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Community Housing Trust in Kingston hits the ropes thanks to Tory Housing Bill

Should Labour support a Community Housing Trust in Kingston? This was the difficult decision facing Labour in Kingston.

The massive decade late refurbishment of council housing initiated by the Liberal Democrats was poor value for money, frequently badly fitted, and planned to the standards of 2010 rather than 2020. Many of us had experience of this as we went from door to door: badly fitted windows: new bathrooms ripped out and replaced: outrageous costs. Above all where were the solar panels to provide value for tenants?

We also knew that massive cuts were about to hit Kingston Council. Could we be sure that there would be sufficient dedicated staff left in the housing department to provide the quality of service and care that Kingston tenants should be entitled to?

On the other hand the Community Housing Trust would  allow tenants elected by their peers to oversee the repairs and maintenance of council properties. Experience from elsewhere showed that tenants were better at overseeing what was needed, and savings made by local flexibility benefited tenants.

The quality of council housing that tenants would experience was seen as the over-riding factor in the decision. Kingston Labour would put its energy into making sure the Shadow Board planned for an effective Community Housing Trust. All the work was planning and preparation. No final decision on the Housing Trust had been taken.

Labour’s Councillor Linsey Cottington was elected onto the shadow board. Linsey had had a great deal of experience in council housing and so was an ideal member of the shadow board.

She had a number of concerns:

(i) the lack of proper consultation or a vote by council tenants:

(ii) the lack of support given to those council tenants elected to the shadow board: and

(iii) the planning to reach the goal of establishing a Community Housing Trust was inadequate

The final nail in the Community Housing Trusts coffin was the government’s Planning and Housing Bill now before Parliament. This provided for a one per cent decrease in rents to be met by the Housing Revenue Account. The government was trying to impose what looked like a popular measure, reducing the rent, by dumping the costs of so doing on Kingston’s already stretched budget. Basically the Bill meant that the Community Housing Trust in Kingston would not have sufficient money to undertake repairs and maintenance.

On 15th October the Shadow Board of the proposed Community Housing Trust stop its work and abolish itself. The formal decision will be made by the Council in November but the proposal looks dead in the water.

There are lessons to be learned.

Consultation is key. You cannot impose structures without explaining them.

People power is great, but people need the training and support to exercise that power.

Finally it is necessary to plan carefully before imposing new structures or the structures will fail to meet the targets they are intended to achieve.

You can read what was written in the Norbiton Rose (pdf below). Obviously the decision by the shadow board of the Community Housing Trust on 15th October rendered the story out of date.

norbiton newsletter OCT 2015 vs4 (2)

Achieving for Children? Not if you are poor in Kingston

Research into attainment on government criteria by five year olds in London shows that those who are pooorest, measured by eligibility for a free school meal, are in danger of  attaining far less than their peers in other London boroughs. It is a disgrace that those children who are poorest in Kingston and Richmond are more likely to have low attainment than their peers in any other borough in London. It is shameful that Kingston and Richmond are the worst boroughs in London at helping those from the poorest families. What a shocking indictment of 12 years of Liberal Democrat administration. And the Tories are doing nothing to remedy the situation. If anything the educational muddle that is Kingston is getting worse.  Labour demands action. It is totally unacceptable to allow this situation to continue.

New analysis from the office of Tessa Jowell reveals that children on free school meals in Kingston are 70% more likely to fall behind in school than their peers by the age of five.

Kingston is the second worst-performing borough in London for standards among five-year-olds on Free School Meals compared to those not on Free School Meals, below only Richmond, with which it shares services (see table below).

In all, 56% of Kingston children on free school meals were found to be below the standard expected by the age of five. That compares to just 33% of children not on free school meals.

Across London, children on Free School Meals in London are 37% more likely than those not on Free School Meals to fall short of the expected level of development by the end of the year at school in which they turn five. In 2014, 10,123 children on Free School Meals fell short. That’s nearly half (48%) of all London children of that age. In contrast, just 35% of those not on Free School Meals failed to make the grade.

In all, 15 boroughs saw at least half of their five-year-olds from poorer backgrounds failing to meet the expected standard (see table below).

Tessa Jowell said:

“Poor children in more affluent boroughs face a double disadvantage. They lose so many opportunities because their families are poor, and for too many their school fails to help them and their family compensate for this disadvantage. Result – a shocking waste for potential.”

