send the Dame your information, discretion assured.
Comments are welcome but do not necessarily reflect the view of the Dame.
Offensive/inappropriate comments will be deleted and the poster banned.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Phelps apologises... ...for resigning!

Interestingly,and at long last, Barry Phelps (who, in case you forgot, sent a stream of RBKC based emails of a very inappropriate nature, to a wide range of recipients) has challenged the Leader over his extremely reluctant resignation. Now dont get Hornet wrong, Phelps should have gone in her opinion, probably a few years earlier though as his "problem" was well known to the powers that be.

What Hornet is talking about here is that at last the cosiness of the Tory leadership with this errant fellow is under threat. Phelps aint gonna go quietly, and he now feels enough water has flowed under the bridge he can pop his head over the parapet and sound off against the forces that ousted him.

A Tribute Dinner to Barry Phelps to thank him for his sixteen years’ service as an Earl’s Court Ward Councillor was given on Friday evening by Earl’s Court Community Leaders. Jonathan Choat, Chairman Orpen House Residents Association, was in the Chair. Mr Choat said: “Barry served Earl’s Court from 1994 to 2010 and topped the poll in every one of the five elections he contested, increasing his share of the vote every time. That shows what he did for Earl’s Court and how much his community appreciated him.”

I should never have resigned from the Council until hearing the result of the complaint to the Police about me and when they dismissed it out of hand I should not have resigned at all. Indeed the Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Mark Heath, asked me in personally to tell me of their conclusion. So there is no disgraced Mayor of the Royal Borough. But the pressure was intense and I was worn out. So I apologise to you and the rest of Earl’s Court for resigning and thank you and about 150 other Earl’s Courtiers for the support and kind words you have given me. Indeed not only have some 200 residents had kind words for me but I  have not had an unkind word from any of them. Similarly all the council officers I have met or emailed have also had a kind word or two for me – with just one exception." (Dame Hornet wonders whether that senior officer could have been a keen ex Hounslow tennis player....)

At the same time The ex Mayor  has challenged Sir Cockle over the perceived benefits of the proposed inter borough mergers. Interestingly the Dame has much sympathy with what he says in this respect.

However, we must never forget that Barry's folly equally caused the forced resignation of Cllr Mark Daley
It is a shame BP did not feel the need to show some sympathy for this councillor. No celebratory dinner for Daley then....

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Members Allowances Scheme

The council are proposing to adopt the recommendations of the Independent Panel that recommends what Councillors should be awarded each year.

The clue is in the question.

Its a recommendation.

So lets see some solidarity with those people in the borough of the private sector who have lost their jobs or seen their income fall - or those in the public sector at risk of redundancy through budget cuts, or have their salaries frozen or fall due to reduced hours.

Ditch the councillor pay recommendations, and cut them in half.

Going through the Motions

Oh Dear.

A few days back Hornet gave you, dear reader, some information about the up and coming council meeting, specifically the Labour sponsored motion over compensation packages and the localism bill.

Hornet got it wrong.

She said the motion proposed by Cllr Foreman was to have councillors review the pay awards of senior officers if the pay was over £100,000 but in fact it is also to review the remuneration of officers and councillors who receive over this amount from any public sector source.

If Cllr Caruana of the LibDems had her way, maybe in her wildest dreams her begging bowl for coppers would propel her to be included in this review also.

With his two faces, TfL and RBKC Cllr Moylan will be included in this, as will Cllr Cockle and a few others.

Thats probably the reason why the sheep bleating behind them will of course vote this motion down.

FTHN Breaks new record

Not only did FTHN break through the 40,000 readership mark last week, Tuesday saw the biggest number of visitors ever! A whopping 286 people leafed through the pages (thats 286 separate people, not 286 page views for the techno-geeks amongst you).

Despite what others may say, Cllr Moylan seems to be very popular amongst readers of this blog, as the top 5 posts most people read on that day are all about him. So at least Danny can say he is popular at something. Unfortunately for him though, its his cheesecake and DHL bills.

Dame Hornet wishes to thank all her loyal sneaks and snouts and of course you, Dear Reader for making FTHN what it is today, an important resource here in the local governance our our Dear Borough.


Saturday, 26 February 2011

Fly my pretties... fly.....

The last few years we have seen MP expenses come under the spotlight, and rightly so. The levels of abuse some of these chaps and chappesses descended to would have made Ian Clements blush let alone Ronnie Biggs. 

Duckhouses, moats, flagpoles, fancy mattresses, porn movies, the mother of all wigs, and the list goes on. Its an absolute disgrace when the people we elect then do what the LibDems are bleating on about at the next council meeting, in trying to milk the system of cash. Cash that belongs to the tax-payer. 

Of course the LibDems here in K&C havent done anything illegal, unlike the Tory Lord and the half dozen or so Labour MPs in the dock, been in the dock, or about to go into the dock. 

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

The Dame took a cursory glance at the expenses/allowances paid to our very own Lesser Spotted Malcolmus Rifkindium, and something rather interesting cropped up.

Sir M hasnt been prosecuted or faced an inquiry separate from the one all Parliamentarians were subjected to so hasnt actually broken the law or claimed anything under the then set of rules he wasnt able to. 

So what is it that Hornet has found that is so interesting, I hear you ask.

Hornet is looking at the expenses claimed for "Members Travel". This covers the transport costs of the MP between, and the stipulation is quite clear "Westminster/Home/Constituency".

Curiously it includes claims for "Air Travel" that totals over £7,000.

Now Hornet has got a black cab between the House and her hive up near Portobello on many occasions, and that cost the best part of £15 a time. To the best of her knowledge, you cant hitch a ride on a passing jumbo around the London Eye, and ask to be dropped off "wherever you can land" round by Ladbroke Grove. 

So that can only mean the reason the MP for Kensington, some 5 or so miles from Westminster has put in claims for seven grands worth of air travel, is using tax payers money to bugger off up to Scotland every now and again.

Hornet wishes her job would let her do that,

Friday, 25 February 2011

Daily Express readers only ever have good luck-Lord Beaverbrook

Dame Hornet has received a plaintive message from a councillor.

