Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall

I have repeatedly spoken out about the Mayor’s plans to close all ticket offices across London, so, as the first of his closures come into effect this month, I condemn the fact that the Mayor has failed to listen to many Londoners and has broken the promise he made in his manifesto. This month sees ticket offices at Manor House and Highbury and Islington stations close, and marks the start of a project to close several ticket offices across Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest. The move will leave passengers in all three Boroughs paying more money for less staff support.

The closure comes after it was revealed that the Mayor of London’s plan to close all the capital’s tube ticket offices will cost taxpayers almost £134m. The cost is staggering £134m of building works and ticket machines won’t make up for the loss of 897 station staff across London.

This month’s closure marks the start of a process to close ticket offices in 14 stations across Hackney (1), Islington (9) and Waltham Forest (4). The closures will also see almost 900 staff cut from London’s tube stations and I am particularly concerned about the impact the staff cuts will have on disabled and elderly passengers.

Amongst other things the £134m will fund additional ticket machines in 27 stations, four new customer receptions and the conversion of 181 ticket offices for other uses.

I am very concerned about the ramifications of this month’s ticket office closures. This argument isn’t about whether staff are based in ticket offices or not. It is about whether there are enough staff in stations to provide the good service people in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Fores have come to expect, particularly the elderly and disabled who often rely more on station staff for assistance.

The truth is a staggering £134m of building works and ticket machines won’t make up for the loss of 897 station staff. No matter how user friendly a ticket machine is they cannot provide the same level of advice and customer service that staff could. Coming after tube fares were hiked for the seventh year running many passengers will wonder why they are being asked to pay more money for less staff support on their journey.

Notes

The TfL Finance and Police Committee paper detailing the Fit for the Future ticket office closure costs is available here (page 7)

The following tube stations in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest will see their ticket offices close:

Hackney
Station Month
Manor House March

 

Islington
Station Month
Highbury & Islington March
Old Street April – June
Tufnell Park April – June
Holloway Road July – September
Archway October – Dec
Arsenal October – Dec
Caledonian Road October – Dec
Farringdon October – Dec
Finsbury Park TBC

 

Waltham Forest
Station Month
Leyton April – June
Blackhorse Road July – Sept
Leytonstone July – Sept
Walthamstow Central July – Sept

 

The Mayor of London has announced that tube station ticket offices across Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest will close from March 2015, alongside huge cuts to staffing levels. Despite Boris Johnson’s election pledge not to close any of the tube network’s ticket offices, it was announced last week that all of North East London’s ticket offices will be closed by December 2015, resulting in hundreds fewer tube staff in stations.

The closures timeline announced by TfL means that the process for closing the ticket offices in 14 stations in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest will start in March next year. The closures will also see almost 900 staff cut from the tube stations. Jennette Arnold OBE has expressed particular concern about the impact the staff cuts will have on disabled and elderly passengers.

Despite the reduced staff service planned for tube stations, fares are once again due to go up just a month before the closures start, this will mean fares have risen 40% since Boris Johnson became Mayor.

More people than ever are using the tube network yet Boris Johnson’s cuts will mean hundreds fewer staff there to help passengers. It is outrageous that just a month after Londoners face another round of fare rises, Boris Johnson plans to cut the service they are offered. It’s a real case of the Mayor asking Londoners to pay more and get less in return.

This fight isn’t about whether staff are based in ticket offices or on platforms, it’s about whether there are enough staff overall to provide customers with a good service, particularly the elderly and disabled and, also, tourists and visitors to London.

Before he was elected Boris Johnson promised voters that he would not close any of the capital’s ticket offices, now he is set to axe them all. Londoners will have to ask how much the Mayor’s word is really worth. 

