Tag Archives: Stephen Greenhalgh

Why do Tories think that we will accept reports that have not been based on research?

The Tories are fond of writing reports but few are based on any form of research. Moreover, the lack of research points to a deep-seated hatred of anything that bears even the slightest resemblance to evidence.  Even when they do conduct research, it is so compromised that they need not have bothered (have a look at some of the Centre for Social Justice’s ‘research’ if you don’t believe me). Such disregard for the intellectual rigours of research and producing evidence in the form of data is nothing less than a form of anti-intellectualism.

In the last week we’ve had the Beecroft Report, which was not only written by a venture capitalist and donor to the Conservative Party, it was produced without a single shred of evidence.  In 2009, right-wing think-tank Localis produced a report titled “The Principles for Social Housing Reform”. Written by  Stephen Greenhalgh and John Moss, the darlings of Tory local government,  they asserted that “social housing is welfare housing”. Looking through their report, one thing was noticeably absent: research. Yet this ‘report’ and the Beecroft Report are held up by the Tories as some form of unassailable truth. This is a logical fallacy (argumentum ad verecundiam).

I can tell you  that as a PhD student, if I were to make the similar assertions about my field of study without conducting any research or any providing any evidence to support my assertions, I would be told, in no uncertain terms, that my report was flawed and that I would have to go away and come back with some hard facts. Not for out Tory friends it seems.

The reasons why Tories think that their reports don’t require research or evidence that has been derived from empirical study is because they are arrogant and intellectually bankrupt. I often think the reason why James Delingpole regularly dismisses empirical evidence out of hand is because it conflicts with his weird belief that pollution is good for us. Jokes aside, this attitude is rooted firmly in the way in which this country has been governed since time immemorial. Parliament was once the preserve of the aristocracy. Even after the Reform Acts, the House of Commons has remained persistently upper middle class and semi-aristocratic save for the years between 1920 and 1989. The Conservative Party believes that it is the natural party of government and its place as a governing party is divinely ordained. Therefore should anyone demand proof, they are met with abuse.  To demand evidence is to question the existence of God Himself.

Like the Localis report, the Beecroft Report is predicated on one thing: class hatred. Beecroft is an unreconstructed Social Darwinist. As a venture (for that read “rentier”) capitalist, he produces nothing. Yet he feels that he has some kind of authority to produce a report that has no findings whatsoever. You can read his report here.

Yesterday,  the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, made a few noises about the report. Beecroft labelled him a “socialist”. This tells us something else: the right are not interested in debates or discussions and would much prefer to hurl insults at anyone who dares to criticise them (have a look at the comments left on this blog if you don’t believe me). Of course Cable is no socialist; he’s a market liberal who has one or two social impulses. He was once a member of the SDP. So he’s hardly a Trot.

The Tories have never liked employment laws and this is demonstrated by their desire to tear up legislation that protects workers from dangerous or unsanitary conditions. The Tories were also implacably opposed to the National Minimum Wage (NMW), some have even demanded that the NMW be scrapped for workers who are under the age of 25.

The Beecroft Report whose author claims it is a strategy to improve economic performance and reduce unemployment has produced a report of so full of class prejudice that he should be clapped in irons and dragged by a donkey through the city streets, while the people pelt him with ordure.

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Greenhalgh becomes Deputy Mayor

The Dear Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Stephen Greenhalgh, is to become Boris Johnson’s Deputy Mayor for Policing. Shepherd’s Bush blog has the story. As does the Evil Bastard Ailing Standards Der Sturmer Evening Standard

The question that Nowhere Towers wants to ask is how will Greenhalgh be able to ‘guide’ through the massive White City development if he is ensconced at City Hall? Will he wear two hats? Will he continue to be a councillor? Probably. The ousted Brian Coleman was also a Barnet councillor and cabinet member as well as Fire Authority Chairman.

Meanwhile, Shepherd’s Bush blog also tells us that Lynton Crosby won’t be going to Number 10 after all. He’s joining good old News Corp. The Australian writes,

Mr Crosby says. “I hate all this right-wing, left-wing stuff. The voters just want to know that you’re focusing on what’s best for them.” He can’t offer any magic solution to the Tory problems in the North and does not think that Mr Cameron should start ramping up the rhetoric on dog-whistle issues such as immigration, crime and tax. “People are not ideological, they just want a Government that delivers a better life for them,” he says. “Overwhelmingly Mr Cameron’s focusing on what he needs to focus on, which is the economy.”

