Andrew Brown: Reflections a week on from the Parsons Green attack

A guest post from Cllr Andrew Brown, a Conservative Councillor for Town Ward.

A week today, for residents of our borough, and Fulham especially, our worst fears came to be. With the terrible atrocities at Parliament, in Manchester and London Bridge I’m sure many of us worried that something like that could happen in our community, but hoped it never would. Why would they target our small part of London? But they did, whether intentionally or through incompetence on the way to another target.

All the feelings that we experience when terrorist attacks happen anywhere, are magnified when they are in your country, more so in your city and most of all in your neighbourhood. As a councillor in Town Ward, where the tube station is located, I know hundreds of local residents, many of them friends who use the district line and Parsons Green Station every day. I’m sure everyone in our borough must also know lots of people, both friends and family, who use the station as well, live nearby, or are pupils at the local schools. Our thoughts immediately rush to wondering if they are safe.

I was not far away from the station, having just dropped off my daughter at school, when the headmistress alerted me to the helicopter flying overhead and told me to check the news. The rest of the day went by in a blur, keeping up with the news, liaising with councillor colleagues and local residents’ associations as well as the police and the council.

It was extremely fortunate that the device failed to fully detonate, and we have to be incredibly thankful that nobody was serious injured or killed. I hope that anyone injured on the train, or in the crush afterwards, makes a speedy recovery and receives all the help and support to deal with any psychological trauma as well as any physical injuries. That is now the most important thing.

I was however, also struck by the incredible bravery and professionalism of our emergency services, who put aside their own safety and raced to help those caught up in the incident. The immediate response as well as the police and intelligence work over the last week has highlighted their dedication to keeping us all safe.

But something else struck me and many others, and that was the community spirit in Parsons Green. When I spoke with a Chair of one of the residents’ associations, they told me that residents who had been evacuated from their homes were being taken in for the day by people in neighbouring streets, or being looked after in local businesses such as the White Horse pub, the Sloaney Pony to the locals.

It was this neighbourliness that was exemplified by Teo Catino of Il Pagliaccio who set up a stall on Parsons Green to hand out free bottles of water and 200 pizzas to members of our emergency services.

If anyone had been killed or seriously injured we wouldn’t be able to focus on these acts of kindness, but we should be very thankful that this message of togetherness, compassion and community spirit can be what we remember.

 

Charlie Dewhirst: Mistake for H&F Council to downgrade crime fighting

Cllr Charlie Dewhirst writes

At last night’s Full Council meeting the Labour administration passed a change to the Council constitution to remove the post of Director of Safer Neighbourhoods and transfer of all their responsibilities to Environmental Health. This is a disturbing development and provides a troubling insight into the local Labour Party’s priorities.

The previous Conservative administration had a very proud record on crime reduction in this borough – working with the police to reduce crime by 25% over eight years.

I did think for a while the current administration was at least giving the impression of taking crime as seriously. However, this strikes me as a particularly counter-productive decision at a time when the picture is alarming.

In the last year crime has risen overall by 4.5% across London. Robbery is up 12%, theft up 7% and sexual offences up over 9%. Moped-enabled crime has risen seven fold in the last two years to over 7,500 offences a year – more than 20 each day in the capital.

Locally in our borough, violence against the person is up more than 4%, sexual offences up 11% and robbery up by a staggering 28% in the last year. In addition, the Mayor of London is cutting the local Crime Prevention Fund in Hammersmith and Fulham by 33% next year.

Now is clearly not the time for the Council to be pushing crime down the list of priorities. Tackling crime and anti-social behaviour will be a primary focus for a future Conservative administration in Hammersmith and Fulham.

Action needed on moped thefts

I have written elsewhere about the growing epidemic of moped thefts. Part of the problem is that as the culprit is not wearing a helmet the police are under instructions not to pursue them for health and safety reasons. The Mayor of London to give stronger guidance.

Another problem is when the police do catch the thief the sentencing is so lenient. Often the criminals brazenly show off their exploits all over social media – with photos and videos taunting the police on Facebook.

Often the stolen mopeds are then used for other crimes. I had an email this week from one Neighbourhood Watch group in Ravenscourt Park Ward about drug dealers using stolen mopeds.

