There has been understandable concern about the surge in serious youth violence this year, and the spate of moped assisted crimes. Tragically, one such incident recently claimed the life of a local young man, a former Paddington Academy student, who was stabbed in the course of what seems to have been a robbery. I raised the issue of moped assisted crime and serious youth violence with Cressida Dick, the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, when I met her in the summer, and I have also met a Home Office Minister and, of course, local Police and other agencies. There has been a lot of activity on this front, and a number of arrests and prosecutions, but obviously more needs to be done. The Met can and does seek to respond to changing priorities as far as possible, and there are always measures that can be taken in response to new challenges. However, it remains true that the Met has already lost around £600m in central government support, and is due to lose a further £400 m over the next few years. We have much reduced Safer Neighbourhood Teams and overall, police numbers have fallen to the point where the increases in the 2000-2009 period have now been cancelled out. In addition, Westminster Council has cut spending almost in half in the last few years, and is having to cut a further £30m next year, so some of the capacity that used to exist - from CCTV to the youth service - is no longer there. I believe that we have reached the point where we cannot keep reducing the Police budget, especially if this also has to finally build in a pay rise above 1%. Having said all this, the Police are extremely focused on the issue.
To counter this type of offending in City of Westminster (CW) we have been running the following initiatives
Operation Regent - This was a targeted Intelligence led operation that led to a 52% decrease across CW in Moped Related Offences. 16 offenders were arrested for a variety of offences. This was carried out in April and May 2017
Operation Goodthink - A 2nd intelligence led operation that has been running since June. We are seeing another decrease in offending of around the 40% mark. At present over 20 people have been arrested.
Operation Venice - This is the Mets response to Moped, Scooter and Motorcycle Crime. On CW This involves our local neighbourhood teams delivering crime prevention advice to members of the public and patrolling around 'Hotspot' areas for this type of crime. This has included the NW8 and St Johns Wood area.
In addition to the 2 Operations above the CW Crime Squad have been looking at offenders from CW (and neighbouring areas) who are targeting the borough. As a result we have had the following results.
2 males jailed for a spate of offences in February and March - One received 5 years and 1 10 years. 2 males jailed for a spate of offences in May, 4 males are due to go for sentencing in October that have been linked to over 100 offences across CW (including St Johns Wood). The handler of the phones has also been arrested which has led to a dramatic reduction in these types of offences. At one stage City of Westminster was having around 22 offences a day. We now have around 4 a day across the whole borough.
In respect of the concern that CCTV is to be relied upon, this does carry some truth. Vital intelligence can be gained from images obtained. Rarely is there any forensic evidence when a phone is snatched from someone's hand.
Those snatching the phones often wear gloves (as you can see by the pillion passenger in the image above) so CCTV is a big part of what we need. That being said, just because there may be no CCTV does not mean that we cannot do anything.
Invariably these offences are carried out in spates of 3 or 4 so whilst 1 offence might not have any, another may well do. Different officers attend different calls so sometimes an officer will not be aware that footage may be available at an offence elsewhere. It is only later, when the offence is picked up by a detective, that these offences will be linked (by proximity, description of suspect etc). These offences often lay on file until someone is caught in the act (as per the arrests mentioned above) where we will then look at things like phone downloads from suspects. Any images on their phones showing them wearing similar clothing to that caught on CCTV along with Cell Site submissions for the suspects mobile phones that often place them in the location of the offences, and any incriminating messages via text or social media therefore proving their involvement.
All of the above is just a snapshot of what is currently happening in Westminster.
You can sign the petition against the cuts to the Metropolitan Police here.
We were expecting to be into the committee stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill by now, but that has been delayed as the Government considers their response to the more challenging groups of amendments! In the meantime, I have supported calls for the publication of the Brexit impact studies that have been carried out, so we can work on a shared understanding of what may happen to our economy and the country as a whole. You can read the article about our letter to David Davis, the Brexit Minister, here.
Given the worrying degree to which our reaching March 2019 with ‘no deal’ is now being talked up, I used my slot at Prime Minister’s Questions to ask what would then happen to EU residents in this country. You can see the video here.
Responses to my survey of EU residents are still coming in in significant numbers, and I am incredibly grateful for that. I intend to close the survey and analyse the result at the end of this month.
The NHS in Westminster
Urgent Care Centre found to be inadequate as St Mary’s faces winter pressures (and the latest on the ‘Paddington Quarter’ dispute)
St Mary’s hospital remains under considerable pressure as we go into another winter. Worryingly, the Urgent Care Centre, intended to relieve pressure on Accident and Emergency and which was put out to tender and awarded to a private contractor two years ago, was found to be inadequate after a Care Quality Commission inspection. The company has been given six months to turn the service around. St Mary’s itself has faced some huge challenges as a result of having some of the oldest buildings in the NHS estate, and these have led to extra costs and to bed closures. In May, part of the ceiling fell down in one part of the Cambridge wing! Even before the unexpected costs that arose as a result of the problems this summer, Imperial were spending £16 million this year to address the most pressing building issues - now they have had to find another £1m.
