Standards going unchecked

Regulatory bodies are failing to fulfil their duties due to budget cuts and declining staff numbers, according to a new report.

The analysis investigated losses in regulatory enforcement capacity across food, the environment, health and safety, consumer protection, employee rights and local spaces.

Across the regulatory areas examined, average budgets had fallen 41% in real terms and staff numbers by over a third during the last decade.  This has led to an “enforcement gap which threatens to undermine the very rules which keep our society running properly”, the research claims.

According to the report, between 2009-2019 the Forestry Commission had its funding cut by 53%, while Local Authority spending on environmental and regulatory services fell 31%.  Funding at the Food Standards Agency fell 51%, while there was a 60% drop in manpower amongst Local Authority food standards staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The research claims that there was a 58% cut in funding at the Health and Safety Executive, a 49% cut in spending on Health and Safety by Local Authorities in England, and a 22% fall in fire and rescue staff in England during the same period.

The Enforcement Gap 2020 report has been published by Unchecked.uk, a project of The Ecology Trust, a grant-making charity which tackles the root causes of environmental and societal problems.  It was founded in 2019 and is supported by the JMG Foundation, The Kestrelman Trust and The Funding Network.

In a letter to The Times to coincide with publication of the report, twenty major organisations from across UK civil society warn that “steep reductions in inspections and monitoring of regulated businesses in recent years risks undermining the achievement of public policy objectives”.  The letter has been signed by organisations including Compassion in World Farming, Friends of the Earth, Mums for Lungs, the Royal Society for the Protection of Accidents, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the National Consumer Federation.

“The analysis we are publishing is alarming and is cause for serious national concern,” said Emma Rose of Unchecked.uk.

“With important regulators operating with on average 50% less funding than ten years ago, there is a need for a closer look at the state of our public protection infrastructure.

“As a country we believe in fair play, common standards, and everyone playing by the same rules – but the truth is, the people we rely on to enforce those rules are being hamstrung.”

Arnold Pindar, Chairman of the National Consumer Federation, said:

“We live in an increasingly complicated world, and we expect high standards – clean air, safe water, and better goods and safe products.  Strong enforcement is needed to bear down on high-risk suppliers and rogues, and keep us safe from harm.

“However, enforcement capacity has been cut back since the early 2000s, and Unchecked.uk’s research shows how serious this has become.  It confirms the major concerns highlighted by recent National Consumer Federation Congresses.

“This cannot carry on.”

New law to ensure ‘bare-bones service’ during transport strikes

The Evening Standard has published a story about new laws to ensure a minimum level of service is maintained during industrial disputes on public transport.

The article is based on comments made by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps about legislation likely to be included in The Queen’s Speech.

“It is a basic right for workers to be able to get to work,” Mr Shapps told the Standard.

“The ability of a few people to prevent anyone from being able to earn a living has come to an end. The new law will prevent London being brought to a standstill, with all the additional environmental damage done by people reverting to cars,” he said.

“There will be a bare-bones service provided, preventing ordinary workers being effectively held to ransom.”

The Queen’s Speech sets out the Government’s agenda and is given during the State Opening of Parliament which marks the start of the Parliamentary year.

Following the General Election, the State Opening of Parliament is due to take place on Thursday 19 December 2019.

TfL employees earning over £50k revealed in 984 page report

Transport for London (TfL) recently announced a £111m operating loss for the first half of 2019-20. Although this represents a deficit reduction of 40 per cent compared to the same period in 2018-19 it is still a substantial figure.

The Wanstead Post has been exploring information about employees earning over £50,000 which “reflects an accurate picture of senior staff in post as at 31 March 2019”. Some of the posts and the salaries they attract make interesting reading. In some cases there are several posts with the same job title and salary as well as other roles which seem to cover very similar areas. Please see below for examples:

Problem-Solving & Evaluation Manager – £50,000-£54,999

Ambience Delivery Manager – £50,000-£54,999

Ambience Inspector – £50,000-£54,999

Drug & Alcohol Assessment & Treatment Services Manager – £50,000-£54,999
(To advise the company on matters relating to Drugs & Alcohol Assessment and Treatment Services for employees of Transport for London)

Ambience Manager – £55,000-£59,999

Ambience Delivery Manager – £55,000-£59,000

Vegetation Contract Manager – £55,000-£59,000
(This role has responsibility for overseeing the delivery of Vegetation Management across an area of LU track infrastructure.)

People Management Advisor Specialist – £55,000-£59,000
(This role is responsible for applying expertise in the provision of advice and guidance to ensure TfL treats its people fairly and has good relationships based on openness, mutual trust and respect.)

