Tag Archives: Hammersmith & Fulham

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!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham, London, NHS

H&F Tories: Still Bitter After Seven Months

Hammersmith and Fulham’s Tories are still crying over their defeat seven months after May’s local elections. The Cat has noticed that, with little to complain about, they’ve resorted to accusing the Labour administration of not doing enough about litter on the borough’s streets.

I stumbled across the rather neutral-sounding Hammersmith and Fulham Forum the other day and wasn’t surprised to discover it was run by the local Tories. This blog claims:

Many residents have noticed how the streets are less clean in Hammersmith and Fulham since Labour took control in May.

“Many”? How many, exactly? It doesn’t say. If H&F Tories are complaining that the new Labour administration isn’t taking litter seriously, may I remind them that they didn’t do much with regards to litter either – in spite of their claims to the contrary. On many occasions I saw lots of litter blowing about on Queen Caroline Street as well as dumped rubbish on Fulham Palace Road while they were in power. It seems to me that these Tories haven’t really got much to complain about and are looking for any excuse, no matter how feeble, to ingratiate themselves to the borough’s residents, most of whom voted them out. Here’s another Phibbs special titled “Devenport Road under Socialism”. “Socialism”? Really? You’re taking the piss, pal.

I used to live in Devonport Road, in Shepherd’s Bush, and one of the motivations I had for standing for the council in 2006 was the filthy state of the streets when Labour were running the council.

I thought you were motivated by power and prestige, so don’t try and fool us, Phoghorn.

The hard won improvements during the eight years that the Conservatives did not come about by accident. Nor did they involve increased spending.

Hilarious.

The Conservatives may be in opposition but we will not be passive. We are planning a programme of “Grotspotting” throughout the borough to demand that Serco honour their contract. Councillors will be encouraging those involved in  residents associations and “community activists” to help with this task.

You’re kidding me. This is all you have? Christ, these people are desperate. Phoghorn has even coined a stupid wee word too. “Grotspotting”. It’s all about the message and cute soundbites. As for real ideas, you won’t get those from a bunch of no mark, chinless wonders who regard council flats as “vertical slums”.

In another blog, which begs the question “Is the council consulting you on planning applications”, they claim… well, Phoghorn Phibbs claims:

If we are to have new buildings in our borough that make it more beautiful rather than more ugly then it is important for as many residents as possible to make their views known.

Is that why your party approved the Fulham Reach development? Is this why your party wanted to build skyscrapers all over the borough and destroy a third of Furnival Gardens to build a bridge from the Town Hall to the Thames? The Phoghorn conveniently forgets how his party rode roughshod over residents’ concerns when they approved the building of luxury apartment blocks around Hammersmith and sold off council properties to their developer chums. Yet here’s Phoghorn telling us that the council should consult residents over planning applications. The powerful stench of hypocrisy emanates from his every word.

By the way, H&F Tories are still claiming that A&E services will remain at Charing Cross Hospital in spite of the fact that Imperial NHS Trust intends to demolish the hospital and sell off the site to developers. 

Meanwhile, former councillor Andrew Johnson tweeted:

Labour’s housing proposals represent a grave threat to future of council housing in H&F Stock transfer not the answer, improved service is.

3 Comments

Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham, Hammersmith & Fulham Labour, Hammersmith & Fulham Tories, London

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.

 

11 Comments

Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham, Hammersmith & Fulham Labour, Hammersmith & Fulham Tories, London

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham, Hammersmith & Fulham Tories, London

Helmet-head to stand in Hammersmith for Tories in 2015?

The self-styled classical liberal catches flies between meals

This self-styled classical liberal catches flies between meals

I’ve just seen this on Shepherds Bush blog.

In a Telegraph Q&A, Hon. Tobes told his followers (few of whom live in the borough) that:

The Hammersmith Conservative Association will shortly be advertising for a candidate to stand in 2015 and I am thinking of applying.

That’s just great. First, he sets up a free school in Hammersmith & Fulham with the full support of the ruling Tory group and now he’s considering standing as a candidate in the 2015 election.

The Tory ruling group would love Hon Tobes to win. In fact, they’ve been working hard to ensure that as many Labour supporters as possible are moved from the borough. This article from the Evening Standard’s Paul Waugh from 2009 tells us that:

Hammersmith and Fulham council is plotting a Dame Shirley Porter-style programme to move out the poor and replace them with private homes and retail developments, critics claim.

