Tag Archives: Rotten Boroughs

Nightmare on King Street (Part 5)

The latest copy of Your Magazine, Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s glossy magazine was pushed through my door last week, accompanied by a copy of the Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle.  Your Magazine is like the “Your Shout” column (It was not written by members of the public but the council’s editorial staff) of the old H&F News propaganda rag that the Council was forced to close last year.   To get around this difficulty, the Council took an unprecedented step and bought space in the Chronicle. Inevitably the council was accused of influencing the editorial independence of the paper. It is a charge that the paper and the council both deny.

The wonderfully but inaccurately titled, Your Magazine and the Chronicle  both carry the same story but tell it differently. First, the magazine tells us that our glorious and magnificent council has reduced homelessness in the borough. Then the nominally independent-minded Chronicle tells us that homeless people are being turned away. In other words, in order to make its homelessness figures look impressive, it refuses help to those in need who are then displaced to other boroughs. This is what is commonly known as ‘cooking the books’ or ‘massaging the figures’.

Not mentioned in the magazine, is the much-trumpeted revival of the disastrous Thatcherite policy of Right to Buy, which ‘Residents First’ describes as a “revolution”. But this is not a “revolution” at all, it is the renewal and possible re-marketing of an old policy that led to the current housing crisis. The article, which appears to have been written by one of the local party’s young Britons tells us that,

Right to Buy has helped thousands of council tenants in H&F to buy their own home since it launched over 30 years ago, but completions under the scheme all but collapsed when the maximum discount in the capital was reduced in 2004 from £38,000 to £16,000. The move led to a slump from 245 Right to Buy sales in 2003/04 to a paltry 7 in H&F last year.

What the author neglects to mention is how councils weren’t permitted to use their capital receipts from council house sales to build housing to replace the lost stock. This is what is commonly known in local Tory parlance as “getting the message out” –  no matter how distorted or disconnected from reality the message happens to be.

From HF Conwatch we learn that Foghorn Phibbs has penned a “pompous letter” to Private Eye to complain about the council’s record appearances in “Rotten Boroughs” and the ongoing row about the Council’s tax avoidance.

Phibbs, whose title is “Cabinet Member for Community Engagement” is little more than the Council’s arch-propagandist; a sort of Cabinet Member for Misinformation. The Cowan Report says that Phibbs has,

used his Daily Mail Blog to attack the BBC’s award winning File on 4 programme for also exposing what’s happening in Hammersmith and Fulham in its special documentary titled “Tax Avoidance.”

Such arrogance. You will recall that when the residents of Gibbs Green and West Kensington estates tried to instigate proceedings to evict the coucil as a “rogue landlord”, The Dear Leader wrote to Greg Clark, the Minister for Housing pleading with him to intervene on the council’s behalf closing with the self-penned “I really need your help on this”.

This Tory council is not only arrogant, it is dictatorial and bullying. It cannot fathom dissent and disagreement and will work tirelessly to choke off any opposition to its rule or its policies. Phibbs and Greenhalgh have both exceeded their limited powers as councillors and have chosen to nobble and harrass those who dare to expose them for what they are: liars and crooks.

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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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More shady happenings in Hammersmith & Fulham

The Tories who run Hammersmith & Fulham Council are not a democratic bunch. This was amply demonstrated earlier this year when they bulldozed through their plans to close community centres and mass evict over 20 local charities from Palingswick House, which they have given the Hon Tobes West London Free School. These Tories talk about liberty and democratic values but it is nothing but lip service. They work in the interests of themselves and their business partners. They dole out favours to their favourite construction business who, in return, make vast profits for themselves and their shareholders, who are Tories.

The Cowan Report says that

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the Conservative Party set up a property speculators forum that “raises around £150,000 a year for the Tory party and charges members £2,500 to meet senior MPs to discuss policy and planning issues.”  It is chaired by Mr. Mike Slade, of Helical Bar Plc. That firm is one of Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s preferred partners behind the highly controversial new Town Hall office plans.
The Telegraph tells how Mr Slade has been a key influence on the Conservative Party’s developing planning policies and how he has also generously “given more than £300,000 over the past decade, individually and through his property firm, Helical Bar.”

