What would a Labour Government mean for Charing Cross Hospital?

220px-Charing_Cross_Hospital_in_London,_spring_2013_(15)It has become a familiar message of the Labour Party locally that the NHS proposals “Shaping a healthier future” would constitute the closure of Charing Cross Hospital (or at least of its A&E department). It has also become a familiar message from the NHS that this allegation is false.

Bullying council staff into repeating a lie in an official council press release doesn’t make it true.

What was clear was that Labour offered an “early pledge” to “block” those proposals, if they won the council elections last May. They have not done so.

In the General Election campaign they will repackage their messages and say that Charing Cross Hospital is still under threat of closure but that (whoops a daisy) actually it turns out not to be a local council decision but that electing a Labour Government should do the trick.

Yet what are we to make of an article in the left wing journal Tribune from the Labour leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Cllr Stephen Cowan?

Cllr Cowan says:

“Labour needs to commit to smaller high profile changes in each part of the country, too – such as saving the world-class Charing Cross Hospital in London.”

That can only mean that – in the view of Cllr Cowan – Labour have yet to make any such commitment.

Cllr Andrew Brown: Half a century on, Churchill’s still the greatest

andrewbrownA guest post from Cllr Andrew Brown

Never in history, has our country, nor the world, owed so much to one man.

It is without doubt in my mind, that Sir Winston Churchill was the greatest politician, greatest Prime Minister, greatest person that this country and probably the world has ever seen. Whether you share that view or not, it is undeniable that he was a truly great man.

That is why it is so important that we remember his extraordinary life fifty years after his death and continue to do so in years to come. The word extraordinary is often overused, but in Winston’s case it feels underwhelming. No amount of adjectives, superlatives or literary device could quite encapsulate the man he was.

churchillNot only was he our greatest wartime leader, at our time of greatest need, he played an important part in the victory of the 1st World War. He modernised the Royal Navy as First Lord of the Admiralty, and played an important role in the development of the tank. He came back from the shock post war election defeat to limit the damage that Atlee’s Labour Government was doing to this country. He was a prolific writer, a journalist, a historian and Nobel Prize winning author. He was a bricklayer and an accomplished painter. His early life saw him pop up in so many far flung parts of Empire at many important events, he could easily overshadow many fantastical fictional characters.

He faced challenges in his personal life, most seriously severe depression, and in his public life, his resignation over the Dardanelles, but he overcame them. Following his resignation he became an officer on the front line in the trenches when many in his position would have retired from public life. Between the wars he spent years in the political wilderness and first saw the dangers and evil of Hitler and Nazism when mainstream popular opinion was against him.

His instinct for what was right was so strong he also foresaw the rise of the Iron Curtain and the Cold War. His strength of his convictions was what was so necessary at that darkest time, but also what caused him some of his challenges. He was a champion of free trade and resigned from the Conservative Party over that issue to join the Liberals, only to “re-rat” years later.

His oratory, written word and wit are so memorable that people can recall hundreds of his phrases over a lifetime and sometimes century after they were said or written. He’s even given credit for fantastic lines he didn’t say, but are so good that people believe Winston must have said it.

He was a bon viveur, a gregarious lover of life, who had such a prodigious appetite for champagne and cigars that Pol Roger named their vintage champagne after him and Romeo y Julieta named a style of cigar in his honour.

He help to found Churchill College Cambridge, which was named in his honour. He was respected and adored across the world, especially in the USA. He was an Atlanticist and believed in the Empire and Commonwealth, and I’m sure would not have wanted this country to distance itself from it, as it has.

Churchill was the ultimate statesman, and would almost certainly be on the right side of the argument over what to do today over Russian aggression or Islamic terrorism, or any other geopolitical problem we will face.

He was a man that would have been a leading politician in any generation, but we must be so very very thankful that his moment was at our darkest hour.

I have been fascinated by him for a most of my life since reading about his accomplishments whilst at school. He is probably one of the reasons I love reading about history and why I got involved in politics. He inspires me to not always follow the crowd and stick to what I believe in, even if it sometimes is contrary to mainstream opinion.

If you want to find out more about his remarkable life, I would recommend Martin Gilbert’s biography, as well as Boris Johnson’s recent book. To read more from Churchill’s own voice, his histories of the English Speaking Peoples, the Second World War and on Marlborough are splendid, to name just a few.

If all Conservatives could think and act a little more like Churchill with his single mindedness and dedication, our party and our country would be stronger for it. We should all try to be a little more like him.

