Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Manchester ❤️

Once again, the flags fly at half mast over Hammersmith Town Hall after the heartbreaking news that at least 22 people have been murdered and 59 injured by a coward's bomb at a pop concert in the Manchester Arena.

At the time of writing, we have learnt of the first two reported victims. Georgina Bethany Callander was just 18. Georgina died, with her mum at her bedside, having been rushed to hospital. Saffie-Rose Roussos - an 8-year-old little girl - had gone to the concert with her mum and sister for what should have been a beautiful evening.

As we learn more of the people taken through this vile act I know that all in Hammersmith & Fulham will share the deepest sadness and want to send the clearest message of love and solidarity to those suffering the consequences of this atrocity.

The Manchester Evening News has set up a crowdfunding page to support the victims' families. You can donate here.

In targeting an Ariana Grande concert, the individuals who planned and perpetrated these murders deliberately chose to target children and young people. They are beneath contempt.

The people of Manchester have shown why it is one of the greatest of cities. Those of all faiths and no faith have rallied: opening their homes to offer shelter; queueing to donate blood; ferrying victims home to their loved ones and more - demonstrating the solid, compassionate strength that has always defined that city's character and proving how in the darkest of times we can still witness the best of humanity.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Robert Largan and Robert Largan

Robert Largan from Fulham, London (left) and
Robert Largan from Bury, Greater Manchester (right)
I've been sent this link to the local Conservative Party website for Bury, Greater Manchester. It states that "Whitefield resident, Robert Largan, has been selected to be the Conservative Candidate for Bury South". That Robert Largan bears a remarkable resemblance to the man we came to know as Councillor Robert Largan who, as recently as 13 April, sent an email out to his constituents stating his residence as Sulivan Court in Fulham some 227 miles from Bury in London.

The Bury Robert Largan appears as a salt of the earth 29-year-old whom, as the Conservative website tells, started work on the fish counter in ASDA before making it as a chartered accountant.

The Fulham Robert Largan is a long-time political hack who'd worked for the Thatcherite Greg Hands MP for Chelsea & Fulham and, until just over two weeks ago, was a junior Conservative Councillor representing Sands End ward in Fulham since 2014. He had also unsuccessfully sought to get elected onto Hammersmith & Fulham Council 7 years ago.

Let's hope this Robert Largan chap in Bury would never behave like this.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Tri-borough: Conservative Boroughs Call It A Day

In November 2015, a senior 'tri-borough' official told my colleagues and me they had attended an away-day at Westminster City Council during which they had modelled pulling out of the tri-borough arrangement - advising us Westminster proposed to trigger their plan in 2017. When I raised that with their political leadership they denied it.

On Monday night, the Conservative-run Westminster City Council and Kensington & Chelsea Council both put out a press release stating they intended to formally serve notice to pull out of the tri-borough arrangement. Meanwhile, Hammersmith & Fulham’s Conservatives distributed ill-judged leaflets containing the same petty political posturing. It is evident that this was a long-planned and coordinated move.

I had met with the two borough leaders last Thursday. It was a cordial meeting. They did not mention that they had both arranged emergency cabinet meetings for Monday night and had synchronised their press announcements detailing their plans to walk out of the tri-borough deal.

So I thought I might illuminate what’s happening with some facts.

The tri-borough began with an announcement by the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP (Con) on 22 October 2010. He told the BBC his new tri-borough initiative was targeted to save £100 million. It has never come close.

At its worst, the tri-borough has lost all three councils millions of pounds, put the lives of disabled children at risk and made it difficult for staff to undertake the most basic day-to-day functions.

In our last two budgets, Hammersmith & Fulham’s Labour administration found £31 million of savings but the tri-borough contributed no more than £200,000 of that, which is less than 1%.

Problems with tri-borough contracts, procured by Westminster City Council, have cost Hammersmith & Fulham over £5 million.

Many of the savings attributed to tri-borough were savings that would have been made anyway. Indeed, when other councils kindly opened their books we saw that they had made similar and sometimes better savings by themselves.

Meanwhile, the losses caused by the tri-borough have never been formally listed as such or quantified but run into many millions of pounds.

Senior tri-borough officers have had to try and balance conflicting goals such as Hammersmith & Fulham Labour’s determination to keep Charing Cross Hospital open against the Conservative administrations in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea’s support for closing it.

