Morrisons, ward consensus, six months service
Well, Christmas rather crept up on me there and (horror of horrors) by the time I realised my normal Thursday deadline for this update had passed by. Anyway there’s not so much happening so I thought I’d do two for the price of one.
Back in prehistoric times (Thursday 17th December) I had a first meeting with Essential Living – the people who have bought the Morrisons site. There’s good news and worrying news: they are committed to keeping a full size supermarket (and are negotiating with Morrisons) after the development, together with some smaller retailers and an underground car park. There will also be scope for some ‘affordable’ housing in what will be an all rented development, and pleasingly no distinction (eg poor doors) between the full rent and affordable units. The two worrying issues are scale (there will be the traditional negotiation between developers who want a high building and locals – including this councillor for one - who don’t) and timing (we REALLY don’t want to be without a supermarket during the construction phase). It’s also a slight concern that we may have Morrisons, Ballymore and the police station under redevelopment at the same time which may not be consistent with a peaceful town centre!
Same day I had my regular meeting about Hounslow Housing, which is about managing change in the way maintenance and development activities are organised, and the second of a short series about adult social care. There is a new website called CarePlace which is a London wide scheme to try and guide people with social care needs. This is a growing issue for councils with a mushrooming elderly population and it’s been very instructive for me as a new councillor to engage with this, though I don’t contribute much to the discussion (Mel Collins attends as well, and he has a huge amount of knowledge so I can confine myself to listening and trying to look intelligent).
After that, I rather wound down for Christmas, though various local issues rumble on, notably wheelie bins, graffiti (which is currently really rife, especially around St Paul’s rec) and what look like planning breaches. Then, driving along Hartington Road in Chiswick I nearly crashed into one of the famous works of traffic-calming genius along there, and realised this was connected to it being unlit. I notified Hounslow Highways that there were no less than 7 unlit bollards on that stretch of road and they came back the next day to say they had found TEN. Wow: no wonder so many keep left bollards seem to get flattened.
On the 22nd I enjoyed a long lunch at one of my favourite restaurants – Siracusa on Brentford lock – with Myra Savin. Naturally we put the whole ward to rights, as councillors do. We had hoped for Mel to join us but he’d already left for some kind of Christmas rave out in the country somewhere, you can’t tie these party animals down.
So, seems a good point to reflect on nearly 6 months as a councillor. First thing is that I quickly realised how much there is to learn. As someone who has always had an interest in politics and local issues, I was surprised how little I really understood and also that many of my fellow councillors have real in-depth understanding of issues where I only scratch the surface. These first 6 months have been nothing more than the foundation course and there’s a lot more to learn from colleagues (in Hounslow and elsewhere), experts and most importantly local residents especially those involved in community activities.
Secondly, as someone who always tries to find consensus, it’s become bleedin’ obvious that this is not always available. People have passionately-held positions for and against most things and whatever happens there are going to be those who disagree. A councillor has to balance council policy, the views of constituents (both the noisy and the silent) and his own views and strike the best balance between those that he can find. It’s actually quite galling to be frequently accused of arrogance, corruption and being scum when in fact none of those descriptions fits (you can be the judge of scum). Though of course the counterpoint is that the people I actually engage with are usually very generous in acknowledging what I do and sometimes quite disproportionately grateful for a tiny service rendered!
I have had a lot of feedback about these updates, and a surprising number of people seem to read them and value them, so I will try and keep them going. Thanks to Neighbournet for providing a space for me to pontificate.
On a final note, my daughter has pointed out that the emergency selfie I provided to accompany these witterings does not show me at my best, so she’s insisted on taking another picture which I hope the editor will commence using. It shows some fat old bloke as opposed to the youthful George Clooney lookalike I see in the mirror but I’m assured it’s accurate.
So, Brentfordians, have a wonderful 2016 and remember I’m here to try to help so if you need something from the council –firstname.lastname@example.org
Guy Lambert (December 2015)
January 5, 2016