West End Ward Surgery - Friday 31 July

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Unfortunately I will be absent from this month’s Surgery due to unforeseen circumstances . However, my colleague, Councillor Glenys Roberts, will be representing the Ward at St Anne’s Church, 55 Dean Street from 5pm to 6pm.

If you are unable to attend this drop-in and have Ward issues to raise , Councillor Paul Church, will be taking a surgery on Saturday 1 August at 2pm at Danceworks, Balderton St.

Alternatively you can contact me via email to raise any issues or concerns that you may have on jg@45west.com

I look forward to seeing you as usual at the next Surgery which will be taking place on Friday 28 August.

Fight the Flytippers in Westminster

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Dumped rubbish on Westminster's streets is an ongoing battle within the Ward and 75 City Inspectors are now on our streets to comabt this issue.

Please help us keep our streets clean by reporting flytipping online. Either send details and photos to us on Twitter using #FightFlytippers or fill in our quick online form at westminster.gov.uk/report-it.

Crossrail: Tottenham Court Road - latest works information

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Please see below to view the latest works notification about the closure of Dean Street to through traffic to facilitate the removal of a scaffolding structure around the Nellie Dean public house.

Please also note that contractor, Laing O’Rouke, will be receiving a large welfare cabin delivery at the Goslett Yard worksite on the morning of 22 July 2015 approx 6am. The large load will be brought in under escort.

West End Starved of High Speed Internet

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Many residents and business in the West End and elsewhere in Westminster are frustrated by the inability to access cost-effective superfast broadband. Small and medium sized businesses which make up the bulk of those operating in the West End are told by BT that they should be able to operate on the residential standard basis which operate on a shared arrangement , not unlike the old party-lines which means that the limited bandwidth available is divided and rationed between many users. At busy times their access to the internet and email is effectively slowed down to make the running of a business in the 21st century practically impossible. As use of the internet increases and programmes need more band with the position will only get worse.

As Lead Member for Broadband and Connectivity my inbox is full of those complaining of the lack of service and whilst larger businesses can fend for themselves and have a wide choice of higher capacity providers , smaller businesses and residents are told that there is no prospect of upgrading the 4 exchanges in Westminster for a better service that can be provided by Fibre to the Cabinet as BT, who control the infrastructure state ”there is no demand” and it is prohibitively expensive to do so in central London because the residential population “not sufficiently dense”.

This is clearly counter-intuitive and , in my view, nonsense.

In order to address this, and enjoy the unheard of luxury of being able to watch a programme on Netfix without it constantly stopping for buffering we need to provide evidence of demand.

Please follow the link and this on the Westminster City Council website (https://www.westminster.gov.uk/broadband) to show that there is indeed demand to help us get broadband fit for a World class city in the 21st Century.

An investigation, has shown that 341,592 residents across London are without high-speed broadband connection. London’s average internet speed is 25Mbps which makes it one of the worst capital cities in. It is important that we take the time to campaign and invest in this area to help bring the capital back up to a competitive international standard.

Surprisingly Westminster is the borough at the bottom of the pack with 103,000 of its residents without high-speed broadband connection. The map (below), recently produced by The Mayor of London, shows details of black spots across London. By visiting http://maps.london.gov.uk/webmaps/nextgenbroadband/ you will be able to search your postcode and will be given the chance to request faster broadband for the borough.

Soho Square - Hellman's Pop Up Garden - Wednesday 15 July 2015

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Hellman's are creating a pop up Mediterranean garden which will be set up tomorrow in Soho Square. The garden will be open to the public and will contain chairs, hammocks, tables and a portable kitchen in which a chef will be undertaking cooking demonstrations. The north east quadrant of Soho Square gardens will be decorated with plants and garden accessories such as wooden barrels, shutters, gazebos. Details are listed below. 

Wednesday 15th July 2015
Soho Square Gardens (north east quadrant)
Event live: 12:00 – 20:00hrs

Crossrail: Bond Street Station – Hanover Square Works Update

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Please see the document below for information on the latest works and progress being made at the Hanover Square ticket hall worksite.

Crossrail - BFK Demobilisation at Bond Street

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Please see below for the latest Crossrail works information sheet regarding the BFK demobilisation at the western ticket hall on Davies Street and the removal of the ‘crane deck’.

Pride 2015 - #Freedomto

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This year the Pride organisation have been asking for support for a national letter writing campaign called #FreedomTo Represent. It has asked for politicians at local, national and European levels to write a letter detailing the importance of Pride. Although simple, this technique sends a powerful message to all about the LGBT representations in the UK today. I have written and support this campaign so please take the time to write or blog on this subject.