Simon Daykin: Celebrating the story of Emery Walker and William Morris

simon daykin close cropA guest post from Simon Daykin, the Project Manager for Arts and Crafts Hammersmith

Two of Hammersmith’s favourite former residents are to be put even more firmly on the map, thanks to a new project and an injection of Lottery cash.

Arts and Crafts Hammersmith is a new partnership project between Emery Walker Trust and William Morris Society, who respectively run museums at the former homes of Arts and Crafts pioneers Emery Walker and William Morris on the Hammersmith riverside. The ambitious project, which has just announced funding from Heritage Lottery Fund of £631,100, began this month.

It comprises a range of refurbishment works to the former homes of Morris and Walker – Kelmscott House and 7 Hammersmith Terrace – plus a range of activities and initiatives to bring the men and the rich stories of their work, influences and friendship to as wide an audience as possible.

7 Hammersmith Terrace Dining Room High Res7 Hammersmith Terrace, home to typographer and antiquarian Emery Walker from 1903 until his death in 1933, is widely considered as one of the best preserved examples of an Arts and Crafts interior still in existence.

It’s a veritable treasure house of authentic textiles, furnishings, artworks and personal ephemera literally oozing with the influences of William Morris and his Arts and Crafts contemporaries from the late 19th century. By the good grace of Walker’s daughter Dorothy, who inherited the house after his death until her own in the 1960s, and Dorothy’s companion in later life Elizabeth de Haas, who endowed the house and its vast collections to the newly formed Emery Walker Trust in 1999, the house has delighted visitors with its tucked away and secret charms since then.

Kelmscott House extWilliam Morris’s former home, Kelmscott House, 1/4 mile away, has its own charms, housing important designs, textiles and archives from Morris and his daughter May and their work as designers, artists, political activists and campaigners. The house is also open to the public, and provides a venue for lectures, talks and workshops through the year.

However, time takes its toll on priceless collections and buildings. Not only that, but this stretch of riverside holds an array of stories of the collaborations and friendship between Morris and Walker, bursting to be told. Morris is more readily known, of course, but Walker was his mentor and guide in printing and typography, and together they nurtured their influences and views on art, design, society and politics as the Thames flowed by.

Roll the clock back 100 or so years, and this part of Hammersmith was truly a crucible of creativity and politics, that went far beyond our two pioneering legends.

With support from Heritage Lottery Fund, complemented by grants from charitable trusts such as Garfield Weston Foundation, Heritage of London Trust and the Ashley Family Foundation (Laura Ashley was heavily influenced by Morris in her textile and fabric designs), Arts and Crafts Hammersmith will initially involve building refurbishment and improvements.

This will preserve the fabric of both properties and ensure that they can properly house these unique collections. Visitor amenities will improve, and space developed for more exhibitions and displays, particularly of the items currently in storage. 7 Hammersmith Terrace will close to the public at the end of summer 2015, although we aim for Kelmscott House to stay open throughout. The newly refurbished and improved houses open again fully in spring 2017.

WMS printing pressWhilst the capital works take place, we tackle the huge task of completely cataloguing and digitising (creating an online searchable catalogue, including pictures, in other words) our collections and archives, giving an permanent accessible record and telling the stories of Morris and Walker to today’s digital world. A new website, virtual tours, and a mobile app are all planned. Come 2016, an array of participatory activities with schools, colleges, universities and the local community are planned, including writing projects, textile workshops and printing and typesetting work (Morris’s original printing press still operates today). We are also heavily promoting the development of volunteering and training, with a range of opportunities for learning and skills development in such areas as museum curation, archive and collections management, and heritage marketing and promotions.

Fundraising for the latter stages of the project continues. We’ll feature regular information as the project progresses on our websites http://www.emerywalker.org.uk and http://www.williammorrissociety.org.uk.

We know that the stories that lie within the houses of Morris and Walker are too important and too fascinating not to be told. The project allows us to share and celebrate them. We hope you will be able to join us.

7 Hammersmith Terrace Drawing Room 2

Cllr Joe Carlebach: Holocaust Memorial Day – A personal reflection and perspective

joecarA guest post from Cllr Joe Carlebach, councillor for Avonmore and Brook Green Ward

As part of Holocaust Remembrance Day this year, commemorated on the 27th January, a talk was given by a holocaust survivor, Hannah Lewis, in the Town Hall yesterday.

She spoke with eloquence and emotion of her story being born into a Jewish family in Poland in 1937, witnessing the German invasion and the subsequent round ups, deportations and murder of many of her friends and family.