Evidently, the Press Office whose task is to produce the aptly titled Royal Borer (despite the pleas of Big Eric to banish these Pravda's from council budgets) also has another job to justify it's £3.2 million annual budget.

Anyway, this 'renegade' has said that Rotten Borough councillors get a summary of press comment drawn from the national media, and referring to goings on in RBKC.

Our councillor friend tells the Dame that none of the press comment( and there has been loads) critical, or commenting upon Sir Cockell's vast allowances,expenses or lousy decisions seems to get included in the press digest.

Further enquiries reveal that the chap in the Councils PR Team has been given instructions that only good news concerning Sir Cockle is published. That is why the the less media savvy councillors rarely see that their Leader figures with regularity in the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, The London Standard or Lord Gnome's organ Private Eye.

Now some may call this crude censorship: others doubtless prefer  to see it as the role of a timid apparatchik.

Lord Beaverbrook was once asked why all the Daily Express astrology forecasts were so cheerful:his reply? "Daily Express readers only ever have good luck". Seems like Sir Cockle only gets good coverage-and that in his fan sheet, the Borer !

Thursday, 24 February 2011

LibDems in Cloud Clegg Land...

Its February 2011 and the country is on its uppers.

Locally, just like most other authorities the length and breadth of the country we are faced with grant reductions and funding cuts. £18 million is the deficit currently facing the borough, and this is having to be found from so called efficiencies and savings (although why these are only found now is anyones guess) and service reductions.

Day centres are under threat.
Community Groups are facing closure.
Jobs are being axed and people may be made redundant.

Its a very serious and critical situation to be in, and we need local politicians to propose solutions and steer through policies that protect the services people rely on, and the jobs livelihoods depend on.

So what with the newly elected Liberal Democrats on RBKC? The much vaunted first ones for 40 odd years?

Do they propose an alternative budget, that protects front line services? Or to avoid compulsory redundancies?
Do they move a motion to reduce councillor allowances, or to restrict further the scope of expenses available to elected members?

Oh no. Not this lot...

You couldnt make this up...   the Liberal Democrats are actually asking for more money, as if the £10.678 they each get already isnt enough!

Local Government runs on conventions, things like in the event of a tied vote the chairman gets a second and casting vote - convention is to go with the status quo and its a pity Cllr T Buxton didnt follow this when voting on the designs for the Commonwealth Institute.

Allowances are provided to give Councillors financial compensation for their tasks. There are allowances for "Leader of the Opposition" and convention is that it goes to the leader of the largest minority party - not every minority party.

Ed Milliband, is the Leader of the Opposition, even though there are Plaid Cymru, Scottish Nationalists, a bunch of independents and a Green. We dont hear them scrawling letters pleading for a few coppers.

Hornet has a message for the LibDems in K&C.

You are elected to scrutinise and oppose the current majority party and you each receive almost £11,000 to do so. You are not there to cream off as much as you can especially at times like this. You should retract this ill-conceived and naive letter and apologise to the people of the borough.

Hornet doesnt know whose idea it was in the Tory Party to suggest to Cllr Caruana to "put it in writing to the
Administration Committee" but whoever it was, well done. Political masterstroke.

Localism motion should be supported

Hornet has told you, dear reader, on  more than one occasion how the poshed up Town Clerk, now called Chief Executive earns more than the Prime Minister, and of course is a senior member of the "trade union" for Local Government bigwigs called Solace.

When Mr Myers first came to RBKC, after hanging up his tennis racket he told the embattled staff that "change is a comin'" and in true local government style told what was left of the staff to "go form a mutual" when considering what will happen when the three boroughs merge.

It may well be that when the boroughs hook up Myers will be able to retire to the country on a nice civil service pension, great job. And it may not necessarily be a bad thing since the new localism bill currently being considered by Parliament will see local councillors having a say on senior officers pay.

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

What on earth possesses any right minded individual to propose a local government official to earn more than the Prime Minister of this country? They may be well qualified, intelligent and supremely capable, but come on, the best part of a quarter of million in salary!?

Lets hope the motion being proposed by the Labour group at the next council meeting that all senior council officers earning more than £100,000 have their renumeration packages reviewed when the localism bill is finally written into statute is passed and supported by the ruling Tory majority. After all, its only right in the face of the legislation pioneered by their own party in Government.

But dont hold your breath..

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Keeping Costs Down doesnt Count

Merrick Cockell has often bemoaned the cost of supplying residents with information: after all does he not cynically proclaim 'Council business belongs out in the open, where residents can keep a close eye'.

In reality he prefers to give away as little info as possible to the lumpen proletariat of the Borough

Taking him at his word, and to save the costs Sir Cockle complains about, Justin Downes, local activist, wrote asking if the Leader would answer his very simple information request, Here it is below. No big deal you would think; after all we know that last year he took from taxpayers over £100k so are we not entitled to know what else is tucked away?

Mr Downes says if the Leader refuses his request he will be forced to put in an Freedom of Information. 

Dear Sir Merrick

We both recognise the cost to residents of servicing Freedom of Information requests: you yourself, have made this an issue in the past.

I have recently requested information pertaining to the Fellowship of the British American Project of yourself, Cllr Moylan and Cllr Lightfoot. This is information that could quite easily be supplied without recourse to an FOI- and ensuing cost of servicing. Why is it necessary to go through this rigmarole to
obtain what, on the face of it, is innocuous information?

I am also interested to know what other taxpayer funded posts you hold. Would you be good enough to supply this information without my needing to invoke further expense by making a request under the Freedom of Information Act?  I very much look forward to hearing from you.


Justin Downes

Mr Downes has asked Hornet to "please state that he is not the Hornet". The Dame knows that very well so is happy to reproduce his eloquent request.

Now you know. 

How to make your MP work harder... Vote Yes on 5th May

May 5th this year we will all get a chance to vote on a referendum for adopting the alternative vote (AV) or keeping the current first past the post (FPP) system when electing MP's. Here in London we are no strangers to AV as thats similar to how we elect the Mayor of London.

FPP, is simply you turn up and put a X next to the candidate you support. Then they are all counted and the one that gets the most votes is declared the winner. Under this system, the Tories win K&C with about 55% of the vote, and Labour win north Kensington on just 44% of the vote, and Hammersmith on less than that! So more than half the people who voted in these last two areas ended up with an MP they didnt want.