While there were benefits, the tri-borough suffered from too many politicians and officials having a vested interest in keeping the myth going that the tri-borough was simply wonderful in every way. That is possibly why a culture developed where problems were brushed under the carpet.

On too many occasions, leading Conservative politicians in the other two boroughs were in the dark by their officials when potentially catastrophic problems occurred. While this Emperor was wearing some clothes, he was naked in all of the wrong places.

Given all this, it should surprise no-one to hear that Hammersmith & Fulham has been carrying out a review.

Hammersmith & Fulham’s Labour administration aspires to run the best value, most effective council in the country - the best place for residents to live and for businesses to prosper.

Despite record funding cuts by national government, we’ve built a reputation for improving services to residents while cutting taxes.

While our neighbours in Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster City Councils have increased council tax by 2% and 4%, Hammersmith & Fulham is one of only a few councils in the country to freeze council tax this year.

In fact, H&F Labour have managed our finances to ensure we’re:
  • The only London council to cut council tax this electoral term
  • The only council in the country to abolish charges for adult social care
  • The only council to cut 85% of all charges for our residents
  • The only council to freeze parking permit charges for each year we have been in office 
We are fortunate to have so many excellent staff working hard in the face of numerous challenges to deliver high quality services for Hammersmith & Fulham. All went into public service because of they share a profound belief in public service being fundamental to a good society. That belief goes to the very heart of what our Labour administration is about.

When residents gave my colleagues and me control of Hammersmith & Fulham in 2014, we found we had inherited an institution that looked and felt a lot like something from 30 years ago. Services had been run down by the Conservatives who, across the tri-borough, demonstrated a callous indifference when it became evident they had put our most vulnerable residents at risk. It was not fit for purpose.

As we move on, we will attract more of the very best people to work with us as we continue to build an organisation that is in the vanguard of modernising local government.

We believe the residents and businesses of Hammersmith & Fulham deserve the very best possible services and the smartest most effective support. That is precisely what all of us in Hammersmith & Fulham Labour will continue to strive to deliver.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Westminster Attack

PC Keith Palmer
On Thursday night, Councillor Sue Fennimore and I represented Hammersmith & Fulham at a candlelit vigil in Trafalgar Square. It had been called by Mayor Sadiq Khan. We were joined by leaders of many faiths and people from different backgrounds and nationalities, sending an image of London united in our abhorrence at the previous day’s vile act of terrorism.

Four people were murdered. Around 50 people from 12 different countries were injured. I know all the people of Hammersmith & Fulham join me in expressing our deepest sorrow to those suffering injuries and to the families and loved ones of the innocent people killed.

One of those whose life was taken was PC Keith Palmer. PC Palmer had served in the Royal Artillery before becoming a member of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Squad which he had served in for the last 15 years.

We should never forget that when attacks happen, and as civilians are ushered towards safety, it is the police and security services that take the opposite course and confront danger head on.

PC Palmer was just 48. He was a husband and a father of a 5-year-old daughter. He courageously faced down the attacker. I can only imagine the grief his family feel today. They do not mourn alone.

Around the world people joined to send their messages of solidarity. The terrorists will not win. Our diversity, our unity and our democracy makes us stronger. Our respect for human rights, our belief in the rule of law and our compassion make us stronger. These are the values that confront the hatred they espouse. They cannot win.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

A Chance To Stand Up To Racism And Xenophobia And Celebrate H&F's Diversity

Generations of good, brave people fought to kick racism out of British society. If anyone had looked at the 'Isles of Wonder' we showcased to the world on the 27th July 2012 they'd have believed our war had been won as that day, just four years' ago, was the day this London Olympic opening ceremony put in lump in our throats and made our chests burst with pride.

But racist incidents are on the increase. A small number of people unfortunately feel they have been given permission by recent events to let their inner ignorance speak out.

Last week Hammersmith's Polish Center was daubed with racist graffiti and there has been a 500% increase in the number of reported hate crimes. In recent weeks too many of our friends and neighbours have been confronted by racist and xenophobic incidents: people asked why they're still here; told to go home; told we voted for you to leave and worse.

That's just not the country we are and it certainly is not the country we are going to become.

On Sunday, 17th July the vast majority of us will have a chance to stand up and state that we are proud of all the good people that have made their home in Hammersmith and Fulham: those who came from the other 27 EU countries, and those from everywhere else in the world. H&F's Unity Day will begin with a chance for us to walk together against racism and xenophobia. It will finish with a festival of celebration of the many cultures that make our London borough one of the most wonderful places to live anywhere in the world.

