Government funding to tackle homelessness in Hammersmith and Fulham

In October the Government announced funding for innovative measures to tackle homelessness.

The Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“I want to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few, based on the values of fairness and opportunity.

That means facing up to the great social injustices in our society and tackling the complex and often stubborn underlying causes which can lead to a person losing their home.

We know there is no single cause of homelessness but I am determined to do more to prevent it happening by supporting those facing challenging issues like domestic abuse, addiction, mental health issues or redundancy, whilst also being prepared to offer a safety net to catch those who might simply be struggling to get by.”

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“One person without a home is one too many, which is why we are launching this new £40 million programme to tackle homelessness and prevent it happening in the first place.

“It will fund different projects around the country, preventing people from losing their home in the first place and helping to ensure that rough sleepers have somewhere safe to stay.”

I’m pleased that Hammersmith and Fulham Council has been awarded some of these funds. The Council inform me of the following details:

“The Department for Communities and Local Government will award £603,373 for three Homeless Prevention Trailblazer projects. These are:

1.    The Transitions Project, working with Peabody to provide early intervention to prevent Youth Homelessness;  

 2.    The Under 35 and Under Occupation Links Project, to develop a web-based portal to enable under occupiers to let their spare rooms out to under 35 year olds; and  

 3.    Positive Pathways towards Private Renting Project, to work with housing associations to increase the supply of and support package within private rented accommodation.

An award of £166, 209 will be made through the Rough Sleeping Grant bid which will provide, in partnership with St Mungo’s, rapid assessment and intervention to people with substance misuse issues who are at risk of losing their tenancies and becoming rough sleepers.

A separate bid was submitted by the West London Sub-Region for the Rough Sleeping Grant, and H&F are included in this too. The total to be awarded across the sub-region is £400,000. The West London bid aims to focus on rapid intervention and an assessment building for new rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping.

The GLA submitted a bid to the Social Impact Bond on behalf of a number of Boroughs, in which we are included. They were awarded £2m. There are three projects within their bid:

1.    Intensive focus on helping 350 of London’s most entrenched rough sleepers;

2.    A project to help people who have started sleeping rough in the previous three months off the streets;

3.    Money to develop a better system in which hostel spaces across London can be utilised by rough sleepers more effectively.

All money obtained through these bids is time limited until 2020. Money will be paid periodically over the next two years.”

Joe Carlebach: Diesel Tax will hit those who can’t afford to buy a new car – and so won’t tackle air pollution

joecarCllr Joe Carlebach is a councillor for Avonmore and Brook Green Ward.

I have no doubt of the very real problems caused by pollution from many forms of transport that we all take for granted. This specifically includes the huge problem of of aviation emissions and diesel particulates.What I have a problem with is the way our  Labour Council is trying to address this issue.

The way this tax has been constructed will have  a disproportionate impact on those members of our community who can least afford it and that is frankly unfair and unjust.For example I have seen examples of residents on the Council’s Housing waiting list, living on the breadline in overcrowded rented accommodation. They work in the transport industry as taxi drives, many on zero hours contracts.They have to pay for their own vehicles and their own fuel. Some have been forced in recent times to use food banks. These people can simply not afford this tax.

I have had representation from other families, those with disabled children. They must have a car to be able to transport their children around. Many have diesel cars partly because they had been told this was the ‘greenest’ form of transport by the Government in the recent past, and for reasons of economy. They are not entitled to blue badges because their children are mobile but these families are desperately trying to manage  their children’s significant disabilities. These are not wealthy people and again they can ill afford the cruelly escalating tax the Council has seen fit to imposed on them.

We can not ignore the suffering of those with chronic illness as a result of pollution, this is as I understand it, which is apparently the rational for this tax. I am therefore at a loss to understand why the Council has not done more to offer any form of support these residents.

I am told they have not made any effort to work with any of the major health Trusts in our area, improving access and care at respiratory clinics, or paediatric respiratory initiatives in schools or within primary care.This is indeed a missed opportunity.

Neither has the Council done anything to manage or reduce traffic congestion which is now out of control across London and especially in our Borough. Nor have they done anything to incentivise drivers not to leave their engines running whilst stationary, all major contributors to poor air quality.

