Tuesday, 4 September 2012

West Ken: Council sell estate - MP bundled out of room

Andy Slaughter addresses meeting
Predictably pantomime-ish scenes last night as the Cabinet of H&F Council met to rubber stamp their plans to sell the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates in the face of the massed ranks of residents who oppose the move and who have vowed to fight the plans in the courts.

Inside the meeting the councillors were roundly booed, especially when they prevented two young girls who lived on the estate from speaking, before proceding to apply the H&F Council Rubber Stamp, a well-used tool in these ere parts.

The residents themselves, equally predictably, vowed "never to surrender" and promised a long drawn out battle which they would win, they said. Here's them doing a thoroughly defiant "Mobot" on the way home!


Knowing the end result, and having given up many other monday evenings to these sorts of farces before, I didn't bother going. The real story here is not what happened last night but what happens first of all in the courts and secondly in David Cameron's new Government, with many new Ministers and perhaps a new determination to make the Prime Minister's Big Society idea of residents controlling their destinies rather than local authorities a reality.

But I might just have gone along to watch the local MP, Andy Slaughter, being unceremoniously threatened by the Council's beefy security guards, if only to witness a scene that I wouldn't have thought possible even here! Here's Andy's account of the incident - which of course is from one side only. The Council are welcome to give their side of the story...

Mr Beefy interrupts to ask Mr Slaughter to get out
"Last night I was forcibly removed from a meeting of Hammersmith & Fulham’s Cabinet on the instructions of the Conservative council. I had attended with about 100 residents of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates to object to the demolition of their homes of 50 years. Before the one-Party committee made the decision to sell the land to CapCo – a multi-national developer which wishes to replace the affordable houses and low-rise flats with 30-storey luxury blocks - I asked if I could address them for five minutes. Fifteen seconds for each year I have represented the area as councillor or MP. 

Nick Botterill, supposedly a softer replacement for Stephen Greenhalgh as Council Leader shouted me down, then ordered the Cabinet to leave the room. At this point two very large gentlemen stood either side of me and ordered me to leave. They also ordered the public to stop tweeting or using their mobile ‘phones.

Had I been granted my five minutes I would have made the following points:

  • The residents of the two estates, a mixture of council tenants, leaseholders, freeholders, housing association and private tenants – in other words the model of a mixed community – voted three times against demolition, most recently by a majority of 4 to 1. This is virtually ignored or misrepresented in the Council’s report. 
  • The economic justification for the £8 billion scheme says no more than that replacing low-rise affordable homes with high-rise luxury flats will add to the value of the land. A statement so fatuous as to defy belief. This could justify the demolition of almost any neighbourhood in London. 
  • The companies advising the Council on the merits of the sale – principally Jones Lang LaSalle and Price Waterhouse Coopers – are the same firms advising the purchaser. Challenged on this the Council’s defence is that these companies have a virtual monopoly in their field. 
  • The conflicts of interest between the Council’s roles as local authority, planning authority, landlord and beneficiary are nowhere addressed. Similar conflicts arise for Kensington & Chelsea and the Greater London Authority. 
  • The disposal of the first part of the development site to an underfunded subsidiary of CapCo and a Hong Kong-based property company whose principal directors have been charged with corruption offences is an inappropriate partner for a local council to rely on to re-house its residents 
  • The sum of £105 million which the Council will receive for delivering the land to CapCo with vacant possession is a substantial inducement to evict the residents, but a grotesque undervalue of the site given the planning consent the Council intends to grant on 12 September. This represents a huge subsidy to a multi-national developer from the taxpayers of Hammersmith & Fulham. 
  • The promises made to existing residents will not be honoured. Of 760 properties, 171 are owned freehold or leasehold, 58 are rented by housing associations and 531 by the Council. Only if a tenant moves into a new home built on the site will they continue as social rented homes. Given the 20 years of building works before the development is complete it is likely that the majority of tenants will not move and the new homes will be sold or rented out a market or near market rents. The freeholders and leaseholders will be bought out or offered a share of a new property, either way these will sold at market rates.
Lawyers, consultants & financial advisors paid to work for Council - and who also work for the developers at the meeting
This process has continued for four years already. The only constant factors are the residents’ determination to save their homes and the Conservatives’ desire to demolish them to socially and politically alter the area. At some point political control locally or nationally will change or the developer will revise their plans to exclude the estates (which will still allow them to develop one of the biggest sites in central London). Until then the battle continues, next to be joined at Planning Committee on 12 September.”

