Council hiding rise in CPZ abuse by staff

20150115_114930Today the Council has announced that its parking permits and vouchers are to be dematerialised from 6th April.

This will save the council money but it is not of obvious benefit to residents. In the matter of the widely abused service vouchers it will be a positive disbenefit. Residents will no longer be able to spot that business permit and service voucher users are clogging up their roads for commuting purposes. This problem is particularly acute in Zone W around the Council’s own Perceval House offices and in Zone JJ where social housing provider A2Dominion seems to enjoy protected status.

Service vouchers

If you look at the council’s own figures the use of service vouchers has jumped by one third in only two years in spite of a 20% price increase. Every other category of permit or voucher is declining or stagnant. You can only conclude that these vouchers, which are widely abused by Council and A2Dominion staff, are priced wrong. Or something more distasteful is happening.

There is no way the economy has grown by one third to drive this increase. It isn’t down to one third more people having tradespeople visit their homes in CPZs. It is a function of Council and A2Dominion staff circumventing the intention of CPZ which is to keep commuters out of residential areas. The word has got out amongst these workers that they can game the system. The Council must know from its own data that this is going on.

The move to dematerialise CPZ permits in April will make it hard for residents to spot that business permits and service vouchers are being used or abused. These permits should remain paper based until the Council can convince people it has got a grip on this issue.

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The wealth lifecycle and why the left keeps getting it wrong

Tuition fees

Ed Miliband’s ill thought out proposal to restrict high rate relief for people saving for a pension and to dish out £10 billion to rich kids is the latest example of the left not understanding the wealth lifecycle. There are all sorts of stupidities in this decision – why not fix the student loan system rather than keep it in reduced form? Making the universities dependent on the state for funds will end in tears (for the universities). I could go on but what about the savers that Miliband is hitting?

When you analyse wealth by looking at the 1% or the top decile or the top quintile you quickly lose sight of the fact that most people move through a wealth lifecycle. They start in the bottom quintile when they leave school with no savings or graduate with debt. In their 20s they might get into the second quintile. In their 30s as they save for deposits they might move up again. In their 40s as their pension savings and property wealth start to accrue they move up another notch. In their late 40s, through their 50s they will be at the height of their careers and for the first time in their lives maybe paying top rate tax. At this stage in life they start to think about their pensions and want to pile money into them to provide for their increasingly long retirements. Now Ed Miliband says no.

Now Ed Miliband says I will break the decades old compact between the saver and the state – if you save for your old age you can do it tax free but I will tax you when you draw your pension. Miliband is essentially saying to the middle aged who have worked hard for 20-30 years and maybe haven’t gone to university you will subsidise those young people who have been to university and done well. It is unfair. And if we keeping messing with pension savers we will come to regret it.

Overwhelmingly the wealthy are not aliens. They are us, just older.

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The doctors blow it

No more games

The doctor’s union, the BMA, is spending some £100,000s if not millions of Pounds on its No more games campaign. It was kicked off last week with posters. I was only dimly aware of it until one of their paid for ads was pushed into my face by Twitter at doctors’ expense.

There are three planks to the BMA’s campaign. The first is public health. It advocates minimum pricing of alcohol and plain packages for cigarettes. Both of these are quite attractive policies in some ways but they are hard for politicians to push through. The second plank is protecting funding and the third is keeping the private sector out of the NHS.

This is hugely disappointing. The doctors fail to mention quality of patient outcomes and innovation. You might hope that the representatives of the scientists, the doctors that care for us, might have some ambition to ferociously drive towards higher quality and new ways of doing things, but no. They are spending many £100,000s of their members’ money to basically ask for more cash and keep things the same. Maybe they want NHS coal to be dug in NHS mines to fire NHS blast furnaces to make NHS steel for NHS scalpels? They may as well ask the world to stop turning.

When the BMA talks about funding it can’t bring itself to acknowledge Simon Stevens’, the new chief executive of NHS England’s, NHS Five Year Forward View. All the three main political parties are very near to being on the same page as Stevens so it is bizarre indeed that the doctors are not. The Labour government kicked off the £20 billion Nicholson savings in 2009 and the Coalition has presided over their roll out. Stevens accepts that another £22 billion of savings are required even if whoever is in government agrees to find £8 billion of new money which itself is a huge sum to find. The Stevens prescription sees the need for further restraint hand in hand with massive change and innovation. It seems that doctors’ real motive is not cross party agreement, which may well follow Stevens’ impressive lead, but their own lack of appetite for change and willingness to lead the NHS through continuing change.

The video of Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, using the phrase “petty point scoring” will come to be regretted by many doctors I suspect. The NHS consumes 10% of GDP and about 1/6th of all government expenditure. The idea that it will not be at the centre of political debate is ridiculous. If doctors want health to be out of politics they need to get off the public payroll. The political class in the form of Messrs Straw and Rifkind have ably demonstrated their shortcomings today but with this campaign so does the medical profession.

