Under Labour in H&F the number of council homes failing to meet the “decent” standard has doubled

First the good news. In recent years the number of council homes that fail to meet the “decent homes standard” nationally has been falling. As on the 1st April 2014 there were 145,737 “non-decent dwellings” owned by local authorities in England. See Section F of this dataset.  As of April 1st last year, the latest figures available, it was down to 83,440 “dwellings”. The dataset for that year is here.

In London the number has fallen from 72,885 in 2014 to 47,232 last year.

But in Hammersmith and Fulham it is a different story. On April 1st 2014 there were 536 “non-decent” council homes in the borough. The next month the borough was under new management. Labour won the council elections after promising council tenants a better deal. What has been the reality? By April 1st last year the number of “non-decent” council homes was 1,095. That is more than double. These are the official figures based on the Council’s own returns.

Now the “decent homes standard” isn’t a perfect measure. It includes the perverse requirement to replace sash windows with PVC.  But those cold statistics do give a pretty clear measure of the extent of Labour’s mismanagement and neglect. Anybody who goes canvassing on a council estate can see it for themselves – frankly the figures sound like a gross underestimate. 605 council homes in Hammersmith and Fulham are categorised as “not in a reasonable state of repair” (up from 147 in 2014). 92 are “without reasonable modern amenities and services” (up from nil in 2014). There are also 499 “without a reasonable degree of thermal warmth” (up from 392).

As a percentage, the “non-decent” council homes has risen from four per cent of the council’s housing stock, in 2014, to nine per cent last year.

Other councils have made great progress during the same time. In Kingston the number of “non decent” has fallen from 1,596 to 91. Havering has seen a fall from 1,929 to just 40.

By contrast when the Conservatives were running the Council the number of “non-decent council homes” was reduced. In the last four years of the Conservatives running the Council the number fell by more than half. In 2010 it was 1,322. As noted above by 2014 it was down to 536.

I wrote earlier about the amount of new affordable housing being slashed under Labour.

So the facts are stark. Labour uses class war rhetoric about being “on the side” of council tenants while portraying the Conservatives as the enemy. But the truth is that council tenants have lost out more than anyone else as a consequence of Labour running the Council.


Zebra loses its stripes

The zebra crossing outside the Duchess of Cambridge pub on the junction of Goldhawk Road and Stamford Brook Road is pretty badly faded, isn’t it?

I have raised the matter with the Council.

The Council’s Street Lighting & Signs Manager responds:

“Thank you for your observations relating to road markings on various zebra crossings at the junction of Goldhawk Road and Stamford Brook Road.

We have further inspected and will also re-mark the zebra crossing on Goldhawk Road at the entrance to Ravenscourt Park. The relevant order has been raised and these works should be completed within the next 28 working days.

Please do not hesitate to contact us, with further line marking maintenance requests in the future.”

Good news!


Award for Kite Studios founder – why not book in there for a pottery class?

Congratulations to Auriol Herford who has been granted a civic award for her contribution to art and culture in the borough. She founded the Kite Studios in Bassein Park Road in 2002.

This is what they offer:

“From preschool age children, to children with additional needs; experienced student or curious adult beginner. Irrespective of age, experience or income –everyone is welcome!

We’re so passionate about making art classes accessible for all, we’ve evolved over time into a Community Interest Company (CIC) and have set up the Kite Studios Sponsorship Fund to provide spaces on art courses for children and adults from families that have need support to attend art classes.

Our weekly classes cover disciplines such as print making (with an etching press), silkscreens, sewing and textile art, as well as the more traditional disciplines of drawing, pottery and craft-making.”

Pottery classes are available:

“We’ve been hosting ad-hoc pottery classes since 2011. This has developed into a more established pottery studio during 2014. The Great British Pottery Throwdown on the BBC has sparked a renewed interest in pottery for many people. Our aim is to provide a fun, high quality pottery experience in West London.

We collaborate with ceramic artists and designers to teach the pottery, clay and ceramics classes. Currently Kite Studios is working with Clover Lee, who was a finalist on the BBC Great Pottery Throwdown TV show.

We have a dedicated area for pottery, clay modelling, and kiln firing. Glazes, clay and associated tools are provided.”

Brackenbury, Greenside and Wendell Park are among the local primary schools that Kite Studios works with.

A hidden gem!

Making it easier for Flora Gardens residents to get on their bikes

While the hugely expensive “Cycle Superhighway” proposal for King Street is flawed there are plenty of more practical and less costly ways to encourage cycling.

For instance one resident in Flora Gardens asks me if a bike rack or shelter could be provided on his estate. Many council tenants keep their bikes chained to the railing in the hallway, but this is against the terms of the tenancy agreement and a potential hazard. On the other hand cycling is something that should be promoted – as a way of reducing pollution and traffic congestion and improving health and fitness.

The Head of Resident Involvement & Improvement in the Council’s Housing Department replies:

“The Resident Involvement Team is already working with the Flora Gardens TRA to look at secure bike storage. This was discussed at the TRA’s general meeting on 15 March 2018.

