Joe Carlebach: It’s time to join the Hammersmith Conservatives

Cllr Joe Carlebach is the Conservative Vulnerable People’s Champion and an Avonmore & Brook Green Ward councillor and the Chairman of  Hammersmith Conservatives.

I was honoured and delighted to have been elected Chairman of the Hammersmith Conservatives on Tuesday night.

Our community in Hammersmith is wonderfully diverse, rich in different cultures and a vital and vibrant part of our capital city. I am proud to call Hammersmith my home.

I have lived in this area  for nearly thirty years, my children go to school here, I have very deep roots in Hammersmith. What happens here is very important to me.

We have a lot of work ahead of us in the coming year including the forthcoming Council election where I hope that with renewed impetus we will retake control of the Council and repair the fractured relations with our neighbouring boroughs.

I look forward to working with our party members, activists and residents in general to spread our message of constructive, compassionate conservatism ensuring it is heard, discussed and understood.

I want to make sure the voice of ordinary people, especially hard working and hard pressed families are heard. I will make sure we include them in our thinking and address their needs in our plans.

I also want to make sure we reinforce our commitment to the care and service of our most vulnerable residents, to our veterans and indeed to all residents.

I want to record my thanks to our many volunteers and activists who have already spent a lot of time out canvassing and delivering. I look forward to seeing many them all out on the campaign trail in the coming months.

As an Association we will have an exciting series of events in the lead up to the election – details of which will follow soon. I want us to be welcoming to all and a fun place to be. To win we need to work together, sharing a common purpose, a Conservative victory next year.

I would like to congratulate the new officer team elected to serve with me and I look forward to working with them. I would also like to take  this opportunity to thank the retiring team I wish them all well.

If you would like to get involved with us in the Hammersmith Conservatives and share in the exciting plans we have please feel free to get in touch via our website https://www.hammersmithconservatives.com/

I want to express my gratitude again for the vote of confidence in me and in my leadership. I wish everyone in Hammersmith a restful, healthy and happy Easter break.

NHS hits back at Council’s “incorrect and misleading claims” that closure of Charing Cross Hospital is planned

The Imperial College NHS Trust chief executive Dr Tracey Batten and North West London collaboration of clinical commissioning groups chief officer Clare Parker have challenged Hammersmith and Fulham council leader Stephen Cowan over inaccurate and misleading claims about Charing Cross Hospital.

A recent letter from Cllr Cowan to all of the borough’s residents says that ‘NHS bosses have re-launched plans to close Charing Cross’ as part of the north west London sustainability and transformation plan (STP).

In their joint response, Dr Batten and Ms Parker point out that there have never been any plans to close Charing Cross Hospital and that the STP actually makes a clear commitment that there will be no reduction in Charing Cross’s A&E department or wider services within the lifetime of the plan – that runs until April 2021.

They also highlight the recent £2.5 million investment in urgent and emergency care services and theatres at Charing Cross.

The letter goes on to say that it’s more important than ever for the NHS and local authorities to work closely together.

It says:

We are writing to express our concern at your leaflet ‘Save Charing Cross Hospital – stand with us to fight the latest closure plan’ (attached), which you circulated with council tax updates to the residents of your borough this month. This material made a number of incorrect and misleading claims about the future of Charing Cross Hospital which is likely to cause significant, unnecessary distress to patients and staff.

As you will be fully aware, there have never been any plans to close Charing Cross Hospital.

You will also know that, far from “re-launching” proposals for changes at Charing Cross, the North West London Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) made a clear commitment that there will be no reduction in Charing Cross’s A&E department or wider services within the lifetime of the plan (that runs until April 2021). And we recently updated you on a £2.5 million investment in urgent and emergency care services and theatres at Charing Cross.

Like the rest of the NHS, we are working hard to respond to growing and changing demand, especially to support frail and elderly patients with a range of health problems. We also want to continue to offer the residents of NW London the very best in specialist health care, as we do, for example, at the Trust’s dedicated heart attack centre, stroke unit and major trauma centre. And this is all within the context of increasing financial pressure. It’s more important than ever that the NHS and local authorities work closely together to develop better and more integrated ways to help local people stay as healthy as possible and to get fast access to the right care when and where they need it.

As such, we do believe health and care services need to continue to change along the lines set out in the service strategy for NW London, agreed in 2013 following a full public consultation. We made further commitments through the STP that we will work jointly with communities and councils to design new models of care as set out in the strategy and that we will first progress and test new out-of-hospital models before looking to reduce acute hospital capacity.

It is difficult to understand why the Council would choose to spend significant sums of public money fighting ‘closure plans’ that do not exist and when your NHS partners have clearly set out that service changes over at least the next five years will be focused on providing better ways of helping local people stay healthy and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions or long stays.

As such, through this letter, we are raising a formal complaint with you regarding this publicity material and its content which we believe has clearly breached the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity, specifically around objectivity and even-handedness. We request that you stop any further promotion of this leaflet and publicly retract your misleading claims. Further details on the grounds for our complaint are attached.