Please come and please tell your friends and neighbours.

Monday, 27 June 2016

A Statement On The Polish Center Atttack

Early Sunday morning racist graffiti was found scrawled onto the walls of the Polish cultural center in Hammersmith. Such an attack is both outrageous and an affront to the values that have defined British culture for a very long time.

The Polish Social and Cultural Association (POSK), was founded shortly after the Second World War during which Polish forces fought for Britain to defeat Nazism. Since and more recently Polish citizens have become one of the communities that define and add to our modern society.

I am very grateful to have POSK in Hammersmith and Fulham and reaffirm that we in this borough will always stand with the Polish people and people of Polish origin against small-minded ignorance and bigotry whenever it raises its ugly head.

I will shortly visit the Polish center (as I often do) and offer the full practical support of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

Friday, 24 June 2016

The EU Referendum Result And A Warm Message Of Friendship To H&F's EU Citizens

The residents of Hammersmith and Fulham voted 70% in favour of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland remaining in the European Union. Thirty per cent voted to leave.

Hammersmith & Fulham’s results reflected other similar views across London, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, as we now know, other parts of our country did not share that position and have voted to leave.

The result is a shock to many and so on this particular day, this administration wants to send a very clear and very warm message of welcome to the thousands of EU citizens that have made our borough their home. We are deeply grateful for: the businesses they’ve started; the hard work they do; and for how our culture has been enriched because they have chosen to live with us in our beautiful corner of West London. We will do everything we can to ensure all H&F's EU residents feel as welcome today, and each day thereafter, as they did yesterday.

What happens next for our country and its relationships with other countries is unclear. The turmoil on the financial markets reflects some of that. But we in H&F will continue to work hard to support local businesses and do everything in our power to fight for the prosperity and well-being of all who live here.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Jo Cox: A statement from Hammersmith and Fulham's Labour councillors


We are devastated by the death of Jo Cox who died from her injuries following an attack on her as she left her constituency surgery. She was a compassionate campaigner and the world is a colder place without her.

Our thoughts, sorrow and love go to her husband Brendan Cox, her children and her family and friends.

This is the statement from Brendan Cox which we wanted to share…

"Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo's friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.

"Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.

"She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.

"Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full".

Monday, 13 June 2016

LGBT Pride Flag, The Stars And Stripes And The Union Flag Over Hammersmith And Fulham

Tonight, over Hammersmith Town Hall, the rainbow coloured LGBT Pride flag flies at half-mast alongside the Stars and Stripes and the Union Flag.

The mass shootings by Omar Mateen, an American citizen, in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was an act of hate. Hate that led Mateen to murder forty-nine people, wound 53 more and devastate the families and loved ones of those he attacked.

We send our love and deep sorrow to all those suffering the loss of someone they cared about and in flying the LGBT flag, we send a message that we stand in proud solidarity with all who are LGBT.

Keeping Great Britain's Seat At The EU Negotiating Table Versus Years Of Damaging Uncertainty And Hardship For British Households? I'm Voting To Remain

The vote on 23 June, that will decide whether or not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will remain in the European Union, will be the most important vote I ever cast.

The consequences will: affect our country; they will affect the borough I have the privilege to lead and care about; and they will affect my family for generations to come.

There are many positive reasons for staying in Europe as I set out below, but at the time of writing this, the FTSE 100 has fallen by £100 billion in just four days - which isn't scaremongering, it's actually something that has already happened based on no more than the fear of Brexit. It is also worth noting that this article in The Washington Post, titled "Britain flirts with economic insanity" was written to inform an American audience - not to influence a British one.

So, I strongly believe that remaining in the European Union is the right thing to do. Here are some of my personal reasons:

Board rooms rather than battle fields: this is a much better way of doing business than what we had before
When I was a small child in the 1960s the majority of countries in Europe were governed by either fascist or communist dictatorships. War had been the way change came to Europe throughout our long history but that post Second World War generation chose a different way and set up the beginnings of what later became the European Union.

Now democracy spreads across our continent, in large part, because each country wanting to belong to the EU has to pass our criteria of being a fully functioning democracy and demonstrating how they respect the rights and freedoms of each of their citizens.

