Friday 29 March 2013

Cyclists cheer H&F for signing up to "safer lorries"

The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) has lauded our local authority for signing up to the LCC's Safe Lorries campaign, which aims to put a stop to the sort of tragedies that have scarred our own borough, like this one back in 2011 or that which took the life of Catriona Patel.

Seven councils have now signed LCC's pledge to only use the best-trained lorry drivers and the lorries with the best safety equipment available.

LCC's chief executive Ashok Sinha said:
"We thank the thousands of our supporters who've put pressure on their councils to take our 'Safer Lorries, Safer Cycling' pledge.

"And we're delighted Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham councillors have committed to only using the safest lorries and drivers in future.

"We hope their actions spur on other London boroughs that consider themselves cycle-friendly – Camden, Hackney, Lambeth and many others – to also take our pledge, helping to prevent cyclist deaths on our streets."
Councillor Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler, H&F Council Cabinet Member for Transport & Technical Services, said:
"Around a half of all cyclist deaths on our roads are caused by heavy lorries – which only make up about 5% of the traffic in the borough.

"Given this stark reality, the council is delighted to commit to only using the best-trained drivers and safest lorries in order to reduce road danger for anyone cycling or walking in the borough.

"As the recipient of a London Cycling Award for our previous efforts on lorry driver training, we are determined to remain one of the leading boroughs for cycle safety."
Great news - and by being only one of only seven councils to sign up so fast our Council deserve credit for leading the way on this. Though I can't help feeling that until we bite the bullet and have dedicated cycle lanes instead of fading blue stripes of paint we'll continue to hear these tragic stories. 

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Life term for Piotr killer: reflections

Rylett Road
I remember the time I was told Piotr had died. It came in an intervention during an emergency meeting at Hammersmith Police station in the hours after the incident. We were members of the 'Gold Group', called to bring together members of the community serving on an advisory group, the police team investigating the case and others including Council officials and Piotr's employers.

A member of the team actively hunting the suspect was called from the room and returned moments later, to inform us in a matter-of-fact but quiet voice that the investigation had become one of murder, Piotr not having survived the wounds he sustained having attempted to stop someone's house being burgled.

The man who took his life was today sentenced to lose his own, spending a minimum of the next 27 years in prison. Roger Buckingham was a drug addict and regular criminal, and claimed during his trial he was acting to feed that habit, and that he'd never meant to kill Piotr.

Piotr's colleagues en route to memorial
The first half of that was probably true, but the second? Piotr was armed with a broom. A broom. Buckingham was armed with a large knife that he used repeatedly. It's not difficult to see where the jury went with that.

After the officer had informed the meeting of Piotr's death we had a brief conversation about his relatives. Serco, his employers, were superb in my eyes, determined to fly in whoever they needed to from Poland and assist as far as they could. But that conversation, along with the one we had about the need to close down the room for rumour as far as possible by getting the facts out without endangering the case took place in a numb atmosphere.

Aschurch/Askew Rd in hours after murder
What followed from the community was very far from being numb. A few days later I walked up Askew Road on the way to a memorial service at the Baptist Church, where I joined many of his colleagues replete in their binmen uniforms sitting side by side with members of the community they served. It was, as the chair of the local residents association Fiona Anderson said, the first time that many of them had ever spoken to each other and yet they saw each other all the time. Invisible barriers.

But she also relayed how she'd once spoken to Piotr who was working hard to clear the leaves during last Autumn. She'd sympathised with how many there were, because there was just him, his spade and his barrow. He looked up - no, no, he replied - this is the best time of the year, look at how beautiful it is!

That was how Piotr saw the world, which for him involved backbreaking work for not much money. But he saw beyond that, and drew inspiration from it. And one day he saw someone else trying to do wrong and it made him angry and determined enough to do his bit to protect what he saw as being right.

How many of the residents on that street, or anywhere else, would in our heart of hearts think of ourselves as being on his level. At a guess not many. Rest in Peace Piotr, and thank you for who and what you were.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

New W12 Cllr talks to Bush Blog

Max Schmid
Bush Blog Editor Bart Govaert recently interviewed the new Councillor for Wormholt & White City, who won a thumping result in the by-election caused by the sad death of Jean Campbell. She would be a hard act to follow in anybody's eyes but Bart's interview reveals that Max is a man with a plan...

