27 June 2007

Who aren't happy bunnies?

Mothers and toddlers at College Park Community Centre are furious about Hammersmith & Fulham council's decision to sell off the centre where their Happy Bunnies playgroup is based.

Generations of community activity sacrificed for profit

The complete contempt of Tory councillors for residents in the north of Hammersmith & Fulham was exposed at a council meeting this evening - alongside the incompetence of the administration.

Having voted in secret at a Cabinet meeting to sell off a dozen community buildings and kick out the community and voluntary organisations housed there, the Tory council tonight tried to cover their tracks with a sham consultation.

Cllr Antony Lillis, the only cabinet member to attempt to defend the decision at the meeting, did not offer an apology to local residents packed in the public galleries. But he did admit his guilt by offering to extend the lease of the Wormholt Tenants and Residents Association for a further six months.

Residents from College Park, Wormholt, Askew and elsewhere are furious that the decision to sell their community centres was taken in secret - without any consultation. Councillors said residents had been told in advance but then withdrew this accusation when the truth was revealed.

Despite growing public protests, the Tories have so far refused to go back on their decision to close centres that have housed community activities for more than a century and to sell off public buildings which have special merit in conservation areas.

This act of vandalism and the failure to consult local residents, Cllr Colin Aherne told the meeting, mean that the council should change its slogan to 'putting profit before residents'.

24 June 2007

Schools debate is alive and kicking

'Speaking up for comprehensives' promises to be a lively seminar this week on the future of education in Hammersmith & Fulham. It takes place on Tuesday 26 June from 7pm at the Lilla Huset Centre, 191 Talgarth Road.

With the debate raging about the Tories' plans for school closures and strategies for primary, special and secondary schools in the borough, now is the time for anyone concerned about local education to get involved.

Tuesday's panel includes:

* Francis Becket, writer, journalist and author of The Great City Academy Fraud,
* Alasdair Smith, education lecturer at the Institute of Education and founder member of the Anti Academies Alliance, who organised the recent Committee of Enquiry into Academies in the House of Commons,
* Ken Muller, the Islington Green teacher and NUT representative who exposed the OFSTED fraud at his school,
* Phil Cross, Headteacher at Hurlingham & Chelsea School, speaking on education leadership and school improvement,
* Janet Theakston, heads the Privatisation of Education Unit in the National Union of Teachers.
* The seminar will be chaired by Christine Blower, Deputy General Secretary of the NUT, who previously taught in Hammersmith & Fulham primary, secondary and special schools.

To attend, e-mail HFTAnut@aol.com

21 June 2007

Another council meeting, another protest

Wednesday 27 June will see the next big protest about Tory council cuts in Hammersmith & Fulham.

Protestors will gather outside Hammersmith town hall from 6pm before the council meeting at 7pm when councillors will debate motions about community centres being sold off, voluntary sector funding cuts, reductions in local policing, and school closures.

The opposition to the Tory council is growing as the cuts hit local communities across the borough.

Cllr Phibbs gets the humps

After his abject performance defending council cuts to the voluntary sector (see previous blog), Cllr Harry Phibbs has returned to normal duty.

Phibbs uses all his skills as an Evening Standard diary columnist in his role as the Tory letter-writer-in-chief to the local papers in Hammersmith & Fulham.

This week in The Chronicle his target is road humps. He wants them removed. He says 'they are an irritant to motorists'. Sounds like a case of 'Hurry up Harry'.

The Tories want to get rid of traffic calming in the borough. Do they ever get out of their Chelsea tractors?

PS why were extra security staff employed at the Irish Centre for Monday's night voluntary sector meeting (see previous blog)? Were they there to protect Cllr Phibbs?

18 June 2007

There's hope if you're out of the home

The bad news is huge Tory cuts in local voluntary sector funding. But the good news, John Fitzpatrick, chair of the Law Centres Federation, told a packed public meeting at the Irish Centre this evening, is the re-birth of civic action in Hammersmith & Fulham.

He described the Conservative council's 60% cut in funding to the Law Centre (see previous blogs) as a "spectacular act of municipal vandalism".

Guest speakers at the special meeting on voluntary sector funding, including columnist Polly Toynbee, expressed their strong support for the Law Centre.

It was left to Conservative councillor Harry Phibbs to justify why the Law Centre's grant was being cut. He tried several times in several different ways to explain why the Law Centre was being targeted but failed miserably despite repeated challenges. He even wished those solicitors facing redundancy well.

To be fair to Cllr Phibbs, at least he turned up to try and defend the actions of the council. Unlike the Cabinet members responsible, whose decision to cut the Law Centre is unashamedly politically motivated.

But Cllr Phibbs hadn't done his homework. He continued to deny that the council is cutting funding to the voluntary sector despite the evidence (see previous blogs) of 18% cuts within this financial year in grants and more cuts next year along with hikes in rents and reductions in rate relief. Several community and voluntary organisations are also being kicked out of their premises so they can be sold off.

