A largely free day on Friday, but late afternoon there were carols in Brentford Market Place sung by primary school children (I think it was St Paul’s School but admit red-faced that I’m not sure) [Ed - it was Green Dragon Primary School]. Anyway, even if like me you have no religion it’s a delight to listen to children singing (and the teacher sang beautifully too) and I was reminded of my own childhood, wondering what a Collie Bird or a Partridge-Inapare tree was. Perhaps I was always a bit deaf. It was drizzly and windy and rather poorly attended. I doubt the children minded but it was a shame and someone responded to my tweet (@guylambert if you’re interested) by grumpily asking why it wasn’t publicised which is a very good question. If I knew who organised it I might ask them!
Nothing to report over the weekend and on Monday I was in the civic centre reporting to a senior officer an allegation of fraud I’d been notified about by a resident. I don’t know if there’s anything in it and I’m clear that I shouldn’t turn myself into Miss Marple (rather a horrific thought) and investigate myself so handing it to an officer in whom I have every confidence seems like the right thing to do. I shall enquire if anything comes of it in due course.
In the evening we were briefed by some rather impressive people from Hounslow’s education department on the challenges around secondary school places. People will be aware of the Nishkam School, whose controversial planning application goes to committee this evening and they may also be aware of what used to be called the HIP school which is a Free School created by existing heads from Hounslow. This evening was focussed first on the proposed Green School for Boys, but also on the general difficulties we have, with a duty to provide school places, no control over free schools, no money from government to expand existing or create new Local Authority schools and nowhere to put them anyway. Even if Nishkam, HIP and Green go ahead, together with planned expansions to existing schools, we will still be marginal for secondary school places in the late 2010s. Hard choices to make with our hands tied behind our back, against a background of Local Government’s role in education being further diminished, presumably because the track record of improvement especially in London (with Hounslow a shining light) has been too impressive.
Tuesday was my third and (phew) last full day of training about pension funds so that’s behind me for the foreseeable. In the evening it was a meeting of the Brentford Recycling Action Group. It said Brentford Lock house so naturally I went to the Brentford Dock residents centre. What’s one letter between friends. So I went to Thames Lock (no BRAG) and then to the Holiday Inn towpath and saw a glimmer of light on the other side, so arrived late, but at least I beat Councillor Myra Savin. Interesting discussions with people who started recycling yonks ago before it was a glimmer in the council’s eye. Then repaired to the Magpie and Crown which was full of Greens (seems it’s a regular event) but I had some very interesting conversations with former Councillor Andrew Dakers about Brentford issues, challenges and opportunities. I often find it humbling to meet with people who have been doing stuff in the community for years or decades and have really good insights as a result. Andrew is one such, and I made a mental note to keep talking to him. Also, I must mention the Brentford calendar which has some really delightful paintings of local scenes by Wendy Mackenzie. Not sure when/where it’s on sale but look out for it. [Ed - Answer]
Wednesday morning I was skulking around the ‘New Town’ on my (shiny new) bicycle looking for bin lorries to try and assess how it’s going, because as one or two of you may have spotted there’s a lively debate about wheelie bins currently in Brentford. Unfortunately I had to rush off to the Civic centre before the wheelie bin lorries arrived but I got a bit of insight into recycling collection and met some council officers who were walking the streets with clipboards in a monitoring activity. The council meeting was about our own IT changes which are now complete and have gone off pretty well, though further improvements are in the pipeline which will enable me to give back some of my council kit.
In the evening, up to the Novotel to meet with Brentford Chamber of Commerce. The main discussion was about revival of the Brentford Dragons events which have provided a stimulus to young entrepreneurs over the last year or three, and the role a few of us have volunteered to take on as business mentors. We went on to talk about the strains local businesses are feeling and the great work being led by the Chamber and its president Suzie Betlem to alleviate them by working together and trying to buy goods and services locally, and of the role the council could play to support – and the fact that the council is often seen by business as the opposite of supportive.
I made the point that the council is genuinely keen to promote a vibrant Brentford, with industry, retail and housing all developing and improving and that I personally am pretty passionate about that. But it struck me that not a single business has come to me seeking help with a problem.
Well, I’m open for business with business – my contact details are easy to find and I’ll be delighted to help Brentford businesses with council (or other) matters if I can. Call or email me for a meeting and I’ll certainly see you as soon as we can arrange something. Alternatively, I’ll be doing a ‘drop-in’ surgery at Clayponds Community Centre this Saturday from 10.45 to 12 and Councillor Mel Collins will be doing one at 9.30 to 10.45 on the same day in the Mission Hall just off Netley Road.
We’d be delighted to see business people as well as any residents with more personal issues. Which reminds me that our January surgeries, normally on the first Saturday, will be postponed to 9th of January because we don’t think 2nd January will be a great day for sensible discussion!