Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Labour candidate for Bush election unveiled

Max Schmid
Labour has unveiled the next councillor for Wormholt & White City Ward - for that he shall be in the forthcoming byelection in this safe Labour seat. The election comes in the wake of the very sad death of Jean Campbell, who was a pillar of the community in every sense of that often over-used phrase. I say that as a former constituent of hers.

Max Schmid is the candidate and he will be elected in the byelection early in January. The good news for us is that he has made the proposed closure of our police station to the public a key issue he plans on fighting. Not a moment too soon.

Max is a seasoned campaigner for the Labour Party having run for elected office in North End ward in 2010. He currently works for a charity that supports some of the most vulnerable communities in the developing world.

Max said:
“I am honoured to be chosen for this campaign. Jean Campbell was an inspiration and I will do all I can to live up to her legacy and to the high standards she set.

“Wormholt and White City is made up of many vibrant communities yet many of its residents face untold hardship because of the Conservatives’ hospital closures, because they’re closing Shepherds Bush Police Station and cutting police numbers and because of the awful things they’re doing on housing. I will campaign to defend the people in this ward and work for better outcomes for all that live there. Jean Campbell wanted to see so much done in this area and it will be my privilege to carry on working to bring about the changes she cared for so much should I be elected in the New Year.”
 The Borough’s Labour Leader, Councillor Stephen Cowan said:
“Max is one of the most hard-working people I know. He has already got to work in the ward attending community meetings and hearing about the issues residents care about. He is a fantastic candidate.”

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sewermen Gangnam Style

If you thought our Council was capable of producing the most cringeworthy video you have ever seen then I think Thames Water have just about pipped them even to that post with this offering, based on the gagnam style that has seen spoofs all over the world!
These guys have a serious message, which is a plea to people over the festive period not to block the drains

Thames Water spends £12 million a year clearing around 80,000 sewer blockages across its 109,000km of sewers in London and the Thames Valley. In some cases these blockages cause sewage to back up into people’s homes.

Rob said: “This Christmas, before you pour your turkey fat down the sink, ask yourself if you'd like to see it again in a week later swimming around your lounge with a load of excrement - because that's a very real possibility.

“Our video is a bit of festive fun with a very serious message. Sewer flooding results in people literally getting their own back. It’s horrific. It’s got to stop. That’s why we’re hell-bent on getting people to take heed of the Sewermen’s war cry: ‘Bin it – don’t block it’. Got it?”

He added: “We might not be the first organisation to do one of these Gangnam Style videos, but we’re the first to do it this badly",

Difficult to disagree.

I actually interviewed Rob after my own trip down the sewer in 2010 - so here's another chance to hear their views on everything from climate change to what a day in the life of a sewerman is really like:

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Bush hostel: drug infested & crazy

Panorama featured a W12 homeless hostel which an inhabitant described as "drug infested, with all of the paraphernalia that goes with it" this week. Called "The Hub" it is part of the Mayor's "no second night" initiative to tackle homelessness in the capital and the documentary featured a moving story of a man who'd gone from being a successful international  business figure to a vagrant with bankruptcy and a broken marriage behind him.

The programme tracks his story from staying in a park hut in croydon to staying a few nights chez W12 before moving on to a shared flat in Streatham. At which point things seem to be a little brighter and we have to hope he continues his journey from rock bottom upwards.

Goldhawk Road
But the brief section on the Bush hostel should perhaps give us all pause for thought. Facilities like these are essential and as a Shepherd's Bush foodbank continues to feed ever growing numbers of people in dire need I'm afraid the need is set to get ever greater. But surely if we know centres such as that in the Bush are full of drugs, we should be doing something about it? I imagine the families on those streets would agree.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hammersmith Park: secrecy costs row

Hammersmith Park
A private company is about to charge up to £91 an hour for use of football pitches that are currently free – and make a profit of over £400,000 a year under a deal with our Council. Private firm PlayFootball have beeen offered a 35-year lease for a third of Hammersmith Park, 

Andy Slaughter MP has described it as a licence to print money, pointing out that it also gets the Council a £70,000 a year windfall, but means residents lose their park which will be converted to commercial pitches, a car park, and a late opening restaurant/bar which they fear will attract anti-social behaviour

Mr Slaughter had been asking the council and the firm involved to publish the terms of the deal. But he says he was stonewalled until recently when he was given a set of papers with all the figures redacted. Not much use - until one of his staff spotted that they hadn't been redacted properly and was able to reveal the figures under the wodges of “ink” covering them. Oops.

So the following “hidden” information was revealed recently to White City Residents at a meeting of their Neighbourhood Forum:
  • PlayFootball will make over £400,000 pa net profit, almost half the total income from the scheme and a 20% return on investment, i.e. they will recoup their investment within five years.
  • They will do this by charging £91 an hour for 7 aside and £68 an hour for five aside pitches in one of the least well-off communities in London.
  • Apart from two free pitches all the rest (12 altogether) will be let out commercially, so a car park for over 60 cars will be built on the park for users travelling into the area.
  • The council will get £70,000 a year from the deal, residents will get a derisory one off payment of £5,000 for alternative pitches during development. There will also be £75,000 supposedly to invest in the rest of the park but £25,000 of this has already been spent by the council on helping SERCO move one of its depot buildings
Slaughter said:
“When I turned up at the White City Neighbourhood Forum and told them all this, Play Football, the firm involved were quite relaxed about me uncovering the figures they had redacted them - surprise, surprise - at the council's request.