What a load of rot. Everyone has an ideology, whether they want to admit to it or not. This is how Crosby managed to transcend the left-right political dichotomy:  he lied about it. Boris Johnson is a right-winger and no amount of airbrushing can change that. By the way, The Australian is a News Corp title.

UPDATE: 9/5/12 @ 1200

According to this BBC News report, Greenhalgh has not been “confirmed” in his new role. Here’s the kicker,

London Labour Assembly Member Val Shawcross responded saying that the appointment breached the Local Government Act 1989 which states that a person is disqualified from taking a local authority post if they already have one.

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Nightmare on King Street (Part 5)

The latest copy of Your Magazine, Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s glossy magazine was pushed through my door last week, accompanied by a copy of the Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle.  Your Magazine is like the “Your Shout” column (It was not written by members of the public but the council’s editorial staff) of the old H&F News propaganda rag that the Council was forced to close last year.   To get around this difficulty, the Council took an unprecedented step and bought space in the Chronicle. Inevitably the council was accused of influencing the editorial independence of the paper. It is a charge that the paper and the council both deny.

The wonderfully but inaccurately titled, Your Magazine and the Chronicle  both carry the same story but tell it differently. First, the magazine tells us that our glorious and magnificent council has reduced homelessness in the borough. Then the nominally independent-minded Chronicle tells us that homeless people are being turned away. In other words, in order to make its homelessness figures look impressive, it refuses help to those in need who are then displaced to other boroughs. This is what is commonly known as ‘cooking the books’ or ‘massaging the figures’.

Not mentioned in the magazine, is the much-trumpeted revival of the disastrous Thatcherite policy of Right to Buy, which ‘Residents First’ describes as a “revolution”. But this is not a “revolution” at all, it is the renewal and possible re-marketing of an old policy that led to the current housing crisis. The article, which appears to have been written by one of the local party’s young Britons tells us that,

Right to Buy has helped thousands of council tenants in H&F to buy their own home since it launched over 30 years ago, but completions under the scheme all but collapsed when the maximum discount in the capital was reduced in 2004 from £38,000 to £16,000. The move led to a slump from 245 Right to Buy sales in 2003/04 to a paltry 7 in H&F last year.

What the author neglects to mention is how councils weren’t permitted to use their capital receipts from council house sales to build housing to replace the lost stock. This is what is commonly known in local Tory parlance as “getting the message out” –  no matter how distorted or disconnected from reality the message happens to be.

From HF Conwatch we learn that Foghorn Phibbs has penned a “pompous letter” to Private Eye to complain about the council’s record appearances in “Rotten Boroughs” and the ongoing row about the Council’s tax avoidance.

Phibbs, whose title is “Cabinet Member for Community Engagement” is little more than the Council’s arch-propagandist; a sort of Cabinet Member for Misinformation. The Cowan Report says that Phibbs has,

used his Daily Mail Blog to attack the BBC’s award winning File on 4 programme for also exposing what’s happening in Hammersmith and Fulham in its special documentary titled “Tax Avoidance.”

Such arrogance. You will recall that when the residents of Gibbs Green and West Kensington estates tried to instigate proceedings to evict the coucil as a “rogue landlord”, The Dear Leader wrote to Greg Clark, the Minister for Housing pleading with him to intervene on the council’s behalf closing with the self-penned “I really need your help on this”.

This Tory council is not only arrogant, it is dictatorial and bullying. It cannot fathom dissent and disagreement and will work tirelessly to choke off any opposition to its rule or its policies. Phibbs and Greenhalgh have both exceeded their limited powers as councillors and have chosen to nobble and harrass those who dare to expose them for what they are: liars and crooks.

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Nightmare on King Street (Part 2) : a round up of recent events

HF Conwatch reveals that public services slashing Hammersmith & Fulham Council has been accused of tax-dodging There is an update here.

The Guardian, Private Eye and The Financial Times all report that the Council for the Rich has been employing executives as consultants through private companies to avoid paying tax. Unfortunately for the Council these shenanigans may well lead to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs taking a closer look at their accounts.

I seemed to have missed this Guardian interview with the Dear Leader when it was first printed.  Greeno, who is stepping down as Council Leader, is going to guide the White City Redevelopment from the backbenches. He tells us that he will be an “unpaid champion for White City”. Nowhere Towers finds this whole thing a little curious.  While we understand that he is the owner of Biba Medical and draws a not-too-insubstantial salary from it,  it is odd that he would do this sort of thing for the ‘love of it’. Tories, especially the current crop of laissez-faire cultists, don’t have an altruistic bone in their bodies. For them, altruism is a dirty word.