In the longer term, much depends on St Mary’s being able to go ahead with their major development programme. However, the Trust continues to have concerns about ambulance access within the new scheme, which includes, of course, the controversial ‘Paddington Cube’. As they say:
“The Trust remained supportive of the Paddington quarter development, approved by Westminster City Council in December 2016, but the concerns raised by the Trust, London Ambulance Service and other health organisations, had not been taken effectively into consideration; even following multiple meetings with Westminster City Council, the GLA and TFL. These parties remained confident that the plan was safe, and the s106 agreement was likely to be signed in the near future. The Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities had also chosen not to require further scrutiny of the plans.
Westminster City Council granted full planning permission for the Paddington Cube development on 14th August following the signing of the section 106 agreement. The agreement sets out final planning conditions, including for all aspects of a new access road that forms part of the development. Our safety concerns over the new access road have still not been resolved. We have been continuing to engage with the Council to seek amendments to the section 106 agreement to address our concerns. But, as the deadline for applying to make a formal legal challenge was Monday 25 September, we felt there was no alternative but to make an application in order to keep all options open. We are still hopeful that we can achieve amendments that address our safety concerns without further legal action”
GETTING ‘WINTER READY’
Divisional director of medicine, Professor Tim Orchard, who leads the Trust’s Urgent and Emergency Pathway improvement programme, says:
“We are expecting this winter to be worse than usual for flu infection. We’ve also already got a lot of pressure on our inpatient beds – partly as a result of estates problems causing wards to be out of action for repair work but also because we are seeing more urgent and emergency admissions – there’s been an 11 per cent increase since 2015/16.
But I am confident we will continue to provide high quality care for all of our patients if we work together and make best use of all the planning and preparation that has been put in place. I would urge everyone to have a look at the checklists we’ve developed to be clear on what support is on offer and how it can be accessed, and what you can do yourself to get winter ready"
You can see details of the advice Imperial are giving to patients here.
BBC health tracker
The BBC have introduced a useful website to help people see what is happening to the local NHS over the winter months. You can find it here.
As action on fire safety starts to be taken across Westminster and the country as a whole following the Grenfell disaster, I have joined with local Labour councillors to ask the Government to fund the works, so that the costs don't fall on local councils. This would, of course, mean that those councils with the most high rise buildings are hardest hit - and if the money has to be found locally, it can only be met out of the budgets which would otherwise be funding repairs and maintenance and the building of new homes.
The full cost of implementing fire safety measures such as installing sprinklers in taller council blocks across the city and removing dangerous cladding from the towers on the Warwick and Brindley Estates could run up to £20 million. At the moment, this will have to be paid out of Westminster Council’s Housing Revenue Account, money generated from Council tenants’ rents and leaseholder service charges. This means that there will be a major impact on the number of new social or affordable homes the Council would be able to build and on its future ability to repair people’s homes.
Despite promising to do whatever it took to ensure that high rise buildings are safe, the government are clearly not intending to provide any financial help.
Universal Credit is coming
I’ve contributed to the two Parliamentary debates in recent weeks calling for a halt to the rollout of Universal Credit in the face of growing evidence that the built in delay in paying claimants is causing hardship, arrears, evictions and greater use of foodbanks. I met with our local JobCentre Plus to hear how preparations are going - we are not due for the full service to begin until the spring - and I was impressed with their commitment to make things work as well as possible. However, those London councils where Universal Credit is more widely claimed have been experiencing massive problems.
If you have experience of this, particularly if you are having problems, do get advice as quickly as possible, such as from the Citizens Advice Bureau, or my office.
London Poverty profile
If you are interested in knowing more of the facts and figures about our area - facts which show that, despite the image of Westminster as just an area of great wealth, the newly published London Poverty Profile is for you! You can read it here.
Local MP calls on FA to fill empty seats at England matches with free tickets for schools
I’ve signed a letter calling on the Football Association to fill empty seats at England matches with free tickets for schoolchildren. The letter, signed by a cross-party group of 128 MPs was drafted by Shadow Sports Minister, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan and sent to FA Chair Greg Clarke. It states that the 28,000 empty seats for the recent England game against Slovenia represent ‘28,000 lost opportunities to inspire England stars of the future’. This letter represents agreement from a large cross-party group of MPs, that where they can foresee large blocks of empty seats at Wembley – they need to commit to giving these to schools across the country.
The 28,000 empty seats at Wembley represent 28,000 lost opportunities - for many young children across the country, seeing England play live at Wembley is a distant dream. The FA can turn this dream into a reality. The FA does some good work in communities across the country but there is more to be done. There are dozens of schools in our local area that would welcome the opportunity to send children to Wembley Stadium to see England play.
