Thursday, 30 August 2012

Rylett Road stabbing: Piotr Mikewicz dies; Six arrests

Tributes on Rylett Road
The victim of the stabbing incident yesterday, Piotr Mikewicz, has died. He passed away in hospital this afternoon, having received a stab wound which pierced his heart. He received one other stab wound to his bottom. He died surrounded by his wife and brothers, but sadly not the rest of his family back in Poland - there just wasn't enough time to get them over here.

This is a man who tackled a burglar coming out of a house he would never have been able to afford in a million years, but had such a deep sense of right and wrong he was prepared to defend the property of people many times wealthier than him. He paid for that goodness with his life.

I can also tell you this evening that the police have, this afternoon, made six arrests. One man is in custody on suspicion of murder while five others are charged with assisting an offender. Here's what the police have just told me:
A street cleaner who was stabbed after trying to stop a burglar from getting away in west London has died from his injuries.

The man, aged 40, died in St Mary’s Hospital Paddington earlier today, Thursday 30 August. Although police believe they know the man’s identity, we await formal identification.

At approx 13:50hrs on Wednesday 29 August, police were called to Rylett Road, W12, regarding an assault.

A man had suffered a stab wound to the torso.

The deceased is from Eastern Europe - exact nationality awaits.

A post-mortem examination date and venue to be arranged.

Five people have been arrested today in connection with the incident.

[A] a man aged 30 was arrested on suspicion of murder. He is currently in custody at a central London police station.

Two other men [B and C] and three women [D, E and F] have all been arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.
You can read more here

I have to say on a personal note today has been a difficult day but also a reassuring one. Difficult given the truly awful news about what was clearly a man with more bravery inside him than most of us will ever have, but reassuring having seen something of the way in which the police were going about their investigation.

Reassurance patrols are underway
In the meeting I attended as a member of the Independent Advisory Group this morning I met the investigating team. This was a group of people who were very clearly focussed on one thing and one thing only. They had little time for anything else, quite understandably, but even under those circumstances they clearly had great respect for the victim and his family, about which much concern was expressed. And the resulting arrests this evening stand testament to that determination, for which they deserve the community’s thanks.

So there we have it. A truly dark 48 hours in the history of Shepherd’s Bush.

One man who came here from the other side of Europe in order to work hard and provide for his family, and who didn’t just sweep those streets but cared enough about the people who lived on them, most of whom he never got to meet, to the point where he would fight to protect their property has lost his life.

People like him are both very rare and utterly irreplaceable, and we have all lost as a result.

Today's headlines are soon gone
Another five, along with the suspected killer, are locked up and will go to court.

Much will be written about this incident in the days and weeks to come. It’s right up most journalists’ street, so you can expect to see lots of “have a go hero” headlines and the rest. I would hope that whatever does get written is done with respect and dignity for Piotr and his family, and that includes the language that is used about the incident itself.

For the rest of us it’s time to reflect. The incident was a one-off and it doesn’t represent what happens in our area. There’s no danger to the public. We can take some reassurance that the police have done what they are there to do, and done it well.

But, for the time being at least, we can only mourn the passing of someone who represented everything that is good about decent people, and was prepared to fight for what was right. Rest in Peace, Piotr. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Rylett Road stabbing: Burglar disturbed

Ashchurch Terrace this evening
A street cleaner has been stabbed after disturbing a burglary on Rylett Road W12. The condition of the street cleaner is not yet known but an air ambulance is presently landing in Wendell Park in order to give assistance.

Some other roads have been temporarily closed in order to assist with the investigation and getting help to the street cleaner. But no incident has taken place on Ashchurch Terrace itself. 

I have all of this information confirmed by the local Police and will update on details as they come in. In the meantime if any of you witnessed anything get in touch with the Police as soon as you can.

1455 UPDATE - The Police have asked me to advise any witnesses or those with any information about this case to please call 101 quoting "CAD4740". I understand road closures will be in place for the time being whilst a crime scene investigation team does their work. 

