Trimmer Hall, meetings, Great West Corridor, techno-rave, social care and Cranford
On Friday we had our regular ward meeting between the three councillors. Mel is rapidly back up to speed after his brief holiday being pampered in W Middlesex and these meetings are good for us all to keep each other on track: it’s all too easy to let things drift for longer than they should, particularly when the public don’t remind us. This is not how any of us want to run though. We want to grasp issues and keep them in the oven until they are well and truly cooked.
Some things appear to be cooked but then are sent back for a further roasting – this week it’s Sarah Trimmer Hall down on Kew Bridge Road. Planning rejected an application to turn it into three homes a month or two ago but now the request has resurfaced: we agree to try and preserve this very historic building as a single unit.
Newer things on our radar include the Great West Corridor consultation. I agree to draft a response and share it with fellow councillors and a few others before submitting. The main thing for me is to ensure the GWR and Brentford High Street area are treated in different ways, because they have very different features and roles in our town. We also have a techno-rave to contend with (we’ve just seen an application for a licence for an event in Boston Manor Park in the summer) and we’re trying to work out with friends groups, council officers etc what is actually proposed and what impact it will have on the rest of us, if sanctioned. And we’re trying to find out how the buildings between the Express Tavern and Kew Bridge Station got flattened contrary to planning permission, what we can do about it and how we can make sure the look of the conservation area can be restored.
Saturday I got a free pass from surgeries (thanks Myra for taking on Clayponds Gardens) so I could go to an Association of Labour Councillors session in Nottingham. Fascinating for a new boy (Boy? Ha!) and lots of food for thought. I found myself twittering uncontrollably (follow me @guylambert) about this and that, the most memorable things being that the 10 poorest councils have suffered cuts EIGHTEEN TIMES bigger than the ten richest. Go figure. Oh, and every £1 spent on local government social care saves £70 in NHS acute care – pretty astonishing. And I subsequently find out that 83% of the fund to ease council cuts will go to Conservative councils. You know it makes sense.
On Sunday I went for the first time for a bit to Brentford Market. It’s still trundling along if a bit less busy than in the summer and I got to try a ‘cut dog’ from Brazil. Ornithologists note that if you want to see a gathering of the Lesser Spotted Hounslow Councillor there’s a good chance of a sighting at the Market.
Monday evening a briefing on changes to adult safeguarding and mental health services which have changed following the 2014 Care Act. You’ll be surprised to hear (or not) that the Act has increased the requirements on local authorities at a time of severe financial pressure. It’s easy even for a councillor to forget that Children’s and Adult Services are far and away the largest element of our spending, accounting for practically half of our net spend as an authority, a lot of this invisible except to those who use the services personally or via a family member.
Tuesday I decided to lend a hand with the Cranford by-election, which comes around on Thursday 11th (today, in fact, as a glance at my watch confirms. I’ll be heading West at about 9.30 to help out on polling day). They do things differently in Cranford and our candidate Sukhbir Dhaliwal has served three previous terms as a councillor, two of them in Cranford. First time I’d met him and he told me he decided to stand as the public demanded it – bit like a Frank Sinatra comeback tour – and certainly there was a really warm response on the doorsteps. He’ll be a real asset to the council if he makes it with the voters.
Wednesday was a complicated day, starting out with jump-starting my daughter’s car and accompanying her to a battery place followed by a quick visit to West Middlesex Hospital to lend a bit of support to the junior doctors. Jeremy Hunt says they are too thick to understand the offer and that the poor lambs have been misled by the wicked BMA. The ones outside West Mid must have been untypical because they all seemed to be highly intelligent and they seemed to think it was Jeremy who’s doing the misleading. Perhaps it’s him that’s the thick one (or perhaps he has his own little project – junk the NHS as his book a few years ago advocated, so the bonanza for US healthcare firms predicted by consultancies gathers pace). Somebody had given the doctors doughnuts, so I gave them a short lecture on healthy eating, barely audible in the cacophony of car horns of those showing their support.
Straight from there to what used to be Motorwise on the High Street and is now the Friends of Cathja charity shop and cafe. This was the opening with many volunteers and others in attendance and Cllr Sue Sampson cutting the ribbon. Myra Savin was there but only so she could get first pick of the stock in the shop. She picked up a book on women in the 1760s – nostalgic for her childhood I suppose. There was heaps of energy and some really good art contributed by the people who attend Cathja (a barge in Isleworth which supports people with mental health troubles) and this new shop and café could make a great new community hub. People were putting ideas on post-its and sticking them to flip charts, offering or asking for services in the community. Brentfordians give it a go – it would be great to see it buzzing like yesterday but for the avoidance of doubt they do NOT do MoTs.
In the afternoon I finished my draft response to the Great West Corridor consultation and put it out… to consultation. Various exchanges of emails, mainly about parking nightmares on the Haverfield estate and thereabouts before heading off to the Labour branch meeting down at Isleworth Public Hall. There was a small, peaceful protest outside by Paul Slattery and his supporters. Myra had done a good written report on our ward activities for members and I was taken to task on one or two things. Contrary to popular belief councillors love this because it allows us to understand people’s concerns, explain our thinking and if appropriate modify our approach.
Time to mosey on out to Cranford…
February 11, 2016