Thursday was a day off from any of this councilling (other than a few phone calls and emails in the morning) because it was Beaujolais Nouveau day. Nobody seems to talk about it these days but back in the 80s it was on the TV news every year with the first person arriving in Dover with his Aston Martin or whatever. In them thar days I worked for Honeywell on the GWR and it was a big thing amongst the salesforce and senior management so we have a get together every year in Carvosso’s in Chiswick. This is quite good because not only do I get to see old colleagues from 30 odd years ago but most of them really are old – even older than me so it makes me feel young again.
Friday I spent the morning in the Civic centre with people from UBS, together with LBH’s head of Treasury and a couple of other councillors. Hounslow’s pension fund – which manages pensions for if I remember correctly about 200 local organisations as well as the council itself, has no less than £800M under management to cover pensions right out for many decades, so investing wisely is pretty important.
I was a bit unwell in the evening so I missed the Enchanted Woodland event in Syon Park, which Brentford Chamber of Commerce had invited me to, which was a shame. Still, I got my energies back for a full day on Saturday in the Guildhall in the City for the Summit of London Councils, where various people from all 32 Boroughs get together to discuss challenges etc. Usually I find it hard to keep concentrated in these things but it was a really excellent day and I learnt a huge amount. The stand out for me was Ben Page, the CEO of opinion pollsters IPSOS Mori, who gave a very insightful presentation into Londoners' attitudes – headline, housing is far and away the most important issue for Londoners, compared to the rest of the country where housing is well down the list, with immigration top.
Got up on Sunday to cycle up to Brentford market to discover cycling was a thing of the past for me because somebody had kindly nicked my bike. My own silly fault because I didn’t lock it properly, expecting to use it again that day. You live and learn (or maybe not, it wasn’t the first time this has happened).
Main thing on Monday was an evening meeting of the Labour group preparing for Borough Council on Tuesday. Tuesday morning finds the three Brentford Ms (Mel Myra and Me) in St Paul’s church trying to coordinate our activities and move things forward, in the evening the Borough Council. Two petitions were presented, one about Church Street Isleworth which was very familiar and one about a close in Heston that people reckon needs resurfacing. I wouldn’t argue with them, but I think Crowther Avenue is worse and since the petition looks like having the desired effect I make a mental note to talk to people in Crowther to see if they want to have a crack at the same thing. The other things we discussed included removing the right of landlords to turn offices into flats without planning permission. It was heartening that the council was unanimous about this, including Conservative colleagues. We didn’t quite agree about compulsory criminal records checks for councillors, with us Labourites voting in favour and the Conservatives abstaining, on freedom grounds. A respectable argument, just that we felt it was important that we do all we can to be seen to be doing the right thing, given everybody seems to think we’re crooks!
Also heartening to see that our motion on Tax credits led to a spectacular U-turn by George Osborne the next day and we’re hoping that they’ll also take the hint on their bill to further weaken Trade Unions. Not too hopeful, to be honest. Of course not very gorgeous George will find other ways to take from the poor to give to the rich but if at least we can slow him down a bit…
Wednesday I went and picked up a shiny new bike and used it to transport my own PC to our friends in Chiswick Computers in Hammersmith as it has died for the umpteenth time. In the afternoon, I met a few residents who have issues with – you’ve guessed it – wheelie bins and agreed to try and broker further discussions between them and council officers to revisit their appeals.
In the evening, a Labour party policy event in Isleworth Public Hall. This is the new consultative spirit within the party, and we were teasing out ideas for the mayoral campaign for our candidate, the excellent Sadiq Khan. This was an inspiring event, with a lot of new members of all ages, a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of agreement. For the avoidance of doubt our new members – from what I’ve seen so far – are very far from being unrealistic lefties as the press would have us believe. They are ordinary working people from all classes of society who are just fed up with what’s going on and want to help change it.
The evening was capped with the news that our application to form a new charity to run Isleworth Public Hall has been (finally) agreed by the Charity Commissioners. I’m not one of the trustees but have been working with them for a year or so now to get this sorted, and to agree terms with LBH (I have to keep out of that) so we can take it over next year, save the council some money and reinvigorate the place for the benefit of the community.
Today, Thursday has been a bit hectic. Credit union stuff in Teddington, back home for a walkabout on the estate where I live, Civic centre for some meetings with officers then home again to do this and some other bits and pieces, and another Labour party thing this evening.
I was told when I agreed to stand for the council that it would take up a day and an evening a week. In your dreams. Still, I’m trying my best to make a difference for people and I have a few little successes so I don’t resent the time spent at all. And
boy, am I learning.