Tag Archives: Right to Buy

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.

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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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Thatcher’s dead

Yes, she’s finally dead. She tore apart the country and sold off the family silver. Under her rule, the North-South divide grew larger and people were urged to think only of themselves. Large swathes of the country had their hearts torn from them.

I promised myself that I’d play this on a loop when Thatcher snuffed it and here it is.

Here’s another tune that sums up the moment.

Elvis Costello wrote and recorded this at the height of Thatcher’s rule.

It’s 1322, I may go for a beer. I don’t usually drink during the day but this is a very special day.

Let’s remind ourselves of what happened in 11 years of her misrule.

  1. The sale of council homes. Councils were forbidden to use their capital receipts to build new homes. We now have the biggest housing crisis since WWII
  2. The Miners Strike. Subsequent pit closures devastated the communities that grew up around the collieries. The Metropolitan Police served as Thatcher’s private army
  3. Section 28
  4. The Poll Tax
  5. The abolition of the metropolitan counties
  6. The Falklands War
  7. The deregulation of the financial sector, which has contributed to the banking issues we see today.
  8. The widening of the North-South divide
  9. School league tables
  10. The wholesale privatization of nationally-owned  industries and public services
  11. The marketization of education
  12. The Toxteth, St Paul’s, Handsworth and Brixton riots
  13. The lack of real jobs to replace those lost through privatization
  14. Anti-union legislation (revenge for 1974)
  15. Canary Wharf and the rest of the “Enterprise Zones” where people could be paid less and weren’t allowed to collectively bargain for improvements to pay and conditions
  16. British Rail effectively starved of funding to prepare it for privatization
  17. Massive cuts to arts funding. Arts and culture reduced to commodities.
  18. Unqualified support for Pinochet and his repressive regime.

So there you have it. The wicked witch is dead. Now let’s get rid of this shower in power.

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The government presses ahead with plans to make more people homeless

Rat Boy wants to take your home away

I see the Tory-led coalition are to press ahead with their plan to force new social housing tenants to accept 2 year contracts. Social landlords will be able to check the financial status of their tenants and if they are earning too much, they will be evicted after 6 months.

I listened with bemusement as I heard Grant Shapps refer to social housing as “subsidized housing” on BBC News this morning. It is obvious what Shapps and the others mean when they refer to “subsidized housing”:  social tenants are “scroungers”.

In the Telegraph, Andrew Porter writes,

The Coalition has countered criticism by pointing to the five million people waiting for a home.

That isn’t a real counter-argument yet the government thinks that by simply saying there are” 5 million waiting for a home” it will magically divert attention from the fact that no social housing was built to replace those properties that were sold under Right To Buy. There is no logic either to the plan or their thinking. But this isn’t about addressing the housing shortage as the government claims. It’s  all about punishing the poor, the low-waged and the vulnerable for the excesses of the banks.

The Right To Buy scheme was the first attempt by the Conservatives to destroy working class communities and thus have the effect of reducing the Labour vote in areas with large numbers of social tenants. This can be seen in two ways: first, it’s social engineering and second, it’s a form of gerrymandering. In the 1990’s, Wandsworth and Westminster City councils both sold off council estates in order to create obedient Tory-voting wards.

Instead of allowing councils to build more homes, their solution is to ignore the housing shortage. It’s not much of a solution when you think about it.

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The Welsh Assembly government suspends Right to Buy

The Welsh Assembly government has followed the Scottish Executive’s lead and suspended the Right to Buy buy council homes. However it is unlikely that England will follow suit.

Right to Buy (RTB) was a key plank in the Conservative Election manifesto of 1979 and was introduced by the Thatcher government in the form of the Housing Act of 1980. RTB led to the sale of hundreds of thousands of council homes, none of which were replaced. Local authorities were prohibited from spending capital receipts on building new homes. This policy is directly responsible for the housing crisis that we are witnessing today.

This blogger recognizes the hidden financial cost of RTB but also warns that

…this change in policy might be a little too late since many local authorities have already undertaken (or plan to undertake) housing stock transfers to other agencies. In 1980, there were around 300,000 homes in council ownership, now, that is down to around 156,000. Thus the impact of the policy might not be as great as desired.

Inside Housing, on the other hand is pleased and tells us that this legislation will apply to areas of “high housing need”. Though it comes as no surprise to learn that the Westminster government was against this. I think we know why.

In London, as in the rest of England, there is a huge housing shortage. But the government appears to have set its face against building new social housing here, which it wrongly blames for all manner of social ills.  But wouldn’t a program of house-building benefit the economy in the long term? Pity the government doesn’t see it that way.

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