Despite savage cuts from Tory & Lib Dem Ministers since 2010, Southwark's Labour council has built 535 council homes in the last four years with 1,000 more in the pipeline.
Today I asked if new Government plans will enable the council to build the genuinely affordable and council homes our community needs - and if they'll end Right to Buy being used by people not seeking a home but a cash-cow property to rent.
Despite savage cuts from Tory & Lib Dem Ministers since 2010, Southwark's Labour council has built 535 council homes in the last four years with 1,000 more in the pipeline. Today...
Counter Terror Bill work – an update
The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill has now completed Commons committee stages. I asked to be on the committee following the terror attack on London Bridge and Borough Market in the constituency last June. The Bill was a chance to raise some of the issues that affected the local community following that attack.
The Bill brought forward an update to terror insurance that I have asked for since last June. That is to include ‘non-physical’ damage to firms in areas attacked by terrorists under coverage offered by the Government-backed Pool Reinsurance system. Before now, only physical damage to premises could be covered. In SE1 that meant businesses who lost produce, stock, had staff leave and needed to recruit, lost contracts or bookings all had no protection from the Government.
The Bill should mean that UK employers are better protected in future, wherever an attack might occur.
Coverage could have been backdated under this Bill to better help those affected by last year’s attacks. The Government was warned in advance of the need to cover ‘non-physical’ damage but ignored advice. The Minister claimed Government’s do not retrofit provisions – despite the retrofitting of laws like the Bedroom Tax for example, which hit hundreds of thousands of people. Retrospective coverage would have helped the London Bridge and Borough Market area where 150 businesses lost around £2 million due to the attack last year but, after thirteen months of waiting for central Government support, traders were denied assistance.
Instead, the Minister offered to meet to develop a ‘compensation’ plan of some description which I hope the council and City Hall will help develop in conjunction with Borough Market Trust and the businesses directly affected.
I raised several other amendments which were discussed on committee, including:
- Introducing an annual review to ensure Government backed systems were kept up to date, in the face of any further changes to the kind of attacks we might experience;
- Better systems of more swiftly classifying acts of terror to prevent insurers withholding help;
- Boosting take-up of insurance to protect from attacks and their potential impact; and
- Covering the use of rented vehicles in terror attacks.
Ending profits from terrorism
The Government sadly blocked my efforts to prevent anyone profiting from public donations to terror attack victims and communities.
Online platforms that help collect and pass on donations to the people who have experienced attacks often take not just their admin fees or obligatory charges for the charities involved, they also take revenues. They make money from the attacks.
After the May 2017 Manchester Arena bomb, people donated £5.5million to help the families affected. But JustGiving took £277,000 from this on top of admin fees and charges. I think this is unacceptable and sought to end this grim practice of creaming off donations. The Government voted it down sadly, although suggested the Treasury and other departments are examining this and related issues for regulations further down the line.
The Bill will soon have Commons Report Stage and will then go to the House of Lords for similar scrutiny.
Counter Terror Bill work – an update The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill has now completed Commons committee stages. I asked to be on the committee following the terror attack...
Today I visited Transport for London (TfL) headquarters in Southwark. Today, TfL changes to the northern line mean the Bank branch is closed form Kennington station until mid September affecting about 35,000 people daily.
Commuters are advised to get on the right branch at their home station and not seek to change as the impact will mostly be felt at Stockwell, Kennington and Elephant and Castle. No additional bus services are available. TfL are providing about 20 extra staff at the main stations affected as well as distributing lots of leaflets and making announcements about the changes.
The change results from platform level works linking the two branches for passengers. TfL did not advertise the closure until very recently and made no mention of works during the public inquiry into the northern line extension and its impact in Southwark and Lambeth. Local people will experinece much of the inconvenience of the works, including this enforced closure and the new shafts, but few of the benefits. I am still pushing for Kennington's rezoning (to Zone 1) to be brought forward when the closure ends in September.
TfL information on the changes can be found at: https://tfl.gov.uk/status-updates/major-works-and-events/kennington-improvements and if you need a Personal Journey Plan updating to reflect the changes please contact TfL directly.
Today I visited Transport for London (TfL) headquarters in Southwark. Today, TfL changes to the northern line mean the Bank branch is closed form Kennington station until mid September affecting...
3 years new
Three years ago I was first elected to serve Bermondsey and Old Southwark. In that short period, a lot has changed, but also far too much remains the same.
My election helped end the Lib Dem/Tory Coalition Government run by Cameron and Clegg that had brought so much damage to the local community. My Lib Dem predecessor supported the tripling of tuition fees which affected thousands of local people, axed legal aid for families, voted eight times for the bedroom tax which hit over four thousand people in Southwark and never once apologised.
