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,
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.