Friday 30 December 2011

Hammersmith flyover to remain closed next week

I've just had the following confirmation from TfL that the traffic gridlock in Hammersmith caused by the closure of the flyover is set to continue throughout next week. What that means is despite H&F Council harrumphing about the "urgent" need for "solutions" to the "disaster" of the closure to local people and the local economy, TfL are set to keep the road closed well into the start of the working week of January.

Here's what Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, said today:
“Our team continues to work night and day alongside the world’s leading structural engineers to fully understand the extent of the flyover’s structural problems. I have been inside the flyover and seen for myself the unique issues we face. 

“Safety must be our top priority and we have not taken the decision to close the flyover lightly. However, we are working flat-out to determine what measures we must put in place to safely reopen the flyover as soon as possible. Also, to ensure we can strengthen the structure and extend its life over the longer-term. 

“In the meantime, drivers are strongly advised to avoid the area if they can or allow more time for their journeys. I apologise for the disruption, but assure Londoners we are doing all we can to reopen the flyover and to minimise the disruption the closure is causing.”
Deputy Leader of H&F Council Nick Botterill is far from impressed. He has said:
“We want to get to the bottom of what is happening, as it is simply inconceivable that the main route into and out of London in the west remains closed and may not even reopen in time for the end of the holidays.

“We are in continuous contact with TfL’s most senior officials, as well as the engineers on the ground, and are demanding that we get real answers to our questions about what is happening, why the closure is necessary and when this problem will be solved. We have written to the Secretary of State for Transport and the Mayor of London about this, and Peter Hendy, commissioner of Transport for London, has already agreed to meet us early next week to explain what the problem is and how it will be resolved. We need action - and quickly.

“The closure is a disaster for local residents, motorists and the borough’s economy, and this council will do everything in its power to mitigate any further adverse impact a continued closure will have.”
Saturday UPDATE - The Head of TfL, Peter Hendy, has responded to Cllr Botterill, with the news that a lack of waterproofing meant that water damaged the steel cables, which in turn rendered the bridge potentially unsafe. It is expected to open during the second week of January. You can read the full email on the H&F Conservatives blog here - and well done to the Council for at least getting the Head Honcho's attention and personal commitment.

Askew Business Network event in Jan

The chaps and chapesses of the Askew Business Network, who have helped turn the road from a stagnant side-pond into a part of the Bush that is winning rave reviews, are having another of their regular networking events at the Greyhound Pub on Thursday 12th January.

The subject of this discussion will be, er, "Managing Your Online Reputation" and will run from between 6pm to 8.30pm. I assume this means having a good website and customer reviews but there's a small chance it might mean dealing with the likes of pesky local bloggers.

Here's what the organisers have to say:

"Having a strong online presence is a crucial marketing tool for many small businesses. But what does it say about you?

Local publisher Cresta Norris, author of, talks about the importance of managing your online reputation in today’s social media-driven world. She will talk about how reputation is determined by the wisdom of others and why, online, the sum of the whole is bigger than any of the parts.

She will also give tips and examples of how to:

  • Prepare consistent online information
  • Understand the rules of online networking
  • Inoculate yourself and your business against future problems
  • Create successful campaigns that will benefit your business.
Entry to the event is free. All local businesses and residents are welcome. Just buy your own drinks at the bar.

Thursday 29 December 2011

Bus fares up under Boris

Bus fares have risen by almost twice as much in London compared to other cities in England since Boris Johnson became mayor, according to Labour.

Research from the House of Commons library shows that between 2008 and 2011 bus fares in the capital increased by an average of 18.5% in real terms, compared to an average increase of 9.8% in English and 8.8% across the country.

Under Boris Johnson a single bus fare using Oyster in London has risen from 90p in 2008 to £1.30 in 2011. On January 2nd 2012 a single bus fare will increase again to £1.35 – a 50% increase over four years.

Pic sent to me by a friendly 148 bus driver!
Labour’s candidate for London mayor, Ken Livingstone is pledging to slash bus fares if elected next year.

As part of his ‘Fare Deal’ plans, bus fares would be cut from £1.35 to £1.20, a reduction of 11%. Critics wonder aloud where this money is coming from, and it does have a ring of "jam tomorrow" about it.

Ken Livingstone said:

“Boris Johnson has raised bus fares at a staggering rate over the last three years. This research shows that the level he has increased them by is unparalleled across England, hitting London bus users in the pocket.

Londoners face a clear choice next year – more fare rises from Boris Johnson, or my Fare Deal plan. I’m pledging to cut the price of a bus ticket from £1.35 to £1.20, and cut all transport fares by 7%, leaving the average Londoner £1000 better off over the next four years.”

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Update from Transport for London on the Hammersmith flyover

Following the closure of the A4 Hammersmith Flyover on 23 December due to concerns about a serious structural defect, TfL engineers and contractors, alongside external experts in structural engineering, have been working around the clock over Christmas to carry out detailed investigations to assess the flyover and establish what remedial action needs to be taken. It brought much of Hammersmith to gridloc as many of you experienced for yourselves.

I'm told engineers will continue to build a full picture of the condition of the complex bridge structure. Much of this work is taking place inside the structure itself and so may not be visible to passing motorists. The flyover will remain closed until at least early January, but TfL insist that they are exploring all options to reopen it and ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.

Over the past two years, TfL has been carrying out detailed monitoring inside the flyover, which dates from the 1960s and is unique. In particular, TfL engineers have been checking the condition of the internal cables which help to hold the spans of the concrete structure in place. Until recently it was thought that the structure had a number of years before major repair work would need to be undertaken. Recent results from monitoring showed that repair work needed to be carried out earlier than anticipated. Then, in the week prior to Christmas, they identified further technical problems - meaning that TfL decided to keep the flyover closed to undertake an even more detailed assessment of the complete structure.

Local traffic diversions are already in place, along with Variable Messaging Signs – including on Highways Agency roads - advising drivers to avoid the area. Traffic signal plans are in place to reduce disruption and ease traffic flow and plans are in place to divert traffic from the M4 to other routes if necessary. TfL is also working closely with the relevant local authorities.

Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, said:
“Our team have been working around the clock alongside world leading structural engineers to ensure we carry out a detailed assessment of the structure as soon as possible. I will shortly be going into the flyover myself so I can see firsthand the unique issues we face and be briefed by our expert engineers. Safety must be our top priority and we have not taken the decision to close the flyover lightly. 
“We will be continuing to work day and night to complete our assessment and to set out our next steps. In the meantime the flyover will remain closed until at least early in the New Year and drivers are strongly advised to avoid the area if they can or allow more time for their journeys. I would like to apologise for the disruption, but please be assured we are doing all we can to reopen the flyover and to minimise the disruption the closure is causing.”