We met up for an interview with the new Council member for Wormholt and White City.

Max Schmid actually grew up in the United States, in California, but he came back to the UK to do his degree in history. He then worked as an environmental consultant before doing a Masters in African politics.

For the last two years he has been working for an environmental and human rights charity.

Max lives in Parsons Green, which to us in the Bush feels like a very genteel place indeed, though Max rightly points out that it is a mix of social housing and private dwellings, much like Shepherds Bush. He also lived in Hammersmith before.

Max has been very involved in the West Kensington Estate, which is very similar to White City (and another one that H&F Council is trying to knock down - sometime with dubious tactics). This work gave him a good good understanding of issues many residents of these estates encounter.

I asked Max what he wants to achieve?

Clearly being in the opposition it is hard to actually get legislative work done. However, as a member of the council, Max strongly believe he can be an advocate for the people in his ward, he can bring up issues in the council chamber, he can question offices, communicate out and end the disconnect between the council and at least some community groups

Max believes that sometimes the H&F council is simply trying to bulldozer through whatever they want to achieve, and they do not really practise the Big Society.

Clearly, the next election is 16 months away - and Max believes that the Conservatives may struggle to hold the council

In our area in particular, Max is trying to work with the residents of White City. Max is in particular scathing of the council’s housing policies. It is very clear that the council simply wants to reduce the number of residents on benefits or low incomes. In many instances low cost housing requirements are easily waived (eg for Imperial)

Max is keeping a close eye on developments in the White City “opportunity area” (this is the first stage for redevelopment). Much of the project wants to achieve says sounds good, however, it is not clear at all how local residents are really involved.

Max is in concerned about the changes in benefits, people are going to need to leave. This is going to increase with the bedroom tax. Many of these are vulnerable people. Max has seen a lot of people in his surgery who clearly are clearly not coping with the changes. In some cases he has been able to help.

Max's overall vision is to help out to create some change for the ward. It is really needed - even the life expectancy is lower than in many other parts of H&F. We should stop building endless projects for wealthy people, and chose a balanced social population ... go against divided communities. Instead, the amount of social housing continues to decline (and the waiting lists have been changed, so that really only people in categories A and B have a realistic chance of being helped).

Max came across as a very serious person, who has a clear vision for the ward. Max’ first speech to the council is also very much worth reading.

Thursday 21 March 2013

The bizarre people of the Bush

One of the best things about W12, in my humble opinion, is its diversity. The whole world lives in this corner of Hammersmith & Fulham. But have a watch of this video, made by what appear to be two film students last year on the subject of CCTV, to see just how diverse.

"Bush people love to talk man" says one of the presenters. And how they do. Look out for "Dean" who they meet in the Edward Woods Estate along the way...

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Bush Green: what's the hold up?

Bush Blog Editor Bart Govaert reflects on the Bush Green mudpatch...

The Green finally got a long overdue facelift and it looks generally great ... if you ignore a few parts ...

The plans were approved in June 2011 - the works were announced in November 2011, started in January 2012, and were due to be ready ahead of the Olympics ...

I know there were delays due to contamination, rain and what not. But I have not seen any movement in at least six months ...

But the parts that are finished ARE great. 

Dear Council, can you push the contractors, can we get this finished as soon as possible? It does not look good at all.

UPDATE 21.03.13 [from Chris Underwood] - Local Top Tory Cllr Harry Phibbs saw this posting and decided to answer intrepid reporter Bart's query. It seems we're now looking at the end of May this year. Here's the word of the official looking after the Green - it seems that it's been tough for them to drain the various lakes that form the W12 marine ecosystem:
 "I am sure you are aware that the weather has not been kind in terms of completing this project (2012 was the 2nd wettest year in recorded history!).However Officers have been working hard with the contractor FM Conway Ltd. In particular over the past few months, various options to improve the drainage (such as underground tile drains, aeration, etc.) on the unfinished sections have been explored. It was decided that aeration was the most efficient and suitable solution and this began yesterday. As the unturfed areas are still quite wet, a smaller aeration machine was used on the newly laid turf areas where ponding and flooding was evident. Once completed, the areas appeared to free drain and the flooding/ponding disappeared.