1730 UPDATE - the local press are beginning to catch up, having been tipped off by a reader, but they haven't published anything yet:

1820 UPDATE - Have just spoken to Police again. I appreciate some of you may have information to the contrary but as far as they are concerned *at this time* the victim has not died. He was, however, stabbed in the chest and is therefore very seriously hurt. I will keep updating throughout this evening and will know more tomorrow. 

1255 THURSDAY UPDATE - I attended a meeting this morning as a member of the Independent Advisory Group (IAG), a group intended to liaise with the police regularly to help both the police and the communities in our area know what each other are up to, how they feel and what they need. Clearly this is an upsetting incident and I know a number of you have been in touch directly with me to express your shock and some have shared your feelings in the comments here too. 

Coming out of the meeting I was immensely reassured. Both that this incident is without any shadow of a doubt a one-off, and that there is no knock-on risk to anyone living, visiting or working in the area, but also that the police are very well aware of the need to share information with us when they can. 

The facts are essentially that a street cleaner saw a burglary taking place and tackled an individual, who then responded with extreme violence, resulting in the cleaner suffering stab wounds. He is very seriously ill indeed at St Mary's Hospital. To say he was brave in tackling the burglar would be an understatement.

The police have multiple lines of inquiry which they are looking into and would ask any of you who have any information that havent already shared it to do so. Call 101. The suspect they are seeking, who ran from the scene towards Goldhawk Road, is described as white, approximately 6'00" tall and wearing a pale shirt and blue jeans.

We know Askew Road has had violent incidents before related to drugs. This isn't one of them. The area as far as I can see, and I am there daily, is on the up. And we owe that not only to the police who are prepared to put themselves in harms way to keep it that way but also to the untold heroes who keep the streets clean and everything working. This incident underlines just how heroic they can be.

When I have more I will share it with you. In the meantime please try to treat speculation you may hear from the press or elsewhere with some skepticism unless it is a direct quote from the police. Anything else is guesswork on their part and unhelpful to both the police and the victims' family. 

Residents need to check in and out of the road
1700 UPDATE THURSDAY Cllr Greg Smith, H&F Council Deputy Leader, has said this:
"One of the borough's street cleaners is fighting for his life after he was stabbed in the chest by a suspected burglar, who he spotted, on Rylett Road yesterday. An air ambulance landed in nearby Wendell Park and our street cleaner was taken to St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, where he remains in critical condition. 
"Although this is an isolated incident, it is deeply shocking that this genuine act of bravery should end in such brutal violence and everyone at the council is thinking of our brave colleague at this difficult time. We understand that the Police investigation is ongoing and we are hopeful that an arrest will be made soon."
A number of you have asked about sending flowers or support to the victim via Serco - I will be in touch with them and get back to you about this.

1930 UPDATE THURSDAY - I am so very very sorry to have to report that the victim has died. His name was Piotr Mikewicz  and  he passed away this afternoon in hospital from a stab wound which pierced his heart. I will have another update very shortly here on developments.

2005 UPDATE THURSDAY - Cllr Greg Smith, Hammersmith & Fulham Council Deputy Leader, has just released this statement:
"Everyone at the council is deeply saddened by the tragic news that Piotr Mikewicz, who was one of the borough's dedicated street cleaners, has died after being stabbed by some scum of the earth who obviously has no regard for human life. Piotr was a hard-working man, who was a friendly face to all who knew him on his regular beat.

"Piotr was a family man who courageously tried to intervene when he spotted a crime in progress and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this extremely difficult time.

“Although this is an isolated incident, it is deeply shocking that Piotr's genuine act of bravery should end in such brutal violence and we trust that the perpetrators of this evil will be brought to justice swiftly."
Arrests have been made - all details here. As one of you just commented, rest in peace Piotr.

West Ken: Veil of secrecy descends

Letter Our Council has decided to hunker down in a bunker, it would seem, and flatly deny any further requests from the residents of the estates they wish to demolish for information until after they have gone through the motions and approved the scheme at their Cabinet meeting of September 3rd.

This is not the first time H&F Council have resorted to the dark arts of secrecy. In June we saw how the Council had attempted to block residents from viewing responses to their 'consultation' on the scheme, only to be forced to back down when they went public. At that time their Executive Director of Housing and Regeneration had tried to use "data protection issues" as a means by which he could deny them more than 45 minutes in a room with the responses. As if everyone's data would be infringed by more than three quarters of an hours exposure.

