Trees Vs Bus Stops – who wins out?

Walking around the neighbourhood over Easter, l was aghast to see the above grand tree had been felled along the Marylebone Rd in front of the Landmark Hotel and just before a bus stop. Looking at the rings of the tree, it looked perfectly in good order yet it was chopped down. 

As l ask around what the reasoning behind this haste action to take down just a magnificent tree, others suggested it could have been because of the bus stop right next to it. Well if that is the case, surely the bus stop could have been moved either to the block further towards Baker St in front of the old NCR head quarters or maybe a block further down in front of the old Woolworths HQ?  Something l am sure the hotel would have welcomed! Or maybe the tree just needed pollarding down by cutting down some of the branches that get in the way of the buses coming into the bus stop to pick up passengers. 

What all this speculation tells me, is that in future public authorities like Transport for London responsible for the Marylebone Rd and its pavements, should at least notify us of their intended action by simply putting a notice up on the tree and maybe also hear other suggestions to their course of action.  Not dissimilar to a planning application but not quite. At least this way locals who notices these things, will be relieved of the shock of losing a grand old tree and it may well involve critical apprisial of the line of action intended. 

So in this case the tree won out against the bus stop, but can we at least have some sort of public consultation with notices put up of the attention of the public authority to take down a tree?;

Ramadan lights vs Easter lights – really?!

Last year for the first time, we saw Ramadan lights in a small parts of the West End funded by the Aziz Foundation. These were considered the first ever undertaken anywhere in the world.

In the second year, of Ramadan lights in the West End we find the month of fasting overlaps with Easter. Some suggest we should have had Easter lights instead. So maybe in future we can do so when a funder is found to sponsor such lights for the first time.  But it should not be thought of as one or the other in a zero sum game. Rather we should take the lead from Antwerp in Belgium where we had Muslims and Christian sharing a 2 km long table to share iftar at least.  

But there will be occasions to share the breaking of fasting in London as well in the last week of fasting like on Trafalgar Square. Not too dissimilar to street parties we would have on Royal occasions, only these would be annual events. 

Thameswater imminent demise

Thames Water demise has been a long time coming since Water privatisation in 1989. 

Its become one of the worst water companies for sewage leakages and you just need to walk along the Thames to see this clearly in West London. Data released by the Environment Agency shows a rise of 136 per cent in the number of sewage spills lasting more than 24 hours by Thames Water. 

Water leakages around about a fifth and resultant records levels of road works on the streets of Central London – ask any black cabbie and they will confirm this! They have even caused surface water floods in areas like Maida Vale, W9 with their new investments!  

It has also created a mountain of debt – £ 18 billion since 1989 when its debt was wiped out then before privatisation, so that 25 per per pound is used to service the debt by from customer water bills. And now the boss of Thames Water now saying that bills need to rise by 40 per cent by 2030; continue to let shareholders to take out dividends and they want to be off the hook on sewage leakages, regulation fines and restrictions. 

Thames Water ought to be allowed to go bankrupt and thereby run by an administrator. The shareholders would lose their equity but as they took to much cash out so deserve no sympathy and the bond holders would face a partial loss. That is capitalism, and it should not affect the water supply. 

For sure it wont be so simple. This is total failure of privatisation and regulation by OFWAT. Why on earth were they sold state assets on the cheap and then allowed to borrow billions and take those billions out as dividends? These “genius” financial engineers were much too smart for ministers or regulators. 

The privatisation of water in the late 1980s, was neo-liberalism going too far. 

Nowhere else in the world runs water the way that England does, it is an extreme ideological experiment. Water is a natural monopoly. Thames Water’s 15 million “customers” have no choice as consumers.

Right now the government seems to be planning to bail out Thames Water. By changing the rules on water company insolvency to allow temporary nationalisation and returning to private hands without cost. This while the Lib Dems call for special adminstration when it was last discussed at a parliamentary debate. This would be financially irresponsible and morally wrong to appease global capital and their allegiance to trickle down economics. Its an outrage and unsustainable situation for the people and the environment.