There is a scheme in Southwark to combat motorbike theft by installing “anchors”.

£500 seems rather a lot for each anchor.

I asked the Council for what we are doing and got the following response from Commissioning And Performance Officer:

Dear Councillor Phibbs,

 Thank you for your recent enquiry relating to the scheme in Southwark to fit ground anchors in residents driveways.

 The scheme in Southwark has clearly been well received and will hopefully have a positive impact on the number of moped thefts in that Borough. Hammersmith and Fulham experiences similar challenges and officers have worked closely with the police to design schemes aimed at tackling the problem. As such, a GPS Tagging Project was introduced in 2016. The unit cost for this scheme is approximately £50 which demonstrates excellent value for money and, due to its lower cost, has enabled 80 mopeds to be tagged. We currently have the resources to fit 80 more. Much of the motorcycle and moped theft in the borough involves vehicles being taken from the street as many residents do not have off-street parking, so we feel that GPS tagging is a more appropriate solution for this borough than the Southwark scheme.

 Residents can have this equipment fitted to their vehicle free of charge and the police are then able to track their vehicles if they are stolen. Residents can apply for the scheme by contacting CSU@lbhf.gov.uk

Hate crime is being defeated in Hammersmith and Fulham

The EU referendum result was most emphatically not a victory for bigotry. On the contrary it was a vote for a positive, democratic future – for the UK to be an outward looking, free trading, self governing nation. But some thought it was a licence for intolerance – some residents from other EU states feared it was, a handful of bigoted yobs hoped it was. The number was very small but highly unpleasant – including the notorious incident of obscene, racist graffiti on the Polish Centre in King Street.

Fortunately although there have been half a dozen incidents thought to be linked to the referendum Hannah Wheeler, Chief Inspector Partnership for the Hammersmith and Fulham Police reports overall here has not been an increase in Hate Crime locally:

“The DWO for the ward Pc Jenny Doe has very close links with the Polish centre and we also have a Polish MSC Sgt who supports them as well. Their security was reviewed last year from a Counter terrorism perspective and their staff were trained as well by Sgt Penman and I have also asked the Crime prevention design Advisor – Dave Hinton to attend and review again. In the latest incident the letter has been submitted for forensic examination and was posted from Sheffield – no reason and probably someone trolling following the recent media exposure of the centre.

Hate crime remains at the levels it was prior to the Referendum vote – we have had roughly 10 per week – of the 39 reported only 6 have a direct reference to the referendum and they were in the immediate days after the vote.

To give you a flavour of what the latest reports are

2 are homophobic – parties know to each other.

3 relate to drunk customers in shops being refused service and saying ‘ go back to your own country’ or words to that affect .

1 last night was an abusive male in the front office at Hammersmith that racially abused a police officer and was arrested.

We have a daily crime digest for the borough of MOPAC crimes and following the referendum I asked that all Hate crime was recorded daily on that digest as well so we are closely monitoring for any increase or change in severity however the latest reported hate crimes are of the same nature to those prior to the referendum.

I hope this allays any fears you may have?  If you are aware of anecdotal reports of ‘talk’ about hate crime then please check whether it has been reported so we can accurately police all our hate crime.”

Neighbourhood Watch schemes provide the ultimate value for money in crime fighting

Metropolitan_PoliceThere are plenty of examples that shows that if the state spends more money on something it doesn’t necessarily mean there is a better service and also that it is possible to find savings without cutting the standard of service.

The Metropolitan Police are no exception to this and big reductions in budget have been absorbed while the amount of front line policing has been maintained.

One way that policing has been enhanced has been through the boost of volunteering. There are more Special Constables. Also there are more Neighbourhood Watch schemes – where the public provide a vast intelligence network on a greater scale that could possible be provided by beat policing.

So it does make sense that liaison with Neighbourhood Watch coordinators – whether by police officers or PCSOs – is maintained.

David Millar, Chairman of the Neighbourhood Watch Borough Association, sent out the following note recently to those involved in fighting crime by coordinating Neighbourhood Watches.

Dear all,

At a number of recent meetings in Hammersmith & Fulham it has been made clear that there is public concern at the reported outcomes of the current funding review of the Police.

