Archive for July 2013

W4 Development Newlsetter

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Please find attached the June/July newsletter for the W4 development


W4 Newsletter - JuneJuly 2013 -

61 Oxford Street - Residents Newsletter

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The Project is now in construction week 10 of 90. Please see below for the latest news:


61 Oxford St Newsletter No 2 July 2013 -

Let councils borrow to build

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My piece for ConservativeHome yesterday:

Cllr Jonathan Glanz, the Cabinet Member for Housing on Westminster City Council, says the cap shoud be lifted to give freedom on housing budgets

Let local authorities and ALMOs manage their housing businesses effectively and efficiently to provide more of the affordable housing that this country so desperately needs.  That’s the argument behind the report ‘Let’s Get Building’, published at the end of last year by the LGA and an alliance of housing organisations.

After some promising noises from various quarters, the potential for higher levels of house building by local authorities and ALMOs was overlooked in the spending review but undoubtedly warrants a more detailed examination ahead of next year’s Budget. Having given councils greater freedom to manage their housing budgets last year, the next logical step is to give them the freedom to decide on levels of investment and borrowing to fund it.

Councils currently plan to construct about 4,000 homes per year. This could increase by an additional 15,000 annually if councils were given more freedom to borrow to invest.  Councils have a well-earned reputation for sound management of their finances and ALMOs are known for providing high quality housing management, managing large scale capital programmes and in many cases have already built new homes in communities all over the country.
To illustrate the headroom for further borrowing, the current average debt on ALMO property is £17,000 compared with an average outstanding mortgage debt held by UK owner occupiers of £111,793 in August 2012, according to research by Credit Action.
In most cases building more homes to replace those sold through the Right to Buy and to provide for families in need of affordable housing would make sound business sense as the new rental income would help repay the overall debt over the business plan period as well as saving huge sums of money on housing benefit by providing cheaper accommodation for homeless families rather than resort to private sector temporary accommodation.

The obstacle is the cap on council housing borrowing imposed by Government when self-financing began last April. Whilst those of us involved in local government understand all too well and support the Chancellor’s commitment to return the country to a stable fiscal footing, it is important to understand that this borrowing would be paid for by the rental income from the new homes and would not be a call on general taxation.
This is why ‘Let’s Get Building’ also argues that the introduction of self-financing for council housing
makes the case for a permanent change in borrowing rules even stronger than before.  There is no reason why councils should not simply manage their own housing businesses effectively.

We are, indeed, the only country within the EU that does not recognise that investment in publicly owned housing is a commercial activity. All other member states do not include borrowing for housing investment in their public sector borrowing figures. I support the thrust of the report, which urges the Government to also recognise this important distinction and adopt international borrowing rules which would take council housing investment out of the main measure of government debt and outlines how this could be done.

Open Westminster

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A lot of hard work has been put into creating a new charity, Open Westminster. Its aim is to improve access to the natural environment and arts for Westminster’s residents. We have so many terrific opportunities in Westminster and this charity will provide a wide range of different events over the next two years or so.

The first offers under Open Westminster will launch on Thursday, 4th July through the City Council’s platform City Save https://citysave.westminster.gov.uk/.

All offers are free and are only for Westminster’s residents and, as there are a limited number of tickets for each event. Our first dated offer is on Saturday July 20th when Sir Peter Hendy, Commissioner of TfL, will drive his personal 1962 AEC RouteMaster bus for the journey from Westminster to Barnes to visit the London Wetlands Centre. There are only 62 places on the bus so first come first served. The tickets for the Summer Exhibition may be used immediately, and the two Tea Dances are in October and November.

An e-mail has gone out to thousands of Westminster City Save subscribers to announce, among other Value for Money offers, the Open Westminster Events.

 If you know of anyone who will be interested please invite them to check out the Westminster City Save website as more events will be announced over the coming months.

Fitzroy Place Newsletter

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Please see below the latest newsletter on Fitzroy Place.


Exemplar_Newsletter_July_2013_AW v01 email -

MOPAC Challenge - 11th July 10:30am

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As one of the Non-Executive Advisor's to the Deputy Mayor for Police and Crime, I will be taking part in the MOPAC Challenge on 11th July.
Holding the MPS to account for delivery against key performance targets is one of the most important roles of the Mayor in his capacity as the head of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
On 11 July at 10:30am, the Mayor will be chairing the quarterly MOPAC Performance Challenge meeting. The meeting will be held in the Chamber at City Hall and will be webcast here.
The Mayor and his Deputy Mayor, Stephen Greenhalgh, will be discussing performance against the Mayor’s 20:20:20 challenge - to reduce crime by 20% across 7 key neighbourhood crime types; to boost public confidence in the police by 20%; and to cut costs at the Met by 20% and save £500 million.  Additionally, speakers from the Crown Prosecution Service and HM Courts and Tribunals Service will discuss work underway to meet MOPAC’s target of reducing delays in the criminal justice system by 20% by increasing efficiency.
The transcript of the last quarterly Performance Challenge meeting (held on 30 April 2013) can be found here.


Please note there will be no papers for this meeting. Any PowerPoint presentation used during the meeting and will be made available on the website.

Generation Y: The silent victims of an over-bloated and unfair welfare system

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My article for ConservativeHome this week


Cllr Jonathan Glanz, the Cabinet Member for Housing on Westminster City Council, says Generation Y are right to demand welfare spending be brought under control

Toby Young blogged last week on the surprise expressed by a Guardian columnist following research from Ipsos MORI that showed only around one in five 16-34 year olds (AKA Generation Y) consider the welfare state to be one of the country’s proudest achievements.

