Spelthorne at it again with another property purchase
The above headline appeared in an article in the Villager, initially it seemed to be some kind of criticism. But reading on, it turned out to be a Tory councillor boasting about a new acquisition of a 43,110 sq. ft office building situated in Stockley Park Uxbridge, to add to Spelthorne Council’s property portfolio. Last years purchases were also mentioned, the BP campus in Sunbury on Thames — the Sunbury BP campus was the largest privately owned office park in the UK, and cost the council £360m. Also Elmbrook House, in Sunbury was purchased this year. No details of cost was given!
All councils are able to get fixed rate deals with the Public Works Loan Board (PWL). These loans are at 2.5% interest over 50 years. The excuse given for these extravagant purchases, was to support services affected by Government funding cuts, by future profits from these investments.
The article goes on to say that Spelthorne Borough council is a leading investor in commercial property.
It’s true that other councils are taking advantage of PWL loans, but are they making better use of them? Neighbouring Hounslow for example is planning to build 3000 affordable homes by 2019, many of which are already completed. This council owned development consists of flats to rent, and some for shared ownership. The units to rent are composed of a mixture of 1,2,3, and 4 beds. Nine of the units are adapted for wheelchair use.
accommodation is charged by the day, it’s twice as expensive as a monthly rented premises.By contrast Spelthorne Council has no housing stock. There are currently 74 Spelthorne families living in temporary hostel accommodation, both inside and outside the borough.
Last year the council paid out £484.000 on temporary accommodation. As hostel
Perhaps our council could learn something from Labour run Hounslow, and invest in housing stock which is desperately needed in Spelthorne.
This idea of supporting vital services by funding from commercial property
speculation, doesn't seem to be working. Bus services are being cut, our fire service is to be halved to just one fire station, and Ashford’s multi storey car park is in a state of near collapse!
Surrey County Council must reverse
Fire Service cuts-says Labour’s
All planned cuts to the fire service in Surrey must be halted in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy says Labour County Councillor, Robert Evans.
tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in Kensington. For some, we may need to wait for the results of the public inquiry but for others action can be taken immediately'.Speaking this week, Cllr Evans said. 'There will be many lessons that must be learnt from the
Staines Fire Station, which is scheduled to close, is situated in Mr Evans' electoral division of Stanwell and Stanwell Moor. Robert Evans said, 'There are many residential tower blocks in the north of Surrey; both at Sunbury Cross and in Addlestone, quite apart from those just across the London border.'
'During the recent County Council elections I campaigned hard to maintain fire cover in this area,' said Robert. ‘Whilst the local Conservatives Party ridiculed me, no-one on the doorsteps ever thought closing a fire station was a good idea – even before this latest tragedy.’
'Unbelievably, Surrey County Council still plans to cut by half, the fire cover in Spelthorne, reducing the numbers of pumps at Staines Fire Station to just one.'
'This was never a good idea,' said Cllr Evans, 'it was always a risk and in the light of the Grenfell fire, this decision must now be reversed.'
'I have written to the Leader of the Council, David Hodge, urging him to reconsider. The cabinet member responsible is now Ashford’s Cllr Denise Turner Stewart who represents a seat, just 100m from the fire station the Conservatives have earmarked for closure,' said Robert Evans.
'To continue with these dangerous plans would be a betrayal of local people and an insult to the victims of Grenfell Tower in Kensington,' added Cllr Evans.
'Additionally, I hope and expect, that Surrey County Council, its eleven boroughs and districts, will as an urgent priority, review the fire safety precautions in all its buildings across the County,' said Robert Evans.
Spelthorne Labour Party members campaigning in Staines, against further NHS cuts.
Surrey Health Service ‘an increasing shambles’
The health service in Surrey is fast becoming a real shambles and I fear 2017 will become a year of crisis as the area’s ambulance service is in ‘special measures’ and a union official has branded the provision ‘a comedy of errors.’
