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Thursday, 22 June 2017

NICK ROSS WRITES......

NICK ROSS

Dear Members,

A journalist has approached the Kensington Society with the specific interest in “a tale of two cities” – two Kensingtons.  I asked our president, Nick Ross, if he could respond.  Please see below his reply:
 

Amanda tells me you wanted to do a story on a divided community in Kensington, and perhaps one about fire safety.

On the first, though I know editors generally aren’t keen on nuance, a warning about clichés. There aren’t two communities in Kensington; there are many, and sometimes few in the sense that neighbours might not know each other well. It’s true there are very big wealth disparities in close geographical proximity, with Kensington and Chelsea having some of the most expensive housing in Britain, though arguably that’s better than having rich boroughs separated from poor ones. It’s also true there is a general wealth gap between the north and the south of the borough, although there is social housing mixed with private housing in every ward. It’s not true to say than only poor people live in high rise, or that the Grenfell tragedy was caused because of the wealth gap. Flats are on sale in Campden Hill Towers, one of the tallest blocks in the borough, at over £1m for little more than 800 sq feet - and that tower block doesn’t have sprinklers either.

What’s more Labour councillors and Labour ministers have been as slow about updating fire regulations, and as resistant to requiring sprinklers, as Conservative ones. I’ve been to see three ministers over the past thirteen years, urging the compulsory fitting of sprinklers in all social housing, and the Labour ones were as dismissive as the Tories. It’s true Kensington and Chelsea were like rabbits in headlights when the catastrophe unfolded, but I suspect most other boroughs, run by any or all political parties, are just as bad about contingency planning for this sort of thing. It’s true RBKC have huge financial reserves, and it’s questionable whether that’s a sensible policy given there is so much deprivation in the borough, but it’s also true that the decisions on how to upgrade Grenfell were taken by a committee with a big majority of tenants and independent members.

So it would be good if you could avoid oversimplifications.

The disgrace about Grenfell is actually complicated. While I and many fire chiefs have been passionate about sprinklers and are angry about what has happened – and you may have seen from Monday’s Panorama the specific warnings given to ministers by the All Party group, as I did to the Local Government Association in 2013 – nevertheless some other fire experts were half-hearted and wondered, given that fire deaths were declining for many years, whether it was worth the investment. Chief fire and rescue advisers to successive governments neither pressed hard for updating building regulations or for fitting sprinklers at least on the most vulnerable housing, and nor did they resign over what I saw as safety lapses. They were all good people, all trying to balance risk against expenditure. I disagreed with them and I think they gave bad advice, but they were not evil and they should not be cast as villains.

The task now is to make sure this never happens again. You could help by pressing the case for sprinklers, especially in social housing where there is often multi-occupation, where people tend not to afford the most up to date electrical equipment, and more residents tend to smoke more. We also need them in care homes, hospitals and schools – in fact everywhere where people rely on someone else for their own safety. Most of the 300 or so who die from fire each year do so in low-rise, so let’s not get fixated on tower block, cladding or ventilation systems, important as they are. No one has ever died in a home protected by a sprinkler. They’re cheap, at around £1,200 to £2,000 per dwelling, around the same as fitted carpets. In around 95% of cases they control the fire before the fire brigade arrives, only one sprinkler head triggers at a time as needed, they cause far less water damage, and they almost never go wrong. At Grenfell they would have put the fire out before it spread, and even if flames got unnoticed to the cladding, sprinklers would have stopped it gaining a foothold in other flats and would have washed the smoke from stairways and kept the temperatures down.

The real story is not one about a divided community but about how, with fire safety, it always takes a tragedy to get us all to act: north, south, rich, poor, left and right.

All good wishes.
Nick Ross, President
The Kensington Society

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

HOLGATE CALLED UPON TO RESIGN?

Holgate has to resign, yet Sir 'Delboy' Derek Myers gets a K! 

