News in from Caroline Pidgeon- Lib Dem London Assembly Member

Tackling congestion and air pollution

In the last week the issue of air pollution affecting London has received extensive media coverage – and rightly so, with some reports saying that air pollution has recently been worse in London than in Beijing.

Another big issue, which has attracted much coverage, is that of tackling the growing level of congestion on London’s roads.  An issue it seems everyone has views on from cyclists through to taxi drivers, not to mention every motorist and van driver.

The two are of course connected, with traffic, especially from diesel vehicles, being a major contributory factor to air pollution.

Tackling congestion

In recognition that all parts of the capital have been seeing a significant growth in congestion, the London Assembly Transport Committee (which I chair) recently undertook an extensive investigation with evidence submitted from hundreds of organisations and individuals.

Congestion annoys everyone.  However it also has a staggering financial cost.  The overall annual cost to London from traffic delays on busy roads now stands £5.5 billion.  This figure represents a huge 30 per cent increase in just two years (£4.2 billion in 2012/13).

Our investigation revealed that the causes of congestion are far wider and more complex than many people imagine – stretching from pressures caused by a growing population through to the growth in internet deliveries.

Our report London Stalling’ calls on the Mayor to reform the Congestion Charge and ultimately replace it with road pricing. The Committee suggests a way of charging people for road usage that is targeted at areas of congestion and at the times when it is most severe.

In the short-term, the Congestion Charge should be reformed to better reflect the impact of vehicles. The daily flat rate should be replaced with a charging structure that ensures vehicles in the zone at peak times, and those spending longer in the zone, face the highest charges.

The report also recommends:

  • reducing restrictions on night-time deliveries
  • piloting a ban on personal deliveries to offices starting with TfL and GLA staff
  • reconsidering ‘click and collect’ at Tube and rail stations
  • devolving Vehicle Excise Duty to the Mayor
  • piloting a local Workplace Parking Levy

I am pleased to say that the report has received extensive media coverage and initiated a serious debate about how to end gridlock on our roads, including front page coverage in the Financial Times.  Many groups have supported or broadly welcomed the recommendations, stretching from the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Campaign for Better Transport, through to the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Tackling air pollution

Last week Sadiq Khan was absolutely right to issue a high air pollution alert.  Every Londoner is entitled to know just how poor air quality is in London.

But the real challenge is to reduce the high levels of air pollution.

While traffic is not the only cause of air pollution, diesel fumes are the most significant contributory factor and that is why London Liberal Democrats have long advocated a number of measures to:

  • switch London buses and taxis from running on diesel, with a switch to running entirely on electricity where possible
  • ensuring that walking and cycling are made far safer and more attractive forms of transport
  • advocating sustainable forms of improved river crossings as opposed to the proposed Silvertown road tunnel, which will generate many long distance car journeys.
  • improving public transport and ensure that there are real alternatives to private transport in areas of London with poor public transport links

Some useful information on this issue can be found at the Clean Air for London website.

Helping parents return to work

With last week being a busy week for news one announcement that might have gone unnoticed was the Mayor’s decision to introduce a childcare loan scheme to allow employees of the GLA Group (including the Met, London Fire Brigade and TfL) to receive a loan to cover upfront costs such as the deposit and first month’s nursery fees, that are faced by parents returning to work.  The loans will work in a similar way to loans offered to many employees to cover season tickets on public transport.

This proposal is just a further example of the Mayor adopting ideas that I first proposed before last year’s Mayor and London Assembly elections.  The idea was set out in a package of policies I proposed to make childcare more accessible in London.

Some interesting Mayoral Answers

I hope some of the following Mayoral Answers to questions I have recently asked are of interest:

The Mayor admits that both the Piccadilly Line and the Central Line failed to provide the scheduled numbers of trains on every week day during the whole of December.