Artists impression: New
“I can only conclude that the council felt ashamed that they were selling off a public park, much-loved by the local community and making them pay to use parts of it that weren’t being turned into a car park. Why else would they want to keep these figures "commercially confidential" when the firm they were doing business with was happy to have them in the public domain?”
But speaking yesterday and defending the scheme Cllr Greg Smith, deputy leader of the Council, argued:
"This is an absolutely fantastic deal for Shepherds Bush and White City residents, unparalleled anywhere else in the country.

“The council has secured £2 million to be spent in Hammersmith Park at zero cost to the taxpayer with two dedicated free pitches for the local community.

“Residents have been asking us to upgrade the obsolete all-weather pitch for several years and feedback about the new scheme has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Even in these tough economic times, we are proving that it is possible to improve services for residents through innovative ways of working.”
I drive past that park most days and these pictures illustrate just how needed this investment is. But the sort of secrecy about the choices this council is making to meet that need is far from helpful, least of all to them because it leaves them vulnerable to this sort of criticism. What's wrong with asking residents not just about the problems but the solutions to meet them? Now that would be innovative.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Greenhalgh denies, then apologises for "inappropriate behaviour"

Stephen Greenhalgh has been accused of molesting a woman in a lift. As the rumours started to swirl last night the Deputy Mayor for Policing first denied and then apologised for "anything that could be or may have been construed as inappropriate behaviour on my part". But then added he couldn't remember anything about it. Weird.

If he'd been sat across a table in a police interview room you can imagine how that might have looked to the investigating officers.

Labour has predictably issued calls for a full and immediate investigation with Labour bruiser Len Duvall thundering:
“The statement made by Stephen Greenhalgh is absurd. If he didn’t do anything wrong why did he apologise? Boris Johnson needs to get to the root of this immediately. It is completely unacceptable that someone in such a senior position cannot recollect whether such a serious incident occurred only a few weeks ago.”

“Stephen Greenhalgh is responsible for overseeing the Metropolitan Police and providing effective leadership for our capital’s police service. He is responsible for making sure the Met’s officers and staff maintain the highest standards whilst carrying out their public duties.”

“Regardless of whether a formal complaint is made or not this needs investigating. This is a serious matter that needs urgent clarification. If it remains unclear or unresolved then he should step down. I understand that this has been going on for four weeks, we need to know who knew what and when in the Mayor’s Office, Boris needs to establish what has been going on.”
The Mayor has got an unenviable track record of losing Deputy Mayors in dicey circumstances and it appears our former council leader is now at risk of following that time honoured tradition. It's difficult to see how anyone responsible for policing could survive an investigation that found there was any truth to an accusation he already appears, by his own statement, to acknowledge may have some basis in fact.

Given Greenhalgh's aggressive and controversial start to his role, he is unlikely to find many friends fighting his corner.

Tim Donovan reports on the Greenhalgh molestation story this evening
1800 UPDATE  - and so it has proved. ITV London Tonight and BBC London News have just aired a piece each on this controversy and revealed that in the last half an hour the Mayor of London has ordered an immediate review into Mr Greenhalgh's alleged behaviour. The allegation according to ITV is that he both stroked and touched the female employee repeatedly while inside the lift.

And another reader points out that even the Evening Boris newspaper has reported the story - on the front page no less. When Boris' personal propaganda vehicle does that, you kind of get the sense that the ending to this story is only ever going to involve a resignation. Sad.

1900 UPDATE - Well, Greenhalgh does have a friend after all. Cllr Harry Phibbs has offered the above explanation for the Deputy Mayor's wandering hands, but I'm not sure it really helps his friend in need!

13.12.12 UPDATE - Predictably, perhaps, Boris faced questions over Greenhalgh at yesterday evening's "People's Question Time" event in Stratford. These events are usually stage managed by his chums to avoid too many awkward questions, as we saw in Hammersmith earlier this year, but this event was chaired by Labour Assembly Member John Biggs who, it's fair to say, has something of a personal dislike for the Great Man.

So with Boris on the backfoot he said that he'd "done what you'd expect me to do" adding that "there was no avoiding the publicity surrounding it" and that he'd ordered an investigation. Before underlining that no complaint had been made by the female staff member involved. I have the excellent Dan Freedman of LBC to thank for his intrepid reporting from the event for that.

Back in the Twittersphere a former Assembly Member, and one of the most controversial politicians in London Brian Coleman, didn't seem to have much sympathy for his party colleague. He put the boot in without mercy on his own blog

Meanwhile a rarely seen Hammersmith councillor popped up on Twitter to add her backing for the embattled former council leader. Step forward Lucy Ivimy (above) to be especially withering about the allegations. Cllr Ivimy, lest we forget, was last prominent after she was involved in a race row for alleging that Indian people were more dirty than white people, and habitually threw their rubbish out of the windows rather than put it in the bin. With friends like these...

