Kensington Academy on opening day 15 September 2014

Kensington Academy on opening day 15 September 2014

Labour councillors in North Kensington welcomed the Kensington Aldridge Academy and its first pupils as the school opened its doors on 15 September. A large group of parents and their excited children joined senior staff at 8.25 am to become the first group of Year 7 students to be educated at the Academy.

Councillor Judith Blakeman recollects the very difficult campaign to get a new secondary school opened in North Kensington. She said: “my former colleague, Steve Hoier, recognised many years ago that demographic changes meant that we needed a new secondary school in North Kensington at the start of the new Millennium. He campaigned vigorously for a new school and the baton was picked up by the rest of the Labour Group when Steve left the Council”.

In the face of an unequivocal demand, the ruling Conservative Group persistently came up with excuses why they should not provide the school: there was no evidence of need; there was nowhere to build a new school; there was no money to build one. Then instead, they built a new Academy in Chelsea. Welcome though that was, it did not meet the massive demand for secondary school places in North Kensington.

Councillors spoke of parents in tears in their surgeries because their children had been allocated to under-performing schools far away from the borough. One group set up arrangements to home-school their children because they were so disgusted with the schools offered to them. Two generations of children had their life chances damaged by having to travel for up to four hours a day to get their secondary education. Groups of primary school friends were separated for years.

Cllr Judith Blakeman with Family and Children's Services Committee members Cllr Harrison Littler and Cllr Beinazir Lasharie, during a visit

Cllr Judith Blakeman with Family and Children’s Services Committee members Cllr Harrison Littler and Cllr Beinazir Lasharie, during a visit

Eventually Kensington and Chelsea Council capitulated, realising that otherwise it would lose the £17 million that the Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future programme was offering for the project.

Yesterday the new Academy was being praised to the skies by its new students. One young man said: “I am thrilled with my new school and I will deal with anyone who damages or vandalises it”. Notting Dale ward councillor Judith Blakeman attended the school’s assembly on the second day and visited classes with the Academy Principal, David Benson. She said: “this new Academy has surpassed all our expectations. It is warm, friendly and welcoming and the facilities on offer are fantastic. I am confident that at last North Kensington children will receive the high quality education they deserve. It is particularly gratifying that so many of the pupils come from the Lancaster West Estate, where residents have been extremely patient with all the disruption that building the school has caused for them”.

‘SHUT UP’ – senior Tory responds to desperate parents


Tory Whip shouts at shocked parents of SEN children as ‘predictable and disastrous’ outcome of Triborough project affects transport for vulnerable

 11.6.14 036 - Copy25.7.14

Parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs were shocked last night to be told to ‘SHUT UP’ by the Kensington and Chelsea Tory Whip at a public meeting.

K&C Opposition Labour Group (left) had called an Extraordinary Council Meeting to debate the continuation of a contract that delivers a transport service for children with special educational needs. The service has been a huge concern to parents, carers and teachers of affected children since it began in April this year.

Children who are picked up from home and taken to school or daycare, then returned back later in the day, have been suffering from poorly trained escorts, drivers with no knowledge of the area, disfunctioning vehicles, and overlong journeys that are causing huge distress to the children affected, especially in the current hot weather.

Labour Group Whip and Disabilities Champion Cllr Judith Blakeman stated: ‘This is child abuse’.

Responding to dozens of complaints, the Council reported to committee on 9 July that full instructions on the various needs of the children had been handed over, that drivers had undertaken practice runs of the routes they needed to take, and that all risks had been considered and dealt with. The report stated that the shortcomings of the initial stages of the contract had been addressed, and that they were confident matters had improved.

However, parents and carers report that the problems continue, and are demanding that the Council breaks the contract without delay, and engages the previous contractor while starting the process from scratch.

One child, who has had a particularly poor experience, had a severe fit on returning home two weeks ago, and could have died without immediate hospital treatment. Three families have stated that they will report the Council to the Ombudsman if the Council refuses to withdraw the contract.

Cllr Judith Blakeman stated: ‘This is the worst scandal I’ve seen in 32 years on the Council’.