Notes

The following tube stations in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest will see their ticket offices close:

Borough Station Line Ticket Office Works to start between (2015) Duration of work
Hackney Manor House Piccadilly Manor House Mar 1 month
Islington Highbury & Islington Victoria Highbury & Islington Mar 3 months
Islington Old Street Northern Old Street Apr – Jun 1 month
Islington Tufnell Park Northern Tufnell Park Apr – Jun 1 month
Islington Holloway Road Piccadilly Holloway Road Jul – Sep 1 month
Islington Angel Northern Angel Oct – Dec 1–3 months
Islington Archway Northern Archway Oct – Dec 1 month
Islington Arsenal Piccadilly Arsenal Oct – Dec 1 month
Islington Caledonian Road Piccadilly Caledonian Road Oct – Dec 1 – 3 months
Islington Farringdon Circle Farringdon (Main) Oct – Dec 1 month
Waltham Forest Leyton Central Leyton Apr – Jun 1 month
Waltham Forest Blackhorse Road Victoria Blackhorse Road Jul – Sep 1 month
Waltham Forest Leytonstone Central Leytonstone Jul – Sep 1 month
Waltham Forest Walthamstow Central Victoria Walthamstow Central Jul – Sep 3 months

The full timetable for ticket office closures is available here

Analysis has shown that fire brigade response times have gone up in over 370 London wards since the Mayor forced through the closure of 10 London fire stations in January this year. Average response times for London have increased from 5:18 to 5:30 for the first fire engine response with the second response time also increasing from 6:28 to 6:51.

Initial analysis of the figures provided to Assembly Members show that Londoners in 3 Hackney wards and 3 Waltham Forest wards also now have to wait more than the six-minute target time before help arrives with response times increasing by up to 1 minute 56 seconds in some areas of Hackney; 1 minute 29 seconds in areas on Islington; and 54 seconds in Waltham Forest. In Hackney, Kingsland fire stations was closed, as was Clerkenwell fire station in Islington, and Waltham Forest had 3 fire engines removed from its fire service. In total response times have increased in 13 out of 19 Hackney wards, 10 out of 16 Islington wards and 11 out of 20 Waltham Forest wards.

Since the fire station closures in January which also saw 14 fire engines removed from service, a total of 37 London wards have seen first response times increase by over a minute compared with 2012/13 data. The number of areas where response times have increased shows that despite assurances from the Mayor, his cuts to the fire service have increased the threat to public safety.

The figures also include areas where 13 additional fire engines have been removed in order to cover potential strikes, further degrading response times. I have called for these appliances to be returned outside of strike periods to ensure full cover across the capital.

Fires can take hold in seconds that’s why any increase in response times can be so dangerous. As a result of Boris Johnson’s decision to close ten fire stations and with the removal of a further 13 fire engines, even when they are not needed for strike cover, we have seen response times rise in over half of the capital’s wards including significant increases in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest.

Londoners will be deeply concerned that since the closures it could take significantly longer for a fire engine to reach their home. These latest figures show is that in most of London’s wards it will now take longer to get to fires than it did last year, that is unacceptable.

The Mayor has an important duty to protect the public. He needs to ask himself whether closing ten fire stations and removing 27 fire engines is really the best way to achieve that. Given the jump in response times since the fire station closures, it is very fortunate that we have not seen an increase in serious incidents as a result.

ENDS

Notes

A breakdown of the latest London Fire Service response time data can be found here.

In January the Mayor forced through the closure of ten London fire stations against widespread opposition: Belsize, Bow, Clerkenwell, Downham, Kingsland, Knightsbridge, Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich. As part of these closures 14 fire appliances were removed from service. Subsequently, a further 13 fire appliances have been removed from service to act as cover in case of any strike action.

In September 2013, I was contacted by a 17-year-old girl. Along with her mum and her four siblings, she had just been evicted from her home in London. Due to the increasing number of people being declared homeless and the demands on housing stock, she and her family were left with no choice but to move in with the father, a father whom the mother had walked out on because he beat her and her young children.

For her own safety, the young 17-year-old refused to move in with her father and instead made her bed on the floor of a friend’s bedroom; in the shop of an auntie; and, tragically, the back of any night buses that she could get on. As a result, she dropped out of college, went cap in hand to friends and extended family members for food parcels and became ill worrying about her mother and younger siblings who had been forced to move back in with an abusive father. After months of hard work and finding several temporary solutions through the charity sector, we found her a place to call her own through the private-rented sector and she has returned to college and is going onto university. This young girl’s story, while tragic, had a happy ending, but only because she reached out and was able to get support navigating the heavily bureaucratic and punitive process. There are thousands of others who aren’t so lucky, recent figures released by Shelter predict that 90,000 children will be homeless at Christmas this year. Many of these will be as a result of the volatile London housing market, where demand outstrips supply.

