Month: February 2012

Kensington Labour fights to protect residents

Cuts will hit the poor and vulnerable worst and first

Plans include replacing the Mayoral Bentley with a Prius

–  brutal cuts are proposed by Kensington and Chelsea, ‘the richest borough in Europe’

A £.5m Youth Fund, £5m Housing Benefit hardship fund, £.5m for the voluntary sector to support employment opportunities, and free swimming are some of the highlights of the K&C Labour Opposition Group’s alternative revenue Budget. The alternative capital Budget funds the renovation of Grenfell Tower, creates new social rented homes, researches the feasibility of a Heath and Well-Being Centre in Golborne,  and of attracting the Dyson School of Design Innovation, and sets up a shop for the new credit union. All expenditure is fully funded from existing resources.

In advance of the Budget meeting at full Council on 7 March, the borough’s Labour Opposition has attacked many of the cuts this year as ‘unnecessary and vindictive’, stating that the poorest and most vulnerable residents will be hit ‘worst and first’. This year for the first time, Golborne in North Kensington has been declared the poorest ward in London for multi-deprivation, jointly with an area of Haringey.

Deputy Labour Group Leader Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘There is no excuse for such depths of poverty in the borough. This Council is so rich that its Reserves have Reserves; this is no exaggeration. Added to that, every year they bump up the running costs and put ‘underspends’ into a Capital Reserve. That may be acceptable in times of plenty, but when government funding is being reduced and our poorest are getting poorer, these practices are indefensible.’

Every year the Labour Opposition Group writes an alternative Budget that focuses on their top priorities, presenting a fully balanced budget from  savings made elsewhere and judicious use of Reserves. Rather than the Council’s proposals which cut nursery and early years provision, play services and homework clubs, youth services, adult social care, home care, mental health and learning disability provision – as well as sports for schools – the Labour Group has reversed many of these cuts and bolstered others sorely needed in time of continuing economic uncertainty and unemployment.

The counter these cuts, the Labour Opposition Group is proposing to:

–      Pay a one-off efficiency dividend of £50 to Band A to Band D Council Tax payers

–      Set up a £500,000 Youth Fund to replace EMA

–      Set up hardship funds for: those unable to afford community alarm and telecare services; those facing Housing Benefit cuts; and a voluntary sector regeneration fund to help residents into work

–       Reinstate free swimming for children and the over 60s

–      offer financial help to the poorest families for early years services

–      enhance some mental health services

–      renovate Grenfell Tower next to the new Kensington Academy

–      build new homes for social rent

–      research possibilities for the William Rogers Health and Well-Being Centre in Golborne ward

–      and work with the Dyson Foundation to find a possible site for the proposed Dyson School of Design Innovation

Labour Group Leader Cllr Judith Blakeman asks: ‘Why are we still planning to subsidise Opera Holland Park to the tune of £1m a year, paying £800 a day to clean Exhibition Road, and running two polluting and extravagant Mayoral cars, while residents in private sector housing are being evicted daily and our young people are economising on food to get to school or college?

‘There was room in our Budget to fund a cut in Council Tax, but we decided against as it would have had to be re-instated in future years. Our alternative Budget establishes hardship funds for those most damaged by Coalition government policies that disproportionately attack the poorest people, and reduces cuts to front line services.’

The Council’s most unwelcome cuts over the past two years can be seen on this googlemap:

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=205639043824952439521.0004987e92215751ebe89

 

 

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London’s women are less safe under Tory Mayor Boris Johnson

London is a fantastic city. I am proud to live here and I am proud to be one of the youngest Labour candidates for the London Assembly. There are many opportunities afforded to young people in London. Yet like all cities, there are dangers to be wary of. My worry, like that of many young Londoners, is that just as the opportunities are shrinking due to the lack of growth and jobs under this government, the dangers are increasing. And no one is feeling that shift more than London’s young women.

I think almost every young woman in London knows the feeling of unwanted attention on a night out. However, it’s one thing to feel intimidated by the a group of men who are making suggestive remarks on a busy bar-lined street, it is a different type of intimidation to be walking alone to a bus stop with the same group of men walking behind you.

Few will appreciate more keenly the cut in police numbers than those young women who rely on them to keep the crowds in order and to be patrolling the streets all through the night. The Mayor’s cuts to police numbers, of course, leave all Londoners at a greater risk of crime, a fact that is particularly worrying as we head into the Olympics. But as it is, London’s women find themselves in danger every night.

