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Monday, 29 November 2010

Transparent, but not clear

Forced into following the lead of more democratic and modern neighbours, like Wandsworth and Hammersmith and Fulham Dear Leader has made a virtue out of a necessity. Biting the bullet he has instructed his gofer, Mr Myers to publish all expenditure over £500. 

Fortunately Hornet is very nosy. She started to examine some of the payments-and very curious many of them are. Every so often Hornet will pluck a few out: you know the ones that make little sense. Payments such as that made to that well known Chelsea drinking den, The Anglesea Arms, haunt of jeunesse doree of the Borough. And another favourite, The Queens Tennis Club was in receipt of your generous largesse. 

Now we know that Mr Myers, in his previous incarnation at Hounslow Council enjoyed tennis but surely he has not been having lessons at this smart venue? Often 'astonishments' are the vast amounts being paid to many different firms of high end lawyers. Hornet wants to know why when we have our own vast in house legal department.

One of the problems of this 'transparency' is that it is not. There is no explanation as to the reason for the payments so  Hornet will demand that Mr Myers gives a two line explanation of each piece of expenditure. So come on Mr Myers - The Hornet has served you a good ball; lets see how you return it......

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Cuts? In services, but not in salaries?

Over the next few months RBKC council employees will feel the icy draught of redundancies as
central government cutbacks and merging of services with neighbours, Hammersmith & Fulham and
Westminster bite. The tragic fact is that front line services are going to affected and good-often poorly paid employees thrown out of work. 

So the Hornet thought it would be educative to see how those at the top of the heap live. Though not given to envy the 'deadly sin' nearly overcame her. Whoever said local government was not lucrative had not seen how these bureaucrats live.

Lets start with Transport Supremo,  Tot Brill. Tot has certainly done well for herself. From her self confessed humble career beginnings as a local authority 'designer and a performer' she has graduated to the very technical job of boss of Transport Services. For a similar position in the private sector a formal qualification might be required: perhaps de minimus, a degree in planning or similar to command the salary of £140,000 a year.

However, her hefty wedge pales into insignificance compared to Mrs Carrie, Head of Children's Services. This is a vital job. But does it really need a top salary of £180,000 a year? Lucky old George Bishop who decides all these salaries comes in on £155,000 a year...not bad for a personnel manager. 

Next week we will look at a few more, but before we do let us not forget our Town Clerk and Chief Executive. At a quarter of a million pounds a year Mr Myers earns substantially more than David Cameron. 

Most senior officers, whose salaries are a matter of public record include handsome pension arrangements, and of course some nice bonuses, for doing the job they already get a hefty wedge courtesy of the the RBKC taxpayer!

So do we need to pay these salary levels to attract and retain senior people? Over the next few weeks we will start to compare these salaries with other authorities, including H&F and Westminster. We suspect our friends in RBKC may find the comparisons odious, but let Hornet leave you with this thought; 

Junior and Mid ranking staff will feel the brunt of cutbacks. Senior staff should show solidarity by lopping at least 20% from their own bloated salaries and hand back bonuses.  Even so, its little comfort to the guys emptying the bins, teaching assistants, junior clerks,  or those keeping the parks clean who see their overtime cut, posts lost and wonder what news the new year will bring them.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Tory Peer in "breeding" gaffe

New Conservative peer Howard Flight has made an unreserved apology after attacking Government welfare cuts, which he suggested would encourage the poor to have more children.

Mr Flight said he wanted to withdraw the comments minutes after Prime Minister David Cameron said he expected him to say sorry and disagreed with his stance. "I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused and would like to withdraw the remarks," he said in a statement issued by the party.

Mr Flight said that taking child benefits away from top-rate taxpayers would mean they were "discouraged from breeding", while benefit claimants would have "every incentive". Mr Cameron announced only last week that Mr Flight - who was sacked as an MP in 2005 for outspoken comments about spending cuts - would be given a seat in the Lords.

Asked if he would now prevent him taking his place in the upper house, the Prime Minister said: "I don't agree with what he said and I am sure that he will want to apologise for what he has said, and I think we can probably leave it at that."

Er... thats that then.

Planning Decision looms...

We have the council breaking bread with the Iranian regime that are known to be less concerned with human rights than our country. Let no one be in any doubt about that. We all know the situation of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani facing death by stoning, but cast your mind a year or two earlier when these two sixteen year old boys were kept in a cage, publicly humiliated and then grotesquely hung in front of a baying crowd after being "found guilty" of "homosexual acts".

They were driven on the back of a truck to the place of execution, a gibbet structure spanning the width of the road in the middle of town. A noose was placed around their necks, and then the truck drove off at speed leaving them suspended in the air, to die a slow and painful death.

Whatever crime Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni were accused and subsequently "found guilty" of, is this punishment acceptable for youths, let alone adults?

Hornet realises Iranian domestic issues have no bearing on English planning law, and we have no right to interfere in their domestic issues. However, we can show our disgust at these abuses by not being deluded into accepting or offering entertainment or any kind hospitality to or from such a brutal regime.

Hornet has no time whatsoever for those who discriminate, persecute or otherwise deny rights to any member of society. Let them apply for planning permission, and apply English law. Leave it at that.

The Royal Borer

The councils bluetop, as previously mentioned is the most unread publication in the borough but does have some interesting figures.

Not contained within it of course, oh no, not even the rather cute photo of Sir Councillor Sir Merrick Sir Cockell, the new one, the one that makes him look almost human. Oh no, the figures around its production costs.

The paper is produced six times a year, every other month, and Hornet has reported earlier the annual costs of this waste of paper. 

Now that got Hornet kind of wondering.....

The council produces 95,000 copies each edition, and each edition costs on average £11,900. So that means each copy costs 12.5p. After you have deducted all the staff salaries involved in producing the rag, the printing costs, getting it to the distribution company, how much is left to actually pay the distributors? 

It cant be alot, can it?

By and large the people who deliver door to door are part timers or students earning some extra cash, or immigrants from eastern europe or afar who are struggling to find suitable alternative employment. Is the council sure they are being paid a decent wage, let alone a living wage by delivering their paper?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010



On the Buses

Last week we heard of the Dear Leader's inspired attempt to pull the belt tightening rug from under the feet of 'Go Getter' Greenhalgh and his hard nosed team. Rather than 'cruising' down to the Hammersmith Town Hall in the Bentley he had persuaded 'Boyo' Moylan, 'Oirish' Ahern and 'The Brief' Mills to take a bus ride with him. He had second thoughts about involving Boy Marshall and Dotty Weatherhead, despite their whining, 'it's not fair'. 

Instead he had bought along Britain's only Native American UK economist, Cllr 'Big Finance Chief' Light Foot. That should impress Greenhalgh and Phibbs. Light Foot had even just published an unreadable tome called, "We Have No Money Left":not quite true in the case of the Rotten Borough, sitting on it's pile of over £250 million purloined from overtaxed residents.

Fitzpatrick in PR had managed to get some coverage but not quite what he wanted.

It started off bad and went downhill from there. The councillors all huddled round as the Number 10 pulled up outside M&S on High St Ken. They pushed and shoved and boarded the bus, but didnt know the fare. "Dont worry" Said Cockle, "I can use my card" but to his dismay not only did the machine not acknowledge it the driver was getting annoyed. 

