Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Eviction Wednesday in Hammersmith for charities

 Charities supporting the vulnerable are getting the boot this morning from the building that has housed them for years, to make way for the West London Free School.

The Council, which announced its firesale of buildings way back in July 2010, gave 20 charities one months' notice to get out in December. That gave them four weeks, which included the Christmas and New Year break.

The services include the Iraqi Association; Iranian Association and the Association of Afghans in UK. Some are moving into Norland House, Hammersmith which isn’t ready yet.

The Iranian Association had nowhere to go and had to involve a solicitor on Monday to get a stay of execution until Saturday, so they can move into temporary accomodation.They are one of only 64 Citizenship Test Centres Nationwide, and have had to suspend their contract for that losing £2,600 per week, until they get sorted.

Andy Slaughter MP has sent the letter below to the Chief Executive of the Council demanding an answer the same day. I'm told by his office that they received a terse response disputing the timescales, but not much more.

In fairness to the West London Free School, this is not their doing. I once called Toby Young the "evictor in chief" in reference to this dark day eventually coming, which he rightly challenged. No, this is a question of priorities to me - low taxes or these sort of services for people who have nowhere else to go.

And why are they here, some of them? Iraqis. Consider the cost in lives of the Iraq war, which by most estimates is between 100,000 and 150,000 lives. Afghans. The war isn't even over. They may be unknown to most of us but the people needing these services are real enough. And they're here in large part because of actions we took in their countries, in Iraq's case possibly ilegally. 

This is what the cut backs look like to real people in H&F, folks.

1115 UPDATE WEDNESDAY - The Council has been in touch, and they have a very different view of things. They describe the new venue that some - not all - of the charities being evicted will be moving to on the Edward Woods Estate near the Bush as a "state-of-the-art community hub" and that they've spent £655,000 doing up formerly derelict pram sheds into office space so that they can be used by a number of the borough’s voluntary groups, charities and not-for-profit organisations. The community hub will be split between the ground floors of the Edward Woods blocks of Stebbing, Norland, Poynter and Boxmoor Houses, with the Boxmoor facility likely to be used as the main base for the hub. 

Cllr Joe Carlebach, cabinet member for community care, has this to say: 

“Hammersmith & Fulham has a vibrant and thriving voluntary sector and we have protected these vital organisations and services despite the severe budget pressures that we face. This new hub will help us to provide better, more modern facilities for our voluntary organisations and we have been working closely with them to ensure their needs are met. I am sure that all of the groups who take up the opportunity will be very pleased with their new home and we will be working hard to make sure that local residents reap the benefits of this fantastic deal.”

I'm told that those charities who are able to move in will need to do so "in a phased manner from early 2012 with a launch event planned for later in the year" What they are supposed to do in the meantime is less clear.

A Council spokesman told me this morning that:

"Organisations interested in renting space at the hub will be asked to complete an application process which has been developed, with priority given to those that meet local priorities, including delivering services that benefit local residents and contribute to the community hub ethos."


  1. Surely Toby could put in a good word for these people and make sure that in the spirit of his 'liberal' school the vulnerable and those selflessly serving them are not inconvenienced by his vanity project? Surely? After all, what is more liberal than charity, supporting the common community of mankind and thinking of those less fortunate than oneself?

    I'm sure, if this is really an over-hasty eviction, Mr. Young can reassure us that the timescales for his school are not dictating the timescales for the eviction of these groups and tell the council that they can back off.

  2. Since - as far as I can tell - the West London Free School is currently operating out of a building built as, er, a school in Brackenbury, it's not at all clear why it needs to move to Palingswick House at all.

  3. The Iranian Association had nowhere to go? Oh my. That's awful.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. First they came for the communists,
      and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
      Then they came for the trade unionists,
      and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
      Then they came for the Jews,
      and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
      Then they came for the Catholics,
      and I didn't speak out because I was Protestant.
      Then they came for me
      and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    3. Chef lennie,

      You are a being a bit of a drama queen here. Noone is coming for anyone. An association has to find new premises. Happens all the time and I am sure they will sort it out and carry on doing what they were before.

