Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Labour candidate for Bush election unveiled

Max Schmid
Labour has unveiled the next councillor for Wormholt & White City Ward - for that he shall be in the forthcoming byelection in this safe Labour seat. The election comes in the wake of the very sad death of Jean Campbell, who was a pillar of the community in every sense of that often over-used phrase. I say that as a former constituent of hers.

Max Schmid is the candidate and he will be elected in the byelection early in January. The good news for us is that he has made the proposed closure of our police station to the public a key issue he plans on fighting. Not a moment too soon.

Max is a seasoned campaigner for the Labour Party having run for elected office in North End ward in 2010. He currently works for a charity that supports some of the most vulnerable communities in the developing world.

Max said:
“I am honoured to be chosen for this campaign. Jean Campbell was an inspiration and I will do all I can to live up to her legacy and to the high standards she set.

“Wormholt and White City is made up of many vibrant communities yet many of its residents face untold hardship because of the Conservatives’ hospital closures, because they’re closing Shepherds Bush Police Station and cutting police numbers and because of the awful things they’re doing on housing. I will campaign to defend the people in this ward and work for better outcomes for all that live there. Jean Campbell wanted to see so much done in this area and it will be my privilege to carry on working to bring about the changes she cared for so much should I be elected in the New Year.”
 The Borough’s Labour Leader, Councillor Stephen Cowan said:
“Max is one of the most hard-working people I know. He has already got to work in the ward attending community meetings and hearing about the issues residents care about. He is a fantastic candidate.”

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sewermen Gangnam Style

If you thought our Council was capable of producing the most cringeworthy video you have ever seen then I think Thames Water have just about pipped them even to that post with this offering, based on the gagnam style that has seen spoofs all over the world!
These guys have a serious message, which is a plea to people over the festive period not to block the drains

Thames Water spends £12 million a year clearing around 80,000 sewer blockages across its 109,000km of sewers in London and the Thames Valley. In some cases these blockages cause sewage to back up into people’s homes.

Rob said: “This Christmas, before you pour your turkey fat down the sink, ask yourself if you'd like to see it again in a week later swimming around your lounge with a load of excrement - because that's a very real possibility.

“Our video is a bit of festive fun with a very serious message. Sewer flooding results in people literally getting their own back. It’s horrific. It’s got to stop. That’s why we’re hell-bent on getting people to take heed of the Sewermen’s war cry: ‘Bin it – don’t block it’. Got it?”

He added: “We might not be the first organisation to do one of these Gangnam Style videos, but we’re the first to do it this badly",

Difficult to disagree.

I actually interviewed Rob after my own trip down the sewer in 2010 - so here's another chance to hear their views on everything from climate change to what a day in the life of a sewerman is really like:

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Bush hostel: drug infested & crazy

Panorama featured a W12 homeless hostel which an inhabitant described as "drug infested, with all of the paraphernalia that goes with it" this week. Called "The Hub" it is part of the Mayor's "no second night" initiative to tackle homelessness in the capital and the documentary featured a moving story of a man who'd gone from being a successful international  business figure to a vagrant with bankruptcy and a broken marriage behind him.

The programme tracks his story from staying in a park hut in croydon to staying a few nights chez W12 before moving on to a shared flat in Streatham. At which point things seem to be a little brighter and we have to hope he continues his journey from rock bottom upwards.

Goldhawk Road
But the brief section on the Bush hostel should perhaps give us all pause for thought. Facilities like these are essential and as a Shepherd's Bush foodbank continues to feed ever growing numbers of people in dire need I'm afraid the need is set to get ever greater. But surely if we know centres such as that in the Bush are full of drugs, we should be doing something about it? I imagine the families on those streets would agree.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hammersmith Park: secrecy costs row

Hammersmith Park
A private company is about to charge up to £91 an hour for use of football pitches that are currently free – and make a profit of over £400,000 a year under a deal with our Council. Private firm PlayFootball have beeen offered a 35-year lease for a third of Hammersmith Park, 

Andy Slaughter MP has described it as a licence to print money, pointing out that it also gets the Council a £70,000 a year windfall, but means residents lose their park which will be converted to commercial pitches, a car park, and a late opening restaurant/bar which they fear will attract anti-social behaviour

Mr Slaughter had been asking the council and the firm involved to publish the terms of the deal. But he says he was stonewalled until recently when he was given a set of papers with all the figures redacted. Not much use - until one of his staff spotted that they hadn't been redacted properly and was able to reveal the figures under the wodges of “ink” covering them. Oops.

