Sunday, 20 November 2011

Where Is Our Money?

Residents demand answers after 250 march to save St. John's Community Centre

Any talk of "consultation" would seem superfluous now after a massive 250 local residents turned out to let councillors and the London Borough of Hounslow know that we want to keep our Community Centre open.

The march, organised by the Independent Community Group (ICG) and supported by the St. John's Residents' Association, The Isleworth Society (TIS) and 32 user groups based at the Centre, at one point filled Linkfield Road from the gates of St. John's Gardens almost as far back as Loring Road. Two local councillors - Theo Dennison (Syon, one of the Lead Members responsible for presenting the Report to Cabinet proposing closure) and Ed Mayne (Isleworth, Cabinet member) - attended the protest and took the time to hear residents' concerns.

Nobody can now be in any doubt at all as to the determination of local people to halt this latest assault by the Lampton Road bureaucracy upon Isleworth's ability to organise and to function as a community.

And now the attention has turned to the small matter of the £250,000 which was set aside at the 2010 Hounslow Council Budget Meeting specifically for the purpose of repairing the roof of the Centre.

When the Lead Member's Report, prepared by senior officers, was submitted to Cabinet on Tuesday, 8th November by Councillors Corinna Smart and Theo Dennison one of the reasons given for closure was the cost that would allegedly be incurred in bringing the property into full repair. Significantly, however, no mention was made of the quarter of a million pounds set aside for this very work by Borough Council in March 2010 at the insistence of the ICG.

Neither of these councillors were members of the local authority at the time of the 2010 Budget Meeting (although some of their Cabinet colleagues were). Did they know about this allocation of funding? And if not, does this mean that senior officers deliberately withheld this crucial information from them when preparing the Report in order to ensure that Cabinet took the "right" decision?

Indeed, is the money even still there? And, if not, where has it gone and under whose authority has it been spent elsewhere (we have been assured that no member decision has been taken at any time authorising any such transfer)?

The lack of co-operation by chief officers towards the Community Group at the latter end of the coalition administration of 2006-2010, at best tolerated and in all probability encouraged or possibly even instigated by our Conservative coalition partners, is a matter of demonstrable record. However if it transpires that chief officers have ignored the legally binding decision of a Budget Meeting then the line is crossed into completely new territory and such an act could not possibly be ignored nor swept under the carpet.

Residents supported by the ICG are using all means available to them to gain access to this vital information and this blog will be updated with any new developments. 

Watch this space.


More nuts please said...

I know its an old chestnut, but is the tribal nature of mainstream politics going to dictate that none of the local councillors get actively involved in this ?

Typicle ICG Whinger said...


Kind, warm and cuddly ICG councillors secure £250k of funding to renovate run-down St Johns Community Centre.


Evil, hard-hearted new administration seek to flog the dump and grab all the wonga for themselves.

We call it dishonesty, they call it.........taking the p*ss !

Anonymous said...

Sorry to ask such an awkward question Phil, but was the original £250k grant secured in the knowledge that it would only cover limited restoration work and that a similar sum would have to be found at a later date for more extensive work by whoever was ruling the roost at LBH after the 2010 election ?

Dishonesty/Politics ? said...

I can see anon's point Phil.

On the face of it, you launched and only 'half-fulfilled' a major initiative just before an impending election.

The obvious danger was that a new administration with a different ideology would abandon the project or pull the plug on it completely, which seems to be the case now.

LBH 2011 are adamant that renovating then running the centre just isn't going to be cost-effective and it's hard to see a good angle to counter this view if they're only seeing things in terms of pounds, shillings & pence !

Phil Andrews said...

No, that is not quite how it was.

When the ICG negotiated the £250k for the roof there was no suggestion that anything beyond that amount would be needed to fully restore the property. The sum of £500k mysteriously appeared with the Cabinet report recommending closure on November 8th this year.

There is no detail to support this claim and this department is perfectly capable of inventing such a figure simply to support its case for disposal.

The difficulty we are more likely to face will be the department denying all knowledge that this money was specifically earmarked for St. John's, as the SMT was successful in its efforts to ensure that no mention of St. John's was included in the minutes of the budget meeting of March 2010 and the local elections intervened before we had the time to enforce this.

Expect now to hear them plead that this cash was for general improvements to community buildings around the borough and not in any way intended for St. John's.