Under AV, you rank the candidates in the order that you like them, 1 for the first, 2 for the second and so on, up to the number of candidates standing. You dont have to use all the votes, you can just use one, two or how ever many you like. In the initial count, the first preference of each voter is counted and if one candidate receives more than 50%, that candidate wins. Otherwise the candidate who holds the fewest first preferences is eliminated. Ballots assigned to eliminated candidates are recounted and assigned to one of the remaining candidates based on their next preference on each ballot. The process repeats until one candidate achieves more than 50% of votes cast for continuing candidates.

So whats the deal?

Under AV, MPs will have to appeal to at least 50% of voters so in effect will have to work harder to get the support from more people. Currently the MP in K&C doesnt really have to do that much to get re-elected, and its considered a safe seat. AV wont necessarily mean the Lesser Spotted Malcolmous Rifindium should start writing his CV, but it will make him think twice...

Critics of AV usually are the ones who stand to lose the most, and that is incumbent politicians. They mainly argue that it will produce a coalition government, but thats something we have right now and its not quite as deadly as people would have us believe.

They also claim that it will let in lunatics and extremists. AV critics say it will make it easier for UKIP or the BNP to get elected. In the last election neither of these two parties would have come anywhere near winning enough support to get an MP elected. The LibDems want Proportional Representation, and that will allow the BNP and other distasteful elements in.

Those who dont want AV also say we shouldnt support it because the LibDems do. But dont be fooled by that many more people want to see change.

Predictably the Conservatives in K&C will be against AV, well they would wouldnt they, simply because it means their inbuilt sizeable majority in the borough may not be overturned but may well come under some heat.

Thats no reason to oppose changing to AV, and in Hornets mind is exactly the reason we should switch.

Schhhhhh have you seen him?

Hornet has been buzzing around but hasnt yet managed to catch a glimpse of the Lesser Spotted Malcolmous Rifkindium. Rumour has it he is about somewhere, but his regular monthly column in the local paper hasnt seen any action since November.

Tough work being an MP...

Lightfoot on the backfoot

The Westway Epics Centre here in W10 is a day centre providing a place where the elderly folk of the area can meet, have a chat, enjoy lunch and enjoy themselves. A great place that is enjoyed by those who use it.

Kensington and Chelsea Council announced last year that it was considering the future of the day centre in North Kensington, in light of the spending cuts it has to make.

But there are no firm alternatives yet in place for users of the centre, who as things stand, would have to be transported from their homes in North Kensington to the Miranda Barry Day Centre in Fulham Road - a journey that could take more than an hour when traffic is bad.

Funny then according to Labour Cllr Judith Blakeman the councils finance man and wannabe MP Warwick Lightfoot told her it was a shame it was closing.   Cllr Lightfoot, the failed London Mayoral Candidate for the Tories naturally denies this heinous alleged comment.

What makes it more startling though dear reader, is that the public consultation on the proposals for the centre havent yet been concluded.... that begs the question does public consultation really matter here in K&C?

So if Cllr Lightfoot did say what Cllr Blakeman has said he did, and she has "gone public" with no comment from Cllr Lightfoot then he either has let the cat out of the rather large black bag, or has committed a genuine error.

Only he knows the answer.

Poll Results... 65% think its a waste of money.

Hornet asked...


and the results are in...

The new poll is up, and is live for seven days, so you can vote now, Remember after seven days the poll closes, and a new poll will replace it usually within 48 hours. Hornet received many emails from people saying they cant vote, thats because you tried after the closing date

Designs on the Commonwealth Institute

Well known RBK&C resident Anthony Walker is an architect and chairman of Edwardes Square Scarsdale and Abingdon Association writing in The Hill Magazine he had this to say about the highly controversial development of the much loved Commonwealth Institute

"September 2009 saw a close planning decision, determined by the chairman’s casting vote, to grant consent despite unanimous opposition from both national and local conservation societies, local residents’ associations and many interested individuals. The consequent destruction of most of the listed building known as the Commonwealth Institute to house the Design Museum might be tolerable were it not for the fact that it also involves the erection of three tall, overbearing residential towers on the south side of Holland Park to finance it. This is entirely contrary to the Holland Conservation Area Statement policies.....go this link to read the article...." a&

Monday, 21 February 2011

Cockle in huff over Heff

News reaching Hornet this week is that Sir Merrick of Cockle and his "friends" were incandescent with rage following Simon Heffers hatchet job on how the Dear Leader is amongst the highest paid councillors in the country. As if we needed to be told that he receives over £100,000 from the public purse.

Tempers were raised so much one of the inner circle let it slip The Telegraph received a call from, Hornet is informed, Cockle himself demanding explanations or apologies.

The piece in the Telegraph was factual and Cockells expenses and allowances are a matter of public record, so why the fuss? The little bird unfortunately at this point realised they had let slip and flew off muttering "oh no what I have done.....?"

Hornet has some advice for Sir M, if you cant stand the heat the get out of the kitchen. You could always "apply" for a post in places like Libya or Iran where suffocation of the press by politicians is a state sponsored art form.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

More say = More of the same

What better way to destroy the character of local areas, that give local politicians more say over planning applications.

As Private Eye rightly points out this week, here in the rotten borough we have seen those ghastly bee hives (Hornets is much better) around Sloane Square and Earls Court, the proposed monstrosity by Brompton Cemetry, the abortive efforts around Sloane Square, and the redevelopment of the Commonwealth Institute to name but a few.

Of course the Great Architect himself can see nothing wrong with all this wanton destruction!

Up by Portobello, what used to be Lipka's arcade of antique stalls. In 2004, a developer, Warren Todd, applied to restore and alter the buildings. The Ladbroke Association and others objected as the arcades were to be replaced by individual shops. A revised application received approval, partly because of an undertaking to retain an area for stalls on the lower ground floor. But when the scaffolding came down, the buildings had been crudely altered - partly without proper planning permission - and the lower floors were entirely occupied by the clothing chain All Saints, whose idea of style is to fill pathetic new neo-Victorian shopfronts with old sewing machines. The supporters of the Portobello market petitioned the council, asking for the developer to keep his promise. But as RBKC pointed out, planning legislation does not permit local authorities to specify the type of retail use once permission is granted.

