25 September 2011

Tories railroad through Hammersmith Embankment scheme, try to stop discussion, don't explain £13m "Section 106" payment

Exceptionally shameful goings-on from H&F Tory councillors on Friday as they railroaded through property speculator St. George's massive Hammersmith Embankment scheme. See Labour opposition leader Steve Cowan's blog here for details.

A few points to note:

  • The fearful Tories tried to block Steve from speaking (but he spoke anyway).

  • There are suggestions that the council unlawfully sold the planning approval for a £13 million Section 106 agreement. 

  • Tory councillors and the council officers are not providing information about the many meetings that they have had with St. George.

What a nonsense this makes of the Tories' claim to be "Britain's most transparent council". As Private Eye - which regularly features H&F council in its Rotten Boroughs section (and celebrates its 50th birthday this month: hip, hip, hurray!) - might say, "Pass the sick bag, Alice".

Andy Slaughter's news: sewer politics and riverfront shenanigans

  • Sewer Politics
  • Riverfront ReRun
  • Palestine
  • Access to Justice
  • Phoenix Opens Sixth Form
  • Weekly Roundup

Sewer politics
I spent last Friday afternoon in a sewer under Chancellor’s Road.  Well, why not?  Thames Water wanted London politicians and journalists to see for themselves what happens when it rains heavily in Hammersmith, as it does about 50 times a year.  The answer is the pumps at Hammersmith Pumping Station turn themselves on and pump 24 tonnes of sewage per second into the Thames.  If they didn’t it would all end up in our homes and streets (some already does in Shepherds Bush after particularly heavy storms).
Altogether 39 million tonnes of the brown stuff ends up in the river every year.  Hammersmith & Fulham Council think this is OK. Thames Water want to build the Thames Tunnel to capture it so it can be treated before entering the river.

You can read Standard journalist Andrew Neather’s account of our descent.  You can also read one resident’s experience of living with the stink and what she thinks of the Council leader’s do nothing policy.  Last week I took part in a debate on the issue in the Commons
The Council meanwhile has set up a patsy commission to rubbish the scheme and is promoting an alternative view by a retired Thames water official.  Bizarrely, this would still see the Tunnel built through Hammersmith but would rely on existing sewers to take the effluent through central London.  So we would still have the building works but once complete – because the existing system is at capacity – when the Tunnel filled up the sewage would have nowhere to go.  According to Thames it would sit there for days or weeks with the smell wafting across the borough as the faecal matter decomposed.   A fitting leitmotif for our burghers you may think.

Riverfront re-run tonight

Soon after this eNews hits your inbox, another attempt will be made, tonight, to approve the appalling St George scheme for Hammersmith Embankment when the Planning Committee meets unprecedentedly on a Friday evening.  Last week 150 residents who had come to object to the scheme, that would see 750 luxury high-rise flats built between Distillery Road and the river, waited an hour and a half before the meeting was abandoned for lack of a PA system.  A curious omission in a hall that the Council regularly uses for its own propaganda rallies.

Save Our Riverfront  would be pleased to see you at the Town Hall from 6.30pm to oppose the first of several disastrous schemes the Council has promised developers to pass before the London Mayor elections next May.

Other carbuncle news
Save Our Skyline are gearing up for another major public meeting next Tuesday 27 September at Rivercourt Methodist Church to oppose the ruination of Furnivall Gardens, King Street and surrounding conservation areas.

Consultation closes on Friday 30th September on CapCo’s plans for 7,500 slums-of-the-future in West Ken.

Residents of Sinclair and Hofland Road have put together a good case to oppose the Nomis studio scheme that will put five storeys of flats in a conservation area of two-storey early Victorian cottages.

Wormholt residents met me earlier this week to express opposition to the Free School that will be built on green space overlooking their homes.  Hemlock Road will be permanently closed to provide a play area directly onto the Westway, one of Britain’s most polluted roads.  Phoenix High School kindly gave us somewhere to meet as the residents, mainly pensioners, have already been booted out of their community hall which has been given to the school.

It is now so well known in developer circles that anything goes in Hammersmith & Fulham that both the number and scale of applications grows exponentially.  Planning officers, under instructions from their political masters, are prepared to ignore their own policies drawn up in consultation with residents over many years. 38 Degrees, who organised the Save the Forests campaign have just launched a Save our Countryside campaign .  We need to persuade them to save our cities too.


