Monday 30 November 2009

Vote Shaun, get sewage!

Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey appeared on yesterday's Politics Show talking about the Thames Tideway Tunnel, or "Super Sewer" as H&F Council refers to it. A big boost to his campaign to win the Hammersmith seat at the general election, but it was a hard gig - defending as he was our Council's position which now seems to have retreated from "They shall not pass" to "we need more clarification". Towards the end BBC journalist Tim Donovan, who was chairing the discussion, made the barbed comment that Shaun's campaign slogan at the election might be "vote shaun, get sewage". His Labour opponent Andy Slaughter MP will not be slow to pick up on that.

Preceded by a 3 minute video showing rowers rowing through effluent and tunnels belching sewage into the river the panel featured a very sharp media operator from Thames Water, Lib Dem MEP Sarah Ludford and our Shaun. The Thames Water guy came across as very assured and on top of his brief, the MEP kept trying to say how Brussels was really very relevant and Shaun talked about "massive cost and loss of green space", referring to this meeting and this local park.

You can watch the programme here

Sunday 29 November 2009

"Super Sewer" - Council defeated

The Politics Show today on BBC 1 will carry the report that the Thames Tideway Tunnel, or "super sewer" as it has been dubbed by our Council, has been given the go ahead. The government, the Mayor of London and Thames Water have all given the scheme the go-ahead and work will begin soon.

Given our Council's sometimes rabid opposition to this scheme, this is a major political defeat for them and it will of course be interesting to see how its propaganda-dressed-as-news will report this, if at all.

It is well known that Stephen Greenhalgh is not on speaking terms with Mayor Johnson and they right royally fell out over this issue. It would appear that the Mayor has simply swept our Council aside and pushed the scheme through.

The Council's strategy of blaming Thames Water for everything fell spectacularly apart at this meeting I reported from earlier and the recent Goldhawk Floods of last week were a timely reminder of how desperately our Borough needs to get on top of the flooding problem.

But now that the white flag has been hoisted over Hammersmith Town Hall, what will the next big campaign by the Council be?!

Saturday 28 November 2009

Greenhalgh: Tories can't run piss up in brewery

You've got to admire the honesty. Our eminent Council Leader, never one to be shy of the limelight and routinely referred to as a leading thinker of the Conservative Party, has referred to the Shadow Cabinet has "my mates". Not much surprise there, Cllr Greenhalgh is certainly well connected. But more unusual was his claim, almost in the same breath, that those same mates had "never run a piss up in a brewery"!

Having dealt with Cllr Greenhlagh personally, and from afar, I have to admit I quite like the guy on a human level. But he is a politician to his fingertips and there is absolutely no way he did not realise that these comments would be very widely reported, as they have been here and here.

So what was he getting at? At face value he was making a factual statement that the Shadow Cabinet lacks experience of running things - unlike him. But why would he choose to say this now and in such a politically unhelpful way to his own side? My own take on this is that he is upset he is not one of the soon-to-be Ministers in the Cameron government that the polls keep telling us is inevitable. Maybe it's his way of saying "remember me"! Or maybe it's his way of warning those in power within the Conservative Party, such as his not so great friend Boris Johnson, that he is still a force to be reckoned with and therefore to be listened to. Who knows. But one thing we do know is that our Council will certainly carry on being in the limelight as long as he is around.

Frohe Weihnachten aus Köln!

I type to you here from an internet cafe in Cologne, Germany. They have a fantastic Christmas Market, which is renowned as Europe's best. After my day of work in Brussels I jumped on a Thalys train over the border into Germany for a quick day trip. The hotels here are good and quite cheap - mine was 40 Euro. The city is transformed come Christmas time - and I promised myself a trip here last year after coming back from a challenging trip to Liberia for work - I was there with the heat, humidity, poverty, instability and mosquitos and only came back days before the 25th - so this year I'm determined to enjoy December.

I'd recommend this place if you're looking for a cheap but still quite genuine christmas experience. They speak English almost everywhere here which is just as well since I have forgotten most of my schoolboy German! I keep speaking to them in French by default!

