Category Archives: Latest News

COUNCIL LEADERSHIP BAN LABOUR OPPOSITION COUNCILLORS AND RESIDENTS FROM SPEAKING AT PUBLIC MEETING

RBKC Labour Opposition Group Release, 5th June 2020

Conservative-controlled RBKC promised to be an open, transparent and listening Council after the Grenfell Tower Fire. But on the eve of the third anniversary of the Fire that killed 72 Borough residents in the worst disaster in peacetime history, it’s clear the Conservatives are returning to the bad old ways of the past.

In a sudden and startling move it was announced that the virtually-held 3rd June Leadership Team meeting would not permit any scrutiny questions from Labour councillors or members of the public who could attend but not speak.

The agenda included a Grenfell Recovery Strategy update, a Covid-19 Response report and others on new house builds construction works, Portobello Road Market and a supplementary planning document on community housing.

One Labour member who did attend forced the Council Leader to allow two questions after they made public they were being censured. This debacle no doubt contradicted the Council Leader’s many promises about listening and learning.

Labour Group leader Councillor Pat Mason said, “Stopping elected scrutiny councillors from holding the leadership to account for their decisions by banning them from speaking at a public meeting is anti-democratic. Actions speak louder than words, and the message received is that the leadership do not require anyone to hold them to account”

Statement on the leaked GLU report from Kensington CLP Executive

The leaked report prepared about the work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019, provides prima facie evidence that senior Labour Party officials actively undermined not only the elected party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, but also decimated Labour’s chances of forming a government in 2017. Furthermore, the report highlights a heinous display of systemic racism.

This report has caused shock, alarm and distress to our party members and supporters. The salaried Labour Party Governance and Legal Unit officials casually discarded members’ decisions and worked to damage the party for their own political ends. Their behaviour is incompatible with the democracy and egalitarianism that the Labour Movement seeks to build not only within the party, but also society in general.

Our response to the report is set out below:

Failure of party support in Kensington after Grenfell

In 2017, our members campaigned tirelessly to achieve a Labour victory in Kensington. It was a watershed moment for the constituency. The reference to our former MP in the report provides good evidence that national officials were ‘abusive’ to the new MP and more so they found it incredible, even unfavourable, that Labour had gained the seat.  

The Kensington Labour Party Executive expresses unconditional support for Emma Dent Coad, MP for Kensington from 2017 to 2019, who has stated that we deserve to know the facts.

Party resources were used for factional purposes. It is a scandal that these Labour figures live off membership fees – which many people struggle to pay – yet treat their elected politicians in such a disgraceful way. Furthermore, Emma recounts querying a procedure at the NEC only to be told; “It is a rule, but it is not written down”.

This kind of behaviour was evident from the outset. Just days following our election success, at least 72 people lost their lives in the horrific fire in Grenfell Tower. The impact this event had on the community needs no repetition here. Yet, frequent requests for additional resources to assist with the colossal casework were denied or ignored.  This is a deplorable indictment on these officials and their humanity.

Endemic Racism

The report was originally commissioned to look at possible anti-Semitism in the party; however the evidence shows that officials harboured an established culture of racism in all its forms: abusive language, a sense of entitlement and privilege and a contempt for the work of the grassroots membership – a thoroughly rotten culture.  It is also evidence of deeply embedded Institutional Racism – described in the Macpherson definition as:  “It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.

Emma has noted that the powerlessness and daily humiliation felt by some black and minority ethnic MPs had a severely detrimental effect on them – which clearly was the intention. Emma has also remarked that there was more racism and sexism within parliament than in any working environment she had experienced in a 40 year career, and that this prevailed also within certain sections of the Party machinery. 

An arrogant and factional bureaucracy

Factional loyalty seems to have determined recruitment decisions, with people appointed to senior roles with few apparent and relevant qualifications, with those more qualified passed over or not even informed of the outcome. Recruitment procedures must be urgently reviewed and refreshed with immediate effect to stop nepotism and further breaches of the Equality Act.  It is in this wider context that we see the arrogance of the Labour Party bureaucracy.