Poor street lighting, less staff manning tube stations, and increased parking charges in central London have resulted in a perfect storm forcing women onto public transport at night with fewer police officers around to protect them. And with wage freezes, VAT increases and fare rises, fewer will have the disposable cash now for that lifeline on a night out – the taxi home.

But we must not fall into a trap of dividing London between the raucous centre and leafy suburbs. The argument that we should beef up police numbers in zone 1 at the expense of police in outer boroughs has no weight given the widespread and terrifying rioting we saw last year across the capital. Boroughs like Ealing are just as exposed to the rise in crime. In the last two years Ealing has lost 26 police officers. 2,245 total theft offences were reported, an increase of 15%. Shockingly in the past year sexual offences increased by 16% in Ealing. The crimes young women worry about most – rape, assaults and muggings – are crimes of opportunity. We must not present those opportunities to criminals and it should be the Mayor’s first priority to ensure that we have more police on the streets especially as the Justice Secretary has admitted he anticipates a rise in opportunistic crime as a direct result of government policy.

I don’t think Boris Johnson has consciously put London’s young women in danger. I just don’t think he has ever stood in the cold at 3am, waiting for the bus home after five buses have gone past that are ‘Not in Service’, with a group of leering drunk men.

Ken Livingstone will reverse Boris Johnson’s police cuts. London’s young women deserve a Mayor who will make their safety his priority.

Mabel McKeown, CLP chair and candidate for London Assembly

LABOUR’S RESPONSE TO ‘EXTRAVAGANT’ £25m EXHIBITION ROAD REVAMP

As the £25 million Exhibition Road streetscape scheme opens in South Kensington, North Kensington Labour Councillors criticised the Council’s extravagant spending on a scheme aimed at tourists.

A short bus ride away are four of the poorest areas in the country. In Golborne Ward, 51% of the children live in poverty, residents endure high levels of disability and ill health and life expectancy for men is 71 years, compared with 89 in the richer parts of the borough. Exhibition Road is sited next to Queens Gate, the most affluent ward in the country. Labour is incensed that the North Kensington residents they represent consistently fail to get a fair share of funding from Kensington and Chelsea Council to provide services and support.

Labour Leader Cllr Judith Blakeman said: ‘we are facing a brutal package of cuts. One pensioners’ health and social care centre has already shut down; mental health day centres are closing, a Children’s Centre is to go and nursery provision will be “rationalised”. The Council is ruthlessly cutting sports for schools, homework clubs, youth centres and the vital voluntary organisations that help vulnerable residents to live independently. Despite holding reserves of over £170 million, Kensington and Chelsea Council, chooses to spend its money on Exhibition Road rather than the poor and vulnerable of the Borough. That says it all’.

Labour planning spokesperson Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘Spending £25 million on a paving scheme and £175,000 every year just to keep it clean would be obscene at any time. To do so when savage cuts are being made to essential services in the north of the borough is indefensible. The spectacle we have seen today is a slap in the face for our poorer residents, many of whom can’t even afford the bus fare to the Museums. The performers alone must have cost more than the after-school clubs that have been cut; how appropriate that a white elephant is on parade today. There can be no justification for this level of frivolous spending in these difficult times.’

Listen to this audioboo by Rob Dyson, Guardian blogger: Comments at Exhibition Road opening event

 

CUTS AND SPENDING AT RBKC

 

SAMPLE OF PROPOSED CUTS 2012/13

Early Intervention Service                                              -£350,000

High Need Adolescents                                                   -£200,000

Play Services                                                                       -£100,000

Early Years provision                                                       -£1m

Youth Services                                                                     -£520,000

Care leavers                                                                         -£468,000

Voluntary Organisations                                                  -£40,000

Supporting People                                                            -£500,000

Adult Social Care                                                               -£601,000

Home Care Services                                                         -£950,000

Mental Health                                                                     -£260,000

Learning Disability/Short Breaks                                 -£116,000

Learning Disability/Day Services                                 -£203,000

Sports for schools                                                             -£279,000

Street cleaning                                                                   -£336,000

ADDITIONAL CLEANING EXHIBITION ROAD                      +£175,000

Unbelievable? Read it here: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/pdf/Budget-Proposals-2012-13DRAFT.pdf