Sunday 24 February 2008

Mayor Livingstone Targets ‘Chelsea Tractors’ With £25 Charge And Promises 100% Discount For Low Emissions Cars

Just as 4X4s seem to be getting bigger and bigger, Mayor Livingstone has given the green light to a plan that aims to discourage their use in the Capital from October. The plan aims to target those cars that pollute most and are most dangerous to pedestrians and child safety.

Under the new rules, from 27th October 2008 there will be a £25 charge for cars that emit 226 grams of CO2 or more per km. Among the cars that fall into this category are SUVs also known as 4X4s or ‘Chelsea tractors’. The proposals also include a 100% discount for owners of smaller cars with low CO2 emissions that meet the Euro 4 standard for air quality.

Porsche are opposing the CO2 Charge as are the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Mayoral candidates. However, the scheme is being supported by environmental campaign groups Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Alliance Against Urban 4×4s.

London Assembly Member, Murad Qureshi, Petitions TfL For Piccadilly Line Trains To Stop At Ravenscourt Park Station

Murad Qureshi AM is running a campaign to have Piccadilly line trains stop at Ravenscourt Park tube station. You can join his campaign and sign his petition by clicking here. The petition reads:

"We, the undersigned, are calling on TfL to have the Piccadilly Line stop at Ravenscourt Park Station.The station is currently only served by the much less reliable District Line and having the station served by the Piccadilly line would offer much easier access to the city centre and Heathrow for local residents. The Piccadilly line currently already drives through the station and we belief the benefits to local residents are too great to let this opportunity go to waste."

Friday 22 February 2008

Hammersmith Apollo Appeals For 2.00am Licence

The Hammersmith Apollo has appealed against the Licensing Sub-Committee's decision to refuse them an extended licence. Their request will now be heard by local magistrates.

The Apollo had applied to extend its current licence as it wants to entertain several thousand people until 2.00am on up to twenty occasions a year. Cllr. Lisa Nandy (Lab) and I campaigned against this after being contacted by hundreds of local people with long standing concerns about the Apollo’s management of its current licence.

The matter is set to be considered at West London Magistrates' Court. The Police will also object and Lisa and I hope to speak on behalf of our constituents. The public can attend as observers and I have been advised that those people who have already written in to object will also be able to speak at the hearing – which is expected to take place in March. I shall notify you of a date as soon as it has been agreed. Please email me by clicking here if you'd like more information.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

H&F Council’s Questionable Funding Of Shepherds Bush Station Propaganda

I remember the night well. It was only a few weeks ago. A cold, dark January evening, and standing outside of Shepherds Bush Village Hall was none other than Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), the Leader of H&F Council. He was handing out Conservative Party leaflets (see excerpt opposite) justifying the closure of Shepherds Bush tube station. Fair enough I thought. He’s welcome to his point of view.

Then, along with over two hundred local residents, we went inside and spent that evening of January 24th with representatives of TfL, London underground and local MP Andy Slaughter (Lab) hearing about the station closure; learning how Andy was campaigning against it and how he had won a range of concessions from TfL and London Underground; including extra busses; the setting up of a user group and how he was fighting to have a lift fitted in the station for the elderly and disabled.

Cllr. Greenhalgh was given an opportunity to tell the room what he and H&F Council were doing about the station closure – which centred on concluding H&F Council’s road works to minimise disruption (although he was unable to say when this would be completed).

So! What could be behind H&F Council’s latest tax-payer-funded leaflet to thousands of borough residents? It quotes Cllr. Greenhalgh saying that he would “continue to pressure them [TfL] to get the station open again” and takes credit for the all of the concessions that had been negotiated by Andy Slaughter. Cllr. Greenhalgh didn’t mention any of this at the meeting.

I have written to senior council officials for an explanation to their claims and to find out why they’re spending thousand of pounds of our money promoting this line. Meanwhile, if you’d like to read more about the closure and the details of the concessions won so far then please click here.

Humiliation As H&F Council Accepts Audit Commission Report Dropping It From Four Score To A Three Score Authority

The date on the front page of the report reads August 2007 and yet it was only published last week. It's reasonable to ask why? The answer is that H&F Council have spent the last half year unsuccessfully arguing against the Audit Commission’s latest conclusions which detail how the borough has fallen from an elite 4 score to a second rated 3 score local authority.

Not that any member of the public would know. The result was met with a fresh wave of tax-payer-funded publicity trumpeting H&F Council’s previous overall rating - mostly achieved under the last Labour Administration.

This news follows on from the shock announcement that the Audit Commission has recently graded H&F Council’s housing management service as “poor giving it only 1 star and assessing it as having “uncertain prospects for improvement”. That's one star more than the Housing Quality Network rated the service when it carried out a comprehensive assessment last summer and concluded that the service was only due a failing "zero" star rating. The Council has also recently met with the Audit Commission about this judgement which I understand it is tenaciously lobbying to have overturned.

Please email me here if you would like to see a copy of H&F Council’s latest Audit Commission Corporate Assessment Report. I’ll send it to you in PDF format by return.

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Residents Say No To Heathrow Expansion Plans

Last night I counted over five hundred and twenty people in Hammersmith Town Hall. All but two (we took a vote) were there to voice their opposition to the expansion of Heathrow Airport.