This week pressure for Palestine to be recognised as a state by the UN, 65 years after they – and Israel – promised just that, gained momentum.  Anyone not persuaded that this is both fair and the best way to get peace talks started again should read Jonathan Freedland’s Guardian article . A hundred MPs of all Parties signed a motion of support last week and I raised the issue with the Foreign Office Minister  This week Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, made Labour’s support clear.  On Wednesday, I went to Downing Street with representative of many organisations to hand in a letter to Cameron asking the British Government to give its support  No reply as yet.

Access to justice

The media finally seem to have discovered there is some merit in the warnings my colleagues and I have been giving for the past year about the Government’s plans to axe Legal Aid and ‘no win-no fee’ litigation.

The Independent warned of the risk of miscarriages of justice if free legal advice on arrest is taken away, and reported how a charity for victims of medical negligence was suing the Government because severely injured children and adults would no longer be able to claim the support they need. The Guardian reported that the Minister in charge of the legislation, which will benefit insurance companies by restricting claims, has himself substantial investments in the insurance industry.

Then today they published a letter from the Dowler family to David Cameron explaining that they only got justice after The News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s  ‘phone  by being able to bring a case without risking bankruptcy, which might have meant the whole hacking scandal staying buried.

I spoke to a packed fringe meeting at TUC conference with Mark Lewis, the Dowlers’ solicitor last week.  Amnesty International, trades unions, accident victims, even HMRC (who need the current rules to sue dodgy directors of insolvent companies) are united against this Bill.  Only the Tories and Lib Dems and their friends in big corporations and insurance companies are supporting it.

Who funds Phoenix?

I was asked to speak at the opening of Phoenix High School's amazing new Sixth form building.  I think this was to mark my mad dash round Labour Party conference two years ago to help secure the £10 million needed for the project.   The Labour Government did come up with the money – one of the last six schemes approved.  At that stage Phoenix was also to benefit from £20 million from the national Building Schools for the Future project to rebuild the main school.  When the Tories came in they cancelled this and every other BSF project in the borough, but the sixth form was already underway.

What did our Council think of all this? In 2009 they said ‘the council is looking to spend £9m on developing a brand-new four-storey sixth form centre’ at Phoenix.  This was untrue.  They also claimed credit for the BSF programme and £70 million of spending on primary schools.

But when their Government cut all uncommitted capital funds to schools they quoted Michael Gove approvingly  saying ‘the BSF plans did not represent value for money’.  Phoenix head Sir William Atkinson had a different take on it: It is devastating news’ he told the Standard , adding his pupils would now have to learn in ‘antiquated, inadequate buildings...with concrete that is beginning to crumble, iron pipe-work which has been fractured, with lots of leaks and flat roofs which are constantly leaking’.

Have the Tories learned their lessons?  Of course not.  Three schools have opened in Hammersmith in the past two weeks.  The Hammersmith Academy, a newly built £25 million secondary school funded by the Labour Government and the two Free Schools.  What they all have in common is ‘freedom’ from council control, something the Tories keenly support.  Only one of the schools has had an official opening: ARK Conway’s is next month and the Academy’s next year.  So the council staged openings at these schools in a further pathetic attempt to get publicity for its needy leader.

And in other news

The Government is planning a u-turn on its promise not to raise Air Passenger Duty, which could mean a 25% increase in this tax which particularly hits those travelling to the Caribbean.  British Airways are already considering ending flights to some islands as a result.

I hosted a reception in Parliament for Broadway, the single homeless charity whose board I sat on for 20 years.  They were launching ‘voices of experience’ about how 61 street drinkers have changed their lives mainly through their own efforts.  All Broadway’s Shepherds Bush hostels and flats are being demolished as part of the Council’s Shepherds Bush Market scheme (200 luxury flats up to eight storeys, since you ask), but I’m pleased to say they have found alternative accommodation in the borough.      

The Mayor has raised tube and bus fares above inflation once again LINK

I dropped in for an interview at Hammersmith’s local radio station OnFM, based in Lyric Square.  You can find it at 101.4 or online onfmradio.com.

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

23 September 2011

How you can oppose the destructive and wasteful Hammersmith Town Hall development

The Cathnor Park Area Action Group has written as below  to its members, urging action against Hammersmith council's destructive and wasteful plans - which it calls "degeneration not regeneration" - to redevelop the Town Hall:
"Many of you know that this group - Cathnor Park Area Action Group - has joined forces with 30 local residents' associations and national conservation organisations to object to the original plans.
"Minute changes to the plans (see attached flyer) have been made [see here and below].

