England, United Kingdom

Latest Stories

Thousands stopped from boarding buses over face mask rules

Local Democracy Reporting Service

London bus

Thousands of passengers have been stopped from boarding London buses without a face covering, as part of a city-wide public awareness campaign by Transport for London (TfL).

Over 200 TfL operational officers and police were stationed at bus stops over the weekend.

A TfL spokesperson said they were on hand to issue masks to people who didn’t have one, or to remind people how to wear masks correctly before boarding.

Since 15 June, public transport bodies have had the power to issue £100 fines to passengers for not wearing a mask.

But TfL confirmed that no fines were issued over the weekend to an estimated 3,000 people who were stopped.

“No fines were issued because officers were focusing on engagement. Passengers were stopped, or issued with a new mask or corrected on how to wear them,” the spokesperson said.

“Issuing fines is still a last resort, although some fines have been issued.”

A Unite trade union officer, John Murphy, said bus drivers and revenue collectors will not be tasked by TfL with enforcing the wearing of face masks.

Under current rules, a maximum of 10 people are allowed on a single-decker bus, and up to 20 people on a double-decker bus.

TfL’s director of compliance and policing, Siwan Hayward, said: “Everyone should be wearing a face covering on public transport unless they are exempt and we are pleased that 90%of customers during the morning peak are complying with the requirement.

“Customers should bear in mind that a number of passengers will have a legitimate exemption that may not be obvious.”

Lockdown leaves Soho primary school at risk

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Soho Parish Primary School
Soho Parish Primary School

Soho Parish Primary, with 170 pupils, has stood in Great Windmill Street in the centre of London since 1884.

It is the last of a number of schools that once existed in the West End district that has gone through phases of being bohemian, hedonistic and recently more gentrified.

But the pandemic has since left the school “vulnerable” to running out of money.

Its head teacher of three years, Louise Ritchie, explained many of the fundraising activities and events it relies on to break even have been cancelled.

“Things are always difficult for us,” said Ms Ritchie. “We have a maximum of 26 children per class because it’s an old Victorian building. In fact the school was here before a lot of Soho built up around it.

“Having smaller class sizes means the school gets less funding. We get £5,000 per pupil. So if every class is 26 pupils, rather than 30, that’s a lot of money to miss out on even though you’re paying the same number of teachers.”

She said the school makes up for this by “doing a lot of fundraising”, although money has already been spent on buying 21 laptops for children to take part in home learning.

A major source of revenue is its annual Soho Food Feast, which raises £45,000 a year through ticket sales with the help of Soho’s restaurant proprietors.

“Loads of the local restaurants give their time and energy and ingredients for free. They make little portions for people to sample. The Ivy, Groucho and loads of others get involved", she said.

Ms Ritchie added that they "don’t have any reserves, and operating with such precarious funding makes us very anxious".

The school recently launched a Crowdfunder page ‘Save the only school in Soho’, where more than 200 people have so far donated £17,195. Its target is £85,000 by 7 August.

London's weather: Becoming brighter

BBC Weather

A cloudy start for some but a brighter day for most with sunny intervals. A few scattered showers developing later in the afternoon.

Some showers may be heavy or sharp at times and possibly thundery.

Maximum temperature: 17 to 20°C (63 to 68°F)

Three men held in east London on suspicion of terrorism

Three men have been arrested in east London on suspicion of terror offences.

A 27-year-old man was held at one address in the east of the city, while a 31-year-old and a 17-year-old were arrested at another property.

Armed officers took part in the operation. The Met said no shots were fired but the 27-year-old man was bitten on the foot by a police dog and has been taken to hospital as a result.

Redbridge Police confirmed arrests have been made in Goodmayes where footage circulating on social media showed armed police entering a building.

Officers from East Midlands Counter Terrorism Policing also held a 32-year-old man in Leicestershire as part of the same operation.

All four men were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism under section 41 of the Terrorism Act (TACT) 2000 and remain in police custody.

Four addresses in the capital are being searched as part of the investigation.

Piccadilly Line upgrade paused

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Piccadilly Line train
PA Media

A Piccadilly Line upgrade that would allow more trains on the line has been paused because of strain on Transport for London’s (TfL) budget amid the coronavirus pandemic, the mayor has confirmed.

