Local landlords warn against H&F’s Tenant Tax

The National Landlords Association (NLA) is calling for Hammersmith Council to reconsider their plans for licensing landlords and is alarmed that the Council has not fully considered the implications for landlords and tenants.

Licensing is a powerful tool at the disposal of local authorities but it should only be used where issues in specific areas are directly attributable to poor property management or standards of private rented housing. The NLA does not believe that Hammersmith and Fulham Council currently has substantial evidence to justify the need for licensing.

Gavin Dick, Local Authority Policy Officer, NLA added:

“Without substantial evidence or the justification for implementing a licensing scheme, all Hammersmith and Fulham Council will achieve is a tax on tenants, as landlords inevitably pass on the cost of the licence. You only have to look at the many other councils which have introduced licensing without a proper evidence-base to see that it has not produced the desired effects.

“If councils are serious about tackling poor property standards and anti-social behaviour, they should first look to the extensive existing legal powers they already have to deal effectively with the issues.”

Meeting details

Thursday September 13th

LFB: 190-192 Shepherds Bush Road W6 7NL

Meeting registration 6.30pm for 7pm start

Three Fulham primary schools come together as the Brightwells Academy Trust

brightwells-COLIn a bold move three primary schools in Fulham are breaking away form the local authority to form the Brightwells Academy Trust. The schools are Sulivan, Queen’s Manor and Fulham Primary. The trust will formally come into being on September 1st in time for the new school year.

Brightwells was the name of the manor house of John Tamworth, privy counsellor to Queen Elizabeth I. It covered about 20 acres including what is now Eel Brook Common and was later renamed Villa Carey and then replaced by a new building called Peterborough House and owned by the  built on the grounds of the Earl of Peterborough. The houses built on the site – in Bovingdon Road, Chiddingstone Street, Chipstead Street and Quarrendon Street- were designed by the famous J. Nichols and is named due to each property featuring a stone lion up on the gable.

Chiddingstone Street, Chipstead Street and Quarrendon Street.

brightwellsmanorWhile there won’t be extra money – the per pupil funding is the sames – but the schools believe they will be able to make savings: “”As part of a multi-academy trust, we may also achieve greater efficiencies through increased buying power and joint commissioning of services; such as school equipment, catering and cleaning.”

There will be greater autonomy and “there will be assimilations between the schools and opportunities for economies of scale.”

There will be new opportunities for competitive sports and shared expertise – for instance with speech therapy and family support services.

stone-lionFar from turning away from the local community it is hoped the new status will allow the development of new links with businesses and public services.

Teachers will be able to share ideas with joint INSET days.

There will be support for the new academy from the London Diocesan Board for Schools.

Queen’s Manor Primary School will continue to run the Special Needs Unit for pupils with moderate and severe learning difficulties. Fulham Primary School will continue to run the Unit at Queensmill for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The pupils at the schools will be able to start the new term with particular pride as the new chapter begins.

For Hammersmith and Fulham it is the latest example of how we are leading the way with innovation, school independence and parental choice as the way to drive up standards.

The Troubled Families initiative is delivering results in Hammersmith and Fulham

The BBC Newsnight programme on Monday night had an item about the Troubled Families initiative. This is scheme which aims to “turn round” families with multiple problems – truancy, crime and anti social behaviour, unemployment. The concern had been that previously lot of different state agencies had been involved but not in a coordinated way.

Anyway the Newsnight report suggested that the whole effort had been a failure and that councils had made dishonest claims of a huge success just to get paid extra.

I asked Hammersmith and Fulham Council about this and Sarah Thomas who has been running the programme replied:

We are currently in Year 2 Phase 2 of the Troubled families programme – this time it is a 5 year programme; Phase 1 was a 3 year programme

The programme referred to Phase 1 mainly (i.e. the unpublished Government report they referred too), although I wouldn’t say it was particularly evident to the lay person watching this programme which phase they were referring to at what point;

Phase 2 feels like a different programme compared with phase 1 and would be difficult to compare – phase 2 places significant emphasis on transformation and joint working. The Government have made a number of beneficial changes to the criteria too – for example Phase 2 now includes families with pre-school children, as well as the ‘working poor’, who were previously overlooked.

