Slow progress on Superfast Broadband rollout

I wrote in March about a petty dispute between BT and Hammersmith and Fulham Council which was delaying 6,600 homes in the borough gaining access to Superfast Broadband. It concerns how much to charge for street works and the disputed sum was only £4,000!

The Council’s Network Management, Transport and Highways has now written to say:

“I am writing to give you the latest update regarding the above issue further to my previous communications with you all. Some of you may already be aware from direct contact from Mr Campling of BT Openreach that HAUC England, the national body who represents the street and road works industry, have produced guidance on how highways authorities should treat the continued roll out of broadband.

“As you may recall we were in dispute with BT Openreach on how these works should be categorised and how they should be notified. I am pleased to say that the recently released guidance makes it clear where there are a high concentration of broadband cabinets in one area that they should be treated as major works, which is what we have been suggesting all along. The guidance also provides BT with some flexibility regarding notifying isolated cabinets as standard works, providing that all the electrical connection works are also carried out within the allowed 10day duration, which BT previously were unable to commit to. We will monitor this closely. If they fail to achieve all works within the 10 days then we will be permitted to also retrospectively treat these works as major works.

“I am pleased that National HAUC have produced this guidance in such a short space of time and it now allows us to work closely with BT Openreach on facilitating the quickest available deployment for these works. We have already been told that their operational team will be in contact with us shortly so I expect works on some sites will commence very soon.”

Absurd that this has taken so long. Often residents work from home. I don’t know what “very soon” means but I will keep pushing away….

Spear is helping H&F youths find work

There is a fantastic local charity called Resurgo Spear which helps the young unemployed find work. They have helped 4,000. Here is the story from just one of them:

Joe: “When I was 20 I weighed 23 stone. I was staying at home all the time and lying in bed until two in the afternoon. I really hated myself and what I’d become. Six months ago my my older brother told me straight to my face, “I wouldn’t employ you.” He is quite successful so that really broke my heart.

“I knew a change had to come. I’d never worked before and had no idea how to get a job. I went to the job centre and they handed me a Spear leaflet. It went straight to the bottom of the pile. I didn’t think it was for me. But a week later I got a phone call from Sam, who is the centre manager at Hammersmith, and he told me to come to see him for a chat. Just the thought that someone wanted me to come out of the house to meet them really helped me.

“Spear helped boost my confidence and think about what I wanted to do with my life. I hadn’t been out of the house for so long that I didn’t know where to start. I learnt about having a long-term mindset and the importance of communicating well, and I’m motivated now. Spear was definitely right for me and the programme gave me a positive mindset going in to work, as well as the skills to actually apply for jobs and be successful at interview.

“I started to go on a diet and six months later I’ve lost almost six stone. I’m now working as a Brand Promoter at Heathrow Airport. My family, including my brother, are all really proud of me now.”

One way to help this charity is with money. Another is with your time. For instance by becoming A mock interviewer:

“Mock Interviews are a key part of the Spear programme. Many young people on Spear have never had an interview before, so it’s a crucial experience to practise. Mock interviewers are volunteers from the local community – some are from businesses and others are individuals.

“The sessions take place every six weeks or so on a Friday afternoon from 3 – 5pm. Volunteers are welcome every time or as a one-off. A full briefing is given beforehand, though it helps if you have some experience of interviewing.”

Call for cash machines on council premises

An interesting proposal from Shaun Bailey, a London Assembly member and former Conservative candidate for Hammersmith regarding cash machines.

Shaun says:

“In the past two years, 40 bank branches have closed across the capital, making free withdrawals more difficult, while statistically many Londoners live more than one km from a free cash machine.

For many of us, the increased availability of card payment means this is often not an issue. But for elderly and disabled members of the community, getting access to cash can be very important.

Limited access to free ATMs also disproportionately affects lower income groups. On average, most cash machine fees charge £1.75 for a withdrawal but some can be as high as £5 or £10. Even at £1.75, a 17.5 per cent charge to withdraw £10 seems unfairly high.

He proposes a change to planning policies to “include suitable provision for free cash machines where necessary. Also to “promote the inclusion of free-to-use cash machines in public buildings.”

I have taken this up with Hammersmith and Fulham Council. My understanding is that the Council could also gain some useful revenue. This is because even when the customer isn’t charged the bank is. So firms will pay a fee to businesses (or other organisations) who host cash machines on their premises.

The Council’s Principal Business Investment Officer tells me:

“Departments have been asked to look at how the Council could include in the Local Plan or Supplementary Planning Guidance the requirement that master-planning for major developments should include suitable provision for free cash machines where necessary, and also classify free cash machines as ‘social infrastructure’ within the Local Plan, and CIL/s106 guidance.  

“This will assist the Council in working with local businesses, developers and public bodies to promote the inclusion of free-to-use cash machines in public buildings, and with the London Mayor work to ensure that there should be a free-to-use cash machine at where possible at London Underground, London Overground, TfL Rail, DLR stations and TfL property.”

An encouraging reply.

Slow rollout of Superfast Broadband in H&F due to petty dispute

Cllr Mark Loveday

The Council’s Finance and Delivery Policy and Accountability Committee last night included an item I had requested Superfast Broadband rollout across the borough and was attended by a representative from BT Openreach.

Given the high density of our borough we should be leading the way – yet we are below the London average. 94.3 per cent of our properties have access to Superfast Broadband in London overall it is 95.3 per cent.

BT Openreach had plans to roll it out to another 6,600 homes in Hammersmith and Fulham, which is in fact only 20 street cabinets. They have, however, formally suspended any further rollout as a result of a dispute with the Council. The dispute relates to the Council’s categorisation of the street works which are required to provide the cabling for the cabinets. This in turn depends on the interpretation of the New Roads and Street Works Act.

