27 February 2017

Why won't H&F Conservatives fight to save local schools' funding?

From today's Evening Standard:
"Thousands of parents were today urged to join a revolt against school funding cuts in London. 
"Hammersmith & Fulham [Labour] council leader Stephen Cowan issued the appeal for parents to pile pressure on the Government to reconsider a controversial school financing shake-up.
"A meeting to discuss the reforms at Hammersmith Town Hall [at 7pm] tomorrow evening is expected to be attended by hundreds of parents, governors and teachers."
We don't know if we'll see any Conservative opposition councillors at tomorrow's town hall meeting but on past evidence it's unlikely.

After all, as far back as January last year, the Tories turned their back on local schools by steadfastly refusing to lend their support to this full council motion calling on the government to reverse its plans:
“This Council welcomes the excellent work done by Hammersmith and Fulham’s schools in providing a first class education for our children and young people.
"The Council notes with concern that recent announcements by both the Chancellor, George Osborne, and the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, have confirmed the Government’s intention to shift funding away from ‘overfunded’ authorities in London to ‘underfunded’ authorities elsewhere.
"The Council further notes that if the proposed approach were adopted, it could mean a reduction of £10.9m (10.6%) in funding for Hammersmith and Fulham’s Schools and that Hammersmith and Fulham could be one of the worst affected local authorities in the Country.
"This Council therefore calls on the Conservative Government to reverse these plans and ensure that Hammersmith and Fulham’s Schools are fully funded so that they can continue to provide an excellent education for the Borough’s children and young people.”
When will Conservative councillors put local residents above their government and start fighting to save our schools?

Why has Greg Smith ditched SW6?

An eagle-eyed HFConwatch reader has brought to our attention that Cllr Greg Smith, the intemperate H&F Conservative opposition leader who made such a hash of his budget response recently, has changed his twitter handle from gregsmithsw6 to gregsmith_uk.

Is he preparing to paint on a wider canvas? Has he let his fellow Town councillors know?

How voters in SW6 will take Cllr Smith's rejection of them has yet to be seen.

26 February 2017

Four more things we learnt about Greg Smith from his response to H&F's budget

It's never an easy job responding to a budget, particularly one that freezes council tax and parking charges, increases funding for adult social care, builds more homes and funds the largest number of police in the borough's history, as Hammersmith & Fulham Labour council’s 2017 budget does.

Perhaps that’s why Conservative opposition leader Greg Smith failed to offer any challenge to the budget when it was in committee.

Or perhaps, going by his responses to the budget in full council each year, it’s all, well, just a bit too hard for him.

This would-be council leader has already demonstrated he doesn’t get basic accounting by failing to understand the difference between one-off capital receipts and an annual revenue budget.

This year, here are four more things we learnt about Cllr Smith from his budget response on 22 February.

1.    He’s a hypocrite. He cheekily claimed the council was leaving garages empty and not building social housing, even though he knew that his own Tory colleagues voted recently – and unsuccessfully – against Labour’s plan to build 33 homes for social rent on unused garages in Sands End (see para. 7.2).

2.    He’s too lazy to do his homework. He called the proposed new Integrated Family Support Service a “£500,000 cut” to services, whereas it is a brand new service that doesn't yet exist and which will improve outcomes for residents and save £500,000 by breaking down artificial walls between council and public health officials.

3.    He’s a right-wing ideologue. He criticised the council for "nationalising" Lyric Square farmers market, whereas now that the council is running the market, traders are paying less to rent the stalls and the market is full.

4.    He’s not businesslike. He claimed the Labour administration wanted to "privatise our libraries by trying to make nearly £400,000 out of them", whereas the council is actually protecting all libraries and their opening hours by raising outside income from unused rooms and after-hours events, including weddings and civil partnerships

22 February 2017

What does Greg Smith’s budget silence really mean?

Despite his £16,086 salary, Greg Smith, Hammersmith & Fulham council’s Conservative opposition leader, has missed more meetings than most councillors of the Policy and Accountability Committee on which he sits.

These are the committees which hold the administration to account.

So when Cllr Smith took the trouble to toddle along to the Finance Committee on 1 February, which was undertaking the important task of scrutinising the Labour administration's budget, expectations were high.

But we gather that Cllr Smith surprised everyone present by not asking a single question or raising any concerns about the budget. 

Not one. Apparently, he remained silent throughout.

We can only presume from this that Cllr Smith was content with all he saw, heard and read.

And that this evening at the annual Budget Council, when he hears from council leader Stephen Cowan that Labour H&F will be the only council in the country both to

  • freeze council tax for the second year running and 
  • put £3.4m extra a year into adult social care,

Cllr Smith will be offering his full support.

And then again….

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