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.

Let’s close Wormwood Scrubs prison

wormwoodscrubsWhen I was waiting for my first daughter to be born in Queen Charlotte’s Hospital I spent a lot of time looking out of the window at Wormwood Scrubs Prison – I reflected on its fine architecture but also on the poor asset management of having a prison so close to central London.

So I am pleased that in a speech earlier today the Justice Secretary Michael Gove said:

“I think we have to consider closing down the ageing and ineffective Victorian prisons in our major cities, reducing the crowding and ending the inefficiencies which blight the lives of everyone in them and building new prisons which embody higher standards in every way they operate. The money which could be raised from selling off inner city sites for development would be significant.

It could be re-invested in a modern prison estate where prisoners do not have to share overcrowded accommodation but also where the dark corners that facilitate bullying, drug-taking and violence could increasingly be designed out.

By getting the law right, getting operational practice right and getting the right, new, buildings we can significantly improve the security and safety of our prisons.

But the most important transformation I think we need to make is not in the structure of the estate, it’s in the soul of its inmates.”

The think tank Policy Exchange has noted how the cost of prison places varies hugely.

Danny Kruger of the charity Only Connect has written:

“I once heard, from an officer at HMP Wormwood Scrubs, of a foreign national prisoner released one Christmas. He wandered out of the famous gates… and turned down Du Cane Road. A few minutes later he was back. ‘Excuse me,’ he asked the officers at the gate, ‘can you direct me to the community?’ Blank faces. ‘I was told I was being released into the community. Where is it?’”

We can do better than that.

Andrew Slaughter and the Hamas connection

The election campaign in Hammersmith is naturally dominated by local and national issues. But it is important for voters to be aware of some alarmingly extreme views of Andrew Slaughter who is seeking re-election as the Labour MP. I have already written about his bizarre praise for the regimes in Cuba and in Venezuela.

But it is his dealing with Hamas that has caused most dismay – including within his own Party. Although he has the odd ally.

The blog Harry’s Place recently included this report:

Andy Slaughter is one of Labour’s worst helpers of extremists.

So this news from the Palestinian Forum in Britain (PFB) is no surprise:

The Palestinian Forum in Britain invite to attend the social monthly meeting scheduled for Saturday evening, the 4th of April 2015.

The social gathering will host Labour MP and candidate for the Party Andy Slaughter who will speak about his political platform and the role of Palestinian and Arab communities in the British elections.

PFB invite you to attend this important gathering to support those who always condone the Palestinian rights.

Your attendance is in support of the Palestinian rights and and those who work for Palestinian rights.

The Palestinian Forum in Britain

The PFB is part of the Hamas UK network.

One way you can see this is by looking at the speakers it invites to its events.

Andy-Slaughter-marching-against-Israel-with-Hafiz-al-Karmi-300x202They include no fewer than four foreigners who I understand have been excluded from the UK: Wagdi Ghoneim, Ahmad Nofal, Raed Salah, and Muhammad Musa al-Shareef. This may be an exclusion record for a single Islamist outfit.

In those speakers’ works one finds support for terrorism, including attacks on British troops on duty overseas; vicious antisemitism; calls for apostates from Islam to be killed; cruel misogyny; and more of the known horrors of Islamist extremism.

Mr Slaughter is happily courting the west London hate vote, as is his wont.

Andy Slaughter marching against Israel with Hafiz al-Karmi (to Slaughter’s right) of the PFB last summer.

The award winning blog has also chronicled Mr Slaughter’s dubious conduct in this matter previously.

Some may regard all this as irrelevant. But the extremist threat also exists closer to home. The Sunday Telegraph reported this morning on an al-Qaeda cleric suspected of radicalising “Jihadi John”.

It added:

Security services are understood to be investigating links between Hani al-Sibai and his influence on the west London terror network in which Jihadi John – unmasked as Mohammed Emwazi – operated.

It is claimed that al-Sibai, a charismatic preacher, had “captivated” a number of young Muslim men who subsequently went abroad to fight jihad.

In a court case last year, he was accused of having “provided material support to al-Qaeda and conspired to commit terrorist acts”, an allegation he denies.

Despite being officially identified as an affiliate of the notorious terror network, al-Sibai, citing his human rights, has thwarted government attempts to deport him for more than 15 years….