Mayors confirms London police numbers were at 31,067 officers in December, despite the objective being a police force of 32,000 officers

Confirmation that noise levels, including helicopter noise, will be included in the Mayor’s new environment report published this Spring for consultation with the public

The Mayor confirms that the earliest starting date for strengthening work on Hammersmith Bridge is Autumn 2018

Keep in touch

I try to tweet on a regular basis.  If you would like to follow me, my twitter handle is @CarolinePidgeon.

Finally, if you would like me to raise an issue, especially through Mayor’s Question Time, please send your suggestions to info@glalibdems.org.uk

Parking fraudsters left feeling blue

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Sutton’s crackdown on Blue Badge fraudsters continues with seven more drivers convicted at Croydon Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, 29 November.

The seven drivers pleaded guilty to using Blue Badges to park in Sutton without the named Badge Holder present. Blue Badges are issued for the sole use of a named individual and are only valid when it is being used by, or for, the disabled person when that person is present. It is stated clearly on the Badge that misuse may constitute a criminal offence. They all pleaded guilty in Court.

Mr Edward McDonagh, aged 52, of Bullrush Close, Carshalton, was given a conditional discharge for 6 months, ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £20 and £100 costs after he parked his Renault in a disabled bay at The Market, Rosehill on Thursday 6th October using a Badge that belonged to his son.

Miss Helen Weatherly, aged 41, of Papermill Close, Carshalton, was fined £80 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and £100 costs after she parked her Nissan on a single yellow line in Lodge Place, Sutton, using a Badge that belonged to her son.

Miss Karen Bernard, aged 42, of Masters Close, Streatham, was fined £80 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and £100 costs afer she parked her Vauxhall on a single yellow line in Elm Grove, Sutton, and displayed a Badge that belonged to her son.

Miss Nicola Burns of 145 Bishopsford Road, Morden, was fined £135 and ordered to pay victim surcharge of £30 and £125 costs after she parked her Vauxhall in a red route dual use Loading/Disabled Bay in Wrythe Lane, Carshalton, on Thursday 6th October using a Badge that belonged to her son.

Miss Roxanna Kishore-Bigord, aged 46, of Roffey Close, Purley, was fined £160 and orderd to a pay a victim surcharge of £30 and £200 costs after she parked her Ford on a single yellow line in Elm Grove, Sutton, on Thursday 6th October using a badge that belonged to her son.

Mrs Joanne Bellamore, aged 43, of Sandpiper Road, Sutton, was fined £80 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and £100 costs after she parked her Volkswagen in a mandatory disabled bay in St Nicholas Way, Sutton, on Thursday 15th September using a Badge that belonged to her son.

Mrs Noha Aiqes, aged 33, of Middleton Road, Carshalton, was fined £80 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and £100 costs after she parked her Ford on a single yellow line in Benhill Avenue, Sutton, using a Badge that belonged to her son.

Carshalton Central ward’s Cllr Jill Whitehead, who is the Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee at Sutton Council, said:

“While it may be tempting to use the Blue Badges of other people to want to park when they are not with them, people must not do so. Blue Badges must be used only by the people named on them and no-one else. Blue Badges are issued to help disabled people have convenient access to busy town centres. We have only a limited number of disabled parking bays in Sutton and it is important that they are reserved for people who are genuinely disabled.”

Police and Sutton Council Parking Services’ officers carry out regular joint patrols to stop misuse of the borough’s 500 disabled parking bays which are for residents who have permanent or severe mobility difficulties and want to park conveniently for the shops.

They use the borough’s CCTV system and body-worn cameras, which are designed to film images and sound when dealing with drivers, with the footage being used as evidence in Court.

The vast majority of Sutton’s 7,144 Blue Badge Holders use the Badges as they are intended. However, a small minority of drivers deliberately misuse the Blue Badge privilege.

Doorstep callers thwarted after attempt to con resident out of £6,000 for building repairs

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Sutton residents are being encouraged to be very wary of doorstep callers offering to do building repairs to their home.

The advice comes from Sutton Council’s Trading Standards team after an incident when two men called at the home of a West Sutton resident, claiming to be a surveyor and a builder.

