RESIDENTS’ PROTESTS IGNORED

Residents gathered outside the Town Hall to protest about road closures in the ‘Mini Holland’ scheme

Residents protest ignored!

The recent protest by over 1,200 residents against the road closures in Walthamstow and Leyton showed that the Council’s Mini Holland plans, including closing local roads, does not have the support of all residents despite the Council saying that they had.

Protesters not against the scheme or cyclists, but against road closures
The protesters went out of their way to say that they were not against the scheme or cyclists, but against the road closures. The Council’s plans have succeeded in causing division and anger across the Borough. The closing of roads has forced vehicles onto the already congested main roads like Lea Bridge, Hoe Street, and Leyton High Road and has resulted in a massive slow down of traffic, increased congestion and increased pollution.

Bob Sullivan addressing protesters outside the Town Hall

Congestion and pollution bad for all
All of this is detrimental to residents, cyclists, pedestrians and bus users. Focus Team member Bob Sullivan, who was in the Town Hall listening to the Mini Holland debate, was appalled by the Labour Council restricting residents from hearing the debate, as they only allowed 12 protesters in, although the chamber can hold over a hundred. He was shocked by the arrogant, illiberal attitude with which Labour Councillors treated residents’ concerns. They were not prepared to review the Mini Holland plans despite residents’ requests and their own Labour MP’s request.

Council continues to ignore residents
They are, in fact, going to ignore residents and continue to put in similar divisive plans across Leyton, Leytonstone and Chingford!

RUCKHOLT ROAD – NISSAN SITE LATEST

Former car dealership at the junction of Oliver Road and Ruckholt Road

The old Nissan car showrooms on the corner of Ruckholt Road and Oliver Road have at last been cleared.

Residents are now waiting for the six storey flat development to go up.

The majority of residents voted against this development but like so many their objections were overruled by the Council.

LABOUR COUNCIL WASTES MORE MONEY!

Money down the drain!

Waltham Forest’s Labour Council spent £18,000 last year on a band to open Chingford’s Big Weekender festival, but months later a well-loved well used day centre in Crownfield Road, Leyton was closed because the council stopped their funding.

Chingford, Leyton and Leytonstone’s Big Weekenders are not free. They have been paid for by Waltham Forest’s taxpayers on the back of cuts to local facilities.

Focus says:

Beware! The council issues a free, twice a month, propaganda paper and a free glossy magazine and puts on many freebie events costing thousands. It has funded them by closing libraries and facilities for youngsters and vulnerable people. Ask your Labour councillor, why they agree with this? That’s if you can find them!

ASBESTOS DANGER AT WALTHAM FOREST TOWN HALL – LATEST ON COURT CASE

Waltham Forest Town Hall

Waltham Forest E Guardian 30 January 2015

A date has been set for the sentencing of Waltham Forest council for putting employees’ lives at risk by failing to deal with deadly asbestos in the basement of its town hall.

Despite being warned about the presence of asbestos in the basement of the Forest Road building in 2002, the matter was not dealt with and no workers warned of the potential danger.

Earlier this month at Westminster Magistrates Court, the council admitted four counts of failing to keep employees and visitors safe.

Sentence will take place at Southwark Crown Court on February 16.

The offences can to light when Leytonstone resident, Nick Tiratsoo, submitted a Freedom of Information request in 2012 and was told all documents requested were contaminated with asbestos, which can cause lung cancer.

Mr Tiratsoo alerted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which launched an investigation.

The court heard workers were based in the print room, one of many contaminated rooms, for up to 36 hours a week at one stage.

Kenneth Moore, who worked there for three years, said he will now worry about his health for the rest of his life and is focused on trying to keep fit.

He also said that employees were not told for ‘quite some time’ why they had been banned from entering the basement.

All three kinds of asbestos, including the most dangerous, were found in the basement, although it is not clear when it was disturbed.

District Judge Grant said the authority’s offences were too serious for sentence to pass immediately and referred the case to crown court.

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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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.

RUCKHOLT ROAD – goes Dutch!

Waltham Forest Council is one of the few Councils, successful in their bid to Transport for London for ‘Mini Holland’ funds to radically improve cycling in the borough. One of the areas for improvement is Ruckholt Road.

At a consultation meeting in Leyton Library, Lib Dem Focus Team member, Bob Sullivan had a chance to discuss the plans with officers and residents. Overall the scheme looks innovative and will assist safer cycling in the area. Bob outlined many small changes that would improve the scheme for cyclists and residents. The main one was allowing a left turn from Oliver Road into Ruckholt Road. Blocking the left turn would only encourage vehicle rat running.

He also said that the present bus stop in Ruckholt Road by the library should not be moved to Warren Road. The area in Warren Road is constantly used by motorists to park and shop locally in the High Road.

He also felt that the two current CPZs need to be combined and the times of operation extended.

Bob says: My full list of comments and suggestions has been sent to the Council. Focus will keep you informed of developments.

PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN – update

Focus has had a massive response to our petition to get all our elected councillors to have a CRB check (now called a Disclosure and Barring Service – DBS).

Councillors are Corporate Parents to all our children in care and DBS checks should be for all not just a few.

Bob Sullivan says: If you want to click here to sign the petition. You may also see the team in the High Street collecting more signatures.

 

MORE WASTE – Campaigner Bob Sullivan with Labour WFN and glossy magazine

Bob Sullivan with copies of Labour-run Council propaganda

The Council continues to spend thousands on propaganda. The Government has said that 26 editions per year of the Council’s propaganda paper WFN, costing Waltham Forest taxpayers at least £500,000, should be reduced to no more than 4 editions. Labour has ignored this, using propaganda to cover up the Council’s failures. To top it all, they have gone on to produce a further 80 page glossy magazine costing over a £100,000.

Bob Sullivan says: The Council’s campaign ‘We Need to Talk’ is asking residents what they should do in order to make savings. Should Council Tax be used for propaganda?

INFLATION BUSTING PAY RISE!!

Waltham Forest’s Labour run Council has voted to give the Chief Executive of the Council  a whopping inflation busting pay rise of £15,000 – an 8% increase. 

This makes his salary £195,000! Even the Prime Minister only gets £142,000.  Labour councillors said it was reward for overseeing council cuts.

Given that the cuts were a loss of 1,000 jobs plus salary cuts to the rest of the council staff should this have been rewarded?

On top of that, Labour councillors voted to give the redundant deputy chief executive a massive £140,000 pay off.

You can be assured that the staff who lost their jobs did not receive any golden pay offs.
Can you believe the way this Labour Council spends your money. Last year they increased the Deputy leader’s pay by 25%.

Your money down the drain

Focus will keep on reporting the arrogant and wasteful ways that this Council spends your money.