Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Thusha: A story to shame us all

I work in Stockwell, South London. It's an area I spend most of my daylight hours in and I know it quite well having been there for over four years. It's also an area that has problems that make the challenges we have in Shepherd's Bush seem like small fry.

The last shooting we had down there involved two men on a motorbike spraying another man with a submachine gun from a passing motorbike, and you regularly see police swoop on groups of local youths who dont have much to do apart from hang around.

It's the sort of place where you kind of get used to seeing some fairly depressing stuff.

But in March last year an incident took place at one of our local shops which plumbed new depths. This was the shooting of a 5 year old little girl who was playing inside, the shop being owned by one of her family. One gang was attacking another, again with guns, and this time they just opened up inside the shop and Thusha was shot through the back, leaving her paralysed.

But this little girl was not about to accept doctors' views that she would never walk again, and BBC London today released a film which shows her taking steps with the aid of a frame. She's started back at school and tells the BBC correspondent Guy Smith that she likes maths, because she finds it easy. She wants to be a doctor.

But most of this film, inspirational though it is, also reveals something that it doesnt really go into. For sure the family are being basically let down by their Council who have not transformed their housing. But I imagine after this publicity that might rocket swiftly up Redbridge Council's priority list.

But what is really shameful, surely, is what gets passsing reference in the BBC film - that Thusha's family are only really getting the support they need because of people's fundraising efforts, such as the policemen and women who investigated the shooting, who themselves have done a sponsored mountain climb. Why on earth should this girls' family have to rely on public charity? Shouldn't they receive everything they need for the rest of her life? Wouldnt that be the mark of a civilised society?

So I asked Guy Smith this evening, who tells me that if Thusha had been a victim of a road traffic accident she would have been entitled to millions because of the involvement of insurance companies. But victims of crime are only ever entitled to a maximum of £500,000. Which is hardly a great deal when you are only 5 years old and face a lifetime of adjustments and care.

Are we really saying as a country that this is acceptable? 

You can donate to the Thusha appeal here.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Hospitals public meeting: Watch the vid

The bods at H&F Council's press office have put together a short film of highlights from the public meeting held last tuesday at the Town Hall over NHS North West London's plan to shut down the hospitals of this borough to save money. This is a plan actively supported by Chelsea & Westminster and Middlesex hospitals in neighbouring Kensington & Chelsea and the "consultation" has all the hallmarks of a government fix.

As may be evident from the tone and rather arrogant assertions from those defending the plans. Watch it and weep! And then get ready for the march on October 6th - details here

Friday, 21 September 2012

MPs row over hospital closures

Greg Hands has been accused of "hollow" support for the campaign to halt the closure of Charing Cross hospital by our own MP Andy Slaughter this afternoon. Responding to the revelations that Chelsea & Westminster hospital has been actively campaigning for the closure of both hospitals in Hammersmith & Fulham in order to save their own skins, Mr Slaughter has been vocal in his condemnation of what he called "divisive and cynical" tactics.

Today he went a step further and had this to say in a broadside against neighbouring MP Greg Hands, whose constituents use both Chelsea & Westminster as well as Hammersmith hospitals:
“The campaign on the Friends of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital which still lists Mr Hands as a vice-president is disgraceful – it is actively encouraging patients to vote for an option that closes a “rival” hospital. 

His position (and Malcom Rifkind’s) as a vice-president of the Friends - which is still advertised on their website - lends MPs’ support to this campaign, and wittingly or not, appears to endorse it. 

The really wicked thing about this is that the Trust is deceiving people into voting for the closure of Charing Cross by dressing it up as a vote merely to keep Chelsea and Westminster open. People will be angry when they realise the trust is trying to dupe them like this – and an MP should not be anywhere near such a dishonest campaign – except to condemn it loudly. 

Constituents in all three affected areas who have heard his half-hearted support for the apparently doomed Charing Cross hospital, will be shocked to learn that he is not explicit in his condemnation of this campaign to close Charing Cross.

He should immediately and publicly dissociate himself from this cynical attempt at divide and rule. Without this, protestations of support for Charing Cross Hospital have a very hollow ring.”
But Mr Hands is having none of it. He told me today that:
“Keeping the A&E at Chelsea & Westminster is vital. The hospital has every right to argue its case, but I would have preferred them to have joined me in arguing against the whole consultation. 

“As I reported in my email bulletin last week, I met the senior management of the hospital and told them this plainly. I believe Chelsea & Westminster will be badly affected if Charing Cross Hospital is downgraded. It will have to deal with a big influx of patients from Fulham and beyond. 

“My constituents need and use both A&Es. That’s why I have also been a Friend of Charing Cross Hospital for the last 14 years, repeatedly defending it against attacks of this kind. 

