All posts by Kensington Labour Party

Leader’s Comment on arrests under Terrorism Act

Cllr Emma Dent Coad, Leader of the Opposition Labour Group in RB Kensington and Chelsea, said of the 7 October  arrests of suspects under the Terrorism Act:

‘Councillors in North Kensington work closely with local policing teams – locally, borough-wide and across the tri-borough area – on issues at all levels of severity. We have been kept fully informed about initiatives to prevent and to identify radicalisation.

‘We are confident that these initiatives and protocols are adequate and in place, and the recent arrests of suspects, at what we are told is a very early stage of planning, is testament to this.

‘We would like to congratulate the Borough Commander and our local policing teams, and to assure them that we will all pass on intelligence to the correct quarters when we hear anything of concern.’

The Anti terrorism hotline no is 0800789321.

LABOUR WELCOMES NEW SCHOOL

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

‘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.

 

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.’