The contractor returned to site today to use the small machine on the extents of the large area to relieve some of the ponding. This has made a difference to the worst areas and should enable the soil to dry out sufficiently to allow a larger machine to be used sometime next week.

Once sufficiently drained, the areas will be prepared and immediately turfed. We are pushing hard and hopeful that the Green will be completed by the end of May".
So now you know. Well done to Bart and many thanks as ever to Harry.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Edible Askew Road

In an inaugural posting here's Bush Blog Editor Simon Grange on a greening of Askew Road...

Yesterday I saw a flyer in a shop window, posted by an organisation called Hammersmith Community Gardens, for an event called “Edible Askew Road” taking place this year between May 18th – June 9th.

I quote from their website:
“This year, as part of the Chelsea Fringe Festival, we want to create a river of fruit trees along the Askew Road – underplanted with flowers and herbs to encourage our native pollinators – bees and butterflies. Encouraging everyone to appreciate the value of locally produced food and helping insects, the trees will also help to beautify Askew Road. Hammersmith Community Gardens Association (HCGA) invites shops, cafes, restaurants, businesses, estate agents and pubs in the Askew Road to sponsor a fruit tree outside their premises”
Now doesn’t that sound like an initiative worth supporting? I had never heard of Hammersmith Community Gardens, but they sound like a very worthwhile organisation.

They are “a local environmental charity which manages two community gardens sites at Loris Road W6 and Godolphin Road W12 and the glasshouses at Ravenscourt Park. HCGA is also a partner organisation managing the Phoenix School Farm and Learning Zone in White City.

The gardens are used as an educational resource by local schools, a site for volunteer gardening groups and in the holidays there are environmental play schemes. As well as creating space for people the sites have also been designed to encourage wildlife. …

HCGA has a team of school gardeners who deliver environmental education sessions in schools on a weekly basis. These include formal curriculum-linked activities as well as lunchtime and after school clubs. We can also guide groups on how to make their premises more environmentally friendly and give technical growing advice.Have a look at their website here . Anybody who is interested in “greenifying” our urban patch gets a “thumbs up” from me!

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Hospital cuts: Emergency Council meeting

The Labour Opposition on Hammersmith and Fulham Council have called an emergency council meeting to discuss the private deal Conservative Councillors struck with government health chiefs at the end of last year. The Mayor has scheduled the Extraordinary Council Meeting for next Tuesday, 19th March. It will begin 7.00pm in Hammersmith Town Hall and promises to be a fiery affair.

On 7th February, Conservative councillors announced they had left the residents led, cross-party campaign to Save Our Hospitals and admitted they had been in private talks with government health chiefs since 2012.

Residents have now accused Conservative councillors of “betrayal” when details were release that only 13% of the current Charing Cross Hospital will be used for NHS care; that 60% of the Charing Cross Hospital ground-site will be sold to property speculators; that the numbers of beds will be cut from 500 to just 60 and that both of the Borough’s A&Es at Charing Cross Hospital and Hammersmith Hospital’s will close.

Labour have called for an independent health expert to assess these proposals and is questioning the propriety of the Conservatives’ behaviour for not calling an emergency Health Select Committee to assess their deal before they agreed it and for spending an estimated £20,000.00 on council hospital leaflets which it says are “filled with false propaganda.”

