Friday, 29 April 2011

FA set to deny QPR promotion?

The Sun has carried a story which has caused uproar among QPR fans and the punditry the day ahead of a match with Watford that could see the team qualify for the premiership automatic promotion spot with a point.

Listen here to Neil Warnock talking about the story, about which he is clearly furious, on TalkSport. He points out that the Sun are only using a claimed "source" and not offering any other evidence to back up their story - he says that the story will lead to people "adding up 2 plus 2 and coming to 7".

I have to say this looks to me like classic media management. The FA have cynically chosen the day of the Royal Wedding to sneak out what PR people call a "softener" - a means of giving the story a good airing before the announcement to take the sting out of what is inevitably going to be a controversial decision. (The press reaction is " expected, we were right all along" rather than "Shock decision!") However - having aired this opinion on Twitter today I was sternly rebuked by some of you who think it's just the Sun making things up out of thin air. I still think I'm right, but I hope I am wrong. After all I assume they haven't hacked into any more telephones.

But QPR are also, in my humble opinion, guilty of some pretty dirty media work recently as well. What I really found depressing about the TalkSport interview was that the interviewers asked Warnock whether he actually thought he'd still be manager or would be sacked in favour of a more "high profile" manager as the press reported last week. To me, that story looked like the higher echelons of QPR adopting another well known PR tactic - which is sometimes known as "flying a kite". This means you throw something out there using anonymous briefings to the press to see what the public reaction is - if it's not too bad, then you know you can get away with doing it. If it's too negative then you don't but you haven't lost face. Warnock's answer to the question was that he simply didn't know.

Either way I think this is all - from both the FA and QPR - a very depressing display of the dark arts of PR with briefing and counter-briefing going on at a time when people should be focussed on the football.

Welcome to the modern world of football.

1930 UPDATE - The FA has issued this statement in which they deny all knowledge. Sorry - don't believe you.

2200 UPDATE - QPR have formally asked the FA to investigate the Sun's "source" and to confirm that they were speaking without authority

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Cyclist killed by lorry in Hammersmith

Pic courtesy of
A woman was killed by what is reported to have been a rubbish lorry as she rode her bike on Queen Caroline Street this morning, reports a London Cyclists site. The pic, left, was posted by a Twitter user of the site. For me this has horrendous echoes of the death of Catriona Patel who was also killed on her way to work by another lorry. Or this incident I reported in 2009 on the Askew Road/Uxbridge Road junction when a woman was dragged under a Tesco lorry but thankfully survived.

I have to say I would never actually use the blue painted bits which is all Boris has really done for cyclists in London for exactly this reason - I have seen far too many close runs. But if  you do ride, however, please do be safe.

In the meantime here is a vid from the London Cycling campaign which shows just how meaningless the strips of blue paint really are:

Shepherd's Bush hosts Lucy Longlegs and Kiki Kaboom

..who will be getting most of their kit off. Yes folks Bush Hall will never have seen anything quite like this before. As part of Burlesque Week the Bush is going to play host to a number of acts taking part in the "newcomer" category, which is marketed as being a highlight of the week by the organisers.

So if you fancy seeing some saucy ladies complete with nipple tassles and thongs look no further than Shepherd's Bush tomorrow at Bush Hall. You can buy your tickets here, and sample the delights of acts including Minxie Mayhem, Tabitha Taboo and of course Lucy Longlegs. All ably compered by Kiki Kaboom.

And no, this isn't made up.

Askew Business Network Drinks: 9th May The Greyhound

The Askew Business Network, who are a thriving if newly established group of local businesses based on or around the Askew Road, are hosting their next networking event at the usual venue, the Greyhound Pub, on May 9th.

One of the reasons these evenings have proved so succesful is that whoever organises them adeptly chooses themes and speakers for each event. So it's not just lots of people wandering round with business cards, but a bunch of people with common interests listening to an interesting speaker. This coming event will focus on ergonomics - how to do your job without injuring yourself! Last months event featured local actor David Cann, pictured.

Networking does go on of course and I've included below some testimonials from some business partnerships that have already flourished locally as a result. Even if you're not (currently) a business owner in the Bush you really should come along if only to meet some of the people who literally keep W12 going with their variety of services and products.

Here's what they have to say themselves:

The network works! 


So many of us dislike networking but we hope our informal approach makes it far more pleasurable – especially as we know it works. The small group that runs the Askew Business Network did a quick tot up of business that has been exchanged since we established the network and it’s rather impressive, particularly as we are sure there is more than we know of:
  • Collaboration: CPA architects and building contractor Seymour Projects are now working together to tender jointly for contracts. And local garden designer Richard Jackson is working with Litchfield Gardens (of Chiswick) on a large garden design in Richmond.
  • IT support: Dominique Simond of Macximise has rescued several businesses (such as Seymour Projects) and individuals from Apple Mac disasters.
  • Getting to grips with Twitter: DigitalPlot’s Annie Pennington has helped Joanna Biddolph (of Amethyst Communications) streamline her Tweeting saving her time and attracting more people to her website.
  • New curtains: Soft furnishings maker Delyth Smith has made new curtains for Annie Pennington’s sitting room – and recommended good value fabric shops, saving Annie money.
  • Photography: Photographer Luke White was commissioned by Seymour Projects to take photographs for their website.
  • Spending money locally: We’ve introduced our members to the refurbished Greyhound pub and have spent money at the bar!
If you have exchanged business as a result of the network do let us know – we’d like to continue to demonstrate that the networking is working. Just email us to let us know. 

And this month you can hear all about:

Find out how to protect your body from work strain – plus networking
Monday, 9th May: 6.00pm to 8.30pm
The Greyhound, 49 Becklow Road, W12 9ER

How often do you get up from your desk feeling you need a good stretch? Do you get nagging aches in your neck or shoulders? What about eye strain – and wrist pain? Or perhaps you spend your working day on your feet and go home with tired legs or rubbing your back? 

