Thursday 24 December 2009

H&F Conservatives Change Rules To Ticket Your Car On Boxing Day

“As stealth taxes go: you have to admire their creativity” a council officer exclaimed. He was telling me that H&F Conservatives have changed our parking rules. Now Hammersmith and Fulham Tories hope to raise extra funds by sticking parking tickets onto the cars of relatives and friends visiting local residents on Boxing Day and on Monday 28th December (the official Boxing Day Bank Holiday).

This bah humbug approach is likely to cause confusion over the festive period. It will see many innocent victims being stung for the increased £120 fine as Boxing Day is traditionally a public holiday - when parking is free.

It's also a further blow to struggling retailers. The new restrictions will deter many potential customers and will particularly hit smaller family or individually owned shops that rely on the stop and pop-in trade for a proportion of their sales.

The Conservatives have followed this approach despite massive public criticism. This includes making the Daily Telegraph’s list of parking shame and being exposed by the Daily Mail after Hammersmith and Fulham trialled new rules to allow extra clamping to raise even more cash.

Friday 18 December 2009

Taking Credit For Service Success They Have Nothing To Do With. What Does That Tell Us About H&F Conservatives Real Agenda?

Back in September, George Osborne was made to look silly. He gave a speech telling the public to look to Hammersmith and Fulham to understand how an incoming Tory government would operate. Channel 4 News were then hoodwinked into quoting the brand new £2million Shepherds Bush Library as an example of the Conservatives innovative new approach to delivering value orientated public services. The Times also fell into the same trap. The problem is that this wonderful new library was delivered by the last Labour Administration and was actually nothing to do with the Conservatives.

It’s understandable why the Tories want to be associated the new library. Labour arranged the deal in such a way that it would be at zero cost to the tax payer. It was negotiated as part the Westfield development.

It’s not just Shepherds Bush Library that our local Conservatives seek to take plaudits for. Banners fly from lamp post boasting of £200million being invested in local schools but that money is coming direct from the Labour Government. The Tories tell how Normand and Frank Banfield Parks have been revamped but that too was arranged by the last Labour Council. They even talk of paying off £12million of Council debt but, yes, that was done by Labour. There are many more examples but all this raises the question why?

The answer provides an interesting insight to H&F Conservatives' predicament. They know that there is a public consensus that backs efficient and effective front line services as an intrinsic aspect of our civilisation. They also know that they have set about radically cutting services but that this could lose them vital support. So they have decided to side-step this important detail and simply mislead the public about what is actually happening. Here are some of the thing our Conservative council has actually done:

There’s more but the point is made. H&F Conservatives' real record paints a very different picture: one that would cause reasonable people to desert them in droves. They are understandably nervous of it. So they tell a different story but one that is sadly not theirs to tell.

Interestingly, all this indicates an emptyness to H&F Conservatives' approach along with some embarrassment about what they’ve actually done. While it is flattering that our Tories should seek to boasts about Labour successes, it is surprising that they feel forced into doing so after nearly a full term in office.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Tory Block Vote Gives Go Ahead For 288 Goldhawk Road Scheme

I'm just in from the Planning Committee. It's still going on but I was there to argue against agenda item 1 - which concerned the 282 to 288 Goldhawk Road development.

It turned out that the report was indeed written and recommended for approval prior to the close of the official consultation period. It seems that there was a mad, five week rush to get this report to the December Planning Committee - presumably because the Administration thought the Christmas period would dampen down the number of people turning out to object. It didn't work. Around 75 residents turned up to witness proceeding and make their views known. Some brought their children. It was standing room only as the Council had failed to provide sufficient seating.

The meeting began with Cllr. Mike Cartwright (Lab) moving a motion calling for the report to be deferred until the January meeting. Joined by Councillors Colin Aherne (Lab), Wesley Harcourt (Lab) and myself, Mike told the committee that they couldn't possibly have considered all the detailed planning matters and they owed it to residents to have a full, evidence-based analysis of all the objections in a new planning report. The Conservative members looked nervous but voted to block this. We then went through the report. As the evening rolled on residents became angry shouting out "rubbish" and "that's just not true" as officers tried to answer their objections. On several occasions the residents were threatened with being thrown out but that didn't happen and a small core of around 20 stayed until the vote was taken about 11.45pm.

The rather predictable result involved the 6 Conservatives committee members voting to push the scheme through, while the 3 Labour committee members voted against. Residents headed home angry, tired, upset and disenchanted. One man shouted "I've voted Conservative for the last time". An elderly lady went up to the table where the Conservative members were sitting and told them they were "a disgrace". The widespread view was this was a "stitch-up from the start".

Saturday 12 December 2009

Further Controversy Over Another Major Hammersmith And Fulham Planning Scheme

Hundreds of residents have contacted me to share their anger at H&F Conservatives’ latest planning scheme, due to go to the Planning Applications Committee (PAC) this Wednesday evening. H&F Council used to run a residential care home at 282 to 288 Goldhawk Road. They moved the residents out and now an organisation called Places for People has put in an application to make the site into a mixed development.

Residents tell me that they smell a rat pointing out that H&F Council wrote the report recommending approval prior to the close of the consultation period.

I expect Wednesday’s meeting to be packed out. It will be interesting to see if this application will be pushed though by the Administration much as many others have. If you want to attend, then come to Hammersmith Town Hall for 7.00pm. It’s the first item on the agenda. I’ll see you there.

Friday 4 December 2009

Hammersmith And Fulham Tories Make Telegraph’s Top Ten List Of Parking Shame

The Daily Telegraph has exposed Hammersmith and Fulham Conservatives for having some of the worst parking stealth taxes in the country.

Regular readers will recall that the Conservatives hiked parking fines up by 50%. They then added an extra £500,000.00 cash target for wardens to generate through new parking fines. Now, as the Telegraph points out, Hammersmith and Fulham is amongst the “10 councils who have raked in the most in fines per head of population” in the UK.

Thursday 3 December 2009

No Regrets Over Goldhawk Industrial Estate?

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has called in H&F Conservatives’ decision to push through planning permission for the Goldhawk Industrial Estate. This means that it will be independently reviewed and that it could be overturned.

Residents and affected businesses will have an opportunity to provide evidence to the independent review and residents’ groups are already preparing their submissions.

Despite there being major flaws in the planning report, H&F Conservatives have had the Council put out a response that is little short of belligerent. They say “The planning committee gave very careful consideration to all the issues” and “We are surprised that the Secretary of State considers that there are issues of such national importance to justify this intervention."