I'm off to Neumarkt now which is in the centre of town and then on to the other christmas markets dotted around town. Then on for a stroll down the Rhine which I always remember hearing about from my friends at school who had parents in the British Army stationed over here. So .. without further ado - adieu!

Friday 27 November 2009

Uxbridge road at 5am

..and here it is in all its glory, clear from the roadworks that seem to have crawled their way up the road to near the Nutcase shop on the corner of Bloemfontein road. When do you ever see the road this quiet?!

As you read this I will be on the red-eye express to Brussels, the early morning Eurostar. A day giving a presentation at the heart of our glorious European Parliament on the importance of peacebuilding and then a day off in Cologne, Germany to see the Christmas Market. Have a good weekend all.

I have a juicy big local story lined up for next week ...

Thursday 26 November 2009

Goldhawk Block decision called in by Secretary of State

News reaches us that  the Goldhawk Block decision, which was a planning decision taken so obviously against the wishes of local residents and embarassed the leader of the Council to the point he felt obliged to offer a public apology, has been called in by the Secretary of State for Planning.

It's hard to over-emphasise the embarassment this will cause to the Council. Having ridden roughshod over local residents, this decision will now be put in deep freeze while central government examines it. Meanwhile all those jobs that the Council's decision looked set to extinguish have been given a lifeline.

This is now a lose-lose situation for the Council and quite possibly a rescue line for residents. If they manage to pull it off we should take our collective hats off to them. Cllr Greenhalgh will not be amused at this latest turn of events.

Anthrax & Asbestos threat to Hammersmith station?

The problem with the RMT is that they are hard to believe at the best of times given the way Communist Bob pursues his own agenda at the expense of everyone else. But if even a fraction of this allegation against Hammersmith tube is correct then it has to be a big issue. I have a feeling this story is going to run .. I note the lack of a complete denial from TfL for starters.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Who will write a guest post?

Sadly, and I'm really quite p.d off about this, I won't now be able to attend the "Meet the sentencers" evening tomorrow. I have been called to Brussels to give a talk instead and won't be back in London in time to make it. I know that some of you will be going however, and wondered if one of you wouldn't mind writing up some notes on the event and posting it here so others can find out how it went?

It's an open invitation...answer by the comments pls!

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Goldhawk Road flooded by burst water main

Goldhawk Road has been "severely" flooded according to the Metropolitan Police by a burst water main, with over 20 people having been evacuated as an emergency measure. Thames Water have confirmed that the pipe burst at around 0400 this morning resulting in many houses being inundated with water. It is not clear at the moment whether the water was drinking water or sewage.

As I reported from this meeting about the chronic flooding problems suffered by our Borough at the moment this was really a catastrophe waiting to happen. Now it's happenned. Our thoughts I am sure go out to all those caught up in this.

More to follow, but in the meantime if you have any news please pass it on...

UPDATE 1330 - The road is apparently clear now and water pumped away.

Monday 23 November 2009

Bush faced with the bill for BBC Question Time with Nick Griffin

The Metropolitan Police has revealed that not only did the residents of W12 have to put up with the disorder that inevitably accompanied the appearance of racist Party Leader Nick Griffin on the Question Time programme, we are now all being asked to foot the £143,000 bill for the BBC's ratings chaser.

Thousands of extra officers were drafted, many of our roads were closed, helicopters hovered overhead (presumably eating up gallons of fuel) for hours and then the traffic chaos that ensued.  And those are just the costs that we know about, because the police are good enough to tell us.

The BBC, on the other hand, are refusing to reveal how much extra security they too had to put on for the night (at our expense don't forget), with their heavily overpaid Chief Executive Mark Thomson claiming that Freedom of Information laws don't apply, so they won't tell us. A stance which Andy Slaughter, our MP, brands simply "ludicrous".