Greenhalgh also defended himself from accusations that he was socially cleansing the borough,

“I’m the son of a refugee, I’m the son of someone brought up by their single mother, not in public housing but as sub-tenant with all of the insecurity that involves, [… ] I understand poverty because my family came from very humble origins”.

At the end of the article we learn that he went to St. Paul’s School, which charges £6,275 for day pupils and £9,297 for boarders,  which is well outside the reach of those on fixed incomes or, indeed, those from “humble origins”. Unless he’s trying to tell us that he went there under the assisted places scheme? He also went to Trinity College, Cambridge. An ex-girlfriend of mine went there at the same time as Greeno. I wonder if their paths ever crossed?

Not that any of this really matters, what truly matters is the way in which the Dear Leader and his fellow Tories are smashing up communities and cutting services.

“You have to have the safety net,” he says, insisting that councils will not abandon vulnerable people, but may “change the rules of engagement”. He says: “They might say, ‘We’re about opportunity, we’re not about dependency’.”

I beg to differ. Nowhere Towers understands that the borough’s social housing tenants run a higher risk of being evicted than in many other areas. There are also numerous tales of how vulnerable people have been turned away from the Town Hall.  In 2010 a heavily pregnant woman was forced to sleep on park benches because the council refused to provide assistance.  Last year, the numbers of homeless people in the borough rose by 92%.  This lack of concern for those who aren’t in receipt of 6-figure salaries has earned  Hammersmith & Fulham the dubious distinction of appearing in Private Eye’s “Rotten Boroughs” a record number of times.

Greenhalgh has also recently been appointed the government’s Housing Champion. I kid you not.

Mr Greenhalgh, who is stepping down as council leader later this year, has been asked to carry out a review of housing regulations in support of the Government’s Housing Strategy published in November last year alongside Simon Randall, a solicitor specialising in social housing.

Key areas highlighted in the strategy included improving environmental standards, building more affordable housing, security of tenure, legal protection for tenants and leaseholders, and support for the elderly, vulnerable households and those on low incomes.

But this job isn’t necessarily about housing as this revealing article from Build.co.uk tells us. Here he is not a “Housing Champion” he’s a “Construction Champion”. And yes, there is a difference.

Last night the Council voted through another public services slashing budget, while reducing the rate of Council Tax by 3.75%. Sounds attractive doesn’t it? The local council cuts tax to ‘put more money in your pocket’… it makes great copy… except the reality is altogether different. Residents in the borough can expect to pay more in parking and other charges. While most boroughs offer free Internet in its libraries, for example, this council charges £0.50 for every half hour after the first free half hour. The rich won’t feel a thing because they don’t use public services. Those on benefits and low to middle incomes will find that the reduction in Council Tax will hit them hard.

Shepherds Bush blog says that Greenhalgh likes the number 3. Nowhere Towers thinks that Greeno really likes the number 2, especially when it comes to the borough’s less wealthy residents, on whom his party keeps dumping.

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Nightmare on King Street (Part 1)

Don't worry I'll be real gentle

As you may have noticed I’ve decided to start a new series. To be honest with you, dear readers, I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it earlier. But if I had started this series earlier, I may well be on my way to Part 90 by now. So why “King Street”? Well, for those of you who don’t know Hammersmith & Fulham, that’s where you’ll find the Town Hall, which is run by a team of Tory slashers. They’re the local government equivalent of a gang of Freddie Kruegers and they’re gonna cut you up.

The Tories are an undemocratic party. I think we can all agree on that – unless, of course, you’re a Tory or one of those UKIPers who still carries a torch for the Conservatives on the sly. I’m willing to bet that Farage and Pearson carry a picture of Thatcher in their wallets.

Naturally there are those Tories who would demand “Well, what about Labour”?  What about them indeed. But I’m talking about Tories here and their track record for creating legislation that limits the means by which people and political parties can oppose them.

I’m also talking about the horror show that is Tory-controlled Hammersmith & Fulham, with it’s gore fest of cuts and closures dressed up as ‘savings’. It’s a slasher film like no other and it’s happening right now.

This is from Shepherds Bush blog and it remind us of how the opposition is routinely silenced by the Tory diktators of this burgh.  It also reminds us how smears are constructed not, in this case, from myths – which are also constructed – but out of pure lies.

