Monday, 31 January 2011

H&F Council defend help for Ireland - but deny help to Irish

Councillor Joe Carlebach, Cabinet Member for Community Care, has got something to get off his chest. He is furious with Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist and all round Tory hate figure for her left wing liberal views. She is to them what the Daily Mail is to people of a leftward persuasion.

So it is perhaps not surprising that he lashes out at Ms Toynbee's criticism of David Cameron's decision to assist Ireland in their hour of economic need with a loan. To take La Toynbee's line that the UK should extract concessions in return would be morally questionable and economically inept, given the trading relationship between the two nations, he says.

In fact Cllr Carlebach gets a little bit carried away and with an air befitting of a man with a magnificently coiffured moustache, haughtily says this:

"I am reminded of the what Thucydides (c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC) the Greek historian said of friendship “We secure our friends not by accepting favours but by doing them.” This is as true today as it was then and I hope Ms Toynbee and those like minded individuals carefully bear this in mind".

Fine words - and in my view absolutely right - but they will ring a little hollow to the good folk of the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, one of the few such cultural centres left in the UK and a focal point for the Irish community in our borough. The promises made to them for funding until 2017 have been cast aside and the building is set to be flogged off without even giving them the chance to raise the money to buy it themselves.

Thucydides (c. 460 BC - c. 395 BC) would be spinning in his toga.

So it seems help for Ireland is OK. But not the undeserving Irish in H&F it would seem.

Boris Johnson criticised for taking cash from Iran

TfL is taking money from the Iranian regime in return for adverts promoting the propaganda channel PressTV. The channel, which is the mouthpiece of the Tehran Government for the English speaking world has similarities to our own Council's propaganda sheet "H&F News" in the sense that it only reports the views of the regime in charge.

It has recently been under the spotlight for airing a "confession" in order to justify the Iranian Government's decision to stone a woman to death for adultery, among other things.

Fellow blogger Daryl of the 853 blog covering Greenwich asks some searching questions about the Mayor's willingness to deal with some very shady people indeed. You've got to wonder whether allowing legal loan sharks Wonga to sponsor new years eve only to recoup the cost by taking money from the Iranian Government is really where London should be positioning itself.

Brenda Namigodde: Andy Slaughter calls for W12 deportation to be halted

A Ugandan lesbian woman who was due to be deported, and was actually on the plane, was dramatically released back into UK custody following a halting of her deportation by lawyers. Brenda Namigodde has been living in our borough since arriving in the UK but was told by the Home Office that she had to return.

Full story in the Guardian here.

Uganda is of course the same country where gay people are routinely abused and face, as in the case of David Kato, murder. Even the pastor speaking at Mr Kato's funeral launched into a rant about how gays should repent of their ways until his grieving family shouted him down and he was bundled from the pulpit.

Andy Slaughter has written to the Immigration Minister Damian Green, and has this to say:

"Whatever the circumstances surrounding Ms Namigadde’s presence in Britain, it is clear that she cannot be deported to Uganda at present. Both the public mood and the official stance towards homosexuals in Uganda are lethal at the moment – we should not be contemplating sending my constituents back to a society where she will be in grave danger of her life.

I call upon Damian Green to intervene personally to halt this deportation immediately and suspend the removal notice against my constituent, until we can find a resolution to this case that does not involve sending Ms Namigadde to face certain persecution and possible death."

I defy anyone to give me a good reason why it is in the interests of the UK to deport people who we know to be in fear of their life like this.

I also can't understand why we don't sit back and take a good hard look at deportations anyway - on my way out here to Sri Lanka I came across someone being forcibly deported on my plane - one of the officers doing it admitted to me that they were never going to keep up with the numbers already in the UK - he was just doing his job, he said. But wherever you stand on that, I hope this woman's life is spared and she is able to carry on living among us here. At least she'll still be living.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Blogging from Sri Lanka

I went to a tea plantation yesterday. It was both stunningly beautiful but full of reminders of how much some people in Sri Lanka have yet to go to catch up with the rest of the world.

In the war that ripped this island apart, over nearly three decades, much was made of the ethnic dimension of the war. It was, after all, the Tamil Tigers fighting the by and large Sinhalese Government. But Sri Lanka is an island more complex than this simple narrative suggests, as the people of the tea plantation proved.

On the approach to this plantation, through winding valleys bedecked with lines of tea leaf producing hedgerows, the first thing you notice are women with impossibly sized cloth bags hung from their foreheads across their back, plucking the buds and leaves. It is backbreaking work for which the workers are paid just enough to subsist.

Their problems only begin there. For their accomodation (above) is tied to their labour - withdraw that and they become instantly homeless. Given their lack of education beyond the rudimentary basics they stand no realistic chance of securing alternative employment - and so they stay. They stay to live in what are called "linehouses" - as you can see literally a line of concrete stables with one room. Consider that in this part of the world families from multiple generations live together and you start to get the picture. Bear in mind there is no internal toilet but a shared outside privvy and you begin to realise these people are living in conditions that we now study in history books. It is like going back to the Victorian age, which is apt because that is when they were built.

I asked some of the young people what they wanted to be. Not one of them answered tea-picker, but offered a range of professions which they dreamt of joining - doctors, teachers and businessmen all.

Ambition is admirable but consider that these people, the so-called "hill Tamils" who were literally imported here from India by the British, were only granted full Sri Lankan citizenship a matter of years ago and you begin to realise how vast the gulf between their ambitions and likely fate really is.

These people speak Tamil, but they are not Tamil in the sense that they either live with the majority Tamil community nor were they any part whatsoever of the uprising that turned into the Tamil Tigers. All of that passed them by. As did the centuries of development and growth that shaped our own worlds and outlook.

Consider that when you next pour some tea - and spare these people a thought. If the post war Sri Lanka is to develop as a unified nation and realise its obvious potential to become what the President himself has declared the "wonder of Asia"  - more than possible given its extraordinary beauty and people - then everyone has to have a stake. For the hill Tamils there is an awful lot of ground to make up.

Londis Goldhawk Rd apply for 24 hr booze sales

Londis on 20 Goldhawk Rd are irresponsible in the extreme. They have applied for a license to sell booze until 2am, presumably in the knowledge that the area is already beset with alcoholic people who routinely make the residents' lives a misery.

I don't live in that part of the Bush so I have no personal interest in opposing this, but having attended numerous meetings to hear stories of children being sworn at, gardens urinated in and the detritus of booze and drugs discarded in the surrounding streets I would wonder at any councillor in Hammersmith Town Hall daft enough to vote this through.

