Matt Harmer's April Newsletter

On St George, an Election, Schools and the Riverbank

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* St George's celebration *

I’ve been calling up a couple of old friends lately. Old friends who used to sell things at the Brentford Farmers Market, that is. On St Georges Day there will be a festival of things English in the High Street and it was felt that some home grown food might be of interest. Whilst I always enjoyed the Italian Cheese man I think that on this occasion we will have some meat, fish and apple juice. Alan the fish man asks me to ask you if there are any advance orders, and to say that he expects to have some dressed crabs, pickled cockles and other delicacies, plus some mushrooms that he grows. I won’t be certain until a few days before as it’s not always easy for stallholders to fit in an extra day, but regardless of this there will be some good stuff happening on the High Street.

Of course, I wish the Farmers Market had worked out. The first one that we did had most of Brentford there and one stall had sold out after 90 minutes (they even sold the home-made cheesecake they had promised me) but sadly it wasn’t sustainable in the long term. There are others locally, which is excellent news, and it will be interesting to see if a one-off works.

Anyway, the St George's Day celebration will be held between 3pm and 7pm on the High Street. There’ss be more information on nearer the time. Come down and say hallo. (And as I’m sure you already know, St George's Day is April 23rd).

* At last *

Well, to no-one’s great surprise, there’s going to be an election. Whilst the general election has only just been confirmed, the local elections have been scheduled for May 6th pretty much for ever – certainly since the last local elections in 2006.

As you can imagine, it keeps us busy. We try not to purposefully knock on doors just as dinner’s ready/the football’s kicking off/the phone’s just rung, though it probably appears that way. At least the weather has improved, as it’s not really feasible to talk over the finer points of local government administration whilst the temperature inside someone’s house plummets thanks to an open door.

It also has an effect on casework. The Council is now in a condition called ‘purdah’ which means that it’s forbidden to make any announcements that could be seen to favour one candidate or group of candidates over another. It’s why we’re all having to do without HM magazine this month. Now, it’s arguable that this could cover every bit of casework. Should I be able to tell someone I’ve just helped them repair their window, for example? I’d argue that I should, because individual pieces of work like that aren’t really political, at least not with a capital P.

But it might stop some things, like finding out the results of a consultation exercise, such as the one carried out recently into whether or not there should be a controlled parking zone in certain streets near Griffin Park.

There’s no doubt that the letters C, P, and Z are enough to galvanise opinion like little else, and that’s fair enough. What’s been impressive about the survey recently completed (involving Lateward, Hamilton and New Roads and Westbury Place) is that a lot of thought has gone into the arguments for and against. Perhaps most important is whether or not the policy under which we decide these things is correct.

At present, we ask the question on a road by road basis. But there is an obvious knock-on effect and a good argument has been made for selecting a network of streets that relate to each other, drawing a line around those streets and looking at the answers provided by all respondents. This would be instead of the present scheme, which tends to ‘pick off’ roads that are positive and therefore potentially put added pressure onto roads that decided in the first instance that they were happy with existing arrangements.

At the very least, altering the decision-making process would, I imagine, reduce the perception held by some residents opposed to the principle of CPZs that as councillors we are obsessed with introducing them, because of financial rewards or a wish to control every element of residents’ lives. With these proposals it is impossible to please everyone – honestly, we are trying to find the best solution for the greatest number of people.

* Missing families *

The Schools saga continues. Many thanks to all who have emailed. There are two sad stories emerging. The first concerns young people heading to a secondary school some way away from home and some way away from friends they have made at Primary School as a result of not getting the first, or second, or fifth choice that they made. The raw data seems to suggest that having an older brother or sister at a school will get you in if you are a Brentford family, however no sibling means little chance. We’re still waiting for the entrance figures with siblings removed from the data, and indeed the purdah rules may prevent us getting it for another few weeks.

The other and just as worrying story is that reflected in emails I have received from readers of this email who used to live in the area but have relocated. And why have they done this? Schools.

My colleague Ruth Cadbury once remarked that her core ambitions were to try and improve the borough’s homes and schools because, that way, other things would follow on. Families would settle, employment would increase, a sensible level of development would be achieved.

This week, parents of TW8 primaries have contributed well over 300 signatures in a petition presented to the council’s leadership. If you have signed this, thanks for doing so. I hope it encourages the leadership to move forward with applications for securing funding for schools, applications which a year ago we were told would be in place by now.

Individual case studies still help, please feel free to email them to me or Ruth ( or call 07503 212 735

* Tide turning *

The potential to do something to smarten up the riverbank at Watermans park crept forward an inch or two last month. About a year ago I used a new and fairly obscure piece of local government procedure (fascinating stuff, I know) to get the state of the riverside tidied up and try and do something about some of the unsightly and unlicensed moorings there.

It’s been a useful process and we’ve all become semi-expert on whether or not the Council, the Queen or various organisations half way between the two have ownership and/or control over various bits of the riverbank. I can’t say we know the answers, but we’ve got a half-decent idea what questions we should be asking. Anyway, the leadership of the council (whoever that should turn out to be from May) are being asked to take charge with named councillors working to a definite timetable to achieve defined objectives. That may not sound like much but, believe me, it counts as progress compared to the. er, drifting that has gone on for years. The report can be read by going to

* Get in touch *

Whatever else is going on, I'm still a councillor and still here to help. Email me at or phone 020 8560 7033. And apologies if I disturb you from doing something important over the next few weeks…...

Councillor Matt Harmer
Brentford ward Labour councillor
London Borough of Hounslow

contact: 153 Ealing Rd
Brentford, Middlesex TW8 0LF
telephone: 020 8560 7033

April 9, 2010

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