Friday 2 January 2015

Phibbs and more Phibbs – contrasting Harry's words with his deeds and the facts

Cllr. Harry Phibbs (Con)
Only four out of the twenty Conservative councillors elected to represent wards across Hammersmith and Fulham showed up to the last Full Council Meeting on 5th November. It’s now common for H&F’s Conservatives councillors to just not to show up to committee meetings at all - even when vital issues are being reviewed. None of this has however stopped Cllr Harry Phibbs (Con) telling borough residents that the recently elected chair of the planning committee should return some of the £5,564.70 special responsibility allowance (SRA) he is paid to run the planning process because a January meeting has been cancelled. So we thought we’d review both Harry Phibbs’ and H&F Conservatives’ record on council pay and planning and contrast it with what's happening since H&F's residents removed them from office last May.

Harry Phibbs featured in Private Eye magazine's Rotten Boroughs
Firstly, H&F's newly elected Labour administration voted to cut all their special responsibility allowances by 10% at their very first Full Council meeting on 16th June 2014.

Harry Phibbs had a starkly different approach: back in 2007 Phibbs voted to give himself and his fellow Conservative councillors a staggering 18% council salary rise; in the same year Phibbs successfully sought an extra £6,034 SRA payment for chairing the adoptions panel – a post that previously didn’t carry an SRA; and a year later in 2008 Phibbs supported the Conservative council leader’s bid for a 14% salary rise. And if Harry was harbouring any delusions that he might have ever been a worthy custodian of public money we feel compelled to point out that it was Harry Phibbs who argued squandering £7,104 of tax payers’ money on a Monday afternoon booze up for a favoured official was a good thing.

Sixteen empty Conservative benches and no Harry Phibbs.
Only 4 out of 20 Conservative councillors turned up to
Hammersmith & Fulham's last Full Council Meeting
Secondly let's consider the difference in approach to planning and development in the borough. Soon after winning the local elections in May 2014 the newly elected Labour administration voted to ban councillors from taking hospitality from property developers; Labour's councillors voted to give residents speaking rights at planning committee meetings and they agreed to publish details on H&F Council’s website of all meetings  their administration has with developers. All these improvements happened under the leadership of the very same new chair of planning that Harry Phibbs has decided to pick on.

Contrast that with H&F Conservatives' record: Conservative councillors enjoyed lavish hospitality from the developers and lobbyist behind some of their most controversial property schemes; they were attacked by the Sunday Times for splurging £11,839 of tax payers money sending a Conservative councillor to Cannes on the French Riviera so he could have secret talks with property developers; and even produced this council video which said they had removed the "uncertainty around planning applications" to help property developers which was done at the expense of the very Hammersmith and Fulham residents they were supposed to be representing. Conservative councillors consistently refused for eight years to allow residents to speak at planning meetings – even when some of the developments would devastate their neighbourhoods. Phibbs himself was the former Conservative Administration's chief apologist - even arguing for his Ravenscourt Park constituents' homes to be blighted by a planning scheme that even Boris Johnson later rejected.

Harry Phibbs knows that he's being a hypocrite. He has a long history of hypocritical attacks as Private Eye exposed in the attached article.

Phibbs took a very soft line when Conservative councillors failed to turn up to a council committee he used to chair - you can see  a good example of that here. Indeed, Phibbs himself missed the last Full Council Meeting and has missed nearly all H&F Council's cabinet meetings since May 2014 when he became the borough's Opposition spokesperson for environment, leisure & residents services.

So maybe it's Harry Phibbs who should be giving his council salary back. We advise it would be a good way for him to apologise to the borough's residents for all the unnecessary things he and his colleagues squandered public money on and for all the quite awful things the former Conservative administration did to planning and land development when he helped run Hammersmith and Fulham council.

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