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

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.

At the London Assembly’s Plenary session on 10 September 2014, I contributed to the very important debate about the future of health and social care for people with Alzheimer’s disease. You can read a transcript of my speech below.

You can join the campaign via great organisations like the Alzheimer’s Society.
“Thank you Chairman.

In moving this motion, Assembly Member Pidgeon mentioned the growth in the numbers of people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and we have heard the moving account from Assembly Member Biggs of his personal experiences.

Colleagues, the current figures linked to this disease are so alarming that they are worth repeating:

  • 1 in 3 people over 65 in the UK gets dementia;
  • That equates to over 73,000 Londoners. And the numbers are growing, as our population ages; and
  • Health policy and practice set by central and, in some cases, local government fails to keep up.

As a former registered nurse, and from my own experience as a carer I know all too well the effects that Alzheimer’s has on the individual and, sadly, their friends, families and communities.

Once a person develops dementia, 24-hour care is often needed and the financial cost for treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease increases as a result.  Not to mention the terrible effects this has on a person’s loved ones, as they watch their partners, their fathers, mothers, grandparents and children deteriorate in front of them.

Dementia services are estimated to cost the UK £23Billion a year, but much of this cost is due to our focus on reactive treatment, rather than proactive prevention.

I hope that we would all agree that prevention is better than cure. I therefore fully support The Alzheimer’s Society’s campaign to ensure that, by 2015, there are at least one million people registered as a Dementia Friend;

As Assembly Member Pidgeon has said, Dementia Friends are people who understand a bit more about dementia and the small things that can be done to help people with the condition. For example, I’ve been working very closely with the Alzheimer’s Society over the past couple of years, and I was privileged to attend a ‘Singing for the Brain’ session back in March this year up in my constituency.

The programme lead by the local Alzheimer’s group of volunteers and skilled practitioners utilised singing and dancing as therapeutic treatment for people with dementia and, most importantly, their loved ones.

It’s a terrific initiative and one that has such fabulous benefits for patients and family members, but we need to complement this with appropriate levels of investment in prevention – through more extensive and comprehensive screening programmes and a new, fair funding system.

In 2009, our colleagues down the river as part of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia published the report of their inquiry into improving lives through cost effective dementia services. The £20-billion-care-cost question was based on evidence submitted from across the health and care sectors and it concluded current resources could be used more effectively to achieve better outcomes for people with dementia and their carers.

The report made recommendations including:

  • improving collaboration and integration;
  • more training in dementia care;
  • improving rates of diagnosis; and
  • sharing good practice.

Five years later, we’re still waiting for many of these recommendations to be rolled out across our health services. Without swift, comprehensive changes to the way we deal with Alzheimer’s in London and the UK, the problem is only going to get worse as our population grows and ages.

Colleagues, I urge you to fully support this motion and in your own way seek to champion the work of organisations like the Alzheimer’s Society. I also fully support the call in the motion for the Greater London Authority and the GLA family to offer Dementia Friends training for staff.”

ENDS

Latest figures show that forces in Hackney face a 8% vacancy rate; Islington 8%; and Waltham Forest 11%. This leaves Hackney without 17 sergeants and 35 constables; Islington without 9 sergeants and 38 constables; and Waltham Forest without 19 sergeants and 53 constables. Figures also show a £13.7m Met underspend on police officer pay, suggesting that that vacancies have been sitting open as part of a cost saving exercise.

New figures obtained by my colleague, Labour London Assembly Member Joanne McCartney, show that in May this year (the latest period available) there were 1,209 vacancies for police sergeants and constables across the capital’s borough forces.

The high vacancy rates come on top of significant cuts in police numbers since the Government came to power, with official figures showing 171 police officers and PCSOs cut from Hackney’s streets; and 161 from Islington’s streets (although, conversely, an increase of 19 officers and PCSOs on Waltham Forest’s streets) between May 2010 and May 2014, and 4,694 from London’s streets overall. A report last year also found that the Met’s proportion of officers deemed ‘visible’ was the third lowest in England and Wales.

Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest are three of 14 London boroughs with vacancy rates of over 6%, with five facing double digit deficits, including Waltham Forest. Harrow is shown to have the highest percentage of vacancies, with 15% of its sergeant and constable posts unfilled. Waltham Forest had the highest overall number, with 72 vacancies from a force of 664.

The figures were revealed after HMIC warned that “forces across England and Wales plan to achieve most of their savings by reducing the number of police officers, PCSOs and police staff… most of the savings [of the MPS] come from reducing the size of the workforce.”

In his manifesto Boris Johnson pledged to put more officers on the beat. In reality what we have seen is a net decrease of 313 police officers and PCSOs cut from my constituency’s streets since this Government came to power. Now we learn that on top of that between 8%-11% of Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest’s sergeants and constables are missing due to unfilled vacancies, that’s 171 extra officers who should be on the streets of Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest. It is an absolute scandal that police numbers have been allowed to fall this low, these vacancies are leaving a gaping hole at the heart of the our local police force.

Whilst a small churn in the number of officers is to be expected, these are deeply concerning figures. With 52 police officer positions unfilled in Hackney; 47 unfilled in Islington; and 72 in Waltham Forest, we need to ask not only what impact that has on policing, but why the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has allowed it to happen in the first place. Either the depth of officer morale is so low they are haemorrhaging officers, or these posts are being kept open to keep costs down. Either way the Mayor should take immediate action to ensure our police force is up to strength and vacancies are filled as quickly as possible.

NOTES

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.

Notes:

(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.

The Mayor of London has been accused of “hypocrisy” after he personally intervened to secure the future of a proposed free school in Hammersmith and Fulham. The Mayor previously claimed he did not have the power to intervene in disputes over the status of schools, but yesterday directly intervened to find sites for the proposed free school, in turn securing funding from the Department for Education and allowing it to open in September.

The Local Authority-controlled Sulivan Primary School was due to close, with Fulham Boys Free School set to replace it. However, the newly elected Council in Hammersmith and Fulham decided to review this decision, making the future of Fulham Boys uncertain and resulting in the Department for Education withdrawing its funding for the school.

When I asked him to intervene to save Sulivan Primary School at Mayor’s Question Time in October 2013, the Mayor refused to do so, stating: “I will not take responsibility because I do not have the statutory power to do so.” Yesterday however, the Mayor intervened to identify alternative future sites for Fulham Boys School, meaning that the Department for Education will again release funds so that the school can open as planned in September.

Yesterday’s intervention by the Mayor stinks of hypocrisy. Back in October, in front of the teachers and pupils of Sulivan School, who had come to City Hall to meet with the Mayor, he said he could not step in to save the school, but today he has directly intervened with Fulham Boys School.

The fact that he has only stepped in now also raises serious questions over the Mayor’s position on schools in our capital. He could have helped find an alternative site for Fulham Boys earlier, allowing Sulivan Primary to remain open, but it seems he was content to see Sulivan demolished so that a free school could replace it. While I welcome any move that provides security for parents and pupils of Fulham Boys School, I find it galling that the Mayor feels it is perfectly reasonable to get involved in this way when he wasn’t willing to work with me to save Sulivan Primary School last year.