“That’s why if I become Mayor of London I will act immediately to restore Sure Start to its founding purpose, to address precisely this challenge and waste of potential so young families get the support they need and we ensure that every London child has every chance.”

Laurie South, Labour’s candidate in Grove Ward which has a by-election on Thursday 16th July said:

“These are shaming figures which show how both the Liberal Democrats and now the Tories are letting down children from poorer backgrounds in Kingston. The Tories and Liberal Democrats are bombarding your doorstep with leaflets attacking each other but there is not a mention of the way they have let down children in Grove Ward so badly. It’s a story of unequal chances, and one the council needs to start taking seriously before thousands more Kingston children are left behind. This is an issue I will be taking up with real anger if elected. ”

Here is how the research was undertaken.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) is a teacher assessment of children’s development at the end of the academic year in which the child turns five. There are five areas of learning covering 17 early learning goals (ELGs). Children achieving a ‘good level of development’ (GLD) are those achieving at least the expected level within the following areas of communication and language; physical development; personal, social and emotional development; literacy; and mathematics. Those who do not achieve the GLD are not reaching the expected level of development for five-year-olds.

The assessment is primarily based on observing a child’s daily activities and events. Accurate assessment takes in a range of perspectives; these should include those of the child, parents, and other adults that have significant interaction with the child.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/early-years-foundation-stage-profile-handbook/introduction–27#eyfs-profile

Data has been compiled by the House of Commons Library from government-sourced statistics including Early years foundation stage profile (EYFSP) assessments, by pupil characteristics in England, for academic year 2013 to 2014The table attached shows London children’s attainment levels for the 2013/14 school year, broken down by borough, learning area and by gender. This is a comprehensive analysis of over 100,000 London children, based on teachers’ direct assessments.

 

% children on Free School Meals not achieving expected development

% children not on Free School Meals not achieving expected development

Difference FSM vs non-FSM

% children on FSM

City of London

..

..

n/a

12%

Richmond upon Thames

64

34

88%

7%

Kingston upon Thames

56

33

70%

10%

Havering

51

31

65%

16%

Bromley

49

30

63%

13%

Sutton

60

37

62%

13%

Bexley

38

25

52%

17%

Merton

56

38

47%

13%

Redbridge

50

34

47%

13%

Barnet

47

32

47%

15%

Camden

57

39

46%

29%

Greenwich

35

24

46%

22%

Lewisham

32

22

45%

25%

Southwark

45

31

45%

23%

Kensington and Chelsea

56

39

44%

25%

Islington

51

36

42%

41%

Wandsworth

48

34

41%

19%

Harrow

52

37

41%

11%

London

48

35

37%

20%

Hammersmith and Fulham

49

36

36%

25%

Outer London

49

36

36%

16%

Hillingdon

61

45

36%

15%

Haringey

48

36

33%

25%

Lambeth

53

40

33%

30%

Ealing

45

34

32%

16%

Inner London

46

35

31%

27%

Enfield

51

40

28%

23%

Hounslow

51

40

28%

16%

Croydon

52

41

27%

23%

Westminster

48

39

23%

31%

Newham

40

33

21%

25%

Barking and Dagenham

47

39

21%

23%

Brent

49

41

20%

16%

Waltham Forest

42

36

17%

17%

Hackney

39

34

15%

27%

Tower Hamlets

49

43

14%

36%

Restoring Sure Start for London

How children are treated in the first 1000 days from conception to their second birthday shapes their lives – and ultimately our society. Loving, secure and reliable relationships with parents, together with the quality of the home learning environment are responsible for fostering a child’s:

·         Emotional well-being

·         Capacity to form and maintain positive relationships with others

·         Brain development (80% of brain development takes place by age 3)

·         Language development

·         Ability to learn

Tessa has previously announced a £61m a year fund to support development in a child’s first 1,000 days. This will be match-funded with local authorities who are prepared to support this vision. The funding will be available to London boroughs to fund three crucial elements of provision for young children. These are:

·         Universal services for parents and babies

·         Targeted services for parents in need of additional help

·         Re-establishing Sure Start as a community mission

 

Labour’s Candidate in Grove Ward 16th July 2015: Laurie South

 

 

“Keep buildings on a human scale and appropriate                                                                                                                                                          to their setting” says Laurie South

 

Here is the first of the two Grove Rose leaflets circulated to all Grove Ward houses and flats

 

99704 Grove Rose Election June Newsletter 1 Final

And here is the second leaflet in 2 separate pages in case you missed it

Grove newsletter July 2015-p1 (2) pdf

Grove newsletter July 2015-p2 (2) pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kingston & Surbiton CLP on the End Austerity Now March 20th June 2015

Why we must protest against government austerity plans

On 20th June 2015, members of Kingston and Surbiton Labour Party were proud to be part of the enormous rally “End Austerity Now”, marching from the Bank of England to Parliament Square.