The planned signalling upgrade, along with new trains, will increase capacity on the line by 60% – and earlier this year, TfL boss Mike Brown described it as the network’s “number one priority”.

But it is now on hold – as are repairs to Hammersmith Bridge and the Bakerloo line extension to Lewisham.

Planning for the Sutton tram extension, the Crossrail Two line that would link Surrey and Hertfordshire to the city centre, and a planned cycling and walking bridge over the Thames at Rotherhithe has also been paused.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said speeding up the Piccadilly Line would be vital for the capital – but cannot go ahead “until we’ve resolved the finances”.

“It would increase the frequency of trains. Even with Heathrow as it is now, forget a new runway three, it would increase capacity hugely so we need it but that’s paused,” he said.

“Those capital projects where we’re contractually obliged to follow through, we’re going to follow through,” the mayor told a meeting of the London Assembly’s budget scrutiny committee on Tuesday.

Work of photographer killed in Grenfell goes on display

Local Democracy Reporting Service

In the summer of 2017, young photographer Khadija Saye was exhibiting her work at the Venice Biennale – one of the world’s most prestigious shows.

She was selected to show work exploring her Gambian-British identity and it was shown alongside work by established artists such as Isaac Julien and Yinka Shonibare.

A few weeks later the Hammersmith-born photographer died in the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower.

She lived on the 20th floor of the tower block, along with her mother Mary Mendy, who also died that night.

Much of her work perished with her. The year after her death two of her photos were sold by auction house Christie’s to raise money for a foundation in her name.

Now her surviving work is going on display in a gallery near her home.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic the curators had to be creative and Khadija’s work fills the windows of the building at 236 Westbourne Grove.

The show is the first of the Breath is Invisible installations at the building in Notting Hill which run until 9 October.

David Lammy, who was friends with her, launched the show saying that “despite these tough times” the show “celebrates the importance of the art, celebrates the importance of diversity and absolutely puts square our future and our young people”.

“Khadija was a tender, gentle and creative soul, on the cusp of something special in her artistic career when her life was tragically cut short,” he said.

Cash boost for London artist studios announced by mayor

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Sadiq Khan has pledged a £1.6m cash boost to help 82 London artist studios struggling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The work spaces are home to almost 11,500 creatives including painters, musicians and dancers, and are spread across 18 London boroughs.

Some 80% of the organisations benefitting from the mayor’s support are led by women, black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), LGBT or disabled people.

Finance and media company Bloomberg is providing some of the cash through its charitable arm, and the fund will be delivered by the Creative Land Trust, a social enterprise addressing the loss of creative spaces.

One in six London jobs is in the creative industries, and the sector contributes £58bn to the capital’s economy each year.

But it has been hit hard by Covid-19, with performance venues and galleries shut under lockdown rules. The industry has lost £16.3bn because of the virus, and 150,000 jobs are now at risk, according to City Hall research published this week.

On Monday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced £1.6bn to support Britain’s cultural institutions – amid fears that even the biggest organisations, like the National Theatre, in Lambeth, or the Royal Albert Hall, in Kensington, were running out of cash.

Government funding will also help smaller venues – but freelancers and self-employed creatives, who have not been eligible for the furlough scheme, have missed out.

Artist studios have also been hit on business rates – co-working spaces are classed as a single organisation when calculating rateable value, and many in London sit above the £50,000 ceiling for tax relief, even though they house multiple micro-businesses.

Mr Khan said the city's “unparalleled” cultural industries must be protected for the future.

“I’m delighted that through our fund we are helping to ensure that thousands of our talented artists still have a place to work, so that they can play their part in our city’s recovery,” he said.

John Lewis to close four London stores

Getty Images

John Lewis is shutting down eight stores, putting 1,300 jobs at risk.

John Lewis said it had to "secure the business's long-term future and respond to customers' shopping needs".

The Watford department store will not reopen and the John Lewis At Home store in Croydon will also shut down, as will travel sites at Heathrow airport and London St Pancras.

