26 July 2011

Help save Olympia’s tube service. Come to public meeting tonight with Transport for London

Transport for London wants to close down Olympia station on weekdays, even though this will mean the "slow death" of the Olympia exhibition centre (see here) and deprive disabled people of one of their few access points to the tube network (see here).

Now Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter has managed to persuade TfL to listen to local residents’ concerns. So come along and put your questions to TfL’s Richard Parry at a meeting tonight (26 July) at 7pm in the Pillar Hall, Olympia.

A warning -- Richard Parry is a wily operator. It took persistent questioning from the audience at a public meeting in January 2008 to get him to stop sliding around and admit that TfL was going back on its plans to install disabled passenger lifts in the new Shepherd's Bush Central line station (see here).

Tory boy a-sitting on his fence
Andy Slaughter has also managed to get local Tory councillors to promise to attend tonight. They originally backed TfL’s plan (see here), as they do any proposals from the large and the powerful. But then they saw local people’s fury. Now they say they want residents to get “the best possible deal” (see here). It is not known if they will bring their own fence.

Andy Slaughter MP says what's really going on in Hammersmith

  • Save Olympia's tube service public meeting
  • Sergeants to go from local police teams
  • Hacking, graft and who knew what
  • Imperial lather
  • Sure Start - the truth at last
  • Dirty tricks as West Ken residents defend their homes
  • Ken Eats Pie
  • Three Hours - Without Remission
  • Summer Activities Round Up

Save Olympia's tube service public meeting

 It is absurd to think you can close a tube line that goes into the heart of London’s most densely-populated district and serves one of its main public attractions. But that’s what London Underground are like. Unaccountable, despite being run by an elected Mayor, and strangely oblivious of their duty to provide public transport.

We’ve been here before with the closure of Shepherds Bush Central Line for a year to please Westfield. It doesn’t help when local politicians collude with them – as H&F council did over Shepherds Bush and leading Tories like Greg Hands – the former MP for Olympia – and Greg Smith have on this occasion

But Tuesday is the day to call them to account.  Richard Parry, LU’s top man, will be at the Pillar Hall, Olympia at 7pm to hear residents’ views on his plan to stop all weekday services from Earl’s Court to Olympia from December.  Hope to see you there.

Sergeants to go from local police teams

The effects of 20% national cuts in policing are beginning to be felt on Hammersmith streets. 

A statement from the local police last week said:

“As a result of the MPS review of safer neighbourhoods Hammersmith & Fulham will be reducing from 16 to 12 SNT Sergeants. The following wards will share a Sergeant:

Addison & Avonmore and Brook Green
Parsons Green & Walham and Sands End
Munster & Palace Riverside
Fulham Reach & North End”

This level of cuts is a pure matter of choice by the Government and yet the council commented:

“In these difficult economic times everyone has to do more for less and to be only losing four Safer Neighbourhoods Sergeants at a time when other boroughs are losing more is good news for Hammersmith and Fulham.”

But Sergeants are the heart of the Safer Neighbourhood Team – which the borough commander rightly described as the jewel in the crown of local policing. What this actually means is that there will be one team for two wards in many areas of Hammersmith, including those like Fulham Reach, North End and Addison with a worrying level of anti-social behaviour in the past.

It is pathetic for the council now to wash its hands of the cuts in vital front-line policing.  Perhaps if they  spent some of the millions wasted on magazines and PR to tell us how much they care about fighting crime actually on fighting crime we could keep our sergeants.  

Hacking, graft and who knew what

I try to keep to local stories in this bulletin, but the hacking scandal has seeped into almost every area of public life.  I had over 300 letters and emails about it last week, easily outstripping the NHS and forests, the year’s previous top issues for Hammersmith constituents.  I hope everyone has now had a reply, though it was difficult to keep up with each new revelation.

I gave my opinion on LBC and Radio London and asked Cameron one of the famous 136 questions last Wednesday, but was shut away in the Legal Aid Bill Committee on the day the Murdochs came to town.  The reason Cameron was asked the same questions over and over again is that he wouldn’t give straight answers, and that doesn’t bode well for future revelations.

I think there are two separate swamps to drain here.  The bigger issue in the long run is the honesty and integrity of the press and the police – and of course politicians.  That is what the independent inquiry has to tackle and it is a massive task as the power News International – and other proprietors – have wielded has cowed a generation of political leaders, whether out of fear or hope of advancement for themselves and their parties.  For the present the spell is broken, but only because a few backbench MPs and Ed Miliband insisted that Murdoch and Co were brought to book.  This is a web that spreads so wide that it is in many powerful people’s interests to return to business as usual.

Which raises the second issue – allegations of criminal behaviour very close to the centre of government.  Every day brings fresh revelations and I hope the police team that is now investigating will prove more competent and better motivated to get to the bottom of them than their predecessors. 

I don’t buy Cameron employing Coulson to give him a ‘second chance’, but without worrying that he needed security clearance.  I think Coulson was attractive because, not in spite, of his risk-taking personality.  The other person who comes out badly from this is the favourite to succeed Cameron when he goes – Boris.  Onto his third Commissioner, losing half the management team at the Met and now denouncing the same hacking allegations he called ‘codswallop’ last year. 