“All parties locally have joined me in fighting to keep A&E services at both hospitals. This is a battle we need to win.”
Meanwhile the march to save our hospitals in H&F will be taking place on 6th October, and the organisers have had to make a couple of changes to the route and timings, so here they are again:

The march will start from Shepherds Bush Green, assembling in Rockley Rd and will proceed to Lille Road Rec for the final rally.

Assemble from 11am; Leave Rockley Rd 12noon, arrive Lillee Road about 1pm. All details, including a map, are here

Wormholt Park - the first hundred years by Peter Trott

Local resident, Peter Trott, has written a book about the forgotten history of Wormholt Park in Shepherd’s Bush. The book has been published by local residents group, Friends of Wormholt Park.

When it opened in 1911, Wormholt Park was at the heart of community life. Old photographs reveal the story of festivals, galas, sports and the role the park played in the war effort during World War II.

The book explains the meaning of the name Wormholt, the combination of the old English Worme or Wyrm and Holt indicates it was once a snake infested wood. The park opened on 27th June 1911 and an open air lido was opened alongside the park in 1923. A bandstand was built in the park in 1931 and a bowling green was opened in 1936.

The Second World War saw the park dug up and turned into allotments and shelter trenches. The post war years saw the rebirth of the park when it became the centre of the community with school sports days, grand Bank Holiday galas and even a giant tented theatre.

By the early 1980s the park was in decline and the swimming pool and the bowling green had closed. When the new century began the park looked sad and neglected. In 2009 a small group of friends got together to campaign for better maintenance and facilities and to encourage greater use of the park by local residents. Word of their work spread and the Friends of Wormholt Park were formed in 2011.

The author, Peter Trott, has lived in Shepherds Bush all his life and is fascinated by local history. Peter has spent many hours in the archives unearthing old photographs and put on displays for local street parties to celebrate the Golden Jubilee in 2002, the Royal Wedding in 2011 and the Diamond Jubilee this year. Peter was asked to help with the park’s centenary celebrations in September 2011. Peter’s history timeline and photographic display proved so popular that the Friends of Wormholt Park asked him to write a book about the park. A year later the book has been published.

The Friends are a voluntary group and Peter gave his own time researching and writing the book. All proceeds from the sale will go to the Friends group. Books are available from local outlets in Shepherds Bush displaying posters.

The launch party for the book was held on Thursday 20th September 2012 at the Hummingbird Café. The Friends group would like to thank local estate agent Winkworth for sponsoring the launch.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

More "supersewer" scare tactics from H&F

Oh dear, here we go again. Last night's Evening Standard, while reporting the great news that a lost Busher has been found wandering in the Alps somewhere, also carried dire warnings that the proposed Thames Tideway Tunnel, or "supersewer" as it's known to its critics, is likely to shut the Hammersmith Bridge and cause travel chaos for millions.

Remind you of anything? Perhaps the equally dire warnings that Furnival Gardens, a beautiful stretch of green next to the Thames, was about to be ripped up by evil Thames Water. Or maybe the one about a "stink hole" being installed in Ravenscourt Park. Or how about the dark prophesies of homelessness stalking the good people of Hammersmith who, we were warned, faced losing their homes to this rapacious utility company.

The thread that linked all of those doom laden scenarios was that they were bullshit. Worse still, the Council knew them to be so but still decided to come out with them as they spent large sums of public money on all manner of PR activity to lambast the idea of the tunnel, and 'stand up for local people'. You'd never have guessed there were local elections on at the time.

Now we hear that, on the basis of a quick look at Thames Water's plans, there *might* be an issue with the bridge and that *maybe* it might have to close. Given the track record of this council on this issue you may wish to postpone your panic just yet.

Meanwhile, the completely inadequate sewers we have at the moment under our feet continue to belch out record levels of raw sewage into the river. They do so every time there is heavy rain. And we haven't had much of that this year, have we? Here's someone who spends most of his life dealing with the consequences of that:

Saturday fun day at Wormholt Park

This Saturday afternoon Wormholt Park will be having a fun day with a serious purpose. The park, which is being steered back to some of its original glory by the Friends of Wormholt Park community group, will be hosting face painting, food stalls and a range of local stalls like they did at the start of the local community market there earlier in June this year.

But it will also be a chance for you to have a look and give your views on the proposed changes to the park that the group have been working on with the Council - there are a range of options to think about. Here's the Chair of the group in an open letter to residents: 
Dear Friends 
We’ve reached the next exciting stage of developing the new design of Wormholt Park and as Chair of the Friends of Wormholt Park I’d like to encourage you all to let us and Hammersmith and Fulham know what you think. 
This Saturday 22nd September from 2-5pm there will be a Fun Day event in the park where there will be music, stalls of delicious refreshments, a range of inflatable games including the bungee run, an assault course and football shoot out, plus a soft play area for toddlers and a face painter.