I very much regret that the Council has chosen to simply tax unfortunate residents ratcheting up the cost until their pain is too much to bare. The Council has also created stress and uncertainty within our community by not making it clear if this new tax is to be levied on diesel vehicles on Estates or parked in Garages on our Estates.In short this is a poorly thought out tax which  has the feeling of political correctness rather than a genuine effort to reduce pollution.

The Council is living in a dream world of they think the many residents who will be hardest hit by this tax can just go out and by another car, never mind an electric one. They simply do not have the money. They can barely get by as it is.There is a perverse logic at work here that impacts least the very wealthy at the cost of those who are significantly financially challenged and are the least able to pay any more in tax. It simply can not be right to clobber the drivers of a small old diesel cars with these spiralling charges knowing that they are unaffordable whilst leaving the drivers of very large new and expensive luxury cars unscathed.

I strongly urge the Council to rethink this unfair tax, to think carefully about its unacceptable impact on those residents who can least afford it and go back to the drawing board. They should do this now before you cause any more distress.

H&F Council slashes street tree planting programme

Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s Arboricultural Officer has provided the figure’s for the planting of new street trees by the Council in recent years.

100 were planted in 2013/14 when the Conservatives were running the Council. In 2014/15, Labour’s first year it fell to 59. In 2015/16 it was 23. In the current financial year – 2016/17  – the total is expected to be 24.

When it comes to Council estates they haven’t even been replacing all the dead trees – something I have been challenging them over via the Council’s housing scrutiny committee.

Incidentally in 2013/14 there was Section 106 funding that paid for 29 of the new street trees. This year that funding is only paying for five of them. Labour have made all sorts of claims to have negotiated extra Section 106 money. Where is it?

Joe Carlebach:The Child victims of the Holocaust – a personal reflection on Holocaust Memorial Day

joecarCllr Joe Carlebach is a councillor for Avonmore and Brook Green Ward.

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day and as in previous years my thoughts are drawn to the fate of the many millions who perished at the hands of the Nazi’s, the six million Jews including many close members of my own family.

I have written before about my grandfather, Chief Rabbi Dr Joseph Carlebach (after whom I am named) and his brave and principled stand against the Nazis, his decision to stay in Germany and continue to lead his community rather than flee to safer shores. He even passed on his opportunity to come to the UK following a confrontation with senior Nazi thugs on Kristalnacht in November 1938 where he was badly beaten, to another whom he thought was in greater need. An immensely brave decision that ultimately cost him his life.

Whilst the entire episode of the Holocaust is, for me, incredibly distressing I find it particularly difficult to understand, or make sense in any way, of the torture and murder of children. It is estimated that over 1.5 million children were murdered by the Nazi’s and their collaborators during the Second World War. Of this, just over 1 million were Jewish children, tens of thousands were Romani children and many thousands were German children with physical and mental disabilities. They were brutally shot, gassed, beaten or starved to death. Some had the very real misfortune to fall into the hands of monsters like Josef Mengele whose ‘medical’ experiments on children, and particularly twins, must rank as some of the worst excesses of cruelty known to humanity at any point in history.

Our natural instinct is to protect children, the young and vulnerable, yet during the Holocaust this basic tenet of human behaviour was apparently so easily abandoned by the Nazis. As the Warsaw ghetto historian Emanuel Ringelblum wrote “Even in the most barbaric times, a human spark glowed in the rudest heart, and children were spared. But the Hitlerian beast is quite different. It would devour the dearest of us, those who arouse the greatest compassion—our innocent children.”

My (late) father was fortunate in escaping the oncoming slaughter gaining a place on the Kinder Transport to this country along with a number of his sisters, a gesture of kindness for which I will forever be indebted to this great nation of ours.

However his younger brother and his three youngest sisters, Naomi, Sarah and Ruth were not so fortunate and were deported with my grandparents from their home in Hamburg to Riga in late 1941.


carledrawFollowing a period of internment my grandparents and three young aunts were taken to Bikernieki forest and brutally murdered on March 26th 1942, the details of which are so barbaric that I can not, even today, describe them. Ruth, Naomi and Sara were respectively 15,14 and 13.

I can not begin to understand the distress and anxiety they must have gone through, seeing and experiencing such horror. Three girls who should have been concerned with challenges of growing up, learning about the trials and tribulations of boys and the opportunities and challenges of schooling, looking forward to growing up, of future careers and families. Instead they were confronted with evil, prejudice,brutality, starvation and death. Being murdered with your friends and parents is an unimaginable terror: the full horror of which must have been beyond their worst nightmares.

