Wednesday, 29 February 2012

War of words erupts between MPs over West Ken

An extraordinary row has erupted between neighbouring MPs Greg Hands (Conservative - Chelsea & Fulham) and our own Andy Slaughter (Labour - Hammersmith) over our Council's plans to redevelop the West Kensington & Gibbs Green estate as part of the multi-million pound Earl's Court scheme.

Regular readers will be aware that the majority of residents are not only opposed to this scheme but have actively organised against it through their own residents group. In response our Council set up a rival residents group, using over £30,000 of your money - but even the chair of that group resigned over the plans

One of the issues that has most excercised the residents against these plans are what they regard as a sham consultation that is only geared towards delivering the Council what they want. They of course have much form on this through the infamous planning committee - reference Hammersmith King Street and Ashchurch Grove, not to mention our own Shepherd's Bush Market.

but Mr Hands, who does not represent the area in question, has decided to launch a pre-emptive strike ahead of the deadline of this 'consultation', which has provoked an equally ferocious response from Mr Slaughter.

Here's what the two men have had to say this afternoon - first Mr Hands, whose statement can be seen in full on his website here says this:

The redevelopment is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and plans for up to 7,500 new homes including 1,500 much-needed affordable homes, 2 million square feet of commercial and retail space which would create 12,000 extra jobs and more than a quarter of the site, 23.5 acres, given over to open public space including a five acre ‘Lost River’ park.

Greg Hands M.P. strongly supports the redevelopment of Earl’s Court and West Kensington and urges you to take part in the council’s consultation. Greg has himself responded to the consultation and believes that if the Earls Court scheme goes ahead, it will bring huge improvements to the neighbourhood and wider area, changing the lives of thousands of people for the better.

Not long ago - just over a year in fact - the residents living on the West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates were being told by their Labour M.P. that if redevelopment in the area went ahead that they will be shipped out to Barking & Dagenham. They were also told the council wanted them moved so that they can build luxury homes. Both of these allegations have been exposed as scandalous, despicable lies designed to frighten people witless.

Instead, if redevelopment does go ahead, council tenants will a receive a brand new home that is better and - for many - bigger in exactly the same area they are already living. They would not only get a new and better home but they would also receive almost £5,000 in compensation plus new carpets, fridges and curtains. Far from communities being destroyed, neighbours would be moved over the road together and they would only have to move once somebody knocks on their door with the keys to their new home. Meanwhile, resident leaseholders and freeholders on the estate would receive one of the most generous packages ever negotiated - not only compensation running into tens of thousands of pounds but a discount on a new home that would also be worth tens of thousands of pounds. Greg believes that the legally binding contracts that the residents have negotiated is the one of the best deals ever and recently the council approved the plan for the Seagrave Road car park in his constituency which will see over a quarter of the replacement homes built in the next two years. Instead of living on an estate and in a community that was badly built with divisive high walls, new open space and parks would be created, new schools, health centres built and new community centres opened. New shops would bring new economic life to the area.

This intervention has been described to me by one of the residents campaigning against the plans as "disgraceful" given that Mr Hands does not represent the area. But Mr Slaughter is altogether more forthright:

“This shows a sneering contempt for the families and elderly people who have lived in this community, some for 50 years.

“Hands back property developers and Hammersmith & Fulham Council which aim to get rich quick by forcing people to move from their homes. This is the true face of the Tory Party.”

Mr Slaughter points out that Hammersmith & Fulham Council will receive £100 million from the developer for sale of the land after the homes are demolished. The developer stands to make much more by building 7,500 luxury flats in blocks up to 30 storeys high on the site, but there will be no new affordable homes for local residents.

In surveys 80% of residents said they oppose the demolition supported by Hands and our Council, but the Council will not conduct a ballot to decide on the area’s future.

THURSDAY UPDATE - Greg Hands MP has returned the serve and hit back at Mr Slaughter's criticisms to me, arguing that West Kensington does indeed include areas that are inside his constituency. Here's what he posted on Twitter following this article:

Shepherd's Bush Pavilion starts next month

The £25 million conversion of the derelict Pavilion building, with its signature curved roof, will start next month. I first reported on these plans back in 2009 so it's surely a good thing that this part of the re-shaping of our neck of the woods is set to begin in tandem with the landscape work currently going on on the Green.

Hopefully this work, plus that on the Green, will keep our feisty local rat population down.

According to essential reading Builders Merchants News, the building's roof will be relpaced by a curved glass one, and be an 11 floor hotel with 322 rooms. 

When it opened, in 1923, the original cinema seated 2,300 people but it was badly damaged by bombing during the Second World War and did not re-open until 1955, under the new name ‘Gaumont Theatre’. It then became the Odeon cinema, Top Rank Bingo Club and most recently Mecca Bingo Hall. It has sat empty since 2001 when Mecca moved out.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Armed bank robbery on King Street W6

Rumours were swirling yesterday about a possible armed incident in Shepherd's Bush, but it seems actually to have been something in King Street, although no less serious for that. Here's what the Police have just told me:

Police were called at approximately 15:17hrs on Monday, 27th February to reports of a cash in transit armed robbery outside a bank in King Street, W6.

It is understood the suspect drew a handgun to the security guard demanding the cash box he was holding. The security guard handed over the cash box.

The suspect then ran off to a waiting vehicle.

A number of arrests have been made and enquiries continue.

Detectives from the Flying Squad will be investigating.

1340 UPDATE - It seems that subsequent arrests were made following the intervention of the police helicopter outside Bansted Court in East Acton. The Chronicle is reporting that a dramatic sounding "armed stand off" ensued - but there is no confirmation of this from Police records.

