Policy responses

Many constituents have previously contacted me to express concerns about Thames Water putting pressure on customers to install smart meters in their homes. On 5 December 2016, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to raise these concerns, enquire about consultation procedures and establish if the scheme complies with consumer protection legislation.

Please click on this link to see below a copy of the response I received from Dr T Coffey MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary Of State for the Department Of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the 14 December 2016. It includes a fact sheet setting out the criteria for installing a meter and answers queries that a number of constituents have raised with me about opting out. Constituents can direct any specific further questions they have to the Consumer Council for Water, an independent organisation that represents customer interests which can be contacted via 0300 034 2222 or enquiries@accwater.org.uk

I went back to the Minister to seek clarification on what consultation process is legally required by utility companies. The reply is posted below.

Response on Installation of Smart Meters

Many constituents have previously contacted me to express concerns about Thames Water putting pressure on customers to install smart meters in their homes. On 5 December 2016, I wrote to... Read more »

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Over the past few weeks I have been contacted by a number of concerned constituents regarding the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV).

Indeed, I share a number of the concerns raised regarding the current proposals, and it’s an issue I’ve been following closely since I was first elected in 2015. David Lammy, MP for Tottenham and I have raised particular concerns with Haringey Council around the scale of the proposals, the percentage of affordable housing, the housing offer that would be made to council tenants who lose their home in any estate regeneration and the impact on businesses whose premises are included.

We both felt it was a very ambitious scheme at a very uncertain time, and required much more public debate. Copies of our joint letters can be found here.

Following Haringey Council’s agreement on a set of principles for the HDV, David Lammy MP and I held a meeting with Haringey Council’s Leader and Chief Executive where we sought specific guarantees, including:

-A firm commitment to a minimum of 40 per cent affordable housing. I believe, and will continue to argue, that these must be genuinely affordable homes – not the Tory Government’s idea of “affordable” which is anything but.
-No “right to buy” to be available on the new homes built so they’ll remain in public ownership for future generations.
-Overcrowded tenants being rehoused will be offered larger properties.
-Confirmation that no public land will be passed to the HDV without a clear Council Cabinet agreed business plan that sets out expectations for the number and type of homes, jobs and employment space as well as open space and community facilities.

This is positive and welcome progress, but there remains a number of questions to be answered, particularly around the financial risks involved with this project; the need to guarantee that current residents will have the right to return to new homes on the same estates on the same terms and also concerns surrounding Lendlease, the Council’s preferred bidder, and their past involvement in blacklisting of construction workers - concerns which many Trade Unionists and I share.

There is no question that we desperately need more genuinely affordable homes in Haringey - it is the number one issue that people come to see me about at my regular advice surgeries. After seven years of massive government cuts and a Tory Government that has presided over the lowest home building programme since the 1920s, I can understand why Haringey Council has felt the need to look at things differently.

However, in light of all of the above, I support calls for the decision to be put on hold for outstanding questions to be answered and to allow ample time for the issues the Council’s Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel have raised to be fully addressed. I will continue to follow developments extremely closely and raise issues with Haringey Council as needed.

Haringey Development Vehicle

Over the past few weeks I have been contacted by a number of concerned constituents regarding the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV). Indeed, I share a number of the concerns raised...

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Many constituents have contacted me to express concerns about Thames Water putting pressure on customers to install smart meters in their homes. On 5 December 2016, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to raise these concerns, enquire about consultation procedures and establish if the scheme complies with consumer protection legislation.

Please see below a copy of the response I received from Dr T Coffey MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary Of State for the Department Of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.  It includes a fact sheet setting out the criteria for installing a meter and answers queries that a number of constituents have raised with me about opting out. Constituents can direct any specific further questions they have to the Consumer Council for Water, an independent organisation that represents customer interests which can be contacted via 0300 034 2222 or enquiries@accwater.org.uk

I continue to receive letters and emails from concerned constituents, and I have now gone back to the Minister to seek clarification on what consultation process is legally required by utility companies. I will post a copy of the response I receive on this page when available.