Local osteopath David Tatton will give us advice and tips on how to minimise the impact our jobs can have on our bodies – and how musculoskeletal problems can affect our lives in other ways – so we can minimise the damage we might otherwise do through ignorance. David established West London Osteopaths in 1984 and runs clinics at 65 Vespan Road where you can also take pilates classes and have holistic massage treatment. He also lectures about osteopathy – so, yet again, we are guaranteed first class information and advice. 

Join us for this informative session – with networking before and after David’s talk. As before, there is no charge; buy your drinks at the bar. 

Remember to bring business cards and marketing materials with you – we will provide a table where members can display their brochures, etc. 

Andy Slaughter MP backs tube strikes

Our MP backed the RMT on tuesday in their ongoing series of strikes against Londoners when he opposed a Tory proposal to ban strikes in the emergency and transport sectors unless a majority of workers actually supported them. What this means is that the Tories think a majority of union members should both take part in a strike ballot and then support the proposed strike before a strike is allowed.

Andy Slaughter it seems thinks the present rules are OK - which only require a majority of those taking part in a ballot to be in favour.

This might seem like an anoraks' argument but it is serious stuff for those of us repeatedly stopped from getting to work by the RMT, whose leader is a former active member of the Communist party. Get where his politics and agenda are?

At the moment all Bob Crow has to do is get a majority of those who can be bothered to take part in a ballot to support him. Since those people are generally the more active members of the union and likely to support the leadership the result is never really in question. So one of two things happens next - either Transport for London gives way and awards them more money (the usual outcome) or there is a strike. And then Transport for London gives way and awards them more money.

Surely it is not too much to ask that a majority of workers actually have to back a strike before it's called? The RMT often allege that "management" at TfL or London Underground are bullies - but trades unions are no strangers to bullying, intimidation and harassment themselves. So how do you know those votes or numbers who come out on strike aren't victims of bullying by their own union themselves, particularly when Bob Crow himself is a football hooligan who likes to scream what has been described as "diabolical abuse" at people? I once saw a tube worker being called a "c*nt" by his colleagues as he crossed a picket line - nice.

I am not blind to the real Tory agenda here either - they basically don't like unions full stop. But frankly when you have so many people being put in fear of losing their jobs or having lost them already in London the sight of Bob Crow calling for yet more strikes for yet more money is sickening. Particularly when he so blatantly uses Londoners as his pawns in a much bigger political game.

So Andy Slaughter, in my humble opinion, should have supported this ammendment. You may feel the same when you're fighting to get on a number 94 from Shepherd's Bush Green to get to work on a strike day, knowing you've got it all to look forward to on the way home. I wonder how MPs get to work on a strike day?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

H&F Council mental health cuts "austere": Guardian

Todays Guardian carries an article which highglights the very human impact of some of the cuts that were pushed through at this meeting in Hammersmith Town Hall just a few weeks ago. Although most commentators attention was drawn to the imact on children's services as a result of Sure Start cuts another group of vulnerable people are set to feel the brunt too - those with mental health problems and who live in some of the hostels that are about to be closed.

The Guardian piece starts thus:
Last month, Hammersmith and Fulham council's cabinet decided to close the 14-unit Tamworth hostel, make all staff redundant and sell the building. The council said alternative accommodation would be found for the hostel's eight residents. The council's rationale for closure was a Supporting People fund contribution towards a £300,000 austerity saving. Selling the building would be a nice little earner.

Things aren't looking as bright for those in the hostel, though. Inside, you find angry, soon-to-be-unemployed staff, concerned residents and a sort of muted, but palpable, sense of calamity. It's not just the job losses, or the uncertainty faced by residents. There's a feeling that with this sort of closure, we're getting a glimpse into austerity's darkest corners – corners where sufferers of severe mental illness rot in substandard B&Bs, or end up on the street. Time will tell.
It doesn't get much happier, with frightened residents predicting that they'll be preyed upon, "like last time" says one woman of when she was last in a B&B. Read it all here

There is of course another mental health hostel set to close in Shepherd's Bush, that on Lime Grove, to make way for the Council's plans to alloow developers to build seven floors of flats on top of the Market, relegating the Market to an underground car park-like existence and shunting the hostel users elsewhere. Residents of Pennard Road and Lime Grove predicted with dread what the consequences would be not just for these vulnerable people but to the residents themselves. Here's what I reported one resident called Caspar having said at the time:
"The most powerful speaker of the evening was a Lime Grove resident called Casper. He stood up and spoke eloquently about the impact not often referred to by proponents and opponents alike, and that is the likely relocation of a homeless and drug user service, back to within that residential area, from where it was removed only 5 or so years ago. Recalling taking his children to their first day at school he reminisced about their having seen vomiting, urinating and other behaviour from the addicts and homeless people being served on their road. All of this is set to return under the current plans because their new hostel occupies land that Orion wish to build flats on".

Austerity Bush..

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Police appeal to find White City assault suspect

Police in Hammersmith & Fulham are asking for assistance to locate a 30-year-old male by the name of Michael Kinsella for Grievous Bodily Harm in the White City Estate, W12.
Despite extensive enquiries officers have been unable to locate him.
Michael is a white male, born in Dublin but with an English accent.  

He is approx F506 tall, of proportionate build, blue eyes, dark brown greying hair and usually clean shaven.

Anyone with any information as to the whereabouts of Michael is asked to contact Detective Constable Claire Finlay from the Burglary Squad at Hammersmith Police Station on 0208 246 2678 or to remain anonymous call crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.  

UPDATE 10TH MAY 2011 - Michael Kinsella has now been arrested, the police are not seeking anyone else at this stage. 

Armed police chase man on Bloemfontein Rd

Some of you reported seeing numerous police cars and vans, and armed police searching the Uxbridge Road Tabernacle Church on the corner of Bloemfontein Road and Uxbridge Road on Saturday April 23rd in the afternoon. 
I put a call in to the local police who tell me that they were chasing a wanted man, and that according to the police spokeswoman "He was later stopped and arrested in a vehicle just off our ground.". I assume this is a reference to Shepherd's Bush police station down the road from Bloemfontein Rd. Just the place you'd want to run to if the police were after you!