Voters put their trust in me in 2015 and my promise never to vote for anything that would harm our community. I've kept my promise.
It has been a rollercoaster three years in which we have seen the divisive Brexit referendum, the departure of Cameron and May's arrival as Prime Minister. I lost my friend and colleague Jo Cox, murdered by a rightwing coward. My daughter Esme arrived two years ago and continues to brighten any day. I helped change the law - from Opposition - to better help many disabled people. Last year we experienced the terror attack at London Bridge and Borough Market and the Government has now backed my campaign to better protect British employers in the event of any further attack in the UK. We have also already had a further general election, which saw May lose her majority and me returned in Bermondsey and Old Southwark with an amazing 13,000 majority.
I have helped thousands of local people, and remain grateful for all the support and trust this has helped build. I continue to work hard for anyone who seeks my help - as well as running my weekly surgery meetings, I organise extra 'reach out' sessions across the whole community I serve. Since last June's election, over three thousand people have sought my help with housing, visas, benefits and other issues.
Since that incredible election win in May 2015, too much continues to stay the same though.
Every week I help people hit by avoidable, unnecessary problems caused by callous, incompetent policies like the Coalition's Universal Credit which was rolled out in Southwark with devastating consequences for many local families. Local foodbanks are overwhelmed as a result of Universal Credit delays and other problems and in the last year there has been a tripling in the number of children reliant on foodbanks to survive. Debt, destitution and poverty continue to flourish under a Government neglecting the domestic UK agenda whilst pursuing a damaging Brexit agenda which I continue to oppose.
The Windrush scandal has rocked the nation, but is a direct result of policies pursued under May as Home Secretary for the Coalition since 2010 and as PM since 2016. The 'hostile environment' has had terrible ramifications for too many local people caught up in Home Office processes despite being legally entitled - or born - in the UK.
The housing crisis continues unaddressed, the NHS is struggling to run now in summer after the worst winter crisis since the Tories were thrown out in 1997, and the police now cannot investigate all crime. The shocking rise in violent, sex, knife and gun crime (including in Walworth last weekend), follows eight years of cuts to police numbers. Southwark lost over 200 police officers and PCSOs in budgets backed by Lib Dem and Tory MPs and Ministers and the impact is still being felt.
It is tough being in Opposition in the face of such an awful Government. But it is far tougher on the local community and all the people I serve who need action on housing, policing, the NHS and low pay. I will continue to fight for our community and to keep my promises. I hope the next three years sees a national change in direction and policies which benefit Bermondsey and Old Southwark.
3 years new Three years ago I was first elected to serve Bermondsey and Old Southwark. In that short period, a lot has changed, but also far too much remains...
Thanks loads to Surrey Square primary school for having me and Sharon Hodgson, Chair of the Parliamentary Group on School Food, this morning at the breakfast club! Open to all children and family members, every day. Got through around 150 bagels this morning (I only had one!)
Thanks loads to Surrey Square primary school for having me and Sharon Hodgson, Chair of the Parliamentary Group on School Food, this morning at the breakfast club! Open to all children...
Government's abysmal DWP programme now means: 220,000 disabled people need new PIP assessments; 83,000 disabled people have had inaccurate mandatory reconsiderations; and a further 70,000 disabled people have lost at least £2,500 under ESA mistakes. Epic failure from a shambolic, uncaring regime.
You can watch my interview on this here: https://www.facebook.com/NeilCoyleMP/
Government's abysmal DWP programme now means: 220,000 disabled people need new PIP assessments; 83,000 disabled people have had inaccurate mandatory reconsiderations; and a further 70,000 disabled people have lost at...
9 months on from the horror and tragedy of the Grenfell fire, and the Government have still not given Southwark Council a penny to fit sprinklers in tower blocks - of which Southwark has 170.
Watch my question here: https://www.facebook.com/NeilCoyleMP/videos/1887526651257640/
9 months on from the horror and tragedy of the Grenfell fire, and the Government have still not given Southwark Council a penny to fit sprinklers in tower blocks -...
My constituent Malorie was 8 months pregnant when brutally attacked by her ex partner and an accomplice. They deliberately targeted the unborn child, which she lost as a result.
Malorie is campaigning to ensure men who commit violence that cause the loss of children are adequately prosecuted and get lengthier sentences. Please watch my question here: https://www.facebook.com/NeilCoyleMP/videos/1887314197945552/ and sign her petition below:
My constituent Malorie was 8 months pregnant when brutally attacked by her ex partner and an accomplice. They deliberately targeted the unborn child, which she lost as a result. Malorie...
