Category Archives: Hammersmith & Fulham

H&F Tories: A Sad Embittered Bunch Of Losers

When the Tories lost Hammersmith and Fulham a fortnight ago, instead of reflecting on what they did wrong, they entered into an immediate funk of bitchiness and self-delusion. The Guardian’s Dave Hill points out the Tories lack of grace, citing Greg Hands’ bitter tweet that was posted within minutes of their defeat. Hill also quotes the former cabinet member for housing, Andrew Johnson, who tweeted:

Await with interest what LBHF’s new housing policies will be under Labour. Last time they gave council house to Abu Hamza’s family for life.

Bitchy. No?

Hill writes:

[Greg] Smith has retweeted an expression of amazement that H&F residents “have voted to increase their council tax”, while at Conservative Home the Famous Harry Phibbs has attributed his party’s defeat in part to Labour’s picking up more disaffected Liberal Democrats, describing these as likely to be “public sector Guardianistas”. Harry! How impolite!

That’s not the biggest reason the Famous Harry gives – like many fellow H&F Tories he says Labour misrepresented government plans for Charing Cross hospital and unfairly profited accordingly. He also points to a national swing towards Labour. But while it’s easy to understand why H&F Tories are sore, perhaps they should look a little harder at themselves for reasons why they came so badly unstuck.

Such is their arrogance, that they have spent the last fortnight whining about how Labour is going to “trash” the borough. There is no palpable sense of irony on display here. In the eight years that the Tories controlled Hammersmith and Fulham, they presided over a massive, to use their word, “trashing” of the borough. Examples of this trashing include: threatening the tenants of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates with eviction, because they wanted to build luxury flats on the land they hoped to flatten around Earl’s Court. The selling off of the Irish Centre, The Shepherds Bush Village Hall and the eviction of 22 groups from Palingswick House to make way for Toby Young’s West London Free School. Tobes’s free school has already lost three headteachers in as many years. Then there was The Sulivan Primary School in Fulham, which the Conservatives decided they’d close and hand over to a free school.

Here are some of the tweets I found on Andrew Johnson’s timeline. This one claims:

Headbanger JohnsonJohnson believes, as does the rest of his party, that all the Tories need to do is offer people the right to part buy their council homes and they’ll come flocking back. This is nothing less than self-delusion. Johnson even wants to extend Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants, but hang on, wasn’t this done when Nu Labour were in power? None of the Housing Association properties that were sold were replaced. What HAs like Peabody did instead was to build new properties to buy or part buy and ignore those who can’t afford to buy.

Here Johnson, who lost his Fulham Reach seat along with the insufferable bully and chinless wonder, Peter Graham, claims that the new Labour ruling group is not committed to providing homes for local people. Yet, when his party was in power, they joined with developers like St George to build flats for overseas investors. Johnson’s words  ring rather hollow.

Headbanger Johnson1

Phoghorn Phibbs produces perhaps the most chilling statement in the title of his blog at Conservative Home. It reads like a line from The Terminator:

The Conservatives will be back in Hammersmith and Fulham

I really hope that never happens again. Phibbs complains that Labour didn’t fight the Tories on their “record”. That record, as if you didn’t know by now, dear readers, included selling off council flats at inflated prices, denying shelter to a heavily pregnant woman who was forced to sleep on a bench in a local park, and lying about the proposed downgrading of Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals (according to the Tories,  a GP-led clinic is the same as an Accident and Emergency department). On balance, I think not only did Labour fight the Tories on their dismal record, but the voters had also had enough of the Tories’ autocratic style of leadership and  decided to vote them out.

The Conservative’s loss means a change at the top. Greg Smith, member of the Young Britons’ Foundation (The so-called Conservative madrasah) has now been elected to replace the Nick Botterill as the leader of the Tory group. Botterill, himself, had been elected to replace Stephen ‘Decent Neighbourhoods’ Greenhalgh in 2012 when the latter was appointed by Bozza to become the Deputy Mayor for Policing – a job he’s done rather poorly in my view.  Curiously, Botterill’s Twitter timeline has been quiet since 15 April.

Gruntin Greg Smith1Mark Loveday, the new Tory chief whip, is also a member of YBF and is, according to the Tanfield Chambers website, a barrister who specializes in “property litigation”. So when the Tories sold off land and council properties that weren’t supposed to be sold off, it was his job to find loopholes and create legal blocks to any attempts to reverse their reckless planning decisions. Lucy Ivimy, who was once accused of racism when she accused “immigrants” of throwing litter out of tower block windows, becomes Smudger’s deputy.