The Friends committee and our red gazebo will be there and most importantly there will be a marquee where you can view the proposed designs for the park, which were created by the Council-appointed landscape architects based on all the consultation feedback they’ve received from us, local residents and community groups. 
You’ll have an opportunity to talk through and discuss the designs with Hammersmith and Fulham and the architects’ staff and say what your preferences are and why. You’ll have a few different 2D models on show with different layouts, along with some representations and choices on the design detail associated with the various activities that may take in the park. 
We’ll be posting the consultation boards and feedback forms on the Friends website too, so if you don’t get a chance to pop in on Saturday, you’ll still be able to view and comment on them. 
See you in the park this Saturday – weather forecast is for sunshine! 
Chair – Friends of Wormholt Park
Fun day starts at 2pm on Saturday - and yes, the weather is set to be sunny!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Assault at Walkabout

On September 16th some of you may have seen that the Walkabout, which has had its problems with drunken violence on more than one occasion, was taped off by the police. I've now had the lowdown of what took place and it is thus, according to a police spokesperson:

"..an incident which happened around 2130 on the 16th September. Police were called to a male outside the Walkabout, who was staggering around with a bloody face and police found a pool of blood on the floor. 

The man was being treated by an off duty Doctor after a Security Guard found the male on the floor. 

The victim had a cut to his eyebrow, swollen nose and blood over his hands. The Ambulance Service attended and the male appeared to lose consciousness. He was placed on a spinal board and relayed to Hospital where he was found to have a broken nose, possible fracture to his thumb and cuts. 

The male was also believed to have consumed an amount of alcohol. If anyone has any information they can contact A/DS Kent in the CID at Hammersmith Police Station on 0208-246-2446".

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Stabbing on Askew Road

A man was stabbed in the chest during what police believe to have been a domestic incident last night. He was resuciated at the scene by paramedics and is now in hospital in a critical condition.

I will have more details on this in due course. I was alerted to it by the police this morning but was holding back until I had fuller details. Sadly I see the local press have started breathlessly tweeting about it already so in the interests of reducing the chances of more sensationalism I'm putting out what I know now.

There has been one arrest, and I understand the police are not looking for anyone else at this stage.

Clearly coming after the murder of Piotr Mikiewicz this is the last thing the area needs. But given that it appears to be the result of a domestic incident it is going to be important to bear in mind this is not the sign of an area on the down, it sounds very much like the nasty end to a very isolated incident. 

0920 UPDATE - The full Police statement on this incident is as follows:
Officers were called to a flat in a semi-detached house in Askew Road, Hammersmith at 0115 by the London Ambulance Service with reports of a male having been seriously assaulted. On arrival they found a 59 year old male who showed them into a flat where the male victim was found with a single stab wound to his chest. 

A 59 year old male has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. There is no link between this incident and any others and there is no danger to members of the local community. The male remains in intensive care in hospital. 

Hammersmith and Fulham Police are conducting additional patrols in the area to reassure the community that this happened within the confines of a home and not on the streets of the Borough.

March in the Bush against health cuts

People will be marching in the streets against the prospect of local hospitals being shorn of their A&E departments and other services drastically cut on October 6th. The marchers will be leaving at 1200 from Sulgrave Road just south of the Goldhawk Road and proceed, through Hammersmith, to Distillery Road in Fulham where they'll gather at Frank Banfield Park from around 1400 for speeches. You can find a map with the whole details on the campaign's website here.

The march comes as a report commissioned by our Council, who themselves are hosting a public meeting this evening where NHS bosses will have to explain why they have adopted a way of consulting people that has been described as "fatally flawed" by a former health chief. 

Summing up the local campaign's opposition to the loss of casualty services in our borough Mark Honigsbaum, a spokesperson for the Save our Hospitals campaign said this in a letter in today's Guardian:
"At a time of growing demand on A&E services in London we believe that that is a false economy – one that will result in longer waiting times and worse outcomes for thousands of vulnerable Londoners". 
So - a march through the Bush. I have no idea when the last one was, if indeed there ever has been one, but it's a good sign that people in this area are not about to lie down and let a bunch of beaurocrats put their lives at risk. And it stands in stark contrast to the cynical approach adopted by Chelsea & Westminster hospital in the south and West Middlesex to our North who have both been urging people to vote for the closure of our services in order to save their own. 

