“I know our country would be poorer if you left and I want you to stay” – Theresa May’s letter to EU citizens in the UK

As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I am proud that more than three million EU citizens have chosen to make your homes and livelihoods here in our country.

I greatly value the depth of the contributions you make – enriching every part of our economy, our society, our culture and our national life. I know our country would be poorer if you left and I want you to stay.

So from the very beginning of the UK’s negotiations to leave the European Union I have consistently said that protecting your rights – together with the rights of UK nationals living in EU countries – has been my first priority.

You made your decision to live here without any expectation that the UK would leave the EU. So I have said that I want you to be able carry on living your lives as before.

But I know that on an issue of such significance for you and your families, there has been an underlying anxiety which could only be addressed when the fine details of some very complex and technical issues had been worked through and the foundations for a formal agreement secured.

‘When we leave the European Union, you will have your rights written into UK law.’

So I am delighted that in concluding the first phase of the negotiations that is exactly what we have achieved.

The details are set out in the Joint Report on progress published on Friday by the UK government and the European Commission.
When we leave the European Union, you will have your rights written into UK law. This will be done through the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill which we will bring forward after we have completed negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement itself.

Your rights will then be enforced by UK courts. Where appropriate, our courts will pay due regard to relevant ECJ case law, and we have also agreed that for a period of eight years – where existing case law is not clear – our courts will be able to choose to ask the ECJ for an interpretation prior to reaching their own decision. So as we take back control of our laws, you can be confident not only that your rights will be protected in our courts, but that there will be a consistent interpretation of these rights in the UK and in the European Union.

We have agreed with the European Commission that we will introduce a new settled status scheme under UK law for EU citizens and their family members, covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.

If you already have five years of continuous residence in the UK at the point we leave the EU – on 29 March 2019 – you will be eligible for settled status. And if you have been here for less than five years you will be able to stay until you have reached the five year threshold.

As a result of the agreement we have reached in the negotiations, with settled status, your close family members will be free to join you here in the UK after we have left the EU. This includes existing spouses, unmarried partners, children, dependent parents and grandparents, as well as children born or adopted outside of the UK after 29th March 2019.

Your healthcare rights, pension and other benefit provisions will remain the same as they are today. This means that those of you who have paid into the UK system – and indeed UK nationals who have paid into the system of an EU Member State – can benefit from what you have put in and continue to benefit from existing co-ordination rules for future contributions.

We have also agreed to protect the rights of those who are in a cross-border situation at the point of our withdrawal and entitled to a UK European Health Insurance Card. This includes, for example, tourists for the duration of their stay, students for the duration of their course and UK nationals resident in another EU Member State.

The agreement we have reached includes reciprocal rules to protect existing decisions to recognise professional qualifications – for example for doctors and architects. And it also enables you to be absent from the UK for up to five years without losing your settled status – more than double the period allowed under current EU law.

There will be a transparent, smooth and streamlined process to enable you to apply for settled status from the second half of next year. It will cost no more than applying for a passport. And if you already have a valid permanent resident document you will be able to have your status converted to settled status free of charge.

We are also working closely with Switzerland and EEA Member States to ensure their citizens in the UK also benefit from these arrangements.

I have spent many hours discussing these issues with all of the other 27 EU leaders over the last eighteen months as well as with President Juncker, President Tusk and the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier. I am confident that when the European Council meets later this week it will agree to proceed on this basis. And I will do everything I can to ensure that we do.

So right now, you do not have to do anything at all. You can look forward, safe in the knowledge that there is now a detailed agreement on the table in which the UK and the EU have set out how we intend to preserve your rights – as well as the rights of UK nationals living in EU countries. For we have ensured that these negotiations put people first. That is what I promised to do and that is what I will continue to do at every stage of this process.

I wish you and all your families a great Christmas and a very happy New Year.

It’s official. H&F residents who are citizens of other EU member states VERY welcome to stay

To be honest there was never really any genuine doubt about it. But now it is official. The 37,000 residents of Hammersmith and Fulham who are citizens of other EU member states will be very welcome to stay after Brexit.

The Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU resolves:

“to provide reciprocal protection for Union and UK citizens, to enable the effective exercise of rights derived from Union law and based on past life choices, where those citizens have exercised free movement rights by the specified date.”

The “specified date” is the day the UK leaves the EU.

The deal refers to “Union citizens who in accordance with Union law legally reside in the UK, and UK nationals who in accordance with Union law legally reside in an EU27 Member State by the specified date, as well as their family members”. It goes well beyond the right to remain – it also include strong and detailed safeguards against any discrimination.

