A Lively Meeting with Brentford Ward Candidates
Brent Lea, Watermans Marina, cycling and affordable housing the main topics
Tuesday night (30 June) saw a small but lively group in St Paul's church as over 60 people gathered to meet the candidates for the Brentford ward by election which takes place on July 9th.
As with past hustings, Suzie Betlem, President of Brentford Chamber of Commerce chaired the event which was sponsored by Neighbour Net, the company behind BrentfordTW8.com
The candidates gave a brief introduction. Some are well known to us, others are new faces. Guy Lambert (Labour) has lived in Brentford for over 20 years as has Joe Bourke (Liberal Democrats) with Patrick Barr (Conservative) a recent arrival. George Radulski (UKIP) lives in Bedford Park and Diane Scott (Green) has lived in Chiswick for over 30 years.
Joe has stood for local and general elections before in Brentford and is well known by football supporters for his involvement with Bees United and Brentford FC when times were much harder.
Patrick joined the Conservative party 4 years ago and ran in Southfield ward in Ealing Borough before joining Mary Macleod's campaign. He thinks Hounslow needs holding to account for their complacency and that a Labour councillor wouldn't help.
George, a chartered accountant, (twice) commended Hounslow for giving discounts to businesses who pay London Living Wage, a recently announced policy. He believes that 30 minutes free parking should be expanded to an hour.
Diane has had a career in medical research and has campaigned against Heathrow for a number of years. She unsurprisingly would like to focus on environmental issues like air pollution.
Guy was slightly on the defensive as panel and public alike challenged him to demonstrate and promise that he would not toe the party line, whether on a local or national level and that he would criticise the council where necessary.
All the panel claimed to be cyclists, some more recently than others. George advocated a 30mph in some parts of London that should be combined with cameras and penalties to make it work and that cars should be penalised for using the wide green box for cyclists at traffic lights. The council is doing what it can, according to Guy and the cycle superhighway is needed, with the current proposal for 20mph limit part of the solution. Joe said there needed to be a London wide solution to look at minimising traffic through boroughs rather than just within and that buses and taxis should be electrified. Patrick advocated an urbanised health campaign on 30 minutes exercise that should be used to promote cycling. Diane agreed with the 20mph limit, advocating car poolings and welcomed the ultra low emissions for central London that will be brought in. She added that some pedestrian crossings at the A4 were hazardous for pedestrians and that she doesn't like cycling in Brentford.
Evan, a retired teacher, asked about Brent Lea, the location of Floreat school and why pressure hasn't been put on TfL to release Commerce Road. Guy tried to clarify that a 125 year lease has not been granted [which it hasn't] but the public were not convinced. There was general agreement that Brent Lea wouldn't do as a permanent site but no alternative sensible options were offered. Evan further asked Patrick why a Conservative government would not allow Councils to plan for schools in the local area, with free schools diverting money away from their control. Patrick replied that he didn't know. George read in a newspaper that the school places at Floreat have already been taken. Guy and Joe both tried to explain what Heads of Terms are but didn't succeed. There was a cry of "residents are being ignored". Joe said the council had looked at over 100 sites as potential school sites and what is the point of regeneration if there aren't any options; indeed why call it planning if you can't make provision for schools? He also added that with regards to the temporary site it's a done deal and all a bit late in the day. Richard Hendron (UKIP at general election) asked Guy to clarify whether he would fight against 125 years to which Guy replied yes, although he wasn't opposed to a 2 year solution.
A member of the public gave praise to Guy for saying the at the decision on the permanent site would be made by the Council Leader and the CEO. "We don't elect a CEO. The council operates as a dictatorship".
What was clear from the audience, as it was in the Brent Lea Meeting, is that people are increasingly frustrated by the actions taken by the council and the lack of transparency and consultation (whether perceived or real). The next questioner asked about bringing back democracy. Patrick referred to the Labour councillors as 48 lapdogs, George said those who voted for Brent Lea should be "voted out" and Diane added that we've already got 11 Conservative councillors. Joe commented that decisions like Brent Lea should be made by the full council rather than Cabinet.
There was some discussion about whether committee system allowed more scrutiny than cabinet does. Patrick suggested that those in power, regardless of party, became complacent and lazy and new blood was needed. Joe pointed out that most councillors were not full time and that effective local area committees were needed. Diane criticised councillors at the Cabinet meeting on Brent Lea for not paying attention to what was being said.
To a question on keeping it local posed by Nico (Hounslow Green) George said that if companies like Amazon paid their taxes they wouldn't have such an unfair advantage and that he would press his MP on this. Guy commended regeneration in Brentford for giving us a Costa Coffee and two Sainsbury locals and said that Brentford market was for people with a lot of money, not very Brentford. Guy advocated a continued riverside path between Watermans and Morrisons, pointing out the lack of Thames Path contributing to the rapid turnover of restaurants in Ferry Quays. Diane suggested two tier business rates: one for independent and a higher one for nationals. George said that it's important to retain the diversity of shops, that Brentford doesn't want to end up like Chiswick. Brompton Bicycles are moving their factory to Greenford as they can't find an alternative landsite locally
On the question of affordable housing, George said developer should make a profit of 15% only and affordable housing should be built as well as luxury flats. Guy pointed out that affordable is 80% of market price which isn't affordable to most and that councils need money for social housing. Diane said we need a Land Value Tax and that councils should insist on affordable housing. Joe suggested that planning regulations that restrict the level of land to build on in London should be softened. Patrick said that the council are holding back on over 300 council homes that they aren't releasing.
At this a woman who clearly couldn't believe what she was hearing, stood up and shouted that she and her young children had spent six weeks in B&B temporary accommodation with difficult travel for school, housing officers don't answer the phone and how dare the Council keep houses back? No one could answer. Her friend then expressed her dissatisfaction with the council and was very angry with Guy Lambert for "having her investigated". Brenda had previously been found guilty of verbal assault, having threatened Ann Keen.
Jo Russell asked for the candidates' opinions on the proposed Watermans Marina, saying "you've got to have a white plastic boat" under the new proposal. George said he'd try and help boats find alternative moorings and that the developer should be told to keep the current boats at the new moorings. To which the audience pointed out that the Council is the developer. Patrick suggested the council funds the owners to make their boats look more attractive. Guy said the boats have always been eyesore, don't pay anything and discharge effluent into the Thames. Guy also added this is a money making scheme and the council haven't got any so why didn't they do this earlier. Diane said it was part of the gentrification of Brentford and she was against it, adding that the council ignored all objections and a lot of damage will be done to the local habit.
You can scroll through @brentfordtw8 for the live account.
The by-election takes place on Thursday 9th July.
July 4, 2015