Bari’s son Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 25, a one-time rap musician in west London, subsequently travelled to Syria and is thought to be part of Jihadi John’s network inside Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

The rent on father-of-five al-Sibai’s home in Hammersmith – owned by a housing association and worth as much as £1 million – is understood to be paid by the taxpayer.

The public purse has also paid for a number of legal actions brought by al-Sibai against the British government in his battle to prevent his deportation to Egypt and also attempts to have his name removed from terror sanctions lists.

From his home, al-Sibai, also known as Hani Youssef, runs an effective al-Qaeda propaganda machine, that includes the al-Maqreze Centre for Historical Studies. In recent months he has used various internet sites to praise bin Laden and glorify al-Qaeda for waging war against “the Crusader-Zionists”.

He has been described as a “long-time ally” of Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over control of al-Qaeda following bin Laden’s death.

His alleged links to al-Qaeda have led to his bank accounts and assets being subjected to freezing orders by the United Nations, the UK Treasury and US Treasury.

Last year, in a publicly funded court case, al-Sibai went to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg to try to get his status as an al-Qaeda affiliate overturned and allow him access to bank accounts and other financial assets….
 
Al-Sibai, who trained as a lawyer, denies the links to al-Qaeda although he refused to comment when approached by The Telegraph.

When al-Sibai first claimed asylum in the UK in 1994, he told officials he had been tortured in Egypt because he had acted as a lawyer for Islamist groups and was linked to the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

He was refused asylum on national security grounds, and was jailed in 1998 pending deportation. However, human rights laws make it impossible for suspects to be returned to countries where they might be tortured or killed, and Britain was unable to obtain from Egypt the necessary assurances as to al-Sibai’s welfare.

Al-Sibai described the 7/7 attacks in London as a ‘great victory’ for al-Qaeda

He has since been given temporary leave to remain in the UK despite being added to the UN al-Qaeda sanctions list in 2005.

Last week, residents nearby described al-Sibai as an “elusive character” who would slip in and out of his house via the back door through an alleyway at the rear of his home.

The front windows are covered in bed sheets and blankets to prevent prying eyes. He has refused to deny links to Emwazi, who was born in Kuwait but grew up in west London and was part of a terror network that was centred on an area close to where al-Sibai lives.

Emwazi, 26, fled from Britain despite being on a terror watchlist and joined jihadists fighting in Syria. He is responsible for the murder of a number of Western hostages, including two Britons, whom he beheaded in videos posted on the internet as part of the Isil’s propaganda.

Throughout his time in the UK, al-Sibai has provoked outrage with a series of extremist comments, including describing the July 7 attacks on London as a “great victory” for al-Qaeda….

Greg Hands, a Conservative minister who raised concern over al-Sibai around nine years ago, said: “It is amazing that someone with these views is still being of influence today. This highlights again the need to repeal the Human Rights Act.”

The Government has achieved a great deal but the Lib Dems have blocked repeal of the Human Rights Act. It is among the reasons that a majority Conservative Government is so vital.

Unlocking the garden on the Peabody Estate

peabodyestI have been canvassing recently on the beautiful Peabody Estate, off the Fulham Palace Road.

What I found disappointing was that the garden was locked. I made enquiries and there had been some problems with youths (including non residents) embedding drugs there.

Of course this could not be ignored. Imagine if we applied the same principle to our parks and had them completely locked if there was an incidence of drugs being found in them? It is a counsel of despair.

Anyway I agreed to pursue the matter on behalf of the residents who raised it with me and I am pleased that Camilla McBrearty the Council’s Community Safety Officer has been in touch with Peabody to see what help could be offered and that the garden will be opened a bit more.

peabodylockKayode Ogundamisi the Neighbourhood Manager for Peabody says:

I attended the Hammersmith Estate Tenant and Residents Association meeting yesterday evening and discussed the issues raised by Councillor Phibbs. Although there has been a decrease in reported anti-social behaviour on the estate, drug related anti-social behaviour, joy riding and abuse of the sunken garden still remain a concern for the residents.

Residents representatives after careful deliberation agreed a process of controlling the perceived anti-social behaviour on the estate. One of the agreed  measure is the opening and closing times for the facilities on the estate which is as follows.