In H&F, by contrast, we have political leaders from all parties standing together with both local hospitals and inviting others from across the borders of our borough to join us. It's really quite inspiring!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Wormwood Scrubs Park Run

c/o Park Run Flickr photo pool
Every Saturday morning a group of locals start to gather on Wormwood Scrubs, just at the back of the hospital car park. They’re getting ready for the weekly 5 K “park run” which was launched with the support of the Council back in May last year.

I run on the Scrubs regularly anyway but shamefully only got round to attending my first Park Run in May this year, which I enjoyed tremendously. Back then there were about 20 odd people, from a range of backgrounds and who included everyone from almost professional level running through to people who were only really starting out on a fitness regime.

Last Saturday, having gone a bit easier on the Friday night post-work drinks, I went along to my second run. It was as well organised as the first, entirely by volunteers, but the real difference was the numbers. I would say there were at least 60 people who'd turned out and apparently there had been over 70 the week before. No doubt the Olympics have played their part in inspiring people, which is no bad thing.

So the point of the article is to encourage more of you to take part – you really won't regret it and 5K is a distance that most people can manage even if they don’t run regularly. For a free event it’s spectacularly good and you even get a time by signing up to the ParkRun website beforehand and bringing along a printed barcode they’ll email you. That way you can track your progress and measure your improvement. Or, if you’re like me coming off the back of months of not running at all, marvel at how much fitness you have to recapture!

Give it a go – the run starts at 0900 every Saturday and it’s well worth making the effort for. After each run there is a tea/coffee thing at the Thames Harriers club house inside Linford Christie Stadium.

See you there!

Friday, 14 September 2012

West Middlesex joins Chelsea & Westminster to campaign for H&F hospital closures

The farcical "consultation" being run by NHS North West London is now revealed to be one in which two hospitals are conniving with each other to save their own skins at the expense of both hospitals serving Hammersmith & Fulham. Just over the borough boundaries at either end of our borough we now have evidence that both West Middlesex and Chelsea & Westminster are running tax payer funded publicity campaigns urging people to vote for that option.

A fellow campaigner from the Save our Hospitals campaign which, along with our Council, is spearheading the local campaign to save Charing Cross & Hammersmith Hospitals needed to visit West Middlesex for an outpatient appointment recently. Here's his account:
"I attended a podiatry outpatient department at West Middlesex Hospital today only to be assaulted at the entrance by posters and flyers urging me to ‘Act Now’ to save the hospital’s A&E, children’s and maternity services.

Like Chelsea & Westminster, the West Middlesex has launched a prominent and highly misleading advertising campaign aimed at frightening patients into thinking there is a real risk of the closure and urging people to ‘strongly support’ Option A.

As I left the hospital I had a very interesting chat with a volunteer from ‘Upbeat’, the West Middx heart prevention and patient support group who mans an information stall by the entrance. He explained how, like other heart patients who live near the hospital, he was worried about the possibility that West Middx might lose its stroke unit and had been persuaded by the hospital’s management to vote for Option A. He said he had now advised his group’s 1,600-strong membership to follow suit! 

On the tables there was also a laminated letter from Dr Tim Peters, the chair of the hospital’s medical committee, that had been published in the 31 August edition of the Housnlow, Heston & Whitton Chronicle. Headlined ‘Help us save your hospital services’ it reads: 

“Option A offers the greatest benefits with the fewest negative effects on patients. It uses West Middlesex and Chelsea & Westminster’s modern, well-situated hospitals… 

“Option C doesn’t make good use of the excellent facilities and services already available at West Middlesex. It would mean West Middlesex would lose it’s A&E, maternity, stroke and children’s services. It would threaten the hospital’s financial future and its ability to provide local services. It also provides poor value for money for the NHS as a whole. 
“If you agree that Option A will be best for you and your family’s needs, then please support us to fill in a consultation form. Please encourage your friend’s and family to do the same.”

He goes on to reflect on what all of this means, and asks:
"Why aren’t the managements of Ealing, Hammersmith and Charing Cross conducting similarly high profile patient information campaigns? Is it because that, unlike C&W and the West Middx, they have scruples about biasing patients and wish to ensure the consultation process is fair? Or is it because they weren’t given a heads up about the closure plans and therefore had no time to prepare a publicity campaign? There is a third possibility, of course, and that is that they did know about the plans but were advised not to waste money chasing a lost cause. Either way, it stinks".
Hard to disagree. And no wonder the BBC among others are starting to report on the flaws in this so-called "consultation".

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

West Ken: report on Misconduct in Public Office handed to Police

CapCo inspires locals with their vision
A report alleging very serious misconduct on the part of our Council has been handed to the police.

A formal document extending to 20 pages, the report makes for extremely uncomfortable reading both for Council officers and elected councillors. It documents what it claims have been attempts on the part of councillors to persuade residents to back the redevelopment with the promise of "guaranteed" houses on Seagrove Road.