Bushstock 2012 Unveiled

Bushstock 2012 has been unveiled and will be taking place across five venues in June this year, following the phenomenal success of last year's event. St Stephen's Church, the Defector's Weld, Bush Hall, Ginglik and Shepherd's Bar will play host to bands including Dan Croll, David McCaffrey, Lanterns on the Lake, Marcus Foster, Pale Seas, Rae Morris, Raghu Dixit and Sarah Jarosz.

Get yer tickets here.

The organisers have produced the vids above and below which are well worth a watch for a unique insight into how some (admittedly very strange indeed) people see the Bush!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Murdoch sells Sun in Shepherd's Bush

This Sunday one of the most controversial media men in the world was in the Bush flogging the Sun according to Roy Greenslade of the Grauniad. Sales at WH Smith in Westfield were roaring, apparently, and the man at the centre of the phone hacking scandal thinks that over 3 million copies were sold.

So there we are folks, the Bush at the centre of things again! Watch out for an irascible elderly man outside the central line this morning, complete in those red caps and capes the Sun sellers have, demanding your 30p or whatever it costs for a copy.

And do change your voicemail pin from time to time.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Private Eye: H&F Council in tax trouble

Well, it's another of what has become our Council's weekly appearances in the Rotten Boroughs section of Private Eye.

Following my article which raised questions about the tax arrangements of the authority the satirical magazine ran this piece - this week it seems they've delved further and found that Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs think that there are many other cases to answer at Hammersmith Town Hall.

The likely punishments for tax avoidance involve fines - which would be paid witth your cash. 

Oh, and my favourite Top Tory is in trouble for swearing. I've raised Greg Smith's exuberances once or twice before and it doesnt come as any surprise that his opponents have taken advantage of his potty mouthed outbursts. But to be frank I think they should leave him alone, I think it's great to have politicians who are not boring cardboard cut outs!

But their repeated appearances in the Eye will be very f*%^ing unwelcome for the press team down at the Town Hall.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Boris Bikes in the Bush: £2million

Boris on tax payer funded bike
Has our Council been stumping up your cash for Boris Bikes? I think we should be told. My excellent fellow blogger over at MayorWatch has uncovered some disturbing evidence of how hard-pressed council tax payers have been funding the scheme, which is a flagship of Boris Johnson's re-election campaign, despite the fact that Barclays Bank are given lavish credit by TfL.

Tower Hamlets, one of the poorest boroughs in London, has had to provide £2 million for the luxury of the bike scheme, while in the western extension which includes Hammersmith & Fulham we now know that Wandsworth were told that their participation in the scheme was “conditional on the Council making a financial contribution of £2 million.” So it seems reasonable to assume that our own Council has handed over £2 million of our cash too, as it seems to be the going rate. 

So where has this money come from? Around £500,000 appears to come from the Local Implementation Plan (LIP) scheme, under which money is allocated for local transport improvements. So in other words money that would have been used by H&F to fund other transport improvements such as bus routes or road repairs has probably been used to gain the sexy rows of Boris Bikes instead. 

I say probably because I have asked the press office about this and they haven't replied. Perhaps this article will jog their memories. My question, dear Council, is this: how much money have you contributed to the Boris Bikes scheme to bring it to the borough? Is it the £2 million bill being paid out by other local authorities? 

The other funder of the scheme, apparently, in our neck of the woods is Westfield. The Centre is to provide funding that will allow what the PR men are calling "an early taster" of the western expansion by extending Barclays Cycle Hire to the shopping centre by spring 2012. Just around Mayoral election time. Approximately twelve new docking stations will connect the existing cycle hire zone to Westfield White City and six docking stations will potentially be on the grounds of Westfield London itself.

All good stuff - but how much are they providing to the scheme? Unclear from this press release which lavishes praise instead on Barclays for upping its stake to £50 million. It was reported as being £4 million by the Fulham Chronicle at the time, but no mention was made of the contribution by local tax payers. I wonder if they even asked. The reporter who wrote the story has represented his newspaper's Twitter feed with a pic of him n' Boris ever since.

Is H&F really the only borough in all of London taking part in the scheme not contributing any tax cash? I doubt it. 

Boris spake thus at the time of the H&F announcement in July last year:
“My thanks go to Barclays for the benevolence they have demonstrated with their latest bestowal of funds and I am pleased that we can confirm the extension of their sponsorship agreement. By working together we are putting thousands more Londoners on two wheels. 
“My thanks also go to the Boroughs who have been champing at the bit for an expansion of this scheme, and to Westfield London for providing an investment that from next year will enable hordes of shoppers to make the journey to their glittering halls by the cleanest, greenest and most enjoyable form of transport available.”
Classic Boris there, but strangely no mention of the role of the Council tax payer and their contribution. Don't they deserve a bit of Boris' oratory in recognition of the large tax bill they are shouldering to support the scheme? Or is that the bit the Mayor would rather not talk about?

"The fact that boroughs contribute to the cycle hire scheme isn’t some hitherto undiscovered secret, but it’s also not a widely known fact thanks in part to TfL’s publicity machine. 
"Press releases and publicity are focussed on achieving the maximum publicity for the Mayor and TfL’s preferred financial backer to the near exclusion of all others". 
"But while Londoners are encouraged to be thankful to a headline corporate sponsor, it’s their local councillors, employers and developers who are funding much of the scheme’s growth".
And as we saw from the Tory election leaflets being handed out by some of H&F's finest yesterday at Shepherd's Bush tube station, Boris intends to talk a lot about transport and cycling. So I think a fair question to ask, ahead of that election, is how much have we the taxpayers paid towards the acquisition of a row of shiny Boris Bikes outside that same tube station, just in time for polling day? 

Meanwhile the Chief Executive of Barclays Bank, who get to have their branding plastered all over the bikes throughout London in an Olympic year, was paid a £6.5 million bonus last year. That's bonus - i.e. on top of his salary of £1.1 million. They have our undying gratitude.

