Labour spin on police funding unravels

Last month Labour claimed in a press release that they had negotiated extra money from property developers for policing.

It turns out that some of that money will replace funding that the Council’s was funding directly. That means that maintaining funding for those extra police officers is entirely dependent on property developers.

Furthermore much of the money from property developers – the Section 106 payments – had ALREADY been agreed before Labour took over. (Indeed it was money for developments that their councillors opposed.) See this list on page 10 Appendix A of this report. The only question was what to spend it on. I had previously been unallocated. That’s fine to spend it on policing – although that means it won’t be available for parks, or schools, or libraries or road improvements. But it is not extra money.

So has an extra money been agreed on Section 106 money since the election? Er, no.

I asked the following query:

“Please advise on any renegotiations of Section 106 payments since May this year. Both any changes to the total payments and also how those payments will be allocated.”

Here is the reply from John Finlayson, Head of Planning Regeneration:

“Earls Court

Both LBHF and RBKC agreed with the applicant by way of a Deed of Variation that some payments in the completed Sec 106 agreement relating to employment and training opportunities could be deferred. Both Councils thought this was a reasonable approach provided there was an appropriate and reasonable long stop date to ensure that when the payments are received the Councils are able to use them for the purposes for which the obligation was required. The Councils considered that the Exhibition Demolition Date, currently scheduled for Jan 2015 was a reasonable long stop date for the payments which otherwise would have been payable on commencement of the development. Such payment will ensure that the proposal remains in accordance with the relevant provisions of the development plan.  

Additionally in respect of Sec 106 agreements not completed I can advise:


The £20 million Sec 106 infrastructure contribution attached to the recent planning permission is consistent with the amount identified in the planning committee report. An additional clause, however, was included in the Sec 106 which provides an option to the Council should it decide to allocate £2 million to the Wood Lane station decking and the opening up of some of the western railway arches, then Westfield will further subsidise the Discount Market Sale dwellings by an additional £2 million (over the already committed £20 million) so the 3-bed DMS units are more affordable to our Home Buy registered clients.

Hurlingham Retail Park

The planning committee report identified £10 million S106 infrastructure contribution.  The Council’s standard wording within Sec 106 agreements is that the monies can be allocated for a range of social, economic and environmental purposes including ‘any such measures as may be agreed in writing by the Owner (Developer) and the Council’.  There is no further limitation within the definition in respect of what these measures may be.  

1.  It has been agreed by the developer and the Council prior to signing the Sec 106 to allocate a proportion of the infrastructure contribution,, £5 million towards on-site affordable housing.

 2.  The allocation of the Sec 106 £5m results in the provision of the affordable housing on site increasing from 25 units (3 x DMS, 6 x affordable rent and 16 social rent homes) to 34 units.  The affordable housing would be provided as social rent comprising 12 x 1 bed units, 16 x 2 bed units, 6 x 3 bed units.

 3.  The requirement for a viability review to be submitted by the developer before the sale of the 185th residential unit has been included in the Sec 106. Any additional profit over 17.5% on Gross Development Value and capped at £20,000,000 would be split 50/50 between the applicant and the council up to a maximum of £10 million.  Any surplus could only be used by the Council  towards the provision of  affordable housing in the Borough.”

So some changes on housing allocations but no extra Section 106 money yet. If some can be squeezed then that’s good news. There will always be negotiations under way. But it is complacent and misleading to claim to have closed any deal when the negotiations are still under way.

By the way why did we not read about deals with property developers that Mr Finlayson told me about on the Council’s website? There is supposed to be this information in the section on meetings with property developers.

Mr Finlayson said of the changes agreed with Westfield:

“It does not appear on the Transparency pages of the Council’s website because these provide a brief record of meetings between developers and councillors.”

Indeed. I will endeavour to keep you informed of what is really going on.

Carol services in Hammersmith and Fulham

stpetersblackSt Paul’s, Hammersmith : Sunday 14th December at 5pm and 7.30pm.
St Peter’s, Black Lion Lane: Sunday 14th December at 6.30pm.
St Simon’s, Rockley Road : Sunday 14th December at 7pm.
St Andrew’s, Star Road: Sunday 21st December at 6.30pm.
St Matthew’s Church, Wandsworth Bridge Road: Sunday 21st December at 6.30pm.
Holy Innocents Church, Paddenswick Road: Tuesday 23rd December at 7.30pm
Please let me know if I have missed any…

Collapse in enforcement of penalties for littering under Labour

Many residents have noticed how the streets are less clean in Hammersmith and Fulham since Labour took control in May.