So the following “hidden” information was revealed recently to White City Residents at a meeting of their Neighbourhood Forum:
  • PlayFootball will make over £400,000 pa net profit, almost half the total income from the scheme and a 20% return on investment, i.e. they will recoup their investment within five years.
  • They will do this by charging £91 an hour for 7 aside and £68 an hour for five aside pitches in one of the least well-off communities in London.
  • Apart from two free pitches all the rest (12 altogether) will be let out commercially, so a car park for over 60 cars will be built on the park for users travelling into the area.
  • The council will get £70,000 a year from the deal, residents will get a derisory one off payment of £5,000 for alternative pitches during development. There will also be £75,000 supposedly to invest in the rest of the park but £25,000 of this has already been spent by the council on helping SERCO move one of its depot buildings
Slaughter said:
“When I turned up at the White City Neighbourhood Forum and told them all this, Play Football, the firm involved were quite relaxed about me uncovering the figures they had redacted them - surprise, surprise - at the council's request.

Artists impression: New
“I can only conclude that the council felt ashamed that they were selling off a public park, much-loved by the local community and making them pay to use parts of it that weren’t being turned into a car park. Why else would they want to keep these figures "commercially confidential" when the firm they were doing business with was happy to have them in the public domain?”
But speaking yesterday and defending the scheme Cllr Greg Smith, deputy leader of the Council, argued:
"This is an absolutely fantastic deal for Shepherds Bush and White City residents, unparalleled anywhere else in the country.

“The council has secured £2 million to be spent in Hammersmith Park at zero cost to the taxpayer with two dedicated free pitches for the local community.

“Residents have been asking us to upgrade the obsolete all-weather pitch for several years and feedback about the new scheme has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Even in these tough economic times, we are proving that it is possible to improve services for residents through innovative ways of working.”
I drive past that park most days and these pictures illustrate just how needed this investment is. But the sort of secrecy about the choices this council is making to meet that need is far from helpful, least of all to them because it leaves them vulnerable to this sort of criticism. What's wrong with asking residents not just about the problems but the solutions to meet them? Now that would be innovative.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Greenhalgh denies, then apologises for "inappropriate behaviour"

Stephen Greenhalgh has been accused of molesting a woman in a lift. As the rumours started to swirl last night the Deputy Mayor for Policing first denied and then apologised for "anything that could be or may have been construed as inappropriate behaviour on my part". But then added he couldn't remember anything about it. Weird.

If he'd been sat across a table in a police interview room you can imagine how that might have looked to the investigating officers.

Labour has predictably issued calls for a full and immediate investigation with Labour bruiser Len Duvall thundering:
“The statement made by Stephen Greenhalgh is absurd. If he didn’t do anything wrong why did he apologise? Boris Johnson needs to get to the root of this immediately. It is completely unacceptable that someone in such a senior position cannot recollect whether such a serious incident occurred only a few weeks ago.”

“Stephen Greenhalgh is responsible for overseeing the Metropolitan Police and providing effective leadership for our capital’s police service. He is responsible for making sure the Met’s officers and staff maintain the highest standards whilst carrying out their public duties.”

“Regardless of whether a formal complaint is made or not this needs investigating. This is a serious matter that needs urgent clarification. If it remains unclear or unresolved then he should step down. I understand that this has been going on for four weeks, we need to know who knew what and when in the Mayor’s Office, Boris needs to establish what has been going on.”
The Mayor has got an unenviable track record of losing Deputy Mayors in dicey circumstances and it appears our former council leader is now at risk of following that time honoured tradition. It's difficult to see how anyone responsible for policing could survive an investigation that found there was any truth to an accusation he already appears, by his own statement, to acknowledge may have some basis in fact.

Given Greenhalgh's aggressive and controversial start to his role, he is unlikely to find many friends fighting his corner.

Tim Donovan reports on the Greenhalgh molestation story this evening
1800 UPDATE  - and so it has proved. ITV London Tonight and BBC London News have just aired a piece each on this controversy and revealed that in the last half an hour the Mayor of London has ordered an immediate review into Mr Greenhalgh's alleged behaviour. The allegation according to ITV is that he both stroked and touched the female employee repeatedly while inside the lift.