Do you honestly believe, with all the history they have those who currently control the planning department will actually protect our boroughs beloved heritage if they had more of a say....?

No prizes for any philistines who suggest otherwise...

And then there were three....

Until September 2009 the rotten borough was LibDem free, at least, after Ms Kingsleys brief flirtation in the early 2000's. Carol Caruana defeated the Labour and Tory candidate in the Colville by election, gaining more votes than both those two added together.

Fast forward to May 2010, and we see another one dump the sitting Labour councillor out of Colville, and of course the spectacular victory in Earls Court later the same year.

So now there are three.

A little bird has been squawking and it is alledged that the Leader of the LibDem group has been putting it about saying they deserve an Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) for being Group Leader and Chief Whip of their little velour wearing band!

Hornet knows that Leader of the Opposition Cllr Blakeman who is also Chairman of a scrutiny committee is on paper in line to receive two SRA's but only takes one.

A group of three is hardly demanding, and lets face it the positions "Group Leader" and "Chief Whip" are not Ward related, they are political positions albeit ones that do attract allowances in the other groups. Must be hard work keeping those two other LibDems sitting squarely on that fence.

Maybe the new found coalition spirit between the ruling Conservatives and their junior partner will see their dreams come true and they will be given a special allowance ticket onto the gravy train. Or perhaps our LibDem readers can explain what is going on...

Coming soon...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Reader Poll

Log onto the site now and take the plunge in Hornets first straw poll. and the Poll is found just below the visitor count on the left hand side.

Council Attendance 2009/10

You would have read how much those lucky fellows in the Town Hall received last year for their council duties, and quite handsomely some of them. One of their duties is to turn up to council meetings, the full council met seven times last year and here Hornet provides you with a breakdown of attendance at these Council meetings.

Firstly, attendance by party:

Party      %Attendance
Conservative 91.2%
Labour         87.3%
LibDem         83.3%

Now, find your ward and you can see how many times your area was represented at the full Council meetings:

GOLBORNE    100.0%

HANS TOWN 100.0%
CAMPDEN     95.2%
STANLEY     95.2%
COLVILLE    90.5%
ABINGDON    85.7%
CREMORNE    85.7%
NORLAND     85.7%
HOLLAND     81.0%
BROMPTON   76.2%
RYL HOSP    66.7%

Now turning up to the meeting is one thing, but what about actually contributing to the meeting?

12 Petitions were submitted to council meetings in 2009/2010. Here shows you by whom, what party and what Ward:

By Ward           By Party              By Councillor
GOLBORNE   5      Labour 9        Blakeman      4
NOTT BARNS 4      Conservative 2 Hoier         3
ABINGDON   1      LibDem 1 Dent-Coad     2
COLVILLE   1      Total       12        Caruana       1
NORLAND    1                   Gardner       1
Total   12 Lindsay       1
Grand Total  12

14 Motions were proposed at council meetings:

By Ward           By Party              By Councillor
GOLBORNE     4    Labour 11 Dent-Coad     4

NOTT BARNS   4    Conservative  3 Blakeman      3
COLVILLE     3    LibDem        0 Oneill        3
STANLEY      2    Grand Total 14 Atkinson      1
HANS TOWN    1 Cockell       1
ABINGDON     0 Frazer        1
BROMPTON     0 Paget-Brown   1
CAMPDEN      0 Grand Total  14
HOLLAND      0
NORLAND      0
RYL HOSP     0
Grand Total 14

and finally 11 were questions asked (technophobes, this is contributions under S19):

By Ward                 By Party            By Councillor

COLVILLE 3 Conservative   5      Mason        2
EARLS COURT 2 Labour         5      Oneill        2
GOLBORNE 2 LibDem         1      Phelps        2
ABINGDON 1 Grand Total   11      Atkinson      1
NOTT BARNS 1                             B Campbell   1
PEMBRIDGE 1                             Caruana       1
REDCLIFFE 1                             Gardner       1
BROMPTON 0                             Williams      1
CAMPDEN     0                             Grand Total  11
Grand Tot  11

If your ward is a zero, or your councillor isnt listed, its because no questions, petitions or motions were asked, submitted or proposed by them for the whole year.

Now you know.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Public Opinion

Congratulations Hornet; we need our councilors to be open to public scrutiny.

My present moans (I am a Grimpy Old Man) is about the curse of the sub- basement and the sub- sub basemnent developments. It is not the development but the effect of the  buildning work on neighbours, traffic flow and dirt. In spite of 2 large meetings the council drags its feet about enforcing noise restrictions, obstructions to traffic, and keeping the area clean. They could also impose a time limit on the work to stop it continueing for years and blightng the nearby houses. Incidentally 'party wall agreements are not worth the paper they are written on if the builder refuses to pay.

My other gripe is that parking tickets are being issued for cars parked adjacent a dropped pavement. There are several thousands of these in the borough and there are no notices to tell motorists that they are no longer allowed to park there.

An Interested Resident

PS / All power to your sting madam. By all means use my letter. The council should be reminded of Cameron's pledge of a Big Society in which the wishes of local people were addressed, Perhaps we will get a 'Sloane Square Revolution'.

Mills for mayor

All bets are off as Hornet reveals Cllr Julie Mills is to be the next buggins turn Mayor.

More soon

Monday, 14 February 2011

Hot off the Press

Tonights meeting at the Town Hall had Hornet's ears burning...

Oh yes two councillors who graciously gave FTHN a mention were a little scathing claiming that it includes things that are not true. Hornet wonders what Cllrs Campion or Ahern are referring to.

Of course one would have to be an idiot to believe WestEnders, or Neighbours, that clearly is just a little tongue in cheek sideshow....

So Cllrs, speak up and say what isnt true...    ...most of the info comes from a variety of sources.....

Hornet is all ears....

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Hornet 1 Wedge 0

Not long after being lambasted here on FTHN, we see the council, belatedly, pushing out a double page spread in The Royal Borer of where you can use your Wedge Card.

