Tuesday 29 April 2008

Removing The Freedom Pass Wouldn’t Be So Funny

Up until yesterday evening Boris Johnson's (Con) election website was proudly running a story denouncing Ken’s planned extension of the Freedom Pass to 24 hours-a-day as “daft” and a “mad idea”. Now, presumably realising the idea is very popular with the voting public, he’s removed the story.

Does this mean Mr. Johnson's seen the light and will maintain the Freedom Pass? I don’t think so and not least because he has already said that any extension of the Freedom Pass to before 9am will depend on agreement with the London boroughs. Those same London boroughs in which the Conservative (who form the largest group) have already described the pass as a "stealth tax”.

Ken visited White City and Hammersmith Broadway earlier today. He was given a warm reception and said “The fact is simple: no matter how much he protests, Boris Johnson gives no commitment to extend the Freedom Pass so older and disabled Londoners can use it before 9am.

The Conservative candidate for Mayor may do a good turn on telly but I think that removing the Freedom Pass wouldn’t be so funny for all those people that depend on it.

Monday 28 April 2008

Another Young Persons' Facility Under Threat

“All the children on the White City estate live in flats. Where else will they play if they sell this off?” said local Councillor Colin Aherne (Lab) while telling me why he is disgusted that H&F Conservatives want to sell off the Randolph Beresford Early Years Centre (see pic). The facility provides one of the few green areas in White City and was named as a centre of early excellence by the government.

Colin says that H&F Conservatives have their eyes on the site and published plans to dispose of the facility despite the centre's governors voting the proposal down.

The centre currently accommodates children under three and from three to five. There is extended day care available before and after school, as well as drop-in provision for parents and carers with toddlers.

Cllr. Colin Aherne explained “Hammersmith and Fulham has some of the most expensive land in the UK which is why they're selling off schools, youth clubs and community centres across the borough. The Tories only see how this and other school sell-offs will meet their budget plans. They don’t see the harm they’re doing to these young people’s education and life opportunities. White City is one of the poorest areas in the borough. I am genuinely disgusted that anyone would think that closing this facility is even worth considering. I will fight them all the way on this!”

Please click here to email Colin about his campaign to save the centre.

Sunday 27 April 2008

Hammersmith & Fulham’s Streets Are Filthy

Last Wednesday, another of my constituents contacted me about the state of our borough. The opening sentence of his email read. “The streets in my neighbourhood are covered in dog mess.” Then today, while out in Avonmore Road and Lisgar Terrace I took these photos.

In 2006 the Tidy Britain Group classed Hammersmith and Fulham as having the fourth cleanest streets out of the all of the thirty three London boroughs. There was an election and H&F’s Conservative Administration then cut the budget by £1.5million (which was revised to a £980k cut in 2008). Now, it seems that people from all sides of the political spectrum accept that there is a problem.

H&F’s beleaguered council officials are naturally defensive when asked to address the issue. But, I also cannot see that any effective work is taking place to deter people from dropping litter or allowing their dogs to foul our streets in the first place.

The problem is made worse by the current state of the work-force. I’m told that the moral of front-line staff is at an all-time low, following cuts in their numbers, cuts to their salaries and cut their terms and conditions. They contrast their cuts with the fantastic salary rises those in charge are getting.

Keeping the streets clean is one of the most basic roles that any council must undertake. H&F Council is failing at this. Letting them know this will ultimately help to address the situation.

Please email me here if you are unhappy with the state of your street. I’ll do my best to get H&F Council to sort it out.

Thursday 24 April 2008

Despair Of Hammersmith & Fulham's Sick And Elderly Chronicled

Hammersmith and Fulham’s elderly, sick and disabled residents turned up at the Town Hall on Monday night to demonstrate against H&F Conservative’s brand new charges for home care.

The cabinet of Tory Councillors voted through the staggering £12.40 hourly fee for home care - reneging on a pre-election promise in the process. This service was previously provided at no charge to the user, the cost being already covered in the council tax payment. H&F Conservatives are introducing the new charges in the hope that this will contribute to their £36million cuts target which was agreed at the February budget meeting.

