RBKC Question Time: Any Answers? Part 3: Catherine Faulks – and a survey

This is our third transcript of RBKC Question Time regarding the council’s Covid-19 with Cllr Catherine Faulks, RBKC “Leadership Team” ( Cabinet) Member for Skills and Enterprise.

(Sorry again for the delay, but we’re still having technical problems)

Here, in this borough with its many small businesses and a high percentage of people who are self employed, residents put their questions to her (and hope she doesn’t live up to her “Lady False” nickname)

Please note that this was before recent changes to the Government Furlough Scheme

Please also scroll down for important links and information and we also urge all local busonesses to complete the survey on the inpact of Covid-19 of them at the end.

Question from Dominique, a successful cat sitting business owner in RBKC who uses eight freelancers to help her. She is concerned that the Government’s self employment scheme which supports 80% of wages is only for three monrhs and obviously with travel being really constricted at the moment that this might not he enough to see her through this really challenging time

Cllr Faulks: “Dominque , thanks for the question.As a cat owner myself, I know you’re providing a really valuable servoce in the borough. The Government self employment scheme as you say, currently is only for three months and there are some other schemes you might look at, such as extending paying your taxes beyond the July deadline. But unfortunately because this is a Government scheme, I can’t let you know if this will be extended or not, but obvoously we’ll keep a really close eye on that.

Another scheme you might look at is the Government business bounce back scheme – loan rather of which you can get a business loan to help see you through these challenging times. But I always recommend that you take a look at RBKC’s own business interruption hardship scheme, which is a scheme we’ve set up for businesses just like yours to see you through these really difficult times. This is a discretionary fund, for which you can apply for a grant of up to £5,000. So please do look at that on the council website under the Covid-19 section and get in touch if there is anything else I can do to help you. Thank you for contacting me”.

Question from Andreja, who is the owner and director of a small limited company which deals with PR and communications in the hospitality business. Her income has dropped by 60% Has the Government really thought thought about SMEs (small to medium enterprises) and the fact that directors cannot furlough themelves despite the real loss of income that they’re seeing at the moment?

Cllr Faulks: ” So thank you very much for your question Andreja. I think it’s a question that will apply to a lot of people in RBKC. So first of all I think the Government Furlough scheme was set up with good intention,but very quickly, and so it hasn’t been very flexible and hasn’t really taken into account company directors paying themselves directly from dividends.

You mentioned that you were anxious about taking out a business loan and I think that’s completely understandable, but I do recommend thar you take another look at the Government business bounce back loans. These are loans for up to 12 months with a 2.5 % interest rate, but the Government will pay that interest rate for you. So go on to the Government website to look at that.

I also recommend that you look at RBKC’s own business interruption grant scheme. This is a dicretionary fund for businesses with a turnover of less than £2million and employing less than 20 people. So please look in the Covid-19 business section of our website for an application form. We really value your business in RBKC and I hope that you can weather the storm”

Question from Rhys who is a partner in a hair salon which has had to be shut down due to Government Covid-19 advice and Lockdown. Rhys’ business rates are too high to make him eligible fo the Government grant scheme. So Rhys is asking, what can valuable businesses like his, who employ local people in RBKC, what support can they get from the council,? Because it’s so important that they carry on trading

Cllr Faulks: “Well Rhys, thank you very much for your question and I agree that we all need our hairdressers, and at the moment very urgently. But on a more serious note, I’d like to reassure you that the RBKC business interruption scheme is still open – and the criteria are as follows; you need to employ less than 20 people, you need to have a turnover of less thsn £2million, and you need to demonstrate interruption to your income currently and that you aren’t eligible for any of the other funding schemes or loan schemes that are currently on offer.

Other things that the council are doing to support our businesses at the moment is that we have given businesses in our commercial properties a rent deferral for 3 months, we have given the market traders on the Portobello Road a rent holiday for 3 months, and we have made our licensing much more flexible so that restaurants who can supply takeaway right away can do so and on our website we’d like to list and advertise all tbose businesses who currently can do delivery services and encourage our residents to shop local and encouraging our businesses to employ local as and when they come.

The other thing on the horizon is that the Government have just announced a new £614million scheme that wil be distributed through local councils as a discretionary fund for our local businesses. I hope schemes like this will be able to support you and our other very important local businesses. Rhys, do get in touch with our business team if we can be of further help and thank you for contacting us”.

What Cllr Faulks said in referral to the council listing and advertising local businesses might be a matter of concern to some; especially given the council fail with its lists of residents groups . That is not our only concern with this – but we will come back to this in another post this coming week.

And this point is more for the RBKC Communications Team than for Cllr Faulks, but most useful council information is not found in the many magazines that RBKC keeps wasting money on (the most recent edition of North Ken News seemed a waste of paper to us).

Question from Claire Simmons: How many businesses have closed in North Kensington since Grenfell, and what sort of support has been put in place for them?

Cllr Faulks: ” Well Claire, thank you very much for your question and in answer to that, there were several business packages put in place for businesses post Grenfell. First of all there was rent relief that was offered to those businesses that were in RBKC’s own properties, there was some business rate relief and there was the Recovery fund that was jointly funded by RBKC and the GLA. On top of that, there was also advice, guidance and support that was delivered through the Portobello Business Centre, which was also funded by RBKC

We’ve looked into the businesses that have received the funding support post Grenfell, and of those, as far as we can see, only one of them has closed. But we do recognise that at the moment those businesses in North Kensington are really strugglimg to come back and to get on their feet – they already were. So it’s very important that we get the North Kensington business forum up and running as soon as we can to do everything we can to help our valuable local businesses. Thank you”

THINK hope to hear more on the North Kensington Business Forum and when we do we will be sure to post some information on this blog when possible.

Question from Lorna Hetherington: Lorna is concerned that most physios, osteos ,dentists and vets had to close their doors as soon as lockdown was announced and it’s very worrying for them because at the moment they seem to fall between the cracks of various Government grants and funding schemes and Lorna points out that when we come out of of lockdown, these are the sort of services that the NHS might well need to support them to help with overflow when all these clients need extra help.