For those who dont know about this card, its like a Discount Card that you produce when you use local shops and those in the scheme give you a discount, or a special offer or something similar.

Of course it doesnt come free, it costs £10 per year for the card, and the council have pumped almost £200,000 of taxpayers money into the scheme to get it up and running.

Despite what you, dear reader may think, Hornet wishes the Wedge Card to be a success. Otherwise its just more money poured down the drain.

Two hats better than one?

The much loved Routemaster bus, icon of London has seen its route extended from the Royal Albert Hall, out to High St Ken and Holland Park.

Great stuff. Tourists and residents alike feel a warm glow when these buses that symbolise London travel past.

The council claim to have "successfully lobbied TfL" in getting this service extended, haven't provided any funding in doing so apart from providing a new bus stand on Kensington High Street.

Now that got Hornet kind of wondering....

Lobbied TfL?

Our very own Great Architect and cheesecake eater extraordinaire is Deputy Chairman of TfL, so how difficult could it be?

Its such a shame that it wasnt so easy to properly consider the locations of all the Boris Bikes, the removal of traffic lights, or the siting of CrossRail station up near Ladbroke Grove.

Post Haste, not quite...

Hornet has been sent a copy of a letter they sent to the Coalition Governments Communities Secretary, and Hornet understands, hasn't yet been responded to:

The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place

20 January 2011

Dear Mr Pickles

May I congratulate you on the speedy and robust way you are tackling the very many important issues facing local government:it is very refreshing.

Living as I do in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea I was surprised to be told that Sir Merrick Cockell boasts that he is to be advising you, on a regular weekly basis, wearing his Conservative Councillors Association hat.

Like you, and many other Conservatives in the Borough we abhor profligacy. Yet in Merrick Cockell we have a Council Leader whose Town Clerk earns-at £245,000 per annum, far in excess of the Prime Minster, and who has expressed no intention of reducing his salary-an utter rejection of your well reported guidance to all chief executives.

In RBK&C we have councillors whose allowances are some 40% greater than neighbouring boroughs, and whose leader and deputy pay themselves twice that of Councillors Lister and Greenhalgh of Wandsworth and Hammersmith and Fulham respectively.

Not so very long ago Merrick Cockell was the subject of considerable adverse press comment for spending taxpayer's resources on First Class trips to the United States, stays at 5 star hotels, limousine hire and $200 dinners for two-with a guest he refuses to identify.

I don't even talk about his purchase and use of a brand new Mayoral Bentley at the beginnings of the financial crisis.

I would have thought that were you were seeking wise counsel on London local government matters Councillor Lister or Greenhalgh would have been far sounder choices.

The profligacy of Councillor Cockell is a source of constant comment in this Borough and his associating himself as your adviser sends out a very confusing message.

Keep up the terrific work.

Yours sincerely

'A bemused resident of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea'

2011 Nomination for Councillor Awards

Another nomination for Councillor Awards for the "Shouldnt we be doing that Already Award" goes to Cllr Warwick Lightfoot.

He recently announced a review of people who receive the single persons discount for council tax, and said that the council are now going to check if people claiming the discount are actually entitled to receive it.

Er....   Good Work there Wal...

A school, a school my Peership for a School

Up north, as in, north of High Street Ken, there are some doings going on relating to school places. The council let a gym move into an old school building, and now due to poor foresight there is a need for more school places. Also, Holland Park School, the only one in that neck of the woods needs some attention building-wise.

We all know that the Dear Leaders foray into business was exporting fags to Africa from a now defunct company trading out of the bowels of the Tory Party HQ in Chelsea Manor Street, although his CV curiously doesnt mention that, if you click here, or here, or even here.  So when our council starts to flirt with business eyebrows at least should be raised, and checks and balances scrutinised - especially as it inevitably involves public money.

In this day and age councils can look to the private sector to come up with the cash to do the necessaries and provided there is an incentive for the company to do it, they frequently do. And yes, making money out of education is a bit of a sore point, but the books they buy, electricity they use and so on are all bought from companies that make a profit, so if the building was erected by a plc, whats the difference?

At the end of the day its quality of education in a fee-free school that counts, rather than if it was provided in a school built by a private company or not.

While she broadly agrees with the previous statement, that doesnt give anyone the right or the obligation to write a blank cheque, or to be a little more blunt if you excuse the venacular take the p*ss and cream from the tax payer as much as possible.

You only have to look at Mssrs Morley, Devine and Ilsley for that, and not forgetting Lord Taylor who also had his snout caught in the trough.

So, provided there are safeguards, as it is our very own Dear Leaders words "Council business belongs out in the open, where residents can keep a close eye."  taxpayers money should be respected and treated as if it were their own they were spending.

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

Hornet has learned of some very disturbing facts under the "bonnet' of the Great Leaders Trophy Project "Holland Park School.

Far from this project being financed by the sale to Native Land of the Southern Site for £105,000,000 RBKC has amazingly taken on the role of Banker and is currently financing the bulk of the re-building costs out of its reserves. Needless to say this is adding significantly to the overall cost by way of interest- some £4million to date!

The bulk of the sale price will be paid as and when Native Land take possession of the Southern site though this is not a certain outcome.To date Native Land have not submitted their revised plans to the Major Planning Committee.Indeed the gossip on Hornton Street is that there are still ongoing discussions with the Planning department and the applicant about the provision of affordable housing which may or may not be resolved to the Councils satisfaction.

Just imagine the costs and conditions that would have been imposed by professional bankers if indeed Native Land could even find a bank to lend them £105,000,000. But there was not such problem since the Bankers of Hornton Street came to the rescue.Where RBS feared to tread RBKC was only too willing to oblige. So the project is now budgeted at £84,000,000 and rising with further costs to come- namely more interest,affordable housing and other unplanned for contingencies.

For instance there was a complete failure to budget for off site exam space-dismissed at the recent Cabinet meeting by the Dear Leader as "no surprise" even though it was not included in the original budget and the contingency fund had to be raided to the tune of £500,000! Part of the rationale of this project was that £105,000,000 was meant to produce a significant surplus which is rapidly disappearing and who knows could end up in a deficit!