The Council says the works would be major works, which require a certain period of notice and a fee of £326, whilst Openreach say they are standard works, which would require a few days’ notice and a fee of £130. On non-traffic sensitive streets the fee difference is even less (£223 for major works and £75 for standard works). It therefore comes down to a monetary difference of less than £4,000 and a dispute about principle (which both sides say would set a precedent for other utility companies or for other boroughs).

The Committee expressed its frustration about the fact that 6,600 homes were going without access to fibre broadband because of this pretty pathetic dispute. Both sides agreed to talk about it further. More significantly, they both agreed with a suggestion from Cllr Mark Loveday that they should consider mediation if it could not be resolved quickly.

 

 

Staying fit in Fulham this Winter

gomammA guest post from Scott Flear of Go Mammoth.

Winter is here which means many of us will be spending more time indoors.

With many awesome things to do over London and Fulham this Winter, it mostly consists of indulging in good food and drink.

Here’s a list of sporting activities both in and outdoor than you can do this winter.

Netball in Parsons Green

Leagues run on Monday and Tuesdays here for Netball. Most leagues are ladies leagues but there is a mixed league if the boys want to join in on some netball fun.

Click here to view Netball leagues in Fulham.

Basketball in Fulham & Chelsea

Men’s leagues run on Monday, Wednesdays and Thursdays at Chelsea academy.

Basketball is a great way of getting some indoor fitness done whilst it’s cold and/or raining outside.

Leagues cater for intermediate and recreational players, you can join as an individual or a team.

5 A Side Football in Fulham & Chelsea

You can join a men’s league or mixed league and all games are played on Mondays.

Wednesdays and Thursdays at Chelsea Academy.

This is a very cool outdoor venue with netting around the entire pitch. Always great to get a run around in the outdoors on a crisp winter night. There are many other 5 a side London leagues to choose from too.

Boxfit in Hammersmith

Stay fit with a boxfit class in Hammersmith at Westside school.

Boxfit is becoming increasingly popular as it’s very easy to do and pick up. The instructors are great and the classes are on 7-8pm on Mondays. Great way to start the week during this Winter!

Insanity in Hammersmith

Insanity is now world popular. It’s an intense class that will get you sweating.

If you’re looking for a change from the gym or want to test yourself then head down the Insanity class at Westside school at 6.45pm on Thursdays. You’ll thank us when you go into the festive season the healthiest you’ve been for a while!

Corporate Fitness & Wellness

There is no denying that over the festive season the office environment becomes a snack frenzy.

Chocolate, drinks, cakes, sweets and more.

You can now also get fitness classes and sports games come straight to your offices.

Get your HR manager or owner to get in touch and they can set up multiple wellness activities for you over the festive season. Balance is key!

If you know of any other indoor/outdoor social sports events or classes etc in the area, let us know so we can keep you all updated with things to do to stay fit this winter!

Will H&F Council take a Business Rates windfall while more shops are forced to close?

Property values in London (especially closer to the centre) have for years been increasing faster than the rest of the country. This means that a revaluation of Business Rates will results in higher bills in Hammersmith and Fulham – while bills will fall in, for example, Yorkshire and the north east of England.

We don’t yet know what the transitional arrangements will be. It is expected the changes will be phased in over a number of years. Nor do we yet know the impact on council finances. Initially the money is likely to be redistributed among councils so there won’t be much impact. However it is likely in the coming years Hammersmith and Fulham Council will be able to keep a growing share of Business Rates revenue.

Hitesh Jolapara, the Council’s Finance Director tells me:

“Initial figures from the Valuation Office show a 36% increase in rateable values for Hammersmith and Fulham.‎ The increase is not uniform. It will vary according to different property types, such as commercial or retail, and location and by rateable values The government are consulting on transitional arrangements that cap the level of increase in any one year. It is also not yet known what the change will be in the business rates multiplier (the rates payable is based on the rateable value x the business rates multiplier). The unknown  but potential impact on the Council finances is likely to be an increase in appeals. From a finance perspective detailed work is now in progress to determine the impact on businesses, on the council as a ratepayer and schools.”

A big increase in Business Rates threatens to drive more shops and pubs out of business. The Council could already use its discretion to cut this burden on small firms. But so far has refused to do so. It will be quite wrong, and in the long run self defeating, for the Council to allow itself a revenue windfall of increased revenue from Business Rates but with more and more shop fronts boarded up along our high streets.

An update on Shepherd’s Bush Market

shepmarkFurther this post last month I have been given an update by Matt Butler, Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s Head of Policy & Spatial Planning.

He says:

“We have recently been approached by U+I who advise us that they are now taking over from Orion.

“U+I advise that they aim to resolve current matters with the market tenants before consulting and discussing any new proposals that may come forward.”

A note of the meeting with the Council and the Shepherds Bush Market Tenants Association says that Richard Upton of U+I..

“…advised that he would send a letter to all the market tenants introducing U+I and updating them on the current situation. He would also send a letter in both legal and layperson terms setting out how U+I intends to resolve all the outstanding issues with the tenants, as documented by the SBMTA, which will be followed by a meeting in September with the SBMTA. The aim being to resolve all issues before the end of September.  In the meantime U+I will review market issues including management , increasing appropriate diversity and footfall for the benefit of all.”

That’s fine so far as it goes.

But according to a report in the Evening Standard the number of customers has been falling rapidly. We need to crack on with an attractive, sympathetic regeneration scheme – which means a design brief specifying that traditional architecture must be used.

I would expect that new homes will be needed for a viable long term solution. It is important to get on with it – not go back to square one.