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PLANET CLANGER: Soup Dragon or Soup Kitchen?

By Emma Dent Coad
Living Wage Week is 3 to 9 November, and to mark the occasion we decided to put a Motion to Council (again) on the London Living Wage.
Let’s put this in perspective. Kensington and Chelsea Council is allegedly the richest Council in the UK, if not in Europe. Once Native Land has paid off the last instalment of ‘blood money’ for the sale of Holland Park School southern site we will have cc£220m in Reserves. Yes, we sold off playing fields to developers to build piggy-banks, oops I mean super-prime flats, if you believe Simon Jenkins quite possibly to international money launderers. Our Revenue underspends are confidently predicted to be at least £10m again at year end, but this will not - abso-blimmin-lutely NOT - be mobilised to support residents who may need their Council to help them after a lifetime of paying Council Tax. No you sillies, it will be shovelled into our 100% funded Pension Fund. 
Because in the ‘Royal’ borough, 100% will never be enough.
And this in a borough where Food Banks are so stretched that they are rationed so users can only go three times max. This in a borough where in some schools children start aged 5 with dental problems – not due to eating sweeties but early stage rickets – and others arrive in the morning hungry – not due to parental neglect, but genuine poverty. Breakfast clubs are an essential, not a luxury.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is no excuse, none whatever, for such depths of poverty in the richest borough in Europe.
Golborne Ward is still the joint most deprived ward in London with Northumberland Park in Haringey, and the beautifully pimped Council estate Henry Dickens Court in soon-to-be-Notting Dale ward suffers 60% child poverty, worse than the Gorbals, with adult educational attainments about as low as you can get. Neither Glasgow City nor Haringey Council have stuffed their spare cash under the mattress while children go hungry as they do in the ‘Royal’ Borough. The lack of empathy, responsibility and remorse borders on psychopathy.
No, in the ‘Royal’ borough it is a question of priorities, and we certainly heard a shameful catalogue of those in relation to our Motion on the London Living Wage. To give just one example, OCS cleaning staff who work on Council estates in the ‘Royal’ borough are paid just £7.15/hour, less than minimum wage of £7.45/hour, while the London Living Wage, which the GLA and countless London Councils and organisations subscribe to, is £8.55/hour. For many, this is the difference between nutritious food on the table and getting the bus to work, or inadequate food for the family and an hour’s walk to work before putting in an eight-hour day of manual labour, and an hour’s walk home. No wonder staff sickness and absenteeism is a problem; this can be reduced by 25% on the introduction of the LLW.
So how did our Tories react to our Motion? To be fair, some looked at their feet and I can only imagine were ashamed, as they should be. And one did whisper in my ear afterwards, ‘London Living Wage will come sometime’ (when BoJo is our MP?), which is ‘something’ but means precisely nothing to families whose children are hungry NOW. None spoke out. A sole Cabinet Member was put forward to reject the Motion, stating that ‘for many this would be a second job’ or ‘a family may have two earners’, or ‘these things are best left to the market’. So, YOU KENSINGTON LADIES may not be able to earn more than pin money while hubby earns a proper living, but don’t worry dears, the market will look after you.
Or possibly not.
Elsewhere in Cloud Cuckoo-land, or Planet Clanger, national Tories were equally making fools of themselves, either deliberately, or in ignorance, or more shamefully because they had been told to. So Energy Sec Ed Davey said – while he would never suggest such a thing to others – that at home he puts on a jumper to save fuel. Which might help if you’ve turned the thermostat down a tad in a cosy insulated home, but is no damn good if your living room barely reaches 14C, which is quite common with some residents I know. If your home is that cold, and damp, no amount of jumpers, shawls and fur slippers will fight off the bone-chilling misery.
Also in Planet Clanger, Jeremy Hunt said we should go Japanese and take in our wrinklies, never mind that under Tory policy they would never be accepted as part of the family and be eligible to be housed with them; I have current casework on this precise issue. Similarly their policy to remove Housing Benefit from under 25s ‘who should go home to their Mummies and Daddies’ is contradictory while under Tory policy children over 18 are not considered dependents.
Like, derr?
Blunder-prone Michael Gove’s SPAD (I have an unprintable definition of that acronym) equally stupidly said that success is down to DNA and not to education, and I can’t say publicly what I think about that comment either, except that it demolishes aspiration in one ill-informed sentence.
Let’s be frank, the Cabinet are not a good advertisement for selective mating.
Let’s not forget the fount of all wisdom, the PM Dave Cameraman, one week telling people to ‘shop around for the best deal’ for dual fuel, and the next week, after formerly ‘cheap’ British Gas had hiked their prices, telling people to ‘find a small supplier’. So what happens if everyone leaves British Gas and they go broke, can they sue Cameraman?
Then of course there are the goal-post-moving badgers – damn the blighters.
Well, the return of the Clangers and of ‘foot in mouth disease’ has come at the perfect time for us in Kensington and Chelsea as we power towards local elections in May next year. It seems many of our residents will be expected to rely upon the Soup Dragon for crater soup or blue string pudding, or failing that soup kitchens and Red Cross food parcels.
 Emma Dent Coad is a  Labour Councillor for the Golborne Ward. She has her own blog at http://emmadentcoad.blogspot.com
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