Cllr Joe Carlebach: A call to action for vulnerable children – the orphans of Syria

joecarJoe Carlebach is a Councillor for Avonmore and Brook Green Ward on Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

As the conflict rages in Syria and the utter devastation unfolds in front of us, on our TV’s, laptops and in our newspapers; as our hearts go out to the stream of humanity forging its way through hostile countries to get to the perceived safe havens of Northern Europe, a question keeps coming back to me.

Watching this melee from afar – which seems to be a fight for the survival of the fittest of biblical proportions – I ask myself: what is to become of the orphans of this conflict who are inevitably growing in number at an alarming rate?

These are real innocents who have lost everything, and whose life chances diminish by the day – whether they are in the large refugee camps in the countries immediately surrounding Syria, still trapped in the numerous conflict zones within the country, or swept up in the great tide of forced migration.

The crisis facing these children has particularly affected me, both as a father of three young children and as the son of a child who arrived in this country on the kindertransport in 1939. Indeed, the plight of the Syrian orphans is very similar to the children of the kindertransport, the majority of whom were soon to become orphans (unbeknown at the time).

More orphans were rescued by Allied forces in 1944 and 1945 from the ghettos and concentration camps, and there were yet more – the orphans of the occupied countries living amongst the rubble of what remained of continental Europe at the close of the Second World War.

At that time, there was a huge and carefully constructed campaign to collect the liberated children, count them, document them and provide them with new homes, and draw up at least a rudimentary plan for a future: to care for their physical and, perhaps more importantly, their emotional and spiritual well-being, since they had almost literally been to hell and back. Mistakes were made in these programmes – but the point is that there were programmes.

Where, I ask myself, are the the programs to rescue and sustain the orphans of Syria? There are some periodic low-key news items, and a few quiet appeals from a number of charitable organisations. To me, the cry of the orphan is drowned out by the noise of conflict and the huge numbers of refugees seeking safety and prosperity.

Let us join together and call for a concerted effort from all governments, especially our own, to act decisively now to rescue these children, and find safe havens for them where their lives can begin to be rebuilt. This includes specifically offering orphans a safe home here. This is something that we can do both as a sovereign state and as part of an international community – at least partly to make up for our less than impressive handling of the Syrian crisis so far.

Let’s see Syrian orphans as the number one agenda item at the United Nations, at the next major European Union summit, at the next meeting of the Arab League. Let’s do it now, before compassion fatigue sets in – which we can be almost certain will happen (as the history of other major conflict zones demonstrates) and these children become just another series of victims of conflict and our impotence.

The one great common denominator for all these orphans is that simply and obviously that they are all children. The fact that they may be Muslim, Alawite, Kurd,Christian or anything else is frankly irrelevant. They are all vulnerable children and, as such, should demand our support, our help, our assistance and our prayers.

Above all, they need us to act and act now. We need to show with direct and immediate action that we are the civilized, caring society that we believe we are – just as we did in this great nation of ours in the dark days leading up to and during the Second World War.

The consequences of inaction are dire both for the children in question and for our integrity and well being. I know from bitter experience the life-long impact of such trauma and I feel compelled to make this plea.

As Churchill put it: “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”

This post orginally appeared on Conservative Home.

St Peter’s Square Needs You!

spraimageWho: You, your family, friends and neighbours of St Peter’s Square

What: Community Gardening Day – bring your spade!

Where: St Peter’s Square

When: Saturday October 10th, 2015 at 10:00AM – light breakfast provided!

Come help get our lovely square ready for winter! We need helpers to plant, dig, weed, rake and sweep around St. Peter’s Square.

Families, friends, neighbours and all interested parties welcome to attend.

Resident expert Oliver Leigh-Wood will be showing off his bug collection, giving a tour

258 council homes in Hammersmith and Fulham Council are worth over a million pounds each

New transparency requirements have required Hammersmith and Fulham Council to release details of Social Housing Asset Value of the Council’s housing stock.

There are 258 council homes valued at over £1 million each. 14 are valued at over £1.5 million. One is valued at over £2 million.

The previous Conservative council had a policy of selling high value property when they became vacant. This meant that more replacement properties could be provided – for example “hidden homes” on council estates where there is spare land.