Cllr Faulks “So Lorna, thank you for your question. I agree, it’s a realy comcerning one and one that I was talking to Felicity Buchan the MP for Kensington aboutthis morning to ask her if Government could look at what support could be put in place for private clinics.

Meanwhile, locally at the council level, we have our own RBKC business interruption fund scheme and I suggest that you go on to our website under the Covid-19 portal and see if you would like to make an application for that. It’s a discretionary grant scheme, giving grants up to £5,200.

And we are also examining the details at the moment of the new announcement from Government of their business interruption grant scheme to see how we might be able to apply tbat locally.

So please keep in touch – it’s a really important question aand md something that we need to address. Thank you ”


More about business support schemes on the council website;

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/council-services-and-disruption-updates/covid-19-support-businesses-and-self

Government Coronavirus bounce back loan:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan

Changes to the Government Furlough scheme

https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2020/05/government-announces-furlough-scheme-changes—what-you-need-to-/


Here is a survey from RBKC about the impact of Covid-19 on businesses:
https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/newsroom/new-survey-local-businesses-impact-covid-19


Government Covid-19 controversy: Cummings and goings

Some readers of this blog will have seen our frustrations, anxieties and thoughts laid bare. Indeed this has been a difficult time for everyone. We’ll try not go on and on about it – there are plenty of others venting their lockdown frustrations on social media

In our North Kensington community, it’s fair to say that we have seen some real effort to pull together from many people and doing this – with thoughts of the people who have lost their lives to Coronavirus, the people who are working to save lives and the people working to keep this country going and provide us with the essential things we need so when this is over, we can get back to our lives – in our minds.

This is why it is all the more frustrating when some of those in charge do not bother to practice what they preach – and worse, not admit their mistakes and resign but try to make up silly excuses.

We thought it didn’t look too good when Professor Neil Ferguson, who was partly responsible for the Lockdown guidelines, and was a member of Sage (the Scientific Advisory Geoup for Emergemcies) broke his own rules to have visits his married girlfriend.

But at least Professor Ferguson admitted his mistake and resigned. unlike the PM’s Chief Adviser Dominic Cummings

Where do we start? Not self isolating? Relocating to Durham? Testing his eyesight by driving with bis four year old son? Oh – and don’t forget that trip to Barnard Castle just happened to be on his wife’s birthday.

Dominic Cummings’ disregard of Lockdown guidelines is unforgivable, but we’d be here forever giving a list so here are timelines and details:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-52784290

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/05/29/dominic-cummings-coronavirus-wife-castle-petition/

Our readers can sign the petition calling for his resignation here:

http://chng.it/bTt5YMRvPs

Despite what some of Cummings’ friends might keep saying (or indeed keep saying to themselves), the argument is not a political one – it is one about keeping to the rules, not having double standards and doing the rigbt thing for the good of us all – and 45 Conservative MPs agree:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/politics/2020/may/27/list-grows-of-tory-mps-calling-for-cummings-to-resign

As for our local local MP for Kensington, Felicity “Church Mouse” Buchan, she has been silent on the matter and did not join the rebels. A constituent has written to us saying this:

“Does anyone know if our local MP has a view?

I know Kensington residents who have written to Felicity Buchan. She replies: I will pass on your concerns.

  • Possibly Felicity has no opinion.
  • Maybe Felicity supports Cummings but doesn’t want to be open about it.
  • Or, perhaps Felicity is being careful not wanting to be among the first 45 Tory MPs to openly call for Cummings to go.

It is reasonable for local people to ask to hear their MPs opinion. I suggest, showing no opinion could be detrimental to Felicity’s re-election prospects in this marginal constituency”

Oh dear, we did warn Felicity Buchan in this blog before that sitting on the fence is not a good look.

But far, far worse is putting the public at risk, hypocrisy and then putting on a show of barefaced lies and excuses all wrapped up in arrogance, so THINK will present Dominic Cummings with a Piglet-Pie Award (and he’ll probably break the rules again to collect it too):

We think it is time that Cummings left Downing Street for good – and so do over a million others who have signed the petition.

We think Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You sums up the matter best: https://twitter.com/LouisHenwood/status/1266487812209156098?s=20

THINK will leave our readers with these very funny Dominic Cummings song parodies from Personalised Pop :

https://youtu.be/__p2Mt_eYJQ

https://youtu.be/DcxW-1kC9zM

RBKC Question Time: Any Answers? Part 2: Kim Taylor-Smith

Here is our transcript of the RBKC Question Time with Kim Taylor-Smith, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member (or “Leadership Team” member in Dizzy’s PR lingo!) for Grenfell and Housing

Some answers contain some useful links and information that may be of help to RBKC residents – which we have highlighted – as in our previous post

There is somewhat less of our commentary this time as “Kim Tailored-Sloth” appears to have made more effort than Dizzy Lizzy at answering the questions (see our previous post), but whatever anyone’s opinion of our council, its Leader or the RBKC Cabinet;; all these Question Time sessions and many of the answers provided are useful for local residents

He even answered a few questions from us and our readers. Thank you to everyone who sent the questions into us.

Question from THINK : While many appreciate the importance of ensuring that properties are fire safe, someone at the council has deliberately taken the decision to fit a new front door on tenants homes at this particular time because in their words, “everybody will be at home”, and this appears to show a complete lack of sensitivity towards residents who are vulnerable or self isolating. Can RBKC give a guarantee that they will only fit doors at this tme with the prior consent of tenants and will not force entry or unneccesarily pressurise residents into having doors fitted?

Kim Taylor-Smith: “So in sort, answer is yes – I can give that guarantee. We have always fitted new fire rated doors at every address with the consent of the tenants and having a prearranged meeting in order to do so. So with that regard, it’s important obviously that we consider people’s needs. And to reinforce the strategy, we also during lockdown, are not going to be fitting doors to any vulnerable group or self isolating tenant. So, we will further check that where we have made appointments, before those appointments go ahead, we will check with the residents to see if for any reason if they don’t want that appointment then we will not fit the door. ”

Question from resident via THINK :What are housing staff, who work with some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents, given that they are not all able to self refer or are officially categorised as clinically vulnerable by the NHS, what is the council doing to help these residents get the help they need?

