LABOUR WELCOMES NEW SCHOOL

Kensington Academy on opening day 15 September 2014
Kensington Academy on opening day 15 September 2014

Labour councillors in North Kensington welcomed the Kensington Aldridge Academy and its first pupils as the school opened its doors on 15 September. A large group of parents and their excited children joined senior staff at 8.25 am to become the first group of Year 7 students to be educated at the Academy.

Councillor Judith Blakeman recollects the very difficult campaign to get a new secondary school opened in North Kensington. She said: “my former colleague, Steve Hoier, recognised many years ago that demographic changes meant that we needed a new secondary school in North Kensington at the start of the new Millennium. He campaigned vigorously for a new school and the baton was picked up by the rest of the Labour Group when Steve left the Council”.

In the face of an unequivocal demand, the ruling Conservative Group persistently came up with excuses why they should not provide the school: there was no evidence of need; there was nowhere to build a new school; there was no money to build one. Then instead, they built a new Academy in Chelsea. Welcome though that was, it did not meet the massive demand for secondary school places in North Kensington.

Councillors spoke of parents in tears in their surgeries because their children had been allocated to under-performing schools far away from the borough. One group set up arrangements to home-school their children because they were so disgusted with the schools offered to them. Two generations of children had their life chances damaged by having to travel for up to four hours a day to get their secondary education. Groups of primary school friends were separated for years.

Cllr Judith Blakeman with Family and Children's Services Committee members Cllr Harrison Littler and Cllr Beinazir Lasharie, during a visit
Cllr Judith Blakeman with Family and Children’s Services Committee members Cllr Harrison Littler and Cllr Beinazir Lasharie, during a visit

Eventually Kensington and Chelsea Council capitulated, realising that otherwise it would lose the £17 million that the Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future programme was offering for the project.

Yesterday the new Academy was being praised to the skies by its new students. One young man said: “I am thrilled with my new school and I will deal with anyone who damages or vandalises it”. Notting Dale ward councillor Judith Blakeman attended the school’s assembly on the second day and visited classes with the Academy Principal, David Benson. She said: “this new Academy has surpassed all our expectations. It is warm, friendly and welcoming and the facilities on offer are fantastic. I am confident that at last North Kensington children will receive the high quality education they deserve. It is particularly gratifying that so many of the pupils come from the Lancaster West Estate, where residents have been extremely patient with all the disruption that building the school has caused for them”.

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‘SHUT UP’ – senior Tory responds to desperate parents

‘SHUT UP, YOU’RE NOT ELECTED’

Tory Whip shouts at shocked parents of SEN children as ‘predictable and disastrous’ outcome of Triborough project affects transport for vulnerable

 11.6.14 036 - Copy25.7.14

Parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs were shocked last night to be told to ‘SHUT UP’ by the Kensington and Chelsea Tory Whip at a public meeting.

K&C Opposition Labour Group (left) had called an Extraordinary Council Meeting to debate the continuation of a contract that delivers a transport service for children with special educational needs. The service has been a huge concern to parents, carers and teachers of affected children since it began in April this year.

Children who are picked up from home and taken to school or daycare, then returned back later in the day, have been suffering from poorly trained escorts, drivers with no knowledge of the area, disfunctioning vehicles, and overlong journeys that are causing huge distress to the children affected, especially in the current hot weather.

Labour Group Whip and Disabilities Champion Cllr Judith Blakeman stated: ‘This is child abuse’.

Responding to dozens of complaints, the Council reported to committee on 9 July that full instructions on the various needs of the children had been handed over, that drivers had undertaken practice runs of the routes they needed to take, and that all risks had been considered and dealt with. The report stated that the shortcomings of the initial stages of the contract had been addressed, and that they were confident matters had improved.

However, parents and carers report that the problems continue, and are demanding that the Council breaks the contract without delay, and engages the previous contractor while starting the process from scratch.

One child, who has had a particularly poor experience, had a severe fit on returning home two weeks ago, and could have died without immediate hospital treatment. Three families have stated that they will report the Council to the Ombudsman if the Council refuses to withdraw the contract.

Cllr Judith Blakeman stated: ‘This is the worst scandal I’ve seen in 32 years on the Council’.

Labour Leader Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘This is precisely the kind of situation that concerned us with the 2010 announcement of Triborough working across Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea. The lack of democratic accountability could not be more pronounced; there was no mandate for Triborough and assurances on sovereignty and accountabilty given at the time have vaporised. It was a cost-cutting measure from the outset, and NOT a way to pursue any kind of ‘value for money’. The current situation was entirely predictable and is disastrous to our most vulnerable residents.’