23/2 UPDATE - EXCLUSIVE: The Council have just responded to this article by admitting they DO plan to spend £2 million of your money on this scheme. Here's a statement I have just been sent by a spokesperson:
"The council is not paying anything towards the Westfield extension of the Mayor's cycle hire scheme, which goes live next month, as Westfield are paying fully for that.  
“However, we have agreed along with other boroughs - such as Wandsworth - to contribute up to the equivalent of £2million towards the full stage 3 extension which is set to be rolled out from the Spring of 2013 as we recognise the importance of having a variety of methods of getting around our small, congested borough. 
“This will be found in a variety of ways including developer funding through section 106 and in kind support such as officer time and use of premises. 
“A large number of borough residents are already registered users of the existing scheme and more than 200 residents responded to our request for possible hire station locations in the borough, so we know that there is a large demand for an extension of the scheme.”
So now we know - £2 million is a the price tag you will be contributing to a scheme that, on current stats, few of you will use. Phrases such as "in-kind support such as officer time", for example, are surely a bit of spin - it means that officers whose salaries you pay will not be doing what you pay them to - that is a PR man's line to disguise expenditure.

There is a perfectly legitimate argument to make that this is a worthwhile investment in a green form of transport - all I have tried to do by looking beyond the PR is to unearth the true cost. Sadly other press outlets seem just to cut and paste the press releases they get sometimes.

28/2 UPDATE - ...bringing up the rear on this story, as ever, is the Fulham Chronicle who swallowed a Boris press release and didn't ask any searching questions. Their story does not refer to this blog (surprise surprise) despite the fact that building on MayorWatch's story it was my questioning that got the info about the £2 million cost to H&F. Funny how the media works - but even funnier that their advertising of this "new" story on Twitter provoked something of a backlash among locals, narked by one journalists furious Tweeting!

Boris fields searching questions from the star-struck Chronicle
Meanwhile one of their reporters continues to feature the blonde one on his newspaper's Twitter feed as he has done ever since he met Boris at Westfield when he swallowed Boris' line about the Boris Bikes not costing us a penny. Is this wise in a Mayoral election year?

19 MARCH UPDATE - Well our Council will have to formally debate the £2 million cost of Boris' tax payer funded Bikes this evening, thanks to a motion put forward by Shepherd's Bush Labour councillors Andrew Jones and Askew cllr Lisa Homan. The motion, which will be voted down by the ruling Conservatives, reads as follows:


Standing in the names of: 
(i) Councillor Lisa Homan
(ii) Councillor Andrew Jones

“This Council believes that its reported £2 million contribution towards the Boris/Barclays Bank Bikes schemes is a terrible waste of money and determines NOT to contribute a single penny of LBHF money towards the Boris/Barclays Bank Bikes scheme. We urge the London Mayor to find private sector funding to make this scheme work and deliver value for money.

The Council believes it is a priority to cut all council taxes and this money could better be used to do that or be put towards other local priorities such as reversing the cuts to police sergeants, paying off debt, or improving other local services and facilities in line with residents’ wishes.”

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Inside Out London: Council shamed

Greenhalgh: reduced to pleading "extra retail space"
Last night's BBC Inside Out programme is a must see for anyone wishing to understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to the Goldhawk Road row of shops that our Council and developers Orion wish to demolish, in order to construct 212 luxury flats on top of the next-door market. Against the evident pride and richness of the historic row of shops on Goldhawk Road was contrasted the bully-boy tactics of our Council and their property developer friends.

Shop owners from Cooke's pie & mash, Zippys Cafe and the fabric shops all explained, together with a local resident, the ways in which the Council had basically ignored them in their pursuit of the development. I was disappointed the programme missed the fact that Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh, who was reduced to saying that the "new units" the shops would be offered would have "extra retail space", had actually promised at this public meeting not to let the shops be demolished if the shop owners didn't want that.

That is one of the biggest broken promises of his time in office as far as Shepherd's Bush is concerned. And as the programme went on to point out, the shop keepers themselves will be unable to pay the rent in the new modern units - having been forced from being freeholders to tenants in a luxury premium rate development. But who cares about that when there's millions to be made.

Watch it - and remember that there are now only two things that can save this historic piece of London: the judicial review on May 15-16, or the prospect of Ken Livingstone taking over from Boris Johnson. I'm no fan of Ken, personally, but it's quite clear that he seems to be the last hope for the Market.

Handbags: Tories accuse Labour of wasting your cash

The Handbag: Thatcher's weapon of choice
The ruling Conservative group on H&F Council has taken a bit of a battering over allegations of tax evasion and criticism of their decision to spend money on booze ups for a leaving Chief Executive who himself was the 17th highest paid in the United Kingdom and who the Government said was over-paid.

They say attack is the best form of defence and one of the Councillors seen as a leading contender to take over from departing Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh has launched a stinging attack on the local Tory blog, which charges the Labour Opposition of being, well, a bit lazy. Worse still, he says, their laziness in not turning up to meetings has cost you the tax payer cash, as meetings have had to be rescheduled and decisions delayed. Labour retort that this is a bit rich coming from a party who intentionally bring meetings to a close in order to "go to the pub" and suggest that this attack has more to do with the H&F Conservative leadership race than anything else. Read the exchange for yourself below - you won't find it reported anywhere else...

Here's the charge sheet from Councillor Andrew Johnson, Cabinet Member for Housing:

Do we really get value for money for Labour’s £164,340 a year?