We will be making this response publicly available as part of the effort now required to reassure residents, patients and our staff that Charing Cross Hospital continues to be a vital part of the Trust and the NHS in NW London, and that we are continuing to invest in its future.

H&F Council kept spending on doomed stock transfer project

Last month the Labour Council finally abandoned their stock transfer proposals – which would have meant handing over all the council housing in the borough to a new housing assocation.

They gave the reason that the Government had refused to write off the debt. But when did they know about this?

After some delay the Council have told me:

“At a meeting on 28 January 2016 between officers of the Council and the DCLG, the latter confirmed that the traditional funding route for stock transfers by Local Authorities was no longer available.”

So a whole year of wasted money on consultants, lawyers and PR men – on a project that was unwanted anyway.

Also the costs turn out to be much higher than claimed – as the figures did not include the time spent by council staff.  The Council says the project formed only “a small part of their day to day work.” Really? I have been told the time spent on it was very considerable.

Let us remember that the salaries for senior housing officers are very high. The Director of Housing Services, for instance, is paid £104,669 a year. The project has been a terrible distraction from the real priorities like improving the repairs service.

Hammersmith students reach for the stars

Hammersmith Academy school children are taking part in a scientific initiative designed by Noosphere – the philanthropic foundation founded by Russian philanthropist Yelena Baturina, in association with the Mayor’s Fund for London’s Discovery in a Week initiative.

Also supported by the Yelena Baturina’s BE Open Foundation, the initiative’s aim is introduce young people from across London to the fascinating world of astronomy. The Discovery in a Week projects bring together PHD astronomy students from the UCL’s Physics and Astronomy department to mentor secondary school pupils. London children will join those from Moscow and professional astronomers to discuss and exchange thoughts and ideas during weekly Skype conferences.

Currently children from six London schools – Hammersmith, Forest Gate Community School, Sanders, Mount Carmel, Lister Community College, UCL Academy – are not only enhancing their theoretical knowledge, but also making real astronomic discoveries by analysing pictures produced by a powerful telescope in Australia. By the end of the year 20 London schools will be taking part.

Discovery in a Week is a project that not just introduces young people to the fascinating world of astronomy, but by producing real scientific results gives them a rewarding educational experience that broadens their intellectual horizons, while fostering a keen interest in scientific research to last for years to come.

The stars discovered by children will be recorded in the International Variable Star Index, while the coordinates of the asteroids detected will be sent to the Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. During the pilot launch of the programme only, the students at Hammersmith and UCL Academies identified 9 new variable stars in the Centaurus and Libra constellations. All the stars discovered are now officially named after their young discoverers.

The aim of Discovery in a Week is to continue to extend the scope of this initiative to a broader range of schools over the next few years, as well as create an international network of enthusiastic young observers and researchers by encouraging children from different countries to exchange their astronomical experience and ideas during regular conferences.

Yelena Baturina, Founder of Noosphere said:

“We are very excited that more and more schools join the ‘Discovery in a Week’ project. Over 10 years, we have implemented a variety of projects aimed at bringing people together, improving understanding and promoting freedom of thought. And we hope that looking at the sky will encourage younger generations to think globally, approach the world with an informed, open and universal perspective”.

The programme was made possible thanks to the Russian philanthropic foundation Noosphere in partnership with the Mayor’s Fund for London, and with support from the BE OPEN foundation. Since 2008, Noosphere has conducted its educational projects across schools in India, Israel, Bulgaria, Romania and Austria.

H&F Council in crisis as Labour create £52m budget black hole

Hammersmith & Fulham’s Labour Council have just taken a deliberate political decision that will have major ramifications for our local area and council services.

Labour has decided to withdraw from the “Tri-Borough” shared services agreement with Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea councils. This agreement was established in 2011 to save taxpayers’ money by sharing resources of all three councils, reducing backroom bureaucracy and improving frontline services.

It currently saves council taxpayers’ an estimated £13 million a year. That’s £52 million over the four years of a council administration.

The shared services initiative has been so successful that Labour promised to extend it in their election manifesto back when they won control of the Council in 2014.

By Labour’s own figures, this shared service arrangement saved council taxpayers’ £46.5million between 2011-2016. That’s £46.5m more that could be spent on the services that matter to residents. Services such as street cleaning, bin collections, parks, housing and adult social care.

However, due to Labour’s decision, based purely on short sighted party politics and extreme ideological opposition to working with Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, essential council services are now facing cuts on a massive scale, as well as inevitable council tax hikes to try and plug the huge black hole in the Council’s finances.

The Conservatives believe this decision by the Labour Council is a terrible terrible mistake.

This announcement comes on the back of the news that the Council’s Chief Executive has unexpectedly resigned, meaning the Council has now had three different Chief Executives in the last 3 years. Or the botched attempt costing millions of pounds to sell off all council housing, which was halted by the Government in an unpredicted move following serious concerns over the proposals. It appears that the Council is descending into complete chaos.

The last Conservative administration may not have got everything right but it did manage Council finances properly, cutting council tax by 20 per cent while delivering real improvements to key services.