"There are two things you can do to assist with the overwhelming opposition to the scheme.
"1. Attend the public meeting about the revised Town Hall scheme - Tuesday, 27 September, 7.00pm at Rivercourt Methodist Church, King St. Come and see exactly what is proposed
"2. Write to the Council by September 30 2011: if you've written before, then write again (referring to a previous letter, if you wish) and itemising the reasons why you are still against the revised scheme. Details and arguments are summarised in the leaflet attached.
"If you haven't written before, please do so now.
"Best wishes, Annabel Clarke, Chairman, Cathnor Park Area Action Group"

13 September 2011

News from Andy Slaughter MP

  • Save our Riverfront
  • Hospital pass
  • 'Green' light for developers
  • Unaffordable Housing
  • Petitions for Police and Puffins
  • Out and about
  • A substantial Bill
  • Boundary Review

Save our Riverfront
If you care about the future of our borough, join the www.saveourriverfront.co.uk residents at 7pm this Wednesday 14 September at Hammersmith Town Hall to oppose the first of the major schemes to build high-rise luxury flats along the length of Hammersmith’s riverside.

Hospital pass

So is Charing Cross really under threat of closure?  Or is St Mary’s? Or both? Or neither?  The Independent seemed sure of their facts a week ago.  But Imperial’s denial was equally firm.  I spoke to the Independent journalist who assured me he had the story from three separate sources.  Later in the week, with Karen Buck, MP for North Westminster, I met the Chairman and Chief Executive of Imperial to hear their version.

We have been here before.  In the 1990s there was a proposal to close Charing Cross floated by the then Tory government.  The overwhelming public campaign to save it succeeded, but somehow the sense of apprehension never evaporated.  So despite Labour reviving the NHS, including new services at all hospitals, a false rumour that Charing Cross was again under threat started in 2005 and was cynically exploited and maintained by local Tories, notably their Parliamentary candidates, Hands and Bailey.  At least it meant I went back every year to the health minister to get a fresh guarantee that CXH was safe.

So, perhaps the most surprising aspect of last week’s story was that St Mary’s, Paddington, had leapfrogged CXH as the leading candidate for closure, because of its higher land values.  Personally, I still believe CXH is more vulnerable than St Mary’s or Hammersmith Hospitals because it has fewer and less influential friends at the top of the medical profession.  And because we all know which council is keener on giving planning permission for luxury housing developments.

For the present I accept the assurances from Imperial, hedged as they are with ‘no plans’ and ‘no decision’ and the usual get out clauses.  In any event, what they did tell me is at least as depressing as the news that a whole site might be disposed of.  The Trust, which has an annual spend of about £800 million has to make 5% cuts for the next five years.  In other words a quarter of its spend or £200 million.  And that at a time of rising health needs.  No health service has ever achieved anything like this.

Some of this may be achieved by better productivity, by pushing more services out into the community or centralising specialisms at one of the three hospitals.  These steps are themselves controversial but they will go nowhere near achieving the savings required.  That will need a general reduction in service levels, major restructuring and, of course, the closure of some facilities.

So CXH may not close or the entire site be sold but that could be an academic distinction if what we are left with is a glorified clinic on the edge of a new ‘development’ by St George.

Imperial are fighting back.  They have an unrivalled record of attracting private and public research funding and of providing the highest quality treatment.  But that will not compensate for a 25% loss of public funding.  Add the Government’s health reforms, a mixture of private profit and chaotic reorganisation, and the future looks bleak.

Amongst many deceptions that eased the Coalition into power, Cameron’s promise not to cut the NHS looks like the biggest whopper of all.

'Green' light for developers

Over 150 residents packed the Save Our Riverfront meeting last Tuesday to object to the cosy deal St George and the council have done to pack blocks of flats onto Hammersmith Embankment like sardines.  In return the council gets £10 million, but none of this will mitigate the effect of 2,000 new residents, their cars, the loss of planned open space or jobs. We hope a larger number will pack the Town Hall on Wednesday when the application comes before the planning committee.

Meanwhile Save Our Skyline has called a public meeting for 27 September, 7pm at Rivercourt Methodist Church to rally opposition to the revised planning application currently under consultation.  Responses must be in by 30th September, the same date as the West Ken scheme (see www.saveourskyline.co.uk for more details).

Are these groups NIMBYS - or selfish nihilists in the Government’s latest damning dismissal.  Quite the opposite.  They are not just doing a fantastic job in protecting historic and functioning parts of the borough from catastrophic overdevelopment, they are advocating sustainable alternatives. In doing so they have taken on the role the government and the council has abdicated.