The more we learn of the process and procedures used by this Council to get their way the more flimsy they seem when subjected to scrutiny. Which is why the community organiser working with the residents submitted some requests using the Freedom of Information Act, hoping to shine a light on those processes ahead of the Cabinet meeting on September 3rd.

He didn't ask for anything outrageously private, just for reasoning behind their decisions to exclude some views from the 'consultation', or the delays in the process. Take the letter above, for example, asking for the reasoning behind the views of children living on the estate being excluded from consideration. Why don't kids aged 12 or under count, he is asking.

He asked this on July 30th. The Council in its' response is saying thanks very much for asking. You asked well before the deadline. We're only allowed 20 days to answer. But actually, you know what, this question is so damned complicated we need another 20 days on top. So you might get an answer by September 25th - precisely 22 days AFTER the decision to demolish the estates has been taken anyway.

That is the commitment our Council has to transparency. And it's cynical in the extreme. So let's remind ourselves of this incendiary information that our Council thinks it needs the best part of two months to cogitate about.

Here's 9 year old Ana who was surrounded by H&F security guards as she handed her letter to a council official:
To: The Governor or to whom it may concern 
I am writing to ask why you are knocking our houses down, in West Kensington Gibbs Green. 
I understand you want to make plant, cycle parking and things like that, but there are going to be lots of happy memories here. Instead of knocking our houses down just change the name of the area instead. 
It’s really sad for us because not only adults live here but babies, children and old age people. I know it’s until next year but, my mum has a new born baby, so where will we live and where am I going to play with my little brother? 
If you want to reply to my letter then send it into this address. 
I hope this letter has changed your mind about your plans. Thanks you for reading this letter. 
Yours sincerely
Ana-Maria9 years old.
The Council's response has been to deny, to delay and to do everything in its power to undermine. The money on offer from developers CapCo matters more. And that, ladies and gents, is why the residents have given up on them and are going to the Government in a last ditch attempt to save the homes and the community they love.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

West Ken residents issue Cameron challenge

H&F Planning Committee
Our Council's infamous planning committee will rubber stamp the local authority's plans to allow property developers CapCo to demolish the West Kensington & Gibbs Green estate against the wishes of the majority of residents on the 12th September, after a Cabinet meeting on the 3rd. There will be a little bit of pantomime at both meetings, as usual, and then the plans will be nodded through as they stand.

This follows numerous wars of words between the Council and residents, with the Council having funded an alternative residents group in order to have someone to agree with them. Until the chair of that group resigned in disagreement too. Money well spent. 

Given that this apparently flies in the face of the Government's oft-quoted Big Society ideas of handing power to local people, especially where they already value their existing local communities, the residents are shooting over the councillors heads and aiming right for the man at the top.

Here's what they say on their "People's Estates" blog:
What will the Government do next year when the Council applies for consent to dispose of our homes? Will the Prime Minister champion his Big Society by refusing the sale and demolition of the People’s Estates? Will he empower us to take charge, or will he impose the politicians and property and financial speculators on us? We don’t want to see him in the driving seat of the bulldozer that destroys our community and removes the last shred of credibility from his most heartfelt belief!

Sally Taylor and Diana Belshaw, Chairs of the two residents associations, said:

We remain true to the principles of the Big Society, and we stand firm by our belief that local people should take greater charge of where they live so they can exercise more responsibility for their environment and assume better care of their neighbours. We occupy the ground; these are our homes; and we shall restore ownership to the local community. Politicians and profiteers may come and go, but we the people shall never surrender.
Sterling stuff. And it comes as the Prime Minister is being ridiculed by senior members of his own party for needing to show he is made of sterner stuff. Is he a man or a mouse, they ask?

The Government has over-ruled H&F before, most dramatically when it forced the shut down of propaganda rag H&F News, very much against the wishes of the local authority. And the Council knows it could happen again, with former Leader Stephen Greenhalgh so worried he was at one time reduced to scribbling personal pleas to Ministers that "he really needed [your] help on this one!"

