- Cllr Greenhalgh quoting Tony Blair in support of his policies on tax;
- Cllr Greenhalgh appearing to imply that the Goldhawk Block planning decision had all been a terrible mistake;
- A stirling presentation from the Deputy Chief of Police for the Borough on how many drug and gun toting villains they had caught and put away recently;
- The same Deputy Chief of Police declaring that “Hammersmith and Fulham does not have a gun problem”;
- Oh, and Cllr Greenhalgh declaring proudly that he didn’t own a car – only for Mr Humphrys to suggest that may be because he had a chauffeur!
Having all filed past a selection of North Korea style billboards proclaiming the Utopia we all lived in now, which take pride of place at the front of the Town Hall - lit up especially (pictured below) the event was chaired well and robustly by local resident John Humphrys. Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh certainly didn’t get an easy ride, but it might have been a little easier than some people had been expecting given the number of local controversies that inevitably came up. The meeting was attended by around 170 people by my count, which is no mean feat on a cold dark evening.
The most interesting part to my mind came towards the end of the event when Cllr Greenhalgh, when being pressed by John Humphrys and residents affected by the Goldhawk Block decision, seemed to imply that the whole thing had been a terrible mistake, and that it really musn't be allowed to happen again! He actually said that in the 13 years of having been a councillor he had “never come to terms with planning law” (which I thought was quite an admission) and that he wanted to “learn lessons” from the whole thing. Pressed by an incredulous John Humphrys, himself affected by the issue only to be publicly dismissed at the public hearing by a council officer, as to whether he really did regard the decision as a mistake our Council Leader simply restated that there were lessons to be learned.
And on the subject of housing we had our obligatory moment of drama when the Lady pictured below disrobed herself (well not quite but that kept you reading) to reveal a hand knitted top (knitted!) to protest at what they feared was the imminent demolition of their Ashcroft Square Estate in Hammersmith. Cllr Greenhalgh at this point angrily decried the fact that housing had become a “political football” and said that demolition, though an option, was not ‘imminent’. He was repeatedly vague about what the options were but insisted that he had not come into politics to “make people homeless”.
On tax, Cllr Greenhalgh actually quoted Tony Blair who apparently once said “Government should be for the many not for the few”. It wasn’t clear how this entirely related to Hammersmith & Fulham’s council tax cuts. The Leader was asked whether he was proud of the job cuts that had been made in order to realise those tax cuts, to which unsurprisingly he said he wasn’t.
On cycling, which dominated the meeting for about 20 minutes, there was a real split in the room with some people vociferously attacking the Council and the Transport for London representative for not adequately protecting cyclists, while others were equally vehement that the real villains were the cyclists themselves! Apparently speeding cyclists routinely career along our pavements risking injury to pedestrians (actually I was nearly hit by one on Shepherd’s Bush Green this week). The Deputy Borough Commander of the Police said that all of his officers had been asked to issue tickets to any cyclists seen behaving dangerously. The TfL representative talked blandly and frankly meaninglessly about “delivering a cycling revolution” that the Mayor was “passionate” about – lots of grand words but very little hard facts.
I asked Stephen Greenhalgh about whether the Council had any plans to actually support an independent local media in the Borough which their own Pravda-style publication has helped to destroy. He dodged the question and simply said that the independent media had been in terminal decline for years. So that’s a no then.
Finally on crime the Deputy Borough Commander of Police made the rather grand claim that we do not have a gun problem, which may come as a surprise to most residents, but he did have some really quite impressive stats to back up his claims that they were cracking down on drugs in the Borough, including closing over 20 drug dens locally.
And really really finally, spare a thought for the only panellist not to be asked a single question nor get the chance to speak – the Borough Commander of our Fire Service!
All in all credit to the Council for putting the event on, and credit to you for reading this far if you did! On a personal note it was really good to meet so many of you who said you read the blog this evening. Keep the stories coming.
It’s past bedtime. Night night.