Good question and one that really needs to be explored further. We, or to be more specific you, currently pay the Labour Group £164,340 a year to oppose. But recently a worrying trend is starting to develop within Hammersmith & Fulham. For it seems despite pocketing not insignificant sums of money, that senior members of the opposition are not bothering to show up to critical meetings or hold the council to account. Failing, for example, to attend key meetings, such as Cabinet when important decisions are being taken, or even recently by failing to table amendments to the Council’s budget as it was being discussed at scrutiny meetings.

Now it might seem rather strange, as a member of the administration, for me to condemn the opposition for failing to hold us to account and scrutinise what we do. But the point remains that in a democracy we need an effective opposition to hold us to account. Especially when they are getting paid additional money for supposedly doing it!

An example of this was a recent Cabinet meeting which, among other things, agreed to set the level of rents and other charges for our council tenants for the coming year. Clearly, not an easy process, given the significant financial constraints of the current economic climate, but something you would have expected the opposition to attend to ask questions, or even propose an alternative. Yet on the night all we saw was a row of empty chairs opposite. Not one Labour Councillor showed up, which is strange considering they always claim to have such a big interest in housing. Strange, but sadly not unexpected.

It seems as though they have either given up, which doesn’t say much for their courage of conviction and staying power. Or they simply realise that this Conservative controlled council is on the right financial track and they have no alternative to offer. Whichever way you want to read it, it is not good for either the conduct of council business or for residents getting value for money from their elected representatives by this failure by the Labour Opposition to do its basic job – oppose!

Next week we have Budget Council, where we will set the budget and level of council tax for the coming year. It will be interesting to see if the opposition actually do table some amendments, or even an alternative budget – they are entitled to do so but never have. I rather suspect they will not, based upon recent performance.

Often it’s all too easy to criticise without having a credible alternative in place, yet our opposition are not even doing this.

So if you happen to spot one of them, perhaps you ought to ask them why. After all it’s your money they’re claiming, for not doing their job!

Tough stuff - but Labour Leader Stephen Cowan has a different view and comes out swinging himself. He told me yesterday that:

Hammersmith and Fulham’s Labour Opposition has become famous for holding this now infamous Conservative Administration to account. Our vigorous approach has included forcing local Conservative councillors to give back their secret 18% salary rise; we’ve made them reverse their decision to cut police numbers in the ward with the highest crime; we’ve exposed exactly how local Conservatives are bending over backwards to help property speculators blight the Borough; we uncovered nearly 600 new stealth taxes they've introduced; and we’ve uncovered their morally corrupt practice of bringing back former local government retirees as £300k a year “consultants” (plus pensions) which has therefore put them on the wrong side of UK tax laws. We continue to work closely with local residents to hold the Conservatives to account and demonstrate when they fail to be honest or when they break their commitments to the public.

This rather silly attack is the same nonsense peddled last September. Any resident who has been to the Cabinet Meetings will know that the Opposition has been forbidden to speak or ask questions. The Conservatives have made the Cabinet Meetings a sham and they often finish after just 3 or 4 minutes.

Cllr. Andrew Johnson’s attack (Con) has brought his own record into view. This has included cutting short a Select Committee meeting he was chairing so he and his fellow Conservatives could go to the pub;

admitting he hadn’t read the briefing papers when Shelter came to talk about how his housing policies could make thousands of local people homeless and admitting at a planning meeting that he didn’t know why his Administration agreed to let a property speculator remove all affordable housing (he’s the Cabinet member for Housing) from a giant building scheme in his own ward – which he then voted through against the wishes and vocal opposition of hundreds of his own constituents.

If you consider that this week’s crunch Audit Committee has had to be cancelled for the official reason that “apologies” from all four Conservative “Committee members mean that the meeting would not meet the quorum”. Then it’s questionable whether Cllr. Johnson has any idea what he talking about or whether this is some sort of back-handed attack on Cllr. Nicholas Botterill, who is an Audit Committee member, and whom Cllr. Johnson is currently competing with to be the next Conservative Council Leader.
So that's all clear then - and watch out for swinging handbags.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Air Ambulance: Police and man injured in scuffle

The Air Ambulance which landed dramatically on Shepherd’s Bush Green on Friday was called due to an arrest that went wrong, landing a police officer and a suspect in hospital. In the end the air ambulance wasn’t needed.

I’m told by police that they were called to a domestic dispute at 1100 at an address just off Goldhawk Road on Titmuss Road. A 41 year old man was involved in a dispute with a woman in her 60s and was suspected of assaulting her.

An officer attempted to arrest the man and in a scuffle both of them fell down some stairs, receiving injuries in the process. Having been taken to hospital the officer was later discharged while the suspect remains in hospital in a stable condition with a hip injury.

The community safety unit at Fulham Police Station is investigating while the Met’s Professional Standards Body will also oversee the investigation.

The Tube: BBC series starts tonight

Aldwych disused tube station - I visited in 2010
The Tube is a six part series which kicks off tonight on BBC2 at 9pm and may be worth a watch. According to excellent fellow blogger Annie Mole the first programme features the ways staff have to deal with some of their more fully refreshed passengers of an evening.

I'll be watching - some of the characters on my usual journey to work, which involves a change from the Central to the Victoria at Oxford Circus are quite interesting. There is a mohecan sporting platform assistant, and one of the most weary, tired-of-life platform announcer you've ever met. "Pleeease don't block the doors, Ladies & Gents, it's not very intelligent"!

I moved to London in 1997 and since then I've had some truly bizarre experiences underground. Helping a pregnant woman who'd fainted and fallen backwards, smacking her head on the platform was one, witnessing a mugging another and then a full scale domestic argument in which all the sordid details of what each other had done with other people was regaled to the packed carriage.

And then my tour of Aldwych, the disused tube station, complete with actors in period costume to re-create the life people lived down there during the Blitz - there's nowhere quite like the tube.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

H&F's school boxing fad: Chisora'd?

