Ickenham

England, United Kingdom

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Council defends spending millions on consultants

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Kingston council has spent more than £4.3m on employing consultants to help out with its services.

In a Freedom of Information Request sent by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, it was revealed the council had spent £4,356,347 on employing consultants between 2017 and 2019.

The department which spent the most on consultants was regeneration and strategic housing, totalling £1,764,929 in the period.

The biggest regeneration plan the borough has at the moment is on the Cambridge Road Estate.

This will be subject to a residents’ ballot, starting next week to decide if the estate should be demolished and replaced with new homes.

It will run from 24 February to 18 March and will be independently run by Civica Election Services, formerly known as the Electoral Reform Society, and will open to eligible residents on the estate.

The council’s highest yearly spend on consultants was in 2017, totalling £2,183,176. However, this dropped to £921,559 in 2019, less than half than the amount spent in 2017.

A spokesperson for Kingston council said: “The council has undertaken a large and competitive procurement exercise which required specialist skills that the council does not hold on a permanent basis during the period 2017-19.

“The expertise from these procured resources centered around the redevelopment plans for the Cambridge Road Estate, which is key priority in our Corporate Plan and will bring forward a significant level of investment into the borough and deliver over 2,000 new warmer homes, including increased council homes, additional community facilities and public spaces.”

Green mayoral candidate launches campaign

Susana Mendonca

BBC Radio London Political Reporter

Canning Town freezer bodies: Murder trial date set

Henriett
Met Police

A man accused of murdering two women who were found dead in a freezer faces trial in April.

Zahid Younis, 35, is charged with the murders of Henriett Szucs, 34, and Mihrican Mustafa, 38, and two counts of preventing the lawful and decent burial of a body.

The bodies of Hungarian national Ms Szucs and mother-of-three Ms Mustafa were discovered by police in a flat in Canning Town, east London, on 26 April 2019.

Mr Younis, of Vandome Close, Canning Town, appeared at the Old Bailey via video-link from Wandsworth jail for a hearing before Mr Justice Edis on Tuesday.

Mr Justice Edis confirmed he would be the trial judge and hear the case at Kingston Crown Court.

The case would be scheduled to start on 14 April and last for up to five weeks.

The defendant was remanded in custody

‘Lack of trust’ sees arts venue selling just 26% of tickets

Inside Croydon

The costs of refurbishing the Fairfield Halls rose by another £1.6million in just five months since it re-opened last September – and there could be many millions more to add to the price tag of the council-owned arts venue.

Full story

Strike action planned for Balerloo tube line

Staff working on the Bakerloo line are planning to strike from Friday.

London Underground sign
PA Media

Members of the RMT union will take action over a new timetable from 10:00 GMT on Friday until Monday evening.

The Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines will also be closed in central London this weekend for testing of the new signalling system.

"Vital work on the Bank station upgrade" will be taking place on the Northern line which will prevent travel between Moorgate and Kennington.

The Transport for London website has more details of alternative arrangement.

Love for London's firefighters from Koko

The owner of Camden music venue Koko has expressed his gratitude to the firefighters who saved the building from a blaze last month with a huge Valentine's day facade.

Olly Bengough, founder of KOKO and Simon Tuhill, Borough Commander, L.F.B gather outside Koko, London
PA Media

Olly Bengough invited firefighters to see the artwork and park their fire engines in front of the building.

"We owe so much to London Fire Brigade's swift and courageous response, which prevented the fire from spreading and saved the main theatre.

Eight engines and 60 firefighters tackled the blaze after receiving an emergency call.

The building's 120-year-old copper dome was destroyed but the feature saved the building from more extensive damage by acting as a chimney and funnelling the fire up through the roof.

A £40m redevelopment of the theatre will see the copper dome rebuilt to include an immersive cocktail bar.

Koko has hosted a range of stars including the Rolling Stones and Madonna.

Sister's plea to find brother missing for more than 30 years

Ian Bushell
Met Police
Police have issued an e-fit of what missing Ian Bushell may look like now

The sister of a man from Thamesmead who went missing more than 30 years ago is appealing for help to find him.

Ian Bushell was last seen by his father Wilton on 20 January 1988 when he was aged 21.

When Wilton next visited Ian’s flat just weeks later on 16 February there was no answer at the door and he let himself in.

There was no trace of Ian despite the rest of his possessions, including his clothes, wallet and keys all being in the house

Ian’s father immediately reported his son as missing to police and enquiries were made to try and find him.

Despite numerous appeals for information, Ian – who would have been 54 today – has never been found.

His sister Rosalind said: “I was only 16 when my big brother went missing and I have thought of him every day for the last 32 years.

“My dad passed away two years later and my mother in 2010, so now it is just me.

“I have no other siblings and would give anything to have my big brother back home or find out what happened to him.”

Storm Dennis: Yellow warning for most of London

Elizabeth Rizzini

BBC London weather

Currently there is a Met Office yellow warning out for the capital valid from 10:00 tomorrow to 23:59 on Sunday.

Keep an eye on the flood warnings from Environment Agency.

Heaviest of the rain is expected on Sunday but rain amounts will build through the weekend - for many it will just be continuous pretty much all weekend.

