Saturday, 31 July 2010

Dangerous man missing: Police issue public warning

Police are appealing for help in tracing a man who has absconded from a secure mental health unit in central London. Timothy Saunders, [03.09.69 - 40 years] went missing on Thursday 29 July from the Hammersmith and Fulham Mental Health unit attached to Charing Cross hospital in Fulham Palace Road, W6

It is believed he still could be in the capital and has contacts in the City of London.

Officers have advised members of the public not to approach him but to call 999 immediately.

He is a black male, around 5ft 9ins and of large build. He was wearing a blue and white Argentina jersey with blue jeans and white trainers.

On January 27 2010, Saunders was convicted at West London Magistrates'court of assaulting a police officer in June 2009.

He was made subject to a Hospital Order (under the Mental Health Act). Anyone who may have seen him or has information on his whereabouts should call Enfield Police on 0300 123 1212; if you wish to remain anonymous please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. For an immediate sighting, please call 999.

SUNDAY UPDATE: The BBC is reporting on this story here. Police have released the above photo. Local media in H&F still yet to report the story at all.

MONDAY UPDATE: The Fulham Chronicle has caught up at last here

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: He's back in custody, courtesy of a family member. A spokesperson for the Mental Health Trust says this:

"The patient was routinely prescribed leave twice weekly for up to two hours under supervision of a family member, and was also prescribed leave to take part in a walking group.
“The patient did not return to the ward after one of his leave sessions, at which a staff member phoned the family member he was on leave with. The family member advised us that the patient was no longer with them so staff reacted professionally, following the procedures put in place for an incident of this kind. Staff filed a missing persons report with the police to assist them in finding the patient.
“The patient was returned to the ward this morning by a family member."

Friday, 30 July 2010

Shepherd's Bush goes Global, baby

The BBC News Africa Correspondent has blogged on a man he met from Shepherd's Bush in Sierra Leone, West Africa and posted an audio recording of their interview. And just like the other Busher I shall be flying off this evening too, contributing to my enormous carbon footprint on my way to South East Asia again.

For I am off to the Philippines once more to work with journalists among others on peacebuilding. That country is now regarded by the International Federation of Journalists to be the most dangerous country in the world to work as a result of the number of killings that take place. For a long time it was second only to Iraq.

But there is a lot of hope for peace in both Sierra Leone and the Phillippines. So here's hoping.

In the meantime blogging will continue from afar via this new-fangled internet thingy. Adieu!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

£5 charge for reading this blog

No, not really. But thousands of people read this blog every week - and if just a fraction of them contributed a few quid to my appeal for BLESMA - the British Limbless Ex ServiceMens Association - for whom I am running the Bristol Half Marathon on September 5th I would reach my very modest target of £150 very quickly indeed.

So go on, please chuck a few quid the way of people who have done an unimaginable amount for us and will pay for that sacrifice for the rest of their lives. And I guarantee you'll get to see a sweaty looking picture of me crossing the finishing line in return.

Can't say fairer than that guv - I should work down Shepherd's Bush Market, me. Here's a short vid of the sort of work your squids would pay for. Incredible. Please give here.

Lest we forget: Tories launch local attack on Labour

Councillor Harry Phibbs, Dolmio man lookalike, has launched a well researched and bitter attack on the Labour record in our Borough . hard to imagine sometimes but Labour used to run our council with quite a majority, and Andy Slaughter is really the only remaining vestige of Labour power in our backyard.

Amid the protests and widespread criticism of the cuts our Tory masters have been engaging in recently Cllr Phibbs, who is known as something of an attack dog, has clearly been given the brief to launch a fightback. And my word he's taking it seriously.

Delving back to the early 1990s he says this:

Hammersmith and Fulham Council is a Conservative flagship with a large majority of Conservative councillors. But from 1986 to 2006 it was a Labour Council.

What was it like?

A couple of speeches from Matthew Carrington, when he was Conservative MP for Fulham give a flavour. Here is one from 1990.

We often hear claims of gerrymandering, and are told that Wandsworth council was given extra grants to enable the Conservatives to retain control, when the Labour council of Hammersmith and Fulham received the same £361 amount. The difference was that the Labour council wanted to impose a community charge of £424 while Wandsworth has a community charge of £148.

He finishes with this:

Finally, by way of balance, here is a comment Shaun Woodward, a Labour MP and until the last election a cabinet minister. This was what he had to say about the Labour council back in 1999 when he was a Conservative MP.

In Hammersmith and Fulham, the council tax has increased by 50 per cent. since 1993. Five old people's homes have been closed and there is no provision to replace them; 70 home helps have been sacked; only 34 per cent. of council house repair appointments are kept; burial costs have gone up by 60 per cent. and cremation costs by 50 per cent.; and libraries have been closed.

By that stage Andrew Slaughter had been the Council leader for three years.


Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Scooter rider killed on A40

You may have noticed that Shepherd's Bush Green was a car park this morning. The cause was an early morning crash which took the life of a motorcyclist on a scooter. The A40 was closed which meant that the traffic trying to get onto it or around Holland Park roundabout was backed up all the way up the Uxbridge Road.

Here's the police statement which gives the bare bones:

Police were called just before 04:00 hrs to the A40 near Wood Lane to reports of a fatal accident involving a scooter on Wednesday 28 July.
At this early stage it is believed witnesses saw a male riding the scooter lose control. He died instantly. It is not thought any other vehicles were involved.
London Ambulance Service were also called to the scene.
The road is still closed and enquiries continue

2100 UPDATE: As some of you have pointed out the rider has been named as Chris Dagley, who was a renowned drummer.The Evening Standard broke this piece of the jigsaw this evening and had the following:

A star musician on the London jazz scene was killed early today as he rode home from a gig.
Chris Dagley, a drummer in the Ronnie Scott's house band who had played with Take That, Westlife and Lionel Richie, died after losing control of his scooter on the A40 in White City.
The 39-year-old was riding to Ruislip, where he lived with his partner and their three children.
Simon Cooke, managing director of Ronnie Scott's, said staff at the Soho venue were in shock, adding: "Chris was exceptionally talented."