Six robberies on Uxbridge Road

Three suspects were arrested last night following a spate of six incidents up and down the Uxbridge Road, by the police. This is according to a tweet that the local Safer Neighbourhood Team, with whom I have spent some time over the last year, put out this morning.

I've put in a call for more details but the basic facts are there - six individuals or groups had particularly nasty experiences last night and you have to hope that the three people arrested are indeed the guilty parties.

But in the meantime, and I ask this question hoping that there isn't a repeat of the violent reaction to the last time I questioned police tactics, I do just wonder about the wisdom of advertising things like this. You hear a lot about fear of crime outweighing the reality of crime itself, and the Bush has had more of its fair share of particularly nasty incidents recently which is not helped by some sensationalist reporting of rumours. So does knowing that three people have been arrested give people a sense of security or does the fact that six robberies occurred make people feel more fearful about the area?

When I interviewed this young woman who had been the victim of a burglary this summer it was clear she was desperate to get out of W12 as a result, and based on what she told me who can blame her. I know several of you are also planning on leaving, partly because of what you hear about crime rather than having experienced it yourselves. But then how do the police get the message out, goes the counter argument, and isn't it better to give people the straight facts directly along with some advice about how to prevent crime.

It's a dilemma with no easy answers, but in the meantime let's hope those who were robbed are OK.

1500 UPDATE - if to emphasise the dilemmas a number of you pointed out that I'd assumed the "robberies" to be "burglaries" and had used the terms interchangeably. I've corrected the article now but it does kind of underline the dangers involved in sending these tit-bits of information out via Twitter. Without a full picture it's all too easy for things to get confused.

Saturday UPDATE - I have just had the following information from the Police about the robberies that took place up and down the Uxbridge Road - and it aint pretty.
  • A 14 and 15 year old were robbed of a mobile phone, new clothing and a bicycle.
  • Three teenage males with shopping bags were approached by a group of black males who then stole property from them
  • A 16 year old male was attacked by a group of black males and was robbed of his shopping
  • A 15 and 16 year old were surrounded by a large group in Uxbridge Road who 'hugger mugged' them taking a mobile phone and personal property
  • A 17 year old male was approached by a group of black males who asked for his property but he refused and was beaten
  • A 13 year old boy was surrounded by around 5 black youths and threatened but no property was actually stolen
  • A 20 year old was robbed of his shopping and was punched and kicked.
As a result of these incidents a S60 was put in place, (which means Officers are entitled to Stop & Search)  robbery cars and officers deployed to the areas around the Uxbridge Road. Three suspects have been arrested and enquiries are on-going to ascertain the details of the others involved.

If people have any information regarding these incidents they can contact Hammersmith CID on 0208-246-2441 or CrimeStoppers in confidence on 0800555111.

A Hammersmith and Fulham Police Spokesman told me:
"We are committed to identifying the perpetrators of this distressing crime and have deployed additional resources to the area. We will not tolerate such activity on Hammersmith and Fulham Borough and are working closely with partners and retailers to bring these offenders to justice. We would again remind visitors to be vigilant and to register their purchases with whenever possible. If they notice anything suspicious then they should use the 101 or 999 Police numbers"

Friday 23 December 2011

Compare and contrast: Fulham V Hammersmith

Not Stephen Greenhalgh
A lot of you have alleged that our Council seem to deal out different treatment to residents who live in Fulham as compared to those who live in Hammersmith. I understand that most of the ruling group themselves live in Fulham.

As if to make the point the Council themselves have released this film of a public meeting relating to Thames Water over Thames Tideway Tunnel, which starts with Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh thundering, voice raised, about how residents MUST be listened to before a planning decision that will blight the area is made. We LIVE HERE, he cries!

He doesn't stop there, after a few residents questions, Cllr Greenhalgh can't resist the fray any longer and gets stuck in again, bellowing about alleged corporate financial interests taking precedence over the wishes of local people. DON'T insult us, he hisses, it's obvious! Shocking. Almost like property developers who want to build luxury flats.

And at the end he urges Thames Water to look - just look! - at the raised hands in OPPOSITION TO THIS SCHEME! - Fulham says NO he rages, beginning to sound like the Rev. Iain Paisley in 1960s Northern Ireland, "NO, No, No!"

Fair enough - local people should be listened to. But my, what a contrast to the King Street residents.

Hadyn Park Road fire

A fire in a flat in the Bush this week revealed the importance of having working smoke detectors.

Two fire engines and around ten firefighters were called to a flat fire in a three floor house on Hadyn Park Road, W12 on Tuesday night Part of the first floor flat was damaged by the fire.

Two men were rescued by firefighters wearing breathing apparatus and a further man left the building before crews arrived.  They were all treated at the scene by London Ambulance Service crews.

Watch manager Peter Morgan from Hammersmith fire station said:

“The house had a smoke alarm but it appeared to be deactivated and therefore it didn’t alert the residents to the fire. It’s vitally important to have a working smoke alarm. If a friend or family member doesn't have one, buy them an alarm for Christmas - it could be the most important present you ever give.” 

The Brigade was called at 2244 and the fire was under control by 2329. Firefighters from Hammersmith fire station were at the scene. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Hammersmith Flyover shut till January

A continuing programme of inspection carried out by Transport for London (TfL) on the A4 Hammersmith Flyover has revealed a serious structural defect, which means that the flyover is currently closed and will remain so until at least early January.

Over the past two years, TfL has been carrying out detailed monitoring inside the flyover, which dates from the 1960s. In particular, TfL engineers have been checking the condition of the internal cables which help to hold the spans of the unique concrete structure in place. Until recently it was thought that the structure had a number of years before major repair work would need to be undertaken. Recent results from monitoring showed that repair work needed to be carried out earlier than anticipated. However inspections, including one last night, identified further technical problems - meaning that TfL has decided to keep the flyover closed to undertake an even more detailed assessment of the complete structure.

TfL’s engineers and contractors, alongside external experts in structural engineering, will be working around the clock over the Christmas and New Year period in order to complete this assessment and to establish what remedial action needs to be taken.

Local traffic diversions are already in place, along with Variable Messaging Signs – including on Highways Agency roads - advising drivers to avoid the area. TfL is urgently examining local road works sites with a view to suspending these where necessary to minimise traffic disruption. Traffic signal plans are being developed to reduce disruption and ease traffic flow and plans are in place to divert traffic from the M4 to other routes if necessary. TfL is also working closely with the relevant local authorities.

