Thursday 31 March 2011

Apology Demonstrates How Propaganda And Smear Has Seeped Into H&F Council's DNA

I recall feeling sorry for Joe Carlebach, the Conservative Cabinet Member for Community Care. He was only elected for the first time in May last year but by June the 30th he was fronting up the closure of the only carers' centre in our Borough at a packed Full Council Meeting. There he stood, as if enduring some macho initiation test devised by his colleagues, uncomfortably justifying the highly controversial measure which all of us knew was planned, developed and unofficially agreed by the Conservative leadership before he was even a councillor.

In such circumstances the good advice of officials and colleagues is crucial. But that appears to have gone badly wrong. Two days ago I was sent the attached letter. It is signed by both Cllr. Carleback and Mr. James Reilly - the former Director of Community Care. In it they both "apologise unreservedly" to two local people for the content of another letter they had sent out on the 28th June last year. This most recent letter states "We now fully accept that XXX and XXX (I have removed the names to save them from further embarrassment) had no personal or personal financial interest in the bid and that they did not compromise their professional roles" begging the question what led Cllr. Carlebach and Mr. Reilly to believe it was right and proper to have even implied otherwise?

There needs to be a full explanation of what happened. Senior councillors and officials have allowed propaganda and smear to become part of the DNA of how H&F Council operates. Over the last five years it has regularly used tax payers' money to spread untruths and misinformation. This is one of the worst examples yet nobody will be sacked and nobody will resign. The public expect better than this. It has to stop.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

More On How Housing Benefits Cuts Will Change London

On Thursday 24th March the House of Commons Welfare Reform Bill Committee met to hear further evidence on the Bill that will affect the welfare of millions of families and pensioners on low incomes. Those readers that have followed the housing benefits aspects of this bill, and in particular the worrying approach taken by Hammersmith and Fulham’s Conservative Administration, will find the evidence presented interesting. You can watch that meeting by clicking here.

Evidence was provided by Child Poverty Action Group, Gingerbread, Fatherhood Institute, Working Families, Women’s Budget Group, Centre for Separated Families, Family Action, the Local Government Association, London Councils, Shelter, the National Housing Federation, the National Landlords Association and Crisis.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Parents And Toddlers To Hold Hands Around Hammersmith Town Hall For Children’s Centre Shut Down Protest

At 4.00pm on Wednesday 30th March there will be a Buggy Push around Hammersmith Town Hall. Parents, their young children, carers and their friends hope to demonstrate that our Conservative run Council does not have public backing to close down ten local children’s centres and end the world renowned Sure Start programme in all but name. Feel free to go along and offer your support.

The demonstration coincides with the last day of H&F Council’s sham consultation. Ruth Walsh, one of the organisers tells me “We want to hold hands around the Town Hall and have a protest that is passionate but peaceful.”

The group have set up Hammersmith & Fulham Parents Unite which represents over 5,000 families that will be affected by the closures. They have their own Facebook page (which you can click on and like) and have managed to get over 1,500 signatures to sign their petition so far.

Both David Cameron (Con) and Nick Clegg (Lib Dem) guaranteed the future of Sure Start prior to the last election. However, within months of forming a government Council’s were responding to the government cuts by shutting down Sure Start programmes up and down the country. Hammersmith and Fulham’s Conservative Administration cut £3.4million from the scheme at the Budget Meeting in February and plan to sack up to fifty teachers and experts trained in the toddlers and babies’ development needs. This has meant that two thirds of all the Borough’s children’s centres will lose 95% of their funding.

You can keep up to date with developments at the Save Wendle Park Childrens Centre web site, you can log onto the Facebook group and sign this online petition for the Wendle Park centre.

Monday 28 March 2011

Leading H&F Conservative Calls For Even More Cuts

Cllr. Harry Phibbs (Con) says
"cuts don't go far enough"
Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Engagement has been errrm… engaging the community. “I'm with the 35% of people who feel the cuts don't go far enough” said Cllr. Harry Phibbs (Con) on Saturday thus demonstrating his finely honed “engagement” skills.