I also found these tweets on Smith’s timeline. Notice how the first tweet suggests that Labour will “deprive h&f of 7500 new homes”. What he doesn’t dare tell you is that these homes were for rich first time buyers and foreign investors. The lack of honesty from these Tories is as breathtaking as their arrogance and ruthlessness. The threatened demolition of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates was perhaps the most blatant attempt at gerrymandering a ward since the Homes for Votes scandal in the 1980s. Shirley Porter, it could be argued, was H&F Tories’ patron saint.

Gruntin Greg SmithIt’s no surprise that Smith, a truly nasty piece of work, would retweet the dismal, Thatcher-worshipping, rent-a-gob, Katie Hopkins. What Hopkins and her admirer refuse to recognise is how Right to Buy contributed to the current housing crisis. Their solution to the housing crisis is, in effect, no solution.

Hammersmith and Fulham’s residents are relieved that the most ruthless Tory council in living memory has been shown the door. But the Tories refuse to learn any lessons from their defeat and seek to apportion blame elsewhere. The defeat of this flagship Tory council is perhaps an indication of what could happen in next year’s General Election. Tory Hammersmith and Fulham was, for all intents and purposes, the Tory-led government in microcosm.

I wish the new Labour administration all the best as they try to reverse the Tories’ disastrous policies in the borough.  In four years time, let’s hope more Conservative councillors find themselves out of a job.

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The Nightmare Is Over!

The Tories have lost Hammersmith and Fulham and the borough has been returned to Labour. The Tories’ loss is easy to understand. They lost because they sided with the government over the closure of Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals after pretending to support efforts to save them. They lost because, for the last 8 years of their tenure, they’ve worked hard to force working class and low-waged people out of the borough. They lost because they were supremely arrogant and waged a class war against the borough’s poorest inhabitants.

Labour won 11 seats from the Tories. One of the wards where the Tories’ were wiped out was Fulham Reach, where Charing Cross Hospital is located. Former councillor, Peter Graham, spent the entire two months before the election lying about the closure of Charing Cross Hospital, even going so far as to redefine the meaning of the word ‘hospital’. Graham works for Four Communications, a lobbying firm whose clients include property developers, The Berkeley Group, who build apartment blocks for rich foreigners. His colleague, Andrew Johnson, the former cabinet member for housing tweeted:

Headbanger JohnsonHe talked about selling off council flats and then claimed his Tory group supported building “affordable to buy homes”. Nothing could be further from the truth: all the properties in the developments that are currently under construction will cost you upwards of £950k. That’s affordable, but only if you have the bank balance to match.

Let’s remind ourselves of this glorious faux pas by Fulham Reach Tories, who thought that having the Hammersmith Cemetery as a backdrop was top idea.

Copy of FR-crop-508x1024

Yesterday I took a cycle ride around the southern half of the borough and was surprised to see only two posters for the Conservatives. Those posters were in the window of a posh riverside flat in Fulham Reach.

On the GetWestLondon website, which has replaced the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle, Greg Hands, the Tory MP for Fulham and Chelsea, blamed “Labour lies” for their defeat. The only real liars came from his own side, who first claimed to support efforts to save the borough’s hospitals but then went in to reverse gear and supported the government position. Pot-kettle-black.

You can see the ward-by-ward breakdown of Labour’s victory here.

Even though Labour has won a smashing victory, The Cat will continue to hold the council to account.

 

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A Borough Of Opportunity? Only For Developers, Tories And Other Parasites

Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham’s slogan is the “Borough of Opportunity”. It’s a slogan that’s proclaimed from lamp post banners in the borough to its new glossy magazine. But it’s gloriously misleading. Hammersmith and Fulham is a borough of opportunity but only for property developers. Anyone who lives in Hammersmith and Fulham will have noticed the number of building projects popping up around the borough. It’s a boom time – and I mean that most sincerely, folks – in Hammersmith and Fulham. Interestingly, all of these developments are in Hammersmith and White City, while in Fulham and other leafier parts of the borough not a single tower crane is anywhere to be seen. Is this a coincidence? I don’t know. You tell me.

I’ve taken a tour of the borough and photographed many of the current developments and those that have just been completed. Many of us in Hammersmith already know of the fabulous structure on 10 Hammersmith Grove that faces onto Beadon Road. Look at those lines! Look at its shininess! Shame its upper floors are completely empty.