"I dont care mate, we dont accept the Wedge Card" followed by the entire bus load of passengers looking quizzically at this card thing, wondering what it was.

Cllr Mills eventually came to the rescue, "You take Oyster" she said as Moylan was seen putting back into his wallet the corporate Amex. "Someone want an Oyster?" said Cllr Weatherhead delving into the M&S picnic hamper she brought along for the journey.

The sight of the Deputy Chairman of Tfl lighting up a Cockell West African Blend Special in the bus had caused a storm of protest. Clearly he did not know that smoking was banned. The Dear Leader was furious when the driver refused to move until Boyo put out his ciggy. And when Boyo started his 'don't you know who I am routine' the impertinent driver said,”yeah, you're Moylan's boy from the Brum bus service”.

The journey passed without event for the gloat of RBKC councillors. Quite the opposite for their fellow passengers, as they saw our elected members guzzling Pimms and munching through cucumber sandwiches delicately prepared by the catering service in Hornton Street singing "She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes peep peep". Cllr Moylan managed to sneak another fag sitting up the back hiding behind Cllr Mills who was discreetly reading a copy of the most unread publication in K&C, "The Royal Borough".

Arriving at Hammersmith, the Dear Leader led the team into the austere and shabby Town Hall reception: it certainly lacked the style and elan of his own Town Hall he sniffed to the others as it "ooozed socialism". At the reception he announced himself to the bored looking receptionist, “Hello Good Fellow, I am Sir Councillor Sir Merrick Sir Cockell, Leader of the Royal Borough, thats Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.Take me to your Leader” Looking up from his Nutz magazine he gestured to a tired looking sofa. “Yeah, well Steve has popped out for his morning bacon sarnie;he won't be long. Make yerselves comfy” and returned to his copy of Nutz, that Cllr Williams of the RBKC group was eyeing jealously.

Minutes later Steve and the 'go getters' arrive back with smell of the bacon sarnies he had generously bought for the Summit Meeting filling the Civic Reception. The receptionist looked up and absently pointed to the Dear Leader team saying, "Steve, you got some visitors".

"Watcha' mate ' Where's yer Bentley?" said Cllr Greenhalgh, turning to his colleagues and laughing rather loudly.  Sniffly, the Dear Leader quickly put him right, "Oh, we came down by omnibus, which thanks to Cllr Moylan's power and influence, Tfl organised for us". He was pleased to try to showcase, despite the massive protests by residents about Boyo 'running with the hare and hunting with the hounds', that Boyo was able to deliver up an the odd old bus for residents.

What an ungrateful bunch they were. Did they not know how tirelessly The soon to be Bangkok Bound Councillor had lobbied Tfl on their behalf? Yet all they could do was moan about the cost of DHL's daily consignments of cheesecake and silk underwear to his humble holiday home.

With a sneer the go getter turned to Cllr Phibbs, 'well, at least we don't have to call him Milord'-a reference to his sad omission from the Working Peers List announced that day. The Dear Leader was so angry. The Glittering Prize of an ermine robe,a grand coat of arms AND importantly, more taxpayer funded allowances was for the moment out of reach.

The Baronessa had all but promised that he would be joining her on those leather benches; benches which for centuries had comforted some of Britain's most ample and celebrated bottoms. Suddenly a shadow of doubt clouded his brow...... “could La Baronessa have been double dealing him'? After all, young Dave was so impressed by her ability to get tickets for Madonna's concerts maybe she had swung the Local Government job.

Everything seemed to be going wrong. Even his faithful Town Clark seemed only to be thinking of whether all this merging might leave him without a job but with a massive payoff and £150,000 a year pension.

Find out next week!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

U-Turn on Parking Charges?

It seems that Nasty Nick, the chief whip, has received some unwelcome news this week. No, not about his neighbour in Hollywood Road, but about the proposed increases in parking charges pushed through on the nod earlier this month.

In the north of the borough charges will double, whereas in the more affluent south where most of the councillors live it will rise by about 35%. This has got the gander up of many people, not least local businesses who will undoubtedly in these economic times will be happy if parking charges were at least left as they were to encourage customers.

The councils wheeze was to increase parking charges so that it will help raise finance, which the Association of British Drivers have informed the gaggle of councillors that it is in fact not legal to use parking fees to top up general council coffers.

A court case up north (Camden) ruled that it is wrong to increase parking charges intentionally to create a surplus that can be used to top up council funds elsewhere. Oh dear.

Lets see how this one pans out shall we...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Episode VIII

Last week the Dear Leader and the team had had a torrid time during the Away a Day Interaction Workshop - it had not been a success and La Baronezza Ritchie was fuming. 

The event was also meant to be a chance to bond with go getting H&F Leader Stephen Greenhalgh and his team but attempts to persuade Greenhalgh and Phibbs to join in the spirit of the day and dress up and dance with his team had been scornfully rejected. Greenhalgh and team had refused to stay for the bonding session causing the young  facilitator, Tristram Buckmaster-Mellen, to throw a huge tantrum. Fortunately Boyo Moylan was close by with some soothing words.

The boy Marshall had acquitted himself well and sat beaming on a furious Lofty Palmer's lap. As the cavalcade of luxury RBKC limos roared down the hotel drive the ex mayor,ex Cllr Barry Phelps could be seen gesticulating furiously at the window of his budget bedroom high up in the ivy clad Weatherhead Tower.

Ahead  Dear Leader could see the departing H & F mini coach. At least they had not asked for a lift in his Bentley. He particularly didn't trust that chap Phibbs who worked for the Daily Mail. What happens if he found out that he and Boyo were among the very small clique in London Councils having their very own Council credit cards? He had promised Mr Myers to be very discreet about that little perk.....

Oh no...It would never do for a journalist to see close up the de luxe style of the Rotten Boroughers.

A Summit Meeting had been organised at Greenhalgh's office at the Town Hall in Hammersmith that day; it was not something the Dear Leader and his coterie were relishing. He had decided to beef up his negotiating team with the inclusion of Cllr Julie'The Brief' Mills. After all, she was cabinet member for carrying Moylans cheesecake, or bags or something. He was hopeful that in her Barbadian lilting voice she would talk the Greenhalgh go getters into the ground: after all was she not a massively successful member of the Inner Temple with a razor sharp mind? His only concern was that rumours abounded that she and 'Oirish'Tim and 'Nice' Tim's, were after his job. However ...'desperate times, desperate remedies', he thought.

Maybe he should bring along Doreen 'Dotty' Weatherhead; was she not too from that ex plantation owners paradise:the cinnamon scented island of Barbados? Once he had successfully squashed the arriviste Greenhalgh he would be able to announce his success with much fanfare at the Top Secret Cabinet meeting he had arranged for the 8th December. Get this right and  he could see that elusive peerage within grasp.That would put that dreadful and annoying Hornet in his place. 

