Monday 30 June 2008

Greenhalgh Fails Race Slur Leadership Test And Exposes David Cameron To Cynicism Charge

Councillor Lucy Ivimy (Con), H&F Council’s Cabinet member for Housing has a statutory responsibility to promote community integration and cohesion. Yet, as covered here, on the 3rd of June she wrote to the CEO of Hammersmith and Fulham Homes to say that rubbish in a part of the borough was down to “foreign born residents”. She went on to say that “I know that in India, throwing rubbish out of a window and total disregard for the cleanliness of a public area is normal behaviour and I dare say a number would change behaviour if firmly told that in London this is not acceptable behaviour”. Ivimy has now admitted that she had not based her view on any evidence. It was therefore a comment made as a result of her “personal” prejudice. Her housing role gives her direct responsibilty for addressing such behaviour in others. It is farcical for her to remain in post but she has failed to resign and Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), H&F’s Council Leader, has failed to see this as a reason to sack her.

At the Council Meeting on Wednesday, 25th June, there was a vote of no confidence in Cllr. Ivimy. Greenhalgh told the chamber that not only did he believe that Cllr. Ivimy wasn’t a racist but that her comments were not racist either. He didn’t say what qualified him to make that assessment but (for the first time I can remember) the Tories used their overwhelming majority to guillotine the debate. Greenhalgh then led them all to vote to support Cllr. Ivimy in her new job. To be fair to them; some looked extremely uncomfortable in doing so.

So where is David Cameron on all this? Well, he has refused to get involved despite receiving a letter from me, on June 16th, detailing what happened and asking him to do so. There are only two possible reasons for Cameron seemingly looking the other way. The first is that the supposed rift between Cameron and H&F Conservatives is as real as the rumour says it is. Cameron may well have asked for decisive action on this only to have been rebuffed by Greenhalgh. The second reason is that Cameron is a cynical fake who will deal with high profile cases such as Boris Johnson’s advisor, an MP or Parliamentary Candidate as doing so gets him the headlines he needs for his “Conservative Party Decontamination Strategy”. But, he'll turn a blind eye to local government as it usually won't stay long in the national papers and so he is prepared to leave attitudes amongst the vast numbers of rank and file Conservative Party members unchallenged. Whatever the reason, this incident has tainted the Conservative Party and all those that voted to keep Ivimy in her job.

Many of the officials who currently work for Cllr. Ivimy have told me that it is untenable for her to stay in that role and hundreds of outraged residents have contacted me to say that she has absolutely no credibility and should go. Ivimy has become a lame duck Cabinet Member but it's Mayor Boris Johnson who best sums up how most people feel on this case. When sacking James McGrath (his advisor) last week for saying something racially insulting to a journalist, Mayor Johnson explained that Mr. McGrath’s “remarks made it impossible for him to continue in that role”. Lucy Ivimy remains in her role reminding us of the face of British Conservatism we had all hoped had gone into the history books.

Saturday 28 June 2008

Nelson Mandela Fighting For Justice At 90

"Friends, 20 years ago London hosted a historic concert which called for our freedom... Your voices carried across the water to inspire us in our prison cells far away," So said Nelson Mandela at his 90th birthday party concert held in Hyde Park last night in aid of 46664, the HIV AIDS charity that bears his prison number as its name.

Today, he is the world’s leading statesmen. But, in 1988, he was still incarcerated by the evil apartheid regime. His 70th Birthday Tribute Concert was watched by close to a billion people in over 60 countries. It helped galvanise public opinion and to bring an end to that dark period in South Africa’s history. Back then, not everyone was so keen on Nelson Mandela’s release - a group of Tory students gained notoriety by wearing "Hang Mandela" T-shirts and badges. I wonder whatever happened to them?

Things have moved on. Now there are new battles to fight and last night Nelson Mandela told the 46,664 strong audience “even as we celebrate, let us remind ourselves that our work is far from complete." adding “Where there is poverty and sickness, including AIDS, where human beings are being oppressed, there is work to be done.”

I had the privilege of being in Nelson Mandela's company and then hearing him speak when he came to the Labour Party Conference and became an honorary Labour Party member in 2000. It may sound clich├ęd but it was a truly uplifting experience. He has a presence unlike any other. His call to fight poverty, disease and injustice was as powerful then as it was last night but it was his optimism that these can all be defeated if we build a movement of people willing to make it happen, which most stayed with me.

Last night, speaking slowly but powerfully, Nelson Mandela said "We say tonight after nearly 90 years of life, it is time for new hands to lift the burdens… It is in your hands now."

If you want to donate to 46664 then please click here to follow the link.

Saturday 21 June 2008

More On H&F’s Failing Garden Waste Service

Judging from my inbox there seems to be a consensus that H&F Council’s new garden waste removal service isn’t much of a service – a scheme that H&F Council now charges £7.25 for. I’ve written to the Council asking that residents’ individual complaints are addressed and that the Council compensates those people who’ve been messed around.

