31 March 2011

Thank you to the Guardian for naming HFConwatch a top London blogger

It is good to see Tory Hammersmith and Fulham council's economically illiterate and high-handed behaviour attracting wider attention, with the Guardian's London blogger Dave Hill naming HFConwatch as one of his top London bloggers.

H&F Conservatives reveal the true, inefficient and callous face of Cameron's "reformed" party. We'll carry on doing our bit to expose them.

It is also great to see two of our regular reads, Boriswatch and Bird in the Bush, on the Guardian's list.

Lady Borwick to buy a whip to keep Tory colleagues in line

Baroness Borwick, a councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham's triborough partner Kensington - who is also the London Assembly member responsible for culture - has apparently promised to buy a real whip to "add some bite" to her new role as Chief Whip of the Conservative group for the 2012 London elections. 

Shame she hasn't shown the same energy in protecting west London's culture from government-driven cuts.

Government cuts Riverside Studios, Boris "ignored" as south-west London loses out to Olympic boroughs

Riverside Studios in Hammersmith have just lost all of their Arts Council funding, worth nearly £500,000, as a result of government cuts. Other west and south-west London venues to have lost their funding or had bids refused are the Waterman’s in Hounslow, the Orange Tree in Richmond, the Battersea Arts Centre in Wandsworth and the Rose Theatre in Kingston.

There were always going to be (a few) winners and (many) losers after the government cut the Arts Council budget by nearly a third but is hard to see why Mayor Boris has let the council give this part of London such a kicking...assuming he tried to stop them.

As Stephen Unwin, artistic director of the Rose Theatre in Kingston, says, "The funding situation in south-west London is now worse than ever and the contrast with east London – especially the Olympic Boroughs – is stark. It’s clear that a large part of the Mayor of London’s cultural strategy has been ignored.

Across the country, a quarter of theatres, galleries and orchestras have lost all their funding. The arts are good for the soul and good for the economy. Tory politicians are bad for both.

30 March 2011

Local victims of the Tory debt myth

Hammersmith business and residents are suffering because, both locally and nationally, the Tories are peddling a debt myth and using it as a smokescreen to do what they want to do ideologically – cut down the state.

"The biggest lie in British politics" is what Independent journalist Johann Hari called it in a remarkable piece yesterday. He points out that when the economic crisis hit, Britain actually had the second-lowest debt of the leading economies. And as a proportion of GDP, Britain’s national debt has been higher than it is now for 200 of the past 250 years.

Hari says "To react to a recession by increasing spending, and so keeping the economy afloat, is the only rational response. The real reason why David Cameron is imposing these massive cuts has nothing to do with the national debt. It is because he regards himself as, in his words, 'the child of Thatcher', and he wants to pursue her agenda harder and faster than she ever dreamed."

Hammersmith Tories are doing the same, falsely blaming the council’s debt for their decision to slash a third more than even the government demanded. They have added another 4% of cuts to Eric Pickles's 11% and decimated most early years Sure Start services.

As economic policy guru Labour councillor Professor Andrew Jones pointed out in a recent blog exploding the Tory myths about Hammersmith's debt burden, the local Tories' economic arguments, just like those of their national leaders, don't stack up. 

Perhaps one day they'll come clean about the real, ideological reasons behind their cuts. Or perhaps ....

28 March 2011

Come to "Buggy Push" rally to save our children's centres, 30 March at Hammersmith Town Hall

Hammersmith & Fulham Parents Unite are holding a "Buggy Push" around the Hammersmith Town Hall from 4pm on 30 March and are inviting everyone to join them.

They will be presenting a petition to H&F council (1,500 signatures and counting) to save local children’s centres. The rally is from 4.00 to 5.30pm on Wednesday 30 March at Hammersmith Town Hall, King Street, London W6.

Ten children’s centres in Hammersmith & Fulham have had their budgets slashed by up to 95%. The £19,000 a year they have been left with does not keep a centre open as the council claims.

Hammersmith & Fulham Parents Unite say:
  • We represent thousands of families from across the Borough that will be dramatically affected by the proposed cuts to Children’s Centres.
  • We are strongly against 'Spoke & Hub' model and the restructuring of Early Intervention Services in Hammersmith & Fulham. £19,000 does not keep a centre open.
  • Experienced, qualified staff, educated in Early Years, are vital to each centre, and must be kept. Parents are happy to volunteer only in properly staffed centres. And childminder Network Co-ordinators within children’s centres should be maintained as local community contact is vital.
  • We would propose an alternate 15-20% cut to be applied equally to each centre, to be managed by each individual centre. Centres should be enabled to apply for additional, non-statutory funding.
  • Whilst we understand the need for some cuts, the present children's centre model has been wholeheartedly endorsed by the parental responses to our consultations. 
  • Save Our Children’s Centres!