Suddenly his reverie was broken. In  bounded Boy Marshall to the Dear Leader's pine panelled office without so much as a by your leave. 'Yes, Boy what is it?' demanded the Dear Leader. 'Shall I get Spalding to bring up your Bentley', piped Marshall with a new confidence derived from having thwarted Old Beardie Phelps.
"You stupid boy, do you really think that I am going to risk getting it  vandalised down in the slums of Hammersmith-and stop calling it 'my Bentley'-it is for the occasional use of the Mayor too'.

Suddenly, a cunning thought entered his head. 

What an impression it would  make if they all took a bus to King Street. Turning to his Cabinet Secretary, Miss Gupta, he said, 'please reserve 6 seats on whatever omnibus goes to King Street and make sure Fitzpatrick in PR organises a press call  as we all come off the bus'. What an egalitarian sight it would make...... how the local paper would lap it up; maybe Fitzpatrick could be persuade the Telegraph to come and record his PR coup?

After the disaster of the weekend he needed some points: this would show Greenhalgh that the boys in K&C knew a bit about belt tightening.

Tune in next Wednesday as the Team slum it in King Street.....

Going Underground Splits Councillors - Part 2

Hornet has learned that apparently the applicant concerning neighbours objections to a planning application for a basement swimming pool was none other than ex-Cllr Fairhead.

Tuesday 16th November

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Fees to the left, fees to the right....

There is a salutary lesson for politicians of all political parties: don’t make categorical promises if you intend to break them, particularly so soon after the election.

Sometimes the breaking of election pledges (and they all do it at some time!) marks a parting with the electorate. While they didn’t quite take to the streets, John Major was certainly haunted by his‘no new taxes’ pledge in the early 1990s, and especially after his government imposed VAT on domestic fuel. Voters never really forgave him for the ‘22 Tory Tax rises’ breaking what they thought was a very specific pledge at the 1992 General Election, where tax had played a deciding factor in the outcome (remember the Tax Bombshell?)

Jump forward almost two decades and we have thousands of students in uproar (and a small minority of them behaving criminally) at the Liberal Democrats for their apparent u-turn on tuition fees. And it is the Lib Dems they blame, though ironically it was Tory HQ the militant activists trashed! The banners and effigies, the chants and the speeches; they all targeted the Liberal Democrats and Nick Clegg specifically.

Little Nick had a torrid time at PMQ’s, standing in for his boss who was over in China trying to whip up trade. Harriet Harman was especially withering, using humour to very good effect: “You are at Freshers’ week. You meet up with a dodgy bloke and you do things that you regret. Is not the truth of it that the Deputy Prime Minister has been led astray by the Tories?” she said.

There was no real comeback, and a floundering Deputy Prime Minister knew it.

For Nick Clegg, when of course he wasn’t the Deputy Prime Minister, had not only gone on YouTube and said that he and his party would categorically not support an increase in tuition fees, but that he would aim to reduce tuition fees as a first step to abolishing them. A rise to £7,000 a year would be a “disaster”, he said (the Coalition is proposing up to £9,000 a year). And worse still for the Lib Dems, every one of their MP’s – including Nick Clegg – signed a very specific pledge to vote against a rise; one they are now very clearly breaking!

So there will undoubtedly be difficult times ahead for the Coalition. Tuition fees will rise as proposed (unless some other rabbit is pulled out of George Osborne’s hat) and that, even with a number of Lib Dems abstaining or even rebelling, the government has enough of them on the payroll to ensure the necessary votes are won.

It might, however, be the breaking point for a section of the electorate who have – certainly since 2005 – been disproportionately supportive of the Liberal Democrats. It is also a wake-up that governing isn’t quite as easy as opposition.

Pickles cuts councils down to size

The coalition government bruiser and Communities Secretary made two more announcements that will affect councils recently.

The first is to combat the rise in "council propaganda" that is comparable to the old Pravda situation back in the USSR. Well run Tory Councils are just as guilty as self promotion courtesy of the taxpayer just as Socialist LibDem and Labour ones.

So the six times a year tabloid, the most unread paper in the borough imaginatively entitled "The Royal Borough" should see its editions cut to just once a quarter and be confined to announcing council issues rather than promoting councillors.

Pickles picked out two councils in particular when he made this announcement, both Labour (well, they would be wouldnt they) and both in London. One was producing some glossy mag fortnightly and the other monthly, both spending between them the best part of £1 million in production and distribution costs.

The second announcement concerns Freedom of Information requests. Everyone knows you can ask anything, and unless it is personal information (thats relating to salaries or such like, rather than the make of their underwear), a matter of national security (that doesnt include when Daniel Moylan is out in Bangkok), or likely to prejudice the council in contract matters (thats not how much the council pays Solace or its many guises), they have to 'fess up the answer.

Of course if it takes a long time to collate the answer, more than £450, the council can refuse to provide it unless the requester is prepared to stump up the £15,670 (or whatever the council deems it will cost) to do so.

Now Pickles has decided councils can no longer charge for FOI requests, which Hornet applauds. For far too long councils have been able to hide behind this flakiest of excuses.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Hollow victory for K&C over Scottish Ballerina

Elaine McDonald, 67 is a former ballerina considered by some to be the best of her day, and is now resident in K&C. In 2008 she fell and broke her hip, coming on top of having suffered a stroke in 1999 that meant she required support to enable her to continue living in her Earls Court flat.

She was assessed by the boroughs social care experts and determind to be "eligible", in other words legally entitled to assistance provided free of charge from the social services authority, aka RBK&C Council. This was in the form a sleep in care worker, seven nights a week as problems with her bladder mean she needs to use the toilet frequently at night.

Council cuts, on the back of government funding cuts has led to reviews and more reviews. The Government says it is providing sufficient money for social care, and councils should look for savings amongst new claimants and look how their internal processes and procedures work.

Subsequently, the council decided McDonald's needs could be met more cheaply – saving £22,000 a year less than the cost of each of the vehicles bought by K&C – by supplying her with incontinence pads for use at night. Before a legal challenge could be started, care cover was cut to four nights a week as a first step.

The challenge, taken on McDonald's behalf by the Disability Law Service (DLS), a charity, and backed latterly by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, reached the appeal court for judicial review earlier this year. The case has been watched closely by councils across the country.

The court's reserved judgment finds that the council was wrong to reduce the care in the way it did, but upholds its action in later reviewing McDonald's case and concluding that she had a "more general" eligible need for night support that could be met by the provision of pads.

Kensington and Chelsea had not conducted a formal reassessment of McDonald's needs but merely reviewed her care plan, DLS spokesman said. "We're very concerned at the implication that local authorities may be able to implement reassessments by stealth in this way. What previously would have been an update, or a check on how things were going, could now be assumed to be an assesment."

McDonald, who is still receiving the four-nights-a-week care and relying on a friend to help her on other nights, said she considered it an affront to her dignity to be expected to sleep in incontinence pads.

"They say they have taken account of my personal integrity. That's absolutely and completely untrue. I don't see what's dignified about having somebody cleaning me up and clearing up the mess in the morning. I can speak up for myself, but what worries me is what's going to happen to people who can't, people who might have dementia, if they are treated like this?"

Britain's wealthiest borough, said the case was "immensely important". It was pleased that the appeal court had acknowledged the difficult decisions it had to make and its duty to consider the use of available resources for others in need.