For me, like many, the vast numbers of children murdered during the Holocaust is a tragedy from history separated from today, only by time. What turns history into a personal reality is the fate of my family and in particular these three young girls.

To personalise this tragedy is to destroy the aim of the Nazis which was to dehumanise their victims. We should look for individual stories, remember victims by name and learn about the everyday lives they lived.

This is what makes the victims of the Holocaust real people, not anonymous numbers and will help us all to learn from this dreadful and dark episode. This is especially pertinent for the child victims of the Holocaust whose lives, hopes and ambitions were so cruelly taken.

So today, dear Ruth, Naomi and Sarah, we never had the chance to meet and we never had the chance to know and enjoy each others company. We never had the opportunity to celebrate birthdays and other joyous family events together. I will however never forget you, you will always be close to my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers. You will be in the thoughts and prayers of my young children as and when they become old enough to understand and in turn their children and for many generations to come.

For me the personalisation and individualisation of genocide also has lessons for modern times, for the children of the Syrian conflict – especially the children of Aleppo, for the children of Yemen and all the other violent conflicts raging around the world. Turning numbers to names and names to individual lives is one of the key lessons of the Holocaust. By doing this we can help to combat prejudice, racism and intolerance wherever and whenever these evils occur and show we have at least learnt something from one of the most barbarous, murderous and shocking events of modern times – the Holocaust.

Ruth August 11th 1926 - 26th March 1942

August 11th 1926 – 26th March 1942

Naomi October 24th 1927-26th March 1942

Naomi October 24th 1927-26th March 1942

Sarah December 24th 1928-26th March 1942

Sarah December 24th 1928-26th March 1942

H&F Council increases its annual printing bill by a quarter of a million pounds – to £1.48 million

This week Labour councillors in Hammersmith and Fulham claimed to be concerned about climate change.

Also this week I obtained figures on the Council’s printing bill. Last year it was £1.455 million – which is up £236,000 on the previous year. In this financial year it is projected to be higher still at £1.477 million. Of course there is an environmental cost as well. No doubt in 2017/18 the Council will spend even more of our money on boastful propaganda in the run up to the local elections next year. There will be yet more glossy brochures supporting Labour’s flawed and unwanted proposals for stock transfer of the council housing.  There will be more paper churned out from new units, commissions, task forces, panels, working parties, czars and champions.

Perhaps some of the vast CO2 emissions wasted on all this will include documents assuring us about just how serious the Council is about tackling climate change.

Steve Hamilton: How to tackle air pollution without punishing the poor

stevehamCllr Steve Hamilton is a councillor for Sands End Ward and the Conservative spokesman on transport.

An honest increase in revenue could be taken from increased Council Tax, but the Administration made an election pledge to freeze Council Tax – sorry, they actually made a pledge to cut Council Tax, but did anyone really expect them to keep their pledge?

Instead they have decided to introduce an stealth tax on a third of car owners in the borough – introduced under the cover of clearer air, but intended as a simple revenue increase – they have staggered the tax over a number of years, to reduce the headline figure to ‘just £20’ as they describe it.

This stealth tax is despite one of the recommendations of this Council’s Parking Task Group, which concluded “The Task Group supports the principle of encouraging residents to drive more environmentally friendly-vehicles through reduced parking fees for green vehicles, but not penalising drivers of older, less environmentally-friendly vehicles.”

The fact that this is a tax designed to increase revenue is clear from the cabinet papers – a green measure would talk about the reduced number of vehicles subject to the tax – instead, and I quote from the report “…this would increase the income from Parking Permits…” and “This will be taken account of in the council’s future financial planning.”

So it is a tax, pure and simple, but is there a point in charging more for a permit for a diesel car than a petrol car?

Diesel cars have been encouraged by government – it was the previous Labour government that decided that CO2 was bad, and anything that could be done to reduce CO2 therefore had to be good – including replacing CO2 with NOx – hence they encouraged people to buy diesel instead of petrol, and now people who listened to the Labour government are now to be punished for it by this Labour council.

We already tax people on their use of fuel, in the US you pay roughly 68 cents for a litre, currently about 55p – compared to £1.20 per litre here. This tax is directly proportionate to the amount of pollution a vehicle causes – more fuel in = more cost.

