RESIDENTS of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham have complained to the Government Ombudsman that £27,000 of public funds has been used to finance hundreds of pro-EU banners in the area.
Even those who voted Remain are querying the council’s extravagance.
Some of the banners say ‘Proud members of the EU’ and others, directed at EU nationals, ‘Home is where the heart is: secure your right to stay’.
The Labour-run council have this sanctimonious statement on their website: ‘In Hammersmith & Fulham we know we must take urgent action and become the greenest borough in the UK. We’re not interested in tinkering around the edges, we want to take radical and fundamental action to make sure we’re on the right side of this historic challenge.’
Yet environmentalists point out the disconnect between these fine words and the council’s actions. The heavy-duty plastic banners are non-recyclable and will be dumped in landfill at the end of their pro-EU campaign.
These preening and profligate panjandrums should be spending our money on improving air quality, on youth clubs and finding solutions to knife crime. They apparently have no money to fix Hammersmith Bridge, which is causing huge traffic and pollution problems, or even start kerbside food waste collections like so many other councils that really do care about the environment, yet delight in throwing money at pointless political propaganda.
I called the council to ask for an explanation, but no one would discuss the banners over the phone. A Freedom of Information request subsequently yielded the following:
Dear Ms Stephenson,
Thank you for contacting us.
Seventy per cent of H&F residents voted to remain in the EU referendum and, reflecting that, the council’s policy is that Hammersmith & Fulham Council is opposed to Brexit and will do everything in its power to promote the benefits of the UK remaining in the European Union and to seek a People’s Vote on any Brexit deal, with an option to remain.
We will continue to take positive action to ensure that all EU citizens feel welcome in Hammersmith & Fulham and do all we can to encourage them to remain in our borough. To that end, we are currently running a publicity campaign to explain EU Settled Status and encourage H&F residents who are affected to apply. Some 30,000 residents are eligible to apply and as of 30 June 8,300 had done so.
A formal decision has been taken to spend up to £27,000 on this campaign.
h&f InTouch team
So there we have it: local authorities can take sides.
While many residents – Remain and Leave voters – are tightening their belts because council tax has increased by an inflation-busting 4.7 per cent, no doubt partly to pay for the council’s banner initiative, council leader Stephen Cowan feels so strongly about staying in the EU that he is employing an official with the task of stopping Brexit at an undisclosed salary. Labour is hitting the poorest the hardest.
Never mind that Government policy is to fulfil the democratic mandate of the people and leave the EU. Hammersmith and Fulham council have decided to run their own Citizen Smith-style personal fiefdom and use public money to promote their personal political opinions.