Foodbanks and Universal Credit
I recently set up the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Foodbanks. Today’s meeting was on Universal Credit and its impact on foodbanks. It made for very tough listening.
We heard from a welfare rights advisor from CPAG who told us that foodbanks in ‘full service areas’ for Universal Credit (UC) have seen a 30% jump in demand already. Southwark Foodbank spoke of the dramatic rise in children needing their help after UC was extended to parents. We heard that UC is expected to leave a million children in poverty.
We also heard from some people directly affected. One man was absent and a safeguarding alert is out as he missed a very important meeting yesterday about whether he is being evicted or not. He has mental health issues and we are all very concerned for his welfare.
Another man told us of the difficulties he has faced since being diagnosed with a terminal illness. He should not have faced the delays and barriers to accessing the right help. He is technically still in work, but past the point of being eligible for sickness payments but receives sporadic holiday pay he has accrued.
Those payments have contributed to the insensitive UC administration system failing to understand his circumstances. He spoke movingly about considering suicide due to the terrible situation UC put him in. He has worked all his life and told us that he had to ‘swallow his pride’ to accept foodbank help.
He and another speaker spoke openly of their ‘demoralising’ and ‘degrading’ feelings about going to a foodbank. Southwark foodbank’s manager told us of the stress and anxiety UC has piled onto people seeking their help.
UC was supposed to simplify benefits; it is failing as jobcentres are unable to explain how to enter and use online journals properly or account for childcare costs or fluctuating incomes for example.
UC was supposed to better support people in work but is failing the self-employed and anyone on a zero-hour contract. The Government also axed work allowances, undermining any claims from Ministers that UC helps people into employment.
UC was also supposed to save money. It directly axes things like Severe Disability Premium and other help, hitting over 430,000 disabled people. But UC may not be helping the Treasury at all given that it is heaping new costs on the NHS, councils and courts which the Government is currently choosing to ignore. Sadly, the terrible toll it is taking on individuals was also all too apparent today.
Foodbanks and Universal Credit I recently set up the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Foodbanks. Today’s meeting was on Universal Credit and its impact on foodbanks. It made for...
Today’s Budget was a chance to answer some of the biggest challenges facing our country today, and as a result of Brexit. It should have been time to:
- invest in the largest housing-building programme the UK has ever seen to end the current crisis, in partnership with councils being able to build to meet needs;
- provide the policing and security our communities need; and
- ensure our children and all young people are equipped for a future with a weaker economy outside the EU and with the education funding required.
Instead the Government is frozen in the face of Brexit.
We will see continued pressure on police, with London officers unable to meet existing crime levels or address knife and moped-related crime with a further £400 million cut from the Met by the Home Office.
We will not get the genuinely affordable homes required, and may see councils weakened in relationship to developers with other announcements from the Chancellor. The Coalition and current Government axed over 80% of the Homes and Community Agency resources to build affordable homes and have contributed to the slump in home ownership, doubling of homelessness, rise in rents and crash in house building. The commitments made today tinker round the edges – and come on top of at least seven broken promises on tackling the housing crisis which you can see here.
I am concerned that the Government also suggested after Grenfell that ‘money was not an issue’ in ensuring the safety of tenants in other tower blocks. Southwark Council has seen over £200 million taken from it by central Government since 2010 but has 174 tall buildings. The council – and all Southwark MPs – have asked the Government to help retro-fit sprinklers. Not a penny was announced for fire safety to help our council.
After the London Bridge and Borough Market and other recent terror attacks, the Government also announced that ‘the terrorists will never win’ but are yet to provide a penny of support for the people and businesses who lost out in our area in June. For almost three years, the Treasury has known that Terror Insurance still needs updating to reflect vehicle/knife attacks and their impact but failed to tackle the issue in the Budget.
The Government told us just a few weeks ago that there was no need to pause and fix the failing Universal Credit. Today, the Chancellor says he will try to do that: in 2018. No extra help has been pledged for the people already affected or facing new claims today who won’t see any income till after Christmas. The Government's plans will not solve the main problems either – leaving many people facing continued long waits for help, inaccurate payments and still indebted to landlords.
The biggest revelation in the Budget was the ever-growing cost of Brexit. With jobs going, investment and production falling, research funding rescinding and opportunities falling, the Chancellor admitted to already having set £3 billion aside to deal with Brexit preparations. Now that wasn’t on the side of any bus.
Today’s Budget was a chance to answer some of the biggest challenges facing our country today, and as a result of Brexit. It should have been time to: invest in...