So, what's it to be? The Big Society or Big Bucks? 

Heathrow runway u-turn ahead?

The signs look ominous. Senior Ministers saying they can't "bind their hands" for the future and welcome lobbying in favour of it and senior back-benchers publicly warning that the third runway is some kind of virility test for the Prime Minister - is he a man or a mouse they ask?

We're about two and a half years away from a General Election and it seems very much like the vexed issue of a third runway for Heathrow is set to be a local political theme that dominates our choice of MP when it comes. Our current one, Andy Slaughter, resigned from the last Government when it decided to support the new runway and in so doing ended his Ministerial career, but kept his parliamentary one. 

Neighbouring MP Conservative Greg Hands is vulnerable on the issue, his constituency being even more under the flight paths than this one, only as far as it would be quite embarrassing. He is a Whip which means his job is to ensure the Government's business gets done and they don't lose any votes, so he would in theory be part of a Government performing a u-turn and delivering a reduction in quality of life to his constituents. 

But his is a rock-solid Tory seat so he doesn't have to resign if he doesn't want to. 

Our Council, and those of surrounding boroughs, are uniformly against the plan with many backing the Prime Minister in Waiting's alternative proposal of an airport in the Thames Estuary, the so-called "Boris Island".

The problem for them however is that Boris' backing for the option, following his eclipsing of the Prime Minister during the Olympics and rude calls for Cameron to "stop pussyfooting around" almost certainly ensure it will never happen while Cameron rules the roost.

And even within H&F Council there are cracks, with leading councillor Harry Phibbs leaving the door very much ajar when he spoke to me in March this year:

Great news! But, hang on, what's this...


Susana Mendonça completes this BBC piece with an interview with Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative representing Richmond Park, who seems to think that there won't be anything in the next Tory manifesto that rules in a third runway but nothing that rules it out either. In that case he'd never stand as a Tory again he says proudly.

So where does this pantomime leave the ordinary person, for whom this decision will directly affect their quality of life? Nowheresville it seems. Is it any wonder so many people don't bother to vote anymore?

Sunday, 26 August 2012

White City flooded in latest Thames Water burst

Wood Lane was flooded by another burst main from Thames Water this afternoon, threatenting the closure of the central line next door and leading police to cordon off parts of the road. Residents reported being fearful for their properties while the utility company was forced to switch off the water supply to the area. You can see the extraordinary scenes in the video above taken by Rob Coxwell.

This is not the first example of water being massively wasted by Thames Water, it seems to be a regular occurence. And as an illustration of how much importance they seem to attach to talking to ordinary people they studiously ignored all references to it on their Twitter feed - until Greater London Authority member Murad Qureshi responded to one of my own tweets and asked where it was. All of a sudden there was an immediate explanation.

 So you may wish to bear that in mind next time you see another Thames Water advert telling you not to waste water. Nobody wastes it on the scale of Thames Water themselves.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Hammersmith fails disabled on Paralympic eve

Not welcome in Hammersmith
Boris once told me, to my face and in public, that it was just too expensive to make Shepherd's Bush tube station accessible for disabled Londoners.

And that was after having spent £39 million on consultants with nothing to show for it.

You might think lessons had been learned ahead of the biggest disability sporting event in the world, when first class facilities are being made available in our own borough for those athletes and local people, such as these in Ravenscourt Park.

But read this account by a wheelchair user who tried travelling to Hammersmith to use the wheelchair ramps that Transport for London had proudly announced would be there, and you find that the reality experienced by disabled people themselves is often very different to what the politicians and officials proclaim. Sorry guv, no ramps and no staff to use them.

I wonder if the pen pushers would be quite so relaxed about this issue if they were the ones in the wheelchairs.

Shepherd's Bush: Police update

Sgt Gilbert
Sergeant Steve Gilbert, of our award winning Safer Neighbourhood Team, has written an update for residents of W12 on the latest goings-on and offers some advice on those of you not wishing to be victims of crime anytime soon.

In particular there was an attempted robbery on Frithville Gardens this week which is worth knowing about since the would be robbers may try it again.