More worryingly, this ruling appears to clear the way for councils to cut services already being provided, even if the individual's needs are unchanged. This is a terrible indictment on a society that believes itself to be civilised.

Cllr Julie Mills, who is Cabinet Member for Adult social care said: "Everyone understands that this resident has a strong preference for a night-time carer. However, the sad reality is that urinary problems are a very common feature of growing older. The financial costs of providing personal care of this kind would be prohibitive and would compromise our ability to look after our vulnerable residents."

Its all about the bottom line right? Give them what they need and then whip it away at a whim.

What price do you put on an elderly persons dignity though Cllr Mills?

Whats good for the goose....

Tory Cllr Gareth Thompson, from Birmingham has been arrested over comments he made on Twitter, when he suggested Yasmin Alibhai-Brown should be stoned to death for criticising David Cameron for raising human rights issues when in China. He has since been suspended from the Tory Party pending the outcome of this whole affair.

He was probably making the point, in jest, that Ms Brown should have her human rights violated, but the way he did it was frankly crass and unacceptable. It is right the Tories suspend him and police look into what could a serious matter.

Couple that, however, with the recent actions of Cllr Florence Anderson, Labour member for Hetton Ward in Sunderland who suggested on Facebook K&C resident and former PM Margaret Thatcher should "burn in hell".

It was posted at the time when the Iron Lady was admitted to hospital with flu, and Cllr Anderson was standing by her comments. She said it is a private matter on a private Facebook account. What she says online on Facebook is not from the deputy leader of Sunderland Council. What was even more curious was the press release from a Sunderland press officer that said “There are still strong feelings in many parts of the country about events during Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister and Cllr Anderson has expressed her feelings.”

Strange then she remains as a Labour Party member and deputy leader. The only difference is there is no police involvement in this second issue, but it is nonetheless a terrrible thing to say.

Menage a trois - Part 2

What is it with our cousins across the way in H&F, first freezing allowances and now the announcement they intend to let tenants run businesses from their council homes. Is there no end to the superb news coming from this once bastion of socialism?

It is really a fantastic idea, and Cllr Greenhalgh and his team should be rightly applauded.

Allowing the teenager computer whizz kid to set up an online firm from their bedroom, a parent some space to run the company books, or an elderly tenant who makes individual craft items to do so from their home, rather than rent expensive offices is quite simply brilliant.

In the past tenancy agreements have prevented businesses from being run from home, and now the couuncil intend to consult on removing these conditions from tenancy agreements.

Lets hope whatever is in the water over in H&F spreads over to K&C.

A tale of Work and Welfare

The IDS and Coalition proposals to force those on long term benefits to work at less than the minimum wage or lose their benefits seem rather peculiar. The stated aim, expressed with the usual patrician charm, is that it would be good for these people to get back into the habit of a real job.

Except of course, that is not what this program does. A pound an hour does not teach the lesson that work pays, and a four week placement does not exactly encourage the idea of a stable job. £8 a day won’t cover travel costs in most of this country, which means the lesson taught is exactly the one the coalition claims it is trying to break: you’d be better off staying at home.

Then there is the issue of the work involved. I happen to think that those who sweep the streets, mow park lawns and keep pavements clean do a vital and often thankless task. Their efforts make our cities, where almost all of us live and work, just that bit nicer, cleaner and greener. If this work needs to be done, and it does, why don’t we hire people to do it, and pay them a wage that reflects the importance and dignity of their work? It can’t be an issue of skill, as we’re making random unemployed people do it anyway.

That of course would cost money, but it would also go against the ideology that is behind this action. The plan to lower unemployment would then be, in essence, to engage the unemployed in public works, a policy far too Keynesian for the coalition. On a less intellectual and more guttural note, it would not satisfy that sadistic streak one always suspects is in some of them, to see the poor lined up in orange jump suits to do their community service for the sin of poverty.

For this approach cannot, on the face of it, save any money. Indeed, the only way it does so is if councils use this coerced workforce to do jobs they would otherwise have to pay their own employees or local contractors to do. And if councils can do that, then they will simply sack those employees, and not place those orders with the private sector, who will in turn end up on the dole. The only way this scheme saves money therefore is by in effect replacing one lot of council employees paid £5.93 an hour to do a job, with another lot doing the same work for £1 an hour, and who have no recourse.

Forced to work for the state for a pittance. Seems Dave did find something he liked in China.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Menage a trois - Part 1

The much lauded proposal to combine services between RBKC and our two neighbours to the east and west, to form the Super London Borough of Royal Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham (SLBRKCWH&F) throws up some interesting issues.

There can be, without a doubt some very good savings made in procurement and delivery of services, although in some cases this would be sometime down the line because existing contracts would have to be honoured. No one, for example in H&F will see RBKC refuse trucks trundling down their road for some years yet until such time the existing waste contracts at H&F expire or can be re-negotiated.

Naturally its all about cutting costs but protecting services.

Expectantly a huge swathe of middle management positions and some senior staff will see their jobs rationalised across the three boroughs so will ripe for some rich picking retirement if fortunate to be senior enough, or plain simple P45 for those lower down. In other words, there will be redundancies.

But why should the paid service of the three councils bear the brunt of the cost saving initiatives. Why stop at hitting the employees hard, and lets see some rationalisation across those elected to serve us.

If we are to have a three-way refuse collection, then why do we need three teams of councillors all attracting healthy add on allowances? If the children and family care services are to be harmonised across the three boroughs, why should each boroughs electorate cough up to pay three teams of elected councillors to turn up at the town hall to drink tea and munch on the digestives?

Crucially the three boroughs have three Chief Executives and three Council Leaders, Mssrs Greenhalgh of H&F, Barrow from Westminster and of course our own Dear Leader.

Geographically our three boroughs cut a swathe across Central/West London, and arguably share between us a good cross section of community life. Each borough is, more or less the same when it comes to dealing with everyday life issues its population experiences. One could argue while H&F has its own affluent areas, it is the poor relation of the other two simply by comparing average incomes across the boroughs, but both K&C and Westminster have in addition to its affluent areas some not so. Three boroughs but not too dissimilar issues to contend with.

If the three boroughs can converge on services and save money, then its right the councillor allowances are brought into line, and yet the disparity between the two is huge, look at this table and make up your own mind

Hammersmith and Fulham froze their allowances, whereas the Leader of K&C receives significantly more than the other two. K&C Deputy Leader receives almost the other two added together.

Lets see some real positive messages coming out of the proposed tie up and rationalise and reduce councillor allowances.

What do you think?

Seconds Out! Wheres Bartok?

In 2004, when a seven-foot statue of the great Hungarian composer Béla Bartók by sculptor Imre Varga was majestically unveiled outside South Ken Tube, there was great rejoicing among the Hungarian community in London. Rightly so.

The Hungarian Cultural Centre and the Peter Warlock Society, named after the British composer who brought Bartók to London in 1922, had long lobbied for him to be recognised. Bartók’s Mikrokosmos was performed by the Guildhall Brass Ensemble at the unveiling, conducted by the late Sir Charles Mackerras.

