Tuesday 13 July 2021

Councillor Colin Aherne

I am heartbroken to announce that Councillor Colin Aherne, the Chief Whip of H&F Council’s Labour Group and councillor for Wormholt and White City, died in Hammersmith Hospital yesterday following complications arising from a heart attack. All of us that knew and loved Colin are devastated. This is the link to the condolence book.

The immense shock people feel across the council is in part because Colin remained a bold, vital, and cherished part of our lives right up until the end. He was 77 years old.


Colin would tell how he was, “A proud Welshman, with an Irish name, living in England”. Out of respect, three Flags of Wales futter at half-mast outside the council offices on King Street.


Colin was particularly proud to live in Shepherds Bush and to represent the people of his ward, which he did with care for 35 years. He would often characterise his assiduousness by explaining “I’m a belt and braces man”, something he applied to: his constituents’ case work; his 35 years on the planning committee; his 35 years on the licensing committee; his nearly four decades as a school governor; his time as chair of the adoptions board; and his over 30 years as chair of governors of Wormholt Primary School. He was a diligent elected representative.


This clip of Colin talking about the importance of empowering people and listening to and respecting the needs of young people really captures his approach.


Fierce champion


Colin was a fierce champion of the people he represented. His convictions were borne out of the genuine hardship of his early life. He was born in 1944 in Tredegar into a loving family whose home had no electricity, no gas, and an outside toilet. His mother and father’s struggles to provide food, clothes, coal to heat the home, or pay for a doctor if anyone in the family fell ill was something, that back then, was commonplace for people in that small Welsh community – something that gave Colin a burning life-long passion to fight social injustice.

Faced with working in the local pits, Colin joined the Army instead, having been enticed at 15 years of age by a John Wayne movie he and his friend had seen at the local cinema. He saw action during the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation sometimes telling how he spent his eighteenth birthday being shot at in Borneo. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Colin with his father visiting a doctor
This harsh life could have produced a harsh, bitter man. But Colin was quite the opposite. He was one of the kindest, sweetest, most caring, and optimistic people I have ever met. The tributes pouring in already reflect that. 

“There’s no such thing as the good old days” Colin would say, pointing out how things are now so much better for most people in Britain because good people campaigned and fought to change the world.


A better world


Colin spent his lifetime doing what he could to change the world for the better. He was an active trade unionist much admired across the trade union movement for his integrity and hard work. In the early 1980s, he was arrested and fined for collecting money to send food parcels to striking miners. By 1986, he was elected to Hammersmith & Fulham Council. He became the Chief Whip shortly afterwards – his meticulous approach proudly giving him a reputation as the best barrack-room lawyer anyone had ever come across.


In 2006, Colin was a crucial member of the borough’s opposition leadership, and since 2014 he has been a key force behind some of the administration’s most compassionate programmes which have included:

  • being the only council in England to abolish charges for adult social care
  • providing free breakfast for all local primary school children
  • providing food in and out of term time for children needing support
  • saving the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates
  • funding the law centres so the poorest people have access to legal advice, and
  • introducing an Industrial Strategy linked to the borough’s schools which is bringing local young people some of the best career and business start-up opportunities anywhere in the world.

There is so much Colin achieved. It is impossible to list all of it here. He was a well-read, thoughtful, and insightful person.




Two weeks ago, when Colin was first in hospital, I was with him when he explained to a wonderful nurse how the doctors and nurses had asked him lots of questions - "But there was one thing they didn’t ask" he said. “What was that?” she enquired: “To pay” he answered before going on to tell how he comes from the same town as Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the NHS.


Yesterday after the call came to rush to the hospital, I was ushered into the Intensive Care Unit to find 12 medics standing around Colin. There was a wide variety of beeping sounds and flashing lights as he was rapidly being prepared for emergency surgery. He gave the biggest smile and presented a thumbs up. One of the medics announced to the others how “Colin is part of the team that saved Charing Cross Hospital” at which point they all began to thank him. As he was wheeled past me, he put his hand out for a high five. He was very brave and a fighter to the very end.


Colin was so proud of his nieces and nephew. He loved his family very much. I know he considered the Labour Group and his friends in the party as a part of his wider family – something all of us are proud to be.


And he loved Hammersmith & Fulham. The place he’d made home and where his work over four decades has changed this part of the world so much and for the better.


Colin Aherne was a gentle, considerate man. He was one of the finest, wisest people I've ever known. He was a great friend. He was a rare and good human being. We will always miss him.