In September, South East Coast Ambulance Service which covers Spelthorne, came under serious criticism when it proposed to delay ambulances by 10 minutes to check whether the call out was really necessary or not!
I’m afraid this sort of thing is just what I and other Labour people have been warning might happen if the Conservatives got their way with the NHS. Phillip Hammond the MP in neighbouring Runnymede holds all the purse strings now. The under-funding of the ambulance service is down to him. With the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt as another of the County’s MPs, the Conservatives in Surrey are very much in control of the NHS, the budget and its whole future.
As a Labour County Councillor in Spelthorne, I’m also worried that the situation is probably even worse when you add in the plight of the nurses. Ashford Hospital is at the heart of my Stanwell and Stanwell Moor division, and a recent survey suggested that nurses pay nurses has dropped in real terms, by nearly £15 000 a year since 2010. This must be having a huge impact on morale and the general well-being of our hospital.
In a county like Surrey, where accommodation costs are so high, this is a problem, that will surely only get worse. But of course, it’s not just nurses who are feeling the pinch as other NHS workers are also suffering from the government’s wage freeze and austerity programme, for example ambulance care assistants stand to be nearly £10 000 a year worse off by 2020 according to GMB union.
‘The shocking treatment of public sector workers is a typical example of this Government’s upside down approach to the things that matter,’ stated the GMB union’s national secretary Rehana Azam.
Spelthorne is administratively part of Surrey which is one of the richest parts of the country. I really think Phillip Hammond and Jeremy Hunt should be doing more to make sure our people and essential workers are better looked after. If as they argue, there isn’t enough money, then one area we could be considering is a rebranding of council tax with more bands to cover higher-value properties. It does seem very wrong that if you live in a property worth several millions of pounds you still fall into band H.
In 2017, the Government should look at bringing in several more Council Tax bands for high value property. This would increase revenue and reduce the disproportionate pressure on lower income families.
the Sunbury BP business centre for £360m
More generally I think Surrey people need to wake to the threat to our NHS. We are already losing the GP practice at Ashford and goodness knows where thousands of patients are going to find another local doctor. Apart from Ashford-St Peter’s we have four other major hospitals in this county, Epsom, Royal County Hospital at Guildford, East Surrey in Redhill and Frimley Park near Camberley. All these hospitals of course rely on their staff and on the ambulance service. At the moment, I think we’re entering a period of real crisis with the Conservatives almost blind to the problems of their making.
Statistics reveal ‘shocking’ deprivation in Surrey
A commonly held belief is that deprivation incidence in Surrey is on a par with icicles in the Sahara.
A local charity, The Community Foundation for Surrey, blasts that lazy assumption to pieces, with its 2017 research. its ’Surrey Uncovered’ makes dreadful reading, and the need for an active County Labour presence most urgent.
· Physical Health - A quarter of Surrey’s 10 and 11 year olds are clinically obese.
· Mental Health - There are 10,600 children, aged 5 to 15 who que for mental disorder treatment.
· Lack of Exercise - Only 7% of 16 to 21year olds take exercise. The national average is 25%.
· Domestic abuse - 24,000 victims 16 to 59 years suffer.
· Dementia - Needs and resources are miles apart. 15,800 cases are lacking response, there are over 30,000 carers over 65 years and 14,000 youngsters caring for family members.
· Children in poverty - A shocking 22,600. Some 1,800 living in ‘poverty pay’ working homes.
· Juvenile Alcoholism - 7 out of Surrey’s 11 districts are in the nations top ten percentage for ‘risk to health’ drinking.
The interim chief executive of the Community Foundation for Surrey finds that ‘the situation is even worse than in 2013.’ To show concern and to offer help, call 01483 478092.
This appalling state of affairs, dire poverty amidst great wealth, will be referred to Spelthorne Labour Party for urgent action, onwards to the County Party. The report also indicates how poverty at home in Surrey shatters children’s life chances.
The Conservatives monopolise Surrey services and the resulting shameful state stains them.