His comments were spotted on Twitter by Chris Underwood of the Shepherds Bush Blog. Harry later admitted that he had accidentally increased the poll figure he quoted by 6%.

To be fair to Cllr. Phibbs, he has long espoused a classical small state, ultra-conservative philosophy and at least he's honestly setting out the reasoning behind his Administration's extra 3.7% cut to the Borough budget which H&F Conservatives added to the 11.3% cut handed down's from central government. But sadly for the people of Great Britain, it is also that small state philosophy that has formed the basis of David Cameron and George Osborne's incompetent approach to managing the UK economy - an approach, leading economists point out, ignores sound economic principles and will damage our country’s prospects for a generation.

With unemployment set to soar to levels last seen under Prime Minister John Major; the NHS making unprecedented cuts to front line services and Hammersmith and Fulham’s residents suffering new local stealth taxes and less local services because of the Tories' 15% budget cut: I am sure Cllr. Phibbs comments will engage large numbers in our community – although probably not in the way he had first hoped. 

Saturday 26 March 2011

Nobel Prize Winning Economist: There is An Alternative To “The Austerity Delusion”

It is a coincidence that in the week the UK government set out how it is continuing with its austere approach to setting our country's budgets a Nobel Prize winning American professor of economics has attacked George Osborne’s plans as "folly." Writing in the New York Times today Paul Krugman asks:

“Why not slash deficits immediately? Because tax increases and cuts in government spending would depress economies further, worsening unemployment. And cutting spending in a deeply depressed economy is largely self-defeating even in purely fiscal terms: any savings achieved at the front end are partly offset by lower revenue, as the economy shrinks.”

Professor Krugman is particularly critical that the UK’s Conservative led government has managed to halt the British economy’s growth and instead shrunk it by o.6%. He warns us:

“And then there’s the British experience. Like America, Britain is still perceived as solvent by financial markets, giving it room to pursue a strategy of jobs first, deficits later. But the government of Prime Minister David Cameron chose instead to move to immediate, unforced austerity, in the belief that private spending would more than make up for the government’s pullback. As I like to put it, the Cameron plan was based on belief that the confidence fairy would make everything all right. But she hasn’t: British growth has stalled, and the government has marked up its deficit projections as a result.”

There will be hundreds of thousands of people marching in London today. All will be urging an alternative approach to managing our economy. Many more are racked with anxiety about their jobs, their family's well being and their future. Looking at the wider picture, this level of worry amongst millions of our citizens cannot be good for UK businesses whose sales and viability rely on consumer confidence. Professor Krugman suggests an alternative. One based on sound economic principles rather than a conservative agenda of shrinking the welfare state as Krugman has pointed out before.

Will the UK’s Conservative led government listen?.. Well they’re being egged on by the ultra-conservative Tea Party faction in the United States. And here’s was Krugman says about them:

“In short, we have a political climate in which self-styled deficit hawks want to punish the unemployed even as they oppose any action that would address our long-run budget problems. And here’s what we know from experience abroad: The confidence fairy won’t save us from the consequences of our folly.”

Tuesday 22 March 2011


The NHS is going through unprecedented change and cuts in services. Indeed, it was only at last September’s H&F Health Select Committee that a leading doctor on the Local Medical Committee announced “There are going to be real failures of delivery. Heart attacks not dealt with, hernias won’t be fixed, hip replacements won’t happen, and psychological care will not be given."

Ken Livingstone (Lab) has launched nhSOS. This is pan-London campaign to demonstrate to the government that they have no mandate to cut National Health Services. I’m surprised that there’s hardly been a squeak out of Mayor Boris Johnson on this issue as there are planned closures of A&E, maternity and other services across the capital.

You can sign the petition by clicking here. It will then be handed to government ministers by Ken Livingstone and John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, in May. I will report on more changes to the NHS as and when they happen.

