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Council officers gifted expensive dinners and Ashes tickets

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Lord's Cricket Ground
PA Media

Westminster Council has defended its policy of allowing senior officers to accept gifts including expensive dinners at five-star hotels and Ashes tickets.

Between 2017 and 2019, council staff logged 240 records of individual gifts they received from property developers and other private companies. .

When councillors and MPs receive gifts, the details are made public on the council’s or Parliament’s, website for anyone to look at.

This does not apply to senior council officers, including those who run huge departments while earning six-figure salaries.

However Westminster Council has said it is “looking at” making this the case, in order to increase its transparency.

On 4 July last year, an officer from the council’s planning department was gifted a ticket worth £250 by Turley Associates to the New London Architecture Awards.

Turley Associates was also hired as a planning consultant for the 44 Lincoln’s Inn Fields development for LSE. And its website says the company helped by “securing planning permission on behalf of LSE”.

An officer from the planning department was also treated by FTSE 100 developer, British Land, to a £100 ticket to the Westminster Property Association Annual Dinner in April 2018.

Hosted at the London Hilton hotel in Park Lane, the glitzy networking event was attended by 600 members and guests, and saw a performance by comedian Josh Widdicombe.

There is no evidence of misconduct or that receiving these gifts influenced the decision making of Westminster Council officers in their work.

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Motorbikes could get green light on Brent bus lanes

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Motorcycles could be allowed to use all bus lanes throughout Brent following a successful trial along a main road.

Brent Council’s cabinet agreed to consult on the issue after positive feedback from a scheme in Harrow Road.

Motorbikes can use most bus lanes in the UK but there are occasions where riders are required to check specific signs.

A trial run along the bus lanes in Harrow Road ran from March 2018 to September 2019 and was praised by the council’s highways teams.

Cllr Krupa Sheth, responsible for the environment at Brent Council, said there were clear “positive outcomes” and that bus traffic “was not affected”.

A cabinet report noted that other advantages included fixing potholes in the bus lanes, so they were suitable for motorcycles.

The council will now consult with the public to see if the scheme should be implemented across the whole borough.

This would follow the lead of seven London boroughs who currently allow motorbikes to travel in all their bus lanes.

According to the report, it could also help contribute towards the Mayor of London’s ‘Vision Zero’, which seeks to eliminate deaths on the road by 2041.

'Sweet sculpture' of Andy Murray made ahead of art fair

Andy Murray
Wimbledon Art Fair

A statue of Andy Murray has been created with sweets to celebrate the opening of the 46th Wimbledon Art Fair, paying tribute to Wimbledon’s double champion.

Food artist and cake-maker to the Queen, Jacqui Kelly, sculpted the piece – dubbed Candy Murray.

The sculpture took four days to make and uses 672 Murray mints.

His head is sculpted from a light Genovese sponge filled with champagne cream and his body and tennis court are traditional Victoria sponge with a strawberries and cream filling.

Jacqui said:“As we are both Scottish, we needed a wee bit of whiskey in there so I added the Drambuie balls. I got off to a flying start and the facial sculpt went really well but then these pesky little Murray mints get everywhere and take forever.

"I am planning to do some candy making of my own and will produce a Wimbledon Art Studio version of the buttery mint for sale at the show as well.”

The sweet sculpture is a recreation of the image of Murray winning his first Wimbledon title in 2013, when he became the first British male to win the championship in 77 years.

Oxford Street transformation expected in 1,000 days

In 1,000 days Oxford Street will be transformed into a modern leisure area, combining retail and cultural activities, according to the New West End Company.

Regent Street piazza at the junction with Oxford Street

It represents Oxford, Bond and Regent Street businesses and claimed £2.9bn will be invested within a one mile radius of Oxford Street by 2022.

Plans to revamp and make this one mile stretch of the West End traffic free has been planned and stopped over the past 10 years.

The proposal for Oxford Street stops short of pedestrianisation but measures to ensure "cleaner air from reduced traffic and zero-emission buses" will be introduced.