Nobody knows what the world will be like in 100 years time but we do know that 100 years ago Europe was in the middle of the first horrific world war that saw millions of its citizens killed. The EU's track record of  bringing peace to our continent is now both decades long and unprecedented. It can continue to do that for future generations if we keep it and continue to influence it.

I believe if any of the brave women and men who fought and died (in their millions) to liberate Europe in either of the 20th century's two great wars could know that this is how we now bring change and hammer out our differences, they would think the EU to be a wonderful thing. I don't think it's right or sensible that Britain steps away from that.

A seat at the EU negotiating table - now and for generations to come
But Europe isn't perfect. There is a lot that needs radical reform. So how do we in Britain make that happen? Leaving the room where the negotiations occur is just not the answer.

Far from 'taking control', as the leave campaign slogan somewhat disingenuously suggests, Britain will lose a large amount of our influence if we leave. That would be bad now but with each passing decade it will continue to weaken our ability to protect our national interests and get things done. 

Hard facts need to be at the heart of any decision of this magnitude. Yet there are many inaccuracies on everything from immigration to trade. This is a good website to fact check.

Speaking from a partisan perspective, I believe Britain is at its best in the EU when there is a Labour government. The EU helped the 1997 Labour government secure better working conditions and improvements for the average British citizen. It's helped bring peace to Northern Ireland and it's helped increase the standards of living for hard working British families.

No matter who is in charge, Britain is a vocal and powerful member of the EU. We are on the winning side of all EU votes 95% of the time. For the past 43 years we have shaped much of how the current EU is and how it operates.

The EU is our biggest trading partner and it is the biggest investor in the UK economy. If we leave, no matter what arrangement we come up with, we will still have to abide by its laws in one form or another. For example, one option preferred by many in the Brexit camp, (although likely to be blocked by EU member states) is after we leave the EU we become a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). That would mean Britain would still have to pay into the system and still have to accept all EU laws on the free movement of goods, people, services, capital and more. But we will simply no longer have a role in deciding what those laws are.

Playing an active role in the EU and with an ambitious agenda that continues to influence what the EU does is the best way of protecting Britain's sovereign national interests.

Leaving creates years of damaging uncertainty
But what is the alternative? Exactly what is the Brexit campaign arguing for? Well, as yet there isn’t anything that even resembles another proposal, let alone a plan which the Brexit campaigners agree on.

I appreciate that the future is by its very nature unpredictable but the Brexit campaign cannot even tell us what they think will happen later this summer if we leave - as this video shows. 

Slaughter and May (an international law firm) have done a more thorough independent analysis of our options which you can read here. None of the leave options offer anything but many years of highly damaging uncertainty.

Uncertainty always negatively affects mortgage rates, it affects food prices, it causes unemployment so it will negatively affect the livelihoods of Britons up and down the country.

Most commentators agree that Britain will be seeking to negotiate an alternative European agreement at a time when the remaining EU countries are likely to feel pretty sore with Britain for leaving and so destabilising their economies and national security.

Any of the remaining 27 EU countries could veto a new agreement with Britain for any reason.

Germany's finance minister has already said Germany will block our entry into the single market. The Telegraph offers this insight into how other European countries will react. If you want to know what the New York Times thinks the other EU countries will do if Britain leaves, click here. Even our friends in the United States say that they will not negotiate a special trade deal for Britain.

Meanwhile only 18 months ago, one of the main reasons Scotland voted to remain in the UK was because they were told they would not enjoy automatic membership of the EU if they left.  If the UK leaves the EU it will legitimately reopen the question for the Scots whether they should leave the UK and rejoin the EU.

Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, has suggested that Britain's alternative economic approach will be to accelerate the effects of globalization by getting rid of all tariffs on goods traded with all countries. The effects of globalization is the very thing most people considering voting to leave the EU are against. Farage's plan would decimate British jobs.

What's clear is the Brexit camp have no alternative plan should we exit the EU and even if they did there is absolutely no other country or economic block that is even considering working with us on it. It is not even clear what 'us' will mean. Do the Brexiters believe they would be negotiating on behalf of the UK as it is now or a new smaller country without Scotland?

A long economic recession?
While there is no plan other than uncertainty coming from the Brexit camp, the following highly respected independent organisations have all given their opinions on what will happen if Britain leaves the EU:
The response to these warnings from those wanting Britain to leave is to seek to fudge and confuse people by putting up the odd individual economist (no serious independent organisation has backed Brexit) to say they don't think things will be that bad.