It will protect the current rights of spouses, registered partners, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren and a person in a durable relationship, who do not yet live in the same State as the Union citizen or the United Kingdom national, to join them in the future:

“Irrespective of their nationality, the following categories of family members who were not residing in the host State on the specified date will be entitled to join a Union citizen or UK national right holder after the specified date for the life time of the right holder, on the same conditions as under current Union law:

a. all family members as referred to in Article 2 of Directive 2004/38/EC, provided they were related to the right holder on the specified date and they continue to be so related at the point they wish to join the right holder; and

b. children born, or legally adopted, after the specified date, whether inside or outside the host State, where:

i. the child is born to, or legally adopted by, parents who are both protected by the Withdrawal Agreement or where one parent is protected by the Withdrawal Agreement and the other is a national of the host State;

or ii. the child is born to, or legally adopted by, a parent who is protected by the Withdrawal Agreement and who has sole or joint custody of the child under the applicable family law of an EU27 Member State or the UK and without prejudging the normal operation of that law, in particular as regards the best interests of the child.”

So will all the scaremongering now cease?

After the referendum Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader stated:

“We will do everything we can to ensure all of the borough’s EU residents feel as welcome today, and each day thereafter, as they did yesterday.”

So why hasn’t the welcomed the breakthrough – as the Leader of Wandsworth Council has.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:

“I welcome the apparent U-turn from Theresa May on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and British citizens living in the EU. I will pore over the details of this over the coming days because there needs to be clear and unambiguous reassurance to the three million EU citizens in Britain –  one million of whom are Londoners – that they can stay, and that they’ll have automatic full rights.”

Pretty disgraceful for two reasons. First of all the “apparent U-turn” implied that Theresa May had previously be opposed to allowing citizens of other EU states to remain. Secondly the Mayor implies that the agreement fails to give “clear and unambiguous reassurance” – what is his basis for saying that? After the “coming days” he should put up or shut up. Let him specify how the agreement could have been any more “clear and unambiguous” – or otherwise give it “clear and unambiguous” welcome.

What about the borough’s MPs?

Greg Hands, the Minister for London and MP for Chelsea and Fulham is pretty clear:

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But what about Andrew Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith? Only on Thursday he tweeted:

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Here was the exchange he refers to:

“Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab)

When are we going to have a statement on the rights of EU nationals, particularly Irish citizens, many of whom have lived in this country for decades? Even if the Government cannot sort out anything else on EU withdrawal, please may we have a statement on this matter, which is causing anxiety to millions of people?

Andrea Leadsom

I am surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman seek that reassurance. The Prime Minister has made it very clear on numerous occasions, including in her Florence speech, that all EU citizens will be able to carry on living their lives as before. We have committed to incorporating our agreement on citizens’ rights fully into UK law.”

Then a few hours later we had the deal published. Why hasn’t Mr Slaughter welcomed it and taken the chance to spread the reassuring news to his constituents?

Could it be that some Labour politicians actually don’t really welcome the news as before the official clarification they felt they exploit the anxieties for political gain?

Another paradox is that while the EU itself feels the protections for their citizens living here after Brexit are completely solid some of the EU’s keenest supporters feel unable to accept this.

Etre plus royaliste que le roi?

Sign our Petition opposing Cycle Super-Highway 9

Cllr Caroline ffiske writes

Transport for London opened its consultation on the Cycle Superhighway 9 (“CS9”) proposal in late September, closing it on 31 October.  The proposal involves the development of a three metre wide Cycle Superhighway from Olympia, around the top of the Hammersmith Gyratory, along King Street and Chiswick High Road and through to Brentford Town Centre.

CS9 passes through the heart of Olympia, Avonmore and Brook Green, Hammersmith, and Ravenscourt Park.  Therefore Conservative councillors representing these area have spent the last few months doing as much as we can to make sure residents know about the scheme and consultation, and seeing what they think about it.

While a local councillor can never speak to everyone or for everyone, it is safe to say that, in its current form, CS9 is very unpopular.  A huge number of local people have spent a considerable amount of time looking at the scheme in detail and sending in comments and observations.

It is also important to put on record concerns about the quality of the consultation.  Large numbers of people living near the route had no idea about the scheme. This includes many people who use Hammersmith Road as their main commuting route, and people who use King Street every week and regard it as their main local shopping and community area. It is also difficult to make head or tail of some important details of the scheme which matter for particular areas, such as where pavements will be narrowed.

A number of important concerns have been raised with us by local residents.  The most significant is the increased congestion and resulting air pollution that the scheme will cause, and the impact that this will have on local people’s health and well-being.  Air pollution is high on the agenda in local government, yet no-one has shown how this scheme along already densely congested roads will do anything but make it worse for local people.  The second concern is the congestion itself.  Whether you’re sitting in a bus or car in traffic that can’t move, walking past those queues of traffic, or living in a street that is suddenly filled with backed-up rat-runners, it is misery.   Locals have told us it can take an hour to move along Hammersmith Road from North End Road to the Gyratory – and that’s now, without CS9. It will only get worse.