In February 2009 Boris Johnson pledged to “end rough sleeping in the capital by 2012”[1], yet in the Mayor’s own Equality Report he acknowledges that his pledge to address homelessness has failed. Research shows that homelessness has increased every year at an alarming rate under Boris Johnson’s mayoralty. In 2013/14, 3,473 more people slept rough than in the year before he was elected in 2008.

The fact that Boris commissioned a project aimed at stopping people spending more than one night on the streets shows that he is aware that there is an issue, but the ever-increasing figures show that, once again, his pledge has failed, with the figure growing since the project was first formed in 2008.

A failing Mayoralty is compounded by the Government’s change to welfare reform, which has also led to an increase in rough sleeping and homelessness in London. In particular the increase in private sector rents and reduced Local Housing Allowance entitlement has made it difficult for some renters to meet private sector rents in London. Furthermore, private landlords are even more reluctant to accept those claiming Local Housing Allowance. The Department for Work and Pensions carried out research in June 2012, which showed that one-third of landlords currently letting to Local Housing Allowance claimants have either decided to no longer let to benefit claimants or are seriously considering no longer letting to them because of the reforms.[2] This all leads to an increased demand on the third sector to bridge the gap left by a faltering and significantly-reduced public sector. It’s really sad to see rough sleeping and homelessness charities that have been badly affected by government cuts.

I challenged Boris at Mayor’s Question Time this week about this, asking him why, for instance, TfL have cut all their outreach workers that work with homeless people on night buses and I’m pleased that he has agreed to look into this.

His reply is complacent and disappointing. The young 17-year-old girl who came to me was using TfL buses as a place to sleep at night, and while she now has a place to call home, without wider political will and public funding to address the root causes of homelessness, we are left firefighting against an impossible force.

Christmas is next month and I dread to think about the number of Londoners that will be sleeping rough because they have nowhere to turn. One homeless young person is one too many. 90,000 is a national scandal. The Mayor and his millionaire colleagues who rule Westminster should be ashamed.

[1] ‘Boris Johnson plans to end rough sleeping in London by 2012’, Local Government Executive, 13 February 2009

[2] ‘Private landlords turning backs on benefits tenants’, Inside Housing, 15 June 2012

A unpublished Greater London Authority report suggests that Boris Johnson is considering a 90% cut to funding to youth and education schemes.

The fact that Boris Johnson would even consider cuts of 90% to schemes designed to help some of London’s most vulnerable young people tells you everything you need to know about his cavalier and uncaring approach to governing.

Projects to increase apprenticeships and support for people to stay on at school may seem like optional extras to Boris Johnson but for many young people they make a world of difference, helping them to get on in an increasingly competitive jobs market.

Boris Johnson may be focused on his next job in Parliament but he has a duty to responsibly see out his term working for all Londoners. These cuts however suggest more a policy of scorched earth, drastically cutting funding to important projects and leaving his successor to pick up the pieces.

Analysis of the latest figures from the Skills Funding Agency by London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold OBE, has shown that the number of people in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest starting apprenticeships has fallen for the second year running. The figures have cast major doubt on Boris Johnson’s ability to fulfil his election pledge to deliver 250,000 apprenticeships by 2016.

The provisional figures show that only 38,550 apprenticeships were started Londonwide in the 2013/14 academic year, down 6,520 on last year’s numbers. In Hackney the overall number of apprenticeshipsstarted dropped by 120 last year from 1,180 in 2012/13 to 1,060 in 2013/14; in Islington the numbers dropped from 890 in 2012/13 to 730 in 2013/14; and in Waltham Forest the numbers dropped from 1,710 in 2012/13 to 1,570 in 2013/14. This is the second year in a row in which the number of apprenticeship starts has fallen.