Imperial lather

Karen Buck, Mark Field and I – as the MPs for Imperial Health Care’s five hospitals in West London – met their new Chief Executive, Mark Davies, last week.  Three months ago Imperial’s outgoing head Steve Smith told us it was impossible for major hospitals faced with increasing demand to make 4% year on year cuts.  It still is, but that doesn’t stop the government making them do it.  The result:  Imperial – including Charing Cross and Hammersmith – must lose £100million from their budget this year, 13% of the total.  Of course this is impossible even with doctors and nurses losing their jobs and whole departments closing down.  So at the end of the year they will be in debt with an even bigger problem next year.

Remember ‘I’ll cut the deficit not the NHS’? With growth tanking it’s beginning to look like the other way round.

Sure Start - the truth at last

The cat and mouse game the Council has played with the future of local Children’s Centres came to an end with the admission that nine of the existing 15 Centres would close.  Finally faced with a rebellion by the Centres themselves, who knew they would fail their Ofsted inspections if made to carry on with 5% or 10% of their previous funding, the Council has conceded they must ‘de-register’, that is, close.  Read the full story here

Dirty tricks as West Ken residents defend their homes

In a move that even seasoned Hammersmith watchers found shocking, the Council sold several thousand of its residents and their homes to a property developer for £15 million last week.  Yes, this really happened:  CapCo, the giant property company that wants to build 27 storey blocks of luxury flats on the site of two council estates off North End Road has bought the ‘exclusive’ option to negotiate demolition of 760 newly built or modernised affordable homes.

The story gets better – or worse.  When the residents – 80% of whom have signed up to oppose demolition – went to the town hall to protest, they found a handful of ‘counter-demonstrators’ from the ‘steering group’ set up by the council to undermine the legitimate residents’ association.  I wrote about it in my Chronicle column, as did Shepherds Bush Blog and the Guardian.

Word of the shenanigans even reached Ken Livingstone who visited the estates last Thursday to meet residents’ representatives.

Sally Taylor and Diana Belshaw, Chairs of West Ken and Gibbs Green TRAs and other local residents opposed to the demolition of their homes showed Ken Livingstone around last week.

Ken Eats Pie

Ken Livingstone also found time to visit A A Cooke’s famous pie and mash shop in Goldhawk Road last week.  Not just for the eels and liquor but to hear about the council’s attempt to demolish the historic row of shops to make way for – of course – more luxury flats.  Earlier in the week I filed my witness statement in support of the Judicial Review the Goldhawk traders have launched to fight the developer/council’s plans.

Three Hours - Without Remission

We finally got onto the meat of the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill on Tuesday- the government’s proposal to effectively end Legal advice and representation for poorer people in areas such as housing and family law.  It was my job as Shadow Minister to set out our objections in some detail.  Which I did in a three hour speech to the committee, encouraged by helpful interventions from all parties present.  Should you wish to read what I said you can find it here.


  • I jointly hosted a 100th birthday party on the terrace at the Commons with my neighbour Angie Bray, MP for my old Acton seat.  The birthday girl was Peggy Aslett, still as sprightly as when she toured the Commons two years ago and still planning her next adventure.
  • I got my first tombola win of the season at Grove Neighbourhood Centre summer fair
  • I spoke at the 5th anniversary celebration for Banooda Aid Foundation at Bishop Creighton House.
  • With the local councillors and council officers I toured estates in Shepherds Bush to hear residents' concerns
  • With the Mayor  I visited one of the best renovation schemes in the borough – the Du Cane Road estate opposite Hammersmith Hospital.
  • In addition I have a regular programme of surgeries, which will continue after the summer hols.  Routine casework is dealt with by my two assiduous caseworkers –email to andy@andyslaughter.com.  Complex cases I see at my weekly Monday morning surgery – email or ‘phone for an appointment.  And to find out what is happening around the constituency I do a street surgery at weekends.  Most recently I have visited Lakeside Road, Willow Vale and Brook Green – if you want me to come to your street or block, let me know.
To contact Andy, e-mail him at andy@andyslaughter.com or call his office on 020 7610 1950

