LEYTON WARD FOCUS NEWSLETTER 376

Artist impression of the planned tower blocks

The latest edition of the Leyton FOCUS Newsletter is with the printers and will be delivered across the ward by our volunteer helpers.

It leads on the news that the Labour-led Council has approved the plan for the development of the Walthamstow Town Square including the construction of a 29 storey tower block, with only 20% ‘affordable’ housing (far short of the Council’s 50% target), and no provision for social housing.

Please contact Bob Sullivan on 8556 8335 if you would like to help deliver the FOCUS near your home. It is usually published about every six weeks and a round should take about 45 minutes. Thank you.

In the past year Lib Dem membership has soared to a record high. Please get in touch with our veteran local campaigner Bob Sullivan if you would like to join this growing movement.

You can access a copy of the FOCUS here: Leyton 376

LEYTON FOCUS NEWSLETTER 375

The latest edition of the Leyton FOCUS Newsletter is with the printers and will be delivered across the ward by our volunteer helpers.

It leads on the news that CPZ restrictions continue to spread across the ward. Veteran campaigner Bob Sullivan has raised his concerns about the possible effects of these .

Please contact Bob Sullivan on 8556 8335 if you would like to help deliver the FOCUS near your home. It is usually published about every six weeks and a round should take about 45 minutes. Thank you.

In the past year Lib Dem membership has soared to a record high. Please get in touch with our veteran local campaigner Bob Sullivan if you would like to join this growing movement.

You can access a copy of the FOCUS here:Leyton 375

TOWER BLOCK SAFETY FEARS

Lib Dem campaigner Bob Sullivan

Following the disaster in West London, former long-serving Liberal Democrat Councillor Bob Sullivan contacted the Council to confirm that they are preparing to look the tower and high rise blocks in Waltham Forest and review the planning permissions already given to developers.

This review should include checking the cladding, fascias and building materials used and planned to be used.

It would seem from discussions in the media that many tower blocks built, and being built, may have cladding and other materials that are not completely fire proof.

Waltham Forest Guardian reporter Tom Barnes followed up Bob Sullivan’s request with the following report on the online version of the Guardian:

TOWER BLOCK FEARS: Waltham Forest council won’t tell us if its flats have sprinklers after Grenfell Tower fire

Concerns have been raised over the safety of Waltham Forest’s high-rise buildings in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Campaigner Bob Sullivan is calling for a full review into fire safety at tower blocks in the borough after the blaze in west London last week, which is thought to have killed at least 79 people.

The Liberal Democrat activist and former councillor wants a probe to ensure residents in council-owned and private blocks are not as risk, as well as reviews at towers currently under construction.

Mr Sullivan said:

It is imperative that the planning permission for new blocks being built is gone over again, we need to make sure.

I have not seen anyone mention sprinklers, you would have thought it would be 100 per cent certain we should have them now.

I would have thought nobody would move into any tower block now without asking questions, I certainly wouldn’t.

I am hoping the council decides to review tower block safety, I am very concerned about Waltham Forest and we should be on the forefront of this.

We need action to do something about every block above six or eight storeys, I would even class those types of buildings as a small tower blocks.

Although several council-owned towers, such as Redwood and Hornbeam Towers in Leytonstone, have been demolished in recent years, some, like John Walsh and Fred Wigg Towers, remain standing.

A host of plans for new high-rise blocks have also been approved, including a 16-storey block in Dunedin Road, Leyton, and four blocks between 10 and 16 flights in Wickford Way, Walthamstow.

Campaigner Bob Sullivan wants action to ensure tower block safety

The catastrophic fire at 24-storey Grenfell Tower, in North Kensington, broke out at around 1am last Wednesday (June 14) and is likely to become Britain’s deadliest blaze in more than a century.

The speed at which the fire spread is believed to have aided by new cladding fitted to the building, while sprinklers had not been fitted inside the flats, despite calls from residents.

Waltham Forest council says no blocks in the borough use the same cladding as was installed at Grenfell and all high rise homes either have fire risk assessments in place or currently underway.

The local authority also confirmed sprinklers will be installed at the 10-storey Lea Bridge House hostel redevelopment in Leyton.

However, the council has not responded to requests by the Guardian to reveal how many of its blocks are fitted with sprinkler systems.

Council leader, Clare Coghill, said:

All of us were horrified to see the tragic events unfold at Grenfell Tower. Our thoughts and sympathies are with those affected by this terrible disaster. 

