A bit of an unusual week, this one: sorting out various non council things and only really catching up with council emails etc this morning, Thursday.
Monday morning I was up one of the Brentford Towers, trying to help with a disability/benefits/financial issue. This is one that’s been going on for a while but seems to be on the home straight. Rules for this kind of thing are amazingly complicated and there are so many different agencies involved it’s no wonder people get lost in a maze of bureaucracy. As the year goes on we’re going to get Universal Credit gradually rolling out, creating a whole new raft of problems for people and in many cases drastically cutting their income whilst expecting them to take responsibility for finances to an extent they have not before, and also delaying payments to them. I don’t think councils will have much scope to help with this and it’s quite a scary prospect for councils, housing associations, utility companies and the like, as well as for those personally affected. Civil servants seem to assume that members of the public all have first class honours degrees and forget that many have various levels of disability or illness which makes it near impossible for them to grasp these complex matters and there’s often an assumption of guilty until proven innocent. The council at least shows compassion and has some excellent officers to help guide us all through the nightmare. They may be able to help less as DWP and their private sector contractors take more responsibility.
I suppose in the circumstances it was good to have the board meeting of the Credit Union (www.thamesbank.org) on Monday evening. We have several new directors and a real determination to grow the credit union so we can help local people to avoid falling into the hands of loan sharks, or paying fantastically high rentals on consumer goods that they could buy with one of our loans for less than half the cost, and end up with a savings account to boot! Readers (if there are any) do take a look at the credit union – it’s a good, community based service that can really help people but not enough people know about it and we can’t spend too much on marketing.
On Tuesday I was in the Civic Centre during the day to meet with the Chief Exec and head of regeneration about plans for Lampton 360 (the council’s trading company. In the evening we had further updates about the budget challenges and the plans for trading to try and mitigate the effect of George Osborne’s continuing outsourcing of the pain of (and blame for) austerity to councils.
Wednesday I spent some time touring around the ward on my trusty, rusty steed and the evening was devoted to the management of the estate where I live, where I am one of the directors of the management company. The buildings are now over 10 years old and wear and tear is beginning to show up all over the place which means we have difficult decisions to make here also, about the level of service charges and what needs to be done as a priority.
This morning I’ve been trying, somewhat in vain, to get on top of emails. There are things I kicked off before Christmas that haven’t been concluded or properly followed up since the new year so various council officers and the like will be groaning with new stuff getting in their inbox. No rest for the wicked. Off to visit the ‘employment bus’ in GWQ: don’t really understand what this is but a voyage of discovery is always welcome!