Thursday 22 May 2008

H&F Council’s Pedestrian Response To Residents' Concerns About Litter And Dog Fouling

Ok, so H&F’s Conservative Administration has cut the street cleaning and dog mess removal budget but surely if a problem is reported it should still be dealt with promptly? Not so, it seems, as an extract of an official’s email to me shows below:

“Thank you for your inquiry referring to Kilmarsh Road. As requested, I would like to say that although you did log this complaint on the 29th April instant and again on 1st May, I personally received this information assigned to my team on 6th May 2008... I wish to reiterate that I received this complaint for action by my team on 6th May 2008 and not before.”

I had emailed a senior H&F Council officer following a complaint about dog fouling in Hammersmith. It then took eight days for the complaint to get from him to his section leader. A carrier pigeon would have been quicker. I have other similar examples too. Those cuts seem to have bitten deeper into H&F's beleaguered Environment Department than everyone first thought.

Please let me know if you have similar problems. We will keep campaigning until H&F’s Conservative Administration addresses residents’ concerns about this.

Tuesday 20 May 2008

New Garden Waste System Is An Incompetent Stealth Tax

This year H&F Council’s garden waste collection service will cost residents £7.25. This is a new charge to residents introduced last year. This year it has been increased by 11.5%. It is little more than a stealth tax.

Up until the 2006 local elections the Labour Administration included the delivery and collection of the bio-degradable garden recycling bags in the council tax charge. It was easier for residents, it encouraged more people to take part in the Council’s compost recycling and it was less bureaucratic. Now, residents have to re-register each year in order to have their garden trimmings taken away – even if they have sacks left over from the previous year.

H&F Conservatives introduced this new charge to meet their budget cut targets. However, it’s been fraught with problems. Many residents still have bio-degradable bags left over from previous years and so just put them out on the pavement instead of registering with the Council. Some residents refuse to pay and now simply put out their garden waste in other bags and I’ve noticed increased levels of fly-tipping across the borough.

Dozens of residents have complained to my colleagues and me about this scheme. Not least about the time it now takes to register. This morning I called H&F Council to test out the process for myself. It took five minutes and fifty one seconds just for the phone to be answered. One resident told me she was on the phone for twelve minutes before she could get a person on the other end of the line. This does not appear to be a customer-friendly scheme. It isn’t working and my colleagues and I are calling on H&F Conservatives to ditch it.

I will let you know how we get on but, as usual, please let me know if you have any problems with this service by emailing me here.

Monday 19 May 2008

Unintended Skating On Lyric Square, Hammersmith

Quite a few people have contacted me querying why H&F Council seem to have put a surface onto Lyric Square, Hammermith, that is extremely slippery when wet.

One lady, in her 60s, told me that she now walks around the area, when it's raining, as it is too difficult to walk on the surface without slipping. I note that there is a similar stone surface on the entrance to the main Hammersmith Broadway tube station and that London Underground puts out rubber mats when it rains. I witnessed several people slipping and falling over while going into the station a few weeks during a heavy down-pour.

Please let me know, by emailing me here, if you have similar problems. I will write to H&F Council to see what health and safety research was undertaken prior to laying that particular stone in Lyric Square; how many complaints they have had about this issue and what they can do to make it safer?

Thursday 15 May 2008

Marise Rose Opens At The Hepsibah Gallery Tonight

Marise Rose opens an exhibition of her works at the Hepsibah Gallery, Hammersmith tonight. People are invited to turn up for a private view between 6.00pm and 9.00pm. The exhibition will run until the 21st May.

Jane Hepsibah commented "Marise Rose is an artist known for her beautiful textural seascapes and also for her work in theatre design, and in this exciting exhibition of new work she has combined these exceptional skills - and the results are fab. Bold and passionate paintings sit happily with calm and witty sculpture. This show is well worth a visit since it shows ably the skills needed for mixed media work and the artist will be demonstrating her mastery of various mediums during the week at the gallery".

What A Waste!

This picture shows H&F Council's Town Hall extension at 12.15 am on Tuesday morning. The lights are on but I've written to see if anyone was there.

In fact, the lights are left on in the Town Hall extension most nights of the year. I've raised this in the past often to find out that the lights are on across all floors because, although only one person is in the building, the particular light switch they have means that they have to light up the whole tower block. I was told that this would be sorted out two years ago. However, with cuts to budgets, it seems that this has not been a priority.