To make matters worse the residents of Pennard Road were not notified of the application despite having specifically signed up to the Council's much vaunted online "alert" system. The rearguard action is being fought by Pennard Road Neighbourhood Watch man Chris Noonan, who is not happy either at the prospect of more boozed up behaviour or the fact that the alert system has proved not to work.

I'm told that the deadline for opposing this move is 15th February. And I'm also told that the self same Londis is currently being investigated for selling alcohol to under age children. So just the sort of people you want trading intoxicating liquor at all hours, then.


Friday, 28 January 2011

Rail replacement bus hell - a traveller to W12 writes..

"Today this station close" read the scribbled message on the board outside Hammersmith station on Saturday. Not a phrase to raise hopes of high-level communicative ability in either of the two members of staff standing alongside. "Buses all stations to Paddington" said the printed text underneath, before explaining in small type "Not stopping at Wood Lane. Calling additionally at Shepherd's Bush." You had to get up pretty close to read that, which suggests that whoever designs these posters is using an undersized font.

Read all about Diamond Geezer's round the world trip to Hammersmith via Shepherd's Bush from the other side of London - and then marvel at how, on providing this non existent embarassment of a rail replacement bus service, they managed to spend 8.2 million of your tax payers pounds on it, as I reported here.

...and take a deep breath.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Shepherd's Bush Market: Court battle looms, Goldhawk Terrace safe

Traders are seeking judicial review of Orion Shepherd's Bush's plans to redevelop the Market but it seems Orion have accepted that the Goldhawk Terrace is here to stay, based on a chat I had recently with Chris Horn, spokesperson for the developers.

Traders are applying for a judicial review on two fronts - the way in which H&F Council has managed the process and also the plans Orion have for expanding the trading space of the market itself.

If either of these judicial reviews succeed - and at the time of writing neither have been formally submitted yet but I understand this is imminent - then the plans for the market will be set back by months. Which is presumably exactly what the traders are aiming for.

Speaking to Chris Horn it's clear that Orion have grudgingly accepted the pledge made by Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh at this meeting in December that the historic Victorian row of shops will not be knocked down if the majority of shopkeepers do not want that to happen. Although Orion's Chair Richard Olsen claimed at the meeting that there were divided opinions among the shopkeepers, its clear that majority are not likely to change their minds in the short term.

So what we may have is some kind of smaller third entrance/exit, but along the lines of a fire/emergency access lane rather than a great big working entrance onto Goldhawk Road.

While I was frank when talking with Chris Horn about my own opinion that Orion had got it wrong on wanting to do away with what many of us see as a piece of historic Shepherd's Bush, it was also clear to me at least that Orion do actually have some very valid ideas about how the market might be expanded and made more profitable for the traders, without turning it into yet another boutique style place. But we now seem to be heading to court, and not for the first time on a planning issue in this borough.

And that, I think, eexplains why there seems to be a complete and utter lack of trust among traders, shopkeepers and local residents of Pennard and Lime Grove. Our Council has a lot of bad form on forcing developments on unwilling residents and it has only recently started to show some acceptance that this may not be the best way to go about things. Cllr Greenhalgh made up for some lost ground in the way he accepted that local wishes needed to come first at the meeting last year, but such is the legacy of distrust from residents, I can't see this development hapenning any time soon.

That said, there are to be a series of exhibitions locally in the coming months based on what Orion say they have been told by residents and traders alike. Look out for more here on that later. We rumble on...

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Sponsor me, support Shepherd's Bush School Jack Tizard

Severely disabled kids in W12 need support and here's a way of contributing whatever you like courtesy of my forthcoming half marathon in Watford.

One of the toughest courses in the English running calendar my training here in Sri Lanka where I am for work is hopefully going to get me around, hot weather training plus altitude.

But here's a message from the School's headmistress Cathy Welsh direct to you, dear reader - please give what you can

Many thanks for your interest in making a donation to the Big Splash Trust.

The Big Splash Trust has been established to extend the use of our hydrotherapy pool to children in the community and to provide improved learning facilities for the pupils at Jack Tizard School.

We have a very aspirational vision for the future and believe passionately that children like those attending Jack Tizard should have good quality life and learning experiences.

If you chose to donate to The Big Splash Trust your money would be used to support children in the community use our hydrotherapy pool or purchase a piece of sensory equipment to improve our sensory learning environment e.g. a sensory wall or bubble tube either for use in the school or hydrotherapy pool.

Your donation would make a big difference to the life and learning opportunities of children with multisensory learning difficulties.

This School, next to QPR, quietly do amazing things without causing much fuss, and the recent publicity they generated by the opening of their new hydrotherapy pool by Prime Minister David Cameron, whose son Ivan attended the school, was probably the first time many of us had ever heard of them.

The easisest way is to donate with debit or credit card using Paypal here. I'm not using JustGiving this year because I found out they take 5% from each donation, which I thought was a bit much. But the school has agreed to keep a tally of donations and I'll feedback on how things are going.

If you could let me know either by commenting below or emailing me on that would be great. In fact it would be amazing. And in return I can promise photographic evidence of my sweaty training runs and ultimate triumph. That's the theory, anyway. Thank-you.

Shepherd's Bush boy murder planned on facebook

16 year old Sofyen Belamouadden was chased and then stabbed to death at Victoria Station by a group of gang members who had planned the event on facebook, according to the BBC. This murder, which made all of us in W12 pause for breath since most of us who've lived here for long enough know exactly which local gang carrries out this sort of thing in Shepherd's Bush itself, took place in March last year.

Another life lost. For nothing.

I'm writing this from a part of the world where tens of thousands of young people have died in a 30 year old civil war. They took up arms, on both sides, because they felt there was no alternative. That's not something the pathetic members of gangs in Shepherd's Bush can say. They wouldn't last 5 minutes here.

Monday, 24 January 2011

MyVillage apologise for stealing content has reported on my battle with Roifield Brown, chief of the content thieving site, who present other people's content as if it was their own. And Mr Brown is eating serious portions of humble pie this time, with this quote:

"I hold my hands up that when some bloggers have asked for content to be taken down over the past year, it has not been taken down promptly and that is my fault.

" is actually a much smaller business than it appears in terms of staff and some emails from bloggers requesting that their content stop being taken went to old email addresses of staff who had left the company. I was unaware that the emails had been sent, so the requests from bloggers unfortunately were not dealt with.

"However, I think when we have taken parts of content from another site it is pretty clear: the source is shown, there is a link to the rest of the post and there is a date. We do not claim to have originated the content at all."

