All posts by Kensington Labour Party

SPRING CAMPAIGNS

SUPPORT LOCAL FIRE SERVICES, MEETINGS 25 APRIL AND 10 JUNE, DETAILS BELOW.

K&C poster front

K&C poster back

Judith3

LETTER TO GEORGE OSBORNE

Our Leader Judith Blakeman was co-signatory to this open letter to the Chancellor sent to The Guardian on 19.3.13

Dear Chancellor,

Your Government’s efforts to deal with the deficit so far have focussed on cutting public spending. Since 2010, 1,500 fire fighters have lost their jobs; over 300 libraries and 400 Sure Start centres have closed; police numbers have been reduced by over 6,000 and there are 5,000 fewer nurses. The rise in people relying on food banks is a clear sign that many are facing high levels of economic and social distress.

We believe that you should invest in growth. Local government is demonstrating its ability to drive growth by providing infrastructure investment and supporting local businesses. Allowing local government to borrow in line with prudential rules will enable us to invest in building houses and create desperately needed jobs.

Councils have been handed some of the deepest cuts in the public sector. Local authorities have seen their budgets cut by 33% in comparison to 8% across Whitehall departments. Further cuts to local government would only shift costs to other public services leading to more budget pressures overall on healthcare, policing and prison services.

We believe that you face a clear choice. Rather than hitting frontline services, this Budget presents an opportunity to pool funding across public agencies and could save taxpayers up to £4 billion each year. We are offering help to deliver this policy.

At a time of increased unemployment, the nation’s safety net has been seriously compromised. The bedroom tax, council tax benefit reductions and other cuts will mean that many people will struggle to keep their heads above water.

We believe that you should support those who are being hit hardest by the economic downturn. Scrapping the bedroom tax and looking again at the costs to families of all the benefit changes should be a priority before giving tax cuts to the richest people in the country.

Yours sincerely,

Judith Blakeman

Leader, Labour Opposition Group, Kensington and Chelsea

_______________________________________________

BEDROOM TAX CAMPAIGN

LONDON BEDROOM TAX PROTEST SAT 1 APRIL

https://www.facebook.com/events/172312702922818

untitledThere are at least 850 households affected by the so-called bedroom tax in K&C.

The ‘bedroom tax’ tells you everything you need to know about David Cameron and his government.

While families of soldiers serving our country will have to find extra money for their son or daughter’s bedroom, 13,000 millionaires will get a tax cut worth £100,000 a year on average.

Two thirds of the households hit are home to someone who is disabled. Foster families will be hit – even if they have foster children in their ‘spare room’. Divorced parents and grandparents will be charged more if they want to keep a spare room for when their children or grandchildren come to stay.

To add to the chaos, the Department for Work and Pensions has admitted that there are not enough smaller properties for families to move to, yet the ‘bedroom tax’ will still hit households that don’t have the option to move.

Our campaign will put relentless pressure on David Cameron until he sees sense, admits this policy is totally unfair, and thinks again.

You can help the campaign here

Join the protests here. https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?t=m&msa=0&msid=208671293334448166361.0004d8d09d322ccef3005&source=embed&ie=UTF8&ll=53.501117,-2.504883&spn=9.351727,22.587891

Twitter: @bedtax

THREE YEARS TO EXPEL THE WORKING POOR

Rotten Borough Euphemisms abound as callous K&C Cabinet discusses Council Tax benefit changes

14.1.13

Labour Opposition Councillors sat in horror at the Kensington and Chelsea Council Cabinet meeting where the new Council Tax Support system was discussed. Previously the government has fully funded this benefit, but this has now changed under the ‘Localising Council Tax Benefit’ policy, and the Council will be in charge of distributing a fixed sum from the government that includes a 10% cut.

 

On paper the Council’s proposals for 2013-14 seem fair, as they are offering to fill the 10% funding gap from Council funds so that our neediest residents will not suffer.

 

However it became clear from the discussions at Cabinet on 10 January  that this will only be for a fixed and temporary period of two years after which ‘we will be left with those who can bridge the gap’. Euphemisms flowed freely regarding ‘changes in population’ that will follow after a ‘two year overlap’.

 

Far from being generous therefore, the Council is attempting to mask the programme of effective social cleansing of Kensington and Chelsea that the Coalition government began with its welfare and benefit cuts and caps.

 

Most bizarrely, a deliberate decision has been made that those most affected will be the ‘working poor’.