Now read on...

Burglary crime rate is coming down. Part of this reason is members of community like you are calling the police to alert us to suspicious incidents and suspicious people. A prompt response by police is stopping the suspects before they commit crime and sending a clear message from us all that we are watching out for them.

In the Shepherds Bush area the burglary rate is very low.

Last night an unknown suspect tried to jemmy open a downstairs window of a house in Frithville Gardens W12. They didn't manage to get in but this has alerted us that they may try again in the area. Some burglars commit several crimes before they are caught so we want to catch this suspect promptly.

On this occasion they have tried to force open a sash window. If you have a sash window please make sure that all ground floor windows and accessible first floor windows are kept locked when you are not around. If they have no lock then I strongly advise you get one. On many occasions in my experience a person with an apparently painted shut, hasn't opened for years sash window has had it forced open by a burglar, so please lock it.

Please look after your own property and look out for your neighbours.

If you see a suspicious person loitering in someone's garden then call 999 immediately. We want to catch them. Make a note of what they look like and where they go if they leave before we get there. If it is an innocent person, no worry, we are fair people and prefer to attend and assess all calls. There is no recourse back on you. If necessary we do not need to attend your home so no one will even know it was you that has called?

Another subject whilst I have your attention is that of Pickpockets and Bag Thieves. Unlike Burglary these crimes are still increasing. We need your help and support to look after your belongings whilst you are out. Never leave your bag under a chair or hanging on the back of a baby's push chair. I have seen video footage of several persons taking property from this situation and to be honest no one around them bats an eyelid. Please keep a look out for suspicious people and when possible please alert the security or the police. It can be devastating to someone when they lose their mobile phone or their laptop computer in this way.

Thanks for all your help,


One pound fish!

Market patter is one of the sights and sounds of London and has been for centuries, and here is an example of a guy who is a master of his craft. Trading out of Upton Park Market he sells fish. For one pound. And is a local legend, especially on match day, as the video shows! He is a Bengali Del-Boy and just needs a Rodney.

So what's this got to do with the Bush? Not much, at first sight but it's the best example I've seen on film at least of what we stand to lose in our neck of the woods now that the Council's scheme, ruled illegal at the High Court but being pursued anyway, seems set to go ahead.

Do you really want a line of boutiques instead?

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

QPR join fight to save local hospitals

Mark Hughes
QPR boss Mark Hughes joined players, including Clint Hill, Jamie Mackie and Shaun Derry, today to don ‘Save Hammersmith Hospital’ t-shirts to show their support for the campaign to prevent two A&E units closing in Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F).

Striker Jamie Mackie, 27, said:
“Everyone at QPR FC fully supports the petition to prevent the closure of the Accident and Emergency unit at Hammersmith Hospital. The unit offers an invaluable service to the local community and we hope this can be allowed to continue for many years to come.”
QPR join Fulham FC as the second top-flight football club to back the community campaign to retain premier league hospitals in west London.

Controversial plans to scrap the A&E departments at Hammersmith Hospital, as well as the A&E and hyper acute stroke unit at Charing Cross, were unveiled by hospital bosses in June.

Jamie Mackie
H&F Council has been supporting the campaign against the proposals along with a broad coalition of businesses and residents from a range of backgrounds chaired by MP Andy Slaughter with both warning that local people will be left dangerously far away from emergency care out of borough, if the NHS plans go ahead. This unity across the political spectrum is unheard of in our neck of the woods and it needs to be maintained for the campaign to stand any chance of success.

The council has organised a public scrutiny meeting on September 18 where hospital bosses will take questions from residents and a panel of experts. The council has also appointed a former NHS Chief Executive, Tim Rideout, to help scrutinise the NHS business case.

Cllr Marcus Ginn, H&F Council Cabinet Member for Community Services, says:
“Our community campaign to going from strength to strength and it is marvellous to have such huge support from residents and business in the borough – including the stars from QPR.

“QPR has a long and distinguished history in our borough and they understand how devastating it would be if we lost two A&E units.