No Mr Brown, you don't specifically say "this is not our content" - you just present it as if it was. And as for not receiving emails, well ..... But leaving that piece of spin aside, Mr Brown goes on to say:

"We like local, we like people's local opinions and we apologise if we have upset anyone as this was not our intent,"

Good. Don't let it happen again.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Ed Vaizey, Toby Young, Stephen Woolley to launch community cinema for Shepherd's Bush homeless

On Thursday 27th January 2011, Open Cinema will be taking part in a special fundraising event for the St Stephen’s Film Club in Shepherd’s Bush – the newest addition to their nationwide network of community cinemas and one which I reported on here.

Organised and hosted by the St Stephen’s Film Club, this event will feature a panel debate o the question “Can cinema be an agent of change?”. Confirmed panelists include Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries; Oscar-nominated and BAFTA winning film producer Stephen Woolley, author and journalist Toby Young, and Christoph Warrack, founder and CEO of Open Cinema.

Tickets for the fundraiser are priced at £25, and include entry to the debate, canap├ęs and drinks. All proceeds will go to the St Stephen’s Film Club, which plans to offer weekly film screenings and filmmaking projects for the local homeless and elderly communities in Shepherd’s Bush.

For tickets and further information, please contact

Toby Young: opponents are bullies, liars and hypocrites

Andy Slaughter MP is labelled a hypocrite for having gone to a private school himself but being determined to deny others the same standard of education to others, by Toby Young, leader of the soon to be West London Free School in Hammersmith & Shepherd's Bush, in today's Daily Mail.

Slamming local unions too Mr Young points out that some of them are members of the Communist Party and/or the Socialist Workers - and themselves have educated their own children out of the borough, presumably in search of a better education for their own offspring.

After Mr Young's personal response to this blog on the issue just days ago it's clear that this is the start of a fully fedged fightback that is likely to pull no punches. Given our own Council's enthusiasm for the school as well you can reasonably expect the fireworks over this issue to be a dominant theme in the local news for months to come.

Just a thought though, was the choice of the Daily Mail really a good idea?!

Friday, 21 January 2011

H&F and Wandsworth merge spin operations

Shared spinners will set the party line on both sides of the water in West London from now on if a new deal to save money is approved between our Council and Wandsworth.

PR Week reports that H&F spinners, still smarting from the enforced loss of propaganda sheet H&F News, will be working four days a week in Wandsworth while covering both boroughs.

Throughout my objections to the one sided and biased reporting that our taxes were used for to produce H&F News, I always maintained that actually having a communications team was no bad thing in principle, so this is probably a sensible move. It does make you wonder why they didn't do it before though, and spend some of our money that they could have saved instead of producing so much propaganda on front line services.

Deported to Sri Lanka

I hadn't intended to write a postcard style posting from here in Sri Lanka but something hapenned on the plane that I have never seen before and thought it worth sharing.

Getting to the back of the plane, where I'd booked my regular window seat, I noticed that there was already a gaggle of people in that area.

Then I realised someone was already seated in the aisle seat next to me- bugger thought I, there goes any chance of sleep. But things weren't quite as they seemed. For this gaggle of people were immigration officers forcibly deporting a Sri Lankan man back here. And he didn't like it one bit.

Sat there in handcuffs surrounded by burly men plus one woman he cut a forlorn figure as the air stewardesses tried to pretend it wasn't hapenning. As we all got off the plane, a mix of those coming here to work and holidaymakers, the unhappy party at the back stayed exactly where they were presumably waiting for everyone to get off first before they took their prisoner out.

And the moral of this story is .... well there isn't one. But just imagine how we all take what we have for granted while for some people when they seek a better life for themselves and their families, they are met with a wall of resistance. Would the Daily Mail brigade be quite so hard line about foreigners if they stopped to consider their own fate if they had been born into poverty?

Who knows, but it made me think anyway.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Disabled people's access too expensive: Boris

The only question about Shepherd's Bush was asked by your very own blogger at last night's "Let's Talk Transport" event at a 1930s retro Town Hall in Greenford. Arriving on the packed bus I realised I was at the venue by the blue glow radiating from the town hall which had been illuminated in the Mayor's honour for the evening.

So into the blue beacon I went expecting to hear questions from across West London, given that this event was billed as being West London. Silly me. Actually what we heard was detailed debate of the width of Greenford's pavements and the history of cycling in Ealing, which Council Leader Julian Bell proclaimed as a "biking borough".

So it was a meeting full of slogans and not a little thinly disguised electioneering, especially from the Mayor who of course is up for, er, election next year. He wanted serious credit for investing in transport, especially the shiny new trains. Deciding to try and puncture some of this bluster I asked one of the first questions of the night about a favourite topic of mine that never ceases to make me angry - the fact that the new Shepherd's Bush tube was built with no - yes no - disabled access even though it was a brand new station.

Noting that my journey had started at a station that disabled people could not use - Shepherd's Bush - and ended at another one that disabled people cannot use - Greenford - I asked the Mayor why £39 million had been wasted on a feasibility study that concluded that a simple lift would cost in excess of £100 million. I put it to Boris that this was both economically inept and morally just wrong.

Boris' reply started out positively, saying that step-free access was "not off the agenda", but it went swiftly downhill from there, with his answer basically saying that it was far too expensive and that if he kept trying to spend all this money on allowing disabled people to use tube stations he might lose Crossrail because, goodness me, that was expensive too donchaknow.

I had asked him whether he might do something about it this side of the election or afterwards, and couldn't resist the comment "assuming you're still the Mayor", prompting groans and sighs from the Boris fan club siting around me. Answer to that there came none. I also asked whether he could guarantee the brand new Crossrail trains would be fully accessible which, in fairness, he pledged they would be.

And then came the deluge - we had stories of disabled people being unable to use tube stations, bus drivers not using the ramps they were equipped with because they took too much time and even a wheelchair bound woman who'd been sworn at by a bus driver and ignored by black cabs. To this Boris attempted some of his Have I got News For You style humour by describing it as a "virtual insurrection" over disabled access, which he would take back and earnestly discuss with TfL. But, he said, he couldn't promise anything.

And he certainly didn't.

I recently took part in a BBC Inside Out documentary on this very subject, which will be broadcast on Feb 14th. Yes that's Valentine's Day - what better use of such a day could there be than watching me on the telly talking about disabled access to the tube?

Sri Lanka bound

As you read this I will be on a Sri Lanka Airlines flight from London to that South Asian country for the peacebuilding NGO for whom I work. Sri Lanka is a beautiful island in many ways but has suffered from three decades of extremely violent armed conflict which resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.