What all this makes clear is that "Trophy Projects" have a life of their own far removed from the real world of the current economic climate of slashed budgets.This is particularly the case in K&C where there are no serious checks and balances in the system.Therefore our "Great Leaders" have no problems spending "Other Peoples Money", ie, yours;  to realise their "Trophies" be it a Bentley,Chinese Granite roads or indeed Holland Park School.

Ratepayers were originally given a budget cost of £33 million for this Trophy project. Already the costs are rushing towards £100 million. The personal ambition of the Great Leader to build his Statue of Liberty in Holland Park was so out of touch with political reality that the school is now a policy White Elephant. Michael Gove's new Education Policy calls for small schools, in keeping with today's educational and social needs.

The ostrich farm that is Hornton Street is splurging £100 million of taxpayers money to rebuild a 1500 pupil school - and not creating one extra educational place in the process. In the meantime a whole generation of students (1500 of them) are condemned to a building site for the most important period of their lives.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Prudence? She left town last week...

Most readers of FTHN would know by now the proposals to merge the three boroughs of Westminster, K&C, and H&F.  To save around £35 million the boroughs will be sharing services, consolidating and rationalising, and of course that means job losses.

Its inevitable. By far the majority will go amongst the middle-management ranks, and of course those higher up the gravy train will be desperate to keep their pension pots and bonuses.

Now that got Hornet kind of wondering...

The future of the borough administratively-speaking is still unchartered waters. No one knows how this merger of so called equals is really going to pan out so why the heck is K&C planning on spending almost £3.5 million tarting up the town hall?

Dont get Hornet wrong, there aint nothing pleasant about that building, internally and externally its a monstrosity that a demolition ball could quite easily fix, but come on whats happening?

The council say its to create a workplace facility that better meets their future staff accommodation needs.

Really? Costing almost £3.5 million...

Tell that to Cllr Taylor who has seen her free trips to Cannes canned....

Credit where its due

Hornet wishes to give a big kiss, but as its a little politically incorrect these days would settle for a thumbs up to the guys she regularly sees keeping the streets clean and dustbins emptied.

Especially over the last few months with the exceptionally cold and rather inclement weather at that.

Hornet sends her love.

Mayors Made for Dancin'

Being Mayor of the Right Royal Rotten Borough of Kensington and Chelsea aint no song and dance. Its a stressful job, being chauffered around in a flash motor, having doors opened for you (literally) wherever you go, and you get to wear a rather shiny necklace.

Its handy to be able to sit down in the parlour on a comfy chair, pour yourself a pint of Stella and reflect on the trappings of office.

How quaint.

Well, one of the Mayors of history can be seen de-stressing himself rather inventively, and Hornet wonders what Len Goodman and co would make of his footwork...

Go bog at a new lav...?

You wouldnt believe it, but in this day and age when funding is being cut from voluntary groups looking after young kids, vulnerable adults, or the elderly. Libraries being earmarked for closure, staffing reductions and general gloominess all over the place a local council spends half a million pounds on two new toilets.

Yes, and its right here in K&C.

In an even bigger slap across the face to the people of the borough, the people can even choose the design of tiles to be used in the new super loos for Golborne and Portobello Road markets!

Now dont get Hornet wrong, many times wandering close to her hive she has been caught short around Portobello, and the absence of a place to spend a penny is a gross inconvenience.

But lets face it, the area has managed without one for long enough, and is it really a good idea to be spending quite so much money on this project?

The easiest answer, and unsurprisingly the least expensive, is to strike a deal with the pubs and coffee shops that are in the area and have them open up their facilities to the general public, which lets face it, is exactly what happens now albeit unofficially.

Most inconvenient.

For sale with sitting tenants

H&F, one of the bedfellows in the proposed borough merger, recently decided to flog off eight buildings in a bid to stave off financial hardship.

The fire-sale of property assets include:

  • Fulham Town Hall
  • Palingswick House
  • Distillery Lane Centre
  • 58 Bulwar Street
  • Askham Centre
  • Greswell Centre
  • The Irish Cultural Centre
  • Sands End Community Centre

Dame Hornets favourite, Cllr Greenhalgh said of the sale "We had to make a tough decision last night but we would not be able to secure a strong future and protect front-line services if we didn’t tackle our historic debt - which costs taxpayers £5million a year in interest payments to the banks. We have pledged to work with the groups who expressed an interest in buying the buildings and there will not be any quick sales to allow time for these discussions to take place

The only problem is that the buildings currently are in use, and Palingswick House is home to a host of voluntary groups so the future for them, and their clients is far from clear. Made more opaque by the interest of the West London Free School who are interested in purchasing the building.

Swansong costs us dear

The Audit Commission, was set up in the 1980s to try to wring more value for money from councils. Our very own Dear Leader, Sir Merrick of Cockell is on the board and in the heady world of councillor and senior officer renumeration the Right Royal Borough is one the Audit Commission should have been raking over the coals.

After all, the commission is there to promote and provide high quality and excellent value-for-money public services - recognising that public money, which is provided involuntarily by taxpayers, is special. Of course you know, dear reader that Sir M landed a not so bad salary for turning up to a few meetings and doing what is expected of a board member of the audit commission.

As Dame Hornet has reported earlier, the AC, that MC collected his cash from was to be wound up the ConLib Government as it, to put it simply, was taking the p*ss. 

The Bruiser Pickles said "Rather than being a watchdog that champions taxpayers' interests, it has become the creature of the Whitehall state." and that rather sums it up well enough.

So when our Dear Leader is banging on about cuts, funding limitations, we dont have the money and what have you, just remind him how the organisation of which he is a member of splashed out £24,000 on a luxury dinner for auditors, that included a string quartet!

Not only that, they paid £53,000 for 224 office chairs just a few days earlier!

The figure, an average of £236 each, includes two £840 Naughtone Hush chairs, which ­purport to ‘offer sanctuary from the everyday hubbub’. Officials also bought four ‘eye-catching’ Omni swivel chairs, each costing £854. The most expensive purchase was a six-seat ‘Track Bench’ at £1,962.