Cllr. Stephen Cowan, the Borough’s Labour Leader, said
“It is both surprising and disappointing that our former Conservative colleagues went behind the backs of all of us working on the Save Our Hospitals Campaign and secretly agreed this deal with government health chiefs. It is a bad deal which sees us losing both of the Borough’s A&Es and nearly all acute services from Charing Cross Hospital. I’m sure they know how weak their deal is which is why they have been so sneaky in putting it together and are trying to hoodwink residents with their glossy, tax-payer funded leaflets. It’s an awful shame they didn’t stick with the campaign as there is a lot to fight for if we really want to safeguard residents’ health in this Borough. I think most people who trusted and worked with them feel betrayed.” 
It's like to be a feisty affair as our Council are in no mood to apologise. Here's Cllr Marcus Ginn, Cabinet Member for Community Care:
“The campaign to save Charing Cross has helped secure the future of the hospital, ensuring that the vast majority of people who currently use it for their everyday health needs will carry on doing so. The original proposals would have meant the hospital being demoted to little more than a health clinic. The new proposals would mean that the hospital will be four times bigger than the original plans, with many services protected and new services delivered. Services that have been protected or enhanced include cancer care, ante natal and post natal care, social and elderly care, renal care (kidney disease), CT scanning, MRI scanning, Endoscopy, ECG, physiotherapy, podiatry and audiology. The new proposals would mean that Charing Cross has its own specialisms focused around delivering expert elderly and social care and will take its place in a local hospital network offering very specialist care. This expert care network will see people with heart attacks continue to go to Hammersmith Hospital which has world class cardiology unit. We have not secured everything we wanted, but we have achieved a lot. This new specialist network of care will save lives. The NHS does have to change and burying our heads in the sand accepting ‘no change’ would have resulted in the worst possible outcome for Charing Cross and local residents.”

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Wormwood Scrubs Harlem Shake Shocka

For those of you who do the Wormwood Scrubs Park Run, as I sometimes do, you will be aware that the park looks like a WW1 battlefield after a particularly nasty bout of shelling and a weeks worth of non stop rain. Running on top of it is like wading through soup so I haven’t risked it recently.

But those hard core nuts who do, and who meet afterwards in the Linford Christie stadium for much needed hot drinks afterwards, are made of tougher stuff.

Not only do they plough through the waves of wormwood mud they then decide to put on a dance performance afterwards. Have a look at this – and wonder at what the Bush is capable of producing…

Monday 11 March 2013

Shard tower to dominate the Bush

Poor Man's Shard: set to dominate W12
Our Council's infamous Planning Committee will rubber stamp controversial new plans for a 35 storey skyscraper to be built as part of the Imperial West development in White City on Tuesday.

The development includes a proposed 35 storey tower, of mainly private housing, christened last year by the Evening Standard as the ‘Poor man’s Shard’. The building, residents fear, will destroy sky-lines across West London and quite literally cast a long shadow over much of the area. As predicted, one tower leads to another, and developers Helical Bar are due to get planning approval next week to a second 32 storey tower, on their next door site on Wood Lane.

Projected shadow cast by skyscraper over W12 & K&C
These two towers will be as tall as Trellick Tower, and in an area of West London which currently has nothing approaching this height.

A long campaign by local residents failed to stop approval by Hammersmith & Fulham council to the Imperial West development, or even to reduce its height. Since the council approved the planning application, the College has received a £35m government grant of extra public money for the scheme.

The College has not answered questions on how this extra public money will be used, and why it cannot lead to more affordable housing or reduced building heights inn the scheme. Nor will it reveal what profit the College is making from the development as a whole.

View from Oxford Gardens
Hammersmith & Fulham Council has pushed through a series of planning decisions on major developments in White City, before there has been statutory public consultation on the White City Opportunity Area Framework. So far, Boris Johnson has endorsed these decisions, and property developers seem very keen to get their schemes through the system in what they see as a favourable political environment. The forthcoming London local elections, next year, may result in a change of Council leadership.

Chair of the St Helens Residents Association Henry Peterson says:
"Short of a successful legal challenge, the twin towers are coming to White City. A once in a lifetime opportunity to rebuild this part of London on a more human and sustainable scale will have been lost. Residential land values continue to drive the greed of developers.

It is not even that these towers will provide many real homes. Estate agents Savills estimate that with new build apartments in this part of London, 37% are used as a second home and 27% for investment purposes and not lived in. Up to 70% go to overseas buyers, so great are the current distortions in the London property market.
These towers will destroy the skyline and stand as monuments to a planning system and housing market which is doing nothing to meet the needs of ordinary Londoners"
Andy Slaughter MP is backing the residents and says this:
“I’m delighted that people across the borough are fighting back and I will do all I can to support Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith and West Kensington residents against the wreckers in the Town Hall.”
This news comes hot on the heels of the decision by the Council to forcibly evict the shopkeepers of the Goldhawk Road, serving them with compulsory purchase orders in support of their approach to assist property developers Orion to construct luxury flats on top of Shepherd's Bush Market. The approach was ruled illegal in the High Court last year and the shopkeepers gave their account of our Council's tactics here.