12 Hammersmith Grove. Built for Pernod-Ricard, who decided to move to Chiswick park

10 Hammersmith Grove. Built for Pernod-Ricard, who then decided to move to Chiswick Park instead

10 Hammersmith Grove was built with the intention of housing the offices of Pernod-Ricard, but they had other ideas and decided to move to the ever-expanding Chiswick Park instead.  The ground floor is occupied by a couple of posh eateries. Fancy an artisan burger? How much dosh have you got to splash out on one?

The ground floor units with uberposh Byrons Burgers and Bill's café kind of place thing...

The ground floor units with uberposh Byrons Burgers and Bill’s café kind of place thing…

Do you fancy living in a former multi-story car park next to the District and Piccadilly Lines and the moderately busy Glenthorne Road? Well, now you can. Here’s the sales office for St George’s rather posh-sounding Sovereign Court development.  Stupid name if you ask me. Flats here will set you back upwards of £950k. The question is: where are shoppers going to park their cars? The council has no answer to this and other questions.

It's a former car park, you divvy.

It’s a former car park, you divvy.

You see that crane in the background? Well, here it is again just above this empty office block on Glenthorne Road. This is a pretty big site.

Empty office block on Glenthorne Road being prepared for redevelopment

Empty office block on Glenthorne Road being prepared for demolition

This office block on Lyric Square once had loads of occupants when I first moved here, but I’ve no idea what happened to them. As far as I can make out, it’s been mostly empty for a few years.

The Capital One building being prepared for redevelopment.

The One Building still looking for tenants. Will it be next on the demolition list?

The Hammersmith Palais was a legendary music venue and former dance hall that was immortalised in the The Clash’s White Man In The Hammersmith Palais.  Here it is before it was demolished.

Within a year of the Tories taking control of the Council in 2006, it was announced that the Palais would be demolished and replaced with expensive student accommodation. In the distance there’s another development next to the Laurie Arms pub. This is what stands on the site of the Palais.

Le Hammersmith Palais est non plus

Le Hammersmith Palais est non plus

This isn’t a new development, rather it’s a curious development. This is Mackenzie Trench House, a 60s council block on Lillie Road  that’s been “acquired” by Cherwell, a property development company. It’s going to be demolished to make way for a “part 4 / 6 storey building of 30 flats (Class C3) comprising 5 x one bed, 20 x two bed and 5 x three bed; Excavation to provide basement car park for 14 cars with vehicular access from Purcell Crescent and associated landscaping”, according to the Council’s website. Of course it is entirely possible that the residents of MacKenzie Trench House were leaseholders and they were ‘made an offer they couldn’t refuse’, rather than being lowly tenants… and we all know how H&F Tories feel about council housing and council tenants.

McKenzie Trench House will be bulldozed

McKenzie Trench House will be bulldozed

I’ve already tweeted about the Fulham Reach or, should I say, the Fulham-out-of-the-Reach-of-ordinary-people Development. Here it is in all its monstrous glory. IMG-20140411-00071 IMG-20140411-00072And don’t you dare go near the jetty. That’s for landing crooked Russian oligarchs, Singaporean gambling moguls and bloodthirsty Bahraini princelings who have come to gaze upon their assets.

IMG-20140411-00073The sales office for this monstrosity, well, looks a little like the sales office for Sovereign Court (you’re still serious about that name? excuse me while I split my sides). It’s a brand, you see. St George are part of the Berkeley Group of companies and many of those companies have saints’ names.  Don’t ask me why. St Edward, for example,  has built a huge swanky development on the former site of Charles House, a local tax office on Kensington Road. Behind Charles House there once was a wonderful little pub that sold Everard’s Ales.  It was called the Radnor Arms and I may be wrong, but it was the only Everard’s pub in London. It is no more.

Hammersmith and Fulham-20140411-00074

More student accommodation, this time sandwiched between John Betts Primary School and a council block on Dalling Road. This is a Balfour Beatty development. Balfour Beatty is the company that was implicated in the Potters Bar rail crash along with Network Rail. The company is also member of the Conservative Property Forum.

Hounslow-20140514-00085

New planning laws make it easier for companies like Balfour Beatty and St George to influence local planning decisions (the Tories refer to this as “cutting red tape”). In Hammersmith and Fulham, these companies have a sympathetic Tory council that is more than willing to please them. According to the Government website, the new planning ‘reforms’ are supposed to give communities a say in local planning decisions. What we actually tend to find is that developers and councils alike use a great deal of PR muscle in an attempt to win over people. In some cases, such as the ongoing Earl’s Court gentrification plan, the Council or PR company in question will use all the tricks in the property playbook, including the manipulation of statistical data, rigged surveys and so forth, to produce ‘reports’ that appear to suggest a consensus.