Winter:

Sunken: 10am – 5pm

Football cage: 10am – 5pm

Children Playground: 10am – 5pm

Summer:

Sunken: 10am – 9pm

Football cage: 10am – 9pm

Children Playground: 10am – 6pm

The following areas on the estate have witnessed increase in young people from within and outside the estate congregating and most times constituting nuisance and suspected drug dealing, the areas of the estate mostly affected are Blocks P Q R and Blocks M N O, Pathways on the Estate and the Archway between blocks 41-48 and 33-46 Ha areas on the estate, the presence of CCTV do not seem to deter the perpetrators. The Safer Neighbourhood Teams in Hammersmith have been involved and are consistently patrolling the estate and responding to calls from residents.

Residents would appreciate any assistance or support that we can get from the council to curb anti-social behaviour  as it appears this is a wider local issue as residents alleged that most of the perpetuators come from outside the estate.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

 

Labour’s insult to Special Constables

Even before the Council tax cut of £150 from the Mayor of London the number of Special Constables in our city has increased sharply.

The Government’s statistics on police numbers includes figure for Special Constables.

The number of police officers in London is 36,100. In 2010 it was 35,882.

Yet the Labour Party in Hammersmith and Fulham have ignored Special Constables in order to make a party political claim about police numbers falling. They have also used council resources to promote their fiddled figures.

This is an insult to the 149 Special Constables who serve in our borough. These are real police officers. They wear a uniform. They have a warrant card granting them the power to arrest people (unlike the Police Community Support Officers). They are on patrol a minimum of eight hours a fortnight. Often those are busy town centres on Friday and Saturday nights when beat policing is most appreciated. They are also unpaid.

I would like to think there would be cross party recognition for their work. Could their exclusion form the Council stats have been an honest mistake. I asked Louise Raisey, the Council’s Head of Communications, to at least correct the figures online. She refused on the grounds that she would have to put the “amended version through the internal clearance process”. That is code for her political masters wouldn’t allow it.

On a Saturday nights while the Labour councillors and council spin doctors are safely in bed the Special Constables are out on the streets wearing stab jackets.

The Labour Party should apologise to our Special Constables for ignoring the contribution they make.

Boris delivers a Council Tax cut for Special Constables

borisThe Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has today confirmed that all serving special constables who live in the capital will be eligible for a £150 council tax cut, as he delivers on his pledge to reward those uniformed volunteers who support policing.

He committed in his Police & Crime Plan to reconnect the police with the public by boosting volunteering and rewarding those who offer their time in service. This follows his 2012 manifesto pledge to offer special constables a 50 per cent rebate on the Mayor’s share of council tax.

In a letter sent today to all 4,000 specials in London, the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, sets out the details of the scheme and how to apply.  The new scheme is the first of its kind in London and has been designed by the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) and the Greater London Authority.

The payment – which is worth up to £450 to those special constables who already have three years’ service – will apply to all those who have completed their minimum monthly service of 16 hours and who live in a London household that pays council tax.  The payment also applies to specials living in London serving with the British Transport Police and City of London Police.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said:

“My manifesto promised a council tax discount for special constables and this payment delivers on that pledge.  Special constables are a vital link between the police and the community whilst representing the very best of London’s volunteering spirit. This payment goes some way to recognise the huge contribution that specials make to keep our city safe.”

greenhalgh-100x100Stephen Greenhalgh, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime said:

“Special constables will continue to volunteer, unpaid, in support of regular Met police officers, but we hope this council tax rebate demonstrates how the Mayor values their efforts.  I especially enjoyed observing their contribution up close on the recent Big Wing Day involving Specials across London.  We want many more people with diverse backgrounds and expert skills to step forward to support the police as volunteers, and I am delighted that members of our Special Constabulary are now getting the recognition they deserve.”

John Conway, chief officer of Met Special Constables, said:

“The MPS welcomes this new initiative from MOPAC and believes it will act as a positive incentive to encourage more new specials to join the Met. Special constables are a vital and valued part of the wider Met family, giving up their own time and contributing valuable professional skills in order to help provide a high quality of policing services to the public and their communities. We will be encouraging all those existing and new specials who qualify for the rebate to apply for it.”