For more information, see Facebook page: Hammersmith & Fulham Parents Unite and www.savewendellparkcc.blog.co.uk.

Hammersmith & Fulham Parents Unite represent the children and parents and carers of 5,000 families from across the borough that attend local children’s centres at Cathnor Park, Melcome, Rouzanna, Shepherd’s Bush Families Project and Wendell Park. 

The Andrew Lansley Rap's riff on H&F Tory donor John Nash

In what must be a first, the latest rap to take YouTube by storm rails against the government's plans to introduce utilities-style competition into the NHS. The Andrew Lansley Rap by MC NxtGen is a bit crude but, as the Guardian puts it, perfectly skewers its target.

It even includes this riff on John Nash, who long-standing readers of this blog will recall has through his wife Caroline generously donated fifty thousand pounds to the Hammersmith & Fulham Conservative Party in recent years (see blog here and the Electoral Commission record here):
"He's been given cash / by John Nash / chairman of Care UK, / a private healthcare provider, / who, if they have their own way, / will be the biggest beneficiaries / of Conservative Lib-Dem policies / to privatise healthcare, pull apart the welfare state."
Care UK is well regarded locally as a long-standing provider of care to H&F residents, being paid £2 million by the council in the first quarter of last year alone, according to the council's payments' list here (Care UK Homecare £1,427,423 and Care UK Community Partnership Ltd £585,110).

27 March 2011

Sane and rational Harry Phibbs calls for more cuts and Britain to leave the EU

What on earth is Hammersmith Tory councillor Harry Phibbs, a former scion of the rabidly right-wing Young Conservatives, on? Yesterday, he tweeted that government's cuts didn't go far enough. When asked by the Shepherd's Bush Blog what else he'd cut, he cited our EU membership. See here.

Childe Harold also said, "We are doing a good job finding savings in H&F". Yes, if a good job means slashing a third more than even the government demanded. To the great Pickles cut of 11% from H&F's budget, the local Tories in a fit of ideology added another 4%, signalling the destruction of most Sure Start early years services.

By the way, Phibbs claimed in his original tweet that 35% of the country wanted the cuts to go further. A more numerate friend pointed out that the figure was actually 29% and the 35% referred to people who, er, thought the cuts went too far. Phibbs then corrected himself. No doubt his approach to the numbers he uses to justify H&F's cuts is similarly rigorous.

25 March 2011

Andy Slaughter MP's take on the Budget, crazy cuts, local business and more

    • Budget For Sloth
    • Middle East
    • High Speed 2
    • ESOL
    • Human Trafficking
    • Probation Services
    • Coca-Cola

    Budget For Sloth

     It was billed as the ‘growth’ budget, that would get Britain moving again.  The problem was the central message was that growth is being revised down for the second time – for last year, this year and next year.
    This time last year the economy was beginning to recover, growth was positive and unemployment was falling. A year on the Chancellor is presiding over an economy which is hardly growing, inflation at a 20 year high and unemployment rising to a 17 year high.
    It’s clear that the Chancellor is taking an almighty gamble with the economy through the choices his Government is making. By cutting so deep and so fast Osborne is causing unnecessary suffering to families and great and permanent damage to the economy.  The cuts that start from 1 April include everything from tax credits to Sure Start Centres, with police and health services still waiting to see how many clinicians and constables are being laid off -  a week before the financial year starts.  Unprecedented savings of £81 billion will be made before the next election. 
    Some poor attempts to shield this with ‘giveaways’ lasted only a few hours before Osborne was rumbled.  A £45 a year cut in tax from April 2012 is balanced by changing the uprating of allowances to a lower rate (CPI not RPI).  Within three years this will claw back the ‘cut’, which is in any case one tenth of the  £450 a year the average family is paying through higher VAT.  In boasting a 1p cut in  fuel duty the chancellor forgot he has added 3p to a litre of petrol through the VAT rise.
    This is economic policy driven by ideology, and lacking credibility. We are already seeing the longest squeeze in living standards since the 1920s, and Wednesday's budget will do nothing to ease the concerns of  families up and down the country working hard to make ends meet. 

    Middle East

    My visit to Cairo last weekend coincided with the national referendum on changes to the Egyptian constitution – the first time that most Egyptian people had taken part in a fair election.  The process of election was almost more important than the outcome with long queues forming and judges in place at polling stations to see fair play.

    The cross-party visit, led by Lord David Steel, was also an opportunity to discuss the current situation in Libya and the effect changes in the region will have on the peace process.  We met several of the presidential candidates, the interim government and opposition parties, some of them still forming out of the crucible of the revolution in Tahrir Square. 

    I drew on the opinions I heard in making my speech in the debate on intervention in Libya on Monday HERE.  I support the UN resolution in that it gives permission for humanitarian intervention to prevent the massacre of civilians, but not military action to achieve regime change.

