Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

‘CYNICAL AND HYPOCRITICAL COUNCIL’ refuses to pay LLW for fifth time

Cllr Robert Thompson26.1.15

(left, Cllr Robert Thompson)

Self-professed ‘richest borough in the universe’ Kensington and Chelsea has refused Labour’s demands to implement the London Living Wage for the fifth time of asking.

Despite massive reserves of £283m, accumulated in part from revenue ‘savings’ across the Council, a meeting of Full Council on 21 January refused once again to adopt what the Mayor of London calls ‘what you need to live on and feed your family’.

Angry scenes between Labour and Conservative Cabinet members included an arrogant statement from Cabinet Members that the Council paid all its direct staff the LLW – ignoring the fact that all low-paid Council staff have now been ‘outsourced’ to private providers in a penny-pinching exercise that has seen some employees barely scratch a living at £6.13/hr minimum wage, while some work long shifts to make up their wages. One worker told us he couldn’t afford the fares to and from work, so walked an hour at the beginning and end of a gruelling eight-hour shift of manual work so he could put food on the family table.

In bizarre scenes reminiscent of feudal times, one senior Conservative stated: ‘Well I haven’t looked this up but I bet some get paid time off to go back to their countries’ – a statement both ignorant of statutory holiday pay, and bordering on racism.

A previous demand in 2012 for a decent wage for a decent day’s work prompted the following tortured statement from the Cabinet Member for Finance: ‘It is the role of the national government, through the social security system, to top up earnings in relation to family circumstances.’

Labour Leader Cllr Emma Dent Coad, seconding the Motion, said: ‘So the Council expects the government to subsidise their contractors offering low pay, while stigmatising those who apply for welfare. A responsible Council would not allow their contractors to reap billions paying poverty wages to our people. The Council’s hypocrisy is breath-taking.’

Cllr Robert Thompson, proposing the Motion, said: ‘More than being good for business, good for families and good for society, the payment of a living wage is fundamentally a moral issue.’

NEW SCANDAL OVER ‘FLOP OPERA’ HOLLAND PARK

 THE OPERA THEY COULDN’T GIVE AWAY

Calamity Jane21.1.15

(left, it’s a stick-up)

Scandal-riddled Opera Holland Park is being ‘let off’ from making essential improvements while it is in the process of ‘potential externalisation’. The loss-making opera – the only civic-run opera in the country – is run by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea who underwrite their losses. These have amounted to a staggering £6.6m since 2001, against revenue expenditure of nearly £30m in the same period, plus capital investment of over £2m. In 2009-10 alone the opera lost the Council nearly £1m, and it is only the current modest annual sponsorship deal that brings it below that figure every year.

The latest outrage has seen the organisation refusing to implement some improvements that were proposed after an Internal Audit in 2013. Auditors gave the organisation a ‘Limited Assurance Report’, demanding that various improvements be made, including: drafting clear procedures and guidance notes; delivering transparent financial accounting; having a transparent tendering process for the residential orchestra and costume suppliers; maintaining an inventory; maintaining a hospitality register stating outcomes and registering resultant donations, plus controlling the use and number of complimentary tickets; agreeing guidance for appropriate use of purchase cards, and retaining full VAT receipts; ensuring staff are eligible to work in the UK; and regularising employee contracts.

The Audit was conducted soon after the Council failed in its first attempt in 2012 to off-load responsibility for the opera by handing it over to a controlling group to run it as a mutual. The current attempt goes a step further, by offering £5m to take it away!

Labour Group Leader Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘It beggars belief that a non-viable organisation funded and run by the Council has such poor accounting and control systems. It is indefensible and frankly shocking that staff are refusing to implement proper standards demanded by Auditors because they are waiting for a further bail-out.  No voluntary organisation in receipt of Council funds would get away with such conduct. The Council must set aside their plan to give a dowry of £5m to off-load this financial black hole, let OPH have a dignified demise, and instead use these funds to protect frontline services that people need. This would also save the  ‘backroom costs’ that have reached £412,000/year, which is more than the sum the Council says it cannot find to continue to provide Play Services that enable low-income working families to work full-time.’

 

TORIES ‘INSULT TO STRUGGLING FAMILIES’

Council prioritises opera over vulnerable and homeless


th 223.11.14

Kensington and Chelsea Labour Group Councillors are appalled to learn that the Council is planning to make a one-off payment of £5m to dispose of the loss-making Opera Holland Park. In a ‘face-saving’ deal to get rid of the annual embarrassment of losing up to £1m/year on this expensive 18-year vanity project, a proposal has been concocted for a settlement to help re-form the opera into a charitable trust from 2016.

This £5m (plus a loss of interest of £150,000) is intended ‘to cover losses until 2023’, by which time it is hoped the organisation will be in profit. However, given total backroom costs of £412,000 for staffing, marketing, depreciation, and insurance, it will be an uphill struggle. And there is no discussion in the documents of how much the Council will charge the Opera to use its prime facilities in Holland Park.

These proposals come within the context of yet another year of crushing cuts in services. The disaster of the new contract for Special Educational Needs children’s transport, which put our most vulnerable children at risk, was the result of the ‘difficult decision in the face of austerity’ to save £447,000/year – a sum almost equal to the backroom costs of running the Opera. A further £415,000 is to be sliced off the Play Services budget, making it increasingly difficult for working parents to find affordable after-school and holiday childcare. And £500,000 has already been sliced from Youth Services.