Thanks again to the police for letting us know - keep up the good work. 

Council charges for parks

Our Council has hit upon a novel new way of making more money, they have introduced charges for personal trainers - and anyone else up to and including nannies pushing prams - for using the boroughs parks according to the Daily Mail.

It's hard to believe the Daily Mail has got any of this story wrong because the paper has a special place in this Councils' heart, with leading councillor Harry Phibbs even having a regular column in the paper. In the article a personal trainer is interviewed about how he was training with a client when he was confronted by a park warden demanding to know if he had bought a "license". Upon calling Hammersmith Town Hall he was told he would have to pay £350 per year for the right to carry on training people to lose weight and get fit.

The Council defends itself saying that it has to charge anyone "running a business" in the park - but we're not talking here about someone with an ice cream van or burger stall, we're talking about two people jogging or doing sit ups for goodness sake!

1800 UPDATE - The Evening Standard is running this story here too.  So in answer to those of you who incredulously asked me if it was true - yes, I'm afraid it is!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

QPR: Day of Destiny

There is a coach on the M4 at the moment carrying a team of players and a manager who may be about to transform Shepherd's Bush. I put it in that context because if QPR do get promoted today it will not just be a footballing matter - it will fundamentally change the character of W12 for at least a year and quite probably for ever.

Those of us who've been around Loftus Road for the last few years have seen two sorts of things happen recently. One, a chain of events so bizarre and shocking that you would think they'd been written by some coked out novelist on speed, and the other a sudden upsurge in interest in the club from new fans attracted by the prospect of premiership football - every successful club has their groupies!

For the bizarre and shocking think this incident when the then Chairman was threatened with a gun during a board meeting. Or when the manager, someone called "mad dog" first head-butted and then expelled the clubs star striker from the changing rooms to wander forlornly around the pitch. And who can forget the strange twins of Briatore and Ecclestone - the latter declaring his love for Adolf Hitler.

For the groupies, well they started arriving in numbers when the club started winning, and winning and winning - and they're very welcome. But my worry is that they'll be the only ones who can afford the ticket prices when they get jacked up to new stratospheric heights if and when the club enter the top flight.

But for all that I know many of us will be glued to our radios this afternoon in a hot Shepherd's Bush - all those years have been for this - and just to whet your appetite here's my match report from when Cardiff, todays opponents, visited Loftus Road last year. It was a sensational end-end affair - and I suspect today will be no different.

2200 UPDATE - well, what a game. Much has been said about the twists and turns of the match, which was nailbiting stuff, but the simple fact is that QPR can finally grab promotion on Monday against Hull at Loftus Road. We shall see. In the meantime I have to give the final word to the increasingly bizarre Dave Jones, manager of Cardiff City. Of QPR's talisman Adel Taraabt, who saved QPR's game with two goals to haul them back from behind twice, he says this: 
"He did nothing but score two goals, absolutely nothing". 

Midnight UPDATE: Silly me - there was I thinking that the lunacy of the past at our club was in the past. The Mirror has other ideas and is predicting Warnock will be sacked during the summer in favour of a larger profile manager. It's easy to dismiss this as froth but it is written by Paul Smith, who is a respected correspondent and in a way that tells me this has been clearly and deliberately briefed by sources that the journalist obviously regards as strong. And if this has even a scintilla of truth it is deeply worrying.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Race attack on Goldhawk Rd: Police fail to respond

Most of the crime stories on this blog come from local witnesses or people otherwise caught up in incidents who contact me directly. It can be quite odd hearing about horrible things hapenning just streets away which I had, until then, no idea about.

Last night this came in the form of someone who was turning up at a Shepherd's Bush drinks thing that a bunch of us who live locally went along to. This person, on the way to the Raving Buddha pub on Goldhawk Road witnessed a violent and unprovoked assault by one woman on another. The woman doing the assaulting was carrying the ubiquitous can of lager sold by one of the off licences who keep applying for ever later alcohol licenses, and took place at the bus stop where this bottling took place - the inevitable result of those sales.

Bad? Yes, but it was made worse by the racial abuse that was heard to be directed at the victim before her headscarf was violently ripped off and she was assailed by punches until passers by intervened. But it was even worse because at least two people called the local police - and they didn't come. Witnesses drifted away as people who had hung around to try to help the victim tried to flag down at least 3 passing police cars - who ignored them and carried on driving.

Around half an hour later we did from the pub see a police van arrive, lights flashing, and then drive away again. Because nobody was there anymore. Who knows how that will be measured in their statistics, and frankly who cares.

I have a huge respect for the police here, who routinely face horrendous situations on our behalf such as this incident involving a man carrying a bottle full of what was suspected to be acid or ammonia just this week. But failing to turn up at a report of a woman being battered in an alcohol fuelled racially aggravated incident?

Perhaps that is what these cuts to police numbers are going to look like then.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Walkabout Shepherd's Bush in drunk violence shame

Walkabout Shepherd's Bush, which wants a license for ever later opening hours so it can sell booze around the clock, was the venue for yet another booze fuelled punch-up on monday night. And while this will come as no surprise to the residents of Pennard Road and others who oppose the license application it attracted the media's interest because two of the idiots involved were rugby players for London Wasps. has the lowdown here and reports that:
The two players were drinking in the Walkabout pub in Shepherds Bush on Monday night when the altercation took place with a group of men.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: "Officers were called at 22.30 to reports of an altercation at the Walkabout Public House on Shepherds Bush Green, W12.

"An incident is being investigated by officers from the violent crime unit at Hammersmith and Fulham police. No one has yet been arrested and our enquiries are ongoing."

I don't believe Walkabout have yet issued a comment but no doubt this will further burnish their credentials as responsible members of the Shepherd's Bush community. 

Vote for the Alternative Vote!

On May 5th, or sooner if you have a postal vote, you will have the chance to change politics - or keep it as it is. As the two campaigns, both for and against voting reform, gear up we have seen strange alliances between political foes on a national level and to some extent locally here as well.