Lots of people in the Bush and the surrounding areas work for the BBC or their suppliers, they are at the heart of our community in many ways.  But surely, surely, even they must realise that they should do the decent thing now and foot the bill themselves out of existing reserves rather than seeking to take it out of our pockets too.

What do you think?

Climate change and conflict, anyone?

Well, that's off the subject of all things Shepherd's Bush, but it does explain why my postings have been fewer than normal recently. I've been in the middle of working the media as we launch our new report at work which makes the link between climate change and violent conflict. As most of the world tries (and fails) to deal with offsetting future climate change, we seem to be forgetting the effect that climate change is already having on some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Here's a piece from Al Jazeera that was running this week-end. And before you think this has nothing to do with you, how many of our neighbours in W12 do you think come from parts of the world that this does effect? Overall we think it impacts on literally billions. As London's first ever 'Climate Hearing' amply demonstrates.

Uxbridge Road re-opens

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..yes I know I'm a bit behind the news on this one, it has in fact been open for a few days now, but there you go!

Saturday 21 November 2009

Stephen Greenhalgh attacks Boris .. again

Our council is in an odd situation. David Cameron likes it to be a radical local authority that tests policies that might be rolled out nationally, so we get to experience the cutting edge of Tory policies. On the other hand it is a London Council ostensibly under the Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson. The problem is that Boris doesn't really like Dave and wants his job one day. Dave, unsurprisingly, doesn't like Boris much either.

At the moment our Council, led by Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, seems to be more Cameroon than Boris aligned. This has already led to some spectacular fallings out, and we now have yet another over the Western Extension Zone of the congestion charge, which Boris said he would scrap if Londoners voted against it. They did.

He doesn't want to anymore. So he has said that there needs to be lots more consultation! Unsurprisingly our Council is not impressed and you can read what they think here.

I just make the same point I've made before - if our Council really can't get on with the Mayor because of internal Conservative party politics, is that really in the best interests of all of us who actually live here?

Central line closed this week-end

Not a great deal else to say other than the line will be shut from here in the Bush all the way to Marble Arch this week-end for some engineering works that never seem to have an end.

The Hammersmith & Shitty Line will be running from the Bush but stopping at Baker Street.

You can get full details from TfL here

So use your car if you have one!

Thursday 19 November 2009

The changing face of Shepherd's Bush

I assume the companies who use this new advertising hoarding pay handsomely for the priviledge, but does any of the money actually benefit the Bush? Over to you..

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Blogpower: Shepherd's Bush Green: National Grid and Council act

H&F Council have reacted to this post relating to the potentially dangerous mess the gasworks left our Green in by using cowboy building work on the paths. Read the full story here, and scroll down.

I think this is the real power of blogging - not just to bring news to people but to do something about it. And credit to Cllr Botterill of H&F Council for doing what was needed. I can see from the stats already that several hundred people read the original article so I am posting a new one because I know many of you use RSS Alerts to let you know that we now have what seems to be a resolution.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Skanska cowboys' approach to health & safety revealed

Yes Ladies & Gents that is a live pneumatic drill, left in the road, with no fencing around it. All in a days' work for these professionals. Mind you, mustn't work too hard. Anyone got a fag, it must be time for another break?

These are, of course, the equally professional guardians of Shepherd's Bush Green at the moment.

Monday 16 November 2009

Cowboy gasworks leave Shepherd's Bush Green in mess

Skanska Cowboys HighwayI confidently predict that it will be less than a couple of weeks before someone, most likely someone elderly or otherwise vulnerable, breaks an ankle on the absolute mess that the Skanska gasworks have left on our Green.

Since erecting their Camp Bastion, which has now been there for approaching six months, they have dug up various parts of the Green and now the surrounding roads in order to replace piping. Fair enough that it needs to be done, although not really fair enough that it has proceeded at such a snail's pace.

But the state that they have seen fit to leave much of the pathways in having filled the holes and tarmac'd them over is a complete disgrace. I could have done better.