KTS “Well, the soonest the crisis started, our housing management team started contacting our residents – starting with those over the age of 70, and now actually in terms – everybody over the age of 60 and anyone under that age where they have known vulnerabilities. And this will include cross-referencing with our other departments including Adult Social Care and Family Services to ensure that we identify those residents that have vulnerability.

We’ve also talked through what that support should be and completed referral forms on behalf of the other agencies, such as people like Age UK and we will continue to monitor these referrals to ensure that they are working. I mean, our team have now spoken to over 3,800 of our council residents in council homes and in temporary accommodation and we’re also offering a weekly and fortnightly call back to about 800 people. And where we haven’t been able to get hold of somebody via telephone, what we’re doing is we’re writing and we’re phoning and we’re giving cards and we’re doing deliveries but certainly if people are aware of somebody with vulnerabilities that hasn’t been contacted by the council, please let us know”.

Question from resident via THINK: Whilst it is reassuring for all of us to know that the council will not be taking legal action against anybody who falls into arrears and service charges when so many people are suffering at this time, can you please give further details amd information of what other help there is available?

KTS: “Well, if you do need financial support you may be entitled to help from the council’s Local Support Payments Plan. This is in fact what was originally launched as a Hardship Plan amd we’ve renamed that and its something that we’ve boosted by £500,000 on top of the funding that we were receiving from central Government, and you can apply for this by phoning our telephone number – 020 7745 6464 – and all of these numbers are on the council website. You also might be entitled to Universal Credit and to find out more about that you can call 0800 328 5644. And if you’re a council tenant who is struggling to pay and keep up with your rent and payments, we’ve set aside a fund to support you as well – and we stress we will not be taking any enforcement action on rent for a few months amd if you want to know more about this rent fund, please email us at

HM-rentincome2@rbkc.gov.uk

Or call the number at 0800 137 111

Again, these are all on the website

And finally, the Government has also launched an emergency package with energy suppliers to emdure that you don’t face amy addtiinal hardship in heating or lighting your home during the Coronavirus break – and we will be coordinating work across the voluntary sector to provide food, medical supplies and social support to an unprecedented number of people. And if anybody is suffering financial hardship, we always recommend to call the Hub”

We think that the Government should have some words with the energy suppliers and ban the punitive and costly key meters which cause unneccessary hardship to some of the poorest and most vulnerable by charging them more in real terms than bills for their gas and electricity.

Question from resident via THINK: Understandably, tensions between some neighbours will be running very high at the moment with many residents indoors amd shut down 24/ 7, how can the council help residents report and take actions against disturbances such as loud music or DIY going on until late in the night, if council services are not running as normal?

KTS: “Well it’s true to say that our capacity to respond to noise complaints at the moment is very limited, and we will not be visiting properties to assess the noise you are experiencing amd we’ll be trying to limit all interactions with the general public. But we will deal with these complaints on the telephone, and so if you are experiencing antisocial behaviour, then I do encurage you to call our Customer Care number which is 0800 137 111 and you can call that Monday to Friday 9am till 5pm, and anything out of hours you can call pur Noise and Nuisance Team on 020 7361 3002. All of these numbers are on the council website and all complaints will receive a call back with advice and guidance. Alternatively, you can contact our Environmental Health Team by email @environmenthealthrbkc.gov.uk or you can fill in one of our omline complaint forms and to raise your conxerns and you’ll find that again on the council website

So we will continue to take action on antisocial behaviour as our first priority is always to try to resolve issues amicably wherever possible, but if that’s not possible ten wr will take action amd in April we had to issue three warning letters for the first time and the council has also had a partial closure order approved by the Judge in response to an antisocial behaviour case.”

Question from resident via THINK: What help and support is the council offering to residents who may suffer from domestic abuse or family problems during this time? And is there any further provision of extra emergency accommodation?

KTS : “Well we’ve launched a new campaign wotking with the Angelou Support Service and the Police to help those suffering with domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic – and posters hae been placed in local pharmacies across the borough and plans are underway to display them in food banks, children’s centres, GP surgeries, hospitals and supermarkets – and our interfaith forum have also been supporting the campaign.

We’ve been asking the public to make sure that information gets to victims by sharing this on social media with the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone. If you or somebody you know is afraid or worried about sexual or domestic abuse, support is available; call the Angelou Support Service – you can find their mumber on the website and their number os 020 8741 7008 and their office is open Mondays till Fridays from 10am to 6pm . And the 24 hour national DomesticAbuse helpine can also be contacted and in an emergency dial 999.

We have sufficient capacity in temporary accommodation to accommodate anybody who would need this and they would also receive the support of an independent domestic violence advisor, placed in by the Homeless Team.”

Here are some other links and numbers:

Refuge National Domestic Abuse Hotline; open 24/7, free and confidential – 0808 2000 247

If you are concerned that a child is being harmed or abused, please call the RBKC Children’s services team on 020 7361 3013 from Monday to Friday between 9am to 5pm. Ouside this time, please contact the Emergency Duty Team on 020 7373 322

Question from resident via THINK: What help and support is there for residents living in temporary accommodation?

KTS: “Well the council has made welfare calls to 99.9% to 2213 people who are living in temporary accommodation in Kensington amd Chelsea and in other boroughs across London, providing assistance with food, health and financial support where available – and during the early stages of the pandemic, we wrote to all residents in temporary accommodation to inform them of where they could get access to specific advice and support, and we followed this up with texts and letters and emails would have been sent to all residents who we had not yet made direct contact to, and we provide a follow up for all residents who’ve asked for support”

THINKers are sure that we heard the council state they had made contact with 65% of residents in temporary accommodation somewhere else….

Question from resident via THINK: “What is the council doing to make sure that providers of temporary accommodation keep people safe at this time?

