The West End ward in the City of Westminster is now unusual in that it has an excess of housing. Hard to believe with all the worrying news about shortage of homes for Londoners. But between the neighbourhoods of Mayfair, Soho and a large chunk of Fitzrovia there are now more individual dwellings than there are people registered to vote.
Voter registration statistics out this week (there are local elections coming) show that the West End ward has lost 468 people since 2002. But the 2011 census shows that there are more separate dwellings in this ward (which includes most of the Westminster part of Fitzrovia) than there were ten years ago. The ward now has 1,300 more dwellings than there are voters!
In Knightsbridge and Belgravia wards there are nearly 700 fewer voters, Abbey Road and Bayswater wards have lost over 300 voters, and Tachbrook ward has lost just under 300 voters. Marylebone High Street ward which also includes part of Fitzrovia is down by just under 300 voters.
According to the statistics, not everywhere in Westminster is losing voters. Electoral registration has increased in the poorer parts of the City of Westminster, mostly in north Westminster and Pimlico. Harrow Road ward has 1,217 more voters, Vincent Square ward has 974 more, and three more wards have added at least 800 voters – Church Street ward (845), St James’s ward (842) and Queen’s Park ward (811).
The Labour group in Westminster sent Fitzrovia News the information and one of their councillors David Boothroyd of Westbourne ward, had this explanation: “We’re now seeing in electoral registration statistics the facts which many people have seen on the streets: many homes in Westminster are not lived in by families who are part of the local community, but are being used as just investments. Super-prime new property in Westminster is sold in Hong Kong and Dubai, not London, and then left empty — to be sold a few years later at a profit.”
He added “The Council could take action. The Council could impose a council tax surcharge on empty homes, as Labour has been urging since the law allowed it. And the Council could make sure planning policies and decisions deliver homes which people want to live in, not speculate on.”
A day after we received this information, the prominent West End ward councillor — millionaire and disgraced former Conservative Westminster Council cabinet member of housing — Jonathan Glanz posted an article in the Huffington Post. His solution to the apparent shortage of housing in London? A tax break for people wanting to let out spare rooms. No mention about taxing those who are not registered to vote in his own ward.