Management accountability and lack of transparency must also be addressed. Longer term, a much wider pool for staff recruitment is needed, drawing a broader pool including people with a background in grassroots community activism (which would have also prevented the lack of diversity in the team) and other relevant skills, with proper oversight by the elected bodies of the Party over the work of functionaries, including recruitment processes.

Adverse impact on BAME party members

Until Spring 2018, when a new General Secretary was appointed, the Party’s Governance and Legal Unit failed to develop any consistent system of logging, tracking progress of, and decision-making on complaints, including those on racism and antisemitism.  This has had an adverse impact on our BAME members; many are the victims of this outrage and require an apology and a re-investigation of their cases. Many BAME members now see the party as a hostile environment and are withdrawing their support. We suggest that you implement an immediate strategy to re-engage with BAME members, starting by seeking their views as soon as possible. The officials involved obviously felt secure enough in their posts to divert their attention away from complaints about antisemitism, without accountability to management policies or procedures, safe in the knowledge that their backs were being protected by those in positions of power. The party needs a root and branch reassessment of important processes – the disciplinary, recruitment and selection, grievance, conduct and performance management procedures are not fit for purpose.

Action now

Your investigation into the report is welcome, however we demand that you establish a transparent process to investigate the conduct alleged in the leaked document; the terms of reference for such an investigation and the appointment of the investigation leader and team also needs to be transparent. Only this route will restore faith among Labour members in the culture and practices of our party. Accountability doesn’t just happen and it doesn’t depend on personal good will. We need to see commitment to immediate structural change in party organisation. Please act now.

23 April 2020

Published by the Executive Committee of Kensington CLP

Support And Guidance For Local Business

From the RBKC Labour Opposition Group – Further updates as they appear

Dear All,

Central Government advice and guidance for businesses. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for UK businesses  Guidance for UK businesses impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for employees, employers and businesses  Information on healthcare advice for employers and support for businesses. 

Coronavirus: if your company cannot file accounts with Companies House on time  If Coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected your company and you need more time to file your accounts, you should act before your filing deadline.  

RBKC business rates

Support for businesses that pay business rates 

A business rates holiday will be available for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. 

Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019 to 2020 tax year will be rebilled as soon as possible, the Council are working on this now. 

A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses and small businesses without insurance operating from smaller premises. 

Local authorities are still awaiting guidance from government on this, and we will advise you when we know how we will implement this. 

Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates 

The government will provide additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs. 

If your business is already in receipt of SBRR you will be contacted by the Council – you do not need to apply.  The Council expects central government guidance shortly. 

Business rates hardship scheme 

The Council can grant hardship relief in some circumstances where it is satisfied the ratepayer would sustain hardship if it did not do so. For further details and how to apply, please see the Council’s website at https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/business-and-enterprise/business-rates/relief-and-discounts/hardship-relief 

If you are a business in Council commercial property

If you are renting a commercial property from the Council,you should know the Council is  working to develop a cross-borough plan and provide you with guidance on rent and lease questions – please watch this space. 

Advice for food businesses

As a food business operator, we appreciate you may have some concerns, however, there is currently no evidence that you can catch Coronavirus from food.   

It is important that you ensure that food is protected from contamination, so it is good practice to cover open food and wash fresh fruit and vegetables. The use of sneeze guards is recommended for open food. If you provide takeaway cutlery, condiments etc for your customers then you may wish to review the storage of these so these cannot be contaminated. 

You should ensure all staff handling food or working in areas where food is prepared/stored, wash their hands thoroughly and you should remind your staff of your sickness policy. You should also be reviewing your cleaning policies to ensure adequate and regular cleaning and sanitising. 

Public Health England and the NHS state that the most effective way of minimising the risk of catching the virus and spreading is to wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after going to the toilet, before eating, after blowing your nose, sneezing and coughing. 

