Brentford Monument is being restored inside a box
I felt a little deflated and a lot exhausted on Friday and over the weekend. Not that I had worked particularly hard during the campaign – others worked a lot harder, notably Jack, our organiser and of course Ruth, our MP (such a pleasure to be able to say that again). But, although I didn’t entirely abandon other activities – council and credit union – during the campaign, I was fitting them in the spaces whilst my main priority was Ruth’s re-election.
When it came down to it, whilst we had a real landslide here, and across London, we ended up with the Tories still hanging on by a thread trying to put a tawdry coalition together and June hasn’t (yet) proved to be the end of May. But the mood has shifted sharply in our favour and at least May (or her successor) will be restrained from the most damaging things they were planning to foist upon us.
I hadn’t really been at the heart of an election campaign before (other than the by-election which got me elected, and that was just a side-show) and the sheer requirements for organisation were quite a surprise. Many different strands of activity, lots of unexpected twists and turns when a shadow minister or a celeb or the Evening Standard decides to turn up (or when, horribly, a terrorist strikes) and trying to coordinate all that with part time volunteers many of whom have little or no experience. Blind leading the blind but fortunately we had a couple of people with excellent vision!
Anyway, come Monday it was back to normal council business, starting with trying to get back on top of emails, plus a few bits of casework I had picked up during the campaign.
In the afternoon I’m invited to see what’s happening with the Brentford Monument. You may have seen a funny wooden box appear on the High Street outside the County Court. If you've had your eyes open you'll remember Brentford's famous Monument is inside and I can tell you Francis is inside too and Francis is busy restoring the Monument!
I get the full story of the monument from our wonderful local historian Janet McNamara. I knew it started life on Brentford Bridge but I didn’t realise that it was not then a monument – it was two pillars which had lamps on them. When they widened the bridge for the trams, the pillars were made redundant and some bright spark had the idea of recycling them. They stuck one on top of t’other, engraved a few chapters from Brilliant history, and stuck them on a plinth down by the Kew Ferry (in Ferry Lane). They then had the Nobility (councillors have always been noble) and Gentry (Dukes etc) to unveil it, with not a baseball cap, nor a cloth cap in sight.
Monday evening is my first meeting of a committee which I haven’t been on before, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. I’m just trying to get the hang of this but the point of the committee is to look at aspects of council business that are particularly challenging so that we can hopefully draw attention to anything that is seriously amiss. I find myself appointed Vice chair, though I’m not sure that entails anything too onerous (hope not!)
Tuesday morning I hack across to the ExCel centre for the National Infrastructure show (my life is all romance). ExCel is in East London, so it takes about 4 hours to get there but I hear about a maglev underground train that is being mooted to run between Liverpool and Hull. Apparently it will take 7 minutes to go from Liverpool to Manchester which is about as long as it takes me to get from my flat to Kew Bridge on a good day. This is pretty scary stuff, and the man says that they are thinking to go for the 340mph train rather than the 600mph one on the grounds that shaving 3 minutes off the Liverpool to Manchester time isn’t worth it.
Tuesday afternoon is a wee trip up to Swyncombe Avenue, in Ealing border country, where various natives are revolting about the state of the pavements and the proposed CPZ. One of the things I’ll have to give up on is trying to convince people that CPZs are not about the wicked greedy council trying to steal their money. I’ve been pointing out for years that only a council run by lunatics would act that way, but now I’m a councillor people just look at me quizzically and you can see them thinking…and? Anyway, some work to do there, then I’m off to the Civic centre for Licensing panel. This is all about the Goan Festival in Cranford, where they want to increase the attendance limit from 10,000 to 15,000. Some local residents are unhappy, but the people running the festival seem genuinely determined to live in harmony with them and in the end I think people are OK with us granting the licence. It’s kind of ironic that this came a couple of days after the Junction 2 festival in Boston Manor Park. This started last year and we were quite worried about it but it passed off without any real problems. This year, however, we had a lot of complaints about noise (almost all of them from Ealing), the park gates were damaged by lorries and a policeman was assaulted by festival-goers (I think) and got a broken jaw from being kicked in the face, which is really not on. If they want to hold this event again next year there are a few things that need to be put right..
Wednesday is a free day so I mess about with domestic chores, reading up for upcoming meetings, doing email, watching cricket on the TV (big mistake) before a gentle trip up to Osterley for another CPZ discussion.
But of course Wednesday is dominated by something else, the horrific fire in a tower block in Kensington. This is truly appalling, and we have six blocks in Brentford which are not dissimilar. We have to take a step back from our plans to reclad the Brentford towers and really investigate whether we are putting in a safe solution. This is not a day to play politics, but I’m haunted by a fear that councils don’t invest enough in their housing stock to give tenants a good and safe living environment. Food for reflection. I think poor housing is a terrible blight on families and councils must really do their utmost, despite the huge difficulties, practical and financial, caused by central government’s doctrinaire housing polices. I’m hoping Ruth gets reappointed as shadow housing minister so we’ll have a sage and caring voice ready with the right plans for when we win the next election.
Oh – roll up for the Big Picnic in St Paul’s Rec on Saturday, from 1pm. Our community coming together and having a little relaaxx!
June 15, 2017