The local partei’s (yes, the misspelling is entirely deliberate) defence, if you call it one, is to claim that the Labour opposition don’t show up to meetings and therefore, aren’t worth £164, 340 a year. This is a very dishonest argument and it’s based entirely on the false premise that the opposition are actually permitted to oppose. Having attended the the Council meeting last January when the Tories voted to close the Sand End Centre, The Irish Centre, Shepherd’s Bush Village Hall and other community spaces, I can testify to the effect that Cllr. Greenhalgh repeatedly became petulant whenever Cllr Cowan demanded answers to his questions.   In a democracy, a question is supposed to be met with an answer, not  a brick wall. This is what happens in dictatorships. Ja?  Has Hammersmith & Fulham now become the template for a future one-party English state?

This is what Cllr. Andrew Johnson said in his blog on the laughably named Residents First.

But recently a worrying trend is starting to develop within Hammersmith & Fulham. For it seems despite pocketing not insignificant sums of money, that senior members of the opposition are not bothering to show up to critical meetings or hold the council to account. Failing, for example, to attend key meetings, such as Cabinet when important decisions are being taken, or even recently by failing to table amendments to the Council’s budget as it was being discussed at scrutiny meetings.

Foghorn Phibbs tried this schtick last year. This time his colleague puts forward what appears prima facie to be a pure economic case but it’s bogus.

Towards the end of the blog there’s a number for your Tory bingo card. Eyes down for a full house!

Often it’s all too easy to criticise without having a credible alternative in place, yet our opposition are not even doing this.

It’s poison. The opposition don’t get to ask questions, let alone criticise Tory policies.

But what do you expect from a local branch of the Conservative Party that has nurtured such talents as Aidan Burley and Donal Blaney? This is a democracy? Get a grip.

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Greenhalgh to quit?

The last few days have been pretty horrendous for Tory High Command. Hot on the heels of the Aidan Burley Nazi story comes the news from Political Scrapbook that Hammersmith & Fulham council leader, Stephen Greenhalgh is to resign.  Nowhere Towers is intrigued by this news. Is he really going to quit so that he can take a seat in the House of Lords or has the party found him a nice safe Commons  seat somewhere?

More news when we get it.

UPDATE: @1239

The Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle has the latest. Apparently, Greeno is stepping down in 6 months time. Nowhere Towers asks “Why wait? For the sake of the borough, go NOW”.

UPDATE @ 1301

The Evening Standard tells us that Greenhalgh is to become a “council estates champion”. Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up. This is the man whose co-authored a report that called for the bulldozing of council estates,

Mr Greenhalgh said he would work with neighbourhood forums, residents’ groups and businesses to decide how the money should be spent. Funding would be pooled and he also wants to appoint a “neighbourhood commissioner” to help tackle crime.

Crucially,

Mr Greenhalgh will step down from the council leadership in May but will carry on as a back-bench councillor.

Nowhere Towers suspects that this new role has been created for him by Eric Pickles, so that he may lean heavily on local authorities and use his experience to find ways to push through large-scale council estate bulldozing plans. Greenhalgh also has had considerable contact with construction firms that donate money to the Tory Party’s coffers.

UPDATE @ 2103

I saw a report on BBC London News earlier where Greeno said he was going to “concentrate on White City”.  I think we know what that means. White City is the developers’  jewel-in-the-crown. Here’s a text report from the BBC on the announcement that H&F council was cutting council tax by nearly 4%. We know what that means too: more savage cuts to public services and sneaky increases in parking charges.

In the Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle, Greeno was quoted as saying,

“I do not think the people of White City are getting value for money, nor do I think are wider taxpayers. I want to focus that money on getting much better outcomes for people living there and ensuring that the neighbourhood is fully involved in how that money is spent. I’ve given my heart and soul to this job, and next year I will have been leader for six years. It’s the right time for the next person.”

“The key words and phrases here are “value for money”, “outcomes”… “wider taxpayers”. How do those words relate to a geographical location? Especially the phrase “value for money”? Is someone going to make money from all of this? Why, of course.

 

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Local cycling campaigners invite Greenhalgh out for a ride

This is from the Fulham Chronicle,

CYCLING campaigners have invited the leader of H&F council to join them on a bike ride in the area’s most dangerous spots.

Hammersmith and Fulham Cyclists have called upon Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh to join them on a bike ride to highlight the dangers on the boroughs roads.