As if that wasn't bad enough the Asian Tsunami of 2004 devastated the island, killed countless more and resulted in entire regions becoming homeless overnight. And at the moment, largely due to climate change that the inhabitants of the island did nothing to create, they are suffering floods which have wiped out large parts of the rice crop which means the spectre of food shortages now hangs over them again. Here's the current situation in a report from Al-Jazeera:

So, like many of the places I go to for work, it's a place that sets all of our travails into some context. Blogging here will slow down a little bit but do keep sending the stories through to - it won't be the first time I post super-local stories from a very long way away indeed!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Right of Reply: Toby Young talks to Shepherd's Bush Blog on Free School

Yesterday I reported that the Guardian had described local refugee groups being effectively made homeless by the arrival of the West London Free School, led by broadcaster Toby Young. I should say that two things have hapenned since then - the Guardian were forced to change their headline and Mr Young himself has been in touch to put his own side of the story, which I'm happy to reproduce in full.

In my own story I referred to Mr Young as "evictor-in-chief", in reference to the fact that local groups are having to leave Palingswick House in Hammersmith to make way for the school. Here's what Toby had to say in response:

"Incidentally, I'm not the evictor-in-chief. And my defence is ... I'm not. My group only became aware of Palingswick House when Hammersmith and Fulham listed it for disposal last year.

Now that the consultation about it and the other eight sites listed for disposal has been completed, the Council is minded to sell it. The choice, therefore, is not between selling the building or keeping it, but between selling it to our school or a commercial developer and I have no doubt that a developer would demolish it and stick up a block of flats.

The current tenants will have to be re-housed by the Council whoever buys it so it’s grossly misleading to claim that the West London Free School will be responsible for “expelling” them, as the Guardian did in its headline today. (I managed to get the Guardian to correct that headline by the way.)

Do you think that if the Council sold it to a commercial developer that said developer would allow the current groups to remain in the building paying 65% of the market rent? In any event, the groups won’t be “expelled”. The Council is working with them to find suitable alternative accommodation."

Mr Young has also offered to do a fuller interview with me on the subject of the West London Free School in early February which, whatever your opinion of the school coming to the Bush, is very welcome. So any comments or questions you'd like me to put to him please leave in the comments or directly to

Askew Road residents win victory against cheap booze merchants Nisa

Homeless alcoholics on Askew Road are a part of the furniture these days. Usually congregating outside Ladbrokes betting shop or shuffling between there and the Co-op where they frequently buy their cans of super strength they don't really bother you, at least not in my experience, but they are a constant reminder of where we could all end up if just a few things went drastically wrong.

So when Askew Road newbies Nisa wanted to start selling booze around the clock almost as soon as they'd run the shutters up on their new shop the Cathnor Park Area Action Group, which is an increasingly active group of residents more than capable of sticking up for themselves, decided to fight it.

And the other night, with a stroke of the pen, planners in Hammersmith Town Hall responded to the concerns that had been raised and turned the application down. A small victory on a small issue you might think, and you'd be right - but it's exactly this sort of action that will hold the line against the Askew Road declining even further than it already has in recent years.

Now we need, surely, to see two things. For new businesses to come in and take down the boardings that dominate the former Rat & Carrot and Sun pubs and turn them into successful upmarket operations, and for those that so obviously need help that we always just walk past on that road to actually get it. The owner of Askew Wine proved the former can be done after taking over Bottoms Up when it was closed - surely with the right social services in place we can take care of the latter.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Fitness First Shepherd's Bush: what's the point?

No water, lots of mess and fighting cleaners are the three things this branch of the largest fitness chain in the UK seems to be good at, but precious little else. The question for me is whether this apparent total lack of customer service is related to the increasingly vacant and derelict W12 centre which seems to be dying a slow death since before the arrival of Westfield, or whether Fitness First in the Bush has given in to the strong challenge being mounted for custom by Gymbox over the road.

But let's have a look at some of the main challenges that our friends at Fitness First seem unable to overcome. Ever.

Water is a scarce commodity. They have wars over it in some parts of the world, but as I walked through the puddles this morning on the way to the gym it didn't dawn on me that west London has now run out. But yes, there was none - no hot, no cold in fact no running water at all in the gym today.Now this is bad enough but Fitness First Shepherd's Bush have lots of form here - freezing cold showers are a regular occurence and have been there for years. So they are either sitting on a desert or they don't fork out for decent plumbers.

And speaking of form, it is highly unusual for anyone to arrive in the weights area first thing in the morning to find the place not a complete mess with weights all over the place, jumbled up or sometimes not there at all. Tidying at the end of the night seems to be a bridge too far for this establishment, and the people on duty in the morning don't seem to be in much of a rush to put things right either.

And then there are the pugilistic cleaners who, a few weeks ago, had an outright fist fight in the reception area as people were arriving, apparently over a money dispute. You'd think that would be the last you might see of the amateur boxing champs with mops, but no the same people are still there.

So all in all I've just about lost my rag with them, as you might have guessed. Here's what some of you have tweeted to me this morning about them, in response to my news about the water:
  • "Bet the sunbeds are working"
  • "So its fitness first, customer service second then..."
  • "crap, I was thinking of going back there today after taking the last 6 weeks off"
  • "thats why I stopped going tot the H'Smith, well that and I am a lazy bastard"

What a happy bunch of customers. Did anyone say there was a recession on and people were looking at their expenditure?

Guardian: H&F refugee groups expelled by Free School

The Guardian reports here that the West London Free School is about to expel numerous local voluntary service groups currently working with the most vulnerable people in our society. The news that the School is coming to Palingswick House in Hammersmith was first brought to you on this blog in November but our Council (and local press) have only just reported it publicly.

I say this to highlight two things: first, that the Council has needlessly refused to admit publicly something many people locally already knew, resulting in rumour and uncertainty for the local voluntary groups, and second that the power of this blog is entirely dependant on the people that send me the stories - so thank-you.

In his defence of being the evictor-in-chief Toby Young, the man in charge of the new school which represents a flagship Conservative policy of establishing "free" schools not dependent on local education authorities, argues that at least half of the children coming to the school will be local. Well great but that seems to be a confirmation of something I also reported on - namely that a large percentage of the kids at the school will be from outside H&F. In other words local services will be lost in order to provide a new school for non-local kids. 

Controversial? You might think so but our Council has never been one to shrink away from that, and I have to say most of my criticism of this school has been related to the secrecy with which it's gone about its business thus far. I can actually understand why it will appeal to residents and parents, but worry about the impact it will have on existing schools. But then, on balance, if this new model does work how will they know if they don't try it?

19th Jan UPDATE: West London Free School founder Toby Young has responded to this post here.

Monday, 17 January 2011

H&F Council puts spending online

A website has been launched to allow residents to scrutinise how the council spends their money. By clicking here you can get an overview of how much of your cash has gone where and you can even drill down into specifics by clicking on the links. The website is called "spotlight on spend".