Bailey poses as tough guy - voters delivered knock out blow
Our Council loves nothing more than children learning to box - it gives otherwise pretty unfit politicians the chance to pose as rufty-toughties as this pic from unsuccessful Conservative Shepherd's Bush general election candidate Shaun Bailey demonstrates.

Sadly our police also seem to like the idea, believing that getting young lads to try and punch each other repeatedly in the head will lead them to be less, er, likely to, you know, punch other people in the head.

I've often wondered at the wisdom of this - from a health point of view since the vast majority of doctors believe that boxing is a profoundly dangerous activity - but also the logic, which seems to be completely daft.

The British Medical Association states that injuries caused by boxing include:
  • Brain damage - the blows received during boxing cause the brain to move within the skull, damaging blood vessels, nerves and brain tissue.
  • Acute brain haemorrhage - this is the lead cause of boxing deaths.
  • Eye, ear and nose damage - in some cases boxing causes permanent sight and hearing loss.
Which is why they want it banned outright for those under 16 - the very group our Council and the local Police seem to want to promote it to.

Last time I raised it publicly on Twitter, following a Chronicle report eulogising a Shepherd's Bush school Burlington Danes, for encouraging the activity I was told by a councillor that the young lads needed a route to channel their aggression. The Fulham Chronicle, as with so many things, was in full support of the Council, lavishly praising the "art and discipline" of boxing at the school.

I don't accept that logic, what about teaching young lads self control instead? I'd say that's a harder skill than punching someone. And I've seen some pretty tough lads in pretty tough places. But even if it was true what's wrong with other martial arts that doctors say are less dangerous and involve just as much physical discipline, if not more? Karate, anyone?

The answer I suggest, is that some of our politicians think that boxing is just, well, a bit sexy. And they might be hoping a bit of the tough guy stuff might rub off on their image too. Which is nearly as sad as what we saw last night in Munich. Here's the sport of boxing showing us all how their 'art and discipline' teaches young men not to punch each other in the head:

1330 UPDATE - Well, that sparked some interesting reactions! Cllr Greg Smith, who I have a lot of time for, clearly thinks I am a bit of a wet liberal who wants people to live in a "bubble wrapped world". We don't, he informs me, before suggesting that my logic implies that I shouldn't want crossing the road to be a legal activity.

No, I couldn't either.

Others have also disagreed, but more coherently, with the argument that sport is sport and it teaches discipline while one commentator on twitter said that boxing meant young men didn't have to prove themselves on the street so may fight less.

Completely respect these points of view but I still can't see what is so special about boxing. In fact, thinking about it more, what might be the other consequences of teaching young boys to "prove themselves" by fighting each other in the ring? I wonder, for example, how that links to their relationships with women and others who can't fight back.

In the meantime Derek Chisora has been arrested by the German police, presumably after threatening to "shoot and burn" David Haye. Mr Haye is likely to have his collar felt too, not least for proving his self restraint by throwing a camera tripod at someone's head. And it'll all be reenacted in the playgrounds tomorrow.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Cowan: We'll be out for Boris

Labour will be out campaigning for Boris in Hammersmith & Fulham according to ... well ... nobody actually. An embarassing slip of the tongue from Labour Opposition Leader Stephen Cowan has surfaced from the full council meeting which took place on January 25th this year.

Local Tories have jumped on the opportunity to poke fun and have released the recording which you can listen to above. What is more amusing than anything is that Mr Cowan really bellows the word out before he can stop himself, it is quite funny..

What it also raises for me, though, is two things - one just an observation and another a more interesting question. First listen to the huffing, guffawing and table thumping Mr Cowan gets from the delighted Tories, it sounds like a football crowd that are, er, fully refreshed. Such is the culture of local politics.

Secondly, I suspect that a local Conservative recorded the footage which you can now hear. Which is interesting - because every time I have been to a Council meeting for this blog the meeting has started with dire warnings from the Mayor about how if anybody is caught recording anything they will be slung out by the beefy security men that stand by the doors.

No recording allowed. No sound. No video. NOTHING. Understood?

But now it seems the Council has decided to put all recordings on their website. Which is convenient.

POSTCRIPT - In fact, I've just been told proudly by a local Conservative that the Council places sound recordings of these meetings on their website which you can listen to here. It's a committment to transparency apparently. All good stuff - but as you'll notice from this screengrab from the Council's website the recording of the 25th January 2012 in which Mr Cowan made his gaffe is not yet on the Council's website - but it is being used by local Conservatives on YouTube for party political advantage. So that's how it works. They will of course thank me for bringing that fact to your attention - all in the name of transparency.

I wonder whether the Council's website will now be speedily updated.

1315 UPDATE - The local Councillor who has been pushing CowanGate on YouTube, Peter Graham, has been in touch to point out that actually the recording is on the Council's website - if you know where to look. It's not with the rest in the main section but squirelled away as a link on the agenda of the meeting. You can see it here.I think my point still stands!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Knifeman robs woman in pub

Dawes Road W6 is a bit out of the Bush but this robbery was so horrible I thought I'd cover it since the police have put out an appeal with a photo of the alleged attacker. Please take a close look and see if you recognise him.

Detectives are appealing for information and witnesses following a robbery that occurred inside a pub on Dawes Road at approximately 15.30hrs on Monday 16 January.

A woman was sat at a table inside the premises when she was approached by the suspect who put his arm around her shoulder and threatened her with a small knife before demanding her watch, she gave it to him and he left the scene. The property stolen was a Michael Kors watch with a bronze and diamante face and bronze strap.

The victim, 37, was taken to hospital for treatment to a minor cut to her arm and later discharged.

