulnerable London residents. The Westminster offer includes the existing Healthy Homes check which looks at energy use in the home and can access grants for heating and insulation. Please click the link here for more details.
Thank you for reading and your comments are always welcome.
Karen Buck MP
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