20 December 2010

'Poor and vulnerable' Toby Young blocks public questions, mucks up his Latin

The would-be West London Free School has been embarrassing itself again. Leading light Toby Young and would-be head teacher Thomas Packer apparently refused to take questions from the public at a (public) meeting on the school on 15 December. What were they afraid of?

It seems they also got their Latin wrong: worrying news, given that teaching Latin is a main selling point for the school. See here for a thought-provoking report by an educated parent at the meeting. 

The well-paid Young also took time out this weekend to show his concern for the poor. In a Telegraph blog condemning campaigners against tax avoidance (yes, against), he sneered, “The organisers purport to be sympathetic to the victims of the cuts whom they describe as ‘the poorest and most vulnerable’ – a category I must fall into because my family’s child benefit has been cut to zero”. The child benefit cuts may be wrong but they will only hit earnings of more than £43,875.

What makes Hammersmith Council think West Londoners want people like this involved in teaching their children?

17 December 2010

4 Jan deadline for objections to Hammersmith council's monstrous plan

The Cathnor Park Action Group (CPAG) is urging all Hammersmith residents to write to the Council about its plans to rip down homes for blind people, an art deco cinema and the Town Hall extension and replace them with two 14-storey monstrosities that lack any social housing.

The deadline for objections is 4 January 2011. Save Our Skyline has useful reminders about the key issues and a ready-made email template and link.

CPAG says, "Many residents feel that this is a defining planning decision for Hammersmith: if it goes through not only will our lovely river views go for ever and we will lose a large part of Furnivall Gardens to the ramp of the footbridge linking the Town Hall to the river, but the floodgates could be open to tall buildings all the way down King Street and it will become a very different place. So please do make time to send an email."

16 December 2010

Who is behind the West London Free School?

We’ve been having a look at the group of thrusting individuals that make up the Steering Committee of the would-be West London Free School. These are the people that think it so important to have a state school which teaches Latin that they are prepared to let over 20 charities be expelled from Palingswick House and services for disadvantaged children and families be forcibly “relocated” from the Askham Family Centre to make way for their school.

Charlie Ben-Nathan is a former independent school teacher.

Caroline Bondy was educated partly in the independent sector. She is married to Toby Young, the public face of the free school.

Edward Hobart went to boarding school. 

Suzie Hobart is married to Edward Hobart. 

John McIntosh was headmaster of the Catholic London Oratory School and is now an adviser to Ampleforth College (Catholic boarding school) and a governor of St Philip's Preparatory School (Catholic private school) and More House School (girls-only private school).

Stefan Bojanowski went to the London Oratory School. He is grateful to have had the opportunity to study Latin”.

Caroline Ffiske is a former Hammersmith Tory councillor and current partner of Harry Phibbs, Hammersmith Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Engagement.

Toby Young is the author of “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” and co-author of “Who's The Daddy?”, a play that pokes fun at Boris Johnson's affair with columnist Petronella Wyatt. He is the the son of Michael Young, who helped establish the Consumers' Association, the National Consumer Council and the Open University and became a Labour peer.

The other Steering Committee members are Jo Alexander, Mita Bhattacharyya, Mustafa Erdem, Simon Hugill, Cosmo Lush, Justin Tooth and Tim Waters.  

If anyone has any more interesting facts about these leading state educationalists, please do share them with us.

15 December 2010

Chronicle lets H&F Council fudge it on Palingswick House and Askham Family Centre

Today’s Fulham Chronicle website quotes a council spokeswoman as saying, “We are having ongoing discussions with the West London Free School about potential sites and we are keen to support them in developing their application for government approval. We haven't yet agreed any specific site but we will happily share any news as soon as we have it” (emphasis added).

Of course, you get the answers to the questions you asked. If it asked these instead, the Chronicle might be quite surprised by what it learnt:
  • Have there been any discussions among councillors and/or council officers about what rent the council might charge the West London Free School for using Palingswick House or the Askham Family Centre? If so, on when did these discussions take place? What options were put forward? Were any of them to charge a market rent? Were any of them to charge a peppercorn rent?
  • Have there been any discussions among council cabinet members and/or council officers about what is expected to happen to the charities in Palingswick House if the council evicts them to make way for the West London Free School? If so, what options were discussed?
  • Have there been any discussions among council cabinet members and/or council officers about what will happen to the services for children and families in the Askham Family Centre if the council evicts them from to make way for the West London Free School? If so, what are the latest options under discussion?

If anyone else fancies asking the council the same questions via a Freedom of Information request, which is surprisingly simple to do, see here for instructions.

