Tag Archives: Cllr Andrew Johnson

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 16)

The ruling Tory group of Hammersmith and Fulham Council are a nasty, mean-spirited bunch. Their blatant classism and disgust for those whom they see as inferior (that’s ordinary working class people, benefit claimants and homeless people) has marked out the council as one of the cruellest in the country.

In the last day or so, the council has been sending out these cards to council tenants.

Happy Christmas from your overlords.

Happy Christmas from your overlords.

The fizzing pound coin represents an Alka Seltzer. Geddit?

Yesterday, Cllr Andrew Johnson, the council’s cabinet member for housing appeared on BBC London News to defend the local authority’s decision to send these cards. His manner was bullish, unrepentant and stridently classist. Remember this is the council where you will find Tory councillors referring to tower blocks as ‘vertical slums’ and the council itself working flat out to reduce to amount of council housing stock within the borough.

I was contacted by Tina Buckley, whose mother is a council tenant of some 60 years and has never been in arrears with her rent. Tina appeared on BBC London 94.9 where she was due to confront Cllr Johnson about his council’s Christmas cards. The ordinarily pugnacious Johnson  took the coward’s way out and declined an invitation to appear.

Let’s remind ourselves of Cllr Johnson’s past musings on council housing. From The Evening Standard, 2 October 2012.

“We believe that the notion of a tenancy for life is outdated and that it’s wrong to expect to inherit a welfare benefit in the form of a subsidised house irrespective of housing need.

“Instead, we want to give honest, hard-working, local residents on low to middle incomes, who make a positive contribution to their local communities, the opportunity to access social housing.”

On Conservative Home, Johnson penned an article that outlined his thoughts about the housing shortage:

That’s why we’re doing all we can to increase the supply of homes to buy for local people on low to medium incomes, through new delivery using council land and assets. We already have a significant amount of social housing, but it needs to be used more effectively. It’s why we’ve brought in fixed termed tenancies and given far greater priority for those in work rather than on welfare. What we really need is more housing for the middle market and at long last we have the figures to prove it.

There’s little, if any, mention here of homes to rent. The council knows that those on low to medium incomes cannot afford the borough’s vastly inflated house prices and will regularly trot out weasel words like these. There are new developments all over the borough and many of the properties within them will be sold to Chinese investors. If LBH&F could get its way, it would sell off all of its council housing (it’s been transferred to a so-called ‘arms length’ management company or ALMO) to foreign investors for redevelopment.

In last October’s edition of Inside Housing, Johnson said:

‘The old, antiquated system has created disadvantaged communities by producing concentrations of people on benefits with disproportionately high levels of unemployment and sometimes social breakdown.

‘In its place, we want to create neighbourhoods where a broad mix of social households all live side-by-side.’

Classism writ large. There will be no “broad mix of social households” if the council gets its way.

Time and time again, the new crop of Tories have shown themselves to be bullies. Unable to fathom what life is like on a low income, they would rather engage with fictional characters and myths than real people. If people are finding it hard to pay their rent, in Tory eyes, it’s because they’d rather spend their money on flatscreen televisions, booze and iPhones than on their rent. This card is nothing less than an attempt to bully people. It also deliberately ignores the economic plight of many of those who are housed by the council, whose stagnant incomes have failed to keep pace with the spiralling cost of living.

The Cowan Report also has the story here.

Next May, we have a chance to vote this current Tory administration out.  Let’s do it.

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Nightmare on King Street (Part 11)

Today’s Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle (not available online) reports that LBH&F is about to change the housing rules to end tenancies for life. The paper tells us that this is a “pioneering new policy” that will “increase low-cost home ownership”. How so? Property prices in the borough are some of the highest in London and, according to F&HC, the fourth highest in the country. I have seen mid-terrace properties being advertised for as much as £1m!  In January, I reported that H&F were to build around 25 homes to buy in a disused health centre. How will that make any difference? It won’t. There is a chronic housing shortage in London and indeed the rest of the country. H&F is not immune from this. The Tory ruling group thinks that it is.

The cabinet member for housing, Cllr Andrew Johnson defending the policy said,

“We are saying that the current system, whereby anyone can apply for a council home irrespective of housing need has failed”.

“Irrespective of housing need”? What’s he talking about? People who apply for housing from the council are in need. I’d like to meet these people he’s talking about but I suspect that I never will. He continues,

“We want to give honest, hard-working local residents on low to middle incomes, who make a positive contribution to their local communities, the opportunity to access social housing”

Oh, yeah, the old “honest, hard-working” line again. Now where have I heard that before? In other words, anyone who has to claim benefits to live on a meagre wage isn’t “hard-working” or “honest”? There’s more,

“The old, antiquated system has created disadvantaged communities by producing concentrations of people on benefits with disproportionately high levels of unemployment and sometimes social breakdown”.

“Old” and “antiquated” in the same sentence. That’s a tautology, surely? Johnson’s a sophist but I find his use of those words interesting. It is as if to assume that what this council is doing is progressive or modern. Of course, it is neither. Towards the end of the article, he repeats the old familiar line about those who are “more deserving”. What is also interesting is this idea of giving priority to the Armed Forces. But, hang on, don’t they already have housing?

F&HC also says that this policy is expected be approved at next Monday’s cabinet meeting and has been approved by recently appointed housing minister, Mark Prisk, who…now get this, was once the vice chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students.

The Dear Departed Leader’s dream of a borough for the rich has just come a step closer to reality.

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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 its 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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