Indeed he was. Here is Chris playing at last year's Ealing Jazz Festival with the Winston Morson's Off the Cuff band. Tragedy doesn't seem to be big enough a word.

272 Bus collision: man not dead!

Right, after the confusion of yesterday with journalists and bloggers getting lots of things wrong here is the Police statement of what actually happenned:

Officers and London Ambulance Service attended and a man, believed aged approx. 40, was taken to a west London hospital suffering head injuries. Scans showed these not to be serious and he was released following treatment to a cut.
Enquiries into the circumstances of the incident are ongoing. Officers have arrested another man on suspicion of GBH and he has been bailed to return in early September.
The bus driver stopped at the scene, he was not arrested.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Man killed by 272 bus

A man has died as a result of a collision between him and the 272 bus. The man, who was believed to be on foot, was treated at the scene by paramedics and taken to hospital but later died. The incident happenned on the corner of Shepherd's Bush Road and Goldhawk Road.

At the time of writing it seems that someone has actually been arrested but the police are not releasing any more info. Basically it all looks a bit odd, and possibly more to it than meets the eye. The bus driver was interviewed and released.

So - first and foremost a tragedy. Whatever else transpires I shall pass on as and when I get it.

1800 UPDATE: Well, it goes to show how rumours do the rounds, it was being reported elsewhere in the early afternoon that the man hit by the 272 had died, but it now appears he is still alive but in a critical condition at Charing Cross Hospital. A lesson both for amateur bloggers but also professional journalists who really should have done better given that its their day job. It is also being reported that the reason another man was arrested was not, as originally rumoured, as a result of a stabbing but because the victim had been pushed in front of the bus.

I think the best thing that can be said at this stage is nobody really knows what on earth happenned. Including those who should.

"Cycling Revolution" flops in Hammersmith

Boris Johnson is fond of talking about a Cycling Revolution, it's one of his centre-piece policies that he hopes will see him re-elected in 2012. You may have noticed lots of blue paint being put down on certain roads around the city and being called "cycle super highways". The problem is nobody seems to have told the car drivers who merrily drive on them as well whenever I've been looking. Paint is cheap.

In Hammersmith & Fulham we seem to have a very awkward view of cyclists, who routinely get criticised at public meetings for riding in places they shouldn't. And now, it seems, we have failed to take up Boris' offer of becoming cycling revolutionaries. In fact completely failed. In fact, it's safe to say the good people of the Bush are not revolutionaries at all. We'd rather have a cup of tea.

You see, we have failed to take up TfL's offer of "guided cycle tours", which were on offer in June in order to train would-be cyclists to get to work and back along these marvellous new blue superhighways. So much so, in fact, that the guided cycle tours have been cancelled! Of the two guided cycle tours, of which one was on June 16th and the other on June 30th only one person turned up. That's right, one. On the 16th. And none on the 30th!

The LibDems on the London Assembly think this flop, which was mirrored across the city, is down to bad marketing. Here's what Caroline Pidgeon AM, their leader in London, asked of Boris with his reply:

Cycle Fridays (2)

Question No: 2273 / 2010

Caroline Pidgeon

Can you give an outline of how the publicity strategy differed to last year’s, in light of the low participation rate last year?

Answer from the Mayor

Between last year and this year the approach differs in the following ways:

Link to existing cycle programmes: Cycle Fridays was a standalone initiative, marketed via an advertising campaign. This year, rides are being offered as a support product to help individuals take advantage of existing cycling programmes including the London Cycle Challenge and Barclay’s Cycle Superhighways. The publicity for the rides is incorporated into existing programme channels; the only cost incurred is for the rides themselves.

Create a flexible programme, which responds to demand: Last year the number of rides publicised were fixed, but this year TfL is closely monitoring participation in the rides.
Roll out the rides in short bursts: Last year TfL publicised a block of rides for 10 weeks and participation dropped off over time. This year, each set of rides will last no longer than five weeks before a break. If a particular programme is not generating sufficient demand, the remaining rides can be scaled back or cancelled
Change the name: Awareness of Cycle Fridays was relatively high; however understanding of what was on offer was lower. To make this clear, TfL changed the name to ‘Guided Cycle Rides’.

Ah, you changed the name. That's what your problem was Mr Mayor! In the meantime here is some evidence of how ineffective the blue paint seems to be thus far:

Monday, 26 July 2010

Ken Livingstone, LBC Radio's candidate for Mayor?

Why does LBC Radio, supposedly impartial, give Ken Livingstone his own show on Saturdays? I ask because he is now, as you will know unless you've been living under a rock, a candidate for the Labour nomination for Mayor of London. Given the current deep unpopularity of the LibDems and the likely cuts-driven unpopularity of the Tories come the date of the election in 2012, that means the Labour candidate is at least a fair bet to become Mayor and to have an impact on all our lives.

Surely giving one candidate, and no other, hours of air time every week (he doesn't just appear on his own show but chips in on other shows too) is in breach of any semblance of impartiality?

If you've ever listened to Ken's shows, as I have driving the brood back from swimming on numerous occasions, you'll know that in between interviews listeners are treated to a cornucopia of recollections of what he did when Mayor and how great those achievements were. It's a bit like Teachings by Great Leader Kim Il Livingstone. My personal favourite, as I sat on the M4 in a traffic jam going nowhere, was Ken telling his listeners how he was proud to have introduced the bus lane on that motorway and didn't much care what the motorists thought.

But I want to know why LBC doesn't offer other candidates vying to be our Mayor anywhere near as much exposure. What about Oona King? And the LibDem candidate/s? I wonder if even Boris gets as much air time!

As he handed a petition in to City Hall about police numbers at night last week, which I am sure was entirely unconnected to his Mayoral campaign, Ken declared about himself "“I'm an ordinary Londoner, I'm just an unemployed pensioner who cares about my city.”