The route would cover Hammersmith Bridge, the gyratory, Shepherd’s Bush Green and Holland Park – the worst areas for cyclists.

Something tells me that Greenhalgh is unlikely to accept this offer. Why? Have you seen the size of his waistline?  He’s not the sort of person who looks as though he gets a lot of exercise. But that isn’t the only reason.  Like his chum at City Hall (who appointed him to the ‘Forensic Audit Panel’), Greenhalgh only sees the surface of things. In this respect he’s very much the postmodern politician. He is one who thinks that the superficial and a few well-placed dog-whistle words are enough to satisfy people’s people’s concerns.

Boris Johnson’s poorly planned and implemented Cycle Superhighways are routinely encroached by cars and heavier vehicles. In fact, someone was killed on CS2 last week. The Grumpy Cyclist has the story.

There’s no profit in cycle safety and people should have the right to kill themselves on the road without the ‘nanny state’ poking its nose in, therefore Greeno isn’t interested.

You can read the rest of the article here.

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Democracy, Hammersmith & Fulham style

In previous blogs, I’ve described Hammersmith & Fulham under the Tories as Pyongyang-on-Thames. I based this observation on the council’s now defunct propaganda rag, H&F News. Indeed, when I attended the open meeting in January in advance of the Council’s sell-off of community buildings, I became convinced that these Tories, who never tire of bleating about democracy when it comes to other countries, are an undemocratic bunch who are deeply affronted by the fact that they have to deal with an opposition.  In their ideal world, they would cast themselves as unopposed rulers and kill anyone who would dare to disagree with them.

The Cowan Report confirms my deepest suspicions,

Over the last year or so there has been a new approach at H&F Council’s Cabinet Meetings. The Opposition have been forbidden by Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con) the Leader of the Council to ask questions and, at times, even speak.

The meetings can sometimes be over in just five minutes. Usually, Cllr. Greenhalgh shouts out a series of numbers relating to agenda items and his colleagues obediently respond with the words “Agreed!.” The real discussions have always taken place days before at a secret call-over meeting.
On the occasions that my Opposition colleagues and I have been able to garner some form of response it’s hardly been what one might expect from a government institution in the world’s oldest democracy. Consider the Cabinet Meetings on the 18th July 2011. Cllr. Greenhalgh refused to allow any of the Opposition to ask questions or even speak at the packed public meeting – I spoke anyway. Or take the one on 20th June 2011: My fellow Opposition Councillors wanted to ask about the tri-borough deal with K&C and Westminster councils. Cllr. Greenhalgh asked why we had “bothered to turn up”, forbade any questions or comments from my colleagues and said I could make a short statement. He then announced that if we wanted questions answered we should write to him or his officials (which we had done anyway). The meeting on 9th May 2011 was similar.
We did get to ask questions at the Cabinet Meeting on 18th April 2011. But when Cllr. Greg Smith (Con), H&F’s Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, was asked about proposals to sell off homes on a Fulham estate because of his Administration’s self-confessed “failure to cut crime,” he responded with the words “You tw*t!” and followed that up with a tirade of other similar foul-mouthed abuse. The public have been met with similar condescension even when they turn up in their hundreds as they did over the sell off our local ‘Big Society’ voluntary clubs or the demolition of Shepherds Bush market.
So I was a touch surprised to return from summer holiday early Tuesday evening to be told that H&F Conservatives were crowing that Labour hadn’t turned up to last Monday’s Cabinet Meeting. Cllr. Harry Phibbs (Con) detailed the council allowances of each Labour councillor (odd given his dubious record on council pay) and told his readers that this meant that the Opposition had therefore failed to “hold [his] administration to account” or “to provide some [necessary] rigour in the decision making process.”
The Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle was even suckered into running Cllr. Phibbs’ spin on page two of their current edition. This being an apparent break in the Chronicle’s boycott, of sorts. Back on the 14th June 2011 one of their employees had told me they’d decided not to report anything about the activities of Labour Opposition Councillors – a strange decision for a self-proclaimed “proper paper.”
You can read the rest here.

On Residents First (I think we know which residents come first), Foghorn Phibbs says,

The local Labour Party blog HFConwatch urged local residents to “come and object” at last night’s Cabinet Meeting. None did so. Not even any of the 15 Labour councillors who are paid a total of £164,310 in allowances each year at the expense of the Council Taxpayer. Opposition leader Cllr Cowan paid £26,814. Absent. Deputy leader Cllr Cartwright paid £15,123? Absent. Cllr Aherne, Labour Group Chief Whip, paid £15,123? Absent. The other Labour councillors Brown, Campbell, Chumnery, Coleman, Harcourt, Homan, Jones, Murphy, Needham, Powell, Umeh, Vaughan? Each of them paid £8,940 a year of your money. No show.

