Celebrating 90 years of the Becontree Estate

Archive for November, 2011

Celebrating 90 years of the Becontree Estate

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

This month marks the 90th anniversary of the Becontree Estate, and recently we celebrated with a fantastic tea party at Becontree Children’s Centre. Elderly residents who have lived on the estate all their lives came to share their memories, and young children growing up there today sang for us. One lady had lived on the estate since the 1920s! She was 96 and her grandchildren now have their own grandchildren.

They had the most fascinating stories. Apparently the London County Council refused to put telephone lines in because they thought telephones were too much of a luxury for the working class!

They also made sure every house had a garden because they thought it would stop people spending so much time in the pub! They even awarded prizes for the best kept gardens. Every house had a privet hedge at the front and there was a squad of gardeners whose job it was to make sure they all stayed the same height.

And the reason Valence Avenue is wider than all the other streets is that a tram used to run down there while the estate was being built.

The estate was built between 1921 and 1932, to provide ‘homes for heroes’ who had fought in World War 1, and a better life for families living in the East End slums.

It was hugely ambitious; the largest council housing estate of its time in Europe. Even today it is one of the largest estates of its kind in the world.

By the late 1920s between 2,000 and 4,000 houses were being built every year. Many of the people who lived on the estate worked in the factory at Fords.

Compare that to today. We are crying out for that kind of investment in affordable housing. And we badly need more new jobs, particularly for our young people.

If I were Prime Minister, I would launch a massive house building programme, of 350,000 new homes across the country, half of which would be affordable homes to rent. This would create jobs that we so badly need and help kick-start our economic recovery.

I’ve been campaigning hard to get the Government to see the potential that Barking Riverside has to offer. It could provide 10,800 more homes. 4 out of 10 would be affordable. It is our best hope of providing the homes we need for families in the borough.

I’ve had one big success recently: at the last Election I campaigned for homes for today’s heroes, young men and women who have risked their lives for our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m really pleased that the Council is now giving them top priority.

But we need to do so much more. Times may have changed. But we need to rekindle the vision and ambition that once saw us build the Becontree Estate, still standing 90 years on.

It’s sheer madness to close services at King George

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

This morning I used an emergency debate in Parliament to slam the Government’s decision to go ahead with the closure of the A&E and maternity units at King George Hospital.

The announcement of the decision came on the same day that the Care Quality Commission published a damning report say that Queens Hospital cannot cope and that mothers and babies are at risk in the maternity unit.

It is sheer madness to go ahead with closing these services.

Queens currently has around 7,500 births a year. If this goes ahead there could be as many as 9,000. That would make it the biggest maternity unit in the whole country.

And it’s not just the maternity unit where there are terrible problems, it’s the A&E, and radiology where scans are sitting around even where there is the possibility that someone could have cancer so lives are being put at risk.

The Government is putting far too much faith in hospital management. It is going to take a lot more than new management to sort out these problems.

And while Queens is failing to deliver, a brand new facility is standing empty at Barking Hospital. The new maternity beds at Barking Hospital have been ready since March but the latest I’ve been told is that it won’t open until next Spring. That’s not good enough.

I want an assurance from the Government that Barking Hospital will be open not next year but by Christmas.

And it’s time we did something about the terrible health inequality we have in London. If King George goes, Queens will serve 500,000 people, whereas most inner London hospitals in richer areas have a catchment area of just 200,000. That’s not fair.

I would like to see the Government make a bold move and transfer the services from one of those inner London teaching hospitals, like the Royal Free which has crumbling old buildings, out to Queens to tackle both the quality of care and financial problems we have there.

You can watch the full debate here.