It's appalling that Holgate's head should roll in this way.
STATEMENT
SCAPEGOAT











Dear Dame

Yesterday, 20th June, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government required the Leader of RBKC to seek Nicholas Holgate's resignation.

Yours sincerely

Anon KC employee

JOHN McDONNELL SHAMES THE LABOUR PARTY

John McDonnell has suggested members of the IRA active units be 'honoured'....even those who bombed working class areas where children were present.
.....and before people start saying the Dame is anti Oirish...her ggrandfather was a leading Sinn Feiner from Ballina, Co Mayo and arrested by the British.

Those Mayo men would have shot those who killed children.

 "It's about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table." John McDonnell

This may be what McDonnell means..."Three-year-old Johnathan Ball died at the scene. He had been in town with his babysitter, shopping for a Mother's Day card. 
The second victim, 12-year-old Tim Parry died on 25 March 1993. 54 other people were injured, four of them seriously." 

Why are people so shocked? McDonnell comes, via Liverpool, of pure bred Irish Provo stock. 



He even considered a priestly vocation........and that
might have something to do with his reputation as an extreme misogynist.

McDonnell hates the English with a passion. 
That passion is vented in supporting the mass demonstration today.

The results of the recent election show that democracy works in this country. 

But that's not good enough for McDonnell.

The demonstration today will distract the police and the other services protecting Londoners against more terrorist atrocities.

The police and emergency services have enough to do without having to marshal crowds with malice on their minds. 

Let's not beat around the bush....

McDonnell gives the great Labour Party a really bad rap.

The great Labour leaders of the past must be turning in their graves...




Tuesday, 20 June 2017

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION KICKS OFF AT HORNTON ST



Dear Dame

The Met have served notice on RBKC that a criminal investigation has started and ordered the preservation of all documentation that pertains to Grenfell Tower.  A bit late IMO as I suspect the reason that Kensington Town Hall (KTH) was not only closed at the weekend, but off limits to ALL staff, was so that the shredders could go into overdrive without pesky witnesses.  I've worked at KC (based at KTH) for 25+ years and have NEVER known this to happen.

Re the Met's investigation, KC have retained expert advisors (I understand that a dozen or so QCs were to have attended tomorrow) to prepare for the investigation and Public Enquiry.  Given that the Town Hall is to shut "for safety reasons" tomorrow (Wednesday), I guess the silks will have wasted their journey.

Yours sincerely

Anon KC employee

CLADDING APPROVED BY PLANNING DEPT

Dear Dame

I found this interesting page from original 2012 refurbishment Grenfell Tower application.

It quite clearly shows that the decision on the type of cladding was in the hands of the Planning Dept at that time run by Jonathan Bore.
Yours sincerely
(name withheld)

Bore









Click to enlareg

Monday, 19 June 2017

A TOWN HALL BUILT FROM THE PROCEEDS OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY

Once upon a time, there was a most unpleasant leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council. 
His name was Nicholas Freeman and even has a prize named for him!

Freeman's grand plan was to build a pretentiously vulgar new Town Hall and nothing was going to get in his way; after all, the great Sir Basil Spence had shown him plans for the hideous monstrosity in Hornton St.
It would be replete with armorial bearings of past and present mayors(some mayors never had enough dosh to get that sorted!) and space for the Mayoral Roller and Jag....oh, and a vast Leader's Office.
Very common

There was just one slight problem....dosh again. 
Where was the dosh to come from to build this municipal Kubla Khan style palace?
Freeman decided he would quickly bulldoze the Old Town Hall. 
However, fuddy-duddy lovers of Victorian architecture got wind of it and applied for a listing. Undeterred and over the weekend, Freeman sent in the bulldozers(yes, a bit like the Odeon in the High Street).
Vandalised!

By Monday, there was nothing left.
So, the new Town Hall was built on the proceeds of a criminal action.



More Gossip from the Town Hall...

