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

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.

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

Caroline Pidgeon says that London Police Community Support Officers are here to stay

Since early September it has been known that the Metropolitan Police  were considering scrapping all 1,000 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) working in neighbourhoods in London, and across London Liberal Democrats have been campaigning to save them ever since.
 
The pressures facing the Met’s budget were initially so great that Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met Commissioner, even predicted that London could finally lose between 5000 and 8000 police officer posts in an interview he gave to the Evening Standard in mid-October.
 
However after extensive campaigning against these cuts, and of course the horrific events in Paris, a decision was made by the Home Office to largely protect the grant given to the Met in future years.
 
The announcement that PCSOs will be protected in London was made by Sir Bernard in response to questioning last week by Caroline Pidgeon at City Hall’s Police and Crime Committee.
 
Following his announcement Caroline said:
 
“This is great news and a huge victory for everyone who values community policing.  Getting rid of London’s Police Community Support Officers would have seen London return to the dark days of remote and inaccessible policing.  Police Community Support Officers play a crucial role in building up relations and engaging with local communities, including the collection of vital intelligence for effective policing.  London is a safer place because they exist.”
 
For further details see this report on Mayorwatch website.

Cllr. Jill Whitehead takes part in Emergency Planning Exercise

This photo is taken of Cllr. Jill Whitehead and colleagues from last week’s emergency planning exercise at Sutton Life Centre where the exercise focused on a hypothetical emergency outside Carshalton railway station. All the emergency services were working together e.g. the Council, police, fire service, ambulance service, red cross, and others.

The Life Centre doubled as a centre for the “walking wounded” in the exercise, and a total of 75 volunteers took part acting out roles of those affected by the emergency. The exercise had been planned for some time but was very relevant in the current situation, with the recent Paris events uppermost in many people’s minds. 

Cllr. Jill Whitehead and others at the emergency training event

Cllr. Jill Whitehead and others at the emergency training event

Policing Matters

Tom Brake MP

Tom Brake MP

From Tom Brake MP for Carshalton & Wallington…

Just when security should be at the top of the agenda for the Mayor of London and Conservative Government, they are putting neighbourhood policing at risk.

Over 1,000 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) across London are at risk of being axed to meet Conservative cuts. Please sign our petition here to protect our police. 

We live in one of the safest parts of London, where the council and police have a special partnership that helps keep crime down. It’s a great record, but this could all be put at risk if these cuts go ahead. 

PCSOs play an invaluable role in keeping crime down. They are often the only visible police presence on our streets and they work hard to pick up local intelligence, prevent low level crime and tackle anti-social behaviour – giving Police Officers the time to tackle more serious crimes. 

If you value Sutton’s neighbourhood police as much as I do, please click here to sign our petition.

Best wishes, 

Tom Brake
Lib Dem MP for Carshalton & Wallington 

PS. Please send this link – www.tombrake.co.uk/pcsos – to any friends or family who may be interested and encourage them to sign our petition.

Landscape gardener pleads guilty to 12 counts of fraud and money laundering

A self-employed landscape gardener from Epsom who trades under the name Greenfingers Gardening has pleaded guilty to 12 counts of fraud and money laundering. Benjamin Brown, 62, of 29 Cox Lane, Epsom pleaded guilty at Guildford Crown Court last week to eight counts of Fraud Act offences and four of money-laundering, following a joint prosecution between Surrey County Council and Sutton Trading Standards with Surrey County Council acting as lead prosecutor.

Mr Brown, whose business includes paving and fencing, obtained business by advertising in local newspapers across Surrey and by putting flyers through letterboxes using the trading names Greenfingers and Homecare Property Maintenance. After being approached by elderly people to undertake work in their gardens, he would charge exorbitant prices for work that was frequently not required or requested, with any requests to stop met with threats, verbal abuse and aggression. Sutton Trading Standards prosecuted Mr Brown on two counts of fraud by failing to disclose information under the Fraud Act 2006.

In the first case, in February 2013 a retired woman saw Mr Brown’s newspaper advertisement and telephoned him to contract him to carry out some landscape gardening. She was not given a Notice of Cancellation at the time of agreeing the contract and he began work on a small garden area at the rear of the property. Mr Brown charged £12,000 – later reduced to £11,000 – for work done that he had originally verbally quoted would cost between £4,000 and £6,000.

