London's first openly gay Lord Mayor a 'role model'
Ian AdamsCopyright: Ian Adams
A former Westminster Lord Mayor has been named as one of the country’s top LGBT+ role models.
Ian Adams, who is now Westminster Council's lead member for the LGBT community, made it onto the OUTstanding LGBT+ Role Model List for 2020, for the third year running.
The list is made up of business leaders and those who judges found to be "breaking down barriers and creating more inclusive workplaces across the world."
Cllr Adams said: “As Lord Mayor and
now as Westminster City Council’s lead member for the LGBT community, I have
had a unique and privileged opportunity to highlight the huge contribution of
gay and transgender people.
He added: “I am very honoured - if that encourages people to help make a contribution in their own workplace, I’ll be even happier.”
Organisers say he was nominated for his work in promoting the equalities agenda both as a councillor and a senior NHS executive.
A socially-distant, open-air arts festival will soon be held in locations throughout the West End, in a further bid to kick start central London’s economy.
In a year when festivals of all varieties have been cancelled en masse, Inside Out Festival will feature performances, outdoor exhibitions and installations from the capital’s leading arts institutions.
Run by Westminster Council, Inside Out will be held between 1-4 October.
It will include:
A selection of open-air performances from West End musicals, the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, and the Royal Philharmonic Brass Ensemble
An open-air gallery on the National Gallery’s North Terrace on Trafalgar Square
The first ever Mayfair Sculpture Trail launched by Mayfair Art Weekend in partnership with local galleries
Light projections in celebration of new life, nature, and optimism onto Marble Arch by artist Claire Luxton
Light projections in Piccadilly Circus and Victoria by MTArt Agency artists Ben Cullen Williams and Lauren Baker
The Photographers’ Gallery hosting a free, open-air portrait studio, selfie booths and an exhibition of work produced by young people during lockdown
Street food traders at Berwick Street Market in Soho have been dismayed by Westminster Council’s decision to increase their rent by 20 per cent, and backdate it for three months.
The traders are among the thousands of businesses in the West End, large and small, that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday just three stalls had set up in the street compared to the 30 who were operating in January.
Robin Smith chairs the Berwick Street Traders’ Society, and is a co-founder of the Soho Dairy stall which began trading in 2015.
“We wrote to the council on 17 August to voice our concerns,” said the 59-year-old who lives in Gospel Oak, north London.
“We just can’t believe they are increasing our rent by 20 per cent, and for three months back to June, when 90 per cent of my trade has gone. It’s a disgrace.
“There has been hardly any revenue for six months, that’s why there’s nobody here. Companies are telling their staff to stay at home. The West End’s economy is dying.
“We’re going to fight this. This [the rent increase] isn’t going to stop us.”
Westminster Council said it has been investing in its markets by providing WiFi for traders, and said help is available to small businesses via its discretionary grants worth £10,000.
A council spokesman said: “Market traders in Westminster pay amongst the lowest fees in London.
“This increase in fees has allowed us to deliver waste-removal and street-cleaning services, as well as new social distancing measures to ensure markets can operate safely for both traders and customers.”
“Westminster is committed to investing in its markets and supporting traders."
Three West London boroughs have seen
only small increases in the number of recorded coronavirus cases since the
start of July, despite the easing of lockdown.
The boroughs of Westminster,
Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham, have seen increases of 3.3%, 2.3% and 1.6% respectively
As of Thursday, Westminster had a
running total of 895 confirmed cases. Kensington and Chelsea, with a much
smaller population, had 572 cases and Hammersmith and Fulham had 767.
It suggests Londoners have succeeded
in containing the spread of the virus by taking precautions such as wearing
masks, social distancing and working from home in order to keep transmission
However, health experts warn that the true number of cases in the community could be higher due to the limitations of Covid-19 testing.
Flourish StudioCopyright: Flourish Studio
Soho residents have mixed feelings over packed streets
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.
'Get your act together' over Oxford Street cycling, council told
City planners have been told to get their act together after abandoning the idea of creating a “pop-up” cycle lane through Oxford Street.
In late May, the Evening Standard quoted a Westminster Council spokesperson as saying Oxford Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly would get new “pop-up cycle lanes.”