But the Labour Council refuses to sell any properties for ideological reasons. Meanwhile there are 1,172 families in temporary accommodation. Many more are in overcrowded conditions.

Holding on to expensive properties – rather than providing replacements to increase the total supply is a betrayal of those in severe housing need. The high maintenance costs of some of the properties makes the policy all the more foolish. New rules are coming in to end this scandalously poor asset management. But if the Council had any sense of responsibility they would immediately resume the policy of selling high value properties when they become vacant.


Zac Goldsmith’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference in full

zacgoldtwo“I want to begin by saying something to the members of our party, who have put their trust in me for next year’s crucial Mayoral election.

And to all my friends in local government, who have given me so much support.

Thank you.

You may remember that the constituency of Twickenham, was thought to be impregnable

Invincible Cable they called him: a seat the Tories could not possibly win.

Well…no-one told Tania Mathias that!

Tania, thank you for giving me such an inspiring example to follow.

I have always believed that the most important politics is local politics.

And our Party’s record in local Government is a proud one.

– We keep taxes down

– we keep neighbourhoods green…

– we keep people safe.

And that’s why we need a Conservative in the biggest local Government job of all.

Labour’s search for a Mayoral candidate was vicious and divisive.

By contrast, our own search was civilised and constructive.

And I look forward to working with Andrew Boff, Syed Kamall and Stephen Greenhalgh, all of them distinguished servants of our Capital city.

When my constituents gave me the thumbs up to put myself forward as a candidates, I knew the scale of the task.

I will fight with everything I have to win this campaign.

Boris Johnson defied political gravity by beating Ken Livingstone, twice.

And he also managed to defy economic gravity, by giving London the confidence, to beat the recession, to deliver record investment, and a record number of jobs.

And London’s success has been good news for all of us.

When the capital does well – the whole country does well.

But London’s population will increase by 1.5m in the next fifteen years.

There will be immense pressure, on our housing, our living environment, our schools, and of course our transport system.

The Chancellor recently dropped a hint about Crossrail 2 going ahead.

He’s not a man who says things by mistake, so – being an optimist – I’m determined to convert that into a green light!

It’s clearly essential.

But it’s only part of the story.

We are going to need record investment in our transport network, just to keep London moving.

We need finance, and we need reform.

George Osborne has started a revolution, by handing great powers back from the Centre.

And we will see better decision making, more accountability and stronger governance.

And London needs that. Which is why yesterday’s announcement by the Chancellor was so welcome.

New York retains half the taxes it raises.

London holds on to just seven per cent.

It’s time for London to keep more of its own revenue.

These things: greater devolution, lower taxes, better infrastructure: can only be delivered if there is mutual trust and respect between local and national government.

And that will only happen, if we have a Conservative Mayor, working with a Conservative Government.

Some of you will have noticed that I have an interest in the environment.

Well we are blessed to have a Capital whose Parks, Commons and gardens mark it out among the world’s most beautiful cities.

But the sheer pace of change means that we must do more than merely protect our existing environment.

We must enhance it.

We need to guarantee, that every child and every family has access to a somewhere to play…to grow…to cherish.

London is the Greatest city on Earth.

I want it to be the greenest.

We are going to have to get to grips with one of the great menaces of urban life.

Air pollution

We can save thousands of lives every year, in part thanks to the creativity of the market.

You can already drive from this hall to London’s City Hall for £5 in an all-electric British-made Nissan Leaf!

We need to accelerate that transition.

But by far the biggest challenge London faces is housing.

I remember in 2008 when I was selected to contest Richmond Park and N Kingston candidates were asked: who will fight off the developers?

Just a few months ago, the very same people asked candidates in the General Election hustings, how the hell are our kids going to get homes to live in?

We have seen a giant shift.

Rents in the capital are already double the national average.

The cost of a home for first time buyers is also double the national average.

And if the very people who make it what it is can no longer afford to live here; if young people can’t start a family because they can’t afford to move; then opportunities for families and businesses will simply dry up.

The answer is not easy.

But it is simple.

We need to build.

Contrary to what some believe, there is no shortage of land.

And specifically, there is no shortage of brownfield land.

We can build the homes London needs, without destroying the green spaces we love.

The Mayor’s new Land Commission, will identify all publicly owned brownfield land in our Capital.

We already know that put together, Transport for London land alone, would be bigger than the borough of Camden.