Domestic abuse advocacy scheme shortlisted for award

Local Democracy Reporting Service

A Hackney service that advocates for domestic violence victims has been shortlisted for a Health Service Journal Patient Safety Award in recognition of its outstanding contribution to healthcare.

The Primary Care Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) Liaison Service is a nurse-led scheme jointly run since 2015 between City and Hackney clinical commissioning group, Hackney Public Health and the Homerton’s Safeguarding Children Team.

The service was singled out for its “ambition, visionary spirit and the demonstrable positive impact the project has had on patient and staff", and is being held up as an example of an effective collaboration across organisations, built on trusting relationships and sound understanding of diverse communities.

Marcia Smikle, head of safeguarding children, said: “We are delighted to have been shortlisted for the patient safety award recognising the collaborative efforts and dedication of our team over the last 36 months to successfully deliver the Primary Care MARAC Liaison Service.

“We are committed to delivering improved outcomes for victims of domestic abuse, and to be chosen among the other incredible nominees is a wonderful achievement.”

Primary Care MARAC liaison nurse Jessica Woods added: “This nomination has been a tremendous boost to safeguarding colleagues and we are sure it will bolster our continued efforts to improve our services locally.”

Mayor attacked over tree planting record

Sam Francis

BBC News, London

Primrose Hil

Sadiq Khan has been criticised after it was revealed he has only planted 14% of the two million trees promised during his election campaign to become Mayor of London.

Between May 2016 and March 2020 just over 287,000 trees have been planted using mayoral funding.

Though the pledge to plant two million trees was not in his manifesto Mr Khan announced the target in a newspaper interview about his plans to tackle air pollution in London and later tweeted his promise in the run-up to the 2016 mayoral election.

Shortly after taking office the pledge was dropped in favour of a plan to "increase tree coverage by five per cent by 2025" - the equivelent of more than 400,000 trees.

Central London boroughs saw the smallest increase in trees, with City of London receiving 819 over four year, while Westminster received 1,451 and Kensington and Chelsea received 1,528.

Conservative candidate for mayor of London, Shaun Bailey said: Sadiq Khan has failed to deliver on his pledge to plant two million trees by 2020, just as he has failed Londoners on transport and law and order.

"This is yet another example of PR man Khan putting press releases before policy, and Londoners won’t forget yet another marketing exercise gone wrong.

"Khan’s failed trees pledge shows how chaotic his management of City Hall has become."

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “In his manifesto Sadiq pledged to embark on a major tree-planting programme across London, and that is what he’s delivered.

"Since 2016 the Mayor has supported the planting of over 280,000 trees in London.

"This is over 100,000 more trees than the previous Mayor managed to planted over his entire two terms."

data pic

Stormzy's surprise paint job for Croydon teen's bedroom

BBC London

Imagine being a teenager and finding Stormzy in your house when you get home from school.

That’s what happened to 15-year-old Ishae from Croydon.

The rapper was there to help decorate his bedroom as part of a “give back” scheme run by decorating company The Good Guys.

The musician also talked about why he'd been cheering at the recent Black Lives Matter protests in London, saying: "One thing I really want this movement to do is show what it means to be black."

He said the protests showed a real pain, adding: "This ain't some sort of trend, this is real life and this has been our reality for hundreds, thousands of years."

Film by Tarah Welsh and David Faye

London's weather: Cloudy and drizzly

BBC Weather

Today is expected to start largely cloudy and dull with occasional patchy light rain or drizzle at times.

As the day progresses into the afternoon there will be dry and bright periods. Gentle winds.

Maximum temperature: 18 to 21°C (64 to 70°F).

Exhibition to explore British links with the Caribbean

Tate Britain

An exhibition exploring Britain's relationship with the Caribbean, and an exhibition examining the work of sculptor Rodin will go on show at Tate galleries in London.

Britain And The Caribbean will span Windrush to the present day and open at Tate Britain next year. It has been in the planning over recent years and will celebrate artists from the Caribbean who made Britain their home and later British artists whose work addresses Caribbean themes and heritage.

Highlights of Tate Modern's programme for 2021 include solo exhibitions of US painter Philip Guston and Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, while a theatrical exhibition by the Turner Prize-winning artist Lubaina Himid will also go on show.

