Discussions with Layton Road residents and more canvassing
On Saturday I had a Credit Union training event up by Euston. Credit Unions and their clients are now viewed with great suspicion by the authorities following the ‘events’ of 2007/8. We used to have one regulator – the FSA – but George Osborne mated with the Bank of England and begat two – the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (quango hunters be aware) - so now we are suspected of plotting to bring the world economic system down and subject to all kinds of capital stress tests and anti-money laundering regulations. It seems in the modern world it’s OK for multinational banks to launder the multi-million dollar proceeds of Mexican drug cartels (though to be fair they do risk quite a bruising slap on the wrist) but there is intense scrutiny to make sure that granny’s £1000 loan for a new lounge suite isn’t in fact to finance international crime. Still, if all our credit union clients defaulted I suppose the Financial Services Compensation scheme might have to cough up a couple of hundred thousand and where would that leave the UK economy? Anyway, always worth meeting other credit unions and swapping stories.
Sunday canvassing was in Clayponds Gardens. The lifts say not more than 4 people but 4 of me… I don’t think so. Mind you, lifts the same size in old hotels in Paris tend to say eight people. But then the French are a bit more comfortable touching each other than us. You always pick up bits of casework when canvassing and in estates it’s mostly about housing. This makes a councillor’s heart sink because it is just so difficult to help people, but we can but try. In the evening I was supposed to go to Ealing for my first event with My Fair London which is a newish non-party group campaigning to reduce inequality, inspired by the book The Spirit Level, which shows that unequal societies are bad for everybody in them. I missed it however as I was hijacked by a lurking MP and organiser to go and do a bit of planning.
Monday was the occasional meeting of the trustees of the Thomas Layton Trust. The successful show of a few of the books from the Trusts’s collection in Hogarth’s House is now finished but the next events are closer yet to home, in Boston Manor House in the summer and autumn. The first event is planned for June 3rd and there will be about 5 of them; some for families, including a Halloween event. Not sure we can expect to see the ghost of T Layton but you never know. One of the council’s cost saving plans involves a change in the way Hounslow provides support to the Trust so the trustees’ minds, many of them thankfully more organised than this one, are bending to work out how to accommodate the changes.
On Tuesday we met with various officers and Tom Bruce, the lead member for Education, to understand better the proposal to site Floreat School in Layton Road. We have received some protests from Layton Road residents, who are unhappy about more construction work in an area where they have been in the middle of it for some time. They are also unhappy that they were not forewarned or communicated to about the proposals, and question the whole basis for a school being sited there. As it turned out, the other two ward councillors had other commitments and couldn’t make it on the day but I had engaged quite a bit with residents and anyway it wasn’t difficult to understand their concerns. The council had been in a delicate position because they had to broker discussions between three parties – the site-owner (though part of the site is owned by the council), central government who sanction and finance free school building, and the school itself so we couldn’t really be open about the situation. Then there was pressure to announce before the school allocations day because parents do of course have to have some idea of the available schools. Though of course nobody really knows whether the school will go ahead- it still has the not inconsiderable issue of planning ahead of it and as Layton Road residents have pointed out, there are likely to be a number of planning issues. We resolved two things: that a proper communication would be made as a matter of urgency to local residents, and that there would be a further meeting between councillors and the planning department to understand what is actually being proposed, of which we have only a sketchy idea still.
Wednesday morning I spent dealing with matters on my own estate, where the buildings are just getting to the age where things need repainting, fixing, modernising and each of these involves the same ingredient, pounds, pounds, pounds. A bit like my car, where both the horn and air conditioning suddenly ceased to function. My trusted repairman at Capital Motors, sticking to his constant mantra of not throwing good money after bad, advises me to wait till it gets warmer to do the A/C but with my build I cook at a low temperature so I persuade him to proceed.
After the estate meeting, back for another dose of canvassing up in Clayponds Gardens and thereabouts. In general, canvassing is a pleasant experience but one of my colleagues met someone who had a decidedly dim view of Sadiq Khan and a rather intimidating dog. Unlike him, I would not have sought to prolong the discussion but no harm ensued, unless you count a resident hurling abuse in, ahem, intemperate language, as harm.
In the evening I put my posh frock on and proceeded to the world’s first garden suburb to attend the public meeting on the proposed Chiswick Curve building (or Towery McTowerface as some April 1 wag called it on ChiswickW4.com). Having hung around outside St Michael and All Angels’ Church Hall with a bunch of other idiots, remarking on how few people were there, we finally worked out it was in the main Church, where it wasn’t quite standing room only but probably would have been an excellent gate for a Sunday service. A long presentation on air pollution had me pick out (and tweet) that more people die in London from air pollution than smoking. Don’t know why I bothered giving up. A shorter presentation from architect Barbara Weiss of the Skyline Campaign – not against towers per se, just bad towers or ones in the wrong place, which is pretty well where I’m at. They must have been reading my mind and it’s always a pleasure when experts come round to my point of view. Then some input from Marie Rabouhans of the West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society and our own Denis Browne of Brentford Community Council, both of them brief and very forceful and a slightly longer but just as forceful contribution from Ruth Cadbury MP, interspersed with a few questions and a few answers from council leader Steve Curran.
April 29, 2016