KTS :”Well again, we’re working with providers of temporary accommodation to minimise health risk to both the residents and officers and supporting them with both advice and guidance with respect to restrictions on movement. And while routine repairs have had to be suspended under Government advice, we will continue to make sure that people are safe and secure and that all urgent repairs are completed and that residents are not left without security, heating and hot water”

Question from resident via THINK: Can you guarantee that households of more than two people are not being made to stay in a cramped hotel or bedsit?

KTS: “The short answer is yes – if we are aware of anybody who is in that situation they will be offered alternative accommodation”

Question via Twitter from @rosa_red_ : Have the victims of Grenfell Tower been rehoused yet as promised by Theresa May when she was Prime Minster? And if not, how is the Coronavirus affecting them?

KTS: “Well, the Coronavirus pandemic has presented many challenges to everybody and the council is working incredibly hard to support the community.

Even with this challenge, to date, 194 households have moved into a permanent home of their choice, and we have 5 further households who’ve chosen a home, but are currently in private rental accommodation waiting to move. And that leaves a further 2 individuals who had previously moved, but we are supporting to try and find a new home. The council has spent over £200million to secure over 300 homes so that people have a maximum choice available and that we have been working very hard to make these properties the best place that a family can call their own home.

We’re nearly there, but we will not be rushing the last few to meet artificial deadlines.This hasn’t been a simple task. and it was never going to be. Council staff have never stopped caring and never stopped working and we will continue to do this, until every family is in their new home amd starting to rebuild their lives.

Our efforts won’t stop there though, when they just walk through the front door. No matter where people are living, survivors will have received a wraparound support from the dedicated service, and help to make sure that they are managing as well as they can be.

We are actively contacting all our tenants and all households in temporary accommodation to understand the impact that the virus has on them and to offer support wherever we can.

Every family’s circumstance is different, and so that means our job is to understand each individual family situation and to tailor support that meets their needs”

Question from Nicola: I’m an RBKC resident and I’ve been emailing and calling the council repeatedly to ask for some deep cleaning and disinfecting in our building. It is privately owned and managed, and to date, nothing has been done – and in spite of my increasingly urgent pleas – the staff still do no additional cleaning, wear no PPE, and do not observe physical distancing. We have at least one confirmed case of Covid-19 in the building.

KTS: “Well Nicola, obviously we are really sympathetic to comcerns of all residents who are currently self isolating in very very difficult and challenging times, and obviously we are very aware of this case and we’ve been corresponding by email and although we do not discuss individual cases in public, I can confirm that our procurement team are in regular contect with your landlord, regarding the cleaning regime.

We will always seek clarity and reassurance of enhanced cleaning regimes like this where people are in TA (temporary accommodation) and where these issues are being raised by us, and we will provide details of companies that we use for providing deep cleaning to TA providers in case they would like to use them. So far, we have made over 3,800 welfare calls and checks to our elderly and most vulnerable residents and this has been very effective in giving residents an opportunity to tell us if they suspect these sort of issues are occurring and to outline what support they want and need from us – and we will continue to make these calls and give callbacks. And there is always of course the Covid-19 hub which everybody can contact. ”

Here are the details for the RBKC Covid-19 Hub:

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-19-hub-and-support-residents/covid-19-hub-and-support-vulnerable

Question from Stefan, leaseholder at Adair and Hazelwood: Our inflammable cladding is being removed at no cost to leaseholders and I’m told our windows also need to be replaced at the same time to make the seals safe. As the window replacement is clearly an intrinsic and essential part of the cladding replacement works, the cost should not be from leaseholders. Do you agree?

KTS: “Well Stefan, I don’t agree because the wimdows are not an integral part of the cladding, and tbis was clearly demonstrated when the cladding was removed, leaving the windows in place – and that we can replace the cladding without replacing the windows. However, our survey did suggest that it was a good idea to replace the wimdows as they are at the end of their ergonomic life at 27 years old, and that we can do the work together without havimg to put up scaffolding twice and the new windows obviously will be much better with greater thermal efficiency and everything else… So the window cost is a separate cost and we will be charging leasehold residents for their new windows but not for the recladding.”

Question from Stefan: Due to the current emergency, many residents are facing financial difficulty and a typical repayment of £1,100 per month over two years will cause hardship. So are RBKC able to extend its interest-free repayment period beyond the curent two years?

KTS:”Well again, yes. We understand fully – you know – of the impact of high value works being recovered from leaseholders amd the impact of this on their finances, and we’ll always try to work with individuals to find solutions without causing hardship. But given the current pandemic, we’re also acutely aware these financial things are far more pressing. So of course we’ll be happy to discuss a more flexible timeframe and I suggest leaseholders contact the Housing Management team to discuss the options or we can arrange for somebody to call you directly and I hope this provides reassurance to you that we do not expect any repayment arrangements to be finalised until such time we’ve actualy issued the invoice for the works in question”.

Thanks to all the residents who sent questions in and also to Kim Taylor-Smith for this and for answering questions from THINK and some of our readers.

RBKC Question Time : Any answers? Part 1: Elizabeth Campbell

We’re sorry to our readers for the month long delay due to technical and other issues with our blog in bringing you this. But here, as promised, is the first of our transcripts of “RBKC Question Time” regarding the council’s Covid-19 response. (And we also apologise for the questions not always being in the right order – not our fault!)

Here is the Question Time with Leader of our council, Elizabeth “Dizzy Lizzy” Campbell – alongside some commentary from us (and please forgive us for the very long post, but some things needed to be said)

Please also scroll down for some important and useful links

Question from Sue Duggins on how the council is communicating with residents who aren’t online

Dizzy Lizzy: ” Thank you to Sue for asking how the council is communicating with residents who aren’t online and Sue, if you live in North Kensington, you’ll receive North Ken News, if you live throughout the borough you’ll have received an issue of Our Borough which has a section on the Covid-19 response, but most importantly we sent this to everybody.