You should follow the government advice on the GOV.UK website if you or any of your staff have travelled. If you or your staff are feeling unwell then you need to visit the NHS 111 Online website for advice on what to do. 

If you offer any shisha pipes at your establishment, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic situation you should consider ceasing this service for the time being.  If you do provide this service, then you must ensure that you provide clean/sanitised equipment and sharing of equipment must be avoided at all times. 

If you have any concerns or questions, you should check the latest government advice or go to Public Health England’s FAQs on the virus. There is also further guidance on theNHS website

For the latest information from the NHSvisit the NHS website

If you have specific food safety or health and safety questions please contact our teams by emailing us at:environmentalhealth@rbkc.gov.uk or calling 020 7361 3002. 

Finance

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme 

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch next week to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments. More information can be found on the website.

Insurance 

Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim. 

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.    

In addition a package of measures to support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees was also announcedFind out more information on the Government website

Taxes  

A new helpline to the HMRC’sTime to Pay service, so businesses and the self-employed can arrange to defer tax payments. 

Entrepreneurs’ Tax Relief, for business owners who sell their firms, has been scaled down to relief on profits of up to £1m over their lifetime, from the previous £10m relief on profits. 

Employment allowance to increase by £1,000 allowing certain businesses who employ staff to reduce their National Insurance bill by £4,000. 

Nat West – Funding for SMEs impacted by coronavirus from Nat West: click here for London’s Growth Hub portal and news on Nat West’s funding 

Lloyds Bank – support packagefor businesses impacted by coronavirus: click here for more information 

Benefits  

The Government has issued advice about coronavirus and claiming benefits, which will continue to beupdated

The key points are: 

·        If you cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible forStatutory Sick Pay you will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of your illness.  

·        Statutory Sick Pay will be payable if you are staying at home on Government advice, not just if you are infected by coronavirus. This will apply from 13 March 2020. 

·        In light of the current coronavirus outbreak, the Department for Work and Pensions has taken the precautionary decision to temporarily suspend all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits.  

·        If you have a jobcentre appointment but are staying at home on Government advice or have been diagnosed with coronavirus, you will not be sanctioned if you tell DWP in good time. 

·        If you are staying at home as a result of coronavirus, your mandatory work search and work availability requirements will be removed to account for a period of sickness. 

·        If you are self-employed and claiming Universal Credit, and are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus, theMinimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) will not be applied for a period of time whilst you are affected. 

·        If you are affected by coronavirus you will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a jobcentre. 

·        If you employ people, you are urged to use your discretion about what evidence, if any, you ask for when making decisions about sick pay. 

·        If you have fewer than 250 employees, you will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay for employees unable to work because of coronavirus. This refund will be for up to 2 weeks per employee. 

Information from other agencies

Support from the Portobello Business Centre in RBKC funded by the Council; PBC are at the moment planning to provide business-support services until further/new government announcements. See attached email.  If you need business advice you can book a telephone call/meeting with one of PBC’s business advisors and from 25th March you will be able to book a Skype call too so there is no need to attend at their office if you prefer not to.Please call them 020 7460 5050 to discuss. 

London Growth Hub  – checklist forbusinesseshttps://www.growthhub.london/covid-19-coronavirus-support-for-businesses-and-employers/ 

Federation of Small Businesses –  Coronavirus (COVID-19) online information hub.  FSB has added the latest information and advice (16 March) about what small businesses and the self-employed can do to protect their businesses. You can find this atwww.fsb.org.uk/covid19.  

Regards,

Pat

Pat Mason, Councillor

Leader of the Labour Opposition Group

An Urgent Request For Help From Our Local Foodbank

With many supermarkets in the area stripped bare our foodbank is really struggling and desperately needs our help. They have sent us the following list of items which they need as a matter of real urgency. If you can help in anyway by donating even one item off the list they would really appreciate it.

In times like this we must all pull together to support those in our community who need us. If you can’t get out to drop your donation to the foodbank you can have items delivered directly to them. All the details are below.