Councillors will burn in hell, allegedly
Well, the week starts with planning, a heavy agenda dominated by a proposed development on the Sparrow Farm estate in Feltham. This is a 4 storey block of council flats and a community centre on the site of an existing residents association building. To say that emotions were running high would be quite an understatement. There were really two issues – the size and design and the very fact of a new building, and the loss of the residents association building and its replacement with something smaller, and possible loss of control by the residents committee. I was relaxed about the building – I thought it was to scale and a good design – but I could see the concerns about the community centre. These are soluble with goodwill, and the building will make a dent in our housing list. I voted in favour, as did a narrow majority of the committee, but it was quite a surprise that the other committee members all abstained. It all got very angry at this point, with the committee in general being told they were corrupt and would burn in Hell and some local councillors singled out for extra vilification. As it happens I am an unbeliever so Hell fire doesn’t resonate much but if I end up there I doubt it will be because I voted in favour of a planning application. The local applications were for the office block on the corner of Ealing Road (I would have liked a debate on this, but nobody spoke for or against and I abstained. Like the Brentford Community Council, I am unconvinced by the architecture but pleased it will have a green wall. And a redevelopment of the Peugeot garage on Chiswick roundabout. I thought this looked a considerable improvement so was happy to support it.
Saturday I went down to Thornbury Park in Isleworth, a park I knew of but had never visited. This was the joint service day led by the police and the fire service and featured the firemen cutting the roof off a very serviceable looking Ford Fiesta – very interesting. My colleagues insisted on sitting me on a quad bike so they could take a most misleading picture which makes it look like I have a fat belly.
Saturday was Tidefest so I went with my daughter down to Strand-on-the-Green and ended up in One Over the Ait. I must confess that I was a bit shocked that a pint of lager and a coffee came to £8 but I suppose they like to think they’re in Chiswick or Kew. Anyway, it turned out there was a Thames Water reception upstairs with free grub and drinks with Mayor Sue Sampson so the second round was free! Tidefest was good and there was a pretty good turnout with lots of braver ones than I messing about on paddleboards etc.
On Monday we’re right back in council action, with a Labour Group meeting in the evening. We had an update on the council’s ICT strategy – I must say I’m impressed with the progress they are making – and prepared for Borough Council on Tuesday.
But I spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday over the other side of London for the Smart Cities Live conference. As I am personally smart in every respect and at all times, this was not one I could pass up (and it was free, which always helps). There were talks on all manner of innovations in cities all over Europe, from air quality, to recycling, to digital infrastructure, to housing and all a bit much for my small (but perfectly smart) brain to take in. It ended up with a slightly scary trip (it was windy!) on Boris’s white elephant, the laughably named Emirates Air Line (ie cable car) but fortunately nobody asked me to suspend myself from the wires. A fascinating talk at the other end from the people from digital Greenwich (throwaway fact: 80,000 people worked at Woolwich Arsenal during WW2).
Tuesday evening we had a Mayor’s reception to honour our emergency services who had worked so bravely and tirelessly to support their more local colleagues after the Grenfell Tower disaster. And equally to applaud the 100 Hounslow council employees who volunteered to help with the aftermath after Kensington and Chelsea belatedly asked for assistance. They were involved in all sorts of things including running the information service 24/7 and the particularly harrowing task of offering support to bereaved and/or homeless families. Mary Harpley, the Hounslow CEO, said she was very proud of the workforce (she was also heavily involved herself) and she has every right to be.
Borough Council was business as usual, with Godzilla Todd backed up by the Horror of Homefields giving a brief reprise of the clash at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee regarding the Medium Term Financial Strategy. It’s not in their nature to congratulate the administration for dealing as well as they have with the enormous cuts meted out by central government – they prefer to nit-pick. There was also some discussion about Hounslow Highways – the carefully drafted PFI contract was another that was not helped by a 30% cut in central government funding imposed at the last minute. There then ensued a rather dotty debate about Heathrow ending with what appeared to be violent agreement (nobody is too keen on a third runway and all the extra traffic it will inevitably bring to roads, rail and the sky). It was to the Tories’ credit, though, that they unanimously agreed Katherine Dunne’s motion to support the Citizens Advice Bureau’s call for a pause in the roll out of Universal Credit. Hounslow agreed to be a pioneer with UC but the reality of it has been people left penniless for 6 weeks (as a matter of policy) and much longer (as a matter of cock-up) and having to rely on loans from friends and family or from pernicious payday and doorstep lenders . And of course emergency support from Hounslowfoodbox.org.uk which is even more desperately in need of donations of food or florins. It is heartening to see that our local Tories disagree with their next leader (apparently) Jacob Rees-Mogg who finds the idea of people begging for food from charity ‘rather uplifting’.
Wednesday evening was Labour party branch AGM. This is always a bundle of fun with various posts being elected by our now very numerous membership. There were over 100 of us in Isleworth Public Hall though that’s only about a seventh of our Branch Membership – very different from how it was a few years ago.
Thursday morning I was out in St Paul’s Park with some residents and a man trying to sell us some slides etc! Some of the equipment in the heavily-used playground could do with refreshing, as could some of the ground itself so we’ll see if anybody can find some money to do it. Later on today I have a meeting with fellow councillors and the Leader about the Floreat School, so I’d better try and catch up with my casework during the afternoon.
Councillor Guy Lambert
September 15, 2017