Garrett Emmerson, TfL’s Chief Operating Officer Surface Transport, said:

"Safety is our top priority, so we have taken the decision to keep the flyover closed until at least early January while we undertake a full detailed assessment of the structure. We are very sorry for the disruption this will cause drivers and we are doing everything we can to minimise traffic disruption. We will be working around the clock over the Christmas and New Year period to complete our assessment and to set out plans for the work that needs to take place. 

"In the meantime, drivers are strongly advised to avoid the area if they can or allow more time for their journeys."

Thursday 22 December 2011

£500k "facelift" for Uxbridge Road abandoned

...due to lack of interest! Back in October 2008 our Council made half a million pounds available for businesses up and down the Uxbridge Road to smarten up their shopfronts and renovate the look of the street. £45,000 was there for the taking, each, in order to improve the shops.

The hope was to breathe a bit of life back into the main high street of Shepherd's Bush at a time when the cold winds of recession were already starting to bite.

At the time Councillor Nick Botterill, Deputy Leader of H&F said this:
“Small businesses and local traders are the lifeblood of our economy and this council will do everything it can to help them".

“Westfield London can act as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of Shepherds Bush but this council will never forget the small and medium sized businesses that have historically given this area its edge.”
But - and here's the bit that amazes me - despite publicising the scheme directly to businesses and through the media not one business took the Council up on the offer ... and after three years the scheme has been shelved. The money has been withdrawn, and the oppportunity is now gone.

What were the businesses doing?! We've seen the emergence on neighbouring Askew Road a business network which seems to be going great guns and it surely can't be a total coincidence that that part of the Bush is now taking on a completely different air, winning rave reviews in listings magazines and with quality businesses beginning to invest in the road again.

The fate of this scheme seems to suggest something on Uxbridge Road might be needed too - unless it is to be completely colonised by fried chicken shops instead.

In the meantime, and just because it's Christmas, here's Monty Python's take on the Uxbridge Road:

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Award for man who saved Police woman at Shepherd's Bush station

An Enfield man who came to the aid of a British Transport Police (BTP) officer who was attacked at Shepherd’s Bush Tube station has received a Chief Constable’s Commendation.

The officer he assisted, of Surbiton, was seriously injured in the attack and she also received a Chief Constable’s Commendation.

Mr Steve Paternott received his award for bravery from BTP Chief Constable Andrew Trotter during a ceremony at the Force’s London Headquarters on Friday 16 December.

Certificates of Commendation are awarded by the Chief Constable to police officers, rail staff and members of the public who have shown special zeal, courage, skill and resourcefulness in the detection of crime.

On Christmas Eve 2009, PC Dight saw a woman jump a ticket barrier at the station and followed her to the platform. After confronting her, PC Dight was violently attacked by the woman and her brother. She was punched repeatedly, spat at, and clumps of her hair were pulled out before Mr Paternott came to her aid and the pair was restrained.

The attack left PC Dight extremely shaken and with multiple injuries - she was only able to carry out her full duties as a police officer four months after the incident.

The struggle on the platform took place within a few feet of the live tube tracks and without Mr Paternott’s intervention the outcome could have been far worse.

Following the ceremony, Chief Constable Andrew Trotter said: 

“It is courageous people like this that make the British police service what it is and keep our communities safe. Putting their own safety at risk, PC Dight and Mr Paternott tackled two violent individuals and suffered serious injury in the process.

“I am very proud to be able to congratulate and commend them for their very brave actions.”

Mr Paternott said:

“I'm just an ordinary member of the public who was in the right place at the right time.

“Thankfully no one fell onto the live tracks or this could have ended in tragedy all over the price of a ticket.

“My full respect goes to PC Dight who responded with total professionalism in extreme and unnecessary circumstances. My thanks go out to her and the rest of the force for keeping the public safe.”

PC Dight said: 

“As a police officer you don’t tend to think about what you’re facing, you just know that it’s your responsibility to do the best you can.

“It’s always nice to know that your efforts have been recognised, and to receive an award like this is very humbling.”

Eleanor Byrne (30) was given a suspended jail term after being found guilty of assault occasioning ABH. Her brother, Duncan Byrne (27), received a community order for his part in the attack. Apart from congratulating both the officer and the member of the public I have to say, both of these sentences are utterly ridiculous - what is the point of the courts system? 

H&F one of four "Youth Innovation Zones"

Cllr Helen Binmore
H&F was named a "youth innovation zone", alongside only three other local authorities in the UK, yesterday in recognition of its efforts to seek and gain meaningful youth input into its service provision, according to Children & Young People Now magazine.

It will join Haringey, Knowsley (Merseyside) and Devon in the development of these innovative new pilots which aim to build on its successful youth commissioners programme which already involves young people evaluating existing service provision and making recommendations about how to improve.

Cllr Helen Binmore, she of Sure Start fame and Cabinet Member for Children's Services, said this:
"Hammersmith & Fulham is keen to involve local people in innovating and exploring better ways to provide services and that absolutely includes young people," lead member for children’s services Helen Binmore said. 
"We have led the way in redesigning our youth service based on the views of local young people. They are bright, enthusiastic and, of course, are the people who use the service. Their views have been hugely influential in rethinking how services are designed and run. 
"We are delighted to have been chosen as an innovation zone and it is a major endorsement of the success of our decision to move to commissioning all our youth services from voluntary and private sector specialists, rather than running projects ourselves."
Full marks to the Council on this - in light of the continuing inquest into August's riots but also at a time when youth unemployment is set to rise still further thanks to our chums in the banking sector these services are going to be ever more essential to developing and equipping young people to compete in an environment that is already incredibly tough.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Police helicopter over the Bush

At 4am on Monday morning I, like many of you, started my day. This was because a Police helicopter, a regular visitor to the Bush, was hovering low for about half an hour. By 7am, as usual, I had several enquiries from several readers as to what it had been up to. The difference was that by 10am I had had 15 seperate emails from people who had been woken and were not best pleased.

So I asked the Police, again as usual, what it had all been about. The answer, which I got later that evening, was that a stabbing suspect had been chased by a police sergeant on foot from over the border in Kensington & Chelsea, but that he and an accomplice had been on cycles so they'd called the chopper. Here's the full statement:

"19/12/11, Time of origin 03:40, from Mitre Way, W10 which is in Kensington and Chelsea Borough (BS) gives details of a call originated from a BS Sergeant who wished to stop two males on push bikes, one of whom was recognised as being a suspect for a previous stabbing. The Air Support Unit was requested at 03:43 as well as a dog unit and other units". 

