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 here.
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.
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.
WEEKLY ROUND UP
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 website.
To contact Andy, e-mail him at email@example.com or call his office on 020