    On Wednesday I met the Syrian ambassador to raise the attacks on civilians in Daraa, and also raised this and Israeli attacks on Gaza with William Hague HERE.  This weekend I am again meeting the local Arab community and on Monday attending a national meeting of British Arab community leaders at the Commons.

    High Speed 2

    On Tuesday I visited the proposed site of the new High Speed 2 London interchange at Old Oak Common.  Following consultation – the plans will be on display outside Shepherds Bush Overground station 8am to 8pm on 1 April - it is hoped that approval in principle and for the proposed route will be agreed by the end of this year.  There will then be a Bill through Parliament between 2013 and 2015.

    Once funding is secure construction will start around 2017, with the Old Oak Common interchange coming early in the construction phase.

    The building work will involve moving the existing lines to put in six new platforms to connect Crossrail and Great Western with the new HS2 platforms which are being constructed in an open tunnel.

    With a total of fourteen platforms, the Old Oak station will be the country’s major rail interchange, allowing anyone arriving there to choose from a number of destinations, including the West Country, Heathrow, Crossrail stations and international destinations. The travel time to Birmingham will be 42 minutes.

    I fully back the proposals and believe they will not only benefit the country by vastly improving the transport infrastructure, but will also provide a much needed boost to the local economy in Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush.

    ESOL students telling it in their own words

    On Thursday morning I attended a day at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College celebrating the contribution that ESOL(English as a second or other language) teaching makes to the local community.

    The event was set up to highlight the implications of the Government’s decisions to allow only adults on ‘active’benefits to pay reduced fees. Coupled with the cuts being introduced to ESOL funding this will have a devastating effect on the 70% of the college’s 4,000 studentswho will lose out.

    Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College is the largest providers of ESOL qualifications in London, with over 100 languages being spoken there. The Government’s changes, due to be introduced in September 2011 will also cost the College £5m a year in fee income.

    This is a crazy decision on the part of the Government, which will deny opportunities to people who wish to improve their English, making them less able to find employment, go on to higher or further education and contribute to the economy.

    Human Trafficking

    This week the Government performed a very welcome u-turn on its plans to opt out of the EU Directive on Human Trafficking. Having previously stated their opposition to a Europe-wide approach to tackle the problem of trafficking, the Immigration Minister Damian Green this week announced that the Government were applying to opt in.

    The Directive introduces a number of measures, including the extension of the UK’s powers to prosecute UK nationals who commit offences anywhere in the world, and will ensure better protection for victims of trafficking, while increasing the chances of successful prosecutions for gangs who exploit vulnerable people.

    The UK had previously been one of only two European countries not to sign up to the directive.

    A broad coalition of campaigners from the Archbishop of York to the Labour Party, charities and NGOs has been lobbying the Government to change its mind since the decision was announced last summer.

    I was contacted by a number of constituents, and have raised their concerns with the Home Secretary.


    Probation Service

    On Wednesday I attended a seminar by the local probation service on how they are working to cut offending and reoffending. It included very impressive presentations from ex-offenders who thanks to support with housing, training and living independently now live successful and productive working lives.

    The were many positive messages to come out of the event, but I was alarmed to learn that substantial cuts are planned for the probation budget next year, making it hard for this work to continue.

    I hope that the Tory councillors present were taking particular notice when one ex-offender commented on the lack of youth provision in the area saying, “I don’t know where there’s a youth club around here’. The council should reconsider their disastrous plans to close even more youth services in the Borough including the Fulham Cross Youth Project.



    Coca-Cola’s UK HQ in the Broadway Centre above Hammersmith station has been a major business in the Borough for many years. This week I visited their offices to talk about how they can provide more support to help local charities and the local economy, and how they can make their products more healthy.   They have just started national sponsorship of Street Games, which links up Olympic stars with local kids to encourage a healthy lifestyle and interest in sport.  With a sponsor in the borough I hope they will continue holding events at White City and Edward Woods in the summer and add other locations.


    To contact Andy, please e-mail him at andy@andyslaughter.com or call his office on 020 7610 1950.


    22 March 2011

    Greedy Hammersmith Tories not using their privileged Olympic tickets to help local charities

    Hammersmith & Fulham Tories are showing no interest in helping local charities to benefit from the privileged allocation of tickets the Tories have been offered for the most popular Olympic events.

    The Olympic organisers are giving councillors, Tory and LibDem ministers and Mayor Boris Johnson the chance to leapfrog the general public and buy tickets ahead of ordinary sports fans for events such as the finals of the athletics, track cycling and swimming and the opening and closing ceremonies.