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Great Smog lingers in S Bush

Shepherd's Bush: keeping traditions alive
We live in one of the most polluted corners of the capital, exceeding all targets for safe air by considerable margins. That's the conclusion of a monitoring station situated on Shepherd's Bush roundabout, which you have to know is even there in order to see. It's a  chest height grey box with a little fan on top near the post office and is part of a London wide network run by a pollution measuring project co-ordinated by King's College London. The news comes days after the 60th anniversary of the Great Smog, and shows that in our part of the city that tradition is being kept alive. Even if it ensures many people who live here are not.

Here's our report card:

Not great, is it.

What these figures mean is that we are regularly breathing in dangerous levels of pollutants that can cause fatalities among people with respiratory conditions or who are just more vulnerable because their bodies can't process the dirt as well, such as the elderly.

We last came across this subject durng the mud slinging of the Mayoral election campaign, when Ken Kivingstone pointed out that Boris Johnson cared not a bit about the issue. Instead of acting to bring the pollutants down, even on pain of an EU fine, our Mayor of Toytown has opted to go for the sticking plaster option instead, with trucks laying down a form of glue on the roads to stop those polluted particles floating into those pesky monitoring stations and so giving him bad marks.

Boris Johnson's pollution score card
Well now it seems even the sticking plaster isn't working, and the Mayor has been given a big red cross. In his campaign to be the next Prime Minister this is unlikely to worry him too much, so you have to hope that those in the London Assembly will be on his case about it in the years to come.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Hammersmith Flyover: calm down dears!

Much sound and fury accompanied the drumroll to what was forecast to be a devastating BBC "expose", broadcast last night, of the risks taken with reckless abandon by Transport for London with our lives and limbs over the Hammersmith flyover, which was shut last year because of concerns over corrosion of the steel cables within the concrete structure.

Last night's BBC Inside Out programme revealed, apparently, that TfL had known about the possibility of the structure collapsing for a month before it closed the bridge, prompting Andy Slaughter to ask dramatically: "did TfL risk our lives"? 

Other politicians followed suit with Lib Dem Leader on the London Assembly Caroline Pidgeon arguing that: 
"There is a strong case that this information should always have been in the public domain. It is regrettable that such vital information had to be dragged out of Transport for London. Serious questions also have to be answered as to whether they took all the necessary precautionary steps over this vital bridge."
By all means ask those questions, but as it turned out the BBC programme was a bit of a damp squib in my eyes. 

Garrett Emerson, appearing for TfL, pointed out that there was a risk of any structure collapsing in theory and the rest of the programme illustrated that the issue is essentially a problem of ageing 1960s concrete bridges which are kept under watch for that reason, showing how one such bridge had netting under it to catch the falling concrete. 

He also explained that yes, they knew about the corrosion on the Hammersmith Flyover, but that they understood heavy goods vehicles were able to be supported. When they inspected it and found that not to be the case they closed the bridge.

After having established that rather boring reality the rest of the programme meandered along talking to some  trendy architects with brightly coloured cafetieres about how a tunnel might be quite a nice idea at some point in the future. 

It's not difficult to recall the chaos that ensued, traffic-wise, around Hammersmith as a result of the flyovers' closure and of course there were concerns that the Olympics could have been impacted with many teams needing to use the bridge to get to the Olympic Village. But on the evidence of last night's programme I think this particular round of local sound and fury might not last too long.

Peter Hendy: on the attack
051212 UPDATE Well, I said the sound and fury would die down - but it seems to be coming the other way in the wake of the BBC's Inside Out programme. Appearing today at the London Assembly's Transport Committee was Peter Hendy, Commissioner for TfL. He said not only was the programme "mendacious" and "rubbish" but that it was "on a par with Jimmy Saville", referring to the Beeb's recent less than perfect approaches to things.

The document presented by both the BBC and our friends in the local media was not, as they have both claimed, one which set out the current state of the bridge. No. It had been a document looking at options for emergency planning in the worst case scenario of a collapse. That was the sort of emergency planning TfL and other public bodies carried out for all similar scenarios, which was "a good thing", he argued.

But his harshest words were perhaps reserved for Andy Slaughter who then became a topic of conversation in his own right. TfL had written to him "in strong terms" and he hoped that the MP would desist from making further outlandish claims, he said.

You can watch the whole thing here. I'm not sure anyone comes out of this episode looking that great, really.

Monday, 3 December 2012

H&F Foodbank now feeding over 1,000 people

H&F Foodbank, which opened its doors in Shepherds Bush this October, has already doubled the amount of food it has distributed to local people in need this year, rising from 4.1 tonnes in the year 2011-12 to 9.4 tonnes during this financial year. 

Almost one in ten people in London have skipped meals, gone without food to feed their family or relied on family or friends for food in the last year according to new research published this week.  

The research found that in total, around 8 per cent of people in London have suffered from some form of food poverty in the last 12 months, with 5 per cent of people skipping meals and 3 per cent relying on friends or family to provide food. 