There's some interesting stuff in there, such as the apparently large soft furnishings bill, and some notable absences - such as any reference to "communications" - accounting for the large press team and of course the soon to be defunct "H&F News" propaganda paper - but for the time being I think the Council does deserve a lot of credit for putting what they have put there in the first place.

H&F is one of the first authorities to have put this sort of information out into the public domain and has ended up embarrassing neighbouring authorities who have been slow to deliver the same level of accountability - such as Ealing. Whatever arguments we might have about how the money has been spent, at least we can now see a lot of it in order to reach those judgements. So on this, well done Council. 

Friday, 14 January 2011

Loftus Road ruckus over midnight roadworks

Angry scenes on Loftus Road earlier this week as an electricity cut led to pneumatic drills being noisily brought on to the road around midnight and then being started up at 2am.

A number of you it seems didn't sleep on Tuesday night as a result of what seems to have been an example in how to put the needs of contractors first and residents very much second third and last. The Twitter hashtag used by some Shepherd's Bush residents to talk to each other and share updates started buzzing in the early hours with complaints about the noise, and requests for people to call and complain.

The next day however there were reports of police having been called as tensions between the contractors carrying out the late night roadworks and frazzled residents threatened to boil over. Some residents have complained that the contractors were belligerent and didn't seem much to care about the fact that an entire street was being kept awake on a work night, and that the police themselves were more interested in allowing the work to go ahead than anything else. However others have pointed out that one of the contractors was actually attacked by an angry resident.

I have put in a call to the Police for their version so watch this space but in the meantime add your comments if you have any below.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Tube Strikes: Government to tighten law

Shepherd's Bush station is featured in this report from the BBC's Nick Robinson from the last round of strikes that took place on Boxing Day courtesy of the ASLEF union. If the laws are tightened it will be interesting to see what the reaction of the tube drivers is, and it might just be a last-gasp attempt by Boris to actually do something he promised to do during his election campaign.

Shepherd's Bush robber in court with headteacher murderer

The BBC is reporting here that a Shepherd's Bush man is in court charged with robbing another after he'd used a cash-point in north London. What interested me a bit more is the name of the other accomplice. Step forward Learco Chindamo - which is the same name as the teenager who stabbed headteacher Philip Lawrence to death outside a school in West London.

And yes, the Telegraph reports here that it is the same person. Another stunning success for the British justice system.

Property Week: Developers face "stumbling block" in H&F

Property Week is reporting that CapCo, the developers persuaded by H&F Council to take over and redevelop the West Kensington Estate, are set to face what they call a "stumbling block" which I reported here, of residents actually being able under new legislation to take their own estates over and effectively evict the Council as their landlord.

What I find interesting about this article is not so much that this is now a problem for the developers, which we knew, but the last lines of the article which read thus:

When it bought the 23 acre Earl’s Court site in 2007, CapCo had originally planned to limit the redevelopment to the 7m sq ft that it owned.
However, in 2008, Conservative council leader Stephen Greenhaugh persuaded Capco to produce a more ambitious single masterplan that encompassed the council blocks and 23 acres of Tranport for London land.

So even the developers weren't as mustard keen to see the estates knocked down and rebuilt as our very own Council Leader was, in the full knowledge that the residents were likely not to like it very much!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

New cinema in Shepherd's Bush for homeless, community groups & Bushers

Open Cinema have contacted me to publicise the proposed new film club they want to launch in W12. In fact the film club is hoped to progress into a sort of cinema that is used and supported by residents from Shepherd's Bush in co-operation with those groups supporting homeless people. Here's what they had to say:

"Open Cinema is a social enterprise that runs a network of community programmed film clubs around the UK. We partner with homeless support services, community groups and residents associations, helping them to set up and run high quality, engaging community cinemas that show them the films they want to see, introduce by famous filmmakers and exciting specialist speakers.

In Shepherd's Bush, we're partnering with the Church of St Stephen and St Thomas in Coverdale Road to launch a new film club at their community centre. This will offer screenings to local homeless people, local elderly people, and some general community events as well. The Church have already found a coordinator to manage the new film club, but we need a group of (preferably local) volunteers to help him out with general hospitality stuff, like making tea and coffee and handing out sandwiches, as well as chatting to visitors and making the film club a welcoming and friendly place for everyone involved. Basically, we want the film club to become a community hub, and we need proactive local volunteers to help us make this happen.

Volunteers should be interested in film, over 21 years in age, and preferably have some experience of working with homeless people, the elderly or other vulnerable groups. Anyone interested should email for an application form".

I'll be signing up and suggest you think about it too!

New powers to prompt more resident take overs in H&F

H&F Council's determination to press ahead with controversial planning projects against the wishes of residents looks set to be clipped if not permanently hobbled by new powers being brought in by the Government according to leaders of the West Kensington Estate, whose residents are trying to do get rid of the Council as a "rogue landlord" in order to save their estate from the developers.

Those developers are quite aggressive as my own argument with their Chief Exec illustrates in the comments section of this article!

The Guardian has the low down on what it means for residents and our Council - and says the ghost of Shirley Porter may yet be put to rest.

Shepherd's Bush tube: no disabled access

Can you tell the BBC Inside Out programme about your experiences as a disabled person not being able to use, or use with difficulty Shepherd's Bush station because of TfL's decision not to install step free access? If so either contact me on or Toby Strutt of the BBC on

Monday, 10 January 2011

Confusion as Council votes through £3.2m children's cuts

10,000 local children had their services cut this evening on the back of a report that the Council themselves admitted was full of inaccurate numbers and statements about what would or would not happen. Amid bizarre scenes in a meeting at the Town Hall that left many in the 100 strong audience confused the Cabinet of H&F Council voted to cut services affecting some of the most vulnerable children in our borough, and to close the majority of Sure Start children's centres here, saving £3.2 million.

Or did they? The meeting started to get strange when the Cabinet Member for Children's Services, Cllr Binmore, introduced the report which had been prepared by the Director of Finance for the authority. It was, she said, out of date and that "thinking" had "moved on". Now Cllr Binmore claimed that in fact there would be one more children's centre and that most of the savings would be achieved from "reconfiguring" the services using a "hub and spoke" system. Even better there was now going to be a consultation of parents and professionals to inform the Council about what they did with their new service, albeit one that was now 3.2 million pounds slimmer.

The problem with this was that the report states very clearly that only 6 Sure Start centres, which cater for newborn children through to school age and other services that look after vulnerable children personified by the tragedy of Baby P, will be left open, and that 50 staff were to be made redundant.

Ah, said Cllr Binmore, but "thinking" had "moved on" and they were "committed to spending every penny on the front line". And anyway there was going to be a consultation.