UPDATE 1530 WEDNESDAY - Well, I did offer the Council the opportunity to put their side of things and it seems they have a very different recollection of events. Here's Cllr Nicholas Botterill, Leader of the Council, speaking to me this afternoon:
“Opposition Members were given unlimited time to ask questions. However, the MP attempted to disrupt the meeting in an inappropriate manner.
“The MP was not forcibly removed and he remained in his seat throughout the duration of Cabinet. 
“This meeting was for elected councillors to make a decision on whether to include the two estates in this scheme. 
“Members of the public, including the local MP have had numerous opportunities over several years, to have their say on the proposed regeneration of Earls Court and the surrounding area.”

29 comments:

  1. This council is actually frightening in its determination to "cleanese" this borough. Shameful.

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  2. "Cleanse" it by offering them all a new home in the new development and not moving out until their new homes are built?

    Compare with the empty hulks of the Aylesbury and Ferrier Estates (in Labour run boroughs) where all the tenants were unceremoniously moved out and you'll see how much better H&F is treating its tenants.

    No wonder some of them are scared after Slaughter and his cronies spent the last three years telling them they'll be shipped out to Dagenham...

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  3. Who's "them"? My gran lives there, mate, and I grew up there and I am not happy with this one bit. I suppose you aren't concerned that the majority of residents oppose the development, then? How would you like to be treated like a piece of property to be sold and moved on, regardless of your wishes?

    Or is this just another bit of Tory astroturfing?

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  4. Seriously don't trust a word Slaughter says. If you have a problem that requires his help as an MP, good luck with trying to get a meeting with him. He picks and chooses his cases so if you don't fit his personal agenda it's cold shoulder time. Arrogant buffoon.

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    Replies
    1. "Arrogant buffoon".

      The same could be said of the ruling Tory group on the council, which continues to ride roughshod over the people - especially those people who rent rather than buy the expensive homes in the borough.

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  5. Nice try "Anonymous" but you're not fooling anyone. This and other examples are proof of your party's disregard for democracy. There is substantial opposition to your plans, yet, you ram them through regardless.

    Seriously, don't trust a word that comes from the mouths of Tory councillors, they're all in it together.

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    Replies
    1. What do you mean by democracy? Tory councillors are the elected representatives of the people.

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    2. I've never voted Tory in my life, so I find it mildly amusing that your describe them as 'my' plans.

      Truth is I'm just an ordinary constituent of Slaughter's who experienced his self-serving disregard for my problem when I tried to seek his help. In fact he was distinctly less help than Greg Hands was when he was the local MP, and I'm by no means a fan of his! But at least it was easy to see Hands for a consultation - with Slaughter it proved impossible. Him and his team were plain rude and arrogant.

      Nice try Buddy, but go easy on the loony-left paranoia, it's not a good look; as proved time and time again by The Not Very Honourable Member At All Really, Master Andy Slaughter.

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    3. "I've never voted Tory in my life, so I find it mildly amusing that your describe them as 'my' plans".

      This is the Internet and you're, er, 'anonymous'. You may as well be imaginative and use a sock-puppet for what it's worth.

      "Nice try Buddy, but go easy on the loony-left paranoia".

      Ah, an 80s cliché joined with the word "paranoia". Cute.

      This is for the other "Anonymous" (above)

      You said
      "What do you mean by democracy"?

      Perhaps the word "people" would be more to your liking?

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    4. The people voted. They voted Tory. They did it twice. Maybe they shouldn't have, but they did. Council housing is under council control, elected councils having built the council housing on council land.
      Maybe it shouldn't be, but it is.

      What's your version of democracy?

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    5. "The people voted. They voted Tory".

      What all of them, including the residents of West Ken and Gibbs Green? You're a having a laugh.

      "What's your version of democracy"?

      Not one where residents wishes are routinely ignored and the poorest of the borough aren't regarded as racaille.

      By the way, why are you so keen to hide your identity?

      Delete
  6. Council housing is under political control. The solution must be to turn council estates generally over to their tenants. Really, it should have happened long ago.