It’s a leaflet showing what advice and what support we can give you as a council. And on the back of it, it has all the contact numbers to call if you are not online. So we do hope everyone received it and the numbers are there for you to contact should you have any issues.”

We are glad that the council has put out these Covid-19 leaflets and thank them for this. It is good to see something helpful and useful come through our dooors – unlike the other council publications like the two that Dizzy Lizzy has mentioned – most of the content of which is usually RBKC PR.

Well quite a few residents have some issues with the council phone numbers as we have heard that that nobody is answering at times, or when they do, not always getting back to them. We hope Cllr Campbell and her colleagues can please look into this as soon as possible.

Question from Sue Duggins: Do you really believe that the council did enough, soon enough to help the elderly and vulnerable?

Dizzy Lizzy, “And I’d just like to say I think its been incredible what’s been achieved here in Kensington and Chelsea and not really just by the council, it’s been working together. So to give you an example, this week I was at the Venture Centre helping unload a lorry of food supplies, and the MP was there, Felicity Buchan, Labour councillors were there, Conservative councillors were there, volunteers were there and it’s a whole question of everybody coming together. It’s been the most extraordinary time and I really think that we’ve done our utmost with setting up a hub for the old and the vulnerable so people can call in, theu can tell us if they have vulnerable neighbours so we can help coordinate volunteers, and again, I’d just like to take my hat off to all our volunteers and to thank them very very much indeed”.

While we are grateful that the council has got the Covid-19 hub set up of course, THINK would “just like to say” that many local volunteers; residents , people on Nextdoor, community groups, faith groups, businesses amd charities have been working to help the community before council had the hub set up, have done outstanding work and still are.

Many of them have been a lifeline to many residents and especially those who do not fit rhe criteria for the council’s hub – some of whom are on only £50 pee week benefit, some of whom are low paid workers, some of whom may usually work freelance or self employed and now have little to no means or income, some of whom are not in good health but still fall outside the council help ( the council Covid-19 hub criteria states “people with specific cancers” ) some of whom have mental health conditions but are not considered to be high priority, and all of whom are now facing real hardship.

It’s a shame that Dizzy Lizzy does not appear to want to thank and show some acknowledgement of all the other volunteers who have been helping so many in and around our community from day one so we will say a big THANK YOU to them from us here.

As for councillors helping out with the RBKC hub, we know that Cllr Ian Henderson and his fellow Colville councillors helped to organise that delivery that Dizzy Lizzy is referring to. Also we must say that while councillors on all sides have helped out, we have been disgusted to see Dizzy Lizzy put distasteful party political smears and spin on this as seen in our previous blog post here. For her efforts of going on LBC about the Labour Party (?!) our council “Leader’ really ought to be ashamed of herself.

Also with regards to the council’s Covid-19 hub, perhaps Dizzy Lizzy would care to explain why the council thinks that a former Labour councillor who left RBKC under a cloud (back in 2009) when she was under investigation for misappropriation of council funds, is a suitable person to be put in charge of a distribution hub for vulnerable people in North Kensington?

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/marianne-alapini-the-vulture-returns-to-a-new-low-at-grenfell/

Yes, Marianne “The Vulture” Alapini for some reason has been put in charge of the RBKC distribution hub for Area 1 (St Helens, Dalgarno and Golborne Wards). (She also apparently lied to get the position about her place of residence claiming to live in Oxford Gardens, North Kensington but in fact lives in St Luke’s Street, Chelsea.)

Below is another lie of Ms Alapini’s – an up to date screenshot of her Facebook page on which she still claims to be a councillor and even a member of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee – which didn’t exist until last year:

That decision just goes to show what a bunch of clueless idiots most of the council’s “community engagement” officers are, though Dizzy Lizzy ought to know better as she was on the council at the same time as Alapini and we also sent this information to a member of her “Leadership Team” – with no response and nothing being done at all.

We will also state that Ms Alapini is not on the other council distributing hubs and also that some residents in Area 1 are also very unhappy about her being there.

Question from Sue Duggins: Why is non-essential work being done in the community such as 5G?

Dizzy Lizzy; ” I’d just like to say the Government thinks that 5G is essential and if you tbink of all our businesses and people trying to work from home, it’s absolutely critical for them that they can get on the internet and they they have quick connections”

Question from Elizabeth Clarke: Do dogs need to be kept on a lead?

Dizzy Lizzy: “And the answer is yes please, we would like them to be kept on a lead because it helps people follow rules about social distancing”.

Question from Elizabeth Clarke: Can we pat other dogs?

Dizzy Lizzy: “And again the answer is please don’t because we’re really trying to enforce these rules on social distancing”

Question from Elizabeth Clarke: If you are in the park, can you sit on the benches?

Dizzy Lizzy : And the answer is of course you can if you’re elderly and you need to have a rest, but on the whole, please keep going because if you sit on the bench, you attract other people around you to chat and sun and again, we really are trying to observe the rules on social distancing. Can I end by saying a big thank you to all the residents who use the parks because we’ve managed to keep them open because everyone is doing their bit to obey the rules so thank you very much and we do intend to keep our parks open for a long as we possibly can.Thank you”

OK we are in agreement here so we’ll give Dizzy Lizzy a virtual pat on the head (for the dogs and parks answers anyway)

Unfortunately we do not know what the next question was as Clr Campbell does not actually say; all she says is “the next question from Burak Dik falls into the business portfolio” (???)

And here is her (sort of) “answer”

Dizzy Lizzy “And if you have any other questions about business support matters, do get in touch, and Catherine Faulks, who’s my Leadership Team member for that will get back to you. Burak, I’d jist like to say that this is an incredibly (sigh) difficult time for businesses Er – you will find details of the Government scheme on the business support web page on the Government website. Er – we can email you these details later, I tells you how to apply and who’s elgible- oh well- etc. and what to do. In addition the council is also putting in measures to support businesses and you’ll find those details on our website, and finally, if you don’t think you’re getting anywhere, you can call the Covid-19 hub with questions or you can email us”

That “answer” sounds rather like “don’t call us we’ll call you” to us. We think that Dizzy Lizzy ought to email this resident, apologise for not reading out their question and make an extra effort to personally answer their question.

