27 March 2017

H&F Conservatives look both ways on school funding

More on the naughty attempts by H&F Conservatives to pretend to residents they're against government plans to cut our schools' budgets while actually backing the cuts. 

Councillor Caroline Ffiske is the H&F Conservative opposition's spokesperson on education. On Tuesday, she made out to residents the Conservatives were on their side. On Wednesday, she revealed their true colours.

This is what happened. Save our Schools held a meeting at Hammersmith Town Hall on 28 February to rally support for a campaign by parents, teachers, governors and the council against the government’s plans to cut funding to H&F’s schools by 3 per cent.

The government cuts would pile further pressure on schools already grappling with escalating costs. This is why parents, teachers, governors and pupils across the whole borough are protesting.

At the meeting, Caroline Ffiske was keen to give the impression she opposed the cuts. She said:

“Obviously here in Hammersmith and Fulham, we’re one of the losers by 3 per cent so please email me. I’ve brought my card. Everyone who emails me, I promise I will forward your email to [Education Secretary] Justine Greening’s staff, and to Greg Hands MP and really help build up a voice here in Hammersmith & Fulham to say…let’s aim high and let’s level up funding.”

Yet the next morning, the same Councillor Ffiske showed her true colours by blogging a completely different message.

She started with this eccentric comment: Last night I attended the LBHF Save our Schools rally where the Labour Council committed to fight against fairness in school funding. (Labour against fairness – hurray!)

She then vigorously defended the government’s schools cuts programme, describing it as "great", "transparent" and "truly fair".

And she feebly advised residents to make useless peripheral recommendations on “weightings” for the “funding formula” – nothing that would go anywhere near stopping the tsunami about to hit H&F schools.

If Conservative councillors choose to back the Conservative government against local parents, schools and pupils, while we disagree with them, we accept that’s their honest view.

But for the Conservative education spokesperson to describe H&F schools in the evening as "losers" from the government's plans and then in the morning praise the "great" plans is something no-one should accept.

22 March 2017

Innumerate Greg Smith gives the environment a kicking

Potty-mouthed Brexiter and leader of H&F's Conservative councillors, Greg Smith is a well-known petrol-head. When he is not leading battle buses, he is tweeting often aggressive support for his beloved though failing Formula 1 team.

But gas-guzzling Greg's love of big cars doesn’t only influence his personal life — it has also seen him come out against a popular environmental policy in Hammersmith & Fulham.

H&F’s Labour council voted in January to recognise climate change as “one of the greatest dangers facing the world”. Smith’s Tories refused, however, to back a statement acknowledged by almost every climate scientist across the globe.

The council motion called on all levels of government to take action to address climate change.

This sensible divestment policy is being adopted by authorities, foundations and universities everywhere.

Yet gas-guzzling Greg called the council’s move a pointless vanity project.

He went on to claim that the council was withholding pence from fuel firm investments

Yes, "pence" - even though the council's pension fund is set to reach £1 billion pounds.

While Smith is known neither for his grasp of finances nor his support for the environment, managing both to attack a sensible green policy and to describe a billion pounds as pence is a surprising achievement, even for him.

15 March 2017

Get Greg Hands to change his stance on proposed school funding

A petition has started on change.org to get Conservative MP (and government minister) Greg Hands to do the right thing by his constituents in Fulham (and Chelsea) and support local children, parents and schools against planned government funding cuts.

The petition, which can be signed here, says:
"Greg Hands is the MP for Fulham & Chelsea. His borough will be the 9th most affected area by the proposed new school funding formula. Despite his constituents asking him to support their childrens' education, he believes this new formula will 'end unfairness for all' and is not doing anything. Sign this petition to ask Greg Hands to reconsider and support his constituency's schools and childrens' futures."
We urge everyone to sign the petition.

One person unlikely to be doing so is Greg Hands' Conservative Party colleague, Hammersmith & Fulham Tory councillor Caroline Ffiske

She thinks the planned cuts are“great”, “transparent” and “truly fair”: see H&F Conservatives are backing government cuts to local schools.

13 March 2017

Trump, Largan and ‘alternative facts’ in Sands End

Donald Trump may not have many fans among Hammersmith & Fulham’s residents but he’s got one among the local Tories if Cllr Robert Largan’s peddling of an “alternative fact” to his constituents is anything to go by.

In an email to bemused Sands End residents, Largan has made the remarkable claim: ‘Labour’s attitude to Sands End was recently revealed in a report…outrageously describing the area as “a region of poverty and squalor”.

Shocking stuff. But perhaps not quite the way Cllr Largan intended. 

