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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PRESS RELEASE: LOCAL PARTY SELECTS GENERAL ELECTION CANDIDATE

Carl Qulliam pictured outside Leyton Youth Centre (former County Cicket Ground) with former Lib Dem Council Group Leader Bob Sullivan

Former Lib Dem Advisor returns to fight parliamentary seat

Carl Quilliam, the former Head of Office for the Lib Dems on Waltham Forest council, has this week been selected to stand in the Leyton and Wanstead constituency by the local Lib Dem party.

Carl is a former civil servant who worked in regeneration under the last Labour government. He supported the Liberal Democrat council group as their Head of Office from October 2011 until October 2013 and now works for a large London-based housing association.

On being selected Carl said:

It’s exciting to be selected to stand here in Leyton and Wanstead. The Lib Dems have been the main opposition to Ed Miliband’s Labour here for over 20 years. And locally we’ve been at the forefront of campaigns on housing, children’s services, school places and protecting our environment.

It’s great to finally see local schools expanding thanks to coalition funding and without another of Labour’s expensive PFI deals but we still need more places to meet the growing demand.  

And we all know that we desperately need more affordable homes for local people, as well as more jobs and apprenticeships our young people.That’s why I will use this campaign to stand up for more local school places, more and better housing and tackling youth unemployment in the area.

Local Lib Dem activist Bob Sullivan said:

It is great to have Carl as our candidate, as the leader of the Lib Dem Group on the Council I spent two years working closely with him.  He knows the people, knows the problems and knows the area. There is no doubt he will be the best person to represent our residents as an MP.

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.

CITY AIRPORT WANTS MORE FLIGHTS – MORE NOISE?

London City Airport

Waltham Forest E Guardian – 28 January 2015

An airport has refused to attend a public meeting as it plans to go ahead with flight path changes which campaigners claim will cause a “noise ghetto” for those living under it.

London City Airport is planning to implement new technology to enable a much narrower and concentrated corridor over Wanstead, Leytonstone and Leyton.

Campaign group HACAN East believes this will increase the noise level for people living in these areas and wants the plan scrapped.

The airport will submit its proposal to the Civil Aviation Authority by the end of February, and if the plan is passed, it could be implemented in early 2016.

In a letter to the airport from deputy leader of Waltham Forest council, Cllr Clyde Loakes, he requested a further public meeting on March 2.

He said:

“I remain concerned that a significant proportion of residents are still unaware of the introduction of the RNAV technology and the impact that this will have on the quality of life of those living under the flight paths.

“I think it would therefore be useful if residents were able to hear from you directly about the next steps that will be taken and how the technology will be rolled out.”

But in reply, Jeremy Probart of London City Airport, ruled out attending a public meeting in the near future.

He said:

“There is very little that we can add to this currently, and feel that a public meeting, such as the one you suggest, would actually be counter-productive.

“We know that some people are opposed to the proposals (and the objections received have been incorporated in the report to the CAA) and a meeting in March would not be able to offer anything in the way of further information, which may simply serve to inflame, rather than to assuage.

“Therefore we will respectfully decline the opportunity you have outlined. If such a meeting were to take place, it would make sense to hold it after the CAA’s decision on the proposals and slightly before the replicated flight paths take effect.”

To sign the petiton:

https://www.change.org/p/city-airport-stop-the-current-proposal-to-concentrate-departures-from-city-airport-over-a-narrow-corridor-of-south-london-catford-dulwich-brixton-stockwell-and-vauxhall-east-london-bow-hackney-wick-leyton-leytonstone-wanstead-barkingside-colliers-row?recruiter=9107754&utm_campaign=twitter_link_action_box&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=share_petition

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.

POLICE CONTACT POINTS

The recently closed Police Station in Kirkdale Road

With the closure of Leytonstone Police Station there is now no police station in the south of the borough.

Following the closure the Police are providing a contact point at Tescos in Gainsborough Road. Officers are present every Wednesday and Thursday from 6 – 8pm. and on Saturday from 2 – 4pm.

The only other local contact point is The Police Base, 593 Lea Bridge Road, E10 6AF. It is open every Wednesday and Thursday from 7 – 8pm, and on Saturday from 2 – 3pm.

The Leyton Neighbourhood Policing Team telephone number is (020) 8721 2037.

For non-emergency calls the Police ask you to dial 101. However, for emergencies call 999.

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.