GWQ, Hounslow Highways, Labour, Trident and housing policy
In the week where Boris fired the first major salvo of his bid to become Tory party leader (I loved the Independent’s punning headline ‘Out for Himself’), us humble local councillors busy ourselves with bread and butter matters!
On Friday morning, a session in the café in GWQ. As usual I end up hitching my bike to the Novotel’s slightly wonky car park sign as there are no bike stands near the café (which is quite odd, in this day and age). The bike promptly subsides into the mud, as per. Resident I met was stuck in a lift with several friends and is very unhappy about how the problem has been dealt with. This conversation segues (one of those words that has arrived on the scene recently, like early doors, and that old gits like me deploy to prove how modern we are) into a long history of issues with his landlord and he agrees to send me edited highlights, which he subsequently does. Reminds me I need to take some action on this, still sitting in my ‘too hard’ tray :-(. Disappointing to see the ruddy bollard broken again but reassuring to see the 235 bus is still running (yeah, I know, that didn’t last)
I then cycle along the south-eastern stretches of the A4 under the motorway and uncover the usual horror story of muck and litter and discarded TfL traffic cones/signs/sandbags/buses. I made up the buses. I write my traditional illustrated horror story to Hounslow Highways who respond in the traditional way: we will send an inspector out to deal with problem a; problem b is for TfL to sort and we’ll let them know; problem c is on private land and there’s nothing to be done. When I was a very small boy – hard to imagine but it did really happen – I was forced to go to church where the priest read out stuff to which the congregation responded in the manner prescribed by the Prayer Book. Feels a bit like my ritualised exchanges on the state of the A4 but before anyone starts, I am not trying to set myself up as a priest.
My destination is that romantically named byway, Capital Interchange Way. Alert readers will be aware that this is mooted to be the site for the new bus depot and a lot of wacky buildings designed (rather splendidly IMO) by the famous Will Alsop. So I have taken issue with Hounslow Highways’ announcement they are planning to fix the pavement which a) is OK b) is unknown to human foot and c) is likely to be ripped up shortly for redevelopment. I await a response, but am able to add to the album a few more dirty pictures of the same kind of mess with which the A4 is blessed.
In the evening down Watermans way for a social with new Labour members, organised by our branch members’ secretary. 13 (I was counting) newbies turn up out of a potential of nearly 200 who have joined Brentford ward since the general election. All rather fun, a good discussion and we agreed to have regular socials involving members old and new.
Over the weekend I was still slightly knocked out with a lingering cold so didn’t do much, though I did drop into Cathja’s Kitchen on the High Street and had a short session with the people there and London Sustainability Exchange, who were running a workshop.
On Monday I visited a local Labour party man who has agreed to help us get a Brentford ward website going, similar to the one Councillor Tony Louki runs for Osterley and Spring Grove. It all seems dead easy when you sit with an expert but gets a lot harder when you try and do it on your own.
In the evening it was Labour group meeting where we prepared for Borough Council the following night. It was one of those rare ones where we got through business pretty quickly and had an earlyish night.
Tuesday I got all dolled up for the annual official picture of the councillors. A photographer lurks on the balcony and barks out instructions and all 60 odd of us, plus the chief executive, gaze dreamily upwards, though in some cases those pictured are more the stuff of nightmares than dreams. Then into Borough Council. There’s a man with a mace there and I ask him if he’s ever had to swing it. He says no, but at another council he had to take it out of the chamber once whilst a ‘dispute’ unfolded: I had the impression that the dispute was about whose dad was harder than the other rather than the finer points of political debate. Nothing like that is conceivable in Hounslow, except of course within the Tory ranks (or so rumour has it).
The budget was passed with some token opposition from, um, the opposition, but I didn’t feel their heart was in it. They were without the inestimable Councillor John Todd, who is the past master of giving us a hard time. We genuinely miss his forensic examination. I hadn’t realised he’s unwell and send all best wishes and look forward to having him back causing trouble again. Had I had my wits about me I would have asked my Tory colleagues whether they approved of Surrey being awarded £24M to stop Conservative MPs rebelling and voting against ease the pain of the cuts in government grant and Richmond not much less whilst poor old Hounslow gets zip, nada, nuffink, naff all. And was the £9M for Oxfordshire to stop that rebel David Cameron voting against himself? I think we should be told.
Wednesday, after being doctored and feeling a bit better I did some leafletting along Kew Bridge Road. It’s actually infuriating because I can’t get into most of the buildings so I return with my bag still half full.
In the evening, a genuinely political meeting in Brentford Free Church where we debate Trident renewal and housing policy. I struggle with Trident because I’ve yet to hear anybody give any kind of convincing story why we need to spend £100Bn on it whilst Germany, Japan, and most other countries seem to rub along pretty well without it. Some people including some Labour supporters and many MPs remain firmly committed to Trident but the argument defeats me entirely. Perhaps it’s a case of keeping up with the Hollandes.
Housing policy is a different matter because I’ve yet to meet anybody with a good word to say for any element of the current housing bill which seems to be forensically designed to make misery for everyone who needs a home. I was struck by one statistic in particular: KPMG say that by the time a saver on average income has saved £12000 in the first time buyer ISA, so as to qualify for their £3K ‘prize’ from the treasury, the ‘starter home’ they are saving to buy is expected to have inflated in cost by £150K.
Thursday has been another full day, but that can keep till next week.
February 26, 2016