The phrase “a region of poverty and squalor” is actually from a 2004 Character Profile of Studdridge Street by council officers – a profile that was itself referring to the area in the early 1900s:

"Sandilands Road, built in the 1880s was one of the next developments, but because it was made up of simply designed terraced artisan cottages with no front gardens and tiny back yards, it soon became thought of as part of a 'region of poverty and squalor'". (LB Hammersmith & Fulham Conservation Area No.7 - Studdridge Street Character Profile, para 4.2.)

Of course, Cllr Largan knows his claim is nonsense. 
Just as he knows all that Labour councillors are doing for Sands End residents. 

Labour's first action when it won in 2014 was to overturn the Conservatives’ decision to close Sulivan Primary School.

It’s building a new Sands End Community Centre to replace the one the Conservatives sold off and  help compensate local people for the unwanted supersewer agreed by Tory MP Greg Hands and his mate Boris Johnson.

And Labour is building 33 genuinely affordable homes in Sands End (see 17.2 in this planning document) – something the previous Conservative administration wouldn’t do. 

Sadly, what Cllr Largan forgot to tell residents is that he and his Conservative colleagues actually voted against the 33 new Sands End homes (again, see 17.2 here). 

Yup, Robert Largan voted against new social housing – which H&F Conservatives didn't build, hence the crying need now – and abused the related planning document to trumpet an easily disproved “alternative fact” about Labour.  

Donald would be proud.

11 March 2017

H&F Conservatives are backing government cuts to local schools

With parents, teachers and school governors from across the political divide coming out in support of H&F Labour council's campaign to Support our Schools, you might think H&F Conservatives would put aside party differences and join in.

You'd be wrong.  

The government is proposing to slash schools’ budgets in H&F by three per cent.
  • Forty-seven of the borough’s head teachers are backing the campaign to protect school funding.
  • This comes at a time when schools face huge cost pressures from inflation, the teachers' recruitment crisis and rising business rates.  
  • For a primary school in H&F, the combined burden will be over £100,000 per year. For secondary schools, it will be much more. 

And yet Cllr Caroline Ffiske, who is the H&F Conservative opposition's spokesperson on education, calls the cuts “great”, “transparent” and “truly fair”. 

The first sign that H&F Conservative were backing the cuts came in January last year when they refused to support a straightforward Labour council motion that called for schools budgets to be protected.

The Tories ramped up their support for their government cuts this month when Cllr Ffiske wrote a blog post defending them.

Instead of calling for proper funding for all schools in the UK, Ffiske supported redistributing funds away from H&F and disingenuously advised residents to call for short-term amendments around the edges of the funding formula. 

This would do nothing to help pupils in Hammersmith & Fulham.

Ffiske even had the cheek to suggest her views were supported by the cross-party F40 campaign group, when F40 thinks the current government proposals are an ‘injustice’ and have called for a rethink.

Cllr Ffiske has proven once again that the local Tories are Conservative Party politicians who happen to live in H&F rather than genuine representatives of local residents.

09 March 2017

H&F Labour keeps tax promises while Tory government breaks theirs

It's compare and contrast time.

  • Conservative Budget 2017: Chancellor raises National Insurance rates to the approval of H&F Tory councillor, Charlie Dewhirst, who shows contempt for the self-employed while jeering at journalists for reporting the Tories' broken promise.


Who do you trust?

08 March 2017

Greg Hands votes to prevent exposure of government's child refugees lie

Greg Hands, MP for Chelsea & Fulham, who is a minister, has voted to cover up the truth about the government and child refugees.

Last year, after pressure from Labour peer Lord Dubs, the government agreed to resettle refugee children travelling alone who had no family in the UK. This was expected to mean 3,000 children.

Yet last week, the government disgracefully announced that the programme would close after only 350 unaccompanied youngsters had been brought to Britain from other European countries. 

The government tried to justify its cruel action by claiming that local authorities didn't have the capacity. But a report by the home affairs select committee on Monday found this wasn't true. 

The report quoted H&F's own Labour leader Stephen Cowan:
"The oral evidence we heard from the Local Government Association and from the Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, Cllr Stephen Cowan, cast some doubt on how thorough the consultation undertaken by the Home Office to establish the capacity of local authorities to take more migrant children had been. It was suggested that up to a further 4,000 places might be made available by local authorities if additional central funding could be provided. Councillor Cowan told us: 'If I talk to council leaders across London, there is certainly extra capacity'"
Andy Elvin, chief executive of the Adolescent and Children's Trust, was even more straightforward:
"This is a lie; there is no other way to describe this egregious attempt to blame local authorities for a decision that has been wholly made in the Home Office, which has made no reasonable effort to examine what capacity there is in the system."

So this week, some MPs tried to expose the truth and help child refugees by seeking a change in the law to require councils to detail their capacity to resettle children, including unaccompanied refugee children.