The men told the elderly resident they worked for the agent of the unoccupied house next door. They said that water had been coming through the ceiling from the loft and had made the adjoining wall unstable and in need of urgent repair as it was in danger of collapsing. They offered to carry out immediate repairs to the wall, which included hiring a dehumidifier, for just under £6,000.

The elderly resident went to her bank in Sutton town centre and told staff she wanted to transfer £5,700 to another bank account. When challenged she said the transfer was for a family member, then admitted it was to builders who had cold called.

The men had told her to tell the bank the money was for a family member as it would be easier to obtain the money from the bank. However, bank staff did not permit the money transfer to go ahead.

Cllr Nick Emmerson, Lead Councillor of Trading Standards at Sutton Council, said:

“We commend the bank staff for their quick thinking in preventing a Sutton resident from making a large cash withdrawal that was completely out of character. Many elderly residents have lost money after tricksters have demanded money upfront for materials without carrying out any work, have greatly overcharged for straightforward repairs or have deliberately caused damage to argue that costly repairs are needed. Such opportunists are bad news for all our residents and are a blight on honest and hardworking traders, which is why the council has the Safer Sutton Trader Scheme.

“This list has been thoroughly vetted by Trading Standards and offers a range of professional tradespeople in the borough who are neither bogus builders nor unscrupulous opportunists. All of the businesses are checked by Trading Standards to ensure they are providing an assured service before they are listed and promoted by Sutton Council and the Met Police in Sutton.”

Sutton Council’s Safer Sutton Trader Scheme helps residents to avoid bogus builders and unscrupulous traders. To find an approved trader, please visit the Safer Sutton Trader Scheme website or call 020 8770 5070 for details.

If you are a trader wishing to join the Safer Sutton Trader Scheme, follow the Kingston & Sutton shared service on Twitter here, follow the #SaferSuttonTrader hashtag here, or call the Trading Standards team on 020 8770 5632.

The Citizens Advice website has advice about how to safeguard your interests when employing a contractor.

Sutton Trading Standards advises residents to obtain three quotes for any work they want carried out. The law requires that where you contract with a tradesperson in your home, you must be provided with a 14-day cooling off period. All reputable traders will provide you with these cancellation documents.

Sutton residents warned to beware of mail scams this summer

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Trudy Richards, Senior Consumer Affairs Officer at Sutton Council, with just some of the many scam letters that residents have received.

Sutton Council is warning borough residents to be careful and not to become the victim of mail scams.

The warning was made by Trading Standards officers from Kingston and Sutton Shared Environment Service after the National Trading Standards Scams Team (NTS Scams Team) prevented almost 750,000 pieces of scam mail from entering the UK postal system in the last three months.

Nearly 750,000 (749,500) pieces of scam mail, including fake prize draws and clairvoyant scams, have been stopped from reaching the letterboxes of households around the country in the past three months*.

Although criminals behind the scams continually redesign their products to try to avoid raising suspicions, Sutton residents should look out for signs such as:

  • A foreign return address
  • An offer of a big pay out in return for a small purchase or administration fee
  • Requests for personal details in order to claim a prize
  • A letter claiming you have won a lottery that you did not enter
  • Letters from a psychic or clairvoyant offering their services for a fee
  • An offer that seems too good to be true.

Sutton Council Trading Standards recently came across a 90-year-old woman in the borough who had been conned out of £60,000 by unscrupulous people over the past decade. The pensioner received and responded to thousands of unsolicited letters and phone calls from the UK, France, The Netherlands, Canada and Australia.

Kingston and Sutton Shared Environment Service is urging people to look out for their neighbours, relatives and friends and to contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline if they suspect that someone they know may be responding to scam mail.

