Karen Buck

Working tirelessly for Westminster North

September 2018 E-Newsletter

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September 2018 E-Newsletter


September newsletter

Since my last newsletter Parliament has been in recess, so most (though not all) updates are about non-Parliamentary issues.


Brexit

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It’s always a risk saying anything about Brexit, since the situation is so fluid, but many of you have written to me about the ‘People’s Vote’. I have added my name to this, despite deep reservations about referenda in general, and the referendum on Europe in particular. I have some scepticism about when such a decision could be put to the country given the fact we are fast running out of time within the Article 50 period (this was one of the reasons why I voted against Article 50). However, on balance I think that Parliament may not have the authority to settle this issue, given how divided we, and the country as a whole, are, it seems that putting the final deal to the people may be the best option.

The people vote letter reads: “Brexit is taking longer and costing more than we thought, and it’s been changing our communities, our hospitals and our job prospects in ways that were not clearly set out during the 2016 vote.

“If, however, we were to stay, change and lead in Europe, we would allow the government to focus on the NHS, schools, the environment, jobs and driving up living standards instead of the intractable negotiations.

This is why I believe we must have a final say, a people’s vote, on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. That vote must keep the EU membership deal we currently have on the table. That is what is best for Britain.”


Joint Committee on Human Rights

My main Parliamentary Committee - the Joint Committee on Human Rights has published a major report on access to justice, which you can see here: Enforcing Human Rights.

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We have also begun a new inquiry into Immigration detention, details of which are here.

The deadline for submissions is 7 September 2018, TODAY!

Scope of the inquiry

The Committee seeks evidence on:

  • Whether current legal and policy frameworks are sufficient in preventing people being detained wrongfully and whether current practices in the detention system protect human rights;
  • Whether the initial decision to detain an individual should be made independently such as through prior judicial approval;
  • Whether immigration detention should be time-limited;
  • How far current policies ensure that people are only deprived of their liberty if it is necessary, rather than for administrative convenience; and
  • Detainees’ access to legal advice and their ability to engage with the legal processes to challenge their detention.

The Committee will also take account of the recommendations within Stephen Shaw’s follow-up review into the welfare of vulnerable people in detention, once this is published.


Rohingyar crisis: Let Britain lead the way in calling For the International Criminal Court to act against the Myanmar military

The number of displaced people in the world has reached an all time high, with the horrors of the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar driving the latest waves of refugees. Last week, a report by the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission called for Myanmar’s top military generals, including Commander-in-Chief, Min Aung Hlaing to be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in the north of Rakhine State, as well as for crimes against humanity and war crimes in respect of the Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States. I am supporting Rushanara Ali MP in calling for the UK to lead on seeking a referral of the Myanmar military to the International Criminal Court.


Blitz on dumping and fly-tipping

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Complaints continue to come in from across almost the whole constituency about the rise in dumping (mattresses being particular favourites) and fly-tipping. After many months of being pushed by local councillors and by myself the Council has begun an enforcement blitz in the W9 area, but welcome though that is, we will want to see concrete results - and we suspect that until there have been a number of well-publicised examples of people being caught/fined this won’t stop. Other suggestions for improving the situation include better education for residents, more bins, targeted use of cameras and easier/cheaper collection of bulky items. If you are aware of any particular hotspots (Walterton, Shirland, Hormead and parts of Maida Vale are already well known examples), do let me know.


Let’s go Plastic free: Why we want Westminster Council to promote a ‘Plastic-free city’

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Labour Councillors have called on Westminster City Council to promote a ‘plastic-free city’ by encouraging supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, bars and shops to:

  • use more easily-recycled containers
  • offer paper bags to package fruit and vegetable
  • promote ‘packaging-free shops’ which allow customers to bring their own containers, keeping waste to an absolute minimum.
  • use paper drinking straws in cafes, restaurants and bars
  • be part of a water bottle refill scheme org.uk
  • locate Recycling Points in the entrance of stores for old plastic bags and film,
  • boost recycling and cut waste by encouraging shops, restaurants, cafes to introduce a deposit when customers buy drinks bottles and cans
  • encourage residents, visitors and office workers to carry reusable coffee cups and bottles

Labour argue that the Council should also give a lead by installing new drinking fountains in parks, squares, shopping areas and near transport hubs across Westminster to enable people to fill up water containers/bottles. In addition, the Council should:

  • work with the Canal & River Trust and Port of London Authority to ensure waterways and surrounding areas are clear of plastic and other debris, through regular clean-ups of these areas to stop plastic getting into the Thames
  • call on the Royal Parks to ensure that all events there (Concerts, Winter Wonderland etc) are plastic-free in terms of takeaway containers
  • support a local social enterprise to make and sell products encouraging people to reduce plastic use – reusable cups, paper straws, reusable shopping bags

Labour say that the Council should encourage more innovations by high street operators, for example:

  • Pret a Manger launched a plastic bottle deposit return scheme in Brighton which will recycle any plastic bottles and return a 10p deposit on any Pret-branded bottles. The initial feedback reported 15 percent of Pret bottles were returned on the first day. Pret a Manger has also partnered with bottle makers Chilly’s to create a range of reusable 500ml plastic bottles. Pret has also been offering free filtered water stations which are available to passers by and customers alike at 66 of its shops across the UK.
  • Morrisons has begun a deposit return scheme trial for the return of single-use plastic bottles in two UK stores. The two reverse vending machines will award participating customers with points coupons. The machines accept all plastic bottles that have a barcode and Morrisons own-brand bottles that may not have one. Customers can return a maximum of 20 bottles a day and receive 100 Morrisons More points in the form of a coupon which can be spent in store for each one. They can also choose to donate a 10p cash alternative to the supermarket’s charity partner, CLIC Sargent.
  • Iceland has introduced a reverse vending machine in its Fulham store which rewards customers for recycling with shopping vouchers. The machine accepts any Iceland plastic drinks Every bottle deposited will warrant a 10p voucher.
  • Visitors to Canary Wharf can recycle their single-use plastic bottles and cans using a Deposit Return Scheme in Canada Place. The machine currently rewards users with a ‘thank you’ note and plans are being finalized for the machine to print 5p or 10p discount vouchers, depending on the retailer.
  • Whitbread plc offers free drinking water for customers and passers-by in each of its Costa Coffee and Premier Inn locations.
  • McDonald’s has promised to discontinue use of plastic straws in all its UK restaurants.
  • Leon restaurant chain has replaced plastic straws with biodegradable alternatives.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour’s Environment and City Management spokesperson, said:

“Westminster Council needs to become a ‘plastic-free city’ as soon as possible and we hope that the Council will give serious consideration to our proposals so that we can work together with local businesses and residents to steadily reduce the use of plastics in the office, at home, in shops, restaurants and bars. We need to build on the pioneering work started by a number of businesses and work with the Mayor to tackle this serious challenge to our environment.”

Key Facts

  • Plastic bottles and their lids make up 10% of all litter found in the Thames.
  • The average time for a plastic bottle to completely degrade is at least 450 years.
  • UK consumers use around 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year but more than three billion are not recycled.
  • About 40 countries worldwide – including Norway, Germany, Sweden and Israel – and 21 US states have some kind of deposit return scheme for plastic bottles.
  • Most schemes involve returning bottles to an automated collection point or to the shop from which they were purchased.
  • The Norwegian scheme claims a 94% recycling rate for bottles made from PET, the clear plastic used for water and fizzy drinks. The drinks industry has installed machines in shops that take in used bottles and cans and give back a coupon to return the deposit.
  • The 5p levy on plastic bags in the UK has resulted in single-use carrier bags usage down by 83%.
  • 80 % of 18-22 year-olds ranked tackling single-use plastics as important or very important for employers, ahead of reducing electricity use, water consumption and reducing greenhouse gases.
  • Environmental responsibility is now in the top three considerations for all younger workers and 43% said they would be shocked if their employer continued to use single-use plastics.

St John’s Wood Post Office

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As many of you know, I have been lobbying Post Office Ltd. to save the St John’s Wood Post Office for around two years, since they first indicated the likelihood of a downgrading of the service (and of course we had a very well attended public meeting in late 2016). I’ve been in regular contact both with them and with the Westminster Council, the owner of the current premises, in the hope that a compromise can be found on the costs of maintaining the Crown Post Office in its current location. Due to commercial confidentiality, neither side would share with me exactly what they were negotiating on in money terms, but the upshot is that there was a gap between what Westminster Council wished to charge in rent and what Post Office Ltd. were prepared to pay for a new lease. I have now been told Westminster Council gave notice to Post Office Ltd in February.