We understand that residents of Waltham Forest will be shocked following this incident, and concerned about the safety of their own homes and properties.

We want to let residents know that their safety is always our main concern.

We are looking at what further checks may be needed in the light of recent events.

We will work with the fire brigade and our colleagues across London to implement any changes recommended after this terrible fire.

 

Tom Barnes posted an update on 22nd June:

Waltham Forest council confirms no sprinkler systems have been fitted in any of its tower blocks

Fred Wigg and John Walsh Towers

John Walsh and Fred Wigg Towers in Leytonstone are owned by Waltham Forest council

No council-owned tower blocks in Waltham Forest are currently fitted with sprinkler systems, it has been confirmed.

Concerns have been raised over safety at high-rise blocks in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in Kensington last week, which is now thought to have killed at least 79 people.

The speed at which the fire spread is believed to have aided by new cladding fitted to the building, while sprinklers had not been fitted inside the flats, despite calls from residents.

Do you live in one of the council blocks? Get in touch by e-mailing thomas.barnes@london.newsquest.co.uk or call 07795507440

Waltham Forest council has now confirmed to the Guardian none of its blocks are currently fitted with sprinkler systems.

However, the local authority said it planned to fit sprinklers in three towers used for sheltered accommodation.

A spokesman said:

Although none of our council blocks have sprinklers fitted, we have secured funding from the London Fire Brigade to install sprinklers in three sheltered blocks this year.

Although several council-owned towers, such as Redwood and Hornbeam Towers in Leytonstone, have been demolished in recent years, some, like John Walsh and Fred Wigg Towers, remain standing.

A host of plans for new high-rise blocks have also been approved, including a 16-storey block in Dunedin Road, Leyton, and four blocks between 10 and 16 flights in Wickford Way, Walthamstow.

The catastrophic fire at 24-storey Grenfell Tower is likely to become Britain’s deadliest blaze in more than a century

PLANNING NEWS: COOPERS LANE

20 Coopers Lane: more flats

Local Lib Dem campaigner Bob Sullivan has discovered that there are plans to convert the industrial site at 20 Coopers Lane into 6 flats.  Given the acute parking problems in parts of Coopers Lane the development is to be car free.

Bob understands that local residents have complained that they have not been consulted on these plans.

FAMILIES CHEATED OUT OF THEIR HOMES

Fred Wigg and Joihn Walsh Towers, Montague Road

In November a packed meeting of tenants voted for the option of refurbishment of kitchens and bathrooms for John Walsh and Fred Wigg tower blocks in Leytonstone. 
Tenants Ignored
However, the Labour Council over-ruled the tenants, agreeing a plan to strip back the towers to the core, completely refurbish the flats and build a smaller block between them.
Labour Selling Off Flats
Brand new flats for the tenants?  No! The Council wants to sell off one of the blocks to the private sector, thus reducing the number of Council flats from 232 to 160!  Waltham Forest has thousands of families on the waiting list, so a further reduction of affordable homes will dash the hopes of many people.  In effect Labour is getting rid of tenants who are, in the main, less well-off and inviting wealthy people to buy up the flats.
Labour MP and councillors ignore cries for help
The residents have asked their Labour MP and Labour councillors for help but they stay quiet.  They have even been ignored by one of their Labour councillors who was once a tenant in one of the blocks!

Focus says:

The Council has said tenants can go back once the refurbishment is complete.  This is rubbish as there will not be enough flats to house all of them!  One of the tenants has said “The Council is treating us worse than something stuck on their shoe”.

Focus will keep you informed of the tenants’ campaign to save their homes.

Link to article in the national Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/13/families-cheated-homes-poor-labour-council-gentrification

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LONDON ASSEMBLY LIB DEM PROPOSALS

Improving London’s environment for everyone, building more homes, and making fares much fairer

Improstephen_vince_small.jpgving London’s environment for everyone, building more homes and making fares much fairer are at the centre of a radical set of proposals put forward by the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group in their amendment to the Mayor’s budget.

Speaking ahead of today’s meeting at City Hall where the London Assembly will consider the Mayor’s draft budget Caroline Pidgeon AM, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group said:

There are real social and environmental pressures facing London as our population rapidly grows. Our proposals are firmly rooted in meeting these challenges.

Our Lib Dem plan will deliver cleaner air and less congested roads. It will deliver a better environment for every Londoner.