Hornet will give the last word-ish to impish Bob Neil, the local government minister who famously managed to get selected down in Kent, "When the nation's finances are in such a poor state it is simply unacceptable for a public body - indeed a spending watchdog - to be using taxpayers' cash to subsidise a string quartet and extravagant flower displays. This is yet more evidence of how the watchdog set up to protect the public purse has lost its way."

And while you are laughing at this largesse on the taxpayer, by the people who are supposed to be the champion of the taxpayer, one of them is the leader of our council!

And you, you lucky people Hornet has managed to find some exclusive footage of this event, or maybe something like it....!

Menage a trois

Wisely that shrewd City hand Colin Barrow has managed to exclude Derek Myers from attempts to get his snout into the Westminster Chief Executive's trough.For Westminster that must be good news. Myers has always allowed Cockell to do what he wants-hence the extraordinary expense claims that have been allowed through.

Barrow understands the need to have a long spoon when supping with the Rotten Borough !  However, Myers has successfully landed himself upon Hammersmith and Fulham on a 'long term interim basis'(whatever, that might mean). Presumably "Del-boy" is thinking about how his mate 'Lucky' Leo Boland has managed to vaporise his post picking up close to £250k in the process-all together a cool £500k for a couple of years 'bottom resting'

Del's stratagem could be to push up his 'interim' salary to plus of £260k and then play the same trick on taxpayers in a year or two. Derek: be warned.... the Dame has her antennae on you.

What everybody is fascinated to know is how by much more Myers has manged to boost his already stupendous income of £240k a year.

It looks like this is going to be a good week for greedy Leaders and the senior management at the expense of the lower castes...

Costly PR Exercise

Puffing up Dear Leader and his 'works' is something that costs Rotten Boroughites a vast amount of money.

Aggrandising Dear Leader and his works cost close to £3.2 million including the Royal Borer
newspaper. Publication of this p**s poor garbage continues despite the desperate entreaties of Eric Pickles that councils should cease publication: after all most of the copies end up in the orange recycling bags adding further to council costs.

The Dame, who has had many years in industry, can think of no major company that spends such a vast amount to such little effect.

In all the merger fanfare nothing much has been said about how we can benefit from the deconstructing the
PR Department and it's appendages. Talk of merging with H&F may or may not be wide of the mark but now is the perfect moment to evaluate what exactly the RBKC in house PR department 'does'. The majority opinion would be that it 'does' nothing except waste prodigious amounts of money: money that could be diverted to proper front line services.

But of course this is unlikely to happen- there's nothing Sir Cockle likes more than being 'puffed up'

Unless of course, dear reader, you think different....?

Monday, 7 February 2011

Double Whammy on Parking Charges

News out today reveals that before the proposals to double parking charges in parts of the borough, as part of a general boroughwide increase K&C already rakes in more than any other council in parking fines.

A whopping £36 million was recovered by the town hall in parking fines which is hardly surprising since the top whack fine of £120 is also the highest. Yes, yes if you pay within a certain time the fine is reduced we know that.

Kings Road topped the boroughs hotspots chucking over £200 thousand into the council coffers, although this was roundly beaten by a road in Lambeth that was a hundred thousand or so short of a million.

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

Messers Cockell, Palmer, Moylan and all their little friends were since the first time Red Ken mooted a western extension banging on how bad it was, its a disgrace, why should we pay for it, and we dont want it, type stuff.

Now that the Coalition Government have, predictably, cut the funding to councils the same bunch now that  Bojo scrapped the money making wheeze of the western extension have bumped up parking fees and fines to help fill the void.

Yes, there has to be sensible parking controls of course otherwise it would be bedlam, but that doesnt mean you can charge and fine to the max. Businesses rely on people being able to park their cars be that shoppers or workers, and the public transport option isnt always an option.

For the nay-sayers who will bleat on about how parking money is ringfenced so has to be spent on transport, yes you are right EXCEPT if the council is rated highly then it can spend it on what it likes... is that what paid for the Chinese granite and cheesecake?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Not a safe pair of Hands on equality

Recent interview in the Pink Paper has openly gay Tfl member answer questions on the proposals for a new airport in the south east.

However, K&C MP Greg Hands went one better than Rifkind who couldnt be bothered to turn up to vote on the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Bill, oh no, Mr Hands (Tory MP for Fulham and Chelsea) was there and voted against.

So at least there is one MP who would probably share a platform with the overbearing dinosaur of St Charles.

Council has form on "Public Consultation"

What can you do with someone who believes themselves to be right. There is simply no telling them.

The brave chaps in the north of the borough battling to save their community resources from the imposition of an Academy School know only too well how this council pay scant lip service to consultation and public participation.

The proposal for the new school would see community spaces and resources bulldozed to make way for the super school in the north of the borough, and critically the public meeting held to consider the proposals  the very people it would affect most were not invited to attend!

Hornet has reported on this before, and thanks to a little squirrel, has been reminded the council previously were rapped for their poor attempt at pubic consultation.

The plucky people up in Campden Hill Residents Association successfully had the council penalised by the then Labour governments local government minister when they pulled out of an inquiry into its plan to redevelop Holland Park School at the 11th hour, resulting in the CHRA incurring thousands of pounds of costs.

So it seems the council isnt afraid to use their old tactics again, perhaps safe in the knowledge that a Coalition Government Minister won't dare to come down against them and order them to pay compensation.

....or will it?

Hornet Campaign §1

Residents of K&C, you have read in earlier posts the proposed budget reductions and how services some would consider frivolous others rely on face cuts or complete funding removal.

There are no budgetary proposals to freeze councillor allowances, let alone reduce them.

Instead, community groups face funding cuts and closures,  and council staff face salary freezes, and benefit reductions.

Hornet believes that its not fair hard working council staff and council services people rely on bear the load, our overpaid and underworked councillors should be in the pot and be seen to take the lead.

Simply copy this message and send it to your local councillor and to the Dear Leader, using this email address:


Dear Councillors

I do not think it is fair that the council staff and community groups bear the brunt of the cuts in the wake of the financial situation.

I believe that Councillors should also shoulder some of the burden and you should reduce your allowances by at least 25%.

Please will you make the necessary steps to have this brought into the budget framework in time for the next financial year.

Thank you

Budget Proposals

The council this time of year always publish the budget proposals for the forthcoming financial year. They invite people to send it comments.