It seems every major scheme like this is set to be rushed through before polling day 2014...

Thursday 7 March 2013

Goldhawk Road accuse Council of lies

Mod vespa parade in defence of Goldhawk Road
H&F Council stand accused by Goldhawk Road traders of misrepresenting the truth in their account of why they have served the shops with a compulsory purchase order.

In response to the version given to me by the Council in this article, here's a version I have received in response from Audrey Boughton, of Cooke's Pie & Mash shop. I reproduce it in full, just as I did the version the Council sent me.
"We have never received in writing full proposals from the developers or the Council. If they continue to say they have we challenge them to produce it to you.
Our lawyers have never received offers or proposals despite the Council and Orion being told to correspond via our legal team. Orion have categorically stated we will not get like for like. Additionally at a meeting they informed our lawyers they are unable to accommodate us as this would impinge on their space designated for residential housing – none of which is social housing – just pure profit to be made.
In the autumn of last year I was approached by Adam Chamberlain of the H & F Chronicle who had been informed by the Council Communications Officer that they were in negotiation with a trader. They would not name this trader and clearly nothing has come from this as we are still proceeding to a further Judicial Review and we have now collectively instructed a CPO Specialist. This will hopefully result in a public enquiry into this questionable development. I would also point out that they have stated on several occasions, which are a matter of public record, that they were going to “Protect” the traders. Could I respectfully suggest they stop using this term.

If you can obtain the precise terms and conditions of what they propose in writing please produce them for us. This is a challenge that has been issued before not least to Councillor Harry Phibbs.  All we get are their misleading statements.   And when I say precise I mean precise, not nebulous comments of assistance etc – quantify it exactly. A lot of words are used but nothing is really said.

On page 18 of their Statement of Reasons they cite as a reason that there are antisocial behaviour problems at the rear of our premises. Semantics are great,  it makes it sound like the shopkeepers at the rear of  shops indulge in beating seven shades out of each other. FACT – the antisocial behaviour issue came into being when the Council spent MILLIONS of tax payers money building the drug and alcohol centre to the rear of us which they now propose to demolish.

To summarise could the Council stop spreading their particular brand of poison and for a novelty try playing it honestly".
Now that would be something.If even a fraction of this statement is true, and I have no reason to doubt anything in it, then our Council have been telling lies. 

So, dear Council, a few questions:
  • The traders say that they have never received full proposals from you or Orion. You say that they have. Where is your evidence? 
  • You say they will get like for like. The traders say that Orion have told them categorically that they will not. Where is your evidence that they will?
  • You say that a trader was negotiating with Orion. None of the traders think that was the case. Do you still maintain that to be the case or was it a ruse to put pressure on people? 
  • The traders say they have never received precise terms and conditions of their proposed move. What are they?
We all look forward to your answers, which if you would prefer me to publish I am more than happy to do.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Council to evict Goldhawk Road shop owners

Compulsory Purchase Orders were served on the owners of the historic row of shops on Goldhawk Road earlier this week in our Council’s latest attempt to ride roughshod over the wishes of local people in the interests of property developers Orion.

The Council’s approach, which has been ruled illegal in the High Court, is to steamroller all before the interests of their colleagues at Orion, despite public assurances given by the then Leader of the Council not to do so.

The shopkeepers, which include Cooke’s Pie & Mash shop, have vowed to organise a petition in opposition, with spokeswoman Aniza Meghani declaring:
“This is going to be one battle to secure our culture and history for life”.
Referring to the support of the community she said:
“We look forward to your continuous support as ever”.
They have it. This Council seems to revel in acting against the wishes of people in the North of the borough, with the full connivance of Boris Johnson, presumably because they don’t vote Conservative. Compare and contrast that with their righteous indignation over the fate of their fellow Fulham residents over the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