That is a very serious charge indeed, relating to Misconduct in Public Office which itself carries the possibility of criminal charges, so the police are likely to take some time before deciding their next step.

Here's one passage:

"Some months ago a Conservative Councillor knocked at my door. The man asked me “What do you think about demolition?”. I replied I did not want to move outside the borough. He replied that I was definitely going to be re-housed in the borough, because I would be moved to Seagrave Road".

"I asked the Councillor if it would be possible to have a ground floor in Seagrave Road, and he replied “Your name will be put down on a list for a ground floor flat in Seagrave Road”. And then he added “Can we rely on your vote?”. I said “no”, and he left".
And it seems the Mayor of London's own camapign machine were sent to help out too. Here's another excerpt:
One day at the end of February/beginning of March 2012 someone knocked at my door. It was a man in his 50s, about six feet tall, with grey-black hair. He was wearing a black suit and at first I thought he was a detective.

He did not introduce himself and he did not show me any ID. He just asked me “Who are you going to vote for?”. I told him “I don’t know, I haven’t made my mind up yet”. And then he said “because I am working for Boris Johnson”.

I let him in. He had a consultation feedback form with him and he asked me what was my view about the redevelopment. I said that I quite liked it here, but that if I was given a better place in the area I wouldn’t mind. And then he told me that the people that agree with demolition have been given top priority to go to Seagrave Road. He [said] that if I did not agree I would end up being put into a hotel and lose my flat completely. He told me that I should fill in the form as soon as possible, because there would be not be enough places for everyone in Seagrave Road.

He was very authoritative and official, and I thought that everything he was saying was true. He made me feel as if it was really going to happen. He told me that he knew it because he was working for Boris Johnson, and he was the man who was going to make everything happen. He also made me feel as if he was doing me a favour, as if he was doing it for my benefit, as if he was concerned for me. But at the same time, he was scaring me saying that I would be put into a hotel or somewhere else in London.

As he left, he told me again to fill in the form and to post it as soon as possible, because the first applicants agreeing with demolition would be put at the top of the list to go to Seagrave Road, and there were many people applying for Seagrave Road, people who had already agreed with demolition and that therefore were going to have top priority to go there.

He left the form with me and I said I would fill it in as soon as possible saying that I agreed the demolition should take place. As soon as he left, I filled in the form saying that I agreed with demolition. I have lived on the street for nine years, and I did not want to lose my home. He made me feel as if I was going to lose my home.
After his visit, I was quite agitated, because it made me feel as if he was quite certain that the demolition would happen. It was only when I spoke with my neighbours that I realised there was opposition on the estates, and that many people were against it. Now I feel like I have been manipulated. He was using Seagrave Road as a carrot on a stick to make me do what he wanted, to make me agree with demolition.
The Council rejects the allegation, and has already responded with the simple rebuttal:
This is a serious charge and in the absence of any evidence a serious slur. (Chief Executive, 1 August 2012)
Speaking to me earlier this afternoon Council Leader Nick Boterill was unrepentant. He had this to say:
“The council is immensely proud that residents living on the two estates have been offered the best deal in any regeneration scheme in London. In fact, all residents are on the VIP list.

“We have adopted a ‘local lettings plan’ that sets out exactly how new housing will be allocated for eligible residents.

“All council tenants, freeholders and leaseholders who live on the two estates will be offered a brand new home, a very generous compensation package of £4,700 per tenant and new white goods, carpets and curtains.

“We have said all along that the major beneficiaries of this investment have to be the residents living on West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates, followed by the wider area, the borough and London as a whole.”
The problem with that argument, for the Council, is that this report is packed full with accounts of altogether different practices. And ones which collectively amount to a serious allegation of wrongdoing which is now in the hands of the police.

CapCo leave all smiles
I suspect the fireworks that follow on from this development may make the pantomime of the last meeting of the Cabinet look like child's play. Interesting times.

UPDATE 0900 THURSDAY - As expected the H&F Planning Committee acted with their usual rubber stamp and approved the development last night. As you can see from these pictures the folk from developers CapCo had a real spring in their step. But all of this of course becomes a bit irrelevant depending on the outcome of the legal side of things. This story has yet to run its' course...

They think it's all over: It isn't now..
UPDATE MONDAY 17th SEPT - The Fulham Chronicle, which has described the estates as "doomed" and said that the "way is clear" for their destruction has grudgingly reported this story, almost a whole week after it appeared here. Anyone would think they were batting for the Council. 