The Dame hears that Cllr Tim 'Oirish' Ahern has been 'pepping' up the staff, telling them it's all ok and in any case there are over 450 towers in the UK with similar cladding.
Tim's ex wife is 'social alpinist' and Yorkshire ex-copper's daughter, Phillipa Rose.
Poor old Pippa has been fingered by HMRC and told she owes millions for the film finance 'investment' that went wrong.
Tim was a shareholder in her now defunct head hunting operation so might be feeling the pinch.

LIONS LED BY DONKEYS

Dear Dame

I went to the service at St Mary Abbots today.

Despite the intense heat the splendid firemen and police were in their heavy uniforms. 
Young Mr. Feilding Mellen decided to model the cool summer days look with open neck shirt and what we, in our younger days, would call 'sports slacks'.
I will be having a word with his mum to suggest 
her son dress more appropriately for formal civic occasions commemorating the lost lives of residents: after all, if the firemen could take the trouble to dress in formal attire so could the deputy leader....very poor form, dear Dame,

Ever yours,

Lady M........y

Sunday, 18 June 2017

PLEASE DON'T DRAG POOTER COCKELL INTO THE TRAGEDY

In 2013 the leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was none other than that awful
political poseur, Sir Merrick 'Pooter' Cockell.
Pooter had a phenomenal record for expense claiming on international 'fact finding' sprees...until the Dame put a stop to his little games killing off his hopes of a peerage.
Pooter Playing Elder Statesman!

Money mad Pooter was at one time triple jobbing on the taxpayer to such an extent that he was earning more than the PM!


Nothing gave Pooter greater pleasure than being driven around in the mayor's new Bentley and hobnobbing with rich property magnates.

Not bad for an ex-fag salesman with not a qualification to his name. 
Pompous Pooter has now re-invented himself as a lobbyist and an adviser to PA Consulting (thanks to his mate, Jon Moynihan)
Obviously, the last thing Pooter wants is to be dragged into the Grenfell Tower tragedy so we need to make clear this threatening letter, to Eddie Daffern of Grenfell Action Group, was sent out in July 2013 and Pooter resigned in May, 2013 so that's ok then....

LINK TO INDEPENDENT




TASK FORCE APPOINTED ON GRENFELL DISASTER


The Rt Hon. Amber Rudd 17th June 2017
The Home Secretary
2 Marsham St,
Westminster,
London
SW1P 4DF


Dear Home Secretary
I welcome the recent announcement that the very necessary step has been taken to appoint a government Task Force to coordinate all relief and support in this disaster. This is not a moment too soon: we have been hearing this morning of experienced and organised volunteer groups’ despair at being asked to stand back when there was little or no help to replace them.
I have been in discussion over the past few days with local charities, voluntary organisations, and groups of volunteers working for affected residents. They have made representations to me, on the basis of which I I have collated a list of the following key issues they are facing and insist that the following actions are taken:
Immediate support for those affected
  1. No household or individual should have to contact many different parties to get the help they need. Every affected household or individual should have a named officer/social worker, and any handovers done with named replacements. Support should be available 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week.

  1. There must be officials from all relevant government departments and agencies on site to deal with benefit claims, identity documents, any issues related to immigration status and all other key administrative and bureaucratic issues.

  1. Those who need to bury their loved ones must be linked up with the free funeral services being so generously offered.

  1. I have been told that some people who have lost their homes have been sent out of borough and are being given only £10 per day subsistence. If this is accurate it must be addressed without delay.

  1. Those affected and in employment must receive help to inform employers so that they do not lose work because of this disaster.

  1. A very firm commitment that in the short, mid and long-term, residents affected are located within the borough or in close neighbouring boroughs - so they are close to their local networks, schools, work and communities - must be formally announced and communicated to all residents without delay.

  1. As soon as possible I would like to see a full and detailed breakdown of every category and approximate of person, what is being done for them, and where they are being relocated. This to include any temporary or AirB&B guests who may have been staying in the building.