I can appreciate why Westminster want to maximise their income given the drastic cuts in government grants they have experienced in recent years, but it is also true that the Post Office has only just broken even after not making a profit in 16 years and so there is financial pressure on both sides. I’ve been in touch with the Council since the announcement was made, and there doesn’t seem to be more they can or will do. I’ve met Post Offices Ltd. and will be writing to the Minister to stress the strength of local feeling on the issue.

In the meantime, I thought it would be helpful for you to know what Post Office Ltd. are saying:

Dear Ms. Buck,

I wanted to update you about an announcement we have made today concerning Post Offices services in the St John’s Wood area of your constituency.

Post Office Ltd. are proposing to move St John’s Wood Post Office to a nearby retail store which will be known as SW Food Store but is currently St Johns Wood Food Store at 41-45 Charlbert Street, London, NW8 6JN, where it would be run by our new retail partner. 

Posters announcing the decision and the start of a six-week public consultation will be displayed in the branch from tomorrow. In addition, I can also confirm that you and other local stakeholders should also receive a more detailed written briefing tomorrow.

The new St John’s Wood branch will be a bright, modern open-plan layout which will include a complete internal refurbishment.  Access into the store is level with the street, and automatic doors will be installed at the entrance. The Post Office counters at the new branch will be open 09.00 – 17.30 Monday – Saturday, compared to the existing branch’s opening hours of 09.00 – 17.30 Monday – Friday, and 09.30 – 12.30 on Saturdays.

In addition, the serving position located at the retail till will offer customers a selected range of Post Office products and services, without having to join the main queue.  These services will be available 07.30 – 23.00 Monday – Saturday, and 08.00 – 23.00 on Sundays. This will provide customers with an increase of access to these products and services of 62.5 hours a week.

A wide range of services would still be available at the branch, with the exception of DVLA Photocard Driving Licence renewal and Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence application services.  The nearest alternative branch providing this service is Swiss Cottage Post Office, 9-10 Harben Parade, Finchley Road, South Hampstead, London, NW3 6JS, approximately 1 mile away.

This move is part of the continuing modernisation of our branch network. We believe the most effective way to secure the long term viability of Post Office services in St John’s Wood is through a carefully selected retail partner, and we are confident that our proposal is the best way of safeguarding services for the community for years to come.

The vast majority of our 11,600 Post Office branches, large and small, are successfully operated in this way with retail partners and we believe this is the best approach to keeping Post Offices in main shopping locations and at the heart of communities where they play an important role in local economies.

I asked about the number of counters and staffing levels and have been told this:

There will be four serving positions::

  • Two open-plan positions;
  • One traditional screened position, which will also provide travel money services, and;
  • An open service position at the retail counter.

The serving position located at the retail counter will offer customers selected Post Office products and services, for which they will not have to join the main queue. The position will be open from 07.30 – 23.00 Monday to Saturday and 08.00 – 23.00 on Sundays, offering customers an additional 62.5 hours a week of access a week compared to the current branch.

Here are the details of the official consultation, which closes on 19th September. I urge you to respond directly


Housing Issues

My Private Member’s Bill on Housing Fitness - which will give tenants new legal rights when their accommodation is substandard, should finish its passage through the House of Commons next month. Here’s a piece I wrote about it last week

I went on Newsnight in August to talk about the still growing crisis of homelessness and housing need.  You can see it here (It’s 24.50 minutes in)

City West Homes

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After what felt like a period when services were improving earlier in the summer, my caseload has got much worse again with serious disrepair issues affecting tenants and leaseholders. Local Labour councillors want to know your views.

CityWest Homes review – time for residents to have their say

"After belatedly recognising the declining performance of CityWest Homes (the Arms Length Management Organisation that runs Westminster’s housing stock) Westminster Council’s Conservative leadership announced a review, led by consultants Campbell Tickell, looking at the organisation’s performance and structures.

Labour is disappointed and frustrated that the Council’s consultants will only be meeting with the current Residents Council and a few selected additional residents before their report to Cabinet is produced, excluding other CityWest residents from having a direct say in their future. However local Councillors are being asked to feed in their own views into the process.

