Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert
Tracing the origins of corona from pangolins to Mexico to Wales
Thursday is upon me and with it my weekly blogbligation. This is something I generally enjoy but I don't always look forward to it. What on earth am I going to write about? Well, all will be revealed to me, and to you if you manage to stay awake.
On Friday, the unrivalled delights of a meeting of the West London Waste Authority. I suppose I should be grateful that I will not have to tackle the Alpe d'Horsenden because in these days of Corona, gatherings at Harrow Civic Centre are estrictamente prohibido.
I muse upon thye three ages of Corona: when I was young it seems it came from South Wales
Limeade or orangeade for me, every time. Not Cream Soda, Eurghh.
When I was quite old it came from Mexico
Now I'm ancient it comes from China, or bats, or pangolins, or 5G, or it was all invented by someone's secret service, who knew?
I think the gold medal goes to the second iteration, though the first deserves an honourable mention. The third deserves only dishonourable mentions and I wish it could be bought by Beechams, sold on to BritVic and then consigned to history, like the first one.
It was all fairly routine at the Waste Authority. We re-elected the chair for a further year (trust me, it did not involve any poll rigging) and heard about various continuing initiatives. The 6 boroughs and the Authority work pretty well together and we are all making steady progress on minimising waste and increasing recycling, and pressing the government, producers and retailers to up their game. I'm sure chlorinated chicken and all the other Trumpian delights which await us will recycle just fine, in fact some of it might self-recycle in a puff of hydrochloric acid, and of course may help humans accelerate their personal recycling process.
Sunday morning I took My Little Pony out of its stable, affixed a little Black Lives Matter board to its rump and parked it next to the market.
As I mentioned last week, I'd decided not to attend BLM events because even with social distancing they're against the rules, but I wanted to show support to my friend Sharidin, who got a decent turnout despite the rain. MLP told me in a rather peevish teenage sort of voice that it would like to take the knee, but as no knee had been provided either in bicycular or “equestrian” form it was unable to do so.
Monday evening we have a cabinet discussion to prepare for the cabinet meeting which will be held (virtually) on July 14 th . It's not a long agenda but includes the financial monitoring for Q4 of last financial year (no surprises), the quarterly performance report (ditto) and the rather enormous item called the Climate Emergency Action Plan. An great deal of work has gone into this, including gathering and incorporating ideas and feedback from the public consultations and the report runs to 245 pages, which I obviously would have fully memorised had it been my portfolio. I have left this to Katherine Dunne because it's hers, and because she has a much bigger brain than mine. Well over 100 pages of the report deal with ideas and feedback arising from the consultation with the public, all of which have been considered and many agreed and incorporated in the plan.
On Tuesday we have our Coronavirus briefing. We are now doing these every two weeks because the situation is changing more slowly, and this one was dedicated to hearing about the Test, Track and Trace system and how we plan to control any further outbreaks. Our public health director is now getting daily updates on numbers of new infections by postcode, but she does not have names and addresses or any details of age, occupation, ethnicity etc which seems less than ideal to me. Nevertheless there is a pretty comprehensive plan in place and I must say I have been hugely impressed by the Hounslow public health service, with which I had previously had very little contact, since COVID appeared on the horizon.
Some recent press reports suggesting that Hounslow is at imminent risk of going into a second lockdown are nonsense as Candice Atterton's release yesterday confirmed. Nevertheless, we are all quite worried about the messages about ‘Independence Day' on Saturday. There are still huge risks and I urge people to be very careful. You certainly won't catch me (but be careful lest you catch something even less desirable) in a crowded pub or restaurant and whilst it would be nice to support them using social distancing and outside spaces, please be mindful of neighbours (and if you have any litter, take it home!).
On Wednesday morning I decided to spend an hour testing the hypothesis, oft put about on social media, that people who ride bicycles don't use cycle lanes. This is not at all my experience but I'm rarely out in rush hour so I went to the A4 for about 8.15am to check out what happens in what currently masquerades as rush hour. I cycled the (nicely clean, rather bumpy, very poorly protected, discontinuous) A4 cycle lane from Chiswick Roundabout to Sutton Lane in Heston, out on the South side, back on the North side, with an excursion up Boston Manor Road to the station and back. Result: I saw 84 cycles, one electric scooter and one electric skateboard. Every single one used the cycle lane where one was available. The single exception was a young woman coming down BMR on the cycle lane, who switched to the road for the final 100M section from the main park entrance, because she was turning left at the A4 (and the last bit of the cycle lane has not yet been completed).
It's actually quite infuriating that the cycle lane simply runs out at various important points where it's most dangerous to cycle on the road – Syon Lane, Ealing Road, Chiswick Roundabout. This is very inconvenient (and sometimes scary) for somebody like me who is now quite experienced, but it really needs to be properly addressed (nearly always by TfL) if we want children to cycle to school and ordinary people to leave their cars at home when they don't actually need them. I have written to walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman at the GLA to tell him so: he agrees, but we all need to work on changing priorities in central government and TfL. This is so important for climate change, physical and mental health, and the environment: and it's terribly urgent.
Early afternoon I have a catch up with the MD of Lampton360. The service companies are working well, but it's time to reset the direction of the Investment and Development companies to fit a rapidly changing environment. They've got plenty to be getting on with, and what they've done so far has worked well, but a new dialogue between the companies and the council is commencing.
I've managed to get a list of all the new trees that have been planted on our streets by Hounslow Highways, and I went out in the afternoon to check out the ones around Brentford, about 20 of which have gone in in the last couple of years. I was prompted by the ones outside Barclays which appear to be slightly deceased, which I find pretty shocking. All the rest are OK except two in Clitherow Road which appear to be equally deceased and one or two others which look like they need a bit of TLC if we get another dry spell -in Springvale Avenue and Clayponds Avenue, near Mercedes Anybody volunteering to adopt them and make sure they get their water as often as possible?
Then, treed to death, I joined a teleconference about our emergency traffic schemes. You might think from social media noise that these are unpopular, but we're getting supportive emails from people who see the point of this, which is largely to protect our road network for those who need to use it and encourage those who can to get around using other means of transport. Despite the fact that most of these changes are experimental and introduced under emergency legislation, we're still trying to do them with some serious thought and this puts quite a stress on our officers, who are responding quite heroically. Of course, the situation is not helped by every local authority in the UK (and probably beyond) doing something similar so there are real stresses in the supply chain.
3 separate Lampton related ‘meetings' later today, so I'd better stop boring you (and myself), and see where I can fit in some exercise.
Cllr Guy Lambert
July 3, 2020