Significant numbers of parents had also gone without food to feed their children. 

The research also found that in the last year,18 per cent of people in London had changed their eating habits, buying less expensive food or reducing the amount they eat.

In our borough the foodbank has fed well over the thousand people who accessed their support last year and all the signs are this is a trend only likely to grow, with the tonnage of food rising from 1.5 in September, to 2 tonnes in October this year.

With demand like this the new partnership they have just unveiled with Tescos is a very welcome development, with staff involved in collecting the food parcels for the scheme. Last Saturday the scheme launched at the store on 180 Shepherd's Bush and is set to continue throughout the winter.

Philip Clarke, Chief Executive of Tesco said: 
"Over 1,200 people have been helped by the Hammersmith & Fulham foodbank since 1st April 2012 as more people struggle to make ends meet in the current economic climate. This Christmas will be tough for many local people so the Hammersmith & Fulham foodbank is delighted to be part of Tesco’s ‘Help Feed People in Need’ appeal. We’re hoping that many local people will donate at a Tesco store to help stop people going hungry in Hammersmith & Fulham this Christmas."
Chris Mould, Executive Chairman of Trussell Trust said: 
“Across the UK Trussell Trust foodbanks are seeing thousands more people in crisis turn to us for help. Every day we meet parents who are skipping meals to feed their children, or people who are forced to choose between eating and heating. This winter is looking particularly bleak as food and energy prices rise whilst incomes remain static. We are delighted that Tesco is working with The Trussell Trust’s network of over 280 UK foodbanks and FareShare to help stop people going hungry this Christmas. We’d like to encourage everyone to give a can or two to help make this Christmas a happier one for people in crisis. Thank you.” 
Lindsay Boswell, CEO of FareShare said: 
“We are so pleased to be working with Tesco and the Trussell Trust on this campaign. Year-round, FareShare redistributes food to over 700 local grassroot projects in the UK who work tirelessly to provide food and other support to some of the poorest people in our society. In the past year, we provided food for 8.6 million meals and helped feed 36,500 people a day. With the help of Tesco customers, we can provide even more food to people who need it, at a time of real, increasing need. Thank you!”

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Council, Developers & a football match

Orion, the property developer behind the hugely controversial Shepherd's Bush Market scheme, is run by a man called Richard Olsen. Part of the deal with knocking down the Market and rebuilding it - is that the Market will be rebuilt largely underneath seven floors of new housing.

Andrew Johnson, is the Cabinet Member for housing for Hammersmith & Fulham.

Both were seen at the recent Fulham v Sunderland football match on the weekend, and one or two of you have been in touch to point this out. Now, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with people getting to know each other and socialising, but it does raise questions about just how close those relations are in the context of this development. 

Particularly when the council itself is so keen to ram this development through, in the face of opposition from both market traders and shop owners who face losing their shops, and even a High Court ruling which established that a significant part of their approach to this development had been illegal. In fact so keen are the council to help Orion out, that they are taking on a rather large financial risk on their behalf, by only asking Orion for an indemnity of £10 million on a site that is clearly worth much more than that. 

And you only know that because I published the "not for publication" council papers from the Cabinet meeting that Andrew Johnson attended. 

I asked Cllr Johnson to confirm whether he had been at the match with Mr Olsen, which he confirmed he had, before adding last night: 
"Personally I don't see that it raises any questions about the appropriateness of relations between the council and developers. Richard Olsen did not pay for my ticket, nor for that matter did the taxpayer. He was at the Fulham game, as was I, and as was the MP for Hammersmith Andy Slaughter". 
"I am not the councillor responsible for the Shepherd's Bush Market scheme, as I cover housing not regeneration and, apart from being a member of the Cabinet I am not involved in the specifics of the Market scheme". 
"That said I do believe that Shepherds Bush Market is in desperate need of improvements and the scheme which now has outline planning consent will bring significant benefits to Shepherd's Bush and the wider area". 

0900 UPDATE - One of the shopkeepers set to lose their freehold has just emailed me to say that their court case against this scheme is due for January 17th. They are confident of their case. They won their last one, after all. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Shepherd's Bush Police Station to close

The front desk at Shepherd's Bush police station is to close, due to cuts being made across the Metropolitan Police Service. While police officers will continue to operate out of the building there will be no public facing service there, with the changes being implemented early in the new year.

This has not been officially made public but I have seen correspondence from Lucy D'Orsi, Commander of this Borough, which has been sent to public officials outlining the changes and the reasons for them. I am not, however, breaking any confidences in reporting this because it was raised publicly in Parliament by Andy Slaughter yesterday with the Home Secretary in exchanges you can read here.

The news comes in the wake of several high profile and particularly nasty crimes in the Bush, notably the murder of Piotr Mikiewicz in September. his murderer eventually walked into a ..... police station to give himself up.

So it looks like Ms D'Orsi will need to bring the public information that will need to surround this change forward, but people should not criticise her or the force. They have to respond to the cuts being made to the service, mainly by our own former Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh, and do the best they can for the community. The sad fact is that that will be less, not more, moving ahead.