Tate plans to reopen all four of its galleries - Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives - on 27 July.

Stormzy paints teenager's bedroom

Rapper Stormzy picks up a brush in 'give back' scheme
Imagine being a teenager and finding Stormzy in your house when you get home from school. 
That’s what happened to 15-year-old Ishae from Croydon.
The rapper was there to help decorate his bedroom as part of a “give back” scheme run by decorating company The Good Guys.
The musician also talked about why he'd been cheering at the recent Black Lives Matter protests in London: "One thing I really want this movement to do is show what it means to be black."
He said the protests showed a real pain: "This ain't some sort of trend, this is real life and this has been our reality for hundreds, thousands of years."
Film by Tarah Welsh and David Faye

Two offices for Mayor of London to save money

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Sadiq Khan will have two offices under plans to move City Hall to Newham – one at his new East London base, and a second in the city centre.

But most GLA staff will work two or three days a week from home on average, under the proposals.

The Mayor wants to move City Hall from its £43 million base beside Tower Bridge to the Crystal in Canning Town to save £55 million over five years.

Mr Khan would have a second office at TfL’s Southwark base, Palestra, to accommodate frequent meetings in central London, including at New Scotland Yard.

The Mayor’s chief of staff David Bellamy revealed the plans at a meeting of the London Assembly yesterday.

The current rent on City Hall is £11.1 million a year, rising to £12.6 million a year from December 2021.

But by moving to the GLA-owned Crystal the Mayor will save £55 million over the next five years,.

Chief finance officer David Gallie said he was “very confident” of the figure, but admitted savings in the next two financial years would be “limited”.

Soho residents have mixed feelings over packed streets

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Soho on Saturday night
Getty Images

Soho residents have mixed feelings about the events of Saturday night after images of packed streets and drunken antics filled the news.

Parts of the West End were pedestrianised over the weekend to allow restaurants and bars to put tables and chairs in the streets from 17:00 to 23:00, with inspiration taken from continenatal outdoor-dining culture.

The morning after, the internet was awash with criticism that coronavirus would have easily spread through crowds of drinkers who were failing to social distance.

Some of the 3,000 people who live in the flats above Soho’s bars and shops now feel a combination of anger and ambivalance.

Tim Lord, chair of the Soho Society residents group, said we “can’t have the chaos again that we saw on Saturday.

“There was not enough marshalling... There needs to be a way of making it street dining rather than a street party. If they can’t, the whole thing might have to be pulled.”

Retired theatre actor Derek Burgess, who lives by Carnaby Street, thought there needed to be more police with "heavy fines for people who don’t social distance when they have been asked",

Adam Middleton, of Wardour Street, said “it felt like residents had been forgotten about. It was scary, I didn’t want to leave my flat".

Meanwhile, 84-year-old Debbie Smith, of Old Compton Street, said jokingly: “I’ve lived here 50 years, it was much worse in the 1960s. Yes it was very busy, and noisy to live next to. But heavens, what do you expect?”

Her neighbour Richard Torry, a knitwear designer and musician, said: “It was worse after 23:00 when they let the cars back in. All the people were suddenly herded together".

Nicholas, from Frith Street, said he felt "sorry for the restaurants because I think it would make more sense to pedestrianise the streets through the whole day”.

West End Labour councillor Pancho Lewis said Saturday’s events were “clearly very bad news for attempts to restrict the virus”.

The council was approached for comment on whether it will deploy more marshalls next weekend to disperse crowds, but it did not respond to that point.

A spokesperson said: “While the majority of businesses reopening across the city this weekend did so successfully and safely we are aware of isolated incidents of crowding in parts of Soho.

"We are working with businesses in the area to ensure that they are operating responsibly and implementing the social distancing guidance that the council has provided."

The council did not respond when asked if there are any businesses who it is planning to take enforcement action against.

No trains to run through Hither Green for nine days

No trains will run through Hither Green, in south-east London, for nine days at the end of the month due to engineering works, Network Rail has revealed.

The Sidcup, Grove Park and Bromley North lines will be closed beteen 25 July and 2 August to complete a signalling upgrade.