Here for our local readers, are the links:

RBKC Covid-19 hub email:

C19Hub@rbkc.gov.uk

And the phone number (if you have plenty of time and patiemce)
020 7361 4326

The website says “lines are open 7 days a week from Monday – Sunday from 9am-5pm”

Government guidance and support for business and self-employed:

https://www.gov.uk/browse/business

RBKC support for businesses and the self-employed:

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/council-services-and-disruption-updates/covid-19-support-businesses-and-self

Question from Aktharun Islam: Asking about rent and about council tax payments ( we didn’t get to hear what the exact question was) :

Dizzy Lizzy: “Aktharun, if you get in touch with the following numbers if you’re a council tenant they’ll be able to help you with questions about rent, and with regards to council tax, if you are already on our council tax reduction scheme, you’ll be eligible for an additional £150 worth of support. If you’re not in our council tax reduction scheme, go to the website, have a look at the details there under the council tax reduction scheme and if that’s still not answering your quesions then phone up the Covid-19 hub”

RBKC Council tax reduction scheme:

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/council-tax/council-tax-reduction

RBKC Covid-19 webpage Information, services and updates:
https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19

THINK hope that some residents found the information and answers helpful anyway, and that everyone is staying safe amd keeping sane in this crisis.

We have two other RBKC Question Times coming up next with Kim Taylor-Smith amd Catherine Faulks, both of whom appear to have given questions some thought and put more effort into answering them – these are much better (even though clearly not all of us will be satisfied with the answers given either – but at least it is something).

We edited most of the “ohs” “ers” and sighing out but it was clear that Cllr Campbell found this very difficult at times (even with obvious help!) She would clearly rather talk about dogs in the park all day than fully discuss more important matters such as council tax, businesses and help for vulnerable residents (we’re also beginning to think she only turned up to unload that lorry when the cameras did).

However, we thank Cllr Campbell for at least taking part in this and send our biggest thanks to all the residents who submitted questions. RBKC Question Time should be a regular fixture on the council timetable in our opinion.

RBKC Question Time: Put your questions to Anne Cyron – LAST DAY!

RBKC residents have until tomorrow, Thursday 28th of May to send in their questions for Cllr Anne Cyron, Leadership Team Member for Communities about RBKC’s Covid -19 response.

Send your questions in to socialmedia@rbkc.gov.uk

Given that RBKC often does not always manage to understand what communities are about – especially many of ours in North Kensington, we thought we would just show the definition of her portfolio as seen on the council website:

“Cllr Anne Cyron is responsible for:

  • Supporting COVID-19 response and recovery

  • Community engagement and empowerment

  • Council VCS grants programme

  • Equality, diversity and inclusion

  • Community assets

  • Mayoralty”

Anne Cyron is actually one member of the RBKC Leadership Team we have a bit more time for and it is just a pity that she is being let down by some “community engagement officers” who have shown little inclination to engage with many of us here.

So here is a question, following some feedback we received after a blog post, from us:

– Why have the resident engagement officers continued to deliberately refuse to recognise long standing residents groups from housing association properties?

This is not a homes or housing question; it is one about inclusivity.

(They are accepting residents’ groups in privately owned homes but not HA ones for some weird reason)

And here is another one:

– Why has the council not officially recognised local campaign groups like Westway 23, Save Wornington College and Friends of North Kensington Library?

As it is, some of us in local groups in North Kensington are wondering what we have to do to be recognised?

We ‘re dreadfully sorry for not being celebrities, having a title, being members of the Conservative Party, having friends in high places or living in palatial homes or something – no offence meant to anyone who fits into any of these categories of course, but those who do – tend to get included by this council at the drop of a hat and those who don’t – have to jump up and down and make a big noise in order to get heard all the time.

And just in case anyone imagines this is not relevant to the pandemic crisis, let us also point out that the more residents’ and other local groups that the council has contact details of and is regularly in touch with; the easier it is to get help and support to residents who need it most.

The blog post we are referring to is here:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2020/04/04/rbkc-resident-engagement-bouncers-and-their-failure-to-recognise-several-ras-your-names-not-on-the-list/

And there has been very little improvement made with regards to community relations and inclusivity since then.

Covid-19: Schools reopening despite concerns – a local doctor writes to the council

Many of us in and around the community will have various views over Covid-19, prevention and lockdown measures.

At THINK, we would rather listen to medical and scientific evidence and what our health professionals have to say first, rather than what would happen to be be more or less convenient for us.

We would all like to see schools re-opening but only when it is safe for this to happen.

This is an open letter dated 19th of May written by local North Kensington resident and doctor, Dr Mona Kamal Ahmed (which has been sent to David Lindsay – and we are now forwarding to Josh Rendall, who hs taken over Cllr Lindsay’s RBKC cabinet Family and Chilren’s Services portfolio ), expressing concerns about schools reopening and what measures ought to be put in place.

“Dear Cllr Lindsay,

I write to you as a resident of North Kensington and a doctor who is extremely concerned about the plans to re-open schools.

Re-opening schools must be guided by sound scientific evidence that it is safe to do so and this simply does not exist. Teachers, parents and pupils alike are all keen for schools to re-open and this is particularly important for the children who have unfortunately been left reliant upon the support and services provided at their schools. However this must happen only when measures are in place to ensure the safety of children and their communities.

Whilst until now, children have been a small minority of those who test positive, more recent information has highlighted the vulnerability of children for two reasons.

First, we know that the degree to which children can transmit Covid -19 is key to how countries re-open communities after lockdown. However we are yet to achieve any clarity around this question and the evidence points to children being active transmitters.

Giving evidence to the Science and Technology Committee, the Government’s Chief Adviser admitted the Government’s plan could indeed risk spreading Coronavirus since there is a “low degree of confidence” that children transmit the virus any less than adults.