Jan Gransden, Group Manager of Enforcement at Kingston & Sutton Shared Environment Service, said:

“We are asking Sutton residents to be vigilant if they receive unsolicited letters with an offer that sounds too good to be true – as this will in fact be the case. We helped a pensioner who ordered some make-up advertised in a mail-order catalogue, and a decade and thousands of letters later had spent £60,000 on worthless goods and lottery scams promising riches. The key message about any such letters is do not respond! We ask friends, neighbours and relatives to look out for scam mail in their parents’, children’s or friends’ houses and for banks to be on the lookout for suspicious transactions and uncharacteristic behaviour.”

Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:

“National Trading Standards and our partners are working hard to stop scam mail reaching the hands of vulnerable people in our communities. However these new figures show that we are facing an uphill struggle.

“I would urge anyone who receives potentially fraudulent mail or who knows someone who might be receiving it to report it to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”

If you think you know someone who has been a scam victim or perhaps you believe you are a scam victim yourself, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 0608454 04 05 06. The helpline will provide you with advice and pass the details onto Trading Standards.

How to spot scams and stop scams

  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
  • If you have not bought a ticket – you cannot win it.
  • You should not have to pay anything to get a prize.
  • If in doubt do not reply. Bin it delete it or hang up.
  • Persuasive sales patter? Just say ‘No thank you’.
  • Contacted out of the blue – be suspicious.
  • Never give out you bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you.
  • Take your time – resist pressure to make a decision straight away.
  • Never send money to someone you do not know.
  • Walk away from job ads that ask for money in advance.
  • Your bank will never attend your home.
  • The bank and the Police will never collect your bank card.
  • Your bank and the Police will never ask for your PIN.
  • Computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help fix your computer.
  • Do not suffer in silence – tell other  about scams.

Sutton Council prosecutes landlord for operating an unlicensed house in multiple occupation

Sutton Council has successfully prosecuted a landlord for operating an unlicensed house in multiple occupation on Sutton High Street and for failing to comply with regulations concerned with managing the property to keep tenants safe.

The defendant, TLK Properties and Investments Ltd, received fines totalling £4,450 for offences under the Housing Act 2004, along with a contribution to prosecution costs of £3,500, and a Victim Surcharge of £120, making a total of £8,070.

In November 2014 the council’s Environmental Health team visited the premises at 234-236 High Street following complaints about the amount of rubbish at the rear of the building. An inspection inside the premises revealed that the original offices had been converted into residential accommodation as a house in multiple occupation and rented out to 21 people.

Further investigation identified a leaking roof that had caused the kitchen ceiling to collapse damaging a tenant’s belongings and a broken shower in one of the bathrooms left five tenants without hot water for more than two months.

The main front-door lock was broken and had not been repaired, which meant anyone could gain access into the property, as one tenant discovered when coming home late one night to find a rough sleeper in the entrance hallway. The tenants’ security and safety were further compromised as the stairway lights did not work.

The electrical supply was not fit for purpose as it was designed for use in an office not living accommodation.

Council officers were also very concerned by the lack of appropriate smoke alarms to give warning of fire. The fire-fighting equipment that had been supplied had not been serviced for more than four years.

It is a legal requirement that anyone owning or managing a house in multiple occupation that is three or more storeys high and occupied by five or more people living as more than one household must apply for a mandatory licence under the Housing Act 2004. TLK Properties and Investments Ltd had not applied for a licence and on conviction were fined £2,500.

The disrepair and management issues were also offences under the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006 and TLK Properties and Investments Ltd were found guilty of six of the seven offences they were charged with, receiving fines of £1,950. They were also ordered to pay the council’s costs and a Victim Surcharge of £120. It is also possible for the tenants to reclaim from the landlord some of their rent paid during the time they lived at the property.

Cllr Jayne McCoy, Chair of the Housing, Environment and Business Committee at Sutton Council, said:

“Sutton Council encourages borough landlords to provide a good standard of affordable accommodation to their tenants. We will take steps to protect residents’ health and safety where necessary, especially where legislation is ignored. TLK Property and Investments Ltd has appealed against the conviction and the case will be referred to the High Court.

Joint Sutton Council statement following the EU referendum

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Following last week’s EU referendum result Sutton’s leaders want to reassure residents that they live in a safe, tolerant and inclusive borough.