This is in direct contrast to this Labour stealth tax – which is the same if you leave your car at home all day, or if you drive up and down the streets of the borough.

In fact, it is even worse – the vast majority of journeys made in the borough are by people who do not live in the borough – so the Administration is taxing our residents, while leaving the majority of offenders alone.

Are the borough’s diesel drivers a major source of pollution?

As this is the Administration’s flagship policy for clearer air, you might expect local diesel drivers to be in the top 3 producers of NOx – but they are not – in the top 10 then? No, they are joint 13th – tied with taxis – for now at least, as when the TX5 is introduced later this year, a model launched by Boris Johnson as Mayor, we will see zero emission taxis.

So what are the top producers of NOx, and what is the council doing about them? Very little…

Construction is the biggest producer of NO2 – generally diesel from construction vehicles and from diesel generators – actually as the council is approving fewer homes, you might argue they are doing something to reduce their impact – but more could be done here – planning conditions could be used to encourage using grid electricity instead of generators and lower emission vehicles

In second place, diesel rail. The good news is that the Conservative government are doing something – the electrification of the Great Western line will enable diesel trains to be phased out from the line – possibly reducing a whole class of polluter.

In third place is non-domestic gas, and I know of nothing that the council is doing to address this.

Finally, in fourth place, are buses – as Mayor, Boris Johnson introduced the hybrid Routemaster bus to reduce pollution, which the current Mayor has decided to cancel. Boris had also started requiring zero emission buses be used on ever more routes – this is an area where the Council should be working harder with the Mayor of London, to set a timetable for all buses in Hammersmith and Fulham to be zero emission – removing all diesel buses from the borough would do more than removing all diesel cars, and it is achievable without introducing stealth taxes on our residents.

Some might say that it is just £20 per year, those who drive new flashy 4x4s can afford it, but that misses the point – most people with a new 4×4 will replace it in a few years, and can choose a vehicle that meets the emissions requirements.

As the cabinet report says – “those less economical [sic] well off, as these people are more likely to own older cars which are less emission friendly. As such the new permit structure and associated prices may have a greater impact on this sector of residents.” – not may – it will, as these are the people for whom an extra £60 per year is an unwelcome additional expense, but who cannot simply replace their vehicle.

Greg Smith: Labour’s diesel stealth tax won’t improve air quality

gregsmithCllr Greg Smith is Leader of the Conservative Group on Hammersmith and Fulham Council. This is his speech to last night’s Council meeting

We all remember the days when the party opposite would decry stealth taxes: but now we see in the cold light of administration, that they actually love them.

Their slogan of doing things “with” residents, now heavily caveated to say only if they agree with – in this instance – residents’ choice of vehicle.

Now I firmly believe that the job of local government is to work to ensure we make residents lives easier. In a borough as densely populated as ours, parking will always be at a premium. But it is equally my conviction that far from nanny state finger wagging at those who’s cars and vans you don’t like, we as a council should simply seek to help people and their visitors park as close to their front door as possible, no matter what they drive.

Furthermore, this new found hatred of diesel is somewhat surprising, given that the last Labour Government, egged on by the European Union, went out of their way to ENCOURAGE people to buy diesel cars.

So, why are we on this side, opposed to this additional tax on diesel car and van owners.

Firstly, because it is nonsensical from an environmental perspective. Diesel cars are simply not the worst offenders for putting nitrogen dioxide and nitrous oxide into the air. The worst offenders are aircraft and heavy goods vehicles, with buses and black cabs also contributing. The Council should look at other positive ideas, that may actually work, rather than just taxing hard working families and individuals. For example, gas boilers contribute approximately 12 per cent of London’s nitrous oxide emissions, which equally contribute to nitrogen dioxide. A London Boiler Cashback Scheme was launched by Mayor Boris Johnson in February 2016, providing £400 cashback to households that replaced the oldest, most polluting boilers with the newest and cleanest models. Funding of £2.6 million was allocated to the scheme, which provided for 6,500 owner occupiers and accredited private landlords to benefit from the scheme. An extension of this scheme would allow greater nitrogen dioxide savings to be achieved and more households to benefit from lower bills.