Two piazzas at Oxford Circus and Marble Arch and will be built to make the area "more of an experience" rather than just a place to shop.

Selfridges' is planning a permanent cinema in its store and Sunday shopping in the West End will be extended by two hours.

The Company said money earmarked by firms included £150m from Westminster City Council, who was also setting aside an extra £80m for the revamp.

But the Mayor of London's office said "failure to pedestrianise the whole of Oxford Street is a missed opportunity".

City Hall said: "It also means the road will continue to be polluted, congested and dangerous".

Council apologises over pensioner's death

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Leocardo Loney
Leocardo Loney died in October 2017

Brent Council has apologised for the “untimely" death of a man with dementia who went missing from a care home.

Leocardo Loney, 82, was found dead in a hedge after disappearing from Willow House Extra Care Housing in Wembley in October 2017.

An inquest into his death found that the council’s social services department, which had placed Mr Loney in Willow House, was partly responsible.

West London Coroner’s Court heard how Mr Loney had left the facility unaccompanied on several occasions before his death and had been located as far away as Heathrow Airport and by the side of the M1 motorway.

Staff at Willow House had voiced their concerns to the council about his safety, but coroner Dr Sean Cummings described its response as “cumulatively languid”.

He said the council was fixated on providing the least restrictive measures as opposed to protecting Mr Loney’s wellbeing.

A spokesperson for Brent Council said: “We are deeply sorry about the untimely death of Mr Loney and we have offered the family our deepest apologies and condolences.

“Despite his advancing dementia Mr Loney was happy and social and enjoyed where he lived very much.

“Everybody involved in caring for Mr Loney worked tirelessly to strike a balance between keeping him safe and exploring the community which was one of the main things that made him happy.

“This is a challenging area of work. In response to the tragic circumstances of Mr Loney’s death we will continue to work with relevant partners so that every lesson is learned, every risk understood, and every step is taken to ensure, as far as possible, that this does not happen again.”

Mr Loney’s daughters, Marie Loney and Denise Dooley, said in a statement: “Some very worrying issues have been raised at the hearing and we now hope that local authorities learn lessons from Dad’s case in order to prevent other families facing what we have.

“It is absolutely vital that those with dementia and other vulnerable people can always access the care and support that they need.”

'Losing Jodie is like losing half of myself' - Sister

Following the verdict, Jodie’s sister Lucy Chesney said she is now "dreading my life rather than looking forward to it".

In a victim impact statement she wrote:

Jodie was not only my sister she was my best friend. Losing her is like losing half of myself. We went through everything together and she was always there for me and always putting everyone before herself. She gave me a type of love I will never feel again.

Lucy ChesneyJodie Chesney's sister

'Jodie's murder has destroyed my life' - Peter Chesney

Peter Chesney
PA Media

In an impact statement, Jodie Chesney's father said his daughter's murder had "destroyed my life".

"The full extent as to how this has affected my family and me cannot possibly be explained simply in words.

"I have no idea how I am going to continue with my life or even come to terms with the loss," he said.

Police release photo of Svenson Ong-a-Kwie

Svenson Ong-a-Kwie
Met Police

Polcie have released a mug shot of Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, one of the two people found guilty of Jodie Chesney's murder.

'They don't care about the lives ruined'

Tributes at park
PA Media

Case officer Det Insp Perry Benton said only the people in the car "know why they went there".

"They are drug dealers. It's a business to them.

"They don't care about the lives ruined, whether it is class A or class B," he said.

It's a mystery why Jodie was killed - police

Speaking about the case, DCI Dave Whellams said it remains a mystery why Jodie Chesney was killed.

"Svenson was wanting retribution on someone dealing on his turf. He has gone down to the park with (the 17-year-old) to cause some harm to somebody.

"Quite why it was Jodie, we don't really know.

"There is talk it could be another female drug dealer that operated in the park."

The two killers: The 17-year-old 'runner'

The 17-year-old boy who was also found guilty of Jodie's Chesney murder had been acting as a "runner" for Svenson Ong-a-Kwie.