The suspect is described as a black man with shiny skin, aged late teens to mid 20's and approximately 5ft 8in tall with a slim build. He had afro hair, a clean shaven face and was wearing a bright electric-blue puffer jacket with a red item underneath.

Police have released the above image of a male they would like to speak to in connection with this enquiry, and need your assistance in identifying him.

Detective Constable Wesley Hawkins of Hammersmith and Fulham Robbery Squad said:

"I am keen to speak to anyone who was in Dawes Road at the time and may have seen someone fitting the description of the suspect in the area or leaving the scene following the robbery."

Anyone with information is asked to call the Robbery Squad on 020 8246 2385 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Please do.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Boris comes to Hammersmith

People's Question Time will be coming to Hammersmith Town Hall on 7th March and it may well be worth grabbing yerselves a ticket which you can do here. I've been to two other events like this, which are in theory about the Mayor of London getting to answer questions directly from Londoners in a apiece of direct democracy. Doors open at 6pm.

Boris sometimes is a bit too honest at these events, such as his answer to my question to him at the event in Greenford when I asked him why no disabled facilities had been included in the new Shepherd's Bush tube station design. Adjustments for disabled people were far too expensive, he said. Oh.

This Question Time will of course be taking place only a matter of less than 8 weeks before election day - and will therefore be very well attended by press and the Mayor is likely to want to make a splash somehow. And surely this can't have had anything to do with the Mayor's decision to kaybosh the Hammersmith King Street luxury flats development can it? You may wish to have some questions to Boris about the Shepherd's Bush Market luxury flats development or any other local issues you would wish to flag up to the great man for a pre-election comment on.

I'll be there - hope to see some of you too.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Mod Bush: Fight to save Cooke's Pie & Mash

The Mods come to Goldhawk Rd - the Bush isn't defeated
The 1960s returned to W12 this Saturday afternoon as dozens of scooters stood gleaming in the winter sun outside a Bush icon - Cooke's Pie & Mash at the Market. Just a day after the Standard ran a piece on the essential place this corner of West London holds in modern British culture, legions of two wheeled warriors roared down the Goldhawk Road to let our Council know that the fight is very much not over.

H&F Council, fresh from ignoring residents once again at the infamous planning committee, have been pushing press releases out alongside property developers Orion declaring that it's all systems go for the demolishing of these much loved buildings lining the Goldhawk, some of whom have been in the same family since before 1900.

Historic Bush buildings - and their Mod defenders
This ignores the inconvenient fact that a court hearing in mid may plus the small matter of a possible change of Mayor would put the kaybosh on this scheme, aimed at making millions for property developers, just as surely as the Council's last attempt to ignore local people over King Street, Hammersmith.

In fact let's compare our Council's response to any kind of local residents campaign in, say, Fulham in the South of our Borough - to anywhere north of Hammersmith.

Down in Fulham they don't particularly want the disruption and building works that will accompany the Thames Water Super Sewer - and our Council lines up behind them enthusiastically. Nor are there any property development planning schemes in Fulham being pursued where there is large scale opposition.

Just look at how Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh (pictured below) thunders from the pulpit about how residents MUST be listened to before a planning decision that will blight the area is made. So he can do it - but only in Fulham it seems.

Greenhalgh puts Residents First - if they live in Fulham
In the North of the Borough, by contrast, we have numerous schemes which completely ignore residents wishes - Bush Market, West Ken, King Street and Ashcurch Grove to name but a few. Could this be at all connected with the fact that the ruling councillors who run H&F all live in Fulham and not in the north of the Borough?

Surely not.

TUESDAY UPDATE - Well, as the local debate seems to be getting fired up in the comments to this article a petition has been launched by the owners of Cooke's Pie & Mash which you can view and sign here. Meanwhile, the local press have still yet to report anything on either the Mod invasion of Saturday or the subsequent debate.

Evening Standard on Shepherd's Bush Market

As our Council's PR machine is in full throttle at the moment on the Market I thought I'd flag up an interesting article from last night's Evening Standard which highlights the realities rather than the spin. It underlines both the history and the character of the Pie & Mash shop, along with others, which is what makes them such an important part of the Bush.

Interestingly Richard Olsen of Orion, the property developers, is quoted in the piece as saying that they decided against doing up the old buildings on the basis that they were too decrepit. This is not the version he gave at this public meeting - I remember him clearly stating that the real reason was because they wanted to make way for a third entrance to the new Market and that not to do so would make the venture "non viable" because it wouldnt net them enough profit. At this point Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh insisted that he would not permit the buildings to be knocked down if the owners didn't want them to be - a clear public promise - which has now been broken.

I assume Mr Olsen changed his story after some helpful advice from our Council's press office, who have been working alongside Orion for rather a long time now - certainly well before the "consultation" had ended.

Friday, 10 February 2012

H&Fs Most Wanted - one down, six to go

Lucy D'Orsi & Greg Smith 
Remember H&F's "Most Wanted"? We're one down and six to go with one of the alleged ne'erdowells having handed themselves in on Wednesday to Hammersmith Police Station, perhaps as a result of having their mug paraded through the streets.

Sean Patterson who, along with Darrell Richmond, had been charged with a £2,000 jewellery theft in W12 and had failed to appear at Isleworth Crown Court on the 3rd November 2011. He has now been remanded in custody awaiting his trial for burglary later in the month.

The Wanted Offenders Campaign is part of a joint initiative between The Metropolitan Police and Hammersmith and Fulham Council which was launched on the 26th of January in Lyric Square. An initial seven wanted offenders had their 3 feet high images mounted on a van which then toured the Borough. This is part of a wider initiative to be used on the Borough to target outstanding offenders.