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    Replies
    1. "The solution must be to turn council estates generally over to their tenants. Really, it should have happened long ago".

      What? Like ALMOs? This council would dearly love to wash its hands of its council housing. Contrary to the 'message' most tenants reject ALMOs.

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    2. I don't know if ALMOs are the answer - very likely not. But if you stick to having the council as your landlord, you're always at the risk of political change.

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  7. Just to hypothesise quickly say in 10 years time the buildings are deemed unsafe to live in and residents have to be moved outside the borough while they are demolished and rebuilt would people still be against that?

    This seems to be a plan to improve the housing in the area, which, while causing quite a bit of inconvenience, should benefit residents in the long term and the wider borough......

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    Replies
    1. Why on earth would they be 'deemed unsafe to live in' 10 years from now? They've only recently been updated and of course most are substantial and spacious 1950's homes, much newer than most of the property in this borough. Indeed, perhaps it will be your home that needs demolishing and you will be the one to 'have to' move outside the borough?

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  8. Not to doubt Mr Slaughter, but is it really going to take 20 years to finish the works? (Actually, I suppose I am doubting him a little).

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  9. Honestly, it's claim and counter-claim on this blog that makes me wonder why I bother following local politics.

    How did it get so dysfunctional it makes American politics look almost sane by comparison?

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  10. I read with great amusement, Andy Slaughter's version of events relating to the meeting of Hammersmith & Fulham's Cabinet on 4 September 2012.

    I was present at the meeting and Mr Slaughter heard things not heard by others, i.e. someone 'ordering the public to stop tweeting '. My understaning was that pictures were not allowed to be taken during the meeting, and this was conveyed by one of the security men to someone who was holding their phone at arms length, in the direction of the cabinet. Mr Slaughter(er) 'of the truth' went on to say, he was 'forcibly removed from the meeting', question - how was this forcible action carried out, as I saw him sitting in the room for the duration of the meeting.

    He was approached by x2 security men, by the size of them, if they wanted him removed, he would have left the room very quickly!!

    The thing that really tickles me is, Mr Slaughter is an elected representative of the people, but it is so easy for him to 'embellish' things very quickly. He insults the intelligence of his constituants to promote his own selfworth.

    Maybe he has some valid points relating to plans to sell the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estate, but surely his energies should be focused on the proposed sale of the estate, as opposed to 'poetic licence' about being forcibly removed from a meeting.

    Shame on you 'Slaughter(er) of the Truth'!!




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    Replies
    1. You are a Tory councillor and I claim my £5!

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  11. From the council's reply:

    “Members of the public, including the local MP have had numerous opportunities over several years, to have their say on the proposed regeneration of Earls Court and the surrounding area.”

    Yes. Then been summarily ignored! There's your democracy.

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  12. This anonymous bloke is clearly a twat!

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    Replies
    1. Is he anonymous or a member of anonymous.

      And which one is he? Is he me?

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    2. I am anonymous!

      Delete
  13. I live on Queen Caroline Estate - I'd love it if the council wanted to pull it down and regenerate it. I understand some people have an emotional attachment to their homes, but there's an opportunity to move into fresh new places with modern benefits. We do need to scutinise the plans and ensure the council are transparent in their dealings with developers, of course we do, but we can't over politicise the issues of renewing the housing stock - otherweisae futuure generations will suffer when all that is left to them is a place like the one I moved into as a 19 yr old - a dilapidated old dump with floral wallpaper!

    The fact is the borough is changing - we might as well accept that and take advantage of it - if a developer wanted to improve my gaffe so he could move some yuppies in over the road then so be it. All this nonsense about the borough being "cleansed" - I call it being improved.

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  14. I'd really suggest banning anonymous comments for this kind of political post, where partisan posturing quickly becomes the norm.

    I cant take a comment seriously until I know who it comes from, and if they generally have a particular political allegiance...

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    Replies
    1. Why are you so keen to know who the anonymi are? And do they care if you can't take their comments seriously?

      Delete
    2. Why are the anonymous so keen to remain anonymous?

      And more importantly, if they don't care whether their comments are taken seriously or not, then why make them in the first place?

      There's no honour in pretending to be a man of the street and commenting anonymously to hide the fact you're from either political party...

      Delete