On 10 June, the council then announced a “cycling revolution” in the West End, with eight new cycle routes along 11km of road.
However, Oxford Street did not appear in the list of eight, and no new cycling route has appeared, although pavements have been widened to the west of Portland Place.
West End Labour councillor Pancho Lewis said: “Westminster Council needs to get its act together and communicate clearly with cyclists.
“Thousands of cyclists rely on Westminster, as a central London local authority, to be clear about what its plans are, and when things like this happen it doesn’t inspire much confidence.
"We’ve got a unique opportunity to encourage more active forms of travel – not just cycling but walking too.
“However achieving this aim is reliant on the council having a clear plan and comms strategy.”
Simon Munk of the London Cycling Campaign said it was “very disappointing” that Oxford Street would no longer be included.
Asked why Oxford Street has not received a new cycle lane, a spokesman for the Conservative-run council said it is trying to make the shopping district “become cycle friendly”.
The spokesman added that the council is looking at ways to “reduce the number of vehicles, consolidate deliveries, and increase pedestrian space”, and that the area’s roads and walkways are constantly being updated as part of the council’s “post-lockdown movement strategy”.
Are public toilets open for shoppers?
As non-essential retailers reopen across England, questions remain about how shoppers will access toilets as restaurants are still shut and many public facilities remain closed.
The government has urged councils to open public toilets "wherever possible", and while many have plans in place, there are also areas where facilities will not be available.
Getty ImagesCopyright: Getty Images
Some councils we've heard from on this are:
Birmingham - where toilets will not open until next month
Liverpool - where a "limited number" of public loos are available
Westminster - where all facilities excluding Broadwick Street and Soho are open
York - where all facilities are open
A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: "Councils will be taking individual local decisions about public toilets based on a risk assessment and whether social distancing measures can be maintained."
A “masterpiece" of craftsmanship originally built as offices for a train company is to be transformed into a 526-bedroom luxury hotel.
Westminster Council’s planning committee has given the green light for Blue Orchid Hotels to transform the 10-storey office block at The Broadway above St James’s Station.
The building was hailed by councillor James Spencer as “one of the most important buildings in terms of Art Deco design work in London and quintessentially British Art Deco.”
The “landmark” 1929 grade I-listed building was designed by Charles Holden as the headquarters for the Underground Electric Railways of London Ltd – with the Tube line running below.
The firm was taken into public ownership and became London Transport in 1933 – the precursor to Transport for London which sold the long lease for the building last summer for £120m – with the last office workers leaving earlier this year.
The council said the building has “exceptional architectural interest” and is a showcase of work by some of the top names in inter-war British sculpture.
It has 10 avant-garde style sculptures carved into the Portland stone around the outside of the building by artists including Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill and Henry Moore.
A mural by an internationally renowned artist which would have decorated the wall of an art supply shop has been rejected after the design was described as “an affront to the senses” and the owners were told to go back to the drawing board.
The Mercers’ Company commissioned internationally renowned graphic artist Rob Lowe, known as Supermundane, to come up with an advert for the wall of the London Graphic Centre in Mercer Street which it wanted to keep there for two years.
According to the South London based artist’s website his signature geometric images “play with line, colour and optical effects”.
His clients include Great Ormond Street Hospital, Arts Council England, V & A, Penguin, Liberty of London and Leeds train station.
He also created designs for the British Red Cross’s Kindness Will Keep Us Together campaign.
Diners can also see his work at Soho restaurant and bar, Bob Bob Cite, and he has exhibited internationally as far afield as New York, Tokyo and Belgium.
The 14.4 x 15m geometric mural of interlocking designs the Mercers’ Company wanted to put up on the shop wall for two years also includes the words “Creativity is In All of Us”.
James Spencer who chaired Westminster council’s planning sub committee said: “They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is not doing it for me.
“I think it is an affront to the senses, this, especially as it is in a residential area. I agree with residents. I agree that two years is a long test time.”
However councillor Matt Noble said “I don’t share their utter dislike of it. I think there is a lot of artistic merit in the design.”
Council's richest residents to fund coronavirus charities
Money donated by Westminster richest residents is to be used to help local organisations manage the coronavirus epidemic.