Our MP Andy Slaughter is pictured here with his former LibDem opponent Merlene Emerson, both campaigning for people to vote "Yes" and endorse an change in the voting systemwhich would give people the chance to rank their candidates in order of preference.

In fact Merlene Emerson is a case in point about the present system - with not a single councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham and the big battle having been between the Tories and Labour here, she knew she didn't stand a chance from the outset of that campaign. There was very little point in people putting a cross against her name, except as some kind of protest vote.

AV probably wouldn't change that because both Andy Slaughter and the Conservative Party here have large bases of support in different parts of the borough, but it would at a local level make it far less likely that the Town Hall would be dominated by one party - the Conservatives. At the moment they have a whopping 31 to 15 majority over Labour having swept them aside in the dying years of the last Labour Government. But if you look at the individual majorities of some of those councillors they are tiny - and under AV it would have been far less likely to end up like that. For any party.

Take the last election results of Shepherd's Bush Green Ward, which returned three Labour councillors in 2010. As expected. The average Labour vote for each councillor was 2,313 which was larger than any of the other candidates so they were elected. Fair enough you might think. But that means that the 3,904 people in the same ward who voted Conservative received no representation for their vote because their candidate didn't come first. At all. And the 3,036 people who voted LibDem were also ignored. At least under a new system those votes would have counted for something, and would have had to have been worried about by the three Labour candidates who basically knew they had to do something pretty disastrous not to be elected in that Ward. So they don't have to do much work - which might be why this group of Shepherd's Bush residents have never heard their Shepherd's Bush Ward councillors speak out about the proposed radical changes to Shepherd's Bush itself. The answer, as this YouGov research reveals, is that most people don't have a clue who their local councillor is because they never hear from them apart from at elections.

So ask yourself whether meetings like this, where huge cuts were pushed through over and above what central Government were asking them to do, would have hapenned in the same way under a more pluralist voting system with a more representative chamber of councillors. I doubt it.

And ask yourself whether our Council would be quite so keen to bulldoze through, quite literally, planning applications like this one in Hammersmith against the wishes of residents, or this one on the Goldhawk Road also against the express wishes of residents. Again, I doubt it.

Because they would have known they'd have to listen more carefully - or lose control of the Council. Simples.

So I'll be voting Yes - not just to have a more representative political make up of Government at local and national level but also because I don't like the political culture this current system creates where local people can be trodden down regardless because the Council has a whopping great majority in terms of seats but not as a result of the whopping majority of people actually having voted for them. The referendum itself is about how we elect the House of Commons rather than the Town Hall but the principle is the same and the implications of a Yes vote are that the local voting system would have to change as well.

Cuts there would have been regardless of who was in power here, but people like Ruth Walsh might have been listened to a bit more instead of being ignored. Vote yes.

Here's a vid of anti AV campaigner Baroness Warsi being utterly destroyed by Adam Boulton of Sky:

...and just to show this is a genuinely cross-party issue here is a pic of the top people from the four main political parties at City Hall. From the left is Andrew Boff for the Conservatives, Darren Johnson for the Greens, Caroline Pidgeon for the LibDems and Murad Qureshi for Labour all supporting AV. What a happy bunch!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Man arrested in Batoum Gardens with suspected acid bottle

Several of you reported seeing what one of you described as a "nasty looking incident" on monday night at Batoum Gardens, Hammersmith. I put in a call to the police and they have issued me the following statement:

"We were called on Monday 18th April at 17:45hrs to Batoum Gardens, W6 to reports of a male being chased by a group at the location.

A 20yr old male was arrested on suspicion of an offensive weapon (a bottle believed to contain either acid or ammonia)"

Nice. It's incidents like this that make you realise how under-valued the police are - we're always quick to criticise them but would you like to be the one confronting someone with an acid or ammonia filled bottle? 

1030 UPDATE: It turns out that there were actually four arrests, here's the latest statement from the Police:

"Police were called on Monday 18th April at approx. 17:55hrs to reports of a distrubance along Batoum Gardens, W6.  Four males were arrested (aged 24yrs, 21yrs and 26yrs) taken to Fulham Police Station and (aged 20yrs) taken to Hammersmith Police Station.  Inquiries continue."

White City housing boost row

Thousands of new homes and jobs are being promised as a housing bonanza descends on one of the most depressing parts of the Bush at the moment - White City. One of the most deprived areas in the borough the area has been in need of some serious regeneration for a long time and at long last it looks like some is on it's way in what our Council is calling a "once in a generation opportunity". But there are disagreements between our politicians about what all of this might mean for local people.

I reported here almost exactly a year ago on the proposed "creative zone" to be established in the area once the BBC shifts some of its operations oop north to Salford. The area is set to be populated by the numerous independent creative industry outlets that already line the Goldhawk Road and from farther afield. Now, our Council is promising much much more, and if they actually deliver it deserve some serious kudos.

Consultation is under way on the White City Opportunity Area Planning Framework so people can have their say about how the Council can help make the area an even better place to live and work. The Council think that by drawing up the right sort of framework it can ensure that developers deliver large numbers of new affordable homes along with employment opportunities for many local people.

The area in question is to the east of Wood Lane north of the Westfield shopping centre. Planning applications are expected from land owners including Westfield, the BBC and Imperial College in the coming years.

There are going to be drop-in centres for interested locals to have a look, these are taking place at the following times and venues:
  • May 11 - 5pm to 8pm at Old Shepherds Bush Library in Uxbridge Road
  • May 21 - 10am to 2pm at Old Shepherds Bush Library in Uxbridge Road
  • May 14 - 10am to 2pm in the White City Community Centre in Havelock Close
  • May 18 - 5pm to 8pm in the Wood Lane Community Centre in White City Close
Get yourselves down there - at first glance this does look like our Council trying to use this opportunity to do something for the Bush that will transform W12 for the better - and they should be congratulated for that.

Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh says this:
“We want this borough to provide our residents with a hand up to new job and housing opportunities.