In terms of comparison to Storm Ciara last weekend there will be more rain and not quite so windy, again fairly prolonged pretty much all weekend.

It will be drier by Sunday evening but still very windy into the start of next week.

Keep up to date with the weather where you are

Khan: 'Government in chaos' ahead of Budget

Sadiq Khan
Getty Images

The Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, says the resignation of the chancellor just weeks before the Budget shows the “government is in chaos”.

Speaking at an affordable housing development in Peckham, Mr Khan tells BBC London he is "sad" at the decision of Sajid Javid to step down, saying he understood the reasons why London needed more investment and had been "receptive" when he lobbied him ahead of the budget.

“On a personal level I am disappointed," he says. "Sajid is one of the ministers I’ve known for some time. Both of us coming from similar backgrounds, his dad being a bus driver and mine obviously.

“But actually what it shows is a government in chaos. They won an election on 12 December. They’ve got a decent majority and they’re in chaos.

"The chancellor is arguably the most important job in the cabinet other than the prime minister and here we have it, literally a few weeks before the Budget, the chancellor’s resigned.

"But it just shows the chaos in this government.”

Live: Reaction at shock resignation of Sajid Javid amid Cabinet reshuffle

Pathology labs merger could prompt job cuts

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Jobs could be cut under plans to transfer all but essential services from Homerton Hospital’s pathology labs to the Royal London, health bosses have revealed.

The future of the labs, which analyse blood and urine for diagnostic purposes, has been the focus of campaigns to keep them local for the past five years, with concerns raised over how factors such as speed and capacity will be maintained.

The services will be shared by the Homerton and two other NHS trusts, Barts Health and Lewisham & Greenwich, with a large lab at the Royal London dealing with ‘high volume’ tests with longer turnaround times.

Other hospitals within the network will retain ‘essential services’ labs for urgent tests within key areas like A&E.

It has not yet been revealed if the jobs to be lost from the Homerton’s services will be clinical posts, but Ralph Coulbeck, Barts’ strategy director, has now confirmed that job reductions will fall on essential services labs such as the Homerton’s.

Residents lose privacy appeal against Tate Modern

Tate Modern
BBC

Residents of flats overlooked by the Tate Modern have lost the latest round of their legal battle with the gallery at the Court of Appeal.

The owners of four flats in the Neo Bankside development on London's South Bank took legal action in a bid to stop "hundreds of thousands of visitors" looking into their homes from the Tate's viewing platform.

They applied for an injunction requiring the gallery to prevent members of the public observing their flats by "cordoning off" parts of the platform or "erecting screening", to stop what they said was a "relentless" invasion of their privacy.

But the board of trustees of the Tate Gallery argued that the platform provides "a unique, free, 360-degree view of London" and said the claimants could simply "draw the blinds".

Announcing the court's decision, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton said: "The court has dismissed the appeal on the basis that overlooking does not fall within the tort of nuisance."

The judge added that the flat owners' application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court had been refused.

TfL to take over ferry service after delays

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Transport for London (TfL) will takeover the Woolwich Ferry, after “unacceptable” delays over the past year.

The free river crossing is currently run by Scottish contractor Briggs Marine on behalf of TfL.

It carries an estimated 2 million passengers across the Thames each year.

But since the arrival of new boats in February last year there have been serious disruptions to the service.

In the six months from February there were more than 600 hours of delays – equivalent to more than 26 full days’ service lost.

This compares to just two days’ disruption in the previous six months.

Sadiq Khan today said he “shares passengers’ frustration at the unacceptable closures they have faced over the past year”.

He said: “The Woolwich Ferry is an important part of London’s transport network.

“I am delighted that TfL is set to take over the contract – bringing a renewed focus on Londoners’ needs including better reliability and customer service.”

The ferry contract with Briggs expires at the end of next month, but TfL will extend its work with the contractor for up to a year while it moves the service in house.

A spokesperson for Briggs Marine said: “We welcome TfL’s extension to its current operating contract. The company looks forward to continuing close co-operation to ensure safe and effective transition of the operation to TfL.”

'I know that Angelo Ray won't be forgotten'
Valentina Daprile lost her son when he was eight days old. She and her husband donated his organs so another child could live.
Tate balcony teenager warned carers of plan to kill
A teenager who tried to kill a six-year-old boy by throwing him off the Tate Modern balcony warned his carers of his plans a year before.

Met ranks to rise to 33,000 by 2021 - Cressida Dick

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Dame Cressida Dick
Reuters

There will be 33,000 police officers in London by April next year, the head of the Met has said today.

Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said the force would reach 31,500 by spring, and 32,300 by early autumn this year.

Officer numbers in the capital began falling in 2016, and dipped below 30,000 two years ago – the first time since 2003.

Recruitment has since risen with cash from City Hall, with 31,000 officers now in place.

But the Mayor of London and the Met believe the capital needs an extra 6,000 police to tackle high violent crime.

There were more homicides in London last year than any year since 2008, and over 15,000 knife crimes.

Dame Cressida told the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee today that the Government’s police settlement would help the Met to reach next year’s 33,000 target.

The Commissioner said it was a “huge achievement” that between 350 and 450 officers were going through training at Hendon police college each month.