‘RBKC Council has £267m in usable Reserves, accepts a loss of cc£1m/year for the running of Opera Holland Park, and is set to agree improvements to Leighton House Museum costing £2.6m, a loan to the National Army Museum of £2.5m, artwork for Kensington Academy costing £150,000, and a sculpture for Holland Park Academy costing £120,000. Yet they tell us they cannot afford £500k for transporting vulnerable children. This tells us everything we need to know about their priorities.’

The Motion to break the contract was outvoted by the Tories, though it was noted that those who have SEN children themselves were absent from the meeting; one Tory abstained.

 

END OF TERM REPORT: shameful results with inevitable consequences for K&C Tories

END OF TERM REPORT

 

The ten posts highlighting different areas of inequality in K&C were posted one per day in the run-up to the Council Budget-setting meeting on 5 March 2014. The borough known as ‘The Royal Bank of Kensington and Chelsea’ has £180m in Reserves – and some of the poorest residents in London.

The statements are based on evidence, not dogma or the Daily Mail. Links to sources can be found below.

Links:

Ward profiles

http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/communityandlocallife/2011censusoutcomes.aspx

Overcrowding

http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/pdf/Families_housing.pdf

Neighbourhood statistics

http://www.neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk/

Income inequality

http://www.londonspovertyprofile.org.uk/indicators/topics/inequality/pay-inequalities-within-london/

Minimum Income Standard

http://www.lboro.ac.uk/research/crsp/mis/

http://www.londonspovertyprofile.org.uk/key-facts/overview-of-london-boroughs/

Recipients of Pension Credit

http://www.data.london.gov.uk

TOP TEN TORY FAILS #10 – from ‘the most unequal borough in Britain’

 

Every day between 20 Feb and 5 March, when they will announce their alternative Budget, Kensington Labour Group will announce an area of extreme inequality in Kensington and Chelsea ‘the most unequal borough in Britain’.

The borough known as ‘The Royal Bank of Kensington and Chelsea’ has £180m in Reserves – and some of the poorest residents in London.

Weds 5 March

 

#10, 5.3.14 olderpeople10. CARE OF ELDERLY

Kensington and Chelsea is home to the ‘Chelsea Pensioners’ of Royal Hospital, where former soldiers can live out their days. The borough has the highest average life expectancy in the country, of 82 years; but there is a gap of 20 years between the north and south of the borough

20% of all our pensioners, that’s 5,770 people, receive pension credit

The incidence of diabetes has risen by 1,034 since 2010 and malnutrition is rising Meanwhile, the Council is cutting funding to lunch clubs

While some people are prone to diabetes, it is associated with poor nutrition. Lunch clubs in the borough have been closed, and others are having funding reduced, while malnutrition among older people admitted to hospital is on the rise.

Labour supports OCS picket

27 August 2013
GMB OCS strikers with Labour Cllrs and supporters 2 27.8.13Labour councillors and activists today joined the picket line with strikers from the OCS contractors who provide cleaning services to all the Council’s housing estates. Unlike other contract staff, these cleaners not only earn much less than the London Living Wage (£7.18 per hour rather than £8.55 per hour) but have had their pay frozen for the coming year, while other contract staff will get an increase of 3%.
Such low pay makes it impossible for workers to live in London and bring up their families without recourse to welfare top-ups, such as Housing Benefit. OCS shareholders have long enjoyed healthy dividends from the efforts of these dedicated low paid workers and the company can well afford to pay a decent living wage. Instead, shareholders enjoy a subsidy from every income tax payer (including OCS cleaners) whose hard earned money provides the welfare benefits that top up low pay and deliver huge company profits.
Labour Group Leader Cllr. Judith Blakeman said “It is disgraceful that the Council and the TMO, unlike even the Mayor of London, do not require all their contractors to pay the London Living Wage to their workers, many of whom have served them loyally for a very long time”. Cllr. Pat Mason, Labour’s trade union liaison officer, added: “it is not a matter of residents having to pay higher service charges for cleaning. OCS shareholders should take their fair share of cuts in these times of austerity and top managers should stop expecting the tax payer to subsidise their bonuses”.
Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors in Kensington and Chelsea have consistently refused Labour demands that all the Council’s contract staff be paid the London Living Wage. While most of the Council’s contractors do pay it, Labour councillors expect a fair and consistent approach to all workers delivering services to Borough residents and urge OCS to get back to the negotiating table.

‘A LIGHT TOUCH WILL NOT PROTECT OUR CHILDREN’

Labour Opposition Group appalled at Council decision not to tighten standards regime in wake of second child pornography case

After a bad-tempered Council meeting on 18 April,  Labour opposition councillors have expressed their disgust and shame at the ruling Conservative group’s decision to dilute further the Council’s standards regime rather than introduce additional protections proposed by Labour. Changes to the standards regime are required as from 1 July under the Localism Act.

