235 bus, bikes, housing, wheelie bins, teapigs, Layton Collection, Carville Hall Park
Late on Thursday I saw an email from Hounslow’s head of transport that he had heard that the dreaded 235 bus might restart running up to Great West Quarter on Friday. So on Friday morning I sneaked a look in TfL Journey Planner and saw that I could get a bus from the County Court to GWQ at 10.13, arriving at 10.18. Could this be true? Only one way to find out, get on the bike and go spy, but arriving at my shiny new bike, having stood back a moment to admire its sleek lines, I found I couldn’t get the ruddy lock off. The key turned but it wouldn’t release. Ironic, I suppose: I’d bought a super lock because the old bike was nicked only to make the new bike as useless as it would have been if it had been nicked again.
Sense of humour well under control, I decided to drive to track the bus and remembered I had some leaflets to deliver to Braemar Road so I could kill two birds with a single stone, as it were. Naturally, I arrived in Braemar about 10.30 and spent a while chatting. On the way back out to the car my friend said ‘there’s somebody in your car’ then ‘oh no, it’s just a piece of paper flying about’ then ‘Ohhh’. When I picked the ‘piece of paper’, commonly described as a Penalty Charge Notice or parking ticket, I found my sense of humour still in tight control. Turns out TfL were fibbing about the 235 but, joy of joys, it really DID start on Saturday morning so thanks to the petitioners from up Clayponds way (especially Julie Brooker who got it going), to Steve Curran for harassing the GLA and to council officers for getting the detail sorted with TfL and Barratts.
As it turned out, I had a fairly free weekend punctuated with trips to the bike shop enquiring how they were going to solve my little problem, so I was well rested for a rather long and complicated Monday.
First thing on Monday morning I was about to set off to the Museum of London with some of the other trustees when I started messing with my phone and managed to break the glass. If troubles arrive in threes I was now home free. A fascinating morning in the museum with some of the staff, who explained what an important part of their prehistoric exhibition the Layton collection is. It seems that much of the stuff Layton collected was sold to him by Thames dredgermen who hawked their findings around to the highest bidder. Layton seems to have had a bit of a thing about bronze age weaponry so there are some fantastic swords, axe heads etc. We were taken down into the storerooms where I had to persuade my great hammy hands into ‘large’ latex gloves (XXXL would be better if anybody is thinking of buying me gloves for Christmas) but then had the chance to hold 3000 year old swords, which is a new experience for me. We got a good insight into the Museum’s relationship with the Trust and their plans to support research so a fascinating morning all round.
I had to rush back for a meeting with Hounslow Highways at the depot. This was about the Lay Assessor scheme which I was engaged in before becoming a councillor and like to keep in touch with, and it was heartening to see a number of new lay assessors there. The scheme seems to be working pretty well after some issues in the early days, but I had to leave a little early because I had an appointment with Councillor Savin, the eminent and worshipful deputy mayoral pooch, and the newly appointed head of parks to discuss the plan (see front page!) to allow Floreat school to use the basketball court in Carville Hall Park. Myra and I thought the plans made good sense and we’re keen to use the income from this to make small improvements elsewhere in the park, so we and the head of parks voted in favour, with the pooch abstaining.
In the evening was the Hounslow Pension Fund Panel. Quite a long meeting with reports from various officers and from one of the external fund managers, plus one or two decisions to be taken where us councillors did not have a common view. Good to thrash things out and very appropriate to have a proper debate when hundreds of million pounds of investment are being discussed.
Tuesday was a meeting free day but in the evening the man from the bike shop came around and eventually managed to free my lock.
So I could be bike-mounted for the short trip to Lateward Road for the wheelie bin discussion I had set up with a selection of residents (of Lateward and elsewhere) and council officers. Unfortunately the council officer I expected was unwell on the day but sent a couple of substitutes and we were able to have a lengthy discussion. It’s fair to say that there was a frank exchange of views but all matters were discussed equably and a few proposals emerged together with some explanations of why the decisions have been taken and what’s gone well and badly so far. The council have deployed 40,000 wheelie bins in the last few weeks so this has been a pretty stretching exercise for officers, though most places welcome or are indifferent to the change. We will not resolve all Brentford residents’ concerns about wheelie bins but if the proposals we discussed prove to be viable we will at least alleviate some of the issues, and some others will be alleviated by better management, communication and discipline. I have little doubt that residents will continue to hold councillors to account for improving the situation – rightly so.
Late afternoon I looked briefly into Teapigs who were hosting a Christmas get together for the Brentford Chamber of Commerce. There was the slightly alarming (but fun) sight of a Red Routemaster backed into Pump Alley – they’ll be rivalling Goddards vans as Brentford’s icon soon. I chatted to a few business people and old friends.
Then I had to go to the Civic Centre to hear about (and from) the new team who will be in charge of housing allocation and the really tough challenges they face. These include the introduction of Universal Credit, a reduction in the benefit cap, loss of housing association properties through right-to-buy and the forced sale of council houses to fund the give-aways to housing association tenant/buyers. And all this on top of a housing situation which is already pretty impossible. There was at least some good news about what had been achieved so far this year, with the number of households in B&B accommodation down from 250 to 141 and the average length of a ‘void’ (ie unoccupied property) down from 70 to 31 days. We councillors mustn’t kid ourselves though, the housing market is already a nightmare for councils and recent and imminent changes will certainly make the nightmare a lot worse. We have a statutory duty to house the homeless and this is getting more difficult and expensive to deliver.
On that less than happy note I’ll call that a wrap – another busy day tomorrow (Thursday) and a lot of catching up to do on Friday.
December 18, 2015