    When local blogger Chris Underwood broke this story, he suggested that, rather than snaffle the tickets for themselves, Hammersmith Tories should auction their tickets to raise money for local charities. Labour leader Steve Cowan also said the tickets should be used for the benefit of some local worthy cause.

    The council's response? Silence. There appears to be no worthier cause for local Tories than their own good selves.

    If they want to prove us wrong, we'd suggest auctioning half the tickets and raffling the rest to give local people on lower incomes a chance of getting one. That would combine charitable giving with fairness to all.

    21 March 2011

    Hammersmith council hikes top salaries then cuts £33m from ordinary people's services

    Supposedly efficient Tory Hammersmith & Fulham, which is one of the smallest boroughs in London, is paying its top bureaucrats some of the largest salaries. Last year, just nine people took home a total of £2,002,719 and the council gave H&F officials up to a 16% salary increase.

    Then there are the huge fees H&F pays to "consultants", including Private Eye's "Retiree of the Year" Nick Johnson, who got £225,611 for running the council's housing management service (see blog, Pickles turns a blind eye to the H&F council official earning £286k plus a £50k pension).

    Labour leader Steve Cowan says, "Just a few weeks ago, H&F's Conservative Administration voted through £33 million of cuts to many vital front line services. It is hard to comprehend why they didn’t cut any of these salaries or indeed the numbers of senior officials as has happened in other councils."

    See Steve's detailed analysis of the situation here.

    London NHS needs your help - sign Ken's petition to protect London's health services

    Ken Livingstone is running a campaign to protect London's NHS services. Please help.

    The NHS has always been a top priority for Labour in London and before the election the Tories said it was one of theirs, too.
    • David Cameron promised: "We will guarantee that health spending increases in real terms, in each year of the Parliament."
    • Boris Johnson promised to “Support local health services by campaigning against closures and fighting to save local GP services."
    • David Cameron promised: "I will protect frontline services."

    Click here to sign Ken's petition to hold David Cameron and Boris Johnson to their promises to protect the NHS and:
    • Protect healthcare services
    • Stop precious money being wasted on a big top-down reorganisation which is putting the NHS at risk
    • Provide the real increase we were promised in NHS funding.

    Londoners from west to east and north to south deserve top quality care. Our health services should not be broken up, sold off or privatised by the back door.

    18 March 2011

    Latest news from Andy Slaughter, Hammersmith's battling MP

    • Earls Court Redevelopment
    • Local Government Propaganda
    • Egypt
    • Tunisia
    To contact Andy, e-mail him at andy@andyslaughter.com or call his office on 020 7610 1950

    Earls Court Redevelopment
    This week I attended the launch of the master plan for Earls Court. No expense was spared in presenting plans of developers Capco for what will be the largest inner city development in London over the next 20 years if they get their way.

    The development is controversial not only because of the loss of Earls Court Exhibition Halls, but because of the demolition of 750 good quality affordable homes in West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates. In place of these there will be 7,500 luxury homes at several times the current density rising in parts of the site to 30 stories.

    This massive overdevelopment which will disrupt the lives not only of the thousands of people who will lose their homes, but the tens of thousands who will suffer as a result of 20 years of living next to building site and strain on public services.

    The development is being pushed through with active support of the Tories in H&F and K&C and Boris Johnson. The lack of scrutiny is scandalous in what amounts to the biggest gerrymander ever seen in the UK.

    This is all a huge confidence trick. It is being sold to us as four villages and a 21st century high street, but how many ‘villages’ have 30 storey tower blocks and 2million square feet of office space?

    Local Government Propaganda

    Regular subscribers to my newsletter will know that I don’t always see eye to eye with the current Government. However, recently I have found common cause with Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, who has been leading a Government charge against local Government propaganda.
    The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced a Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, to be shortly debated in the Commons, which includes new guidelines to limit the frequency of council newspapers and to prevent them from emulating commercial newspapers.

    The move comes as the Government looks to strengthen the freedom and integrity of the local press and to ensure that tax payers’ money isn’t being used to provide expensive propaganda for councils.

    However it seems as if H&F,
    the apple of Mr Pickles’ eye, is attempting to get around the new code by negotiating with our local paper for editorial space in exchange for considerable amounts of advertising. The council, which spends £1.5m a year on self promotion, also appears to be seeking to enter into a potential ten year contract with an organisation which will provide both advertising and communication services across the Borough.

    I recently raised this issue with the Local Government Minister, Grant Shapps MP, who confirmed that H&F would be breaching the code by continuing with their plans. As a result I have now raised the issue with both the district auditor and the monitoring officer for Hammersmith to make them aware of what the council is up to.

    I hope that they will look at the issue and ensure that H&F council now comply with the Government’s rules on local publicity.


    I am currently in Egypt to discuss the current political situation with range of parties  I will be taking with me a letter from the Egyptian Community in the UK asking for the rights of ex-pats be able to vote in future elections.