The reduction in neighbourhood policing and possible loss of all PCSOs has caused the major concern. A number of lobbying suggestions were made at the meetings.

Well, by chance, I found myself sitting next to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner of the Police in the Metropolis – as it says on his card) on a flight from Edinburgh last Sunday.

As I had him captive for an hour I thought I would put it to good use. We had a fair and frank discussion and it is clear that he is facing an unenviable task on where he will find the savings that will be required of him.

It seemed to me that he was being shielded from the communities view – bearing in mind that there is no consultation – on what people want from their local police. I took the opportunity to relay the general feelings of H&F residents from recent discussions at the Neighbourhood Watch AGM and Safer Neighbourhood Board.

There was a meeting of the Mets Management Board on the 29th September where they were reviewing the options open to them. He was very clear that no decisions will be taken until December.

After a wide ranging discussion he agreed that it would be appropriate to meet representatives of all London Boroughs which I can arrange through the organisation that I represent H&F on – the London Communities Policing Partnership.

At the end of the day the final decision will be his, but I hope that at least we will have the opportunity for our voice to be heard.

I will keep you informed of any developments.

David Millar

Investing in the police estate in Hammersmith and Fulham

Chief Superintendent Gideon Springer, the Borough Commander, has written the following message to councillors about how the police are examining ways in which to make sure their estate in the borough is fit for the 21st century.

As you know the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) are concerned that we should deliver the best possible service to every community in London. We have prioritised having at least one 24 hour police station in every borough and ensuring that there are other contact points and front counters throughout the capital. Not all of these are fit for purpose in the longer term and we have been modernising our estate.

The challenges for all of us in the public sector are, at the same time, becoming more acute. MOPAC and the MPS are, as doubtless you are also, considering how best we can use our estate and our facilities to achieve greater productivity and better service with less financial input.

The MPS and MOPAC objective is to maintain London as the safest global city, ensure that the public see police officers on the street and are able to access police services through the most immediate means possible. Increasingly as for all public services, mobile digital technology and use of the internet means that our officers do not need to be captured within buildings, but can be out on the street.

In Hammersmith & Fulham, as elsewhere in London, we are keen to reduce costs by making our estate use as efficient as possible whilst delivering on all of the commitments that I have set out above. We now have some specific plans. These plans will mean that we are making significant investment in Hammersmith Police Station and changing the focus of Fulham Police Station to make better use of that site, whilst retaining the front counter.

Hammersmith Police Station, in the centre of the Borough, is an important site for us, but its current configuration fails to provide a modern policing facility. We have wasted space and cannot, as it stands, achieve our ambitions to operate in a digitally enabled twenty-first century fashion.

We would therefore like to make major improvements to the existing building to deliver new state-of-the-art facilities including a new 30 cell custody suite – as well as improved and expanded stables that would maintain the popular presence of mounted police in the Hammersmith area. Modernising Hammersmith Police Station, whilst requiring investment up front, will reduce the running costs of the estate and also make more efficient use of space and allow for a more flexible workspace. It will also have the benefit of demonstrating our long term commitment to a substantial physical presence in the Borough.

The new Hammersmith Police Station will be our 24/7 Front Counter as now.

In addition to the investment at Hammersmith Police Station, MOPAC and the MPS are also undertaking to make better use of the Fulham Police Station site. This currently operates at just 35% utilisation meaning that the majority of the site can be released, reducing running costs and releasing significant capital value, whilst still maintaining a Front Counter on the site.

The current intention is that the site will be sold by MOPAC to the Education Funding Agency conditional on the retention of suitable Front Counter provision on site.

The capital receipt from Fulham will be reinvested into new and improved facilities and to support the work that we intend to undertake at Hammersmith, as well as the IT necessary to improve officer performance and frontline policing, delivering a better service to the public.

At a very early meeting between Hammersmith & Fulham Planning Officers and representatives from the MPS Property Services Department in June 2015, our concepts for proposed improvements at Hammersmith Police Station were welcomed including our intention to retain the Grade II Listed façade. The MPS Property Services Department has now arranged a formal pre-application meeting with your planning officers as well as a site visit, and once plans have progressed we will hold a public consultation and I would personally be very keen to discuss these proposals with you.

