I try to avoid writing about my own council of Hammersmith and Fulham with undue frequency – but if you think it gets a lot of mentions here just try Hansard.
During the Local Government Finance debate on Wednesday, the Labour MP for Hammersmith, Andrew Slaughter and some of his colleagues, came out with a series of misleading claims. Part of his tactic is to suggest that if an estate is redeveloped the residents will be left homeless. Or that if a building is sold that the services provided from it will cease – when they are being relocated.
Anyway, to deal with a few of the detailed points.
The savings from Tri-Borough arrangement with K&C and Westminster are only £5m collectively and only £500K in H&F’.
Response: Tri-Borough is a three year programme which will collectively save a minimum of £35 million a year from 2014/15. The three councils will collectively save a minimum of £35 million a year from 2014/15. That will be a major contribution to the £100m savings that the three councils must deliver and will help protect frontline savings.
Next year H&F has already identified £27m of savings. We recognise that savings from combining services will take longer to deliver because they require changes across the three authorities that will take a while to implement. However, we have set a course in the coming years to dramatically reduce overhead and management costs by 50%. Our residents expect us to be cutting duplication, overheads and waste – not services.
H&F is due to evict charities from a building that hosts 30 community groups.
Response: The Council is creating three community hubs and wants to restore the site in question, Palingswick House, to its former use as a school. H&F has earmarked the site for a Free School secondary to create more educational choice for parents. Over half of parents currently send their children to schools outside the borough while the schools that we do have are largely oversubscribed. A total of 1,140 children have applied for the 420 places at the three new schools in Hammersmith & Fulham (one secondary free school, one primary free school and one academy), which are all due to open in September.
The Council is in discussions with the groups at Palingswick about relocation. We plan to open three new community hubs in the borough that will have better facilities than our current disparate buildings.
‘Closure of nine Sure Start Centres’
Response: H&F has never stated that we are planning to close nine Sure Start centres – nor will we ever close nine Sure Start Centres. The Council currently has 15 Sure Start Centres and we are in fact to increasing the network by one. By combining with family recovery (targeting support at most vulnerable) and looking to schools and voluntary groups to provide some of the services we are able to generate savings. All of the centres will stay open, but with some (six hubs) delivering a greater range of services tied in with Family Support. Nine ‘spokes’ will continue to deliver services with the support of voluntary groups and schools.
‘Youth clubs are closing too’
Response: The overall provision is being increased. Hammersmith & Fulham Council is proposing to spend £1.3m on Youth Services for the coming year and cutting £200,000 from management overhead and back office costs.
The council carried out an extensive consultation with more than 1,000 young people in the borough last spring, and reviewed the services the council provides following suggestions from the young people who responded. H&F Council is currently in the process of reshaping the service, working with community organisations, voluntary groups, and schools to improve the service, based on the results of the consultation.
The new model will enable the council to make savings of £200,000 through cutting management and administration costs, while at the same time increasing the level of youth provision.
As well as a number of grant-assisted projects, we currently fund 11 youth projects. Under the new model, we will provide an extra two projects taking the total to 13, as well as increasing the number of hours services run to include evenings, weekends, after-school and school holidays.
‘Demolishing housing estates’
Response: There are no plans or proposals for any of our estates except West Kensington & Gibbs Green. The Council has set out that we have long-term ambitions to improve our neighbourhood, creating more jobs and housing choice. In West Kensington & Gibbs Green we are in advanced discussions with two other land owners, Capital & Counties and Transport for London, about the major regeneration of the area which could create 8,000 new homes and thousands of new jobs, as well as new schools and other community facilities.
If plans proceed we have reassured all our tenants, leaseholders and freeholders that they will be offered new and better homes in exactly the same area as they are already living. The Council has set up a residents’ steering group who have helped us create legally binding assurances that set out how people living on the estate would benefit from the regeneration around them. This includes new homes, compensation and discounted rates for leaseholders and freeholders looking to buy back in any development.