Rent arrears up 20 per cent under Labour

Figures released due to a Freedom of Information request reveal a sharp increase in rent arrears for council homes since Labour took over last year. They have gone up £3.544 million to £4.234 million.

That’s a rise of 20 per cent in just a few months.

The rent arrears for garages has doubled – up from £17,380 to £35,187.

Yet the evictions have fallen.

This compares with a fall in rent arrears in social housing elsewhere.

It is unfair on the great majority of tenants who pay their rent for others to be allowed to get away without doing so.

From Hammersmith to Anysmith: Why is Pret a Manger allowed to spoil Hammersmith and City Station?

pret H&C stationLocal resident Richard Owen recently joined the Hammersmith Society Chairman Rosemary Pettit in objecting to the proposed signage for the Pret a Manger outlet at Hammersmith and City Station, and the tables/chairs on the station concourse.

But the Council doesn’t seem to be listening.

Mr Owen says:

“I’m not sure the objections have had any effect. What has in fact appeared is:

1) Illuminated halo lighting on the main signs
2) An illuminated projecting sign
3) windows covered with large graphics and logos
4) tables, chairs and vinyl screens on the concourse
5) Pret’s corporate colour scheme of claret signage and dark grey on the window frames in full force

What has prevented planners from extracting a tougher bargain for this wonderful building?

– traditional painted rather than modern illuminated signage
– no projecting signage at all
– nothing on the concourse
– colour schemes that are in harmony with the building – for example the window frames on the left hand side are white.

To recall Richard Winterton’s resonant phrase, this seems to be another example of Hammersmith becoming ‘Anysmith’, yet one more historic English town centre obliterated by crass, strident corporate signage.”

Council is paying ex Labour MP Keith Hill £12,000 for council housing privatisation PR role

keith-hill-432_tcm21-193939Last week I reported on how the former Labour MP Keith Hill has been appointed by Hammersmith and Fulham Council as the grandly titled Residents Housing Commissioner. Really it is a PR job to try to win support for the Council’s plan to privatise the entire council housing stock. Just how independent he is can be judged by him having being the employer, for 13 years, of the Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr Lisa Homan.

Now more details are emerging which show this astonishingly dubious cronyism.

First of all the process was dodgy to say the least. It went as follows:

selectionhillIt has also emerged that Mr Hill is being paid £12,000. (We don’t know for how many hours but let’s just say I doubt it will cause any problems in terms of minimum wage regulations.) This evening I received the following email:

“The budget for the Residents’ Commission and stock options appraisal was set out in the December 2014 Cabinet paper.  In total this budget is £1,500,000. 

“The Chair of the Commission will receive £12,000 for the complete period of the Commission’s existence – i.e. until recommendations are made to the Council on the Commission’s proposals. This payment is payable subject to agreed targets being met and staged over 3 periods (approximately 3 and 6 months into the Commission’s work and again at project end).”

The plot thickens and the smell grows.

Eyesore goes under the hammer – for nearly £2 million

shepbushrdThis boarded-up house at 1 Shepherd’s Bush Road was sold last week at auction for £1.935 million (against a guide price of £925,000).

It was owned by a housing association and will now undergo complete modernisation to produce attractive, comfortable and energy-efficient dwellings.

So a housing association have freed themselves from a costly liability and have nearly £2 million to invest in new housing.

It is win/win/win for every stakeholder, taxpayer and resident of the borough.

Why the Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council  has set its face against void sales like this is incomprehensible and frustrating.

More dishonesty from Slaughter – this time on children’s centres

In the House of Commons this month the Labour MP for Hammersmith Andrew Slaughter announced that as a result of the new administration on Hammersmith and Fulham Council “nine children’s centres have been saved from planned closure.”

As a result I emailed Andrew Christie, the Director of Children’s Services to ask: “If this is correct please advise which children’s centres were due to close and where this supposed plan was outlined.”

I have now had the following reply:

Dear Councillor Phibbs,
Thank you for your email to Andrew Christie, regarding an announcement by Andrew Slaughter MP in the House of Commons that nine children’s centres had been saved from planned closure.

It may help to note at Hammersmith and Fulham Cabinet in October 2014, a decision was taken to extend the current arrangements for Children’s Centre delivery, initially for a six month period up until 30 September 2015. This provision was extended for a further six months until March 2016 if required. Following this decision a press release was issued.  I have enclosed a copy for ease of reference. The press release included reference to cuts in central funding having led to some concerns about potential reduction in services for Children’s Centres.  As far as officers are aware this is the only information that was circulated post the Cabinet decision.

Officers are currently working with Children’s Centres to maximise the offer available for children and families at their sites,  including where possible progressing the option to offer targeted two year old early places onsite and working with health colleagues to ensure a integrated health offer is part of the local offer.

I do hope that you find the above helpful.

Regards,
Rachael Wright-Turner
Director of Commissioning
Children’s Services

The press release is here.

So in other words there were no plans – from Council officers or the previous Conservative administration or anyone else – to close any children’s centres in our borough. Let alone to close nine. The Labour council has renewed the contracts and continued the same policy. That is sensible of them. But they really should put up or shut up with their allegations about a secret closure plan.

Mr Slaughter has form on this. In 2011 he said nine children’s centres were about to close.

This week the Health Minister Jane Ellison said:

“I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has a dismal track record of campaigning on this issue. We have all seen the leaflets being put out in west London. I can only say to his constituents that in the run-up to the election they would glean more from reading their tea leaves than from reading his leaflets if they want to know the truth about the NHS in west London.”

The same applies to children’s centres.