22 July 2011

July's Euro goings-on from Claude Moraes MEP

Dear Friends
Welcome to my July Newsletter, a chance for me to keep you up to date on what your London Labour MEP is doing on your behalf, as well as to give you a regular analysis of developments in the EU.
In July, there was continued crisis amongst European economies and a host of other legislative and other issues which were understandably over-shadowed by the crisis. I include those issues here.
I've also launched my new website this month, designed to make accessing stories and information on the European Union easier for you, and I also regularly update my Facebook page. I always welcome any feedback you may have and hope that this Report will be informative.
Please feel free to get in touch,
Claude Moraes MEP
Labour MEP for London
Deputy Leader, European Parliamentary Labour Party
The EU Budget
Labour is opposing any increase in the EU budget for 2012.
Labour MEPs have in fact called on the European Commission to radically overhaul its planned budget for 2012. What we need is a focus on jobs and growth - not to freeze our actions because of austerity.
Labour also wants an end to wasteful budgets, and Labour MEPs are opposed to the Commission's plans for a 4.9% budget increase.
Labour's priorities are jobs, regeneration, transport and energy infrastructure, as well as aiding the development and research that will lay the groundwork for future growth. I personally also want to see no diminution in our development and refugee aid while key Member States are involved in military action in refugee producing areas of the world.
As your London Labour MEP, I will continue to oppose any EU budget increase for 2012, as well as continue to push hard for spending EU funds where such funds can make the most difference for people in London and the UK, and the most sensitive war and development zones.
Britain and London have some of the strictest road safety laws in the world. Labour wants to keep it that way.
The Tory-led UK government, however, is laying plans to relax our strict MoT testing standards, with Tory Transport Secretary Phil Hammond developing plans to see the vehicles on our streets undergoing fewer MoT tests.
Under the Tory pla ns, cars and vans will be able to spend another full year on the road in between before their first MoT check-up, plus an extra year between later tests. This doesn't make sense, as 50% of vans and 20% of cars fail their first MoT after three years on the road.
The Tories' transport plans will reduce road safety in the capital, and according to the Retail Motor Industry Federation will also jeopardize up to 25,000 jobs in the road safety industry.
Labour in Europe will continue to work hard from the European Parliament's Transport Committee to scrutinize and expose such reckless plans for London's roads.
Consumer Protection and Health: Progress from the EU
Protecting the safety of the food you eat, and the products you use to look after yourself and your family, are at the heart of Labour's work in Europe.
Here, July saw developments in two key areas of consumer protection: baby milk, and the transfats added to our food.
Labour MEPs have opposed claims being made by a manufacturer of baby milk that their product can improve a baby's eyesight. A controversial claim, at best, and one centred on a fatty acid known as DHA, this was challenged by Labour due to the lack of scientific consensus on this issue. Sadly, despite a majority of MEPs in the European Parliament voting to challenge the health claim, this resolution fell short of the 368 votes needed to block the claim.
Labour in Europe's leader Glenis Willmott MEP expressed our frustration, when she s aid that parents will now be targeted with health claims that many medical professionals and health organisations do not believe should be allowed.
Labour has won the backing of an all-party committee for a campaign to require manufacturers to tell consumers whether their products include potentially harmful substances known as transfats. Labour's campaign is designed to help prevent diseases such as obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's and infertility. Transfats have already been banned in their added form in some countries, and for Labour's food safety campaign on transfats to become law, it will now need the backing of EU governments.
Labour challenges rip-off credit card fees
Labour in Europe has challenged the extortionate practices of credit-card companies, and the European Parliament has approved new consumer rights.
Consumers are paying anything up to ten times the real cost of processing their credit card transaction. This damages businesses and damages consumers too, especially problematic during a difficult recovery.
Because of the recession we face, and the negative impact on recovery-boosting consumption of such unfair charges, Labour is now calling on the UK government to ban the fees now, rather than wait until the EU laws kick in during 2014.
Your cross-border rights
I and other Labour MEPs have been working hard in July to ensure future European Union regulation will strike the correct balance between commercial and social rights.
We want to see workers' rights in the European Union strengthened, and strengthened in a way that promotes the ability of the Single European Market to deliver stability, jobs and growth.
Now, Labour is waiting to see how the Commission responds to the Parliament's views, particularly as a new European Union regulation, named Monti II, will aim to clarify the balance between commercial and social rights in Europe.
Libya and Tunisia Delegation
This month, I visited the Libya/Tunisia border to see for myself how people are being forced to live in UN run camps there.
Travelling with a delegation from the European Parliament, I visited several areas, including the biggest refugee camp which currently hosts over 3.700 people, and met with the interim Prime Minister of Tunisia to discuss the desperate situation there.
Sadly, I also saw how limited access to clean water and adequate sanitation and hygiene facilities is also a terrible problem in the camps, which have nevertheless inspired me due to how calm the residents were, and to how much solidarity they felt with each other.
I will be reporting back to the European Parliament about what its delegation saw in North Africa, as well as our clear conclusion that Europe needs to do more for these people, both in promoting their safety and in protecting their fundamental human rights.
The US credit-rating agencies
I've followed the Eurozone crisis closely from the European Parliament. The issue is complicated, and has become a mixture of the economic, fiscal and political challenges facing Europe in the immediate future. Europeans will have to work together to find a constructive solution to maintaining Europe's fiscal and economic health. One issue is however clear, the destructive role of US based credit-rating agencies in the crisis.
It is unacceptable that the timing and context of a credit-rating downgrade can have a disproportionate and destructive affect on a European economy which has the potential to get back to positive growth. I've written about how such agencies have the power of economic life and death over countries like Greece, why this isn't right, and what we can do to ensure the best efforts of majo r European countries and international institutions are not needlessly damaged by privately owned companies based in the US.
This is especially true when we consider how US credit-rating agencies have themselves been involved in financial crises, in particular handing out dangerously inflated credit-ratings just before the sub prime mortgage crisis which brought the global financial system to its knees.
They were wrong then, and they are wrong now.
Protecting Free Movement in Europe
In July, I've continued to speak on Schengen and I drafted the Socialist and Democrat resolution on Schengen in the July plenary session of the European Parliament.
You can read my speech here on this issue, and my position was also reported in the Financial Times.
My new website
This month, I launched my new website www.claudemoraes.com
The website is designed around a clearer way of helping London Labour Party members find information on what their MEP is doing, as well as commentary on wider European issues, a source of information and news.
I hope you like the new, clearer lay out and I always welcome any feedback.
Opposition Watch
The Tories say one thing on the environment in Britain, and are doing another in the European Parliament.
Right now, by 2020, Europeans are committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent against 1990 levels. Labour wants to see that target raised to 30 per cent. In July, a crucial vote on raising the target to 30 per cent was lost by just nine votes. Sixteen Conservative MEPs failed t o endorse a tougher target, directly contradicting the UK Tory-led government's environment policy.
All Labour MEPs supported the more ambitious target of 30 per cent and Labour will continue to push for critical environment reforms from the European Parliament.
In Parliament
I regularly speak, table motions as a Socialist spokesperson and ask Parliamentary Questions in the European Parliament and all of this work can be found here.