The weakness in this totally fictitious argument will lie in the fact that the local papers carried the story of the money being set aside for St. John's back in March 2010 and nobody, member or officer, wrote in at the time to contradict it.

Thinker said...

Labour know the ICG organises through the resident groups and community centres and are trying to close you down no matter whether you plan to stand in the next election or what. The only question is who fears you the most, officers who are frightened you'll get back into office and finish the job or Labour who know they will never control the community as they like to for as long as the ICG is still around.

Poacher-Gamekeeper-Poacher said...

Yes Phil, the original grant of £250k was well documented at the time, but it seemed strange that this amount was intended just for the roof and that no additional funding would be required at a later date.

The impression given at the time was that the centre was very run down and would need extensive renovation, but the roof had to be fixed as a matter of urgency.

Have we got it wrong again ?

Anonymous said...

They came, they marched, they had a good moan
Revolting peasants all over St Johns
Placards acquired at suspiciously short notice
A flash-mob army always ready to strike
'Ordinary' people from all walks of life
Shoulder to shoulder, like brother and sister
Tesco beware, your car park is next
They'll camp out in tents, 'a la St Pauls
Clubcard holders every last one
But what makes them do it, why do they bother ?
Chasing a lost cause when they could be making jam
Outsiders would'nt understand nor comprehend
So let's not try to
Just enjoy the jam !

Poacher-Gamekeeper-Poacher said...


Yet another dodgy 'consultation' prodding at the very vitals of the good people of Isleworth.
Plans are now afoot to place a mini-roundabout at the junction of St Johns Road and Twickenham Road.
Not so bad you might think.
However the same scheme replaces the traffic lights at the junction of South Street and Twickenham Road with a mini-roundabout !

An exhibition of this plan is now taking place at Isleworth Leisure Centre, where "Consultation Response Forms" are available as well as illustrated flyers.

The consultation closes on 5th December, but fear not.
If you can't make up your mind by then, officers will be present there later today between 4pm-8pm (and on Monday 28th Nov between 4pm-8pm) to tell us why we must have it and generally look down their noses at us.
The scheme is 'supposed' to lead to less traffic congestion.
Maybe it will, maybe it won't but it'll certainly lead to a lot more road-rage incidents.

Don't tell us Phil, you think it's a GREAT idea !

Phil Andrews said...

@ P-G-P 12:54

You ask if "we" are wrong again PGP but it would appear from the sequence of names that this was your first post on the thread.

For the sake of clarity, could you please inform us as to who gave the impression to whom, when and through which means that another £250k needed to be spent on the Centre to bring it up to scratch in addition to the money that the ICG secured?

Because, like your good self, I was a councillor at the time, I attended the budget meeting and took part in the debate, and yet I can recall no mention of any such monies by any officer or member.

Indeed, the first I heard of it was in the officers' report presented to Cabinet by Councillors Dennison and Smart.

Could you therefore give us any details of this additional work that has now been announced as being required, and of how it came to be costed at an extra £250k?

In fact, if this discussion between us is to have any real credibility in the eyes of third parties looking in, do you think you might be able to give other forum users your name?

Anonymous said...

Those in control of Hounslow have difficult decisions to make and cannot simply say no when the alternative is to cut essential frontline services. Delicate financial considerations need to be factored in and balanced and whipped up community protests cannot always expect to win the day against intelligent political analysis and informed officer expertise. The Labour administration is not going to be kowtowed by the threat of a march or an organised protest by a loud, unrepresentative minority every time you don't get your own way.

Phil Andrews said...

250 residents from a small corner of Isleworth comprising no more than twice as many households is one hell of an "unrepresentative minority".

I suppose the next thing we are going to hear is the old chestnut about the "silent minority" being enthusiastically supportive of closure?

Some of you people have learned absolutely nothing, have you? I'm wondering whether Thinker and D/P are right after all, that this is simply ideologically driven.

Anonymous said...

It's always the one for me
ICG always support me
Everything I want the ICG is on my side
Every rabble, every moaner has the ear of the ICG
For they are on everybody's side
Don't understand political realities
Don't understand complex issues
Politicians yet not politicians
Inexpert yet thousands lend them their ears
Cos they are as stupid as the ICG.

Horse said...

To the victor goes the spoils, you said it yourself Phil.