This year's annual Pride in London has already started and ends on 28 June. The annual Pride Parade and other events take place on Saturday 27 June and further details can be found via the website http://prideinlondon.org/pride2015/.

Is the Market Calling Time on Office to Residential Conversions in Central London?

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Originally published by Huffington Post on 19/06/2015

With some reports suggesting house prices in central London have cooled dramatically and increasing demand for commercial space in the Capital will the market now cool the mania for office to residential conversions?

When the Government's reforms to planning law came into force in 2012, the new rules told developers councils "should normally approve planning applications for change to residential use and any associated development from commercial buildings." Westminster City Council won an exception from this for Central Activities Zone, recognising the unique nature of our City - but that has not stopped the surge of developments seeking, and winning, consent. Some 5,000,000 square feet of commercial space in Westminster has been converted or is consented for conversion and many more schemes are in the pipeline.

Westminster's City Plan, produced when commercial values were significantly higher than residential, sought to address the then market pressure to convert from residential to office by establishing a presumption in favour of commercial to residential. That presumption is now being revised so that developers will have to prove special circumstances to undertake commercial to residential conversion and provide replacement commercial space. Although this is a welcome move has the market itself already begun to correct this?

There is no doubt about the market's appetite and the need for more homes across London, but sacrificing valuable and desirable commercial space in the engine room of the London economy is no longer the right solution, particularly if these homes remain unlived -in and are merely safe havens for investors to park their money, rather than homes for London's workforce. Converting prime-commercial into residential accommodation is not how we will maintain and enhance vibrant communities in the centre of our city nor will empty flats support the local shops, restaurants and services which make the very glue that holds such communities together. It is ironic that these very factors which make London such an attractive place in which to live should be threatened by a policy designed to build more homes.

So as the London Land Commission seeks to identify brown field sites for 400,000 new homes in London they should be mindful of the need to preserve commercial space for firms to expand. Failure to do so could leave thousands of businesses literally squeezed out of the Capital and with them the jobs relied up to by the thousands of new tenants for those homes. Particularly from amongst the creative industries, small start-up businesses, professional firms and other SMEs which have thrived in the properties now being converted and permanently lost to commercial use.

We have already seen the market shift as tax changes on residential property have kicked in, including (ATED) on properties held within corporate envelopes and higher rates of SDLT, the froth at the very top of the London residential market has faded away. Talk to Estate Agents in Westminster and they will tell you properties are sitting on the books for longer than they have for some time, bucking a national trend which has seen the number of homes for sale fall to their lowest level in nearly 40 years.

When the assumption of developers is that even poorly equipped and located properties will necessarily achieve £2,500 per square foot in the West End just because of their post code the market has clearly overshot. The market which has now caught them out and many units remain unsold or unlet as the investors come to terms with real return (often sub 2%) that they can obtain from their investment. These properties will now come back to the market at more realistic sale or rent prices and help to lessen the shortage of homes which they were planned to address.

At the same time, news this week of the continuing success of London's £18bn tech industry and the inflow of investment to the sector, which is now rivalling the City as the powerhouse behind the UK's economy, shows the growing desire for international firms to locate in London, and they are increasingly looking for office space outside the traditional silicon roundabout hotspot. Not only does this inward investment help to rebalance the UK economy away from financial services to a broader base, it also signals the need to ensure our city can continue to grow. The opening of Crossrail in 2018 will add significantly to this demand as Central London become easier to access. There is no question that Greater London needs more homes of all tenures.

Office rents have now reached record levels in central London and the ripple effect is being felt far beyond the Central core where rents of £120 per square foot on the best space has seen the small office suites in Marylebone, Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury head up to £75 per square foot and beyond.

As the market changes again and with booming demand for commercial premisesacross the city seeing West End vacancy levels fall to just 2.3% and booming rents, developers are now looking again at their numbers and schemes like Derwent Valley's Savile Row and others across Fitzrovia, Soho and St James which have consent for conversation but increasingly look unlikely to be developed as residential.

As a very famous Lady once put it "You can't buck the market".

