Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Council, Developers & a football match

Orion, the property developer behind the hugely controversial Shepherd's Bush Market scheme, is run by a man called Richard Olsen. Part of the deal with knocking down the Market and rebuilding it - is that the Market will be rebuilt largely underneath seven floors of new housing.

Andrew Johnson, is the Cabinet Member for housing for Hammersmith & Fulham.

Both were seen at the recent Fulham v Sunderland football match on the weekend, and one or two of you have been in touch to point this out. Now, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with people getting to know each other and socialising, but it does raise questions about just how close those relations are in the context of this development. 

Particularly when the council itself is so keen to ram this development through, in the face of opposition from both market traders and shop owners who face losing their shops, and even a High Court ruling which established that a significant part of their approach to this development had been illegal. In fact so keen are the council to help Orion out, that they are taking on a rather large financial risk on their behalf, by only asking Orion for an indemnity of £10 million on a site that is clearly worth much more than that. 

And you only know that because I published the "not for publication" council papers from the Cabinet meeting that Andrew Johnson attended. 

I asked Cllr Johnson to confirm whether he had been at the match with Mr Olsen, which he confirmed he had, before adding last night: 
"Personally I don't see that it raises any questions about the appropriateness of relations between the council and developers. Richard Olsen did not pay for my ticket, nor for that matter did the taxpayer. He was at the Fulham game, as was I, and as was the MP for Hammersmith Andy Slaughter". 
"I am not the councillor responsible for the Shepherd's Bush Market scheme, as I cover housing not regeneration and, apart from being a member of the Cabinet I am not involved in the specifics of the Market scheme". 
"That said I do believe that Shepherds Bush Market is in desperate need of improvements and the scheme which now has outline planning consent will bring significant benefits to Shepherd's Bush and the wider area". 

0900 UPDATE - One of the shopkeepers set to lose their freehold has just emailed me to say that their court case against this scheme is due for January 17th. They are confident of their case. They won their last one, after all. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Shepherd's Bush Police Station to close

The front desk at Shepherd's Bush police station is to close, due to cuts being made across the Metropolitan Police Service. While police officers will continue to operate out of the building there will be no public facing service there, with the changes being implemented early in the new year.

This has not been officially made public but I have seen correspondence from Lucy D'Orsi, Commander of this Borough, which has been sent to public officials outlining the changes and the reasons for them. I am not, however, breaking any confidences in reporting this because it was raised publicly in Parliament by Andy Slaughter yesterday with the Home Secretary in exchanges you can read here.

The news comes in the wake of several high profile and particularly nasty crimes in the Bush, notably the murder of Piotr Mikiewicz in September. his murderer eventually walked into a ..... police station to give himself up.

So it looks like Ms D'Orsi will need to bring the public information that will need to surround this change forward, but people should not criticise her or the force. They have to respond to the cuts being made to the service, mainly by our own former Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh, and do the best they can for the community. The sad fact is that that will be less, not more, moving ahead.

In the meantime Mr Slaughter has sent this letter to Ms D'Orsi:

Dear Lucy, 

Thank you for letting me know about the proposed closures to police services in the borough. You will understand that this comes as a shock, particularly as you said you were not aware of any changes to police station openings when we met three weeks ago. I am also dismayed that this is all happening so quickly. I have had four working days to comment on the proposal to shut completely Shepherds Bush police station to the public (you ask for a response by Friday 19 November but I assume that means by today). 

With other London MPs I met the Commissioner on 6 November. Again there was no mention of closures in Hammersmith & Fulham, and I have to conclude that these are being rushed through to deal with the high level of cuts imposed by the Government and the Mayor. I appreciate that this is not your decision and I will obviously work with the police locally to ensure the community remains as safe as possible, though this will not be helped if, as again is proposed at short notice, we have to share a Borough Commander with another borough. 

The current cuts, coming on top of the loss of neighbourhood sergeants, will not be welcomed by the local community. They bear the hallmark of the Deputy Mayor for policing. Hammersmith & Fulham residents will be familiar with his reputation for draconian and badly thought out cuts from his time as Council Leader here.

Specifically, with regards to Shepherds Bush Police Station, I would say as follows:

  • Shepherds Bush has the highest levels of crime in the borough. Residents often express concern that there is not a 24-hour service there at present. Total closure of the public reception will increase fears that the police are not immediately available in the area. I note from your statistics that there is a higher level of crime reporting at Shepherds Bush than at Hammersmith.
  • You say there are no plans to close Shepherds Bush Police Station as a whole ‘at this stage’. Does that means future closure plans will be considered?
  • I am sympathetic to your concern that staffing the front counter with warranted officers could prevent them being on the streets. But why is it necessary to have officers rather than civilian staff on duty? There will always be officers on hand to deal with emergencies, but the ‘triage’ stage could surely be dealt with by trained reception staff?
  • I already have concerns about the level of public response at Hammersmith PS and via ‘phone or email. My personal experience and that of constituents is that attending Hammersmith entails long waits and often inconclusive or unsatisfactory responses from staff. Similarly, residents complain that messages left by email of voicemail are not replied to quickly or at all. I emphasise that I am talking about non-emergency service here, but this makes me worried about any loss of public access points.
  • I support the greater presence of police in supermarkets and other public places where they can offer reassurance and advice. This is a logical extension of neighbourhood policing, but the occasional visit to other venues cannot be seen as a replacement for police stations themselves.
  • You mention greater use of online services and information. Again, this would be welcome and I would like to see greater publication of crime statistics and the activities of the local SNTs and policing operations by this means. But poorer, older and more vulnerable people do not always have internet access and I do not think this can be an alternative to face to face contact in every case.
I hope these comments are helpful. I note you say that the police station front counters proposal is not yet in public circulation, but in fact it has been widely reported, including in the Standard as a result of briefing from the Deputy Commissioner ( , so I intend to post this response on my website,


Monday, 19 November 2012

Cllr Jean Campbell: sad news

Jean Campbell, a Councillor representing much of White City, has died. I have just received this very sad news from Stephen Cowan, Leader of the Labour Group to which she belonged, on Hammersmith & Fulham Council. I think it rather speaks for itself. 

"Jean had represented Wormholt and White City ward since 4th May 2006. She was also an active member of her local church, a member of the Hammersmith Labour Party’s general committee and an executive member of the White City Tenants and Residents Association - having been re-elected as its treasurer just last Wednesday night.

Jean Campbell was a part of that great pioneer generation. Born in Belmont, St. Andrew, Jamaica on the 6th March 1947 she arrived in Britain on 1970. She worked as an auxiliary nurse in the West London Hospital, then as a civil servant in the Department of Trade and Industry and did all of this while volunteering in her local community and bringing up four sons.

For Jean, looking out for others was just part of how she lived her life. Accompanying her on a walk around White City could be a leisurely affair as she would be stopped by neighbours and constituents all keen to pass the time of day, discuss some issue of concern or shout a friendly greeting as they dashed by. She was a captivating speaker in the Council Chamber – always sticking up for the poorest and most hard done by. She was the original community leader - always thinking how she could get something done and working to make things better. For the last seven years Jean was the carer for her partner Jones Delauney who sadly died in July after a long illness. Jean lived with her mum.

Recently, Jean was campaigning for better care for elderly residents in sheltered housing, for better youth services and was in the process of sending food parcels to Jamaica after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

I had last spoken with Jean on Friday night. She was on good form and looking forward to the future – even joking about going dancing again. Jean was much loved and respected by all of us all. Her death is a terrible shock and a dreadful loss.

I know the thoughts of everyone who knew Jean will be with her mum, her children, their partners and her grandchildren, all of whom she was very proud - as were we of her".

Friday, 16 November 2012

Guardian on Ibis Shepherd's Bush!

"Crikey," I say, sinking back into the undeniable snuggliness of "new generation bedding". "This is like balancing on a soft plank."
Steady on..that was Sally Shalam of the Guardian reviewing the Bush's newest hotel, the Ibis on the Green, next to the new Foxtons. It's quite an amusing read and to be honest I'm not sure whether she is slating the place or telling us how wonderful it is but have a read and see what you think! 

Happy Friday!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Privatisation: A warning from Barnet

Want to know where our Council might be headed in its mission to bring in the private sector? Here's a little video by community activists in Barnet, where I used to live. Scary stuff - and look out for the Guardian's take on this too.

This vid talks about call centres based out of London and staffed by people who don't know the area. And of information being denied to opposition councillors on the grounds of "commercial sensitivity".

Remind you of anything

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

NHS cuts: financial vested interests questioned

Save our Hospitals march: Shepherd's Bush
Andy Slaughter has written a blunt letter to Dr Anne Rainsberry, the Chief Executive of NHS NW London, about the conflict of interests issues arising from the Shaping a Healthier Future programme, which is set to close most hospital services in our borough.

This follows press reports that the sell off programme of NHS assets is set to make some working in the NHS very wealthy people, with both of our hospital sites being earmarked for property developers. Several individuals involved in deciding the fate of those sites also have interests in the private company that the Guardian highlights as being set to make a tidy sum. 

Now there's a coincidence. 

In his letter Mr Slaughter had this to say:
Dear Ms Rainsberry, 
I attach the front page article from today’s Guardian, which you may have seen, regarding the sale of out of hours GP service provider Harmoni to Care UK. The article states that a number of GPs will make substantial sums from the sale.  
I note that four of the CCG chairs in NW London declare shareholding or directorship in Harmoni, as does your Medical Director. It would be helpful to know if they are beneficiaries of the sale and by what amount.  
Looking the future, I note a number of other private medical interests in the declarations made by those who will be making decisions on the future of our local NHS. What assurances can you give that those making decisions on your ‘shaping a healthier future’ programme will see no direct or indirect financial benefit therefrom?
No reply has yet been forthcoming...

