Council leaseholders stung by 1,100 per cent mark up on cost of fire doors

firedoorOften in blocks of flats it is necessary safety requirement to require residents to use fire doors. Southwark had a fire in Lakanal House tower block in 2009 that spread from one of their flats in which six people died and twenty were injured, fire doors help prevent this from happening. These are doors that are thick so that they can resist a fire for at least 30 minutes.

What is unreasonable is to prevent leaseholders from making their own arrangements to install fire doors,
provided they meet the legal standards required. Apart from saving money this would also allow them greater choice over what the door looked like.

I recently asked the average cost charged to leaseholders by the Council for a fire door and what scope there was for them to exercise choice.

Kathleen Corbett, the Director of Finance & Resources and Joint Lead Director for Housing, replied:

“Each Fire Door costs on average about £1,000.

Leaseholders are able to install their own doors but they would need to provide the correct certification and to be able to show that the future maintenance costs for the door would not be higher than for those the Council installs. The leaseholder would also need to be aware that aware that even if we do give permission they will still have to contribute to the replacement of all the other doors as the service charge contribution is calculated as a % of the block cost.  The lease does not give us the ability to spread the cost over a lesser number of leaseholders.”

I have asked for a breakdown of the £1,000 cost. B&Q charge £80 for a fire door. Their doors provide 30 minutes of fire resistance – the same standard as the fire doors supplied by the Council. The B&Q door looks perfectly smart to me.

Of course if someone installs the door themselves they would need to get it checked and certified – or get a builder with the proper qualifications to do the work for them. So there would be some extra cost involved.

But a 1,100 per cent mark up by the Council strikes me as on the high side…

It also seems extraordinary for a leaseholder to be charged in proportion for all the the doors in block – including the internal doors inside other flats as well as common parts – even if they make their own legally valid arrangements for their own flat.

Victory as the Upper Mall potholes are filled in

uppermallpothole1The pedestrians and cyclists of Hammersmith are less likely to end up in A&E on Christmas Day after the Council filled in potholes on Upper Mall. This is part of the very popular route along the River.

Last month one resident wrote to me to say:

“Approaching Dove Passage, outside Kelmscott House, I swerved to the left to avoid an oncoming cyclist, clipping the edge of what appeared to be a puddle.  It was not.  It was an enormous pothole, well known to us residents, but not instantly recognisable because of being full of water.  I was thrown off my bike onto my elbow, which broke upon impact.  I need hardly say that it was extremely painful.  I have had the inconvenience of being in hospital for several days, and am now likely to be off work for two weeks or more.  This will affect my earnings.”

For those interested here is some of the recent correspondence on the resulting saga:


uppermallpothole2Thanks for getting in touch. I knew this was a private road but I’ve heard differing views as to who is responsible/what agreements are in place to maintain etc.

I agree that some maintenance is becoming urgent now and will get this sorted before any of our residents are injured.


Councillor Wesley Harcourt
Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport & Residents Services
LB Hammersmith & Fulham
King Street
W6 9JU

Thanks, Ian.

Upper Mall is an oddity as it is legally a private road although in practice it is a public road. I can see that this is makes for a bureaucratic muddle – and it would be good to resolve the matter in the long term if a solution can be devised.
However this leaves us with the urgent short term problem that the road is dangerous due to the severe potholes – pictures attached.
Previously the Council has taken a common sense approach of providing basic road maintenance. While this wasn’t a legal requirement discretion was exercised to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists rather than a “jobsworth” approach.
Please would you instruct officers to fill the potholes in Upper Mall as soon as possible – in line with previous arrangements.
Have a good Christmas!

Best wishes,




Well done Cllr Harcourt

Well done Cllr Harcourt

Dear Cllr Phibbs

This is a complex matter and I am seeking advice from the Director for Law. Essentially I believe we do not have the authority to carry out maintenance work on a private road using public funds. There is also the logistic challenge of undertaking the work as we do not have the powers to close the road or to remove any cars parked in the street to enable us to do the work.

It appears that in the past, the previous Director for Highways arranged for minor reinstatement of potholes to be done but this is neither cost effective nor a long-term solution. There is also the question of liability since in carrying out the work, the Council becomes liable for personal injury on a private road.

I shall reply fully once I have received advice from the legal department.

Please note I have not copied in residents into my email because I would rather wait for the legal advice before giving a full response.



Ian Hawthorn
Head of Highway Maintenance and Projects

So well done Cllr Harcourt.

Council refuses to guarantee leaseholders a ballot on stock transfer

rescommThere was a Hammersmith and Fulham Council Cabinet meeting last night which pushed ahead with plans to abolish council housing in the borough – despite preventing any proper scrutiny of the plans.

First of all they will need to persuade a majority of our 12,260 council tenants to vote for it in a ballot – that is a statutory requirement.

But what about the 4,858 leaseholders?

I asked the council leader Cllr Stephen Cowan if he would guarantee that they would have a ballot – and that the stock transfer would only proceed if a majority of them voted for it too.