Anyone wanting to demonstrate their support for the Hammersmith & Fulham Coalition Against Community Care Cuts (HAFCAC) can sign their petition by following the links in this story.

Saffron Pineger, the Chronicle's chief reporter, has covered the story on the front page of this week’s edition (See scan). She interviews several residents who talk about their hardship. You can buy this week's Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle from most good newsagents.

Wednesday 23 April 2008

Find Out How Hammersmith Broadway Police Are Tackling Crime And Anti-Social Behaviour

Local police chief, Sergeant Gareth Winnard, wants residents of Hammersmith Broadway ward to have a fuller understanding of what his team is doing to address crime and anti-social behaviour in the neighbourhood which is why he has launched a new residents newsletter which you can receive by emailing him here.

Sgt. Winnard told me "A newsletter will be produced every month. Residents should contact me if they have any feedback or if there's anything in particular that they would like included".

Sunday 20 April 2008

Labour Selects Local Champion To Fight Sands End By-Election

Local resident, Brendan Bird has been selected as the Labour Party candidate to fight the Sands End by-election following the resignation of one of the sitting Conservative councillors.

Brendan is a previously long-standing councillor in the ward. He lost his seat in May 2006 when the Conservatives won control of H&F Council. Since then, the Tories have introduced £36million of cuts, failed to deliver on their promise of extra police and one of Sands End's three Tory councillors resigned her seat, having moved abroad some months ago.

Brendan is extremely active in the area. He campaigned against H&F Conservative’s closure of Peterborough Primary School last year; he's fighting to make H&F Council restore Sands End's youth facilities after the Conservatives sold off the Castle Youth Club and he helped to stop H&F Tories planned closure of Hurlingham and Chelsea Secondary School in 2007.

Brendan has lived in Sands End for 30 years. He is a member of the Peterborough Road Residents’ Association and a governor of Holy Cross Primary School. You can contact his campaign by emailing here. The election will take place on 1st May.

Saturday 19 April 2008

Pre-Raphaelite Paintings To Be Exhibited at Fulham Palace

A collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings will be on show to the public at Fulham Palace. The exhibition is being organised by the Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham, Cllr. Minnie Scott Russell. The proceeds will go to the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust – a charity that seeks to raise public awareness about the nature, symptoms and dangers of depression. It will open on 23rd May and run until 1st June. You can visit the Trust's website by clicking here.

Most of the works were bequeathed to the borough by art collector Cecil French in 1953. The exhibition will show the collection of fifty-three pictures by late 19th and early 20th century British artists.

The bequest comprises 26 paintings and drawings by the genius, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, who lived in Fulham. Also on show will be important works from Lord Leighton, Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema and George Watts.

You can visit the exhibition website by clicking here.

Friday 18 April 2008

Take The London Mayor Test Here

May 1st is just under two weeks away and shortly afterwards we'll know who will be sitting in City Hall with responsibility for London's police, transport, road safety, housing, the environment and more.

I've come across this test on Kevin Maguire's blog. It's a bit of fun and purports to show those taking it who best represents their priorities. Take part by clicking here.

Wednesday 16 April 2008

If The Tory Party Don’t Trust Their Candidate Then Why Should Londoners?

Mr. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, the Conservative Party Candidate to become the Mayor of London, has now pulled out of a total of four hustings. On the latest occasion he has backed away from debating London’s future at an event arranged by Time Out magazine. Prior to that he failed to appear on Jonathan Dimbleby’s Any Questions. The famously gaffe-prone Tory MP for Henley-on-Thames is clearly being kept away from the public which – at the very least - raises the question what is the Conservative Party High Command frightened of?