“We want H&F to become a ‘Borough of Opportunity’ for our residents and the White City Opportunity Area Planning Framework (WCOAPF) gives us a once-in-a-generation chance to turn aspiration into reality in White City.
“What shines through is the sheer potential to change the lives of thousands of people by providing these better housing and job opportunities.”
The Council says up to 4,500 new homes could be created and that "many" of them would be affordable - but they do not specify what "many" means. They should.

Particularly since our MP, Andy Slaughter, smells a rat. Here's what he has to say:
"The council wants over a thousand of the new homes to be council homes at low rents. No, this is not some dramatic u-turn by the most anti-affordable home council in the country. The condition is that they are all taken by residents of White City, Wood Lane and Batman Close Estates to the west of Wood Lane. Not one new affordable home must be built.
While Opposition Leader Councillor Stephen Cowan says this: 
"Does the Conservative Administration like the north of the Borough? Clearly not, that’s why their scheme will demolish the homes of over a thousand current households, they plan to bring in at least 6000 new more affluent households who they hope will buy luxury apartments in tower blocks, some of which will be twenty stories high.

Sadly, the Conservatives’ scheme does not prioritise improving the area for everyone. Instead, it is typical of the property speculator led over developments we see with their new Town Hall tower blocks and river front blight in Fulham Reach. Too big, too dense, fails to address the needs of the area and is out of character of the best in the neighbourhood.

Controversially, the Conservatives are actually setting out to change the type of people who live there. Genuinely affordable homes will be demolished and the numbers reduced. Instead they hope thousands more affluent people will move in. This appears to be a cack-handed approach at gerrymandering which fails to recognise that in modern times people vote for political parties from all backgrounds."
Crikey - not much agreement there then - but surely local people do deserve to know exactly how many new affordable homes will actually be built?

If you cannot attend the drop-in sessions you can view the draft framework by visiting and commenting on it by writing to or to the White City Opportunity Area Planning Framework Project Team, H&F Council Planning Division, Environmental Services Department, 5rd Floor Town Hall Extension, King St, Hammersmith W6 9JU.

1300 UPDATE - The answer, according to the Council who have been in touch today, is 40%. Here's what a spokesman had to say:
"You asked in the report how much housing would be affordable. Page 141 of the draft report - link below - states that 25% will be social rented and 15% intermediate (that's shared ownership, discount market sale and so on) making a total of 40% affordable housing".

Monday, 18 April 2011

Sure Start cuts: Buggy protestors return

Baby buggies will again picket Hammersmith Town Hall at 6.15pm this evening as councillors meet to rubber stamp the cuts to Sure Start that were agreed at this meeting recently. This isn't the first time Conservative councillors have had to run the fearsome gauntlet of angry mothers with buggies and babies and I suspect it might not be the last.

Speaking to me Ruth Walsh, who wrote this very personal post on the blog about how the cuts will impact on her and her child, said:

"Although there will be lots of mums/dads etc with buggies, it is a demo for EVERYONE.... everyone will eventually be affected by these cuts.  The children of today are the teenagers of tomorrow and the adults of next year (or so!)... "

"10 Children's centres have had their budgets slashed by up to 92%! £19,000 a year does not keep a Centre "open" as claimed!"
That last point is a reference to the Council's line, which is that although there will be a large amount of money cut from the budget and staff lost, the authority will be providing what they call a "hub and spoke" operation that keeps centres open. The question that opposition councillors have asked, however, is the point of keeping centres open without enough staff or resources to provide the services that families need.

In response to Ruth's post the Council simply referred me to an old article weblink rather than address the concerns directly, which itself speaks volumes.

Austerity Britain indeed..

Friday UPDATE: As expected the Council voted the cuts through and there will now be a series of staff cutbacks and severe budget cuts to the SureStart programme. There were predictable calls for resignations, directed principally at the Cabinet Member responsible Cllr Helen Binmore, but here is the version from Ruth Walsh who I think deserves the last word after her herculean campaign that in truth never stood a chance against this Council:
"When it came to the Cabinet actually making the decision to Agree / Disagree with the proposed restructuring of the Children's Centre offering.... all the Chairman did was say "So, is that Agreed?"   And 5 Cabinet members said "Agreed".   And that was it!   Not a single word of discussion or debate between the Cabinet members prior to the vote, despite an hour of questioning of our Deputee, Kate Aubrey-Johnson."

"Only 2000 families will be able to access the Children's Centres As confirmed by Director of Children's Services, Andrew Christie.   He actually said the figures will go from 13,000 accessing services now, down to 2,000..."

"No doubt all of this will be reflected in the minutes".
No, no doubt at all.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Shooting off Askew Road

At approx 1540 today a gun was discharged on St Elmo's Road, just off Askew Road W12 - St Elmo's has been taped off and police are searching the area with dogs as I speak. An officer manning the exclusion zone advised one passing resident of these details which were then corroborated by another reader telling me the same thing.

I don't have information of any casualties or injuries, nor of any arrests but I have put in a call to the press office and will update this as I get it.

Can I just, once again, pay tribute to the local people who pass on info to me at times like this. I can see already from what people are searching for on google to get to this blog that there are huge numbers of people wanting to know what has gone on today - by passing it on local people fill that information gap. So thank-you. Just as over 50 of you did a year ago feel free to add any more info in the comments below.

I would also just reflect that it is almost exactly a year ago since Jaabe Roberts was killed on Askew Road round the corner - and Shepherd's Bush does seem to have a growing gun problem with regular incidents like this. Just the time to be cutting police numbers then.

1930 UPDATE - I've just been at the scene and spoken to the Police who are investigating. There is a forensics unit who looked like they had picked up one piece of evidence from the road. The gun discharge took place on the corner of St Elmo's and Valetta Road W12 and the area has been sealed off since then, although they are re-opening the road as we speak.  The Police did not feel able to confirm or deny any casulaties but local residents I spoke to did not think anyone had been harmed. Several had heard what they assumed to have been a shot, however.

SUNDAY 1230 UPDATE - A number of people have either left comments here or via Twitter saying that they heard gunshots in the same area last night at around 1.15am. Can I urge any of you who did so to contact the Police and report this - I have spoken to them this afternoon and they don't seem to be aware of anything specific but they are looking into it.

