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 " 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

Monday, 15 October 2012

Save our Hospital march: The Movie

Heard about the march? Now watch it in this film put together by the community based campaign which has emerged to fight the proposed closure of both Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals.

I really don’t think I can add anything of value to what the people, the MP and the patients themselves have to say. Worth a watch if you didn't get a chance to go along yourself.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

H&F to buy Market to give to developers

Boutique Bush: No more historic shops on Goldhawk Road
Fresh from their approach to planning having been ruled open to question by a High Court Judge, the Cabinet of our Council will on Monday rubber stamp a compulsory purchase order which enables them to take ownership, against the wishes of the shopowners, of the Goldhawk Row of shops, in order to knock them down.

This of course follows their approach to this scheme having been ruled unlawful too. But this Council don't seem to get too hung up on annoying little details like that.

So no surprises here, it's another scheme that enables developers to make a ton of cash, but turfs out people who have become as much of the fabric of Shepherd's Bush as the textiles some of them sell in their shops.

But what might raise an eyebrow here, is that Orion the developers are only providing an indemnity of £10 million. Considering that the purchase order is for the entire site set for redevelopment - the shops and the entire market area - this seems very unlikely to cover the whole cost. What this means is that if the development goes belly up the public purse will be exposed to a whacking great loss.

You might think that's quite a risky way for a public authority to do business. And you'd be right. What was also risky was sending the uncensored Cabinet papers, marked "not for publication" and detailing the amounts of money involved by email, because it's ended up being forwarded to me. And I publish it here in the spirit of public service and transparency, despite it being marked "exempt" from Freedom of Information Act disclosure. Oh well.

This is not a set of papers that would be provided to opposition councillors or the general public, because our Council took action some months ago to enable themselves to censor what they deem to be "sensitive" information. So they'll be particularly pleased to see the report online here. All in the spirit of public service.

Friday, 12 October 2012

West Ken Court ruling: Reactions

Last night I broke the news of our Council's defeat in the High Court, which ruled that the legality of their plans for the area were open to question. This morning politicians and residents themselves have been reacting to the news that the whole thing will now be subject to a High Court case.

Here's our Council first of all:
"Our planning guidance was adopted correctly and in full consultation with the community. We will be vigorously defending this claim. The regeneration of Earls Court is a major opportunity to attract thousands of new jobs to the area, improve the neighbourhood, build new homes for people currently living on the estates and bring much needed new community facilities such as new shops, a school and health centre".
Here's a residents' spokesperson, who I quoted last night:
"Despite the outcomes of the Cabinet Meeting on 3 September and the Planning Application Committee on 12 September, the Council and CapCo will never succeed in demolishing our homes, causing harm to vulnerable people and disrupting well-established community networks, to please greedy developers and for the sake of gerrymandering".
Here's Murad Qureshi, Member of the London Assembly:
"At the last PQT in Hammersmith Town Hall before GLA election in May, we saw the depth of feeling of these development proposals from local residents. So l am sure this High Court decision will be welcomed and goes much further then the District Auditor decision on Shirley Porter activities at City of Westminster which disappointedly did not look into planning decisions during her reign"
Here's Dave Hill of the Guardian, who has also followed this story closely:
"I acknowledge the idealism of some of those backing the scheme and think I understand their arguments. Yet I'm finding it ever harder to resist concluding that the Earls Court project has been rashly conceived, ineptly executed and pursued with an ideological zeal that has bulldozed aside the more attractive localist principles that modern Conservatism espouses. There is regeneration and there is regeneration. Did the Earls Court saga really need to be this way"?
Andy Slaughter MP has responded with this:
"It seems this council will never learn that it is better to talk to and listen to residents than put themselves in hock to developers. Now they are being taught that lesson by the courts. The is another great victory for the people of west Kensington, campaigning on shoestring against the corporate might of the Town Hall and Capco. But the cost in stress, uncertainty and damage to the community – not to mention public money – is shameful. 
"For four years the council has bullied, tricked and bribed in support of corporate greed and its own warped ideas of social engineering and displacing established communities. It has suborned its planning, housing, and general duties of wellbeing to this end. Now – predictably – it is all beginning to unravel".
More to come...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