Enquiries are still on going regarding the other six suspects.
  • Darrell Richmond both failed to appear at Isleworth Crown Court last November after being charged with a £2,000 jewellery robbery in Shepherd's Bush.
  • Amy Libren is charged with causing actual bodily harm to her partner and possessing crystal meth, cocaine and mephedrone.
  • Phillip Brown admitted supplying crack cocaine and heroin but has been on the run after failing to turn up at Kingston Crown Court for sentencing.
  • Paul Dunkley admitted burglary of a Shepherd’s Bush jewellers but also failed to appear.
  • Maria Calvi is charged with burgling staff areas of pubs in Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith but failed to appear in court.
  • Adam Gryzec was released from prison last November after serving a year-long sentence for burglary, but broke his parole conditions.
I am, as you'll have noticed, not slow to crticise this Council when they get things wrong and in the past I've described them as a tank, rolling over the heads of local people. But they also act like a tank when it comes to crims and they deserve every bit of praise for it. Our Chief Tanker is of course Cabinet member for Law n Ordah Greg Smith, who has this to say: 

“One down, six to go. Criminals can run, but they cannot hide and in Hammersmith & Fulham we believe in a zero-tolerance crime-fighting approach. Patterson will now spend some time behind bars for the crimes he committed and we now need Londoners to have a look at the remaining six suspects so we can weed them out too.”

Borough Commander Chief Superintendent Lucy D’Orsi said: 

"I am pleased that this campaign has had an initial positive result and that the first of these offenders has handed himself in to the police. I would urge the others to do the same as my officers will continue with their enquiries aimed at bringing them to justice. Hammersmith and Fulham Police are committed to utilising new technology to fight crime, target offenders and engage with the local community."

Seriously well done to them both  - this is exactly the sort of thing H&F can claim to be doing right and setting an example that other Councils would do well to follow. Top marks. 

H&F Council & tax avoidance: Private Eye

An appearance in "Rotten Boroughs" is not something any local authority particularly wants, but it appears our Council has earned another of its regular outings due to the apparently murky financial arrangements surrounding its very highly paid "consultant" Nick Johnson, who is leading our Council's property development scheme over at West Ken, in opposition to the majority of residents who live there.

This follows my story of January 30th which revealed that Mr Johnson, who had been retired early from Bexley Council with a £300,000 payout on the grounds he was 'permanently unfit' to work. He was hired months later by H&F for £950 per day. 

This prompted Teresa Pearce MP, whose constituency includes Bexley and who was formerly a senior tax investigator at PricewaterhouseCoopers, to say to the Independent on Sunday that, while the arrangement was legal, "it's not within the spirit of the law, definitely not". She added: "Within a year of him being judged to be in permanently ill health he was pictured in a hard hat, with a spade, digging, in a brochure for H&F Homes – this is just so barefaced that it's insulting. Whatever he is paid for holding that office should go through the payroll and it doesn't. HMRC should investigate this."

The story has now also been followed up by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism but not, as yet, by the local press. 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Shepherd's Bush Market: Council PR machine revs

The Council, as predicted, has not been slow to laud last night's decision of the infamous planning committee to overrule the traders and shop-owners of Shepherd's Bush Market and the Goldhawk Road and give the go-ahead for Orion to build seven floors of luxury flats on top of it.

Here's a couple of quotes from Pravda:

H&F Council Leader, Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, said:  

“There is very little doubt that Shepherds Bush Market needs significant improvement if it is to survive. People have been telling the council for many years that it needs to be protected and enhanced and these plans will ensure that it will flourish, with more people visiting and market traders enjoying a more secure and prosperous future. We fully recognise the market’s rich heritage and character and this scheme will build upon its diversity to reaffirm the market as one of London’s leading tourist destinations.

“Shepherds Bush really is on the up as a place to live, work and visit. The town was recently named as one of London’s most desirable places to live and that is partly due to the market regeneration and the Shepherds Bush Green revamp that is due to start imminently.”

Richard Olsen of Orion Shepherds Bush Limited said:  

“We’re very pleased with the outcome; it’s good news for the market and the area. The proposals will see the market regenerated and enhanced by introducing much needed investment and positioning it at the heart of a new high-quality mixed-use scheme. Our proposals seek to build upon its historic legacy, maintaining the diversity but at the same time implementing essential improvements to ensure the market becomes a destination in its own right.”

All of this ignores not only local people but the simple fact that an election on May 1st stands to stop this in its tracks, just as surely as our Council's attempt to railroad the King Street development was. It also ignores that a Court hearing scheduled for 15-16 May, even if Boris wins, also has the power to stop the redevelopment in its current shape.

So I leave you with a comment from the owners of Cooke's Pie & Mash shop on Goldhawk Road which is now scheduled to be demolished along with the rest of the 19 century row of shops in that part of the Bush:

"More lies told by the council working hand in hand with the developers. We will keep fighting".

And so they will.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Ken & Brian on Police, Tories on, er, something else

Timing is everything in politics. And on the day that Labour and LibDems have just launched two videos on policing, some Conservatives have released one attacking what they feel are benefits scroungers who they accuse of spending their benefits on drugs. The folks at Boris HQ will be tairing their blonde manes out.

The Livingstone and Paddick operations, Labour and LibDem, have both stepped up their attacks on the cut in Police numbers that Boris admits has taken place under his Mayoralty, with each campaign releasing videos that you can watch above and below. Ken's is a bit OTT but the point is about people having their voice heard while Paddick's is more a chatty interview type piece.

Neither candidate particularly likes the other but it's quite clear the person they really want to unseat is Boris and I would expect them to co-operate at some point in the campaign with the polls still indicating that Boris could lose. So expect policing to be a major issue between now and May - and if you want a taste of what local policing looks like in Shepherd's Bush you could read about one Saturday night policing the Bush or one extraordinary raid with the police I took part in here.