    4. Dramatic? yes you're right. But I was reacting to your insensitive comment. The point I was making is that just because you have no empathy towards this group of volunteers and their work doesn't make their cause any less valid. True, no one is coming for you, but where does it end? Do we have to wait until they get to someone that you do have sympathy for, a old peoples charity, an animal charity or heaven forbid an armed forces charity, before you drop your snide and sarcastic stance and stand up to the bullies? This city is diverse and culturally rich and and we should celebrate, embrace and support that. By the way, if they do ever get around to you... you can count on my support!

    5. Chef lennie,
      In defence of anonymous 03.58, he did not make the insensitive comment to which you reacted so hysterically - I did.
      You're quite right, of course, in the sense that my lack of empathy does not make their cause (whatever it is) any less valid. But equally, my lack of empathy, as expressed in a sarcastic comment on a blog, doesn't stop the Iranian Association from getting on with their work; I would suggest that the biggest obstacle in their path is their inability to organise a piece-up in a brewery. After all, the sale of Palinswick House was flagged some 18 months ago!

    6. Chef lennie, you are honourable in your sentiments but you are confusing morality with office admin.

      The fact that such a charity is allowed to exist, raise funds and operate in a country that tolerates it says a lot about the people of that country.

      However, it is not right to expect those same people to devote their hard-won resources into sorting out the charity's office problems for them.

      And it does not make it right for the charity to refuse to move when they have known for 18 months that a school is going to want to move in as soon as possible.

      And it does not make it right for others to use their publicly funded resources to frustrate that move or suggest that the charity is the victim and perhaps the school is being unreasonable just to score personal or political points.

      This is not a good use of the income tax you pay.

  4. I don't *want( to go off on a tangent and shift the debate (especially since Chris isn't at all guilty about what I'm about to rant about), but I'm going to have a rant anyway.

    I'm a bit sick and tired of the bad publicity that free schools are getting. There. I said it. I think it's GREAT that parents, charities and organisations want to get involved in educating children in this way. Anyone who has BEEN to school in the last decade, let alone worked in one, will know that Local Education Authorities are so overly bureaucratic that it's impossible to do anything.

    Free Schools and, to a lesser extent, acadamies seem to be a great way to pass on financial responsibility to those who KNOW the school and how it works. These people know what's best for the children, and also for the staff. Teachers at acadamies and free schools will be treated much better than they are under LEAs... and why shouldn't parents and local people take a greater responsibility for their children's education?

    I know that there are dangers. What if some crazy organisation wants to come along and start some radical school? What if Shell want to come and set up the Shell Oil Free School? Well... yes. Safeguards need implementing. But, on the other hand, industry and community involvement can also help schools to deliver an education which will be more representative of what industries NEED.

    So there. Only slightly sparked off by negativity towards Free Schools, a rant about the general press coverage involving these institutions. Sorry if it's incoherent... my school was under the authority of the LEA.

    1. Another view: relatively speaking the H&F LA is pretty hands off. They are not the 'control freaks' that proponents say they are. Concerns about free schools are a) they are essentially the charitable arm of a profit making company in many cases (which contracts running the school to the company), b) they are not accountable to the taxpayers that fund them nor to the parents whose children go to them etc. People should take more responsibility, but carving out large amounts of public money from an already tight education and children's budget in order to fund these takes the possibility for real and responsible action on the part of communities and parents away from taxpayer expense.

  5. I do read this blog occasionally and have given you the benefit of the doubt so far, but what a trumped-up load of rubbish.

    I have no particular interest in the Free School or the Iranian Association, I just read the paper sometimes. But even I have known for about a year that the Free School is likely to be moving into Palinswick House.

    If I know that, then any organisation operating from that building should have known that too and should have been expecting it and should have been actively looking for somewhere else and dealing with it.

    How Andy Slaughter can expect anyone to have sympathy for this organisation when they ought to have known about this for months and months is ridiculous.

    If this is meant to get any support forget it. This really is scraping the barrel and obviously just using the short-sightedness of a quasi-business to make a decent school run by volunteers look bad.

    That is really, really cheap and just exposes the accuser as lacking integrity.

    Andy Slaughter - you just lost my vote.

  6. P.S. to above: Or have I misunderstood the situation?

  7. To me it sounds like they've been promised shiny new accommodation, but the council has fudged it and there is a (fairly big) disparity between the eviction and moving in dates...