Then there is the narrowing of pavements, particularly in King Street: a big ‘no’ when we are trying to make King Street a lively destination that all local people use and are proud of.   And we are all hoping it will get busier with new developments like Landmark House.  Many cyclists themselves have said that higher-speed ‘commuter’ cycling next to busy pedestrian streets like King Street will be dangerous for the cyclists as well as for pedestrians.

There are also many details which have not been thought through adequately, such as moving bus-stops that elderly people use, or removing bus lanes so that traffic will grind to a stand-still every time a bus stops.

Because of these factors, Hammersmith and Fulham Conservatives are launching a petition asking the Council to withdraw its support for CS9 in its current form. We would like them to look instead at more incremental measures to improve the experience of cyclists within the borough, to continue to look at other transport improvements that will work for the benefit of everyone in the borough, and to work with TfL to find an alternative route for a major cycle superhighway.

Throughout the coming months we will continue to raise awareness of the CS9 scheme with local people, and we will compile and publish comments on our website so people can see what others are thinking.  If you have any specific comments on the scheme, please e-mail us.

If, like us, you are seeking more time, more detail, or are already concerned about aspects of the CS9 scheme, please sign our petition and forward it to any friends and family who live along the route.  Click here to sign!

Only 306 new affordable homes built in H&F in the past three and half years – Wandsworth’s had 1,195

When I canvass local residents in Hammersmith and Fulham the biggest issue that comes up is housing. Many people voted Labour at the last council elections in 2014 as they felt the Conservative council was not providing enough of what is officially termed “affordable” housing.

So what has been Labour’s record?

The Mayor of London provides the statistics.

For 2013/14, when the Council had a Conservative administration, there were 178 “affordable completions” – that is to see new homes that were actually built that met one of the criteria for being “affordable”. There were eight “affordable rent” (which can be up to 80 per cent of market rent and so pretty unaffordable to many people), 35 “social rent” (which is under half the market rent). There was also  135 for “affordable home ownership” – this would include “shared ownership” schemes.

Anyway for 2014/15 the figure was 168 for “affordable completions” – 61 affordable rent, 27 social rent, 80 affordable home ownership. So slightly down in Labour’s first year. Still they could argue there was a bit of a time lag so that wasn’t really their fault.

Then we have the figure for 2015/16 which was 86 – of which 20 affordable rent, 48 social rent, 18 affordable home ownership. They could still mutter about a time lag – although it is a bit harder for them to say that it was still nothing to do with them.

So we now have the figure for 2016/17. I don’t think any reasonable person could say that three years of power meant they could still be absolved of any responsibility. The total of affordable completions for that year was ten. That’s right. Just ten. Four of them for affordable rent, six for affordable home ownership.

For this financial year so far we have the tally for seven months to the end of October. The total so far is just 42 – all for affordable rent.

When you add them up it means that only 306 new affordable homes have been built over the past three and half years of Labour running the show. Over the same period Wandsworth has seen 1,195 affordable homes completed. In Barnet it is 943.  Westminster has managed 480. Hillingdon has seen 463.

The figures provided by the Mayor of London go back to 2008/09. So that covers six Conservative years. The total during those six years of affordable completions was 1,162.  So an average of 184 a year. Labour’s annual average, for their three and half years, is 87.

Anyway you slice it a deplorable record. By comparison with what Conservative councils have achieved over the same period, or what was achieved in Hammersmith and Fulham during the Conservative years the Labour failure is stark.

 

 

 

An array of performances to choose in Hammersmith and Fulham over Christmas

Lots of arts events to choose from locally over Christmas.

Jack and the Beanstalk – Lyric Theatre, Lyric Square, King Street

Tickets £15 ‐ £40 available here. Running time – 130 minutes. Ages 6+

See the review in the Evening Standard.

Bush Hall, 310 Uxbridge Road, London W12 7LJ 020 8222 6955

Lots going on at this excellent Edwardian venue. It was originally built in 1904  and was used as a dance hall through the roaring twenties and as a soup kitchen during the Second World War.

Comedy: Bush Hall Presents a Festive Tim Key – details here.

Then on New Year’s Eve there is: The Sheen Resistance presents: Lost in Disco New Years Eve Extravaganza! Sunday, Dec 31, 2017 9:00 PM – 3am January 1st 2018. Details here.

 

Baron’s Court Theatre, The Curtains Up pub, 28a Comeragh Road, London W14 9HR 020 7602 0235

An intimate venue under the Curtains Up pub. Founded in 1991 it has only 57 seats.

Coming up we have Improvised Pantomimes. 7.30pm – 10.00pm from 12th- 17th of December with the Very Serious People. Tickets £10-£12 here.