And another reader points out that even the Evening Boris newspaper has reported the story - on the front page no less. When Boris' personal propaganda vehicle does that, you kind of get the sense that the ending to this story is only ever going to involve a resignation. Sad.

1900 UPDATE - Well, Greenhalgh does have a friend after all. Cllr Harry Phibbs has offered the above explanation for the Deputy Mayor's wandering hands, but I'm not sure it really helps his friend in need!

13.12.12 UPDATE - Predictably, perhaps, Boris faced questions over Greenhalgh at yesterday evening's "People's Question Time" event in Stratford. These events are usually stage managed by his chums to avoid too many awkward questions, as we saw in Hammersmith earlier this year, but this event was chaired by Labour Assembly Member John Biggs who, it's fair to say, has something of a personal dislike for the Great Man.

So with Boris on the backfoot he said that he'd "done what you'd expect me to do" adding that "there was no avoiding the publicity surrounding it" and that he'd ordered an investigation. Before underlining that no complaint had been made by the female staff member involved. I have the excellent Dan Freedman of LBC to thank for his intrepid reporting from the event for that.

Back in the Twittersphere a former Assembly Member, and one of the most controversial politicians in London Brian Coleman, didn't seem to have much sympathy for his party colleague. He put the boot in without mercy on his own blog

Meanwhile a rarely seen Hammersmith councillor popped up on Twitter to add her backing for the embattled former council leader. Step forward Lucy Ivimy (above) to be especially withering about the allegations. Cllr Ivimy, lest we forget, was last prominent after she was involved in a race row for alleging that Indian people were more dirty than white people, and habitually threw their rubbish out of the windows rather than put it in the bin. With friends like these...

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Great Smog lingers in S Bush

Shepherd's Bush: keeping traditions alive
We live in one of the most polluted corners of the capital, exceeding all targets for safe air by considerable margins. That's the conclusion of a monitoring station situated on Shepherd's Bush roundabout, which you have to know is even there in order to see. It's a  chest height grey box with a little fan on top near the post office and is part of a London wide network run by a pollution measuring project co-ordinated by King's College London. The news comes days after the 60th anniversary of the Great Smog, and shows that in our part of the city that tradition is being kept alive. Even if it ensures many people who live here are not.

Here's our report card:

Not great, is it.

What these figures mean is that we are regularly breathing in dangerous levels of pollutants that can cause fatalities among people with respiratory conditions or who are just more vulnerable because their bodies can't process the dirt as well, such as the elderly.

We last came across this subject durng the mud slinging of the Mayoral election campaign, when Ken Kivingstone pointed out that Boris Johnson cared not a bit about the issue. Instead of acting to bring the pollutants down, even on pain of an EU fine, our Mayor of Toytown has opted to go for the sticking plaster option instead, with trucks laying down a form of glue on the roads to stop those polluted particles floating into those pesky monitoring stations and so giving him bad marks.

Boris Johnson's pollution score card
Well now it seems even the sticking plaster isn't working, and the Mayor has been given a big red cross. In his campaign to be the next Prime Minister this is unlikely to worry him too much, so you have to hope that those in the London Assembly will be on his case about it in the years to come.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Hammersmith Flyover: calm down dears!

Much sound and fury accompanied the drumroll to what was forecast to be a devastating BBC "expose", broadcast last night, of the risks taken with reckless abandon by Transport for London with our lives and limbs over the Hammersmith flyover, which was shut last year because of concerns over corrosion of the steel cables within the concrete structure.

Last night's BBC Inside Out programme revealed, apparently, that TfL had known about the possibility of the structure collapsing for a month before it closed the bridge, prompting Andy Slaughter to ask dramatically: "did TfL risk our lives"? 

Other politicians followed suit with Lib Dem Leader on the London Assembly Caroline Pidgeon arguing that: 
"There is a strong case that this information should always have been in the public domain. It is regrettable that such vital information had to be dragged out of Transport for London. Serious questions also have to be answered as to whether they took all the necessary precautionary steps over this vital bridge."
By all means ask those questions, but as it turned out the BBC programme was a bit of a damp squib in my eyes. 

Garrett Emerson, appearing for TfL, pointed out that there was a risk of any structure collapsing in theory and the rest of the programme illustrated that the issue is essentially a problem of ageing 1960s concrete bridges which are kept under watch for that reason, showing how one such bridge had netting under it to catch the falling concrete. 