Buses will replace trains between Lewisham, Sidcup and Orpington, while trains on other routes will be retimed or diverted.

Fiona Taylor, the route director, Kent, said the current signalling system had been in place since the 1970s and was "old, unreliable, and becoming more difficult to source spare parts and maintain".

“We are extremely grateful to people for their patience in these difficult times. When this vital upgrade is complete, it will provide a more reliable and resilient railway for passengers in South East London for decades to come," she added.

Uber to launch London boat service

A Thames Clipper passenger riverboat service heads towards downrive
Getty Images

Uber is to launch a commuter boat service in London through a partnership with river bus operator Thames Clippers.

The minicab hailing app lost its licence to operate in London in 2017 but has been granted extended permission to operate while it challenges the decision through the courts.

TfL announced in November last year that it considered Uber "not fit and proper" to hold a operator's licence.

Uber's regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood, said: "Many Londoners are looking for new ways to travel around the city, particularly when they start commuting back to work.

"Later this summer we will launch the Uber Boat by Thames Clippers in London as a means for people to arrange travel on the river and road, all through the Uber app."

Branded vessels will operate on the River Thames between Putney and Woolwich later this summer.

It will be Uber's first permanent commuter boat service and will be bookable via its app.

Thames Clippers co-founder and chief executive Sean Collins said: "The new partnership sees Thames Clippers and Uber, who both pride themselves on safety, reliability and comfort, come together.

"It will allow us to link the two travel modes of river and road, providing Londoners and visitors with even more options to commute, visit, explore and enjoy our city by river."

Jobs loss threat at Croydon Council over budget shortfall

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Up to 200 people could lose their jobs at Croydon Council as the authority faces a £65 million shortfall in its budget.

In May, an independently chaired Finance Review Panel was set up by Croydon Council to make decisions on immediate measures to save money.

Now council leader Tony Newman has revealed that a 45- day consultation process on potential redundancies in Croydon has been launched.

Emails have been sent out to all members of staff in teams that could see job losses.

Croydon Council employs more than 6,000 people, including in schools.

7/7 passenger rescue 'impossible' if Tube trains were driverless

The Mayor of London has suggested that, if the capital had driverless trains, "brave Tube drivers" would not have been present to guide people to safety after the 7/7 bombings.

Sadiq Khan said passengers had been walked out of "deep Tube lines" after the terror attacks 15 years ago, something that "wouldn't have been possible" if trains were without drivers.

His comments come after the Prime Minister said driverless trains should be a condition of a future bailout of Transport for London (TfL).

Speaking to Eddie Nestor's Drivetime show on BBC Radio London yesterday, the mayor argued that Boris Johnson would have to address safety concerns and spend "a huge amount of money" to make changes to tracks, trains and signalling.

He said: "Boris Johnson should know from his experience as mayor that to have driverless trains in London over and above the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) that we've got would take billions and billions of pounds because we've got to change the signalling, we've got to change the tracks, we've got to change the trains for them to be driverless but also there is a real safety issue here in relation to most of our Tubes are deep Tube trains."

Referring to the 7/7 attacks, Mr Khan added: "Actually what we saw on that day was brave Tube drivers walking out passengers on the deep tube lines in many of those lines.

"If these trains were driverless that wouldn't have been possible."

Police car 'damaged' during 999 Brixton callout

Damaged car
Met Police

An unmarked police car was covered in white paint while responding to an emergency call providing help to someone "in a mental health crisis" in Brixton on Saturday.

The vehicle is part of the Crisis Assessment Team which is deployed across the south London area and consists of officers working alongside mental health professionals from South London and Maudsley NHS Trust responding to incidents involving mental health.

But, the Met said while attending a call between 20:10 and 20:50 at Leicester House, on Loughborough Road - officers were told that white paint had been thrown onto the vehicle.

It follows an incident in recent weeks where metal bolts were thrown at a marked police vehicle at the same location.

Sgt Terry Collman said the damaged car is now "unserviceable" and will have an impact on how the Met deals with mental health cases in the south London area.

He said: “Damage to police property, such as this, is quite literally reducing the level of service that local people can access."