All fine I guess - nobody wants a stabbing suspect to get away. But what I found interesting was the fact that because I asked this question publicly the ferocity of the response was really quite extraordinary. It was apparently an absolute abomination that I was even asking - and by implication all of you that regularly complain about being woken in the early hours should not have the audacity to wonder why.

A bit out of touch with local opinion? I thought so. It was just a simple question. So I asked the new Metropolitan Police Chief Bernard Hogan-Howe who was hosting a Twitter Q&A for Londoners. Here's what he said:

Full marks to him for that - he was certainly a lot quicker in responding than the local W12 Police press operation. The fact that the helicopter itself is shortly to have a Twitter account will be interesting to follow!

But how about this response (above) from a serving Metropolitan Police Constable - he was not impressed with my question, while another - a trainee Special Constable, went absolutely crazy with me. And then decided to delete the tweets and lock her account!

And then, our favourite local abusive journalist Adam Courtney, purveyor of false sex attack stories, decided to weigh in as well. This used to be a regular habit of his until he was hauled over the coals by his bosses for sending abusive messages. Let's hope this was just an involuntary spasm from him and that it doesn't start to bring the Chronicle into disrepute again.

So.. there we have it - a Chopper that woke many of us up, and the explanation for it. But also an interesting insight into the sensitivity that this apparently mundane subject generates from the Police themselves, and the attempt by the local dead tree press to make some kind of political point about it.

Not an edifying spectacle and similar to Adam Courtney's last outing on this subject (below).Can't we have a grown up conversation about it without descending into this?

Hammersmith Irish Centre gets £500K from Government

...The Irish Government, that is. The Centre, which is a focal point for the Irish diaspora in London, in particularly the elderly, has been under threat since our Council changed its mind about a lease extension to 2017, for which it had already sent the documents to the Centre, and announced it was going to sell the building instead.

This prompted the Irish Government to declare itself "disappointed" with H&F Council, with President Macaleese even having paid a visit there alongside Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh not very long before the announcement to sell. The Centre itself launched an online petition calling for the Council to reconsider alongside their own fundraising campaign to buy the building, which now seems distinctly possible.

Irish Central has all the low-down here

Reflecting on this you have to give our Council credit, really. Amid the sound and fury it now seems that the Council taxpayer will not be footing a bill for a continued local service which will now apparently be funded by a combination of private donations and investment from the Irish. Whatever the rights and wrongs of how they have managed the processes that's a pretty impressive end result.

Monday 19 December 2011

Westfield expansion: consultation extended

The consultation with residents over the controversial development of the White City area next to Westfield has been extended until 30th December, with a revised application having been submitted. The new application contains less flats and it also means fewer affordable units in some of the proposed blocks which is likely to re-ignite the row over whether or not H&F Council is fulfilling its duty to provide affordable homes.
I'm told that three trees on Wood Lane that were slated for the chop under the scheme have been spared by the proposed new flats between the central line and the Burger King at Westfield remain in place. As does the 20 floor tower in the south east corner of the development which would dominate not only W12 but overlook Kensington & Chelsea - which has provoked protest in both boroughs.

You can view full details on the Council's website here.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Joyce Vincent: Hammersmith girl who disappeared

Joyce Vincent. Died alone and lay alone for three years.
Joyce Carol Vincent lay dead for three years before she was discovered in a Wood Green bedsit in 2006 on a high rise estate. The television was still switched on, as it had been for the three years since she had died, next to her body which was essentially a skeleton.

Joyce, who was born in Hammersmith in 1965, had been by all accounts a very beautiful young woman who died alone and unloved despite having been the centre of many other people's worlds. The problem was that they had all - former boyfriends, work colleagues and family members - simply assumed she had moved on to the next great adventure that her very full life and obvious talents would lead you to think would be the case.

One journalist decided to pursue the story after the rest of the world had forgotten and moved on and has produced what is an incredible film, charting the story of Joyce's life. A chance meeting with one of Joyce's former boyfriends in Shepherd's Bush began to unravel the story. I find this story deeply troubling both for the individual tragedy it represents but also because it asks very serious questions about how anonymous we can all become in a city of 8 million people.

I have two very elderly neighbours and had good cause to be very worried about one of them only this week, to the point where I was bashing on their door at 6am. A false alarm, thankfully. But do have a look at this article in the Guardian and the film trailer below - and think about at least one person you could check up on in the week ahead. If only for Joyce's sake.

Thursday 15 December 2011

King St: H&F Council suffers defeat at City Hall

Boris has bashed the King Street redevelopment, possibly for good. In a dramatic and, for our Council, a pretty humiliating turn of events today the Mayor's Office refused to grant permission to the scheme that our Council had railroaded over the heads of local people, despite hundreds protesting on numerous occasions.

In fact the GLA's press office sent the Save our Skyline protest group the following one-line press sentence this morning: "the GLA has withdrawn the stage two referral concerning the application". Eleven words that may spell the end for the controversial development that would have seen two towers of luxury flats dominating the skyline, the cineworld cinema being torn down and a home for blind people being demolished.

All of which was pushed through at midnight in front of hordes of angry residents at the now infamous H&F Planning Committee. As a result of the GLA's refusal, our Council have withdrawn the application.

The GLA bombshell announcement comes just 24 hours after the protest outside City Hall that featured Vanessa Redgrave and coincided with Mayor's Question Time in the chamber - watch scenes of that protest above, while you can see a pic of the indomitable campaigners below

If you look at the GLA's official guidelines for "strategic planning applications", under which this was submitted by our Council, it clearly states the following:

"The Planning Decisions Unit will acknowledge receipt of this notification and confirm the date by which the Mayor’s decision will be provided; this will be 14 days from receipt of all relevant documentation"

"The Mayor’s decision (commonly known as stage II) will take the form of an officer’s report to the Mayor and a letter from the Mayor"

I have been talking to a spokesperson from Save our Skyline today, who has told me this: 
"Our legal opinion says that, if the referral has been withdrawn, 'then it is difficult to see how the development can proceed on the basis of the current permission, since a referral is mandatory and the Mayor must make his decision within 14 days of receiving notice of the authority's provisional planning decision'". 
"We really have to wait until we get an official announcement".
And so they do, but at the moment the writing on the wall spells out a large word for H&F Council, which is "listen" - not something they have done a great deal of over this application. It will also not have gone unnoticed by those opposing other unpopular developments such as that of Shepherd's Bush Market.

