CHANNEL 4’S DISPATCHES PROBES RBKC SPENDING

ARTICLE FROM KENSINGTON CHRONICLE 17.6.13 by Camilla Horrox

Cllr JB with Mayoral BentleyA FREEDOM of Information request has revealed that Kensington and Chelsea Council were spending £600,000 on chauffeur driven luxury cars.

The Channel 4 Dispatches investigation into how the UK’s council’s spend tax payers money uncovered the borough’s spending habits finding that £602,000 has been spent on chauffeur-driven cars, including a Bentley Continental and a Jaguar Sovereign since 2007.

Kensington and Chelsea council bought a £95,327 Bentley Continental Flying Spur in December 2007, which the council said at the time reflected the royal borough’s status.

The investigation comes as town halls face fewer controls than ever before on how cash is spent despite being responsible for £114billion of taxpayers’ money – more than the entire NHS budget, and twice the defence budget.

Under the leadership of Sir Merrick Cockell who stood down last month this latest expose of spending by a council with £170million in reserves during times of extreme hardship suffered by many in the impoverished North of the borough, has disgusted many.

Deputy Leader of the Labour Opposition Group Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: “Labour Councillors are unsurprised but remain disgusted by the profligacy of Kensington and Chelsea Council in some areas, while our local Food Banks are having to ration food hand-outs for hungry families to three visits only.

“The Opera Holland Park season is under way, losing £1m a year; the excessive cost of the Mayoral cars (which are owned by the borough, not rented) is frankly obscene. Is this a good use of Council Taxpayers’ money, when homework clubs and child care are being cut? This says everything you need to know about the priorities of what many call ‘the Royal Bank of Kensington and Chelsea.'”

Throughout the leadership of Sir Merrick many projects have caused controversy with £1million a year spent on Holland Park Opera, £28million on Exhibition Road and a whopping £89million on Holland Park School.

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Join us to Stand Up For Labour

Roving comedy show Stand Up for Labour is coming to North Kensington on Sunday 9 June, details below. Fun for all the family with a supervised creche and drinks included in ticket price.  Tickets online (details below) or from Crispin on 07961638683 or Lizzie on 07587 955888.

TICKETS CAN NOW BE BOUGHT ON THE DOOR, £10 TO INCLUDE TWO ALCOHOLIC OR NOT DRINKS AND SNACKS.

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PLANNING LAW CHANGES THREATEN MARKETS

Cllr Pat Mason in Portobello Market 2Labour Councillors challenge Minister on Planning Law changes that leaves local people powerless to protect their shopping streets and markets 31.5.13

Labour Councillor Pat Mason has written to Planning Minister, Don Foster, to protest about the disastrous planning law changes he has introduced only a week after visiting Portobello Market that won the Best UK Market Award.

Kensington High Street, Notting Hill Gate, Ladbroke Grove and the Portobello and Golborne Road Market could be overrun with lines of betting shops, PayDay lenders, pawn shops and gambling premises after the government introduced new planning rules this week that removed the right of residents to be consulted about what happens in their locality.

Colville market now 2From this week, Kensington and Chelsea Council and local people are now powerless to stop paper shops, cafes, restaurants, public houses, laundrettes and other independent shops being turned into betting shops and gambling premises. Local communities and the Councillors they have elected have been disenfranchised, whilst big business and developers can now set about wrecking fifty years of careful local planning, ruining the character of any area they choose in the process, and the government is allowing them to do it.

Labour Opposition Group Councillor Pat Mason said, “Tearing up our planning laws and axing our residents right to be consulted on what happens in their local area is utterly undemocratic and likely to ruin the character of Portobello and Golborne Market making it less attractive for visitors. The Tory-Liberal Democrat government has totally reneged on its promise to give local people more say in their local area, and to protect the character and economy of our borough. Shame on them for telling yet another lie”.

CAMPAIGNING KICKS OFF IN COLVILLE

26.5.13 Labour Action Team 003 - CopyThe campaign for Colville kicked off yesterday with a fantastic leaflet drop in targetted areas. The Colville Action Team launched what will be a highly organised campaign with eager team members enjoying the rare sunshine; perfect campaigning weather.

Meeting up at the Tabernacle for a drink and relaxation, sitting Councillors were hugely grateful for the support from members. Campaigning can be fun, so do join us next time.

Local Campaign Forum

NO CROSSRAIL FOR KENSAL

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.’

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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”.  

SPRING CAMPAIGNS

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

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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

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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