In the wake of the conviction of former Conservative councillor Andrew Lamont on child and animal pornography charges, Labour argued that it was essential to introduce a more robust system in Kensington and Chelsea to address any possible similar situations.

Lamont, who was convicted and placed on the sex offenders’ register on 2 April, told the Tory Leader and Whip in November 2010 that he was facing accusations of downloading extreme pornography and that obscene magazines had been found in the house by his wife. The Council leadership kept these accusations quiet in view of his protestations of innocence. Almost a year later, Lamont resigned the day before he went to Court. In the meantime he was allowed to continue as a member of the Council, including an appointment as governor of a nursery school.

The Opposition challenged the secrecy Lamont had enjoyed, first through the standards committee and subsequently on review, but were told that the Council had followed the procedures correctly. However, they remain firmly of the view that the failure to address the situation immediately had brought the Council into disrepute.

After Lamont’s conviction, Labour restated their concerns, citing the action of the Mayor of London, who required a colleague in a similar position to resign immediately and in advance of any prosecution. Labour’s view is that more robust standards are now necessary in Kensington and Chelsea to protect vulnerable residents and children.

However, rejecting Labour attempts to tighten up the regime, Council Leader Sir Merrick Cockell insisted that a ‘sensible light touch’ is all that is needed, with Deputy Leader Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown claiming that it was ‘not until Lamont was charged with a criminal offence that any decision could be made’.

Labour Group Leader Cllr Judith Blakeman said: ‘we are shocked that this Council, which has faced three resignations of Conservative councillors in less than two years on matters relating to child pornography, has nevertheless decide to dilute rather than strengthen its standards regime. We have to question whether the leadership understands the importance of robust child protection in this age of social media.”  Deputy Leader Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘A light touch will not protect our children. The council must review these procedures, and do it now.’

Former Tory Councillor found guilty at last

STOP PRESS, UPDATE 19.4.12

At the full Council meeting on 18.4.12 the Labour Opposition Group proposed an amendment to a Tory proposal about a new Standards regime. In our opinion, given the huge reputational damage done to the Council by the Lamont case, a new regime would have to provide every possible legal protection with transparent and impartial scrutiny by a panel of independents. We proposed a regime that should then be put out to public consultation so that K&C residents could comment, have genuine input, and feel that the Council has learnt its lessons and that in future any Councillor facing possible criminal charges would be suspended until justice had taken its course. This would be in sharp contrast to the Lamont case, where the charges were kept quiet for nearly a year, and the Councillor remained in post (though not undertaking his responsibilities), and remained as Council-appointed governor of a nursery, until the day before he went to Court.  

Incredibly this entirely sensible proposal was voted down, with senior Tory Councillors recommending ‘a light touch’, which is frankly bizarre and potentially puts the Council in an impossible situation were a similar situation to recur. Shame on the Royal Borough.

 

The Kensington and Chelsea Labour Opposition Group will not comment on the outcome of this criminal trial, except to say that  justice has taken its course and former Cllr Lamont has been found guilty of some of the charges he was accused of, that relate to child and animal porn.

 

However, the Labour Group believes it is time for the Council to review the procedures and protocols covering Councillors who may face criminal charges. As in any other area of public life, a person who has been arrested and faces possible criminal charges should immediately be requested formally to withdraw from his or her duties. This can be done either by resignation or by an agreed suspension of duties. It is simply not enough, as in the case of former Councillor Lamont, to make a private agreement that the individual ceases to attend meetings.

 

The Labour Group challenged the Council leadership through the Standards Committee, and subsequently at appeal, suggesting that existing procedures were not followed, the Code of Conduct was breached and as a consequence the Council had been brought into disrepute. The Standards Committee response, given on 28 February, stated that no further action would be taken as the Council had followed its existing procedures correctly. The response said that the Committee ‘could not establish how matters might have been handled differently, however unsatisfactory this might have appeared to other Members or members of the public’.

 

However, the implication of this decision is that, should any other Councillor be arrested and face possible charges and subsequent conviction, the alleged criminal could remain as an active Councillor until the day before s/he goes to Court.

 

Labour Leader Judith Blakeman said: ‘Residents expect more of the Council. There must now be a thorough review of procedures to put a more transparent process in place. Allowing a possible criminal to stay in post for almost a year and keep it secret until the day before he was charged is simply not good enough.’

 

Deputy Leader Cllr. Emma Dent Coad said: ‘Kensington and Chelsea’s lack of action contrasts badly with the Mayor of London, who faced a similar situation and demanded the immediate resignation of his colleague. The Council says it prides itself on openness and transparency; it must live up to this ideal or suffer the consequences at the ballot-box ’.

 

Further information from: Emma Dent Coad 07773 792736.