 

Pensioners eligible for Council Tax Support will by law have to receive the same amount; this means the 10% cut will disproportionately hit other groups. In Kensington and Chelsea in the past 12 months alone we have seen 500 households hit by reductions in Local Housing Allowance seeking help with alternative accommodation, with a total of 1,600 households – and rising – in Temporary Accommodation. There are a further 854 households about to be penalised by an average of £18/wk by the Bedroom Tax (including many disabled people and foster carers), while the upcoming Universal Credit system will further confuse what is already an immensely complex system and make it uneconomic to chase non-payers.

 

Therefore it has been decided that after the two-year period the ‘working poor’ – those who work but whose earnings are not enough to pay Council Tax without help – will be hardest hit. The Council’s own report states: ‘This may result in relatively large cuts for working customers, reducing work incentives, which may be counter-productive to the Government’s welfare reform strategy.’

 

The cost to the Council of funding the gap is £957,000 – less than was squandered on two weeks of ‘Olympic celebration’ in Exhibition Road, and close to the £1m that the Cabinet Member for Finance called ‘chicken-feed’ in the context of supporting the loss-making Opera Holland Park.

The report also states that the eradication of discounts for empty and second homes will ‘offset’ this ‘relatively small’ sum, bringing additional revenue to cover the cuts.

 

Labour Opposition Leader Cllr Judith Blakeman said: ‘Only a few weeks ago the Cabinet Member for Housing and Property was categorically denying that residents will be forced out of the borough against their will and condemning Labour Councillors who said that they would have to go. I asked him to give a firm assurance on this matter, but I have yet to receive a reply. It is quite clear now that this was a hollow promise.”

Labour Opposition Deputy Leader and Finance Spokesperson Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘In the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea there is no financial imperative to remove this support to our low income working families. The Cabinet reports states that £957,000 is ‘relatively small’ and that other changes to Council Tax will increase income and cover the shortfall. So there is no need to hit our hard-working poor families in ways that are likely to force them out of the borough. Masking these changes with euphemisms such as ‘changes in population’ imply more sinister intent.

 

‘With the removal of households hit by LHA cuts, rent rises, the advent of Universal Credit, increased costs of childcare, and proposed cuts to help on Council Tax, who will be left in the borough?

 

‘The question is, why implement any cuts at all in Council Tax Support? The Triborough proposal to build ‘middle class’ housing estates gives us a clue that the Council intends to encourage residence of middle and upper income households only; the workless and working poor are to be removed from the picture. This is nothing less than social cleansing, and is despicable and unworthy of the Royal Borough.’

 

 

150% COUNCIL TAX ON EMPTY AND SECOND HOMES, demands Kensington Labour


<

14.12.12

Kensington and Chelsea Labour councillors are urging the Conservative ruling group to withdraw the current 10% discount and raise the Council Tax payable on all second homes by 150% in the Borough from next April.

Labour Leader Cllr. Judith Blakeman said: “it is a disgrace that so many homes in this Borough are bought up as second, third or fourth homes by wealthy buyers and then left empty for most or all of the year. Since the Tory-led government won’t introduce a mansion tax or raise the number of Council Tax bands, this is the best option for us to achieve greater fairness”. Councils as disparate as the London Borough of Camden and Cornwall County Council, both blighted by excessive second homes, have already agreed to increase the tax on those properties. Kensington and Chelsea Labour councillors are urging the Conservative ruling group to raise the Council Tax payable on all second homes in the Borough from next April.

Labour draws attention to developments such as Chelsea Harbour, where the lights burn at night in only a very few of the hundreds of flats there. New developments, such as in Kensington High Street/Warwick Road, are actively marketed to foreign buyers seeking a safe haven, a trophy London home to add to their investment portfolio. They purchase homes in London but rarely, if ever, occupy them, they make no contribution to local community life and some areas of the Borough are now empty shells in the evenings and at weekends.

Labour Finance Spokeswoman Cllr. Emma Dent Coad said: “the coalition government keeps talking about ‘fairness’. Well, we think it is unfair that people like Mrs. Braithwaite, who lives in Golborne Ward and works tirelessly on behalf of her neighbours and her community, pays just £35 less Council Tax each month than the Sultan of Brunei, who has a rarely used mansion near Kensington Palace.”