Jokingly we call this the Big Society, but things got beyond a joke this week when the Telegraph revealed that some of the biggest developers are also the Tories’ biggest donor.  And chief among them is Helical Bar, joint developer of both the Town Hall site and White City.

Unaffordable Housing

Following Notting Hill's infamous landlord Peter Rachman's violent evictions and extortions in the 1960s, there were major changes in housing law, including the growth of the housing association movement. Notting Hill Housing Trust was one immediate result, but 50 years on this once exemplary organisation has completely lost its way.  Nothing could illustrate this more than the plans, approved of course by the council this week, to build 41 new houses and flats in King Street without a single affordable home.  Four of the properties are five-bedroomed houses facing St Peter’s Square, which will sell for at least £2 million each. But still not one of the homes on the site will benefit their own tenants or people in housing need.

Petitions for Police and Puffins

The announcement that four of the most popular neighbourhood police sergeants were getting the boot and not being replaced has caused outcry in wards from Sands End to Addison.  In North End, residents have started a petition to keep Sgt Ian Gordon as head of the Safer Neighbourhood Team.  It is the council which has claimed credit for the SNTs over the past five years, yet when the cuts were announced they blamed the police.

Now, two weeks later they have just paid for space in the local paper and on their Soviet-style street banners to say how much they are spending on extra police officers. So why don’t they pay for the four sergeants instead, or even use their propaganda fund for this purpose?

Meanwhile, parents from Addison Primary are also petitioning, for a new crossing in Shepherds Bush Road.  The old one has been ripped out and the proposed new child-friendly Puffin crossing is nowhere to be seem.  So at present children as young as five are jaywalking on one of the busiest roads  in the borough.  Sign the petition for the new crossing.  In the meantime the SNT sergeant for Addison ward is organising a rota to supervise the kids to and from school.  You guessed it, he’s getting the boot too.

Out and about

  • Wormholt Park was 100 years old this week and celebrated in style.  Bob Still and the Friends of Wormholt Park had laid on an incredible range of attractions which attracted the whole community to what had been the borough’s most neglected park.  But with the promise that at last funds for its redevelopment will be released by the council everyone was in good form, not least Peggy Aslett, also 100 years old and invited to cut the cake for their joint birthday.  Peggy, born in Fulham, now living in Acton, was the guest of Angie Bray MP and myself on the House of Commons terrace last month. Next she’s off to Silverstone for a couple of laps.
  • Saturday was also Brook Green Day, and the Brook Green Association and Friends of Brook Green put on a great range of entertainments and stalls.  Hot topics being discussed included the latest on the proposed closure of Olympia station as well as the quality of Kerbisher and Malt chips.
  • Speaking of Olympia, it was the topping out ceremony for the new West Hall on Friday.  A bit too traditional for my liking as the people who had actually built the Hall didn’t appear to be invited to the party.  Meanwhile My Olympia have come up with a solution to the Olympia stalemate that ought to please everyone.     
  • I was again petitioning against the Government’s NHS cuts at the weekend, this time in Uxbridge Road.  The news from Imperial gave it an extra urgency, but the overwhelming support from the public for the NHS leaves no doubt that it will survive.
  • As the newest member of the Hammersmith Rotary club I helped at their stall at West London College on Friday.
  • In my column for Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle this week I wrote about Charing Cross Hospital

A substantial Bill

I am leading for the Opposition on the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill that is going through its line by line consideration in Committee. It is a hefty task but the Government only gave us seven days to do it, so log-jammed is their timetable with controversial Bills, like the Health Bill, also being forced through last week. Given that my Bill proposes the virtual abolition of legal aid for a whole range of subjects from housing to medical negligence, this is hopelessly inadequate. The only way we can even try and scrutinise the Bill properly is to keep going up until Midnight, as we did last Tuesday. No way to make laws, you might think.

Boundary Review

Yesterday, the Boundary Commission published its proposals for redrawing constituency boundaries. The proposed changes announced in west London are bittersweet - while I will be pleased to be re-united with the wards in the London Borough of Ealing that I used to represent before the last general election, I shall be sorry to see Fulham Reach and North End, my old council ward, move out of Hammersmith constituency.

The new constituency will be called Hammersmith and Acton, and a map of it can be found here.

But remember: these proposals - assuming they do come into force - will not take effect for four years. I will continue to represent Hammersmith constituency as I have done since last year's election.

Nothing will change until the next election, which the government assures us is four years away. But if you are in any doubt about how these changes will affect you, please write to me.