  8. Sounds to me like they heard about the sale of Palinswick House and decided to sit on their big fat backsides waiting for Johnny Taxpayer to sort it all out for them, safe in the knowledge they could blame all their problems on someone else.

  9. A rather bluntly expressed sentiment, but it's a valid point. We've known about this since mid 2010 so I have to say I don't quite understand why there seems to be a sense of shock either.

  10. Loftus Road Martin25 January 2012 at 14:28

    "Sounds to me like they heard about the sale of Palinswick House and decided to sit on their big fat backsides waiting for Johnny Taxpayer to sort it all out for them, safe in the knowledge they could blame all their problems on someone else."

    You have just described everything that is despicable about the attitude of left wing groups in general and of the Labour Party in particular at the moment. It's time they woke up.

    Yes it's blunt, but it's wonderfully accurate. It's about time this whining, hard-done-by approach to politics and life is exposed for what it is. It's just a lazy indulgence that proclaims as a right: "English Tax Payers, You All Owe Me a Living".

    Andrew Slaughter and colleagues, no we do not. I no longer buy that rubbish because you sold me that fool's gold last time around.

  11. Loftus Road Martin25 January 2012 at 14:42

    And the same thing goes for tax-funded bankers by the way.

    Why the hell should anyone expect as a right that we should pay for their self-indulgences?

    I do not want my MP wasting his well-paid time on rubbish like this at my expense.

  12. am I getting this right, Labour party sympathisers are using victims of Labour initiated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as examples of who is being effected by Conservative cut backs?

  13. A lot of people complaining about tax payers money going towards left wing do-gooders, but no one seems to care much about the amount of tax payers money being thrown at these so called 'free' schools. At a time when everyone in the country is supposed to be tightening our belts, the government can still find millions of ponds of our money for these 'free' schools, but not for the repair and maintenance of existing state schools. My son's school desperately needs its playground resurfaced… it is very uneven and dangerous and would cost at lot less to repair than the £48.000 given to local parents just to market their 'free' school less than 500 metres from my son's school. That school never did open.... not enough interest in a borough that has more than its fair share of very good primary schools. But they still spent all that tax payers money. As for the sale of Pallenswick house and eviction of the charities from the building... just how much did Hammersmith & Fulham council sell it for? I have never seen the figure... if the sale of Wormholt library, to another 'free' school, is anything to go by it would have been at a price well below what it should have been

  14. Yes, you have got it right.

    It's absolutely typical. They mention someone they don't like alongside a "hard luck" story, so to imply that one caused the other.

    A school should not be used in connection with eviction in a suggestive way that delivers doubt on the good intentions, integrity and reputation of the school.

    It would be wrong in the same way to suggest 'Labour sympathisers support Iranians in resisting eviction, while school cannot use its own building' for example. That would lack integrity, just be a cheap shot and it isn't true.

    This is not a hard luck story it's a "tough luck" story.

    It back-fires because it's insulting to tax payers and only someone tax-funded themselves would lack that understanding and expect us to be sympathetic.

    They just don't see the irony of what they're saying because they think they have a god-given right to use our money supporting any little cause, scheme or project that sounds socially correct.

    I for one am sick of it, and I think most other ordinary folk feel the same way. I want my MP and other politicians to use my hard-won, hard-grafted tax properly - as if it were coming out of their own personal life savings. I do not want it spent supporting someone else's social projects.

    1. The above was meant as a reply to "Am I getting this right?" by Anonymous.

      Chef Lennie jumped in front of me!

  15. Agreed above. It was Labour who came up with the policy to fund the Free School. It was Labour who went to war. Now it's Labour complaining about the consequences of both.

  16. Replies
    1. This is not about charity.

      This is about your MP spending his time and other people's time with a long, rambling letter complaining because organisations are being told repeatedly to leave a building that is needed as a school - when they have been aware of this for a long time and have not sorted themselves out in time. Not only that, he is complaining that the publicly funded space they have been offered in exchange isn't smart enough.

      I don't think this is a good use of his time if I am helping to pay his salary.