As if any right minded person is actually going to read through the council document, and of course if anyone with any modicum of power or influence is going to actually read them and then amend the budget proposals in line with any suggestion is about as fanciful as Cllr Palmer voting in favour of the abolition of S28.

Nevertheless Hornet did have a gander at the said document and it includes the usual buzzwords you could expect from the Cockellocracy Utopia we all live in.

Financial crisis. Significant reductions. Greater efficiences. Income generation. Reducing costs and so on, and so on and on and on.

Hornet can summarise this political posturing quite simply, so you dont have to read it from cover to cover. What it will mean is this...

  • Cuts to administration and overheads (£4 million)
  • Salary freeze and reduction of staff benefits (£1 million)
  • Increase charges (£4 million)
  • Reduction in funding for other services, some to zero (£1.5 million)

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

Yes, we all know what is happening in the world of finance today, we are not complete idiots. It is right that everyone shares the burden of the cuts that have to happen.

But how come the council can find £4 million today in reductions of administration and overheads, why couldnt they have found it last year? Or the year before? K&C may well be considered one of the best councils in London, well if it can strip £4 million in "overheads" that means it could be a whole lot better.

Salary freezes and reduction in benefits save just £1 million, and its important to keep talent working at the council. Everyone in the private and public sector are feeling the pinch, but if the talent are poached or are simply fed up with having their salaries effectively cut they could be tempted to move to the private sector with the obvious detriment effect on services.

Cuts and increase charges some may say are inevitable, and while some may be necessary you have to look at what is at stake. Some people, and these generally are not the ones who make the decisions at the town hall rely on council services. Whether thats transport to and from a clinic or day centre, a hot meal, social events, or after school clubs. If the funding for these go it makes a huge impact on the quality of life for our boroughs residents.

Single parents will have to pay for carers, or give up extra work that puts the food on the table or pays for a summer holiday once a year. Elderly people forced to while away the hours in their home rather than spend a few hours a day socialising with their friends in a day centre.

What cost is the price of a decent society?


Volume 1
Episode 1

The Phantom Arrives


It is a warm day and everyone in Philbeach Gardens is overjoyed at the news of the Royal Wedding. The Chairperson of the Residents Association has called a special meeting to discuss the important occasion. The Committee is in session at Number 20A in the living room. A tribute to the IKEA sale, the room is resplendent in furniture with names that contain very few vowels. The Committee Chair is sat on a rather worn armchair, that has an MDF panelled box around it, including roof lined with gold shiny paper.

Merrick(MC): [for it is he] Ok so I call this meeting to order.

Everyone is milling around and chatting, music can be heard from the adjacent room and Daniel Moylan is sat in the corner puffing away on cigarettes eyeing the cheesecake in the centre of the table.

MC: Look, can we get down to business please
Gerard: Yes exactly, I want to know whose business that lot is

He points out the window at a pile of dogs business that is littering the pavement

MC: Its not my Fifi or Trixi [patting the head of his little miniature dogs]
GH: Well, whose is it then?

Mrs Jones who lives down the road chips in, pointing to Daniel Moylan sat in the corner, his face partially clouded by the West African blend fags he is smoking.

MrsJ: Who is that fellow
MC: Thats Cllr Moylan, he is deputy leader
MrsJ: Whats he doing here?

She is nudged by Malcolm Spalding who whispers quietly in her ear, we do not hear what he told her and Mr Lewis, the other attendee looks around furtively.  The Committee Chairperson quickly moves the meeting on.

MC: So the Royal Wedding, shall we have a street party and who is going to be in charge of what?
GH: I love a street party, but dont invite the Mayor we wont get a look in on the gin otherwise
MS: I can do car rides, for the children? I mean, when Cllr Ritchie isnt using it to pick up the kids from school that is
MC: Yes yes, but look we need to sort out whats happening because you know, I may or not be here, I may be you know, actually there...  Knight of the Realm and all that

Suddenly Daniel Moylan stubs out his cigarette on the mock antique table. His face appears through the cigarette smoke as he turns to the window and raises his arm with an outstretched index finger pointing to the road...

DM: There's your phantom

Everyone looks out the window just as a shadowy figure disappears into Warwick Road, scurrying off. The assembled committee rush out into the street but they are too late the figure has vanished.  The committee notice another large deposit left on the pavement.

Who is the mysterious Phantom, and who keeps leaving the business on the pavement?
Will Merrick attend the street party, or will he get his invite to the Wedding?
Find out the answers to these and other irrelevant questions in the next thrilling episode. Soon

We're all in this together

Hornet has to give praise where it's due. There has been no more adept exponent of supporting your lifestyle 'on the tax' than Sir Cockle. Sadly, all good things come to an end. His standard of living has been mauled by two economic body blows. The £26,000 a year from his part time chairmanship of the inept London Councils has gone, followed closely by unlamented passing of the useless Audit Commission.

However, it's not without reason Sir Cockle is known as the 'Bear Grylls of local government survivalism.'

Dame Hornet (yes, she just received this honour for services against local government manipulation) has been passed this snippet from a well placed friend.

Most middle and senior management staff at the Royal Borough are on performance related pay. Last year all staff had a pay freeze – except the only staff who did not earn any more money were the lowly paid, front line staff grades. At Kensington and Chelsea, performance-related bonuses are a contractual obligation – so the Council has to pay them every year, whether or not there is a pay freeze.

It is rumoured that one or two of the most senior staff refused their bonuses last year in order to share the pain of those on salaries of £15-20,000. We doubt whether this will continue – and the Council, while trumpeting the second year of a staff pay freeze – will quietly keep topping up the incomes of higher paid staff"

Now nothing has been heard about how, in this 'we are all in it together' era councillor allowances will be impacted.

Rumours that Sir Cockle is working on a performance related scheme for his Cabinet cronies may be wide of the mark, though suspiciously he is silent on the neat little plan.

How could he dare in these straitened times? But when you have suffered the financial body blows he has it might be a question of desperate times....desperate remedies.

Dame Hornet says, "Don't you dare, Dear Leader, you already on a juicy little earner as Leader....  at least Leader at the moment