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

Letter from Labour leader Steve Cowan about Hammersmith’s police cuts, property speculation and Rotten Borough status

Cllr Steve Cowan, Hammersmith & Fulham's Labour leader of the Opposition, has sent out this letter to residents.

Dear All

Police cuts
Following last month's riots, a number of residents have contacted me to support our campaign to get the Council to restore police numbers. I am running a survey on my website. Please take a couple of seconds to respond: click here to take part in the survey on the left of my website, The Cowan Report.

Property development
Meanwhile, if you are concerned by the Basingstoke-style tower blocks planned for Hammersmith’s riverfront, you may be interested in coming to the Planning Applications Committee (PAC) this Wednesday evening. Details are here.

You’ll be joined by the impressive Save Our Riverfront residents’ group, who also held a public meeting last Tuesday night. See Save Our Riverfront’s packed public meeting puts council and St. George on the spot.

The Daily Telegraph has done an excellent job of looking at the behind-the-scenes relationship between some of the UK’s leading property speculators and government policy. I was surprised to note a link with Hammersmith and Fulham. See Town hall demolition speculator is key influence on government planning policy.

Rotten Borough
Meanwhile, our council is back in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs section for needlessly paying out millions of pounds of public money to consultants. See Millions wasted as council flaunts its own rules to pay consultants

Please let me know if I can help you with any local issue.

All the best

Cllr. Stephen Cowan
Labour Leader of the Opposition
Councillor for Hammersmith Broadway Ward

Phone: 020 8753 2052

Need help? I run a weekly surgery which takes place in Hammersmith Town Hall . Please feel free to call the above phone number to arrange an appointment.

Local News: www.TheCowanReport.com

12 September 2011

The tricks used by Hammersmith Tory councillors to avoid public scrutiny

"Over the last year or so there has been a new approach at H&F Council’s Cabinet meetings. The Opposition have been forbidden by Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con) the Leader of the Council to ask questions and, at times, even speak."

To see a fascinating, detailed description by Labour leader Steve Cowan of the tricks that Hammersmith & Fulham Conservative councillors use to avoid scrutiny at council meetings, click here.

08 September 2011

Why Harry Phibbs should wait for the evidence on the 50p tax band

In a typically pugnacious and ideological piece in today's Daily Mail, Tory Hammersmith & Fulham councillor Harry Phibbs argues that the 50p tax band should be ditched "to show Britain is open for business". He quotes a letter from 20 economists in yesterday's Financial Times to support his argument that the tax punishes wealth creation and may driver higher earners to live abroad.

It's a superficially attractive argument until you look at the facts, as today's Financial Times does here. The FT points out that:
·        There will be no real evidence about the impact of the tax after next January, once tax returns have been filed and analysed
·        The 20 economists "were unable to point to an exodus of entrepreneurs and talented workers when they made their case"
·        Using historical data to support the case for abolition is questionable.

In short, there is a woeful lack of evidence to support the claim that the 50 rate is damaging the country's competitiveness. It may prove to be or it may prove not to be. But as matters stand today, calls for its abolition are the fruit of conjecture and ideology.

Common mistake

Perhaps Mr Phibbs thinks the 50% rate applies to the whole of your income. That’s a common misconception. It actually only applies to any earnings over £150,000, which used to be taxed at 40% (along with all income over £35,000).

For example, say you are a council chief executive and you earn a basic £270,000. You now pay 50% on the amount you earn over £150,000, ie on £120,000. Before, you would have paid 40% tax on that amount.

Admittedly we're no accountants, but it seems to us that before the 50% rate came in, this means you would have had £169,000 a year to spend after tax. Now, you have £157,000 a year. You are £12,000 down but still have £13,000 a month spending money.

On a pre-tax income of £270,000, tax rates and post-tax income (spending money)

05 September 2011

Come and object - Tory H&F council meets at 7pm today to increase sports charges, sell off council flats, raise rents and service charges

Tonight's Hammersmith & Fulham Cabinet meeting will be a pretty brutal one even by our Tory council's standards. Anyone can come along to try and get their objections heard as the Conservatives slash services for people living on lower incomes, including pensioners, pregnant women, first-jobbers and students. The action kicks off at 7pm in the Courtyard Room in the Town Hall, King Street W6 9JU.

Let's just pick four items out of the agenda here and see what they really mean.

Farewell to Lifestyle Plus.  The discount card introduced by Labour 25 years ago to help people on low incomes afford our swimming pools and leisure centres is to be abolished. Details here.

Goodbye to one of our council blocks. Under the pretext of refurbishment, the council has emptied out Edith Summerskill House and is now selling it to developers, with a loss of 68 flats, including 48 two-bed and 16 three-bed flats, which are like gold dust. Details here.

