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Local Kingston and Surbition CLP member Liz Meerabeau (above, right) was part of a local Labour Party contingent that attended a Health Care Forum as part of a consultation to proposed changes to health services and summarises the meeting:

"On 8th February Kingston & Surbiton Labour attended a Health and Care Forum held as part of the consultation for the STP (Sustainability Transformation Plan) that will change the way the health service operates in South West London. Much of what is proposed is sensible - but we have been discussing these ideas for many years, and the situation is getting worse. We have an ageing population, and cost pressures from advances in technologies and new medicines. Controlling costs is OK, but underlying the STP is a plan to cut funding - which isn’t being publicised.

Nationally, up to two thirds of the patients stuck in hospital because they can’t get sufficient support at home aren’t even counted in the official figures, according to the Nuffield Trust (8 February). And even the official figures show that 194,000 bed days were lost nationally in one month alone, because patients were ready to leave, but couldn’t get the support they needed.

So does Kingston council have the capacity to provide all the social care needed to prevent delayed transfer home? Local authority funding has been cut to the bone by this government and 80% of councils have just said they are unsure how they will manage (Local Government Information Unit). When will Theresa May listen and give local government the funding it needs?

And why was no-one from RBK or Your Healthcare invited to present at the Forum? Social and community care are key elements in whether this plan will work or not.

The thinnest aspect of the STP is how it will be staffed. Staff in the NHS are doing a fantastic job under difficult circumstances, but are getting fed up with minimal pay increases and criticism from Jeremy Hunt. The latest blow is removing the bursary from nursing students. Governments always cut nursing student numbers when they want to save money quickly- the Tories did 25 years ago, and it took years to get the system balanced again. And we won’t be able to rely on EU staff as we have been.

We will continue to scrutinise the plans and hold the government, the local NHS and Kingston council to account. Labour was by far the most well represented party at the event; a clear sign that we are the only party truly committed to protecting the local health service."

Sustainability Transformation Plan - Healthcare in Kingston

  Local Kingston and Surbition CLP member Liz Meerabeau (above, right) was part of a local Labour Party contingent that attended a Health Care Forum as part of a consultation to proposed changes...

Housing and homelessness is a key issue in Kingston.

Labour members have been out talking to people in Cambridge Road Estate, listening to the worries and concerns about the proposed regeneration of such a large area of housing. Now the Mayor of London has stepped in, as this footage shows, and will be issuing guidance on how estate regeneration should take place.

In the worst cases of regeneration, many ordinary people have lost out. But the Housing Planning Act with its dictates to councils on the length of tenancies will impact on the Cambridge Road Estate regeneration and, perhaps, on the increasing need to deal with Kingston homelessness. 

Yesterday’s piece on the impact of Housing Planning Act 2016 from the Kingston and Surbiton Executive Committee is followed below by a personal view from member Sarah-Jane Brownlie, which puts in perspective the rise in homelessness in Kingston. Government policy on housing, mental health and benefits and welfare and social security, have all contributed.

Laure South, Labour Chair

The rise in homelessness

I’m an early riser in part because there is always so much to do. So many people who need an advocate and there are not many of us around.  But mostly it is to walk my dog as I love the misty morning in our local park. Over the last few years I see more and more dishevelled looking young people with fear in their eyes, chilled to the bone from being exposed to the night air.

One such chap managed to speak with me. He looked as if he had not eaten for a very long time. He told me that he was about to try and drown himself in the pond, as he had nothing left. He had been released by the police at 2 a.m. a couple of nights earlier after his wife had told the police he had hit her. The police detained him, took his keys despite him having a joint tenancy, and advised the wife to change the locks. It turned out that there was no further action taken against him since there was no evidence against him. But there was plenty against her: he still had the marks from where she had attacked him.

He had spent the two weeks prior to this taking care of his young son with no money coming in as the carers allowance he had been claiming was stopped when his wife had left with another man. He had phoned the authorities to say he was no longer able to care for his disabled wife and he was prioritising feeding his son over himself.

There was nothing left on him.  He had not eaten in a very long time. He had been introduced to me by another homeless man we had supported who had lived in the back of a car. This was at the time of a “no second night” policy for providing the homeless with a bed. The outside temperature had reach a bone chilling minus five.  Neither of these men had been born in Britain but both had come to work and support family they already had here. The reason they were there was fear pure and simple. They did not know where to go or how to go about changing things for themselves.

These are not the only people we have helped over the years but their experiences are typical of the people we have supported.  After six years of Conservative rule it is not just young men but there are the disabled, with severe mental or physical health problems and ex-squaddies who are finding themselves in the same situation. They simply cannot find ways of getting the support they need. Filling out forms or knowing who to ask is a nightmare they live with. It drives them onto the streets.  If they are very lucky Kingston Church Housing will take then on, if they can arrange to get the local housing allowance or housing benefit as it used to be called. Then they might get a room with the wonderful Young Man’s Christian Association, or the YMCA, in Surbiton.

But this leaves them in a bind as most wish to work. The trouble is there is only low paid work available to them if they do get a job and then the cost of living at the YMCA increases massively. They lose housing benefit and then their room.

I can say that after a bit of support neither remained outside. One is working and volunteering for the local homeless house where he ended up living. The other has a room and doing everything he can to get permanent employment, proudly telling me he has had two interviews, but could I please help him with his CV.

I feel deep sorrow that after six years there are now more scared people who are still playing hide and seek with the park keepers.  As we move into the end of Autumn and with the government imposing a cap on benefits, the increase in homelessness will only rise, especially since the local housing allowance will not cover the price of renting in Kingston& Surbiton. This is before taking into account the price of a deposit on a rented property, which amounts to three months rent. For a one bed roomed flat the average cost is around £250 a week. Not many will have that sort of money.   

