Thursday morning I was back in the Civic Centre for more discussions about the way forward for the housing repair and development team.
Then on Friday something a bit different: Hounslow borough MPs Ruth and Seema had arranged a visit to the civic centre by delegates from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. So together with the MPs and a few other councillors we got to meet a minister from Sierra Leone, a minister from Trinidad and Tobago and the speaker of the Solomon Islands Parliament. Three interesting and charismatic politicians and a great privilege to meet them, if briefly.
In the afternoon Ruth had a drop-in surgery at St John’s Community Centre in Isleworth and asked me and a couple of other councillors to attend and help out if there was a rush. Quite a few people came and I had a conversation with a gentleman from Chiswick with (inevitably) a housing problem but of course people really wanted to see Ruth and in the end there were not too many and she talked to all comers.
In the evening, Mel and I met with a couple of residents on the Haverfield estate to talk about parking problems. We recently took a little action to remove some yellow lines that had been painted inadvisedly but that just restored about 4 spaces and the problem on the Haverfield is much more extensive with more residents’ cars than spaces being made worse by people from nearby flats and even hotels, together with the overflow from Ealing Road, all competing for spaces. We agreed (I think) that this needs some serious thought and a strategic answer rather than the fire-fighting that is tempting, and we’ll be trying to find one over the next few weeks and months.
Saturday morning was my own surgery up at Clayponds, with the usual housing problem (though this one was about maintenance rather than housing provision so has a better chance of a solution) and the equally inevitable wheelie bin problem. I’m meeting with a council officer and a few concerned residents next week to try and find a way through at least some of the issues people in Brentford have with the wheelie bin roll out.
Sunday morning out meeting residents in Hounslow Heath with Ruth, then after looking in to Brilliant Brentford Market – still buzzing even on a miserable drizzly day – I looked into the 2000 Club Christmas Party at the Brentford Free Church, having been invited by a resident and ‘encouraged’ to provide some raffle prizes. Couldn’t stay long as I was cooking a roast beef dinner for my daughter (and me!)
Monday was largely free and on Tuesday after visiting my doctor (bad luck, nothing serious) a session at the Labour Party office in Chiswick helping hump leaflets around and trying to get to grips with the voter tracking system (I failed). Then a few beers up in Covent Garden with some old (yes, they’re as ancient as me) work colleagues followed by a trip to the Kew Bridge Residents Association Christmas Party in the evening. What a great event! Must have been 100 people in ‘One Over the Ait’, a free glass of wine, excellent snacks and most importantly a real warm welcome. However I have seriously fallen out with my fellow Councillor Myra Savin, Worshipful Deputy Mayor that she may be, for suggesting she saw me ‘wobbling’ along Kew Bridge Road on my bicycle. ‘Streaking’ is the correct expression.
Wednesday was my second appearance at the South West Middlesex Crematorium board, down Hanworth way. It’s very hard for me to avoid a bit of black humour at this event when I ask them about ‘market share’ and such matters. Anyway it seems the Crem is doing just fine, with record numbers of ‘customers’ and a healthy surplus despite charging about what commercial competitors cost. Prices are being held for 2016. Book now to avoid the rush.
In the evening a Labour Branch meeting. This was all about housing (though being Christmas there was mulled wine and mince pies in evidence) and in particular the use of the term ‘affordable housing’ which has been expanded from its original meaning to mean ‘slightly subsidised housing which people in the top 25% of incomes might just be able to afford’. The Government has just invented the concept of ‘starter homes’ which are suitable for young people on modest incomes (£75K will do it in London, lovely jubbly). In a book I read once this, like ‘National Living Wage’ was described as Nuspeak. Anyway, we resolved to resist this usage by qualifying its use with a definition of what was actually being proposed.
Yesterday, Thursday, I spent the morning in the Mayor’s Parlour (what a lovely old fashioned term!) hearing an employment appeal, about which I will of course keep mum. And in the evening up one of the Brentford Towers knocking on doors and saying hello to folks. Always fun, and it saved me listening to Liverpool having a boring 0-0 draw in Switzerland (but they still top their Europa League group J)