SUNDAY 1300 UPDATE - I've just spoken to Hammersmith CID - in fact they did receive two other calls about it this morning so were aware, and are therefore looking into it - but I would stil urge anyone who heard anything to report it.

TUESDAY 1530 UPDATE - I have just received this statement from the Police in relation to this incident:
"[we] can confirm that at approximately 15:35 hours on Saturday 16 April, police were called to reports of shots fired at St Elmos Road, W12. Officers attended. No suspects or victims were located.

"Officers from Trident North Shootings Team are investigating.

"+ A man in his mid-20s was arrested on 19 April in connection with the incident. He currently remains in custody pending further investigation."
This is the latest and I am in close touch with the police over developments so keep coming back. There is still absolutely nothing about this incident in the local press. 

Shepherd's Bush Green consultation: deadline tuesday

If you want to register your views on the Council's proposed redrawing of Shepherd's Bush Green you now have only until tuesday to do so. I reported here on how there is growing opposition from businesses and residents alike to the Council's plan to cut down many trees, construct a new cafe and create "mounds" by landscaping the area.

The plans, which are already years behind schedule, were further delayed when the Planning Inspectorate labelled our Council's publicity about the changes so far as, to use their words, "deficient".They forced the Council to re-issue the publicity and further elongate the process. 

Existing cafes fear the loss of trade, residents fear the growth of litter and noise while many just don't like the idea of lots of trees being lost. Here's what the chair of the Macfarlane Road Residents Association Viv James has to say:
"Regarding the proposed redevelopment of SBG, as you said on the Blog there is to be a hearing on Tues 17th May for 3 days. If anyone wishes to object to the destruction of mature indigenous trees, to the installation of a hideous café, despite there being 80 within 5 minutes walk from the Green and to the idea of creating “mounds” on the Green, objections must be received by Tues 19th April.

Surely businesses around the green that offer café services already are against the idea of another outlet to compete against? The SBMarket needs the business too so why create another source of litter on what is fundamentally a glorified roundabout? SB Ward councillors have been silent on this project, and I have not heard or read anything from the Town Centre Manager either".
So a thumbs down there for the Council but also for the local Labour councillors who clearly haven't made an impression with that group of W12ers. Residents from Pennard Road and the Macfarlane Roads seem to be in the lead in opposing the plans, backed up by many traders from the nearby Shepherd's Bush Market - itself up in arms about proposals to build seven floors of luxury flats on top of it - overshadowing whatever is eventually done with the Green. 

Anyone who wishes to object at the Public Hearing must present their objections in writing first and BY NEXT TUESDAY. 

Anyone wishing to do so will need to send 2 copies to 

Christine Griffee, (quoting Ref "COM 193")
Common Land Casework Team
4/05 Kite Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square

There will be a hearing starting on Tues 17th May for 3 days at Hammersmith Town Hall about the plans which will decide whether or not they go ahead. Unusually the Council is not in a position simply to railroad these plans, they will be decided by the Planning Inspectorate, so there is some doubt about whether they'll go ahead. Interesting times ahead...

Friday, 15 April 2011

Olympic tickets: Council U-Turn!

What a difference some publicity can make - H&F Council has pulled a dramatic u-turn and has decided not to buy any of the Olympics tickets that it was planning to purchase for councillors. Responding to this story Councillor Harry Phibbs, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement, has this to say:
"We've now decided not to purchase any tickets. The plan had been to offer them for sale (unsubsidised) not just to councillors but to all Council staff.
The Labour Party's view was that the Council should become a state ticket tout: "We'd suggest auctioning half the tickets and raffling the rest to give local people on lower incomes a chance of getting one."

Personally I am pro ticket touts on libertarian grounds. But the problem is that it would have been against the rules. So the simplest thing was just not to take the allocation".

Now then ... you can respond to this in one of two ways - either heap derision on the Council for having to do a u-turn at all, or congratulate them for having the guts to own up that they'd got it wrong. And I think it's very much a case of the second option - lots of councils get lots of things wrong but most of them for most of the time are too arrogant to admit it and back down.

On this occasion I think our Council has listened, realised how all of this looked to ordinary people and did something about it - and they should get a lot of credit for doing just that.

So well done H&F Council.

Olympic tickets: Plenty for H&F Councillors

You may recall that our Council intend to purchase, with our money, 100 Olympic tickets that will guarantee some of our finest elected councillors front row seats at some of the highlights of the 2012 Games, including the opening and closing ceremonies. This has gone down like a cup of cold sick with those on the receiving end of some of the hefty cuts which were voted through at this rumpus filled meeting at Hammersmith Town Hall recently.

On the defensive, our Council claim that they are purchasing the tickets "at no cost to taxpayers" - without explaining how on earth this is possible given that all of their money does indeed come from taxpayers, and those same taxpayers won't themselves stand any chance of getting the front row seats that these tickets offer even if they manage to fight through the queues to buy some themselves. The answer, is that they hope all councillors will pay for them at the reduced rate at which they are offered, themselves. So they will use our money but hope that we will be reimbursed - a bit like an interest free loan.

When I first reported this story, which has strangely stayed off the pages of the local media here for reasons that surely have nothing to do with their new paymasters, I suggested that the Council might like to auction some of the tickets off to raise money for local charity. But answer there came none.

So it might be instructive to look at what some other Councils are going to be doing too. We know, for example, that Redbridge Council will be returning their allocation without spending any money at all. Their leader, LibDem Ian Bond said to the Standard: "I would be disappointed if any council thought it was appropriate to take the tickets. For us it was a no-brainer."

We also know a bit more about other councils thanks to a  Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats in London, which has revealed that:

  • The Tories over in Barnet are insisting that they find a private sponsor to pay for their tickets if they buy them, and then they'll be offering them to local people who have inspired others to take part in sport in the borough. I have no problem with that at all, well done Barnet.
  • Labour run Islington has applied for private sector sponsorship as well to pay for them and then intend to give the tickets to what they call "young and vulnerable residents". Three cheers for Islington.
  • And next door Ealing have applied for only 37 out of the 100 tickets on offer, but intend to distribute all but 2 of them to children in council care. So tax payers money but used for tax payers causes.