Ah, the classic smear job. Let’s read on,

Of course the opposition aren’t expected to run anything. But their job is to hold the administration to account. To provide some rigour in the decision making process by challenging what is proposed. To offer serious, constructive alternatives. But instead of making the effort to be a credible opposition they don’t turn up – even when they themselves have called a protest.

Nor did there seem to be evidence of much thought having gone into the objections they would have raised had they turned up. They oppose the disposal of the empty Edith Summerskill House on the Clem Attlee Estate and claim it would mean a loss of affordable housing. Yet the decision approved was: “That 100% of the capital receipt ( after the deduction of appropriate costs) is used for future affordable housing and regeneration purposes.”

There are some untruths  here.  The biggest one is Edith Summerskill House. The council misled the tenants and decanted them, telling them that the block was going to be refurbished. Instead, the council sold it to a private developer. Phibbs is “Cabinet Member for Community Engagement”. That’s an awfully grand title for a glorified propagandist. Furthermore, how many communities has Cllr Phibbs engaged with? You know, real communities with real people. I doubt he’s met many people outside his own community of rentier capitalists, free-marketeers and assorted parasites… and it shows. Remember this is the man who coined the phrase “vertical slums” as a blanket term to describe council tower blocks.

Anything that Foghorn writes should always be taken with a pinch of salt. Especially as he doesn’t understand what the Latin phrase “sotto voce” means. Which is odd for someone who probably went to a public school.

UPDATE: 15/10/12 @ 1842

Phibbsy isn’t a former public schoolboy.

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H&F Council, the riots and the knee jerk call for council house evictions

The Tories have made their feelings clear about council housing. It’s a “benefit” and it’s “subsidized” or “it should only be for the poor”. In the wake of the recent riots, the Tories have all been screaming for council tenants arrested for rioting or looting to be evicted from their homes – even if the tenancy holder was not involved.

Tory-controlled Hammersmith & Fulham is no different. Following the lead of Wandsworth Council, it also declared that anyone arrested for looting could face eviction.  On its website, the Council says,

Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council has said it will seek to evict any council tenant who is proved guilty of being involved in criminal acts following the riots in London.

H&F Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Andrew Johnson, has joined colleagues in condemning the images of destruction and looting from across the capital and vowed that any H&F tenant that is found to be involved will be ‘robustly pursued’.

But my local MP, Andy Slaughter has opposed these proposals. As far as I know he is the only member of the shadow cabinet to take this line. Writing for Shepherds Bush blog he says,

This is Government by PR and gimmickry. Poor at any time, positively dangerous at present.

Iain Duncan Smith is on the lookout for evil people who, bereft of moral values, are hiding in dark corners of society. I doubt he will find any but it is an excuse to evict families from secure homes and to deduct benefits from poor families. How punishing a household for the actions of an individual is either equitable or rational, I don’t know, but it has been repeated by politicians seeking soundbites and at a loss for real answers from Nick Clegg to Tory councillors in H&F.

Promising to evict families from council homes if a member of the family is convicted of an offence implies council tenants are more prone to criminal behaviour and that they should have a greater punishment than others committing similar crimes. Of course, the Council has no power to evict in most cases, that is a matter for the courts and this is gesture politics, but if families are evicted and on the streets how is that going to aid social cohesion?

Making people homeless and taking away their benefits will only make things worse. These people will be forced into crime. But that doesn’t matter to the Tories who only want knee-jerk solutions.  I’m only surprised that the more barmy of the Tory backbenchers didn’t call for the re-introduction of transportation to the colonies.  But there aren’t many of colonies left (they’re referred to as British Overseas Territories). I do suspect that they will call for more private prisons to be built and all of those prisons will be built by companies that donate money to the party.

The H&F Tories responded in the usual fashion on its website by claiming to be part of a consensus,

His views are at odds with most voters, including most Labour supporters, as well as several Labour councils including Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Greenwich, Manchester, Nottingham, Salford, Southwark and Waltham Forest.

Are they? How many voters have H&F Tories actually spoken to? They don’t say. Here they repeat a by now familiar lie,

His stance offers little hope for decent Council tenants who want to see neighbours from hell removed. Also what sort of position would that leave the thousands of law abiding families who are on the waiting list for a Council home while stuck in overcrowded conditions? They would see the rioters allowed get away with retaining the privilege of subsidised, secure, Council housing.