The thing is, Ken, that's wrong. You're a political candidate vying for public office. And wrong LBC, it's time to either admit you want Ken elected in which case you should start apeing Veronica Wadley's Evening Boris Standard and at least be honest about it OR perhaps start to cover these elections with a bit more balance. Which is it to be?

There, that's off me chest.

1700 UPDATE: A mole at LBC tells me that they have taken the decision to keep Ken's show even if he wins the Labour nomination! So you would have a political candidate with a London wide show that no other candidate has. How can LBC justify that? The plot thickens..

Sunday, 25 July 2010

BBC move to Salford gets a fisking

The BBC's desertion of Shepherd's Bush for Salford (pictured) is a politically correct dogs dinner with Ministry of Defence sized budgets. So says Peter Preston in today's Observer:

Forget BBC salaries, pensions and perks for a moment. All such stuff – whipped up by critics with an agenda of their own – grows weary in the repetition. Let's concentrate instead on high principle, strategy, bricks and mortar. Ah! Now there's a proper tangle.

In only a couple of years, the corporation will have finished building the biggest multimedia newsroom in the world (in London's Portland Place, not New York), the most sumptuous, state-of-the-art waterside complex going (in Salford, not LA), and another quayside broadcasting HQ that runs it pretty close (in Glasgow, not Miami). Total cost for these three huge projects: somewhere over £2bn and still rising. Ministry of Defence-sized figures

Yet, as the BBC comes under further political assault, it's salutary to go back in time and see how this cash mountain came to be spent (with a lot of help from the regulators and politicians). A new Scottish centre? Of course. A sort-of-free and half-independent Scotland expects nothing less. When a giant stride to Salford was announced five years ago, taking children's programming, sport, Radio Five Live and research and development with it, north-west MPs queued up to welcome jobs and investment outside London – while ministers, governors and trustees waxed eloquent about serving a greater Britain far beyond WC1.

As for the old wreck of Broadcasting House, rendered cutting edge with umpteen studios and integrated news-gathering (as Shepherds Bush and Bush House go to meet other development fates), well, that is a slightly grandiose project to be sure: but doing nothing seemed a decrepit, non-viable alternative.

Now read on.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

British Limbless Ex-Services Association

I'm running a half marathon and want your cash. Many of you very kindly supported me when I ran the Brighton marathon earlier this year for Cancer Research. That was hugely appreciated.

I've been really impressed by this charity - BLESMA - British Limbless Ex Service Men's Association - for services personnel who have returned from the likes of Iraq and Afghanistan with horrendous injuries. They support and campaign for the rights of these veterans who face adjusting to a transition from super-fit young men and women to disabled, in some cases severely disabled, people. It's not the end of the world, they are after all still alive, but ask yourself whether you would be able to do what they do, and then how much more they might value your donation than you would if it stayed in your wallet!

Here's a quick vid to show you who you'd be supporting:

People like 19 year old Matt:

After joining the Army with the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment, in November 2005 it was with a great sense of adventure that Matt found himself serving his country in Afghanistan on Operation Herrick in 2007.
Whilst out on patrol with his unit on the morning of 3 May, a year after joining up, Matt stepped on an anti personnel mine. He suffered several injuries, one of which resulted in him losing his right leg below knee.
Whilst recovering in Selly Oak Hospital Matt was visited by BLESMA representatives who offered him advice on various matters and invited him to consider joining the Association.

Moving on to Headley Court, the military rehabilitation centre in Surrey, he met up with other recent victims of current conflicts, many of them BLESMA Members themselves. Matt formed immediate friendship and bonds with them all.

Since then Matt has been closely involved with BLESMA and has attended the Associations annual ski bob event in Austria. Matt says ‘the ethos of turning disability to ability has helped me immeasurably in my recovery. I hope to involve myself further with the activities offered by BLESMA in the near future.’ Matt continues, ‘I have since rejoined my unit and have never regretted joining the Army despite my injuries.’

Matt is 19. BLESMA will be there to help him for many years to come.

Compared to what Matt has gone through, my own efforts on September 5th are nothing - but your money won't be. So thank you for your support.

Hammersmith & City Line suspended

The line is gone, kaputt, no more. Just a reminder that the H&C line is suspended for three weeks from today.

The closure is so that Transport for London can carry out work at Paddington to help deliver Crossrail and an upgrade of the Tube station will mean London Underground’s (LU) Circle and Hammersmith & City line services will be suspended between Hammersmith and Edgware Road for three weeks this summer.

The works at Paddington will apparently involve the demolition of a disused taxi ramp and canopy that sit above the Hammersmith and City platforms and means that trains will not be able to operate in that area. London Underground are trying to sweeten the pill by saying they will "take advantage of the closure" to carry out essential renewal and upgrade works, which otherwise could have required weekend closures.

The closure will begin on Saturday 24 July and services will resume on Monday 16 August. Hammersmith & City services will operate from Edgware Road to Whitechapel while Circle line services will operate the old route. Rail replacement services will operate between Hammersmith and Edgware Road and there will be ticket acceptance on local bus and tube services.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Road Rave on A40

THE BBC asks: “Have you been to the party on the A40?”

We did once eat an entire pack of cocktail sausages waiting to get off the flyover by Shepherd’s Bush. And we did have the radio on. And there were sirens heard. So. Maybe it was a party. But, then, no-one shagged a goat and shat in the freezer.

Goodness me. Now read on.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Housing in Hammersmith

Elsayed Ward faces an uncertain future. Like most people, the 50-year-old father of three must buy food for his family and pay for rent and electricity. But, from April next year, he will no longer be able to afford all three.

There are no available social homes big enough to house Mr Ward and his family so the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham is trying to find him a home in the private sector which will see him claim local housing allowance in addition to disability allowance.

Mr Ward is desperate to move out of his one-bedroom flat, which he has rented from Octavia Housing Association since 2002. He lived alone initially but his children moved in three years ago. The outside is cheery and well-tended but inside the flat is crammed with the belongings of three growing children, who sleep in both the bedroom and the living room, and cram around the table in the tiny kitchen.

