Tag Archives: council spending cuts

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 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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Askham Centre to be handed over to Toby Young’s free school

Our kids will learn Latin.

I have just read on HF Conwatch that the Askham Centre in W12 is to be given to the Hon Tobes’s West London Free School. The Shepherds Bush blog has more on the story,

I have seen confidential Council information that confirms the Askham Family Centre will house the West London Free School (led by Toby Young, pictured) for a peppercorn rent until the Palingswick Centre in Hammersmith is ready to house the school on a permanent basis.

I’ve just had a look at the West London Free School website and they’re keeping schtum.  There’s nothing on Young’s Telegraph blog either.

The council claims that the Askham Centre is “underutilised”.

The Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle ran a story last week about how teachers in the borough had criticized the council’s education policy. Dennis Charman, the secretary of the H & F Teachers Association said,

“Council leaders have clearly given up on any coherent planning for education in H&F.

“This seems to include adopting a complete failure to apply any professional scrutiny to the plans and aspirations of these proposals.

“Nor do we see any information about the effects such plans might have on the funding and stability of neighbouring schools.

“The council should be taking a more critical role in testing what these groups really are capable of offering.

“They hold our local schools to account everyday of the week but when someone pops up with a free school idea they completely lose the plot and fall over themselves to cheer them on from the sidelines.”

I understand that there are plans to open another 3 of these in the borough.

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