And there’s no shortage of finance.

Everyone wants to invest in London.

Our capital city is seen as a safe bet for investors.

But where homes are bought purely as investments, and are left empty, that causes huge resentment.

So we can do one of two things.

We can close the doors to outside investors, which is what the Labour Party wants to do.

Or we can capture that finance and use it to build the homes we need on publicly owned land.

As Mayor, I will set up a fund designed specifically to attract big institutional investors.

And I will use it to build a new generation of homes.

Affordable homes for young people, who neither qualify for housing lists nor are able to buy, but who have to spend most of their income on rent.

This is a cause worth fighting for.

But there is one important caveat.

Development will fail and deserve to fail, if we disrespect and trample on existing communities.

Many Londoners are instinctively suspicious of new development.

And I don’t blame them.

Too often they have no say, no control, over what is built in their backyard.

When a new development is proposed for their community, it is often ugly, out-of-proportion, out-of-keeping – and it is simply dumped on them, with no thought as to the effect it will have on their area.

There’s no case for ignoring local opinion.

Yes we need to build more, but we also need to build well.

If we get it right, if we work with communities and give them a real say, then the opportunities are endless.

Consider the 3,500 1950s and 60s estates, many of them poorly designed, many of them coming to the end of their lives.

With the consent of the local community – and with guarantees that they won’t be fragmented

– We have a chance to rebuild them, and provide more homes, better communities, and more beautiful streetscapes.

We know that high density doesn’t have to mean high rise, alienating blocks, magnets for social problems.

We can have attractive street based developments that people actually want to live in.

Which is why if I am elected Mayor, I will ensure that local communities can vote, to require the Mayor to call in significant developments.

I believe passionately in giving communities a voice, and making that voice decisive..

I want to make direct democracy, a London Reality.

And this will be a first step.

This is the country that gave democracy to the world.

And It’s time to renew that democracy, to bring it closer to the people, to make those with power more accountable, to give every community more control over decisions that affect their lives..

Next May will decide London’s future.

Do we want a capital city, run by a party that supports higher taxes and bigger government?

A party that has already committed itself to supporting each and every strike, no matter the motive or cause?

A party in the grip of unbending ideologues…?

A party that can only divide?

Ours is a better, more hopeful vision.

That is why I have put myself forward for this election.

We can build on Boris’s legacy…

… and fight for a safer…

… greener…

…. happier

…more prosperous, united city.

A city that works for all Londoners.

I know it will be the mother and father of all political battles.

But with your help, and your hard work…

We will win for London.”

“We support Uber” H&F Conservative councillors tell Boris

Uber_logo_thumb800Dear Boris

In Hammersmith & Fulham we are enormously proud of your achievements as Mayor of London.  You have made significant changes to benefit our residents in reducing crime, reducing your share of council tax, modernising the District Line, scrapping the western extension of the Congestion Charge, bringing ‘Boris Bikes’ west and planting new street trees.  We could go on!

However, similar to the seven Conservative Councillors from Westminster who wrote to you earlier in the week, we are very concerned at Transport for London’s proposals around new regulation that will particularly affect Uber.  A significant number of our residents use Uber as a convenient, competitively priced and forward looking service that is setting the pace in the taxi market.  To bring in rules that prevent residents from seeing where nearby taxis are located and have to wait longer than sometimes is necessary to get their cab (especially late at night) would achieve nothing other than inconvenience for thousands of Londoners and visitors who value such a service.

We believe it is possible for the black cab trade and firms like Uber to co-exist in a competitive market place and respectfully suggest the answer may lie more with deregulation of black cabs than new regulation on others.

Please review these proposals and let competition and the free market settle this matter, not state interference.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Greg Smith

Cllr Mike Adam

Cllr Nick Botterill

Cllr Andrew Brown

Cllr Joe Carlebach

Cllr Charlie Dewhirst

Cllr Belinda Donovan

Cllr Caroline ffiske

Cllr Marcus Ginn

Cllr Steve Hamilton

Cllr Lucy Ivimy

Cllr Alex Karmel

Cllr Robert Largan

Cllr Jane Law

Cllr Viya Nsumbu

Cllr Harry Phibbs

All Councillors in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham Town Hall, King Street, London W6 9JU