A £250,000 special fund has been set up by the Westminster voluntary Community Contribution Fund - made up of donations from Westminster’s top-rate band H council tax payers - to allocate grants more quickly.
The fund has raised £1m since it was set up in March 2018 - the equivalent of a £63 contribution from Westminster's 15,910 top rate council tax payer.
The usual suggested amount for a donation from a band
H homeowner is just under £900 a year - matching the £896.42 council tax for a
property in that bracket.
However, the coronavirus crisis has sparked bigger
donations - with two recent contributions of nearly £9,000 and £10,000
Funds are collected and distributed by the City of
Westminster Charitable Trust. The Council supports in fundraising for the
Kensington and Chelsea and Surrey County Councils run similar schemes.
Cllr Rachael Robathan,
leader of Westminster City Council: said: “The community
contribution’s original priorities overlap with the kinds of issues we are
seeing as a result of Covid-19 - rough sleeping is shooting up and loneliness
among those self-isolating is widely recognised as a problem.
“There was an obvious need
to create a new fund aimed at our current unprecedented conditions which could
help as soon as possible."
London gets temporary mortuary to deal with Covid-19 deaths
A temporary mortuary has been built in central London in preparation for a predicted rise in the number of deaths from coronavirus.
Getty ImagesCopyright: Getty Images
The large white tent, next to Westminster Coroner’s Court in Horseferry Road, has capacity for 112 bodies.
Similar arrangements were made following the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017, in which 72 people were killed.
A Westminster Council spokesperson said: “This is a precautionary step and similar arrangements are made during any London wide response to incidents.
"We hope and trust that this will not be needed but it is sensible to prepare at this stage.”
As of 09:00 on Thursday, Westminster had 68 confirmed cases and Kensington and Chelsea had 55. Southwark is now the London borough with the most cases, at 70.
Council builds 200 new homes in central London
Westminster City CouncilCopyright: Westminster City Council
Westminster City Council has launched a new housing development in the heart of Paddington Basin, delivering 197 new homes.
Dudley House is a £104m council-led, mixed-use
development that "aims to encourage a more diverse
community in central London by tackling the critical shortage of affordable
housing in the City of Westminster", Westminster City Council said
Dudley house incorporates 197 council-owned residential in a modern residential
block, it added.
Cllr Rachael Robathan, said: “Just 2% of homes in our City are for those on average or ‘intermediate’ incomes.
We need to ensure that those who work here have a chance of living here - that
means people like the families, doctors and nurses who keep Westminster moving.
“Dudley House is an example of how a local authority,
working with partners, can build affordable and attractive properties in the
middle of a capital city with an intense crush on its housing stock and
"The City Council is leading an ambitious programme to deliver
1,850 affordable homes by 2023, and Dudley House is an important milestone in
The project also includes a new permanent home for
Marylebone Boys School, a church and a retail unit.
Crackdown on "rogue" motorised pedicabs in Westminster
Thirty "rogue" pedicabs fitted with adapted motors have been seized by police during a crackdown in the borough of Westminster.
Met Special Constabulary officers were deployed across central London including Oxford, Regent and Bond streets to "deter anti-social behaviour and any other related involving pedicabs".
Converted rickshaws have a power outage which requires them to be taxed, insured and registered. Drivers also need to have a driving licence.
In the past two months, prior to last Saturday’s operation, a further 35
rickshaws have been seized for having no insurance.
Acting Special Inspector, Geoff Tatman of the Met’s Vehicle
Enforcement Team, said: "This
weekend’s operation was aimed at targeting pedicabs, which have been fitted
with electric motors. The alteration results in their overall power outage and
speed being increased, and subsequently defines them as motor vehicles with the
requirement for appropriate documentation.
“We are determined to
keep the streets of central London safe for all, and this successful operation
demonstrates that those who choose to flout the law will be dealt with
Watch: How one borough helps London's rough sleepers
The streets of Westminster have some of the highest number of rough sleepers in the UK.
But, the borough council's outreach team is out every night of the year finding those people and offering them support to get them off the street, hopefully for good
BBC London spent the evening with Robert White, who leads Westminster's outreach team.