So we had, basically, a report which by the Council's own admission was completely inaccurate including on the figures of closures and cuts. This was a problem, suggested the opposition Labour councillors, and should the Council not withdraw this report and hold the consultation before making such sweeping cuts? After all the consultation might reveal that the cuts would be dangerous for vulnerable kids. "No" said Council Leader Greenhalgh, visibly irritated by both the questioning and also the barracking from the floor. Which, it has to be said, came mainly from Andy Slaughter MP.

There were even demands for a legal opinion from the Council lawyer standing behind the councillors, he appeared ready to answer the point but Cllr Greenhalgh also said no to that as well. We didn't need one, he said.

There followed scenes from a script of Monty Python as questions were taken from the opposition councillors about what the report actually said would happen, while they were all answered with vague replies about "commitment to the front line" and a consultation - and that what the report said was no longer relevant since their thinking had moved on.

Cllr Cowan shot back with a comment that on a service as potentially serious to children's safety as this it was not the time to be facetious. Could he please have some numbers and if not some evidence of their research into what the impact of the cuts would be. Answer there came none.

By the end of the meeting Cllr Cowan asked about the consultation - which had also not been mentioned in the report. He asked what the point of it was given that it would take place after the £3.2 million had been cut, and how long it would last. Cllr Binmore at this stage, having been in the hot seat for the best part of an hour, said there was "no evidence" that the cuts would place children at greater risk, and appeared to be thinking on her feet when she said that the consultation would last, "er, I would.... anticipate, ........ no longer one month." On the hoof stuff.

In the end, and after confirming that there had been no contact with central Government despite David Cameron's pledge during the campaign that there would be no such cuts to the Sure Start programme, the councillors voted in a split second and started talking about planning regulations as everyone else was still interested in children's services. Answering cries from the audience, which included children, local professionals and the general public, Cllr Greenhalgh retorted "Yes. we just voted it through. Yes we have." And so they had.

Speaking outside the meeting there was anger from teachers and professionals involved in the children's services, with one chair of governors telling me they expected to see sweeping cuts that would leave the services devastated. Some of those people were among protesters gathered outside the Town Hall before the meeting, which were addressed by the Shadow Childrens Minister Sharon Hodgson MP, Andy Slaughter MP and Councillor Stephen Cowan. You can see the videos of what they said above and below.

There will now, apparently, be a consultation throughout Hammersmith & Fulham on these cuts that Cllr Binmore, again clearly estimating as she went along, said would begin "er, any day now". So look out for that. But the point is the consultation will now be taking place against a backdrop of £3.2 million having already been cut from the pot. That was done this evening. And in the most curious way.

H&F wins "Rotten Borough" Private Eye Award!

As services for children are axed our Council is paying hundreds of thousands of pounds to a civil servant who was judged to have retired on thr grounds of being too ill to work by his last employer - another Council. Unsurprisingly this hasn't gone unnoticed by the folk at Private Eye who felt that this brass necked approach to the public purse was worth a brass award.

Step forward H&F Chief Executive Nick Johnson, controversially returning from retirement within days of being signed off, just in time to pick up a whopping new six figure salary. Unsurprisingly Labour locally are jumping all over this and with some justification.

Especially when to maximise the amount of our money he receives Mr Johnson has decided to set up his own company to receive it, which exempts him from some deductions. Documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday reveal the company has received £700,000 from H&F Homes since Mr Johnson took up his position in February 2008.

In the last financial year alone, Davies Johnson Ltd was paid £260,980 in ‘consultancy charges’. The year before, it banked £269,405.

Here's Private Eye's award citation to Mr Johnson:


Nick Johnson, who retired as chief exec of the London borough of Bexley on grounds of ill health in 2007, aged 54, comforted by a £50,000 pension – to which he was entitled immediately on the understanding that he was too sick to work in local government again. In June 2010 he admitted he had been working full time for Hammersmith & Fulham council and its housing management provider, H&F Homes. He was paid £528,000 from these sources between 2008 and 2010.

I have to say this really undermines the very positive moves this Council has made recently to publish their spending so that it can be subject to public scrutiny. H&F has rightly won plaudits for being one of the first in the UK to do that which can't be anything other than a good thing - and it's worth pointing out that the move isn't without political risk, so it takes guts.

But why, then, completely lose the credit for that by employing a Chief Exec in what seem to be very shady circumstances?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

King Soloman's: vintage Shepherd's Bush, first class cuisine

Amazing food, unfailing hospitality and a passion for quality are the three ways in which I would sum up my visit to King Soloman's Lebanese eatery on the Uxbridge Road on Saturday. Owner Mohammed Hamid, originally from Egypt but a Shepherd's Bush resident since the mid 1970s, is himself a chef and clearly has a forensic eye for detail. Which is kind of tough on the chefs he now employs. The dish I was served, pictured above, tasted as good as it looks and Mr Hamid was careful to point out the origin of every ingredient.

On offer are a wide range of Lebanese dishes, including fresh falafel and even some special dishes which can be prepared on demand. These include Kosharey, which is a vegetarian dish from Syria, for example.

He has been here in W12 since 1975, (the year before I was born!) so you would expect him to have seen changes in the area since then, but he talks animatedly about the sweeping changes to the Bush since King Soloman's itself openned in 1997. Since then the population has gone from being dominated by Irish and West Indian folk, to taking on a more Arabic nuance, the Islamic influence bolstered recently by the influx of people from Somalia. The restaurant itself is next to a mosque and they are frequently his customers, but then so are QPR fans and people from across the community.

As we were talking numerous people, from all backgrounds, kept popping their heads in just to say hello and swap the time of day. Mr Hamid knows most by name, and all by their eating tastes. Which brings me to this joint's main selling point: quality.

The point about King Soloman's is that they refuse to buy frozen produce, which is lesser quality. All the meat used is fresh, as are the vegetables despite the fact that their prices are continually higher. He points out that many of his customers would spot the use of second rate ingredients instantly, and soon cease to be his customers. He calls them "professional eaters" and says they keep him on his toes.

I asked about the boom in eating choices up and down the Uxbridge Road and elsewhere in the Bush, and he was quick to pay tribute to the other high quality restaurants around. In fact he said one of the more positive things to have changed since the 70s is that you no longer have to go into the centre of town to find cuisine from all over the world; it's all right here on our doorstep. But he also spoke about the growth in cheap fried chicken shops which seem now to dominate much of our area, and others that sell pizzas for 99p. Not only are those ingredients the opposite of healthy, he points out that they are continually trying to undercut quality outlets like his own with ridiculous cut-throat prices. He simply asked me to reflect on the possible origins of a 99p pizza's ingredients. Eek.