Then, suddenly, and without apparent warning Bartók disappeared last year as part of the "improvement works" performed by RBKC.

Despite protestations from Bartók-lovers, there is still no agreement on bringing him back again. What had the great composer done to deserve the same treatment meted out on sculptures of Stalin and Saddam Hussein? they asked.

It seems the planning application to return the bronzed figure is in but the wheels of bureaucracy grind excruciatingly slowly. Locals and supporters seem to be furious the statue is to be replaced not in its former glorious position overlooking the tube station piazza, but shoved outside a mansion block of flats a few steps away from the station.

Oh dear. Perhaps the furore this is causing up in planning is one of the reasons why the proposal to shift the clock donated by the Kensington Society in the town hall from its current wall location to make room for more mayoral honours has been quietly dropped.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


Episode VII

The hero of the hour was the boy Marshall. The Dear Leader was exultant:no longer was day to be disrupted by the antics of the ex Mayor of the Borough Barry Phelps. Young Marshall keen to ingratiate himself with the Leader and Mr Myers had discreetly followed the disgraced ex cllr as he lurched his way in the early hours to his budget room in the Weatherhead Tower. Waiting till he heard the snores of the Bearded One he squirted a generous application of superglue into the heavy ornate lock of the bedroom door.

At breakfast in the Prince of Wales Gazebo room the muffled roars of Phelps could be heard as he struggled to free himself. Cleverly young Marshall had also thought to cut the telephone line. At a stroke Boy Marshall had thwarted attempts by Lofty Palmer to further his leadership ambitions.

Boy Marshall basked in the glow of admiration from his fellow councillors as he tucked into his vast breakfast, three whole weetabix and warm milk.  However danger lurked....

Into the room bounded none other that Cllr Greenhalgh shiny from his early morning half marathon and surrounded by his team of go getters. Ever since Cllr Greenhalgh has suggested that the Rotten Borough join his new cost saving scheme the Dear Leader had been having second thoughts. It was clear that this Greenhalgh chap was not cut from the same cloth. Even his allowance was a derisory 30k compared to Dear Leaders 70+ allowance. What would happen if Greenhalgh suggested they both make a gesture by slashing their allowances?

The thought was too horrendous to contemplate.

Seizing the initiative Dear Leader set out the agenda for day. When the Leader of H&F heard that he and his hotshot tean were going to be tutored by young Tristram Buckmaster-Mellen he and his team fell about laughing."if you think we came all the way down here to this dump to engage with you, Lionel Ahern and Danny Cheesecake Moylan you got the wrong guys" he sneered. Soon it all became clear Greenhalgh and his thrusters were there to oust them-not to engage in theatrical role playing with his team.

How would he be able to explain to La Baronnessa and her ex step Daughter in Law, Madonna that there would be no Interaction Workshop. Tears welled up in his eyes as he saw humilaition staring him in the face....

Scurrying towards him came Mr Myers his faithful Town Clerk. Maybe he had some news? He did, and the news was bad. Greenhalgh had heard of Boyo s plan to double parking charges to replenish his warchest about to be depleted by the dismantling of the CC. Moylan's plan was to buy a vast supply of Chinese granite to be used in future years to leave his mark upon the Rotten Borough. He was worried that in years to come the Chinese dictatorship might be forced to stop the quarrying using slave labour by political convicts. If that happened he could see prices soaring. So he had devised a clever hedging strategy to ensure granite supplies and thus continue to repave the streets of the Rotten Borough with the results those wicked protesters against the Chinese dictatorship.

If only he could use those in the Rotten Borough who disagreed with him to perform such useful service......

Next week...
The Team meet with Greenhalghs hotshots to dicuss the NewDeal

Christmas Comes Early

Hornet learned some rather interesting info this week, eavesdropping is not her style but she couldnt help overhearing someone has or is about to take delivery of a new BMW.  Hornet is investigating to find out if it is purchased personally, or on the taxpayers of K&C for "official business"
More later...

11th November 2010

Our man in Beijing

Dave-the-rave and his entourage are now safely ensconced in China, last seen scurrying around the booze aisle of Tesco in Beijing desperately searching out the Gordons Gin to replensh the Embassys drinks cabinet having emptied it the night before.

Of course publicly the reason for this junket is to promote British businesses and encourage inward investment in the UK from our Chinese friends.

But Hornet has received a secret memo and faithfully reproduces it here....

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

8,000 Homes? More like 60,000 seats at Earls Court

 Rumours abound in the latest twist to the Earls Court redevelopment, is that Chelsea Football Club have waded into the site with a proposal to move from their current Stamford Bridge home to a new 60,000 all seater stadium on the site.

Chelsea are considering a move to the prime west London site just half a mile from their existing home amid growing concern they are losing ground to rivals with bigger and bigger stadiums. Discussions have been kept secret because the move could torpedo a plan by the leading architect Sir Terry Farrell to transform Earls Court into a new residential enclave with more than 8,000 new homes. The scheme enters the latest phase of public consultation this week and is being undertaken with fellow landowners, Transport for London and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

A new stadium would not be ready until 2015 because Earls Court is scheduled to host the 2012 Olympic volleyball competition before the exhibition centre is demolished. After 73 years in which it has hosted gigs by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Oasis and Madonna, its economic viability has been compromised by the establishment of major new concert and conference venues elsewhere in London, including the 02 arena at the Millennium Dome.

Going Underground Splits Councillors

A planning application considered by the council last month, on yet another subterranean basement extension caused two councillors to break ranks at the planning meeting.

The application was from a mid terrace property down in Royal Crescent, W11 - not far from Westfield. Currently occupied by a single family, it has four storeys and a basement and is Grade II listed.

The plan is to excavate the basement under the rear garden, accessed by an external staircase, and housing a swimming pool.

Objections to the planning application were heard from the " Kensington and Norland Conservation Societies" who attested this would be the only property in the twenty two on this street with a basement extension, as they were Grade II listed; there is no mention when sky lights in the garden will be opened to ventilate the pool; and there is history of subterranean flooding that Thames Water acknowledge not covered in the planning application.

It was the flooding and drainage issue that caused two councillors, Campion and Freeman to put on record their objection to the planning application that was approved by the rest of the committee.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Wedge Card - and the £198,000 funding

In October 2009 RBKC heralded the saviour of local shopping, The Wedge Card. This a credit card sized bit of plastic, that gives the holder discounts and offers at local shops, the idea being that people go to the local deli, the independent clothes store, or the small book shop on the corner, rather than beef up the profits of the chain stores and multiples on High Street Ken or Westfield.

Good idea, in principle.

Wedge Card isn't a council run thing, its a private concern and they were handed £198,000 of council money to help launch the scheme. The funding was given to meet the costs of an intensive three month campaign of a blitz of publicity and to sign up retailers. It was also used to help relaunch the Wedge Card website, production of the cards themselves, other promotional material and project management costs.

So who and how do people get a card?

Anyone who works or lives in the borough can, in the first 18 months get a card free by signing up, or sending off for one. After 18 months from launch (September 2011) the cards cost £10, one pound of which is donated to charity.

What happens to the income, and how does the council get back its money?