Our changes to the Mayor’s budget will also provide more affordable homes, helping to address London’s chronic shortage of homes for people on low and middle incomes, helping to keep families living in the capital.

We will also make London a fairer city. We would reverse the Mayor’s harsh fare hike facing off peak travellers who live in outer London. And in every part of the capital we will drive up the adoption of the London Living Wage and ensure real action is taken against rogue landlords.

Key aspects of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly budget amendment include:

  • Tackling London’s appalling air pollution and also reducing congestion on our roads, which is currently a huge burden for London’s businesses. Specific proposals include smart congestion charging; the introduction of a workplace parking levy in central London and real action to reduce diesel vehicles entering central London.
  • Reversing the immense fare hike on off peak travel for people in outer London. Other key fare changes include the introduction of a one hour bus ticket and lower fares for people travelling on all Tube, DLR and TfL Overground services before 7.30 am.
  • Making London a more attractive city to travel around by foot and on bike, including expanding the cycle hire scheme into south east London and better provision for cyclists across the whole capital
  • Creating a new £2 billion housing investment fund – funded by prudential borrowing – more than doubling the number of affordable homes delivered across London
  • Cutting waste in the Metropolitan Police Service such as the provision of chauffeur driven cars and flats for senior police officers, but strengthening Safer Neighbourhood Teams and putting extra resources into the teams that investigate rape and sexual assault against children.
  • Making London a fairer place through real action against rogue landlords and the wider adoption of the London Living Wage.

WHAT WALTHAM FOREST LABOUR PARTY DOES WHEN IT GETS FULL CONTROL OF THE COUNCIL

Illustration by Eva Bee
Illustration by Eva Bee

What is powerlessness? Try this for a definition: you stand to lose the home where you’ve lived for more than 20 years and raised two boys. And all your neighbours stand to lose theirs. None of you have any say in the matter. Play whatever card you like – loud protest, sound reason, an artillery of facts – you can’t change what will happen to your own lives.

Imagine that, and you have some idea of what Sonia Mckenzie is going through. In one of the most powerful societies in human history – armed to the teeth and richer than ever before – she apparently counts for nothing. No one will listen to her, or the 230-odd neighbouring households who face being wrenched from their families and friends. All their arguments are swallowed up by silence. And the only reason I can come up with for why that might be is that they’ve committed the cardinal sin of being poor in a rich city.

Sonia lives in one of the most famous landmarks in east London. The Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers are the first things you see getting off the train at Leytonstone High Road station; they hulk over every conversation on the surrounding streets and the football matches on Wanstead Flats. Since completion in the 1960s, they’ve provided affordable council homes with secure tenancies to thousands of families. Named after two local councillors, they are a testament in bricks and mortar to a time when the public sector felt more of a responsibility to the people it was meant to protect, and exercised it too.

And so they must go. Last month, Waltham Forest council agreed on a plan to strip back the two high-rises to their concrete shells, rebuild the flats, and in effect flog off one of the towers to the private sector. In between Fred and John, it will put up a third block.

What’s this long and costly job (£44m is the starting estimate) in aid of? Not to build more council homes. Amid London’s worst housing crisis since the aftermath of the second world war, local politicians plan to cut the number of council flats on the site from 225 to 160. You can guess what the rest will be: luxury flats sold as investments to foreign investors and buy-to-letters for half a million pounds a pop, and some “affordable” units to serve as PR mitigation. This is in a borough where 20,000 households are waiting for a council property.

Nor is this a choice being forced on the Labour-run council because of spending cuts and tough choices, and all that blah. By its own estimates, the project will blow about £14m of public money. Councillors admit it would be far easier and cheaper to repair and refurbish the blocks. It would also leave the borough with more social housing, and Sonia and her neighbours in peace.

Here, then, is a scheme that is expensive, illogical and unpopular. How does a local government push it through? By cheating. A strong term, but I challenge you to follow the sequence and not use it too.

First, council staff outlined the options to a few handfuls of households, without giving any detailed written explanations. Sonia remembers how one of the meetings was combined with a mini-funfair, where children from the estate were given candy floss. Then last summer officials produced a scientific-looking survey of residents, to capture how they felt about the proposed “improvements”, though there were still no details.

