30 September 2007

Beached whale spotted in Blackpool

Parks put council on back foot again

New H&F council cabinet member Paul Bristow has learnt the hard way not to mess with the borough's parks.

Applications to hold a wide range of events (including boxing and wrestling - see previous blogs) in Ravenscourt Park and Bishop's Park have stirred up huge public opposition.

Let's hope the Tories don't cock up the fireworks next month!

£2.1 million or not £2.1 million for charities?

Crowing about H&F council's victory in the high court over cuts to Law Centre funding, a council press release claims that the judgement enables £2.1 million to be spent on voluntary sector grants from October 2007-March 2008.

Wrong again!

The truth is:
* overall voluntary sector funding for 2007-8 is £4.276 million but that hides a big cut within the year: from April-September funding is £2.345 million; from October-March it drops to £1.930 million with the new grants regime
* then in 2008-9 funding is slashed from £4.276 million to £3.182 million - a cut of 26% in one year.

Please can the council publish the truth.

21 September 2007

Secret leader's speech leaked

hfconwatch can reveal an advance copy of the 'state of the borough' address to be given by H&F council leader Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh at a secret location on Wednesday 26 September.

Cllr Greenhalgh will say: "I want to create a borough of opportunity. Opportunity for those who are fluent in French, for those who can buy a house outright without a mortgage and for those who are under 65.

"To achieve this new vision for our borough, we will be building on the progress we have already made in the last 16 months. We will:

* require all primary school children to pass French GCSE before they can enter local secondary schools
* introduce compulsory cycling north of Goldhawk Road
* close all eating establishments near council facilities
* review primary and secondary schools for the third time in less than a year
* cut voluntary organisations that challenge any council decision
* enable property developers to build wherever they want
* move all police officers into the two most marginal wards
* introduce charging for home helps as we promised
* sell off any remaining community assets
* hold all cabinet meetings in secret to reduce noisy protests
* require all people over 65 to give up their rights to local services
* allow our parks to host dog fights, bear baiting, hunting and lap dancing
* award ourselves another 18% pay increase

"Our biggest success has been the secret budget which we didn't reveal before the 2006 council elections. We are now busy preparing our secret cuts for 2010.

"Finally I recommend that all residents read hfconwatch and http://thecowanreport.blogspot.com/ on a daily basis."

How long does it take?

For longer than most people can remember, travelling round Shepherds Bush Green has become tortuous.

The mysterious closure of a lane on the north side of the green is causing gridlock for most of the day. From 7am to late evening, cars and buses and even cyclists are brought to a standstill by a closed lane where nothing seems to be happening.

When will this be sorted out? Or is it the Tories' new environmental policy, because it's certainly a lot quicker to walk than get the bus to the green?

Crucial fortnight in Hammersmith & Fulham

The next two weeks see some key dates for the borough as the Tories' cuts crusade rolls on in Hammersmith & Fulham.

On Wednesday 26 September the High Court will rule on the judicial review of the council's 60% cut in grant to the local law centre. Tory scaremongerer in chief, Cllr Antony Lillis, has threatened other voluntary organisations that this legal action could jeopardise their grant too.

On the same day, council leader Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh is to give a 'state of the borough' address to an invitation only audience at a secret location. No doubt he will herald more cuts.

On 1 October many of the cuts already announced will kick in. These include closure of the mobile library service along with cuts to local voluntary organisations, many of which will close as a result.

11 September 2007

Boxing and wrestling in Bishop's Park?

The Tory council in Hammersmith & Fulham is making a licensing application for Bishop's Park for activities including: ‘plays, films, indoor sporting events, boxing or wrestling, entertainment, live and recorded music, dance or other entertainments of a similar nature, occasional supply or sale of alcohol in connection with the above events: Mon to Sat 08.00 to 24.00. Sun 11.00 to 22.00’.

This follows a major battle in 2005 over astroturfing part of Bishop's Park in Fulham. This latest application raises yet again the issue of what is the proper use for this beautiful riverside Victorian park. There are major issues about parking, noise pollution, anti social behaviour, litter, and damage to the park.

The Bishop's Park Stakeholders Group which is assisting the council in submitting a bid for lottery funding to cover the redevelopment of the park and its buildings has not been made aware of this application.

If you feel strongly about the park and this licensing application, write to: Licensing Section, 5th Floor, Town Hall Extension, King Street, Hammersmith W6 9JU by 2 October.

From bad to worse for H&F schools

Parents and teachers in the borough are reeling from last night's Cabinet decision to close two local schools - Peterborough Primary and Gibbs Green Special School (see previous blogs).

When they have had a chance to read the review of Fulham secondary schools published last Friday, their worst fears for the future of local education will be confirmed.

The secondary school review - run by the Tory Baroness also responsible for the Conservatives' national policy review - proposes more asset stripping and privatisation.

Fulham Cross and Henry Compton Schools will 'merge' on one site creating a 'mixed-single sex school'! In doing so, one school will be closed creating another opportunity to sell off lucrative real estate in Fulham. Hurlingham & Chelsea School will survive provided it goes into private partnership with the French government - again.

William Morris Academy - an outstanding sixth form college - will be compromised by setting up small sixth forms in the remaining schools.

The report also recommends a further review of all the borough's schools, creating more uncertainty for every parent, pupil and teacher.

The Tory Cabinet will discuss its response to the review proposals at its next meeting on 8 October. The proposals will also be debated at the council meeting on 19 September.

