Thank you for completing my resident’s survey for Kensington, I’ve received hundreds of responses so far, read each and every response carefully, and will be taking up these topics with our local councillors, partners and stakeholders where relevant.
Having lived here all my life, I am very familiar with many of the detailed issues that you’ve raised, and if I’m reselected as your candidate, I will ensure that these priorities form the basis of my “Campaigns for Kensington”.
When asked for your top three priorities, crime and policing, healthcare and taxation, such as stamp duty, topped the list. This was closely followed by protecting the environment and housing.
Feeling safe on our streets is not surprisingly a top priority – 98 per cent of respondents said it was ‘very important’ and particular concerns included the increase in street crime, petty thefts and burglary. If I am lucky enough to be your MP again, I will meet up with our local Borough Commander so that with the new centralised and merged policing structure the needs of Kensington are not lost in the wider area. The Council has invested in additional policing in the past and under Boris was able to “buy” additional policing with a shared cost formula. We have great local police here, so it is vital that with the new merging of the areas that we do not lose those officers who have the local knowledge.
Local shops and business
More than 8 in 10 (83 per cent) said local shops and businesses are ‘very important’. We all want our local high streets to thrive in the years ahead. The Government is doing some good things such as the recent announcement of £650m to help revive our high streets and a further cut in business rates. We also have a part to play in shopping local and supporting our independents which give such individuality to our area.
Local Health Provision
83 per cent of respondents also rate health as ‘very important’ and many residents highlighted difficulties accessing a GP appointment, although there was praise for the new surgery at the Town Hall. If I’m elected as your MP again, I will keep fighting for local health services including mental health provision and support for those in crisis.
We now have the highest property taxes – stamp duty and business rates. Three-quarters of respondents (76 per cent) cited taxation as a ‘very important’ issue and the cost of living came up as a concern to many respondents. I would lobby the Chancellor to raise the level that Stamp Duty starts to be charged and increase the size of shops that have to pay the full business rates, to enable smaller shops to pay a cheaper rate.
Protecting our environment continues to be a major priority for Kensington with particular worries on air quality, particularly around the Westway and congested streets, and what could be done to “green” our streets and buildings. Three-quarters of respondents (75 per cent) rated the environment as a ‘very important’ priority. If I’m re-elected as your MP, I will fight to secure money for “street greening” and back initiatives such as cleaning up the local streetscape where there is graffiti and uncollected rubbish blighting our streets, much of which is left by Airbnb guests. The Council are installing electric car charging points and this number needs to increase, as well as safe stores for resident’s own bicycles.
Housing and broadband were equally categorised as ‘very important’ local priorities by 55 per cent of respondents. The inability for the next generation to get on the local housing ladder was raised and the difficulties of living in central London with a family and the lack of space. It seems to be getting to the point where you can only live in Kensington if you have access to a housing association property, bought your home many many years ago, or have plenty of disposable income.
We need homes that people want to live in. We need to invest in social housing, social rent and enable councils and housing associations to provide more options. I am a great supporter of Community Land Trusts so that residents can decide how and where homes should be built. New developments must include a community benefit including space for elderly and “additional care” living. I have experience of working with Ministers in the Housing Department and made changes for legislation that improved the availability of housing.
Broadband access and connectivity is a perennial concern, Openreach (ex BT) blames the Council but that is not relevant, as they pay minor local street works prices to dig up and install their cables. However, local residents have reported that they been forced to group together to pay additional funds for faster provision which has met with much disquiet in several residents associations, as a result, residents have been moving to other suppliers. This is a topic that I will definitely address with the Minister if I am re-elected as your MP.
Four in ten rated employment (44 per cent) and education (40 per cent) as “very important” priorities locally. Kensington and Chelsea has over 18,000 businesses, many family and small owner-run enterprises. As your MP I would hold a job fair and work with our voluntary sector providers making sure that all our young people know what is available to them locally, enable a job brokerage and help residents find sustainable employment – the Council have a new focus on this topic helping employers benefit from the advantages of being part of the apprenticeship scheme.
Of course, getting education right is key to good employment – schools have been a great success story in Kensington with all our schools rated good or outstanding and several of our primary and secondary schools rated in the top 100 in the country. However, that does mean that our local schools are very popular and the catchment area is quite small around each school meaning that there are some streets where it is very difficult to access a local school.
Business Improvement Districts
Establishing a local Business Improvement District will help our local businesses by bringing shoppers and visitors to our high streets. These organisations are run by businesses, for businesses, and can help improve our local town centre by working with the council to improve safety, cleanliness and promote our businesses. A quarter of us (26 per cent) said that establishing a local Business Improvement District is ‘very important’ for the area and I am supporting the work done by Cllr Malcolm Spalding to establish a BID for the Earls Court area. Some of the responses suggested that the area should also be extended to help Kensington High Street. I have worked with other Business Improvement Districts across London and I want to use that experience to help Kensington.
If you haven’t completed my poll yet, there’s still time to do so by clicking here.
I’d also be grateful if you could share it with your friends and family who live locally.
I want to make sure I have listened to your priorities and the more local responses I receive the better.
May I take this opportunity to wish you a Happy and Healthy Christmas and New Year