I feel that now many pensioners living in council and social housing are on such tight incomes, the imposition of the “bedroom tax” will be the next cause of homelessness and this will be amongst grand-parents. Basically, if you have what is deemed to be a spare room, your benefits will be reduced to try and make you find a smaller home.

You only have to go through Kingston in the early hours, as I often do, to see the regulars: men, women and young people huddled in doorways wrapped against the cold. Today all you need to do is Walk down Surbiton high street and you will find two or three beggars. Walk around the parks or take a bus ride to see people in the bus shelters with everything they own in holdalls at their feet.

Sarah-Jane Brownlie

The Kingston and Surbiton Labour Party will be campaigning on Housing throughout the borough including a lobby outside of the tenants meeting at Piper Hall, Piper Road, Kingston, KT1 3EX at 19.00 on Tuesday the 29th November.

Everyone is welcome to join the Kingston and Surbiton CLP's campaign on Housing.

Rise in homelessness in Kingston

Housing and homelessness is a key issue in Kingston. Labour members have been out talking to people in Cambridge Road Estate, listening to the worries and concerns about the proposed...

The Housing and Planning Act received Royal Assent and came into law back in May. It was presented by the Government as legislation intended to “make provision about housing, estate agents, rent charges, planning and compulsory purchase” but other clauses within it have sparked widespread controversy and criticism...

Under the Act, most new local authority tenancies will be on a fixed-term basis – from two to 10 years – a regulation that will also apply to many ‘succession’ tenancies as well. The bill also outlined a policy known as ‘pay-to-stay’ a clause that would significantly increase household costs for many tenants.

‘Pay-to-stay’, as it had been dubbed by campaigners, would have obliged local authority tenants with a household income above £40,000 within London (£30,000 outside) to pay an extra 15p for each pound over that benchmark.

This particular aspect was highlighted in discussion at a recent meeting of Kingston and Surbiton Labour Party, this clause of the Act which was scheduled for introduction next year, would have been no more than a direct attack on working people in council tenancies.

After coming under enormous pressure on this issue on Monday the 21st November the Government caved in and announced a major u-turn by saying they would not introduce this particular aspect of the Act. This shows two things: firstly that despite their majority in parliament this government is exposed to public opinion turning against them: and, secondly, it shows that campaigning and protesting can work, despite what some may say to the contrary.

However Kingston and Surbiton Labour party opposes the entire Housing and Planning act, because it does nothing to tackle the growing housing crisis in the local area or across the country.

Kingston and Surbiton Labour Party strongly supports the position of the Labour Party nationally in promising to abolish the Housing and Planning Act if it wins the next election.

The UK’s chronic housing crisis has been mostly caused by failure to build council houses. Estimates by housing experts are that between 232,000 to 300,000 new homes every year are needed to adequately address current levels of need.

But the response to the crisis from this Government – and from successive governments – has been lamentable. Local authorities used to build council housing, but this has all but stopped and now, new homes are more likely to be built by housing associations.

But a significant source of new-build funding used by housing associations – capital subsidy from government – has also recently been cut by more than £8 billion. This is a political decision that further exacerbates the crisis we face.

As Kingston and Surbiton CLP Executive Committee member Tony Kearns says, "This is not everybody being in this together. Working harder for the noble ideal of bettering oneself clearly comes with a heavy cost to pay if you happen to be a council tenant".

It is a simple fact that the Tory Governments Housing and planning Act will make the housing crisis worse. It would:-

  • Force up some council rents by 15%
  • Lose around 350,000 social rented homes by 2020
  • End permanent tenancy council tenants
  • Push million of people into private renting with no rent control or security
  • Lead to huge profits for private developers at the expense of council tenants
  • Break up traditional communities

Kingston and Surbiton Labour party stands squarely with those whose future housing needs are threatened by a government that is out of touch with the needs of ordinary people.

The government rushed through this Act in May this year because it simply wanted to pretend it was “doing something” in the run up to the EU referendum vote. As a result the bill is a mess and it needs to go.We need to pressure the Government to ensure this vindictive Act is not implemented.

What we need is a clear alternative.We need a proper strategy on housing. Such a strategy, would embrace the following:-

  • Repeal the Housing & Planning Act 2016.
  • Regulation of private renting to include controlled rents, secure tenancies and an end to no-fault and retaliatory evictions.
  • Invest in council housing– remove the artificial debt burden and free councils to develop secure homes at social rent
  • A moratorium on estate demolition– existing homes should be modernised and made energy-efficient
  • Councils’ housing plans and targets must match local need for really-affordable homes for rent
  • Suspend the Right to Buy
  • Only classifying housing as ‘affordable’ if housing costs amount to less than one third of net disposable income
  • Subjecting Housing Associations to democratic oversight and regulation
  • Genuine involvement of tenant and resident organisations and those in housing need, with support to encourage real participation in decision making
  • Restoring full local, democratic and transparent planning powers
  • Publishing full details of viability assessments for all developments
  • Including at least 50% really-affordable housing for rent in all new housing developments
  • Using publicly owned land for housing to provide 100% publicly-owned, really-affordable homes

We will be campaigning on this issue throughout the borough including a lobby outside of the tenants meeting at Piper Hall, Piper Road, Kingston, KT1 3EX at 19.00 on Tuesday the 29th November.  

Kingston and Labour Party Executive Committee 

The rights of council tenants must be defended

The Housing and Planning Act received Royal Assent and came into law back in May. It was presented by the Government as legislation intended to “make provision about housing, estate...

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