It’s time to get the Party going again in London

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As the post­-election dust settles and thoughts turn towards the London 2016 elections, we should take this opportunity to look at where we can improve our campaigning and ensure that come 5th May 2016 we truly bury the myth that London is a Labour city.
Lord Feldman’s root and branch review of the Conservative Party structure and operations is a welcome start to ensure a Party fit for the 21st Century that continues to win elections. This review is absolutely essential, perhaps nowhere more so than in London.
In the General Election, across the Capital we performed better than many expected, but still woefully underperformed against the national picture. The growing consensus among the political commentarial that London is a Labour city is one we can defeat, but to do so we should not be afraid to learn from our opponents.
The result on May 7th paints a mixed picture. Whilst across the UK as a whole we increased our vote share by 0.8 per cent, in London we managed just half that with our vote share rising from 34.5 per cent (2010) to 34.9 per cent (2015). Labour on the other hand increased their vote by 7.1 per cent. Compared with 2010 we added nearly 60,000 votes, but were eclipsed by Labour’s additional 300,000 meaning we lost four talented parliamentarians – Mary Macleod in Brentford & Isleworth, Angie Bray in Ealing Central & Acton, Nick de Bois in Enfield North and Lee Scott in Ilford North. A shortfall of just 2,414 votes in those seats cost us four London MPs.
So as we prepare to select our candidate for the London mayoral battle that is now just 334 days away, let us address the realities and weaknesses we face in London and adapt our party to meet those head on.
This is a weakness that is on the face of it surprising. We have all had conversations at Conference and with friends and colleagues across the rest of the UK about the London centric nature of the party, candidates and CCHQ. So why when we have the talent, the money and the capacity in our London ranks are we failing in our own back yard?
There is no simple answer, but learning from our opponents, part of the solution is surely better use of what we have got. We should not shy away from recognising the strength of Labour in London that delivered them a handful of gains in May. Their unified structure, deployment of financial and activist resource is better than ours. We do not have to just accept that – let’s change it.
Thinking of own experience as a Westminster city councillor I am lucky enough to have an active ward committee and membership that regularly organise the social events and fundraisers that keep the party funded and functional. They keep a well­-oiled, election winning machine whirring in Westminster. But many, who give their money freely and generously, cannot afford to be so free with their time ­ so campaigning and canvassing in my West End ward is more often than not the hard core of 4 or 5 on a wet Saturday morning or Tuesday evening.
For many years I fear we felt that was enough. In an age where the internet is at our finger tips and emails form “Boris Johnson” and “David Cameron” reach the inboxes of thousands on what sometimes felt like an hourly basis during the campaign, is the election really still won on the doorstep?
Undoubtedly, yes.
Yet many places we need to win across London are not blessed with either the manpower or the money. Ignoring the boundary changes for a moment, in the seats within our reach Hampstead & Kilburn (1,138), Westminster North (1,977) , Harrow West (2,208), Eltham (2,693 majority), Tooting (2,842), and the four seats we lost a concerted London-wide effort over the next four and a half years can deliver those gains.
During this election I had the opportunity to campaign across London – from Hampstead and Kilburn to Croydon Central, Westminster North to Ilford North – in the fight to win the 23 seats needed to deliver the majority we thankfully now have. Taking Lindsey Hall’s campaign in Westminster North, here we increased the Conservative vote and cut Labour’s majority, but there was very little help from outside the seat. Had 50 more activists pounded the streets in the weeks before the election we could, just maybe, have converted the 989 votes from Labour to Conservative needed to gain the seat?
So where were they? There is something inherently local about politics that drives and inspires us to get involved. While we all want to see a Conservative government and Prime Minister in No 10, we naturally feel more comfortable campaigning at home, where we know the people and the issues and we feel a sense of belonging. Localism is a buzz word, but it is one with meaning.
The question Lord Feldman’s review must answer is how we best motivate and mobilise our financial resources and manpower to win across London. We need our activists to feel a sense of belonging to a London wide Conservative network in order to share from where there are many to where there are few. On structure, funding, manpower and data we can campaign stronger by working together.
So with 2016 fast approaching and elections where every vote truly counts, let’s campaign as a single London party and keep our city, the greatest city in the world, a Conservative city.

Article originally published by Conservative Home (10/06/15)

Crossrail - Bond Street Station - Notice of Works

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Due to unforeseen circumstances Costain Skanska, Crossrail's contractor, will be undertaking works in the newly constructed platform tunnels from Thursday 11 June to Friday 19 June.

Works may take place at anytime of the day/night but steps will be taken to minimise disruption to the local community and visitors.

Queries can be answered by the Crossrail 24-hour public helpdesk on 034 5602 3813. Further information can be found on the Crossrail website via http://www.crossrail.co.uk/route/stations/bond-street/.