But council housing is not subsidized. Notice how they throw in the word “privilege” too. This goes with the narrative of council housing as housing for the ‘deserving’ poor.  This article appeared in the London Review of Books. It says,

Labelling council housing as ‘subsidised’ is part of a wider ideological attack in which it is being redefined as welfare housing, from which people who can afford to should be quickly moved on.

This phrase “welfare housing” first appeared in a Localis report written by H&F Council leader, Stephen Greenhalgh and chartered surveyor, John Moss. It’ s deliberately misleading and misrepresents the nature of council housing. These attacks on council housing and the people who live in such properties is nothing short of ideological. The class disgust expressed by these Tories is barely concealed and couched in the matter-of-fact language of business.

The only time council housing has been subsidized was during the Right to Buy rush when the properties were deliberately sold at discounted rates to encourage people to buy them.

Perhaps the authoritarians who run my local council would like to read this report.

But I know that they won’t; Tories hate things like facts and evidence. All you need to do is look at some of the ‘research’ done by Policy Exchange and Localis to see that what I’m saying is true.

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Localis and Policy Exchange – two think-tanks and one mission

I first became aware of Localis when I encountered this report written by the Dear Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council,  Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh and his wingman-in-letters, John Moss. After following the trail from the report to the website, it became patently obvious that this was another right wing think-tank churning out counter-factual reports and chunks of ideologically-slanted research under a nominal cloak of independence.

It’s a game.

Localis, like other think-tanks of its kind, have to compete with like-minded groups of researchers who rival one another to catch the eye of a minister or two. They want to influence the direction of both the party and government.  Sometimes they exist to perform cosmetic surgery on the face of the party. They’re often formed by serving MPs and it is within these think-tanks that they groom the next generation of  the dominant political caste. These are literally the factories of false consciousness.

But it’s a market out there.

Localis is a brand name. It’s as if its founders, who were probably stumped for a name and just lopped the “m” off “Localism” or the “t” off “Localist”. There, that was simple, it even looks like a word from a dead language that only Old Etonians would know! Like it’s part of your “Grecian”. It’s ‘our’ little secret. But it isn’t. It’s like the name “Consignia”. Remember that?  It was dreamt up by the Royal Mail as its new brand name – just add “ia” to the word “Consign”. Piece of piss.   They thought it sounded like a real word but it meant nothing. The public knew it meant nothing.  The name was dropped. Localis have no such problem. Most people don’t even know who they are or what they do. But this is to the advantage of think-tanks. The media can call upon them as ‘experts’ to dispense large helpings of ‘blue-sky’ thinking and ‘common sense’. If you aren’t aware of them, they can appear to be reasonable…

It’s all a mirage.

Face it, you’re being conned.

Localis say they are

dedicated to issues related to local government and localism. Since our formation we have produced research on a variety of issues including housing, the reform of regional government, innovation in services and local government finance.

That’s all right, then… or is it?

Localis was set up in 2001 by Lord Hanningfield, Colin Barrow and Paul Bettison. Hang on… Rewind…  Stop. Lord Hanningfield? Wasn’t he recently sentenced to prison for claiming nearly £14,000 worth of parliamentary expenses? Yes, he was. He was also the leader of Essex County Council from 2001 to 2010 when he, er, resigned. Apparently there are also serious questions over his use of the Council credit card. By the way, his real name is Paul White and he used to be a pig farmer. Well, you know what they say about snouts and troughs…  nudge, nudge.  According to the Localis website, Hanningfield White is still a director. It’s going to be a little difficult to work as a director of a think-tank from a prison cell. No ?

Radix malorum est cupiditas.

That’s from a real dead language.

Latin.

It means “greed is the root of all evil”.

Localis and Policy Exchange have something in common. They share board members. For example, Nick Boles and Neil O’Brien are members of both think-tanks. One could argue that in the case of Localis and Policy Exchange that “one hand washes the other”. They are, for all intents and purposes, the same think-tank with two different names. This probably means that they conduct their ‘research’ in the same slipshod fashion. In 2008, Policy Exchange published a report titled  Cities Unlimited in which its authors recommended that northern industrial towns and cities be abandoned and their inhabitants moved south to take up jobs (that did not exist). It’s one-dimensional thinking of the worst kind: it assumes that people can simply uproot themselves from their communities and transplant themselves into the Oxfordshire countryside.  In 2007 Policy Exchange’s report, The Hijacking of British Islam was revealed by Newsnight to had been based on fabricated evidence. Policy Exchange took umbrage and threatened to sue Newsnight’s editor, Peter Barron but later withdrew its threat. I wonder why? Could be because their evidence was actually made up? This raises questions about the work of Localis.

