Tag Archives: Hammersmith & Fulham council

The Independent Healthcare Commission’s Report: public meeting

Last night I attended a public meeting called by Hammersmith and Fulham Council to report on the findings of the Independent Healthcare Commission, which was chaired by Michael Mansfield QC.  The main findings were reported in the mainstream media in December and now it was the public’s chance to hear about the findings. It was a well-attended meeting with many people standing, and an overflow room had been made available for those who couldn’t squeeze into the limited space in the Town Hall’s small hall.

The meeting was chaired by Cllr. Vivienne Lukey, the cabinet member for health and adult social care. Her opposite number, Conservative councillor, Andrew Brown, was also present in the audience. I had been told that Brown was a doctor, but it turns out that he didn’t qualify and, in the middle of his training, transferred to the BSc Medical Sciences with Management course at Imperial College instead. He currently owns and runs a, guess what? A PR company that specialises in communications in the healthcare sector.

Council Leader, Stephen Cowan, was first to address the audience. He told us that his life had been saved by the NHS at least five times during his childhood and for this, he would always be grateful to them. Cowan also remarked on how upon taking office, he was finally able to see the confidential papers relating to local hospital closures, which confirmed his worst suspicions. During the 2014 Local Government elections, the local Tories claimed that Labour and the Save Our Hospitals campaign was “scaremongering”. They have been rudely exposed as liars. Brown was silent.

Cowan also claimed that Shaping a Healthier Future (SaHF), a group established to provide public relations for the cuts, has literally spent billions churning out propaganda and little else. SaHF’s website trumpets what it calls “joined up care” and announces “7 day services”, which itself hinges on Jeremy Hunt’s tissue of lies about the NHS not having a 7 day service. Cowan also warned the government that the council wouldn’t hesitate to take them to court and a Judicial Review would be the possible next step. Brown said nothing.

After Cllr Cowan’s address, a film was screened that outlined the findings of the Independent Healthcare Commission was screened. Brown was unmoved.

Dr. Stephen Hirst, a former GP and a health commissioner explained how all the hospitals in which he’d worked had all closed. He then went on to claim that SaHF affects areas of high deprivation more than other areas and any attempt to define Urgent Care Centres, such as that proposed for the Charing Cross Hospital site, was difficult. As for the proposal to move most of Charing Cross’s functions to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, he asked “Why can’t St Mary’s move to Ealing”? Ealing Hospital’s maternity unit and Accident and Emergency department has recently been closed. Brown offered no response.

Next to speak was Dr. John Lister, who told us the commission took written depositions from both sides. However, the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) saw fit only to provide witnesses after the elections. The commission also sought a meeting with NHS England but its Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, was being obstructive. Stevens, according to his Wikipedia entry is former Labour councillor on Lambeth Council. But that wasn’t all: the business case for closures was constantly delayed and it seemed to me that NHS England was dragging its feet because it has something to hide. Lister, who was witty and humorous in his assessment, also added that the commission recommended that the closed A&Es be reopened. “How many nurses do you have to sack to save £75 million”, he demanded to know. Brown stood there impassively.

It struck me that, once again, the government and its lackeys were manipulating statistics to make some rather boastful and dishonest claims. It was also clear that the CCGs were not standing up for patients or the needs of hospitals and were solely concerned with cost-cutting. This is ironic given the amount of money being spent on management consultants and PR companies like Saatchi.  Dr. Lister concluded that “Urgent Care Centres have a place as long as they’re alongside A&Es”. Brown said nothing and fiddled with his phone.

Save Our Hospitals (SOH) chairman, Patrick Barron gave an emotional and passionate speech, telling the room that “They’re trying to shaft the community”. He reminded us of the junior doctor’s strike and how the government has ended the nursing bursaries, which begs the question: how do we attract more people into nursing? Surely, the possibility of a crippling debt is enough to deter anyone from entering the profession? Barron said that Northwick Park Hospital couldn’t cope with the sheer volume of patients who had been displaced by the closure of A&Es elsewhere in North West London. However, when Barron claimed that SOH helped to get Labour into power in the borough and repeated the earlier claim made by Cllr Cowan regarding the Tories lying over hospital closures,. Cllr Brown finally felt emboldened enough to speak. “It’s not true”, he interjected. The Cat thinks that Brown’s sense of entitlement compelled him to interrupt Patrick Barron, because he was neither a doctor, nor a councillor, nor a person of the same class as Cllr Brown. A typical Tory bully.