Campaigning against community care cuts

As Conservative Hammersmith & Fulham Council continues its crusade against disabled and older people who need support (see below), the local Coalition against Community Care Cuts is upping its campaign.

The council voted in July to withdraw nearly 550 people’s services, often the very limited support that maintains people's general wellbeing and a minimal quality of life (see previous blogs). Now the council has started yet another consultation process with a proposal to introduce charging older and disabled people for essential home care services. This goes against the Tories' election manifesto pledge. The council had to abandon a decision on charging earlier this year having carried out what many local residents viewed as a poor consultation exercise.

Kevin Caulfield, Chair of the Coalition said: “Local residents had to demand proper consultation, and also discovered that the charging proposal appeared to be open to a legal challenge for being potentially unlawful. The council which says that its mandate is to stop waste and cut inefficiency but not cut services, has already wasted local residents’ council tax contributions on one ill thought out consultation process.

"The council is also cutting disabled people and older people’s essential support services which has nothing to do with reducing general inefficiencies but everything to do with poor decision making and a could not care less attitude towards some local residents."

Hammersmith & Fulham Coalition against Community Care Cuts (HAFCAC) represents a growing number of disabled and older residents, supported by many non-disabled residents and local organisations. The coalition aims to challenge these cuts in services and jobs which will negatively impact on the quality of life of many local residents.

HAFCAC has launched a campaign pack to let local residents know what is happening.
The campaign pack is available free by contacting the coalition. It explains the issues, tells you how to contact your locally elected representatives and how to let them know what you think.

For more information contact:

Kevin Caulfield, Chair of Hammersmith & Fulham Coalition against Community Care Cuts
HAFCAC, PO Box 57168, London, SW6 7UW. Telephone 0208 743 6573 Typetalk 18001 07899752877. Email hafcac@hotmail.co.uk

Don't get old and sick in H&F

If you want to know what life's like for older people in Hammersmith & Fulham following the latest Tory cuts, you must read this blog: http://theagepage.typepad.com/

In particular check out entries for 5 September and 18 July.

09 September 2007

Cabinet protest over school closures

A major protest is expected at Hammersmith Town Hall on the evening of Monday 10 September when the Tory cabinet votes to close Peterborough Primary School and Gibbs Green Special School (see previous blogs).

The plans for primary schools are just a taste of what is to come for secondary schools following publication on Friday of the report by a so-called independent commission. Their recommendations threaten more uncertainty for all the borough's secondary schools with closures and privatisation on the cards.

06 September 2007

Council leader's secret address

Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, Tory leader of Hammersmith & Fulham council, is to give a 'state of the borough' address on Wednesday 26 September. This should be of interest to all local residents but only a select group has been invited by the council to the event (with no invites for opposition councillors) and the venue is secret. This abuse of the public purse and democratic local government must be stopped.

hfconwatch invites you to suggest what Cllr Greenhalgh should include in his speech - please email: hfconwatch@hotmail.co.uk

Anyone for French lessons?

The Conservative cabinet in Hammersmith & Fulham is due to vote on proposals to close Peterborough Primary School on Monday 10 September. A major protest is expected at the meeting at Hammersmith Town Hall.

Peterborough's 106 year history in south Fulham (let alone the future of local children) seems to count for nothing now that the council is intent on doing a deal with the French government to create a fee-paying private school on the site.

Scaremongering or running scared?

In an extraordinary move, Tory H&F cabinet member Cllr Antony Lillis has written to 58 voluntary organisations in the borough saying that their council grant from this October (ie next month) is under threat.

Cllr Lillis blames a judicial review due in the high court on 26 September brought by three individuals concerned by the council's 60% cut in funding to Hammersmith & Fulham Law Centre.

By issuing threats to 58 organisations, Cllr Lillis is either trying to 'divide and rule' voluntary organisations - or he is seriously worried that the council will lose in the high court. In that case he should resign rather than threaten the future of many local organisations.

Cllr Lillis is also adamant there are no cuts in funding for the sector overall - just 'reprioritisation'. The truth is:
* overall funding for 2007-8 is £4.276 million but that hides a big cut within the year: from April-September funding is £2.345 million; from October-March it drops to £1.930 million with the new grants regime
* then in 2008-9 funding is slashed from £4.276 million to £3.182 million - a cut of 26% in one year!

03 September 2007

Back Boris, get Greenhalgh?

Is Boris Johnson really Tory leader of H&F council, Stephen Greenhalgh, in disguise? At the launch of his bid to be the Conservatives' candidate for Mayor of London, Boris unveiled policies which sounded like a catalogue of failed political experiments from Hammersmith & Fulham. From the congestion charge to housing and policing, Boris has clearly been watching H&F Tories. So when will he announce his plans for huge cuts in London's public services?

01 September 2007

Credit where credit's due?

Below is an email just received from a local resident:

In searching the H+F council website for remarks congratulating students on their successes in the recent GCSEs and A levels and thanking teachers and staff for their hard work in helping achieve these results, the only thing I could find were press releases announcing the closure of schools. Presumably the Conservative administration views schools simply as property assets to be sold off and are not aware that anything else goes on in them.

Yours, a concerned resident

Dear concerned resident

You may wish to attend the lobby about school closures at the town hall on Monday 3 September at 6.30pm. Ask the councillors why they have ignored the responses to their consultation on primary and special schools and plan to go ahead with school closures (see blogs below).

Later this week we will also hear what the Tories plan to do to secondary schools in the borough. hfconwatch this space...