The Brexit camp are prepared to admit that leaving will not make us richer. In reality they know full well it will make most British working families poorer - they just think that's a price worth paying.

I'm NOT with them
Russian President Vladimir Putin is no friend of Great Britain but he wants us to leave. Donald Trump, the US property speculator turned bizarre-Republican presidential candidate says he hopes Britain leaves.

In Britain, the largest majority of politicians lining up to argue for Brexit are right-wing Conservatives and members of UKIP who have never shown any concern for the rights of hard working British families or public services like the NHS.

Iain Duncan-Smith has spent the last five years attacking and undermining some of the poorest people in Britain. Norman Lamont, the former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, was a prominent apologist for the murdering Chilean ex-dictator General Augusto Pinochet. Boris Johnson appears to have flipped his position from remain to exit because he thinks that will help him become the next leader of the Conservative Party. And Nigel Farage said he wanted to close down the NHS and move to an American style insurance system - which leaves millions of people without health cover.

Those people have their own agenda and they're not being straight with us about what it is. I'm absolutely certain it is not an agenda that cares about the average British family because they've never demonstrated any genuine concern before.

I'm voting to remain
The EU will most likely, and hopefully, be an institution that survives and develops for decades to come. If we leave its current boarder would be just 22 miles off our southern coast. I want to make sure my country continues to influence it and that means voting to stay in.

There are many positive reasons for staying: it has brought decades of peace and continues to spread democracy across the European continent; it brings much greater security, helps tackle crime and helps us fight terrorism; it brings cheaper and better holidays; cuts mobile roaming charges; protects and improves our environment; brings better food at better value; supports a stronger UK economy and a better standard of living for the average British household; and undoubtedly brings more and better jobs.

That's why friends of Britain like US President Barack Obama, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and many more want us to stay.

But most important of all, staying in the EU is in the best interests of hard working British families now and in the future and that's why I am voting to remain.

Monday, 2 May 2016

President Obama's Shout Out To H&F Labour's Councillor Ali Hashem

How time flies: just a couple of days ago President Barack Obama gave his last speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner as you can view here. However, the week before, when he was here in the UK, he addressed people selected to take part in the US Ambassador's young leaders project and took a moment to shout out to H&F Labour's excellent Councillor Ali Hashem as you can view here:

video

Along with fellow Labour Councillors Larry Culhane and Daryl Brown, Ali Hashem was elected to represent the residents and businesses of North End ward on 22nd May 2014. They're a fantastic team and have been doing an excellent job working hard for their constituents ever since.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

New Independent Start-Up: Café De Nata's Pastéis De Nata Brings Some Portuguese Sunshine To Hammersmith

Pastéis de nata - those delicious Portuguese custard tarts - can now be found, freshly baked in the centre of Hammersmith.

Made to head chef Lucio's secret recipe, Café de Nata produce  a perfectly crisp flaky pastry and creamy smooth custard filling that will brighten your day and ruin your diet.

Proprietor Diogo Esteves hopes to make the pastel de nada a popular treat in the UK - just as it is in Portugal and many other parts of the world.

They are really delicious and go well with Café de Nata's excellent coffee. So he appears to have a very good chance of doing that.

Pastéis de nata were first baked at the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, Lisbon. But in 1834 the monastery closed. Three years later, after having purchased the monk's recipe, the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém took over. They've been making them ever since. In 2009, The Guardian was so taken with these delicacies, it urged people to visit Belém in an article titled: The 50 best things to eat in the world and where to eat them. But as the Facebook reviews of Café de Nata say, you can save yourself the journey and enjoy perfectly fresh, warm pastéis de nada straight out of the oven in Hammersmith Broadway.

Café de Nata are based in a small shop at 25B, Hammersmith Broadway Shopping Centre that's a part of the bus and tube station.

You can view their Facebook page here and follow them on Twitter here.

Hammersmith and Fulham is fortunate to have attracted retail entrepreneurs who have brightened the borough's landscape. There's amazing gelato ice creams at Bertotti Pure Italian, stunning French breakfast pastries, cakes chocolates and breads at Patisserie Sainte-Anne, the ever wonderful Brackenbury's Delicatessen and more.

I wish Diogo Esteves and his partners good luck with their new enterprise but going by the reception Café de Nata is getting from their customers, I really don't think they'll need it.