In the meantime Mr Slaughter has sent this letter to Ms D'Orsi:

Dear Lucy, 

Thank you for letting me know about the proposed closures to police services in the borough. You will understand that this comes as a shock, particularly as you said you were not aware of any changes to police station openings when we met three weeks ago. I am also dismayed that this is all happening so quickly. I have had four working days to comment on the proposal to shut completely Shepherds Bush police station to the public (you ask for a response by Friday 19 November but I assume that means by today). 

With other London MPs I met the Commissioner on 6 November. Again there was no mention of closures in Hammersmith & Fulham, and I have to conclude that these are being rushed through to deal with the high level of cuts imposed by the Government and the Mayor. I appreciate that this is not your decision and I will obviously work with the police locally to ensure the community remains as safe as possible, though this will not be helped if, as again is proposed at short notice, we have to share a Borough Commander with another borough. 

The current cuts, coming on top of the loss of neighbourhood sergeants, will not be welcomed by the local community. They bear the hallmark of the Deputy Mayor for policing. Hammersmith & Fulham residents will be familiar with his reputation for draconian and badly thought out cuts from his time as Council Leader here.

Specifically, with regards to Shepherds Bush Police Station, I would say as follows:

  • Shepherds Bush has the highest levels of crime in the borough. Residents often express concern that there is not a 24-hour service there at present. Total closure of the public reception will increase fears that the police are not immediately available in the area. I note from your statistics that there is a higher level of crime reporting at Shepherds Bush than at Hammersmith.
  • You say there are no plans to close Shepherds Bush Police Station as a whole ‘at this stage’. Does that means future closure plans will be considered?
  • I am sympathetic to your concern that staffing the front counter with warranted officers could prevent them being on the streets. But why is it necessary to have officers rather than civilian staff on duty? There will always be officers on hand to deal with emergencies, but the ‘triage’ stage could surely be dealt with by trained reception staff?
  • I already have concerns about the level of public response at Hammersmith PS and via ‘phone or email. My personal experience and that of constituents is that attending Hammersmith entails long waits and often inconclusive or unsatisfactory responses from staff. Similarly, residents complain that messages left by email of voicemail are not replied to quickly or at all. I emphasise that I am talking about non-emergency service here, but this makes me worried about any loss of public access points.
  • I support the greater presence of police in supermarkets and other public places where they can offer reassurance and advice. This is a logical extension of neighbourhood policing, but the occasional visit to other venues cannot be seen as a replacement for police stations themselves.
  • You mention greater use of online services and information. Again, this would be welcome and I would like to see greater publication of crime statistics and the activities of the local SNTs and policing operations by this means. But poorer, older and more vulnerable people do not always have internet access and I do not think this can be an alternative to face to face contact in every case.
I hope these comments are helpful. I note you say that the police station front counters proposal is not yet in public circulation, but in fact it has been widely reported, including in the Standard as a result of briefing from the Deputy Commissioner (http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/met-police-to-take-axe-to-3500-civilian-jobs-8329110.html) , so I intend to post this response on my website,


Monday, 19 November 2012

Cllr Jean Campbell: sad news

Jean Campbell, a Councillor representing much of White City, has died. I have just received this very sad news from Stephen Cowan, Leader of the Labour Group to which she belonged, on Hammersmith & Fulham Council. I think it rather speaks for itself. 

"Jean had represented Wormholt and White City ward since 4th May 2006. She was also an active member of her local church, a member of the Hammersmith Labour Party’s general committee and an executive member of the White City Tenants and Residents Association - having been re-elected as its treasurer just last Wednesday night.

Jean Campbell was a part of that great pioneer generation. Born in Belmont, St. Andrew, Jamaica on the 6th March 1947 she arrived in Britain on 1970. She worked as an auxiliary nurse in the West London Hospital, then as a civil servant in the Department of Trade and Industry and did all of this while volunteering in her local community and bringing up four sons.

For Jean, looking out for others was just part of how she lived her life. Accompanying her on a walk around White City could be a leisurely affair as she would be stopped by neighbours and constituents all keen to pass the time of day, discuss some issue of concern or shout a friendly greeting as they dashed by. She was a captivating speaker in the Council Chamber – always sticking up for the poorest and most hard done by. She was the original community leader - always thinking how she could get something done and working to make things better. For the last seven years Jean was the carer for her partner Jones Delauney who sadly died in July after a long illness. Jean lived with her mum.

Recently, Jean was campaigning for better care for elderly residents in sheltered housing, for better youth services and was in the process of sending food parcels to Jamaica after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

I had last spoken with Jean on Friday night. She was on good form and looking forward to the future – even joking about going dancing again. Jean was much loved and respected by all of us all. Her death is a terrible shock and a dreadful loss.

I know the thoughts of everyone who knew Jean will be with her mum, her children, their partners and her grandchildren, all of whom she was very proud - as were we of her".

Friday, 16 November 2012

Guardian on Ibis Shepherd's Bush!

"Crikey," I say, sinking back into the undeniable snuggliness of "new generation bedding". "This is like balancing on a soft plank."
Steady on..that was Sally Shalam of the Guardian reviewing the Bush's newest hotel, the Ibis on the Green, next to the new Foxtons. It's quite an amusing read and to be honest I'm not sure whether she is slating the place or telling us how wonderful it is but have a read and see what you think! 

