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.”
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.
I urge residents in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest to take your chance to contribute to the consultation on the Mayor of London’s proposal to close all the capital’s tube ticket offices. If implemented the decision would not only mean the loss of every one of London’s tube ticket offices, but it would see 900 staff axed.
Boris Johnson is proposing that all ticket offices across Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest will close and hundreds of staff axed – despite the fact that, during his election campaign in 2008, Johnson pledged not to close any front counters, promising that there will always be “a manned ticket office at every station”; and despite the fact that last year almost 40% of ticket sales were conducted by staffed station counters(1).
Opponents of the cuts argue that, even without ticket offices, staff should be retained to keep travellers safe, particularly at night; to deal with more complex queries, such as refunds; and to help people unfamiliar with the tube network and those less comfortable with using ticket machines, such as London’s elders and tourists visiting the city.
The consultation, which launched on Friday 15 August, runs for 6 weeks and is co-ordinated by London TravelWatch. It can be completed at: http://www.londontravelwatch.org.uk/tubeconsultation.
Not only has Boris Johnson gone back on his manifesto promise to keep ticket offices open, but he wants to get rid of 900 staff, putting their livelihoods at risk. There is nothing wrong with modernising transport services using new technology, but it is so important for people living in and visiting my constituency that they have staffed ticket offices to help them feel safe, particularly at night; and to assist those who prefer dealing with a person and not a computer, such as elders and people with disabilities. There can be no compromise when it comes to safety and accessibility.
It also breaks my heart that people will lose their jobs and livelihoods as a result of the Mayor’s proposals.
People in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest need a full staff team on hand to keep them safe and to help them deal with their queries and concerns as they arise. Getting rid of 900 staff members in a city with an ever-increasing population is just ludicrous. Boris’s cuts must be stopped.
I have made my feelings about the proposed closures quite clear in correspondence with the Mayor, and I now urge people across Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest to have their say using the survey, to tell Boris Johnson what they think about his broken manifesto promise to keep ticket offices open.
(1) The latest figures from TFL, revealed through Freedom of Information requests, showed that 39.15% of ticket sales in 2013/14 were bought in ticket offices.
Transport for London, which is chaired by Boris Johnson, today unveiled plans to cut 750 station staff and close all but six tube ticket offices in London by 2015.
While I appreciate that money is short and the modernisation of ways of working is important, the fact the Mayor believes the closure of ticket offices is the way to go, together with the speed at which he is pushing this through is deeply worrying for passenger safety, accessibility and general user experience.
These proposals will result in the closure of ticket offices across my constituency, including Highbury and Islington, Walthamstow Central, Leyton, Leytonstone, Finsbury Park and Old Street, which will affect people living Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest as they travel around the TfL network.
What makes this decision even more baffling is that Boris Johnson pledged in his 2008 manifesto to make transport more convenient: “By halting the proposed Tube ticket office closures, and ensuring there is always a manned ticket office at every station.”
The mayor was elected on a clear promise to keep ticket offices open. The last thing we need is a reduction in frontline staff. No station should be unstaffed while trains are running and at a time when fares are going up above inflation this is the very least Londoners should expect; TfL and the Mayor could be accused of charging more for worse customer service.
We need to make sure there are enough staff on duty to keep our stations safe, help passengers and deal with emergencies. We must protect standards of service and passenger safety. I believe there should be a Passenger’s Charter clearly setting out what Londoners can expect from their transport system. Passengers must be able to get help with tickets, refunds, information and access must be ensured for disabled people.
Residents living in outer London will be hit particularly hard. Not only are transport fares much higher but if there are no ticket offices open then residents will have to travel into central London in order to top up their Oyster cards or buy tickets at one of the six remaining offices.
I have previously campaigned against the removal of staff from the transport network because of the impact this has on the livelihoods of those losing their jobs, together with its negative knock-on effects on passenger safety – particularly at night – and accessibility for disabled passengers. TfL also needs to provide the documentation that shows that their decision complies with the legally-binding Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED); a duty that means all decisions taken must not impact disproportionately on those protected under the Equality Act 2010 – which includes people with disabilities.
To me, it is patently obvious that the removal of staff will have a negative effect on disabled passengers because there will be fewer staff available to assist them.
Despite previously raising all of this with the Commissioner of TfL, Sir Peter Hendy, and the Mayor, they have repeatedly rebuffed my concerns with platitudes. I ask for them to persuade me otherwise.