Until there is clarity around this, we cannot risk a situation where younger children who are unable to reliably social distance are carrying the virus into the community or into homes where there may be passing the virus in to vulnerable adults

Secondly, in recent days there is a growing concern about children infected with the virus developing a toxic shock-like syndrome which has already claimed the lives of children in th UK and abroad and is known to have permanent adverse effects to cardiovascular and kidney functioning.

I am alarmed by the degree to which the seriousness of the current crisis appears to be persstently underestimated particularly given the fact that we are dealing with a wholly novel pathogen that is not fully understood and have this far struggled to adequeately manage the crisis (as evidenced by our mortality rates which are now the worst in Europe ) The safety and wellbeing of children and staff must be at the centre of any plans to re-open schools. Rather than naming a deadline as the target for the schools reopening, the target should instead be the attainment of specific safety measures being in place.

The measures should include:

– Reduction in the rate of new cases, with a sustaimed downward trend, with confidence that new cases are known and with measures in place to enable contact tracing.

– A clear nationwide plan for how social distancing will work within schools.

– Appropriate PPE, which will be locally negotiated at school-by-school and local authority level .

– Comprehensive access to regular testing for children and staff and protocols to be put in place to test a whole school or college when a case occurs and for isolation to be strictly followed.

– Protection of vulnerable at risk groups with plans in place for staff who live with vulnerable people being able to work from hom.e

– Plans must also specifically address the protection of vulnerable parents, grandparents and carers.

Local authorities in Liverpool and Hartlepool have demonstrated that it is possible to act in the best interests of their communities and have said they will not be re-opening schools on the 1st of June. I am wrting to ask that you provide the residents of Kensington and Chelsea with the same reassurance and that you will not re-open schools until the above safety requirements are met and with evidence to ensure the safety of children, their families and the wider community.

I look forward to hearing from you and to obtaining an outline of the steps being taken to prepare our schools to re-open safely.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Mona Kamal Ahmed

When a council leader forgets what her job is

Perhaps someone can kindly explain to RBKC Council Leader Elizabeth “Dizzy Lizzy ” Campbell what her position is and what her responsibilities are?

We don’t think she quite gets it.

When the leader of a safe Conservative London council thinks it is a good idea to go on radio about an internal disagreement in the local Labour Party, something is going wrong.

If anyone missed the exciting news about the little fallout in the Labour group of councillors and is on the edge of their seat to hear about this supposed matter of crucial importance to everyone, that our council leader thought it was a priority of hers to go on LBC about it, have a look here

Perhaps we’ll just give a brief and more accurate explanation from a local perspective and as people who know the councillors involved (and here’s a cure for your insomnia coming up) :Labour councillor Ian Henderson appeared in a video at the Venture Centre with Dizzy Lizzy, Felicity Buchan and others regarding the RBKC Covid-19 help (he had been helping with deliveries) – but it hadn’t been cleared by the Labour leadership and whips first – which is often the protocol for most political parties with cross party media appearances, as we understand it – not, as some have portrayed it, as a point blank refusal to work with Tories! But a bit of a disagreement ensued and for some reason (perhaps some people are going bonkers with the lockdown situation?) this “major story” was all over the media😴💤💤💤

Sorry about that readers, but we think that Dizzy Lizzy needs to wake up to her responsibilities as council leader here in this time of Covid-19 pandemic crisis and serve her residents efficiently.. That is not done by making radio appearances which are primarily about opposition councillors.

Anyway, Cllr Campbell was all over this minor story as less of a “Lady who lunches” and more like a “tramp on a bag of chips”

Perhaps this was an ill-judged, to say the least, attempt to distract media attention away from Greg Hands (Cllr Campbell’s Royal Hospital Ward is in his constituency) getting into a spot of bother over his misuse of £4,865 worth of parliametary stationery? (We’ve blogged about that here)

There are only 13 councillors on the RBKC Labour opposition group, compared to 36 Conservative councilors (who Dizzy Lizzy is supposed to be leading). So they are not exactly considered to be a major electoral threat.

As for radio, the last time Dizzy Lizzy went on LBC, it was regarding Grenfell, so she has a VERY questionable sense of priorities if she imagines ANYONE would ever attach a similar degree of importance to this.

So let THINK make this very clear to Dizzy Lizzy (as it is obvious we have to ) :

“Neither diverting media attention away from Greg Hands’ expenses nor internal disagreements between a few opposition Labour councillors, fall anywhere near your remit.

Council policy over Grenfell, housing, finance, the environment, education, planning and other local matters that come under the council and also councillor matters in your Royal Hospital Ward, do. The council should be concentrating its efforts right now on the Covid-19-crisis and protecting our residents; not spending time on an insignificant row between a few Labour councillors.

As for RBKC’s Covid-19 responsibilities, perhaps Dizzy Lizzy and her colleagues might not want to see a few posts of ours coming up soon? Let’s see them bring the cameras and media spin then – but more likely instead, we will just get a wall of silence by way of response. Some of what we have to say will be far from comfortable reading…….

Hands gets slap on the wrist : Time to get tough with MPs

This is Greg “Butterfingers” Hands, Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham.

Butterfingers doesn’t make nearly as many appearance as he should in this blog (that will probably soon be rectified) and gets his nickname partly from outbursts on Twitter like this from 2018 :

Check yourself before you wreck yourself? Does the delusional Mr Hands think he is rapper Ice Cube?!! 😆😂🤣

We think Butterfingers should have ” checked himself” before he decided to send out local campaign and update letters on House of Commons stationery to the tune of £4,865.

The Parliamentary Commissioner and the Committee on Standards ruled that Butterfingers broke the rules as House of Commons stationery is for direct communiciation as a Member of Parliament only and not for updates on campaigns and issues.

Hands had insisted the letters were not of a political nature, and that they were intended to save unneccesary expenditure. Surely he meant to “use public money to save the Conservative Party expenditure” because we sometimes receive similar letters from Kensington MP Felicity Buchan – sent on Conservative Party local HQ stationery instead.

Anyway, Butterfingers received a slap on the wrist and just has to apologise and pay back the money back.