Cllr Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council, Niall Bolger, Chief Executive of Sutton Council, Cllr Tim Crowley, Leader of the Opposition at Sutton Council, and Sutton Borough Police Commander Dave Stringer said in a joint statement:

“Since the EU referendum result there have been media reports of hate crimes against people living in this country. However, there has been no increase in hate crime incidents reported to the police in Sutton and across London.

“We are grateful that Sutton has not seen an increase in such intolerant and antisocial behaviour. The vote is not a licence for racist and xenophobic behaviour. We would urge residents to be vigilant to ensure that all borough citizens continue to live together in a peaceful, harmonious and responsible way.

“We are aware that certain events can spur intolerance, hate or extremism. Anyone who witnesses or suffers any hate incident of any type should report it immediately to the Police so that they can take action and deal with any incidents quickly.

“Sutton is a popular place to live, in part because we are a tolerant, open society that values people of all cultures, nationalities and religions. At this time it is more important than ever that we show solidarity with our neighbours of all different faith and cultural groups to ensure that extremist views and behaviour have no part of our community.”

Parking badge fraudsters left feeling blue

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Blue badge fraud means that disabled residents have trouble parking getting around the borough. Sutton Council’s crackdown on Blue Badge fraud continues with four more drivers convicted at Croydon Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, 23 February and ordered to pay a grand total of £1,330 in fines, costs and victim surcharges.

The drivers – two men and two women – admitted misusing a Blue Badge which belonged to a relative who wasn’t present at the time.

Ms W, aged 54, of Danescourt Crescent, Sutton, parked a Ford car in a mandatory disabled parking bay in Lodge Place, Sutton, on Thursday, 21 January using a Blue Badge registered to her son. Ms Philpot told officers she had parked to do some shopping. The Blue Badge holder was not present. She was fined £90 and ordered to pay £350 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

Mr X aged 25, of Ruskin Gardens, Harrow, parked a Mercedes in a red route disabled parking bay in Grove Road, Sutton, on Wednesday, 13 January. He had used a Blue Badge issued to his 86-year-old grandmother who was out of the country. He told officers he had used the Blue Badge to park because he had been running late for a training course in Sutton. Mr Magdani was fined £80, and ordered to pay £350 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

Mrs Y aged 39, of Wimborne Close, Worcester Park, parked a Volkswagen in a mandatory disabled bay in Lodge Place, Sutton, on Thursday, 21 January. She admitted using a Blue Badge registered to her son, who was at school at the time. Mrs Duckett was fined £40 and ordered to pay costs of £150 and a £20 victim surcharge.

Mr Z, aged 44, of Pear Tree Close, Mitcham, parked a Mini in a mandatory disabled parking bay in Lodge Place, Sutton, on Wednesday, 13 January. He admitted using a Blue Badge registered to his grandmother who was at home. Mr Fenick was fined £40 and ordered to pay £150 costs and £20 victim surcharge.

Carshalton Central’s Cllr Jill Whitehead, Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee at Sutton Council, said:

“Misusing Blue Badges is not a trivial matter. Blue Badges are issued to help disabled people have convenient access to busy town centres. As there are only a limited number of disabled parking bays in Sutton, it is really important that they are reserved for people who are genuinely disabled and that Blue Badges are used only by the people named on them. Blue Badges are issued for the sole use of a named individual and are only valid when it is being used by, or for, the disabled person when that person is present. It is stated clearly on the Badge that misuse may constitute a criminal offence. Police and Sutton Council Parking Services’ officers carry out regular joint patrols and use the borough’s CCTV system to gather evidence to stop misuse of the borough’s 500 disabled parking bays which are for residents who have permanent or severe mobility difficulties and want to park conveniently for the shops.”