So an idea for our times – nationalise it and then mutualise it with millions of households as shareholders. 7 out of 10 people believe water belongs in public ownership. So lets not bail out Thames Water and take it back permanently. Now that would be appropriate way to end 14 of Tory rule and see the end of neo-liberal economics, a legacy of Thatcherism. Now that would truly be a new dawn.  

A version of this blog was also published in the  LabourHub as well, as can be seen below  

Bring Thames Water into public ownership!

 

 

SEBRA – Spring 2024

Public Inquiries in Paddington 

We have two major public inquiries in Paddington at 13 Bishops Bridge Road,W2 on Grenfell & COVID19 allowing local residents to watch the proceedings at first hand. The Grenfell inquiry was about fire safety in our homes particularly with cladding and not just social housing but also private blocks like the M& M Building. Whilst the COVID 19 Inquiry was on public health response by the govt during the pandemic.

The latter inquiry started in October 2023 at No 13 to cover the core UK decision-making and political governance though that did omitted Partygate. Request were made for material from Johnson as the Inquiry asked for diaries, notebooks and WhatsApp messages by Johnson. In the end Johnson had provided materials to the Cabinet Office, although it later emerged that he had only provided WhatsApp messages from May 2021 when he got a new phone following a security breach on his previous phone.

On the days Boris Johnson was scheduled, he arrived much earlier than the public to hide his entrance in and out of Inquiry where we had a public ready to remind him of what he had said and done before and during the lockdown and the impact it had on their families and loved ones. 

New Bakerloo line Entrance 

With the emerging new entrance to Paddington Railway Station along with the new entrance to the Bakerloo line from Praed St, it certainly makes the entrance a lot more spacious. It will certainly make for a entrance that can appear on the Paddington Bear movies, as in the first one they incredibly used the front of Marylebone station. Unbelievably really but they super imposed Paddington Railway Station signage on top of the red brick entrance of Marylebone Station for the first of Paddington Bear movies! 

Saying this, we could do with a lot more greenery like a few tress and planters maybe before the opening of the new Bakerloo line entrance into the tube? 

SUV parking in Central London 

Not surprisingly after hearing the results from Paris on SUV (Sports Utility Vehicles) parking, many wondered whether it can be done in London. Certainly in Central London boroughs like City of Westminster and Camden, is the short answer. As TfL does not have charge over all the roads and streets of London in the same way as London Councils do – only the red routes – so such an initiative would have to be lead naturally by critical Central London boroughs using their parking powers already.

Now SUVs are bigger and heavier cars and are quite simply incompatible with our goal of reducing global emissions as well as improving our air quality. The majority of SUVs are petrol-powered and consume about 20 per cent more fuel than the average car. Even if the car is electric or part electric the same sums apply as heavier cars require more energy. Bigger cars don’t just emit more, their tyres produce more particulate pollution as well. They also take up more parking space as any pedestrian and cyclists can tell you when getting pass them! And, to make matters worse, SUVs cause significantly more pedestrian fatalities than other cars. You only have to look at the tragic case of SUV crashing into an end-of-year tea party last summer at a girls’ preparatory school in Wimbledon, killing two school girls tragically. So the case for additional parking charging for SUVs is pretty clear cut.

So in short it can happen sooner than we realise in Central London, as SUVs do little of the off-road driving they were designed for in the first place.

Karen Buck MP & Barrie Taylor 

It would be remise of me not to note the departure of two key leading figures in Paddington over the past 40 years. It is very sad news that Karen Buck MP won’t be standing at the next election. She has been a brilliant constituency MP with a fantastic legacy of service.  

I was involved in her selection in 1997 for Regents Park & Kensington North as the Youth Officer at the CLP and we could not have foreseen her dedicated service for over 25 years for the north of the City of Westminster and beyond. 