Labour councillor says police should not stop people stealing petrol

fennimoreA Labour councillor has made the astonishing claim that the police should not be involved in preventing people stealing petrol.

Cllr Sue Fennimore represents Addison Ward and is the “Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion”. In practice her brief means that she is the senior Labour councillor with responsibility for liasing with the local police.

Yet at a council meeting last night she made the most astonishing comments – in a prepared speech (you can listen to it here around 26 minutes in).

Petrol_pump_mp3h0354Cllr Fennimore said:

“We want these Hammersmith and Fulham police officers to cut serious crime. I was not impressed to discover that just over two years we had a police officer stationed on the forecourt of a BP petrol station.

“There had been a spate of people driving off and not paying for petrol and that had caused the crime figures to shoot up. Indeed stealing petrol is a criminal offence and should be confronted. But a police officer called off the front line and stationed on a petrol forecourt is hardly the smartest use of police resources.

“So we expect all police officers on Hammersmith and Fulham Council funds to concentrate on reducing serious crime.”

If she doesn’t think the police should be involved in stopping people stealing petrol then who should do the job of ensuring it is “confronted”? Should garage owners become vigilantes? If stealing petrol is a trivial rather “serious” crime what about shop lifting? Or robbery? Or burglary? If you are running a garage being targeted by thieves then the forecourt IS the front line.

Since Cllr Fennimore is grandly determined to interfere in operational policing then perhaps she will let us know he full list of crimes she is demanding the police ignore.

Cllr Joe Carlebach: A message to the French citizens of Hammersmith and Fulham

joecarA guest post from Cllr Joe Carlebach, councillor for Avonmore and Brook Green Ward.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Martin Luther King Junior

We have all watched in horror as the events in Paris have taken place over the last few days.

The brutal, heartless and callous murder of journalists, Police officers and Jewish shoppers has left the vast majority of us stunned and shocked.

The very basis of our Western European democracy has been attacked in the heart of the beautiful city of Paris. A wonderful city usually associated with art, culture and tolerance and a city where I spent a very happy year living and working.

We now have many French citizens in London and specifically in Hammersmith and Fulham who I am sure will be feeling the impact of the atrocities of the last few days particularly acutely.

I want to put on record that today I stand with you in this tragic and difficult time. I am sure that the overwhelming majority of all Londoners feel the same what ever their political affiliation, religion or background.

We will never surrender to intolerance, hatred and bigotry. We will not tolerate violence and prejudice.

Today we are all Charlie, we are all police officers, we are all jews.

Today we are all French.

Vive la France!

trafsq

There were no murders in Hammersmith and Fulham last year

No news is good news. Last year there were no murders in Hammersmith and Fulham.(In the whole of London it was 99 in the year to November.)

A few years ago they took place with grim regularity. I remember walking down the Goldhawk Road of the Uxbridge Road ten years ago. Metal police notices chained to lamp posts appealing for information were a familiar sight – giving the name (and sometimes the “street name”) of the victim.  Often both the victims and perpetrators would be teenagers – members of gangs of black youths killing each other. In 2001/02 there were eight murders in our borough. One of them was a 17-year-old boy murdered in Nandos in Uxbridge Road just opposite Devonport Road, where I used to live.

When I was living at Agate Road in 2007 a 16-year-old boy Kodjo Yenga was knifed to death around the corner in Hammersmith Grove. He was not a member of a gang. One of his killers (who left the scene laughing) had been in court hours earlier and had been granted bail by the magistrates against police advice. Also frustrating was that police officers happened to be in the area at the time of the murder. They were in plain clothes. Had they been in uniform might they attack have been deterred?

There is grief for the families and the friends of those who whose young lives are destroyed. But there is also fear and revulsion for all those who live in close proximity – single women, vulnerable elderly people, those bringing up families. The statistics may pass most of us by – but news of a murder taking place just a couple of streets away makes us disturbed about the community we live in.

Generally the crime rate has been trending downwards but 2014 was the first year without murder in our borough for decades. That is a credit to the efforts of the police. But also reflects the improvements in local schools. Burlington Danes, for instance, was in Special Measures in 2006. It is now a fantastic success. Pupils at that school are surely less likely to drift into criminal gangs than the pupils there a decade ago would have been.

Happy New Year!