People's problems, school financing, bonkers housing bill and road surfaces
A door-knocking type of weekend with a trip down St John’s Road Isleworth on Saturday, ending with a relaxing pint at the Town Wharf, and a couple of the Brentford Towers on Sunday. As a councillor you sometimes get a bit weighed down with people’s problems (they tend to write to you when they have one!) and door-knocking gets you a slightly different perspective. Whilst some people have problems which are all too familiar from my postbag, people surprisingly often give praise to the council, both along the lines of ‘it’s a lot better than xxxx, which I have recently moved from’ or along the lines of ‘they didn’t empty my bin this week but in general I think they’re doing really well, especially given all the cuts they have to contend with’. Of course, there will always be problems running council services but it’s good for a weary soul to hear people saying nice things for a change!
One of the things people raise with me is eyesore front gardens: thankfully there aren’t all that many of them but some front gardens are no better than a rubbish tip and are a depressing sight for all those who live nearby or walk past them. I’d always wondered if there was anything the council could do about them – they obviously can on council property, but many of the eyesores are private – and was heartened to see that not only can we do something about it, but that the enforcement team are having a push on this and getting a very good response from most ‘offenders’. Do let councillors know if there re front gardens that cause offence to you: we will point the squad in their direction.
In between all that door knocking I made a pilgrimage to Lincoln’s Inn Fields on Sunday to join Councillor Katherine Dunne and what felt like many thousands of others to protest about the current utterly bonkers housing bill which is designed with forensic precision to make an already desperate housing crisis in London (particularly) even worse. I’m not one who usually goes on protest marches – far too lazy – and it sometimes feels as if it’s futile, but one of the things I’ve noticed in this government is that they have been forced to U-turn on a number of their most pernicious policies either because of public outcry or because they can’t persuade the Lords (and sometimes the Commons) to go along with them. Of course most often it’s a combination of both, with the public outcry putting a bit of steel in the spine of Tory rebels or complaisant Lords, so it feels worthwhile to sign petitions and go and protest.
Today I’m off to Heathrow to meet with people from the airport, organised by one of the Bedfont Councillors. Whilst, in common with most people round here (though certainly not all), I’m against a third runway and against any changes to the flight patterns which will affect us negatively, I’m very happy to have a dialogue with an enterprise which not only provides a lot of direct jobs for local people, but which energises the whole local economy. It’s important that we understand where they are coming from, no matter which way ‘Call me Dave’ jumps after he’s cleared all the immediate political concerns out of the way and can get away with putting out some bad news. So I suppose I can say ‘must fly’ and talk to you again
Monday evening was Labour Group, where we prepare for Borough council and deal with some internal party matters. It all passed off very smoothly with a strong consensus on all the matters we discussed.
Tuesday morning the three Brentford musketeers (or stooges if you prefer) were up in Clayponds Avenue and thereabouts, accompanied by Hounslow Highways people, an officer from the council who is responsible for monitoring Highways’ work, and the worshipful pooch, who expressed a preference to worship in Gunnersbury Park. As ever, we uncovered a variety of issues, mostly minor and debated the state of the road surfaces. I have been (almost) convinced by the arguments set out by clever engineers at Highways that they really are fixing the roads that need it but it doesn’t stop me (and residents!) being frustrated that some of the roads which look like they need urgent attention are further behind in the queue than ones which appear to be doing OK.
We had a particular look at the little island at the bottom of Lionel Road North which is, frankly, in a shocking state despite Highways having cleared away some of the grot that had accumulated there. We realised that none of us knew who it belongs to and Highways were sent away to find out, because it needs some serious work to stop it attracting fly tipping and other calumnies.
Borough Council marked the return of the one-man awkward squad aka Cllr John Todd who as usual had poured diligently over things and asked difficult questions, which were answered by Cllr Theo Dennison with his usual strong grasp of the finances. We had a lengthy discussion about the government’s recently announced plan to rebalance school finances. I hadn’t realised how imbalanced they were and all present agreed that the plan to rebalance them was welcome, but we also agreed that this must not be at the expense of London – and Hounslow in particular – schools which have improved dramatically over the last couple of decades but cannot sustain funding cuts, especially with the pressures attendant on growing pupil rolls.
Wednesday I lunched with a bunch of superannuated accountants who I worked with in what used to be known as Honeywell House (and is now Great West House, near the station) and in the evening was Labour Party Exec Committee on the Chiswick High Road, followed by a group of us terrorising the Express Tavern (not that anybody looked that scared).
March 18, 2016