Labour beat you fair and square at the last borough elections and they are going to dismantle every community group and community centre in Isleworth and Syon this side of the next ones. There is nothing you can do about that it makes good political sense for them to do it.

Phil Andrews said...

One of the original press articles covering the allocation of the £250k spend to St. John's can be found here:

The fact that St. John's was the intended recipient was not challenged by anybody subsequent to the article. However the then Leader of the Labour Group on the council did express the view that to spend this money on the St. John's Centre was "a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money".

Dishonesty/Politics ? said...

Phil, looking at the local press articles covering the original £250k grant, do you not think they gave the impression that further funding WOULD be needed at a later stage ?

Yes, the emphasis was very much on repairing the roof, but the words and pictures used clearly suggested that additional INTERNAL renovation would also be required.

I'm particularly referring to the photograph(not now obtainable on the internet archives I believe) showing your good lady wife inside the building, staring up at the ceiling.

Now don't go all Alf Garnett on me Phil, it's an honest observation not a personal attack.
I think BOTH sides have to be more honest about what exactly their figures of £250k & £500k was/is supposed to cover.

Phil Andrews said...


All the damage and wear and tear illustrated in the original photos was to the roof, or was a consequence of the damage to the roof, and would therefore be rectified by repairing the roof.

I keep hearing about "impressions given" and "suggestions" but nothing very scientific or tangible.

Yes, of course it is inevitable that at some stage in the future further repairs will need to be done. This is a no-brainer and applies to any building. But the fact remains that there was no suggestion from anybody that a further tranche of work costing another £250k would be necessary until the idea was mooted to sell the building.

I don't take your criticisms, or those of P-G-P if you are different people, as a personal attack. I just think you are wrong, and that will remain my view until you are able to put some meat onto the bones of your case by providing some kind of evidence beyond unspecified "implications" and "suggestions" from behind a nom de plume.

Surely you must see that thus far at least you have not demonstrated your case beyond vagaries and mere suppositions?

The simple fact is this - LBH have announced that additional work needs to be done on the building which had previously not been identified at a cost of an extra £250k. We are asking them to tell us what this work will entail and how that figure was reached.

If they are telling us the truth they should easily be able to provide this information.

Or have I missed something obvious?

Thinker said...

According to one Labour councillor in this weeks Chronicle community centres are "not frontline". Say after me, frontline services = dependant on Labour and don't answer back. Proud independant community = not frontline and must be smashed. Same old, same old. So why aren't you interested in taking on these people these days?

Phil Andrews said...

Er, Thinker, I helped organise the march. Any chance you could let us know what you are doing?

That Whinger Again said...


The blue team PLEDGE £250k to 'renovate' St Johns Community Centre.


The red team QUOTE £500k to 'renovate' St Johns Community Centre.

Let the Punch & Judy show begin, as both sides question and quibble at how the other arrived at their figure and what 'renovation' was being covered.
It could run and run forever because apparently one of the sides is inexpert and unable to understand complex issues, and the other side's the ICG.

Thinker said...

Some of us have jobs to do during the day, families to feed, you know that kind of thing? That's why we can't spend all our time getting involved in politics, much though we might like to. That's why we look to you to do it, or is that too complicated for you?

Phil Andrews said...

"Some of us have jobs to do during the day, families to feed, you know that kind of thing? That's why we can't spend all our time getting involved in politics, much though we might like to. That's why we look to you to do it, or is that too complicated for you?"


Dishonesty/Politics ? said...

No point in trying to put any 'meat' on any 'bones' now that you've grandly declared that I'm WRONG !

Of course, I see it now and I don't know how I could've been so silly.

Any internal damage caused to the centre by water seeping through the old leaky roof for months on end was going to magically heal itself once the new non-leaky roof was in place.

That huge crack/hole in the ceiling/wall Caroline was gazing at so intently would've just disappeared as soon as the last slate was laid.

My my, I'm gonna have to be very careful in future.

Dare I comment on the next local issue and risk making such a fool of myself again ?

Phil Andrews said...

Okay D/P, you have a point, I could have worded my post better.

But what I actually meant to say was this - when we secured the £250k for the roof this was not a figure we dreamed up from nowhere. It was an estimate given to us by the same officers who are now claiming that the cost of bringing the Centre up to spec would be £500k.