Every new line of tarmac is now sunken into the Green where it has obviously been done on the cheap presenting a sort of mini hidden trench, just waiting for someone to catch their foot in. And when it rains, as these pics below show, you get mini lakes where the cowboys have done similarly dodgy work.

They obviously think this is something they are going to get away with because they've taken all the fencing down and declared the jobs done. I wonder whether our Council, fresh from having spent more of our money hoisting yet more propaganda signs all the way up Uxbridge Road, is planning to do anything about it? Somehow I doubt this will feature in H&F News.

UPDATE 12 NOON: 16 NOVEMBER: Cllr Nick Botterill, Deputy Leader of the Council and Lead member for the Environment, has responded to this post by describing the works as not "at all adequate". His response is as follows:

"Notwithstanding the whole of the Green is due to be upgraded within months, I do not believe that this is at all adequate even as a temporary measure. I will check what is happening although I think there may be yet further utility works to be completed on the same site. The aim is to get all utility works done before the upgrade works".

Credit to Cllr Botterill for responding so quickly, we await developments with interest. Hopefully Skanska will get their bottoms kicked before someone suffers a fall. More updates to follow..

UPDATE 1300: 18 NOVEMBER: We appear to have a resolution. I've just received this statement from the Council, who in fairness to them and Cllr Botterill in particular, have been very quick to respond to this post and actually do something to sort the mess out. So credit where it's due. The statement, with some comments from me in brackets, is as follows:

The site has been inspected together with National Grid at which the state of the Green has been highlighted and National Grid has taken responsibility for this.

National Grid is to take steps to make the area safe by instituting temporary reinstatement. [I think this means putting the fences back]. When the works are completed a general snagging process will ensure that surfaces are put back in their original condition by the end of the month. [I don't know what a snagging process is but restoring the surfaces is what we want so that's good] Inspectors will monitor the site until this process is complete. [perfect]


Thursday 12 November 2009

Shepherd's Bush Market Christmas Lights

Where are the fairies? So who needs some Hollywood B-lister to light up Oxford Street when we have our own, our very own, Shepherd's Bush Market Association who have strung up some lights themselves to give the viaduct arches that extra Lapland feel?

Not for us the bright lights of the west end or the bustle of too many people, no! We have the stallholders of the Bush to make us feel like we should be digging deep for those bargains to put under the Yuletide tree.

Come on lads, at least try some different coloured bulbs?

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Borough Summit report

DSC00202Well that was quite an event. Highlights for me were:

  • Cllr Greenhalgh quoting Tony Blair in support of his policies on tax;

  • Cllr Greenhalgh appearing to imply that the Goldhawk Block planning decision had all been a terrible mistake;

  • A stirling presentation from the Deputy Chief of Police for the Borough on how many drug and gun toting villains they had caught and put away recently;

  • The same Deputy Chief of Police declaring that “Hammersmith and Fulham does not have a gun problem”;

  • Oh, and Cllr Greenhalgh declaring proudly that he didn’t own a car – only for Mr Humphrys to suggest that may be because he had a chauffeur!

Having all filed past a selection of North Korea style billboards proclaiming the Utopia we all lived in now, which take pride of place at the front of the Town Hall - lit up especially (pictured below) the event was chaired well and robustly by local resident John Humphrys. Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh certainly didn’t get an easy ride, but it might have been a little easier than some people had been expecting given the number of local controversies that inevitably came up. The meeting was attended by around 170 people by my count, which is no mean feat on a cold dark evening.

The most interesting part to my mind came towards the end of the event when Cllr Greenhalgh, when being pressed by John Humphrys and residents affected by the Goldhawk Block decision, seemed to imply that the whole thing had been a terrible mistake, and that it really musn't be allowed to happen again! He actually said that in the 13 years of having been a councillor he had “never come to terms with planning law” (which I thought was quite an admission) and that he wanted to “learn lessons” from the whole thing. Pressed by an incredulous John Humphrys, himself affected by the issue only to be publicly dismissed at the public hearing by a council officer, as to whether he really did regard the decision as a mistake our Council Leader simply restated that there were lessons to be learned.

