Brentford sees the great bulb planting and a historical celebration
I spend Thursday afternoon trying to get a grip on my emails, trouble is every time I take a spoonful of mail out of the lake of unread, the river of new questions (and some answers) refills the lake. Twas ever thus, but there was a time when I rather geekishly always cleared down my inbox, either into folders or trash, every week or so (when I had a real job!). I still manage that with my private email but the council email is beyond me and I keep trying new approaches to avoid missing something. All these approaches have failed, hitherto, which is why occasionally people don’t get the response they deserve. If you’re one of them, I apologise, but please do nag me – my intention is to reply to 100% and I hate it on the occasions when I don’t achieve it. Enough whinging.
Thursday evening is the pensions panel under the ineffable chairmanship of Mr Deputy Mayor himself, Mukesh Malhotra, who seems to pop up in human or photo form every time I turn around. I’ve never been much of a one for investments or bankers (well, I’ve never had enough to interest them anyway!) but it is interesting to hear from the masters of the universe who come and explain to us how the mind boggling sum of nearly £1billion in the pension scheme is invested. The fund is doing very well, though it still has to keep running to stand still.
Friday evening I’m up in The Ride and Clitherow Road doing some door knocking. Not so many people in, but a few interesting conversations nonetheless. We were expecting a lot of complaints about the Junction 2 festival which has been big in our postbags since the disruption and damage caused earlier in the year but in fact opinions were quite divided with some virulently against it and others more ‘live and let live’. After that down to the Six Bells for birthday drinks (and a very good band) with one of our lovely Labour party members (and a load of her friends!)
Saturday I was off to Tower Hill for the Cooperative Party conference. I joined the co-op party a couple of years ago because, talking to some of their members on a stand at a Labour event, I thought that I really agreed with what they believe and promote (and after all, I have been heavily involved in coops like www.Thamesbank.org for many years). We had a lovely speech from Jeremy Corbyn: he has transformed in my eyes from the rather stilted figure who addressed a meeting of Labour councillors I attended a couple of years ago to the relaxed, humorous and above all warm figure that I saw last Saturday. He talked a lot about cooperative values, including the sense that any enterprises taken back into common ownership will be run on cooperative lines rather than as centralised state enterprises. I was hoping to hear from Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary but since she was unwell we had supersub Tracy Brabin MP (formerly an actor in Corrie apparently) who gave a fantastic speech.
Sunday was the day of the great bulb planting at St Paul’s Rec and my timing for this was exquisite, turning up after all the work had been completed but whilst some of the organisers were still around. Straight from that into the Battles of Brentford walk to celebrate the refurbishment of the Brentford Monument (or Stump, as our guide uncharitably christened it). We had a really good turnout including 6 scary Vikings and I’d say about 40 Brento and Islewortho-Saxons.
We had plenty of walking and talking and a bit of a charge down by the site of the old ferry where it seems our old mate Canute had a barney with the local lads. Anyway it was fascinating and we’re lucky to have these local historians.
Monday we were supposed to have a meeting of the Air Quality scrutiny group but the lead officer was unwell so we had to cancel, so my evening was dedicated to the Credit Union board meeting.
Tuesday morning I drove over to Southall Lane where our new recycling depot is nearly complete and we had a guided tour from the people who have built it and those who will run it. Very impressive it is too but of course – present company excepted – it was devoid of rubbish. Fire safety has become of paramount importance and we were told that the tanks for the sprinklers are the biggest in the UK. If they go off the resulting water will be contaminated and needs to be contained, so they’ve designed this massive shed to turn into a swimming pool, with 9 inch thick steel gates sealed (apparently) by bicycle inner tubes! I wouldn’t recommend bathing, however.
Then back to the Civic where Cllr Louki and I gave our subversive views of what it means to be a councillor to some unfortunate sixth formers from the Rivers Academy in Feltham. As luck would have it, their teacher was the very same as the one I volunteered with a couple of times in the past to mentor children on a business game challenge sponsored by the Prince’s Trust. In my second year ‘my’ team got to the regional final and he told me after they got rid of me and upgraded the mentor (he’s very polite though and claimed it was nothing personal) they won the regional event and came third in the national final the next year.
In the evening we had a ‘call-in’ meeting about changes in the complaints procedure. Call in happens when a bunch of unruly backbenchers want to review a decision made by the cabinet and I was both one of those who had called the decision in and one of those reviewing it because I’m on t’committee. We had a thorough debate involving Cllr Ellar – who led the call in – Cllr Mayne – who led the change in policy and Nick Marbrow – of Heston Residents Association – who represented public objectors, of whom there were about 6 or 7 in the room, together with the leader and sundry members. The panel hear the evidence and various proposals for compromise and then ‘retire’ to consider what our recommendations should be. We end up agreeing with the substantive change but recommending a raft of new measures to increase the transparency of the process. This feels like a genuine democratic event and I think as a result of the proposed change and the amendments we suggest we will end up with a much quicker, more transparent and more effective complaints process, though of course not everybody will be satisfied.
On Wednesday afternoon I am supposed to go to Feltham Library to see the new home of the Thomas Layton library collection but I’m defeated by the traffic and divert to the civic centre to attend the Housing and Environment scrutiny panel. We get an update on fire safety measures following Grenfell: we did very well to get our single dodgily clad block stripped and (still being finished) reclad before this idea got popular – other councils with similar problem are experiencing big problems with the supply chain but we moved very fast and got it sorted without problems. Our other works continue: at present there is no plan to introduce sprinklers, not least because this is not what the fire brigade currently want – sprinklers conflict with the way the buildings and fire plans are designed.
An interesting presentation from the officer who heads up our Prevent (counter terrorism) team. We have had 3 or four people arrested and charged with preparing for terrorist acts – they get very long sentences – but interestingly the young man arrested outside a chicken shop in Hounslow was released without charge. He had done nothing wrong (and nor had his former foster parents who were embroiled in the story) as you will see from the front page headlines announcing this (not). Our officer is angry all this was leaked – not by the authorities, but by passers-by with phone cameras, aided and abetted by the press and TV. She describes efforts to keep the media from harassing people but really it’s impossible – they lease a flat opposite with a long lens camera (and the government have kyboshed Leveson 2)
So that’s all, folks. Boston Manor this sunny (we can dream) afternoon for another meeting about the Junction 2 festival, meanwhile I have 30 unread in my Hounslow mailbox and I’d better get them read and (I hope) progressed.
Next week I will be off clubbing in Ibiza (really Ibiza, not sure about the clubbing) so I have asked her very worshipfulness and/or her pooch to fill in on the blog/dlog, so expect an upgrade.
Councillor Guy Lambert
September 15, 2017