It should be. The Town Hall's carbon footprint for each year is significantly increased by leaving these lights on and, as a public body, H&F Council has a duty to set a good example - not a bad one. It's also a terrible waste of our council tax funds.

The technology is there to have a far more efficient and environmentally friendly lighting system installed. I think H&F Council should get on and do this very soon and end this publicly funded, beacon of waste burning at the centre of Hammersmith night, after night.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday 13 May 2008

H&F Council Hits Town Hall Development Hitch

At the beginning of this year, H&F Council confidently announced their plans to build their new £multi-million office complex for local government officials on the site of Hammersmith's listed, art deco cinema - which was built in 1936. In doing so they concluded that St. James (who owns the site) had been unsuccessful and awarded the contract to Grainger/Helical Bar instead.

Now, there seems to be a snag. St. James, who bought the site in 2004, has put forward alternate plans that they say are "in line with planning policy to attract new retail into the town centre as well as providing homes for local people". St. James' plans differed from H&F Council's preferred developer in that they:
  • do not require the Pocklington Trust homes for the blind to be demolished
  • will not seek to demolish the Friends Meeting House
  • will not seek to build on the Council car park at the back of the current cinema

St. James says that if approved, work could begin in early 2009 and be completed by 2010. Meanwhile, Cllr. Mark Loveday, (Con) the person spearheading H&F Council's scheme and the officials, who had presumably hoped that their plans would run smoothly, are now talking about the possibility of "compulsory purchase orders" for the site.

Labour have long opposed this development as a waste of public funds. St. James are expected to put their plans before H&F Council's Planning Committee and if turned down by that panel they will probably seek to appeal above the Council's head. This all raises the spectre of some rather expensive legal bills and a further waste of tax payers' money. I'll let you know how this progresses.

Monday 12 May 2008

H&F Council's Unsatisfactory Response On Dog Fouling

Following a complaint from a family about dog mess in Kilmarsh Road, Hammersmith, on Tuesday, April 29th, I emailed a senior official in H&F's Environment Department with the expectation that it would be dealt with. Two days later, on Thursday, May 1st, my constituent and I saw that it was all still there. Sadly, this type of weak response is not a one-off.

I was then surprised to learn that H&F Council has failed to issue any fines to people who allow their dogs to foul our streets.

To me, a local authority’s ability to maintain a clean environment is one of the basic tests of its priorities and its competence. I think that the ruling Conservative Administration was wrong to cut the street cleaning budget and I question why relatively simple matters like this are not dealt with to residents’ satisfaction. It does not seem that keeping our streets clean is currently a priority of this Council.

Please email me here to let me know if you have or have had any similar problems with dirty streets where you live. I will keep raising these matters until H&F Council responds in a way that residents find acceptable.

Friday 9 May 2008

America To Choose Between Obama And McCain This November

It’s full speed on to the White HouseSenator Clinton confidently asserted after Tuesday night’s results. Yet the reality of those numbers is that Hillary isn’t going to be the Democratic Party nominee. It will be Senator Barack Obama and I'd bet on that being the official position by the end of May.

It’s not just the electoral numbers that will stop Senator Clinton's bid for the nomination. Her campaign has hit financial problems too, with Hillary lending it more than $6million of her own money over the last month. It’s also emerged Senator Clinton's campaign is in debt, raising doubts about the financial viability of her continuing in the race.

However, the most important numbers in this race relate to the numbers of votes and delegates. Senator Obama won another 100 delegates on Tuesday. It's now mathematically impossible for Senator Clinton to win the nomination without the superdelegates going against the American national Democratic Party vote - no matter how the remaining six contest play out. In fact, even if the disputed primaries in Michigan and Florida were added to the mix, Senator Clinton would still be around 100 delegates short of Senator Obama.

Meanwhile, Senator Obama is just 169 delegates away from winning the Democratic nomination. He’s already won more votes, more delegates, and more than twice as many states as Senator Clinton. The six remaining contests will offer up a further 217 delegates. There are 253 remaining undeclared superdelegates, taking the total to 470 delegates left to be awarded. Senator Obama needs 36% of those delegates to give him the 169 he requires to capture the Democratic nomination. Conversely, Senator Clinton needs 326 delegates to reach the Democratic nomination, which represents a startling 69% of the remaining delegates. The momentum amongst the superdelegates is also continuing to move in Senator Obama’s direction with daily announcements of new endorsements.

