The article by Johann Hari in the Independent this morning attacking Hammersmith and Fulham Council is not so much a piece of journalism as a regurgitation of dishonest Labour press releases. He claims to have visited my borough in the course of his investigations but shows scant evidence of doing so in a spirit of open enquiry.
He is right to say that the borough is socially mixed but he managed to get just about everything else wrong. To deal with just some of his errors:
- Council Tax hits the poor harder the rich. So contrary to Hari's claims reducing it helps the poorest the most. His claim that they "disproportionately benefit the wealthy" shows the most staggering ignorance.
- If Hari feels that Hammersmith and Fulham Home Care charges are wickedly "Thatcherite" what does he feel about the Labour councils which routinely have higher charges?
- Hari's claim that holding polo in Hurlingham Park has been at the expense of facilities there is the opposite of the truth. The deal with the World Polo Association is bringing in £170,000 in revenue to the Council over three years plus projects to improve the park and the opportunity for children from local primary schools to have free tickets to the tournament and attend sessions to learn polo themselves. The Labour councillors have just responded with a lot of ignorant class prejudice but the open minded can see the benefits.
- The reduction in the number of homeless hostels reflects an achievement in reducing the numbers in temporary accommodation. This is in line with the "good practice" objective the Government has set for Councils to stop using hostels. Does Hari think families should languish in hostels?
The manifesto for the four years in Hammersmith and Fulham is available here.