Reproduced from an electronic communication sent by Claude Moraes MEP.
Promoted by Edward Price on behalf of Claude Moraes MEP, Labour MEP for London, both at 65 Barnsbury Street, London N1 1EJ.

14 July 2011

H&F Tories' new propaganda on the rates

Labour Group leader Cllr Steve Cowan has reported on the three (yes, three) glossy magazines which the shameless Hammersmith & Fulham Tories are now publishing with council taxpayer's money to replace the old H&F News, unofficially known as The Tory Pravda. See here.

The new magazines look like further propaganda on the rates. As Steve says, "If Rupert Murdoch is watching these three phoenixes rise from H&F News’ ashes, he may conclude he could learn a thing or two from the sly goings at Hammersmith and Fulham's Conservative run Council."

Andy Slaughter MP's lively newsletter - Sure Start, Murdoch and more

  • Sure Start
  • Intentionally Homeless
  • Pravda Mk III
  • Westfield
  • Olympia Public Meeting
  • Passmore Edwards and Shepherds Bush
  • Putney By-election
  • Any More Fairs?
  • Murdoch and Coulson

Sure Start

Extraordinary developments in the past 10 days in the long-running battle to save Sure Start in H&F.

Sure Start Children’s Centres are universally praised not only by the millions of families who use them but by all political parties.  This didn’t stop the Coalition Government cutting their budgets by 12% this year, but answering questions from me in the Commons, Ministers still said they wanted all Sure Start centres to survive.

But last Christmas H&F Council put out a report rubbishing Sure Start and proposing to close nine of the 15 in the borough. In the outcry that followed, they backtracked, promised some money to the closing centres (albeit taken from the ones staying open) and called it ‘hub and spoke’.

I said at the time this was cynical PR but I don’t blame the Centres for trying to negotiate the terms for staying open. Last Thursday, after being misled, bullied, blackmailed and treated with contempt by councillors and officers for six months they’d had enough and summoned the head of children’s services to a showdown at Flora Gardens Primary School.

There he admitted for the first time that the so-called spokes would have to de-register as Children’s Centres (ie close) and cease to have any formal relationship with the council.  The ‘hubs’ – the six Centres that still have funding – will continue to operate but most have re-written their contracts with the council, which was trying to put extra burdens on them without the necessary funds – including redundancy costs for staff.

This will give the Centres the freedom to manage their own services but it doesn’t solve the money problem.  Then the following day Cathnor Park parents won a spectacular victory over the council in the High Court.  Facing the prospect of losing a Judicial Review the Council caved in and signed an agreement to restore most of the services at Cathnor.  Congratulations to the parents and their solicitors – who may now like to do a similar job for some of the other unfunded Centres. 

Intentionally Homeless

A letter leaked to the Observer reveals that the Government’s changes to Housing Benefit will make 40,000 families homeless – and cost the taxpayer money.  This is not Shelter’s view it is Secretary of State Eric Pickles (no bleeding-heart he) writing to David Cameron.  After Westminster and K&C, H&F is likely to have the largest number of families affected, and I have asked how many that will be.

What is the morality of a Government that will see families uprooted from schools, jobs (most people on HB work in low-paid jobs) and community life?  What is its competence if the cost of moving the families elsewhere is more than the money saved?  It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the motive here is what Boris Johnson famously called ‘social cleansing’.

Pravda Mk III

The Council’s latest attempt to get round their own Government’s restrictions on propaganda is a 72 page glossy magazine that makes H&F News read like the Independent. All your favourites are here – promos for the council’s preferred developers, lots of photographs of  Tory councillors, and the council leader’s own “vision” for the future. He wants to create an ‘economic lung’  by tripling density and blotting out the sun with 30-storey blocks of flats along the Kensington borders.

