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Archive for November 21st, 2013

This will be submitted by the Labour group to the full meeting of Tower Hamlets council on November 27:

Motion on Centenary of WW1

Proposer: Cllr Sirajul Islam

Seconder: Cllr Rachael Saunders

This Council Notes:

–       That 2014 will mark the centenary of World War One.

–       As time passes the personal memory of this event diminishes.

–       This was the first major conflict of the modern era in which civillain communities were attacked and this included Londoners.

–       Remembrance Sunday represents a unique and important point each year where we commemorate all of those who have and continue to fight for our country, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

–       We should also note the sacrifice and suffering of civilian communities.

This Council Believes:

–       It is important to our sense of community and legacy that the memory and knowledge of those events is never lost.

–       It is an important part of our cultural heritage to remember and share in the great history of our country and the contribution of East Enders.

–       That an appreciation of the decisions of the past gives us a better understanding of the world.

–       That the centenary presents an opportunity to share in collective commemoration of the role of East End communities.

This Council resolves:

–       To note the contribution and sacrifice of East Enders, both as civilians and as members of our and our allies Armed Forces.

–       To call upon the Speaker of the Council to work with the Head of Paid Service to organise a high profile commemorative event for next year’s World War One centenary.

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This motion will be submitted for debate at next Wednesday’s full meeting of Tower Hamlets council:

Protecting community pubs

Proposer: Cllr Amy Whitelock
Seconder: Cllr Denise Jones

This council notes:

  • That in addition to the provision of its own services the Council should support through its policies and the exercise of its powers a network of well-run community facilities, including shops, pubs, advice centres, places of worship and other local forums and services which are valued by residents. As an example of these, community pubs provide a valuable community service for those who choose to use them. 
  • Twenty-six pubs close every week across the country. In Tower Hamlets many pubs have already been converted to flats or stand empty.
  • Recently local pubs such as The Sun in Bethnal Green and the Britannia pub in Mile End have closed down, to the disappointment of local residents.
  • Pubs inject an average of £80,000 into their local economy each year and support almost one million UK jobs, 46% of whom are 16 – 24 year olds.
  • That whilst some pubs can have anti-social behaviour problems which the Council should challenge, the majority offer a positive contribution to our borough and are part of a balanced and inclusive community offering that helps to define the local quality of life.

This council further notes:

  • The recently adopted Managing Development Document policy DM8 specifies that social and community facilities, such as public houses, will be protected where they meet an identified local need and the buildings are suitable for their use.
  • That while conversion of pubs to residential use would be resisted as contrary to planning policy, this does not automatically mean such applications would be rejected.
  • Residents often feel they have no opportunity to prevent their local pubs from being sold off or converted to flats.
  • The demolition of pubs is classed as “permitted development” means planning permission is not required. Between 2003 and 2012, 414 former pubs were demolished in London alone.

This council believes:

  • Local pubs are a hugely important community hub, bringing local people together and providing social inclusion opportunities.
  • While pubs that cause antisocial behaviour should be subject to enforcement action, well managed community pubs should be protected by the council.

This council resolves:

  • To work with residents to list local pubs as Assets of Community Value under the Localism Act, giving greater protection against pubs being sold off to developers.
  • To support the Sustainable Communities Act proposal: “That the Secretary of State help protect community pubs in England by ensuring that planning permission and community consultation are required before community pubs are allowed to be converted to betting shops, supermarkets and pay-day loan stores or other uses, or are allowed to be demolished.”

To work together with Local Works and the Campaign for Real Ale to gain support for the proposal from other councils in the region and across the country.

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Labour’s Abdal Ullah will submit this motion, time permitting, to the full meeting of Tower Hamlets council next Wednesday.

Tackling crime in Tower Hamlets

Proposer: Cllr Abdal Ullah

Seconder: Cllr Shiria Khatun

This Council notes:

–       That by the Metropolitan Police’s own figures crime in Tower Hamlets has increased 9% since 2010.