Speculation will centre on the fact that the proposed redevelopment contradicted the Mayor's own London Plan, and the most likely scenario is that it was made clear to our Council that it would be turned down on those grounds - so they withdrew instead. 

It is not the first time that residents have stopped our local authority in their tracks - the success of a local campaign against the closure of a Sure Start centre, along with the victory of the Ashchurch Grove residents spring to mind. It may be that with a new Leader of the Council who doesn't approach residents with the listening skills of a sherman tank we don't have to see so much of this Council versus residents battle in future - hope springs eternal.

FRIDAY UPDATE - The local press have brought up the rear, catching up with the story here.  

FRIDAY 1330 UPDATE - The Council have given me the following statement:

"We understand that the Mayor and a number of local residents have concerns about the height of the proposed buildings and their impact on views from riverside properties. Hammersmith & Fulham Council has agreed to work with the GLA on a further independent rigorous assessment on viability to determine whether there is scope to reduce the height of the buildings again. At the same time the Council will continue to progress the S106 planning obligation agreements."

FRIDAY 1600 UPDATE - I understand from more than one well-placed mole in a very good position to know what they are talking about that this decision has been shelved until after the Mayoral elections in May 2012. What that means is simply that Boris *will* give permission for some version of this scheme to go ahead, but only after the election to avoid losing votes. This being the case, you can expect the Labour and LibDem campaigns to focus in on this relentlessly between now and then with some kind of "vote for us to save King Street" line. I really don't think it's going to be enough to stop the electoral damage this is likely to do to Conservative prospects, but it's interesting that Boris felt exposed enough on the issue to take this drastic step, which has left his own allies running our Council looking more than a little foolish.

FRIDAY 1700 UPDATE - As if to underline the above update I have just received the following statement from Labour Leader of the Opposition on H&F Council Stephen Cowan:
"I understand that the GLA was going to refuse this scheme so H&F Council pleaded with Boris to let them withdraw it instead. This will allow them to bring an amended version back at some future point without the public seeing all of the GLA's criticisms. This would presumably happen after the Mayoral election. So sadly this isn't VE day, it's more like D Day instead. But the Conservative Administration now needs to rip up these plans, drop their £35m office project and agree to protect the cinema, the park, the skyline and the homes they were going to demolish. They should use this opportunity to start fresh talks with residents about what might work best. That's what I will do if the Conservatives haven't granted a further permission by 1st May 2014 - should Labour win control of the Council".

"This is a victory for common-sense and resident power. I couldn't find a single person out of over 400 that attended the Planning Meeting who did not have utter contempt for what they had just witnessed. Conservative councillors asked planted questions and then block voted the scheme through. That happened after four hours of their nervous officials' justifications. Those had included some of the shoddiest and most fanciful so called 'evidence' I've ever heard at a council meeting - and that's saying something. This vindicates the views of all that opposed it".

"We must understand exactly what concerns the GLA raised about this project. Those need to be published and so the Conservative Administration avoids ever proposing anything similar".

"There also needs to be an enquiry into the money that's been wasted on this scheme. Senior Conservative councillors and their officials have been working on it since 2006. They've spend millions of tax pounds on consultants, trips abroad to meet property speculators and time putting this together. On top of that they were in the process of offering property speculators well over £70m of public land to make this scheme go through. The GLA has stopped it at it's first hurdle outside of the Administration's control". 

"This is all a gargantuan mess-up that raises a series of questions about all those that worked on it and those Conservative councillors that voted to give it planning permission in the first place."
UPDATE Tuesday 20th December - coming rather late to the party Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh has now offered this muted statement on the H&F Conservative Party blog. Entitled "Boris and H&F must find a way forward for King Street regeneration" Mr Greenhalgh argues that:
"We remain fully committed to this scheme to regenerate King Street. We believe it represents an opportunity to enhance the environment, protect the interest of the council taxpayer, promote local businesses and provide new homes. There have already been changes to reduce the height of the proposed buildings but we understand that the Mayor and a number of local residents remain concerned about this and in particular, the impact on the views from riverside properties. So Hammersmith & Fulham Council has agreed to work with the GLA on a further independent rigorous assessment to see whether it would be financially viable to proceed with a further reduction in height."

Wednesday 14 December 2011

H&F protest at City Hall this morning

City Hall
Protestors from the Save our Skyline group, opposed to the Council's plan to construct two towers of luxury flats on King Street, will be protesting this morning with Vanessa Redgrave outside City Hall in an attempt to influence Mayor Boris Johnson, in advance of the Mayor's final decision on the development. It comes after this farcical meeting of the infamous planning committee, where hundreds of residents were roundly ignored.

The throng will be gathered outside City Hall at 10am if you fancy joining them - I'm told by a mole that they will be greeted by several Assembly Members to support their campaign to be listened to, though I suspect this might not include any Conservative members. 

One thought for the day - compare and contrast this article from the Council about how outrageous it is that Thames Water are not listening to residents in Fulham - to how the Council listens itself to any resident who is unlucky enough not to live in Fulham - such as Hammersmith or Shepherd's Bush. No luxury flat towers planned for Fulham as yet, I understand.

1400 UPDATE - The camnpaigners have attracted widespread media interest, with the BBC reporting their protest here. Significantly it seems they have highlighted that our Council's plans actually contradict the Mayor's own London Plan - so his response will be an interesting one. 

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Stolen ring appeal for Shepherd's Bush

Do you recognise this ring? It was stolen at an address in W12 recently although the Police are being very coy about where and when. The ring is of sentimental value as it is an Engagement Ring and unique as you see from the image above.

In addition to the ring, also stolen were a Silver Braclet with Gold Flowers around it, an Apple Lap Top, Macintosh Mac Book, various cufflinks one being oxidised Silver with Initials "NC".

If you recognise any of these items you can contact crime stoppers anonomously on 0800 555 111 or DC McDOWELL on 0208 246 2655

H&F Cuts taxes - shoots video

Our taxes will be cut by another 3% next year in news which has been announced by our Council in typically flamboyant fashion, with a video shot by a local Performing Arts school (Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College (EHWLC))

Announcing the cut the soon to be departing Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh spake thus:
“In these tough economic times we want to free residents from the burden of excessive taxation. This innovative YouTube clip takes a light-hearted look on a very serious message. We are saying loud and clear that it is possible to consistently cut tax and council debt while improving frontline services. We are also proud to be climbing the league table of low tax boroughs and look set to break into the top three nationwide with our biggest council tax cut yet.”
It's difficult to argue with tax cuts in these economic times, and the PR package was brilliantly executed with the story leading the news on BBC London last night. But a lot of the people the BBC interviewed seemed to be doubtful about the wisdom of cutting taxes if it led to service cuts too, which has certainly also been the case in recent times. 