Why has this happened? One explanation may be the end of the “walkabouts” with the contractors Serco. I am also trying to discover if the contracts have been changed.

But another side of the story is enforcement. If people can get away with dropping litter – rather than being fined £80 – this will have an impact.

Roy Instrall, the Street Scene Enforcement Manager, tells me the figures for Fixed Penalty Notices issued for littering this year are as follows:

January 2014 = 74
February 2014 = 4
March 2014 = 43
April 2014 = 59
May 2014 = 102
June 2014 = 58
July 2014 = 46
August 2014 = 8
September 2014 = 0
October 2014 = 2

This simply is no longer a priority now that we have a Labour administration.

Cllr Andrew Brown: The Council has a responsibility to communicate good news, as well as bad

andrewbrownA guest post from Cllr Andrew Brown, Conservative spokesman for Health and Adult Social Care

 Today we have learnt about excellent news that seven day a week GP access will be expanded in Hammersmith and Fulham. This programme has been supported and funded by this Government, and yesterday the Chancellor announced in the autumn statement that GP services are to get £1.2bn in extra funds from bank fines, in addition to the additional £2bn funding for the NHS. This will help to improve access to primary care, including at the weekend and also help to relieve pressure from A&Es and other health services.

You would have learnt about this news if you received the press release from the NHS, or if you read this blog. Unfortunately you would not have heard through any of the council’s communication channels, which has a much greater reach.

I wonder why that is?

The council has a direct responsibility for integration of healthcare, social care and public health through the Health & Wellbeing Board. The council provides and commissions social care and as of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 has direct responsibility and holds the budgets for public health.

Why therefore are the only stories we hear from the Labour Council attacking the NHS, and its proposals that Drs believe will save 100s of lives a year. By all means criticise, scrutinise, campaign against these proposals – that was a key election theme for Labour in May – but do not neglect your responsibilities to make residents aware of positive health stories and public health messages.

I have written to the new interim chief executive, Nigel Pallace to ask him to ensure that council communications are responsible and meet the civil service code. The content of these messages are not politically impartial, as they should be, and a few months ago even saw the council twitter feed retweet a message by the British National Party, which they subsequently deleted. I have included my letter to Nigel Pallace here.

At last night’s health and adult social care scrutiny meeting one item we discussed was raised as an emergency by my colleague Cllr Joe Carlebach. This was on the poor uptake of the under 5 flu vaccine in this borough. Questions were asked of the local Clinical Commissioning Group and GPs in H&F, but Cllr Carlebach and I both questioned the council’s role with regard to its responsibility for overseeing vaccination programmes and public health in general. Cllr Carlebach and I, with the rest of the committee, have asked for a plan to be put together as a matter of urgency.

We would like to see the council be more proactive in publicising public health messages such as this, and many other programmes, such as the HPV vaccination programme, uptake of which we found out yesterday to be the eight worse area in the country.

I do not wish to scare residents unnecessarily nor use hyperbole, however in the case of serious health conditions such as influenza and cervical cancer, it is not an exaggeration to say that lives are at risk. The council has a responsibility for public health and an opportunity to make residents more aware of public health messages. I hope it will now do so.


Seven day GP access for Hammersmith and Fulham patients

Patients in Hammersmith and Fulham are now able to access GP services seven days a week, thanks to a new service launched by NHS Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

The weekend opening service provides alternative to A&E for people who need access to care at the weekend. Patients can see a GP and it is hoped that this will help free up A&E departments for those with life threatening illnesses or injuries.

Five practices across the borough are offering the walk-in service on Saturdays and Sundays, and patients can see a GP without an appointment. They do not have to be registered with the practice, and using the service will not affect their registration with their own GP.

