Lots of meetings but not a single mention of a trip to the pub
Thursday afternoon started with the LamptonFM360 Board meeting, which I attend as an observer. The business is running steadily, maintaining our council estates and looking to extend its activities to some other services for the council, and as time goes on for others. There is also some scope for efficiency improvements and the operational team and non-exec directors impress me: they seem to be in command, to have a plan and to be steadily executing it.
Then it’s back to the Civic centre. This was for an initial discussion with other cabinet members led by Tom Bruce, who is leading the not trivial task of delivering Manifesto Pledge 1 – Create 4000 new apprenticeships and training opportunities. Some of these will come from the council and Lampton companies, but we also need to work with local employers. Happy to assist if I can!
Next was Planning Committee, which I knew would be controversial because of the plans to develop part of the Tesco car park in Feltham. I had visited some of the people who live next to the car park last weekend and I could easily understand why they didn’t like the proposal. When it came down to it though, the proposals were in line with the local plan and there was no strong planning reason to refuse so, in common with most members of the committee, I voted in favour. Angry scenes as locals walked out saying we should be ashamed of ourselves. Sorry, not ashamed: we have to take unpopular decisions sometimes. There were then two developments in Hounslow presented in a rather confused manner. The applications suggested they would deliver 31% affordable housing where the council wants 40% minimum: there was some talk of it turning out to be 100% affordable so we deferred decisions until they got their act together. Finally, one of our fellow councillors, Hanif Khan, wants to build a porch on the front of his house. Any applications for council members come to the committee, even ones like this which would have been approved by officers if it wasn’t for a member. It’s always fun to wind up members with arguments, usually spurious, against the development but on this occasion Hanif denied us some entertainment because he was too busy to attend.
After all this, I had Friday at home, ending with dinner at the always pleasing Albany Spice with an old friend of ours and my former wife, who is about to move away from these parts to the South coast. This fortified me for Saturday, when I set out valiantly on my toy collapsible bicycle for Hounslow High Street, hoping it wouldn’t collapse. It didn’t, and so I got to work with Ruth Cadbury MP, Councillors Karen Smith, Richard Eason, one of my favourite local residents Sharidin Mumuni and various others annoying passers-by by pointing out to them that the talk of the end of austerity was about as credible as Boris Johnson. I make no excuses for making Ruth a cyclops as she took the picture herself. Why the picture is backwards I have no idea, so I think I’ll blame Ruth for that too.
In the evening, off to the Hounslow Arts theatre with Mellow Melvin, where I was honoured to present an award at the Alliance Dance Unit awards. This super local charity helps young people by inspiring and teaching them to dance. Melvinator and I got lost in the Treaty centre car park and I led him over an unmarked step which caused him to take a tumble, fortunately without any damage either to him or the car park. Walking around with Mel, I really should be more vigilant: he rarely asks for help but he hasn’t got a lot of vision and cannot see steps unless they have painted edges, preferably yellow. Anybody who doubts how important the MMR vaccine is should meet Mel or his wife Jackie, both of whom would have unimpaired vision had the vaccine been available and used back then. Anyway the awards evening was lovely and I was delighted to meet the Deputy Head of Green Dragon, Miss Pinkney, who presented one of the other awards. It was dark in there so the picture doesn’t do her justice and ADU director Torron – a former pupil of whom GDPS are very proud, hid behind a balloon. Anyone trying to blame the photographer kindly shut your trap.
A masterful photo from Guy
Monday morning I cycled to Chiswick to meet a resident who has a problem with a huge tree outside his home, and the resulting leaves in the gutter which we have done a poor job of clearing. The leaves should be cleared this week – I will try and have a look tomorrow – but I haven’t heard about the tree yet.
In the afternoon it was the quarterly ‘strategic meeting’ between Lampton FM 360, lead member for Housing and LBH director of Housing, which passed without much excitement. In the evening I met a few residents who live around Gunnersbury Park, together with Cllrs Biddolph (from Turnham Green) and Dabrowska (from Ealing Common). They are unhappy about large events in the park and by what they see as lack of interest in their opinions. These matters are difficult because Gunnersbury really needs income as the two councils can’t afford to maintain it properly in these difficult times. Furthermore, we want more people, especially younger people, using the parks but some of this is inevitably disruptive to neighbours. I took away a couple of actions to try and improve engagement and the way these big events are managed.
Tuesday I chaired a mock planning committee for students of Rivers Academy, in the Council Chamber. One bunch of students are the pretend planning committee, one bunch pretend developers, one pretend objectors and I’m the pretend chair. I’m rather pleased to have a gavel on the desk in front of me and can’t resist using it from time to time. Anyway, I had fun and it looked like the students did too, but they had obviously prepared thoroughly and all three groups impressed me. I hope they learned something: this may not help much with their A-levels but it should help them engage with wider issues in the world.
Then a short update with a finance officer on the state of Lampton 360 finances followed by a cabinet briefing where we discuss a number of matters we will need to deal with shortly, most importantly the Medium Term Financial Strategy – how we think finances will work out over the coming years – plus a revised CCTV and enforcement strategy.
Wednesday I had a day out in central London, attending a forum of the London National Park City initiative. There’s a really good agenda being rolled out starting next year which I’m not going to spoil by previewing, but I’m proud to be associated with this initiative, and that we managed to get every ward in Hounslow bar the 3 Chiswick wards to sign up for it.
This was a crazy day for travelling involving car, buses, trains, tubes and two different bicycles (and Shanks’ Pony when we had a gridlock in Windmill Road) but the good news is (a) I got my real bike back from Paul the bike mender (b) I managed to get to the Heston Residents Association meeting nearly on time and (c) I negotiated release of my car from the Heston car park which had turned into the HQ of one of 217 Heston Diwali Fireworks displays whilst I was talking to the Residents Association. Probably best I missed Red Star Belgrade 2, Liverpool 0 grump grump.
Today, a short meeting on Haverfield with one of the senior housing managers, pointing out various issues with maintenance and caretaking followed by a day out in the country meeting my sisters.
Time to catch up with the test match now. See you both next week.
Cllr Guy Lambert
November 9, 2018