Pravda may be on its last legs as the Government has declared the end to what it calls "Town Hall propaganda" but it seems the authors of H&F News are determined to go out with a bang as two articles in the latest edition of the paper reveal. In these, the dying days of Pravda, the Council it seems has abandoned even any pretence that the paper has anything to do with journalism - even adding the names of the people who write the articles at the top. These names, a cursory look at the H&F Council news section of the website will reveal, are owned by people paid to spin for the Council.
I actually don't think there is anything wrong with people being employed to put the Council's views across and having dealt with them personally they seem nice enough people. But I do think there is a lot wrong with our taxes being used to produce a one sided political propaganda sheet that is then hand delivered to every house in the borough. And so do MPs. And so does the Government. And so do many of you.
Let's start with this article about the Council's plans to redevelop Shepherd's Bush Market. We are told that in the upsurge of enthusiasm for the Council's plans "Many Shepherds Bush people have already spoken in favour of proposals to rejuvenate the market. Tessa Maison of Pennard Road, said: "I think that it is vitally important that Shepherds Bush Market is regenerated. But is it also important that the new design fits in with the local area. I would like to see an improved quality and standard of goods on sale and a better ambience in the market. It would be good to see a farmers market and a craft section which would be a real contrast to the large commercial giant on our doorstep, Westfield."
Well good for you Tessa, and in fairness she makes some good points. But the editors of our propaganda sheet somehow ran out of space to mention that the Traders of the market are up in arms about the proposals fearing that they will be priced out of the new market. They also ran out of space to mention the 130 strong petition signed by residents against the plans or the concerns about the fact that architecture that has been standing there since the 1880s will be bulldozed. No, none of that gets even a passing reference. Brassneckus in extremis.
And now let us turn to this treatise on the Council's plans to redevelop King Street and the surrounding areas of Hammersmith. The publicly funded scribes deign to inform us that the Leader says: “I understand that some people are concerned about the potential height of the two tallest residential buildings. An independent financial assessment from PricewaterhouseCoopers confirmed that the buildings are no taller than they need to be to ensure that the regeneration scheme is financially viable.”
'Some people'?! This would be the hundreds of residents that packed out a church to the point of bursting and demolished the Council's arguments one by one, with such gusto that the Leader himself was called from the back of the room to answer his critics. In fairness to him at the time he described himself as "hurt" by the criticism and determined to "listen."
He then decided to submit the plans as they were anyway just days later. Once again our poor scribes ran out of space to mention that meeting, nor the concerns raised, nor the impact of the scheme on Furnival Gardens which will be reduced by a third to make way for a bridge built so the inhabitants of the luxury flat tower complexes don't have to cross King Street to admire the river.
I am aware that Councils of all political parties often stretch truth to breaking point and issue their own versions of propaganda papers. I understand Labour in Greenwich do it as well - and that is equally unacceptable. But our Council seems to take this urge to spend our tax money feeding us propaganda that is so one-sided as to be misleading and verging on the untruthful to new heights. This costs us over a hundred thousand pounds every year according to the Fulham Chronicle, who themselves ran an ultimately unsuccessful camapign to close it down.
But at a time when we are closing services in our Borough that directly impact the most vulnerable in our society, like this 11 year old boy, on the grounds of cutting our "debt mountain" as Cllr Greenhalgh describes it, I think the fact that they would rather spend those pounds on producing this party political propaganda instead is frankly sickening. And I suspect I'm not alone.
1500 UPDATE - it turns out I'm not. A reader writes in to alert me to the fact that it has been confirmed today, reports the Newspaper Society website, that our Council has been forced to surrender. Not only is it withdrawing it's attempt to get around the Government's drive to remove such propaganda by establishing an "arms length outsourced" paper - it's acting to close H&F News down altogether from Spring next year. This after the Department for Local Government and Communities warned that it would “stand up to Hammersmith & Fulham Council if it went ahead with plans to get around the proposed ban on frequently produced council magazines.” I think we know who would have won that fight.
Pretty humiliating stuff - and presumably that's why you won't read about it in, er, H&F News. What is it with our Council and picking fights that they know they can't win?