A week of meetings
Down at the Holiday Inn the sandwiches seemed to have been provided by Hounslow Highways as they were about the same thickness as paving stones but oddly enough they were delicious as was the Spanish white. There was an excellent turnout of locals and people from across the borough but very sadly indeed I could not stay to listen to the inspiring speech from Theo ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ Dennison as I had to scuttle off to the meeting of the Housing and Environment Scrutiny Panel.
I’m fairly new to this scrutiny lark and still trying to get a handle on how it all works – Housing and Environment covers a multitude of sins from fire safety in tower blocks to air pollution via waste and litter etc. All things I’m interested in so that’s a good match. Anyway the main focus of the meeting was an update on our council (mainly) tower blocks from the director and lead member for housing. The one tower block where we had dodgy cladding was very quickly stripped of it: the insulation behind it was non-flammable rockwool unlike the polystyrene at Grenfell but the meat in the cladding sandwich was polythene (or whatever the flammable one is) so it was right to strip it now and ask questions afterwards. We learned that the plans to clad the Brentford towers have now been definitively cancelled, rather than just postponed. We will repair the concrete instead, though other works on windows, fire doors and general tidying up will go ahead. We decide to set up a ‘task and finish group’ - a small cross-party group of councillors – to look at the council’s work on Air Pollution and I agree to chair this group, which will also include The Melvinator, Sam Hearn from Chiswick and Lily Bath from way out West.
On Friday, our umpteenth visit to Kew Bridge to look at step-free access under it. We had someone from TfL (who own the bridge), someone from the Environment Agency (who worry about floods) someone from planning (the bridge is a listed building), someone from LBH transport (it’s a public highway project) and someone from St George (who have a responsibility to provide the access, though it’s not entirely clear if that is still the case). The ball now goes back into TfL’s court because they will have to give permission – the main issue is that they will have to forego rent on one of the arches, but also some works will be needed to make it safe and useable.
In the evening I drive down to Bedfont because suddenly I’m a Trustee of the David Henry Waring Home (or maybe just a member of the Management Committee – there’s a dispute). Well, anyway, the DHW home is a large Victorian (ish) house in Bedfont with a beautiful and large garden in which a very unbeautiful (though I bet the architect loved it) 1970’s block has been built to house elderly (but independent) people. Unfortunately the block does not meet modern standards and needs to go (it is unoccupied) and the trust, which was endowed by the late DHW to the parish, and later largely transferred to the council as corporate trustee, is losing a lot of money. The plan is to merge it with a larger charity who have the funds and expertise to make proper use of this rather stunning facility which currently houses (in the splendid old house) only 6 residents.
On Monday I hie up to Lionel School where there are concerns about traffic speeds, illegal parking for pupil drop off etc, in Lionel Road. We are joined by a couple of concerned parents and a deputy head, together with a traffic officer. Various approaches are discussed, some very feasible, some less so but it is a growing problem as the school has grown from single class entry to three so there will be a lot more parents and no doubt the problem of dodgy drop-off practices will grow accordingly. We, however, are very virtuous with three of us arriving on bikes and one on a pony (Shanks’s).
In the evening a lively meeting of our credit union board. Rather bizarrely, despite everyone’s credit cards being maxed out (apparently) not enough people are borrowing from us despite our luvverly low rates and the fact that we are a cooperative and highly ethical in all things :-). Good news is that we have loads of new members, though most of them are under 10 – from a primary school club in New Malden. A bit reminiscent of the Labour Party (allegedly, though studies say that the average age of Lab members who joined before 2010 is 51 and the average age of the surge of new young members who have joined since is… 51).
Tuesday, some Ferry Quays business then a complicated bike ride to Chiswick’s dodgiest club (or so it seems from the metal detector on the door) the VUK club off Gunnersbury Avenue. This sort of brings back memories because I’m convinced this is the same place I used to play squash (yes, really I did) back in the 1980s with my flatmate: I think it then had something to do with Ealing Council. My flatmate didn’t have a membership but his pal lent him his card and my memory will always associate the place with a cry from an irate member ‘You’re not J**** I****, get out !*!). Anyway, no squash today, but a developer’s exhibition about plans for the site on the corner of Power Road. You’ll be amazed to hear that they want to add a few storeys onto the existing scheme which is approved for just a stubby 8 floors.
In the evening a licensing panel. Having been in council or party meetings every single weeknight last week (a first for me) and with 4 busy evenings this week I wanted to make this one snappy so took the chair. An Indian restaurant in Hounslow High St wasn’t very controversial so we were through it in half an hour but then councillor Louki lured me to attend one of his resident’s association meetings in a pub in Isleworth – the things I do for a pint.
Wednesday there was an end-of-term service at St Paul's Church. Now I’m not at all one for services but this one was in part to honour The Melvinator’s service as a school governor, a position I believe he has held ever since St Paul himself was schlepping back from Damascus (or nearly).
It’s at times like this I think I need a proper camera, but I hope you get the gist.
In the evening, a choice between the Pension fund panel and Overview and Scrutiny (again). I figure I should do O&S because I’m the vice chair, and I must say it’s an interesting meeting. We start off grilling the director of IT about the new website and associated issues (mainly going well, but lots to do), then the leader and Chief Exec about the peer review report (which is actually very positive), then the Chief Exec and head of customer service about… customer service. This has been a huge issue and we’re told of actions that have already been taken and others happening now which will improve matters. Various figures show improvement in things like number of complaints and number of phone calls abandoned but any councillor would have to emigrate to another planet to believe this is satisfactory. What’s reassuring is the ambition for really rapid improvement. We will be overviewing and scrutinising carefully and with undimmed scepticism, as we will the new waste contract and other pressing matters.
July 20, 2017