Service charges for council tenants are to be increased  by £1m a year for no extra benefit. Details here.

Rents will go up by between three and four times for all new and half of existing council properties, which for four-bed properties means £400 a week, requiring an income of over £74,000. Details here.

Not bad for one evening's work.

Will Tory MP Greg Hands join Labour in opposing the closure of Charing Cross hospital?

This weekend, hundred of visitors to King Street, Hammersmith  signed up to a Labour Party petition to save the NHS. Today, we wake up to the news that, as a result of the NHS cuts, Charing Cross hospital may be closed. Details are in today's Independent here.

Charing Cross hospital is run by the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, as is St Mary's hospital in Paddington. To meet its debts of £100m - and in a climate where the NHS as a whole is making cuts of £20bn - the trust is apparently considering selling off St Mary's to property developers and moving its activities to Hammersmith hospital near Wormwood Scrubs. Another option being considered is the closure of Charing Cross hospital, with routine surgery transferred to the West Middlesex hospital and emergency services going to Hammersmith.

Andy Slaughter, Hammersmith's Labour MP, has issued this statement: "I am talking today to Imperial management and unions and seeking a meeting with Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State for Health.  The campaign to save Charing Cross will be the biggest the borough has seen and I’m sure will attract support from across the political spectrum.
"We are fortunate to have three of the best hospitals in the country serving local people.  That is something we should be proud to maintain and improve.  Labour invested millions in the local NHS. Now the Tories are proposing to close one or even two local hospitals.  Cameron’s promise that the NHS would not be cut is exposed as the most blatant piece of trickery."

Not a squeak has so far been heard from Greg Hands, the Tory MP for Chelsea & Fulham, who back in 2005, dishonestly scaremongered that the then-Labour government intended to sell off Charing Cross hospital. He said then, "That would be a crazy move, and it is one that I have been elected in part to prevent.... I look forward to winning the battle with the Government to leave Charing Cross services on their current site." 

He also said, "It is vitally important for patients in Hammersmith & Fulham that the Charing Cross Hospital remains on its current site, with all of its current services. Any transfer of services to Hammersmith Hospital would be a disaster for local people, as it is extremely inaccessible by road and public transport."

Will Mr Hands be prepared to join hands with Labour to win the battle today, or will we finally get clear proof that his earlier statements were no more than cheap politicking?

02 September 2011

Andy Slaughter MP reports on local people's issues

More from Andy Slaughter MP this week:

  • I received over 200 letters and emails this week asking me to oppose both the Government’s ‘revised’ proposals for the NHS and the plans to limit access to advice on abortion.  Both the Health Bill and the amendments on abortion are disingenuous.  There is no real change to the plans to privatise and dismantle the NHS, and we will be campaigning in Hammersmith on this issue this weekend.  And I think it is outrageous to imply that organisations like Marie Stopes cannot give impartial advice because they ‘profit’ from abortions.  Accusing any medical practitioner of persuading patients to undergo procedures so they can make money is a new low in a dirty campaign.
  • I was able to wish many constituents Eid Mubarak! at the party called to mark the end of Ramadan in White City on Wednesday.
  • The British Safety Council in Hammersmith was my first proper employer 30 years ago, so it was a pleasure to visit them this week and see what a superb international organisation they have grown into in the intervening years, giving advice and assistance to thousands of companies in Britain and around the world.
  • Newham Council could rightfully boast of securing over 2,000 jobs for local unemployed people in the new Westfield development in Stratford this week.  It reminded me of the abject failure of our council to do the same, despite Westfield agreeing to do this when Labour still ran the borough.  At a meeting last year I asked Westfield how many staff they had recruited from White City itself.  The answer: 13.
  • Another failure to tackle local areas of deprivation noted this week on the excellent W14 website this week. The legacy of Labour’s New Deal for North Fulham was supposed to be businesses and voluntary groups setting up to continue its work.  Premises have been found – but in south Fulham, outside the New Deal Area, and are being used to relocate organisations the council has evicted from Hammersmith.
  • And farewell to Lifestyle plus.  The discount card introduced doing my first term as a councillor 25 years ago to give affordable access to our swimming pools and leisure centres to people on low incomes.  No longer to be offered in our brave new world.
  • MyOlympia have put forward a compromise solution to TfL which would see the tube service running every half hour on weekdays but travelling to Edgware Road rather than High St Ken.  This ticks all the  boxes including relieving congestion at Earl’s court and providing some relief on the Wimbledon line.  Let’s hope all parties now support this.  
To contact Andy, e-mail him at andy@andyslaughter.com or call his office on 020 7610 1950

These days, council flats are like gold dust. So why is Hammersmith council reducing their numbers?

