By Cllr Harry Phibbs
Andrew Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith, is busy trying to scare his constituents with the claim that Charing Cross Hospital is still to be closed. Mr Slaughter dismisses the new proposals, negotiated by the Council, for £90 million to be spent enhancing specialist care at the hospital. He also refuses to acknowledge that 24/7 emergency care will continue.
This has left some residents, confused by the claim and counter-claim, not knowing who to believe.
What they might find reassuring is how many of Mr Slaughter's past statements have been disproved.
Here are some examples.
1. Sure Start Children's Centres.
On June 30 2011 Mr Slaughter said in his email missive to residents
The Council has virtually ended Sure Start provision in many parts of the borough with cuts to Children’s Centre funding that will close nine of them.
Earlier that year, on February 2nd, he told Parliament:
The actual cut in service will be more than 50%, with nine out of 15 centres closing, having their grants reduced from £475,000 to £19,000 - not enough to run a service. That is the truth about Sure Start on the ground at the moment.
On June 20 2011 he told Parliament the closure would happen the following month:
That is all very interesting, but from next month, nine Sure Start centres in Hammersmith and Fulham will lose more than 90% of their funding, and therefore will close.
The reality has been that the number of Children's Centres has increased from 15 to 16. They are listed here. The number of sessions has doubled since 2011 and they have more visitors than ever before. Perhaps if Mr Slaughter believes that these sessions are non-existent, that "nothing remains except the shell of the building", - as he told Parliament in yet another of his predictions - he should go along and visit.
Mr Slaughter claimed on August 26th 2011:
Over 1,000 children will have to leave borough schools as their families are uprooted by Housing Benefit cuts.
On February 1st last year he told Parliament:
More than 1,000 children will be taken out of their communities and sent not necessarily to other parts of London but to other parts of the country.
The latest figures show that 546 borough households were initially affected. However, for 344 of those, a reduction in rent was successfully negotiated with the landlord, resulting in them not moving. Of those who did move, a further 134 remained in Hammersmith and Fulham. Another 16 have been accomodated in neighbouring boroughs. 16 no longer needed assistance and made their own arrangements. 26 cases are still unresolved and just 10 of the 546 households have moved to other areas.
3. West London Free School
4. Disabled children
There was also a claim by Mr Slaughter that the WLFS meant "ousting … a school for severely disabled children in its rush to open." Cambridge School, for pupils with moderate learning difficulties and complex needs, did move to the Bryony Centre. But this was a move the school welcomed as the building was more suitable and gave opportunities for collaboration with Phoenix. Originally the WLFS was to have the Bryony Centre as its temporary base. Far from harming the interests of disabled children, the WLFS agreed to changes in order to help.
The Chair of Governors at Cambridge School wrote to Toby Young, the WLFS founder:
"The Governing body of Cambridge School would like to thank you unreservedly for your understanding and positive action in supporting the changes to the West London Free School consultation document."
5. Youth clubs
In 2011 Mr Slaughter claimed that the Couincil's spending cuts on Youth Clubs would mean:
..leaving only three in the borough.
There are eight.
In terms of activity there are now 300 extra youth project sessions a year, ten extra weeks of evening youth projects, and an increased number of activities during the holidays.
5. Council Tax
Mr Slaughter claimed in 2008:
"One thing there won’t be is any more tax cuts – the last one is planned for April 2010 – a month before the council elections."
Hammersmith and Fulham Council Tax was cut by 3.75% this year and is being cut by another 3% in the coming financial year 2013/14.
Even if only a freeze had been achieved, Mr Slaughter would not have been in a position to criticise given that during his ten years as Council leader the Council Tax doubled.
Opposing legislation to allow any school to apply to become an academy, Mr Slaughter said that the two secondary schools in his constituency that were not already academies "both had decided" not to apply.
7. Ark Conway
Mr Slaughter said there was a "lack of demand" for this new free school which would be a "bad neighbour" for the community.
The school is four times oversubscribed. The reduction in size of the school was in deference to concerns of neighbours - indicating that the school is a good neighbour. The school is based at the old Wormholt library which has been carefully restored and renovated. It allows its premises to be used by community groups out of school hours.
8. Street cleaning and refuse collection
Mr Slaughter said reducing the cost would mean "the council lowers the quality of the service."
In Parliament in 2007 he asked:
Under Labour, Hammersmith and Fulham was the fourth cleanest borough in London. What will it be after four years of £1 million-worth of cuts from the Conservatives?
A residents satisfaction survey in 2006 showed many felt the Labour-run council was doing a poor job cleaning the streets. The ratings on clearing litter were in line with the London average, but certainly no better.
Resident's satisfaction rate with the Council's refuse collection has increased from 70% in 2006 to 81.5% by 2011. Same day refuse and recycling collections have provided an improved service. In terms of street cleaning resident satisfaction has increased from 59% to 69.4%.
9. Home helps
Mr Slaughter said in 2007:
"We are talking about every home help being sacked; no assessment staff.."