In June this year the Londonwide Local Enterprise Partnership stated that the capital would need to increase the number of apprentices by 19% each year if it is to hit the Mayor’s target. Despite that warning, London now has the second lowest apprenticeship start rate in the UK with only the North East lagging behind it. By contrast the North West saw almost double London’s number of apprenticeship starts.

Jennette Arnold OBE AM, Labour London Assembly Member for Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest, said:

“It is deeply worrying that for the second year running the number of apprenticeshipsstarted across Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest has fallen, making it clearer than ever that Boris Johnson’s target is not going to be met.

“Good quality apprenticeships are vital to getting our young people the skills, training and expertise they need to succeed in the jobs market; particularly in a city as competitive as London.

“Last year’s fall in apprenticeships was a clear signal that the Mayor needed to do more to encourage companies to take on apprentices and work closely with local councils, yet little appears to have been done and we have now seen two years of falls in the number of apprenticeships being started. Boris Johnson’s inability to get more businesses signed up for apprenticeships is not only leaving London falling behind the rest of the country, but letting down the young Londoners who are desperately seeking these kind of opportunities. It is important to distinguish the Mayor’s work from that of local Councils, who are all working very hard on their own merits to secure apprenticeships for young Londoners, but no matter how hard Councils and others try, without the clout and influence of the Mayor, and without him pulling his weight then we’re not going to hit our target. I urge Mayor Johnson to work harder on securing good apprenticeship opportunities for young Londoners and challenge him not to make it a hat-trick of year-on-year decreases in the number of apprenticeships being offered.”

ENDS

Notes

The number of apprenticeships started by region:

Region 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14  
  Full Year Full Year
Full Year
(provisional)
 
North East 38,340 35,870 30,020  
North West 89,310 84,180 70,640  
Yorkshire and The Humber 64,200 59,900  
East Midlands 46,790 49,010 39,290
West Midlands 60,470 62,430 51,400
East of England 45,820 46,220 39,870
London 47,230 45,070 38,550
South East 66,850 68,960 58,690
South West 55,950 52,540 45,200
England Total 515,000 504,200 426,200
 
Other 5,600 6,040 6,220
       
Grand Total 520,600 510,200 432,400

Source: Breakdown by geography, equality & diversity and sector subject area: starts 2013/14

The London Enterprise Panel Skills and Employment Working Group, Apprenticeships Update can be found here.

Penny for London is a new charity donation scheme enabling customers to make donations using a contactless payment card. Customers can donate from as little as one penny for each day they travel on the TfL network. Donations go towards helping disadvantaged young people in London.

Penny for London will be expanding to retailers in the near future giving customers the chance to donate every time they make a purchase.

How does it work?

Donating is easy. If your credit, debit or charge card(s) has a contactless payment symbol, simply register your card(s) on the Penny for London website.

Choose how much you wish to donate for each day of travel or for each transaction at one of the participating retailers.

Then set your limit which ensures you never donate more than your chosen amount in any month.

Where do the donations go?

All the pennies go to charity. Initially Penny for London funds go to the Mayor’s Fund for London, a registered charity. The funds help disadvantaged young Londoners by giving them the skills and opportunities to get a job, escape poverty and play a full part in London’s future.

I have received a lot of correspondence recently about the industrial action that is due to take place over the weekend by the Fire Brigade’s Union (FBU), and, as such, I wanted to lay out my position.

Over the course of the past four years, fire fighters across the UK, but particularly in London, have been on the receiving end of unrelenting attacks by the Government and by the Mayor of London. Given the level of risk these fabulous people take on a daily basis to keep us all safe, this is totally unacceptable and, in my opinion, an ideological attack by the Government and the Mayor on one of the few great bastions of trade unionism that we have left in our country.

Rest assured, I am in full support of the FBU’s actions and find the Government’s attempts to change firefighters’ terms and conditions for the worse without proper consultation or co-operation with firefighters and the FBU completely unacceptable. The wider narrative the Government uses to divide and conquer us all and tear apart unions even more than they were under previous Governments is dreadful, too, and I do all I can in my daily work to pull apart the lies that Westminster politicians utter and to stand up for the real people who call London their home.