West Ken: Judge rules against H&F

West Ken & Gibbs Green Estate
Dramatic developments this evening in the battle over West Ken & Gibbs Green Estate, which our Council wants to demolish but the majority of residents want to save. I've reported on some of the sharp practices our local authority has been deploying against the residents in the past, and this culminated in September with the handing to police of a report alleging misconduct in public office - which is a serious criminal offence.

The local press thus far have been unimpressed, with one reporter repeatedly referring to the "doomed" estates.

But in an extraordinary move this evening a Judge sitting at the High Court of Justice has ruled that there is indeed a case to answer. Judge Sycamore is far from impressed with our Council's shenanigans, and has had this to say:

"..the lawfulness of the defendants' [Hammersmith & Fulham Council] master plan for the area in question is clearly arguable and should be considered at a substantive hearing."

Let's just remind ourselves that the Judge is talking about plans that the Council have insisted are lawful. It seems that this is, in fact, in doubt. Devastating.

And the Judge gives short shrift to our Council's expensive lawyers who tried to get the application by the residents thrown out on the grounds it was submitted late. He had this to say:

"The defendants and interested parties [Hammersmith & Fulham Council and the Developers] argue that the claim was not filed properly and that permission should be refused. I am not persuaded that the claimants [the residents] should be denied permission on this basis."


He then goes on to give a series of directions in his ruling which you can read for yourself in the document below. There will therefore now be a full scale hearing at the High Court.

Residents coming together to fight for their homes - no multi million budgets here
Reacting to the ruling a residents spokesperson said this evening:

"Despite the outcomes of the Cabinet Meeting on 3 September and the Planning Application Committee on 12 September, the Council and CapCo will never succeed in demolishing our homes, causing harm to vulnerable people and disrupting well-established community networks, to please greedy developers and for the sake of gerrymandering".

The importance of this extraordinary development, to me, is threefold.

Firstly, this is another case of residents faced with the might of multinational property developers, a Council determined to ride roughshod over them and even the London Mayor who have managed not to be intimidated or go away - and have just won an important victory by the strength of their arguments alone.

Secondly, this is far from being the first time our Council's willingness to use sharp practices has put them on the wrong side of the Courts. Think back to this ruling over Shepherd's Bush Market.

And thirdly this ruling puts the whole damn shebang at risk of never happening at all - the enourmous public expense that will now be incurred by our Council on lawyers fees should make them sit back and think about it alone. That's your money they're burning after all. And if indeed the legality of their plans are debatable then it follows that they may never happen at all.

It just goes to show - bullies never win in the end. But then this nine year old little girl could have told them that.Earls Court SPD - Order Granting Permission 2012 11 10

Hotel developers outsmart Council with revised application

How the pavilion used to look
The developers who are at present knocking down the old Mecca site on the Green in order to turn it into a hotel have outsmarted even our Council, famed for it's dealings with developers. Having already knocked down the historic building they have just submitted a revised document which aims to increase the number of rooms from the originally agreed 242 to 322.

The Pavilion building now gone, and with our Council thus in a very weak negotiating position, developers Marvel Green Limited seem set to get their way. And the locals are not happy about it. Mainly because they think that an increase in room numbers will mean that the character of the hotel itself will be fundamentally different. 

Having been pitched as a 4 star hotel the extra numbers they believe mean it is more likely to be a 2-3 star operation, favoured by backpackers and budget travellers. Useful that there is a Walkabout next door then.