Labour Group Chair Cllr Pat Mason said: ‘Giving £5m to set up an independent opera charity is unacceptable when the Council plans to slash another £13.5m from vital frontline services next year. This includes £3.9m from adult social care, £1.9m from children’s services, and £691,000 from the housing budget, including reducing services to homeless people by £150,000. Spending £5m on opera when many of our residents are deep in debt, using food banks and seeing services cut is truly scandalous.’

Public Realm spokesperson Cllr Robert Thompson said: ‘”Against the background of cuts in council services which affect the most underprivileged in our borough this proposal embodies how the ruling Conservatives prefer culture for the few rather than care for the many.”

Leader of the Labour Group Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘It has never been clearer that the Council is using the language of austerity to justify ideological decisions. The self-professed ‘richest Council in the universe’ can find cash for the opera, but makes ‘tough decisions’ when it comes to vulnerable and struggling residents. Once again Kensington and Chelsea Tories have been caught squeezing the vulnerable to fund indulgence.’

LINK TO DOCUMENT GOING TO PUBLIC REALM COMMITTEE 26.11.14 

IT’S OFFICIAL: WESTWAY SPORTS PITCH BREACHES EU AIR POLLUTION SAFETY LEVELS

Cllr E Dent Coad at Sports Pitches, Clean Air in London Award 2014High levels of NO² discovered at sports pitch after Council denials 

13.10.14

A planning application that involved moving a sports pitch from green space to a site beside the Western Cross Route and Westway, was agreed in September 2012 only on the proviso that air pollution levels would be monitored.

Despite this commitment, made in front of concerned members of the public, the pledge was later deemed to be ‘non-binding’ and the monitoring never took place. Kensington Labour Councillors and community groups tried to get the pollution levels tested, but it is a specialist task and it proved complex and expensive to undertake.

Finally, a Citizen Science project, ‘Clean Up London Air’, led by a concerned local resident undertook the work, under the guidance of ‘Mapping for Change’ an academic project at University College London.

The month-long project, which involved a ‘guerilla monitoring exercise’ using diffusion tubes to record nitrogen dioxide levels, took place during July, and the recordings were then sent off for analysis; the results are now back.

Here are their findings for the new Westway sports pitch, for nitrogen dioxide levels.

The European legal standard

for the annual mean NO2 is                               40µg/m3

The average in July

at the Latimer Road pitch was                       52.46µg/m3

Marco Picardi from Green Westway, a local environmental campaign, undertook the monitoring project, and said:

“It’s alarming that this level of pollution is tolerated to the point whereby playing sport separated from one of Europe’s busiest roads only by a fence has become a normal activity.

‘With air pollution linked to 8.3% of all deaths in Kensington and Chelsea, we need accurate information to understand what risks we are exposed to in order to demand the changes that will improve our urban environment and make it safer.

‘It’s clear that the Westway Development Trust, Transport for London, and the Council need to act swiftly to rectify this situation and make this a safe environment for the people that use the Westway’s facilities and live in its shadow”

RBKC Labour Group Leader Cllr Emma Dent Coad, who won a Clean Air in London Award this year for her work on the subject, said:

‘This research confirms all our worst fears; air pollution near the sports pitch beside the Western Cross Route breaches EU safety levels by a wide margin. We cannot and dare not ignore this. We will be demanding immediate mitigation with green walls, as well as restating our commitment to a range of measures to improve air quality long-term, including the establishment of an Ultra Low Emission Zone in the borough. The Council cannot ignore such a serious health hazard, we need action now, and a plan for the future.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links:

http://www.phoutcomes.info/public-health-outcomes-framework#gid/1000043/pat/6/ati/102/page/3/par/E12000007/are/E09000020

 

http://www.mappingforchange.org.uk/clean-air-citizen-science/

 

http://cleanairinlondon.org/

‘SHUT UP’ – senior Tory responds to desperate parents

‘SHUT UP, YOU’RE NOT ELECTED’

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.

 

OUTRAGE AS COUNCIL ‘OVERCHARGES MARKETS BY £1.2m’ – AGAIN

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

END OF TERM REPORT: shameful results with inevitable consequences for K&C Tories

END OF TERM REPORT

 

The ten posts highlighting different areas of inequality in K&C were posted one per day in the run-up to the Council Budget-setting meeting on 5 March 2014. The borough known as ‘The Royal Bank of Kensington and Chelsea’ has £180m in Reserves – and some of the poorest residents in London.

The statements are based on evidence, not dogma or the Daily Mail. Links to sources can be found below.

Links:

Ward profiles

http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/communityandlocallife/2011censusoutcomes.aspx

Overcrowding

http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/pdf/Families_housing.pdf

Neighbourhood statistics

http://www.neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk/

Income inequality

http://www.londonspovertyprofile.org.uk/indicators/topics/inequality/pay-inequalities-within-london/

Minimum Income Standard

http://www.lboro.ac.uk/research/crsp/mis/

http://www.londonspovertyprofile.org.uk/key-facts/overview-of-london-boroughs/

Recipients of Pension Credit

http://www.data.london.gov.uk