Most importantly - and this is the crux - it was a quote for ALL the work thst needed doing, both to the roof and elsewhere as a consequence of the damage to the roof.

The fact that we were drawing attention to the additional damage as well as that to the roof should make this obvious.

What we are being told therefore is either

(a) that the cost of this work was underestimated in March 2010, or

(b) that the additional £250k is in respect of damage to the building sustained since March 2010.

We do not know which of these two it is, so we have asked those officers for an explanation. What is so unreasonable or wrong about that that inspires such anger in you?

Michaela Fedek said...

Phil I can appreciate why it is you allow posters to contribute anonymously to this forum but it does detract somewhat from the quality and legitimacy of a topic when you find yourself embroiled in a protracted disagreement with a sock puppet.

For all you know Dishonesty could be a Labour or Conservative politician winding you up, a council officer, a renegade ICG supporter or none of these things.

Please Phil, anonymous comments by all means but people who want to get involved in deep discussions of this kind should do us all the courtesy of letting us know who they are and where, if anywhere in particular, they are coming from.

Sniping from under the cover of anonymity is the most cowardly approach to debate but sadly prevalent on internet forums (although this does not detract from the strength of Dishonesty's argument, and I think he/she present his/her case very well).

Phil Andrews said...

Just by way of an update, it would seem the allocation of the £250k for the roof work is at least being acknowledged by LBH. We had feared this would not be the case, so this is a positive.

Talks with the Lead Member are taking place, but there has been no final decision one way or the other as yet.

Dishonesty/Politics ? said...

Confucius he say: "Man who confuses anger with exasperation invites the fleas of a thousand yaks to infest his underpants and replicate the corrosive action of rainwater penetrating a leaky roof".

Phil, surely even you will concede that your last explanation was somewhat different to all the details we were given way back in March 2010 and at the beginning of this thread ?

Looking at those words, particularly the "BH Times" article, the distinct impression was given (sorry but it WAS !) that the grant of £250k was intended solely to repair/replace the leaky roof.

Repairing associated damage caused by the leaky roof was not mentioned at all, though this was likely to have been considerable.
Therefore it was not unreasonable for plebs like me to assume that money for this 'other' work would have to be found at a later date by whatever administration was ruling after the May 2010 election.

Naturally, things came to a head when the new administration quoted the prohibitive figure of £500k for COMPLETE renovation.
However given what had been said/reported before, your argument/objection seemed totally illogical/misplaced.
With nothing to indicate that the original £250k was meant for anything other than the roof,£500k for an all-inclusive overhaul seemed perfectly credible.

Even now there is still confusion over what exactly the original grant was/wasn't supposed to cover, last weeks Chronicle clearly stating: "£250,000 for repair work to the roof".
What a tangled web we weave !

No hard feelings I hope and of course I DON'T want a load of fleas to eat your b*ll*cks - you would'nt be able to give me a lift back to Southall after "Carols in the Square" otherwise, would he Michaela (I'm sure you can make dodgy anagram out of my name) Fedek.

When characters like her suddenly appear out of nowhere, you know it's time for bed.
Perhaps one of MY friends Cath Gowine/Ian Chowteg would like to take up the baton.

In the meantime, perhaps Ms Fedek would like to do a little research then tell us why Ronnie Barker used to submit scripts under the name of Gerald Wiley ?

Phil Andrews said...

Much of this is far too cryptic for me D/P, but I would have thought a photo of Caroline standing next to a wall showing associated damage caused by a leaky roof would have been indication enough that repair of said associated damage was part of the deal?

And fwiw, I STILL can't see where the impression was given that it wasn't.

Bagpuss said...

All much of a muchness I would say. The big question atill is whether the new regime wants to support communities or evict them.

The impression I gained from reading local forums was that the battle lines in Hounslow were slowly being redrawn with the Tories as the villains of the piece after the coalition betrayal but this would seem to be standing in the way of that as it threatens to return us all to the battles of old.

Incidentally the Tories are being very quiet has anybody noticed? Mary Macleod turned out to join the march against library closures but on this march not a Tory to be seen. Is there a reason for this do we know?

Anonymous said...

phil ,
that building is old , why not have it listed by the english heritage so they can secure grants rather than waiting for local authority its just a suggestion

Phil Andrews said...

Hi Abid

Thanks for your comments.

We are doing some work on this at the moment. If it can be listed then we will ensure that it is.