    I hope that on my return our Government will continue to promote Egyptian democracy.

    On Monday I raised the issue of Egypt with the Prime Minister. You can read my intervention


    On Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting with Tunisian Ambassador to the UK Hatem Atallah and minister of tourism Mehdi Houas to discuss the current situation in the country.

    Ambassador Atallah told me that preparations are well underway for elections on the 24th July, and that the country is coping with the current refugee crisis on the Libyan border.

    Minister Houas  was also very keen to stress that stability has now returned, and the people of Tunisia are eager to see a return of foreign visitors after seeing a 55% fall in tourism since the start of the year.

    On Tuesday I spoke at the third annual conference of Mothers Against Murder and Aggression (Mamaa).

    Mamma is an organisation that was set up by a group of mothers in the wake of the James Bulger killing, as a support group for victims of extremely serious, and violent crimes.

    The group deals with around 300 cases per year working closely with the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to provide support.

    I was honoured to be asked to deliver an address to the conference and got the chance to meet with many remarkable figures including the CEO Lyn Costello MBE.

    On Tuesday I spoke at the launch of the Consumer Financial Education Body’s guide on financial education for those working young offenders.

    I was joined by around 50 guests from the youth, justice and local government sectors, as well as other Parliamentarians.

    The guide is one of a series being produced by the CFEB to explain what is meant by financial education for vulnerable young people, and is written for those who may not being benefited from financial education available in schools.

    Meeting with Chief Legal Ombudsman

    On Monday I met with the Chief Legal Ombudsman Adam Sampson, who deals with complaints about solicitors and barristers, to discuss concerns that complaints would rise as a result of the Government’s cut backs in legal aid.

    Advice Matters

    On Wednesday I attended the launch of Advice Matters, which brings together all the funders and agencies delivering advice service, at a round table discussion in Parliament.

    The panel, which included six Labour shadow ministers, heard evidence from advice workers and service users about exactly how front-line advice services will be affected by proposed cuts in the many sources of funding on which advice centres depend.

    The MPs in attendance were left in no doubt about the effects that Government cuts will have on advice services, as the expert and often passionate testimony made clear – these cuts must be reversed or society will be left to pick up the pieces. 


    Hammersmith's Hungarian Community

    On Sunday I had the pleasure of joining with members of the Hungarian Reformed Church and the Hungarian Ambassador for the opening ceremony of the new traditional Hungarian Gate at the Church building on St Dunstan’s Road.
    The Gate is a symbol of national heritage, and the opening ceremony was attended by members of the Hungarian Community from all over the UK.

    The West London Showcase
    Also on Sunday I attended the 7th annual West London showcase at the Bush Hall in Shepherds Bush. The event, which featured a mixture of music, singing, dance, rap and poetry was an excellent showcase of the diverse range of talent from young people in the borough.

    Mogadishu at the Lyric

    On Saturday the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith is putting on a special gala performance of Vivienne Franzmann’s award winning play ‘Mogadishu’.

    The gala performance is being held in aid of the Teacher Support Network, which gives support to teachers who have been falsely accused by pupils, and helps with any emotional and professional problems that may arise as a consequence.

    The play, which runs at the Lyric until 2nd April, stars local William Morris student Farshi Rokey, who plays the role of ‘Saif’.

    Further information about the play and the work done by the Teacher Support Network can be found on their

    To contact Andy, e-mail him at andy@andyslaughter.com or call his office on 020 
    7610 1950

    16 March 2011

    Hammersmith in top ten for child poverty in London. Nearly 11,000 children living in penury.

    Four out of every ten children in Hammersmith & Fulham are being raised in deprivation, new figures from End Child Poverty show. That's almost eleven thousand children across the borough.

    In College Park & Old Oak, six out of ten children are living in poverty, as are over half of children in Wormholt and White City. More than four in ten children live below the poverty line in Sands End, Shepherd's Bush Green and North End. The same is true for over a third of children who live in Hammersmith Broadway, Fulham Broadway and Askew. See figures for all wards below.

    We can expect local children's life chances to be further damaged as H&F Tory council's unnecessarily savage cuts to children's services, including Sure Start early years centres, begin to bite and national benefits are reduced.

    Overall, H&F has the tenth highest share of children living in poverty of the 33 London councils, with 36% of children living in families below the poverty line. In its triborough partner Westminster the figure is 41% and in Kensington & Chelsea it is 29%.

    David Cameron said in 2007, "We can make British poverty history, and we will make British poverty history". Instead, his government and Tory councils like H&F are making things grimmer for children and families. 

    The full report is here and a child poverty map of Britain is here. 