As a family run business, and one with such local pedigree, his customer base seems to stretch from QPR supporters on their way to and from Loftus Road through to the mosque faithful and those coming out of the bars and clubs in the early hours (his doors stay open till 2am on thursdays, fridays and saturdays).

Mr Hamid has obviously been here for a long time, and his customers would want to see that continue. But as he has continued to serve up what I can testify to be truly first class food, the Bush has changed around him. And there is no guarantee that he'll be here in the future unless more people know about what's on offer.

One of the biggest changes in Shepherd's Bush since this restaurant has been here has been the increase in people just living in the area for one or two years and then moving on - with little or no time to find the best eateries around. So the purpose of this review is to add King Soloman's to that list, for however long you're going to be here.

So there are lots of reasons to visit - starting with the food, and also the fact that you'll be partaking in a piece of vintage Shepherd's Bush history. But just looking at that dish above - you've got to think it's more than worth a try...and if you're lucky enough to meet Mr Hamid when you do - say hi from me.

Look out for more in a series of local reviews I'll be writing on local businesses in the Bush throughout 2011 - and if you have any suggestions get in touch at or by Twitter @chris_underwood

Toby Young dismisses Free School critics

West London Free School leader Toby Young has dismissed critics of his soon to be unveiled establishment as fringe hard lefties. Referring to them on Twitter he called them "SWP dominated Unions" - SWP being the acronym for the Socialist Workers Party, who are the folk you see shouting a lot about capitalism and handing out copies of the Morning Star every now and again.

I'm not sure the staff in the Askham Family Centre, who provide services to the most sensitive family situations you can imagine, would naturally fall into that category as they make calls about keeping kids in care or returning them to their parents. Late last year this blog revealed that they are to make way for Toby's new school, before it is moved to it's permanent home in Palingswick House, Hammersmith, displacing a further 20 + voluntary sector organisations providing services to vulnerable people. The school has already recruited a Headteacher.

I'm also not sure that given the outcry this has already provoked locally young Toby is making the Council's PR strategy a whole lot easier for them either!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Demonstration outside Hammersmith Town Hall over Sure Start

National media, demonstrators and politicians will gather outside Hammersmith Town Hall on monday evening as MP Andy Slaughter seeks to maximise the local opposition to cuts being planned for Sure Start services, revealed by the Mirror newspaper a week or so ago.

Initially the Council dismissed the reports as "predictably dishonest", referring to the Mirror's generally Labour supporting stance, but since then the BBC among others have also reported the story leading to a quote from the Local Government Association Chairwoman which appears to concede that these cuts to early years support services in our borough are very much on.

The Council meet on Monday evening to vote on these cuts but as I said here, as something of a veteran of these meetings now, it's a foregone conclusion. There is likely to be plenty of ire and fire from angry councillors in the chamber but the vote will go the Council's way and the services will start to be withdrawn.

Whether the noisy demonstrations outside limit the cuts in any way is unlikely, but it's the first of what promises to be a series of feisty political encounters in Shepherd's Bush,  Hammersmith and the surrounding areas over just how far the cuts to our local services are likely to go. More to follow next week - watch this space.

Lethal injections sold from Acton

Round the back of Shepherd's Bush, on the way to Asda and the route of the 260 and 266 buses, is a non descript road called Horn Lane in Acton. It's pretty dull and the only connection most of us have with it is that it is the home of the learner driving agency called "El Gone" who'se cars I see in W12 all the time taking advantage of the quiet side roads to perform reverse parking excercises.

But from that same building, according to an investigation by the BBC, is a back street pharmacy that sells the chemicals which America uses to kill people. An extraordinary export from a very ordinary local street.

And one that makes me feel very uneasy indeed.

QPR morons trash British Queen pub

A fan told of being "punched in the face" and being left "dazed" with "blurred vision" after being attacked in the street in Shepherd's Bush by a moron who claimed to be a supporter of QPR on this forum, one in a long line to report the trouble that occurred on Monday around the QPR Bristol City game.

I walked past the pub yesterday and it is currently being repaired after a group, presumably including some of the same idiots I was kettled with courtesy of the Metropolitan Police in September, decided to attack a group of Bristol City fans who were by all accounts quietly minding their own business.

A minibus and other vehicles were also attacked as fans left the stadium across W12 and it seems the Police had a hard time trying to ensure the safety of everyone because the trouble wasn't just confined to the pub.

A pretty humiliating day for the club and it's genuine supporters, on behalf of whom I know I can say sorry to those Bristol fans, including those who had brought children, who had what must have been a horrendous day in Shepherd's Bush.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Sponsor me! Running for Jack Tizard School, Shepherd's Bush

Next to QPR is a school for disabled children, from 2-19, with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties. They're called Jack Tizard School and I'm going to run the Watford Half Marathon in exactly one month to try to raise some money for them.

They quietly do amazing things without causing much fuss, and the recent publicity they generated by the opening of their new hydrotherapy pool by Prime Minister David Cameron, whose son Ivan attended the school, was probably the first time many of us had ever heard of them.

They've been a part of Shepherd's Bush for years but rely on support from people like you to keep going. Having run to raise funds for Cancer Research last year, following the death of my cousin from breast cancer - and for which many of you kindly sponsored me- I've chosen to run for Jack Tizard this year, given the very special way in which they change childrens worlds here in Shepherd's Bush.

If you would like to support me, you can donate to the Big Splash Trust, who look after the School's donations.

Ways to donate

The easisest way is to donate with debit or credit card using Paypal here. I'm not using JustGiving this year because I found out they take 5% from each donation, which I thought was a bit much. But the school has agreed to keep a tally of donations and I'll feedback on how things are going. If you could let me know either by commenting below or emailing me on that would be great. In fact it would be amazing. And in return I can promise photographic evidence of my sweaty training runs and ultimate triumph. That's the theory, anyway. Thank-you.

Or you can send a cheque payable to:

The Big Splash Trust
c/o Jack Tizard School
South Africa Rd
London W12 7PA

or BACS to:
Account name: The Big Splash Trust
Account number: 22001675
Sort code: 40-03-21
HSBC King Street Hammersmith

Central Line meltdown

You paid yer £106 you got yer slap in the face. The central line this morning is in complete meltdown due, allegedly, to a fire alert in Holborn. I say allegedly because I heard a completely different excuse being given over the tannoys and Tube staff are not renowned for telling the truth at the best of times - ever wondered why the minutes seem to last longer than 60 seconds on the 'next train' signs? It's so they don't have to pay compensation under the Customer Charter which entitles you to a refund if the train is more than 15 minutes delayed.

