Olympics, Area Committees Now Forums, A4 and Gunnersbury Park

July Update from Councillor Matt Harmer

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*Olympics nearly here*

I’m starting with a bit of What’s On this time because it’s something that we won’t be seeing again for a while in these parts. Next Tuesday 24th July we have the Olympic Torch coming through. Now, I know that there’s a fair degree of cynicism about some of this and, yes, I know it was Goebbels that started the Torch rally but people I trust from outside London have gone to see the Torch passing through their area and they have enjoyed it more, much more, than they expected.

And tribute must be paid to everyone involved in setting up the events on the High Street that morning. Again, I won’t name them because then I’ll leave someone out and that won’t be right. Anyway, the Torch comes over Kew Bridge at 11am and continues along the road to the Town Centre where you’ll find stilt-walking, jugglers, groovy roller skaters, balloon modellers, walkabout entertainers who will mix and mingle with the crowd and plenty more, including Brentford FC Community Sports Trust (football skills will local children), Parkour free runners (running and jumping demonstration), London Cycling Campaign-Dr Bikes - smoothie maker (cycle the bike and make your own smoothie) and Active 360 (Paddleboarding on Brentford Lock).

More at www.hounslow.gov.uk/index/leisure_and_culture/olympics/torchrelay.htm

Other than that, I’m not sure that Olympic fever has really arrived yet, though that may be to do with the Arctic weather. My personal feeling is that everything will change once the Games start. I am about to have another go at getting tickets once I’ve sent this so see you at the Handball or Taekwondo or whatever. One serious thing is that we will be light on Police numbers in our area, and I’ve yet to discover if this has been worsened by the poor performance of G4S in getting the on-site security sorted.

But whilst we lose some police, temporarily I hope, we have gained some Army personnel in the area. For the next couple of weeks, there will be three lookout people at all times on top of Boulton House, one of the six Brentford Towers. There’s some extra radar stuff up there as far as I know, but no missiles or anything like that. Even if some people would like there to be.

*Forum help needed*

Now, I need your help. From time to time I have mentioned the Area Committee meetings that we have. These comprise a meeting of all the councillors representing Brentford ward (I’m one of them, along with Ruth Cadbury and Mel Collins), Syon ward, Isleworth ward and Osterley & Spring Grove ward. For the next year I’ll be the exalted vice Chair and have a responsibility that I hope you can help me with.

Attendance at the meetings is poor and I want to get more people along. One of the problems is the disparate content of the agendas. A bit of parking, something about a park, a presentation on a budget, it’s all a bit over the place. We do get people along when we are making a decision on something that affects people directly (residents of Hamilton Road and Westbury Place be aware that we will be discussing controlled parking in your roads on Thursday of this week, usual venue at Brentford Free Church, please do come along) and when there is something that has attracted a lot of attention.

I’m of the opinion that themed meetings might work. Sending a couple of hours on local education provision, for example, might attract interest. Perhaps a looser Question Time format to put us on the spot might work. If you could tell me what would get you along to one of these meetings then I’d be very happy to hear from you. Of course, it does beg the question that getting people to meetings should be our desired outcome. I’ve asked that we have a greater effort to use electronic media to attract attention to our decision making process. As for social media, I think i will resuscitate my Twitter feed for one night and if anyone wants to come and take a look at what is happening then you’ll be very welcome. I’m @CllrHarmerTW8. If you raise a question during the meeting I will raise it and let you all know the outcome.

Oh, and hang on to your hats but we have renamed them Forums. So from now on it’s Isleworth and Brentford Area Forum, IBAF. In time I would personally prefer that we move to a ward-based setup, as I don’t feel willing or able to be part of the decision-making process on issues affecting Isleworth and Osterley, and I imagine that some of the councillor for those areas feel the same. I would also hope that some funding can be moved directly to local forums. This wouldn’t be ‘new’ money (there won’t be any of that for a long time) but rather than having completely centralised decision-making we can move just a little out to ward councillors.

*A4 slow progress*

One issue that did attract people to previous meetings was the A4 and we continue to inch towards some action on this, with my colleague Ruth Cadbury working hard. We now have the support of a couple of London Assembly members, both of whom have committed to put pressure on the Mayor, and the efforts of one resident in particular have been very useful here. Our frustration remains that Transport for London, who control what happens on that road, are barely engaging with the Council. One example – last week the timings of red lights up and down the road were changed without any prior notice being given to the Council. Thanks to those of you who got in touch about this – all we can do is try to get them changed back after the Olympics. You can follow progress on Ruth’s website at www.RuthCadbury.com or her Twitter feed at @RuthCadbury.

Anyway, I hope to have some proper news on this is September. I am unhappy and embarrassed that this has all taken so long. Some of the problem is caused by plain dangerous driving and that’s hard to stop but there’s no doubt that there is work that needs done, we have found the funding and it still hasn’t happened.

*Park progress*

Some good news to finish with. Gunnersbury Park has been awarded £320,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This money will be spent on putting together a full bid for funding of around £4,300,000 to pay for a full regeneration of many of the features in the park in a project that will add up to around £8,000,000 once other funding is bought in. There’s plenty of work to do to attract this funding. There’s more on this at www.gunnersburyfriends.org . And just to show the strength in depth of local parks, Boston Manor Park has been awarded Green Flag status, demonstrating its continued excellence.

* Can I help? *

Finally, please get in touch if you think I can help, either by emailing matt@mattharmer.com or calling 020 8560 7033. In the meantime, thanks for reading.

My mailing address is:
Matt Harmer
153 Ealing Rd
Brentford, Middlesex TW8 0LF

My telephone:
020 8560 7033

July 18, 2012

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