27 January 2008

Housing chaos sparks resignation call

The resignation of both the chair and chief executive of H&F Homes, a damning assessment of its performance and plans to slash caretakers' pay have led to demands that the cabinet member responsible, Cllr Adronie Alford, should also resign.

The Tories claim that their housing proposals are a key part of creating a 'borough of opportunity'.

The only opportunities are for property speculators with more council-owned homes due to be sold off in addition to the recently announced sale of hostels for homeless people. And the Tory plans to help people buy a flat have failed miserably.

Now the failings in H&F Homes could mean the loss of the huge investment for renovating thousands of properties in the borough.

All in all, Cllr Alford needs to move out and find a new home.

Tory propaganda knows no boundaries

Huge posters about H&F council tax and performance have appeared in several local tube stations recently.

Strangely these posters have even been put up at Turnham Green station which is well out of the borough (and at Shepherds Bush central line station which the Tories are so keen to see closed this week).

The posters proclaim the 2006 four star performance rating awarded for the last year of the previous council adminstration. The 2007 ratings are due to be published shortly.

And there is no word of all the cuts in local services and closures to pay for the small (50p a week) cut in council tax or the higher fees and charges residents are now expected to pay.

22 January 2008

You couldn't make it up

It's astonishing to read Tory councillor Paul Bristow's recent scribblings on Fulham schools. The erstwhile boxing promoter appears to be attempting to take credit for the achievements of Hurlingham and Chelsea school which this year made it onto the list of most improved schools in the country.

Perhaps Cllr Bristow has forgotten that it was his party that attempted to close Hurlingham and Chelsea school last year claiming it was unpopular and underperforming.

While one should respect Cllr Bristow's rapid U-turn on the subject, a little more humility might be justified. Perhaps even an apology?

Moreover, further strain will be placed on our secondary schools in the coming years as cuts that are currently decimating the local authority begin to bite. Senior subject inspectors who have a wealth of knowledge and experience in their subject specialisms are being eased out and not replaced. The ICT and Technology inspector has retired and will not be replaced while the Arts and Music Inspector was replaced by a less experienced advisor.

More short term cost savings at the expense of education in Hammersmith & Fulham.

21 January 2008

'De-residentialisation' - new word for cuts

Tory Hammersmith & Fulham council has embarked on 'de-residentialisation ' of sheltered housing. That means removing resident wardens from sheltered housing, which is not why older people moved into sheltered accommodation in the first place.

This cut saves £300k in 2008-9 and a further £300k the following year. But residents have already complained about this because it seems the council is not waiting for the budget to be agreed or the new financial year to start. De-residentialisation is already being implemented!

Yet another example of the Tories picking on the elderly in the borough.

20 January 2008

Which cut is the deepest?

The Tory council in Hammersmith & Fulham has just announced £36 million spending cuts in local services over the next three years, including £15 million in 2008-9.

The budget plans are subject to scrutiny this month. hfconwatch will be exposing the worst cuts in the coming weeks.

Please email any cuts stories to: hfconwatch@hotmail.co.uk

16 January 2008

A normal day in Hammersmith & Fulham?

A correspondent writes:

Yesterday I went to Hammersmith Town Hall to buy my annual Parking Permit.

The price is up marginally. (I'm not sure how many other piecemeal rises of our local council charges there are across the board, but they may well mean that much of the much trumpeted rate cut is nullified).

There was a queue and only two members of staff serving (further cuts perhaps?).

I'd shuffled to the front of a queue that was by now about 15 or so people, when a very elderly man arrived, went straight to one of the windows and loudly asked to be served. He explained that he was 84, blind, wanted to pay his rent, and had been told previously that he wouldn't have to wait.

The teller was condescending to say the least, and it annoyed me that most of the staff at the back were tittering. He told the man to go to the back of the queue. But our intrepid visitor wasn't having it, and stood his ground. The teller continued to hold his and there was a stand-off.

I stepped forward and offered him my place. He refused, on the grounds that he had been told he wouldn't have to wait, so they should serve him. Another man in the queue, along with a couple of others shouted to the staff that the man should be served. I tried to insist that he took my place but he wasn't having any of it.

Other staff stepped in, and eventually, a woman came out from the back to take his money. While she was doing the paperwork behind, he spoke to us. he said something along the lines of, "I am a war veteran, I am blind, I'm 84, yet I'm treated like dirt." We were empathising with him.

He took out a piece of paper from his bag. In large jagged letters, was printed STRESS. "I want you to write HARRASSMENT under it," he said to a queuer. The man hesitated. No one wanted to get involved.

The staff member re-emerged with his receipt. "Thank you very much dear," he said rather softer than before. " But now I want you to write HARRASSMENT on this piece of paper for me". He handed her a thick black pen. She wrote it down.