When residents finally found out what the council’s proposals would mean for them, they kicked off. A petition went round the estate, rejecting the grand scheme and calling for cheaper and less intrusive rebuilding: 60% of the residents signed up. Then came a November public meeting attended by more than a hundred angry people, at which council representatives were shouted down, and residents organised an impromptu vote against the council proposals. They begged for assistance from their Labour MP and their Labour councillors. No one helped.

So: a council decides to play at speculative property development (and local council taxpayers should pray that London’s housing bubble doesn’t pop over the next five years). It keeps residents in the dark over what its plans mean. And in the face of the eventual and inevitable protest, it pretends they aren’t happening, referring to “a handful” of malcontents. The easiest way to prove that is by offering residents a vote, as Westminster council did recently with one of its schemes. Fat chance of that happening here.

Just underneath the municipal formalities runs a thick vein of contempt from the representatives for the people they are meant to represent – and from a Labour party machine to what was once its core vote.

“The council is treating us worse than something stuck on their shoe,” says Sonia. And although she’s lived in the area her entire life, she knows that she and her son – now finishing off his A-levels – have become second-class citizens. They are reminders of Waltham Forest’s past as one of the most deprived boroughs in all of England.

Thanks to the inflation in the capital’s house prices, the area has recently become home to a new group of the relatively well-to-do. Having tasted gentrification, local politicians want more. “The Council wants to make the borough a place where high- and middle-income people choose to live and can afford,” reads Waltham Forest’s core strategy.

What they want to do with low-income people doesn’t need mission statements. Earlier this year the council tried to shift a soup kitchen run by a Christian charity out of the town centre, where it had been for 25 years, to an industrial estate in a layby off a dual carriageway. The soup kitchen and the poor people it attracted got in the way of the council’s “growth strategy”. Only the intervention of a judge forced a retreat.

In the run-up to what’s likely to be the tightest general election in years, both politicians and commentators are already bemoaning British voters: they don’t know what they want, they’re incoherent, they’re apathetic. But Sonia in Waltham Forest can tell you what a nonsense those charges are. If politicians can strip a part of the electorate of its voice, pretend to consult when really they mean boss about, and then ignore the comeback, they really mustn’t be surprised when voters forgo the ballot box for simmering resentment.

Lib Dem Councillor Bob Sullivan’s Budget Speech

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Bob Sullivan made the following speech setting out the Lib Dem alternative to the Labour Administration’s Budget.

2013 Budget – A missed opportunity

Mr Mayor, I’d like to start by thanking our officers and finance department for helping us to produce a budget that is legal and addresses the financial problems that the borough faces.

In the climate of austerity we welcome the freezing of council tax – an initial decision taken by the joint administration some years ago.

We also welcome the decision to accept the coalitions transitional grant which will keep the impact on benefit receivers to no more than 8.5% unlike other London labour councils who are passing on the full 15 to 20% cuts.

The financial future for local government and Waltham Forest looks bleak. We are not likely to get back to the free and irresponsible spending of the previous government.

Doubtless the Waltham Forest Labour Party will jump on their high horse and try to blame the coalition for every painful choice that they’ve made this year. But just a short glance at their budget reserves will show you that, despite the cuts Labour are storing up money for a pre-election spending spree.

This year this Labour council not only collected over a million pounds more than they expected from our council tax payers but they spent over two and a half million pounds less!

And what are they doing with this unexpected largess? Protecting social care? Investing more in jobs and apprenticeships? Or even cutting council tax? No! They’re investing £1 million pounds of money from local council tax payers into ‘events’.

In contrast we’ve identified savings and reserves that could help residents now, investing in jobs, education and our local infrastructure.

As Liberal Democrats we have not shied away from difficult decisions. Nationally we’ve entered coalition at a difficult time for the country and are delivering a tax cut for millions of people including halving income tax for people on the minimum wage.

Locally in 2009/10 we helped lay the groundwork for some of the difficult cuts to the council budget we knew were to come and agreed the freeze in council tax to help the hard pressed pockets of local residents.

But that makes it all the more difficult to see the Labour Party squandering the money they do have to spend.

For example, in January they spent £130,000 on fireworks.

  • Why did we need fireworks in January?  Last year it was said we had to close libraries because of the cuts – when we were spending £150,000 of taxpayers money on consultants to organise events.
  • £130,000 could fund Harrow green library for a year and yet thanks to this Labour council that money has literally gone up in smoke!
  • Maybe you should ask Residents around Harrow Green and South Chingford if they would like fireworks this year or their library back – maybe make it front page in Watham Forest News.