The thirty three London Councils are also against the expansion of Heathrow. The last Labour Administration was against it as is (I think) the current Conservative one. Local MP Andy Slaughter (Lab) is also firmly against it. It seems that there’s a cross-party consensus at a local level in opposing the Heathrow plans.

I think this is important as I understand that the CBI backs the expansion as do the Government and Opposition front benches in Parliament. We have quite a fight on our hands if we’re to be successful.

I therefore welcomed the public meeting that took place last night. The only criticism I heard from some people who turned up was that it was short on action points. Several people came up to me and asked what had it achieved? We’ll have to see. People did get a chance to hear and question several speakers which included Lord Soley, the Campaign Director of Future Heathrow speaking for the expansion; with Nic Ferriday, from HACAN Clearskies and Andy Slaughter MP speaking against it.

Residents that were unable to get to the meeting but who still want to make their views known should click here to fill in the consultation. The consultation ends on 27th February.

I think it’s important and that H&F Council to have a united political front in opposing the Heathrow plan. I also think that this is what the public will expect their local councillors and MPs to do. Ealing’s Conservative Council had a meeting about Heathrow earlier this month and went out of their way to invite MPs from different political parties. So, I was disapointed that H&F Council only had the names of three Conservative politicians on the Heathrow letter that went out to all borough residents, that H&F Council tried to block Andy Slaughter MP and myself from being on the panel and refrained from including the Opposition in any of the post-meeting press briefings.

Please write to me by clicking here to offer your views about how we take this campaign forward. I’ll keep you updated.

Tuesday 12 February 2008

H&F Council Transfers Part Of College Park And Old Oak to The Royal Borough Of Kensington And Chelsea

Most reasonable people would expect Council officials to let ward Councillors know if a part of their ward was being transferred to another borough. So it was more than a little peculiar that Opposition Councillors Wesley Harcourt (Lab) and Reg McLaughlin (Lab) only found out about a decision to move part of their ward to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea when it appeared in the local Hammersmith Gazette on Friday.

A member of the Conservative Administration appeared in the article explaining his thinking behind moving Little Wormwood Scrubs to the neighbouring authority. However, the Opposition and local residents seem to have been kept in the dark. In fact, we cannot find any evidence that any official made any effort to inform the Opposition ward Councillors or consult local residents.

I cannot imagine that anything like this could happen in national politics. There would be outrage if an opposition MP were to find out about a change to their constituency in this way. They would have expected every effort to have been made to inform them and to have been consulted at every juncture. It should be the same in local politics.

My colleagues have written to Geoff Alltimes, H&F Council’s Chief Executive, for an explanation. I hope he'll be able to clear this matter up soon. I will let you know how this is dealt with.

Monday 11 February 2008

Controversial Office Project For Town Hall Officials Passes Stage One

H&F Council has announced that its Conservative Cabinet has given the green light to a mult-million pound project to provide new luxury office space for Town Hall bureaucrats on King Street, Hammersmith.

The project will involve demolishing the cinema, homes for the blind, the Quaker meeting house and many small, local business premises – all of whom have voiced concerns about the plans. Local residents’ associations and amenity societies are also opposed to the current scheme.

Town Hall officials have long been enthusiastic about this project and proposed a similar scheme several years ago. This was killed by the last Labour Administration and I made it clear that it would not be given the go-ahead if Labour had been re-elected in 2006.

This scheme is also expected to take up a significant bulk of the planning department’s and senior officals’ work-load for the coming years.

H&F Council’s partner on this development is Granger/Helical Bar. One positive aspect of the development is that it would involve the demolition of the ugly Town Hall extension, built by an earlier Conservative Administration.

Please write and let me know your views by clicking here.

Saturday 9 February 2008

Residents Protest As Furnival Gardens Entertainment Licence Is Given Go-Ahead

Around thirty local residents and I attended the licensing committee at H&F Council to object to an unlimited entertainment licence for the Furnival Gardens river-front park in Hammersmith. However, this applicant was no ordinary applicant. It wasn’t a local bar, a restaurant or night club. It was, in fact, H&F Council itself who had amended their application and now wanted to have a licence that would allow up to 5000 revellers to drink alcohol and listen to loud music from 11.00am to 10.30pm for every day of the year - if they chose.

A member of H&F’s Conservative Administration and a range of officials attended the meeting to urge the Committee to grant the licence.

When asked why H&F Council hadn’t chosen to put in a seperate application for each event as they arose - which would ensure the public’s rights to be consulted - a senior official said that H&F Council “didn’t have the resources to do that” anymore. The meeting became farcical when one resident asked how H&F Council would treat breaches of the licence such as noise or anti-social behaviour. An official explained that H&F Council "could not take action against itself " and so it "wouldn’t do so".

The Licensing Committee agreed the application by a majority vote - with some minor amendments. The three person committee spit the vote with Cllr. Alex Karmel (Con) and Cllr. Greg Smith (Con) voting for granting the application and Cllr. Colin Aherne (Lab) voting against.

Ravenscourt and Bishops Parks were given similar licences at the end of last year, after H&F's Conservative Administration introduced this new licensing policy for local parks and open spaces.