Chelsea & Westminster lobbies for Charing Cross/Hammersmith closure

Chelsea & Westminster hospital is using tax payers money to lobby for the closure of neighbouring Chairing Cross Hospital in our borough, and that of Hammersmith hospital too. In a deeply cynical move the health authority that is responsible for our hospitals, Imperial, is itself rowing back from a commitment to "consult" with local people and instead promising to simply use "local press" instead. As our MP points out with the readership of the local press being very low this effectively means many people will not be consulted at all.

I attended a campaign meeting of the community group Save our Hospitals last week where this was laid bare, including by residents of Kensington & Chelsea where Chelsea & Westminster hospital is based, who came along to offer their support to our campaign, so disgusted were they at the pitting of local people against each other. 

Following our meeting the NHS NorthWest London group of health bosses held its Annual General Meeting in Westminster on Friday, at which they were questioned by local MP Andy Slaughter among others. They admitted that they only planned to use "local papers" instead of a genuine local consultation that reached the population as a whole and had little to say in defence of Chelsea & Westminster's use of tax payers cash in this way. 

Mr Slaughter has written to the Chief Executive of the Chelsea and Westminster Trust to object to this and to ask them to discontinue the campaign and to withdraw their misleading and divisive postcards from public circulation. They are at present being placed in patient areas around the hospital and being heavily promoted in a newsletter, also produced with public funds. It urges people to vote simply for "Option A" which in terms of the consultation means they stay open but our own hospitals do not. This is presented as keeping the "NHS safe in our hands" complete with tinted pic of baby being protected from those nasty men with clipboards. 

Andy Slaughter said:
“I have no objection to Chelsea and Westminster campaigning to keep their A&E open in a united front with other Hospitals in the area. But it is highly unprofessional and counterproductive to set one hospital against another and it’s scandalous that they use public money to do this.”
Mr Slaughter also had harsh words for Imperial Healthcare Trust.
“Imperial, by contrast, is saying little or nothing about the proposals to close 2 of its 3 A&E departments and to dismantle the whole of the Charing Cross site. I am informed that they have taken on expensive PR consultants to defend their position against public criticism. They would be better employed in defending their own world-class hospitals from the government cuts which will see our local health service set back by generations.”

Monday, 10 September 2012

Piotr Mikiewicz: The Memorial

Piotrs' colleagues en route to the memorial
Last Wednesday, a week to the day of the murder of Piotr Mikiewicz, I went to a memorial service at Askew Road Church. It had been called in order to mark both the incident and register people’s shock but also their recollections of Piotr himself.

The church was packed. Rows of fluorescent orange vests indicated the large numbers of Piotr’s colleagues who had come along, while there was a healthy contingent of local residents too. Joining them were senior managers from Serco, who employed Piotr and his colleagues, and the local police safer neighbourhood team.

There were contributions from each of the above, but one stuck in my memory more than most because it was an indication of the man that people clearly held in a great deal of respect. The Chair of the Ashchurch Residents Association Fiona Anderson recalled an encounter with Piotr during last Autumn when he was busy dealing with the annual deluge of leaves. Piotr had said hello and Ms Anderson expressed sympathy with the amount of work the annual leaf-fest was generating for him. “Oh no” replied Piotr enthusiastically, “it’s worth it because look at the beautiful trees!”

That infectious love of life and the world around him seemed to charecterise every other memory of the man and I left the church with a real sense of loss. His wife had attended as had many of his family from Poland. At the end of the service we had a rendition of the Polish national anthem on the church organ, that I suspect mangled the tune a little bit, but everyone stood in respect to the man and what he’d brought to our community.

Back outside on the walk back up the Askew Road, I saw some leaves gathering in the gutter, and it all seemed such an enourmous waste.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Oxjam launch party at Vandella: Saturday

Oxjam Shepherd's Bush will be launching the countdown to the musical take over of the Bush with a party at the Vandella on Goldhawk Road this Saturday.

The musical take over itself will take place on October 27th with all proceeds going to Oxfam.

Encouragingly the organisers have managed to line up quite an impressive number of local businesses to sponsor the event, including The Happiness Centre on Uxbridge Road, Vue cinema and the newly opened LKH curry house which took over one of the many vacant spaces in the W12 centre recently. Cunningly placing themselves between a gym and a pub - they'll go far.

The shin dig kicks off at 7.30 pm and I understand you just turn up on the night.

So maybe see you there!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

West Ken: Council sell estate - MP bundled out of room

Andy Slaughter addresses meeting
Predictably pantomime-ish scenes last night as the Cabinet of H&F Council met to rubber stamp their plans to sell the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates in the face of the massed ranks of residents who oppose the move and who have vowed to fight the plans in the courts.

Inside the meeting the councillors were roundly booed, especially when they prevented two young girls who lived on the estate from speaking, before proceding to apply the H&F Council Rubber Stamp, a well-used tool in these ere parts.