Rough Sleeping - MPS Update, Marble Arch

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On Wednesday the 20th May there was a partnership operation between the Metropolitan Police Anti-Social Behaviour Unit, Romanian Police Officers here on an EU exchange project, and WCC Residential Services City Inspectors to target rough sleeping/begging issues around Marble Arch and Edgware Road. Over the previous week there had been complaints from residents and businesses affected by this problem and the MPS obtained Community Impact Statements from them.

As a result of the operation, there were 13 Formal Warnings issued in relation to the new powers around Community Protection Notices to individuals who were found to be begging. Should these persons be seen in the area again, committing the same offence, they can now be issued with Community Protection Notices which can specify that they are prevented from entering this area again. All 13 individuals had their Romanian ID cards photographed and the details entered onto the MPS secure database.

In addition, due to the large number of Foreign Nationals gathered at Marble Arch, a Romanian Police Officer read out the offence of begging and explained to them the process of a Community Protection Notice. This was seen as the best way forward due to the number within the group who could not read any notice that would have been issued.

At the time of this operation several of the Foreign Nationals requested assistance in going home. This information was passed onto Operation Encompass for the following night, including UKBA, and when asked again about reconnection to go home no one made the request.

An MPS Neighbourhood Link update has been sent out in regards to this Operation to contacts from ORB/Hyde Park who are all affected by this issue.

MOPAC Update: Mayor announces 20,000 body cameras to be rolled out across the Met

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Mayor announces 20,000 body cameras to be rolled out across the Met

Mayor: "This is a giant step towards a truly 21st century police force for London."

At a meeting with the London Assembly on June 3rd, Mayor Boris Johnson announced that plans are underway to equip every neighbourhood and response officer in London with a body worn video camera, to help them fight crime and boost public confidence.

City Hall hosts Digital Security Masterclass for small businesses

On 27th May, Stephen Greenhalgh, Deputy Mayor for Policing, spoke at first in a series of events led by MOPAC and the Federation of Small Businesses aimed at equipping small businesses in the capital with the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves from cyber threats. 

Intrusive tactics in the spotlight as Deputy Mayor chairs MOPAC Challenge

Deputy Mayor Stephen Greenhalgh chaired MOPAC's regular Challenge meeting on 20th May, this time examining the Metropolitan Police's use of intrusive tactics including stop and search. The meeting focused on the latest statistics published on our interactive Intrusive Tactics Dashboard.

MOPAC steps up the fight against hate crime in London

On May 19th Deputy Mayor Greenhalgh chaired the first meeting of the London Hate Crime Panel. The Panel brings the police, criminal justice system and councils together with voluntary and community groups to work together to deliver the Mayor's Hate Crime Reduction Strategy, which aims to crack down on these offences, increase confidence to report and reduce repeat victimisation.

Working together to support survivors of domestic abuse

On 2nd June Deputy Mayor Stephen Greenhalgh met with Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women's Aid, to discuss new approaches to tackle violence against women and girls and support survivors of domestic abuse in the capital. 

Crime Museum Uncovered - new exhibition previewed ahead of October launch

Deputy Mayor Stephen Greenhalgh joined guests at the Museum of London on 4th June for a preview of some of the artefacts to go on public display for the first time at the forthcoming Crime Museum Uncovered exhibition. The exhibition, which will run from 9th October 2015-10th April 2016, follows an agreement between MOPAC, the Metropolitan Police and the Museum of London to showcase 600 items from Scotland Yard's Crime Museum, which until now have been accessible only to police personnel and invited guests. 
Click for more information about the exhibition

Training opportunity

Are you an education professional, health worker, council officer or volunteer working with young people in London? FREE mental health & safeguarding training opportunities are available.

Following a successful bid by the Metropolitan Police Service and MOPAC to the Home Office's Innovation Fund, we have launched the Mental Health Awareness and Safeguarding Training (MAST) programme available free of charge for front line staff who work with young people.  
The programme consists of two days of training, with a six month gap between each training day. The programme will run until in March 2016, with provision for 8,000 front line practitioners across London. 
Click to find out more and register for this training

Coming up

Have your say at the State of London Debate

It's your chance to quiz Mayor of London Boris Johnson as he returns to indigo at the 02 for this year's State of London Debate on 23rd June. Hosted by LBC's Nick Ferrari, the debate will cover all of his areas of responsibility, including policing.