The latest revelations follow the disastrous appearance of Mark Spencer, Medical Director of NHS NW London on the BBC Politics Show, who proceeded to tell elected politicians that they really should just belt up and do what the doctor says. Shame that one of his key claims, that local GPs support the plans, was shortly afterwards proved to be false by our Council. 

It's like watching a sinister version of the Muppet Show. 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Goldhawk Road: Still standing

The Goldhawk Road is still alive despite rumours apparently being circulated by our Council and their colleagues at Orion the property developers that somehow they've thrown in the towel. The rumours are being stoked so much I have beeen asked by those trading on the Goldhawk to confirm this.

In fact to give you a flavour of how our local Council is viewed in these 'ere parts this is what I received by one of them by email:
"As you are more than aware we are entering another round with the Lying Bastards Heaping Falsehoods (aka LBHF). Rumours are still abounding about the shops being closed etc. Is there any chance you can put on your blog that we are all open and trading please"
As well as demonstrating, again, the depths to which this local authority-developer axis will go to to illegally bulldoze local people out of the way it does seem to return us to the same place we've found ourselves in before numerous times in this Borough. The High Court. And they, not the council it would seem, will decide the Bush's fate.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Fried chicken Green part-opens

Well, they've ignored most deadlines, those folks from FM Conway, but sadly for them Remembrance Sunday was a non movable object, seeing as the mini centotaph for the Bush is located on the Green itself and is the destination for marching columns of cadets from the armed and police services, followed by the politicians.

So in the goodness of their hearts they've now opened two thirds of the Green, which has immediately received a fullsome W12 makeover of fried chicken boxes and discarded bones from our many outlets around the Green itself. Walking across it this morning I noticed two minor improvements from the almost year long wait - a resurfaced path and a nice mound. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Chronicle backs Super Sewer Shocka

Thames Water is delighted that a majority of Fulham Chronicle readers have apparently endorsed the Thames Tideway Tunnel, and have started publicising the results of a recent online poll they have been running.

Red faces all round, as the Chronicle usually likes to back the Council on this one, but it seems that its own readers feel otherwise. I suspect the way they could refute the result is by revealing how few people actually took part, but will their pride permit them?!

Pavement danger to Bush pedestrians

Path facing Walkabout c/o Karen Fraser (H&F Cyclists)
The new lethal looking pavement which we've probably all now walked on, skirting the ever-delayed works on the Green, has been irking the local cycling fraternity who rightly fear that the path, which slopes directly into three lanes of traffic, is a tiny bit dangerous.

It's hard to disagree, but what makes me more concerned is the confirmation that H&F Cyclists appear to have had from our Council, that both cyclists and pedestrians will be expected to "share" both pathways when the fence surrounding the works is eventually removed.

Do the transport bods have any idea of the danger that would pose to people on foot, particularly those not nimble or agile enough to dart out of the way of the idiots that whizz through the Bush on bikes when they should be on the road? At the very least allocate one path for bikes and the other for people, or the danger of the sloping path won't be the only hazard faced by people walking about the Bush.

H&F Cyclists have been writing to Andy Slaughter and the Council to complain, but I suggest they are not the only ones who should be!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Video: Ravenscourt Park Fireworks

Tonight's firework display in Ravenscourt Park was actually well worth the fiver it cost to get in - which was only marginally more expensive than the cost of a single portion of chips on one of the super rip-off vans selling food at the event!

Despite the lack of a fire, which I thought was a real gap, the fireworks were well worth the wait. First off was the kids performance which was still quite good for the non kids among us and ended with a few big 'uns in the air. But the Bond-themed adult performance 30 minutes later was actually really impressive. Set to current and historic theme tunes of Bond films the kaleidoscopic explosions seemed to follow the music well, including for example gold fingers streaking upwards to the theme of GoldFinger, and had some real spectaculars at the end.

A really clever move was to have no alcohol - the vibe of the whole event was really positive and H&F Council deserve real credit for putting it on. Well done chaps.

Askew Business Network talks sound

The Askew Business Network will be having its next get together on Thursday November 15th at the Greyhound Pub, and will this time be hearing from someone who has made their name in the world of digital radio.

They say:
"Pam Myers initially wanted to be a show-jumper. She failed to achieve this early ambition, but ended up in advertising, subsequently running her own radio production company, Rorschach. She still thinks she's a radio ad. producer, so how come she now produces audio for web, mobile, virals and social media? Sounds and ‘brands’ are definitely in the relationship you may not even realise you have with your computer or radio. Can you leave home without tripping over a sonic trigger? The right voice for a product can still cut across a crowded marketing environment".
So if that's yer bag, get along. Maybe they'll be discussing what to do with the hulk of the now defunct Hell's Pizza Askew pub, which is a pretty depressing sight these days.