The other notable change between phase 1 and 2 is that Local Authorities draft their own Troubled Families Outcomes Plan (TFOP), a framework against which the payment by results is measured and paid. At first glance, this might seem like local authorities are ‘writing their own cheques’ but it is far from it. All London Boroughs drafted a single ‘core’ pan London TFOP, which we have ‘localised’ further. DCLG attended our pan London TFOP workshop when this occurred in 2015; they supported this approach.

The data used to identify and report on Troubled Families is gleaned from multiple agencies – it’s not just local LBHF data – we get information and data from Schools, DWP, some VCS and more recently the Police – it took some 2 years of hard negotiation to get a robust pan London information sharing agreement with the Metropolitan Police and our own Troubled Families team were instrumental in this work for all London Boroughs – the reason why we are one of the pilot boroughs. Again, DCLG have been very supportive of this work

All London borough TF leads meet monthly. This has become a strong group, established for almost 5 years, and has been a sounding board for DCLG on occasion – we also receive requests from other government dept to meet with us, including DWP and the Met Police.

LBHF report to DCLG on average every 3 months – we report on the progress our families are making, we contribute to the National evaluation and we complete 2 Payments by Results claim windows each year.

Families are identified and claimed using a two tier process; i.e. data intelligence and human intelligence – We have a robust internal audit process that starts at practice manager level, through to Heads of Service, internal audit themselves and our S151 officer; Our audit process has been endorsed by DCLG.

DCLG do undertake ‘visits’ and spot checks. There is a spot check framework that underpins this process. We recently had a visit from DCLG, when they met with frontline practitioners & managers and they were very complimentary. Further DCLG received a demonstration of our BIDS – Business Intelligence Data System (Data Warehouse) and were extremely impressed – they will be working with us to understand how/if our approach can be up scaled. Further we were invited to meet with DCLG at the Home Office (Dave McNamara came along too) and again, this was a productive meeting, where we discussed LBHF’s transformation.

Over the course of the 5 year TF programme LBHF have to ‘turn round’ 1,690 families.  Earlier this year we agreed with DCLG that we would ‘attach’ 460 families (April 2016-March 2017); We have already met this target. Further we are to claim Payments by results for a minimum of 418 families by March 2017. We are currently in a PbR ‘claim window’ and expect to find around 45-50% of these families.

I hope this information reassures you that were are delivering a robust TF programme in LBHF within the auspices of a framework provided by DCLG. The national TF programme isn’t without its flaws, however, we continue to have dialogue with DCLG to ensure that we’re interpreting and delivering a credible programme.”

The DCLG adds:

“Newsnight suggested that it was unrealistic that an area could have achieved a 100% success rate. This is a misunderstanding of the programme.  Such a council would have received  100% of government funding available to them, eg 100% of the total number of families they could claim for. However,  most if not all areas will have worked with more families than their local target in order to achieve success.”

I believe the Troubled Families initiative is a success and that the attack on it by Newsnight is misleading and unfair.

Uncertain future for Shepherd’s Bush Market

shep1aA legal judgment has left the future of Shepherd’s Bush Market looking very uncertain. Orion bought the market from Transport for London in 2014 and wanted to include an ugly block of flats in a redevelopment scheme.

There were valid objections that the proposed scheme (pictured) would have changed the traditional character of the market. There was also a legal challenge over the use of compulsory purchase. This has been upheld so it looks as though the developers will have to go back to the drawing board.

Inevitably with such schemes, flats are described as “luxury” or “affordable” – often the “luxury” flats are not all that luxurious and the “affordable” ones aren’t all that affordable.