Secondly, because this stealth tax it makes no financial sense. What on earth is an extra £20 or £30 a year on the price of a permit going to achieve when the cost of changing a car will cost people a minimum of thousands of pounds if not tens of thousands? And the people who can least afford it, those who rely on their small van for work, or modest car to ferry the kids about, will be hit the hardest. That extra £20 or £30 a year will really hurt many of our residents, who need their vehicle, worked hard to get it and maintain it, and are taxed enough already on fuel, their road fund license and frankly, the current rate of parking permits.

Thirdly, bizarrely from a party who are supposed to be about fairness and the redistribution of wealth, because it is deeply unfair to those who can least afford to change their vehicle AND beneficial to the owners of more expensive, fuel inefficient cars.

Indeed, without really wanting to channel Neil Kinnock, we must ask ourselves, why is it, that a Labour Council, is taxing the owner of a diesel Ford Fiesta on Crookham Road in my ward more, but the £119,000, 16 feet long Porsche Cayenne Turbo S parked next to it gets a tax break by still only paying £119 a year, despite taking up five feet more in length! Or perhaps they are proud of wanting to charge the owner of the 75mpg Skoda Fabia on Mimosa Street more to park, but the £132,000, 15mpg, 550hp, 5.0 Litre V8 Supercharged Petrol, Range Rover SV Autobiography parked next to it less.

Is that what the Labour Party has become? Champion of the supercar? Promoter of the Porsche? Friend of the Ferrari? All great cars, but it just doesn’t add up with what they say they are trying to achieve.

To be generous, Labour are confused on this matter. To be more accurate, I think they are engaged on a mission of spite – desperate for a headline, but without and substance or foundation.

Give it a rethink guys. If you want to help the environment, there is so much more you could have done.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council owns 423 empty garages

A Freedom of Information request from Property Partner has found that Hammersmith and Fulham Council owns 423 empty garages – a third of the total number.

In our case the average garage is 170 square feet.  The average size of a one bedroom flat is 500 square feet. So that 71,910 square feet of empty garage space is equivalent to 144 homes.  It may well be that in some cases replacing garages with new homes would not be viable. On the other hand, these figures only allow for bungalows. Often, of course, it would be perfectly viable to replace a row of garages with two, three or four storey housing.

The Council also rents out another 179 garages privately – that provides a useful source of revenue for the council. But would it not be better to convert some of those garages into homes too?

Also any of the 423 empty garages that can’t be replaced with homes should be rented out privately.

The present mismanagement is a terrible waste of resources.

Satisfaction with adult social care in H&F is below national average

Last month on Conservative Home I wrote about the “crisis” in adult social care and noted:

“In my local council of Hammersmith and Fulham last year there were ten people on an average day, per 100,000 of the population, needlessly stuck in hospital due to Council delay in making alternative arrangements.  In Wandsworth the figure was below half of that:  4.4 per 100,000.  Why?  This is not a rhetorical question; I have logged the query with my Council for an explanation. But I would be surprised if the answer comes back that Wandsworth spends twice as much proportionately on adult social care as we do or has twice as high a proportion of elderly residents.”

I still haven’t had a an answer to that.

But there is another measure of how the service is performing – the satisfaction level among the “service users”. My query was as follows:

“I see that according to the “Measures from the Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework” the national figure has 64.4 per cent say they are extremely or very satisfied with their care. 85.4 per cent “reported that the services they received helped make them feel safe and secure.”  76.6 per cent “reported they have control over their daily lives.” 45.4 per cent “reported they had as much social contact as they would like”.

Please advise what the local equivalent satisfaction ratings are.”

I have had a response on this. For Hammersmith and Fulham Council overall satisfaction is 58.0 per cent (against 64.4 per cent nationally). The feeling safe measure is 68.9 per cent (against 85.4 per cent nationally). 78.1 per cent fell they have “control of their daily lives (against 76.1 per cent nationally) and 42.9 per cent feel they have as much social contact as they would like (compared to 45.4 per cent nationally).

So on three out of four measures we are behind. Also on two of them we are behind by quite a significant margin – including the most important judgment of “overall satisfaction”.

It’s just another opinion poll, of course, and we know how unreliable they can be. Yet surely the figures are of at least some concern.

Always talking about more money as the answer is simplistic – although the Council’s Public Health budget could be used on preventative measures. Where the Council could be doing much better is with a better relationship with the NHS – and for that matter between the Adult social care department and the sheltered housing team within the Council.