So what of Hammersmith & Fulham? They intend to buy all 100 tickets and offer them only to councillors, who presumably will share them with friends and family. In a recent email to councillors Anthony Lyn, Head of Executive Services, said that: "the tickets cannot be put on open public sale" - well no, Mr Lyn, but as you can see other councils have found ways of funding this through the private sector and then donating them to the community - why can't you?

1300 UPDATE - The Council has responded to this publicity and announced that they will now not be taking any of the allocation at all. Credit to them for acting on how this all looked to local people.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

School parents allege Council censorship

The Parents Alliance for Community Schools is on the war path - they claim that an advert which they had paid a lot of money for and which "celebrated the achievements" of local community schools was pulled from the last edition of propaganda paper H&F News without any warning. 

They allege that this was a decision taken because the Council felt that this would contradict their own line that the controversial new Free Schools they are bringing to H&F are the way forward. The Alliance, I should say, is vehemently against the idea of Free Schools and campaigns to stop them. So they have a political agenda just as much as the Council does.

Here's what the angry Alliance have to say:

PACS worked with H&F News, the Hammersmith and Fulham Council paper, in good faith to place a full page advertisement in the 05 April 2011 Edition. 

Meant to print on the day of primary admissions announcements, the advertisement was intended to thank the parents and children who chose local Hammersmith and Fulham primary schools. We feel it is our parents and children which make our educational communities so rich and the community at large such an interesting, diverse and wonderful place to live. We highlighted the successes of local primary schools, sang the praises of these schools, and asked for everyone to stand up and prioritise celebrating them.

It was timed to coincide with primary school announcements so that those choosing our local schools could be thanked -- and those not realising what our schools offer could be informed.

Despite getting the copy to the paper early, and approving the final draft in time, H&F News did not print our advertisement.

A group of parents wanting to communicate with other parents about very good local schools was not allowed to do so by our local taxpayer funded newspaper.
Why was it not printed? We at PACS have a few questions:
a) Did someone not want to celebrate local schools for some reason?
b) Did someone feel that the view that local schools should be celebrated over free schools is not the right view to present in the paper?
c) Did someone not like the community group putting out the advertisement? Perhaps coincidentally, relatively good amounts of traffic to the website flowed through LBHF servers on the day the decision would have had to be made.
We wrote to H&F News on 06 April and asked why they had not printed the ad.  Despite the rapid decision to not print the advertisement, which must have occurred within several hours of the last communication with the paper, nobody has yet responded to our request.
In the minutes of the recent Cabinet meeting on 21 March, The Leader
'noted that the council was keen to see all schools succeed and parents to have an option to choose local schools. The Council's expectation was for more local children to be educated in local schools'.
Wouldn't such an advertisement have encouraged these aims?
H&F News has made it into notice in the past, and was used as an example by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee Report: Future of local and regional media
'Paragraph 73. There is a real problem with local authority newspapers and magazines that needs to be addressed. While it is clear that most of these publications, such as Portsmouth City Council’s Flagship, are legitimate communications from a council to its citizens, this cannot be said for all local authority publications. Publications such as Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council’s H&F News effectively pose as, and compete with, local commercial newspapers and are misleading to the public. It is unacceptable that a local authority can set up a newspaper in direct competition to the local commercial newspaper in this way. Nor should any council publication be a vehicle for political propaganda.'
This paragraph was reiterated as one of the conclusions of the report.
And in this edition's farewell story, Cllr Greenhalgh himself said that one of the H&F News limitations was that 'it was never able to hold us to account.'
Why not?
Back in July of 2010, when the Free Schools topic first entered the minutes of the 13 July Cabinet Meeting, it was said
'It (H&F Council) could provide a link between parents groups and potential providers, assist parents in assessing demand and help with the provision of sites but not directly sponsor projects. In response to a question from the Chairman, Andrew Christie, Director of Childrens Services, confirmed that there was some commercial and business appetite locally but the ventures would have to remain non profit making.'
If Hammersmith and Fulham Council can provide these links between parents and free schools at taxpayer expense, why can't a small organisation of parents - at no expense to the taxpayer -  provide links between parents and good community schools?

You have to wonder at why on earth they are so surprised that a self-confessed propaganda paper would not take an advert that contradicted the propaganda line of the Council, but this does seem quite cack handed - why did the Council take the money and agree to run the ad in the first place then? It will also be interesting to see whether the Fulham Chronicle, in its new role as chief propagandist for the Council, will also countenance taking such adverts which contradict their paymasters...

19th APRIL UPDATE - where this blog leads, the Chronicle follows - here's their story on it which only came out today. You know where you read it first, folks

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Council housing residents fear Council snoopers


Residents of estates run by our Council recently received this circular letter. I have been sent a copy by some of them and one in particular has written to express their fear over what this all might mean. The letter itself sounds fairly innocuous, the Council has appointed a company to check that they have the right details for residents and the letter is obviously needed so that people expect the knock at the door.

But in a mark of the lack of faith that now exists between our Council as a landlord and its tenants, after stories of estates being flogged off to property developers to knock down, residents are smelling a rat.

Recently tenants of our Council have lobbied parliament to take control of their homes away from the Council as a "rogue landlord" under new legislation and Mayor Boris Johnson has even warned of "Kosovo style cleansing" of the poor from London. All of which provokes unbridled fury among the Tories of H&F who regard such claims as ridiculous - they are committed to improving housing for everyone, and have offered "cast iron guarantees" that people who are forced to move to make way for redevelopments will be able to stay in the Borough.

But it's clear that the impact of all of this on the levels of trust that exist between Council and tenants has been very serious.  Here's what one of them has to say about this letter:
"After hearing tenancies are no longer to be secure under this government some long-term residents are afraid this letter is the first step in evicting them.