The first £90,000 of income will be used to maintain the scheme in the borough, any over and above that amount will be returned to the council. Once the council funds have been returned, the profits will be split 50/50 between Wedge Card and the Council annually.

Sounds fantastic, money for nothing!

You would think so wouldn't you. For this plan to work means there has to be an annual revenue of £90,000, that means at least 9000 cards have to be purchased each year just to break even once the free period ends next year. That wouldnt cover any repayment to the council, just the funds to keep the scheme running. Realistically therefore there would need to be annual card sales of 13,000 to ensure scheme sustainability and to start repaying the council loan.

Hornet has over the last seven days wandered around her hive not far from Notting Hill where there are an abundance of indi-retailers. She could count on one hand those advertising in their stores the WedgeCard, and precious few when asked actively promoted it, let alone knew about it!

Official data of business signed up to the scheme suggests that some 1,200 transactions have been made involving the Wedge Card during two months of this year. Around half of the retailers have reported that they have not had a Wedge Card used in their business. Among the other retailers, the average number of times a Wedge card has been used is just under four.

At the moment unless take up increases significantly there is a real risk of the council losing its investment if the Wedge Card scheme fails to take off.

What the council fail to realise is that the only way to change peoples habits is to affect their pocket, that doesnt necessarily mean only by taking money out, but also the opposite.

The Wedge Card could have been launched in conjunction with the £50 "efficiency dividend" cut from council tax, and provided on a kind of "pay as you go" card to every house, loaded with the £50, less the cost of the card.

That way, the council would get back their loan, the people of the borough would still get their efficiency dividend and the local retailers would benefit as it would only be able to be spent in their shops. Crucially it will start to change shopping habits so that once the credit has run out, the card reverts to just a discount card can be used at the same local shops that people now know about.

Yes it would take more time to set up, but the alternative is a scheme that hardly anyone uses, businesses don't promote, and where there is a risk of the council loan being written off as unrecoverable.

Now that really is a no brainer!

HRA deficit and 6.9% rent rise

Tenant rental payments are credited to the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) which every council is legally obliged to maintain, and this account cannot be topped up by other council monies, nor can it be used to contribute to the general finances of the council either. Its ring-fenced, in other words. Additionally, by law the HRA is not allowed to go into deficit.

Central Government subsidise council rents by a set amount, decided on a formula dreamt up in Whitehall. If the Central Government is more than enough to cover the councils costs then the extra amount is returned to the Government, if it is not enough the council receives the subsidy. Currently RBKC is paid about £5.5million in subsidy. However, in a couple of years it is expected that RBKC will have to start paying back as the grant formula changes and other factors kick-in.

All in all, it means the HRA account is, unless something is done is heading for deficit, something it legally cannot do.

The council have used a outside firm, called Tribal Consulting, (is this the same one used to recruit potential candidates for the Conservatives at local elections?) to come up with various scenarios on what happens if we do this, this or this.

The proposal is that council rents are increased by 3.9% plus inflation representing an overall increase of over 6% in real terms.

On target to break target

Hornet set herself a target of 10,000 visitors by the end of 2010, and it seems dear reader that we should easily come in double that.

Hornet certainly has put the cat amongst the pigeons in addressing the democratic deficit that is prevalent in Hornton Street.

Her mission is simple.

Where there is profligacy, flagrant abuse of power, or total disregard for popular public opinion the tenants and residents of K&C who pay the politicians can be assured Hornet will be there to expose such acts.

Hornet will also bring you local interest stories connected with or influenced by our borough, and highlight council business issues that you as tenants and residents may not know about but have a right to know.

Hornet is not here to ruin lives or destroy political careers. Quite the contrary, if our elected politicians were whiter than white then the world would have no need of Hornet, if a political career is sent to the wind as a result of a mention on FTHN then that is because of the actions of the politicians, not Hornet.

Hornet wishes to thank everyone for their contributions, many of which Hornet cannot publish (some for obvious reasons and some by request of the sender, Hornet is good to her word!).

It seems our reader stats jump somewhat every Wednesday, perhaps as this is the day the next episode of WestEnders is published, and a very special hello to our international readers, and those at their desks in the House.

Keep the submissions coming, and Hornet is here until such time there is no need for her.

Rifkinds Pillar

Malcolm Rifkind, our Edinburgh born MP has in the local rag bleated on about the demise of the Western Extension. He says "After much opposition, and an overwhelming reaction to a public consultation, the Zone will be eliminated on Christmas Eve - ensuring Santa Clause won't be taxed for delivering his presents!"

The WE of the CZ has rightly been a contentious issue from the very start, and as Hornet has brought you the Dear Leader, the Great Architect and Leader-in-waiting Palmer have all come out as being opposed to Livingstones Monster.

Rifkind goes a little further and criticises the western extension as nothing more than money making exercise, and how it was nothing short of a stealth tax.

It is also worth pointing out, although Malcolm doesnt, the abolition of the WE of the CZ will lead to an increase in traffic in K&C of up to 12% - neither does he mention the council proposals to double parking fees in the borough which will mean more costs for local people despite the abolition of the zone.

But little does Rifkind know, the powers that be in the depths of Hornton Street are mulling over an idea to re-introduce a congestion charge within the borough, despite the protestations against the one created by Livingstone. If this plan ever sees light of day, you heard it here first!

Senior Citizens in fight for dignity

There are three things close to Hornets heart, and the first of those is helping people who need support. One such organisation "The Sheppard Trust" does exactly that in Hornets back yard in W11.

The Trust was set up back in 1855, when some of our councillors were first elected to council, to provide low cost accommodation for elderly ladies on fixed incomes. Nowadays society has moved on somewhat, but the needs and demands of the clientèle for this society hasn't decreased.

In years gone by the society has rented or bought properties around west London and has done a fantastic job in providing elderly ladies a home, enabling them to live independent lives safe in the knowledge that if they need it there is a support network of professionals ready to assist. Whether that is in changing a lightbulb, giving advice on benefits, or just someone to talk to. Crucially there is someone there who will watch for signs of ill health and the onset of any other health issues that these ladies would otherwise have to deal with alone.

What better society is there that has organisations like this that exist to care for our old folk? The ones who have lived through world wars, worked all their lives, and given so much in their time. We, the next generations owe them a debt we can never repay.

But then Hornet noticed a planning application to turn its 29 flats in six buildings in  Landsdowne Walk W11 into new family units. The problem is, these 29 flats have tenants living in them so will be turfed out when the properties are sold off, leased or otherwise disposed of to a developer.

Now Hornet doesnt for one minute expect this charitable firm to show no charity and dump the former residents onto the street. What will probably happen is the sizeable income from disposing of its current properties will be ploughed back into purchasing new properties to re-house their tenants.

But thats the problem.

Elderly folk by and large, especially those in "sheltered accommodation" like routine, they are safe in a familiar environment and are assured of a support network of friends, some of many years living close by. They know their area, patronise the same shops, and are fearful of change.

It may well be the new accommodation units not yet built, in a part of London not yet announced, will be state of the art, have all mod cons, complete with marble bathrooms with gold taps.

But its not home.