The vast majority of Sutton’s 7,144 Blue Badge Holders use the Badges as they are intended. However, a small minority of drivers deliberately misuse the Blue Badge privilege and this has led to 49 successful prosecutions in Sutton since the beginning of 2014.  In January 2016, figures produced by the Department of Transport ranked Sutton Council 10th out of all local authorities in England taking the most legal action against disabled badge cheats between the period 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015.

News from the London Assembly Lib Dems….

‘Zombie knives’ set to be banned

Caroline’s campaign against knife crime saw some welcome news with reports that ‘zombie’ or other long knives might join a list of already banned knives.

Last week’s Independent on Sunday has the full story.

Caroline’s recent report on knife crime, which set out a number of policies to tackle the growing problem can be seen here.

Getting Crossrail 2 right

Caroline has responded to Transport for London’s recent consultation on Crossrail 2.

You can see a full copy of her response here.

Caroline sets out the long standing support of London Assembly Liberal Democrats for Crossrail 2. Her consultation response also reiterates the vital importance of every station on the route, from the first day of operation, providing step-free access.

Caroline’s response also calls for TfL to consider a Crossrail 2 station at Streatham and Worcester Park. Her submission also raises a number of other local issues that need to be addressed in both South West and North East London.

Caroline would like to thank local councillors and members who have fed in comments and suggestions to her submission response.

Oxford Street – are we moving closer to pedestrianisation?

The Mayor has confirmed that TfL are in the process of examining the possibility of pedestrianising Oxford Street.

The move comes in response to Stephen Knight, who presented a petition urging the Mayor and Westminster Council “to remove all motor traffic from Oxford Street, introduce a zero emissions shuttle bus, leading to full pedestrianisation of Oxford Street by 2020.”

In a letter to Stephen the Mayor said TfL and Westminster Council were “examining a range of options for improving the environment for pedestrians on Oxford Street”. The plans include “reducing traffic, widening footways, reducing and relocating bus stops and pedestrianisation”.

Responding to the Mayor’s letter Stephen said: “If Oxford Street and the West End is to remain a world class retail centre it must become a much safer and more pleasant place to visit and that must mean moving towards permanent pedestrianisation.”

For further information see a report from London Love Business.

Issues around the Garden Bridge get even murkier

Yesterday’s Sunday Observer revealed even further revelations about the Garden Bridge.  Caroline has been at the forefront of an extensive investigation into the procurement of the design contract for the bridge.  An excellent report on the most recent evidence session can be in this recent Guardian report.

Keep in touch with Caroline and Stephen

Both Caroline and Stephen can be followed on twitter.  Do follow them if you don’t already.  You can keep up with Caroline at @CarolinePidgeon and Stephen at @StephenKnight1. The GLA Liberal Democrat Assembly Group’s Twitter feed is at @GLALibDems

You can also keep up with a lot of transport issues that Caroline takes up, in every borough across London, at her own website.  Alternatively you can keep up with the activities of both Caroline and Stephen at www.glalibdems.org.uk

Finally if you would like Caroline or Stephen to raise an issue, especially through Mayor’s Question Time, please send your suggestions to info@glalibdems.org.uk

Happy New Year from Jill, Alan and Hamish – Sutton Council’s web site for “Report It”

https://www.sutton.gov.uk/info/200447/report_it

 

Report it

Rubbish & recycling

About fly tipping … in the Carshalton High Street area

A useful message has been received about fly tipping in and around Carshalton High Street….
Dear Councillor Whitehead,
 
I refer to your recent enquiry about fly tipping … in the Carshalton High Street area.
 
Fly Tipping
If a resident wishes to report fly tipping from a vehicle they should contact the council on 020 8770 5000  with details of the make, colour and registration number of the vehicle and any other noticeable features such as vehicle logos etc. They should also provide a full description of the person or persons involved and the time when the fly tipping occurred and details of what has been dumped. The person reporting the fly tip must be willing to act as a witness should the matter be pursued. I would not advise the resident to approach the individual.
 
 
Jan Gransden

Head of Regulatory Services
Civic Offices
St Nicholas Way
Sutton
SM1 1EA
020 8770 5550020 8770 5550