One of the most moving moments of her talk was her description of the capture of her mother and then (as a small child) seeing her mother shot by the Nazis in cold blood and in plain sight.

I found her story particularly harrowing as I lost immediate family members in the Holocaust.

My grandfather (after whom I am named), my grandmother Charlotte (Lotte) and my three young aunts Ruth , Naomi 142 and Sara 133 were all shot and murdered by the Nazis on March 26, 1942, in Biķerniecki forest, near Riga, Latvia. They were aged respectively 15, 14 and 13 at the time.

This was the tragic culmination of a life which had started so full of promise. My grandfather had studied at Berlin University and then the University of Heidelberg in the early years of the 20th Century studying sciences and mathematics where he obtained his PhD.

In 1912 he was one of the first people asked to write an analysis of Einstein’s new theory of relativity.

Dr Joseph (Jo) Carlebach student in Berlin and Heidelberg, where he studied mathematics, physics, philosophy and history of arts.

Dr Joseph (Jo) Carlebach student in Berlin and Heidelberg, where he studied
mathematics, physics, philosophy and history of arts.

He became a well known figure and intellectual with Thomas Mann affording him the honour of a named cameo role in Dr Faustus.

At the same time as his secular studies he also qualified as a Rabbi leading a number of communities and in 1936 he became Chief Rabbi of Hamburg.

Throughout the rise of the fascists in Germany he was an outspoken opponent of their politics and thuggery.

When the German Government banned Jewish children from attending state schools my grandfather traveled around Germany setting up schools which became known as Carlebach schools in order that Jewish children would be able to have an education.

November 9th 1938 (known as Kristallnacht) marked the beginning of the tragic end for German Jewry. Almost every synagogue in Germany and Austria was destroyed and looted. All Jewish property was taken.

The first synagogue to be destroyed by Hitler’s Nazi thugs in Hamburg, was the great house of worship at the Bornplatz, the pulpit from where my grandfather preached. The man in charge of this mission was a high ranking Nazi who it was said had been sent directly by Hitler himself.

On hearing the news that his synagogue was being destroyed, my grandfather rushed to the building on his own and, in an act of total selflessness, attempted to stop the destruction by reasoning with the Nazis. He was badly beaten and the very next day he started organising the evacuation of his older children including my father who arrived in the UK on a Kinder Transport shortly thereafter.

As a direct result of the activities on Kristallnacht my grandfather was offered a visa to come to the UK but he turned it down. Many Jewish community leaders had already left Germany and my grandfather vehemently believed a leader should stay with his people through good and bad, seeing to the vulnerable, the needy and the poor. This he did and it was this that ultimately cost him his life.

His murder and the murder of my grandmother and three young aunts has cast a long and dark shadow over my life and I have no doubt it will do the same for my children as they learn what befell their family. So the burden of tragedy is shared and then ultimately passed to the next generation.

I learnt a long time ago there is no escaping history: all you can do is to deal with it as best you can.

We live in a troubled world today and despite the best efforts of many good people the lessons of history have not been well learnt.

There have been other genocides since the Holocaust and bigotry, intolerance and prejudice continue to thrive.

It is therefore beholden on us all to live our lives with a view to remembering the past, honoring those that died and making sure the future will be a better place for everyone, no matter who or what they are.

That is why Holocaust remembrance day is so important, for all of us.

My grandmother with her nine children including my father, in the early 1930s. The three youngest children Ruth, Naomi and Sara in the photo all perished with their parents.

My grandmother with her nine children including my father, in the early 1930s. The three
youngest children Ruth, Naomi and Sara in the photo all perished with their parents.

Post Script

In 1990 part of the Hamburg University Campus, the Bornplatz, the former location of the Main Synagogue of Hamburg and my grandfather’s last pulpit, was renamed the Joseph-Carlebach-Platz in his honour

Revealed: Labour’s 382 “stealth tax” rises in Hammersmith and Fulham

Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council claim that they are not increasing any fees or charges above the inflation rate. The truth is in stark contrast to this claim.

The inflation rate is 0.5 per cent. Yet in Labour’s proposed budget there are 256 increases in fees and charges of 2.4 per cent. That is nearly five times the rate of inflation. I counted a further 126 proposed increases above 0.5 per cent.

When Labour were in opposition they use to call increases in charges “stealth taxes”. I think the validity of the definition rather depends on whether the Council is offering a service in a competitive market place or is charging for a licence with monopoly power. But anyway Labour decided all these charges were taxes and promised to cut “all Council Taxes”. They have broken their promise on an industrial scale.

