Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Council accused of spending your money on West Ken propaganda

Well, as expected, the Council nodded thorugh a £15 million exclusivity deal with developers CapCo last night in the teeth of opposition from most of the residents. But the real story of the night, as I predicted here, was their use of our money to bus in and co-ordinate a small group of residents who themselves seemed very confused about why they were there.

Speaking to them LibDem Paul Kennedy said:
"Several of them told us they were campaigning to save their homes, so we thought for a while they must be campaigning against the development. They didn't seem to realise that they were being used for propaganda by the Council and developers who want to demolish their homes."
But the real ire for the Council's tactics came from the West Ken residents themselves who have accused H&F of using taxpayers money to "orchestrate a bogus campaign". Here's community organiser Jonathan Rosenberg:
"Last night, having produced and circulated a notice on its behalf, Hammersmith & Fulham council officers assembled an unrepresentative and unelected group in the local hotel, issued them with T shirts and instructions, finalised and printed their deputation statement, packed them onto a minibus (presumably also hired by the Council), took them to the town hall where they organised them to pose for a photo, and then accompanied them into the meeting". 
Unlike our 80% petition and two-thirds sign-up verified by our Solicitor, which we showed to the Cabinet, this group was unable to evidence any support, and justified demolition with the unfounded allegation that it's no longer possible to buy a pair of children's shoes in Fulham. To its consternation several of their small number joined us in cheering and clapping our deputation. 
The Council’s use of money and resources to orchestrate a bogus campaign to separate neighbour from neighbour is an abuse of power, is improper, and is not a purpose for which a local authority may act. Councils have a duty to promote wellbeing and cohesion, not to stoke up division in communities. 
We intend to expose this disgraceful and cynical subversion of democracy, and to press home our demand for the Council to organise an independent ballot of residents so the community can vote for themselves on whether they want redevelopment or would prefer to take over their homes"
WEDNESDAY UPDATE -  H&F Council has been in touch to refute the accusations in their entirety. Here's a statement they sent me this morning:

Council officers did not meet anyone at a nearby hotel, nor did they provide t-shirts or leaflets. They did not brief residents on what to say. All of the campaigners in favour were estate residents. They knocked on the doors and delivered the leaflets themselves.

Maureen Way and the other residents who came on Monday night spoke very passionately, organised their own support would take great offence at any suggestion that the council orchestrated it. While the Council understands that there are a large number of residents on the estate who remain unconvinced about the merits of regeneration, there are also a large number of people on the estate who want to see change and want to see new homes built.

Residents on the estate have established their own independent steering group. The Council will provide funding to enable them to represent and negotiate on behalf of other residents. Membership of the steering group is open to anybody who lives on the estate who wants to be part of the negotiation.
Any future land agreement with EC Properties will be on the condition that a series of council tenants, leaseholder and freeholder guarantees, negotiated with an 80-strong resident steering group, can be met. 

These include:
  • Brand new, modern homes in the development area for all secure council tenants
  • Council tenants will be moved with neighbours where possible and will only have to move once
  • Compensation for tenants, leaseholders and freeholders
  • Discount schemes for resident leaseholder and freeholders who want to buy back into the scheme
  • Early buy-out clauses for resident leaseholders and freeholders

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