But a story in the Telegraph last week suggests local Tories may not be popular with the PM if they carry on with their plans:

‘The threat of a major development on your doorstep throws up a debate both ethical and practical, as David and Samantha Cameron are discovering.  Plans for  three 30-storey towers in White City, London, which will loom over their north Kensington  home, have outraged  neighbours who claim their sunset views (and their light) will be ruined by the 100m-high buildings.  The Camerons, of course, currently reside in Downing Street and their £1.5million house is being rented, but experts say an unfavourable development in the doorstep can have a dramatic effect on property prices. William Marsden-Smedley, a director of the property acquisition  firm Prime Purchase, believes the loss of a great view can wipe a third off the value of a property.’

In the meantime I will set about finding the true cost of this latest piece of vanity publishing which is in addition to the propaganda pages in the Chronicle.  When they tell you these are good value for money they don’t mention the army of press officers in the town hall churning this out (15 staff are credited in the magazine), or the council advertising that subsidises it.


I met Westfield management to hear about their new planning application for the land between their existing Centre and the Hammersmith & City line railway.  Currently an industrial estate, they bought it mainly to stop Tesco taking it over, but now want to develop it. It is common gossip that there is going to be a major John Lewis store on the site – but Westfield are playing this down and just say it will be a ‘department store’.  A cynic might think that they are dangling John Lewis much as the Council dangled Waitrose as part of the Town Hall development to sweeten the pill.
The pill in this case is 1,700 flats up to 22 storeys (though mostly around 12). A lot of the flats will be built above and around the new shops. It already looks uncomfortably dense and crowded and the architecture is the same depressingly anonymous stuff we have seen planned for Fulham Reach and West Ken.
The flats will be smaller units, tightly-packed together. I reminded them that the Council wants a quarter of them to be for residents moving from the White City Estate.They said they did know, but they didn’t look like they were rolling out the red carpet.
As a postscript to my visit to Fulham Reach last week, St George sent me the revised schedule of properties in their new planning application.  In place of 38 two-bed affordable rented flats at 61 square metres and 37 three-bed flats at 86 square metres, there will now be 73 bed-sits for sale at 41 square metres.  Remember that next time you hear Boris or local Tories talking about how they want to build affordable larger family homes.

You can see my response to the White City Opportunity Area Consultation by clicking here.

Olympia Line Closure - public meeting

Olympia not only carries visitors to the exhibition centre and serves one of London’s most densely-packed neighbourhoods,  it provides stepless access to the tube. LU’s suggestion that there are other stations around a mile away  is of little comfort to wheelchair users.
Many, many people have written to me asking for my help in keeping it open; there is a well-organised group which has the support of local residents groups, disability support groups, transport groups and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

London Underground have at least acknowledged the strength of feeling by extending the deadline for the consultation until 15th July, but they are still intending to press ahead with the closure of all weekday services.
Where is Hammersmith and Fulham Council in all this? I wish I could tell you: if you look at their website you will find that they initially supported the closure, then they opposed it. But prominent local Tories including Greg Smith, Cabinet member for Residents’ Services and Greg Hands, MP for South Fulham  are energetically campaigning for the line’s closure:

With great difficulty I have persuaded Richard Parry of London Underground to come to a public meeting to discuss this proposal with local residents.  The meeting will be held at 7pm on Tuesday, 26 July in the Pillar Hall of Olympia.  This will be an opportunity for you to put your points across directly to LU and to demonstrate the importance of Underground service to Kensington Olympia. I encourage you to join me on the 26th of July in the hope that we can get LU to re-think this outrageous plan.
Passmore Edwards and Shepherds Bush

On Wednesday I was treated to a Cornish cream tea by the MP for Falmouth and Truro, Sarah Newton - to celebrate the  publication of author Dean Evans' book on the life of Passmore Edwards.

John Passmore Edwards was an 19th-Century Cornish MP from very humble beginnings who made a fortune in publishing, most of which he gave away to build school, hospitals and libraries around the UK. One of his projects was the building of Shepherds Bush Library, which opened in  in 1896 and operated as a public Library until Hammersmith and Fulham Council intervened in 2009. Their attempts to sell off the building after moving the library to Westfield were frustrated by the covenants protecting its public use.
Now the building has become the new permanent home of the Bush Theatre. I went to their first performance recently, which put the new venue through its paces before the official opening in the Autumn. This promises to be an exciting new chapter in the cultural life of Shepherds Bush, and a testament to Passmore Edwards, who understood the value of public buildings to local communities. What a shame that Victorian wisdom cannot be emulated by our council, who are still trying to sell off many of the venues that local people have been using for decades – Shepherds Bush Village Hall, just across the road from Passmore Edwards’  bequest, to name but one…
Putney By-Election
More out of solidarity than expectation Hammersmith Labour members joined me campaigning in the recent by-election in Putney, and went back to help on Election day.  We had an excellent candidate, Christian Klapp, and a superb campaign run by Sean Lawless and ex-Hammersmith agent Adam Gray, but this was an ultra-safe Tory seat.  Not any more – the 16% swing to Labour is one of the biggest recorded in any recent election.  Hammersmith Tories may want to take note that a major issue was the overdevelopment of the riverside with high-rise luxury flats.

Any more fairs?