And on the subject of housing we had our obligatory moment of drama when the Lady pictured below disrobed herself (well not quite but that kept you reading) to reveal a hand knitted top (knitted!) to protest at what they feared was the imminent demolition of their Ashcroft Square Estate in Hammersmith. Cllr Greenhalgh at this point angrily decried the fact that housing had become a “political football” and said that demolition, though an option, was not ‘imminent’. He was repeatedly vague about what the options were but insisted that he had not come into politics to “make people homeless”.

On tax, Cllr Greenhalgh actually quoted Tony Blair who apparently once said “Government should be for the many not for the few”. It wasn’t clear how this entirely related to Hammersmith & Fulham’s council tax cuts. The Leader was asked whether he was proud of the job cuts that had been made in order to realise those tax cuts, to which unsurprisingly he said he wasn’t.

On cycling, which dominated the meeting for about 20 minutes, there was a real split in the room with some people vociferously attacking the Council and the Transport for London representative for not adequately protecting cyclists, while others were equally vehement that the real villains were the cyclists themselves! Apparently speeding cyclists routinely career along our pavements risking injury to pedestrians (actually I was nearly hit by one on Shepherd’s Bush Green this week). The Deputy Borough Commander of the Police said that all of his officers had been asked to issue tickets to any cyclists seen behaving dangerously. The TfL representative talked blandly and frankly meaninglessly about  “delivering a cycling revolution” that the Mayor was “passionate” about – lots of grand words but very little hard facts.

I asked Stephen Greenhalgh about whether the Council had any plans to actually support an independent local media in the Borough which their own Pravda-style publication has helped to destroy. He dodged the question and simply said that the independent media had been in terminal decline for years. So that’s a no then.

Finally on crime the Deputy Borough Commander of Police made the rather grand claim that we do not have a gun problem, which may come as a surprise to most residents, but he did have some really quite impressive stats to back up his claims that they were cracking down on drugs in the Borough, including closing over 20 drug dens locally.

And really really finally, spare a thought for the only panellist not to be asked a single question nor get the chance to speak – the Borough Commander of our Fire Service!

All in all credit to the Council for putting the event on, and credit to you for reading this far if you did! On a personal note it was really good to meet so many of you who said you read the blog this evening. Keep the stories coming.

It’s past bedtime. Night night.


Monday 9 November 2009

H&F Question Time Tonight!

john_humphrysThis Borough Summit is taking place tonight at the Town Hall and it looks like being a very interesting evening indeed. Chaired by BBC presenter John Humphrys, who himself has crossed swords with the Council on several issues recently, the event will be a Question Time format where residents get to put questions to Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh and leaders of our local public services including policing and health.

I have just received an email from the 'corporate communications department' at Hammersmith Town Hall, saying that after the event there will actually be an online debate for those people who went but couldn't ask their questions and also those who didnt have a chance to go.

I said in my last post on this that it was clear there are a lot of politics behind tonights' event, but to be honest I think the Council deserve a lot of credit for putting this on as well.

Greenhalgh has had a lot of bad PR recently and putting himself on a platform like this with a rottweiler like Humphrys and the local media is not without risk. Picking Humphrys is also something that both he himself and the Council deserve even more credit for - people like me can hardly carp from the sidelines about it being as biased as an article in H&F News if it is chaired by someone like that.

So well done H&F Council on this - its going to be great for local democracy and accountability and however it goes tonight, full credit for putting the whole thing on. I shall report back later this evening with some highlights.

Air raid siren over Shepherd's Bush!

Siren in the BushI appreciate we've just remembered the 11th of November, but why on earth was there an air raid siren going off, loudly, over Shepherd's Bush at 10 past 6 this morning?!Walking to the gym in the dark can be eerie enough at times but this morning was just plain weird, accompanied by the wailing siren that went on for at least three repetitions..anyone ANY idea what that was all about?!

