Has survived a whole year as a councillor
I’ve just realised that on Saturday I will have been a councillor for a year. If I was the Queen, it would be my official birthday but we’ll let that past with just the observation that all presents are welcome, especially expensive ones. Which is about as likely as a quick and positive resolution to the Labour Party, Conservative Party and Brexit travails. The fortnightly Bible (aka Private Eye) is full of it this week and my favourite is a cartoon of our old mate Wile E Coyote in his familiar position, suspended in mid air having just run off a cliff edge, with a perplexed look in his eyes as he looks down, and a Brexit sign in his paws. Well, one has to try and get a laugh out of it.
As to activities, Thursday night was the pension panel with a presentation from investment managers. The markets were already rocky before Brexit and there must be really serious threats to UK Commercial property where the fund has some investments (see Aviva etc suspending withdrawals). We were somewhat reassured by the fund managers who told us that our investments were in the types of property least likely to be affected, such as high quality retail.
Friday I met at the splendid Express Tavern with the equally splendid Mike Paterson, the publisher of the London Historians blog – well worth following – and a tenacious fighter for our local heritage. This is the first time we met in person, having started corresponding about the Sarah Trimmer Hall and similar (note, if you want to comment on the current planning application for ST Hall you can find it on the planning section of the LBH website under reference P/2016/2521).
Saturday morning was surgery at Clayponds Community Centre with two residents, both of whom I had seen before, airing problems, which I am making a further effort to resolve: some things take a lot of time, particularly if they relate to housing.
Monday evening was our Labour Group meeting at the council. A number of updates including an excellent presentation on the council’s work (with other agencies) on domestic violence. The problem is big in the borough, covering all areas, ethnicities and economic groups: if reports to the police are the measure, the problem is growing, but nobody really knows if this is because victims are more reassured to come forward than hitherto, or whether it’s really getting worse. There is a lot of activity here which most of us never see, so it’s very timely to be reminded of the work going on behind the scenes. Other discussions were a calm one about Lampton 360 and the progress on planned maintenance of our housing stock, and a lively one about waste and recycling. There have been huge challenges around this partly stemming from a far higher uptake of the paid for garden waste service than was anticipated (from memory, about 4 times as many have signed up than the council expected). The lead member explained that problems are now well on the way to being resolved. This councillor’s mailbag suggests that there is progress but still work to do.
Tuesday I hie to the good old London Museum of Water and Steam to hear some hot air from developers J This was about the plan to redevelop the empty buildings next to the railway in Capital Interchange Way (or North CIW to you) to provide a bus depot, offices, an elevated park and some 500 homes. The car showroom previously anticipated turned out to be vapourware (as ancient IT people say) so is no longer part of the deal. The proposal is headed by the famous architect Will Alsop and as such is ‘different’, ‘creative’ choose what expression you will! As I am now on the planning committee I probably should say no more, other than that I quizzed them as to whether it is likely to be viable following Brexit. They say they did their sums on the basis of them being Brexit-proof but I am deeply concerned about the effect on all our local developments: nobody knows what the impact on house and office values will be but any reduction makes these schemes more marginal, I think. People may not welcome all the development around here, but we really do need regeneration to go ahead.
Wednesday I headed out to darkest South Bucks District Council for a Credit Union related meeting. It seems we may have been overpaying VAT for several years, which would make quite an impact on our finances if reversed. M’learned friends of the accountant variety are discussing the matter with m’learned friends from HMRC, so we’ll find out the answer, probably in about 2027.
In the evening our campaign committee in Chiswick High Road. There is no campaign as such now, but we really value interacting with residents and will continue to door knock, probably a session once a fortnight or so, but we’d also like to have other interactions. The surgeries we hold tend to attract people with acute problems but we would also like to meet more informally with people just to chat about the ward and residents’ concerns and ambitions. We are not quite sure about the best way to do this and I would really welcome any suggestions or invitations – so please do contact me if you have any!
July 7, 2016