Here’s what four residents have written to tell me in the last 24 hours:

Resident one
“They don't even bother to pick it up on the specified days. I saw that someone had left neatly bundled bags (about 8 or 10) of garden waste round a tree a little way down the road and THREE weeks later, it was still there, of course, spilling out of the bags onto the pavement. I rang up only to be told (a) that they should not be left round a tree. (b) I was then accused of leaving them there.”

Resident two
“I registered with the scheme this year. Since registering, admittedly only four weeks ago, my garden waste has not been picked up. This week one of the bags was caught in the wind and blown into the street, where it was emptied over the road by passing cars. When I got home from work I had to go and sweep it all up and bag it again. I’ve not had trouble getting thru on the ‘green’ line and they are always pleasant and helpful, but the service itself is rubbish. In environmental terms it’s also a completely ridiculous idea. I imagine a lot of people, unwilling or unable to pay the charge, are now black bagging their green waste and putting it out for the bin men. Alternatively, as you say, it’s being dumped in the street. When it was a free service, white bags lined the street on collection day. Now they’re a rare sight – garden waste is obviously going somewhere else.”

Resident three
"In the past two weeks we have put out our bags in vain. Last Thursday, the red bag collection picked up a neighbour's transparent garden waste bag which still remained on the pavement from Tuesday, like ours, but ours was not removed. Ours stayed on the pavement until today but has not been taken."

Resident four
“It would be nice if they actually collected the waste. They frequently fail to collect from us. The fact is that we have paid and are entitled to the service”.

Please let me know if you have similar problems by emailing me here and I will do my best to help you.

Thursday 19 June 2008

Sir Has Been Made A Sir

William Atkinson, the Head Teacher of Phoenix High School, has been knighted in the Queen’s birthday honours.

Sir William took over the school, when it was in special measures in 1995, and it has made steady progress ever since. The school is currently rated by OFSTED as ‘outstanding’.

I think that everyone involved in the local community will be happy to send Sir William their congratulations, not only for his achievements at the school but also because of the role he has also played in helping to regenerate the White City area.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

Let The Public See What Is Said And Done In Their Name

The motto for the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is “Spectamur Agendo” which can be translated as “We are judged by our actions”. To aid the public in the judging process we have asked that the Administration agrees to film the debates in the Town Hall and put them on the web so that residents can view for themselves what is being debated and voted for in their name.

Here’s our motion:

“This Council believes that Hammersmith and Fulham’s residents should be able to view all of the debates at the full council meetings broadcast via a video link on the LBHF website, YouTube and other open access media. This should be streamed live and available as a podcast.

The Council believes that the public have a right to witness what their elected representatives say and vote for and that this Council is obliged to make it easier for residents to do so.

We resolve to have this accomplished within six months of this being voted through.”

I believe that this will, at the very least, improve the quality of the debate. The technology is now readily available to do it. I’ll let you know how we get on.

Thursday 12 June 2008

Will Greenhalgh Act Over Cllr. Lucy Ivimy’s Race Slur?

The Daily Mail has scooped a story exposing Ravenscourt Park Councillor Lucy Ivimy (Con) writing racial slurs in an official email. Cllr. Ivimy was promoted to be H&F Council’s new Cabinet Member for Housing on May 28th this year. One of her first acts seems to have been to write to Nick Johnson, the Chief Executive of H&F Council’s housing management company, in which she expressed her “personal” prejudice about “foreign born residents”. You can read the Mail’s online version here. BBC and ITV London also headlined the story all day yesterday. You may still be able to view the ITV version here.

Having been told by residents that Woodfood Court had increased levels of litter (presumably after the cuts to the caretaking service) Cllr. Lucy Ivimy, wrote to Nick Johnson, to say "I know that in India, throwing rubbish out of a window and total disregard for the cleanliness of a public area is normal behaviour and I dare say a number would change behaviour if firmly told that in London this is not acceptable behaviour." You can read more of her comments in the article.

The Daily Mail says there are “only a handful of Indian families” living in the area. Cllr. Ivimy clearly had no evidence on which to base her views. There are problems with littering but it is done by a minority of people from a wide range of backgrounds and completely wrong to say it is the fault of “foreign born" or "Indian" residents.

Defending herself Cllr Ivimy told the Mail that “This was a hastily written, ill thought out, stupid, personal email” Let’s unravel that explanation. Firstly, when someone writes down their “personal” views they are expressing their inner-most private thoughts. Thoughts that in this case expose Cllr. Ivimy’s gut “personal” prejudice against Hammersmith and Fulham’s “foreign born” and “Indian” residents. To say her comments were written in “haste” simply means that she did not spend the time to ensure she had camouflaged those “personal” views.