Installation of Smart Meters

Many constituents have contacted me to express concerns about Thames Water putting pressure on customers to install smart meters in their homes. On 5 December 2016, I wrote to the... Read more »

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I am very concerned about Government plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank and it’s a subject I’ve already raised with the Minister for Climate Change & Industry Nick Hurd during the urgent question Parliamentary debate on 11 January. I specifically highlighted my concerns about the ethics of Macquarie Bank, who have an appalling track record of failing to pay correct levels of tax, buying assets, stripping them, paying itself huge dividends and selling off what’s left. I asked the Minister his opinion of Macquarie’s recent activity at Thames Water where it shipped off hundreds of millions in dividend payments to investors, paid minimal taxes and made disappointing investment in the network. You can watch my intervention here: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/a874ad10-8dee-44a9-bd87-7d6923651e7e?in=13:21:11

You can also read my Guardian letter on the subject here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/17/green-investment-banks-assets-must-be-protected

The Green Investment Bank is a real success story and it makes no sense to sell it off, when it could play a significant role helping to drive innovation, green energy and infrastructure, job creation and growth opportunities. The Government needs to abandon this ill-thought plan and I can assure you that, as your MP, I will continue to make the strongest case for them to do so at every opportunity.

 

Green Investment Bank

I am very concerned about Government plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank and it’s a subject I’ve already raised with the Minister for Climate Change & Industry Nick...

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Here's a copy of my letter to Ofcom in advance of the upcoming spectrum auction:

 

Make the Air Fair - my letter to Ofcom

Here's a copy of my letter to Ofcom in advance of the upcoming spectrum auction:   Read more »

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I can confirm I’ve already signed up to Fossil Free’s UK pledge.

It’s an incredibly important issue. The Governor of the Bank of England has warned of the impact of climate change on the value of investments, while the Financial Stability Board, which monitors the global financial system, has recognised investors' increasing need to consider climate change by establishing a Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). I believe the Government should take steps to make sure that the UK's financial regulators ensure that companies give investors effective information about the climate-related financial risks they face.

More widely, I am concerned that the Government is undermining clean energy investment in the UK. The Government's support for fracking, for example, risks locking us into an industry based on fossil fuels long after we need to have moved to clean energy. It also comes on top of cuts to support for renewable power and plans to increase taxes on businesses that have done the right thing by installing solar panels on the roofs of their buildings. These decisions have damaged the confidence of investors such as pension funds at a time when we should be working towards transitioning our energy industry to a low-carbon future. It is also disappointing that the Government has delayed publication of its emissions reduction plan, when it should be taking advantage of the international cooperation demonstrated by the Paris Agreement to drive forward with its plan for low-carbon investment in the UK.

I can assure you I will continue to support a low-carbon economy in the UK.

 

Fossil Free UK pledge

I can confirm I’ve already signed up to Fossil Free’s UK pledge. It’s an incredibly important issue. The Governor of the Bank of England has warned of the impact of...

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I'm extremely disappointed that the Secretary of State has gone back on proposals to allow Transport for London to take over Southeastern suburban rail services.  It's a real blow to commuters and I have written to the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP urging him to reconsider:

Give the Mayor of London control over suburban rail services

I'm extremely disappointed that the Secretary of State has gone back on proposals to allow Transport for London to take over Southeastern suburban rail services.  It's a real blow to... Read more »

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Here's my formal response to the Government's consultation on "schools that work for everyone", including proposals to allow existing selective schools to expand and new selective schools to open.

My response to the Government's consultation on "Schools that work for everyone"

Here's my formal response to the Government's consultation on "schools that work for everyone", including proposals to allow existing selective schools to expand and new selective schools to open. Read more »

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Here's a copy of my letter to the Chair of Haringey's Overview Committee in advance of the meeting to discuss the Hornsey Town Hall call-ins.  I've received more letters and emails on this than on any other local issue since my election. 

