The National Party Constitutional Committee is the The top body that deals with disciplinary cases involving Labour members. After Labour conference voted to increase the size of the NCC from 11 to 25 members last month, there are now six vacancies to fill. It’s an important race, both for those within Labour who feel strongly the party needs to get a grip on antisemitism, and for those who believe such accusations are often motivated by wanting to attack the leadership.
I have developed a 10 Point Plan to ensure that the local, national and international interests of Kensington are heard in Westminster. As your voice in Parliament I pledge to:
- MAINTAIN DIVERSITY IN KENSINGTON
We must keep our communities together. Kensington needs housing for residents that is genuinely affordable for a range of income levels. I support rent control and security for private tenants. Not only does it make economic sense for people to be able to live close to where they work, but there is plenty of evidence that communities from diverse backgrounds, with mixed incomes who are integrated have much greater social cohesion and stability. To keep Kensington affordable for a variety of people, I support a London Living Wage for all workers.
- PROTECT AND IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENT
I will work to create cleaner air and safer streets by greening the Westway. We also need safe cycle-ways and we must implement the Cycle Superhighway. As your voice in Westminster, I will campaign to end diesel emissions from trains, taxis, vans and lorries and work to improve air quality. For the safety of Kensington’s residents, especially children, we must implement a 20mph speed limit on borough roads.
- SUPPORT ROBUST USE OF PLANNING REGULATIONS
I will ensure that development enhances the borough and benefits all its residents. This means campaigning to continue reductions in the scope and size of basement excavations, their noise, and their disruption to neighbours. We should protect our built heritage throughout Kensington. We need truly affordable housing in Kensington; all S106 affordable housing must be built on site. We must encourage neighbourhood forums so local voices can be heard in all areas of planning. We need a transparent and locally accountable system for all planning decisions that responds to the concerns of residents.
- PROMOTE FAIRNESS AND EQUALITY
As your MP I vow to make sure the needs of less affluent and vulnerable residents are represented in Westminster. I will campaign for affordable energy bills, lower childcare costs, and to save the Independent Living Fund. When governments need to raise more money we must be willing to ask those with the broadest shoulders to contribute more; this is why I support revaluation and re-banding of property for Council Tax instead of a ‘Mansion Tax’. This is a long-standing policy choice of Kensington Labour. I also support the reversal of the Bedroom tax, which is an unfair tax on many of the poorest in society.
- DEFEND OUR NHS
We must defend our NHS from the threat of privatisation. Britain has one of the best and most affordable healthcare systems in the world. I pledge to consider ways of making it more efficient while maintaining the quality of care that makes our system great. We must improve local NHS and mental health services, and provide affordable social care.
I promise to fight against any attempts at privatisation. I will listen to the suggestions of doctors and nurses, not lawyers and politicians.
My academic expertise convinces me that we need to think differently from the coalition government about how to grow our economy and generate well-paid, secure employment. Austerity fails to encourage sustainable economic growth. We need to focus on investing in high quality apprenticeships. We must ensure an equality of esteem and good pay for those who want to take up vocational training and careers. These decisions will help people realise their potential and encourage a diversified economy. We also need to use the power of government to encourage economic growth in times of recession and then make sure government saves money during periods of growth to protect the public in times of economic difficulty. We must also make sure that the backbone of our economy like mass transit is affordable and run in the public interest. This is why I support the nationalisation of the railway system to ensure investment and bring ticket prices down.
- INTERNATIONAL TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT
International trade agreements can generate jobs and encourage economic growth for partner countries. However, how they are negotiated and the protections that are included in them are critical to whether these agreements are beneficial for working families in the U.K. The ongoing TTIP negotiations between the EU and the US need much greater scrutiny and prior agreement that we will not reduce environmental or labour protections as part of the deal.
We need fundamental reform of policies used to encourage development and economic growth throughout the world, including our stance on the policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It is investment not austerity that guides countries back to growth and productivity.
- EUROPEAN UNION
The EU was originally designed to forge economic and social links between European nations. The EU is important for the UK economy; over 50% of our exports are to the EU. Millions of jobs rely upon our membership. Our economy is also much stronger because of the skilled workers that come to the UK. Though we need to ensure that workers in the UK are not undercut and workers from abroad are not exploited by unscrupulous employers, we must remain in the EU to maintain a vibrant economy in the United Kingdom.
- DEFENCE AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
I disagree with the renewal of Trident. These weapons do not make us any safer, in fact most evidence points to increased likelihood of major nuclear accidents and inadvertent nuclear war.
Kensington’s diverse population is especially concerned with international issues. An equitable and just solution for Palestine is a lynchpin of broader peace in the Middle East. A Palestinian state based on the 1967 ceasefire lines would be an important first step.
- REPRESENTATION: MY PLEDGE
Kensington residents need a locally based, visible, responsive and representative Member of Parliament. As your MP I promise not to take any paid directorships. Being a responsive Member of Parliament is a full time job. Kensington’s residents deserve an MP who will be fully engaged as their representative.
I will publicise and hold regular surgeries in the north, centre and south of Kensington. For those residents who have difficulty travelling; I am your representative and I will come to you.
(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.’
THE OPERA THEY COULDN’T GIVE AWAY
(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.’
Council prioritises opera over vulnerable and homeless
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.’
As debate about the proposed Mansion Tax continues to gather pace within certain factions in the Labour Party, Kensington and Chelsea Labour Leader Emma Dent Coad was invited to speak on BBC2’s Daily Politics programme today 3 November.
This is what she had to say:
Emma underlined the Kensington Labour Group of Councillors’ unanswered concerns for the possible unintended outcomes of such a tax as currently proposed, saying:
- The proposed tax has been very poorly communicated, leaving the issue wide open to misunderstandings and scare-mongering. Some older residents have been kept awake thinking that their £2m home of many years will be subject to a charge of £27,000pa; this is nonsense
- Policy should be moulded from the doorstep, not sent to the doorstep, and policy-makers must listen to residents’ concerns and reassure them that this tax will be targeted at those who can afford it
- Any new policy must protect long-term and older residents, and also must pick up on overseas property investors who ‘buy to leave’, those who wish to stash or launder their money via K&C property, and who avoid all taxes by buying through foreign-based companies
K&C Labour’s counter-proposals include consideration of the follow:
1, carry out a full revaluation at the earliest possible opportunity.
2, create an extensive new banding formula so that those with very high value properties contribute a fair share to their local community, and those who have less with pay less, ensuring that those who buy through overseas companies cannot escape the tax
3, charge the current permitted level of 150% and lobby for up to 200% for ‘bubble-wrap’ or buy-to-leave investors dumping their money in a high interest Royal Bank of Kensington and Chelsea
4, provide protection for tenants who, having suffered decanting due to ‘regeneration’, are now forced to pay the highest rate of Council Tax as their new homes are now overvalued.