There has been no comment from Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), the Leader of the Council. I guess he is hoping that by keeping his head down this problem will go away. This is a failure of his leadership as it won’t. I am sorry to say that he is obliged to immediately sack Cllr. Ivimy from her new role as the Cabinet Member for Housing. Any cabinet position requires a politician who will engage their brain when dealing with the myriad of issues they are presented with. Not someone who engages their “personal” prejudices. The housing role makes Cllr. Ivimy responsible for 18,000 local council homes and for deciding the policy of how vacant homes are allocated. She is also currently in charge of deciding the development policy for all of the borough’s new housing and has a responsibility for community cohesion and integration. Hammersmith and Fulham has residents from a diverse range of backgrounds. All have a right to expect that the politician elected to deal with those issues will do so without “personal” prejudice. Cllr. Ivimy has disqualified herself from that brief.

Sadly, for Cllr. Ivimy, Greenhalgh must go further. David Cameron has been telling the public for some time now that the Conservatives have changed. Mr. Cameron calls it his “strategy to decontaminate the Conservative brand”. Well, if that is to be believed then Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh has to remove the whip from Cllr. Ivimy and call a by-election in Ravenscourt Park ward. It is unfair on her constituents to do anything else.

Meanwhile, Cllr. Ivimy's comments have brought H&F Council into disrepute. That's certainly the view in India which is one of the world's great democracies and a country which modern Britain enjoys long-standing friendship, family and cultural links and increasingly important trading ties. The Hindustan Times covers the story here and the Mumbai Mirror covers it here. The Times of India says this and Yahoo India published this. The Hindu has this take on the story and the Telegraph (India) said this. India's IBN network is broadcasting the story today (you can read the text here) as is the Indian News Channel. The story has been covered on all the main Indian media but is also getting other international coverage including in Malaysia, China and the United States.

Monday 9 June 2008

Will H&F Council’s Riviera Expo Jaunt "Unlock Contentious Development Sites"?

H&F Council spent £11,839.00 sending Cllr. Mark Loveday (Con) (view his controversial comments about the NCP Armadillo here) and three officials to a property developers’ conference in Cannes (see pic) - the luxury resort on the southern French coast.

Using the Freedom of Information Act to find out exactly why H&F Council agreed to spend public money on this trip we were able to eventually find out that the flight tickets alone cost £660 per person.

The four delegates were attending Marche International Des Professionnelles dans Immeubles - the world's largest gathering of property developers and agents. The conference is a must for leading property firms. H&F Council explained that Cllr. Loveday and his colleagues had gone to the exhibition as “Attendance allows individual areas to promote themselves as a business location - to either commercial, retail or leisure end-users (occupiers) and enables attendees to have the conversations necessary with central government organisations and officers that will unlock contentious development sites.”

There has been some very unpopular planning decisions made by H&F Council's Conservative Administration in the last twelve months. I'm not convinced residents will be supportive of paying for a councillor to attend an exhibition in an internationally renowned millionaires' playground so they can "unlock [Hammersmith and Fulham's] contentious development sites".

This all gives a very different take on H&F Council’s rather disingenuous “Borough of Opportunity” slogan.

Friday 6 June 2008

H&F Council Plans Events Schedule For Ravenscourt Park Despite Previous Denials

H&F Conservatives previously said that the new entertainments licence for Ravenscourt Park was required for the annual fireworks party and was not about a secret agenda of introducing a host of new entertainment events into the area.

So why have H&F Council’s Conservative Administration just announced an hour-long “evening reception” (seems brief for a reception?) which they say will allow the public to tell them “about the kind of events they would like to see in the park”? Although, it looks like minds may have already been made up as the Conservative spokesperson says in the same press release that “There are plenty of events [already] planned this summer”.

This looks like little more than a scam designed to provide political cover to the Administration’s profit making scheme. I’d be surprised if sufficient numbers of residents turn up to provide anything close to legitimacy to their plans. The consultation is set to take place between 6.30pm to 7.30pm at Hammersmith Town Hall on June 19th.

You can read previous posting about the Administration's Parks Profit Scheme here and here.

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Hammersmith Apollo’s 2.00am Bid Quashed

District Judge Susan Williams today announced that she has rejected the Hammersmith Apollo's appeal to run events for several thousand people up until 2.00am on as many as twenty occasions a year. The Apollo had initially applied to H&F Council’s Licensing Committee but had been turned down. They then appealed to local magistrates. District Judge Williams also awarded cost to the Council.

My fellow ward Councillor Lisa Nandy (Lab) attended the hearing last Wednesday at the West London Magistrates Court. She successfully spoke against the Apollo’s plans on behalf of local residents. District Judge Williams wrote into the official report, which set out her reasons for the refusal, that "I note from the evidence of Councillor Nandy that this is a community under strain... I found her evidence about this particularly compelling and convincing. I agree with Councillor Nandy and Chief Inspector Overstall, that despite the best efforts of the Applicant, it is not possible to control a very large crowd dispersing at a time when public transport is not readily available."

Readers will recall that there have been long standing problems with the current licence and so extending it to 2.00am made no sense at all. You can read all previous postings on the matter here.