We’ll be looking at the possibility of carrying out works under the Neighbourhood Improvement Fund (NIF), subject to the TRA consulting with their residents and making a bid. A bid can be made for funding for up to £25,000. We would need to look at the suitable locations for secure bike storage, as well as the level of demand to understand the feasibility of this.

More information on NIF can be found at:


Those who would like to get in touch with the Flora Gardens TRA, can contact the Resident Involvement Team on 0208 753 6652 or email getinvolved@lbhf.gov.uk.”

So that is encouraging.

Should we have more outdoor gyms in Hammersmith and Fulham?

While canvassing yesterday one local resident asked me about providing more outdoor gyms in Hammersmith and Fulham.

Hillingdon Council are keen on them – so far they have got 18 in different parks around their borough.

The equipment they have includes:

  • Crunch station
  • Cross Trainer
  • Air skier
  • Push up/dip station
  • Seated Row
  • Pull up bars
  • Leg Press
  • Seated chest press
  • Hip Twister
  • Big shoulder wheels

To be honest I have no idea what most of those things are. However it is surely a good idea to encourage people to keep fit – including those who can’t afford a huge sub for gym membership.

There would be a cost involved – although as I have noted before the Council’s £22.7 million public health budget is largely wasted at present on bureaucracy and ineffective gimmicks.

I suppose the other problem is space – perhaps Hillingdon has more room than we do.

What do you think?

Anyway I have asked the Council’s Parks Manager for his comments.

H&F Council’s gardening is not up to scratch

I have written before about Hammersmith and Fulham Council owning 423 empty garages on its housing estates.  Many of these could be replaced with homes – as could derelict or unused buildings on council estates across the borough. I have also noted the Council’s very poor performance on affordable housing in recent years.  An average of just 87 new “affordable” homes a year since Labour took over – compared with an average of 194 a year under the Conservatives.

When it comes to finding room for new homes on council estates any loss of green space would obviously be a more sensitive issue than the loss of some eyesore redundant building. But is all the green space properly maintained? This photograph is of the communal back garden of a small block of council flats in Ashchurch Park Villas. There is a case for providing a well maintained pleasant garden.  There is a case for building a cottage or two on the site – which I think if they were beautiful and traditional would be acceptable to existing residents. Perhaps there would be space to do both.

What I find impossible to justify is the current use of the land.

Another 389 “troubled families” in Hammersmith and Fulham have been turned round

In the first phase of the “Troubled Families programme” which operated from 2012-2015 there were 540 families “turned round” in Hammersmith and Fulham.

The approach a single individual works with the whole family. Nationally this is described in the following terms:

“Whole family working is central to the Troubled Families approach to supporting families with complex needs. It moves beyond former approaches to service delivery in which: uncoordinated services gave families multiple assessments, thresholds and measures, often engaged with just one family member and focused solely on the main presenting problem. Instead, the approach engages the whole family – parents and children (and sometimes a wider network of family members), to work together to understand and overcome their multiple problems. A keyworker* undertakes a family assessment and works with the family to agree a whole family plan – a written agreement which sets out the type of support the family needs from services as well as targets and commitments the family has made. The keyworker identifies strengths that the family may have and involves the family coming up with solutions. The keyworker acts as an advocate for the family, and coordinates services around them so that they don’t have to keep repeating their stories to multiple professionals. The keyworker helps the family to build resilience so they can manage their own problems. They review progress with the family against their agreed goals and support the family to step-down from the programme once the goals have been reached and their dependence on services reduced. They help families change their lives for the better.”

There is a system of payment by results for local authorities – measured by the reduction of the number of children excluded from schools, family members engaged in crime, and adults stuck on welfare.

This report from 2014 gave a sense of what was achieved in Hammersmith and Fulham where the initiative operated on a tri-borough basis:

Over the last 18 months an exercise was conducted tracking the progress of 326 families open to the Family Coaches for more than 3 months. Of these families, 200 have been fully analysed as they have data sets at both entry and closure points.

There is clear evidence that the families working with the Coaches have made significant progress on a range of issues many of whom were triaged as being quite far from change. The key findings for those affected in the cohort by each issue are below: 

Fixed term exclusions Down by 65%

Behavioural problems (children) Down 42%

Truancy Down 59%

Families at risk of eviction Down 58% ( down to only 10% at risk)

Rent arrears Down 25%

Adult anti-social behaviour Down 80%

Child anti-social behaviour Down 58%

Adult proven offences Down 20%

Child proven offences Down 55%

Domestic abuse Down 30%

Gang affiliated Down 30%

Adults in treatment for substance misuse Up 36%

Adults into employment Up 35% (20 adults) so that 25% cohort in work at end of intervention.