When he shuts the front door, Mr Ward reveals the other reason his family needs to leave the flat in Shepherd’s Bush: a damp problem yawns across the woodwork. The black mould is present in the bathroom, his bedroom and the living room.

Mr Ward has a thick sheaf of letters from the doctors at Charing Cross, and Chelsea and Westminster hospitals and his GP, who say the damp and cold conditions in the ground floor flat are aggravating two health conditions: chronic back pain, and circulatory problem Raynaud’s Syndrome. He and his three children, aged 11, 14 and 19, need to move.
Inside Housing Magazine has a profile of a family in what looks like pretty dire housing need, an our Council's response to that. In fairness the Council seems to be doing all they can but the plight of this family, and the obvious health dangers their current situation poses to them, as no fewer than three consultants point out, capture the bleak future faced by those in housing need.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Shepherd's Bush Fair: The clean up (doesn't) begin

Quelle surprise.

21/7/05: Attack on Shepherd's Bush

"you'd better get off here", "get off now", "Ladies and Gents there seems to be some kind of security alert please get off this bus now" were the three announcements I remember on the 207 bus. We had pulled up just before the H&C tube next to the police station. We all knew what he was talking about and what the dozens of police frantically throwing up cordons and pushing people back up Uxbridge Road had to mean after the events of July 7th. You could smell the fear.

But not panic, if anything a morbid curiosity. I crossed through Shepherds Bush Market onto Goldhawk Road where, just a block away from where it was all happening there was no sense of what was happening so close by. Not even the helicopters overhead seemed to bother people. But then I got onto the Green. the "just one more" cafe had a big screen reporting a bomb attack at Oval. What did that have to do with what was happening here?

Noise. Police cars swerving around people at high speed driving across the Green itself to get to the tube station. More cordons. Journalists on mopeds screching to a halt and being ushered through the lines only to be stopped at the next one a few metres from the rest of us. More helicopters. More police. In short, paralysis.

Then the thirst for knowledge. What had happened? A long walk, my trip to the gym having been abandoned, back up Uxbridge Road. Stallholders from the market quietly, and with no panic, packing up their stalls and helping usher people away. Shop holders closing early and also joining in, asking how they could help. A community coming together.

Police all the way up the road and a constant symphony of sirens that lasted for hours. Uxbridge Road closed for traffic further up so the only cars were police. It began to resemble a route from Carnival. Except the mood was anything but.

Got home. 24/7 news coverage delivering very little actual news. And then the wait. This was the day, five years ago today, terrorism came to Shepherd's Bush.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Council attack Thames Water (and tell some more lies)

Our Council have been caught in the act of telling residents porkies again about their favourite bete noir - the Thames Tideway Tunnel. This is the tunnel proposed by Thames Water - and supported by just about every other Council along the river of all political persuasion, the Mayor of London and both the old and new Government - which is designed to stop huge amounts of sewage being discharged into our river every year.

Standing against the massed ranks of supporters at all levels of government is our very own Council, who in the past couple of years have used it much in the same way as George Orwell envisioned a sinister regime headed by Big Brother who used the "2 minute hate" to get everyone wound up at anyone else but his regime.

The facts are thus - London emits so much poo into the river we are at risk of EU fines and endangering our own health. The reason we have the problem is that our ancient sewers cannot handle the flow because they were built over 100 years ago and we need new ones. A couple of years ago our Council launched a campaign against the idea warning of "super craters" and "super sewer stink holes" and actually convinced me at the time because it just didn't enter my head that such claims could be anything but true. I called on you to support their campaign.

And then they were caught lying. And caught again - in fact the last time they used a little known but well used supporter Raj Bhattia, the long time chair of a residents association to actually warn residents that they may be made homeless by this monstrous scheme. This was immediately dismissed by the Government and laughed at by the Mayor. The Council then disowned his comments.

Now, in this latest article, our Council pre-empt the announcement of where the bore hole will actually be in our neck of the woods with the following piece of Big Brother-esque prose:

Scores of sensitive sites across the capital - including several in the borough - are expected to be on the list when Thames Water finally comes clean with residents in September.

Officials from the water company have been working on the secret list for months and are now embarking on a public relations charm offensive to get councillors and residents from local authorities along the Thames, to sign-up to the plans.

So now there is a dark "secret list" that those dastardly Thames Water hate figures have been working on, in dark rooms, rubbing their gnarled hands and just waiting to pounce on our green spaces and turn them into stink pits, mwah ha ha no, the reason the list hasn't been published is that it is a consultation - just like the one our Council ran on all those services they've just axed hitting thousands of vulnerable people .. oh no hang on a minute there was no consultation on that. Just a secret list - that was then acted on. But no big piece in tax-payer funded "Town Hall pravda" H&F News decrying this - oh no.
Anyway, the Council now claims the following:
The health benefits of the scheme are also minimal with only 18 cases of illness reported in a 15 months, according to a survey of river users last year.
Minimal!? Let's have a quick look at what the independent report on the Thames, carried out by the Health Protection Agency together with the Corporation of London had to say about the current state of play with sewage in our river in 2007:
The data collected to date remain the largest most accurate representation of microbiological water quality data for the upper Thames tideway, and has shown:

  • evidence that background concentrations of microbiological indicator organisms exceed the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended levels for recreational use at Kew, Barnes and Putney
  • that water quality improves as you move downstream from Kew to Barnes and Putney.
  • using the WHO guidelines, less than 1% of days when samples were taken from the Thames’ tideway were acceptable by the WHO guideline standard. (“no observable adverse effect limit (NOAEL) i.e. of ≤ 40 colony forming units (cfu) /100 ml enterococci for human health.
  • ninety-one percent of sampling occasions resulted in Escherichia coli (E.coli)counts > 1000 cfu/100ml level, and would be viewed as “poor water quality” in terms of EC Bathing Water quality.(E. coli is an indicator of faecal contamination of human and /or animal origin).
  • evidence of an elevated risk to the health of recreational users of the upper tideway for 2 - 4 days after CSO discharge events.
  • evidence of frequent contamination with potential human pathogens including Campylobacter spp, Salmonella spp and Enteroviruses present in samples from at least one of the three sampling locations on 99% of sampling occasions, (Kew 90%, Barnes 90%, Putney 86%) and at all three locations on 65% of sampling occasions
  • evidence to suggest that plugs of discharged waste-water moving with the ebb and flood of the tide remain relatively concentrated for up to 4 days.
  • samples collected up to 5 days after CSO discharge may still reflect raised levels of indicator organisms depending on the location of the last discharged plug of wastewater.
Yuk. (That's a scientific term) Read the whole report here.