    Child poverty in LB Hammersmith & Fulham
    By % of children living in  poverty By ward
    College Park and Old Oak 58% Addison 28%
    Wormholt and White City 53% Askew 35%
    Sands End 45% Avonmore and Brook Green 28%
    Shepherd's Bush Green 44% College Park and Old Oak 58%
    North End 44% Fulham Broadway 36%
    Hammersmith Broadway 39% Fulham Reach 31%
    Fulham Broadway 36% Hammersmith Broadway 39%
    Askew 35% Munster 21%
    Fulham Reach 31% North End 44%
    Ravenscourt Park 30% Palace Riverside 11%
    Town 30% Parsons Green and Walham 17%
    Avonmore and Brook Green 28% Ravenscourt Park 30%
    Addison 28% Sands End 45%
    Munster 21% Shepherd's Bush Green 44%
    Parsons Green and Walham 17% Town 30%
    Palace Riverside 11% Wormholt and White City 53%

    The analysis was undertaken for the End Child Poverty campaign by Donald Hirsch and Jacqueline Beckhelling of the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University. Children are classified as being in poverty if they live in families that receive out-of-work benefits or in-work tax credits where they earn less than 60 per cent of median income.

    14 March 2011

    More thuggish Tory buildings to go up in Hammersmith

    Conservative councillors have voted through plans for two dirty great new buildings in Hammersmith Grove, both out of keeping with the local area and very much what locals don’t want. As is par for the course, the plans were poorly researched and weakly justified but the Tories pushed them through anyway.

    Opposition leader Steve Cowan's report - see here - makes worrying reading both for what the Tories are doing and how they are going about it.

    He comments, "I have long believed that the planning process is stitched up by this Conservative Administration well in advance. They have even put videos out giving strong hints that this was the case but I hadn’t realised what pressure Administration councillors on the committee were under to stick to the agreed plan until I saw how they reacted to even small amendments or suggested deferrals. That doesn’t bode well for the contentious Town Hall, Shepherds Bush Market and Hammersmith Embankment schemes all on the near horizon."

    Stop Nisa selling 24-hour booze in the Askew Road

    Nisa Local are appealing against the council's decision to refuse them a 24-hour alcohol licence at their shop at 88-90 Askew Road W12. Please help stop them.

    A hearing date has been set for 25 May 2011 at West London Magistrates Court and the police are looking for evidence to be used at the hearing and for people who can attend the hearing themselves.

    They need up-to-date evidence from those who made a representation against the original application. They also want to hear from other local residents, not just those living in Askew Road, who feel they would be affected if Nisa was operating 24 hours a day, so please tell your neighbours.

    The Council refused the license based on representations from the police, the council's Environmental Protection Service and twenty local residents. The police said there was already a problem with street drinkers in the local area causing alarm and distress to local residents and they were concerned these drinkers would buy alcohol throughout the night if Nisa traded 24 hours.

    The police now want evidence from people with similar experiences. This should be a statement and perhaps also photos or video footage. A diarised statement which outlines problems on a day-to-day basis would be very helpful.

    Any objections should relate to one or more of the following four licensing aims:
    ·        The prevention of crime and disorder
    ·        Public safety
    ·        The prevention of public nuisance
    ·        The protection of children from harm

    Further information about the hearing will be provided nearer the time. The council's legal officer will also be able to help with drafting any statements.

    If you want to ask any questions or submit an objection, please contact Adrian Overton at the Town Hall as soon as possible. His details are:

    Adrian Overton, Licensing Officer - Safety & Licensing,
    LB Hammersmith & Fulham
    Environmental Protection - Public Protection and Safety Division
    5th floor, Town Hall Extension
    King Street
    London W6 9JU.

    Tel: (020) 8753 3081
    Fax: (020) 8753 3922
    email: adrian.overton@lbhf.gov.uk

    11 March 2011

    Sands End Community Centre being stifled as H&F Tories break promise to work with local people

    Despite a promise by H&F Tories on 7 February to work with residents on options to keep the Sands End Community Centre open, nether the council nor any of the area's three Conservative ward councillors has contacted the centre. Instead, the duplicitous council is ploughing ahead with shutting down the centre, withdrawing services one by one.

    See this shocking report by Steve Cowan, leader of the opposition on Hammersmith council.

    As always, the Hammersmith Tories say one thing and do another.

    News from Andy Slaughter, Hammersmith's hardworking Labour MP

    Andy Slaughter MP has just sent out his latest newsletter -  a good, if worrying, read.

    Not a Healthy Outlook

    Last November the local NHS wrote to me to say they were predicting cuts of £1bn from the North West  London budget over the next three years. Coming six months after the election promise that Cameron would “cut the deficit not the NHS”, this sounded incredible - particularly as cuts of that order are the funding equivalent of closing one of our local hospitals.