Monday 21 March 2011

Homeless Need Help Not Handcuffs

Yesterday, I attended and spoke at a protest organised by faith groups aiming to stop the criminalisation of soup runs for homeless people in Westminster. The City Council proposes to bring in a bye-law which aims to ban volunteers and charities from providing food for the homeless in the area. They also plan to make it an offense to sleep rough. Those people that attempt to give a homeless person a sandwich or hot drink will be given a £500 fine. Some volunteers tell me they will go to jail rather than pay the fine or stop helping the homeless.

The Conservative run council says it’s dealing with the anti-social nature of having homeless people on the streets. If that’s the case, this is the wrong solution. The right solution is to recognise that over 80% of people who find themselves living on the streets have some form of mental health issue. Homeless people need support. That means they need expertly trained people to go out and find rough sleepers on the streets. As a first step they then need safe, clean refuges where they will be guaranteed to be secure from physical attack and theft. Then they need help addressing the issues that put them onto the streets in the first place and encouragement and support to move their lives forward. There are many excellent charities, social entrepreneurs and government bodies that do this. There’s one problem though - it’s expensive compared to the options Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham Councils have come up with.

It’s obviously far cheaper to close down and sell off homeless hostels, tighten the homeless acceptance criteria, stop funding homeless charities, consistently cut the homeless budget and ban homeless shelters as the Conservatives have done in my own Borough in Hammersmith and Fulham. 

Westminster Conservatives are slashing £5million from funding hostels. By combining this with their attempt to criminalise the homeless and those that help them they clearly hope to disperse rough sleepers so they are out of the sight of the rest of us.

Most experts will tell you that there are increases in the number of homeless people during and economic slow down such as the one we're in now. The cuts to housing benefit are likely to make this many times worse. So the draconian measures being taken against rough sleepers indicates the level of cynicism behind these policies.

I believe the attacks on the homeless by Westminster and H&F Conservatives demean the nature of our civilised society. People who have suffered a crisis that has turned them into a rough sleeper need help not handcuffs. I have tremendous respect for the homeless campaigners such as Sock Mob Events, Housing Justice and Streetlytes for being amongst those that organised yesterday's event and indeed for all those that seek to amplify the voice of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Two Million Pound Payout Puts H&F At The Top Of Senior Bureaucrats’ Pay League

The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is one of the smallest out of the 33 in the Capital but it has paid some of the largest salaries to its top bureaucrats. A staggering £2,002,719.00 was paid to just nine people in the financial year ending 2009/10 including pension payments and bonuses.

You can click on the attached graph, which was compiled by the TaxPayers Alliance, to see how your money was spent. The graph doesn’t however include payments to people classed as consultants but who actually work full time for the Council and its subsidiaries. So for 2009/10 you can also add an extra £225,611.00 payment for Mr. Nick Johnson who was the "consultant" acting as the lead “full time” official for the council housing management service.

Just a few weeks ago, H&F's Conservative Administration voted through £33 million of cuts to many vital front line services. It is hard to comprehend why they didn’t cut any of these salaries or indeed the numbers of senior officials as has happened in other councils. It is worth reflecting that a year earlier H&F Conservatives had awarded the Council's senior directors an amazing 16% pay rise so they clearly do not see tackling this issue as a priority.

Last June Eric Pickles MP (Con), the Local Government Secretary, boasted that he would tackle these large payouts but he has chosen not to do that and allowed Cameron’s favourite Council to hand out some of the largest payments to bureaucrats in the UK.

Prior to the elections H&F’s Labour councillors stood on a manifesto that would have cut at least two directors positions and removed at least 10% of assistant director positions. We would have engineered a smaller management structure that is more in line with modern, efficient organisations. I believe it is right to cut senior bureaucrats pay as not only are these people being paid vast amounts more than senior managers in other sectors but they are also some of the few employees left in the UK who benefit from index linked pensions. Indeed, there are serious cultural problems with local government. Senior officials work in a world where it’s the norm for many of them to retire early, where it’s difficult to sack them no matter how far they’ve failed to deliver and often receive huge payouts when they leave. And when they’ve left, many pop up again as “consultants” – a mechanism that has the benefit of allowing them to continue to work full time on high consultant rates whilst also receiving their full and extremely generous tax payer funded pensions.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many excellent local government officials. But the pay and remuneration senior bureaucrats receive is completely out of sync with what most Britons have to put up with. Given that their remuneration comes from the taxes the rest of us pay out I cannot see why all this is considered acceptable, particularly in these straitened times. 