Shepherd's Bush Pavilion to become hotel?

pavilionPlans are afoot to convert the derelict and rat infested embarassment that sits mournfully on the side of the Green into a grand hotel complete with hundreds of rooms, a restaurant and bar.

At the moment this once grand old building, which won awards in the 1920's when it was built, has brief spurts of life when it is used for the odd religious festival but nothing more. I have personally seen rats scurry in, out and around it first thing in the morning. A bit of an issue considering how many food outlets there are around the place.

Anything has got to be better than what is there now so I dont really have a great deal of sympathy for those who want a different future for this building, although its always sad to see history go. The first thing they would do apparently would be to remove the curved roof.

You can see the application in full here and also have your say online.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Uxbridge Road/Shepherd's Bush Green roadworks

very deep indeedHaving forgotten about the fact that buses (or anything else) cannot now turn left up Uxbridge Road from the Green towards Acton I enjoyed a detour on the 607 yesterday via Westfield and then bloemfontein, till we got back onto Uxbridge. All in all not a big deal really, at least not for me.

But having gone past the workmen on the site on the way down into the Bush I can confidently predict those works will be there for a long time, just like their Camp Bastion on the Green which has been there for the best part of the year.

Clearly standing around not doing much apart from smoking is an essential part of modern road engineering - and looking at this roadmarking from the corner of Uxbridge Rd and the Green, they obviously have a clinical approach to measuring what they are going to do next. "Very deep"? Up to our necks I'd say!

Friday 6 November 2009

Lovemaking on the tube

No seriously, read this! Have a good week-end all..

Circle Line extension on the way

You will all have seen the various advertising boards on the tube highlighting that the Circle Line extension, which will effectively do away with the Hammersmith & Shitty Line and make it part of the Circle Line, is on its way. It will go live on December 13th. Good news for those of us subjected to the vagaries of the H&C line for the last few years.

The Tube online says this:

Trains on the Circle line will become more reliable and evenly spaced. Other changes will depend on which part of the line you use:

Between Hammersmith and Royal Oak

  • More frequent services, with trains every five minutes

  • Travel direct to Aldgate, Tower Hill and further round

Travelling via Edgware Road

  • Eastbound trains from High Street Kensington will terminate at Edgware Road and you'll have to change

  • Westbound trains will run to Hammersmith so you'll have to change at Edgware Road to travel towards High Street Kensington or further round

Travelling to or from Paddington

All trains via King's Cross St. Pancras will run from the Hammersmith & City line station - with a more frequent service.

As earlier posted, I thought this was another opportunity to have a little celebration so here once again, back by popular demand, is the Thriller Dance on the Tube. Happy week-end everyone!

Thursday 5 November 2009

War memorial: remembering in Shepherd's Bush

poppyOne of the first articles I ever wrote for this blog a year ago was this account of last November's commemoration at the mini cenotaph on Shepherd's Bush Green.

At the time I was particularly sad to witness the sight of lots of bright young children marching in step, clad in fatigues and boots. They seemed almost eager for the next war. I don't think this year will be any different for me, just like previous years I will probably see it coming out of the gym at the W12 centre.

We do need to mark the occasion, not least for all of those in 1914-18 who never came back, the last of whom have only just died.

But I wonder whether we also put enough effort into listening to what that lost generation would be shouting at us to realise about how we need to change.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

H&F News branded "propaganda" .. by the conservatives

H&F NewsIt seems the propaganda rag, which you pay for, and which puts out completely misleading articles like this, and has a devastating effect on independent local media by hoovering up their advertising revenue is attracting the disapproval of even the Tories in parliament.

Read the transcript of Cllr Mark Loveday being challenged about this by Philip Davies MP, and make your own mind up..

Philip Davies: …we will start off with Hammersmith and Fulham. This is, let us face it, council propaganda masquerading as an independent newspaper. There is nothing here to the casual reader that would indicate that this had anything to do with a council publication. This is masquerading as an independent newspaper. If you are so proud of your publication, let us have it plastered all over it that this is a council publication so that everybody who reads it knows exactly where they stand when they read it. Why are you not upfront about what this is?