  • I still haven’t won a raffle prize even after attending summer celebrations at Lena Gardens, Greenside, St Stephen's, Wendell Park and Phoenix schools.  The Lena Garden BBQ was headteacher Callum Fairley’s 25th.  I’m not going to win the balloon race at St Stephen’s as my balloon went straight up.  And I think William Atkinson’s spectacular event at Phoenix, complete with funfair and boy bands, is more Glastonbury than school fete these days.
  • Flora Gardens did something different – the Flora Oscars.  I found myself walking down the red carpet to present the award for best voiceover with Keanu Reeves.  Other staff came as Kylie, Cruella and Audrey Hepburn
  • I spoke at a conference on Palestinian human rights with political leaders from Israel and the occupied territories, and chaired a meeting in the Commons for Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Sha’ath, in Britain to lobby for support in recognising Palestine as an independent state at the UN in September
  • I was a guest at the Askew Business Network BBQ, celebrating their expansion and success in getting improvements to the Askew Road.
  • I organised a meeting for Oxfam, Amnesty and other NGOs fighting Government proposals to prevent UK-based multinationals being sued by people they have injured in developing countries. 
  • I attended the Cathnor Park Area residents’ AGM, where the new Hammersmith academy was the main item for discussion.

Murdoch and Coulson
So life goes on – even without the News of the World to tell us who the heroes and villains are. (I think we are working that out for ourselves). But if you are one of the more than 200 people who have written to me about News International, Coulson and the Met, asking me to take these issues up with Cameron, rest assured I will - and will put the correspondence on my website.


07 July 2011

Boris Johnson's codswallop and the Hammersmith Tories

Earlier this year, our Tory councillors proudly hosted the launch of Boris Johnson's mayoral re-election campaign at Hammersmith Town Hall (even if Boris did sneak in a side entrance to avoid families and other residents protesting against cuts: see here).

Now, as the country reels from the vile behaviour of the News of the World, we should remember how last year Johnson called the phone hacking allegations “a song and dance about nothing” and “politically motivated codswallop”.

This morning, he tried desperately to change his tune and call for an “immediate enquiry”. Yet in April, just three months ago, he was still making light of the whole thing, saying it is “embarrassing for any self-respecting celeb that they haven’t been hacked”. 

Ken Livingstone has just issued a short video statement and asked Boris Johnson a series of questions he has to answer: click here.

Ken says, "Over the last few days the horrible truth about the reality of what was going on at the News of the World has been exposed for all to see. There are few words that can describe the hacking of murder and terrorist victims as well as the families of those who died serving our country abroad. Boris Johnson has shown dire judgement. As Mayor, if he had taken a different approach when this story was first published, the whole course of events could have been different."

Their whooping support for Boris looks like yet another blunder by the Hammersmith Tories.

06 July 2011

Hammersmith Tories get Sure Start egg on their face

Hammersmith Tory council has taken a first, grudging step towards admitting that, in its usual callous and inept way, it has got it wrong about slashing local Sure Start services across the borough as part of £3.4m cuts to children's services.

A gutsy local mother asked for a judicial review after the council failed to consult properly about the Sure Start cuts. In typically arrogant fashion, the Tories had first announced the cuts and only then (reluctantly) consulted.

On Friday, a judge apparently ruled the council had a case to answer, at which point the Tories seem to have caved in and restored services to the Cathnor Park Children's Centre rather than risk going to the full judicial review.

The transcript of proceedings is eagerly awaited but this looks like being great news for families who use Cathnor. What it means for families using the other eight children's centres where services are due for the chop has yet to become clear. You can see more details herehere and here.

05 July 2011

Labour calls for cross-party campaign against “super sewer” in Sands End but Tories play political games

Tory Hammersmith & Fulham Council has spurned a Labour plea for a cross-party campaign to stop the construction of a “super sewer” in Carnwath Road in Sands End.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, Labour councillors were unanimous in supporting Sands End residents in their campaign against the super sewer and in calling on Thames Water immediately to withdraw proposals to use the Carnwath Road site as access to the super sewer. In response to a motion put forward by the Tories, they urged a campaign that united all the parties.

Labour councillors also urged Conservative councillors to drop a statement of outright opposition to the super sewer (“This council reaffirms its opposition to the super sewer”) as this would distract from the main issue of saving Sands End.

Labour said that although they opposed siting the super sewer in Carnwath Road, something had to be done to stop sewage pouring into the Thames after heavy rains, the super sewer was still the only game in town and Barn Elms was always available as an alternative site. More research was needed on the options before rejecting the sewer outright. Instead, they proposed this alternative motion:
“The Council calls for the Administration to re-focus its efforts and resourses away from its one-dimensional, ideological obsession against the Thames Tideway Tunnel project and instead lobby the Conservative Mayor and Conservative and Liberal Democrat government Ministers to stop the Carnwath Road site being used for this project.
“The Council agrees to form a united Borough campaign that includes both Administration and Opposition councillors to stop Carnwath Road being used for this scheme and supports residents in South Fulham with a clever strategy likely to meet that objective.”
The Tories, however, decided to try a cheap political stunt. They voted down Labour’s motion and then insisted on keeping in the bit of their own motion that reaffirmed outright opposition to any super sewer. Labour councillors couldn’t support this as they felt it might damage the borough and were forced to abstain on the whole vote.