  1. Information, reassurance and advice must be given to neighbouring residents living in towers, along with a timetable of safety checks, especially those in the Silchester estate.

Co-ordination of relief response
  1. There must be a single point of contact and a coordinated response to offers of support by volunteers whose skills and experience are needed, such as counsellors and psychotherapists and solicitors.
  1. There must be regular briefings throughout the day to all those involved in the relief effort, with a single point of contact in each group and a single point of contact for requests for information.

  1. Links must be established between donated funds and those who so desperately need them. Kensington and Chelsea Foundation are a well-established group and we need to see a robust method of getting funds out where needed and without delay.

I appreciate that fulfilling the above will require significant resources and do not want to minimise the scale of the task ahead. No doubt your team has collated a similar task list and I would be grateful for sight of this, and to have your firm commitment that all the above issues have been taken on board.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the extraordinary response of both the emergency services and the local community. Their input has been exceptional and unprecedented and offers an example to us all of what can be achieved when communities work together.
I look forward to your early response.
A copy of this letter is being sent to Councillor Nicholas Paget-Brown, Leader of Council of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
 


Emma Dent Coad

MP for Kensington

Saturday, 17 June 2017

HEALTH WARNING!! LEAVE CHD SERVICES ALONE




When we complain that no on listens to us it's much to do with the fact that we don't make our voices heard so PLEASE get involved in this vital consultation




The Royal Brompton Hospital in the middle of NHS England's public consultation phase on plans to decommission congenital heart disease (CHD) services at the hospital. If this plan goes ahead it would not just force CHD services to close, but could also close a range of other services – including the children's intensive care unit, the hospital's world-famous CHD research unit and a range of child services including cystic fibrosis and difficult asthma. Over 14,000 patients would be affected.
NHS England say their plans are to improve CHD care standards. But it makes no sense to try and improve standards by closing one of the country’s biggest, safest and most effective services, nor one of the most celebrated research units in the world.
There is more on the campaign HERE 
We are all very proud to have the Royal Brompton Hospital on our 'patch' so can we all take up the call to comment on this important consultation. Here is the link LINK TO CONSULTATION and the Trust’s guidance notes:LINK 
More information on the campaign is on the website: LINK


THE TMO NON EXEC BOARD OF BAUBLES

Roland 'Tiny' Rowland, that friend of African despots, described his Lonrho board as 'baubles on a Christmas Tree.
The description can equally be applied to Robert Black's KCTMO board....impotent, unqualified and a sop towards some sort of corporate governance.

But, comments on the Hornet make it abundantly clear the Council and 'the world and his wife' knew that the board had no powers of oversight or control over the Executive Team.

Nicholas Holgate, the Council's Town Clerk must have been aware this 'baubles on a Christmas tree' board served no useful purpose so why did he allow the charade to continue?

And, turning to the role of planning.....

If you want to change a door in a Conservation Area building it can take months and months with numerous visits from various busybodies.

The Planning Department allowed the equivalent of a petrol soaked overcoat to be draped over Grenfell Tower.
Whoever was responsible for allowing that to happen should be stood down until an investigation is complete.

Friday, 16 June 2017

SHOULD COUNCILS BE POLITICISED?

The Dame as a young gal with
her hunter, Pooter

When the Dame was a young lady(yes, many decades ago) she was a member of a West Country county council.

That council had two striking and defining features:






  • It successfully operated on the old Committee system
  • It had a very healthy grouping of independent members




Many sensible people are wondering whether councils dominated by one political grouping actually work.
There have been shocking examples of abuse of democracy on the parts of Labour and Lib Dem controlled councils so the K&C Conservatives are not alone.

What we need to see in K&C is a resurgence of independent candidates for it only in this way we will see a balancing of power. 
And, to reinforce that balancing of power, the return to the much-missed committee system where one hundred flowers were allowed to bloom.
On K&C we have seen excellent candidates sidelined for not towing the party line. 
This is bad for residents and bad for democracy.