More on the nastiness we can expect from the Tories, led by former mayor Cllr Andrew Johnson, at Monday's council meeting (5 September).

Under the pretext of refurbishing Edith Summerskill House, a block of 68 council flats by North End Road, Hammersmith & Fulham council "decanted" the tenants to other properties. Now the building is vacant, they intend not to do it up but to sell it off to their friends the property developers.

Edith Summerskill House provided affordable homes for nearly 150 people, with 48 two-bed and 16 three-bed flats. However, tucked away in the council's Equality Impact Assessment is the admission that only 40% of the flats that will replace it will be affordable.
"The draft planning assessment envisages that 40% of all the units delivered through a refurbishment or redevelopment option would be affordable  predominantly as intermediate housing such as shared ownership or shared equity. " (See EIA, under "Sex", page 7)
Forty per cent of 150 people is only 60 people. So 90 of the people who are currently living in unsuitable accommodation and would have got a flat in a fully-affordable, refurbished Edith Summerskhill House will just have to keep on waiting.

Anyone who has any further doubt that the council doesn't give a monkey's about low-income residents need look only at the Brave New World language they use to describe their machinations in the main report that Cllr Johnson will ask his colleagues to nod through on Monday:
"The disposal of the site will give the opportunity to create high quality 21st-century [hooray, not 19th-century!] living accommodation that will provide a mixed tenure scheme delivering a range of accommodation types that will provide much needed opportunities for residents of the borough to access a range of housing opportunities." (See report, para 3.3)
What does this illiterate garbage mean? It means they just don't care.

Council flat-cutter Andrew Johnson

Andy Slaughter MP warns about unsustainable development in west London

A guest blog by Andy Slaughter MP about the huge scale of developments in our borough being rushed through by Hammersmith & Fulham Tory council, the developer's best friend.

Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush are about to undergo the most intensive development in their history.  

Between now and next March planning officers will be working at four to five times their normal rate to process applications which are among the biggest anywhere in the world, and the planning committee will be asked to oblige some of the world's major developers by giving permission for construction of thousands of luxury high-rise flats over the next ten to twenty years.

My concerns about both the process – the way the supposedly independent committee rubber stamp agreements already reached between the council and developers – and the nature of the proposed developments are well known.  Densities are typically two to three times those of existing homes, heights are rarely below nine storeys and in many places are up to 30, the type of accommodation is aimed at City or foreign investors and in many cases it is being built on sites reserved for employment or even existing affordable homes.

But today I would like to focus just on the sheer scale and timing of the developments.  There are several reasons for concertina-ing so much into so little time.  Developers who can raise funds think they will get a better deal in the recession.  This is itself of concern as taxpayers stand to lose out – the West Ken land being offered to CapCo for a rumoured £100 million looks like a steal for the developer.  Next April the Mayor introduces a levy on applications to pay for Crossrail which could cost millions in the case of major sites, and naturally the developers want to avoid this, even though they will benefit from the investment.

But the main reason for haste is still the Mayoral elections.  Uniquely in modern times there are Tory administrations at national, London and local level, and therefore no one to put a break on unrestrained development.  That would change if Ken Livingstone were re-elected Mayor next May.  Ken has already visited several of the most contentious sites in the borough to see the effect on existing communities of the proposals.  He might not be so compliant to the wishes of speculators, so the developers – and the council – prefer to rush half thought-out plans through without proper consultation.

1.) West Ken/ Earl’s Court.  By far the biggest single proposal, seven and a half thousand unaffordable homes built over 20 years on and around seven hundred and fifty demolished council houses and flats.  The application is out to consultation until the end of September, but it is difficult to see how it can be determined in the near future.  The planning brief for the area does not start formal consultation until December at the earliest. Without this how can the committee determine what height and density of building should be allowed, what extra provision for transport, health, education and open space would be needed to allow such a large scheme to function?

2.) White City.  Three separate developers – Westfield, Imperial College and Helical Bar are racing to put in applications for chunks of the land north of the existing Westfield Shopping centre, east of Wood Lane.  Again, tall building and dense construction, built up against motorways and railway lines or around and above shops, is the plan to make the most profit from the land.  And again the council is months behind the developers in producing its planning frameworks for the area – the tail once more wagging the dog.

