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Labour exonerated as Cockell waves goodbye to choo-choo fantasy
Crossrail reports 0041.5.13

After an agonising waiting game, possibly millions spent on consultants’ reports, Council reports and countless hours of officer time, a long-predicted announcement has been made. There will be no Crossrail station at Kensal Gasworks. Council Leader Sir Merrick Cockell stated in a letter to supporters dated 26.4.13 that the station has no support from ‘either the Department of Transport or the Mayor of London’.

The Opposition Labour Group had been informed by inside sources as far back as May 2010 that it had been acknowleged privately that there was no chance whatever for a Crossrail station at Kensal Gasworks, a large brownfield site next to Ladbroke Grove Sainsbury’s. But the Conservative Group lambasted them for repeating this unwelcome news, and continued to push at the closed door of TfL and the Mayor’s office. Indeed, the Labour Group had been calling for a Plan B to be worked up by a cross-party working group as far back as March 2012. At the Council Budget meeting this year, labour Leader Councillor Judith Blakeman called for a feasibility study on a ‘21st Century Travel Plan’ including the possibility of a tram link between Kensal and the future transport super-hub at Old Oak Common. But once again the Labour Group was shouted down and the study refused.

Just two months ago, in line with Labour suggestions, a Kensal Working Group was finally established, and on 26 April Sir Merrick Cockell wrote to Crossrail supporters with the sorry news of the end of his Crossrail dream, mooting Labour’s suggestion of a link to Old Oak Common.

Labour Leader Councillor Judith Blakeman said: ‘While it is heartening that the Council has finally accepted the unwelcome truth we were told three years ago, it is a total disgrace that they have continued to pour money into a press campaign and countless consultants’ reports on a no-hope project. Now we have to start work on Plan B, and let’s do this consultation properly.’

Deputy Leader Councillor Emma Dent Coad, whose personal blog on Kensal Crossrail was the subject of a Motion to Council a year ago, said: ‘I estimate the Council has spent cc£1m on pointless reports, while Golborne, the joint poorest ward in London, is having services cut to ribbons. I will now be gathering all the Council and non-Council reports and putting them online for all to see; many of them are from community groups and students, and they include some cracking ideas that would create a fantastic community AND help improve the life prospects of our poorest residents, right here where they live, not in Dagenham or Peterborough.’


Text of Cllr Cockell’s email dated 26.4.13:

‘Dear Colleagues,

You have, in the past, been supportive of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s plan for a Crossrail station in Kensal. We have been engaged in campaigning for a station for several years, and we remain convinced of the impressive regeneration such a station would aid. I met with the Transport Minister Stephen Hammond MP, along with Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, last week to discuss our proposals.

Unfortunately I have to tell you that at that meeting Stephen indicated our plans did not have the support of either the Department of Transport or the Mayor of London. The reasons for that lack of support remain frustratingly unclear.

On a more positive note, the Minister went on to say that that the Department of Transport would be glad to work with us on “alternatives” that might include some form of Heathrow-style monorail.

Clearly that is an intriguing idea but in the absence of any detail about what precise form the alternative would take, what capacity it would have, and crucially, when it would be built and where it would stop, it is impossible for us to make any sort of judgement about whether such a service would be a genuine alternative to a Crossrail station.

It follows therefore that the fight for our station must go on. I hope that I can count on your continuing support while we give this fight one more round. In particular I would ask that you use all your channels and influence to get our case heard as widely as possible. The economic and regeneration arguments for our station are as you know overwhelming. It there are genuine technical reasons why Londoners have to forgo those benefits, we believe those reasons should be spelt out so they can be scrutinised and solutions found.

If you want to discuss any of this further please do get in touch.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell

Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’

Richest Council denies school uniform grants for poorest pupils

18 April 2013 
At Wednesday’s council meeting, Labour councillors savaged Conservative Kensington and Chelsea’s refusal to re-instate school uniform grants for needy families. Labour spokesman Cllr Robert Atkinson said “we face a surging tide of poverty, misery and debt, with hard working families forced to take out pay day loans so that their children can have school uniforms “.
Seconding the motion, Cllr Pat Mason added that “more enlightened local authorities, such as Enfield and York, recognise their duty to help poor families clothe their children for school. The richest borough in the land’s refusal to restore uniform grants proves yet again that they do not care about young people in their own borough”
Cllr Atkinson pointed out that local schools are increasingly opting for very expensive designer uniforms and instructing families to purchase them irrespective of their financial circumstances. He said “families with two or more children at school are forced to find hundreds of pounds from tiny budgets. Any failure to comply with the uniform code is treated by some schools as a disciplinary matter rather than one of poverty and children are being humiliated and sent home just for the crime of being poor “.
Rejecting Labour’s proposal, the Conservative councillors said that uniform policy is purely a matter for school governors. As schools in the borough are very generously funded, where they opt for expensive designer uniforms, they must decide for themselves how to assist poorer families.
Cllr Atkinson dismissed this response. He pointed out that the schools do little or nothing to help poorer families and condemned the council for “closing its eyes to a serious problem which a small annual grants fund could sort out once and for all. Tory councillors in the richest borough in the country who annually spend a fortune on streetscape, opera and the arts should be truly ashamed for ignoring local children. Allowing schools to humiliate and suspend their poorest pupils will seriously damage their education and life chances”.  



K&C poster front

K&C poster back



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




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.,-2.504883&spn=9.351727,22.587891

Twitter: @bedtax


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


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



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.