The Q&A session began with Dr. Sean Morris, a junior doctor who explained the situation on the ground. Brown looked uncomfortable (he was asked to give up his seat to someone who was less mobile and was standing) but interested. Dr. Morris told the audience how he had worked in four local hospitals and that the review was not “clinician-led”. He also told us how, on more than one occasion, he’d worked 56 hours straight. The last strike by junior doctors was 40 years ago, yet the Tory government has cast the British Medical Association as a militant trade union in the mould of the National Union of Mineworkers. How’s that for melodrama?

Speaker after speaker gave their views, one of whom reminded us of the European Union’s working time directive, which will no doubt be scrapped if Britain leaves the EU. A former SOH chair, Merril Hammer, was pleased that Cllr Cowan had indicated the possibility of a judicial review and asked what the council was doing with regards to challenging the business case adding “Save Our Hospitals is not going away”! Cowan said that he’d met with a QC about the case and said “the last thing we want to do is sue the government” but “if we have to, we will”. He then reminded us that £35 million had already been spent on management consultants. A shocking waste of money that could have been spent on the NHS instead.

Local MP, Andy Slaughter arrived late after voting against the government’s welfare bill and further cuts to disability payments. He reminds us of the Tories’ “black propaganda” when they were running the council. There isn’t a peep from Brown. However, Dr. Hirst assured us that the review is not party political and says that “no one knows his politics”. This is issue “isn’t about Labour or Conservative” he claims. Brown nods.

Actress, Vanessa Redgrave, whom I’d last seen at a production of Ibsen’s Little Eyolf nearly 10 years ago at the now demolished Riverside Studios, spoke passionately about how the NHS saved her life and said “what the government is doing to junior doctors is illegal”. Interestingly, she reminded us that if all else fails, there was always the option of taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Jim Grealy also of SOH wanted to know where the team goes from this point on. Finally Dr Sandhu told a harrowing story about what he had to deal with over the Christmas period, while working at Ealing Hospital. He finishes by telling us how expensive MRI scanners that have been installed at The Shard, which is visible from the hospital. A private healthcare company having taken over three floors of the building in November 2013. It was obscene. “The Shard” he tells us “sticks out like a knife” cutting out the heart of the NHS. It’s a potent mental image to be sure.

The meeting was encouraging but it’s clear that there’s a great deal of work to do. The struggle goes on!

 

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Crap Cycle Lanes (#6)

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Not quite a cycle lane but the indication of a cycling route. I spotted these freshly painted cycle icons today on Bridge Avenue in Hammersmith. This street is one-way and it not only encourages cyclists to ride in the wrong direction, it also gets them to ride too close to the parked cars. I know that it’s the end of the financial year but do councils really have to waste money on this kind of thing instead of building proper cycling infrastructure? Yes, it seems they do.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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‘Social cleansing’ of London is well under way – BBC documentary

Paris had Baron Haussmann. London has the Tory-led government at Westminster. One used civil engineering to socially cleanse a city, the other uses legislation and is seemingly supported in its efforts by the opposition Labour Party (a majority of Labour MPs voted for the benefit cap, including my local MP, Andy Slaughter). I’ll be posting a blog in due course about the social cleansing that’s taking place right here in David Cameron’s favourite borough.

Vox Political

Cartoon by Martin Shovel. Cartoon by Martin Shovel.

Leading Conservatives must be delighted with the success of their benefit cap in getting single mothers and people with large families out of London – as depicted in the BBC Panorama special, Don’t Cap My Benefits, yesterday evening. (Thursday)

The change means that nobody in the UK is allowed to receive more than £26,000 in benefits per year. The government has claimed this is the same as the average family income, but readers of Vox Political will know that this is a flimsy lie and average family income is in fact more than £5,000 per year higher, at £31K+. The reason benefits weren’t pegged at that level is that far fewer people would be affected by it. Make no mistake – this measure was enacted to shift people from the capital.

The film shows the effects of the change on a number of families in Brent…

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