Labour Leader Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘This is precisely the kind of situation that concerned us with the 2010 announcement of Triborough working across Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea. The lack of democratic accountability could not be more pronounced; there was no mandate for Triborough and assurances on sovereignty and accountabilty given at the time have vaporised. It was a cost-cutting measure from the outset, and NOT a way to pursue any kind of ‘value for money’. The current situation was entirely predictable and is disastrous to our most vulnerable residents.’

‘RBKC Council has £267m in usable Reserves, accepts a loss of cc£1m/year for the running of Opera Holland Park, and is set to agree improvements to Leighton House Museum costing £2.6m, a loan to the National Army Museum of £2.5m, artwork for Kensington Academy costing £150,000, and a sculpture for Holland Park Academy costing £120,000. Yet they tell us they cannot afford £500k for transporting vulnerable children. This tells us everything we need to know about their priorities.’

The Motion to break the contract was outvoted by the Tories, though it was noted that those who have SEN children themselves were absent from the meeting; one Tory abstained.


Kensington Labour ‘Mansion Tax’ comment in The Standard

Letter in Standard 25.6.1424.6.14 (letter published in The Standard, left)

Councillor Emma Dent Coad Leader of Opposition Labour Group says:

‘Kensington and Chelsea is an exceptional borough in many ways, and the way that property prices have rocketed has little to do with their intrinsic value, and more to do with a global poker game for the super-rich; at some point this game will fold and the players will move on.

‘The Council Tax system as it currently functions is anachronistic, and works as yet another effective subsidy to landlords. This is in addition to capital gains tax relief, lack of property tax, and the ease of obtaining buy to let mortgages at preferential rates based on interest only. In most other European countries the owner pays the tax, not the beleaguered rental occupier; there is a logic to this as it is the owner who profits long-term.

‘The system currently being considered by Ed Balls would have unintended consequences in Kensington and Chelsea, and we have many questions and concerns that we have already made public. We have 12,000 homes worth over £2m in the borough, and 7,000 of those have been in the same ownership since 1999; some of these are families, retired people, or others on fixed incomes. The prospect of a Mansion Tax as currently envisaged would drive out these families and long-term residents, whether owners or renters, who tell us ‘it’s my borough too’.

‘Our counter-proposal would consider a revaluation of property, and setting more Council Tax bands, so some would pay less, and others more. We are working on the detail of this, while we wait for more detail on how a proposed Mansion Tax would work.

‘It cannot be right that the Sultan of Brunei pays just £10/week more for his 16-bed mansion than our Mrs Braithwaite in North Kensington for her three-bedroom Council home.’





Kensington Labour Group: ready for action

11.6.14 036 - CopyLeft to right, back row, Harrison Littler, Bevan Powell, Robert Atkinson, Andrew Lomas, Robert Thompson, Mohammed Bakhtiar. Middle row, Emma Dent Coad, Monica Press, Pat Mason, Beinazir Lasharie. Front row, Pat Healy, Judith Blakeman. 

Kensington Labour is delighted to present its new team of Councillors, who made their first appearance at the RBKC Council AGM on 11 June, where former Whip Robert Atkinson was created Deputy Mayor.

Our senior Leadership team is looking forward to working as one with our new members, who bring a wealth of experience and knowledge into the Labour Group. All our hard work during the year-long election campaign has paid off, with a larger group bringing new energy and commitment.

11.6.14 030 - CopyLeft to right: Cllr Pat Mason, Labour Group Chair and Chair of Cabinet and Corporate Services Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Emma Dent Coad, Labour Group Leader, Cllr Andrew Lomas, Deputy Leader, and Cllr Judith Blakeman, Chief Whip.

New Labour Group Leader Emma Dent Coad said: ‘I am very excited to be working with a group that we worked so hard to put together, so that we can better serve our residents. Through our time-consuming committee work, liaising with community groups, casework and campaigning, we will always do our best for our constituents. We never forget, we work for you.’



Kensington and Chelsea Labour Group celebrated massive swings in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea local elections, with a magnificent 12 contested Council seats won for Labour in the Tory-run borough.

Thursday’s wins increase the size of the Labour Group by an impressive 50%, with the high turnout in Labour wards and near annihilation of the Liberal Democrats giving exciting results in ‘the richest borough in Britain’.