I hope that you will be supportive of our proposals. In particular, there will be a temporary need for officers and staff to move out of Hammersmith Police Station as the works are carried out, but we can maintain the majority of these in alternative facilities, such as Empress State Building, within Hammersmith & Fulham for that period, and I would be happy to discuss with you the shared use of council or other premises.

I do hope this update is useful. I would very much welcome the chance to discuss these proposals with you as well as how we maintain the scale and shape of services in the Borough in these testing times. I will be in touch to arrange a meeting and discuss further shortly.

Yours sincerely

Gideon Springer

Chief Superintendent
Borough Commander Hammersmith and Fulham Borough

The council is failing to evict “neighbours from Hell”

Recently I asked Hammersmith and Fulham council:

“How many incidents of anti social behaviour were reported in 2014/15 where council tenants were the alleged perpetrators? Please advise both by number of incidents and by number of households accused of being responsible for at least one incident. How many evictions for anti social behaviour took place from 2014/15?”

The response from Mike England,

“I can confirm that the number of incidents of anti social behaviour that were reported in 2014/15, is as follows:

For cases received between 01 April 2014 to 31 March 2015, the number of individual perpetrators recorded as being council tenants was 361.

The number of evictions for ASB in 2014, between 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2014, was 10. For 2015, between 1 January 2015 to 29 June 2015, there has been one eviction for ASB.”

Of course some of the allegations are likely to be false. Others might be impossible to prove – but if this was a priority there are security firms that can gather evidence on persistent offenders. Court delays remains a problem though some action is being taken to help secure evictions. But an eviction rate of 1% or 2% seems pretty low to me.

The tenancy agreement says:

“In clauses a) and b) below, the tenant is responsible for the behaviour of anyone, including children, family, relatives and friends, who live or lodge at or visit the premises. The tenant shall
ensure that they do not act in breach of any of these clauses; nor must the tenant allow or permit them to act in such a way. This applies in the premises and anywhere in the local area.
Any breach of any of these clauses by others will be treated as a breach by the tenant. The tenant shall indemnify the council against all claims in respect of damage or nuisance caused by those others, including bearing the cost of making good or paying for any damage or defacement caused by those others.
 
a) Nuisance*
The tenant or anyone who lives or lodges at or visits the premises shall not do any of the following:
•threaten or use violence towards anyone in the local area, including council employees and contractors
•do anything that causes or is likely to cause nuisance or annoyance to anyone in the local area
•do anything that interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of anyone who lives in the local area
•play recorded or live music at loud volumes in the property or in any garden or communal area
•cause damage to or deface property in the local area belonging to others or the council
•use the premises for any immoral criminal or illegal purposes, or be convicted of an arrestable offence in the local area.

b) Harassment*
i) The tenant or anyone who lives or lodges at or visits the premises shall not harass anyone in the local area on the basis of their actual or perceived colour, race, nationality, ethnic origin, sex, sexuality, mental or physical disability, religious beliefs or on any other grounds whatsoever.
ii) Examples of harassment include but are not limited to verbal or written abuse or threats, denigrating comments verbally or in writing, physical violence or assault, deliberate damage to property.

c) Domestic violence*
The tenant shall not cause use or threaten to use violence (including psychological abuse) against anyone else living in the premises. If the tenant does cause use or threatens to use such violence and as a result anyone leaves the premises, the council may take steps to evict the tenant.”

But is the tenancy agreement enforced? All too often it is not.

Remember that there are many who would welcome the chance of a council tenancy. There are 69 families placed in bed and breakfast accommodation in Hammersmith and Fulham at considerable cost to the Council Taxpayer. Altogether there are 1,197 households in temporary accommodation.

At present the council’s policy is to regard “eviction as a last resort” rather than adopting a “zero tolerance policy”.  Pride is taken that in the tiny number of cases taken to court the success rate is high – but that is due to the risk averse approach of waiting until a mass of evidence before taking tough action.

Labour may regard their soft approach towards yobs as “caring”. I do not. It is not caring for the vast majority of decent residents who have to put up with this misery. Nor is it caring for those in overcrowded, poor quality temporary accommodation who would be all to willing to honour their tenancy agreement if they were given the chance of a council tenancy.