Our elderly folk shouldnt be bullied into accepting what could a fait accompli, the Society has the right to explore its options and decide on its course of action, but it must do so with the blessing of those it exists to care for.

Otherwise what is it there for?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


It was 8.00 and the 'inner circle' had moved to the private bar set up next door to the sumptuously ornate Regency style private dining room. Things were not going well. The atmosphere was dark and threatening. The Dear Leader had retired to his suite accompanied by a nervous looking Chief Exec trotting after him wringing his hands,


From the far off Squires Bar the raucous laughter of ex The Worshipful Mayor Barry Phelps and his circle could be heard interspersed with the giggles of Madonna. She clearly had no idea about Barry's recent issues with Council email system.

Mr Myers had already had a cautioning word with the bar staff to ensure Barry did not put his bill onto the RBKC account.

The portents looked bad. Tomorrow they would be joined by that pushy fellow Greenhalgh from next door Hammersmith and Fulham. Doubtless he would be sneering at the Mayoral transportation.

Whatever had possessed the Dear Leader to offer to share services. Was he to be expected to share too, his new toy, the V50 15000cc supercharged de luxe Bentley? It was unthinkable that Greenhalgh and his lot should be stretching out in “his' car with their bags of fish and chips and bottles of Becks in the lacquered chiller cocktail cabinet. 

He could see an end to all the glorious traditions of the most splendid of Royal Boroughs-the butlers, the private dining rooms-all essential to 'dignity maintenance' of the Borough. Already, Myers had stopped the silver service dinner and the next thing to go would be the first class travel and most generous expenses of any Borough in the land. With his vast remuneration slashed from £120,000 a year to a miserable £70,000 Dear Leader wondered how else he could 'keep up appearances'

The councillors had gathered around the giant faux Adam fireplace. There was a look of fierce concentration on their faces. The Dear Leader's close confederate, Cllr “Oirish” Ahern reassured them all,

[TA]: Soon our Dear Leader will be joining; he is recovering from the ordeal of meeting with Phelps

In a corner,the sinister looking Cllr Moylan was simultaneously and dexterously using his Blackberry and ThinkPad. His shifty glances towards the gang were disquieting. What could he be plotting? By the blazing log fire sat 'Boy' Marshall cross legged and engrossed in less onerous matters.

QM: Who is he looking at?
PALMER: Who? Moylan?
QM: Yes, look he is scanning everyone.....

They quietly observe Cllr Moylan who is trying his best to secretly scan the entire room. The assembled councillors are getting more and more unnerved not realising he isnt looking at them but trying to locate the elusive cheesecake he so desires...

Tomorrow was the Big Day the Dear Leader had organised what he called a Play Day.

Whilst a member of the Audit Commission he had been tutored by the Steps Drama Company and had managed to get it's Head Facilitator The Honourable Tristram Buckmaster-Mellen to spend the day with them. Though the cost was some £20,000 for the weekend: it was thought to be a 'good investment.'  Tristram-all flamboyance and foppish thespian languor was just the man to do some 'culture shifting'
According to Dear Leader notes Tristram would be helping councillors to.....

“Manage Change for Diversity & Equality, the workshop combining presentations from senior councillors with drama scenarios, delivered and facilitated by Steps, that bring the issues to life.

Tristram had even worked out a dance routine with Madonna which would involve all the Cabinet and help them get in touch with their 'inner beings and feelings'. That should sort out those touch feely Lib Dems.Doubtless there would be some cynics pointing out the Conservative Home attack on Tristram and his work but who cared.
There was an air of excitement when the Group heard was planned for them tomorrow. Could Tristram make Cllr “Lofty”Palmer and Cllr 'TwoBrains' Lightfoot 'people friendly'.
Would Boyo Moylan be ready to 'engage' with the Dear Leader in some role playing ?  But more importantly could the Dear Leader and Boyo Moylan stop the pushy and ambitious Greenhalgh and his 'know all' gang taking over the weekend and would Phelps' head be so bad that he would stay the day in bed.

Tune in next Wednesday to find out!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Someones been at the Cheesecake again....

Serial cheesecake eater Daniel Moylans lunch expenses are highlighted again today, two taxpayer funded noshings where the Great Architect entertained Sir Simon Orr Ewing,

£135 pounds worth between two, around 10% you very kindly tipped the attentive waiting staff who dutifully supplied Daniel with his Cheesecake.

At his regular haunt of Min Jiang, Daniel also slapped onto your bill a £10 glass of Chablis, whereas a whole bottle of Pinot's finest was served at Montpeliano for a mere £25, how very generous.

Have a goose at the receipts and you can see exactly what your tax payers money was spent when Daniel Moylan submitted his expense claims.

But of course dear reader the main focus should be on what was the purpose of this meeting?

What could the Great Architect possibly have council related business to discuss with Sir Simon Orr Ewing on two occasions?

It was definitely council business as otherwise Danny wouldn't have been allowed to submit the claims...

So what was it about?

Quite a few theories have been put forward but it seems the run away winner is that these lunches were a rather crude attempt at schmoozing himself into Boodles, the Gentlemens Club down in St James that Moylan was at one point desperate to become a member of.

As Hornet reported back in August Moylans membership was quietly withdrawn following a rather out-of-character verbal assault (ahem) on the archetectural style of club member Prince Charles, and how TfL of which he is Deputy Chairman, is raking it in handing out parking tickets to club members.

Now if these lunches were to do with Moylan trying to get into Boodles then he has absolutely no right in submitting them as an expense. It is personal business and should be paid for by him personally,

If it is legitimate council business then say what it is, what was discussed and what was the results of these lunches?

Moylan cannot have it both ways, if he wishes to submit expense claims then he has to be open and transparent as to exactly what is the purpose.

The tax payers of K&C have a right to know and Moylan has an obligation to respond.


More news reaching Hornet about a community movement that has been gathering pace at quite a speed.

"ResidentsFirst" is something relatively new for K&C and Hornet has been handed a rather weighty tome that details its modus operandi for the way ahead.

Hornet has also been given a sneak preview of its rather swish logo, and if you look closely, the name and strap line is exactly six words, something the politicians amongst you will know to be significant.

Hornet understands that its website will go live very shortly. More details soon.

Rifkind urges Meaningful Consultation

Just before anyone in positions of power could start bleating about how the council does consult properly, Tory MP for Kensington Malcolm Rifkind unwittingly wades into the fray. He is on record asking the council for a meaningful consultation with residents, something they say they have not yet had, and to ask the council to reassure tenants over the potential loss of green space over the North Ken Acadamy proposal.

A handbagging the former cabinet members boss would be proud of!

Absentem laedit cum ebrio qui litigat.

News has reached Hornet over rather interesting remarks made by K&C Planning Supremo, AND Deputy Chairman of TfL, AND suspected Cheesecake eater Cllr Daniel Moylan over planning decisions.

Here it is in its full unashamed beauty:

Help a girl out here, this is a comment from the person who has cabinet responsibility for planning, and he is saying that communities shouldnt have a say in planning decisions? Because if people did, nothing would get done? Where does he get off....    Bangkok airport usually it seems............

