My latest E-news 06/02/15
Keep Your Promise, Mr Cameron!
“No Ifs, No Buts – No Third Runway at Heathrow”. That is what David Cameron told west Londoners in 2010 when he wanted their votes in the run up to the last General Election. Earlier this week I went to 10 Downing Street with a cross-party group of MPs and Parliamentary Candidates to remind the Prime Minister about his unequivocal pledge. You can read more about the campaign here.
The protest marked the end of the final consultation on airport expansion held by the Davies Commission. Cynically, the Government has told the Commission not to report until after the General Election, raising fears that the Tories will go back to supporting Heathrow expansion.
Over a third of people in Europe affected by aircraft noise live around Heathrow. This already includes thousands in the Hammersmith area, but with a third runway this would get much, much worse. There are three options being considered, two at Heathrow and one at Gatwick, which would cause a fraction of the disruption and nuisance. You can read my response to the Commission here and the impressive report of the resident–led inquiry set up by Hammersmith & Fulham Council here.
And on 3 March HACAN will hold a major London rally against Heathrow expansion. Details here.
Last week the Government published the legislation that will allow Boris Johnson to take control of Old Oak and Wormwood Scrubs. With other London MPs I will be opposing this in Parliament. We want to see the area regenerated, but not with the ‘mini-Manhattan’ that Boris and his developer friends are planning. We want local people and west London councils to set the planning policy, building for local need and protecting the environment. I wrote for City AM regarding these proposals. You can read that piece here.
I am leading a three-hour debate in the House of Commons on this issue next Thursday at 1.30pm. If you would like me to raise an issue in the debate or to attend it yourself please reply to this E-News.
Four west London councils, including Hammersmith & Fulham, have set up a Health Commission chaired by eminent QC Michael Mansfield to review the planned cuts and closures to our local NHS under the Government’s ‘ Shaping a Healthier Future’ programme.
The time for written submissions to the Commission has this week been extended to 24 February. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Peter Smith, Clerk to the Commission, Room 39, Hammersmith Town Hall, London W6 9JU.
The Commission will also be holding a public session at Hammersmith Town Hall on 14 March.
And don’t forget the Save our Hospitals rally – at which I’ll be speaking – also at the Town Hall at 7.30pm on 10 March.
Dr Deirdre Gallagher
In November I wrote about a remarkable retirement party at my local GP surgery, Park Medical Centre in Goldhawk Road. Over 300 of her patients turned up to say a fond farewell to Deirdre Gallagher, who, though she had given 30 years of unstinting devotion to the NHS and our local community was still in her early 50s.
But we all knew Deirdre had been battling cancer and was only stepping down because she was finally losing that battle. Last month we received the news we had all been dreading, that Deirdre had died, and it is no exaggeration to say that this part of Shepherds Bush went into mourning.
Almost everyone I met on Askew Road wanted to share their memories of an exceptional doctor, friend and human being. There are many wonderful GPs and they are the core of our NHS, but Deirdre was exceptional and she will be an irreplaceable loss not only to her family and close friends but to the thousands of people she cared for over those 30 years.
National Voter Registration Day
Are you registered to vote? Are you sure? If not, take two minutes to register online. You can also sign up for a postal or proxy vote if you think you will be busy on 7 May, the date of the General Election.
There’s more information on the Government voter registration page. And there are several campaigns encouraging young voters to sign up, like Bite the Ballot. The new individual registration scheme introduced this year has seen one million people fall off the register – in addition to the seven and a half million already missing. Many of these are students, poorer people or those who regularly move home. But the more people who are excluded from voting, the less representative Parliament becomes.
The local Conservative Party circulated a letter to all council tenants and leaseholders this week that was so removed from the truth as to be laughable – were it not that some older and more vulnerable tenants were upset by it and contacted me
The letter claimed the Council was going to ‘give away’ all of their homes to a private organisation.
This is how I replied:
Thank you for your email about the letter you received from the Conservative Party about Council housing in the Borough.
I have received a few emails about this, and it is clear that this letter has worried a number of residents.
Firstly I must say that the contents of this letter are wholly untrue, and have done nothing but scare residents unnecessarily.
There are no proposals to ‘give away’ or ‘sell off’ Council homes.