“I would like to thank everyone who has supported the campaign so far - but this is only the beginning. We need as many people as possible to sign our petitions, display the posters and come along to the public scrutiny meeting on September 18 so the NHS bureaucrats re-think their plans.”
The details of the next public meeting are:

Hammersmith Town Hall
Tuesday, September 18

You can sign a petition opposing both hospitals closure here

Bush Oxjam 2012: Pub Quiz plus Brett Anderson's view

Oxjam Shepherd's Bush 2012 is nearly upon us, and ahead of the big day former Suede singer Brett Anderson has had this to say about the whole idea. Get yer tickets here, and more info about the bands on offer this year here.

In the meantime, on August 30th, you might want to take part in the Oxjam Pub Quiz at Shepherd's Bar W14. Details below:

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bush Green open in October

Shepherd's Bush Green: deserted
The locals are not happy! Many of you have been expressing your anger at the slack effort that seems to charecterise the current works on the Green, being carried out by contractors FM Conway.

A number of people have asked me for the latest on this so I have been speaking to our Council, who tell me the latest expectation is that it will re-open in October.

Now then, before we all lay into either the Council or the contractors, it’s worth bearing in mind that they have had what has at times seemed like the will of the Gods conspiring against them. The discovery of dangerous chemicals, followed by unexploded ordnance from the Second World War can hardly be an easy thing to deal with – and of course it has been one of the wettest summers on record, ensuring that the patch of land started to resemble no-mans-land at the Somme.

That of course also follows the delays which were as a result of the dispute between our Council and local residents which needed to be resolved by an independent arbiter.

However – it does also seem to be the case that FM Conway’s work teams seem to be on some kind of super EU working hours contract that involves long leisurely breaks and very early end times to the day.

Speaking to me earlier the Cabinet Member responsible for the works Cllr Greg Smith had this to say:
“Despite major factors outside the council's control, including the wettest summer on record, the discovery on an unexploded World War Two bomb close to the site and a small amount of contaminants in the underlying soil, work to rejuvenate Shepherds Bush Green is on schedule with the open space likely to officially reopen in October.

"The new Green will undoubtedly benefit everyone who lives near, visits or works in and around Shepherds Bush, as well as rejuvenating a park that really needs a boost and we look forward to it reopening in the near future.”
We certainly do.

WEDNESDAY 1420 UPDATE - Well, after promising for about 24 hours the contractors FM Conway have responded to this article and not a few comments from local people - some of which involved taking the project out of their hands and outsourcing to local pizza workers - with this statement to me this afternoon:
"At present our site hours are 7.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday as agreed within the current contract.

Design complications and unforeseen circumstances such as inclement weather has hampered work progress, however, we did continue with the works that could be done in order to keep the project on track as much as possible.

We do recognise that the delays are frustrating for residents but we are working closely with London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham to deliver this fantastic new scheme for the community to a very high standard. 
The scheme is due to be complete in Autumn 2012. Updates on progress will be available at"
I'm not sure that really moves us forward but it was good of them to respond. Now then - are they always there at 0730?!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Mudlarks: New play at the Bush

Bush Theatre on opening day
Did you know you can get cheap tickets at the Bush Theatre if you live in W12? Join as a "Bush Local" member on their website and they'll email you details of new shows coming up complete with a pricing structure that is a little kinder to your wallet.

Coming next is a production called "Mudlarks" which, from my phillistine's vantage point, seems to be one of those intense-find-out-stuff-you-never-knew-about-each-other things. Set on a mudflat it features a bunch of young lads on the run and nowhere to go but to talk to each other about deep stuff.

Here's the write up:
The water looks sort of angry, don’t it? Racing across the mud. Like it’s coming for us! Haven’t got long. We have to move soon.

On the muddy banks of the River Thames, downstream from the bright lights of London, three boys hide from the police after a night of recklessness. Over the course of the freezing night their fears, secrets and dreams emerge, collide and combust revealing the desperate frustration of lives barely led but already ravaged. 