The letter sounds to them as if some private policing is going to be done and one or two are scared they will 'have' to let the people in to their homes. It makes it sound as if this is a yearly routine whereas no-one remembers being visited before in this way. (Some have been here since the 1970's)

Meanwhile the questionnaire mentioned in the letter is a ludicrous idea... there has been one quite recently ostensibly to collect data to 'improve services in the future' so why another? Few will fill it in anyway, in spite of the derisory incentive 'prize draw'. The elderly-ish like privacy and feel intruded upon, and can you imagine anyone in an illegally occupied house or flat doing so - or perhaps a crack house occupant?

Perhaps if they want to bully people they should go the whole hog and ask CPC to provide black uniforms such as the parking attendants now have (to make them more intimidating and look like police?) Or if the 'Officers' are nice pleasant people they may well run at the first growl from some of our less sociable locals!

Ill thought-out tinkering? Or something more sinister we are all paying for... like the ludicrous 'consultation' documents we get about parking, the tram, you name it, that make no difference to anything?"
1200 UPDATE - A Council spokesperson has been in touch to clarify what these letters are all about. Here's what the spokesman had to say:

"Just to confirm, the letters are to let our residents know that we’re doing a tenancy check to see if people are unlawfully subletting. Nothing sinister at all, it’s about making sure the right people are living in our homes, and if they are not and are depriving someone on the waiting list of a home they will be evicted.

Unlawful subletting is a huge issue for all local authority landlords, it means people profit out of rent-controlled homes while taking a home away from someone on the waiting list who really needs it.

We thought it was much better to write to everyone and let them know what we are doing, rather than send people into our estates to do the checks without explanation. We know the majority of our tenants are lawfully occupying, but it is important to find those who are not.

You’re right to state that we are committed to improving housing for everyone. We’ve just completed the £232 million Decent Homes programme on time and on budget to bring every council property in the borough up to a decent standard.

To pass on information about someone you suspect of unlawful subletting call the Council’s Corporate Anti-Fraud Service on 020 8753 1273 or email" 

Which all seems more than fair enough to me. Credit to the Council for responding this quickly. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Drugs bust on Goodwin Road W12

Some of you have been in touch about a lot of police activity in the Bush this morning. I have put in a call to the local police, whose spokeswoman has confirmed to me that a drugs search warrant was executed on Goodwin Road at 0742 this morning. No further details at the moment but I'll share them with you as and when.

Buy a piece of Ireland in Hammersmith

The fundraising campaign has begun!

The Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, which serves as a focal point for the Irish community in Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush, was promised a lease extension by the Council to 2017 in January last year.

Since then, however, it has become a target for our Council's bonanza buildings sell off programme and is now threatened with closure as our Council seeks to sell the building instead.
The Centre, which is staffed primarily by unpaid volunteers, serves elderly people with a mix of cultural events and other suppoirt services while also serving the rest of the anglo Irish community with a range of activities for children and everyone in-between. As you can gather by the way I'm presenting this case I am a little bit biased being in part of Irish descent myself.
So the Centre has just twelve months to buy a little bit of Ireland in Hammersmith, otherwise the Council may sell its building in Blacks Road.

Make your donation at - pass the link to friends, family and colleagues.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Fitness First Shepherd's Bush: service last

Yesterday morning I was the first person into the weights room. Keen, you might think. Well, confused actually. Confused because on the one hand I couldn't find any of the weights I wanted without hunting through the strewn mess all over the floor where they'd been causally tossed everywhere and confused because I'd actually thought the gym was turning a corner.

In recent weeks I've posted on several occasions about how this branch of Fitness First, of which I have been a member for the best part of a decade and which in the last couple of years has been "crumbling" according to members and fitness trainers alike, has been getting steadily worse. Mouldy showers, fighting cleaners and no water have all combined to trigger an exodus of members.

But in recent weeks a feisty young woman who I'm told is the regional manager of London has been around the place, and she's been seen kicking some bottom. I've seen cleaners being given strict orders and then questioned about why they haven't carried them out and others have told me of similar stories. I've had emails from head office every time I write about them promising action and gradually it's producing results. The mould has gone, the showers seem to be working and people are happier.

Why, then, do they then let themselves down by never tidying the place up at the end of the night so that it's ready for the morning? And before anyone from Head Office, for I know they'll be reading this, claims it was a one off I have other pics from other days which prove it's not.

I was told yesterday by another member who is also now leaving that a gym down the road in Olympia, 67 degrees I think it's called, has started offering two people for £60 per month and GymBox at Westfield is putting some other offer on as well. Unless FitnessFirst tick all the boxes, including tidying up, all of this belated improvement is just not going to be enough. There, that's said.

Friday, 8 April 2011

High on London

A perfect friday film for us to remind ourselves what a fantastic city we live in - best place in the world!

QPR parking changes unveiled

Large new areas of W12 will be no-go for match days if QPR win promotion to the premiership next season. As Warnock's men demolished a sorry Sheffield Utd at Loftus Road on monday even the prospect of a points deduction from the FA did not seem to threatent the clubs ascent into the top flight, which is great news for those of us who've followed them through the bad times and the mad times.

But spare a thought for those living around the stadium and even at some distance from it-  because now every saturday they are to make way for Sky Sports and others as the fans flock to what will be top flight football in W12 for the first time since the squatters from Fulham FC were evicted from the ground.

In a letter from Ian Hawthorn, who has the scary title of "Head of Network Management and Enforcement" in the Environment Department, the Council have informed us that the club have requested earlier road closures and later re-openings in some cases, and that parking bans will extend all the way to the Uxbridge Road down Loftus Road in one case. Have a look at the map to see.

Now then, here are some images of life in Britain from when QPR were last in the top flight - John Major was PM and Spice Girls were number one - yes pop pickers, it was 1996!

Set against this the boon to local businesses and the general uplift in atmosphere this would bring to the area and I think you see this in context - even businesses further afield like Askew Road will probably see some benefit. But it doesnt come without a cost, so I hope those residents are suitably compensated.

14th April UPDATE - the Fulham Chronicle has caught up with this story here