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

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