Labour have repeatedly set out their views about the urgent need for reform of housing management in Westminster, recently calling for CityWest to be scrapped and other major changes. However it is very important that residents are able to put forward their ideas about how they would improve the way in which housing in Westminster is run. So Labour are asking for local residents to submit their ideas to us about how the operation and structures of housing in Westminster should be reformed. (While examples of performance problems are welcome, we are interested to hear ideas on how they might be resolved.)

Please send your ideas to Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing and Customer Services, Pancho Lewis (to plewis@westminster.gov.uk) with the email subject heading ‘Submission for CWH Review’ so that we can submit your ideas into both the Council and Scrutiny Committee Reviews."

labourwestminster.wordpress.com/2018/08/16/citywest-homes-review-time-for-residents-to-have-their-say/


Short-lets: New Airbnb figures show the sector still growing

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Information from the home-sharing platform shows Tower Hamlets is outstripping Westminster and Kensington, fuelling a near doubling of London rentals to 49,348 in just two years.

The listings snapshot aggregated by data analysts Inside Airbnb shows the average nightly cost across 32 boroughs and the City is £98.

Tower Hamlets is the most popular borough, with 5,072 listings at a £77 nightly average, of which 2,174 (42.9 per cent) are “entire places”, 2,817 (55.5 per cent) are private rooms, and 81 (1.6 per cent) are shared rooms.

Westminster has 4,703 listings at a £151 per night average, with 3,284 (69.8 per cent) entire homes, 1,378 (29.3 per cent) private homes and 41 (0.9 per cent) shared rooms.


Bayswater Medical Centre

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Like many patients and residents I was extremely disappointed to hear about the problems affecting the Bayswater Medical Centre, which was found to be ‘Inadequate’ after an inspection by the Care Quality Commission.

You can read the Care Quality Commission’s recent inspection report here

The West London Clinical Commissioning Group will now consider a merger of the practice with the Grand Union Health Centre, proposed by the partners at the Bayswater Centre. You can read the decision papers here

Obviously, the first concern has to be to ensure that patients are receiving good and safe care locally, so some action is clearly needed. I understand that the partners have indicated that they will both be retiring from the NHS in the near future and, as they (not the NHS) own the building, this has been put up for sale. They have expressed an interest in merging with another local practice before retirement and this has led to the proposal to merge with Grand Union. Obviously absolutely none of this is what any of us want, as we would all prefer to maintain a quality, local surgery running either at this location or very close. I have been asked why this can’t happen.

In theory, the options would be for another practice to take over the existing surgery, or for the NHS to buy another surgery building in the immediate vicinity- and for this all to happen very quickly.

The problem is that: the current premises don’t belong to the NHS and it is not immediately clear that another GP/GPs would be able to afford to buy the surgery (or something similar). Even if this were possible, there is still a process to be gone through with regards to contracting with other GPs. And judging by recent experience and our understanding of the NHS finances, there is not a large fund available to pay for such a solution.

I’ve asked some questions about this and have been told the following by the Clinical Commissioning Group:

The CCG doesn’t itself hold capital for Estates development. It secures relevant funding from NHS England via a robust framework requiring detailed business case development demonstrating compliance against identified key criteria. This is a process  which involves extensive forward planning and governance, can take up to 18 months, and requires the specific commitment of GPs taking up occupation.    

GP contracts operate under a national framework and West London CCG, as with any other commissioning organisation, is obliged to operate within the legal parameters of this contractual framework. The GP contract allows GPs to hand back their contract, with 3 or 6 months’ notice, which the CCG is legally obliged to accept. GP contractors may also propose practice mergers which will be reviewed by the CCG taking into account a range of factors, including service quality, convenience of access and patient views amongst other factors. In this instance we have received a proposal for Bayswater Medical Centre and Grand Union Health Centre to merge which is currently under consideration pending the completion of the practice patient engagement exercise.