It is disgraceful that this letter has been sent to tenants, especially those who are older or vulnerable, who will be left feeling very worried about the future of their homes.
When the new Labour administration took control of the Council last year, it was left with a housing crisis that the Tories had created during their eight years in power locally.
During those eight years the Tories:
• Abolished secure tenancies for new tenants in favour of two or five year tenancies.
• Raised rents above inflation.
• Sold off at auction several hundred vacant Council homes rather than re-letting them to families in need.
• Took 9,000 families off the housing waiting list, giving them no hope of securing decent accommodation.
• Emptied whole blocks and estates and sold them to private developers.
The Labour Council is now planning a Borough-wide consultation with tenants and leaseholders to ensure that Council housing can be safeguarded for the future and that residents have more control over their homes. It wants to protect Council housing for future generations, start building new affordable homes and safeguard the rights of existing tenants. That way if the Tories ever get back in power locally they cannot auction off and demolish homes or worsen conditions for tenants.I have spoken to the councillor responsible for housing and the leader of the council and they will be in touch with you to provide further reassurance.
In the meantime if you have any further questions or comments then don’t hesitate to write to me again.
Best wishes, Andy Slaughter
For your diary
Westfield Job Show: Today and tomorrow from 10am to 7pm the London Job Show is being held at Westfield. I opened the event this morning and it was already buzzing – last October 156,000 people attended making it the UK’s biggest jobs fair. If you are trying to find work or move to a better job it is well worth a visit. The last show had many top rank employers and the event will include a CV & Interview advice centre as well as skills seminars and workshops.
Book group at Princess Victoria: Local resident Jane Vernon, is starting up a book group in Shepherds Bush. The first meeting will be held on Tuesday 24 February at 8.00pm at the Princess Victoria on Uxbridge Road. The first book being discussed will be The Casual Vacancy by Robert "J.K. Rowling" Galbraith. Join in the fun.
Save Earl’s Court: The Earl’s Court Area Action Group are holding a demonstration outside West Brompton station at 11am on Saturday to protest against the wanton destruction of the area by developer Capco. You can read more about the campaign here.
Constituency round up
Exam Results: Figures released this week showed pupils across Hammersmith & Fulham achieved the third best GCSE results in inner London. Sixty six per cent of students passed five or more GCSEs at Grade A* to C including English and maths. Well done to all the parents, teachers and, of course, students. You can read more here.
Time to Talk: One in four people suffer from mental health problems at some point in their life. And yet many are reluctant to talk about their situation from fear of discrimination and the continued stigma attached to mental health. I am supporting the Time to Talk campaign to try and end the taboo about mental health. You can read more about the national campaign here or here for information about the Hammersmith & Fulham branch of MIND.
Let Me Play: Last Friday I attended the graduation ceremony at Bush Hall for students who had taken part in education programmes run by Let Me Play. Let Me Play delivers education programmes for hard-to-reach young people who would otherwise not be education, employment or training. They work with schools and colleges to give young people a chance to get their lives back on track. It was great to see how these students had made some positive changes in their lives. More information about the work of Let Me Play can be found here.
St James Junior School: On Monday I met up with St James Junior School pupils who were visiting Parliament for a tour of the Palace of Westminster and to learn about the work of the House of Lords and House of Commons. If your children’s school wants to visit, don't hesistate to contact my office.
Week in Westminster
Praise from Pickles! Even Tory Cabinet Minister Eric Pickles had to praise Hammersmith & Fulham Council this week. I raised in Parliament the fact that while cutting Council Tax they had abolished charges for home care, cut the price of meals on wheels by a third and put more police on the beat
Injustice Secretary: In just five years the Coalition have run the justice system into the ground. Prisons are overcrowded and understaffed meaning suicides and violence are up and work and training down. The reckless privatisation and fragmentation of the probation service could leave dangerous and violent offenders without proper supervision. And what does the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling spend his time focusing on? His absurd Heroism Bill. Already panned by legal experts, I had my opportunity, speaking from the Labour Frontbench on Monday, to add my views about the Bill. You can read what the Evening Standard had to say about it here.
And last week Labour announced the start of how we would begin to repair our legal system after five years of Tory-led government. You can read my Justice Gap article on that subject here.