Colville Ward has three new Labour councillors – Harrison Littler, Andrew Lomas and Monica Press. Labour won the ward with a 23% swing from LibDem to Labour. Labour’s share of the vote rose to 42%, leaving the LibDems with a mere 19% and the Tories just 25%.

In Golborne Ward, councillors Emma Dent Coad and Pat Mason are joined by Bevan Powell. Labour increased its share of the vote to 73%, taking 3 out of every 4 votes cast. The Conservative vote reduced to just 15%, leaving the LibDems with a mere 4%.

In Notting Dale Ward, councillors Robert Atkinson and Judith Blakeman are joined by Beinazir Lasharie. Labour’s vote in the new ward, named to celebrate the historic Notting Dale area, increased to 75%, taking 3 out of every 4 votes cast. The Conservative vote reduced to just 25%.

Dalgarno Ward councillor Pat Healy is joined by Robert Thompson. In this new ward, Labour took 2 out of every 3 votes and achieved 63% of votes cast. The Conservative vote reduced to 21%, with the LibDems on a mere 7%.

In the new Conservative target ward of St Helen’s, Labour councillor Mohammed Bakhtiar was elected, the first London councillor to hail originally from southern Kurdistan. Labour took a 46% share of all votes cast.

In other wards, an improved Labour vote demonstrated strong dissatisfaction with the Conservative leadership of the Council. In Chelsea Riverside, which almost fell to Labour in a 2011 by-election, the Labour vote went up to 32%.

In other Tory held wards, Labour’s share of the vote was also enticingly strengthened, showing that previous voter apathy is fading. And the three Chelsea Independents gave a nasty fright to Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the Local Government Association, with an impressive campaign that enthused local residents, many of whom had never voted before.


Under Proportional Representation, which the next Labour government plans to introduce into local government, the 2014 election votes would have produced a Council of 28 Conservatives, 15 Labour, 6 LibDems, 1 Green and 1 Chelsea Independent. Taking out the non-political Tory Mayor, this would leave a Tory majority of 5, introducing balance, good sense and good management to ‘the most unequal borough in Britain’.


In the face of popular dissatisfaction with politicians, national and local, Kensington and Chelsea Labour commit to maintain their “Councillor’s Contract”, ensuring high standards and a first class service from all Labour councillors. Key undertakings on the Contract require Labour councillors to:

  • Continue with regular surgeries for residents of all Labour wards and publicise them widely
  • Deal as speedily and efficiently as possible with letters, emails and phone calls from residents
  • Consult with residents and local groups on planning and other key community issues
  • Keep residents in touch through regular newsletters
  • Attend residents’ association, amenity societies and other meetings regularly, listening to local groups so that residents have more say and control of their local area
  • Continue to campaign and knock on doors throughout the year to keep in touch with local people.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Judith Blakeman said:  ‘This was a fantastic team effort and we are truly proud of all our colleagues who worked so hard to achieve this exciting result.’


Kensington Labour Manifesto: we’re on your side


Kensington and Chelsea is a great place to live and work: its diverse communities and iconic neighbourhoods are rightly celebrated. However, regrettable policies pursued by local Conservatives and the Coalition Government are putting these at risk as cuts and the cost of living crisis forces more and more people on low and moderate incomes out of the borough.

Kensington and Chelsea is the most unequal borough in the country. A whole host of indicators show that from health outcomes to educational attainment, income to life expectancy, overcrowded homes to child poverty, the poorer members of our borough are severely disadvantaged. Labour in Kensington and Chelsea is committed to conserving and promoting our diverse and mixed neighbourhoods, where rich and poor live together in unity and where no one’s background determines their future.

Labour will challenge all attempts to turn this borough into a ghost town of empty mega-mansions owned by super-rich foreign investors. It will fight for measures to address the shameful inequality that Kensington and Chelsea Conservatives have presided over, amassing huge reserves by overcharging on Council Tax while cutting spending on essential services.

Labour is the voice for fairness in the borough and, with more councillors elected on Thursday 22 May, that voice will be even louder.