There needs to be a national review of the pay, terms and conditions for senior local government officials. It has got completely out of hand. This current situation adds to the confusion of who David Cameron, the Prime Minister, is actually talking about when he tells us his austerity budget is necessary but "we're all in it together."

Monday 14 March 2011

H&F Conservatives Spend Up To £50k For Privileged Olympic Tickets While Cutting £33 Million From Front Line Services

Chris Underwood of the Shepherds Bush Blog has scooped this story alleging that Hammersmith and Fulham's Conservative run Council are about to lavish up to £50,000.00 worth of Olympic tickets on Conservative councillors. Chris reports that these tickets will be available for Conservative "councillors' bottoms to grace seats in the Olympic stadium."

It is just short of three weeks since H&F Conservatives agreed a budget cutting £33 million from this year's budget alone. They even added an extra 3.7% cut to the 11.3% cut handed down from the Cameron led government. Most of these cuts will be bourne by local children and our elderly, disabled and homeless neighbours as you can read here. So why are the Tories using up to £50k of extremely scarce financial resource for Olympic tickets?

It would be the height of hypocrisy and bad taste if the Conservative Administration spent any tax payers' money lavishing these tickets on politicians or officials. Cllr. Caroline Needham (Lab), the Borough's Shadow Cabinet for Education and Children's Services commented "This money could be used better to support our young people to become Olympians not funding fat cats to watch sports that many children can't access." These tickets should be sent back or be used for the benefit of some local worthy cause. I hope H&F Conservatives see sense and do precisely that.

Green Light Given For Hammersmith Grove Building Schemes

Wednesday night’s planning committee was predictable enough. The Conservative block vote was deployed to authorise the NCP car park skyscrapers and the Notting Hill Housing Group's largely unaffordable block of flats - both in Hammersmith Grove. Here’s a summary.

Hammersmith Grove NCP car park skyscraper
I must admit to feeling a striking sense of déjà vu as I listened to the arguments H&F Council officials and Conservative councillors put forward in support of this scheme. Even the tactics were similar to the last time approval had been given for this site.

Officials had been asked to respond to residents’ concerns that the proposed building on the NCP site were wrong for the area as there was already too much un-let office space in Hammersmith. The developer couldn't raise finance for the last scheme granted for this site so why would this one work? The officials explained that this would be “grade A office space” which would be “much in demand” and “easily let”. But Cllr. PJ Murphy (Lab) had researched the subject and quoted directly from Development Securities Plc (the applicant) chairman’s report to investors. As you can read below, it paints a different picture. Officials struggled to explain why.

Chairman’s report to investors
“There are still clouds on the horizon, however. The austerity programme now being introduced in the UK will have an impact which is not easy to predict. Increased levels of taxation, both direct and indirect, together with significant reductions in Government expenditure are likely to reduce domestic consumption and encourage the restoration of savings levels as the consumer battles to survive the storm. Unsurprisingly, these current difficulties are also adversely affecting levels of business confidence and are likely to continue to do so until the way ahead has greater clarity. Rental growth in the occupational markets has reduced by some 15.1 per cent over the last three years and whilst that fall now appears to have levelled out, it will likely take many years before any significant rental growth reappears.”

Cllr. Mike Cartwright (Lab) has many years of experience on the planning committee and also worked as a chartered surveyor before retiring.  So when he said the Council’s approach to the Section 106 Agreement money was “twisting the law” council officers were nervous when they disagreed. Why?.. Because he was most likely correct. In fact officials admitted they had themselves considered this sufficiently doubtful which had caused them to seek legal advice from a Queen’s Counsel. They refused to tell the committee what those doubts were though.

