LABOUR’S RESPONSE TO ‘EXTRAVAGANT’ £25m EXHIBITION ROAD REVAMP

As the £25 million Exhibition Road streetscape scheme opens in South Kensington, North Kensington Labour Councillors criticised the Council’s extravagant spending on a scheme aimed at tourists.

A short bus ride away are four of the poorest areas in the country. In Golborne Ward, 51% of the children live in poverty, residents endure high levels of disability and ill health and life expectancy for men is 71 years, compared with 89 in the richer parts of the borough. Exhibition Road is sited next to Queens Gate, the most affluent ward in the country. Labour is incensed that the North Kensington residents they represent consistently fail to get a fair share of funding from Kensington and Chelsea Council to provide services and support.

Labour Leader Cllr Judith Blakeman said: ‘we are facing a brutal package of cuts. One pensioners’ health and social care centre has already shut down; mental health day centres are closing, a Children’s Centre is to go and nursery provision will be “rationalised”. The Council is ruthlessly cutting sports for schools, homework clubs, youth centres and the vital voluntary organisations that help vulnerable residents to live independently. Despite holding reserves of over £170 million, Kensington and Chelsea Council, chooses to spend its money on Exhibition Road rather than the poor and vulnerable of the Borough. That says it all’.

Labour planning spokesperson Cllr Emma Dent Coad said: ‘Spending £25 million on a paving scheme and £175,000 every year just to keep it clean would be obscene at any time. To do so when savage cuts are being made to essential services in the north of the borough is indefensible. The spectacle we have seen today is a slap in the face for our poorer residents, many of whom can’t even afford the bus fare to the Museums. The performers alone must have cost more than the after-school clubs that have been cut; how appropriate that a white elephant is on parade today. There can be no justification for this level of frivolous spending in these difficult times.’

Listen to this audioboo by Rob Dyson, Guardian blogger: Comments at Exhibition Road opening event

 

CUTS AND SPENDING AT RBKC

 

SAMPLE OF PROPOSED CUTS 2012/13

Early Intervention Service                                              -£350,000

High Need Adolescents                                                   -£200,000

Play Services                                                                       -£100,000

Early Years provision                                                       -£1m

Youth Services                                                                     -£520,000

Care leavers                                                                         -£468,000

Voluntary Organisations                                                  -£40,000

Supporting People                                                            -£500,000

Adult Social Care                                                               -£601,000

Home Care Services                                                         -£950,000

Mental Health                                                                     -£260,000

Learning Disability/Short Breaks                                 -£116,000

Learning Disability/Day Services                                 -£203,000

Sports for schools                                                             -£279,000

Street cleaning                                                                   -£336,000

ADDITIONAL CLEANING EXHIBITION ROAD                      +£175,000

Unbelievable? Read it here: http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/pdf/Budget-Proposals-2012-13DRAFT.pdf

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LABOUR COUNCILLORS CHALLENGE CODE OF CONDUCT DECISION

‘Absolution’ of conduct by Leader and Deputy Leader is indefensible

Labour councillors Judith Blakeman and Emma Dent Coad are seeking a review of the Borough Standards Committee’s decision to exonerate Council Leader Sir Merrick Cockell and his Deputy Cllr. Nick Paget-Brown over their handling of the resignation of former councillor Andrew Lamont. Lamont, who is to be tried in March for allegedly possessing child pornography, was permitted to remain as a non-functioning councillor for eleven months before standing down from the Council.
Councillors Blakeman and Dent Coad, Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition Labour Group, had asked the Standards Committee to investigate concerns that the Council had been brought into disrepute by not immediately requesting Lamont’s resignation when the police investigation was first reported in October 2010. They argued that Councillors Cockell and Paget-Brown did not act in compliance with the Member’s Code of Conduct nor with the Council’s Constitution and that this had damaged the public’s perception of the Council.
The Standards Sub-Committee met in November and decided that there was nothing the Council’s leadership could have done to require Mr. Lamont to resign and that their behaviour was entirely consistent with both the Member’s Code of Conduct and the Council’s Constitution. However, the two Labour councillors claim that this decision is riddled with faulty reasoning and inconsistencies.
Cllr. Blakeman disputes the Standards view that agreeing that former councillor Lamont could forgo his allowance and not attend meetings during the police investigation was purely a matter for the Council’s leadership. She said: “This was pre-eminently a matter for the residents of Norland ward, whom Cllr. Lamont was elected to represent. During the by-election to replace him we met a number of people who had asked him for assistance and got no reply. Leaving vulnerable residents in limbo like this is unacceptable. At the very least the Council should have put a message on Cllr. Lamont’s e-mail referring residents to the other two ward councillors.”
The fact that the matter took eleven months to resolve without any intervention by the Council’s leadership was also unacceptable.
Cllr. Dent Coad was baffled by the Standard’s Committee view that how a councillor chooses to represent his constituents is “up to him” and legally only requires that he attend one meeting every six months. She said: “all political parties have clear policies governing the way they expect their councillors to carry out their duties; the Member’s Code of Conduct similarly expects a high commitment from all councillors. Without surgeries, casework, support on planning or housing or schooling or police issues, whatever are councillors for? Former Cllr. Lamont clearly fell far short of these expectations, yet his Chief Whip appeared content to allow this to continue over a very long period of time.”
Both Labour councillors are particularly concerned at a statement in the Standards decision that their complaints could have “given rise to what some might construe as a politically-motivated complaint.” Both complaints were deliberately withheld until after the by-election precisely to avoid this allegation. Once the by-election was over, however, it was entirely proper for the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Group formally to ask the Standards Committee to investigate objections raised by many residents about the way the Council’s Conservative Leadership had handled the matter. Cllr. Blakeman said: “sadly, if the Sub-Committee’s logic is followed, it is difficult to imagine any circumstance under which a councillor could turn to the Standards Committee when a councillor from another political party is felt to have violated the Member’s Code of Conduct”.
The Standards Committee now has three months to answer the request to review its original decision.