Happy Friday!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Privatisation: A warning from Barnet

Want to know where our Council might be headed in its mission to bring in the private sector? Here's a little video by community activists in Barnet, where I used to live. Scary stuff - and look out for the Guardian's take on this too.

This vid talks about call centres based out of London and staffed by people who don't know the area. And of information being denied to opposition councillors on the grounds of "commercial sensitivity".

Remind you of anything

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

NHS cuts: financial vested interests questioned

Save our Hospitals march: Shepherd's Bush
Andy Slaughter has written a blunt letter to Dr Anne Rainsberry, the Chief Executive of NHS NW London, about the conflict of interests issues arising from the Shaping a Healthier Future programme, which is set to close most hospital services in our borough.

This follows press reports that the sell off programme of NHS assets is set to make some working in the NHS very wealthy people, with both of our hospital sites being earmarked for property developers. Several individuals involved in deciding the fate of those sites also have interests in the private company that the Guardian highlights as being set to make a tidy sum. 

Now there's a coincidence. 

In his letter Mr Slaughter had this to say:
Dear Ms Rainsberry, 
I attach the front page article from today’s Guardian, which you may have seen, regarding the sale of out of hours GP service provider Harmoni to Care UK. The article states that a number of GPs will make substantial sums from the sale.  
I note that four of the CCG chairs in NW London declare shareholding or directorship in Harmoni, as does your Medical Director. It would be helpful to know if they are beneficiaries of the sale and by what amount.  
Looking the future, I note a number of other private medical interests in the declarations made by those who will be making decisions on the future of our local NHS. What assurances can you give that those making decisions on your ‘shaping a healthier future’ programme will see no direct or indirect financial benefit therefrom?
No reply has yet been forthcoming...

The latest revelations follow the disastrous appearance of Mark Spencer, Medical Director of NHS NW London on the BBC Politics Show, who proceeded to tell elected politicians that they really should just belt up and do what the doctor says. Shame that one of his key claims, that local GPs support the plans, was shortly afterwards proved to be false by our Council. 

It's like watching a sinister version of the Muppet Show. 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Goldhawk Road: Still standing

The Goldhawk Road is still alive despite rumours apparently being circulated by our Council and their colleagues at Orion the property developers that somehow they've thrown in the towel. The rumours are being stoked so much I have beeen asked by those trading on the Goldhawk to confirm this.

In fact to give you a flavour of how our local Council is viewed in these 'ere parts this is what I received by one of them by email:
"As you are more than aware we are entering another round with the Lying Bastards Heaping Falsehoods (aka LBHF). Rumours are still abounding about the shops being closed etc. Is there any chance you can put on your blog that we are all open and trading please"
As well as demonstrating, again, the depths to which this local authority-developer axis will go to to illegally bulldoze local people out of the way it does seem to return us to the same place we've found ourselves in before numerous times in this Borough. The High Court. And they, not the council it would seem, will decide the Bush's fate.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Fried chicken Green part-opens

Well, they've ignored most deadlines, those folks from FM Conway, but sadly for them Remembrance Sunday was a non movable object, seeing as the mini centotaph for the Bush is located on the Green itself and is the destination for marching columns of cadets from the armed and police services, followed by the politicians.

So in the goodness of their hearts they've now opened two thirds of the Green, which has immediately received a fullsome W12 makeover of fried chicken boxes and discarded bones from our many outlets around the Green itself. Walking across it this morning I noticed two minor improvements from the almost year long wait - a resurfaced path and a nice mound. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Chronicle backs Super Sewer Shocka

Thames Water is delighted that a majority of Fulham Chronicle readers have apparently endorsed the Thames Tideway Tunnel, and have started publicising the results of a recent online poll they have been running.

Red faces all round, as the Chronicle usually likes to back the Council on this one, but it seems that its own readers feel otherwise. I suspect the way they could refute the result is by revealing how few people actually took part, but will their pride permit them?!

Pavement danger to Bush pedestrians

Path facing Walkabout c/o Karen Fraser (H&F Cyclists)
The new lethal looking pavement which we've probably all now walked on, skirting the ever-delayed works on the Green, has been irking the local cycling fraternity who rightly fear that the path, which slopes directly into three lanes of traffic, is a tiny bit dangerous.

It's hard to disagree, but what makes me more concerned is the confirmation that H&F Cyclists appear to have had from our Council, that both cyclists and pedestrians will be expected to "share" both pathways when the fence surrounding the works is eventually removed.

Do the transport bods have any idea of the danger that would pose to people on foot, particularly those not nimble or agile enough to dart out of the way of the idiots that whizz through the Bush on bikes when they should be on the road? At the very least allocate one path for bikes and the other for people, or the danger of the sloping path won't be the only hazard faced by people walking about the Bush.

H&F Cyclists have been writing to Andy Slaughter and the Council to complain, but I suggest they are not the only ones who should be!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Video: Ravenscourt Park Fireworks

Tonight's firework display in Ravenscourt Park was actually well worth the fiver it cost to get in - which was only marginally more expensive than the cost of a single portion of chips on one of the super rip-off vans selling food at the event!