Here's Paddick:

Meanwhile Tory supporters have released their own video, also today, depicting unemployed people as "lazy" including a woman who calls herself a "lazy cow" and is on drugs including "heroin and crack". It's been tweeted by Toby Young, H&F's favourite Free Schooler:

1205 UPDATE: Andy Slaughter had the first question at today's Prime Minister's Questions where he raised the issue of police cuts with David Cameron. Rather excruciatingly for Mr Slaughter given yesterday's events the Prime Minister had started the session by paying tribute to the Queen, which Mr Slaughter then had to echo. His claim was that Boris had cut numbers - the PM pointed out that crime was down. And that there were dangers of careless Tweeting...

Shepherd's Bush Market: Meeting with traders, MP & Council

On Monday a meeting took place between traders, the shopkeepers of the Goldhawk Road, MP Andy Slaughter, Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh and one or two Council planning officers. The aim was to air some of the issues relating to the plan to allow Orion to redevelop the Market ahead of what will doubtless be a boisterous and largely farcical planning committee meeting this evening, where Conservative councillors will nod the scheme through despite the widespread opposition that exists. It's by now a time-honoured practice of our Council.

One of the residents at the meeting has written an account of it which I reproduce below. I understand from an impeccable source that the Council's press team have been working closely with Orion for a number of months now to promote the scheme (even while it is still in theory subject to "consultation") and you can expect there to be a positive spin put out just after tonight's meeting about how wonderful it all is and how everyone agrees with it, really. Like they did after the planning committee meeting on King Street. They clearly didn't persuade Boris.

So to balance things out here is a perspective from an ordinary resident who cares about their Market and their area, and wouldn't normally have their voice heard through the Council/Developer spin machine:

"Yesterday a group of the Goldhawk Road Shopkeepers & their legal counsel Michael Webster; James Horada Shepherds Bush Market Traders Association; Rosemary Petit Save our Skyline/ Resident and myself (Shepherds Bush Green Ward resident) attended a meeting that was arranged by labour MP Andy Slaughter with Stephen Greenhalgh about the regeneration project".

I would like to extend a big Thank You to those who managed to take the time from their day to represent the various groups and express our grave misgivings of the development project. Despite the arguments presented against the project it was clear the LBHF Planning Officers have every intention of pushing this project through. 

The group of representatives expressed that whilst they were happy with the idea of regenerating Shepherds Bush Market and the surrounding area they are very uncomfortable with allowing the development of a 9 storey 212 unit private apartment at the expense of the local community. Following are examples of the points made.

When asked why the Goldhawk Road shops were included in the Market Regeneration Project despite never being part of the market Matt Butler (LBHF planning) explained the Shepherds Bush Market site is somewhat awkward therefore a group of council planners sat around a table and decided as the Goldhawk Road shops are not listed and of no architectural value it was logical to include them in the development footprint.

When asked if they had considered what impact losing the shops would have on the community he said no. Consequently our community is under threat because a group of council people who most probably do not live in the area decided including the Homeless Shelter and 30 - 52 Goldhawk Road made logical sense in creating a site worthy of development. 

Once again the question was posed as to why no other developers were invited to tender or considered for the Shepherds Bush Market Regeneration development project? Yet again the council failed to provide an answer. 

Despite the relatively high level of objection the public have submitted against this Shepherds Bush Market Regeneration planning application and the Supplementary Planning Document facing a Judicial Review on May 15th - 16th 2012 the council planning officers have recommended its approval. 

That is why I am putting out a CALL FOR ACTION!

1. LBHF planning committee are meeting tomorrow 8th February 2012, 19:00pm at the Hammersmith Town Hall on Kings Street to decide Orion Shepherds Bush Limited's planning application for the Shepherds Bush Market Regeneration. IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE RALLY AS MANY OBJECTORS AS POSSIBLE TO ATTEND THIS MEETING AND ENSURE OUR CONERNS ARE PROPERLY REPRESENTED AS THE PLANNING COMMITTEE CONSIST OF A MAJORITY OF CONSERVATIVE COUNCILLORS WHO ARE LIKELY TO TOW THE PARTY LINE REGARDLESS OF PUBLIC OPINION.

2. The Council planning officers report on the Shepherds Bush Market Regeneration Programme planning (LBHF Planning Committee Public Report scroll down to page 121) seeks to disregard the Supplementary Planning Document which is the subject of a Judicial Review and the only opportunity the Market Traders and Residents (i.e. only Lime Grove & Pennard Road) were afforded to provide recorded feedback at the beginning of this project proposal. Additionally despite the unusually high number of objections received against the planning application (majority in support of the Goldhawk Road shops) the council are recommending the planning application be approved. This to me is a clear indication LBHF council do not have the interest of the community at heart and as such it is left to us (i.e. local tax payers) to let the authorities and the rest of the country know exactly how we feel. THEREFORE I AM ASKING YOU TO BLOG & TWEET TO THE VARIOUS COMMUNITIES INVITING THEM TO JOIN US AND MAKE PEOPLE AWARE THEY TOO COULD BE FACING THE SAME SITUATION.

3. It is conservatively projected the developers may make a clear profit of £30- £40 Million from this project. However

a. The development will not include 40% affordable housing as previously stated;

b. the commercial space provided in the proposed plan is significantly smaller than the existing shops which means it would be impossible to re-house the Goldhawk Road shops in the new development as indicated at the public meetings;

c. The compensation package being offered for loss of business during the construction period (8-10 years) is £500,000 for over 150 market traders (note: it is unclear whether the Shopkeepers are included in this package as well). That is approximately £3300 per trader over a significant period, which is woefully low and is likely to lead to the stalls having to shut despite serving this community for 98 years.


THURSDAY UPDATE - As expected the Conservative members of the planning committee ignored local opposition and nodded the scheme through last night.