Amazingly, five days later, Tory council leader Stephen Greenhalgh and leaders of 13 other councils launched a commission of "independent" experts to examine Thames Water's case for the sewer and other options (see here). So on Wednesday, Greenhalgh opposes the sewer outright and jeers at Labour for saying more research is needed. And five days later, he jointly establishes a commission to examine the options.

All parties want to stop Thames Water from building the super sewer by Carnwath Road. But if the Tories weren’t playing their usual silly buggers, we would have a united campaign and more chance of winning the battle.

Please sign the petition by Residents Against Thames Sewer (RATS) to save Carnwath Road and the Sands End area here.

News from Andy Slaughter MP

  • The Big Society Bites Back
  • Sure Start Stops
  • Two of Our Libraries are Missing
  • Pravda News
  • Unwelcome Developments
  • Fast Track
  • Olympia
  • No Justice
  • The week in Westminster and Hammersmith


The Big Society Bites Back

Last week Shepherds Bush residents celebrated their recent success in stopping harmful redevelopment of the Green.  Despite hostile cross-examination from a QC - employed by the Council, using our taxes – they persuaded a Planning Inquiry to stop trees being cut down and part of the Green concreted over.

On Friday, mums from Cathnor Park SureStart are due in court to judicially review the Council’s decision to close their much-valued Children’s Centre, along with eight others.

The Goldhawk Road traders, whose shops are set to be demolished after 150 years to make way for high-rise luxury flats, are also going to court.  Meanwhile, West Ken and Gibbs Green Estate residents have set up a community trust.  They aim to be the first people to use Labour government legislation to take ownership of their 760 homes, preventing the Council and developer CapCo demolishing them simply to make money.

Save Our Skyline have another Council-sponsored developer on the retreat, with plans to ruin Furnivall Gardens and the Hammersmith Town Hall now under review. Parents from Addison and Lena Gardens primary schools, elderly residents of the Wormholt estate and the 22 charities facing eviction from Palingswick House are all running active campaigns against the ‘free schools’ imposed on local communities by the Government.  The Council’s attempt to auction off Shepherds Bush Village Hall, the Irish Centre and Sands End Centre are stalled while the Council is forced to negotiate with the current users.

When London Underground - with the support of the Council – announced last month that the Olympia branch line would not operate Monday to Friday, the My Olympia group was quickly set up and is forcing a rethink.

This is the Big Society Hammersmith & Fulham-style.  It is about local people using every means at their disposal to stand up for their neighbourhoods against big government and big business, against greedy developers and an arrogant Council that doesn’t listen.  I have been proud to support each one of these campaigns because they show what we can do when citizens act together in the interests of their communities.

Sure Start

The Council has virtually ended Sure Start provision in many parts of the borough with cuts to Children’s Centre funding  that will close nine of them.  A mum from Cathnor Park Children’s Centre applied for Judicial Review of the Council’s decision, asking the High Court to rule the decision unlawful.  At that stage the Centres were due to close on 1 July.  Obviously, you would expect a legitimate public authority to await the court’s decision before lockinfg the doors.  But H&F decided it would pre-empt the Court’s decision, a matter which I raised in the Commons.  The Court then brought the hearing forward to this Friday and the Council...closed Cathnor Park last week!  Today I joined parents and children protesting outside the Centre from which they are now barred.

Two of Our Libraries are Missing......      


The Map is from the Council's Library merger plan, which they recently approved in Cabinet. As you can see, it shows FOUR libraries In Hammersmith and Fulham after the "improvements" have kicked in.

But there are SIX libraries in Hammersmith and Fulham - the council's own website lists them -  Askew Road, Baron's Court, Hammersmith,  Fulham, Sands End, and Shepherds Bush. What's going on?

The explanation is that Baron’s Court and Sands End libraries are losing all their funding, but the Council hopes someone else – schools or volunteers – will take them on.  The handover should have happened on 1 April but they are still being funded on a month by month basis on reduced hours and staff because alternative providers have not come forward.  The new deadline is December 2011.

This is another example of doublespeak: as with the nine Children’s Centres, the Council is closing services while pretending to keep them open.  While I am sure that many people will rally round to help, this is not the same as professionally staffed and run libraries.

Read my website for the facts about what the Council is really doing to our library service, and the sneaky way they are trying to cover their tracks.

Pravda News

H&FNews  lives on in the propaganda pages of the Chronicle paid for with our Council Tax, in breach of the Government’s Code of Practice on Local Authority Publicity. I wrote to the local government Minister Grant Shapps about this – here is his reply.  His strong condemnation of his own Party colleagues is welcome, but he provides no effective remedy.  The Government will not act, it is fanciful to suggest residents will fund a court case against the Council knowing they will just use our money to hire another QC.  Which leaves the Audit Commission – trouble is at H&F’s urging the Government is abolishing that!