Then we have The Fairground Magic Show. Set in the Fairground and carnivals of yesteryear. A traditional magic show for the whole family. Created and presented  by magician and showman Richard Leigh. Tickets £10-£12 here.

More details here.

Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Road, W12 8LJ 020 8743 5050

I’m afraid very much dominated by agitprop in recent years. Currently showing Parliament Square about a woman who sets herself on fire for no terribly clear reason. “There’s passion here, but without purpose and direction it just fizzes and zips about haphazardly, like a lit firework in a box,” said the review in The Times. Plus “some blurry existential musing.”

As Miss Jean Brodie said: “For those who like that sort of thing.  That is the sort of thing they like.”

Others might prefer A Storystock Christmas on Saturday December 9th and Saturday December 16th. “A magical series of interactive storytelling, craft, drama and comedy sessions for all the family this winter season.” More details here.

Tabard Theatre, 2 Bath Road, W4 1LW 0208 995 6035

This 96 seat venue opened in 1985 above the Tabard Pub and is very near Turnham Green tube – so just over the border in Hounslow.

The Little Match Girl, 7 December – 31 December 2017 adapted from the classic tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Tuesday – Saturday 7pm, Saturday Matinees 3pm, Sunday Matinees 3pm.

Tickets £19.50 Concessions £16.50 Under 16’s £14.50. More details here.

Irish Cultural Centre, 5 Black’s Road, Hammersmith, W6 9DT 

Nun’s Chorus – an Irish Theatre Play by Sally Mulready. Directed by Molly Mulready. “Set in 1950s Ireland, ‘Nun’s Chorus’ tells the story of what happens when a group of Carmelite Nuns, from an enclosed order, are forced to leave their convent for the very first time in years, to go on an holiday to Galway.”

Friday December 8th, 7.45pm. Tickets £10, £6 concessions. More details here.

 

How big should hedges be?

I often get correspondence about hedges.  Sometimes it is requested that the Council ensures that property owners do some pruning to avoid obstructing the pavement – as with the example pictured.

But there is controversy as to how much pruning should take place. Sometimes it is the Council that owns the hedge. I have already noted the comments from the Biodiversity Commission about street trees.

This is what they say about hedges:

“Shrubs are being over-pruned and rubbish-laden compost strewn too heavily under trees and shrubs to reduce maintenance, causing the death of some shrubs. Often there is no budget to replace these shrubs and, when there is, there is reluctance to plant as it means additional maintenance. Regulation has also gone too far – shrubs/ hedges have been emasculated in order to reduce anti-social behaviour but the balance is not right. There are virtually no intact hedges in parks or gardens of council housing estates and similarly few shrubs above chest level height. This, coupled with the loss of garden space discussed in 3.2, has resulted in a very severe decline in habitat area and variety in the Borough and has contributed to the fall in small bird populations in inner London.”

The Parks Manager responds as follows

“The Biodiversity Commission have looked at the maintenance of hedges from purely ecological/biodiversity perspective, which is to let hedges flourish with only minor pruning.  Hedges at the moment are pruned in accordance with horticultural practice but also often to minimise anti-social behaviour (referenced in the report).

“There is also an aesthetic factor as well in how we manage hedges; ones managed for biodiversity will tend to have a ‘wilder’ look.  That said, there is no reason why a compromise cannot be met and as a team we’re looking forward to working with the commission and improving biodiversity in parks and cemeteries.  Any changes in management practice will need to be coupled with a level of education explaining the benefits.”

So far as the council estates are concerned the Head of Estate Services says:

“We believe that we have struck the right balance between the need for shrubs and hedges that are attractive and flourishing, and the needs for clear lines of sight for CCTV, and the avoidance of blind spots that facilitate antisocial behaviour.  We manage these issues on a case by case basis on our housing estates, relying on advice from the Police, and the local knowledge of residents. Any walkaround of our estates would demonstrate that they are full of greenery and flourishing hedges, managed in a sensitive manner. Our supplier of gardening services, Idverde, are fully aware of this approach and do not cut hedges or shrubs in the nesting season, or when they are flowering. They are also using an innovative form of hot foam weeding to avoid the use of over 100 litres of potential toxic chemicals.

“This specific activity is set within the context of our Greening Strategy which itemises our plans to encourage bio-diversity through our choices of plants, and establishes our strong approach to protecting the green tree canopy through sympathetic pruning, replacement of dead trees, and through significant additional planting. We have planted over 750 trees in the last three years, of which over 150 have been on our estates.”

So we are all agreed that there should be a balance. The only question is what the right balance is. In a way perhaps sending in photographs of examples of where it has gone wrong might inform the Council of how to improve and allow a reasoned consensus to emerge.

By the way cutting hedges and trees should be avoided between March and August as this is the main breeding season for nesting birds.