He is partly right, you do have to resolve nimbysm...  the Moylan approach seems to be just to ignore it and dont bother to ask "those with attitude", The right way is to do exactly the opposite and bring people together. Moylans suggested route would lead to communities pitted against community, uproar and disenchantment, and civil war! Not like him is it?

This arrogant attitude is as ludicrous as it is alarming, coming from the man who self proclaims himself to "do a good job [and] treat residents fairly" - not Hornets words Daniel, yours.

Far be it for the lowly unelected members of the public who are there at Moylans behest to fund lavish lunches and accommodate his numerous exotic sojourns to Thailand to get in the way of planning decisions.

The Planning Authority of which Moylan is kingpin has a statutory duty to consult and consider all views, for and against, and make a decision within planning laws set down by Parliament. People who share Moylans misguided view should not have a position of power when it comes to planning.

There is a very fine line between intelligence and arrogance, very fine indeed.

Once, Twice and Thrice NO!

Now listen Councillor, Hornet has told you once, twice and three times and now makes it a public declaration. You cannot have your own WestEnders spinoff.

Dont go think Hornet will change her mind either having received a flood of emails from an adoring public all clamouring for your own mini-series, funnily enough they are all sent from the same IP address.

You cheeky you!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Ex-Factor Nominations are rolling in....

Hornet has been surprised with the number of nominations for "Ex-Factor, Councillor Of The Year Awards" and has had a good laugh at our elected Members expense (pun definitely intended!) in so doing!

Some of them have been a real hoot, and some cannot be published for obvious reasons (you know who you are! you cheeky you!), but nominations remain open for sometime yet so get nominating. Hornet thinks we should limit councillors to being nominated for three awards only, otherwise one or two of them will walk away with everything!

Remember, you can nominate any member for any category. The nominations show will be in the first week of December, with the results just after the WestEnders Christmas Panto a week or so later.

Gallery Gain for Gardens

As part of a new intiative to make better use of park buildings, plans are afoot to create a new art gallery in Kensington Gardens, the project will be known as the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, and will bring the Magazine building on West Carriage Drive into use for the first time.

Award winning architect Zaha Hadid will be renovating the building and the plan will include a restaurant and social space in an adjoining pavilion. There will also be a light installation and an outdoor play area.

K&C will hear the planning application early in the new year as the Magazine building is Grade II listed and therefore will require permission to make any alterations.

Let them eat Cheesecake

The Hornet brings more news of Daniel Michael Gerald Moylan's fun lunch with Marc Vlessing, principal of property developer, Pocket. Fortunately The Great Architect wasn't out of pocket, he dipped into yours to put their delicious lunch at a 5 star hotel on council expenses!

One of our many readers - a property professional - casts some light on why we paid, and thanks also to Anon. the info is very good, keep it coming.

Hornet has learned both Cllr Moylan and his lunch guest Marc Vlessing worked at County NatWest, former investment banking arm of NatWest Bank, now part of RBS some years ago.

Vlessing's new company, Pocket, as we know is into building pocket-sized, cheap housing, for people who would otherwise be unable to afford hefty mortgages to purchase their own home. The company has just completed such projects in Westminster and Hammersmith. Our new Super-Council will combine both Councils with K&C. So is K&C the next target for the Pocket Portfolio?

At the time of the all expenses paid lunch, was the Earls Court redevelopment that will create over 8,000 homes a subject of discussion? Maybe it was and maybe Pocket hopes they could be one of those handed a plum contract on some of these dwellings? What was discussed between him and Moylan?

Hornet notes  Vlessing is quoted as saying: ".... It is also absolutely imperative that local authorities and public bodies play a much more active role in releasing their land holdings; but this must start now ..."  If Vlessing is so desperate to persuade councils to flog off land; he is fortunate in having Council Planning Supremo Danny Moylan as an old work colleague.

However; our friend in a hard hat warns Vlessing to treat Danny's involvement with caution as Moylan's property interests has been underperforming somewhat and one has halved in value since launched in 1997!

Hornet has repeatedly said it is perfectly acceptable for old City banker friends to dine together, but if it is not to do with council business it is not acceptable to submit an expense claim. If it is council business, then it needs to be open and transparent so that voters can be assured.

Equally, the clouds that obscure what was going on, and that these issues that have come to light cast even further doubt on what could quite feasibly have been a totally unrelated and innocent meeting. For K&C's Planning Supremo to have cosy chats with old friends - who are property developers with interests in K&C - without an officer being present, is arrogant madness. Even if proper conduct is observed; it sets tongues wagging.

Hornet isn't letting this one go just yet, as she has more to report soon...

TMO on the take according to some

Back in September Hornet told you all was not well with the K&C TMO, it needed some TLC and, quite frankly, a good shaking, read it here.

It seems now the situation has descended into even murkier depths with some accusing others of spending money earmarked for a pensioners tea party on a slap up meal for two of the TMO directors. The TMO said that its directors had not dined out on tea party money, claiming that the meal had been organised by a resident and that the expenditure had been approved by senior officers.
Hornet also pointed out the ruckus at the AGM that had to be abandoned when attendees failed to follow the direction from the chairman.

All has not been well at the TMO since as far back as 2004 when financial issues were investigated. It all came to a head in 2007 when it was revealed an overspend of £9 million on the Decent Homes Budget, around the same time as many homes had their planned improvements cancelled.

There are a litany of complaints, with accusations and counter accusations that when all said and done is damaging to the well being of this organisation. Whether the allegations are true or not there is some truth in the saying if you throw enough mud eventually it will stick.

The only losers will be the tenants themselves unless something is done to sort out this awful mess.

BK Earls Court in dock over mice

Earls Court residents who use the Burger King restaurant should be aware the operators of the popular burger chain appeared at West London magistrates court charged with three offences all concerned with poor hygiene.

In March 2009 officers from environmental health paid a visit to the eatery and found that the premises was dirty, had a significant mouse infestation and inadequate pest proofing. During the inspection, officers discovered burger buns contaminated with mouse droppings and gnawed burger buns and packaging, so closed the restaurant immediately.

"Adil Catering"  the franchise owner was fined £10,500 plus costs after admitting three charges of failing to keep the food premises clean, failing to protect food against contamination, and failing to ensure adequate pest control procedures were in place.

However, new management had been brought out as soon as this was uncovered, and the premises has passed two independent inspection reports in April 2009 and March of this year.

Students put three past coppers

Imperial College students took part in a charity soccer match last week against coppers from Kensington, raising £4000 for brain-injury charity Wolfson Rehabilitation Centre in Wimbledon.

The match took place at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and the students beat the local bobbies 3-2 in what was a good tempered game.

The Wolfson, as its usually called, provides individual and group rehabilitation programmes for patients. The aim is to help patients make the transition from requiring assistance with personal activities of daily living (PADLs) to becoming sufficiently independent for discharge. Patients receive a weekly timetable that shows their daily scheduled activities.

Day services include a day patient programme, Wolfson Cognitive Assessment Programme (WCAP), Vocational Programme, Cognitive Group and Pain Management Programme. Facilities include therapy rooms, consulting rooms and offices, kitchen, dining room, lounge, resource room, 32 beds, conference room, music therapy room, quiet lounge, rehabilitation flat, and hydrotherapy.