Events Co-ordination Manager, Events Manager and Events Planning and Delivery Manager – all earning £50,000-£54,999

Head of TfL Events Team – £75,000-£79,000

Head of Experience – £75,000-£79,000

Head of Profession – £85,000-£89,999

According to the most recent Annual Workforce Monitoring Report, Transport for London (TfL) employs 27,453 people on a permanent basis. The full 984 page report of those earning over £50k can be found here: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/data-transparency-report-2018-19.pdf

General Election candidates

© Electoral Commission

The following candidates have been confirmed as standing for election as Member of Parliament for the Leyton & Wanstead constituency:

(Candidates listed alphabetically by surname)

John Cryer – Labour Party
Ashley Gunstock – Green Party
Zulf Jannaty – The Brexit Party
Noshaba Khiljee – Conservative Party
Henry Scott – Independent
Ben Sims – Liberal Democrat

Which underground line is the most polluted in London?

The Central Line is one of the most polluted underground lines in London according to research by the Financial Times.

The investigation measured fine particles – known as PM2.5 – which can penetrate into the lungs and have been linked to heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and respiratory infection.

Air in carriages on sections of the Central Line was 8 times above safe limits recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Other lines in the top 10 of the most polluted include the Northern, the Victoria, the Jubilee and the Bakerloo.

“Fine particles of dust, metal, skin and clothing fibre have built up in the tunnels over a century of use, leaving a toxic miasma that is stirred up by passing trains and inhaled by passengers,” according to the article by Camilla Hodgson, Leslie Hook and Steven Bernard.

Jenny Bates, an air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told the FT: “These are shocking, worrying findings. We know particulates are the most dangerous of the air pollutants. We must sort out this terrible level of bad aor. It’s absolutely essential for the health of anyone using the Tube.”

Read the full investigation by the Financial Times here.

Commuters express concern about proposed Central Line timetable changes

Transport for London (TfL) have announced changes to the Central Line timetable which are likely to impact services from Wanstead.

The changes were revealed in the following email to passengers sent on 29 October 2019:

Regular commuters immediately took to Twitter to express concern. The tweets prompted South Woodford Councillor Michael Duffell to request an urgent extraordinary meeting of the Redbridge Council Committee which scrutinises TfL.

Rory Stewart bids to be Mayor

The former Conservative Party leadership candidate Rory Stewart has announced a bid to be the next Mayor of London.

Mr Stewart has said he is standing down from his seat in the Commons and has resigned from the Tory Party.

“Our leaders have become so bad at listening to the people… Instead, they have retreated to a madhouse of mutual insults in the Gothic shouting chamber of Westminster, pitting one group against another – rich against poor, London against the rest, Brexit against Remain – and all the time getting further and further away from compromise, practical solutions, and the centre group. And this is why I’ve decided to stand, not for party, but as an independent,” he writes in an open letter to the Evening Standard.

Mr Stewart has run a humanitarian foundation in Afghanistan and served in the diplomatic service in Iraq.

Excessive noise levels prompt industrial action

Central Line drivers who are members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) will take industrial action next month following a dispute about noise levels.

The Jubilee, Central, Northern and Victoria lines are set to be affected after 95% of union members supported the action.

“It is appalling that RMT driver members have had to resort to a programme of industrial action in order to force London Underground to take the issue of excessive track noise seriously,” said Mick Cash, General Secretary of the RMT.

“This is an issue that impacts not only on our members but on the travelling public as well and the union is absolutely determined to ensure that the company don’t drag their feet for a moment longer.”

Drivers will “drive trains in manual mode at an appropriate reduced speed to mitigate the creation of excessive noise and to alleviate the distraction, discomfort and anxiety caused in the affected areas” claim the RMT.

Transport for London (TfL) have said that the health and safety of staff and customers are its “first priority” and that they have “already agreed to provide a broader range of ear protection to drivers who wish to use it alongside plans for longer-term solutions to this complex issue.”

Noise levels have been a problem on the Central Line for several years as reported by the Ilford Recorder in 2017 and The Wanstead Post in 2018.

The industrial action is due to start on Thursday 10 October 2019.

Meeting about expansion at London City Airport

A new date has been announced for the public meeting about expansion plans at London City Airport.

The event will now take place on Thursday 3 October 2019 between 19.00 and 21.00 at Wanstead Library.

A Draft Master Plan published by the Airport in June 2019 outlined plans including a change to the current cap on flights, an increase in the number of early morning and late evening flights and an end to the current 24-hour closure of the airport at the weekend.

A meeting organised by Cann Hall Area Residents in July included robust contributions from many of those affected by the airport and coincided with the launch of a campaign against the proposals by HACAN East.