When all else fails, make it up.

Localis’s best known report was written by Greenhalgh and Moss and titled Principles for Social Housing Reform. The word “reform” should set off alarm bells because it always means “cuts”. The report appears to have been based on nothing more than broad brush assumptions and ritualized class prejudice. Moreover, at no point in the report is  proper research even mentioned. On Page 62 of the report, the authors claimed to have been “peer-reviewed”. The first ‘peer’ to review the report is Philip Callan of the estate agent Savill. Wandsworth Council’s Edward Lister also chips in with his ‘peer review’ but these reviews are not academically rigorous and are arranged to suit the ‘thesis’ put forward by the authors, who believe that social housing is “welfare housing”. The ‘report’ calls for the abolition of Housing Benefit. It also demands that local authorities be freed from the responsibility of housing homeless people in their areas. This already happens in Hammersmith and Fulham where shelters have been closed and the homeless have been displaced elsewhere. Last year, a homeless, pregnant woman was forced to sleep on benches in the borough because the coucnil refused to house her.

The Ombudsman said the standard of record-keeping by housing officers in the case “was so poor that it hindered the Ombudsman’s investigation of the complaint and fell so far below acceptable standards that it amounts to maladministration”.

He added: “It has not been possible to resolve some conflicts of evidence because of the absence of detailed contemporaneous notes recording housing officers’ contact with Ms Kenza, voluntary caseworkers and other professionals.”

Redmond said the council had applied too strict a test when deciding whether to provide Ms Kenza with temporary accommodation “by insisting she provide proof of homelessness first”. It also failed to follow its own procedures for referring victims of domestic violence to a specialist domestic violence housing advocate. Liaison between officers in different departments of the council was also labelled “ineffective”.

Priorities?

A borough for the rich.

Localis is well-supported by the Tories in Hammersmith and Fulham. On Conservative Home, Foghorn Phibbs wrote,

The paper is more outlining a general approach than offering a shopping list of examples. But it suggests that swimming pools, libraries and other oublic amenities could often be provided “more effectively by businesses, charities, social providers or a combination of providers.” Rather than the lazy assumption that they have to be the service provider themselves the Council should see itself as becoming “a commissioning and procurement hub.” Sometimes a service that it “identified as marginally beneficial” should not be provided at all – whether by the Council directly or by the Council paying someone to provide it.

On the same site, Localis tells us that the coalition has adopted many of their policies. One of which is to end council tenancies for life and treat those homes solely as housing for the poor. It would seem that Localis, like many of their supporters at Hammersmith and Fulham and in government, are about to create the very thing they want to abolish: namely ‘ghettoes for the poor’.

Localis’s website has a rather amusing Testimonials page. All the testimony comes from those who either work for Localis or those who have written reports for them. Here is three of them,

“Localis is not afraid of nurturing the big ideas that lead to radical reform”

(Stephen Greenhalgh, Leader of London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham).

“Localis is a driving force for change within the localist agenda. Their research is innovative and thought provoking”

(Eric Pickles MP, Conservative Party Chairman)

“Localis is moving from strength to strength with their ambitious project”

(Merrick Cockell, Leader of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea)

These aren’t testimonials in the accepted sense of the word. This is praise-song and it all comes from people who are either board members of Localis or who are otherwise associated with it.

Far from being independent, Localis and Policy Exchange are very close to the Conservative Party.  Both think-tanks are separate for the sake of convenience: Policy Exchange is a registered charity and Localis is not but money flows from Policy Exchange into Localis’s coffers. Colin Barrow, who sits on the board of both think-tanks, donates large sums of money to both. He can afford to, he’s a millionaire.

This is the rationale of Localis and Policy Exchange: to find ways to justify and rationalise the selfishness and cupidity that lies at the heart of Tory thinking.

UPDATE 3/10/11 @ 1221

I’ve noticed that Localis has added more “testimonials” to its Testimonials Page and just to make it look as though it isn’t Tory-led and funded, it’s included Richard Kemp who it describes as a “former Liberal Democrat LGA group leader”.

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