I asked what had happened to the quarter of a million pounds that Development Securities had previously allocated to deal with the parking problems the 3000 daily visitors to the buildings would cause. Unbelievably, “parking problems were no longer a problem associated with these buildings” an official told us.

As the meeting rolled on it became increasingly obvious that all the interjections from Conservative councillors were designed to support the approval of this scheme. So Councillors Mike Cartwright and Colin Aherne (Lab) moved two separate amendments to protect Hammersmith residents’ TV receptions and the Emerald Community Centre - currently on the NCP site. After much angst from Conservative committee members - who were visibly worried to be diverting from the previously agreed plan - these straightforward amendments eventually went through.

248 Hammersmith Grove
The planning committee was presented with many photographic constructions of how this ugly building would look. They featured many different views but ominously all avoided the attractive four story Georgian houses just across the street or the line of Victorian mansion blocks running down Hammersmith Grove. Officials explained how this building would be better than much of what’s on Goldhawk Road and improve that junction. I asked why officials were avoiding any reference to the most beautiful buildings in the area and hadn’t encouraged the applicant to aspire to something that reflected that standard of design already on Hammersmith Grove? The bizarre explanation was officials thought these neighbouring properties were "too far away." The Tories agreed.

Meanwhile, the housing portfolio was represented by the Borough’s Tory cabinet member and the Tory select committee chair who are also both members of the planning committee. But the public in the audience were unimpressed when neither could explain why this once impressive housing association had removed it’s previously proposed 9 flats for affordable rent and been allowed to build an ugly scheme with a mere 29% of shared ownership properties – most of which will be unaffordable for local people on average incomes.

Ashlar Court
The drawings for this scheme were dire, the explanations were weak and lacked any of the disingenuous chutzpah that characterised the above. Cllr. Colin Aherne summed up the debacle when he said, “If we can’t get the answer to a simple question like what is the distance from that wall to those residents’ homes then we don’t have the information to make a decision.” He was right so he and Cllr. Lucy Ivimy (Con) moved that this item be deferred. This was eventually agreed but only after leading Tories had openly expressed worries that this “will cause a backlog” and “add new layers of bureaucracy to the planning process.” It took the residents heckling “What about us?” and “It’s our neighbourhood that will be damaged” for all the Conservatives to see sense and eventually and suddenly agree to the defer this decision until a later meeting.

I have long believed that the planning process is stitched up by this Conservative Administration well in advance. They have even put videos out giving strong hints that this was the case but I hadn’t realised what pressure Administration councillors on the committee were under to stick to the agreed plan until I saw how they reacted to even small amendments or suggested deferrals. That doesn’t bode well for the contentious Town Hall, Shepherds Bush Market and Hammersmith Embankment schemes all on the near horizon.

Thursday 10 March 2011

H&F Conservatives Need To Stick To Their Promise And Work With Sands End’s “Big Society” To Save Community Centre

What’s happened to the Sands End Community Centre since the infamous Cabinet Meeting on 7th February when H&F Conservatives agreed to close it down and sell it off? Regular readers will recall that the Borough's cabinet were visibly shaken by the hundreds of people that turned up to plead for a different ‘big society’ solution that could save the centre. So in front of the largest crowd I’ve ever seen at a cabinet meeting the Conservatives muttered a reluctant promise to work with residents to consider all options to keep the centre open. Well, the latest news is that many of the services will cease to operate from the end of April.