The residents are organising themselves to object, the deadline for which is October 30th, with one of them arguing that this is: 
"clearly a down-grade to a 2-3 star budget operation that Developers are trying to sneak under the wire... in essence they are dividing twin rooms into buget units adding 8 extra rooms on the 1st floor, 12 on the 2nd, 11 on the 3rd, 12 on the 4th, 12 on the 5th and 10 on the 6th floors with one extra on the top floor.  
The plans detail 66 extra rooms but obviously planning consent is being sought for 80 extra rooms so that the owners can off-load quickly and easily with planning consent for more rooms already in place if they cannot generate the expected profits! 
If this planning consent is granted it cannot be revoked! a Budget Hotel/Backpackers Hostel on our door step is I believe worth fighting against".
At the heart of all of this is the character of the Bush - often seen as a poor relation to Holland Park next door the chance of the regeneration of the area had been seen by many as a chance to give the area a lift. The much delayed works on the Green are part of that picture too, and to give the Council credit it is signed up to that goal as well.

But on this occasion it seems that the developers have managed to outsmart our Council, and the residents are left fighting a rearguard action to save what they thought they were originally promised.

Monday, 8 October 2012

H&F asks Abu Hamza wife to "downsize"

Our Council has asked the wife of Abu Hamza, recently extradited to the United States to face trial for terrorism offences, to consider downsizing the Council owned home she currently occupies in Shepherd’s Bush.

I know the house very well. It is situated very close to a former Cabinet Ministers and another senior political figure who also lives nearby. I always thought that the prospect of members of the highest level of the British Government living cheek by jowl with someone committed to destroying the British state was ironic, but there you go.

Considering, by their own admission, our Council has absolutely no power to enforce any of this you have to regard their public announcement of this move to the press as a classic PR stunt of which Hammersmith & Fulham is so fond. But on this occasion we might forgive our publicity hungry councillors, given the circumstances.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Save our Hospitals: March & Rally Report

Strange bedfellows took to the metaphoric sheets this afternoon as a march in opposition to hospital cutbacks wound its way through the borough from the Bush to Hammersmith and on to Fulham. Socialist Worker newspaper sellers mingled with members of both the Labour and Conservative Parties at the start of the march on Rockley Road W12, while most of the people belonged to none of the above but just didn’t want to see the end of their local hospital.

There was almost as much noise coming back at the horn and whistle blowing campaigners from the passing motorists, who sounded their horns and frequently gave the thumbs up when they saw the Save our Hospitals banner.

During the march, supported by our Council and which was covered by the BBC, ITV and LBC radio, there was much good natured banter but a determination that, after the relentless propaganda carried in the local press in favour of these cutbacks from managers of the NHS in NW London, this was their time to be heard. It was also heartwarming to see banners hoisted aloft bearing the names “Brent” and “Ealing”, a sure sign that these people were not about to repeat the cynical divide and rule tactics adopted by Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in particular.

And that unity, which I was first so impressed by when the two campaigns – community and council – came together one night in Hammersmith Town Hall, also found its expression in the succession of speeches that greeted the crowd upon their arrival at the Lillie Road playing fields just south of the threatened Charing Cross Hospital.

Murad Qureshi AM
Assembly Member Murad Qureshi, who comes from Westminster, was there to extend his friendship and support as was Ealing MP Virendra Sharma. And there were some comical moments too, as the Tory Councillor Peter Graham was followed by a speaker from an organisation called the Revolutionary Middle East Workers Solidarity Council, or some form of those words put together. There she stood, Yasser Arafat style black and white Keffiyeh draped across her revolutionary chest, as Mr Graham looked on, blinking. He later confirmed my suspicion that this had been a first for him. And I suspect it might have been for our radical Comrade, too.

As a flavour of some of the speeches, here's a bit of what Labour Leader of the Opposition Stephen Cowan, had to say:

There were, without doubt, several thousand people in that field and many more who took part in the march itself. To get that many people, most of whom had probably last been on a march decades ago and on a Saturday afternoon, is no mean feat. And it’s no mean measure of the strength of the opposition to these plans.