THURSDAY UPDATE - Well, our Council has been in touch to put their side of the story and they are far from happy bunnies with the traders. Here's what Council Leader Nick Botterill told me yesterday afternoon:
"For more than a decade, traders and customers have been complaining that the market has been allowed to decline because of a lack of investment. 
"The council has a duty to local people to start these proceedings to prevent further delays to a scheme that will increase retail expenditure by more than £3million a year.
"The Goldhawk Road businesses have been offered a good deal by the developer, including the chance to return to new, larger shop units on the Goldhawk Road. 
That offer is still on the table and this CPO process is a last resort to stop this crucial scheme from protracted hold-ups."
A Council spokesperson also weighed in, and made the following points on behalf of the property developers:

Developer OSBL has been trying to negotiate terms with the Goldhawk Road businesses for 2 years. They refuse to enter negotiations.

The Goldhawk Road businesses have been offered the following by Orion (the developer):

  • All businesses based at 30 to 52 Goldhawk Road have been offered the opportunity to return to the new Goldhawk Road shop units.
  • OSBL has provided very flexible retail space at ground floor and basement levels for the Goldhawk Road retail units.
  • This would give a total net internal area at ground floor level, including rear corridor, of 7,996sq.ft. This represents an increase in area of 296sq.ft. compared to the current size of 7,700sq.ft,
  • The floor to floor heights at ground floor level have been increased to 5.0m, thus providing flexibility to accommodate further storage space and servicing needs.
  • There is a further area of 8,643sq.ft. at basement level, which is a significant increase in area at this level.
  • To cover the costs of professional fees so that each owner/lessee/business in the parade can obtain independent advice.
  • Assistance to make a temporary or permanent move to an available street-based shop unit in or near to Goldhawk Road during the construction proces
That's nice. So in essence what the Council is saying is 'look at all these goodies on offer - take them now or yer out'. I note no reference is made to the very public pledge made by the last Council Leader not to act like this, nor is there any acknowledgement of the wishes of the residents of Pennard Road who will be impacted by the scheme - and who made their views forcefully known at the same meeting

But there's big money to be made in 7 floors of luxury flats, and that big money talks. Loudly.

FRIDAY UPDATE - Labour Opposition Leader Stephen Cowan has responded to the Council's version of events, here's what he said to me this morning:
"The Conservative Administration's approach to these negotiations is thoroughly unfair, an abuse of power and atrocious. By issuing Compulsory Purchase Orders the Council has essentially put a gun to the head of the traders while they are negotiating to save their livelihoods. 
They have done this because they have developed an unhealthy and all-too-close relationship with the property speculator behind the demolition of the market - as they have done with other property speculators elsewhere in the Borough. 
Last year when this was agreed at the Cabinet Meeting the Leader of the Council told me there was on-going negotiations with the traders. I later found out that the Council had refused all contact with the traders for months and that wasn't true. I therefore do not believe that the Council is doing anything other than trying to get these small businesses out and does not care if the deals offered kill off many of the businesses in that part of Shepherds Bush. 
If Labour wins next year we will do everything we can to stop this."

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Grotspot app launched in campaign against dumping

A new campaign to clean the streets has launched with the use of a new app for smartphones, which residents can use to quickly report flytipping and other rubbish. The app will directly give the cleaning company Serco a report of where the problem is, and I am told they aim to respond within 48 hours.

To participate, use the H&F Report It app to report graffiti, flytipping, persistent dog fouling or flyposting and include a brief description of the offence. By following a few simple tips, you can help the team locate and deal with the problem swiftly:
  • Include a location (e.g. a lampost number, door number, landmark, etc.) 
  • Clear photos are very useful 
  • Specify if you are reporting any white goods, by which I assume they mean electrical things like fridges, as a different vehicle may be used for collection 
Serco will respond to all received grotspots within 48 hours, whilst aiming to clear the majority within 24 hours (excluding the weekend and bank holiday). They will also report back to the council any reported problems that are not their responsibility to resolve (e.g. graffiti removal or dumping on private land, etc.), and an officer will distribute these to the appropriate team(s) for action. Last March the Council proved just how determined it was to punish those responsible with the public shaming of a Goldhawk Road business.