Monday 12 April 2021

Alderman Mike Cartwright

I am very sorry to report that Aldermen Michael Cartwright, former Mayor and Deputy Leader of the Council, died peacefully at 5am this morning after a long illness.

Mike was first elected as a Member of the Council in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham in 1992 following a by-election in Hammersmith Broadway. He held that post and for 26 years being returned by the residents by the Hammersmith Broadway ward as their elected representative at another six elections - only stepping down at the 2018 council elections because of illness.


Throughout, his time as an elected representative. Mike consistently stood out as a diligent public servant.


As Deputy Leader of the Council from 2014, Mike helped steer the direction of our Borough at a critical time and took bold measures to improve things for residents such as leading the Administration to introduce the largest number of council funded police in the Borough’s history. 


While chair of the Association of London Government’s (now London Councils) Transport and Environment Committee, Mike was key to saving and expanding the London Freedom Pass. 


Mike was also a local magistrate for 13 years becoming Chair of the Bench. He was instrumental in a series of measures that improved how the court supported women dealing with the nightmare and trauma of domestic violence.


Mike was a governor of two schools in the Borough from 1992 - Sacred Heart School, and Larmenier and Sacred Heart Primary School. He chaired the Mortlake Crematorium Board for 9 years. He served on the Western Riverside Waste Authority. Prior to his time in our borough, he was a councillor in Ipswich and Suffolk - first elected when he was just 23 years old. 


Mike served on the Planning Committee nearly all his time as councillor. As a chartered surveyor he was an expert. That combined with his experience to make him a formidable force for good on that committee.


Mike finished his time on Hammersmith & Fulham Council as the Mayor – a role he took to with grace.


Mike Cartwright was a giant in the public life of our borough for three decades. He deployed his considerable skills for the betterment of other people’s lives throughout his life and made a huge contribution to our borough. 


Mike dedicated his life to public service.


Such was his stature, in 2019 Mike was given the extraordinary honour of Freedom of the Borough and was made an Alderman following a unanimous vote of thanks by all the Borough’s councillors – something which I know meant a lot to him.


Mike was a dear friend. As Deputy Leader of the Borough’s Opposition for eight years, he was the rock we relied upon, the foundation of everything we all went on to build together. I will miss Mike’s good humour, his story telling, his wit, his wisdom, his kindnesses and his friendship. He was a lovely human being.

Sunday 14 March 2021

Let us renew our vow that all of us to make the world fairer, safer and better for women

This week began with International Women’s Day and will end with many of us celebrating Mothering Sunday.


It was prescient last year of the United Nations to report how “globally, women make up the majority of workers in the health and social sector”. In the UK, women are 70% of the healthcare workforce as well forming the backbone of third sector organisations and volunteering operations, such as running food banks and checking in on neighbours.


That’s as true in H&F as it is nationally. The Smile Brigade, run by Monique Newton, is just one of so many volunteer-led initiatives in the borough that have literally helped save lives. When the pandemic hit, the Smile Brigade had 20 volunteers running food kitchens for 70 clients. That swelled to 1,100 clients and 457 volunteers, delivering hot food and care packages directly to the homes of those who needed them.


This week the Office for National Statistics confirmed what many of us know, that women have borne a disproportionate burden of the pandemic and lockdown. They have spent more time on unpaid childcare and housework than men, they’ve done the lion’s share of home schooling and rates of violence towards women have rocketed, as the appalling events of this week remind us. And, as in every economic crisis, women over the past year have been at greater risk of losing their jobs or of having their wages cut or frozen.


To put this in a wider context, last year’s Marmot Report on health inequalities revealed that life expectancy for women living in our poorest communities has declined over the past decade, for the first time in a century. As Professor Marmot said: "If health has stopped improving, that means society has stopped improving."


The International Monetary Fund has pointed out why society as a whole gains if we make the world fairer for women. It published research underlining how adding one more woman to a company’s management structure is associated with a boost in returns of up to 13%. Picking up on this theme, to mark International Women’s Day three years ago, Christine Lagarde, the first woman president of the IMF, said: “It’s just a no-brainer that economies would grow, productivity would improve, and we would have more stability.”


So this Sunday, as we thank our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, following a year when so many women have led the fight against the pandemic - publicly and in the home - let’s also renew our vow to make the world a fairer, safer, better place for all women – the type of world fit for our daughters to inherit.


Happy Mother’s Day