The next council elections are not until May 2018. The choice has never been clearer. Financial incompetence by Labour verses value for money and better services with the Conservatives.

Westcroft Square leading the way in the switch to electric cars

I am pleased to report considerable interest among Westcroft Square residents in switching to electric cars. This is something the Residents Association has been actively encouraging and monitoring in order to press the Council to provide the necessary charging points.

The Council’s Parking Projects and Policy Manager says:

“Thank you for the email regarding the provision of residential on-street electric vehicle (EV) charge-points in Westcroft Square.  The support presented by the Westcroft Square Residents Association is welcomed and comes at a very important juncture.

LBHF intends to be at the forefront for EV charging provision and we are currently developing a network of on-street EV charge-points across the borough.  We have just completed Phase 3 of this project that has delivered 83 EV charge-points in 28 locations.  The closest to WestcroftSquare is in Standish Road at the junction with King Street where two charge-points are operational.  We anticipate that later this year by the end of Phase 4, we will offer 160 EV charge-points across 55 locations with a charge-point within 400 metres of every residential property in the borough.  

Whilst EV charging technology has come along in leaps and bounds in the past decade, it is still evolving. So for example, we are exploring rapid charging infrastructure where an 80% charge can be realised in less than 30 minutes. Installing charging points within lamp columns is another option. This technology removes the consumer metering apparatus from the charging unit and puts in into the cable provided by the consumer. The advantage being that several charging points could then be provided at minimal cost.

The announcement from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) to support local highway authorities was welcomed and I contacted the Energy Saving Trust (EST) earlier this year to discuss the On-street Residential Charge-point Scheme (ORCS) in more detail.  They are administering the scheme and have provided me with further information, offered guidance and will review any grant funding application that LBHF may make to the ORCS.”

Pressing for improvements to Ravenscourt Park

Local residents have been in contact recently with various proposals for improvements to Ravenscourt Park. Of course there is usually a cost involved although sometimes quite modest. In any case, I have written before about how Section 106 money allocated for park improvements has still not been  dues to bureaucratic delays. This is very frustrating – especially for the Friends of Ravenscourt Park who produced some very reasonable proposals as to how the money could be spent.

One concern is the track on the west side of the Park – an absolute mudbath when it rains. Naturally enough people walk on the grass to avoid the mud and the area of mud increases ever wider.

“The state of this path makes it impossible to do a full circuit walk round the inside of the Park with any pleasure,” says one resident who suggests spreading bark chippings down the track as, at least, a temporary solution.

Another concern is that litter is getting worse. There are supposed to be litter collections every two hours when fairs are taking place

The Parks Manager responds:

“A woodchip path is a very short term solution and will almost inevitably sink into the mud and require constant topping up.  This will also not address the issue of the unevenness of the path.  As hopefully the weather will start to improve in the coming weeks, and with that the ground will dry, I would like the opportunity to level the area and then make a decision on whether woodchip is necessary.  I know it is used on sites such as Wimbledon Common but it is likely they have a good source of quality woodchip and the necessary staffing to revisit this constantly.  That said, you are correct in that this has been ongoing for some time now so we will seek to make a decision over the summer and develop a long-term plan for this area to avoid another winter of the ‘muddy path’.

“Litter and squirrels/foxes is a perennial problem across the parks portfolio I cover, this isn’t helped by the frequency for litter collection dropping to twice a week during the winter months in Hammersmith & Fulham.  On a positive note, from the 1st April we move to our summer litter picking frequency, which is daily with a site based litter picker on-site for 8 hours per day at weekends.  From the Easter weekend this is additionally backed up by another site based litter picker, which ensures at weekends and on bank holidays there is someone on-site throughout the day cleansing.  This should ensure, certainly on Sunday and Monday mornings that the park is clean when it is opened.  We have looked at alternative larger bins including wheeled bins but we don’t have a vehicle within the grounds maintenance contract that can empty them.  Additionally, we do not have the funding to wholesale replace the bins across the park.  I will remind my colleagues in Events team of the promise made when funfairs are on-site.

“I hope this clarifies our position?  Please be assured we want a clean and litter free parks as much as anyone else.”

Then there is the Walled Gardens. The Friends of the Walled Garden do a fantastic job. But there are problems with bindweed on the paths  – and the woodwork in the sheds where people can sit. They could also do with some publicity in the Park to encourage more volunteers.

The Parks Manager replies:

“A large amount of work has been undertaken by the Friends of Ravenscourt Park Walled Garden over the last couple of months.  This has included digging out the soil, replacing and re-planting the beds primarily to deal with the bindweed but also to plants more appropriate species for the walled garden.  This has all been made possible by the hard work of the Friends of Ravenscourt Park Walled Garden who secured a grant from Tesco’s Bags for Help fund.  We are now in the final stages of the project and will certainly look to link up with the friends once completed to publicise their hard work.

“Hopefully our next project can be to work with the friends to look for further funding for the paths and wooden structures.  The friends do have a website http://ravenscourtgarden.btck.co.uk/ and if they want additional publicity this is certainly something we could try to help them with.”