Some phones are not compatible with the ‘app’, and so Serco have also set up a generic e-mail address for the purpose of reporting grotspots for those users: with the subject line in your email: Grotspot

I know many of you are keen snappers of different parts of the Bush anyway so this app should prove quite useful - credit to the council for developing it. And spare a thought for the guys dispatched to clear the mess up too - these are of course the same guys who lost one of their own not so long ago, trying to prevent a house being burgled. I remember meeting some of them at Piotr's memorial service at the Baptist Church on Askew Road; we're very lucky to have them looking after our community.

Monday 4 March 2013

Slaughter accused of “lies” by Council

Chronicle Wrap: c/o @NHS_Fighter
Those of you who receive the Fulham Chronicle will have noticed a prominent orange wrap around last Friday, which accused the Council of selling out our local hospitals. That is a reference to the plan agreed between our local authority and NHS technocrats to sell off most of the land on which Charing Cross Hospital currently sits, and to strip both that hospital and Hammersmith in our part of the borough of their A&E Departments.

The arguments about the rights and wrongs of that are well rehearsed and becoming increasingly public, as this demonstration in Lyric Square recently demonstrated. The Council has clearly been stung by the accusation of being a party to the sell-out, but last week’s wrap-around appears to have provoked a stronger reaction than I have ever seen in four years covering the local politics of this 'ere borough.

Harry Phibbs, a former Cabinet Member and a local Top Tory who genuinely dedicates a lot of time trying to make the area a better place, has written this blog which takes issue with the claims over the hospitals issue made by Andy Slaughter, the secretary of the local community campaign who last week won a commitment from the Secretary of State for Health to review the planned closures.

The political stakes in this battle are now very high indeed, with the prospect of local elections next year. No surprise, then, that Mr Phibbs has spent a great deal of time fisking many claims made by Mr Slaughter in the last year in an attempt to prove that he is untrustworthy. This includes:

"Andrew Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith, is busy trying to scare his constituents with the claim that Charing Cross Hospital is still to be closed. Mr Slaughter dismisses the new proposals, negotiated by the Council, for £90 million to be spent enhancing specialist care at the hospital. He also refuses to acknowledge that 24/7 emergency care will continue.

This has left some residents, confused by the claim and counter-claim, not knowing who to believe.

What they might find reassuring is how many of Mr Slaughter's past statements have been disproved".
Not Andy Slaughter
He then goes on to list a series of claims made by Mr Slaughter, including over cuts to Sure Start and the unpopularity of the West London Free School, all of which he claims have been disproved. The founder of the school has also called our MP a liar in the past. He even attacks Mr Slaughter's backing of Ed Miliband to be the Leader of the Labour Party (relevance?) and a couple of things he once said about Cuban Leader Fidel Castro.

Speaking to me this morning Andy Slaughter told me this was a mixture of “old stuff” that was disproved by the Council’s own records in some cases. He said:

“The question is, why re-hash this now. The answer is they know they have made the most serious error of judgment in supporting the hospital closures (someone who knows Andrew Johnson told me he had admitted this). They thought they could bombard residents with propaganda as they used to, but this is too big an issue and too big a lie for them to succeed. They didn’t like the Chronicle wrap and they won’t like the leaflets going out. I don’t think distractions like this will help them – people are asking why their Tory councillors aren’t fighting to save the NHS – as they promised”.
This latest escalation is set to continue as the community campaign issue more materials in support of the hospitals, which I understand will be coming out soon. Time will tell if the hospitals are in fact saved.

But I do feel like contacting the United Nations ahead of next years’ local elections, there may be peacekeepers required.

1115 UPDATE Cllr Andrew Johnson, Cabinet Member for Housing at our Council, has written in to me wanting to respond to Andy Slaughter's statement. He's not a happy bunny. Here's what he had to say
"I have to say that I am highly surprised to see my name mentioned in a response by Andrew Slaughter MP. Needless to say I have made no such admission and any attempt to portray that I have is simply not true. 
If Mr Slaughter's response to being caught lying is to lie about me then I think that sadly says a great deal about his character.

I do not think that the council has made an error of judgement. I fully support the position taken by the administration and my Cabinet colleagues and I am delighted that we have saved the specialist services at Charing Cross and will retain a proper hospital there".