"And NOW," he said triumphantly, "I want six photocopies of it!"

15 January 2008

Hands off Shepherds Bush

Tory MP Greg Hands isn't the Member of Parliament for Shepherds Bush but it hasn't stopped him supporting the closure of Shepherds Bush Central Line station.

The closure for at least eight months from February will affect tens of thousands of local residents and scores of businesses. Thousands of people have signed petitions against the closure. But still Greg Hands and the Tory council are happy to support it.

You can be certain that Hands would have opposed any station closing in his own constituency. So why do the dirty on Shepherds Bush residents?

Hands also accuses those campaigning to keep the station open of 'political opportunism'. Which of course Hands knows nothing about - after all, his election campaign in 2005 was based on scaremongering about the so-called closure of Charing Cross Hospital which, surprise, surprise, three years later is not just open but is flourishing.

13 January 2008

£36 million cuts in local services unveiled

The Tory council in Hammersmith & Fulham has unveiled £36 million of cuts in local services over the next three years with more than £15 million in the coming year (2008-9). The cuts are to pay for a small reduction - 50p a week - in council tax.

The cuts include the privatisation of swathes of services from street cleaning and refuse collection to home helps and meals on wheels. There are also cuts in services for children (from childcare to school meals) and for older people (from home care to sheltered housing wardens).

These cuts are on top of the closures and sale of community assets previously reported.

10 January 2008

January closing down sales

Closed: Hammersmith & Fulham's Tory Cabinet has agreed to close Peterborough primary school which has served south Fulham for over a hundred years. The site is to be sold, probably to the French government (see previous blogs).

Closed: Also to be closed and sold off to the highest bidder is Sands End laundry.

Closed: Nine hostels for homeless families are to be closed and sold off in this huge disposal of community assets.

06 January 2008

Protest at school closures decision

Hammersmith Town Hall is the scene of the latest protest against schoool closures in the borough on Monday 7 January.
There will be a lobby of the Cabinet from 6.30pm followed by deputations opposing the proposed closures of Peterborough Primary School and Gibbs Green Special School.

The council published its response to the consultation over the closure of these two schools just before Christmas. Now they intend to rubber stamp the closure at the Cabinet meeting on Monday – just as the schools are returning.
Not surprisingly nine months of consultation has made no difference to the Tory councillors. They just want to close and cut. The Tories' message seems to be “Happy Christmas – you’re stuffed” and “Happy New Year – you’re closed!”
Stop the Tories wrecking schools in Hammersmith & Fulham - join the protest on Monday 7 January.

Tories spin out of control

Hammersmith & Fulham Tories claim that council tax cuts are saving local residents £350.

Except it isn't true. Because the Tories' figures are compared to a theoretical annual increase of 7.7% even though the previous council had announced a real terms cut in council tax for three years from 2006!

And of course the Tories don't mention their £34 million cuts in local services, the closures of schools and community buildings, and the higher fees and charges faced by residents.

Let's hope the council doesn't repeat these Tory lies.

04 January 2008

Tories put Shepherds Bush residents last

You may have heard that Shepherds Bush central line station will close for at least eight months from the beginning of February.

You would have thought that Hammersmith & Fulham council would have opposed the closure vigorously given how many residents use the station and will be affected. But no, they are happy to see it close according to Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, the Conservative council leader, in the local newspaper.

Never mind the inconvenience for the huge number of local people who use the station every day. Never mind the number of local businesses that will suffer as a result.

Join the campaign to stop this unnecessary closure at: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=19664727640

And don't forget how the Tories put Shepherds Bush residents last. Just imagine how agitated the Tories would have been if this had been Fulham Broadway, Parsons Green or Ravenscourt Park stations.

03 January 2008

New year, same old Tories

Normal service is resumed after the Christmas break when the Tory Cabinet meets on 7 January to close local schools, cut services and spending in Hammersmith & Fulham.

The Tories are pushing through new cuts, closing local facilities, reducing housing options, and raising fees and charges for local services to pay for a small council tax reduction. They claim that this will save residents money but many local people are now faced with higher fees and having to pay for services that have been axed.

£34 million cuts in local services are the high price local residents are paying for a Tory council.

01 January 2008

Happy new year in H&F?

Happy new year to all hfconwatch readers.

We have exclusive access to the new year resolutions made by the Tory cabinet in Hammersmith & Fulham. Their resolutions for 2008 include:

* we won't make any more cuts in local services
* we won't raise any more fees and charges for local services
* we won't close any more schools
* we won't sell off any more community buildings
* we won't cut any more voluntary organisations

Unfortunately, it looks like these resolutions will be broken within the first week of the new year when the Tory cabinet meets on 7 January.

hfconwatch resolves to continue to keep you posted about Tory cuts, charges and closures in 2008.