All is not lost – We have been fortunate that two years into this coalition government we can now see how it has helped Waltham Forest where we need it most:

  • The pupil premium is delivering 9 million pounds a year to help 9,900 pupils from low-income families in our borough.
  • Ministers have delivered tens of millions of pounds to help cope with our growing school population. The second highest capital allocation in the country.
  • Ministers have improved childcare for disadvantaged two year olds, helping an estimated 1000 struggling Waltham Forest families with funding for 15 hours free childcare a week.

This is in stark contrast to the failures at a local level of Labour’s Worknet programme and the Cathall Skills Academy, where millions of pounds that should have been spent on local jobs have been wasted or left unspent.

Savings

Moving on to our budget savings:

  • Firstly the Lib Dem Group have proposed savings by abolishing the tax payer subsidy to the trade unions. Surely it cannot be right in a time of austerity that our tax payers subsidise the Unions in this borough – given that the Unions can afford to give away millions, year after year to the Labour party
  • This would allow the Unions to hold the executive to account properly and avoid the perception that Labour councillors and union officials are in each others pockets.
  • Secondly we would cut further into our corporate communications budget because it is an extravagance to still be spending £1 million a year on this when other core services are being cut.
  • Thirdly we will look to reduce money spent on junior cabinet posts, which were introduced to help the work of the joint administration and are a luxury we no longer need, and should not afford.
  • Finally we would cut Waltham Forest News, which lost money in the last financial year despite being propped up by hundreds of thousands of pounds of council advertising. Most people know that it is really a propaganda sheet for the Labour Party and the Leader.

Reserves

The reserves, last year and this year, are too high, compared with the overall budget. On the advice of the Finance Director we haven’t specified individual reserves in the budget amendment itself, but we have looked at the full range of reserves available – up to £43 million – and have identified areas that could be used to invest in our borough.

For example on Equal Pay.  This process should have been completed years ago and maintaining a large balance here means either that the Labour Administration has failed, and needs to act on this now, or that it is storing up money for something else and trying to hide it.

As we know, most of the cuts have been front-loaded, a process the joint administration introduced.  So in order to realise the necessary savings the majority of restructuring and redundancies should have gone through the system already. We also know that most of the redundancies to date have been managed by using in year budgets and not reserves. So the restructuring reserve and the redundancy reserve are high and could be reduced by a small percentage, whilst still having a big impact on our investment in the Borough this year.

Given the cuts to the budget overall, we should also be able to cut our working balance accordingly. We said it last year and we are saying it again.  Reducing the working balance by one million pounds and investing it in borough infrastructure is a better use of funds, than to let it languish in a bank. So we have taken this 1 million pounds for investment in road improvements for the Borough.

We realise that an extra 2million is to be used for potholes and pavements and we welcome that, but we feel that resurfacing roads is also important.  Having seen the road resurfacing in parts of Leyton and Leytonstone we feel that we should put another million pounds into resurfacing 12 or more roads in the borough.

Overall our proposals would be prudent, using only 17% of our reserves this year for investment, leaving a significant financial buffer for the future. And at the same time investing in the things that matter most to our residents now, and for the longer term.  We should be building a legacy from the Olympics and investing in jobs, education and care for our most vulnerable residents. ….

Children’s Services

Last year we included an additional  £1 million for Children’s Services, to help support them at a difficult time.  This is close to the amount of the current overspend in the department this year, so in retrospect it now appears prudent.

As councillors we all know the problems that were identified by Ofsted in the council’s services for looked after children last year and that Waltham Forest was one of only 2 authorities in the country to receive the lowest rating possible for their Looked After Children’s Service.

We’re pleased that the council has given some leeway in the budget this year to help the service recover. The Service has had a difficult time, but the very good news is that the Improvement Notice issued to the Council has been lifted and our congratulations go to Alan and his team for the hard work that they did to get this notice lifted.  We look forward to getting an improved Ofsted report in the future.

However we are extremely concerned about poor performance in some of our primary schools.  We highlighted recently the Ofsted report, showing that we are the worst borough in London and one of the worst in the country, for parents wanting to send their children to a good or outstanding primary school.

Not only that but we also found that we are below the national average for our Key Stage 2 results, a decline since 2010, and again one of the worst Borough’s in London and in the country for this. It is another failure on the back of last years’ failures in Children’s Services.  Even this week we have heard that the government is to raise the test targets. So there is a lot of work to do.