Today, the highly respected Rasmussen Reports announced that they are to end their daily tracking polls of the Democratic race and focus solely on the US general election between the Republican, John McCain and Senator Barack Obama. You can read their explanation here. Their daily Presidential Tracking Poll for today shows "Barack Obama attracting 47% of the vote while John McCain earns 44%".

Senator Clinton is a formidable politician. She ran a hard-fought Presidential campaign. But, it is Senator Obama that has won through. He has built an amazing movement - surprising those that initially said Hillary had the nomination sewn up. He has attracted voters from all backgrounds and won support from Americans who'd previously viewed themselves as Republicans. It is Senator Obama that will lead the Democrats into battle this autumn. He deserves to do so and will hopefully end the Republican's grip on the White House - giving all of us an American Administration we can once again respect.

Thursday 8 May 2008

Margaret Ashman at the Hebsibah Gallary, Hammersmith

Margaret Ashman returns to the Hepsibah Gallary in Brackenbury Road, Hammersmith with an exhibition of her works titled A Time to Dance. It opens tonight and will run until Wednesday, 14th May.
Jane Hepsibah says she is delighted with the works telling me "Margaret a particular favourite of the gallery since her work suits the place so well and its beauty and spirituality is a joy to be around. Ashman is an experienced printmaker specialising in photo etching and screenprinting and I forecast her work as an investment if one is starting a collection. This is one of the finest shows in the gallery year".

Margaret Ashman is currently a member of the RE, the Printmakers Council and The Greenwich Printmakers.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

Five Hammersmith and Fulham Post Offices Saved

Andy Slaughter MP (Lab) and Murad Qureshi AM (Lab) were celebrating the news that five Post Offices threatened with closure serving residents in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham will now stay open. In an extraordinary turnaround, Post Office Limited have reprieved the offices at Starch Green, Shepherds Bush Road and Kenyon Street. The East Acton office that serves the Old Oak Estate in Shepherds Bush will also now stay open as part of a Costcutter store and PO Ltd have assured local MP Andy Slaughter that the Olympia office which shut at Christmas will reopen as soon as possible on a nearby site.

What makes this more remarkable is that only seven in total of the 169 branches targeted for closure across London will now survive. In addition the Bollo Bridge Road office which serves the South Acton Estate is one of only six which are still being reviewed and may stay open. Andy Slaughter had arranged public meetings attended by hundreds of local residents during which Post Office executives were left in no doubt that they were wrong to consider the closures. Andy explained his campaign telling me "I realised it would be just gesture politics to oppose every closure. So I visited every post office under threat found out which were viable and which postmasters wanted to stay and built a campaign around the particular needs and facilities of each office and community. We held a packed public meeting in Askew Road and I wrote to over 17,000 households affected by the closures. I am extremely grateful to the many local residents who joined with me on this campaign. We were able to persuade Post Office Ltd that their criteria for closing the Shepherds Bush Post Offices was flawed. Murad did a great job defending the Kenyon Street outlet”.

Murad Qureshi said “This is a very welcome announcement. Hundreds of local residents had signed my petition to save the Kenyon Street Post Office. I'm really pleased for the owners of the business. They run a great shop that serves the whole community in that part of Fulham. It's a tribute to them and the residents that support them that we managed to make Post Office Ltd see the light”.

Gina’s Cakes Opens In Brackenbury Village, Hammersmith

I was pleasantly surprised to discover the newly opened Gina's Cakes. The shop is situated in the centre of what’s become known as Brackenbury Village. It is having an opening drinks and cake reception this Saturday, 10th May, between 2.00pm and 6.00pm. Click here to view Gina's gallery.

The shop is owned and run by Gina South who, having originally studied at the Camberwell School of Art, switched to the cake business telling me “I’m just using different materials but still relying on my artistic training to create personalised designs. I spend time with each customer to make sure that the cake I deliver is as special as the occasion it’s for”. Gina honed her cake design skills at the Wornington Centre where she now also teaches on Monday nights. You can email her by clicking here.

