Karen Buck

Working tirelessly for Westminster North

July 2017 E-Newsletter

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July 2017 E-Newsletter


I wanted to write straight after the election to say how grateful I was to the voters of Westminster North for electing me to Parliament once more - and to the many volunteers who worked so hard during the campaign.  Tragically, only a few days later, the fire in Grenfell Tower not only took at least 87 lives in our neighbouring community, with which many residents have links, but forced a fundamental review of safety in other high-rises across the country. This has, inevitably, dominated, and cast a shadow over, the first three weeks - both inside and outside Parliament.


Grenfell Tower and fire safety issues

No-one can have watched any footage of the fire, or seen the burnt out husk of the building next to Latimer Road station, without reeling with horror. The fire is the worst of its kind since the Second World War, but its aftermath was made far worse by the near collapse of Kensington and Chelsea council and the inability of local and central government to provide immediate help for the survivors. What we did see, from day one, was a truly extraordinary rallying of community and voluntary support-donations, fund-raising, practical help, legal advice -  much of which is on-going. Mosques, churches, synagogues, temples, the Queen’s Park Community Council and many more, all rushed to give help on a scale I have rarely seen for a domestic crisis,  and they deserve huge credit for all their efforts. Too often, inner cities are regarded as unneighbourly and lacking in community support. The response to Grenfell proved the opposite.

Still, many questions have to be answered, by the inquiry, by the Council and by government. You can read some of the questions I have been asking, about testing for fire safety, funding for remedial works and leasehold issues below. 

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2017-06-21a.37.0&s=speaker%3A10075#g53.0

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2017-06-26a.346.5&s=speaker%3A10075#g359.4

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2017-07-03a.911.1&s=speaker%3A10075#g919.4

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2017-06-22a.165.2&s=speaker%3A10075#g185.0

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And my contribution to the Queen’s Speech here.

I also wrote an article for the Guardian on some of the issues arising from Grenfell, including some of the changes in the law which are now necessary. You can see that here.


Reassurance and action to ensure local fire safety

Local councillors and I have also been pressing CityWest Homes and Westminster Council (and local housing associations) for the quickest possible action to check the cladding and other fire safety arrangements in our high-rise blocks, and to give reassurance to residents as appropriate. We have met with the Council, and I attended the drop-in/meeting on the Warwick Estate last week. Obviously the situation is changing almost daily, as checks and remedial works are completed but you can read what we have been asking for here.

We will work with residents as issues arise, and of course anyone with specific concerns can contact me or a ward councillor, or attend one of our surgeries.


Spotlight on affordable homes (again) 

The Grenfell fire has also highlighted the extreme pressure on social and affordable housing in London- something that also fills my casework and advice surgeries. These latest official figures from the Government may help to explain why:

Affordable home starts         2009/10

Social Rent                          34,492

Affordable Rent                         ***

Intermediate rent                   3,581

Affordable Home Ownership 10,844

Total                                   53,917

=

Affordable homes starts      2016/17

Social rent                             944

Affordable rent                   26,716

Intermediate rent                      24

Affordable ownership          10,301

Total                                  37,985


In Parliament/ Brexit

The election was called by Theresa May in the belief that it would lead to a substantial Conservative majority. Instead it resulted in a hung Parliament, a £1bn deal to secure the support of the DUP and the ditching of much of the Conservative Party manifesto. The recent Queen’s Speech, which (unusally) sets out the government’s programme for the next two years, is now very light on everything apart from Brexit. We can therefore expect the Repeal Bill to take up most of our time in Parliament. I am, however in no doubt that concerns about a ‘hard Brexit’ are growing, and were a major issue in the election, especially in London, and certainly in Westminster North. Leaving the Single Market in particular, could be a huge blow to our public finances and make it far harder for us to be able to pay for vital public services.

This is why I backed an amendment to the Queen’s Speech and co-signed a letter setting out my reasons for a continued rejection of a ‘hard Brexit’ and my support for our remaining in the Single Market. You can read that letter here.

The Government have now also put forward their proposal for EU citizens living in Britain. I am in the process of preparing a survey to find out what people think of that offer, so please look out for it over the next few weeks. I really appreciate your views.