The home care service continues to operate every day of the year. The service has been improved, offering those who need it greater choice. There is better integration between home care and housing services. Charges are lower and eligibility wider than most Labour councils.
Mr Slaughter described the projected savings as:
The target was for annual savings across the three boroughs of £35 million by 2014/15.
We are on course to meet that target, and a target of higher savings of £40 million for 2015/16 has been set.
11. Irish Cultural Centre
Mr Slaughter told Parliament that the decision of the council to sell the building would mean "no opportunity for the local community to continue to run it."
The building has been sold, allowing a reduction in the Council's debt and its annual interest bill. However, the cultural centre has not closed but has bought the building itself. It thanked the council for being flexible about allowing time for this. Under independent ownership, the Centre is putting on more activities than ever before.
A similar situation applied to the Shepherds Bush Village Hall in Bulwer Street.
Mr Slaughter said in 2011:
Don’t be fooled by the Council’s lie that they’re not closing any libraries – last year there were SIX libraries in Hammersmith and Fulham; next year there will be FOUR.
Mr Slaughter told Parliament that the Council faced:
A possible £15 million in back taxes, fines and other sanctions that could hit the borough’s finances.
He didn't explain how he calculated the £15 million figure. The true figure is estimated to be £298,000. This covers not just management consultants but self-employed contractors ranging from photographers to music teachers. Large organisations will always face some dispute over tax classifications of staff and freelance workers.
There is now transparency on consultants spending. We have no idea how much was spent when Andrew Slaughter was council leader.
In a Parliamentary motion in 2008 Mr Slaughter praised Fidel Castro, the Communist dictator of Cuba as a "leading" champion of human rights. He praised his regime for "self determination" and opposition to "slavery." The number of political prisoners held in Cuba has doubled in the past 12 months. They are held in "cruel, degrading conditions" with the Red Cross prevented from visiting.
Cuba does not allow a free press or free speech. It does not allow religous freedom. Nor free elections. Under the Castro regime, homosexuals faced being imprisoned for "re-education" - or simply beaten up. As recently as 2010, Cuba was the only Latin American country to vote at the UN against "sexual orientation" being included as prejudicial motives for murder.
Mr Slaughter's motion praised the Cuban health service system - which relies on heavy use of termination to reduce the infant mortality rate, thus resulting in probably the highest abortion rate in the world.
15 West Ken and Gibbs Green estates redevelopment
In 2009, Mr Slaughter told Parliament:
"For many tenants, the only option will be to move out of the borough—Barking, Dagenham and Thamesmead have been mentioned as destinations for them."
In 2009, Mr Slaughter told residents he was an expenses "saint."
In 2011 it emerged that he had charged taxpayers £6,390 for Spanish lessons.
He had already charged us £90 for a fountain pen nib. He charged us for 79 loo rolls in 53 days. He broke the rules using Commons postage for political campaigning. Before the last election, in 2009-10, he claimed an exceptionally high £14,973 "Communications Allowance" - using taxpayers money to pay for personal propaganda.
17. Housing target
In 2008 Mr Slaughter claimed that if Boris Johnson was elected Mayor of London:
"he would scrap the affordable homes target."
Boris Johnson had a target of 50,000 affordable homes over his first four year term. He achieved 54,000. Half were various forms of shared ownership / low cost home ownership.
When Ken Livingstone was Mayor he had a rather less relevant target that 50% of new housing should be "affordable." He managed 25,148 in his last three years - which was 32%.
18. Ed Miliband and Ken Livingstone
Mr Slaughter was among a minority of Labour MPs to support Ed Miliband to be elected Labour Party leader:
"I’m backing Ed Miliband because I think he combines the intellect and stamina you need for the gruelling jobs of both Opposition Leader and Prime Minister with a freshness and personal charm that the electorate both directly and through the prism of the media will find attractive."
Another judgment, not shared by most London Labour MPs, was that Ken Livingstone should be Labour's candidate for Mayor of London in 2012:
Mr Slaughter backed:
"Ken Livingstone as the best-placed candidate to secure a progressive future for London."
Ed Miliband, whose public approval ratings have been consistently dire, reciprocated this misjudgment by making Mr Slaughter, Shadow Justice Minister.
The choice of Mr Livingstone as Labour candidate alienated many Labour supporters who refused to support an extremist, and hypocritical candidate.
In 2010 Mr Slaughter warned residents that the Conservatives would:
Scrap your right to see a cancer specialist within two weeks.
20. Schools funding
In the same message Mr Slaughter said that the Conservatives would:
Cut schools funding.
Under Labour's last year 2009/10 funding per pupil was £4,015 a year for a primary school pupil, £5,202 for secondary pupils. The latest figures show £4,207 per primary school pupil, £5,502 for secondary school pupil. More money is being passed down to schools, rather than diverted into bureaucracy.
This does not mean that all of Mr Slaughter's statements detailed above were lies. Some of them may have been honest mistakes.