The next protest about the Tory cuts, local MP Andrew Slaughter told the audience, will be at the council meeting at Hammersmith Town Hall on Wednesday 27 June. He added: "We mustn't give up hope. They will have to give up because they are wrong."

14 June 2007

Grotspots and missing police officers

Have you noticed how Hammersmith & Fulham is now the 'dirtier borough'?

The cuts in street cleaning and refuse collection are literally leaving their mark - with grotspots appearing all over the borough.

If you've got a particular fave hate, please report it here.

Just to get things going, on the Uxbridge Road near the junction with Willow Vale there is a piece of disused land which used to be boarded off. The hoarding has been knocked down and it's now used as a dumping ground.

So please report grotspots. And while you're at it, when did you last see a police officer patrolling your local neighbourhood?

When 24/7 policing was introduced in two areas in the borough, police officers were diverted from other neighbourhood teams.

So if your police officers have gone missing, please report them too.

07 June 2007

What future for civil society in H&F?

Funding for the voluntary sector will be debated by key national commentators at a public meeting in Hammersmith & Fulham. The event follows huge cuts in grants to voluntary and community organisations in the borough (see previous blogs).

Chaired by BBC Radio's Clive Coleman, the debate will feature Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee; Nick Seddon of Civitas and author of Who Cares?; Andrew Slaughter MP; John Fitzpatrick, chair of the Law Centres Federation; and local Tory councillor Harry Phibbs.

The debate will take place at the Irish Centre, Blacks Road, Hammersmith on Monday 18 June at 7.30pm.

Voluntary organisations in Hammersmith & Fulham are angry about the Conservative council's cuts in their funding.

Grants to local charities are being cut by 18% in total in the second half of this financial year (2007-8) compared to the first six months. Some organisations have had their funding cut completely while others have suffered huge cuts, making their future uncertain.

Further cuts will be made in 2008-9 and many organisations still don't know what funding they will get next year.

On top of these cuts in grants, Hammersmith & Fulham council is cutting rate relief to local charities and hiking rents for some organisations. Recently the Tory Cabinet voted in secret to sell off public buildings which house local charities and community groups (see previous blogs).

Nationally David Cameron says the Conservatives support the voluntary sector; in Hammersmith & Fulham the Tories are intent on wrecking local voluntary organisations and destroying civil society.

Join the debate on 18 June.

05 June 2007

£15 for the privilege

Fulham Reach residents were last night invited to meet Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for Hammersmith.

There was one catch. Residents were charged £15 for the dubious pleasure of meeting Mr Bailey. That will have helped to control numbers.

We've all heard of alleged payments to access Parliamentarians but to meet someone who has just been selected as a candidate? Perhaps it's all gone to a good cause, like the Shaun Bailey Youth Fund?

04 June 2007

Believe it or not

Tonight's Evening Standard has a diary story (probably written by Cllr Phibbs) claiming that Hammersmith & Fulham MP Greg Hands was approached to be a Russian spy in a Fulham pub! After a pint, Greg apparently turned down the offer and reported the matter to the authorities.

Why has Greg has chosen this moment to come out? As the story relates, Greg's wife hails from eastern Europe and he too spent many years living behind the Iron Curtain. He also retains a keen interest in central Asian matters asking regular Parliamentary questions about Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan et al.

As relations with Russia deteriorate, Greg obviously wants us to know where his loyalties really lie. It's the stuff of 'espionage folklore', he quips. His name's Hands, Greg Hands. Shaken, not stirred.

01 June 2007

Is Councillor Greenhalgh losing it? Part two

Tory leader of Hammersmith & Fulham, Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, admitted at the annual council meeting this week that he enjoys reading this blog.

His annual report touches on several of this blog's favourite subjects. Produced at the last minute under legal pressure, more than half the report is devoted to a personal attack on the previous administration. So much for forward thinking.

At the meeting itself Cllr Greenhalgh conceded that attempting to close Hurlingham & Chelsea secondary school was an error of judgement. We wait for his judgement on the equally disastrous primary schools strategy. Perhaps that's why he abolished the cabinet post for education.

Cllr Greenhalgh continued to assert that awarding Tory councillors an 18% pay rise (while making £34 million cuts in local services) was simply 'a clerical error' - despite the fact that he personally must have cleared the report at least three times before voting for it at February's budget meeting. He is obviously beginning to believe his own spin doctors.

At least he is consistent. Cllr Greenhalgh can be relied upon - in every speech he makes - to talk about his two other favourite subjects: his dad who works at Charing Cross hospital and his school which he left almost 25 years ago.

Under all the pressure Cllr Greenhalgh looks distinctly wobbly - he is clearly carrying a lot.

PS Hiding somewhere behind Cllr Greenhalgh at the meeting was Shaun Bailey, Tory candidate for Hammersmith. We are still waiting for news about his mysterious charity, My Generation.