And let's not leave out the school itself. A good question for the Steering Committee of the West London Free School might be, “Would you think it decent to evict local charities and services for children and families to make way for your school?

The best collective email  for Jo Alexander, Charlie Ben-Nathan, Mita Bhattacharyya, Stefan Bojanowski, Caroline Bondy, Mustafa Erdem, Caroline Ffiske, Edward Hobart, Suzie Hobart, Simon Hugill, Cosmo Lush, John McIntosh, Justin Tooth, Tim Waters and Toby Young (biogs here) seems to be admissions@westlondonfreeschool.co.uk.

    14 December 2010

    Botterill says Hammersmith Council wasted £250,000 so a few staff could work 24 hours a day

    Just as we hear that Tory minister Eric Pickles is slashing Tory Hammersmith Council’s budget by £26 million, we learn that the same prudent council has wasted £250,000 – or one pound for every hundred that’s being cut – by leaving the town hall lights on at night.

    The councillor nominally in charge of the environment, Nick Botterill, “explained” to the local paper: “Council staff have been working in all areas of the building for 24 hours a day until recently, which is why the lights were on.”

    According to the paper, he was talking about a “handful of noise nuisance and environmental protection staff”. In a seven-storey building.
    With passers-by able to watch these workers through brightly lit windows at all hours, who would have guessed this is what H&F meant when it said it aimed to become Britain’s most transparent local council.

    13 December 2010

    CONFIRMED! Hammersmith Council sacrificing centre for local children to ideological “free” school for children from outside the borough

    You read it here first. Following HFConwatch's exposure of this scandal ten days ago, the Shepherd’s Bush Blog has confirmed that Tory H&F Council intends to plonk Toby Young’s ideologically-driven “free” school in the Askham Family Centre until the Palingswick Centre is ready. The Centre's services will be “relocated”, which may mean lost, and the school will pay a peppercorn rent, if anything.

    The council claims the Askham Centre is “underutilised”. But at least it’s used by local Hammersmith families whereas the new school will take only half its children from H&F.

    The Tories seem to think Hammersmith taxpayers won’t notice that local services are being at best disrupted and at worst sacrificed in favour of an ideological school experiment for kids outside the borough.

    07 December 2010

    Now Shaun Bailey casts doubt on monster development

    Councillor Mark Loveday, H&F Tory council's cabinet member for strategy, was on BBC London again last night defending his plans to rip down homes for the blind along with the Cineworld cinema and build two monstrous 14-storey blocks of luxury flats which, crucially, do not include any social housing.

    What would he think of a statement yesterday by Shaun Bailey, his own failed parliamentary candidate, that "We should stop building sink estates, look at the social mix of housing and incentivise people to live together"? Making shared ownership viable for people on low incomes should also be a priority, says Bailey.

    What with Tory MP Zac Goldsmith attacking the unwanted scheme, soon the Tory council's only remaining friends will be the developers salivating about their profits.

    06 December 2010

    Tories turn on each other in Cineworld fight

    Today’s Evening Standard says, “An award-winning film director and MP Zac Goldsmith have joined campaigners opposing plans to build apartments and a supermarket on the site of a Thirties art-deco cinema.”  

    See full story here  and Tory MP Zac Goldsmith’s letter to Tory H&F council leader Stephen Greenhalgh here.

    It would be easier to say this showed there was still some decency left in the Tory Party if the same Zac Goldsmith was not being investigated by the Electoral Commission over an "impermissible" donation to his own party.

    Toby Young to occupy Askham Centre rent free?

    Since our last posting about the council’s (alleged) plan to let “celebrity” Toby Young grab the Askham Centre for disadvantaged children and families and turn it into his new free school, we now hear that the council (allegedly) intends to charge Mr Young the grand and princely sum of precisely nothing, zilch, not a smackeroo for use of this prime piece of council real estate. 

    This is one of those moments when it would be really great to be proved wrong. Perhaps someone from the council could deny it.

    03 December 2010

    Is Toby Young now getting the Askham Family Centre?

    Rumours reach us that H&F Tory Council wants to delay siting Toby Young’s free school in Palingswick House for a year. Their latest plan is apparently to give him the Askham Family Centre in Askham Road W12 instead.

    The centre’s services include overnight respite for families with severely disabled children and assessments for families with serious behavioural problems. This would be sacrificed for an unwanted ideological free school experiment, half of whose pupils will come from outside the borough.

    Toby Young wants the new school to teach Latin. To which we can only say, ne cede malis*.

    * May you not give way to evil things (Virgil)