–       Over the same period crime in neighbouring Hackney was down 3% and in Newham down 6%.

–       In 2011/12 there were almost 20,000 reported incidents of anti-social behaviour.

–       Tower Hamlets has the second highest levels of anti-social behaviour in London (p. 149)

–       Figures in the Community Safety Plan, buried on page 130, show that between October 2009 and September 2012 robberies were up 50%, knife crime was up 49%

–       In the 2013 Annual Residents Survey 41% of people said crime was one of their top three concerns, this was the biggest overall concern from residents.

–       The Mayor’s Community Safety Plan makes no reference to the significant increases in crime and ASB nor does it give a true appreciation of the key challenges facing the borough.

–       The Mayor vetoed Labour’s proposal at the 2011 Budget to fund 17 new police officers.

This Council Believes:

–       That the Mayor’s complacent approach to crime has meant the Council has not been focused on tackling what residents see as the most important issue facing our borough.

–       The borough needs a Mayor who will show leadership in facing up to and challenging anti-social behaviour, tasking council officers appropriately and working in partnership with other organisations including the police.

This Council further notes:

–       Neighbourhood policing has been essentially destroyed – many wards now have just one PC and one PCSO.

–       The positive impact of the Safer Neighbourhood Teams which were introduced by the Labour Government and Labour Council in Tower Hamlets. That the SNTs helped to not only reduce crime in Tower Hamlets but also increased public confidence in the police.

–       The changes introduced by Boris Johnson which have cut Safer Neighbourhood Teams to the bone by cutting the teams to one police officer and one police community support officer per ward, down from six officers under Labour.

–       The CSP figures show that incidences of arson in the borough are down 31% since 2009/10.

–       Boris Johnson continues to pursue his plan to close half of the borough’s police stations as well as closing Bow fire station and halving the number of fire engines at Whitechapel.

This Council further believes:

–       The neighbourhood policing model introduced by the last Labour Government and piloted by the Labour council was a strong and successful model for local policing.

–       Under the current Mayor of London neighbourhood policing has been significantly dismantled.

–       The current Mayor of Tower Hamlets has completely failed to protect the community policing model which was so successful after Labour introduced it.

–       Boris Johnson’s cuts to police and fire stations in the borough will have a detrimental effect on community safety.

–       The closure of Bow and cuts at Whitechapel fire station will not only reduce capacity but also put additional pressure on the remaining stations and staff. This will in turn reduce their ability to undertake fire prevention outreach work and could threaten to reverse the positive gains made over previous years.

This Council resolves:

–       To condemn the Mayor of Tower Hamlets for his failure of leadership in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.

–       To reassert the importance of strong and locally integrated neighbourhood policing team and to support Labour’s approach to reassert a neighbourhood policing model.

–       To reiterate Labour’s call for the Mayor to support and fund new police officers as opposed to additional THEOs.

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This motion will be submitted to the next meeting of Tower Hamlets council on November 27.

Dealing with the cost of credit

Proposer: Cllr Anwar Khan

Seconder: Cllr Rachael Saunders

This Council notes:

–       The UK-wide campaign to end ‘legal loan sharking’.

–       The outrageous interest rates charged by some pay day lenders

–       The way in which these loans trap people in spirals of unmanageable debt.

–       That as Christmas approaches these companies will seek to use public advertising to target people in our borough who are struggling to make ends meet.

–       That unaffordable credit is extracting wealth from the most deprived communities.

This Council believes:

–       That the lack of access to affordable credit is socially and economically damaging.

–       Unaffordable credit is causing a myriad of unwanted effects such as poorer diets, colder homes, rent, council tax and utility arrears, depression and poor physical and mental health.

–       That there is a need for better regulation of the payday lending sector, including a cap of the total cost of credit.

–       That until such regulation is introduced Tower Hamlets Council should work with partners to do all it can to protect people from usurious lending.