There followed a prolonged series of evasions. Their views would be “taken into account”, they would have a “voice”, there would be a “consultation”, there would be a “sample”, the “law would be followed to the letter”.

I concluded that the short answer was: “No.” Leaseholders in the audience drew the same conclusion. “Come on, no ifs, not buts”, demanded one. All he was rewarded with was another torrent of waffle from the council leader.

Some Labour councillors persist in presenting the proposal as a way to block estate redevelopment.

In fact it would make estate redevelopment a legal and financial imperative. There would be no veto by the residents of an individual estate to have their homes demolished. There would be no assurance that leaseholders would be able to afford replacement homes on the same land- which would be of higher market value and cost more than there existing properties even with a discount.

Cllr Cowan said he had blocked redevelopment on the Queen Caroline and Ashcroft Square estates. But we don’t know whether or not they would be redeveloped under the “Community Gateway”. We are told there would be 500 net new homes achieved through redevelopment – but we are not told where.

So far £1.25 million of your money has been spent on this misguided proposals and last night’s meeting voted through the spending of another £1.25 million.

Yet even if they were of merit what are the odds of them happening. They would require George Osborne to provide a £208 million debt write off.

If the new “Community Gateway” took over it was presented as being able to borrow – and therefore spend – as much as it liked without the “dead hand of the debt cap” that the Council is subjected to. This ignored the point that it would need to persuade hardheaded commercial investors that they would get return on their money. The Council’s Housing Director said that this “could” happen.

This is not to say that everything is fine at present – far from it.

As the Housing Commissions report said of independent market research they carried out:

“59% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of the housing services provided by the Council as their landlord. This is a lower figure than expected and would be regarded as a matter for concern by comparison with other social landlords if it were to be replicated in annual STAR survey returns.”

That is quite right. The national average of the Survey of Tenants and Leaseholders is an 86% satisfaction rate for tenants and 62% for leaseholders.

The below average score reflects the declining standards since Labour took control of the Council. For example fly-tipping on estates has become much worse.

A council report approved last night said the 59 per cent score was “comparable with other housing organisations in London” – which I felt was a misleading indication that it was average. Cllr Ben Coleman is (supposedly) the co-author of the report but when I asked which housing organisations we were comparable to. He didn’t have a clue.

Marxist push to infiltrate the Hammersmith Labour Party

momentumbannerRecently the Daily Telegraph reported:

“Writing on the website of “Labour Party Marxists”, of which he is secretary, Stan Keable, Momentum’s organiser in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, stated: “As the hard right begins its civil war, the left must respond with a combination of disciplinary threats, constitutional changes and reselection measures.

“Those [MPs] sabotaging Labour election campaigns, those who vote with the Tories on austerity, war or migration, must be hauled up before the NEC [National Executive Committee]. If MPs refuse to abide by party discipline… we should democratically select and promote trustworthy replacement candidates.”

Mr Keable is named as the “organiser contact” for Hammersmith and Fulham on Democracy SOS, Momentum’s campaign to register new voters. He is one of many revolutionaries to be welcomed into the new group, even though Labour explicitly excludes anyone who opposes parliamentary democracy.”

Regular readers of this site will know I have had plenty of criticisms of the Labour administration on Hammersmith and Fulham Council. But it is now likely to get worse. Labour councillors making decisions will be in fear of deselection from hard left activists. Instead of making decisions for the interests of the borough as a whole they will be beholden to Mr Keable and his apparatchiks.

Mr Keable, a UNISON convenor, re-joined the Labour Party from the Communist Party of Great Britain. But he makes no pretence of any philosophical change of heart. This Labour Party Marxists bulletin gives a bit of flavour. His is critical of Len McCluskey, the Unite leader for not being left wing enough. He supported his rival Jerry Hicks. But he does urge Mr Hicks to pitch in with shifting the Labour Party towards Marxism.

In a Facebook message on Hammersmith Momentum’s page yesterday, Mr Keable said:

“Although no vote was taken on whether to oppose UK bombing of Syria at the November general committee of Hammersmith CLP last Thursday, the overwhelming feeling was that foreign military interventions sustain ISIS, and no sensible arguments were made in favour – only that the UK should share in the slaughter being committed by its allies. “

I suppose any Labour councillors present who failed to satisfy Mr Keable that they had “sensible arguments” can expect to find him on the look out for “trustworthy replacement candidates”.

Not all Labour councillors are necessarily under threat however. Cllr Ali Hashem prudently attended their meeting at the Bush Theatre in October.

I suspect Cllr Caroline Needham may survive the purges. She is a Facebook friend of Scott Reeve, one of the other movers and shakers in Hammersmith Momentum. Surely that must count for something?

Mr Reeve is an activist in Addison Ward Labour Party along with Chris Tranchell, also a leading activist in Hammersmith Momentum. They both signed the nomination papers for Labour councillors Adam Connell and Sue Fennimore at the last council elections.

The Corbynistas may be alienating many erstwhile Labour voters in our borough. However they are on the march in the Hammersmith Constituency Labour Party operating as a party within a party. They are candid about their Marxist allegiances and their determination to remove those who disagree.

We have been warned.