The practices that offer the service are:

  • Brook Green Medical Centre, Bute Gardens, London, W6 7EG
  • Cassidy Medical Centre, 651a Fulham Road, London, SW6 5PX
  • Palace Surgery, 510 Fulham Palace Road, London, SW6 6JD
  • Dr Jefferies and Partners, The Medical Centre, 292 Munster Road, London, SW6 6BQ
  • Parkview Practice (Dr Canisius and Dr Hasan) Cranston Court, 56 Bloemfontein Road, London W12 7FG

The practices are open between 9am and 4pm and patients wanting to book an appointment should call 03000 333 666.

The service has been introduced as part of NHS Hammersmith and Fulham CCG’s Out of Hospital Strategy, which aims to bring care closer to home and into a local, more familiar environment for the benefit of the patients.

Dr Susan McGoldrick, vice-chair of Hammersmith and Fulham CCG said:

“Statistics show that many patients attend A&E when their GP practice is closed, even if they don’t have a life-threatening illness. These more minor illnesses can be treated by a pharmacist or GP.

“We are opening GP practices at weekends for all residents to use so they can see a GP on Saturday and Sunday by booking an appointment or simply going to the walk-in service offered by these practices.

“The clear message is that there are alternative services available so don’t go to an A&E unless you really need to.”

U-Turn: Labour backs more tower blocks in Hammersmith and Fulham

Last night Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council voted through a policy which favoured having more tower blocks in the borough. The Draft Local Plan contained plenty of bogus excuses and weasly caveats. But had the Labour councillors troubled to read the report (which to be fair is 296 pages – in order to minimise the risk of such an eventuality) the upshot was clear.

It soothingly stated that the new tower blocks must be of “good design”. (When in the last few decades having planning officers recommended approval for a tower block they felt was of poor design?)

New tower blocks should be welcomed for “providing a distinctive recognisable landmark” – well that’s one way of putting it.

The report added that:

“Tall buildings may be appropriate within an employment centre in order to mark the location of the transport interchange…”

If you live outside a conservation area then Labour say you can get stuffed. Who cares if more tower blocks go up in Shepherd’s Bush, given the blight of tower blocks is so bad already: is effectively the policy that Labour has now endorsed:

“A limited number of tall buildings could be considered as part of the approach to urban design provided they are of exceptional design quality and do not have an unreasonable impact on nearby residential properties and where they are not considered to have a detrimental impact on the setting of listed buildings, the character and appearance of the Wood Lane conservation area, or the setting of other neighbouring conservation areas and the local area in general. Some other limited locations within the White City Regeneration Area may also be acceptable for tall buildings, as long as it can be demonstrated that they do not have a negative impact on the character and setting of Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas and the local area in general.”

On the same logic, why not have more tower blocks in West Kensington? “There may be scope for tall buildings in close proximity to the existing Empress State building…”

While for the South Fulham Riverside regeneration area, “taller buildings may be appropriate if it can be demonstrated that a tall building would be a key design element in a masterplan for regeneration and that it would have a positive relationship to the riverside.” Demonstrated to whose satisfaction that more tower blocks would “have a positive relationship to the riverside”?

Then there is Hammersmith Town Centre. Again Labour felt the problem was we just don’t have enough tower blocks:

“Hammersmith Town Centre has a number of existing tall buildings and further tall buildings of a similar height could be appropriate in some parts of the centre.”

But don’t worry the new tower blocks would have to “make a positive contribution to the skyline”. Of course for those who like tower blocks they do “make a positive contribution to the skyline.”

In my ward, of Ravenscourt Park, King Street is disfigured by the Premier Inn. An earlier proposal for the town hall redevelopment involved two 14 storey blocks of flat – that would have been equivalent to two more Premier Inns. The scheme had good points – demolishing the town hall extension and replacing the underpass with a footbridge over the A4. But damaging the skyline with two more Premier Inns was a huge disadvantage.

Nobody said:

“Oh well – as we have already got one building that size it doesn’t matter if we have a couple more.”

Certainly the Labour councillors didn’t say that.

Labour’s support for tower blocks represents the most shameless of u-turns.

Before the election Cllr PJ Murphy of Hammersmith Broadway Ward said:

“It is criminal to blight Hammersmith’s skyline with high rise tower blocks.”

Cllr Stephen Cowan, who is now the council leader, wrote on his blog:

“New, ugly tower blocks detested by local residents. That’s hardly the right approach which is why my Labour colleagues and I will change that if the public vote us into office in 2014.”

I attended the Cabinet meeting last night and alerted its members to what they were voting through.