    2. I don't mind, really. I doubt it took much time to pen a quick letter...

  17. @AnonymousJan 25, 2012 11:49 AM
    What are you on about? Free schools were never a Labour project, A former advisor to Michael Gove set up the Network and was given shedloads of money to promote the idea. Toby had searched for a site for his Acton based school but Tory Ealing and Tory Hounslow would not play. Both boroughs went Labour, next thing is LBHF desperately struggling to find him a site. Co-incidently they had already decided to sell off community assets such as Shepherds Bush Village Hall, youth clubs and community centres including Pallingswick.........
    Toby was not responsible for the sale of Pallingswick and the eviction of the 30 various voluntary groups but he is a beneficiary.
    As to the failure of some of the groups to vacate on time I suspect this might be due to the alternative premises on the Edward Woods estate being, not suitable, too expensive and crucially not yet available.
    The free school argument is lost for good or bad. The main concern is how LBHF tories are selling off key resources for community support for a minor financial return to reduce debt at a time of long term minimal interest rates. Ideology over common sense..... Iain Muir

  18. Ian Muir, Anonymous is 'on about' this I suspect:

    The principle of state funding for privately run schools, or Academies, was a controversial, radical departure from previous governments' policies and was a Labour flagship that broke new ground. The Free School idea is just taking that newly established Labour principle further.

    For decades LBHF has been desperately short of non-selective secondary school places for boys and the Labour administration failed to provide them. Toby Young's school was very badly needed by the children in the borough, as is the new Academy.

    Yes, schools cost a lot of money. Yes, the Borough needs to raise cash. Organisations all over the country are having to take emergency action to stay afloat, selling things they would rather not sell. There is one reason for that: the Labour government did not put money aside in the good times that we could be using now. It spent it instead.

    The sale and conversion of Pallingswick House into a school has been on the cards and in the news for months on end, as has the full knowledge that the Free School is currently in unsuitable temporary accommodation and needs to move as soon as possible.

    If you are running a charity in a building that you know for months on end is going to be sold because it is needed to educate local children, it is just plain common sense that you make plans for finding suitable alternative accommodation in case you need it. It is in everyone's interest to do that and it is your responsibility to assist yourself. It should not be for tax-payers to do your work for you.

    You do not wait to the last second and refuse to move, put up legal obstacles or expect someone else at public expense to sort out your problems that you knew were in the pipeline - particularly when children need those school places now.

    They may have the right to do these things, but that doesn't make it the right thing to do. And many people will see an attempt to manufacture 'outrage' against a school or council for political ends as not only a waste of public money, but a misuse of time and energy.

  19. John - you are absolutely right... very well put!

  20. So why has this letter been made public?

    It's more a private legal matter I would have thought.

    It cannot surely be because Andy Slaughter thinks it will make the council or Free School look bad by association. Are they looking too good?

    Didn't Andy Slaughter go to independent Latymer Upper school?

    That's now an exclusive, very expensive school right next door to Pallingswick House. I bet the old school doesn't welcome the competition the Free School will bring. It might outshine Latymer and make locals think more than twice about opting to pay their fees.

    Yours sincerely, Old School Ties.

  21. To bend over backwards to Mr. Slaughter, he would have probably have attended Latymer Upper when it still enjoyed direct grant status - i.e. it was independent, but all fees were paid by the local authority so it was free to attend; iirc Godolphin and Latimer was also direct grant. The direct grant was done away with in the 70s. The irony of course is that Free Schools and Academies are much like direct grant schools, except that the latter were allowed to practise selection on academic grounds.

    1. Right. Interesting. You'd think Andrew Slaughter would be appreciating the importance of giving similar opportunities to all local children.

      But although he's benefiting from it even now, it would seem he begrudges that same sort of education when it arrives for others.

      If what you say is true and assuming he then went on to a free university education, he is now an MP and so he has done very, very well indeed out of other people's tax money over the course of his life. That might explain an apparent inability to see how others might find this attitude to spending it so insulting.

      Easy come, easy go. It's other people's money.