Residents hit out as secret documents, obtained by the Standard, revealed how the borough’s leader and officials worked on a radical policy to end “homes for life” and turn council housing into a safety net service for just the old and disabled.

Under the plans, new homes will be built to attract residents with higher incomes and areas that have traditionally voted Labour will be broken up as more than 3,500 flats and houses are demolished. Council leader Stephen Greenhalgh, who also heads Mr Cameron’s Conservative Councils Innovation Unit, believes council housing is “warehousing poverty” and entrenches welfare dependency.

Last October, the Council crowed on its website:

Council rips up the social housing rule book

It added:

Trailblazing Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council is to be the first local authority in the country to simultaneously introduce fixed term social housing tenancies and a maximum income cap for people wishing to access the housing register.

The flagship council will be ripping up the social housing rule book from April 2013 when it will introduce a number of radical policies which seek to increase low-cost homeownership, tackle the social and economic divide in the borough and give a far greater priority for council housing to people who are making a community contribution.

Further down, they tell us:

Currently most social housing tenants have the right to stay for life unless the tenancy is brought to an end because of a breach. Once the tenant passes away, the right of succession passes onto a family member even if the housing need of the individual is less than other potential applicants.

The council believes that this does not promote personal aspiration or provide tenants with any incentive to try to move into home-ownership and fails to take into account the fact that a household’s need for social housing may be temporary.

From next year, the council will issue fixed-term tenancies of five years for new social housing lettings. This would be reduced to two years in certain cases.

One rule for the rich, eh?

The West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates are about to be bulldozed and new developments like this one are springing up everywhere. I guarantee you that none of these building projects will have homes for rent.

The Tories, in spite of their libertarian-sounding rhetoric, are not only deeply reactionary and authoritarian; they also want to create a one-party state. In Hammersmith and Fulham, they have pretty much achieved that, albeit on a smaller scale. After all, this is the borough that is seen by the government as its social laboratory.

Knowing the Tories of this constituency, I’d say Helmet-head’s candidature is in the proverbial bag. These people would move heaven and earth for him. Remember how they served eviction notices on 22 charities in Palingswick House to make way for Tobes’s free school? Well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, baby!

Of course becoming candidate is only half the battle. Convincing voters of his integrity is another matter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham, Hammersmith & Fulham Tories, London

Crap Cycle Lanes (#5)

These photos were taken near a new development that has been built on the old Oxford and Cambridge pub site at the corner of Hammersmith Bridge Road and the A4. This is a stretch of shared pavement which is regularly blocked by builders vans, forcing cyclists and pedestrians alike to step into the busy road. This is a combination of poor planning, a lack of space and selfishness.

Hammersmith and Fulham-20130803-00121

Pedestrians and cyclists approaching from the south will see this.

Hammersmith and Fulham-20130803-00122

Most of the time, vans that are parked here straddle the entire width of the path. Notice the shared pavement sign on the lamp post. I bet the van drivers didn’t see it and if they had seen it they probably gave it no thought.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cycling, Hammersmith & Fulham, London

Crap Cycle Lanes (#4)

So far most of the crap cycle lanes and paths that I’ve featured on this blog are those in Hammersmith and Fulham, the government’s ‘model’ borough (that helps itself to money from your bank account without a Direct Debit mandate).

This cycle lane is truly dangerous. It isn’t controlled by lights and practically invites cyclists to ride out into a very busy one-way street.

Hammersmith and Fulham-20130802-00117

The shared cycle path that this erm, lane, leads to is only partly usable since the builder at the car park opposite have closed the pedestrian side of the pavement. If you should manage to get to the other side, you will be greeted by irate pedestrians who think you should cycle the wrong way up the street and not on the, erm, pavement.

Here’s another view.

Hammersmith and Fulham-20130802-00116

Complete and utter incompetence. When you get to the other side, you have to give way to motorists entering the multi-story car park.

Even though I attack the Hammersmith & Fulham Tory ruling group in this blog, this cycle lane was built (is that the right word?) under the Labour administration, thus proving that politicians of all political stripes only pay lip service when it comes to the needs of cyclists.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cycling