Sunday, 30 May 2010

The truth is out there

We are constantly being told about Labour scaremongering, Labour lies, Labour whipping up residents when talking about the future of our homes. David Cameron described it as black propaganda’ when he came to Hammersmith and since the election has blamed 'appalling Labour lies' for preventing his candidate Shaun Bailey from being elected in Hammersmith and Fulham.

Are we a bunch of ignorant fools being bamboozled by Labour, or do we know something they don’t want us to know?

So what DO we know?

  • FACT: Autumn 2006 – Conservative Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh and Greg Hands MP went on 18 Doughty Street TV to be interviewed. During the interview they said that it was their policy to reduce the amount of social housing in Hammersmith and Fulham. As far as we are aware they have never retracted this.
  • FACT: Hammersmith and Fulham Council demanded a retraction from The Chronicle (local independent newspaper) of an article in July 2008 about secret plans for demolition of the West Kensington Estate. There was no retraction.
  • FACT: Stephen Greenhalgh originally denied that there were any plans to redevelop the Queen Caroline Estate. Under questioning from residents he finally admitted that talks had already taken place with developers.
  • FACT: Ira Rapp (West City PLC) was offered the Queen Caroline Estate as part of a deal involving the redevelopment of Queens Wharf and The Riverside Studios.
  • FACT: The West City PLC deal did not go ahead because a large amount of funding for the project came from Icelandic banks. Queens Wharf was sold to A2Dominion - a company already under criticism by residents of their shared ownership schemes.
  • FACT: Hammersmith and Fulham Council stated in their 2009 Local Development Framework (LDF) that they were planning to ‘redevelop’ 5 estates in the borough as part of the future for ‘decent neighbourhoods’.
  • FACT: The Council then stated that any works wouldn’t begin for 15-20 years. Some West Kensington and Gibbs Green residents are in talks about compensation for losing their homes now.
  • FACT: A leaseholder from Ashcroft Square stated in a public meeting in 2009 that he had been offered a price for his flat by a member of Hammersmith Council. Not ‘black propaganda’ - we heard it with our own ears.
  • FACT: In 2009 a number of Conservative Councillors and other leading Tories (including Grant Schapps, now Housing Minister) and executives from selected Housing Associations took part in secret round table discussions about the future (or lack of) for social housing. Papers obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and skillfully unearthed meeting notes exposed the extent of their nightmare vision.
  • FACT: Amongst other things this meeting noted the risk of "political pain" and "concerned citizen" dissatisfaction that housing reforms could engender. The comments included: "Funding needed for political management. Hard to get rid of people."
  • FACT: Council tenants have been told that their estates are ‘ghettos’ – not scaremongering but Harry Phibbs, Conservative cabinet member of Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
  • FACT: Our estate has been designated as 'not decent' in the Council's LDF, despite meeting their own criteria for decent neighbourhoods.
  • FACT: Shaun Bailey (Conservative parliamentary candidate) stated that he would not give residents a vote on the future of their homes because they would be manipulated into making the wrong decision. Not a lie, he said this in front of reporters and local residents. Quite possibly one of many reasons why so many local people chose not to vote for him.
  • FACT: Hammersmith and Fulham is in the top group of the most expensive boroughs in the country. The average house price in this borough was £426.949 in March 09. Therefore home ownership is not a realistic option for people on low or middle incomes.
  • FACT: One quarter of the households in this borough are on incomes of less than £10,000p.a, 40% are on less than £20,000.
  • FACT: Average market rents for this borough £258pw (1bed), £360pw (2 bed), £475pw (3bed). Local Authoriy rents £76pw (1bed), £85pw (2bed), £97pw (3 Bed). Raising rents to market rates would drive working people on low to middle incomes out of the area and force job seekers to turn down low paid jobs and remain on benefits.
  • FACT: Stephen Greenhalgh also stated in ‘Principles of Housing Reform’ that he would seek to ensure that only the most needy were housed by the Council, the rest would be made to find housing through private landlords.
  • FACT: Hammersmith and Fulham only own just under 17% of the housing stock in this borough, only housing on average 20% of those that have been classed as having a ‘more urgent’ need.
  • FACT: There are over 7,700 households on the housing waiting list - not made-up statistics but the Council's Local Development Framework (LDF).
  • FACT: The original plans for the redevelopment of the original Janet Adegoke site in Bloemfontein Road contained 50% social rented. The Tory Council then adjusted this to 8% (14 units out of 179) and in June 2008 they applied to Mayor Boris Johnson to amend that figure to 0% social rented and 61% (109) private sale flats. He agreed. Not Labour lies.
  • FACT: Residents are worried that if ‘redevelopment' does go ahead, if offered new local homes at all they would be packed into new-build estates with little outside space. The Council states that they want to ‘redevelop to higher densities’ to ‘release the asset value of the land’ and also that they want ‘a better mix of affordable accommodation by increasing density’ - not misquotes, LDF.

There's plenty more, but you get the picture. We can't say what the motivation is for the press and politicians that have helped to expose the plans of this Council. But just like the X Files the truth is out there and it’s not scaremongering - it’s just plan scary.

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