I don't actually have a problem with our Council campaigning against anything they want to if it can be shown to be genuinely against our interests. And I don't mind if there is a local argument about what is or isn't in our interests and I end up on the losing side - that's democracy. But our Council, by their use of our money to feed us misinformation and downright fibs on this subject for the last 2 years, has surely now forfeit their right to be taken seriously on this issue. And I think that's the strongest set of things I've ever said about them.

We're not stupid Cllr Greenhalgh - so stop treating us like we are and start telling the truth.

Irish Embassy "disappointed" with H&F Council

The Irish Embassy in the UK has reacted to our Council's decision to sell off the Irish Centre in Hammersmith which, although there for locals of west London, has international repute. It has been visited by the current and previous Irish Presidents among others, but was included on this list of buildings to be sold off. Speaking to the Irish Times, a spokesperson for the Irish Embassy in London had this to say:

“The Embassy is very disappointed to have been informed that Hammersmith Council does not intend to extend the current lease. The Government strongly hopes that a solution can be found which will allow the Centre to continue its valuable work,” adding that the Irish State has given significant sums to fund the centre’s “excellent” work in recent years.

Jim O’Hara, the chairman of the board of trustees of the centre – the only one of its type in the United Kingdom, said: “This fait accompli is completely unexpected and has come as a major shock.”

So the H&F great buildings firesale is being noticed not just locally, provoking protests outside the Town Hall, not even just nationally, triggering debates in parliament, but now, it seems, beyond even the UK!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Star Wars on the Tube

I used to live in New York City - and here's why I still love the city:

H&F Council in Guardian

Another national media article questioning our Council's accountability over the merger taking place between H&F and Westminster's education departments, and the Tory ideology that lies behind it. The paper asks -what would happen if local residents inconveniently voted Labour locally again?!

Westminster City Council might not welcome the parallel, but the charge of a democratic deficit, so familiar to Brussels, could soon be laid at the door of its education department. It is about to be merged with that of nearby Hammersmith and Fulham – not a geographical neighbour, but a close ideological cousin. Penny-pinching, as opposed to continental peace, is the name of the game. But as the European commission has found, when executive functions are pooled but popular sovereignty is not, questions of legitimacy soon raise their head. The two Tory majorities may have a shared agenda now. If Hammersmith went Labour, however, the children could suffer from a messy divorce.

Now read on.

Friday, 16 July 2010

BBC London on Shepherd's Bush Village Hall sell-off

Last night, amid the protests that took place outside Hammersmith Town Hall, BBC London News carried a story on the impact of our Council's cuts and sale of buildings. You can watch it here.

More on the protests later - but watch the video right to the end.  Council Leader Greenhalgh is clearly a very very upset man indeed that he's having to defend these policies judging by his body language!

Hammersmith Bridge bombing remembered

The BBC is carrying a still photograph from Pathe news coverage of 1939 when Hammersmith Bridge was attacked by the IRA immediately before the war. I remember when the same bridge was attacked by the same organisation in 2000 - in fact I knew someone living in a flat almost right opposite the Hammersmith entrance to the bridge at the time whose windows were damaged!

So this is just a little historical intrest note ... think of that every time you cross the beautiful bridge!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

BBC relocates more staff out of Bush

BBC Breakfast is moving to Salford, as part of the BBC's new base in Salford Greater Manchester from which many national programmes will now be made. It means that the charecter of the Green will never be the same again for me, seeing as I do many of the personalities involved in presenting that programme and others walking across the Green on their way to White City!

But the importance isn't the relevance to me, but the impact this will have on W12. As more and more programmes exit W12 so will the staff and the creative hub that that our area uniquely is, will start to shrink. Or will it? Actually I know more people now who used to work at the Beeb and who now do the same jobs but for three times more money in the independent sector - many on contract at the BBC - than those who have stayed with the Corporation. How this has saved them any money I've no idea.

As well as this change the BBC also recently announced the wholesale redevelopment of the White City strip of land next to Westfield around Television Centre on Wood Lane. I think their plans, which will result in one of the biggest creative quarters in Europe, (pictured above) are really exciting. This, and the ongoing relocations, are sure to transform the character of this part of the Bush beyond all recognition in the coming years. Watch that space.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Protest rally at Hammersmith Town Hall against cuts

A "huge rally" is promised outside Hammersmith Town Hall on thursday evening by voluntary sector organisations, opposition councillors and others as they try to draw attention to the cuts to services proposed by our Council.

Taking place at 1830 on King Street outside the Town Hall you can expect an assortment of chanting, wailing, sackcloth and gnashing of teeth ... sorry got a bit carried away there, but definately the chanting and I would imagine a fair bit of banner waving too.

The cuts, which are so far reaching they have on several occasions made the national media, are likely to transform the social make up of Hammersmith & Fulham for generations. Millions of pounds of buildings are being sold and first in line for cuts are services to some of the most vulnerable people in society, as this 11 year old boy recently and movingly described.

Our Council was seen in the run up to the election as being an example of what a new Conservative government would do in office if elected, and is still seen as a testing ground for radical new policies. That's why anyone who'se anyone from Cameron's cabinet comes here regularly, the latest having been local communities secretary of state Eric Pickles.

The Council defends itself against attacks by arguing that it is putting "services before buildings" and pointing out that the voluntary sector, like the public sector, has to do "more for less". All very true, and the Council does need to tackle what it calls the "debt mountain" we face. It steadfastly refuses to answer questions about why it's propaganda publication "H&F News" which was, embrassingly for the Council, called "propaganda on the rates" by the same Eric Pickles recently is shielded from these cuts and remains a worthwhile use of our taxes.

