Last column of "councillor claptrap" for 2016
Thursday morning I hie down to Lampton Road for the regular(ish) meeting of the working group on transfer of the housing projects activity to Lampton 360, the council’s wholly-owned subsidiary. There’s a short hiatus whilst more clarity is obtained about the new entity’s plans and operational robustness, but we seem to be on track for a transfer next spring.
After that the three Brilliant councillors (it’s the town that’s brilliant, no comment on our brilliance please) meet with an officer in the parks team. We are very disappointed with the work done in Brentford Library grounds: it was tidied up for Remembrance Sunday (good) but it still looks a bit of a mess and we want to get it back to a state we can be proud of and which provides a pleasing facility for people to walk through or relax in. The team will work up some ideas but we will need to find some funds to make them happen.
In the afternoon I sit on an emergency licensing appeals panel to do with a club in Hounslow which is a regular visitor to the licensing panel. This is quite a taxing matter: I cannot see that the results have been published and in any case the appeal will be heard again next week so I will say no more about this semi-judicial matter.
In the evening, the pension fund panel. We are generally monitoring the performance of the fund managers who seek to grow the pension fund’s sizeable investment portfolio and at times I wish I could be doing something more diverting, such as collecting bus numbers or reading historical minutes of the Borough Council. Sometimes, however, it gets interesting, and this was a case in point. I challenged one of the fund manager’s views about inflation, which he said is set to be low. Turns out he agrees that it will be high in the short term because of the pound’s weakness but longer term he thinks it will be low as a result of two decisive factors: demographics, particularly in China, will lead to a sustained period of low growth; technological change as typified by enterprises such as RightMove, Uber and Air B’n’B will bring downward pressure on wages and cause extreme pressure on certain businesses (apparently estate agents’ expenditure on press advertising is down to 1/8th of what it was a few years ago). This is not bad for pension funds but suggest a bleak decade or two, especially for younger people. I believe sometime soon we are going to have to have a radical rethink of our approach to work, wages etc because the old model we have lived with is beginning to fall apart.
Friday morning finds me in the clubroom at Brentford Dock for the first stakeholder meeting relating to the waterside strategy within the Ballymore development. Around 30 people attend including various councillors from Syon and Brentford, community groups, river users both domestic and commercial and a lively discussion ensues. Very early days but it’s good that Ballymore are finally coming to grips with this issue. It seems that Ballymore’s current view of the timetable is that they don’t expect the anticipated review of the Compulsory Purchase orders to be concluded before January 2018, so that construction will not start until spring of that year, with their second phase likely to start in 2020. At least that’s faster than the 2067 that I have frequently predicted!
Sunday I make the trip down to Eel Pie as predicted last week. It was well worth the visit because even if the art exhibition had not been on, the island is quite fascinating. I ended up buying a signed print of a canalside scene, which reminds me I need to pick it up from Wendy Mackenzie, the artist, as I decided cycling back from Twickenham with it under my arm was a very bad idea.
Monday was a Credit Union day, travelling down to the depths of New Malden – my geography improves every week – to meet with a school and church who are eager to start a young savers club and are keen to work with us (the keenness is mutual, like the Credit Union itself, ha ha).
In the evening, a special meeting of the labour group in the civic centre about a private matter.
Tuesday was a Christmas lunch get together with old colleagues, then a Ferry Quays meeting in the evening so not much councilloring, just a few emails.
Wednesday I met with a woman who is studying the work of councillors and MPs for a University project but who is also trying to get church-related community activities going in Brentford. A very interesting discussion and I hope she can make some progress. Labour branch Christmas get-together in the evening. For once, no elections or complicated motions and we had a very convivial debate about political matters – mainly about the potential for a progressive alliance with other left of centre parties. Evenings like this make me feel much more positive about our party: we have had an extremely challenging year and sometimes it feels we are too divided to come together effectively, but we are capable of having a very robust but comradely debate and when we do it’s a pleasant surprise to be reminded about how little really divides us.
I’m shortly off to the Civic centre for a presentation from waterside users to Brendon Walsh and his team, and for a discussion about whether the Credit Union can help people to cope when the latest cut in poor people’s income is implemented in January.
After that, I will have to get down to some serious Christmas planning, as I am flying off to Vienna on Monday to spend Christmas with some friends who live out there. You’ll be delighted to hear, therefore, that this is the last piece of councillor claptrap that I will be writing in 2016 so you’ll have to upgrade to watching reruns of Jim Davidson on the telly, which you will no doubt find highly educational.
Before I go, in the interests of self-preservation (the editor will kill me if I stay silent), a comment on the library. Carillion were supposed to complete a further structural assessment this Tuesday 13th: I have not heard the outcome but will be pressing for it today, and for a further update to be put up on the LBH website.
A Merry Christmas to one and all, and may 2017 be less traumatic than 2016 for everybody.
December 16, 2016