Not all these issues can be fixed with more money – local leadership is important. Continually changing the cabinet member for education is not the answer.

Given the problem that has been identified, we need to do something to improve our childrens’ attainment so we’ve earmarked a large chunk of money – £3.1 million – to invest in free breakfasts for our Borough’s poorest children. This money would go direct to schools and would fund a breakfast for every single child on free school meals for the next year.

Some schools may be doing this from the pupil premium money so that the total cost may reduce.  Of course if we were in administration we’d already have been negotiating with local schools to use some of their pupil premium money to put up some match funding. With more and more children going to school without breakfast, this is an important area that will help childrens’ nutrition, concentration and therefore their attainment in school.

We would also provide funds for additional respite care services and extra fund for fostering and adoption.  Most of our fostering is out of  borough and last year Ofsted judged our adoption service as only Adequate.

Also investing money now, can save in the future on expensive outside agencies and out of borough placements.

As a Liberal Democrat I don’t believe we should accept these failures in our schools, and our childrens services.

We must send a clear signal that we are not going to put up with a poor service and will not be content with an adequate service. But we will strive to provide an outstanding service.  Something which, I am sure, we can all agree is what we should be aiming for.

Business, skills and jobs

The lack of economic development over many years has finally forced the borough to try to address this issue and thanks to pressure from us over the last year they are finally investing in apprenticeships.

But there is so much more that could be done. In fact I’d be interested to know if we have managed to meet the target of 40 apprenticeships this year?

New apprenticeships & graduate schemes – £1,000,000

It is one of the great scandals in our country that one in five young people between the ages of 16-24 is out of work, some 250,000 of those for over a year.

There have been some welcome but tentative signs that across the country this is starting to go down but it is happening all too slowly.

Here in Waltham Forest, we are still a ‘youth unemployment hotspot’, with around 1 out of every 8 young people on jobseekers allowance – twice the national average! – this isn’t good enough.

This isn’t just a problem now,  For over a decade the previous Labour Government and now this Labour council have failed to provide our residents with the skills and experience needed.  The Olympic organisers said as much. They wanted to hire more young people from Waltham Forest but they couldn’t because they didn’t have basic literacy, numeracy and trade skills.

And over the last year we’ve found out why: Because Labours jobs and skills programmes were failing to deliver.

The Coalition Government has already taken welcome steps to deal with this, through its £1 billion investment in the ‘Youth Contract’ and the apprenticeship programme, which at the last count  is nearing almost half a million apprenticeships across the country. As a result, the number of apprentices here in the borough has almost tripled since 2009 to over 1,500.

But we as a council could and should be doing more to help. With this in mind, we have set aside £1,000,000 for apprenticeships with local businesses to train our young people and to expand our graduate scheme in the council to train the social workers and council officers of tomorrow.

This money would not only give young men and women the chance to improve their skills base and start on a solid career path but it would also benefit the local economy and businesses.

Surveys by the National Audit Office suggest that while only 5% of companies in Britain employ apprentices, 86% of those that do, say it has improved their performance.

Jobs, skills and attainment schemes – £750,000

But what about the thousands of other resident who are still struggling to find work? What about those who have recently lost their job? What about the long-term unemployed or older people who have been let down for years by the council’s failed Worknet programme?

We propose increasing the council’s meagre £120,000 investment from its priorities fund in getting people back to work by putting an extra £750,000 of the Council’s reserves into helping these people find meaningful employment.

The Waltham Forest Labour Party has finally woken up to the need to invest in apprenticeships but they’re only just beginning the work needed to fix their failure on Worknet, O-regen and The Skills Academy. Why should we as a Council squirrel this money away when it could be put to good use  helping the people we represent, find work now?

With high unemployment levels in this Borough investing now has to be a priority.

Business support and mentoring – £750,000

We must also consider the businesses where people will find work. We all know how tough the current economic climate is for business, especially Small and Medium Enterprises, both here in Waltham Forest and across the country, with a lack of confidence, rising prices and squeezed profit margins.

These local enterprises are vital as they not only serve our local community but are more likely to hire people from the borough, spend their money locally and encourage social cohesion.

That is why in our budget we have again ear-marked money for business support and mentoring, a total of £750,000 to assist local business and ensure that they are shoring up their balance sheets, creating not cutting jobs, and generating wealth here in Waltham Forest.