The residents themselves, equally predictably, vowed "never to surrender" and promised a long drawn out battle which they would win, they said. Here's them doing a thoroughly defiant "Mobot" on the way home!

Knowing the end result, and having given up many other monday evenings to these sorts of farces before, I didn't bother going. The real story here is not what happened last night but what happens first of all in the courts and secondly in David Cameron's new Government, with many new Ministers and perhaps a new determination to make the Prime Minister's Big Society idea of residents controlling their destinies rather than local authorities a reality.

But I might just have gone along to watch the local MP, Andy Slaughter, being unceremoniously threatened by the Council's beefy security guards, if only to witness a scene that I wouldn't have thought possible even here! Here's Andy's account of the incident - which of course is from one side only. The Council are welcome to give their side of the story...

Mr Beefy interrupts to ask Mr Slaughter to get out
"Last night I was forcibly removed from a meeting of Hammersmith & Fulham’s Cabinet on the instructions of the Conservative council. I had attended with about 100 residents of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates to object to the demolition of their homes of 50 years. Before the one-Party committee made the decision to sell the land to CapCo – a multi-national developer which wishes to replace the affordable houses and low-rise flats with 30-storey luxury blocks - I asked if I could address them for five minutes. Fifteen seconds for each year I have represented the area as councillor or MP. 

Nick Botterill, supposedly a softer replacement for Stephen Greenhalgh as Council Leader shouted me down, then ordered the Cabinet to leave the room. At this point two very large gentlemen stood either side of me and ordered me to leave. They also ordered the public to stop tweeting or using their mobile ‘phones.

Had I been granted my five minutes I would have made the following points:

  • The residents of the two estates, a mixture of council tenants, leaseholders, freeholders, housing association and private tenants – in other words the model of a mixed community – voted three times against demolition, most recently by a majority of 4 to 1. This is virtually ignored or misrepresented in the Council’s report. 
  • The economic justification for the £8 billion scheme says no more than that replacing low-rise affordable homes with high-rise luxury flats will add to the value of the land. A statement so fatuous as to defy belief. This could justify the demolition of almost any neighbourhood in London. 
  • The companies advising the Council on the merits of the sale – principally Jones Lang LaSalle and Price Waterhouse Coopers – are the same firms advising the purchaser. Challenged on this the Council’s defence is that these companies have a virtual monopoly in their field. 
  • The conflicts of interest between the Council’s roles as local authority, planning authority, landlord and beneficiary are nowhere addressed. Similar conflicts arise for Kensington & Chelsea and the Greater London Authority. 
  • The disposal of the first part of the development site to an underfunded subsidiary of CapCo and a Hong Kong-based property company whose principal directors have been charged with corruption offences is an inappropriate partner for a local council to rely on to re-house its residents 
  • The sum of £105 million which the Council will receive for delivering the land to CapCo with vacant possession is a substantial inducement to evict the residents, but a grotesque undervalue of the site given the planning consent the Council intends to grant on 12 September. This represents a huge subsidy to a multi-national developer from the taxpayers of Hammersmith & Fulham. 
  • The promises made to existing residents will not be honoured. Of 760 properties, 171 are owned freehold or leasehold, 58 are rented by housing associations and 531 by the Council. Only if a tenant moves into a new home built on the site will they continue as social rented homes. Given the 20 years of building works before the development is complete it is likely that the majority of tenants will not move and the new homes will be sold or rented out a market or near market rents. The freeholders and leaseholders will be bought out or offered a share of a new property, either way these will sold at market rates.
Lawyers, consultants & financial advisors paid to work for Council - and who also work for the developers at the meeting
This process has continued for four years already. The only constant factors are the residents’ determination to save their homes and the Conservatives’ desire to demolish them to socially and politically alter the area. At some point political control locally or nationally will change or the developer will revise their plans to exclude the estates (which will still allow them to develop one of the biggest sites in central London). Until then the battle continues, next to be joined at Planning Committee on 12 September.”

UPDATE 1530 WEDNESDAY - Well, I did offer the Council the opportunity to put their side of things and it seems they have a very different recollection of events. Here's Cllr Nicholas Botterill, Leader of the Council, speaking to me this afternoon:
“Opposition Members were given unlimited time to ask questions. However, the MP attempted to disrupt the meeting in an inappropriate manner.
“The MP was not forcibly removed and he remained in his seat throughout the duration of Cabinet. 
“This meeting was for elected councillors to make a decision on whether to include the two estates in this scheme. 
“Members of the public, including the local MP have had numerous opportunities over several years, to have their say on the proposed regeneration of Earls Court and the surrounding area.”

Piotr Mikewicz Memorial Fund

Following the horrific murder which took place last week a memorial fund has been set up for Piotr’s family in response to the many donations received from members of the public.