Promoting good homes for all by

  • Purchasing Kensal Gasworks site for mixed housing that includes social rented and other genuinely affordable homes
  • Improving care homes and building more sheltered housing for older people
  • Working  with Hammersmith and Fulham Labour to revoke planning permission for the Earl’s Court mega-developments and reviewing affordable housing provision
  • Ensuring developers include a full quota of  50% of homes for social rent in all major development schemes
  • Regulating private sector rents and letting agencies
  • Restoring secure tenancies for those in social rented accommodation
  • Maintaining Discretionary Housing Payments indefinitely to support residents hit by the Bedroom Tax.

Taking charge of local planning by

  • Ensuring the Mayor of London works with us to restrict basement development in his London Plan
  • Banning ‘buy to leave’ housing schemes
  • Ending the sale and use of public land for luxury homes
  • Removing illuminated advertisements from along the Westway and West London railway line.

Creating a child-friendly borough by

  • Topping up Labour’s national commitment of 25 hours free child care to 30 hours
  • Restoring free swimming for children
  • Establishing a school uniform fund for parents facing hardship
  • Setting up a Youth Fund to support young people through education, training and apprenticeships
  • Developing the Barlby Road site for a new through school to meet current and future demand for secondary school places.

Improving transport and the environment by

  • Promoting a station at Westway on the West London railway line
  • Building a two-way tram link between North Kensington and HS2/Crossrail at Old Oak Common
  • Introducing a 20 mph speed limit on all roads maintained by the Council
  • Improving road safety and the cycling experience
  • Working with the Mayor of London to cut dangerous levels of air pollution
  • Restoring the cuts to street cleaning and refuse collection
  • Replacing the Mayoral cars with environmentally friendly vehicles.

Enhancing employment and regeneration by

  • Supporting local shopkeepers, not betting shops and cheap food take-aways
  • Promoting our local shopping centres
  • Regularising street market refuse collection fees
  • Paying at least the London Living Wage to all Council staff and contractors.

Improving health and social care by

  • Developing new community health and social care facilities in North Kensington
  • Providing more places of safety for residents undergoing mental health crises
  • Addressing the re-emergence of rickets in the borough
  • Providing a new health and social care facility for older people to replace EPICS
  • Restoring free swimming for the Over 60s.

Promoting community safety by

  • Bringing more PCSOs and PCs back onto the streets to protect residents, especially young people, from crime
  • Tackling anti-social behaviour, street drinking and dangerous dogs
  • Bringing local residents and businesses together to form effective Safer Neighbourhood Panels

Supporting residents by

  • Giving Canalside House to the voluntary sector as a local headquarters
  • Providing additional funding for organisations assisting residents facing hardship
  • Funding the borough’s food banks.

Improving access to arts and leisure by

  • Axing expenditure on projects like Opera Holland Park, Leighton House and Stafford Terrace
  • Re-focusing spend on arts programmes for grassroots events and young people’s and children’s projects
  • Providing more sporting and leisure activities for local teenagers
  • Ensuring charges in our new leisure centres are truly affordable.

Making local government finance fairer by

  • Campaigning for an extension of Council Tax banding so that rich homeowners pay their full share for Council services
  • Increasing the Council Tax charged on all properties empty for more than six months



Portobello and Golborne Market Traders Overcharged for Waste Collection AGAIN!

Cllr Pat Mason in Portobello Market 2Labour Councillors Call for an Urgent Council investigation

It’s only five years since the Council had to repay £750,000 for overcharged market waste collections. Now, the Portobello & Golborne Management Committee are claiming that market traders have been overcharged by a whopping £1.2 million for the collection of market traders waste over several years.

North Kensington Labour Councillors have today demanded that the Council carries out an urgent investigation into why the charging regime for Portobello and Golborne Road Market has gone so disastrously wrong for a second time, and into the conduct of the Council officers who the market committee claim have failed to act on their legitimate claims over a long period of time.

The Labour Group’s market spokesperson, Cllr Pat Mason said, “It’s utterly staggering that the Council could have robbed our market traders for a second time in five years, and especially now when they need every penny to survive. I have called for an urgent Council investigationto find out what has happened, who is responsible, and then heads should definitely roll”.

For more information: contact Cllr Pat Mason: 07805 922 239