Those that support Ken and those that don’t all have one thing in common. They know that he has a vision for London and what it is. In fact, I think most will know that he pioneered the introduction of the ward-specific Safer Neighbourhood Police Teams; he is promising to invest much more in crime fighting and extra police and that the Capital now has more police officers on the beat than any time in its history. Most Londoners will know that Mr. Livingstone has radically improved bus services, has secured the essential £16billion investment for Crossrail and helped bring the Olympics back to Britain. They will be aware that he has ground-breaking environmental policies and has won endorsements from leading green campaigners and politicians. Above all, they can sit down and figure out if those are policies they think will benefit the Capital and build London’s prosperity well into the next century.

Contrast that with the Conservative’s plan of hoping Londoners will somehow sleepwalk into electing a Tory Mayor. Surely, if the Conservatives have confidence in Mr. Johnson then they should let voters see him for what he really is? I think that it’s similar to buying a car or an insurance policy. You need a check out the details before you commit yourself to living with your decision. But, in this case the Tories are being more than a little cagey in letting use know about what exactly it is they’re trying to sell us.

Friday 11 April 2008

The Battle for London Mayor - By Jonathan Porritt

Johnathan Porritt, the ex-Chair of the Ecology Party (the Precursor to the Green Party) has written this piece about the race for the Mayor of London on his blog:

"I blame London’s taxi-drivers personally. How else can one possibly explain the lead over Ken Livingstone that Boris Johnson has apparently taken in the polls for the London Mayoral Election? On the rare occasions that I have to endure a ride with a garrulous cabbie, any conversation all but instantly comes round to the evil, scheming, cabbie-hating monster that is Ken Livingstone - according to them. I have never come across such a vein of venom and vituperation.

The prospect of Boris as Mayor of London is just so scary. Either he is a genuine, out-and-out buffoon, in which case London becomes a laughing stock alongside its Mayor, or he is a pseudo-buffoon, in which case his true ideological nastiness will soon be revealed. The prospect of Boris taking over London’s Climate Change Action Plan is even scarier. He may have learnt not to reveal his full contrarian bigotry on climate change, but he really doesn’t get it, and would rapidly scale back or completely get rid of the ambitious targets in the Action Plan. And that would be a massive set back. Internationally, London is widely recognised as one of a handful of cities showing real leadership on climate change.

And Ken Livingstone has driven that personally, in a very effective partnership with his deputy, Nicky Gavron. Just as he has driven a host of other environmental and sustainability priorities. The surreal sight of Boris on the TV castigating Ken for his “lack of environmental vision” was almost too much to cope with. So I just hope all the environmental NGOs can rally the troops in London in a pro-Ken campaign, even if they can’t come out and explicitly endorse him.

Lastly, right now, I can’t help comparing Ken’s approach on these issues with other luminaries in the Labour Party. He really does understand how to make the joins between a high quality physical environment, sustainable resource use and a commitment to social justice, whilst still driving forward plans for increased economic prosperity. Particularly through a different kind of energy economy. It’s sort of grown-up.

Unlike the jejune fantasising about a “nuclear renaissance” in the UK, creating “hundreds of thousands of jobs” which now emanates from BERR – the sort of over-hyped nonsense which has to be put on a par with claims made nearly 50 years ago that nuclear power would one day be “too cheap to meter”.

Wouldn’t it be great, just once, to hear a senior Labour Politician (other than Ken) enthusing in similar terms about the hundreds of thousands of real jobs that would be created were we ever to get serious about energy efficiency?"

Fourteen Months On And Five Convicted Of Kodjo’s Murder

Five teenagers, aged 14 to 17, were found guilty of murdering Kodjo Yenga (See pic) at the Old Bailey on Tuesday. All were from the Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush area. They will be sentenced next month. Kodjo Yenga was fatally stabbed in Hammersmith Grove in February last year by a group armed with knives, hammers and baseball bats. Some were shouting “Kill, kill, kill”. You can read the Evening Standard’s report here.

It’s hard to believe that this happened just over one year ago. I have never seen such collective anguish across a whole community before. Shops started collections; the Holy Innocents Church arranged a well-attended memorial service; people were shocked that this could happen in their neighbourhood and wanted to do something to help in some way and show solidarity with Kodjo’s family.