The Government are operating an expanded version of the programme for 2015-2020. The annual report for 2017/18 is very encouraging. It shows that so far another 389 families in Hammersmith and Fulham have been “turned round” – they have made “significant and sustained progress as at 9th March 2018.” This includes 114 previously workless households where at least one family member has “achieved continuous employment”.  Nationally a study of families on the programme measured against a “comparison group” found the number of children going into care was halved. That consequence alone would make it good value for money for the taxpayer – despite the sniping from critics.

Lots of facts and figures but behind them are some powerful success stories – both locally and nationally. Good news – and therefore unlikely to be widely reported. But important nevertheless.

Douglas Shaw: The Conservatives are wrong to oppose CS9

A guest post by Douglas Shaw, Avonmore resident, and a keen cyclist:

Can I make a few points about the CS9 debate? It has been very disheartening to see how quickly positions became entrenched. I won’t lob any more data into the discussion because I suspect that won’t move the dial but I do think some context is helpful. 

I first became a cycle commuter in 1994, out of boredom rather than any environmental motive. I now live near Olympia and bike daily to Mayfair. It is just so convenient. I don’t bother with a helmet, I own no Lycra and leave any pious attitude behind when in the saddle. But it wasn’t always like that. Early doors, I biked as fast as I could and frequently held motorists to an impossible standard of conduct even at the expense of my own danger. But then I realised that queuing for the work place shower ate up any time savings and that might really was right when arguing with the traffic. A legalistic approach to riding a bike is a literal dead end. A cyclist’s momentum is valuable so, yes, I have ridden through a red light when no one’s around (that one at the north end of Queensgate, if it is pedestrian-free) and might sneak a left turn on red if the traffic is snarled. Cyclists can also hop off and instantly become pedestrians so, yes, I have recently cycled on a pavement. My bad. 

So, I ain’t no saint but a bike is so nimble and so flexible that there is no more point approaching cyclists and cycling with a rule book on your lap than there is complaining about jay-walking pedestrians (who themselves can turn on a six pence). There is even less point saying that, as some have, cyclists should not “undertake” stationary traffic as they filter to the front: bikers are gonna bike just like pebbles will tumble through boulders. 

One feature of the debate is a false categorisation. Cyclists own cars, car drivers cycle, pedestrians also drive, bus passengers also walk. It is just folk moving about the city, there’s no homogenous block of people. I drive, renting since I sold my diesel VW, and take Uber and Black Cabs. Another feature if the debate is just plain nimbyism. People don’t mind change provided it is experienced by others and not by themselves. We want less pollution but are unwilling to sell our cars. Before moving to Olympia we lived in Chelsea and I was active in the debate about whether there should a Crossrail2 station on the King’s Road. My neighbours thought a billion quid might be better spent elsewhere lest the wrong sort of person came to the area. I was on the side of progress. 

And I remain so with regard to CS9. Of course, change can be temporarily disruptive; might car journeys take a minute longer? Big deal. But might there be fewer cars and less pollution if more folk cycle? But might our kids be more independent and healthier if we let them bike to school? Could our streets be more pleasant and humane if we reweighted the balance between their different users? What has been the experience elsewhere in London? A bike provision was installed on Green Lanes in north London, my original manor. Like Chiswick High Road and Olympia, councillors’ post bags were deeply negative. Residents hated the idea, retailers loathed it. But installed it was and the naysayers not only piped down post construction but actually like it. Now, my esteemed ward councillor advises that the N21 scheme is “very different” to the proposed CS9. To which I politely shrug, because it is clear that being against CS9 “in its current form” actually means opposing it in any form. 

For Tories like me, this is a mistake. We should be leading our post bags on this and making the case for more balanced road use and more humane and workable streets. The N21 scheme might differ from proposed CS9 which, in any case, will be improved through the consultation period as any flaws become evident. But bike lanes, like CS9, will be better for our health, better for communities and, as N21 retailers will attest, better for business. 

Will the Ravenscourt Park dog enclosure railings actually keep dogs enclosed?

Concern has been expressed concern that the new railings for the dog enclosure are too low and have gaps at the bottom – thus allowing dogs to get out.  One resident who lives by the Park wrote to tell me it was a “travesty of mismanagement and waste of money. They need to be the height of the external ones to the park , with NO gap below!”

I asked the Council’s Park Manager to respond and he says:

“The railings around the dog area to the north of the park have been changed as part of the work to the Goldhawk Road entrance.

“The height of the railings is broadly in line with those of the play areas in the park; to install any that are higher would create an area that feels very enclosed. There are some small gaps at the bottom but due to the undulating ground this is impossible to eliminate.

“Owners that take their dogs in this area should still have them under control, like any other part of the park i.e. they return when called.”

That’s all and good. But is the matter so straightforward in real life? One dog owner responds:

“Dogs are not children. Most especially puppies in training – who can both get through AND under the new railings.  It is a dog enclosure, and as such should be adequate to meet said description.

“Broadly speaking it looks good, but is not fit for purpose.  Did anyone consult with some dog owners or trainers before deciding on the railings?”