Patients can choose to register with other local practices if they do not wish to move to Grand Union 

Lancaster Gate Medical Centre         0.2 miles away

Garway Surgery                                 0.3 miles away

Dr Purssell And Partners                   0.6 miles away

Newton Medical Centre                    0.6 miles away

And Grand Union is considered to have the following advantages:

  • A purpose built health centre that is DDA compliant
  • A greater choice of clinician with 12 doctors, 4 nurses and 4 Health Care assistants.
  • Longer opening and consultation hours
  • All appointments are available for on line booking
  • An in house Pediatrician to see children under the age of 18
  • A specialist service for the over 65s called My Care My Way
  • An anti-coagulation service (which was previously stopped at BMC)
  • Specialist clinics in house called virtual clinics with renal consultants and respiratory consultants.
  • Access to  wider range of Out of Hospital Service
  • Access to a practice with higher quality performance against a wide range of quality metrics

This may not be of comfort to all the patients at Bayswater, some of whom live very close and many of whom are familiar with the existing surgery. The issue once again highlights the risks of the system wherein some GPs own their own buildings and for whatever reason only have to give relatively short notice of closure. It doesn’t always present a problem but it certainly can, and in very expensive areas such as Central London alternatives are difficult to find and to afford. The numbers have fallen rapidly, however, so hopefully we will have fewer such issues in the future.


Randolph surgery

The other GP surgery which has generated a lot of concern recently has been the Randolph practice, and I have been taking up complaints with the local Clinical Commissioning Group. The surgery was recently inspected by the Care Quality Commission and found to be safe, but requiring improvement in most areas.  (The CQC website is a really good source of information about the quality of health services across the board…)

The Randolph Surgery requires improvement

Doctors/GPs and Clinics

Specialisms/services

  • Diagnostic and screening procedures
  • Family planning services
  • Maternity and midwifery services
  • Services for everyone
  • Treatment of disease, disorder or injury

235a Elgin Avenue, London, W9 1NH
(020) 7266 2621
Provided by: The Randolph Surgery

CQC inspection area ratings
(Latest report published on 22 August 2018)

CQC Inspections and ratings of specific services
(Latest report published on 22 August 2018)


In brief…

Macroom Nursery/Croxley College site

I was very recently alerted to the possibility that the Macroom Road Nursery, run by the London Early Years Foundation, may have to close soon as the former college site is being sold. Whilst no longer needed by the City of Westminster College, the building is currently being used by a number of small, creative industry businesses (‘Kindred Studios) which is great to see. My Labour Councillor colleagues and I are pressing Westminster to find a way to, firstly save the nursery and secondly ensure that the larger site doesn’t just end up as more luxury housing.

Moberly Sports Centre and the future of the Jubilee site

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The new Moberly Sports Centre is open and it’s excellent - although we would still far rather it had not been built technically in Brent, at the absolute farthest corner of the borough.  My concern, shared by the thousands of people who signed the petition to save the Jubilee pool two or three years ago, is that we shouldn’t lose community facilities in the heart of Queen’s Park (and, of course, all the new homes on both sites are high end, luxury housing). Ward councillors and I are now pressing for the Jubilee site to be developed into the promised new community hall as quickly as possible - we absolutely don’t want the building left standing boarded up and increasingly run down.

Hallfield Resident’s Association

I was very pleased to get to the AGM of the Hallfield Residents Association at the end of July - the estate is now into its 10th year of major works, with several more years to come. Given that the need for works to tackle the problems of the window and building design, which was causing serious problems with cold and damp was first properly identified in 2006, and work won’t finish till 2022, this has to be one of the longest such programmes anywhere!

Gloucester Terrace

Meanwhile my staff and I have been continuing to try and get information out of CityWest Homes to help leaseholders facing substantial major works bills in Swanleys and in Glocuester Terrace.

Church Street regeneration

This summer, Sadiq Khan announced his intension to withhold HLA investment from estate regeneration programmes where the Council chooses not to ballot residents on their views. Westminster Council’s plans for Church Street are vastly different from the those they held on an initial ballot on in 2013, and they should go back to the people who live there to win support for their revised scheme.

Queens Park Community Theater

Don't miss this fantastic theatre starring local residents performing scripts they've written themselves, coordinated by . Refreshments will be provided. Tell your family and friends! Link to details here.  

Casework

I continue to work on a large variety of casework for constituents with issues ranging from Universal Credit to housing, health and education. If you or anyone you know has an issue they would like to raise, do get in touch via email

Community meetings and tours of Parliament

I'm always delighted to attend residents’ association or community meetings and hear the latest news. If you would like me to attend your residents’ association or community meeting do get in touch at the email above.

Likewise, if you would like a tour of Parliament, please do get in touch via email or by phoning 0208 968 7999


Thank you for reading and your comments are always welcome 

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Karen Buck MP

Website: www.karenbuck.org.uk
Twitter: KarenPBuckMP
Facebook: KarenBuck4WN

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