The new ‘T’ charge - how it works and how it will help clean up London’s air
In last month’s newsletter I talked about the scale of the health crisis linked to air pollution, and the particular threat to children. Recent health data has shown 7.9 million Londoners - nearly 95 per cent of the population – live in areas exceeding the World Health Organisation guidelines on toxic air quality particles (known as PM2.5). It is estimated that air pollution contributes to thousands of premature deaths each year in London, as well as having effects over the course of our lives, from smaller lungs in our children to greater risk of dementia and strokes when we get older. This month, the Mayor of London brings in the latest measure to help improve the quality of London’s toxic air. The ‘T’ charge -‘T for Toxicity’- is the world’s toughest emission charge. Aimed to limiting the volume of older, more polluting vehicles that drive into inner London.
From Monday, October 23rd, older and dirtier vehicles will be required to pay a £10 charge on top of the congestion charge - with the aim being to discourage such vehicles from being driven in. It is thought this could affect around 34,000 vehicles a month, which do not meet the Euro 4 standards for both PM and NOx emissions. Such vehicles have made around 2.6m trips within the congestion zone areas since the beginning of the year, giving an indication of the scale of the problem.
Here’s the detail of how it works, and a link to check whether a particular vehicle may be liable for the charge:
The T-charge is the toughest enforced emission standard of any world city. Drivers of the most polluting vehicles (pre-Euro 4 vehicles) will pay the new T-Charge plus the Congestion-Charge (C-Charge) a total of £21.50 (£10 T-Charge and £11.50 C-Charge) every weekday they drive in the C-Charge zone from 7am-6pm. It will run continuously during congestion charging hours until the Ultra-Low Emission Zone is delivered. To view the T-Charge compliance vehicle checker visit, tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/emissions-surcharge
Local round up
Woodfield Road two way
Residents of Woodfield Road and the surrounding streets have been understandably aggravated by the introduction of the new 2-way scheme on the road. Many people raised concerns during the consultation and local councillors put these forward, but the Council argued that such fears were overblown and that their proposals would reduce traffic accidents. Now in place, the new scheme has seen gridlock at peak periods with reports of damage to cars, constant horn honking, potential road rage incidents and general disturbance to the local residents with little evidence that things are being made safer. We have been pressing for an urgent review of the scheme and on Monday the Council announced their plans to introduce a ‘point no-entry’ at the junction with Woodfield Road and Harrow Road. This was with a view to displace traffic and reduce opposing flows within Woodfield Road between Woodfield Place and Harrow Road. These plans have since been postponed to allow for the impact on pedestrian safety to be assessed. I will continue to monitor the progress of the plans, please feel free to let me know your thoughts.
Hallfield Estate update from CityWest Homes
I would like to apologise for the delay in getting major works to site on the Hallfield estate. This briefing has been prepared to help give you some of the background to this and help outline the way forward.
Pembroke, Reading and Tenby Houses (scheme V115)
Following the departure of the original contractor Mulalley and Company Ltd in 2013, we had decided to package the works into three blocks at a time. The first phase, known as V115, was to address works that were unresolved during time of the Mulalley’s contract.
The decision to defer the works to the term contract was made at a Cabinet Member meeting held in July of this year. Rather than go ahead and appoint Keepmoat, who was the remaining contractor in the process, a decision was taken to cancel the existing procurement as we now move towards the appointment of a contractor that will provide all major works for the next ten years.
Residents were notified of this decision on the 10 July 2017. A residents meeting was held on the 21 September 2017. There were representatives from the Lancaster Gate Ward Councillors and CityWest Homes project team. Eight residents attended.
Assuming the successful appointment of the new contractor in November of this year, the works to Pembroke, Reading and Tenby Houses should start in the New Year.
Works to the rest of the estate
Works to the rest of the estate are being carried out as four separate schemes and will be delivered by the term contractor. These are:
W104: Marlow House, Newbury House and Taunton House
X115 : Lynton House, Worcester House and Winchester House
X116 : Bridgewater House, Clovelly House and Exeter House
X117 : Brecon and Caernarvon House
We expect works to be delivered to all blocks by 2021
Church Street regeneration
Westminster Council’s consultation on the Church Street regeneration scheme ends on October 29th - though there will be plenty of discussions going on after that! Here’s the letter I have sent to residents.
And in brief:
Despite it being a very tough financial environment, some of our local groups still do their very best to survive and service the community. It was a pleasure to support Paddington Arts on the occasion of their 30th anniversary this year - they do such great work nurturing creative talent amongst our young people. I got along to the Annual General Meeting of Walterton and Elgin Community Homes - the largest resident controlled housing project in the country - and was once again impressed with the brilliant turnout of tenants and leaseholders they get.
At the annual meeting of the St John’s Wood Society we discussed air quality, short-lets, the cycle superhighway and the on-going negotiations about the future of the Post Office, which I am very heavily involved with, and am hoping to see come to a successful conclusion.
And it was great to bring together a number of the individuals and organisations working with young people in the area at a reception I hosted in Parliament. The youth, play and out-of-school budgets have all been taken away by Westminster Council, but we were able to celebrate the work that is being done against the odds, and do some useful networking. Some of those attending included the Avenues, Dream Arts, London Tigers, Westminster Youth Foundation, Lords, St John’s Wood Playground, Queen’s Park sports and Everyone Active.
Thank you for reading and your comments are always welcome.
Karen Buck MP
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