Donations can be made to: A/C: Serco Limited: Piotr Mikewicz Memorial Fund, HSBC Bank plc, Sort Code 400250, Account Number 61337068.

Letters of condolence can be sent c/o Sophia Coulson, ELRS, H&F Council, 77 Glenthorne Road, Hammersmith, W6 0LJ. Letters will be forwarded on to Piotr's family

1430 UPDATE - Details of tomorrow's memorial service have just come to me from those organising it. They are as follows:

Memorial to Piotr Mikewicz

We will be opening Askew Road Church (corner of Bassein Park Road) from 1.30 to 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday (5th September) for those who would like to come for a quiet reflection on the events of last Wednesday at around the same time. Everyone will be welcome.

The Church is on the top floor so if you are disabled or want to bring a pushchair please ring the bell at the Bassein Park Road entrance so that you can use the lift. Otherwise the main door in Askew Road will be open.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Westfield put art before disabled

Balls to disabled access! Westfield and Transport for London, fresh from denying disabled Londoners access to the new Shepherd's Bush central line tube station, which they designed without a simple lift, have decided to carry on flipping the finger to wheelchair users by installing some ridiculous and pointless concrete balls at bus stops.

As you will see this farcical piece of street furniture is conveniently located just at the point where the bus doors stop, niftily preventing the use of a ramp.

Imagine being the person in a wheelchair at rush hour, with a crowd of impatient commuters glaring at you because you are the reason the bus has to nudge forwards and backwards until it's negotiated these pointless spheres so that yuo can get on. And that's assuming the bus driver even bothers.

That Westfield has a sense of irony, however, is also clear. They've decided to instal these orbs of oppression right smack bang in the middle of the London Paralymic games.

Full marks.

1530 TUESDAY UPDATE: Victory to the people! I understand from a few of you that the balls have been there for a while and Westfield were just claiming it was a TfL matter, nothing to do with us, guv.

But a little bit of unwelcome publicity does wonder to focus minds and this afternoon I received the following message from Westfield, who I fear may not number among my biggest fans:

Note not a hint of any kind of apology, or expression of regret for the barriers they have caused through their thoughtlessness. They must have typed that tweet through gritted teeth. But who cares! We're the winners, and rightly so. 

It's not the first time they've behaved badly towards the local community after all...

0530 UPDATE WEDNESDAY - Caroline Pidgeon AM, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group and Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, has responded to Westfield's climb down, and has had this to say:
"The only people that come out well from this fiasco are local bloggers and residents who have expressed their total opposition to the crass decision to make such an important bus stop inaccessible for disabled people. 
"I hope both Westfield and TfL have now learnt a very important lesson."

Hospital closures: protest outside NHS AGM

Friday will see protestors outside the annual general meeting of NHS North West London, which covers the area where both Hammersmith and Charing Cross Hospitals are set to lose their A&E departments and much of their other capacity. The protest is being led by the community coalition established in opposition to the cuts.

The protestors will include people from Ealing as well as Hammersmith & Fulham and no doubt beyond as well. It follows numerous street stalls in both Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush, including some bizarre new coalitions (Anarchist-Conservative anyone!) and other shenanigans. 

The details are as follows: 
  • Methodist Central Hall, 1 Storey’s Gate Westminster
  • 7th September from 12-1pm. (The AGM starts at 1)
This is the first significant activity of the campaign since before the summer break, which brought political foes and all sections of the community together at this meeting in July. It's set to be a long and hard fight, not least because NHS bosses are on record as saying they don't much care what local people think. 

Which is nice. 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Piotr Mikiewicz: Man charged with murder

Roger Philip Buckingham, 30 (18/6/82) of Bentworth Road, W12 was today charged  with Piotr Mikiewicz's murder. Piotr was just 40 years old and a streetsweeper, much valued by both his colleagues and the residents he served across our community. 

Mr Buckingham was further charged with possession of an offensive weapon, theft of a motor vehicle and burglary at an address in Rylett Road W12 on Wednesday 29 August.

He will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates' Court this Monday, 3 September.

Five other people arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender have been bailed to return on a date in October.

Meanwhile I spoke to Serco, for whom Piotr worked, today. We can expect an online donation facility to be available on their website next week for the many of you who have expressed a wish to assist his family. 

Monday 1440 UPDATE - I've just heard that Mr Buckingham will appear at the Old Bailey in December to begin his trial for murder and attempted burglary. I ran past Wormwood Scrubs today on an early morning one and saw the vans outside the door ready to transport inmates, and wondered whether he was one of them. I think it will take a long time for the events of the last few days to recede - and of course for many, particularly those who knew Piotr, they never will.