I questioned the planning officer presenting the report, Pat Cox. She confirmed that “tall buildings” did indeed mean tower blocks. (The report defines them as “those that are substantially taller than their neighbours and/or which significantly change the skyline.”)

She confirmed that the report did indeed mean allowing more of them in the borough.

So even if the Labour councillors hadn’t read the report (and judging by their faces I suspect they hadn’t) they did not have the excuse that they were unaware of what they were doing.

The policy was unanimously voted through.

Thus after six months, Labour rubber stamps a property developers charter.

No constraint that new buildings should be beautiful. At the same meeting Labour voted in favour of privatising the entire council housing stock – they want to transfer ownership to a housing association, meaning higher rents and fewer rights for tenants, and higher service charges for leaseholders. Labour is spraying £1.5 million of Council Taxpayers money at consultants and lawyers just to carry out the process.

The Cabinet also resolved to become completely dependent on further Section 106 payments to fund additional policing. Previously part of this cost came from general council funds. Now Labour are completely addicted to the property developers to continue with this funding.

Labour’s pledge for transparency over their dealings with property developers has already become a joke. They promised records of meetings to be made available. They have been carried out in the most cynical nominal way – recording nothing of substance.

Labour has rejected a proposal for audio recording of Planning Committee meetings to be made available on the Council’s website.

What a difference in just six months.

Having denounced the planning developers as class enemies just six months ago, Labour are holding secret meetings with them and allowing whatever eyesores are demanded.

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

Daniel Moylan: We must relocate Heathrow – Hong Kong, Denver and Munich have shown the way

moylannewA guest post from Daniel Moylan, the Mayor of London’s Chief Aviation Adviser

London’s prosperity depends on its remaining a truly global city; it is the powerhouse of the British economy in part because it is our gateway to the world. And since London is the capital of an island-nation, it is hardly surprising that much of that connectivity is by air: 85% of people arriving in and leaving the UK do so on a plane.

That is why London’s airports are so important. For historical reasons, however, instead of having a single major airport to serve the capital, there is one dominant but constrained airport at Heathrow supplemented by a clutch of smaller airports, such as Gatwick and Stansted, each of which has been developed because Heathrow is so constrained, but neither of which has turned out to be the right answer to the question, How should London’s growing need for aviation connectivity be addressed?

Heathrow argues that the best connectivity – and the widest choice of destinations for passengers – comes from having a large “hub” airport, similar to those in Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt, Atlanta and Dubai. And Heathrow is right about that. The handful of other cities that have multiple medium-sized airports (such as Tokyo and Moscow) have struggled to generate hub business – in Tokyo’s case it has been lost to the hub airport in Seoul – and so struggle to give their own residents and businesses the choice of destinations and frequencies they need to prosper.

So Heathrow has a good point. But the problem the airport management refuses to acknowledge is that Heathrow has already outgrown its premises. Its airfield is half the size of Paris Charles De Gaulle and, while it might be physically possible to tack a third runway onto the airport by moving and tunnelling the M25, real long term growth can only come from relocating to a site where these physical constraints cease to be a challenge.

And even more markedly, Heathrow fails to recognise that expansion of the current airport is environmentally and politically undeliverable. Already Heathrow is the most noise-polluting airport in Europe, blighting the lives of over 700,000 people in their homes. Heathrow management asks us to accept that with a third runway (one of them operating in mixed mode) and an assumed 50% increase in flights, there will be less noise from the airport than now. Of course nobody actually believes that.

So we face the conundrum that we need Heathrow to grow – it is running at 98.5% full at the moment – but we can’t let Heathrow grow at Heathrow. It doesn’t require a genius to see that the answer is for Heathrow to relocate. But it does require some courage to fight for Londoners in that cause and that is what Boris Johnson has been doing for the whole of his time as Mayor. Other cities have done exactly this: Hong Kong moved its airport to a barely inhabited island in the middle of the sea – and released huge economic benefits in doing so. Denver in Colorado and Munich in Germany have done the same.

In Britain there is a perpetual chorus of doubt and nay-saying on the theme that foreigners can do those things, but we cannot – even though a great number of engineers and architects working on new airports globally are in fact British. We have the expertise; all we need is a bit of British grit and we can give our city and our country the airport it needs for the coming century.