In fact there has been no contact from the Conservative Administration or from Sands End’s three Conservative ward councillors. Rosie Borgia, is one of the residents that’s been working to save the centre. She tells me "The Council is already actively shutting down the Sands End Centre: they are withdrawing services one by one and we will be left with nothing but an empty shell which will be a disaster for this community.  The latest I'm told is the gym will cease to operate from end April despite no provision for hard up locals. The Council now simply points to the cheapest private gym which offers a discount rate only if you sign up to a 12-month direct debit and it doesn't accept Lifestyle Card or offer pay-as-you-go, making it impossible for most of the pensioners and those on low incomes who use the Sands End community gym to go there"

The Sands End campaigners recognise that the Conservative Administration will not continue with the services in their current form so they are looking at a variety of other ‘big society’ options. Rosie Borgia says “We hope the Council will be open to our proposals and work with us on our business plan, the funding possibilities we’re developing and look favourably on selling to a sympathetic developer willing to work with us.” 

Why wouldn’t H&F Conservatives do that?.. After all, the Sands End volunteers are the epitome of the one pre-election idea David Cameron presented to the nation. But there’s not been a single positive squeak from the Conservatives in Hammersmith Town Hall. Maybe the Sands End campaigners should go over their heads - direct to Number 10. If Mr. Cameron is serious about the ‘big society’ his team should at least want to hear about the impressive approach these local residents have taken to maintaining these important services in a very mixed area in south Fulham.

Friday 4 March 2011

Poster Campaign Against Hammersmith Grove Skyscraper Encourages March 9th Turnout

Residents of Hammersmith Grove, Overstone Road and the surrounding streets have asked me to publicise their campaign to stop two giant buildings being built on the NCP car park site in Hammersmith Grove.

They hope to encourage people to turn up to the next Planning Applications Committee on March 9. You can read the planning papers here and my previous report here. Please feel free to click on the attached picture, print it off and put in your window.

Residents concerns about the development include:
  • It is far bigger than anything else on Hammersmith Grove or even in Hammersmith town centre
  • This huge building will be open 24 hours 7 seven days a week
  • The building is estimated to attract 3000 daily visitors creating extra noise, parking and traffic problems
  • Vans and lorries will start delivering to the restaurants and offices in the building from the early hours onwards
  • The building will damage property prices and affect the quality of life for all who live in our neighbourhood.
This development is more than twice as big as a development presented to the last Labour Administration over ten years ago. That was turned down for being too big. Residents are calling on H&F's current Conservative Administration to turn this application down and work with residents to put a scheme in that meets the character, needs and scale of the area.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Why Would H&F Council Want To Rubbish Shelter’s Housing Benefits Research?

The big question in front of the last Housing Select Committee (see page numbered 57) was what will be the likely consequences of the Government’s housing benefits and Local Housing Allowance cuts for almost 25,000 Hammersmith and Fulham households? We last considered this at a meeting in November when a senior official had advised us that his department did not know whether there will be “a small wave of homelessness applications or a homeless Tsunami.” Clearly, this is an issue H&F Council needed to get on top of. But it hadn’t and last November’s meeting had verged on farce.

My Labour colleagues and I had insisted on a more thorough approach and so it was to Cllr. Lucy Ivimy’s (Con) credit that she agreed to my suggestion that we both attend a meeting with Shelter to hear about their comprehensive research on the subject. She is our Borough’s Cabinet Member for Housing.

On 18th January 2011 Cllr. Ivimy and I met Shelter’s Rachael Orr and Kate Webb who presented the study Shelter had commissioned from Cambridge University’s Centre for Housing and Planning Research. Rachael and Kate also kindly agreed to give up their time and present Shelter’s findings at the Housing Select Committee on the 15th February.

I was therefore concerned to see that the Chair of that Select Committee had decided not to include the Cambridge University research in the Committee papers for that meeting. Instead, and once again, he allowed his committee to be presented only with a flimsy and inadequate paper written solely by H&F Council officials. Indeed, there was no independent information whatsoever despite there being plenty from government and other bodies as the links in this report demonstrate. The Chair then surprised all as the meeting began by admitting he had only “flicked through” CU’s research.

The reaction of Nick Johnson, was even more extraordinary. He is the interim housing director/consultant. Following the initial presentation from Shelter’s two policy experts he abruptly announced “I deal in facts. Not predictions!”. Then, with an indignant shrug he folded his arms, leant back in his chair and turned his gaze away from the two women.