This Council Resolves:

–       That payday loan firms should be banned from setting up businesses in commercial property owned by the local authority. 

–       That pay day loan firms should be banned from advertising in property owned by the council.

–       That payday loan firms should be banned from advertising in Council publications or on Council owned advertising boards, from all public computers.

–       To promote credit unions in Tower Hamlets as community based organisations offering access to affordable credit and promoting saving.

–       To work with school, community organisations, housing providers, faith organisations and  providers of debt and money management advice to ensure that every resident of Tower Hamlets has access to financial advice and support.

–       That the Council writes to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Sir Peter Hendy (Commissioner of Transport for London) and Vernon Everitt (Managing Director, Customer Experience, Marketing and Communications) informing them of the Council’s decision to ban payday loan advertising in the borough and asking them to consider amending the TfL Advertising Policy to include a similar ban on all London public transport.

–       Instructs the Corporate Director, CLC, to report in writing to the next full Council meeting, the steps the Council or Mayor could take to limit the proliferation and impact of high street credit outlets in the borough.

–       To call on the government to introduce caps on the total lending rates that can be charged for providing credit.

–       To call on the government to give local authorities the power to veto licences for high street credit agencies where they could have negative economic or social impacts on communities.

–       To request the Heads of Planning and Licensing to report to the next Council meeting on ways in which officers can use powers at their disposal to ensure that the Council is doing all it can to prevent the promotion, publicity or opening of payday loan outlets or providers.

 

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This motion has been submitted by the Labour group for debate at next Wednesday’s full meeting of Tower Hamlets council (declaration: I’m a Tower Hamlets Homes leaseholder).

Proposer: Cllr Marc Francis

Seconder: Cllr Carlo Gibbs

This Council notes:

  • In 2008, Full Council agreed a motion authorising the Lead Member for Housing to commission an independent audit of leasehold service charges following concerns about the two-thirds increase in the level of Management & Administration fees, numerous historic disputes over the costs recharged and a Scrutiny Review which called for much greater transparency and accountability in the calculation of service charges;
  • In 2009, a Project Steering Group (PSG) involving councillors, Tower Hamlets Homes (THH), Tower Hamlets Leaseholders Association (THLA) and other leaseholders agreed detailed Terms of Reference for that audit, commissioned Beevers & Struthers Ltd to carry it out;
  • In spring 2010, THH attempted unilaterally to introduce new methodology for the calculation of management fees and a new policy to charge to ground floor leaseholders for services they did not benefit from, which was blocked by the Lead Member;
  • In summer 2010 a draft version was produced for the PSG, identifying a series of very challenging issues for THH around the management of leasehold services, value for money, caretaking, repairs and maintenance, management and administration fees, and several Service Levels Agreements with LBTH;
  • However, publication of the final audit report was delayed by the Mayoral Election in October 2010 and not finally signed off by the PSG until May 2011, by which time LBTH/THH had already begun consultation on a “Leasehold Policy Review” which was claimed to have been based on its findings;
  • The Mayor and Lead Member subsequently established a Leasehold Action Plan Working Group (LAPWG), including representatives of leaseholders to bring together the Beevers & Struthers’ recommendations, those of the Audit Commission and THH’s own Leaseholder Service Improvement Group, and a Statement of Intent was agreed by all those involved to implement the 54 recommendations or agree an alternative remedy;
  • Over the next 18 months, just five of the 54 recommendations were implemented and in October 2012, THH sent leaseholders “actuals”, which included significantly increased charges in most areas, particularly block/estate cleaning, a 17 per cent “Overhead” fee and new SLAs with LBTH.  They were told these costs had been calculated on the B&S audit and had actually been “dampened” and so would increase further over the next two years;
  • In spring 2013, the St Stephen’s Estate Leaseholders Association published a damning scrutiny report, which exposed the failure to implement the recommendations in the original Beevers& Struthers audit;
  • In response, the current Lead Member for Housing & Development, is now proposing an “review” of the original B&S audit.