This might not sound like the most serious breach of rules, but if one of Butterfingers’ constituents did this with nearly £5,000 of resources at their workplace for campaign purposes , they would likely get the sack and possibly face criminal charges.

MPs misusing House of Commons stationery for political communications is hardly a new thing . Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (and also former RBKC resident) Matt Hancock also previously got into trouble back in 2014 for this.

But Greg Hands’ and Matt Hancock’s breaches of the rules pale in comparison to Conor Burns, who used House of Commons stationery to send veiled threats to a firm with whom his father had a dispute with. The Dame also had a few words to say on this here

Burns had to resign as a Trade Minister and only got suspended from the House of Commons for 5 days for this

Surely the public deserve better than this?

And don’t even get us started on other MPs misdemenours (involving personal expenses, alllowances and jobs on the side) otherwise this blog post would go on foreveer…..

As it is , we are only members of the public and our views will probably not be taken seriously, but we will put a few brief suggestions down here regardless:

– Have the Parliamentary rules set and enforced by a truly independent public body – and not one consisting of MPs themselves and ano anyone anything with a membership of partisan peers and any other MPs” friends please

– Stop MPs from approving their own pay (who else gets to do this?!)

– Pay MPs an executive salary and in return ban them from having any jobs on the side and ban all allowances and expenses on the side too. (One could say that Butterfingers also used to be MP for BNP Paribas until January tbis year!)

There will always be some (more often than not the very Parliamentarians themselves) who say that if this country ever did this, then the “right people” would be put off from standing for Parliament. Well which “right people” would these be?

If that would mean no more unauthorised election campaigning, no more “MPs for hire” , no more vested interests, and no more luxury goods and services being sneakily procured from the public purse – that would hopefully mean no more of the lazy carpetbaggers, spivs and charlatans standing for Parliament – and this country would be so much the better for it.

RBKC Question Time: “All the right questions but not necessarily in the right order” – plus LAST DAY for business questions

Forgive us for the humour in this time of crisis but a good and useful initiative has ended up being presented to residents in such a disorganised way that somehow reminded us of a certain classic Morecambe and Wise comedy sketch.

The videos and questions are all over the place.

See what we mean here:

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZd7MUHYabyq-S9rS-

We have only just seen the link on Nextdoor (yes, RBKC love using Nextdoor too!) for RBKC residents to put their business questions to Cllr Catherine Faulks, Cabinet Member for Skills and Enterprise.

This is the last day and THINK urge our local readers to send your questions to :

socialmedia@rbkc.gov.uk

As this is a borough with a very high proportion of residents who are self employed and small businesses are part of the lifeblood of our communities, we would have hoped RBKC Communications Team would have made much more of a noise about this but never mind – we are .

We’re sure local businesses already concerned about their rates and self employed people facing real economic hardship in the pandemic crisis will be absolutely thrilled to hear that in recent times the RBKC Communications budget has skyrocketed by over 400%……

As for the ” RBKC Question Time” idea, this came from us and not from our council (we made the suggestion to them last October in this blog post), so THINK feel some degree of responsibilty for this and are in the process of writing a transcript consisting of questions and answers to spare other residents time and also from going through other videos to find what they are looking for and from putting up with a load of unneccesary waffle in the middle of it (guilty as charged; Dizzy Lizzy). Our first series of these will be up this weekend.

We will thank Kim Taylor-Smith, however who did provide some direct answers to our blog post and emailed them to our Editor.

Let’s hope that residents get spared from ever hearing the RBKC Communications Team attempting to play a Grieg piano concerto……

We’ll leave you with a video of the Morecambe and Wise sketch with André Previn (or Andrew Preview!) to provide some much-needed light relief

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/xds7am

PR-obsessed Police are failing residents during Lockdown

What happens when a resident calls the Police to enforce Lockdown rules on an antisocial neighbour who certainly isn’t keeping to the rules by having guests, parties and gatherings at their flat?

Absolutely nothing – that’s what.

Yesterday, Police told a resident in a small block of flats in North Kensington, whose next door neighbours appear to be conpletely oblivious to the pandemic crisis and seemingly think that “stay at home” means “have a bunch of your mates visit you at home” who phoned them that “Police are unable to disperse the gathering unless they let us into the property as it is on private premises”. (Actually, no, the flats are RBKC council-owned premises.)

Where is the law enforcement regarding Lockdown here?

We sincerely mean no disrespect to our Police officers; they have a tough job to do, resources can be stretched, and sometimes that means making a tough call with decisions regarding what to immediately prioritise or not. We get it.

What we don’t get is their obsession with pointless social media posts (they appear to post on Nextdoor more often than anyone else!), telling us what a good job they are doing – supposedly enforcing Lockdown by telling a few sunbathers in the park to go home?

What is is this, we ask when they are failing to even acknowledge residents in blocks of flats whose neighbours are blatantly disregarding the law and everyone’s safety (and continually doing so) ?

Some of the residents in these flats feel they are playing Russian roulette with their health every time they so much as go down the stairs to put the rubbish out all because one irresponsible reckless household keeps having guests over and potentially contaminating the place.

As far as we can see, it is people like the antisocial neighbour who carry on as if nothing is happening who are more of a threat to public health than a few sunbathers lingering in the park for too long.

We’re sick and tired of all the Police PR postings on social media – if it isn’t helpful or useful (like crime prevention advice for example) – we do not want to know. If only some officers put half as much effort into helping residents stay safe in their homes and dealing with these matters as they did into all the Nextdoor nonsense.

A number of other residents are also telling us that the Police are in some cases not taking reports of drug dealing, vehicle break-ins and bike thefts seriously – what a disgrace.

But useless social media posts and adverts in a “look like you’re doing something” style somehow appear to be the number one priority instead.

We do know that not all Police officers are comfortable with this either and would rather see more time and resources going into actual Police work rather than continuous social media posts and silly photo opportunities; their views and concerns need to be taken on board.

Good public relations ought to start with gaining the trust and confidence of the public, and sadly some of our Police are failing in this if they are not listening to the public in the first place.