  22. Are you all mad? Or stupid? Or perhaps politically biased?
    Read Slaughter's letter again - he doesn't mention schools, free or otherwise, not once, neither explicitly nor implicitly.
    Yet these comments have become a series of inane rants about what you imagine Slaughter is saying about free schools!
    The letter is actually accusing a council of turfing out several charities (who as far as I know, raise their own funds, and pay rent to the council - so the xenophobic jibes about scavengers are just that)with neither enough notice, nor an adequate place to go.
    It's very simple - either Slaughter is right and the council has treated these charities unfairly, or it hasn't. Perhaps the council will produce some evidence to help us decide. But these organisations provide vital services,that would otherwise cost public money, and one at least holds a major central government contract, so their well-being is a legitimate matter of public interest. or vice versa. Of course we all knew they were going to have to leave sometime,but there's a very real difference between knowing that and having timely and precise information to arrange moving a large business across town. Doubtless the council will be happy to publish copies of the letters of notice it sent to clear the matter up.
    In the meantime I hope commenters on your blog read things properly before turning this usually civilised and intelligent forum into a sort of W12 Daily Mail.

    1. A quick look at the Iranian Association's entry on the Charity Association website ( shows both the kind of work they do and their sources of income. It's clear that a large chunk of their income comes from government in one form or another and most of the rest from other charities or grant giving organisations (e.g. the National Lottery), not donations from businesses or the public. So it's not at all clear that they are - as you suggest - saving public money, as opposed to spending it. Tarring people you disagree with as "Daily Mail readers" strikes me as a peculiarly pitiful debating strategy, incidentally. Either the Iranian Association has been dealt with in accordance with the terms of its lease or it hasn't. The fact that they have consulted solicitors would imply that they will make sure they are dealt with correctly.
      As for linking this issue with the Free School - that was done in the first paragraph of Chris's post.

  23. Tom

    I dont think I'd agree with your description of the critics of Mr Slaugheter, they have the right to air their views and should do so, but I am a bit concerned about the level of personal attacks that do sometimes take place. I dont have any censorship on here, needing to 'approve' things before they are published because I trust people to behave responsibly. Please can people remember to be a bit more respectful so I can carry on with this arrangement

    Now ... carry on debating!

    1. Chris,
      I was only asking questions not "describing" anyone!
      But point taken - I don't wish to be rude to anyone. The debate needs to be civilised and coherent.
      Having said that I think politicians will inevitably get a bit of stick - it's often difficult to resist! Throwing rotten fruit at public figures is a long and honourable tradition. I think most of them cope with it.
      But the issue here wasn't one of politeness - it was that so many of your contributors were - for what reason I cannot tell - writing about something they imagined they had read rather than what was printed. People like Slaughter get enough stick without making up stuff to slag them off about. I've rarely seen a starker example of so many people just following my leader, holding forth without even having read what they were criticising. It was a sort of eMob.
      Perhaps you've hosted the first eRiot?!
      I don't mind what opinions people express - I'm big enough and certainly ugly enough to stick up for myself - but if it based on an untruth or a misconception, then I will point it out - a debate based on a fiction is no debate at all.
      Anyway - keep up the good work. You're providing a great service!

    2. Perhaps I for one sounded harsh when discussing this and I would not want to be unjust to anyone. I am sure Andy Slaughter is a very good and sincere MP in his actions and does very good work (and I'm not being sarcastic).

      Although I do care how my taxes are spent I cannot stand the Daily Mail either and on reflection I do not begrudge Andy Slaughter one penny of his salary.

      In Andy's letter there is no connection made with the Free School but there is a connection, in terms of the building itself, indeed Chris referred to the school in his article so presumably that is why the debate has widened to include it. I guess people want to discuss it because they have heard or read past criticisms politicians have made about the Free School.

      It's heartening to have a civilised debate but I suppose when I feel so strongly I can accidentally use the wrong words sometimes and others do too.

      I have noticed that Chris has been very open when he feels he has made an error of judgement about something and you have here Tom, so I will follow-my-leader and take the point too.

  24. I wasn't going to, but as I need to apologise for leaving the words "or vice versa" in the last post by accident, I will:

    This Council's USP,if it has one, is its canniness with your Council Tax. Or they'd like you to think so.
    But if the Council HAS spent £655,000 of YOUR MONEY on these new facilities, and there are no phones and the Post Office won't deliver mail, shouldn't you really be asking yourself whether the Council are competent to be trusted with your money?