So enjoy the extra £30 quid or so you wont now be paying out in council tax next year - but bear in mind where it might be coming from...

Monday 12 December 2011

Greenhalgh resigns

Stephen Greenhalgh - visionary and villain. The man widely regarded as the Prime Minister's representative to local government today announced he is off, following months of rumour and speculation about his next move.

Having set out his vision for "freedom" so that local government can be even more radical to the Conservative Party conference, at a meeting I attended in Manchester this year, he today announced he would be stepping down as leader to concentrate on developing policies on devolving power from central to local Government to enable just that to happen. 

Here's what Deputy Leader, and leading contender to be the next Leader of H&F, Cllr Nick Botterill had to say:
“I hope many people across H&F and beyond will want to thank Stephen for his tireless dedication to this borough and to local government. Thankfully, he will still continue to play a major role through his work with the community in White City. 
“It is extremely difficult simultaneously to cut taxes, improve services and reduce the debt burden and yet that is just what Stephen has done at H&F. He has lifted the spectre of debts from future generations of residents - there can be no higher accolade than that.”
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, said: 
"Stephen has been an outstanding council leader. He always understood that the role of the council was to stand shoulder to shoulder with the public. People in Hammersmith & Fulham are getting a better service at a much cheaper price. Hammersmith and Fulham is truly a council to be proud of.”
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, declared: 
"Stephen has made a fantastic contribution to local government over very many years."
Cllr Greenhalgh is, according to the Council, helping to pioneer plans for a Neighbourhood Budget for the White City Opportunity Area. Nearly £70 million of taxpayers’ funds – or £17,000 per household – is spent in this area every year. Despite this unemployment is twice the borough average, the area has high levels of overcrowding, relatively low educational attainment and relatively high levels of crime. H&F wants to pool central and local government's spending into a single budget pot, involve residents far more in how that money is spent and ensure that every penny is focused on improving the life chances of the people living there.

He said: 

“I am keen work with Whitehall and the town hall to develop a new approach to public spending at a neighbourhood level while continuing to serve the residents of Town Ward where I both live and work," he said.
“I do not think the people of White City are getting value for money out of that £70 million, nor do I think are wider taxpayers,” said Cllr Greenhalgh. “I want to focus that money on getting much better outcomes for people living there and ensuring that the neighbourhood is fully involved in how that money is spent.”
He went on to say: 
“Being leader of the council is a remarkable challenge which I have been thrilled to have taken on. I am immensely grateful for the energy and professionalism of my fellow councillors and staff in making possible such a radical transformation of the council over the last five years".
I have to say I am going to miss the big man - he has to me been a Leader of two extremes: completely ignoring local people when his heart was set on a planning project, but then also someone who could set out what was actually quite an inspring vision for local government with local people in the driving seat and democracy being the better for it. 

Let's hope his successor carries on the vision thing but pays a bit more attention to the listening too. 

It's also worth noting, and this goes for all councilors from all parties, that being a Councillor is a pretty thankless task at the best of times. They are paid peanuts compared to the amount of hours they put in and on top of that they give up at least two, sometimes three nights per week. Try having a family life alongside that. So they're always easy to criticise, sometimes rightly so, but the vast majority are doing what they think is the right thing and are prepared to give up much of their personal lives in order to do it. So thank-you Cllr Greenhalgh, and good luck. 

Shepherd's Bush Green Hotel - new details

With thanks to the eagle-eyed reader who sent this in to me new details have emerged in the form of a planning ammendment to the hotel due to change the face of the Green.

The Pavillion building, which has stood vacant and decaying for years, is to be transformed into a 242 room hotel called the Hotel Dorsett Regency in 2014.

Sounds posh - and not quite sure what the guests will make of the drunken Australians from the Walkabout bar they'll be valiantly protected from by a top hat & tailed porter outside. But it's surely good news, if only to stop the building housing the local rat population.

That much we knew already, but here are some of the things that will be found inside...

Non-Material Minor Amendment to Planning Permission 2009/02635/FUL granted 17th September 2010 for the Use of the premises as a 242 bedroom hotel; bar, two restaurant areas at ground floor level; leisure facilities comprising conference facilities, gym, laundry and plant rooms in two full basement floors and a third basement floor of 215 sq.m., replacement of existing curved roof with glazed roof and altered roof profile and extended third to fifth floor levels to the north, roof top extension and erection of a plant above to southern side; demolition of rear elevation facing west onto Pennard Road and parts of the side elevations and replacement with new elevations involving alterations to existing footprint of the building to the north and west; single storey extension to south elevation; erection of new entrance canopy to the front fa├žade at Shepherd's Bush Green at ground floor level; installation of flagpoles over new front entrance; modification to and opening up of doorways and windows in front elevation; provision of loading bay to northern elevation; erection of two sets of entrance gates onto Shepherd's Bush Green.

All looks good to me but what do those of you who live on Pennard Road, already affected by the Council's plans with Orion to construct seven floors of luxury flats on top of the market think?

Friday 9 December 2011

Thursday 8 December 2011

Tories link with BNP to prevent cyclist safety debate

An unholy alliance of Conservatives and Richard Barnbrook - the racist British National Party elected member of the Greater London Authority now serving as an "independent" - took place yesterday, preventing a debate on cyclist safety. A Green Party motion before the GLA related to the recent deaths of three cyclists in the past two months at Kings Cross and Bow and called on the Mayor to take urgent action on dangerous junctions.

We have also had our share of tragic cycle deaths, such as this one in Hammersmith, and this accident in July this year on Hammermsith roundabout underlined the danger posed to cyclists by dangerous drivers.

The Conservatives at the GLA, however, appear to be unmoved by all of this and decided to put party politics ahead of cyclists lives and stage their second walk-out in six months - along with the fascist Mr Barnbrook. This unsurprisingly prompted a large amount of comment, with Chief News Correspondent for the Evening Standard Ross Lydall headlining a blog post with the stark title "16 cyclists dead but Tories refuse to debate road safety".

As you can see from the video above the Conservatives apparently took issue with a mundane decision about committees and silently walked out in what you can see was a carefully pre-planned walkout - they and "independent" racist Member of the GLA Richard Barnbrook got up in unison and out they went, preventing any further business.