There was a community meeting in the days following the killing. The police, educationalists, council officials, youth workers and politicians were all there, trying to explain and reassure, but I must admit, I still find it hard to understand how those particular young people could have taken part this vile murder. Promises were made that lessons were being learnt and that actions would follow.

Sadly, Kodjo Yenga’s murder was one of a number in recent years. Concerns about gang culture and the twisted values and behaviour of a very small minority of youths can sometimes obscure the fact that most of our young are people that their families and teachers are very proud of.

Saturday 5 April 2008

Secondary Head Blasts H&F Council For Putting Politics Over Education In School Sell-Offs

A leading headteacher of a top-performing secondary school has attacked Hammersmith and Fulham Council saying that “politics has overridden the value of education”. Carol Jones the Head of Fulham Cross Girls’ School had improved results by 12.5% during her three years in the role. Fulham Cross has also become the only non-faith secondary school in the Borough to have a waiting list. But, Carol Jones is now moving to lead a school in Hornsey, north London after H&F Conservatives proposed to merge her school with Henry Compton School on a single site.

The speculation is that this is because the Conservative Administration want to realise the price of the school land. The school sell-off programme began in September 2006 when H&F Council announced plans to close Hurlingham and Chelsea Secondary School in Sands End, Fulham - having valued the land at £24million. However, their plans were thwarted when it became clear that an independent adjudicator was likely to halt them in their tracks. Conservative councillors were then forced to apologise publicly to the borough’s parents with Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), the Leader of H&F Council, admitting that he’d “made mistakes”.

Further chaos ensued when the Administration unsuccessfully tried to merge two more schools in the north of the Borough.

Then, in September 2007 H&F’s Conservative Administration closed the high-performing Peterborough Primary School amid a public outcry. At the time, they denied claims that they were earmarking the majority of the £11million land value for their Asset Reduction Strategy. Instead, they promised that all of this money would be re-invested to improve another school. This pledge was then controversially dropped five months later while presenting plans to the Annual Budget Meeting when the Administration conceded that £8million from the sale could be used for “other purposes”.

Carol Jones made her comments to Rebecca Kent of the Hammersmith & Fulham Gazette. The full interview appears on the front page of this week’s edition which can be purchased from local newsagents.

London Green Party Calls On Supporters To Cast Second Preference Votes For Ken

Siân Berry, the London Green Party mayoral candidate, has confirmed that she will be casting her second preference vote for Ken Livingstone on May 1st and is calling on her supporters to do the same. Ken will be casting his own second preference vote for Sian.

The call unites Ken Livingstone and Siân Berry on the basis of common policies on the environment and helps unite the majority of Londoners who want to keep taking London forward.

Voters can cast two votes for Mayor on 1 May - a first and a second preference. After all the first preference votes have been counted, the two candidates with the highest totals go into a final ballot. The second preference votes cast by people who supported lower placed candidates are then counted and added to the first preference totals of the two top placed candidates.

The joint announcement took place as the two set out five key green commitments for London. They are:
  • We will introduce a £25 a day CO2 charge for gas-guzzling cars like some 4x4s, high-powered sports cars, and luxury executive vehicles
  • We will not reduce the size of the Congestion Charge Zone
  • We will keep the Low Emission Zone to improve air quality and extend it to include lorries over 3.5 tonnes and, from 2010, heavier vans
  • We will oppose all further airport expansion serving London, including at Heathrow and Boris Johnson's plan for a new airport in the Thames Gateway
  • We will continue to set a target that at least 50% of all new houses should be affordable to Londoners on lower incomes

Siân Berry and Ken Livingstone issued a joint statement saying: "Tackling climate change and creating a fairer London must be at the top of any serious Mayor's agenda. Boris Johnson, who supported George W. Bush in opposing the Kyoto Treaty and would scrap the CO2 charge on gas guzzlers, cannot be trusted with London's environment. Nor can a man who opposed the minimum wage be expected to promote fairness or tackle poverty. London - with a committed Mayor and Green Party representation on its Assembly - has taken a global lead on environmental and social justice over the last eight years. Let's keep it that way."