If Cameron and co really want a fight on their hands by allowing NHS bosses to ride roughshod over local people and close, as Andy Slaughter MP pointed out in his speech, the very same A&E Departments he promised he’d keep open during the election then he’ll have a fight on his hands.

I suspect the NHS bosses in question may wish to reflect on that. Long. And. Hard.

Hundreds gather in Bush for march

Hundreds of people crowded the south of the Bush this morning as they set off fro a march that would take them to Hammersmith and then on to Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham in a protest against the cuts to the hospital services for the borough.

BBC London interveiws Andy Slaughter MP
BBC London, ITV London and other broadcasters joined the crowd and, thus far, everything has passed off well.

All welcome
The noise of the march, which has been joined by protestors from neighboring boroughs in a show of unity that Chelsea & Westminster could learn from, is deafening. Horns and whistles are being joined by car horns and even buses, sounding their support for the campaign.

More to follow

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

March for hospitals: this Saturday

Bushers will join those from Hammersmith, Fulham and the surrounding boroughs in a mass demonstration of support for our local hospitals this coming Saturday - and you're invited.

I've already reported on the details of what's at stake and why, so let me leave the rest to the Chair of this community campaign, Carlo Nero:

...sees the climax of our campaign when we MARCH from Shepherds Bush to Lillie Road - the route symbolises the link between Hammersmith and Charing X hospitals, and the people who use them.

We need a huge turnout to build on the success of the
March in Ealing a few weeks ago and our own Public Meeting last week.

We know many people from the Ealing and the Brent campaigns will be joining our march to support us and emphasize the London-wide opposition to these closures - let's make sure that this march is the biggest yet!

This is the last show of public feeling before the consultation closes on Monday 8th October when the joint campaigns will be handing their petitions - with over 50,000 signatures - to NW London NHS bosses.

The Programme of events is:

11am onwards:

(just south of Shepherds Bush Green - map)

12 Noon:

March moves off along South side of Shepherds Bush Green
Click HERE for Map of Route

1pm (approx)

in Lillie Road Recreational Ground:


Speakers will include:

  • Carlo Nero, Chair of Save our Hospitals Campaign
  • Paul Kenny, General Secretary of GMB
  • Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith
  • A surprise celebrity (who we can't name yet!)
plus speakers from Hammersmith and Charing Cross Hospitals' staff, and Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

There will be a band to lead the march and entertain us at the Rally



It is vital that we publicise our MARCH, right up until the event itself. We will be all around Hammersmith and Fulham on Thursday and Friday leafleting the Rockley Road and Lillie Road areas, as well as holding a stall at Charing Cross on Thursday 12noon - 2pm. PLEASE help with leafleting on Thursday or Friday: check the website for more details or email to find out how to volunteer.

MAKE SURE all your family, friends and neighbours know about the march! Pass on this email NOW to everyone you can - you would be surprised how many people STILL DON'T KNOW about these plans to shut A&Es!


We still need stewards to help direct the march. It will not be an onerous task - you will just need to arrive a little earlier for a safety briefing and wear a yellow jacket which we will provide. But we DO NEED more volunteers: we have promised the police that we will be a well-organised and orderly march. We need lots of stewards to ensure everything runs smoothly. If you're coming anyway, why not volunteer by emailing

I look forward to seeing you on Saturday,


Carlo Nero, Chair, Save H&F Hospitals

The unity of these campaigners is in stark contrast to the deeply cynical and frankly contemptible tactics adopted by Chelsea & Westminster hospital, as they lobby for the closure of our hospitals in order to save their own skins. We don't need to play the game NHS NW London bosses want us to play, divide and rule, we need to come together instead - and I hope many of you do. 

H&F Council house ban for £40k+

Radical housing moves afoot in Hammersmith & Fulham again as our Council seek to recapture the trailblazing years of departed leader Stephen Greenhalgh with an announcement yesterday that all those earning upwards of £40,200 a year will be denied access to any form of social housing in the borough from 2013.