Essex-born Vickie Donoghue’s powerful debut exposes the culture she grew up with and sees on a daily basis. With brutal honesty she explores how the impulse to dream is futile in the context of a reality that has no space for dreamers. A sell-out show at Theatre503 and HighTide Festival, Mudlarks heralds the arrival of an urgent new voice in British theatre.
The Bush Theatre is one of the gems of W12 and well worth a visit, if only to use the cafe during the day. They have somewhat strained relations with their immediate neighbours in the Market, being firm believers and supporters of the Council's plan to allow Orion the property developers to build their flats on top of it, but that shouldn't stop you investigating the very well thought-of productions that regularly feature on their stage.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Boris Bikes: Westfield pay not a penny

Westfield: Free PR
Westfield have still not paid a penny toward the cost of the Boris Bike docking stations in Shepherd's Bush, Transport for London have disclosed in response to a freedom of information request submitted by excellent blog MayorWatch.

So that's not one shilling towards the huge amount of good PR sent their way throughout the Olympics for hosting the stations. 

You may remember the local press here reported the good news story that the bikes were coming to the Bush, repeating a Boris press release with no questions asked. Much tribute was paid to corporate giants Westfield for supporting the scheme, along with Boris' favourite banker, Bob Diamond (formerly) of Barclays Bank.

The Fulham Chronicle gushed: "Mr Johnson says the expansion, made possible with a £4m cash windfall from Westfield and a further £50m from sponsors Barclay's, won't be the last"

But it turned out, surprise surprise, not to be quite so attractive as the pre-written press coverage claimed. No, you the taxpayer were in fact stumping up £2million for the privilege courtesy of H&F Council alongside Westfield and Barclays' munificence. And we found that out by my asking the Council press office a simple question, which wasn't difficult.

Diamond: Boris Banker/Biker
Now it turns out that while you the taxpayer have stumped up on time, with no public vote of thanks from our Mayor, our neighbours at Westfield have basked in all of this great PR without handing over a penny.

The first installment is expected next month, apparently, whileTfL have also been forced to admit they have no idea when, if ever, the scheme will be self-funding.

Transport for London say curtly:
"TfL has not received any money from Westfield as of the date of your request. Under the terms of the agreement with Westfield no payments are due as of yet".
Well, that's OK then!

1730UPDATE - Responding to this story the Leader of the LibDems and Chair of the Transport Committee at the London Assembly says this:
"Westfield have had a year of favourable publicity from the bike hire scheme, yet incredibly have not yet coughed up a penny towards supporting it." 
"Two years after it started it is crystal clear the London bike hire scheme is being heavily subsidised by taxpayers, yet the Mayor's obsession is merely to heap praise on companies that contribute so very little. 
"Just as with Barclays Bank it seems the Mayor is happy to take ordinary Londoners for a ride."

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Police chase vehicle smash in W12

A police car involved in a car chase collided with a vehicle resulting in one arrest and an ongoing search for another according to a statement I have been sent this afternoon.

This follows inquiries from several of you who had come across what sounds like a pretty dramatic scene last night.

Here's the official version:
"Officers from Paddington, Brent and FH were involved in the pursuit of a vehicle stolen during a burglary in Paddington on the 13/08.

A collision occurred between a police vehicle and the stolen vehicle. The two males in the stolen vehicle ran off, one was detained in a garden nearby, the other made good his escape. An officer from Brent was injured during the incident.

A 20 yr old male remains in custody at Wembley Police Station where he is being questioned in relation to numerous burglaries, theft from motor vehicles, dangerous driving. The male was also wanted for being recalled to prison by the Home Office. CID officers from Brent, Paddington andNotting Hill are dealing with him".
And here's how things looked to Luke, a reader of this blog speaking earlier:
"I was walking home at 2200 last night to find a number of police cars, vans around the Green pub on the Uxbridge road and side streets.
 A police van had rammed a VW onto the curb on the wrong side of the road and there were about 20 policemen/women. A young policeman was on a step in complete shock by Shepherd's bush market station being helped by his colleagues. As I walked on a helicopter arrived".

Local policing changes afoot

Shepherd's Bush Station: set to be sold?
Changes are afoot to policing in Shepherd's Bush. As widely trailed the Safer Neighbourhood Teams, with whom I have spent several shifts, are to be scrapped and replaced with "Neighbourhood Policing Teams" as part of a plan called a "Local Policing Model".