Her decision to stand down was of course linked to Alderman Barrie Taylor’s state of health, her partner and soul mate. Barrie was a great mate of my dad’s, the late Cllr Qureshi as fellow councillors in Queens Park, City of Westminster. Barrie felt my dads death quite keenly & not surprising they were in many ways brothers. So from the Qureshi family we send them our deepest sympathies & condolences to Karen & Cosmo, Rebecca & Zack on his passing.  

 

Karen Buck MP & Alderman Barrie Taylor


It would be remise of me not to note the departure of two key leading figures in Paddington over the past 40 years. It is very sad news that Karen Buck MP won’t be standing at the next election. She has been a brilliant constituency MP with a fantastic legacy of service.

I was involved in her selection in 1997 for Regents Park & Kensington North as the Youth Officer at the CLP and we could not have foreseen her dedicated service for over 25 years for the north of the City of Westminster and beyond.

Her decision to stand down was of course linked to Alderman Barrie Taylor’s state of health, her partner and soul mate. Barrie was a great mate of my dad’s, the late Cllr Qureshi as fellow councillors in Queens Park, City of Westminster. Barrie felt my dads death quite keenly & not surprising they were in many ways brothers. So from the Qureshi family we send them our deepest sympathies & condolences to Karen & Cosmo, Rebecca & Zack on his passing.



SUV parking in Central London – how to do it maybe?

With Parisians voting for higher SUV parking fees in a backlash against large cars , can the same happen in Central London?

Not surprisingly after hearing the results from Paris on SUV (Sports Utility Vehicles) parking, many wondered whether it can be done in London. Certainly in Central London boroughs like City of Westminster and Camden, is the short answer. As TfL does not have charge over all the roads and streets of London in the same way as London Councils do – only the red routes – so such an initiative would have to be lead naturally by critical Central London boroughs using their parking powers already.

Now SUVs are bigger and heavier cars and are quite simply incompatible with our goal of reducing global emissions as well as improving our air quality. The majority of SUVs are petrol-powered and consume about 20 per cent more fuel than the average car. Even if the car is electric or part electric the same sums apply as heavier cars require more energy. Bigger cars don’t just emit more, their tyres produce more particulate pollution as well. They also take up more parking space as any pedestrian and cyclists can tell you when getting pass them! And, to make matters worse, SUVs cause significantly more pedestrian fatalities than other cars. You only have to look at the tragic case of SUV crashing into an end-of-year tea party last summer at a girls’ preparatory school in Wimbledon, killing two school girls tragically. So the case for additional parking charging for SUVs is pretty clear cut.



We also need not go through TfL consultations like done so for congestion charging at the beginning of the century to get it implemented even when the first Mayor of London Ken Livingstone clearing already had a mandate to under take this from winning the 2000 Mayoral contest. As there is right now the City of Westminster council is having a consultation on their emissions-based parking charges to tackle poor air quality who drive into the city, this is the best opportunity to see whether there is scope to do so in Central London, much quicker than we imagined.

So lets get on with this consultation for our views and opinions not just on the emissions based parking charging generally but how it should apply to SUVs as well. The consultation ends in three weeks after the launch on the 25th of January with the links here. On CO2 missions along, SUVs should be paying a lot more their parking in Central London.

So in short it can happen sooner than we realise in Central London, as SUVs do little of the off-road driving they were designed for in the first place.

A brief version of this blog has been published in Westminster Extra this week 

Major Public Inquiries at Paddington

We have two major public inquiries in Paddington at 13 Bishops Bridge Road,W2 on Grenfell & COVID19 allowing local residents to watch the proceedings at first hand. The Grenfell inquiry was about fire safety in our homes particularly with cladding and not just social housing but also private blocks like the M& M Building. Whilst the COVID 19 Inquiry was on public health response by the govt during the pandemic.