Rachael and Kate then performed a master class in professionalism. They gave a dispassionate explanation of how the research was undertaken, why it was not a series of “predictions” and how a local authority keen to do all it could to minimise problems for those affected could apply it usefully to their own work. They finished by offering to assist H&F Council officials in any way they could. I asked another official from the housing benefits team if H&F Council had any information that was anything as "thorough" or based on such "robust evidence" as Shelter’s CU report? “No” came the reply.

I then questioned Nick Johnson on his highly unusual approach to our guests and the information they had commissioned. “Can we explore your definition of ‘facts’: how many landlords has H&F Council spoken with in each of the different categories listed on page 61?” Mr. Johnson started quoting from his council papers. So I asked again “What ‘factual’ information does this council have about the 1,916 households listed on the graph at the top of page 61 (click to enlarge attached photo) and in particular, not those [317] households placed into direct lettings by your department?” A few moments passed and then Nick Johnson admitted he didn’t personally have any factual information about this group – which is the largest category of local people finding themselves with shortfalls in the money needed to pay their weekly rents. He asked his colleague for the answer. “We’ve spoken to a handful of landlords in that category councillor.” “A handful?” I asked. “Yes councillor no more than ten and it’s bad news I’m afraid as they indicated they wouldn’t cut their rents and would look to evict”, he responded.“Ten out of over 1,500 hardly justifies the boast of ‘I deal in facts’ does it?” I asked. Nobody answered.

Prior to this meeting Cllr. Ivimy had launched a rather bizarre attack on Shelter’s CU research at the Council meeting on 26th January. This is a direct transcript of Cllr. Ivimy’s comments made during that meeting:

"I did go with Councillor Cowan to see Shelter.  I have never been as disappointed and unimpressed in my life.  I thought Shelter was a reputable organisation.  It presented us with a report based on false assumptions and deeply flawed analysis - coming to alarmist conclusions - coming to alarmist conclusions - yes obviously some 26-year-old undergraduate who had no knowledge or understanding of statistics and had no idea what he was doing.  That's who obviously did it."

This was followed up with a more restrained attack during which Cllr. Ivimy set out H&F Conservatives' official position about Shelter’s research on their website.

The last Housing Select Committee turned out to be a disaster for H&F Conservatives’ official position. Shelter demolished it by doing no more than politely and deftly demonstrating the quality of their research while allowing those present to contrast it with the shoddy information produced by H&F Council. Before the meeting Shelter had responded to Cllr Ivimy's attack saying "We look forward to seeing Hammersmith and Fulham's own independent assessment of the impact these cuts will have on child poverty and homelessness within the borough.” H&F Council proved incapable of presenting any information that came even close to that standard.

So, why are H&F’s Conservative Administration taking such little interest in what will happen to the thousands of low-income Borough households who could find themselves homeless? Why did they and the Borough’s senior housing “consultant” pour scorn on the best independent research available? You only have to consider this administration’s wider approach to housing and homelessness to conclude that the answers to those questions are really very alarming - especially if you’re a Hammersmith and Fulham resident who could shortly be threatened with homelessness.

Notting Hill Housing Group To Blight Northern End Of Hammersmith Grove

Residents in the northern end of Hammersmith Grove will have more in common with those at the southern end than just living on the same street. Both neighbourhoods have major developments being considered by H&F Council’s Planning Applications Committee (PAC) on March 9.

The once excellent Notting Hill Housing Group (NHHG) is hoping to build a six storey block of flats which doesn’t have one single affordable home to rent contained in the application. In fact NHHG’s planning application (see page numbered 60) states that this so-called affordable housing provider is applying for a “mixture of market housing and affordable housing in the form of shared ownership units” but then states that the project will only contain “29% shared ownership units on the basis of the Council's tiered affordability criteria.”  That means a large proportion of the miserly proportion of homes NHHG classify as "affordable" won’t actually be affordable to H&F residents on even average incomes. This is a sad reflection on the current approach of Notting Hill Housing Group.