Gina’s Cakes makes a happy addition to the other shops and outlets in that area which includes; Stenton Butchers, Buchanan’s Organic Deli & Coffee Shop, SISI Hardware & DIY, the Hepsibah Gallery and the Andover Pub. You can view her website by clicking here; visit her shop at 49a Bradmore Park Road, Hammersmith, London, W6 OD7; or phone her on 020 8748 9999.

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Sands End Result

So, it was no surprise that the Tories won the Sands End by-election last Thursday. The seat had a hefty Conservative majority and I understand from several local Tories that they were all in the south Fulham ward campaigning for weeks prior to the election and spending vast quantities of their financial reserves in the process. What was surprising was that on Labour's worst night for forty years and while the rest of the country saw frightening swings to the Tories, in Sands End their share of the vote fell by -2.46%.

H&F Conservatives cuts to police, their £36million cuts to front-line services, their closure of the local youth club and local schools along with the Leader of H&F Council's 14% salary hike must have all had a dampening effect on the local Conservative's swing. I'd like thank our three-person campaign team, including candidate Brendan Bird, for all their hard work in the ward.

Racist BNP Elected To London Assembly!

Following Thursday's election, London now has a a far-right, racist BNP London Assembly Member. Yuk!!!

Thank You Mr. Livingstone

Ken Livingstone left office at midnight last night, having first been elected to public service in 1971. It was quite a career and I, for one, would like to thank him for his achievements.

Livingstone was a bold politician. In the 1980s he campaigned against record levels of unemployment and rising crime and argued for causes such as women’s, gay and ethnic minority rights in a period when the ruling Conservatives said it was all “politically correct nonsense”. Time moved on and as Mayor Livingstone, Ken’s brand of urban liberalism, combined with his decisive policies on crime, social justice and the environment defined his time in office. He pioneered the introduction of the ward-specific Safer Neighbourhood Police Teams (now being copied across the UK) and increased police numbers to the highest ever levels after years of cuts under his Conservative predecessors. Livingstone saw the biggest increase in bus riders since the Second World War; he won £16billion for the Crossrail project; he was delivering over 50,000 new affordable homes to buy and to rent and helped bring the Olympics to London.

The Congestion Charge won him both admirers and critics. New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a fan saying “As two of the World's great financial centres, New York and London share many things, including congested central business districts. Congestion pricing is working here in London and we can make similar improvements to our economy, public health and air quality in New York." Environmentalists and the Mayors of Paris, Berlin, San Francisco and Toronto were all enthusiastic too.

Yet, it's the public that matters and there are few more seductive clarion calls in an election than Time for a Change. The new Mayor starts work today. London faces significant challenges over the coming years. It needs the infrastructure and business environment to ensure its long-term economic prosperity. Crime needs to continue to fall and in particular concerns about youth violence need to be addressed. Our environment needs safeguarding and Londoners need decent, affordable places to live. Mayor Livingstone made real progress on all of those issues and led London to be seen one of the world’s greatest multi-cultural cities. Achievements I think most people will be thankful for. In his victory speech, Boris Johnson said he wanted to build on some of those "achievements". I wish him well in doing so and hope his new Administration delivers policies that will be to the benefit of all Londoners.

Friday 2 May 2008

Maggie’s Centre Opens At Charing Cross Hospital With Call For Local “Friends”

Maggie's opened their new Cancer Caring Centre last Tuesday at Charing Cross Hospital. It is a wonderful place offering information, psychological and emotional support and practical advice to anyone affected by cancer. Maggie’s proudly proclaims that it is open to everyone - not just to people who have been diagnosed with cancer, but also to their families, friends and carers. All their services are free of charge and they work in partnership with local NHS Trusts.

Sarah Brown, the PM’s partner, and Nigella Lawson , the TV cook and food writer, opened the centre. Janet Ellis, the television presenter and former actress gave a moving speech about the support and hope Maggie’s Centres provide. I thought the atmosphere was lovely.

Londoners raised £1 million in the Evening Standard campaign alone to get this centre built and Maggie’s are keen to recruit more Active Friends who can raise money and spread the word. Contact Leah Jeffries, their Community Fundraiser, if you’d like to help. You can phone Leah on 07920 848 825 or email her by clicking here.

The garden design around the Centre was undertaken by Dan Pearson. The Centre itself was designed by Richard Rogers of Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, based nearby in Hammersmith. They said that they hoped to create a building that offers “a calm, home-from-home sanctuary a step away from the hospital”. I think they pulled it off.