Pictures, possibly video if you're lucky, and a full report to follow from the rally...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Police helicopter over the Bush

At about 2045 last night a Police helicopter hovered over the Askew Road/Old Oak Road junction for about 10 to 15 minutes. The aircraft was very low which made a very loud noise, which in turn drew a large number of people out of their homes to watch.

The helicopter seemed to swerve away a couple of times but mainly just hovered in the same place, and eventually some sirens appeared to congregate in or around the area.

I know many of you also saw this and I've just asked the local police press office for some info about what it was all about. Given the events of recent weeks it's natural that people should be worried it represents another serious incident in our area but as soon as I know for sure I'll pass it on.

1300 UPDATE: The helicopter was apparently part of "operation bumblebee" which is an anti burglary initiative, so no need to worry about something more serious. The last time we had a helicopter like that was the murder of Jaabe Roberts - this time something a bit more mundane. Which is great.

Shepherd's Bush roads slammed by cyclists

A militant cyclists group, who ride under the flag of a blog called "crap cycling & walking in Waltham Forest" has featured one of our very own blackspots, the A402 around the Green.

Shepherd's Bush seems to be a parallel universe when it comes to all things two wheeled - wheras the sport is routinely praised for being green and healthy everywhere else, everytime you go to a public meeting here its the dangerous cyclists that get it in the neck from angry pedestrians! Even the local Police announced special measures to "ticket" (which I assume means fining) cyclists riding dangerously last year.

And after a cyclist was tragically killed near where I work I wrote this piece which provoked a reaction from cyclists and drivers alike, most of whom simply expressed concern about the risks of riding on some of our roads. I have to say I'm amazed no-one has been injured on this stretch of road before now.

Monday, 12 July 2010

UFO's sighted over Westfield!

A UFO has been reported by eagle eyed locals on the "UK UFO Sightings" website. A startled sky scanner, Adem Mesic, says this:

"I was in my garden when i saw something in the sky first i saw 2 both of them were travelling close and they had 3 circle lights underneath them and a grey circle round them and then as they were flying they changed to the colour green/blue and then roughly 1 minute later another 2 came from the same direction and travelling to the same direction these were bright orange and one flew and turned green/blue and the other was flying with a little orange dot and then just turned off and flew off the same thing happened after they flew off the next one that came was on its on and was very low and then just flew off and dissappeared can someone investigate and let me know what this is????"

Now read on

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Thames Water dig up Uxbridge Road

Yes I know I'm a bit late with this one but Thames Water dug up the main road through the Bush yesterday resulting in traffic jams up and down Askew, Uxbridge and side roads for most of a boiling saturday and sunday. The road diversion they put in place was a nightmare journey for some of you, with one tweeter saying simply: "Gridlock in Shepherd's Bush at junction of Askew Rd. Do not take diversion!". Wise words. The best thing is to ignore the diversion sign for Askew Crescent and go down Percy Road instead if you're trying to get either to or from Askew Road to Uxbridge Road.

I first noticed a distinct lack of water pressure on Saturday morning, rang Thames Water only to be placed on hold by one of their hugely irritating automated messaging thing and then rang off after 20 minutes.

When I checked their website there was no mention of any works, despite there having been there for hours according to some of your texts and tweets. There was however great big adverts on their site saying how they had full to brimming reservoirs and that we weren't going to run out, which is a plus side I suppose.

Thames Water have now updated their website at least and apparently all will be fixed by monday morning. We shall see..

British 10K today

I'll be running the British 10K today on what promises to be a fantastic route around central London under clear blue skies and sun - when else do you get to make your way around central London on foot with all the roads closed for you?!

After the Brighton Marathon, for which many of you kindly sponsored me, I'm just doing it as a normal runner this time, but I've been really impressed by this charity - BLESMA - British Limbless Ex Service Men's Association - for services personnel who have returned from the likes of Iraq and Afghanistan with horrendous injuries. So please sponsor me here for the Bristol half marathon I'm doing later this year!

Here's a video of why the BLESMA cause is a worthy one, to say the least. How many of us would be able to do what they do?

Oh, did I ask you to sponsor me? Go on, be the first!!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Alert: Acton Carnival on Saturday

If you are in the Bush this Saturday the chances are you will hear the bass beat of loud soca music wafting over the air. This is the Acton Carnival happening just up the Uxbridge Road (video I took of last year's below) and over the border in Ealing at Acton Park.

The 207 and 607 buses will take you there from the Bush and its well worth the trip. £1 entry for adults, and sadly a knife arch to walk through, but after that there is a wide range of food, arts&crafts and music stalls and stages.

Here are some pics from last year, it lasts till 7pm but I suspect there will be festivities in Acton park late into the evening ... maybe see you there!

1700 UPDATE: This year's Carnival has been excellent but after I left I saw an air ambulance land in that general area followed by lots of Police cars .. never a good sign. Updates as and when I get them, in the meantime feel free to leave comments

0500 Sunday UPDATE: It seems someone was stabbed outside the Gala bingo hall on Uxbridge Road just outside of the Carnival. Police describing the incident as "nasty" but it doesn't at this point seem to be fatal.

H&F News release video

..well, maybe. Happy friday!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Fair on Shepherd's Bush Green

Oh dear. It's back. The fair that makes our Council so much money that they don't spend clearing up the mess with is back ... the rats have already been spotted celebrating the food bonanza that will boost their ever growing numbers.

And the fairs' contribution to healthy eating for our kids is well documented

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Full District and Hammersmith & City line services restored

District line and Hammersmith & City line services in East London have now been restored after London Underground engineers worked around the clock to repair damage caused by a trackside fire in Barking last Friday.

The 50 year old signal cables, and others that supply traction power in the area, were destroyed during the fire. This led to a suspension of services between Plaistow and Dagenham East, and further disruption on other parts of the District and Hammersmith & City lines including our own end of the line, as many of you experienced to your cost.