The doctors had a chance to spend their money on leading and setting the terms of the debate. Instead we have an expensive whine.

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Miliband’s energy mess – Part 1

20150219_183204

The Labour party has paid for Royal Mail to deliver their latest national leaflet to the Ealing Central and Acton marginal constituency, judging by the fact that it landed on my doorstep this week with a bunch of junk mail.

As has been pointed out by the Guido Fawkes blog the out of date promise to freeze energy bills until 2017 would end up costing people money. It isn’t just me who has pointed out that Ed Miliband’s badly judged intervention in the domestic energy markets mean that people are already paying more than they need to thanks to the Labour party’s threat to intervene, see here, here and here.

Miliband’s ill-judged energy freeze policy is costing consumers more now.

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Shocking photos of council leader’s investment property undermine his denial that it was HMO

Since I last wrote on this subject I have written to council officers to challenge them on whether or not council leader Julian Bell failed to register his investment property (which he owns in addition to retaining his tenancy of a housing association home around the corner) as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). Officers confirm that the property has never been registered as an HMO. Apparently officers have accepted Bell’s story that he never let out his property to more than 3 students as would be required for him to stay on the right side of the law.

But, shocking pictures used in estate agents details undermine Bell’s case. Photos of only four out of five of the rooms shows nine beds. The impersonal rooms with microwaves do not have the look of a family home. As I laid out last week for Bell not to have broken the law we have to believe that he only had 3 or less tenants. These photos fail to make Bell’s case for him.

Bedroom A

This bedroom has a microwave, a single bed and two bunk beds. There are no personal items and the walls show no evidence of posters and other evidence that it has been used by a family rather than simply let out to short term tenants.

Bedroom B

This second room has another two bunk beds and another microwave. Again no sign of personal possessions.

Bedroom C

This third room has bunk beds again and we are up to seven beds already.

Bedroom D

Finally, the fourth room has a bed and a sofabed. So we have only seen four out of five of the rooms but we already have nine beds.

Bell has never repudiated these photographs, instead he has tried to explain them away. Observers can decide for themselves whether these impersonal rooms filled with two or three beds each constitute a HMO or a family home with three or less lodgers. Council officers at Ealing Council believe council leader Julian Bell. Do you?

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Has council leader broken HMO law?

22 Eastfields

Has the Labour Council Leader Julian Bell broken the law relating to houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) that requires landlords to licence them? The council leader owns a house in East Acton where, due to additional licensing requirements, houses must be licensed if they are rented to four or more unrelated tenants. HMOs are required to be licensed under the 2004 Housing Act. This is a duty of the landlord and one that Ealing Council is obliged to administer and enforce.

Bell has already admitted to renting out his five bedroom property to foreign language students and yet his property is not on a list of licensed properties dated 27th June 2013.

Cllr Bell needs to come clean. The council has to adminster and enforce this law and councillors must be particlarly scrupulous in their observance of the law. It seems that this property has not been licensed as an HMO as required by law. Cllr Bell has admitted to renting his house out. It is inconceivable that he rented out a five bedroom property to three or less foreign language students as would be required for him to not fall foul of the law relating to HMOs.

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A2Dominion abusing parking system

20150209_084124State-funded housing association A2Dominion is abusing the parking system in Ealing on a large scale. Its staff and contractors routinely use so called service vouchers to commute to work at A2Dominion’s premises at 85 Uxbridge Road and park in the Adjacent Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ). This morning I watched one of their staff park in a CPZ bay on Mattock Lane and walk into A2 Dominion’s new building at 113 Uxbridge Road.

It isn’t just one person. I counted 23 vehicles parked with service vouchers in Zone JJ CPZ on the northern leg of Culmington Road on 17th June last year. Coincidentally I found another 23 vehicles parked with service vouchers on 15th January this year. From talking to the people involved I know that some of these people are council staff and some are A2Dominion. The sullen way in which these “public servants” abuse the system they themselves are meant administer is depressing to see. I have raised this matter twice with the council and local councillors. Nothing has changed and the councillors are mute.

The terms and conditions for these vouchers are loose but clear enough I think:

Service Vouchers are used to park legally in the Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) for operational reasons only. Please Note; Operational reasons include visits to residential or commercial properties. (e.g. a Utility company carrying out works or emergency visits.)

20150115_114930The vouchers are specifically not for commuting. They are designed to allow businesses to service residents and businesses in CPZs.

Both the JJ CPZ (which is abused by A2Dominion) and the W CPZ (that is abused by council staff) are immediately adjacent to the town centre and only operate for two hours so are cheap to use for the day if you stick two £1.20 vouchers in your window.