3.) Shepherds Bush Market.  The plan to demolish Goldhawk Road shops, affordable housing and hostels – and jeopardise the future of the market itself - is expected any day now.  200 luxury flats rising up to nine stories above the Victorian residential streets.

4.) Central Hammersmith and the riverside.  Here the council has given up the pretence of putting together a coherent plan as the gold rush of developers has seized on the chance to raze the town centre and build nine to 12 storey apartments along the river from Fulham Reach to Upper Mall.
  • St George’s application for Hammersmith Embankment will be determined at planning committee on 14 September.  Save our Riverfront are making a last ditch attempt to stop the ruination of this site at their public meeting on 6 September.
  • Arab Investments are negotiating to buy and demolish Riverside Studios and Queen’s Wharf to build a monolithic single block of 200 plus flats up to nine storeys. Riverside may now be found land to relocate to the St George site.
  • Helical Bar having made minor and cosmetic changes to the Town Hall scheme have submitted their application which still includes the loss of the cinema, Pocklington Trust flats and part of Furnivall Gardens.
  • King’s Mall has been sold in two parts.  The area facing Glenthorne Road, including the Mall car park, is now owned by St George who while being told that 27 storeys in not appropriate in this area are still looking to build up to 12. The Mall itself has been bought by the former owners of Earl’s Court (keep up!) who intend to refurbish it, but also knock down the 230 council homes on top and replace them with new high rise.
  • Building is also likely over the bus garage at Hammersmith Broadway, on the NCP Car Park site behind the Hammersmith & City line, and possibly in Hammersmith Bridge Road (Landmark House) and the south side of King Street, though this is further off.
Few residents will remain unaffected by these changes, but it is the council’s own tenants who will bear the brunt of the development as the war of attrition to bulldoze or starve them out of their homes steps up a gear.

Andy Slaughter MP

01 September 2011

Hammersmith to make council tenants pay £1m more a year for the same services: pensioners, women and disabled among hardest hit

Continuing their attack on residents living on low incomes, Hammersmith & Fulham Tories intend to make council tenants pay over a million pounds more a year for the same services over the next few years. Among the hardest hit will be pensioners, young people starting their first job, disabled people, pregnant women, new mothers and single women.

A report to be agreed at the H&F council meeting on 5 September spells out in black and white how, by changing the way it calculates service charges, the Conservative council expects tenants to start paying more for the same services within two years and for their charges to increase by over a million pounds a year by 2016.
“The potential impact on the Housing Revenue Account… is additional net income  [i.e. extra costs to council tenants] of: 2012/13 £Nil, 2013/14 £116,0002014/15 £436,000, 2015/16 £748,000, 2016/17 £1,052,000(see para 6.2 of the report here).
Every single council tenant will end up paying more:
“The implementation of tenant service charges will impact on all Council tenants. It will in the longer term mean that the total charge to tenants increases to a higher rate than it would without the implementation of service charges” (para 9.1).
And the poorest will be bear the greatest brunt of the charges:
“This may impact disproportionately on groups who have a lower income level, especially those who may be disproportionately represented in Council stock” (para 9.2).
The accompanying equality impact analysis states that those hit "disproportionately" will include people of retirement age, those who have just started work, disabled people, pregnant women and new mothers -- indeed, women as a whole, "particularly single women".

Fresh-faced Cllr Andrew Johnson, Cabinet member for Housing, will be leading the charge against these local residents on Monday. Can this really be what he came into politics for?

Hammersmith Tories plan to make poorer people pay more to keep fit

At next Monday's council meeting on 5 September, potty-mouthed Tory councillor Greg Smith will be pressing his colleagues to abolish the Lifestyle Plus card which has given cheap entry to leisure centres for local residents on low incomes, including students, ever since Labour introduced it 25 years ago.

Instead, a private company, GLL, will get a contract to operate a new card. The card will initially cost less but the price of each swim or gym visit will sharply increase.

As a result, during any one year, anyone on a low income who swims twice a month or who visits a gym more than once every six weeks will lose out.

It's all in para 2.3 of Cllr Smith's report:
“Under the proposed arrangements, residents currently entitled to a LPS will pay GLL £3 per annum for the card (compared to £20.50 per annum for LPS)… A swim will cost £0.90p more per visit than is currently available to LPS members, but the annual fee is reduced by £17.50. On that basis, residents can swim on 19 occasions before it costs more. A gym visit will cost £1.65 more per visit but with a reduced annual fee residents can access the gym 9 times before it costs more.”

Once again, the Tories are making the poorest in our community pay more for services.