     In fact when I saw the head of Imperial College Hospital Trust last week he assured me that they were committed to keeping all three hospitals –Hammersmith,  St Mary's and Charing Cross - open, but were at a loss as to how they could find cuts of 8-10% which they were predicting. 

    So this week I went to see the Primary Care Trust who provide the funding for the NHS locally and they could not offer me much comfort. The PCT itself is being wound up in 2013 and what funding is left  will pass to local GPs. They did tell me that they intend at last to build the White City Health centre by that time, although they also confirmed the closure of the Milson Road Health Centre. 

    There are serious issues to be addressed in the local health service: inpatient cancer care is moving from Hammersmith to Charing Cross, there are likely to be doctors and nurses made redundant and the decision to make the most fundamental changes in the way the NHS is run is going to be a massive distraction. It seems to only have the aim of allowing the private sector to take over large parts of our NHS.

    But none of these issues were highlighted in the front-page polemic on H&F news this week. Instead it identified the move of Oncology services from Charing Cross to St Mary’s. I’m reluctant to see any services moved out of Charing Cross despite assurances for its future and the expansion of some areas of work. But why is this one issue of concern to the leader of the council Stephen Greenhalgh rather than all the other cuts and privatisations that his government is making. Perhaps we should ask the emeritus professor of vascular surgery at Charing Cross, Professor Roger Greenhalgh. 

    Air Passenger Duty

    On Wednesday I joined with  MPs including Diane Abbott and Fiona Mactaggart in lobbying Treasury Minister Justine Greening for reform of the Air Passenger Duty (APD).

    The tax, which was introduced by the previous Government, was designed as an environmental measure and places an additional levy on air passengers.

    Many constituents especially those with family in the Caribbean have voice their complaints against the duty, because the charges are determined by distance to capital cities rather than actual distance flown. This means for example it's a lot cheaper to fly to Hawaii or Los Angeles than it is to fly to the Caribbean, despite their being thousands of miles further away.

    Before the election I found rare common ground with the Tories on their pledge to replace APD, with a per plane tax and a new banding system however now they are in power it looks as if their pre-election promises have come to nothing.

    Given that the Government will not lose any revenue by charging for actual distance travelled and by charging by plane could make things cheaper for low cost passengers on fuller aircraft I can't see what is stopping them and we pressed the minister strongly to include these changes in the budget.

    Welfare Reform Bill 

    On Wednesday I spoke in the debate in Parliament on the second reading of the Welfare reform Bill – the biggest shake up of the welfare state since its inception. I have received a large number of emails from my constituents who are worried about the proposed changes especially to Disability Living Allowance and wanted the chance to put some of those concerns to secretary of state Iain Duncan Smith.

    Unfortunately Duncan Smith appeared to be unable to answer any of the questions put to him by me or other MPs invariably answering the questions with 'I'll get back to you" or words to that effect.

    People with autism, visual impairments, deafness, cancer sufferers all look set to lose out from a £1bn cut to disability benefits, and I have written on each of their behalf to the Government for clarification, but it is outrageous that in their zeal to do away with the welfare state they have put the savings in the budget without working out the detail of their proposals.

    You can read my interventions here and here and see the Secretary of State’s response here.

    The Future of Youth Justice

    There was consensus between the parties when we discussed the future of young people in custody on Tuesday, although this did not extend to how the system should be funded. Replying to the debate from the opposition frontbench I welcomed the approach from MPs of all parties who understood the need for an intelligent approach to stopping youth offending and re-offending but pointed out that that very day the Youth Justice Board had announced it was cutting its funding by 29%. You can read my speech here. 

    The day before a key note speech from Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Lord Chancellor (i.e my boss) made much the same point about the Government's proposals on sentencing as a whole. How are they going to replace prison with effective rehabilitation when they are cutting the Ministry of Justice by a higher amount than almost any other department? You can read his speech here. 


    I took part in a live radio debate on local Hammersmith station ONFM.

    I was on the judging panel of Cash 4 Clubs a SportsAid  initiative handing out over £50,000 in small grants to sporting organisations around the country that promote both mainstream and niche sports, with much of the funding comes from local firm BetFair.

    I was the speaker at dinner to mark the 85th anniversary of the Hammersmith Rotary Club held at the Polish Centre in King Street. The dinner was attended by over 100 Rotarians from all over London, including Stephen Pound MP and former MEP Michael Elliot.

    I met the leaders of the Albanian community in London and embassy officials in Parliament.

    I spoke at a meeting sponsored by CAB and the all party group on legal aid opposing the cuts in debt advice.

    I had my photograph taken with Sir Steve Redgrave to promote Fair Trade Fortnight.

    I chaired a meeting at Shepherds Bush Police Station for residents who are increasingly suffering the effects of anti-social behaviour from Westfield shopping centre two years after it opened.