Why are A2Dominion allowed to get away with this continuing abuse? Could it have anything to with the fact that council leader Julian Bell is an A2Dominion tenant? Or that the Labour councillor in charge of parking, Bassam Mahfouz, is an A2Dominion employee?

Is any of this important? If Culmington Road is going to be parked up all day by commuters this will reduce the opportunity for residents to park near Walpole Park and walk across the park into Ealing. Similarly parking in Mattock Lane makes it harder for people to get to the Mattock Lane Health Centre. Right now A2Dominion is furnishing its new building. It is three times larger than the previous building on the site in terms of floorspace and it has built over the parking space at the rear. We should not allow A2Dominion to use the CPZ as its company car park.

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There is such a thing as a free lunch

NUT poster

Well dinner actually at the Clay Oven. Last night Ealing NUT had their annual general meeting at the Clay Oven Indian restaurant on Ealing Broadway. Amazingly they were giving away 75 free dinners. It seems that Ealing NUT has so much money that it can afford to give away free meals to get people to attend its AGM. In all my years of being a part of rowing clubs, Conservative associations, scouts and residents’ associations I never heard of such a thing. Ealing NUT must have money to burn.

How can this be so? How can they afford to have a fulltime organiser, Stefan Simms, the second SWP extremist in succession to have the role, and give out free food? The answer is of course that the council pay his wages in a bizarre arrangement called facility time. Simms predecessor was paid 100% by the council. I don’t know what Simms’ sweetheart deal looks like right now but most or all of his salary will be paid by council tax payers rather than NUT members.

You might think that Binda Rai, the Labour councillor in charge of education, would know well enough to keep well away from this gathering but she turned up too. Rai is new but is she really that green? Did she get one of the free dinners I wonder?

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Labour leadership endorses Ealing education authority’s shocking complacency

Last week the secondary school league tables were in the news. You can find the Ealing bit here. The amount of information you can pull out of the DfE website is amazing.

On Wednesday the education people at the council came out with this staggeringly banal press release, “Ealing high schools continue to do well”. It satisfied itself with comparing the average attainment across the whole borough of Ealing with national averages, ignoring the fact that for some years London schools have improved faster than the national average. The Labour councillor in charge, Walpole councillor Binda Rai, said:

What these figures tell me is that our local high schools are doing a good job at preparing young people for sixth form, further education and apprenticeships.

We are consistently above the national average in a range of measures and I congratulate all of the teaching staff, and their students, on a job well done.

This complacent nonsense ignores the vast disparities between the state schools in the borough. The English Baccalaureate standard (EBacc) is a high bar but comparing local state schools on this metric is stunning:

EB rate

There are essentially three classes of Ealing school. Twyford is in an academic league of its own getting 62% of its pupils through the EBacc. Hopefully it can work its magic on the new William Perkin School in Greenford. Then there is a middle tier of schools that get between 34% and 47% of their pupils through the EBacc. Should Elthorne be in this group with an achievement level down at 34%? What is stopping it pushing up into the 40s? What is Greenford doing so well? Can this be repeated in this group and the lower group?

Which brings us to the lower group. Six Ealing schools that get an EBacc rate of less than 20%. How can this group be so weak? How has Greenford managed not to be in this group? What is the council doing about it?

5 GCSE rate

When you look at the benchmark five GCSEs including maths and English the groupings are a little less obvious but still clear. Greenford’s outperformance looks even more remarkable, putting it second in the borough.

We have no public debate about any of this. How can we hope to change it? We have six schools that are too close to the 40% level where schools are deemed to be failing. Dormers Wells is shockingly low at 43%.

Meanwhile the politician in charge, Binda Rai, who works for the University of London, knows that not enough young people are getting as good an education as they could in Ealing. Certainly not enough are getting the kind of start in life that would get them into one of UL’s colleges. All she has to say is: “Ealing high schools continue to do well”.

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Who is the boss of Ealing?

This tweet from Seph Brown is very telling. He refers to Council Leader Julian Bell at “the boss”. Brown is Labour’s paid organiser for all three Ealing Parliamentary constituencies which also happen to be coterminous with the borough boundaries.

You might think that he would think that Rupa Huq, Virendra Sharma and Stephen Pound were his bosses given that they are standing in the general election in three months time. Huq particularly given Labour’s ambition to force three Labour MPs on Ealing.

Cllr Bell has known Rupa Huq since she was a small child and she is very much his choice for Ealing Central and Acton. Bell’s power base is Southall where Bell works two days a week for Ealing Southall MP Virendra Sharma, in spite of drawing an allowance designed to recompense a full-time leader of the council.

Since the Southall faction saw off a coup by the Ealing North crowd two years ago and dismissed all of their councillors from holding offices with special responsibility allowances (ie extra pay), the Southall faction and Cllr Bell have had a firm grip on Labour in Ealing. The boss indeed.

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