The research results are wholly unsurprising and bear out precisely what I have been experiencing in Westminster for some time now. Personally, I do believe that the creation of the welfare state is something we should all be proud of though I do admit to being slightly older than the Generation Y cohort! I can also see, however, that mistakes in the application of benefits and the shift from a principle of ‘a hand up’ to ‘a hand out’ has undermined the achievements of the past. This is illustrated most clearly by the housing benefit system that is currently being reformed by the Government.

The Ipsos MORI survey was actually part of an excellent, much wider generational analysis that shows young people are also less likely than other generations to support higher taxes in order to increase benefit payments.

Again, this is no great surprise to anyone with any experience of housing in London and other high cost areas. While the desire to buy a home is the one consistently high and universal aspiration across the generations from pre-war and Baby Boomers to Generations X and Y, for twenty- and thirty-somethings today the dream is rapidly evaporating. To put it bluntly, they are the victims of decades of complacency and the unsustainable expansion of the welfare state.

For example, take a Westminster couple in their late twenties earning a joint salary of forty or fifty thousand pounds per year. They might be among the 45% of households in the capital who are worried about meeting their monthly housing costs To qualify for a typical mortgage on a lower quartile property in Westminster they would need savings of £200,000 to £300,000. The private rented sector is not much more affordable with average rents of around £550 per week exceeding the common benchmark of 40% of post-tax income.

Realistically our couple is not going to qualify for social housing either which means that they probably need to look elsewhere for somewhere to live. That is a massive loss to our community and by moving away from their jobs, their friends and potentially taking their children out of local schools, their commute is lengthened and their costs are increased.

In this situation, hardworking young people on average incomes have every right to feel more than a little irked when they realise that their taxes are subsidising the private rents of families living in central London homes the like of which they would need a decent lottery win to be able to afford. Indeed, not only were their taxes subsidising rents of up to £2,000 per week for others to live in the most desirable areas but they are also keeping prices in the area artificially high to such an extent that they have no chance of accessing the market.

This is the true picture of the welfare state in 2013 for Generation Y and these are the people I keep in mind when I am being attacked by political opponents for my support of the government’s welfare reforms. That is because I do not believe for one second that this generation of young people is any more heartless or lacking in sympathy for those genuinely in need of help from the state than any of their forebears. They have become the silent victims of an over-bloated and unfair welfare system full of perverse incentives.

The Housing Benefit bill in England is now pushing £23 billion, including £270 million in Westminster alone. Living in central London is not for everyone but I would wager that a large number of those for whom housing costs are a growing concern look at these numbers and wonder, not only why they should be proud of this system, but also question how on earth their parents’ generation got it so wrong. I am confident that this Government’s efforts might give Generation Y at least some assurance that we were not all bad.

Soho Village Fete - Sunday 7 July

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This Sunday will see the return of the Soho Village Fete. Events and festivities will be taking place from 12 noon and finishing at 6pm. Please come and support your local community which will be showcasing live music and entertainment, drinks, food, stalls - bric-a-brac, books and a Museum of Soho.


Hyde Park Concerts - summer programme and helpline for local residents

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This week organisers have confirmed that there will be eight concerts taking place on the Parade Ground in Hyde Park this summer. 

This July the Royal Parks have teamed up with AEG Live to deliver a unique and bespoke event - Barclaycard presents British Summer Time, Hyde Park

In September, the BBC Proms in the Park and Radio 2 Live will also return to Hyde Park.

The dates and times of the events are as follows:



Show

Date
Time
BST Build
Saturday 22 June –
Thursday 4 July
-
BST Soundchecks
Thursday 4 July 2013
Times*

BST Hyde Park
Bon Jovi
Friday 5  July 2013
Show 2.30pm - 10.30pm**
BST Hyde Park
The Rolling Stones
Saturday 6 July 2013
Show 12.30pm - 10.30pm**
BST Hyde Park
JLS & Beach Boys
Sunday 7 July 2013
Show 1pm - 9.45pm**
BST Hyde Park
 Sir Elton John
Friday 12 July 2013
Show 2.30pm - 10.30pm**
BST Hyde Park
The Rolling Stones
Saturday 13 July 2013
Show 12.30pm - 10.30pm**
BST Hyde Park Lionel Richie & Jennifer Lopez
Sunday 14 July 2013
Show 1pm - 10.15pm**
BST Breakdown
Monday 15 July - 
Monday 24 July
-
Proms Build
Tuesday 27 August –
Friday 6 September
-

BBC Proms in the Park
Saturday 7 September 2013

Show 2pm-10.30pm**
Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park

Sunday 8 September 2013
Show 12pm-10.30pm**
Proms Breakdown

Monday 9 September –
Friday 13 September
-

*Please note that there may be soundchecks on show days during licensed hours.
**Exact show times are subject to change but will remain within the licensed hours.

I have received assurance from organisers that they will do everything within their power to minimise the impact of events on local resident and park users on. 

I am also pleased to say that during the summer The Royal Parks will be operating a dedicated free phone number: 0800 567 7079 should you have any concerns before, during and after these events.

This dedicated number will be live from 1pm – 11pm on all British Summer Time (BST) and BBC Proms show days and from 9.30am – 5.30pm on non-show days. 

Outside of these times, and when the phone is in use, calls will be diverted to the voicemail and responded to by a Royal Parks representative at the earliest opportunity. When leaving a voicemail, please ensure that you clearly state your name, contact number and a brief description of your concern or feedback.

The Royal Parks is also working in close liaison with Westminster City Council’s Environmental Health Department where calls and information will be shared. 


Finally, if you are interested in a full list of events in the Royal Parks please visit www.royalparks.org.uk/events.