- The Big Society Bites Back
- Sure Start Stops
- Two of Our Libraries are Missing
- Pravda News
- Unwelcome Developments
- Fast Track
- 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 StartThe 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 NewsH&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 DevelopmentsWest 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.
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 TrackLast 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 thickensAlmost 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 JusticeAfter 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!)
I congratulated QPR on promotion
It’s been a busy week or so
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