And importantly we don’t need the government to step in, we can do it ourselves, working with social enterprises like Biz Fizz, Waltham Forest could be investing in programmes that deliver increased business start-up and survival, job creation and improved incomes for local entrepreneurs and their employees.

It’s good to see the council is taking the idea of creating jobs for local people through the Councils procurement more seriously, after they rejected our motion on it last year.

If we do it right, procuring from local businesses and promoting local jobs can help our local economy and save money. When we put our motion on procurement to full council back in April last year not even 15% of council contracts were going to local firms.

From recent pronouncements the council clearly now have a commitment to working towards giving more contracts to local people and expecting contractors to take on local people and I commend the Cabinet member for that. But as ever we will be watching to ensure that the Council deliver on its promise.

The other areas of our budget address some the other growing concerns of our residents, namely,

  • Debt counselling,
  • The chance to get our drains cleaned at least once a year,
  • A reduction in youth and sports fees to encourage participation in sports,
  • The setting up of clubs and activities for our youth,
  • The stopping of the £25 pound charge for reporting rats, a service that most residents feel should be free
  • The freezing of charges for mice.
  • And lastly the reinstatement of Harrow Green Library – Residents are baffled how this Labour administration can spend millions on freebees but can close down Harrow Green library to save £128,000 in one of the most deprived areas of the borough.

In conclusion Mr Mayor

Labour could’ve taken just a small fraction of their reserves and paid for extra apprenticeships for local young people, but instead their Worknet programme appears to have failed for it’s first two years.

They could be investing in business support and mentoring but instead blame the Government when the Labour Party here who are failing to act.

And they could be investing in our struggling Education Services but instead they’re hoarding £43 million of council tax payers money. Over taxing and under spending on our residents over the last year.

All this whilst the Coalition Government are delivering across the borough,

  • Funds for over 1700 new apprenticeships,
  • Delivering a tax cut for 95,600 people on the minimum wage and
  • delivering £9 million pounds through the Pupil Premium to help 9,900 pupils from low-income families.

When Liberal Democrats were in joint administration, this Borough went from being a failing authority to a four star authority. Two years with no Lib Dems to provide the ideas, drive and dedication and Labour have failed our primary school children, failed our unemployed and failed our residents.

It is clear that Waltham Forest Labour are out of touch.

Whilst our priorities for residents are clear in investing in jobs, infrastructure and education

Labour’s priorities are even clearer, storing up money in reserves and balances and using whats left for events and propaganda.

Mr Mayor, I ask the council to support our budget motion.

 

PRESS RELEASE: Labour cut free rat catching service

This year the Labour council will bring an end to their free rat catching service by introducing a new charge of £25.

They are also increasing the cost of pest control in other areas, putting up the cost of dealing with mice for those on council tax benefit from £60 to £75, a 22% increase.

Lib Dems have criticised the move saying it will cause more problems than it solves.

Lib Dem Environment spokesperson Councillor Mahmood Hussain said:

“This is a false economy. A growing rat population affects everyone. For every person that is put off reporting rats by this new charge, rats will spread further and faster across the Borough.

“Mice are a growing problem for residents too and it can often take two or three visits before they are cleared from your home, landing you with a bill of hundreds of pounds.”

“Just like their u-turns over parking charges and the living wage last year, it wouldn’t cost Labour much to reverse these bad decisions and back the priorities of residents.”

Lib Dem Leader Councillor Bob Sullivan said:

“Lib Dems will be finding money in our alternative budget to show that the Labour council could cut charges for mice and keep the rat service free if they wanted to.”

PRESS RELEASE: LIb Dems welcome new bailiff laws

Waltham Forest Lib Dem leader Cllr Bob Sullivan has welcomed the new laws to tackle aggressive bailiffs planned by the coalition government next year.

Under the new laws, bailiffs will be stopped from using any physical contact when dealing with people who owe money and will be banned from entering people’s homes at night, or entering properties where children are alone.

They will also be banned from fixing their own fees and will have to follow a set fee scale.

Councillor Bob Sullivan said:

“This is a welcome proposal from the coalition government that can’t come soon enough. I’ve had to deal with residents’ problems with over-zealous bailiffs for a long time and I can’t understand why the last Labour government let the current situation drag on for 13 years.

“Just because someone is in financial difficulty it shouldn’t mean they can be taken advantage of. Bailiffs should be forced to play by the rules and ensure fairer treatment for our most vulnerable residents.”