NEWCOMBE HOUSE APPEAL DISMISSED....FOR THE MOMENT





The Dame's Planning Guru writes....

The thrust of the report exposes a dishonest developer being economical with the truth about the project economics.  And colluding with a greedy Housing Trust. The inspector considers that the developer, in seeking to conceal his profits and maximise value, put forward economics showing that the site value is too high, some evidence that the development value is too low, and the anticipated build costs are too great” and the

“The viability of the scheme has been understated”. “I am not persuaded that there needs to be a loss of the existing social housing bed spaces”

He went on to hammer the NHHT (Notting Hill Housing Trust), owner of the Social Housing, who would make a packet from selling the 125 lease of the social housing which is a core part of the site. NHHT wrote that “all residents it had met with have expressed a positive desire to be rehoused”. However this was contradicted by an occupant who gave evidence at the Appeal (he was excellent: Terence Hutton of Royston Court - a guy struggling to get his life back together from depression and alcohol)

So what we see is the thoroughly dishonest stitch up of money and developers (again) screwing our society in Kensington.

The objections of the Hillgate Residents Association (50% increase in the height of Newcombe Tower and appearance) were all dismissed.

It is pretty clear that the developers will come back with essentially the same proposal and find the money to build in 20 bedsits to keep social housing within the development. They will drop the GP surgery from the development and maybe the public space at the back of the building (these were the two things that the Kensington Society felt they negotiated in return for their support and the excitement of being small time power brokers). And they will drop all the other little sweeteners eg one way escalator to the Underground and free car club.

The whole thing is sad and pathetic.

In particular, the Planning Department needs to raise its game and take informed judgments about costs and viability in order to stop itself being hoodwinked. But then why would they want to do this in a developer friendly environment?

More evidence of the need for a clear out in Hornton Street. The whole context and structure of the culture there is rotten.

A MOB TERRIFYING JUNIOR COUNCIL STAFF

For seven years this blog has been a thorn in the flesh of the Council. It's been hard work but not once has a councillor subjected the Dame to violence!

Those who have lost their homes and family members are in a state of shock.
What is their reaction when they see the scenes of violence acted out in the Town Hall? 
It's doubtful that they feel it's doing them an iota of good in their time of despair.
In fact, if asked, they would probably wish that these people of violence would desist immediately for they do the cause of those suffering no good at all.
It's doubtful these masked people of violence, terrifying ordinary council staff or smashing up OUR property, have ever done much to remedy the democratic deficit.






BURYING BAD NEWS...... THE AFFINITY SUTTON WAY


CLICK TO READ EXFORD'S RUBBISH 
You have to hand it to Keith Exford, the £270,000 a year property manager at Affinity Sutton.
AXFORD


Just when everybody is thinking of the poor souls in Grenfell Tower Keith decides to sneak this out.
What a sad plonker!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

CABINET PUDDINGS AND 'WE KNOW BEST'

Moylan: Smug 'know all'

The Cabinet system of local government administration is deeply flawed.
It puts far too much power in the hands of a small group of ‘mates’ chosen not always for the best of motives.







There was never a good reason to switch from the old and well-tested committee system; after all, it worked well for decades.
One of its great advantages of the Committee System is that it allowed the leadership to draw upon a huge array of talent and expertise: it also overcame the ‘cabal’ effect of the Cabinet system.

This is not particularly an attack on K&C.

The Dame tells her Lib Dem and Labour friends they too would be tempted to ride roughshod over residents had they untrammeled control over a council.

One of the other great advantages of the old system was the flourishing of independent candidates: men and women who refused to be whipped.
They were often strong characters who asked the difficult questions: an excellent counterweight in a politically monopolistic council.
Let’s start a debate about the efficacy of the Cabinet system and the role of the Independent councillor.


At the same time let’s also focus on bringing home to K&C some of the many services we have outsourced during the Tri-Borough debacle.