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LETTERS: The outlook for our communities in Westminster is bleak

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Demonstrations at the Jubilee Sport Centre in 2015

Demonstrations at the Jubilee Sport Centre in 2015

Published: 27 January, 2017

• AS a Queen’s Park resident who lived through Shirley Porter’s reign as the most corrupt leader of the most corrupt council in British history, I see the continuation of her aims.

Take the signing-off of the demolition of our Jubilee Sports Centre, to be replaced by 21 “town houses” and 70 luxury flats starting at £525,000 for a one-bedroom flat. Already, the 50sq m free open-access basketball court, used daily by local kids, has gone, to be replaced by a 350 sq m private garden exclusively for the new residents,

People may need reminding that in 2001 councillors Robert Davis and Simon Milton, then head of Westminster Council, flew to Israel at a time when the council was trying to get back money it was owed by Porter as a result of her role in the 1980s homes-for-votes plot to sell council homes in marginal wards to potential Tory voters. 

The District Auditor had reckoned over £30million was payable, but her UK funds had been transferred out, nothing was traceable, so the offer had to be accepted by Labour councillors.

Porter and the council’s then idea was to ghettoise Westminster working classes, in particular around Church Street Edgware Road, and in Queen’s Park, still the two most deprived areas of Westminster. 

She did succeed, by gerrymandering and appropriation of council flats, in turning Maida Vale into entirely Tory property-owners. (“Our aim is to gentrify the city of London” as she wrote to her hero Margaret Thatcher.) 

Her unique failure in office was with her intention to privatise by hook and by crook the then council (now WECH, Walterton & Elgin Community Housing) estate on Harrow Road.  

The governments since Thatcher have changed all that, with no building of council homes, and created our distressing conditions of appropria­tion of public property like the Jubilee by cash-strapped councils of all political shades, alike in cahoots with property developers, creating the Londonwide rash of luxury flats, with uncon­trolled rental mayhem. 

The reasons may appear to be different from Porter’s, but the effects are the same.

It is odd and very sad to see Labour councils such as Lambeth adopting “estate regeneration” policies which will have the effect of displacing Labour-voting council tenants, and encouraging the construction of high-value flats for sale to the well-heeled.

There is no point in talking about “affordable housing”, because it is unaffordable. In any case, Westminster is now transporting council tenants outside the borough. 

Gentrifying is now the full government, and council, agenda, or more accurately, unbridled private property, with no rent controls, driving the working classes out of London. 

The visionary Save Our Jubilee Campaign’s Community Jubilee Plan, drawn up with a local architect specialising in the rehabilitation of existing buildings, and a sports manager of 30 years’ experience, to provide a Jubilee Sports Centre cost-effective within five years, was trashed by the council without serious consideration.  

Without wholehearted political backing, the future of our communities Londonwide is bleak. 

JULIUS HOGBEN
Beethoven Street, W10

 

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