My letter to the Chair of Haringey's Overview Committee about Hornsey Town Hall

Here's a copy of my letter to the Chair of Haringey's Overview Committee in advance of the meeting to discuss the Hornsey Town Hall call-ins.  I've received more letters and... Read more »

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It is deeply concerning that homelessness and rough sleeping have both risen sharply since 2010. Indeed, while homelessness fell by 62% under the previous Labour government (1998 to 2010), the number of families accepted as homeless has risen by a third since 2010, and recorded rough sleeping has doubled in the last six years and has risen by 30% in the last year alone.

I am appalled by the Government’s track record on housing. Their failure over the last six years has caused worry and misery for millions of people now struggling with the cost of the housing crisis and facing higher rents, more homelessness, the lowest rate of home ownership in a generation, and fewer homes built than at any time since the 1920s. I believe the rise in homelessness can be traced directly to decisions taken by the Government which have led to big cuts in housing benefit support, cuts to funding for homelessness support services; and soaring private rents and the loss of affordable homes, with over 150,000 fewer council homes than in 2010. I am concerned that the Government's cuts in funding to supported housing providers, including homeless shelters, will add to homelessness if specialist housing, sheltered accommodation, refuges, and homeless hostels are forced to close.

By contrast, the Welsh Government has recently introduced a Housing Act with a new focus on early action to prevent homelessness. People living in Wales who find themselves at risk of homelessness receive assistance before they actually lose their home and thereby avoid the distressing experience of eviction and homelessness. Welsh local authorities have a legal duty to provide a "person-centred approach" through the use of Personal Housing Plans, which are developed in consultation with anyone at risk of homelessness.

The spiralling scale of homelessness shames us all when Britain is one of the richest countries in the world. I believe the UK Government should follow the example set by the Welsh Government and urgently tackle the root causes of homelessness in England, in particular evictions from the private rented sector and the availability of housing, which are among the key drivers of homelessness.

In the March 2016 Budget, the then Chancellor pledged £115 million to help homelessness. However, this is not new money and I am concerned it will do very little to recover the funding that the Government is set to strip from homelessness hostels and other specialist housing. Indeed, the National Audit Office has found that funding for homelessness services was cut by 45% between 2010 and 2015.

I am aware that charities such as St Mungo's and Crisis are calling for reform to the law on homelessness in England in order to focus more on intervening early and on preventing homelessness. The Government has stated that it will explore options, including legislation, to prevent more people from facing homelessness in the first place. However, the Government failed to include legislation on this in the Queen's Speech in May 2016.

As you may be aware, in August 2016, the House of Commons' Communities and Local Government Select Committee published a report which recommends a cross-Departmental Government Strategy on homelessness. The committee has also called on the Government to support the Homelessness Reduction Bill, which, as you know, is a Private Members' Bill scheduled to have its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 28 October 2016. Sadly I will not be able to attend this debate as I have my constituency advice surgery at the same time but I will make every effort to attend should the bill secure its third reading. Parliament does not usually sit on Fridays, and I had advertised my surgery for this day before the business had been confirmed for the sitting Friday in question. However, I will be tabling a number of parliamentary questions to the Secretary of State on the issue of homelessness in advance of the debate.

I am also aware there is a mass lobby of Parliament in support of this bill scheduled for 19 October. I am planning to meet Hornsey & Wood Green residents attending this event in Central Lobby at around 3.30pm to show my support, so please do let me know if you are planning to attend as we can discuss the issues further at that time.

I believe the Government urgently needs a clear plan to help those currently homeless and to address the root causes of homelessness. A failure to do so would be a betrayal of some of our society's most vulnerable. I can assure you I will continue to press the Government to do much more to tackle and reduce homelessness and rough sleeping.

Homelessness Reduction Bill

It is deeply concerning that homelessness and rough sleeping have both risen sharply since 2010. Indeed, while homelessness fell by 62% under the previous Labour government (1998 to 2010), the...

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Catherine West

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