Despite the lack of a fire, which I thought was a real gap, the fireworks were well worth the wait. First off was the kids performance which was still quite good for the non kids among us and ended with a few big 'uns in the air. But the Bond-themed adult performance 30 minutes later was actually really impressive. Set to current and historic theme tunes of Bond films the kaleidoscopic explosions seemed to follow the music well, including for example gold fingers streaking upwards to the theme of GoldFinger, and had some real spectaculars at the end.

A really clever move was to have no alcohol - the vibe of the whole event was really positive and H&F Council deserve real credit for putting it on. Well done chaps.

Askew Business Network talks sound

The Askew Business Network will be having its next get together on Thursday November 15th at the Greyhound Pub, and will this time be hearing from someone who has made their name in the world of digital radio.

They say:
"Pam Myers initially wanted to be a show-jumper. She failed to achieve this early ambition, but ended up in advertising, subsequently running her own radio production company, Rorschach. She still thinks she's a radio ad. producer, so how come she now produces audio for web, mobile, virals and social media? Sounds and ‘brands’ are definitely in the relationship you may not even realise you have with your computer or radio. Can you leave home without tripping over a sonic trigger? The right voice for a product can still cut across a crowded marketing environment".
So if that's yer bag, get along. Maybe they'll be discussing what to do with the hulk of the now defunct Hell's Pizza Askew pub, which is a pretty depressing sight these days.

Monday, 29 October 2012

H&F blow £16,000 in attempt to deflect police

Your Council is spending over £16,000 investigating itself in an attempt to deflect the police investigation which was launched into the scandal of a the "VIP homes list" that was allegedly promised to residents of the West Ken & Gibbs Green Estate in return for a "yes" vote in the Council's "consultation".

Even without these alleged shady activities a large majority voted against the plans which the Council now wishes to pursue anyway. Standing between them and the lucrative development, however, is the small matter of a High Court Case after a Judge ruled the legality of their approach to be open to question.

Instead of waiting for the police to get on with their job, after they were handed a dossier containing numerous accounts from residents, some of which you can read here, our Council have instructed accountants Deloitte to do it instead, at a cost of £675 per day.

The full bill will be £16,875. Which might sound like a lot, because it is. But the Council are getting bang for buck as I also understand that the police have placed their investigation on hold pending what the Council chooses to share with them about the Deloitte investigation.

So for £16,000 of your money they get to kick things into December, when the Deloitte report will apparently be ready, and manage to halt a police investigation.

Clever chaps. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

BBC Politics on H&F

In the dock: H&F Council pleads innocence
H&F is so full of controversy much of the Sunday Politics programme was all about us today, with two pieces covering the growing scandal over the West Kensington & Gibbs Green Estate which now involves a police investigation and High Court battle along with the proposed closure of all of our hospitals.

On West Ken, the BBC interviewed several residents who gave personal and worrying accounts of the practices the Council first of all denied it was engaged in, and now admits it might have been. Instead of waiting for the police investigation to run its course, our Council has spent large chunks of your cash on its own investigation run by accountants Deloitte. They used this investigation to justify not participating in the programme.

Man in the spotlight: Stephen Cowan
Not so Stephen Cowan, the Labour leader of the Opposition, who appeared in the studio to raise serious questions about the legal issues these practices raised. Although he had to concede that if the Council get through the High Court action they would be able to press ahead regardless.

On hospitals we heard from Dr Mark Spencer of NHS North West London, the bureaucrats wanting to close our hospitals, whos "consultation" was demonstrably biased and one sided, argue that politicians had gotten it all wrong. He used the term "reconfiguration" which sounds nicer than "closure" and said the pesky politicians should jolly well explain to people that the doctors knew best. He couldn't have been more condescending.

The hit list
He was also demonstrably untruthful and disingenuous, responding to presenter Tim Donovan, who incredulously asked him how he could possibly be supporting closures of all hospitals in Ealing and our own borough, an area the size of Leeds, by saying no decisions had been taken - before going on to sing the praises of that self same decision.

Which made the response of Liberal Democrat studio guest Paul Burstow MP, a former Health Minister until the last reshuffle, so amusing. What was lacking in NHS North West London was "credible leadership". Ouch. While Tory Mike Freer MP told those driving the changes to "get down off their high horse" and explain themselves. Kerpow.

Dr Mark Spencer: We know best, plebs
What was most worrying about the Condescendor in Chief Dr Spencer was his claim that all local GPs in the area were supportive of the changes. Is that really the case? I suspect not.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Murder in Fulham

Police have launched a murder investigation following the stabbing of a man in Fulham.

Officers were called at approx. 18:55hrs on Thursday 25 October to Fulham High Street, SW6 following reports of an assault.

London Ambulance Service and London's Air Ambulance also attended and discovered a man, aged 65, suffering from stab wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 19:36hrs.

Next of kin are in the process of being informed, formal identification awaits. A post mortem will be scheduled in due course.

