A positive but highly-charged meeting about Brentford Towers
I had a welcome free evening on Thursday and Friday was free too, apart from a meeting with a resident up in Manor Vale. This was one which somebody picked up during the GE canvassing and told me I should contact. Turned out to be a charming elderly lady with some mobility problems and a bit of attitude: a retired nurse. It’s truly a privilege to meet many of our residents and sometimes I wish I could do more for them – this one is pending.
I hear that Ruth has been sacked from her job as shadow housing minister. This is hardly a surprise but very disappointing. She really had to follow her conscience (and the majority of her constituents) in voting against a hard Brexit even though she would have known tradition says ministers get sacked for defying the whip. A pity, not least because housing is such a priority, especially just now, and because Ruth really adds value to the front bench. To put this in perspective, poor Ruth heard at the weekend that her sister had succumbed to cancer, aged only 50. Very sad.
Saturday was our monthly surgery but I had a month off and went to the ‘Raising of the Rainbow Flag’ at the Civic Centre. This is a Cooperative Party production. I joined the coop party last year at a Labour Councillors’ event because I like the idea of cooperatives, am already chair of one (www.Thamesbank.org, our credit union) and the people I met on the stand were clearly very dedicated. I’m not quite clear about the Rainbow Flag but this year is the party’s centenary so it was good to attend and learn a bit of history. My labour colleagues were involved in street stalls in Chiswick and Hounslow which apparently went well (Shami Chakrabarti attended the Hounslow event and was well received)
I am engaged currently in the recurring battle of the bulge having put on half a stone sitting in the Labour office during the election campaign (in 2015 I spent much more time out on the streets and lost half a stone, grr) and have discovered I share a gym with local Tory leader and ogre (by definition) Sam Hearn. We clashed antlers during the week as I sweatily repaired from the cross trainer to the treadmill and Sam prepared to put in a bit of rowing. The subject was Brexit (I don’t like it, seems Sam does) and we narrowly managed to avoid coming to blows, which would have been a fun spectacle for all the young (mainly male) lovelies in the gym. Anyway, Sam bought me a bottle of fizzy water after and we steered clear of controversial matters.
After this I cycled down to Isleworth to the Town Wharf pub to have an election post mortem with local comrades. This is a Sam Smith’s pub, so we discussed the 1950s style swearing ban that is in operation in their estate (apparently the ghost of Sam himself, or somebody like that, lurks in corners and bans customers and sacks landlords for use of naughty words). All I can say is that Sam Smiths Organic Lager is effing strong stuff and I was a bit wobbly on the way home.
Tuesday evening we were down to the Mission Hall for a public meeting on the Brentford Towers, and the now suspended plans to reclad them. Steve Curran was chairing the meeting and he was supported by the director of housing, the Borough Fire Commander, local housing manager and various specialists. It was definitely standing room only and people were actually spilling out of the door and to nobody’s great surprise there was a lot of emotion in the room. I was pleased to see that Steve and the housing team really took people’s concerns on board and towards the end one or two people apologised for the emotion. I was able to say that I thought it was healthy to hear these concerns properly expressed – I think people are too often content to ‘grin and bear it’. I looked in my bag and found I had about 30 business cards with me, which I offered to people – they were gone in about 28 seconds and Steve told me later that about 40 of his went the same way. The director of housing committed to personally visit all of the 6 blocks over the course of this month and go through them floor by floor, which went down very well. We still need to get on with some works to the towers, but cladding is off the menu, for now at least. Peter reported that the one tower in Hounslow with cladding that has now been revealed as not OK has now had it completely removed. This is the sort of meeting which makes me love this place. People not holding back putting across their point of view but also respecting that some of this stuff is not easy to fix especially in the current financial climate. Also good to be able to see a lot of residents at the same time and I hope a few more of them come forward with the concerns they have – one or two have done so already.
The poor old Melvinator missed the meeting, which he would have given his right arm to attend. However his aim wasn’t true and he’s been having gyp with one of his legs following a minor op and got himself admitted to W Middlesex to have it treated. They haven’t let him out, as of this morning and he’ll be champing at the bit to get out: he loves being a councillor and works really hard for his residents.
As luck would have it, I was due the next day to go up two of the towers on a periodic estate inspection. These happen every quarter and I try and do them when I can. It was particularly interesting to do it against the background of the previous evening and I was certainly alert to things that I’m normally less focused upon, such as fire hazards in the lift lobbies and outside the blocks, and any defects in fire doors.
All a bit lethargic with this weather and I have a heap of stuff to catch up with and planning committee (relatively uncontroversial I think) this evening. You may have noticed I received a slapping from the editor last week for revealing the fact of our Brentford Councillors’ Facebook page without saying where you can find it. Well it’s /BrentfordCouncillors so if anyone wants to start a debate with us you know where it is. Nobody much has yet and there’s not much there other than this nonsense so: consider yourself invited!
July 6, 2017