The heat was so intense that cables and equipment melted and specialist in house engineers, some apprenticed nearly 40 years ago, were called in to form a 24 hour engineering team, tracing the old cable routes by hand and splicing in hundreds of metres of new cabling. They were joined by engineers from EDF Powerlink and Thales, who carried out crucial and complicated electrical work.

All signalling and power is now restored and operating as normal.

Howard Collins, London Underground's Chief Operating Officer, said: "On behalf of London Underground I would like to thank all our customers for their patience during this disruption. Rebuilding the remnants of the 50-year old cable system with new materials is a difficult surgical job that would usually have taken over a month to complete. Our engineers have been working around the clock to restore services as quickly as possible and we are pleased to say that full services are now operating on the District and Hammersmith & City lines.”

We were not afraid. Or were we?

We all have memories.

0850. Damn that Hammersmith & Shitty Line. Doors slide slowly open and I'm late into Liverpool Street station, shit, its already nearly nine and even if I just walk to Old Street and not wait for the bus I'll still be at least half an hour late. Great. What the hell was that bang. Never mind, carry on up the escalators. Too many people, I hate tourists. God I'm hung over. Why do people always stand on the left can't they see its for walking up? And I'm late. Great there's the 214 bus. Thank f. for that. Here's a colleague, at least I'm not the only one late in. Lot of traffic. Wish I'd walked. Crowds outside Moorgate spilling on to the roads. Must be a fire alert, they're closing the station.

What are all these police cars streaming down city road in the opposite direction for? A lot of them dont have any markings. Some of them dont even have sirens or lights. Something's happenned. Must be the fire. Anyway I'm late. And who'se standing at the door - the chief executive. Great. I mumble something about delays. He swears about Transport for London. I think he's an idiot.

0930-1500 - glued to internet. a bus goes up. "it's an attack" says a colleague. No shit sherlock. Translating Blair's statement into sign language for deaf colleagues but my hands are shaking so I dont know if they understand. Two of them start to cry. They do understand. My mobile only works for one call and I make it through to mum. She is in shock. I get through to my partner on the landline. She is in shock. But the baby gurgles away in the background. I have to get back to them. Pointless meetings fill the day where we dont decide anything. Staff start to leave anyway. HR graciously give in to the inevitable and we all start to leave.

1500. At last leaving the office. But how long will it take to walk to east London to get to the in-laws? In my work shoes too. and this bag. must have the laptop. cant believe I just paid 5 pounds for an A-Z. Some people are making money from this. Everything surreal. Look at that. A stream of humanity coming up behind me . Most are suited city workers doing exactly the same thing as I am. All the taxi firms are shut on commercial road. I cant believe all these people are just sitting round laughing in these cafes and bars. They either dont care or they still dont know. Then passing the London Hospital in Whitechapel. Look at that. This is really happening. Oh god look at that one on the trolley. oh god. Now its starting to rain. And I don't have a coat.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

13 school rebuilds stopped in H&F

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, yesterday cancelled the school building programme in our Borough. The following 13 schools will now not receive the investment they were promised:

  • Wood Lane High (complex needs)
  • Phoenix high (Shepherd's Bush)
  • Jack Tizard (next to QPR, Shepherd's Bush)
  • Cambridge (learning disabilitities)
  • Sacred Heart High
  • William Morris (6th form)
  • Fulham Cross
  • London Oratory
  • Henry Compton
  • Bridge Academy
  • Lady Margaret
  • Queensmill
  • Hurlingham & Chelsea
In it's Partnership for Schools document Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh said this of the programme:

I am excited by the prospect of change and assure you that I will do everything I can to ensure that we maximise all available funding. If we can secure up to £200 million funding from the Government I know it will make a huge difference to our schools, offering a first class education for children and indeed, for the whole community. Following our consultations we now go forward, with a clear sense of people's views, in our efforts toimprove the life chances of children and young people in Hammersmith and Fulham”.

So no more plans for first class education in Hammersmith & Fulham. I wonder how H&F News will report this..

Here's Michael Gove talking about what he called a "dysfunctional" building programme:

0915 UPDATE - A reader writes in (comments, below) to point out that this is the same Michael Gove who is supporting the creation of a Free School in our neck of the woods instead. So now the question about the West London Free School is this - why are they getting the money to build a new school from scratch and not our existing schools?

1200 UPDATE: not an update actually, more a question - where is the reporting on this from the traditional local media? The Government has just canned the building programmes of 13 local schools affecting hundreds of families and not a word from the Chronicle.

1330 UPDATE: The Chronicle is now reporting the story here. You know where you saw it first, folks..

1730 UPDATE: The Standard is carrying the story with this quote from Sir William Atkinson, head of Phoenix High School in Shepherd's Bush, who put things in perspective:

It is devastating news.” He added that children faced an unfair, “two-speed” education system with some pupils in dazzling new facilities while others were condemned to “antiquated, inadequate buildings”.

Phoenix was planning a £25 million overhaul of its buildings, which date back to the Fifties. Sir William said: “These are buildings with concrete that is beginning to crumble, iron pipe-work which has been fractured, with lots of leaks and flat roofs which are constantly leaking.”

I run past that school most mornings and the description of the buildings is a very accurate one indeed. That image can now stand for the future of education in this borough. Still, at least Toby Young gets his West London Free School instead.

Monday, 5 July 2010

11 year old explains impact of H&F cuts

Andy Slaughter spoke in Parliament last week and attacked the Council for the forthcoming closure of the Carers Centre, based in Hammersmith but covering the whole borough. You can watch his speech here (scroll in to 46 mins 12 seconds)

Here is one of the testimonies Andy Slaughter read out, which provides a glimpse into the very real human stories that these numbers actually represent:

"I am an eleven year old boy. I have a brother with cerebral palsy. My dad died when I was seven from a heart attack. I love my brother so much but I had to face very difficult things. Children have made fun of me because of my brother's condition. People that don't understand my brother's condition treat me differently to other people. I didn't go on holidays. People made fun of me when I was near my brother. I missed a lot of school. I felt stressed and unsure. I was unsure if I was doing the right or wrong thing. I didn't have anyone to talk to.