In the second case Mr Brown was telephoned by an elderly woman to carry out some fence repairs in her garden, again after seeing his advertisement in the local newspaper. While she had no complaint about the quality of his work, she was charged £10,500 for a relatively short run of fence and a gate.

When the fence was completed Mr Brown proceeded to lift the garden patio slabs despite the pensioner’s requests for him to stop. When she felt she had no alternative but to agree for the path to be re-laid, Mr Brown charged her a further £1,500 to do so.

A Proceeds of Crime Act investigation will now take place against Mr Brown to identify whether he has benefited financially from his crimes. Sentencing has been adjourned until 14 August to allow time for probation and medical reports to be prepared.

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

“We want to congratulate Sutton’s Trading Standards team whose work over a considerable period of time has finally stopped this landscape gardener from grossly overcharging for his work and intimidating people. Sutton residents should always consider looking on the Safer Sutton Trader Scheme List on our website when they are considering employing a tradesperson. This list has been vetted by Trading Standards and offers a range of bona fide tradespeople. Residents should always get several quotes before agreeing to employ a tradesperson and remember that they should expect to receive a cancellation notice from the trader and have the opportunity to cancel a contract within 14 days if it is made at home.”

Anyone needing consumer advice and thinking they may be a victim of a rogue trader should call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0345 404 0506.  

Westmead Allotments – From “Sutton Voice”

The following news story from “Sutton Voice” has been kindly forwarded to us …

A 40-year-old man has been convicted and sentenced for damaging a number of trees next to his property. Xhavit Krasniqi, of Coleridge Avenue, Sutton, had arranged for unqualified workers to carry out lopping and topping of six trees from the neighbouring Sutton Council-owned Westmead Allotments.

Officers from Sutton’s Safer Parks Team were called to the scene and found damage to the trees and branch debris on the ground on Thursday, 13 February 2014. Sutton Council sought a statement of loss for the total damage, which was put at £23,759 and for cleaning up the debris, which came to £3,250.

Close liaison between Sutton Council and the Sutton Safer Parks Police Team resulted in the case being dealt with as a criminal matter and Krasniqi was summonsed to attend court. At Croydon Magistrates’ Court in August 2014, Krasniqi pleaded not guilty to criminal damage. The case was referred to Crown Court for trial.

At Croydon Crown Court on Friday, 8 May 2015 Mr. Krasniqiwas found guilty of two counts of causing criminal damage to a total of six trees after a three-day trial. He was found guilty by a majority 11-1 verdict on both counts. Krasniqi was ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid community work and to pay £3,500 Crown Prosecution Service costs; £60 victim surcharge and £4,810 compensation to Sutton Council – making a total of £8,370.

The money in compensation to Sutton Council will be used to prune the old trees properly and to plant new trees. The Judge told Krasniqi that he was responsible for the trees being cut down which had put his swimming pool in the shade. The Judge also spoke about the loss of these established trees to the local community. PC Fash Mohammadi said: “This was great team work between Sutton’s Safer Parks Police Team and the London Borough of Sutton to bring this person to trial and face justice for what he had done.”

Carshalton Central ward Cllr Jill Whitehead, Chair of Sutton Council’s Environment and Neighbourhood Committee, said: “In Sutton, we pride ourselves in being both a green and fair borough, so it is not acceptable for residents to put their own interests over those of the borough as a whole. We do not tolerate anyone damaging trees on council land and I am pleased that we have worked together with the police successfully on this matter.”

Safer Neighbourhood Policing and police stations

From Caroline Pidgeon’s latest newsletter…

Caroline says:- ”

We are still waiting for the results of the review into changes to Safer Neighbourhood Teams that the police have been carrying out. The new policing model has centralised policing in London and left local Safer Neighbourhood Teams with just one dedicated PC and one PCSO per ward. Previously each ward had 1 sergeant, 2 PCs and 3 PCSOs as a minimum.

The Metropolitan Police have been carrying out a review and we are pushing them to make changes. Even the Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe confirmed to me at a Police and Crime Committee that the changes may have gone too far.

We have also had confirmed that the Met Police will be looking again at the future of police stations in the next couple of years and may close more to help with their budget. Again there are no details yet on this.

I will keep you posted on any news on these important local issues…”