I have spoken to traders who support and oppose the scheme. It is needlessly unattractive. On the other hand we clearly need to increase the housing supply and to regenerate Shepherd’s Bush Market which has been in a state of slow decay for decades.

We are told that the Council will “work with the Orion Shepherd’s Bush Ltd (the Market freeholder owner), the market traders and other interested parties to deliver the sympathetic regeneration of the Market which will improve the facilities for the market traders and customers, while maintaining the Market’s unique identity which is so well loved by Londoners.”

That sounds fine and dandy but how much longer can the Market survive? How many of those who “love” the Market do so enough to turn up and buy stuff from it?

Richard Olsen of Orion says that the number of shoppers has halved since 2009 and in the 11 months to last May, the number of visitors fell by almost a quarter, from 434,279 to 324,649. He adds:

“We don’t want to gentrify, we want to build around the existing traders, most of whom are very good. But we do want to spend more money on publicising and marketing it — a lot of people don’t even know it’s there.

“Without change the future is very difficult. I do understand where the traders are coming from, it is not just us and them — we should be working collaboratively. If it does fall over and it doesn’t work out then I’m not sure who wins.”

He’s got a point, hasn’t he? Even if you don’t like his choice of architect.

I’m all for a sympathetic regeneration scheme which includes new homes and uses traditional architecture and that allows the Market to thrive commercially for the long term. But we need to get on with it.

H&F Council awards £155,000 “community engagement” contract to company run by former top Labour official

tccHammersmith and Fulham Council has resolved to spend over £155,000 on “engagement consultants” for the West Ken and Gibbs Green estates

The Council says:

“A pressing need has been identified through previous engagement work to more fully engage with residents.”

Perhaps this latest effort will identify the need for still more engagement.

The report adds:

“The council does not have the range of expertise in-house to provide these services or to respond quickly and flexibly to residents’ engagement needs.”

That is not exactly a vote of confidence in the three Labour councillors for North End Ward. Last year the three of them were paid £42,751 in allowances in total. if they are not able to quickly and flexibly engage with the residents that they represent why are they paid all this money?

The lucky winner of the contract is The Campaign Company. By happy coincidence its founder is David Evans, a former Assistant General Secretary of the Labour Party. Perhaps he will compare notes with Keith Hill, the former Labour MP paid £12,000 by the council promote the privatisation of its entire council housing stock.

Labour have neglected these estates. I doubt any residents would say that the highest priority for spending £155,000 would be to give it to The Campaign Company to “align consultation processes with corporate objectives”. They might even think it made the idea of paying their ward councillors £42,751 a year sounds like good value for money by comparison.

Most of all they would just like some straight answers from the Council on the plans for their estates.  If Labour thinks the answer is wasting vast sums on glossy brochures, focus groups and cronyism it would seem to me that they are out of touch with the residents they are supposed to serve.

Donate your old (but still functioning) laptops to the homeless at Hammersmith Library

librarywindowThe Laptops for the Homeless Support Initiative aims to curb homelessness by working with businesses and collection sites in and around London. The latest collection site is Hammersmith Library in Shepherd’s Bush Road.

Social Enterprise SocialBox.Biz and homelessness charity, Thames Reach, work together to place these laptops in the hands of homeless already registered with accommodation services.

Hammersmith Library is one of many stepping up to assist in the Laptops for the Homeless Initiative. By partnering with SocialBox.Biz, they are providing their operation location as a collection site for any individuals, businesses, and corporations looking to re-home their outdated, yet still functioning laptops.

SocialBox.Biz then re-homes the donated, usable laptops to disenfranchised members of society. The initiative gives registered homeless a chance to rejoin today’s digital world.

Without access to the Internet the homeless stand no chance of rejoining society. SocialBox.Biz identified this paradox, and is actively pursuing partners for establishing a donation collection network throughout the UK.

https://www.socialbox.biz/homeless-support/

Phone: 0843 289 5722.