Spelthorne Borough Council has purchased
A bold move or a reckless one?
An article appeared in the 7th of October edition of the Surrey Advertiser about Spelthorne’s purchase of the BP Business Centre in Sunbury. In the same paper in the letters section was a letter written by the chairman of Spelthorne Conservative Association, talking up the £360m investment deal. We view this deal with trepidation for reasons set out below:
One of the many things that caused concern in the chairman’s letter was the reference to Spelthorne’s ‘excellent services’ and ‘Caring Conservatism.’ All they seem to be concerned about is selling off public buildings and buying others as investments. They seem to have little interest in the fact that the rehab unit at Ashford hospital has closed, as a consequence frail elderly people are bed blocking hospital wards and are picking up secondary infections from which some could die. Or the impending closure of the Ashford Health Centre, meaning that 5976 patients will have to re-register at already over-stretched surgeries.
Spelthorne’s jobless up 26%. A level passes the lowest in Surrey. Impending loss of one fire station. Bus services being cut. Young people unable to afford homes in the area.
If there were other bidders, could the council have over paid on a bad deal? If there weren't any others, there is even more reason for concern.
The 50 year fixed rate deal with the Public Works Loan Board (PWL) will cost with interest of 2.5%, an extra £11m which added to the £360m comes to £371m. The council claim that they will make around £3m per year profit, based on the information in the paper BP would be paying approximately £10.42m per year rent, this to be made up of £7.42m loan repayment plus the £3m council profit.As the lease with BP is at the most for 20 years, and the council would not confirm whether there was a break clause, BP could pull out at any time .Even if they stayed the full period there would still be £223m to repay over the remaining 30 years.
The Sunbury campus was the largest privately owned office park in the UK, it could be extremely difficult to re-let. If left vacant, council tax payers might have to pick up a massive increase in council tax and cuts to services, When the council was questioned on whether this massive purchase would have an impact on tax bills or cuts to services, their reply did not rule out either. All in all this acquisition is a massive gamble with residents money, who knows what’s going to happen to the British economy post Brexit.
The erroneous remark that a labour led council would have hiked local taxes only shows
how conceited and out of touch the Tories really are! Spelthorne experienced a total council tax increase of 3.6% for 2016-17. Labour run Hounslow council has cut its council tax for the past two years.
If the council can borrow money from the (PWL) at a fixed rate of 2.5% over a 50 year period they could also do to something to solve some of the issues listed above, and also do an immediate deal with South West Trains to get all our stations into zone 6
At present the council is supporting the “Staines-upon-Thames Bid”, which is meant to increase “footfall and increase trade.” Many business people in the area would argue that it could fall flat without the inclusion of bringing Spelthorne into zone 6 (Incidentally, this was originally a local Labour Party initiative). This would not only help to regenerate Staines but the whole of Spelthorne, with more blue chip companies relocating here bringing jobs, more visitors and cheaper fares for our commuters travelling into London! The overall boost to the local economy could help towards compensating SWT and get unemployment down.
Compassion in care homes – essential but not sufficient.
A newly opened private home for mentally disturbed elderly people is advertising for staff.
‘All a care assistant needs is is compassion! On the contrary, professional skills are vital, and must be learned.
Labour demands that the establishment receives close monitoring by social services.
‘Selecting which Children to educate is uncivilised’ (Clem Attlee).
Adopting this obvious principle, abolishing ‘sheep and goats’ selection at 11 years of age, Labour passed its ‘non selection’ law in 1988, to to write off for good, a barbarous, class related scheme.
For every new grammar school, if the Tories repeal it, there will have to be
4 ‘sink secondary modern schools’ says OFSTEAD’s chief officer.
So Spelthorne’s parents will face a 1 in 5 chance of a good education, or pay for 11 plus tuition to give their children better odds for ‘passing the test,’ winner, not loser.
Labour’s policy? -- Every child to reach full potential, a comprehensive approach in the national interest in developing a child into a happy, civilised adult.