Underlining how this was pre-planned (and therefore done in the full knowledge that it would prevent the cycling safety motion) Tory Group Leader James Cleverley issued a statement within minutes of the walk-out, which said:
“Once again other parties on the Assembly have chosen to put petty party politics before properly representing the democratic view of Londoners by denying us fair and equitable chairmanship and deputy chairmanship on Assembly committees.”
So we're asked to believe that this was far more important than doing something about the fact that cyclists keep getting killed on our roads. I'm sure that will go down well with the friends and families of those hurt.

The rest of the political groups united to condemn the Conservative/BNP walk-out. I'm told that the motion had the backing of Labour, the LibDems and Greens so would have been passed. Lib-Dem Assembly Member Mike Tuffrey said this:
"Today's childish actions by Conservative Assembly Members have thwarted a key debate on cycle safety taking place. Their actions are an insult to every cyclist in London as well as the democratic process."
Hear hear.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Boris in the Bush today

Mayor of London Boris Johnson was in Shepherd's Bush Library today along with celebrity TV star Peter Andre to launch a literacy volunteer scheme aimed at improving children's levels of reading.

The "Team London - Love Libraries" scheme aims to recruit 2,000 'Library Champions' under a new Team London programme designed to help local communities get even more out of their local library through new services and activities.

£100,000 is being invested to develop the Team London 'Love Libraries' scheme, which will see people recruited over the next six months to help provide a range of library based activities in at least ten borough, including our very own H&F

Pictured above, courtesy of local Top Tory Harry Phibbs, the Mayor was also, clearly, aiming to enhance his W12 credentials following several visits to the Bush by his opponent Ken Livingstone.

Boris then wandered over to the new Bush Theatre to take in the sights and sounds of the new building which was opened following H&F Council's decision to rehome the library in the Westfield Centre. The Theatre, which has won widespread acclaim, is now a regular feature of W12 life, including the opening of its cafe which operates independently of the main Theatre schedule.

Boris then went on a walkabout on Uxbridge Road, provoking the usual celebrity response of people wanting to have photos with the blond one as he chatted to bemused shoppers and business keepers.

Local Conservatives took to the Twitter airwaves to chronicle the Mayor's wanderings and promote the event as a key moment in the pre-election battle that is getting more and more intense as polling day in May 2012 draws near. It's difficult to over state the importance of this election both to our local Council but also to the Government.

A win for Boris would be a maajor confirmation that the Labour Party is still not viewed as a viable opposition at either national or local level while a victory for Ken would signal the reverse -and would also put a stop to some of H&F Council's more controversial development projects locally.

So expect W12 to be a key battleground between now and then, of which today was only the latest example.

8th December UPDATE - you can now see H&F Council's video of the event below - they shamefully don't caption the councillor speaking at the end about Shepherd's Bush library being the "jewel in the crown of Hammersmith & Fulham's libraries" - he is our very own Cllr Greg Smith!

Monday 5 December 2011

Car parking charges frozen

H&F Council has frozen car parking charges in the borough to stay at £2.20 and £2.80 per hour in the quieter and busier streets. That means they won't be going up this year in a move the Council says is aimed at giving residents "respite" from the chill economic winds blowing through the country at the moment.

Here's Councillor Nick Botterill, Deputy Leader of H&F speaking to the Evening Standard:
"We know that local people are feeling the pinch and this is one way of showing our support by giving residents some financial respite. We are making sure motorists get a fair deal by not increasing our parking permits or pay and display charges."
Some might say £2.80 is already too high, but the Council does deserve credit for this and it does stand in sharp contrast to next door Westminster who seem intent on imposing new crippling car parking charges. Well done on this one.

Sunday 4 December 2011

4 thefts a day in the Bush: Some crime advice

Sgt Steve Gilbert
Sergeant Steve Gilbert, of the Shepherd's Bush Safer Neighbourhood Team, has been in touch with some crime advice he has asked me to share with you.

In light of the four thefts per day he mentions, and the graphic examples of how these thefts have occured, what he has to say is well worth listening to.

So here's Steve::

Are you looking after your belongings?

In recent months the ward of Shepherds Bush Green (including Westfield's) is encountering, on average, 4 items of personal property a day being stolen.

To explain what type of theft I am talking about I will give some examples:

Man goes into newsagents to buy a paper. He has his phone in his hand. He puts it on counter so he can get some money out of his pocket. He walks out and forgets his phone. He returns 30 minutes later and no one knows where his phone is. Someone has now stolen it.

Lady is in changing room of a large clothing shop. She takes her handbag with her whilst she tries on some new jeans. She puts them on and goes for a short walk, just along the changing room corridor to test them. She returns to her cubicle and discovers her bag is now missing. The changing rooms are busy but no one noticed anything unusual. Someone has stolen her bag.

Male goes to a music concert. He puts his iphone in his back jeans pocket. He thinks this is OK because it fits comfortably and snugly so couldn't fall out. He leaves the concert after dancing a bit and enjoying the atmosphere. He leaves and tries to call a cab. No phone, someone has stolen it.

Female has a tough week at work, together with a group of colleagues they go to a pub after work for a well earned drink. She puts her bag containing her work lap top under her chair. Her colleagues are sitting around so she feels everything is safe. She doesn't even get up to go to bar or toilet. After 1 hour she goes to pick up her bag and it is gone. Someone has stolen it.

The local police are committed to catching pick pockets and bag thieves. Plain clothes officers regularly patrol area looking for thieves. Officers investigating crimes do seek out CCTV pictures of suspects and try to identify them.

There are some organised gangs operating that steal thousands of pounds worth of belongings from people across the UK. They are difficult to recognise as they dress and behave to blend in with their surroundings.
There are also many selfish and greedy people that may never have been in trouble with police. If they see an unattended item their greed may and does cause them to take it.

Everyone has their own perception about how to look after their belongings. The police would like to give you all the benefit of their experience with some good advice.

If you regularly walk around with a wallet or phone in your hand please try and put it in your pocket rather than putting it down on a counter or table. Police do not advise people to walk late at night in quiet areas whilst talking or texting on the phone.

When shopping you are normally surrounded by like minded people and the process of buying things can be distracting. Do not leave your bag or belongings unattended even for a short time. This also includes trips to supermarket when you may be tempted to hang your bag or sit your bag in shopping trolley. It only takes a second, whilst you are browsing the shelf, for someone to pick up your bag.

Putting items in a back pocket is not a good idea. A wallet or a phone soon feels comfortably in place and you forget it is there. It is also the easiest pocket for a pickpocket to target.