The latter inquiry started in October 2023 at No 13 to cover the core UK decision-making and political governance though that did omitted Partygate. Request were made for material from Johnson as the Inquiry asked for diaries, notebooks and WhatsApp messages by Johnson. In the end Johnson had provided materials to the Cabinet Office, although it later emerged that he had only provided WhatsApp messages from May 2021 when he got a new phone following a security breach on his previous phone.

On the days Boris Johnson was scheduled, he arrived much earlier than the public to hide his entrance in and out of Inquiry where we had a public ready to remind him of what he had said and done before and during the lockdown and the impact it had on their families and loved ones.














Presidential Memorandums, Bangladesh & Anti-strike laws

On the 17th of November the President of the USA, Joe Biden in a Presidential Memorandum took the historical step to mark the commitment for a US President to advance worker empowerment, rights and high labour standards globally.

Many thought his administration was taking aim at countries like Bangladesh and their labour issues in the garment industry, in the lead up to their General Elections on the 7th of January 2024. The announcement came amid intense worker rights protests following the declaration of Tk 12,500 as minimum wage of the garment sector, citing the case of Kalpona Akter as an example of labour rights violation and government actions contradicting labour rights principles.

But this policy announcement on labour rights, is a comprehensive stance that applies to all countries. So is it not applicable also in the UK with the anti-unionTories push for minimum service levels through its Anti-Strike Law? The memo states the US would work to hold to account those who threaten, intimidate and attack union leaders, labour rights fighters and labour organisations. This clearly opens up the path for US involvement in our domestic labour affairs like the anti-strike laws. So watch this space!

This blog was published as a letter in the Morning Star on the 15th of Dec 2024 

UK – A case of how not to do public transport

After reading the devastating analysis of public transport provision in the UK by John Burn-Murdoch a few weeks ago, particularly the graphs below, it’s quite clear we in the UK are a case of how not to do public transport in the developed world.

It is not just the result of 13 years of Tory government but also 40 years of neoliberal thinking which much of the developed world has seen fit not to adopt in their transport sector like rail privatisation. This as we mark 30 years of the privatisation of the UK’s railways on the 30th anniversary of the 1993 Railways Act. 

The first chart shows clearly we have the worts provision of trams, tubes and light rail in our cities in the developed world including the USA with their over reliance on the automobile.

This is further reinforced with the abnormally high costs of building transport infrastructure in the UK from bridges and roads to high speed rail and its electrification.  And finally our cities outside London, have both poor public transport and poor road infrastructure as well. 

So its reassuring to see the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool reaffirmed its support for to renationalise rail and whilst supporting like public investment like HS2, in a forthcoming Labour government. 

As the returning of rail into public ownership along with water and energy has been shown to be publicly supported by the majority of the population in polls and surveys. The neo-liberal capitalism experiment with rail in the UK since the 1990s has failed with expensive disjointed pricing of rail across the country today, record low investment and a fast deteriorating services whilst the ROC’s have been making plenty of money.

 

 

 

Bangladeshi perspective on GAZA

Many of the hundreds of children killed this week, look like my nieces here in London. So the images from Gaza have been very powerful but it also touches a community nerve and memory for the Bangladeshi’s in the UK. 

As a child l watched the attempted genocide during the Bangladeshi liberation war in 1971 by the Pakistani army & air force, known as Operation Searchlight. I saw how it was particularly targeted at Hindu men, as Pakistani soldiers at checkpoints that my family went through were pulling out uncircumcised men on the coaches as we fled to India. We had British passports and were able to get transport when millions had to walk into India. All these night mares that have been lying dormant for many years suddenly came back to me, as l saw the children of Gaza telling their stories this past week. 

There was a news blackout of the genocide in Bangladesh in 1971 but with today’s social media we have such intimate details of the children’s death. As we see children writing their names on their limbs, so as to be easily identified after being killed. Is it something we didn’t have to mercifully have to do in 1971.

So lets us not forget how events like those being played out in Gaza, can hit a nerve of particular communities in the UK like the Bangladeshis as they relate their experiences and is the basis of their solidarity with Palestinians.