Local round up

Raising crime and policing issues

Along with other London MPs, I met the new Met Commissioner, Cressida Dick, this week, and raised with her our local concerns about moped crime ( a particular issue at the moment around Maida Vale/Warwick Avenue, though Abbey Road residents have also now written to me about it), worries about the rise in hate crime, and serious youth violence. We also had a wider discussion about resources, counter terrorism and the impact on the police of serious mental health problems.

On present trends, the Met Police budget is set to fall by a further £400m , having already been cut by £600m, so the police service remains under real financial pressure. Although crime overall has been on a very long-term downward trend, the issues listed above are all very real challenges in London, which has seen a rise in violent crime in particular over the last year.


 

The state of our streets

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Regular readers/those who follow me on Twitter will know that I am obsessed with over-flowing bins, dumping and rubbish on the streets. Although there have been cuts to the service, it is also apparent that there is too little enforcement against dumping (such as after flat clearance) and there are definite variations in the service across Westminster. I will keep pressing on this, but do please keep contacting me with your examples!


Improving air quality

We need a new Clean Air Act to help us improve the quality of our increasingly toxic London air.  In the meantime, we can all get behind this important Westminster Council campaign:

I pledge not to idle

Did you know that by simply turning off your engine you can help to reduce asthma, heart disease and lung cancer?

Westminster is an amazing, vibrant place, with all the hustle and bustle you would expect at the centre of a truly global city. However, Westminster suffers from the worst air pollution in the country.

Car Idling contributes to premature deaths and health issues in Westminster.  If everyone makes a small change, it will help make a BIG difference.

Please sign the pledge on the right today to support the #DontBeIdle campaign.


Funding for local services

Increasingly, residents come to Councillors, or to me, to express concerns about the quality and availability of services. I share their frustration.  I thought it might be helpful to share this table which gives some context - the amount by which councils have had their government grant cut since 2010.

With funding set to fall further under current plans, it is no surprise that the Conservative Leader of the Local Government Association this week warned that “The money local government has for vital day to day services is fast running out”. These services include (or in some cases, included, past tense) Social Care and Youth Services, street cleaning and environmental health, libraries and Children’s Services. This decline is not healthy, right or sustainable.

England: Real-terms change in local government service spending by LA decile of grant dependence, 2009-10 to 2016-17

Figures in £s, thousands, 2016-17 prices

 

 

Local authority

Total service spending 2016-17

Total service spending 2009-10

Cut 2009-10 to 2016-17

City of London

                84,140

                84,083

0%

Westminster

              222,565

              413,130

-46%

Wandsworth

              219,308

              340,860

-36%

Tower Hamlets

              327,564

              450,205

-27%

Newham

              288,990

              417,948

-31%

Hackney

              279,090

              431,229

-35%

Southwark

              323,087

              491,567

-34%

Lambeth

              336,056

              458,868

-27%

Greenwich

              273,193

              372,590

-27%

Lewisham

              275,835

              409,459

-33%

Manchester

              429,312

              685,822

-37%

Barking & Dagenham

              169,424

              253,611

-33%

Islington

              249,418

              350,090

-29%

Hammersmith & Fulham

              185,085

              299,678

-38%

Camden

              245,919

              403,014

-39%

Brent

              276,281

              405,271

-32%

Knowsley

              135,402

              208,317

-35%

Waltham Forest

              228,724

              314,126

-27%

Haringey

              254,849

              387,121

-34%

Liverpool

              446,193

              605,856

-26%

Leicester City UA

              254,209

              310,236

-18%

 


Getting out and about at summer events

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Thankfully a number of local events have still been running over the last few weeks, and I’ve tried to get to as many as possible. These have included:

• The Interfaith Iftar at the Regent’s Park Cultural Heritage Centre

• The South East Bayswater Resident’s Association Summer Party

•  The Westbourne community festival

And maybe see you at the WECH summer festival this weekend.

Grenfell showed us the importance of being good neighbours and what communities can do working together. Let’s keep that spirit going!


 Thank you for reading and your comments are always welcome.

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Karen Buck MP

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Website: www.karenbuck.org.uk

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