This Council believes:

  • The Mayor and THH have not implemented the recommendations contained in the independent audit in accordance with the agreed Statement of Intent and that the original aim of increasing transparency and accountability has been lost;
  • Leaseholders should be fully recharged for the costs of the services they receive, but that the 2011/12 “actuals” are not based on the methodology set out in the recommendations in the B&S audit, but are instead opaque and represent very poor value for money;

This Council resolves to call on the Mayor to:

  • Explain why only 5 out of 54 of the recommendations in the B&S audit have so far been implemented;
  • Explain why an 17 per cent “Overhead” has been introduced across most Heads of Charge:
  • Justify the Service Level Agreements between LBTH and THH and explain what action is being taken to ensure best value;
  • Instruct THH to publish a report detailing how the actions it has taken since October 2010 to achieve “savings” have resulted in reduced costs to council leaseholders and tenants.

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Here are the list of questions the Labour group will pose to Mayor Lutfur Rahman at next Wednesday’s full meeting of Tower Hamlets council.

None of them will be answered by him of course.

Denise Jones has an intriguing angle.

Councillor Question                                    

Cllr Rachael Saunders

Is the Mayor prepared to be honest about how his re-election campaign is being funded?
Cllr Carlo Gibbs Why has the Mayor suspended the community chest and transferred the funds to the community events fund?
Cllr Shiria Khatun Why has enough not been done to reduce ASB on the brownfield estate in my ward?
Cllr Abdal Ullah What has the Mayor done about the decimation of Safer Neighbourhood police teams?
Cllr John Pierce What has the Mayor of Tower Hamlets done to improve cycle safety in the borough? 
Cllr Denise Jones Does the mayor agree that fraud has no place in our politics?
Cllr Ann Jackson Can the Mayor enlighten us on the allocation of social housing in the Olympic park on a per borough basis and the rationale used for allocation?
Cllr Joshua Peck What assessment has the Mayor made of the supply of large family homes (over three bed) in the open market in the borough and what does he plan to do to ease the shortage to allow growing families to stay in the borough?
Cllr Anwar Khan What is the current vacancy rate in each of the borough’s town centres?
Cllr MA Mukit How many incidents of anti-social behaviour in Weavers over last year?
Cllr Marc Francis Can the Deputy Mayor and Lead Member for Community Safety services tell us what action is being taken to improve the safety of residents in Fish Island using the Hackney Cut and Hertford Union canal towpath?
Cllr Zenith Rahman Why does the Mayor think almost 20,000 incidences of anti-social behaviour in one year is acceptable? If he doesn’t, why hasn’t he acted?

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This motion has been submitted by the Labour group to the full meeting of Tower Hamlets council on November 27 (declaration: I now live near the airport). It seems The Tower Hamlets Labour group might be on collision course with Labour’s Sir Robin Wales in Newham…

London City Airport

Proposer: Cllr Ann Jackson

Seconder: Cllr Motin Uz-Zaman

This Council notes that:

  • The significant noise nuisance experienced by many Tower Hamlets residents caused by planes taking off from London City Airport
  • This noise nuisance continues to increase as permitted aircraft movements increase by 50,000 to 120,000 a year.
  • This Council unanimously resolved to oppose any further expansion of London City Airport and has raised its concerns about the noise nuisance experienced by its residents but been consistently ignored by the Airport.

This Council further notes that:

  • London City Airport will shortly apply to the London Borough of Newham for expansion of stands at the airport, to facilitate the growth of the airport and the increase to 120,000 aircraft movements a year.

This Council resolves to:

  • Continue to oppose any further expansion of London City Airport
  • To formally object to the Airport’s most recent planning application to Newham
  • To publicise in East End Life this planning application and to encourage residents to make their views known to Newham Council

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