If the Tories win the council election next week, Charing Cross Hospital will disappear and will be replaced with luxury flats and a GP’s surgery.  There will be no A&E. You’ll have to travel miles through heavy traffic to get to one. Anyone who knows Fulham Palace Road will tell you that the traffic is often bumper-to-bumper from the Lillie Road junction to the one-way system.

Charing Cross Hospital has the country's leading stroke unit.

Charing Cross Hospital has the country’s leading stroke unit.

The Tories have also been making noises about demolishing the Queen Caroline Estate. Yet, when anyone suggests that the issue of social class plays a part in their ‘thinking’, boy do they howl with indignation. But this is what we’re witnessing in Hammersmith and Fulham: a class war that is being waged by powerful interests, aided and abetted by the Tories, against the working class, the low-waged and the vulnerable.  They can tell you that the idea of social class is “outdated” but they would be liars, because they are the biggest class warriors of all and they will fight tirelessly for the interests of their class.

Vote out the Tories next week.

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Nightmare On King Street (Part 21)

The three Tory candidates for the Fulham Reach ward chose a rather bizarre, if not revealing, location for their photo-shoot. The location? The Hammersmith Cemetery, which is conveniently located behind Charing Cross Hospital.

FR-crop-508x1024

 

Clearly, no thought went into their choice of location.  That’s the Tories for you. They don’t think. Kick them out on 22 May.

Hat tip to Crispin Flintoff.

 

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Nightmare On King Street (Part 20)

Last week’s BBC Question Time was recorded at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, a stone’s throw away from a massive development at Fulham Reach. I will be writing a blog on that development and the others that are springing up around the borough in due course.

Billy Bragg was on the Question Time panel and mentioned how the Charing Cross Hospital site was being earmarked for redevelopment when it closes. The Tories have always denied this.

This morning, however, Phoghorn Phibbs let the cat out of the bag in this Twitter exchange with Billy Bragg.

Phibbs phucks up

 

You read it here first: Charing Cross Hospital will be demolished to make way for luxury flats.

Cllr Peter Graham, who works for lobbying firm,  Four Communications, whose clients include the Berkeley Group (parent company of St George) told me that “three blocks of flats” were already there. When I told him those were nurse’s homes, he claimed that [medical] students lived there (fair enough) as well as “others”. However, he wouldn’t clarify what he meant by “others”. Do you ever get the feeling you’re being lied to?

Graham, whose ward includes Charing Cross Hospital, also spoke in favour of the Fulham Reach development.

Peter Graham

Coincidence?

Next month use your vote wisely. Kick the Tories out.

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Nightmare On King Street (Part 19)

 

I’ve just had a load of Tory election literature shoved through my letter box. The Tories don’t knock on doors and talk to anyone. They know better. They know that no one on my estate wants to talk to them. But I wanted to talk to them. I wanted to take down their feeble arguments. I wanted to grill them on the lack of decent, affordable rented accommodation in the borough.  I wanted to grill them on the question of Sulivan School and the proposed demolition of the Gibbs Green and West Kensington Estates. I wanted to ask them why they supported the closure of Charing Cross Hospital, while at the same time denying it. I wanted to ask them about their stealth taxes. But they’re like kids who knock on the door and run away. They’re so damned quick: when you open your door to give them a piece of your mind, they’re half way down the street, sticking two fingers up to you.

H&F Conservatives Mr. Grim Reaper

Hammersmith & Fulham’s Tories took great offence to this image. Good.

One of the bits of paper shoved through my door was a letter. This letter has the words “IMPORTANT UPDATE ON CHARING CROSS HOSPITAL”. This is not so much an update as it is a lie that’s been painted in large dayglo blue letters. “Obviously there will be major changes” the letter tells me. Yes, the changes that were forced upon Charing Cross Hospital by the Tory-led coalition involve demolishing the hospital and handing the site over to private developers like St George, who will then build luxury flats for foreign investors. In the letter the Tories have said nothing about the lack of beds and the loss of the stroke unit – the same stroke unit that saved Andrew Marr’s life. The borough’s Tories support the government. Why wouldn’t they?

The letter then goes on to say “Whether you agree or disagree with these NHS plans, they aren’t something that local councillors can change. H&F council has no powers over the NHS, nor does it own the land”. Well, that simply isn’t true and the subtext of this statement is “we don’t care”. Campaigners saved Lewisham Hospital from closure. We can do the same with Charing Cross Hospital. The word ‘defeat’ is absent from our lexicon.