Councillor Loveday: I can bowl for Britain on the subject of propaganda, and Sefton Delmer and the radio stations that were set up in this country during the war, and the distinctions between black propaganda and other propaganda, and so on, but in terms of residents knowing that this is a council newspaper, my simple answer is that we do test this, and the latest survey showed that 80% of residents said it was clearly a council newspaper. People are aware of that. I suspect that 80% is a pretty good score by any means.

Philip Davies: I will give you a better score, which is 100%. I guarantee to you that, if you were to put on the front of your paper (and plaster it quite prominently) that this is the newspaper delivered to you by Hammersmith and Fulham Council, you would be able to improve on your 80%, you would probably be able to get to 100%. We would all know where we were and also you would not need to spend any money testing out whether or not people knew; you would be able to know straight away that people knew. I know you are obsessed with saving money at Hammersmith and Fulham Council. I have given you a perfect money saving idea, so can I now expect you to save money on testing it out and plaster over it that this is council propaganda so that your residents know exactly what it is they are reading?

Councillor Loveday: Can I ask you a question?

Philip Davies: No, I am asking you a question.

Councillor Loveday: Will you give us the £400,000 to put it through our paid-for local media, because that is not going to happen.

Philip Davies: I am asking you, on here, to make it abundantly clear to your residents that this is a council publication, right on the front page. You are saying how good it is. Why are you ashamed of it? Surely you should want to be proud of the fact that the local authority is putting out this kind of propaganda. Let everybody know why you are hiding your light under a bushel.

Councillor Loveday: The majority of copies, I think, certainly did have a strapline reference.

Philip Davies: I am just unlucky, am I?

Councillor Loveday: No, I have not followed the details of the straplines on the various editions. The front cover, of course, is a slip advert, or a wrap-around advert.

Philip Davies: Yes, inside is even worse.

Councillor Loveday: Inside this, obviously, the front page---

Philip Davies: Yes, I know exactly what you are doing: you are putting out propaganda and masquerading it as independent news.

Councillor Loveday: Propaganda is a loaded word.

Philip Davies: It is indeed.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Council tax cut by 3%

taxOur Council has just announced that our council tax will be cut by 3% next year, for the fourth year in a row.

Stephen Greenhlagh, Leader of the Council, said:

All councils have a duty to respond to the impact of the worldwide recession on the nation’s finances and the finances of hard-working families across our borough

We need to deliver better services for less money which is why we are cutting tax at the same time as putting more bobbies on the beat, improving our parks and making our streets cleaner. We managed to open the first new library in the borough for 40 years at virtually no cost to the taxpayer.”

But Opposition Leader Stephen Cowan said:

"This is the most controversial stealth taxing, front line service cutting, self-serving administration in the country", accusing the Council of making the poorest pay with cuts to essential services.

All of which will make this summit very interesting indeed. Tickets selling fast so I hear ...

UPDATE: The Times newspaper are covering this story and reporting that H&F is being used as a test bed for future national Tory policies should they win the general election. We've heard that a lot recently - so we are guinea pigs for Cameron's policy shock troops!

Monday 2 November 2009

Brussels Airlines: avoid this airline at all costs

Brussels AirlinesI am typing to you from a poky little hotel in Bujumbura Burundi after Brussels Airlines cancelled my flight home.

Let me give you a few facts about my experience with this Mickey Mouse airline which might help you decide to avoid them if at all possible.

Today I tried to reconfirm my flight, which they insist on if it is a flight outside Europe. If you do not they simply cancel your reservation without warning and you have to buy another ticket.

Which is especially worrying since it is impossible to reconfirm your flight on their lousy website, which just sends an email to their HQ - so if you're lucky someone checks their inbox in time. If you're not you get bumped off your flight. No bother, I thought, I will ask my partner to call them for me - especially since their office here in Burundi was not answering their phone. So she called them from London, to be told yes, I was confirmed and there was no problem with the flight. Which is interesting because if the flight was cancelled they would have known by then because it would not have taken off from Brussels Airport in order to get here in time.