Taking bags out when you are socialising can be troublesome. Finding somewhere safe for it to sit whilst you enjoy yourself isn't always straight forward. If you plan to have a few drinks try and organise the security whilst it is clear in your mind.

Simple tips would be….

Put your bag where you can see it (never under a chair or on the back of your chair).

If you will leave it for a short time make sure someone else is aware and can watch it.

Some pubs, coffee shops and restaurants have fitted "Chelsea Clips" under tables where bag is attached and takes a while and delicate touch to remove it (Thieves hate these as it takes too long to unhook it). Please use them.

Please make a note of serial numbers of your electronic devices. You can record them securely on line at . Police regularly recover items that may be stolen and check this database. A stolen item can then be identified where it came from and reunited with its loser.

If you are out and about be neighbourly, if you see someone going for a bag and you've plainly see it isn't theirs just a simple "Excuse me is that your bag?" A thief doesn't like being noticed and will put them off. If you see suspicious people that you feel may be a pickpocket or thief point them out to security or a police officer where possible.

And finally please pass on this message to all your friends and relatives. It is a big burden on your stress levels to lose a computer or your mobile phone.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Time Out: Askew Road is on the up

The Great Askew Road Food Resurgence is the title of Time Out's review of our very own Askew Road, which features many of the shops that have enabled the road to make the journey from what the listings magazine rightly refers to as a "desolate strip linking Uxbridge Road to Goldhawk Road" to being an emerging gem of W12.

The butchers Ginger Pig, the bakery Lavelli and the Eagle pub all get a mention - and its a rare piece of good news coverage for an area that has seen the darker side of life in Shepherd's Bush all too often. So well done, Askew Road, and carry on the good work.

Thursday 1 December 2011

That £7,000 party - Right of Reply by Harry Phibbs

Cllr Harry Phibbs
My story last Friday on the £7,184 party for departing H&F Chief Executive Geoff Alltimes triggered much comment, claim and counter-claim with the local media eventually following it up as well. The Council, many of you thought rightly, was heavily criticised for this use of our money.

But this blog is also about a conversation and it's never simply been about bashing one side or another blindly - so I've agreed to carry a 'right of reply' in the form of a guest post from Cabinet Member Harry Phibbs. 

I always get a welter of criticism whenever I do this, irrespective of which party the politician is a member of - so on this occasion can I remind people that I have also carried numerous columns by Labour MP Andy Slaughter. It's about a debate - so whether you agree or disagree with what Harry says below, he deserves credit for engaging with local people on the blog.

So here's Harry, on *that* party:

"Last Friday the Shepherd's Bush Blog ran an item challenging Council spending of £7,000 on a retirement party for Geoff Alltimes who has stood down as Chief Executive of Hammersmith and Fulham Council after 35 years. I can hardly complain about our spending being scrutinised. Part of my job has been to promote this accountability by making our spending more transparent than that of any other council. Not only do we publish payments to suppliers, and senior salaries, but also a detailed breakdown of our Council budget by cost code. We also publish our register of property assets and a Debtometer tracking our progress on reducing Council debt.

But I do believe that in this case the criticism has been misleading and unfair, and astonishingly hypocritical coming from Labour councillors and the Labour MP for Hammersmith, Andrew Slaughter. For his retirement party, Geoff paid for all the alcoholic refreshments himself, the Council paid for the food and the caterers.

Some argue that the Council should have made no contribution to funding the event - which I think would be churlish. Geoff was well paid but that does not mean he was bad value for money. He showed outstanding leadership and professionalism. 

He served both Labour and Conservative administrations with energy and ability in getting their policies implemented. Under Labour administrations he delivered their spending schemes and higher Council Tax. But when residents elected a Conservative administration in 2006 with a radical and controversial agenda including lower spending and cuts in Council Tax he accepted that democratic verdict. Where there were problems for either administration he would be determined to find solutions rather than the more familiar bureaucratic mindset of claiming the obstacles were insurmountable.

With colleagues his behaved with courtesy and would listen, finding this a more effective way of motivating them than shouting and banging his fist.

Others have suggested that £7,000 was too high and a smaller party should have been held. It was certainly a big event with over 450 present - including several Labour councillors and the former Labour council leader Stephen Burke. But many council staff appreciated the chance to go and thank Geoff who had been their boss for many years. He wanted to thank them. Staff morale is important and I think there was a benefit in extending the invitation beyond a few senior managers.

Labour have got an almighty nerve in condemning the reception given their own record. In the summer of 2004 a lavish leaving party was held at Fulham Palace marking the retirement of the Director of Education, Christine Whatford. The full cost, including alcohol, of £20,000 was picked up by the Council Taxpayer. The following summer another extravagant event was held this time for Henry Peterson, departing as the Director of Policy and Administration, at the Corinthian Sailing Club. It was also entirely paid out of Council coffers. Andrew Slaughter was Council leader at the time, Stephen Cowan a Cabinet Member. The idea that they presided over an era of frugality is laughable.

Shortly before the 2006 elections they paid £6,000 for a steel band that had only just performed at Glastonbury the week before to play in the middle of Shepherd's Bush Green for an hour amidst the litter to celebrate a "Smarter Borough". The audience consisted of a couple of drunks and a man with a dog. Few passers-by saw or heard much of the band between the traffic. It was a fiasco.

Even more extraordinary is that Andrew Slaughter should be criticising Geoff Alltimes' pensions arrangements. The comparison with Geoff's predecessor as Chief Executive, Richard Harbord, is instructive. Harbord was brought in when Slaughter was leader in 1999 with a starting salary of £110,000 (equivalent of £150,000 in current prices.) Within a year Harbord was given a pay rise to £140,000, and a further hike in 2001. Harbord's departure from the authority was brought forward a year earlier than planned, in May 2002. This was due to his "lack of progress" in the post. He was given a £110,000 pay-off plus a £62,400 booster to his total pension to over £200,000. This, after just three years, compared to Geoff's service of 35 years for the borough. 

Geoff has got the pension he was contracted to get - not one boosted by an "additional retirement grant" or any pay-off. In fact, Geoff waved £75,000 of redundancy pay that he was legally entitled to, as the post of a Chief Executive solely for Hammersmith and Fulham has been abolished. It should also be remembered that part of the cost of his salary was met by the Primary Care Trust.

It is true that as Council Taxpayers we have paid a lot of money to Geoff. But we should still be grateful because he has played a key role in the last five years in delivering lower Council Tax and improved services. It is his success that has fuelled the Labour Party's resentments, but their complaints are without credibility".