Sunday 19 October 2008

H&F Council Targets Small Businesses In Money Making Scam

There seems to be an attempt by H&F Council to ramp up the cash it generates from small and medium sized businesses. The Trojan Horse for this is commercial waste legislation that was introduced in the early 1990s.

Over the last year I have been contacted by many small businesses who all tell a similar tale. First, they get a letter from H&F Council demanding to see their Waste Transfer Papers for the last six months. Then, when the small business owner contacts the Council to ask what this is all about, they are handed a £180 fine. I've been a councillor for eleven years and I've never come across this before.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of people disposing of their waste responsibly and acting within the law. But, even those businesses that are getting rid of their waste properly are still fined because the Council says they must have their papers. Given the fact that most small businesses usually don’t have access to advice on these matters then I would have thought the onus was on the Council to let people know of their requirements.

H&F Council has failed to sufficiently alert business owners of the need for these papers. I suspect the reason for this is that some Council official decided that it is easier to follow this path to extra cash than to deliver genuine efficiencies in their department. The Conservative Administration isn’t known for their attention to detail but as they have been copied in my emails on this and refrained from action, I can only conclude that they are just pleased to see the incoming revenue.

Considering the current global economic uncertainty then this is all highly irresponsible but add in that last year both the Council’s political parties voted to agree what is written below, then it makes the Conservative Administration look like incompetent hypocrites at best:

"This Council notes the publication of an independent Commission on Retail Conservation set up by Kensington & Chelsea Council and the recent submission to the Council by the Fulham Society of "Renaissance in Fulham". As a result of increasing concern at the disappearance of independent retailers, this Council resolves to study these two reports and further consider ways in which to support shops and the local economy in Hammersmith & Fulham.”

Friday 17 October 2008

Westfield Seemingly Unconcerned After Years Of Blighting Neighbours' Lives

Westfield plans to open its Shepherds Bush shopping mall at the end of this month. But, what has it done to protect and make amends to residents who have had to live next to the hellish building works throughout the years of construction? On Monday, I met with three Westfield executives to discuss the wide array of problems residents of Wood Lane had suffered - much of it going on through the night.

Theresa Boyd, who is a local resident, also attended. She told me she wanted a chance to tell Westfield what they had put her through. Theresa told them how the dust that was pumped into her home covered everything and caused electrical equipment to fail. We showed Westfield photos of clouds of dust blowing from their site to where Theresa lives and they admitted that the dust could and should have been dampened down and stopped. Theresa explained how huge spotlights glare through her windows into the small hours, how heavy plant is delivered at all hours and how very loud machines and works run late on into the night. Listening to Theresa I was concerned to learn many of these examples had occurred as recently as last Saturday and Sunday nights. Oddly, the Westfield execs hardly brimmed with empathy and it was my impression that they actually found listening to Theresa’s complaints to be really quite tiresome.

I asked Westfield if H&F Council had sanctioned the late night works – which would be highly irregular. Westfield told me the Council's position was that they "hadn't said they couldn't do this" and went on to tell me that the Council was aware that Westfield planned to open the new shopping centre in two week’s time and so were "supportive of the need for these late night works".

I wrote to a senior council officer to find out whether H&F Council is indeed turning a blind eye to these problems experienced by residents. I received a response saying there will be an “urgent officer inspection” to stop late night works and “to correct Westfield's apparent comment, the position is that we have told them that they must not allow any work outside normal hours which gives rise to noise disturbing residential neighbours. We have indicated that we will tolerate quiet out-of-hours work but will react swiftly to any complaints about noise which is harmful to residents, as we always would.”

Westfield is a multi-billion pound business. It’s owned by the second wealthiest person in Australia. It will spend vast sums on opening parties, public relations, advertising and promoting its image. Given all this, I think they should make amends to those who have been immediately affected by the building works – which has been the biggest in London. It would be the act of a good neighbour but, as yet, it doesn’t seem to be one of their priorities.

Thursday 9 October 2008

More Tax Payers' Cash Spent On Tories' Inflation-Busting Salary Hikes

Many H&F residents will not know that the bloke in the photo is Mr. Kit Malthouse AM (Con), our recently elected representative in the London Assembly. More will be surprised to find out that he is taking a lead from our very own Conservative Council Leader here in Hammersmith and Fulham and has received an inflation-busting salary hike from the public purse.

The Tory Troll is reporting that Mr. Malthouse will now take a £55,000 allowance from the Metropolitan Police Authority. This is a political position that was given to him by Mayor Boris Johnson, who seems happy for him to also be rewarded with a jaw-dropping 44% increase in the renumeration that goes with the role. Mr. Malthouse's MPA pay is on top of his £53,543 joint Deputy Mayor and Assembly Member salary - all of the money coming from our pockets as both roles are completely funded out of our taxes. You can read the full story by clicking here.

Readers will recall that H&F's Tory councillors gave themselves an 18% salary rise in their very first budget after winning the 2006 local elections. They then made the pages of Private Eye's Rotten Borough's section for giving one of their Conservative councillors the equivalent of a 75% salary rise. Then, the Tory Leader of H&F Council secretly gave himself a 14% salary hike in a rather peculiar and underhand way.

I think it's all very odd how the Conservative's plans to use tax payers' money to give themselves salary rises, increased by percentages that most people can only dream about, aren't openly published for all to see in their pre-election literature. It leaves me to wonder if they thought this was all something they had to hide?

Saturday 4 October 2008

Channel 4 Looks At Cameron's Money Men

David Cameron won't have been pleased by the latest broadcast of Channel 4's Dispatches. It examines where he's getting his money from with some worrying conclusions. If you missed it, you can view the episode by clicking here.