In fact everyone, irrespective of their income, will be subject to short term leases instead of the home for life they thought they once had, according to this piece in the Telegraph yesterday. Five year tenancies instead will be the norm, with only 2 years for those aged 18-25, with the exception for the "most vulnerable", whatever that means.

Speaking to the Torygraph Andrew Johnson, the council’s cabinet member for housing said: 
“We are leading the way in ushering in a new era for social housing in this country.
We are saying that the current system, whereby anyone can apply for a council home irrespective of housing need, has failed.
We believe that the notion of a tenancy for life is outdated and that it’s wrong to expect to inherit a welfare benefit in the form of a subsidised house irrespective of housing need.
Instead, we want to give honest, hard-working, local residents on low to middle incomes, who make a positive contribution to their local communities, the opportunity to access social housing.
The old, antiquated system has created disadvantaged communities by producing concentrations of people on benefits with disproportionately high levels of unemployment and sometimes social breakdown.
All of which is eerily reminiscent of the dearly departed Leader's argument that social housing "warehoused poverty" and created "ghettoes", leading to plans that appeared to suggest the poor of the borough were set to be shipped up north, as with other boroughs in the Capital.

It also reveals this Council's determination not to lose the status as 'trailblazer', which is why Cllr Johnson proudly describes them as "leading the way". Ironically, as it turns out, since the label "Cameron's favourite council" was actually bestowed upon them several years ago by Opposition Labour Leader Stephen Cowan, and was meant as an insult - but it stuck, and turned into something the Council itself felt very proud about!

So on the one hand this smacks of a radical Tory Council trying to do something about the pleb question, usefully just in time for Tory party conference, but is it as simple as that? If the aim is actually to move people out of social housing and up on to the property ladder or onto better quality privately rented housing, is that really such a bad thing? I suspect this policy might end up getting buried in howls of criticism before people stop and think about the possible positives.

On the other hand that's going to be very cold comfort if you're told your tenancy isn't being renewed and you have to get out - especially if that means your kids have to change school at a crucial point, for example. And it builds in a perverse incentive - why would you take that better job which would take you over the £40,200 threshold of combined annual income if you knew it would mean you lost your home?

What seems to be lacking from this policy is any element of choice on the part of the tenants. That doesn't seem to be terribly important to their landlords at the moment, but it could hold the key to making policies like these actually empower people to move on and up instead of clobbering them with uncertainty and stress.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Slowing down the blog

Wow. It's been a week between blogposts on here, which I think is the longest gap I've ever had since the site started one morning in November 2008. I started the blog after coming across a homeless man who'd lain on the ground outside the then Shepherd's Bush library for most of the night, as people just walked past him.

By the time I tried to wake him, on instructions from the 999 operator I'd called, he'd started to show signs of hypothermia and the paramedics who arrived packed him straight off to hospital. There was something about that which made me take up this site, and it's been a unique experience ever since - one which has taken me on the streets with the police, down into underground sewers and to numerous shouty angry meetings at Hammersmith Town Hall. I've met some inspirational people quietly doing amazing things and seen both the best and the worst of our borough.

This isn't building up to announcing a stop to the blog, but it is a recognition that things are going to slow down from now on. As some of you on Twitter might have noticed I've started another one dealing with the day job that I do and that takes time, as does the day job itself. Put a part time masters degree into the mix and then the various stuff that life throws up and this site is going to have to take a back seat more regularly from now on.

But there are some big stories still round these ere parts and I plan to keep following them. This Saturday's march to save our hospitals, the battle over the West Ken redevelopment, the future of the Goldhawk Road and our market among them. And, sadly, serious crime looks like it isn't going away any time soon.

So for those of you that send me news, keep sending it and I'll report on it. For those of you organising events, such as the forthcoming Oxjam, do the same. And for those of you who keep coming back you're still more than welcome. But I did just want to own up to being a bit slower from now on.