Speaking of which, if you were caught up in today's chaos you can claim a refund by clicking here. You might then recover some of that extra cash that Boris has just pinched from your pocket with his fare hike.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

BBC report Sure Start Centres to be cut in H&F

The BBC is reporting the story that broke in the Mirror a few days ago, that our Council is set to close most of the Sure Start Centres which support new parents of new children. David Cameron claimed that the service was safe with the Tories but our radical Council is set apparently to go further than even he envisaged with their cuts and close some of them down.

It's important here to seperate fact from political claim and counter claim. As far as I can make out the middle ground is that yes, some of them are going to be closed by our Council. The Council claim that they might survive but that's not really good enough if you're the parents potentially left high and dry - not to mention the infant who now won't get the support with literacy and other early years support that has been proven to make a radical difference in children's educational outcomes. I used to work with deaf children, for whom it is even more important to make early interventions, for example.

The Council rebutted the story when it first came out in the Mirror, calling the newspaper "predictably dishonest". I'm not sure you can really say that about the BBC and the piece ends with a less than reassuring quote from the Chair of the Local Government Association Baroness Margaret Eaton, who says this:

"Councils now face incredibly tough choices about the services they continue to provide and those they will have to cut."

So as I said before - not a happy new year in H&F if you're a happy new parent.

Police confirm identity of 90 year old killed in crash

Police have confirmed that the woman who died in a collision on Oaklands Grove W12 was Ruby Childs, who was a widow in her 90s. They are appealing for witnesses following the fatal road traffic collision which took place on thursday 23rd December at 1020 in the morning.

A post-mortem examination gave cause of death as multiple injuries while an Inquest was opened this morning at Fulham Coroner's Court.

Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to contact the Road Death Investigation Unit at Hampton Traffic Garage on 020 8941 9011.

PS Pete Mosdale of the Road Death Investigation Unit said: "This was a very busy time of day and I am sure that there may be people who witnessed this incident. We would be very keen for them to contact the investigation unit so that we can ensure we have a full picture of the events that led to Ruby's death."

Contrary to other reports the vehicle stopped at the scene.

Shepherd's Bush opens "ski hotel"?

No, not really. But this local blogger thinks that the new-ish flats on Uxbridge Road wouldn't look out of place in Klosters - and he has a point.

I think they are a nice new design too, but do rather stick out compared to the 19th century architecture around them.

And welcome to a new West London blogger!

"My Hammersmith" reports Roifield Brown is thief & shyster

News just in from content thieves "My Hammersmith". They are fearlessly reporting that their own Boss Roifield Brown, who modestly describes himself as "big (scary) boss man" is in fact, to use their words, a "thief and a shyster".

Well, it's their article isn't it?

10am UPDATE: Well, blow me down. For some inexplicable reason Roifield Brown was in touch within minutes of this story appearing on his own site and has told me he will stop taking my content "immediately".

Shepherd's Bush: Council invites blogreaders on "Tree Walk"

Do you want more trees? You are cordially invited to go on a "Tree Walk" around Shepherd's Bush, courtesy of H&F Council, to look at where new trees could be planted. Regular readers will remember I ranted just a little about the trumpeting on the H&F Conservative Party website of new trees across the borough, but missing from the list of any of this planting frenzy was any postcode beginning with W12. 

It seemed from the comments and responses on Twitter that this was something many of you were not impressed with either. But one of the responses I did get was from Councillor Harry Phibbs, who was last in action on this blog transforming derelict houses in W12 into shiny new ones. He not only responded to me but took it up with Council officials, one of whom has offered anyone interested to go on a walk with him to see exactly what the tree situation is and is likely to be in Shepherd's Bush.

Apparently the Council did have a scheme to investigate sites for new trees which didn't really go anywhere because of lack of interest, in part from residents but also in part from local councillors (shame on them). Cllr Phibbs explains:

"We had our own scheme a couple of years ago of Tree Walks. The purpose was to investigate suitable sites for new street trees. Residents assocs/individual residents sponsored trees (which cost £250 a time) with the first five being matched by the Council". 

"This did produce some new trees in Shepherd's Bush - although no tree walks took place in Wormholt and White City and College Park and Old Oak Wards. I was organising the Tree Walks but was reliant on finding interest from ward councillors or residents associations in each ward".

"Often the problem with new street trees is just as much finding a viable site as the money. There is sometimes money available under Section 106 agreements even when there isn't sponsorship on offer from residents".

So full credit to Councillor Phibbs for responding to the concern and also for making the offer - we can't very well complain if we're not prepared to talk to them about where the trees might go. So who's interested? Answer either in the comments or send your contact details by email to - I'll receive them and won't send them anywhere else. When I have some names we can look at dates, I guess in February-ish. 

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

"My Hammersmith" are copy thieves

Roifield Brown (pictured) is a thief and shyster who runs a series of websites, which are part of a family called ""

Basically these websites, with their variants of "myhammersmith", "myshepherdsbush" and so on nick other people's content and parade it on their site as if it is their own. They then hope that people will click on the numerous adverts plastered all over the website and therefore make them money. Even better, they want people to pay for advertising space on their websites too. Here's the latest nicked article which they try to pass off as their own.

Just so you don't think I'm being unreasonable I have been in email contact with Roifield Brown since Christmas time asking him to stop stealing content from this site. He's agreed to do so but has now stopped answering me - and carries on anyway. So this is a last resort.

They also steal content from the Fulham Chronicle who may also wish to take the issue up. If they wish to do so his email is And yes, that really is his email address - he describes himself modestly here on his website as "big (scary) boss man" - more like snivelling (little) crook. Fellow blogger Darryl who runs the excellent 853 Greenwich site recently had to resort to publicly embarassing "big scary boss" Roifield into not nicking his stuff so here's hoping this works for me too. The best bit is that this article will appear on their site too, via their automated content-stealing feed.

And Roifield - if you don't now stop stealing my content - this won't be the last expose and it won't be the last place it appears. That will be all. Ahem.

"unfare" campaign launched by Ken

Labour candidate for Mayor in the 2012 elections Ken Livingstone has been out and about this morning highlighting his opposition to Boris Johnson's hike of tube fares which has hit us all in the pocket. Again.

You can sign a petition opposing his fare hike here, but bewarned - the real purpose of the petition is not to change the policy, anyone can see that's not going to happen, it's so that the campaign team can email you propaganda between now and the election relentlessly!

And I seem to remember fare rises happening under Ken too, if I'm not mistaken - not to mention the Western Extension of the C-Charge which he is pledged to re-introduce if elected.

1300 UPDATE: Well there must be an election in the offing, one of Ken's supporters, Alice Perry, who describes herself as a "Labour Activist" from Islington on Twitter has commented below. She describes how she would be "happy" to receive Ken's propaganda - which is presumably because she'd be the one sending it out. I guess we can expect more of the same as we get closer to the 2012 election..