Detective Inspector Craig Bradley of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command leads the investigation. He said:
"I am appealing for any people who were in the area and witnessed this incident, or the events leading up to this incident, to come forward and speak to my team.

"At this early stage it is unclear what the motive for this incident was - if you saw anything, or have any information which may help the investigation, please get in contact."
Anyone with information is asked to contact the incident room on 0208 345 3715 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

A man, aged 27, was arrested near the scene on suspicion of murder - he remains in custody at a west London police station.

Inquiries continue.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

London: The dashboard

Fancy a quick dashboard view of how your wonderful city is doing? Take a glance at this genuinely fantastic site developed by University College London:

Monday, 22 October 2012

Council instructs Deloitte to investigate housing allegations

Myers Letter Re EML Deloittes
More tax payers cash is lining the pockets of accountants as our Council has just responded to the legality of its actions over the West Ken Estate being ruled open to question by a High Court Judge not by simply co-operating with the police or answering the allegations in court, but by instructing Deloitte to investigate things independently.

The news has just been dispatched to long suffering residents and their supporters by identikit letters, one of which is reproduced above. It starts with the euphemistic "..you may be aware of concerns received by the Council regarding the allocation of council houses if the Earls Court regeneration project goes ahead".

Er, would those be the concerns this Council has routinely dismissed out of hand until a High Court Judge got involved? It would indeed. Though interesting they now say "..if the ... project goes ahead". That "if" seems to grow by the day, as does the bill.

Not H&F Council
But in a piece of comedy gold the letter goes on to say "in the spirit of transparency, I attach a redacted copy of the Investigation Remit as devised by Deloitte and accepted by this Council." (see below)

In the spirit of what?! Could this piece of In the Thick of It stardust have been sprinkled by the magnificently named Melbourne Barrett, per chance? The official who sought to bar residents from seeing responses submitted about their own estate, and then disappeared? It surely could.Investigation

Friday, 19 October 2012

H&F Council loses £1m in "careless" tax affairs

Your Council has just squandered one million pounds of your money by dodgy tax arrangements, which were in place under departed Leader Stephen Greenhalgh. That is the same man now wielding the axe over the Metropolitan Police on the grounds that they don't have enough money to pay for them.

Read the full sorry tale here on the Evening Standard website.

Gang mugging on Uxbridge Road

Uxbridge Road at night
This report just in from the local police:
"Between 02:30 and 03:01 on the 14th October the four victims had left a taxi on Uxbridge Road at the junction with Bloemfontein Road when a large group of around 20 black male and black females came towards them.

Approximately 4-6 of the men came over to two of the victims who were slightly ahead of their two friends.

One of the suspects placed his hand in the second victim’s pocket and when the victim told him to stop he was punched in the mouth. At the same time the first victim was standing in the road and can only remember being hit by a bottle over the head and having his phone and wallet taken.

He sustained a cut behind his right ear, cut to his left elbow and left hip and also a fracture to his skull and was taken to a local hospital".

If you have any information regarding this incident or have seen anything suspicious please contact DC Berridge on 0208-246-2505, your local Safer Neighbourhoods Team or Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800-555-111.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Hospital closures: where does your GP stand?

Here's a recording of local Tory Peter Graham addressing the recent rally against the closure of hospitals in H&F. I described the scene here, as this sole Conservative stood alongside some pretty unusual comrades, which included members of the Socialist Workers Party and the Revolutionary Committee for Health in the Middle East who had come along to pledge "solidarity".

Listen in as one bloke cries "ere, you're a Tory!" to which Peter replies "yes, I AM a Conservative!"

So it was an amusing scene during what was an inspiring march and rally, but do give what he says a close listen. What he's arguing is that if local GPs come out against the plans they have no chance of going ahead. Peter gives more detail on the local Conservative blog here.

So why don't you ask your own GP where they stand next time you go to see them?

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

West Ken/Earl's Court: LibDems enter fray

Vince Cable: Coalition heavy hitter
Vince Cable has been drawn into the increasingly dramatic and fraught battle over the future of the Earl's Court redevelopment. Coming days after a High Court Judge said that the legality of our Council's approach was open to question, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats on the London Assembly has written to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills outlining her concerns at the economic impact on London of the loss of jobs this would entail.

Caroline Pidgeon
Ms Pidgeon, in her letter to Mr Cable which you can read below, argues that the loss of exhibition space as the existing buildings are removed would be profound, and quotes the "thousands of small businesses" who rely on the space as a "marketing platform".

She also can't resist a swipe at our local authority, saying that it is "a matter of regret that these economic concerns do not appear do have been given appropriate consideration by the local planning authorities". Welcome to Hammersmith & Fulham, Caroline. 

Ms Pidgeon concludes by asking the Secretary of State to urge his colleagues to "call in" the application, which would mean excercising a possible power of veto. So now we have gone from a position where H&F have blustered their way through local residents, insisting all the way that they would do it come what may, to a very real threat to the scheme from both the High Court, and potentially the Coalition Government itself.

Dark days ahead at Hammersmith Town Hall, but that glimmer of light for little people like these may just be glowing a little brighter this evening.

Earls Court Opportunity Area - Letter to Vince Cable