Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Council Tax Cuts 'Paid for by Social Engineering'; Downgrading: Hammersmith Library

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Council Tax Cuts 'Paid for by Social Engineering'; Downgrading: Hammersmith Library

Article excerpt

Byline: ROSS LYDALL

A LONDON borough is accused today of pursuing a programme of "socialengineering" to help finance unprecedented council tax cuts.

Hammersmith and Fulham has announced plans to trim bills by three per cent forthe second year in succession bucking the trend of local government.

This is being done alongside radical policies to tackle crime and increasehousebuilding that could be adopted by Boris Johnson if he becomes Mayor nextyear.

But critics of the new Conservative administration say the cuts are beingfinanced by Thatcherite privatisation plus higher charges and staffredundancies.

They accuse the Tories of cutting services and social housing with the aim ofdriving poorer residents from the borough and changing its character. Theypoint to: .140 home helps being made redundant.

Increased charges for burials, meals on wheels and car parking.

The sale of a youth club, school buildings and council houses.

The downscaling of the main reference library.

A tightening of the criteria under which social care is provided.

New charges for recycling garden waste.

Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush, said: "Thelonger-term strategy is social engineeringif you have fewer poor people, you can spend less money and it will cost lesson the council tax.

"What they're trying to do is reduce the amount of social housing in theborough. I'm not alleging illegality but all the techniques are so similar towhat Shirley Porter did in Westminster back in the Eighties.

"The message is very clear: we don't really want you here. You cost us a lot ofmoney".

Dame Shirley was found guilty of gerrymandering by moving less wealthyresidents thought likely to vote Labour out of marginal seats in order topreserve Tory control at

Westminster city hall. She eventually paid [pounds sterling]12 million to her former authority.

Mr Slaughter, a former borough leader, said he had no objection to cuts incouncil tax, but questioned how they would achieved.

"I smell a rat," he said. "It's not just about cutting services. It's aboutchanging the character of the borough, which means disposing of anything to dowith the poor and trying to increase gentrification, which obviously haspolitical benefits for them." He believes his suspicions are supported by adelay in an Audit Commission report into the borough, which will not bepublished until mid-February after being challenged by the Tories. Labourbelieves the report may show Tory cuts have already harmed standards of servicefor residents.

Labour claims Hammersmith Library, in Shepherd's Bush Road, has been downscaledwith the withdrawal of its reference section and sale of its specialist bookscollection.

The mobile library and housebound readers' service have been axed. …

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