You can read the rest of the blog here

Naturally, this should come as no surprise especially when one considers the companies that were given contracts to build private prisons, McAlpine and Mowlem, are massive contributors to the Tory Party. You can read more about those two companies here.

In the aftermath of the worst rioting seen for a generation, it’s surprising that some junior minister or barking mad Tory backbencher didn’t call for the expansion of private prisons. Here’s Moonie Nile Gardiner in the Telegraph calling for more private prisons to be built.

The prime minister should make it clear that no effort will be spared in hunting down the looters/rioters, who must face lengthy prison terms for their crimes. He should also be prepared to build new prisons if necessary to hold them. This is no time for Cameron to go wobbly. Britain is on the precipice of unprecedented levels of public disorder which must be decisively met with a firm determination to quell the riots and bring every one of these violent thugs to justice .

Justice, in Gardiner’s Moonie universe, is for those who can afford it.

The Tories who run Hammersmith & Fulham suffer from the same afflictions as Gardiner: narrow-mindedness, greed and class disgust. Recently, Edith Summerskill House in West Kensington was decanted of its tenants who were told that the block had to be emptied in order for improvements to be carried out. The tenants were not allowed to return and the block was sold off to a private developer. I suspect that this developer has close links to the ruling Tory group, if not the national party. HF Conwatch has the story here. Commenting on the blog, Caroline Ffiske, former Tory councillor, spouse of Foghorn Phibbs and member of the West London Free School steering committee, wrote.

I think its is a wonderful scheme. Apparently it would have cost thousands to bring each of the existing flats up to Decent Homes standards. I think mixed developments are great for the whole community.

Well, she would think that. But, hang on, don’t the funds for the Decent Homes Scheme come from central government? Furthermore, haven’t these funds been allocated for this purpose? By the way, the council also intends to dispose of the Clement Atlee Estate.

Finally, The Cowan Report notes that H&F Council has marked its thirteenth appearance in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs column.

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Hammersmith & Fulham: the most rotten borough?

The Tories at Hammersmith & Fulham Council tell us that they’re “open and transparent”. In fact, they say a lot of things, most of which is backslapping, self-congratulatory bullshit.  But the Council has been the subject of more “Rotten Borough” stories in Private Eye than any other council since Westminster’s frequent appearances in the magazine during the 1980’s. Shepherds Bush blog and HFConwatch both tell us that the council has featured in the magazine’s “Rotten Boroughs” a record six times.

I watched the Politics Show on BBC1 last Sunday. Greg Smith, Young Britons’ Foundation campaigns director and LBHF Cabinet Member for Residents Services (yes, I couldn’t quite believe it when I first saw it either) was trying to defend the Council’s decision to buy space in the Fulham Chronicle for £75,000.  Responding to local MP, Andy Slaughter’s charge that the paper was now pushing the Council’s propaganda, Smith claimed that the paper carried the council’s  “events listings” but isn’t this the job of an independent local paper anyway? Why does the council have to buy column space to disseminate this kind of information?  Oddly enough, no mention was made of the censoring of an advertisement for the Parents Alliance for Community Schools or Slaughter’s column in the paper.

Curiously enough, before the Chronicle was paid £75k by the Council, I never once received the paper through my letter box. Yesterday, there it was on my doormat, as bold as brass, masquerading as an independent local newspaper. What amuses me is the way the Council tries to defend its purchase of the paper column space by claiming that it needs to have its notices printed somewhere. As far as I’m aware, all local newspapers do this for free anyway.  You will always find planning notices in the back pages of local papers. Even the Biggleswade Chronicle prints such notices and has done for many, many years. Why did it cost LBHF £75k to do this?

Cllr Smith (quoted from the Shepherds Bush blog) said

Let’s look at the reality of the situation: Without the advertising contract the Council has with the Chronicle, the STATUTORY planning notices alone would cost £120,000. We get them for £75,000 along with free advertising for things like asking people to come forward as foster carers and the double page spread which we use for events listings, informing people of road closures etc.

 It makes you wonder how councils managed in the past, doesn’t it? Perfectly well, it seems.

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