When I first went to the young carers project I made friends quite quickly. I told them my experiences and they told me theirs. The young carers project took me on trips and I was able to express my emotions and feelings. They helped me to understand bullies and that there was nothing wrong with me. They helped me realise that I did do things correctly.

They also took me camping, which was lots of fun and taught me different dances for example street dancing and martial arts style dancing. It is a chill out zone for all young carers and adult carers. It gives us freedom from our caring role.

If you close the young carers project, you'll be closing a family of people who came together because of difficulties. Which is unfair for all young carers and adult carers. I just can't believe you're closing down the young carers project for all the good work they have done."

The closure is part of the Council's cuts programme - and I should say here that I'm not posting this because I don't believe the Council has to make cuts. They do. The question is how and where, and until they start cutting their own expensive propaganda machine which is slammed by their own Conservative MPs and now Government as "propaganda on the rates", I find the sight of them slashing services to the most vulnerable instead quite sickening.

Explain to me why the tax money spent on H&F News is more important than supporting that boy.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

7,700 readers in June

It's been a while since I shared the stats of this blog, largely because I've been out of the country a fair amount and also I've been getting to grips with a much better statistics package that you get with blogspot, as opposed to Wordpress.

With these stats they tell you how many hits you had - so in June this blog had 10,026 but it also identifies how many unique users there were - in other words how many actual people read it. And that figure is 7,700 as you can see from the pic. (click on it to get a better view)

So there we are - thanks for sticking with the blog after I moved it's home to here and thanks also for the increasing number of stories I get sent from you. I couldn't cover half the things on here that I do without that, so that's what makes the site what it is.

I can't not observe that there are very real human stories behind these stats. June this year has been quite frankly one of the worst times I have ever witnessed in Shepherd's Bush. The murder of Jaabe Roberts in Askew Road, the stabbing at Westfield and a shooting on Goldhawk Road have been a wake up call to all of us of just how bad things can get in an inner city borough like ours. It's still one of the best places in the city to be - but my word do we have our problems.

Friday, 2 July 2010

"Rubbish eater" moored outside Houses of Parliament

A mobile "rubbish eater" boat is to be moored outside the House of Commons. Designed to scoop up millions of litres of baloney every year to stop it getting out to sea and endangering wildlife, the floating behemoth will be moored strategically just outside, did I mention, the Houses of Parliament.

Whatever could this choice of location mean?! And could we moor one on the Thames just round the back of Hammersmith Town Hall? The possibilities are endless!

happy friday!

Council buildings for sale

H&F Council is to raise £20 million by selling off nine buildings in the coming months, as part of Council Leader Cllr Greenhalgh's "solemn pledge" to cut  what he called the Council's "debt mountain". Here are the sites that will shortly have For Sale signs outside the door:

• Fulham Town Hall

• The Sands End Community Centre

• The Askham Centre

• Distillery Lane Centre

• Palingswick House

The Irish Centre

• 58 Bulwer Street

• The Greswell Street Centre

• 50 Commonwealth Avenue W12

There are three properties where the council proposes to discontinue its lease. These are:

• The Information Centre in Hammersmith Broadway

• Cambridge House
• Barclay House

The vast majority of these fire sales will affect the voluntary sector working to support individuals and communitities. Although the Council says they will all be 'helped' it seems clear to me at least that some will fold, and no longer be around. And the Council also says that these nine are just the first - more buildings will be sold off in future.

Cllr Greenhalgh says this:

The voluntary sector is hugely important in supporting local residents, but in these difficult times we must all do more for less,” adds Cllr Greenhalgh. “We are asking the voluntary sector to do what the council has already done - to use buildings more effectively and to focus on services rather than bricks and mortar. By moving to community hubs we will be able to provide better, more modern facilities for voluntary organisations under one roof, rather than in expensive, disparate buildings, many of which aren't suitable and have access problems.

The council will put in place extra support to help the groups affected by these site disposals to find suitable alternative accommodation and to manage the transfer process".

Pictured on the Council's home page reporting this story is a nice shot of Cllr Greenhalgh and Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government. You may remember Mr Pickles recently attacked what he called "Town Hall Pravdas", or state run propaganda newspapers that masquerade as independent journalism, and are produced at tapayer expense. Strangely the Council has yet to announce that it will make an immediate saving by scrapping it's own Town Hall Pravda, H&F News.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Eric Pickles attacks "Propaganda on the rates"

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Local Government, may not be so welcome next time he comes to Hammersmith & Fulham. He's just announced a toughening up of rules governing taxpayer-funded council newspapers, such as H&F News, which he calls "Town Hall Pravdas". The goal is to apparently ensure a robust and healthy independent local press can continue to scrutinise the activities of local councils.

Our own Council is one of the worst offenders in the country, with Conservative MPs slamming H&F News for being a propaganda organ dressed up as a legitamate newspaper. The high profile but ultimately fruitless campaign waged by the Fulham Chronicle against what the Government is now calling "propaganda on the rates" even reached David Cameron's front door.

The steady creep of publicity beyond council-related matters started in 2001 when a watering down of a statutory code lifted the restrictions on council publicity. The new Secretary of State intends to clamp down on this by making changes to the statutory code that will stop unfair competition, ensure a tougher value for money test, and prevent municipal literature passing itself off as independent journalism.

Eric Pickles said:

"The previous Government's weakening of the rules on town hall publicity not only wasted taxpayers' money and added to the wave of junk mail, but has undermined a free press.
"Councils should spend less time and money on weekly town hall Pravdas that end up in the bin, and focus more on frontline services like providing regular rubbish collections.

"In an internet age, commercial newspapers should expect over time less state advertising as more information is syndicated online for free. The flipside is our free press should not face state competition from propaganda on the rates dressed up as local reporting."

Hear, hear. Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh has made a "solemn pledge" to cut the Council's "debt mountain", and the axe has already started to swing on frontline services to the most vulnerable. How about following your own Conservative Government on this one and save us all a lot of money at a stroke? Deal or no deal?