They were either lying (most likely) or they didn't know.  Either way tells you all you need to know about them.

And all this on top of having my flight two weeks ago from Brussels to Burundi also cancelled - again with no notice despite the fact that they could have told me when I checked in for my flight at Heathrow allowing me to spend another 24 hours with my family.

All you get at the airport every time they cancel your flight is some photocopied letter expressing 'regret' at the 'technical incident' that just has the date changed at the top - I am building up quite a collection of them - all identical -  from this crappy airline. Please, for goodness sake, you owe it to yourself - DO NOT USE THIS AIRLINE UNLESS YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO OTHER OPTION WHATSOEVER!!!

Quiz the Leaders

BoroughSummitDid someone say there was an election coming?!

Hammersmith & Fulham Council have called a Borough Summit for local people where we will hear from, and be able to question, the leaders of our health, policing and other services in addition to Stephen Greenhalgh the Leader of our council.

I always find these occasions amusing for the reaction of Cllr Greenhalgh to the inevitable arrival of Andy Slaughter, our MP who is never invited because he is from another political party but always comes anyway!

But what will make this meeting all the more entertaining, and credit has to go to the Council for organising this, is that it will be chaired by John Humphrys. This of course is the same BBC presenter that campaigned against the Goldhawk Block decision, but whos' letter to the planning committee was publicly dismissed by a council officer as misinformed! I'd say it's pretty brave to ask him to chair under those circumstances!

I will be going and expecting to hear questions about the 'super sewer', the recent decision on the Goldhawk Block and the continued stain on W12 left by our murderous local gang.

You can sign up to come too here. Hope to see some of you there.

Sunday 1 November 2009

My one year anniversary

happy-birthday-cake4,565 of you read this blog in October, up over 700 from the month before. When I first started I got about 300 per month but I now get a regular readership of around 150 for every article and then some receive hundreds more if it is of particular interest.

Not bad for something I started on a whim after this incident when I called an ambulance for a homeless man who we'd left lying on our streets all night one cold November morning almost exactly a year ago. At the time I thought the Bush was missing a real news & views service and sadly that holds true still, although this blog will only ever be my own personal musings.

The strength of the blog though, and probably why it gets so many readers now, is you. Most of the stories that get posted here are sent by readers, including those who actually risk consequences by passing me information that some people would rather you didn't know. Anonymity is always respected.

We're now approaching an election, which you're probably already sick of hearing about, that will nonetheless decide a lot about how our Bush is looked after in the coming years. That may be why, for example, the Council has just called a public summit which I will be going to and reporting back from.

Looking back it's been an exciting year to be reporting on the Bush, with some real highlights and sadly many low points. The most popular postings on this blog have the following:

1 with 2051 readers: Ecclestone, QPR and Adolf Hitler

2 with 1908 readers: Why are our councillors in Cannes?

3 with 467 readers: 48 hour tube strike

4 with 428 readers: Hammersmith & Fulham Gazette cuts W12 news

5 with 406 readers: QPR: Fixtures, season and prices

6 with 384 readers: Mind that cyclist

7 with 318 readers: Shepherd’s Bush acid attack man sentenced to life

8 with 303 readers: Hammersmith flooding: it's your problem

9 with 255 readers: Gang stabbing on Uxbridge Road

10 with 244 readers: Gun crime war

So those are some highlights from a year in the life of the Bush. I write this to you now from Burundi, just south of the equator in central Africa where I have been for the last two and a half weeks for work. I work in peacebuilding and regularly travel to regions of the world affected by armed violence and conflict. For the last week I have been over the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where you can buy an AK-47 for $25, regularly see children serving in the army and the security forces regularly demand bribes - because they don't get paid. I was working next to a military base that is co-ordinating the biggest military offensive even Congo has seen for years, with the inevitable deaths, rapes and other assorted catastrophes.

For all the problems we have in W12 - don't ever forget how lucky we are. Here's to another year.