Thursday 2 April 2020

Brendan Bird

I am very sorry to report that ex-Councillor Brendan Bird sadly died this morning following a long illness. He was extremely proud of and loved his family very much. My thoughts are with them.

The flags are flying at half-mast over Hammersmith & Fulham Town Hall to honour the positive contribution Brendan made to people's lives in our borough and across London. 

I first met Brendan in the 1990s and came to know him as a social housing expert, a much-loved Labour councillor for Sands End between 1994 to 2006, a campaigner and a very kind and decent man. 

After losing his seat in 2006, Brendan continued to work for his local community often phoning me to brief me on what was happening and what he thought I should do both as the borough’s leader of the opposition and later as leader of the council. His advice was always considered, insightful and wise.

In opposition, he fought against the Conservative run council to save Peterborough Primary School, their sell-off of the Castle Club Youth Centre and their closing of other Sands End youth facilities, and he successfully fought against their closure of Hurlingham and Chelsea Secondary School.

Brendan played a critical part in the Save Sands End Community Centre campaign in 2009 and in the Save Sulivan campaign in 2013 and 2014.

He was a governor of Holy Cross Primary School and an avid Fulham Football Club fan, table tennis player, and lover of R&B.

He ran as Labour's candidate for Sands End in the 2008 bi-election and in the 2010 and 2014 local government elections but sadly was not returned to office.

Brendan was passionate about Labour being electable and being in power and was a trusted member of the Executive Committee of the Chelsea & Fulham Labour Party contributing to our landslide local election victories in 2014 and 2018.

He was a Labour man as people used to say, but was friendly towards his political opponents, working across party lines to get things done for his community.

I’ll miss Brendan Bird. He was a good friend, I learnt a lot from him and came to admire him. He was always on the side of the angels something I know he'll be remembered for and which his family and friends are all so rightly proud of.

Wednesday 18 March 2020

Responding to Coronavirus (COVID-19) together

Coronavirus is a huge challenge for everyone in our community. People are understandably worried about their health, the health of their friends, neighbours and loved ones, and how they will cope. So I want to reassure everyone that Hammersmith & Fulham Council has been doing everything we can to prepare for this and is on your side. 

We have adopted a people first approach which means we’re taking all the necessary actions and are providing all the necessary resources to help keep people safe and able to cope with this crisis. 

We’re working with the NHS, the government and partner agencies alongside the private and third sectors to build up our borough’s resilience. 

There are many people in our borough who are extremely vulnerable: from people needing daily home care, families in food poverty, to homeless people rough sleeping on our streets. We have an extensive plan to help them. We will always do everything we can to support our most vulnerable residents. 

If you'd like to donate, the Council has partnered with the charity UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham. You can contribute on this link.

Please check this link for regular updates and you can sign up for email updates here

Here are some of the things we’re doing.

Focus on Coronavirus
Last week I authorised the following measures:
  1. The appointment of a Director of COVID-19 Response to manage the engine room of our operation and coordinate how we work with all our partners and residents. We're building up our borough’s capacity and the capabilities needed to best respond to all the issues that will arise. 
  2. The establishment of a Borough Emergency Control Centre (BECC), to increase our ability to act effectively and with speed. 
  3. Cancellation of all council meetings so we can re-skill and re-allocate our staff because we’re determined our organisation maximises its focus towards supporting people in our community and maintaining our ability to provide essential services.

Hammersmith & Fulham Community Aid Network – H&F CAN
We’re lucky to have so many kind people living and working in our borough and are keen to capture all the goodwill and potential for volunteers. We need to do that in a way that is safe for the volunteers and safe for our residents whom they will be helping. 

There’s already an extensive network of people and organisations who volunteer. People who run foodbanks, homeless shelters, youth clubs, community centres, residents’ groups and much more. We’re working with them to set up H&F CAN – a resilience network which will:
  • Co-ordinate a borough-wide volunteer operation
  • Provide an easy way to donate money that will be used to support vulnerable people 

You can find out more about how it will work and how you can register on this link.

people first approach 
We are prioritising people’s health and safety over all other considerations but recognise that many people face financial hardship because of coronavirus.

I have spoken to many people running local businesses and community institutions and understand how anxious they are about staying afloat. Other people on zero-hours contracts, or working as freelancers, or who are losing their jobs are worried about paying their rent, bills, loans and simply getting by.

The government has announced a Hardship Fund, Business Rate Relief and other constructive measures which we will implement as soon as we’re given details. 

We’re also looking at emergency grants to voluntary organisations and considering the different ways our community can come together to help.

The scale of the economic problems we now face is unlike anything we’ve seen in the post war period. I believe we need a suite of emergency measures bigger than Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s. That should include: a trial universal basic income for the next twelve months; action on rents, loans and mortgages; and support for businesses and others facing bankruptcy. The government has moved quickly on some of these measures, but more is needed so all of us can get through this together.

Thank you
So many people are doing everything they can to protect their fellow citizens and keep services running - sometimes putting themselves at risk: doctors, nurses and health workers; social workers, care workers, police, and teachers; people who clean our streets and buildings and collect our refuse; people who run our food banks and homeless shelters; those who care for friends and neighbours who are elderly or Disabled. There are too many to mention.

H&F Council’s chief executive Kim Smith and her team of officers are rising to this challenge. I’ve lost count of all the exhausted, sleep-deprived people who tell me they’re working all hours to get us ready. I know our residents and businesses will join me in thanking all of them for what they’re doing for all of us.

These are surreal times. All of us are making changes to our lives we never imagined we’d be doing. But this is real, and we can get through it. 

Staying at home will save lives. Please keep washing your hands and take actions to be physically fit and mentally occupied. Nobody is alone in facing this crisis, we’ll find new ways of rising to this challenge as we move forward and we’ll do that together.