It's also an indictment of H&F Conservatives for agreeing the structure of this scheme. They famously turned their noses up at providing affordable homes to rent long ago. Now, they've turned their backs on all those hard working people on average incomes that are struggling to get a foot on the property ladder.

Meanwhile, the scheme they are proposing is ugly, will overlook surrounding homes and is too big for that part of Hammersmith Grove. The Conservative Administration has developed a close relationship with NHHG. It’s no surprise that H&F Council recommends approval.

Local residents associations suggest another course of action. “Turn this application down!” I shall be at the Planning Committee arguing that point on Wednesday, March 9. Feel free to join me in Hammersmith Town Hall at 7.00pm. The application for the NCP car park site will be heard as well. It will be a big night for Hammersmith Grove.

Tuesday 1 March 2011

H&F Council's Hammersmith Grove Double Whammy Planning Blight - Meeting 9th March

The application for Development Securities' two Hammersmith Grove, super-sized skyscrapers will be heard by the Planning Applications Committee (PAC) on Wednesday, 9th March. The office blocks will change the face of Hammersmith forever. Hammersmith Grove itself will be blighted with these ugly buildings overshadowing the residential area and bringing added nuisance, extra traffic and damaging property prices in this relatively quiet neighbourhood.

Local residents associations are calling on people to show up to the Hammersmith Town Hall meeting to let the councillors who make up the PAC know their objections. The meeting will begin at 7.00pm.

Nicola Lesbirel, a resident of Hammersmith Grove, has run a determined campaign against this scheme and tells me "My neighbours and I are very surprised with how this has been handled and with the lack of response by our council to our concerns. We urge the elected representatives that are members of the planning committee to withhold their consent until the issues about the size, function and impact on our local community have been addressed." Rosemary Pettit of the Brackenbury Residents Association said "It's hard to see how these two huge glass blocks and wedges will add to the amenities of Hammersmith. We already have a mass of unlet office space. Residents are being offered no community space whasoever. The Brackenbury Residents Assoiciation has particular concerns about the development blighting the lives of the surrounding residential neighbourhood." The Hammersmith Society and other local groups have also submitted objections.

It's interesting to note that Development Securities have not included any photographic constructions of how the buildings will look from the residential aspect of Hammersmith Grove. Their images only provide views from Hammersmith Town centre, in what is seen as a deliberate attempt to down play the fact that these buildings will sit in a residential street. This drawing (click to expand) gives an idea of how much bigger the proposed buildings will be compared to the surrounding homes - although that too fails to include any of them to demonstrate the difference in scale.

H&F Council itself has been accused of going out of its way to help Development Securities whilst giving scant regard to the effects on local residents. Few residents are therefore surprised that the official Council report (see page 8) predictably recommends that permission is granted for the skyscrapers.

The Conservative Administration has actually built a close relationship with Development Securities. This became evident in 2007 when they initially mislead the public about fourteen secret meetings they had with the property speculator prior to permission being granted for the now famous Hammersmith Grove Armadillo. Development Securities then found it impossible to raise finance and that scheme was halted. Last May Skyscraper News reported that the company had "managed to raise £94 million in new equity through an offer and has a reported £42 million worth of deals on the cards which has seen its position improve dramatically." I know of two of those deals in Hammersmith and Fulham. Not only are they expecting permission to be granted on the Hammersmith Grove site but they also expect to have their plans to demolish Shepherds Bush Market nodded through later this year.

Consider the Goldhawk Industrial Estate palaver, the shenanigans residents are currently being put through with the £35million Town Hall office development, this NCP application and what's happening on Hammersmith embankment and it's understandable why many residents complain that the Conservative Administration's relationship with property speculators is far too close for comfort. That's not surprising given that in 2007 the Administration released this video which said the planning department would now seek to "remove the uncertainty around planning applications." That's one reason why property speculators are queuing up to do business with H&F Council. And that's also the reason why residents associations across Hammersmith are calling on people to attend the Planning Meeting on the 9th March.