He also explained that yes, they knew about the corrosion on the Hammersmith Flyover, but that they understood heavy goods vehicles were able to be supported. When they inspected it and found that not to be the case they closed the bridge.

After having established that rather boring reality the rest of the programme meandered along talking to some  trendy architects with brightly coloured cafetieres about how a tunnel might be quite a nice idea at some point in the future. 

It's not difficult to recall the chaos that ensued, traffic-wise, around Hammersmith as a result of the flyovers' closure and of course there were concerns that the Olympics could have been impacted with many teams needing to use the bridge to get to the Olympic Village. But on the evidence of last night's programme I think this particular round of local sound and fury might not last too long.

Peter Hendy: on the attack
051212 UPDATE Well, I said the sound and fury would die down - but it seems to be coming the other way in the wake of the BBC's Inside Out programme. Appearing today at the London Assembly's Transport Committee was Peter Hendy, Commissioner for TfL. He said not only was the programme "mendacious" and "rubbish" but that it was "on a par with Jimmy Saville", referring to the Beeb's recent less than perfect approaches to things.

The document presented by both the BBC and our friends in the local media was not, as they have both claimed, one which set out the current state of the bridge. No. It had been a document looking at options for emergency planning in the worst case scenario of a collapse. That was the sort of emergency planning TfL and other public bodies carried out for all similar scenarios, which was "a good thing", he argued.

But his harshest words were perhaps reserved for Andy Slaughter who then became a topic of conversation in his own right. TfL had written to him "in strong terms" and he hoped that the MP would desist from making further outlandish claims, he said.

You can watch the whole thing here. I'm not sure anyone comes out of this episode looking that great, really.

Monday, 3 December 2012

H&F Foodbank now feeding over 1,000 people

H&F Foodbank, which opened its doors in Shepherds Bush this October, has already doubled the amount of food it has distributed to local people in need this year, rising from 4.1 tonnes in the year 2011-12 to 9.4 tonnes during this financial year. 

Almost one in ten people in London have skipped meals, gone without food to feed their family or relied on family or friends for food in the last year according to new research published this week.  

The research found that in total, around 8 per cent of people in London have suffered from some form of food poverty in the last 12 months, with 5 per cent of people skipping meals and 3 per cent relying on friends or family to provide food. 

Significant numbers of parents had also gone without food to feed their children. 

The research also found that in the last year,18 per cent of people in London had changed their eating habits, buying less expensive food or reducing the amount they eat.

In our borough the foodbank has fed well over the thousand people who accessed their support last year and all the signs are this is a trend only likely to grow, with the tonnage of food rising from 1.5 in September, to 2 tonnes in October this year.

With demand like this the new partnership they have just unveiled with Tescos is a very welcome development, with staff involved in collecting the food parcels for the scheme. Last Saturday the scheme launched at the store on 180 Shepherd's Bush and is set to continue throughout the winter.

Philip Clarke, Chief Executive of Tesco said: 
"Over 1,200 people have been helped by the Hammersmith & Fulham foodbank since 1st April 2012 as more people struggle to make ends meet in the current economic climate. This Christmas will be tough for many local people so the Hammersmith & Fulham foodbank is delighted to be part of Tesco’s ‘Help Feed People in Need’ appeal. We’re hoping that many local people will donate at a Tesco store to help stop people going hungry in Hammersmith & Fulham this Christmas."
Chris Mould, Executive Chairman of Trussell Trust said: 
“Across the UK Trussell Trust foodbanks are seeing thousands more people in crisis turn to us for help. Every day we meet parents who are skipping meals to feed their children, or people who are forced to choose between eating and heating. This winter is looking particularly bleak as food and energy prices rise whilst incomes remain static. We are delighted that Tesco is working with The Trussell Trust’s network of over 280 UK foodbanks and FareShare to help stop people going hungry this Christmas. We’d like to encourage everyone to give a can or two to help make this Christmas a happier one for people in crisis. Thank you.” 
Lindsay Boswell, CEO of FareShare said: 
“We are so pleased to be working with Tesco and the Trussell Trust on this campaign. Year-round, FareShare redistributes food to over 700 local grassroot projects in the UK who work tirelessly to provide food and other support to some of the poorest people in our society. In the past year, we provided food for 8.6 million meals and helped feed 36,500 people a day. With the help of Tesco customers, we can provide even more food to people who need it, at a time of real, increasing need. Thank you!”