Unwelcome Developments 

West Ken/Earl’s Court
CapCo has submitted its plans for the redevelopment of West Ken/Earl’s Court.  Their ‘Masterplan’ is a 20-year scheme to build 7,500 high-rise flats, tripling the density of one of the most-densely populated areas on London. The application proposes the demolition of 760 affordable homes to build  four ‘villages’,  complete with 27-storey tower blocks.  Two thirds of existing residents on the threatened West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates have joined  West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes Group, which will use recent housing law to force the Council to transfer ownership and save their homes.  I have written to both the developer and the Council on residents' behalf.  But the plans will affect tens of thousands of existing residents in K&C as well as H&F, as the Standard has reported.

Fulham Reach
This is the new name for Hammersmith Embankment and St George’s proposal to put one of their hideous faux wharf-style shoe-box estates on the riverside – a stalking horse for worse crimes planned at Riverside Studios and Furnivall Gardens.  Last weekend they announced amendments – to show they’d ‘listened’.   There are minor changes to heights and alignment of blocks and the number of parking spaces has been reduced from 770 to 470, which will annoy existing residents.  But the number of units is still 750 and density the same .  The major change is that all 300 ‘affordable’ flats will now be ‘Manhattans’.  These are single rooms with a glass screen separating the bedroom from the living area!  These will sell for £212k upwards.  The original proposal included 70 ‘affordable’  flats for rent.  No longer.  The 450 full-priced flats will have 2 to 4 bedrooms, and sell for prices that will put them far beyond the reach of local people. This does absolutely nothing to help 8,000 local families waiting for decent homes.

An opportunity to build something beautiful and useful is being missed and something which ruins the riverside area and cheapens it is proposed instead – our distinctive riverside will now look like every other overdeveloped bit of the Thames.

Fast Track

Last week  ‘Yes to High Speed Rail’ brought its bus (yes, bus) to Westminster.  I met enthusiast Pete Waterman, who is now almost as famous for promoting railways as for Rick Astley.  This is one issue on which I agree with the Government. There is a need for better transport links between the North and the South, and to relieve the congestion on existing rail services.  High Speed Rail – which most developed countries already have - is the way to go.  Roads and cars, ‘planes and airports are inefficient and carbon-unfriendly.   I debated the merits of HS2 on the Parliament Channel with Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson, a strong opponent
Of course it helps that Shepherds Bush will be one of the areas to benefit most from the project- not only getting a new Crossrail station and the country’s main rail interchange at Old Oak, but thousands of new homes and jobs on a brownfield site.

Olympia: the plot thickens

Almost 2,000 local residents have now signed the petition asking London Underground to think again about the closure of the Olympia branch line.  This provoked a u-turn by the council which initially supported the closure  but now opposes.  Not so local Tory MPs.  Three of them are actively campaigning to have the tube service to Olympia shut down.

No Justice 

After weeks of delay caused by the confusion over Ken Clarke’s  50% discounts for defendants pleading guilty to rape and other serious crimes, the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill, which I have to take through the House of Commons for the Opposition,  was published last week.  The proposals on sentencing are still a mess –condemned by judges, victims of crime and many Tory MPs.  But most of the Bill is about cutting the Justice budget by a quarter - something Clarke offered to do without a clue how to achieve it.  The answer is the virtual ending of Legal Aid for poor and vulnerable people and restrictions on access to justice for all but the wealthiest.  The Commons rose to the occasion when it debated the Bill on Wednesday, with over 30 good speeches from all Parties.  You can read the debate HERE and my closing speech HERE
I have also kept up a regular rota of visiting prisons, courts and advice agencies, to see how the justice system is coping with the cuts.  This includes local visits in and around Hammersmith.  This month I have visited  the local Youth Offending Teams, Feltham Young Offenders Institution, Wormwood Scrubs, the Minerva Project for women at risk of custody and West London Magistrates’ Court, home of the first specialist domestic violence.  This was something I helped set up ten years ago  when leader of the council.  There are now 127 of them around the country, though 23 will close as part of the cuts (not ours!)

It’s been a busy week or so

I congratulated QPR on promotion
Met Geri Halliwell, to support her campaigning for Breast Cancer Care HERE
Learnt how to ice a cake at Ealing West London and Hammersmith College for Vocational Qualifications Day
Spoke at the UK  Egyptian Association AGM in White City.  Mostafa  Ragab, who runs the Eqyptian House restaurant in Bloemfontein Road, is stepping down after 14 years as chairman.
Following the Independent article exposing Britain’s failure to apprehend foreign criminals in the UK I gave interviews on the subject to Egyptian and Russian TV.
Was a guest of Queen’s Club Gardens Residents’ Association at the excellent annual Garden Party
Spoke at the Gypsy Roma Traveller Month Reception at the Irish Embassy
With fellow MPs Ben Bradshaw and Peter Hain, spoke at the Labour Friends of Palestine and Middle East fundraising dinner.
Attended summer fairs at Good Shepherd , Addison  and  Brackenbury Primary Schools
Joined in the Friends of Wormholt Park picnic
Appeared on the Channel Five's The Wright Stuff talking about why there are too many Metro stores in Askew Road
Campaigned in a council by-election in Putney.
Attended the Governor’s Meeting at William Morris Sixth Form – to hear how they must save £1m from a £6m budget, on top of losing £20m capital funding.
Spoke at the Hammersmith Society AGM against the overdevelopment planned around the borough