    I met representatives of Prosper Palestine, a new organisation campaigning against the importation of goods from illegal Israeli settlements and to allow the export of Palestinian goods.


    09 March 2011

    As property prices fall, Hammersmith Tories show economic illiteracy by persisting in selling off local assets

    We recently ran a blog in which Labour councillor Professor Andrew Jones exploded the Tory myths about Hammersmith's debt burden. He explained in some detail why, like the Tory-led government, Hammersmith Conservatives are being at best economically illiterate and at worst downright dishonest in using debt as a smokescreen to do what they want to do ideologically – cut down the state.

    This resulted in a highly personal and poorly informed attack on Prof Jones by Tory councillor Andrew Johnson, who is press spokesperson for the Conservative councillors’ group. Mr Johnson took particular exception to Prof Jones’s assertion that the council was selling assets at the bottom of the market. He claimed, “Most respected commentators agree that residential prices within Hammersmith & Fulham are nearly back to the levels seen during the height of the Labour property boom, with commercial returns not far behind.”

    Yet according to official figures from the Land Registry, the current price trend is downwards, with the average sale price of properties in W12 falling by 13 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2010. The number of transactions is also down by 17.1 per cent. This graph (from zoopla.co.uk) tells the same story.

    There is no economic rationale for the Hammersmith Tories to cut services and sell community buildings in order to pay off borrowing at this reckless pace. They are making a straight ideological choice and they should come clean about it.

    08 March 2011

    “Transparent” Tory council's £350,000 anonymous payments. One person gets £90k but who? Hammersmith held to account

    H&F Tory council's list of payments to suppliers between January and March 2010 makes intriguing reading (see here).

    The council claims this is "a radical revolution in local government transparency" and says "The company names of suppliers and amounts are published in full."

    Well, yes and no. It turns out that nearly £350,000 worth of payments are itemised simply as PAYMENT TO INDIVIDUAL. One unnamed person received over £90,000. See full list below (71 payments).

    Tory leader Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh has said, "These simple changes will shine a spotlight on every item of council expenditure" and "We want the public to hold us to account".

    We presume there's a perfectly straightforward reason for this lack of transparency. Perhaps a  Tory councillor could tell us.

    Hammersmith & Fulham Council 
    Net total payments to general trade suppliers >£500 
    from 01/01/2010 to 31/03/2010
    Sums itemised only as PAYMENT TO INDIVIDUAL
    £90,121 £7,931 £4,244 £2,569 £1,658 £1,170 £868
    £16,947 £7,890 £4,152 £2,509 £1,531 £1,161 £850
    £12,075 £6,952 £4,144 £2,470 £1,520 £1,140 £850
    £10,414 £6,943 £3,969 £2,306 £1,500 £1,135 £850
    £10,294 £6,943 £3,702 £2,235 £1,456 £1,135 £825
    £9,942 £6,107 £3,554 £2,153 £1,425 £1,015 £738
    £9,681 £5,762 £3,373 £2,145 £1,378 £1,000 £710
    £9,150 £5,408 £3,188 £2,088 £1,356 £893 £681
    £8,541 £4,795 £2,966 £1,937 £1,222 £893 £638
    £8,182 £4,725 £2,667 £1,714 £1,176 £889 £602


    04 March 2011

    News from Hammersmith's man on the House of Commons benches

    Our hard-working MP Andy Slaughter has just sent out his latest newsletter. As always, it makes lively reading. Click on the links below.

    Richest borough K&C cuts services to neediest rather than touch £148m reserves

    The Evening Standard has revealed that Tory Kensington & Chelsea, Britain's richest borough, has refused to use its unexpectedly high £148 million cash reserves to save services for elderly and mentally ill Londoners and children, preferring to cut by £23m instead. See full story here.

    Reserves are rainy day money to be used to protect people when times are toughest, as now. By not using them, is K&C ruthlessly preparing the ground for its "triborough" partnership with fellow Tory slashers Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster councils? Is a rush to the bottom what this cosy arrangement is really all about?

    01 March 2011

    Fears for local democracy if H&F, Westminster, K&C share services and top management

    The radical "triborough" plan for Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea councils to share services and senior management challenges local authority boundaries and raises serious issues of democratic accountability.

    A report from the New Local Government Network says that such plans bring "questions about the nature of local authority boundaries to the fore". The think tank also reveals concerns about keeping councillors answerable to local people, stating, "We are keen to preserve existing democratic structures".

    This echoes the fears of the three boroughs' opposition leaders. In a joint letter, they say that while Labour is in favour of genuine efficiencies and rooting out waste, the Conservatives "have not explained how local residents will keep their ability to hold their own council to account on important matters of local concern" nor "how any newly elected administration would be able to secede from any part of this if political control changes at the local elections in 2014."

    If they believe in local democracy, the triborough Tories need to address these questions without delay.