This would have shown up the government's lie. Perhaps it is no surprise that the MP for Chelsea & Fulham voted against

What is more surprising is that this is the same Greg Hands who in September 2015 tweeted this:
"Strong words from @George_Osborne on the refugee crisis: UK will do even more to help refugees."
A case of watch what the man does, not what he says.

04 March 2017

H&F Tories begging for backup from shamed Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea colleagues

A little bird tells us that some Hammersmith & Fulham Conservative councillors are so worried about losing their seats at the next council election that they're begging Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea Tories to come and campaign for them on the streets of Hammersmith and Fulham.

We wonder if these will be the same Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea councillors who came together with Hammersmith & Fulham Conservatives when they ran the council to undertake a shameful privatisation of the transport that takes disabled children to and from school.

The appalling contractors they appointed after a botched procurement left tube-fed children overheating for hours in minibuses, autistic children running into traffic and much more.

When the newly elected Labour council at Hammersmith & Fulham tried to put matters right after May 2014, the Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea Tory leadership said they were just making trouble and refused to take action. It took hundreds of parents of disabled children to protest before they started to listen.

Now these shamed Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea Tories are apparently going to come and trudge the streets of Hammersmith and Fulham pleading with people to vote for their equally shamed mates.

We can't wait.

02 March 2017

Andy Slaughter MP says government response to petition on recalling dangerous tumble dryers is inadequate and misleading

Guest blog by Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith 

On 28 February, the Government published its response to my petition calling for a recall of the several million tumble dryers manufactured by Whirlpool companies, including Hotpoint and Indesit, which are liable to catch fire. It is wholly inadequate and makes it more urgent that the petition gains another 40,000 signatures to take it to the 100,000 that ensures a full Parliamentary debate.

In August last year a fire ripped through a flat in Shepherds Bush. Following an investigation by the London Fire Brigade it was confirmed that the fire was caused by a faulty Whirlpool tumble dryer.

Since then I have been campaigning for the Government to force Whirlpool to recall all faulty tumble dryers.

As part of this campaign I was in correspondence with the Minister for Consumer Protection, Margot James MP, and I launched the petition to force the Government to debate the issue.

I wrote my most recent letter to Margot James in December, asking her to implement a full product recall. I received her response yesterday, over two months after I wrote.

Yesterday the Government responded in similar terms to the petition, detailing the action taken by both them and Whirlpool to deal with this issue.

From their response, you would think the Government has been actively pushing Whirlpool in this issue, resulting in the company’s recent change in their advice to owners of faulty appliances. This finally changed from saying the machines could be used under supervision, to an admission that they should be put out of use entirely, as recommended by the London Fire Brigade.

However, what they fail to mention is that Whirlpool only changed their advice after the consumer group Which? began a judicial review of Peterborough Trading Standards, who then issued a warning notice.

The Government also states that a Working Group that has been set up to investigate the issue. However, this Working Group is a continuation of the previously established Steering Group, which took no action for over a year because it received no Government support.

While the new Group is better organised, it has failed to publish the interim report it promised would be available in December. In any event the Working Group already knows what needs to be done, as this was set out in the independent report by Lynn Faulds Wood published in February 2016.

Once again, the Government has not told the full story on this issue, and has failed to take serious action against Whirlpool. What action has been taken has been the result of campaigning by consumer groups and individuals like Lynn Faulds Wood.

This issue needs to be debated in Parliament, and it is more vital than ever that people sign my petition to force the Government to have a proper, public debate so that real action can be taken.

Largan's tall tax tales

When Labour stood for election in Hammersmith & Fulham in 2014, it made a clear manifesto promise: "We guarantee to cut taxes and root out waste".

And that's what it's done. It cut council tax in its first year and froze council tax last year and again this year. It also found £3.4m extra a year this year for adult social care.

This is something no other council in the country has managed.

Sadly, not everyone is pleased. Take Robert Largan, the shrill Conservative councillor for Sands End, who's just emailed his constituents with the fib that Labour have "abandoned their tax guarantee".

A forensic examination of the small print of Largan's email shows he's actually complaining about the fact that the Mayor of London's "precept" has increased by 1.5%. This is the Mayor's part of the council tax, collected by London's boroughs, which helps pay for GLA services and City Hall.

It's nothing to do with H&F Labour council. They said they'd cut taxes and they have.

Even with the precept, H&F residents' total council tax bills are are likely to remain the third lowest in the country.

What a contrast with when H&F Conservatives ran the council. The Tories paid for council tax cuts by levying over 600 sneaky stealth taxes.

What a shame Cllr Largan has nothing to offer residents except an "alternative truth" that would make Trump proud.