Many economists say that the root cause of the financial crisis was the recklessness of some banks, not overspending on welfare, and that the focus by the last government on austerity in fact delayed the recovery of the economy.

We have yet to learn how the government plans to cut £12bn from the welfare budget, but we know that the cuts will fall on the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society, who under the coalition government have already suffered from the bedroom tax and benefits sanctions.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that over ten years of progress on child poverty under Labour governments have been reversed, and the numbers of children living in poverty are set to rise again. Is that really the sort of society we want to live in?

At the same time, pressures on the NHS are increased by cuts to social care, which mean that the services to enable people to leave hospital are not there.

Our Labour councillors will fight to protect our vulnerable fellow citizens in these difficult times.

Labour’s Response to the Revised Plan for the Old Post Office Site

Plans were submitted by St Georges and were subsequently revised following consultation. The revised plans can be seen on the kingston.gov.uk website at http://www.kingston.gov.uk/info/200351/regeneration_major_projects_and_developments/1114/old_post_office. The response of the Labour Party to this revised plan can be read below.

Kingston & Surbiton Constituency Labour Party has three issues with the revised plan:

(i)            Height of the tower block

(ii)          Lack of affordable housing

(iii)         Poor architectural aspiration

1.    Height

It is recognised that there has been a small amount of “trimming and slimming” to the tower block that was outlined in the original plan. However the Kingston Labour Party holds to its view, expressed in its written response to the consultation on the Eden Quarter Development Plan, that high-rise tower block building are inappropriate in Kingston town centre.

Kingston town centre has, unlike so many town centres, retained an architecture that is on a human scale. This has allowed the mixture and development of buildings across the centuries to be contemplated and enjoyed from all angles. Adding high-rise buildings to the townscape will create a centre where people and existing architecture will be overshadowed both physically and emotionally.

It is quite impossible to imagine that the town centre is enhanced in any way by a high rise building of the scale proposed. It will loom large as a menacing and threatening building to residents to the south of the town centre and to those wishing to enjoy the town centre facilities.

The high rise tower block on the corner of Brook Street and Wheatfield Way has to be scaled down to match the height of the college building that is situated relatively close to the proposed building.

2.    Affordable Housing

The proposal will subsume Francis House, where there are already 6 affordable dwellings, while creating but a handful more. The planning has included a range of statistics on transport with details of average numbers travelling to different parts of London, as well as statistics on required parking and bicycle stands. The plans tell us nothing of the need for affordable housing.

Kingston & Surbiton Labour Party is clear that affordable housing in Kingston needs to be a major priority in any development if the regeneration is to meet the needs of all sectors of Kingston’s social mix including both present and future residents. The regeneration of the town centre will create a demand for more low and median-paid workers. It is unacceptable that this group of people should be relegated to housing at a considerable distance from their place of employment, thus incurring expensive travel costs. There is therefore a strong economic argument for sticking firmly to the 50 per cent affordable housing policy. There is also an argument that says a town centre belongs to everyone and it is quite amoral to infer that only those who are reasonably wealthy can live in the town centre while everyone else should just be permitted to gaze from the outside.

3.    Architectural aspiration

The proposed buildings can only be described 21st century pedestrian. For a town whose history includes the birthplace of a united England this is hardly acceptable. The regeneration of the town centre should reflect, in its architectural legacy, the aspirations of the Saxon kings, and those that followed, to build a lasting centre that attracted people inwards as well as inspired them to look outwards to the future. We are, therefore, looking for a town centre that people can be proud of and which will serve as an icon in generations to come. What we are offered is the dull sameness of an architectural vision seen already across too many town centres.

Conclusion

Kingston and Surbiton Labour Party objects to this application on the grounds that it is inappropriately high, lacks affordable housing and does not meet the architectural standards to which residents of Kingston aspire.