Labour are preparing their alternative budget for the forthcoming 2013/14 Council Tax year. They will be focusing on children, young people, a local Olympic legacy and the need to protect vulnerable residents in the face of continuing Conservative cuts to services. Although the Tories claim that the Tri-borough initiative with Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham will prevent cuts to front line services, in reality cuts are being made. One of the most savage is the massive cut in child care for working families, forcing parents, mainly mothers, into unemployment and out of the education and training that would prepare them for the jobs market. Other cuts, to street cleaning for example, have made even the very best streets in the borough dirty and shabby.

The 2011 Census reveals that there are at least 9,303 second homes in the borough. The figure for those owning more than one “second home” in the borough are not available but is also significant. The additional money that raising the Council Tax on these properties would bring will enable some of the most damaging front line service cuts to be reversed.

PETITION TO END TNT POSTAL SERVICES PILOT

Cllr Pat Mason

After receiving numerous complaints from worried residents about TNT’s performance, North Kensington Labour Councillors have launched a public online and paper petition to be delivered to the January 2013 Council Meeting asking RBKC to examine these complaints and decide if the government should be asked to end the TNT pilot currently underway in the borough. TNT have contracts to deliver business and government department mail on a trial basis in K&C as part of a pilot that  includes Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham.

The petition states that, “In North Kensington we have seen post abandoned in the streets, bushes and in the entrances of blocks of flats. Letters are lost, delayed, mis-delivered and stolen. This can have a devastating effect on local businesses and residents waiting for cheques, job offers, hospital appointments, contracts etc”.

Many of these letters can contain disability appointment dates, cold weather payment cheques, debit cards, and all manner of sensitive financial, social security and other information useful to criminals and scammers who will take any opportunity to rob our residents. The evidence suggests that when TNT deliveries go wrong, their complaints and redelivery systems are inadequate, their constant promises to better brief operatives to deliver mail properly and learn from their mistakes comes to nothing, and residents and business are left angry and frustrated.

Councillor Pat Mason said, “For the sake of our residents I hope the Council will seriously examine how TNT’s unacceptable delivery failures are leaving them exposed to interrupted payments, thieves and scammers. I have personally seen enough and believe they should be booted out of the borough”.

Click ‘Thanks but No Thanks to TNT’ link in sidebar to the right to sign petition.

22.11.12

RICHEST COUNCIL TURNS ITS BACK ON WORKING POOR

Councillor Robert Atkinson, Labour’s spokesperson for Children’s Services

1.11.12 New Children’s Centre strategy will not make work pay

As expected the Cabinet of RBKC voted unanimously on Halloween to privatise its OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ Rated Childcare Services.
Labour Children’s Services spokesperson Cllr Robert Atkinson attacked the hypocrisy of the wealthy Conservative Council for claiming to consult its parents and qualified staff and then ignoring the finding that more than 94% of users and staff did not wish to ‘marketise’ the service. Cllr. Atkinson commented: ‘They may have listened but they most certainly have not heard. The Council claimed to be concerned at the plight of working parents who depend upon and value the outstanding integrated childcare service of the Royal Borough but have now decided to ignore them while citing the borough’s poverty! This from a council with £180m in Reserves which spent £23 million to repave Exhibition Road with imported pink granite and £1m on an Olympic street festival that no one went to.

‘The Cabinet claimed to value both the professionalism and high standards of its loyal staff and the frantic efforts of parents to find alternative means But in reality they plan to hand over the staff to an alternative provider who will ditch the professional staff and replace them with unskilled and cheaper childminders as soon as the “TUPE” transfer of staff commitment ends.’

The meeting was attended by 50 parents, who presented a carefully prepared proposal to develop higher means tested fees to retain an integrated easily accessed service. The Council ignored the parents’ proposals and decided instead to focus on targeted services for those they crudely identify as the most needy. Parents and staff want to maintain separate local services in eight different specialist centres while the Council intends to focus staff and expertise into two centres and risk the decline of the local services

Cllr Atkinson fumed: ‘The consultation exercise was a smokescreen to divert public attention while the Council ruthlessly got on with its plans to rid itself of loyal staff. This Council, like this government, does not understand or care about the struggles of ordinary working families to pay their bills and to stay in work. By tampering with the children’s services women will be forced out of work and onto benefits. This is bad for the families, the staff, the children and ultimately for the tax payer. The result of this short termism will be more family breakdown, lower educational achievements, less social cohesion and ultimately more crime and anti social behaviour.’