Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert
Syon Park allotments, Great West Corridor and an encounter with a bike thief
As it turned out I was able to attend 2 of my three meetings last Thursday – The Thomas Layton Trust was fairly brief but very informative as usual but sadly I had to miss the traditional dinner in Brilliant’s very friendly La Rosetta Italian (we all pay our own bills, before you start…) in favour of the pre planning presentation meeting.
There was quite some controversy here because one of the items we looked at - the move and redevelopment of Syon Park allotments - already has a planning application in the system and some locals thought this would give the developers an unfair extra opportunity to sell the scheme to the Planning Committee. A large cohort of locals turned up and in the circumstances the Chair changed the normal rule and allowed them to ask questions, which they did very forcefully. In the end I think honour was satisfied: both parties put their case across and councillors left with a better understanding of the issues. Thankfully the Gillette corner filling station redevelopment was somewhat less contentious, though that doesn’t mean it will not get a good going over at the Planning Committee!
On Friday I went with Mel up to the Community Union office in Caledonian Road (we are both members). They had advertised a seminar on PIP – the newish benefit for disabled people - and I thought it would be useful as my knowledge was extremely limited. As it turned out, this felt a bit like I gatecrashed a private club: most of the people there were either themselves disabled or heavily involved in advising disabled people. However it was a real eye-opener. For a start I did not realise that those on the old DLA do not get any kind of inflation adjustment to their benefit, so its value will decline over time. Secondly, I thought assessments by ATOS were a thing of the past – not so: furthermore the success rate for appeals against ESA and PIP remains around 70 %, and the number of appeals is soaring, despite the hardship people go through just to have an appeal heard. Many of those present had personally been victims of uncaring, even callous treatment and everyone agreed that the system was (probably by design to save.money) deliberately biased against claimants. There is a case in Private Eye this week that backs that up. I think the government think they have succeeded in convincing the public that working age benefits are for scroungers and they can get away with cruel cuts without anyone caring. I have more faith in the Great British Public than that: sooner or later people will realise what is going on and the Nasty Party will get its richly deserved come-uppance.
On Monday it was a full review of all the things in my follow up ‘system’ (I wouldn’t want anybody to get the impression that it’s all that systematic!) resulting in many annoying emails to council officers, lead members, Hounslow Highways, McDonalds etc and creating a gradual shower of replies through the week. In the evening, a rare Monday when I was free to attend the Friends of St Paul’s Rec meeting. They are to be heartily congratulated on the progress they have made in a year or so since they started and it was great to see their continuing enthusiasm and plans for the future. It’s a community initiative really working: they ask for help from councillors, Carillion etc when they need it and we all do our best to provide support but the FOSP officers are clearly in the driving seat. There was still some nervousness expressed about whether anybody will try to develop the park, which I hope I was able to dispel. Urban parks are actually becoming more and more important as so many developments rely on them for providing a proportion of their amenity space and the focus is on protecting and improving them.
On Tuesday morning it’s Brentford Library for a review of what is being done to improve the grounds and discourage people parking cars inappropriately on or near the War Memorials. Everything gets a bit late as somebody decided to close both the M4 and A4 which made life a bit difficult for those driving in from the West. However in the end the man from Carillion and I are joined by a splendid council officer: he describes himself as a terrier and contractors should take care to avoid a nasty nip on the ankle. Councillors (and I think the officer, but I don’t want to put words in his mouth) are not at all happy with the standard of what has been done to date and we generate a pretty long list of things that need to be improved, to add to those generated by Mel and Myra the week before.
On Wednesday morning a councillor is innocently chewing his way through a late breakfast when the phone rings and I’m asked to stop the contractors digging up one of the yew trees/bushes that live in the Library garden. I had seen this yesterday, fiercely cut back, and I assumed it was past it but was told in no uncertain terms that it was in perfectly good health and well over 100 years old, and should be left to recover its former glory. After a hasty discussion with the formerly eminent Myra, Mel being away surfing or clubbing or something in Llandudno, I cycle up there and ask that the tree be spared. Unfortunately it will look far from its best for a while but at least it is still there.
After a spell in the Labour party office undertaking the highly therapeutic task of putting envelopes in address order, I hie over to the Palace of Lampton to take part in discussions about the Great West Corridor plan. People may remember there was an initial consultation about this several months ago, and the next phase is now under way. Public consultation will restart shortly and we were sworn to confidentiality about what went on in the meeting (not that there was anything very controversial). This was a small but perfectly-formed group of councillors including two from Osterley and Spring Grove (the perfectly-formed duo, Sheila O’Reilly and Tony Louki), one from Turnham Green (Lefty Lee), yours truly from Syon, representing Brentford and Theo Dennison from Brentford, representing Syon. All under the chairmanship of our leader (S.Curran, from Brentford, representing the wider world of Hounslow!) I can say, I suppose, that there was a good consensus amongst us elected ones though I’m not sure the officers agreed with our every word and whim.
The evening continued with a long and (for those of us with a short attention span) tedious Labour Party meeting in Isleworth Public Hall. There was one very heartening announcement, though, that LBH are doing the right (and what I always understood was the British) thing and taking responsibility for a number of child refugees from the Calais ‘jungle’ despite laughably inadequate government funding support. The political machinations’ though, lead to a mood switch from positive (after the Great West meeting) to the urgent desire for a Kebab. I had to forego fact finding in the pub to go back to Chiswick to pick up some ruddy letters to deliver to the deliverer in dead of night. I suppose if I was a Tory I’d just instruct my man to sort it. Anyway, I succumbed to a trip to Albany Parade’s outstanding kebab emporium, and as I entered this establishment I noticed a rather distinctive bicycle with a young man astride it, outside the door. ‘Where did you get that bicycle?’ I asked in a rather peremptory fashion, whereupon man and bicycle proceeded sharpish down Albany Road in a Westerly direction pursued by my exclamation ‘That is my bike that was nicked’. Of course one can never be sure but it was a very distinctive bike and the phone mounting on the handlebars looked oddly familiar. Inspector plod was updated with this not very useful information (I have no idea where monsieur et son velo disappeared into the darkness) but you never know, I suppose.
Thursday morning finds me hearing various unpleasant truths from the dentist including words like ‘can’t save’ and ‘Poligrip’ followed by an hour or two breathing in the balmy air by the A4 and elevated M4, together with Myra, a very bored pooch, two Greenish (well, an attractive flesh colour really) residents and TfL’s tree man and his apprentice. We’ve been trying to get this meeting for a while, having decided that this area’s air quality would potentially be made even balmier and less barmy by an injection of scrubbers – I am referring, obviously, to trees that scrub nasties from the atmosphere - which might also have the benefit of adding to the undoubted visual attractions of Brentford’s prime beauty spot. After Mr TfL had started by suggesting there was little to be done things got progressively better as we walked from Boston Manor Road to Gunnersbury Park and back, and I think we were all impressed by the helpful and positive ideas generated.
Anyway, some of us have a kebab to work off, so off to the gym now to frighten the natives and fight the flab.
October 28, 2016