It is awful that the Fire Minister has failed to provide a new deal that is acceptable to the FBU, especially after the union called off a previous round of strikes in good faith, hoping that the Fire Minister would negotiate with the FBU on behalf of their members. It is clear now that the Union and their members feel that the only way in which they can make their voices heard is through taking strike action and I am in full support of this if that is what union members have voted for. The proposal at the heart of the dispute – that firefighters should work until they are sixty or face a reduced pension if they are forced to retire early – is a cruel assault on those who put their lives at risk to protect the public.

The Labour Group here at City Hall has written to Mayor Boris Johnson to ask him to use his influence to persuade the Government to sit down with the FBU and reach an agreed settlement. I have copied a letter below that I sent to journalists recently, which further lays out my position.

Finally, I send a message of solidarity to all firefighters taking action over the weekend. Stay strong!

Copy of letter sent to London media:
Dear Editor,

The London Fire Brigade’s strike this week will have many people concerned. The Government’s proposal at the heart of the dispute is that firefighters should work until they are sixty or see their pension cut. This is no way to treat the people we rely on to spend their lives running into harm’s way to protect the public. The Government must realise the position they are forcing firefighters into, especially given the fact that their own review showed that two-thirds of firefighters will have to retire because of ill health by the time they reach the current retirement age of fifty-five.

Despite the Fire Brigade’s Union negotiating in good faith, the Government seems unwilling to listen and has not made a new offer to firefighters, even though they indicated they would. It is deeply disappointing that we have got to this position, but, given the Government’s unhelpful and steadfast position, I fully respect the rights of the members of the Fire Brigade’s Union to take industrial action, and just hope that the Government listen and are willing to accept the deep flaws of the current proposals, and get back round the negotiating table so that this matter can be resolved amicably for all parties.

Yours sincerely,
Jennette Arnold OBE AM

Labour London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold OBE AM was left unimpressed by Mayor Boris Johnson’s apology at yesterday’s Mayor’s Question Time for his ‘oversight’ when he failed to consult with local stakeholders about the planned closure of Waltham House Police Station on Kirkdale Road, Leytonstone, Waltham Forest.

The plans to close Waltham House came to light in mid-September, and led to a backlash from local representatives and residents because of the disregard the Mayor’s Office of Police and Crime (MOPAC) and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) gave for failing to consult them properly about the decision, and for putting financial gains above residents’ safety and confidence in policing.

When pressed on the proposed closure of Waltham House, specifically, Mr. Johnson said he was sorry “if there had been some oversight” when it came to communicating the plans. This will leave people concerned that not only was he unaware of the situation at Waltham House, but that he also fails to grasp the full extent of the frustration and upset that these plans have had on the people of Waltham Forest. Furthermore, when pressed to give an answer about plans to cut Contact Points around London, he failed to offer any reassurance, adding: “We’re reviewing them … but I’m afraid I can’t give you the answer”, which leads to concerns that more Contact Points across London could also be vulnerable.

Labour London Assembly Member for Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest, Jennette Arnold OBE AM, said:

“When it comes to the proposed plans to close Waltham House Police Station, the Mayor’s apology for failing to communicate with local residents and representatives is flimsy, unacceptable and too little too late. I am deeply concerned that this conditional apology not only suggests that he wasn’t aware of the situation at Waltham House, but also fails to grasp the seriousness of the situation. He has been elected to represent the views of Londoners, and failing to communicate with the residents of Leytonstone and Waltham Forest about this important plan to close a local police station smacks of ineptitude and arrogance.

“The Mayor has agreed to write to me formally with an explanation and to outline his plans for Waltham House, and I look forward to receiving this as soon as possible so that people’s minds can be put at rest. Rest assured, I am not impressed by the Mayor’s handling of this situation, and will be doing all I can to ensure that the people of Leytonstone get a full explanation and, more importantly, have a police service that they need in the local area.”

ENDS

Notes

Jennette Arnold OBE is a Labour London Assembly Member for Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest

A video of Mayor’s Question Time from Wednesday 22 October where Boris Johnson was asked about Waltham House by the Chair of the Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, Joanne McCartney, can be found here.