21 July 2008

Money does grow on trees in H&F

Not content with introducing more than 500 new and higher charges for local services, Tory H&F council is now charging residents £250 to plant a tree in their street.

Even the council's own press release trumpeting the new charge admits that over 2,000 trees have been planted in streets across the borough in the last eight years. So why start charging now?

This madcap scheme has been dreamt up by Cllr Harry Phibbs, whose diary stories for the Evening Standard are responsible for several forests being destroyed every year. He says that planting a tree will help local property prices, so expect to see a few new trees in 'desirable' streets in Fulham shortly.

Tory councillors clearly cannot see the wood for the trees. This TORY TREE TAX is another step too far for local residents - they expect their council tax to pay for this and other services.

Shops, lifts and donations

Questions are increasingly being asked about the relationship between Westfield, developers of the new White City shopping centre, and Tory H&F council and the Tory candidate for Hammersmith, Shaun Bailey.

First it's clear that Shepherds Bush central line station didn't need to close. What's not clear is why H&F council supported the closure which has disrupted the lives of thousands and thousands of local residents.

Why did H&F council fall over backwards to accommodate Westfield's demands which have meant 24/7 working around the site, causing misery to residents in streets north of Shepherds Bush Green.

And why has the work gone ahead without installing a lift in the new station? The Tory council announced in April that it had secured the lift - then last week condemned LU's failure to install one. The truth is LU has been backing off much of the below ground improvements on grounds of cost but this was revealed by local MP Andy Slaughter who has doggedly pursued both the council and LU over their failures.

Why did the council propose closing Wood Lane to northbound traffic, cutting one of the major arteries in the north of the borough and causing daily disruption in Shepherds Bush? Again it was to accommodate Westfield. Thames Water who are responsible for the works only wished to do it section by section - meaning traffic light controls but continued two-way traffic.

Westfield also seems to be in bed with Shaun Bailey, Tory candidate for Hammersmith. Bailey's company has been given money to train security staff and for him to lecture in local schools. Glossy leaflets promoting him and paid for by Westfield have been circulated in Shepherd Bush. In response Bailey promotes Westfield - he has made Westfield his website of the week in his latest Tory email. How on earth does he think he can represent local residents if he is already on the side of big business?

20 July 2008

Schools out for summer

The July H&F council cabinet meeting saw the final humiliating climb down in the Tories’ desperate and botched attempts to use Fulham secondary schools as a means to generate money.

As parents, teachers and pupils will remember, the disastrous series of events started with the shock proposal to sell off Hurlingham and Chelsea school, one of the most improved secondary schools in the country, in order to cash in the value of the land the school sits on. A grassroots campaign by local parents and schools resulted in the Tories having to reverse this decision.

Still in search of land for luxury housing developments, in an attempt to shore-up their electoral support that would make Shirley Porter proud, the Tories then turned their attention to Fulham Cross and Henry Compton schools. They proposed that the two single-sex schools should remain single sex but merge into a single site, so that one of the valuable sites should be sold off. This bonkers idea was quietly assigned to the Tories’ bulging dustbin of failed schemes at the cabinet meeting last week.

One of the real tragedies of this sorry saga is that the council has been too distracted by the games being played by their Tory political masters to focus on raising standards in our schools. Results have plummeted at Burlington Danes School, leaving what was once an impressively improving school, teetering on the brink of failure. Moreover, where is the grammar school the Tories promised in their election campaign?

Surely it's time for cabinet member Cllr Anthony Lillis to step aside in favour of a more sober and coherent approach to schools, that puts the education of our children before a land grab? But while local parents, struggling to get by in the credit crunch, worry about their children’s future, the Tory councillors have had huge pay raises (voted for by themselves) to cover most of their children’s private school fees.

12 July 2008

Cheap deal adds insult to injury

Peterborough primary school in Sands End shuts its doors to pupils this month following Tory H&F council's decision to close the school after more than 100 years of education for local families.

Now to add insult to injury, the council is doing a deal with the French government to use the site for a private French school at a knock-down price.

The Tory cabinet is due to vote on a report on Monday 14 July which recommends leasing the site to the French at way below market value - £200,000 a year rather than the valuation of £283,000. The report says the council will lose at least £700,000 on the deal.

How can the Tories justify giving away public assets so cheaply with no benefit to local people? What is the special relationship between the French government and H&F Tory councillors?

05 July 2008

Will Bailey be the new Ray Lewis?

Rumours abound that the Mayor of London is looking to appoint Shaun Bailey, Tory candidate for Hammersmith, as his new deputy mayor to replace the disgraced Ray Lewis.

No doubt the Mayor will scrutinise potential replacements much more closely than when Lewis was appointed.

Bailey has made appearances in the media talking about youth crime, based on his work for a charity called MyGeneration and a pamphlet for the Centre for Policy Studies.

How will Hands mark NHS anniversary?

Today we can look back on 60 years of the NHS and thank the legions of doctors, nurses, porters and other staff who over the years have made the service so successful. Their dedication is inspired by the fundamental principles on which the NHS was established - universal, free at the point of need and funded from general taxation.

How will H&F MP Greg 'helping' Hands mark the 60th birthday of the NHS? Will he continue his scaremongering about the future of Charing Cross hospital?

Of all Hands' campaigns, his warning in 2004-5 that Charing Cross hospital was about to close is the most scandalous. Anyone visiting the hospital today will see that it is in flourishing health, with lots of new investment and superb facilities.

Now, Hands and his Tory colleagues on H&F council are being at best ambiguous and at worst downright disgraceful in their lack of support for three new 'polyclinics' in the borough. These super-surgeries will bring quality healthcare a lot closer to patients. They are part of building a 21st Century NHS - clinically driven, patient centred, responsive to local communities and delivering the highest quality of care to everyone.

Happy 60th birthday to the NHS!