Belated Update From Councillor Guy Lambert

Benefits, estate inspections, IBAF and, of course, wheelie bins


Guy Lambert
tel 07804 284948

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What a week. Last Thursday during the day another tricky benefits issue. Quite small sums are so challenging for people who can see their whole life potentially falling apart because they have no reserves, either of money or of the skills they need to comprehend and where necessary challenge very complex calculations. The calculations are made by often faceless or anonymous people with opaque language, backed up by the threat of action that could wreak real catastrophe. Pretty hard for a rookie councillor to find a way through all this but fortunately I can begin to build a little black book of helpful and well informed officers.

In the evening the Isleworth and Brentford Area Forum, full of controversy over wheelie bins and the closure of Church St in Isleworth, neither very popular with those who attended. These rather dwarfed the other items on the agenda which included policing, W Middlesex hospital merger, the consultation on leisure strategy and changes to bus routes. Actually the bus route item attracted its own controversy mainly from Isleworth residents concerned about congestion and trees but it all looked quite positive for Brentford. We did, however, raise the question of the continuing absence of the 235 in Ealing Road but sadly without any sniff of an answer. Steve Curran continues to pressure TfL and was talking of writing to the Mayor next but it’s still mighty frustrating for residents.

Friday I was down for an estate inspection in The Mall (no, I didn’t know where it was either, the block on Half Acre near St Paul’s Church). Unfortunately I failed to connect with the officer doing the inspection, who was standing in for someone off sick and started at Berkeley House instead and by the time communication was established I’d decided I was too cold and wet and gone home.

In the evening it was the first meeting since I was elected of the police ward panel. The ward team consists of a Sergeant, two constables and a PCSO, though for how long that will last with George Osborne’s ferocious 40% cuts, who knows. Can’t do much for their morale though they seem cheerful enough, but they are frustrated at the lack of capacity to do the job. The constable who attended used to devote his time purely to patrolling but he now has to handle 10 investigations at the same time, as well as being called away to other duties from time to time. Of their priorities, recorded drugs incidents are somewhat down but theft from motor vehicles is up, a reminder to us all to not leave stuff, especially electronics, on show. Burglaries are slightly down after a hiatus in the summer where they peaked really sharply. The police advised us that Brentford’s answer to Norman Stanley Fletcher had a brief holiday away from HM Prison Slade and spent it doing what he enjoys best, robbing houses. Sadly for him (but not the rest of us), holidays come to an end and he’s now back in chokey.

Monday I had a session with a resident who believes she’s uncovered some benefit fiddling. Another new one for me and I’ve been taking advice on how to tackle it. Not something it’s appropriate for a councillor to get involved in but it needs bringing to the attention of people who can investigate, without any jumping to conclusions. Tricky.

In the evening the monthly board meeting of Thamesbank Credit Union. Our chair has had to relocate for family reasons so I get to be in the hot seat but the good news is I conned somebody else into taking over as treasurer. The other good news is that we have no less than 4 new directors, every one young, keen and professional so there’s every chance they can bring about some real progress with the Credit Union before us old lags knock some sense into them.

Tuesday was a welcome meeting-free day so I again attempted to get on top of things like email, but whatever I do I always seem to have one or two things that are overdue for attention.

Wednesday was an estate inspection again and this time we did make contact and inspected Lambert Lodge (NO, it’s just a coincidence!) and parts of Layton Road before I had to zoom off to the civic centre for a review of councillors’ new IT systems. Touch wood, mine seem to be going generally OK which is a dramatic improvement. We are due a few tweaks shortly and a significant change to the council’s operational systems will follow which should make matters a lot easier for members and officers alike.

I can’t really let Wednesday pass without a mention of wheelie bins. They arrived in the morning to many roads in central Brentford. As luck would have it there were winds of biblical proportions so apart from many residents not wanting the change, some of them were blown around and landed all over the place including in at least one case on top of a resident’s car so the owner, who didn’t want a wheelie in the first place, was now hopping mad. As luck would have it I couldn’t pick up when he called me so I got an irate voicemail but by the time I phoned him he was calm. So if the wind was the wrath of God perhaps the matter which stopped me picking the phone up was the operation of my guardian angel. I bet that’s the first time that role has been filled by an estate agent from Foxtons.

The wheelie bin saga has been a touch excruciating for me and I know a lot of people are dissatisfied with the way I’ve handled it. First time I’ve come across a large caucus of local opinion against a policy that we’ve agreed and which the experts say will save us much-needed money. As I said previously here, I’m in favour of the bins in general but I don’t think the change was well communicated and I think a more flexible policy would have been preferable. It all happened bit faster than I expected and all I can say is the policy seems most unlikely to be reversed and I’m happy to try and help people who have a problem and want to engage with me. I hear that last night a mob of residents visited the council leader’s house in Brentford, chanting about wheelie bins. People are entitled to be angry and protest but going round in the night to the leader’s house, where his partner and children live, is just beyond the pale.

This week has been overshadowed by the appalling events in Paris. Cutting police numbers doesn’t seem the most obvious policy at present but my focus is more on what ‘we’ should be doing in Syria, because my impression is that’s where all this is inspired and funded. I’m not an advocate of bombing, which I think kills innocent people in that ugly phrase ‘collateral damage’ and as far as I can see has never stopped any terror group but rather encouraged them to rail against ‘the West’. Seems to me the only answer is likely to involve a lot of Jaw Jaw, probably backed up by some limited and internationally agreed ‘feet on the ground’. But since when have I been a military expert and what’s all this got to do with Brentford?


Guy Lambert

November 24, 2015

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