He had a difficult upbringing and was taken into care at a young age after his mother suffered from mental illness and was unable to cope.

He left school without any qualifications. Prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC said he was not a "star child... but perhaps he has never really had the chance to be one".

It was alleged in court the 17-year-old was responsible for stabbing another youth last September, when Ong-a-Kwie was also present.

The 17-year-old had a conviction for actual bodily harm and possessing a pointed article following an incident involving a shopkeeper and a screwdriver.

He also had a conviction for possession of a kitchen knife.

The two killers: Svenson Ong-a-Kwie

Court drawing
Julia Quenzler

Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, 19, also known as Spencer, was a "charismatic and charming" cannabis dealer - with a fondness for carrying knives, the trial heard.

He ran a drugs line, sending texts to hundreds of customers advertising cocaine and "pineapple express" cannabis - so-called after the Seth Rogan movie.

Ong-a-Kwie was identified as Jodie's stabber, although he blamed his 17-year-old "runner" for the attack.

In October last year, Ong-a-Kwie was stabbed in the thigh and, according to his 17-year-old co-defendant, was looking for the culprits on the day of the murder.

Ong-a-Kwie had convictions for possessing cocaine and cannabis and failure to surrender to custody from when he was 16.

In April 2017, he admitted dealing cocaine after being caught with wraps of the class A drug and a knife.

In October last year, he also pleaded guilty to two charges of handling stolen goods.

Watch: Two found guilty of Jodie Chesney's murder

'Jodie was one of our brightest and best'

Jodie Chesney
Jodie Chesney/Instagram

Jodie Chesney had been an active Scout member and Chief Scout Bear Grylls described her as "one of our brightest and best".

Writing in support of the Jodie Chesney Foundation website he said "she put everything into life and her dedication to her friends, her family, to Scouts and her community was incredible.

"When she represented us at the Royal Albert Hall at the Annual Festival of Remembrance, we could not have hoped for a better ambassador for the movement.

"Now's it's our turn to remember her."

'Jodie's infectious laugh would light up any room'

Jodie Chesney
Chesney family

The teenager's father Peter set up a charity, the Jodie Chesney Foundation, aimed at taking action to steer young people away from knife crime.

In a tribute on its website, Mr Chesney described his daughter as a "beautiful person" who was just "blossoming into a wonderful young woman".

"She was a beautiful, well-liked, fun young woman who judged no-one and loved everyone.

"As a little girl she was very shy, but her confidence grew from strength to strength as she got older," he wrote.

He added that "she wore her heart on her sleeve and her infectious laugh would light up any room".

'I don't know why Jodie died' - Det Ch Insp Whellams

Jodie Chesney
PA Media

Det Ch Insp Dave Whellams, who investigated Jodie Chesney's murder, described the 17-year-old as a typical "girl next door".

He said the teenager's family were "absolutely devastated" and found hearing details about her death "extremely traumatic".

"They lived the investigation with us. They want answers to questions I can't give them. Why did this happen? I cannot give them a satisfactory answer because I don't know myself.

"The devastation will continue, it's something, as a parent, you don't recover from," he said.

Two found guilty of Jodie Chesney's murder

Svenson Ong-a-Kwie, 19, and a 17-year-old boy who cannot be named have been convicted of killing Jodie Chesney in a park in east London.

Ambulance made emergency stop after hit by firework

An ambulance driver on his way to a call was forced to put on his brakes after a lit firework thrown at a car exploded, "sending the brightly coloured projectiles showering onto the windscreen".

A spokesman for the service said the incident on Saturday night near Finsbury Park involved a group of youths, one of whom threw the firework.

The ambulance wasn't damaged apart from some residue on its windscreen.

The paramedic behind the wheel said: "This was a close call for me and my crewmates as a firework was aimed towards our ambulance and exploded as I drove on blue lights and sirens to an incident.

"Behaviour like this causes accidents and endangers people's lives - ours included."

After making the emergency stop the crew composed themselves before heading on.