They were even stealthy about their stealth tax hikes. They refused to publish the 2.4 per cent rises – I had to make a specific request for the information. Here is the full list. It’s not on the Council’s website. A rather unconventional approach to scrutiny and transparency. Still, at least it is now in the public domain.

Here are some of Labour’s “stealth taxes” – at nearly five times inflation:

  • Charge for bedbugs treatment increased from £189 to £194. The Labour MP for Hammersmith Andrew Slaughter, with typical understatement, said that the Tories were in favour of bedbugs wishing to drive out the poor. Yet Labour have punished the poor by hiking the charge. The cost for removing cockroaches goes up from £129 to £132.
  • Booking a room at the Assembly Hall at the Town Hall goes up from £335 to £343. Although Labour have yet to cough up the money they owe for their own meetings.
  • What do Labour have against marriage and civil partnerships? Fees are hiked from £340 to £348.
  • While claiming to support market traders on North End Road, Labour are pushing up their weekly fee for a stall from £83.64 to £85.60. With friends like these…
  • Cafes are punished with an increase in the licence for having tables and chairs on the pavement going up from £659 to £675. Yet there is already a law dealing with obstruction which mean they are not allowed where the pavement is narrower then 1.8 metres.
  • Competitive sport in school is penalised. The cost for holding a sports day in a park (for up to three hours) increases from £160 to £163.80. An hour of rounders goes up from £40 to £40.90.
  • There is an attack on sport for adults too. The cost of booking a football pitch for a day goes up from £340 to £348. A game of cricket will cost £87 up from £85. Anyone for tennis? It is costing more under Labour. Up from £70 to £71.70 for ten one hour sessions.
  • In opposition Labour made emotive attacks on burial charges. In power Labour are cranking them up. Grave maintenance up from £167 to £170.50. Use of the chapel per hour up from £92 to £94. Scattering of ashes? Up from £81 to £82.50.

The amounts raised from some of these increases will be modest – in comparison to Labour’s million pound raid on motorists wallets. But the council leader Cllr Stephen Cowan spent eight years in opposition standing up in the town hall denouncing these charges for being too high and promising to cut them. For him to have promptly pushed them up by five times the inflation rate shows some chutzpah even by his standards.

Council revenue comes in for using underground ducts to provide better Broadband

In February last year the ITS Technology Group agreed a landmark deal in April 2014 to manage a super-fast fibre optic network in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. In a pioneering move we chose to become the first council in England to let out the underground ducts through which the authority’s CCTV network runs. All 10 miles of it.

Cllr Greg Smith, then the Deputy Leader of the Council was responsible for the initiative. He is now the Conservative Group leader. The deal means  a new source of revenue to the council – it will bring in £160,000 in the next financial year. I hope the Labour council leader remembers to send him a thank you note…

Furthermore providing money for the Council is not the only benefit. As the report last year set out:

  • “The indirect benefits will be that the bidder will improve the broadband connectivity speed and coverage for residents in the borough (Fibre to the Home).
  • Creation of new jobs by helping small business to thrive and also attract new businesses into the borough. Businesses will have easier access to the network and faster internet connectivity, (the improved fibre coverage of the utilisation of the duct asset will provide this). The bidder intends to sell to local business at affordable prices, to enable easy access and better connectivity.
  • The bidder will also enable connectivity to multi dwelling units (MDUs). As LBHF have fibre to and running past many MDUs, the bidder will be able to easily provide fast internet connectivity to many people.
  • Registered social landlords will also be able to offer broadband services to tenants as part of their accommodation package. The landlord will be able to include connectivity as part of the rental agreement. This would prove beneficial for example in student accommodation.”

Labour are boasting about how caring they are being – for instance cutting Meals on Wheels fees at a cost of £70,000 or scrapping Home Care fees at a cost of £324,000. But they don’t add that they can only afford these changes thanks to the sort of initiatives brought in by Cllr Smith.

Fulham Palace Road fly-tip: Why does the Council let them get away with it?

fulpalrdThe streets in Hammersmith and Fulham continue to get dirtier. This fly-tip in Fulham Palace Road, opposite the junction with Doneraile Street was reported yesterday by Cllr Jane Law.

The Government has given councils more power to combat fly-tipping but since Labour took control of the Council in May enforcement has been allowed to slide. Serco Walkabouts with the Cabinet Member responsible have been scrapped.

I have asked for a report on street cleaning to be brought before the Council’s Community Safety, Environment and Residents’ Services Policy and Accountability Committee next month.