The letter also claims the local Labour Party is “scaremongering”. It goes on to accuse Labour of “desperation” adding “Labour can’t win the Council Elections by talking about what the Council actually does”.  Like what? Selling off land to developers? Charging residents for training in the borough’s parks? Increased charges for its leisure facilities? Their letter talks of “cleaner streets”. Really? Where? It talks about “more and better schools”. What about Sulivan School which the Council wants to close and sell to an independent school? Funny how the letter doesn’t mention that. It boasts about “affordable homes to buy”. What does “affordable” actually mean? Yes, these homes will be “affordable” but only for those whose economic capital is provided by daddy’s trust fund or a rentier’s income. What about homes to rent? This Council is actually reviving the disastrous Right to Buy scheme, which caused the housing crisis in the first place. It actually wants to sell off and demolish its council housing because it doesn’t like the people who live in their properties. They don’t come from the right social class, you see. They don’t have names like Jocasta, Jemima, Rupert and Nigel.

In the eight years that they’ve been running the Council, the Tories have shown time and again that, in spite of their slogan “Residents First”, they are only interested in putting the interests of their rich mates first. When the Tories assumed control of the Council, Stephen Greenhalgh, the former Dear Leader, wanted to create a borough that attracted the rich. In order to “attract the rich”, he and his fellow Tories had to expel the poor and those on low incomes. This is called gerrymandering and if you look at the numbers of units at Fulham Reach for example, there isn’t a single property in that development that is available for those on low incomes to rent. The people who will live in those properties will doubtlessly vote Tory.

So, Azi Ahmed, Jackie Borland and Jamie McKittrick, I won’t be voting for you. And I’ll also tell you this: I’m not interested in council candidates who only work for themselves and in the interests of their rich chums. That pretty much excludes your party.

Kick out the Tories! Use your vote wisely.

 

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Nightmare On King Street (Part 18)

Eric Pickles referred to it as “propaganda on the rates” and in the two years that have passed since councils were banned from reproducing their lies in print form (remember H&F News?), the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has decided to ignore everyone and produce this glossy magazine.

IMG-20140322-00031

This dropped through my letter box last week. I’ve also noticed that The Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle is continuing to publish council propaganda in spite of this new arrival. The Tories’ arrogance seeps through every letter on every page of this magazine.

The big story is that Council is pushing its idea to replace the crumbling Hammersmith Flyover with what it refers to as a “flyunder”, or a tunnel by anyone else’s definition. The front page of the magazine tells us that comedian and local resident, Bill Bailey, supports the council’s plan. Bailey apparently told the select committee, “I’ve lived in Hammersmith for 30 years and the traffic needs to be addressed. A flyunder would have enormous benefits for not just traffic but also for a much-improved town centre environment”. By using a name like Bailey’s to add gravitas to their idea, the Council gives the impression that the comedian is a solid supporter of the Tory administration. The tunnel – for that’s what it is -will be built by contractors who have close links to the Tory Party and Tory councillors will be wined, dined and treated to golfing holidays for helping these companies to gain another massive contract. Building a tunnel will create years of disruption and lead to road closures. None of this has been considered by this gung-ho council that puts its own interests before those of the residents it claims to support.

The magazine’s other big story is the apparent 3% “cut” in Council Tax. This cut is being paid for by stealth taxes and a whole series of charges for such things as training in local parks. For a council that likes to tell all and sundry how fiscally responsible it is, it wastes a lot of money on hare-brained schemes and propaganda. Elsewhere in the magazine is a feature on so-called ‘Brackenbury Village’ where the only Hammersmith residents that matter in the Tories’ eyes tend to live.

The law brought in by The Sontaran was initially enacted in response to Tower Hamlets council’s in-house propaganda sheet but makes no mention of Hammersmith and Fulham. Why? Because Hammersmith and Fulham is Pickles’ favourite council.

Here’s what the government website says:

In the broadcast media, regulator Ofcom recently concluded that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets had breached ‘The Communications Act 2003’, the ‘UK Code of Broadcast Advertising’ and the ‘Code on local authority publicity’. However there are no such restrictions which stop political advertising in print.

The consultation, launched today, is seeking views on how best to frame the new legislation to stop politically contentious advertising campaigns, municipal newspapers and the hiring of lobbyists by councils.

Although Tower Hamlets is mentioned by name, by far the worst offender is Hammersmith and Fulham, which until recently, had a cabinet member with responsibility for propaganda resident engagement.

With the local elections just over a month away, it comes as no surprise the Tories want to push their message. The question for me is: how much is this actually costing local residents? I think we should be told.

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