Loses a fight with a footstool
Friday evening we had an emergency meeting of the Licensing panel following an outbreak of fighting outside a club in Hounslow town centre. I keep mum about the discussions for legal reasons but I may have to attend a further hearing this evening.
Saturday was monthly surgery which on this occasion I shared with Mel Collins at the Mission Hall. Mel has an extensive fan club who really only want to talk to him as he has such a deep understanding of local issues and how the council works as well as having known a lot of the people since they were in short trousers. As is so often the case with surgeries, most of the issues were about housing, all stemming from the dire shortage of social rented housing round here and the fact that such ‘affordable’ housing as there is, is not affordable to people in ordinary jobs (including junior professionals and managers). This issue has been completely neglected by the Mayor over the last eight years and is one of the main reasons why we really need to get Sadiq Khan elected on May 5th, though it will take years to reverse the problem, especially if the awful housing bill gets through Parliament.
Sunday was canvassing up in Clayponds Avenue and Springvale. Because there were a lot of competing attractions (canvassing, festivals etc) there were just two of us this time but they are nice roads to canvass – easy houses to access, friendly residents (true pretty well everywhere, regardless of people’s political persuasion), pleasant weather, so we got through the two roads top to bottom in our 2 hours. The usual gripes -potholes (really must have another crack at Hounslow Highways about bringing forward resurfacing) 235 bus (no news from TfL grrr) and parking – because there’s a CPZ consultation going on and, as ever, some are passionately in favour and some equally passionately against. I stay on the fence as these debates are entirely
democratic and neither I personally nor the council have an axe to grind.
Monday evening down to the Civic Centre for an update on the housing allocation policy which is being revised in a further attempt to reduce ‘voids’ – the period council accommodation is empty. We have made considerable strides with this but there’s still some fine tuning to be done. Somebody mentions that there are some flats in another Borough that are being kept empty pending redevelopment so Cllr Kath Dunne is off to engage with them to see if Hounslow can use them for temporary accommodation. As a certain supermarket never tires of telling us, every little helps.
Wednesday I have a session with a resident of Netley Road who wants to talk (inter alia) about the hot topic of parking. I explain to him that this is being addressed by a working party looking for long term solutions but that in the meantime senior officers will be looking to make changes to alleviate current issues. Our discussions widen and he tells me of his extraordinary life which I find both fascinating and humbling. One of the real privileges of being a Councillor is meeting people you would never run across in the normal course of events. Unfortunately they often want you to do stuff and unfortunately you often find yourself unable to do much!
Wednesday was a day of multiple disasters for Brentford Labour councillors. I administered a severe kicking to a footstool which was impeding my progress in my flat, using the second smallest toe on my left foot to mete out the punishment. Sadly as the apocryphal schoolmaster with cane in hand said to the pupil, in this case ‘this is going to hurt me more than it does you’ was very true indeed and I ended up with a bloodied and black digit (though it has now reverted to a fetching piebald purple effect). Meanwhile, her eminence, preparing to take her poochfulness for walkies, observed the glazed front door about to slam shut and rescued it, but at the cost of a broken index finger. Ouch! It’s a bit of an extreme way to avoid canvassing.
In the evening the campaign committee in Chiswick. Everything is hotting up for the London Election campaign now and we’ll be looking to get a lot of our astonishing numbers of new members working in the campaign. Lamentably few Labour politicians have access to offshore trusts in Panama (I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn’s daddy was in that game). Our donors tend to be in the £5 for a strip of raffle tickets bracket rather than the £50000 for a game of tennis with Boris set, so we can’t afford to pay people to deliver leaflets as some other parties do. Luckily we have a small army of volunteers who happily donate shoe leather as well as their fivers but more always welcome!
Wednesday I was to the Civic in the morning to get an update on various cycle schemes. There is a scheme for Boston Manor road which has been extensively changed from the original idea which didn’t meet with residents’ enthusiasm (to put it mildly, I understand, though this was before I was a Councillor). This one has, I hope, addressed the issues and will go to further consultation after the London election. We also discussed the long-running saga of Cycle Superhighway 9 which ‘will’ run from Hounslow to the city centre via Brentford High St. Not at all easy and of course we are hoping (speaking for myself rather than the council officers!) that a new regime will take over in City Hall in a month’s time so progress is especially difficult with the current incumbents, given the uncertainty. We also touched on Lionel Road North which is listed as a ‘ward ask’ for cycling improvements. I agree with the officers’ view that it is impractical to provide facilities on the road because it’s too narrow and congested, so the obvious thing is some kind of facility in Gunnersbury Park. Two issues with that, though: the powers that be within the park need to be on board; and it needs, in effect, to be a daylight cycle track because the council will not have the funds nor the capacity to create a fully functioning street lit facility even if it was thought acceptable in the park.
News broke on Wednesday of the proposal to site Floreat school – currently in Trico House in Great West Quarter - permanently in Layton Road, where today there is a car dealership and a few small industrial units. Councillors have known this was on the cards for a while but were sworn to secrecy because of negotiations between the school, landowners, potential developers, current occupiers and of course the Department for Education who have the money. Not surprisingly this has caused some concerns from people who live in Layton Road who have been surrounded by development for some time and now see further development of unknown size, scope, etc coming just across the road. They also perceive that a decision has already been taken, which is not quite the case because the usual consultation and planning approval cycle will be required. But it would be wrong to pretend that this is not the preferred location for the school. At present, councillors have little information about what is planned beyond that we think there will be some residential development at the Ealing Road end of the site, with the school occupying the bulk of it but we have asked for an update and expect one in the next week or two.
In the evening it was the Mayor’s charity curry and quiz in the civic centre. I was on the Deputy Mayor’s team with her ladyship ensconced in an arm sling with a very fat green finger pointing to the light fittings. Our team managed a plucky 6th out of 14 which was regarded as respectable, especially as we marmalised the Mayor’s own team. Obviously we would have won if we had really tried, but that would be showing off and we’re all extremely modest.
So now I’m off to help put 10000 leaflets into bags, penalty for being the largest ward in the constituency.
April 8, 2016