Make sense? No, me either but you've always got to worry when new labels are brought out in an environment in which even the police themselves are warning about the impact of the proposed cuts on their ability to fight crime, with Met Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison being the latest to do so only today.

Ringing in the changes is our own Police Commander Lucy D’Orsi who has launched her own blog with a post listing the changes. In it she emphasises that the numbers of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) will remain the same and doesn’t seem to announce any specific reductions in either numbers or resources.

But then, her article doesn’t deny that any are taking place either so I spoke to her this morning for some more info. She has confirmed that the new Neighbourhood Policing Teams will operate on the same ward based boundaries as the SNTs currently do, but that there may be more fluid arrangements between them. Meaning that more officers will be deployed to areas with higher levels of crime than others rather than staying in their own teams.

The specific numbers are not yet known but she has offered to explain more on this site later on this year in an interview.

I have heard significant concerns from both people within communities in W12 and from some within the Police themselves about the likely impact of these cuts, and it seems those concerns are shared at a senior level of the Met too. There are very valid questions to be asked about them, and the impact they will have on local policing.

What, for example, is the fabled “front line” that politicians keep banging on about? They can’t answer because it doesn’t exist. A dog handler is presumably one of the “specialist” teams that the Assistant Commissioner is today warning of losing – but try staging a raid on a drugs house in W12 that has dogs in without one.

In Shepherd’s Bush we have a team that is good – so good it wins awards and my main concern is that we risk losing that, in one of the parts of H&F that needs it most. But these questions are relevant to the borough as a whole and it would be interesting to know where the Council stands on them too. They can rightly point to having supported the police over and above what they had to in the past, but will that extra support continue when central funding is reduced and new Leader Nick Botterill will be under pressure to continue cutting council tax?

Having said all of that it’s refreshing that Ms D’Orsi is so willing to engage, both in her own blog and in the way in which she is very open and approachable generally. It’s clearly going to be a difficult time for the police in the coming months, and there are real implications for their ability to target crime in the ways I have seen work so effectively on several occasions, but she is a formidable operator within the system. She and the Met will need to be when faced with the likes of Deputy Mayor Greenhalgh.

Expect more on this in the months to come.

1900 UPDATE - Well, how a bit of publicity brings clarity to the situation! From the position this morning, where I was told categorically that numbers of PCs and Sergeants were as yet unknown, we now have a response to this article which guarantees that numbers will definately not go down. So something must have been clarified during the day. Here's what the Commander says in a blog this afternoon:
"Can I reassure you that safer neighbourhood teams will remain on the borough aligned to wards with no changes to the constable and sergeant numbers that we currently have on the ward teams".
This is great news and Ms D'Orsi also pledges that the Safer Neighbourhood Team structure will remain, but leaves some wriggle room about the name. Personally I don't care what they're called so long as they are there and the strides they have made in recent years are not lost. And I know that is a widely shared view both inside and outside the force.

Now then, could we have some clarity over the future of Shepherd's Bush Police Station, next please? 

Monday, 13 August 2012

Back in the Bush!

Where I was, innit: Vallon Pont d'Arc, France
Three weeks in the South of France is enough for any sun-addicted holiday maker - well that's what I keep telling myself anyway sitting here in the office, early enough still to be on my own, and reflecting on three packed weeks that have seeen me post the princely sum of one article on this website.

For reasons that may seem obvious enough I tend not to advertise the fact that I am going to be away so apologies for the sudden termination of service. Back now though, did I miss anything?!

Actually for the length of time spent in a low key environment, with the nearest and dearest, it was well worth the while and I don't feel I particularly missed out by not being here for the Olympics by comparison. But watching the closing ceremony highlights this morning kind of felt like I'd arrived back in a different country, a more confident and outgoing one at least.

So here's to that and of course the paralympics still to come. Much more to come on the Bush in the weeks ahead too, starting with a gathering of W12's business folk and the stirrings of the Oxjam takeover of our neck of the woods. Enjoy the rest of the summer and here's hoping for a bit more of the Meditterenean sun, right here at home.