Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert
Finding a dead lion in Carville Hall Park playground
Not much to say about the final iLab, not because it was deficient in any way, more because, having been to so many of these, and with the Borough Recovery Plan conference (of which more anon) coming down the track on Monday there’s a danger of being repetitive. All the sessions have been lively and the Microsoft Teams technology has mostly worked well, if a bit clunkily at times. I wonder if someone will come up with the killer app for these virtual meetings and Teams will one day be remembered as vaguely as I remember Lotus 123 and ccMail where my digital journey began in the 1980s (I think!)
Off to the skatepark on a lovely afternoon. 100 years ago I lived in Acton in a controlled rent flat where we paid £8 per fortnight rent between three of us, which was actually not as great a bargain as you might think. My single memory of Acton Park (we always called it Vale Park) is of being chased on my bicycle by a Labrador – one of that 1 in 100 dogs that are enraged by bikes – but that would have been the 1970s and I suppose he’s long gone to the Great Kennel in The Sky. Anyway, I was not assaulted by pooches on this occasion.
The skatepark far exceeded my expectations both aesthetically and in the way it operates. It was striking that there were people enjoying it from (I’d say) 5 to 50, both sexes (possibly more sexes than the traditional 2, who knows) and everybody seeming to rub along nicely. I didn’t see any collisions or falls - though a couple of 11 year olds had some kind of ruckus – and nor was it noisy, and it had been carefully landscaped to deflect any noise away from surrounding residences. This is really in the category of ‘what’s not to like’. Sadly my two fellow musketeers didn’t make it, the Melvinator because he was just back from his safari in Chester (and his IT is always a challenge) and Corinna because all her IT failed for various reasons and she didn’t have a working diary. Technology, doncha just love it?
On Friday morning my calendar said ‘Hounslow’s Promise Advisory Board’ 9am and ‘Lampton360 Board Awayday’ 1pm. The latter was an actual meeting, to be held near St Pancras and I was cycling in so I arranged to arrive in time to join the Hounslow’s Promise meeting. Really enjoyed cycling across London at 8am and all went smoothly. The venue had confirmed bicycle storage would be available and they were true to their word – a whole conference room for my bike to amuse itself in. What I hadn’t spotted was that the advisory board had been postponed so I actually spent the morning alone in the meeting room catching up on emails – luxury.
It was good to meet the Lampton Board in the flesh – some for the very first time – and it was timely to work on plans as the companies move into a new phase and meet the challenge of taking on the council’s leisure services. Not entirely by accident, our newest board member has background successfully running leisure services for a council in the North West, so that will help more than somewhat, and quite some.
Sunday morning, and Brentford market has resurfaced for its monthly airing, augmented this time by a book sale in aid of www.hounslowfoodbox.org.uk They had assembled an astonishing (and daunting) number of book donations and that and the normal market attracted a really good turnout in the sunshine. I relieved them of three books at £2 apiece, one of which I have already re-recycled to a friend of mine. They were left with quite a load, despite raising £600 and, having had what was left generously stored for a while by Verdict café, are now having to pay for storage in one of our local self-storage emporia. I think the books will be out again next month: your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to relieve them of a lot of books for not a lot of cash (cards happily accepted also). Good old Doc Bike was overworked as usual but I declined to join the Hounslow Cycling organised ride (split into groups of 6) as I had various other stuff to do in the afternoon.
On Monday afternoon we had the online Recovery Plan Borough Conference. Well over 200 attended including people from healthcare, education, business, charities and community groups as well as council officers, councillors and many of the academics and activists we’ve already met in the iLabs. Awful things have already happened in Hounslow, such as huge rises in unemployment, rough sleeping and domestic violence and we cannot pretend that it won’t get worse before it gets better, not least because there’s a fear that many of the enormous number of people currently furloughed will lose their jobs soon. All we can really do as a council is support building back better and do our best for those who get caught up in this whirlwind. I’m proud of what we’re doing, but the borough will still be hard hit.
On Tuesday I have a seminar from the officer in charge of the Hounslow Highways contract, introducing me to a new app they have started to use to measure the cleanliness etc of the streets, everything from flytipping to fly posting via litter and dog poo. We also discuss some current issues – that it has been superb weather for weeds in the year when we stopped using chemical weedkillers; that our recruitment for environmental enforcement people and a crossover czar has been interrupted by the pandemic and sundry other challenges.
After that, our regular meet about a road in Heston which is blighted by an unneighbourly business, and our efforts to bring this business into line. Fines don’t work – they just don’t pay, and enforcement takes too long – so other strategies will be deployed.
In the evening Borough council, our first virtual one (and our first of any kind since February). There is nothing terribly controversial – updates to our licensing policy and pay policy, neither attracting any concern, a few technical matters and some questions from the opposition.
Wednesday morning is free, so I take one of my bike rides around the ward reporting any problems I see – potholes in Ealing Road, flytipping (again) on York Parade, flyposting (again) by Magnet on the A4, etc. I go through the gravely under-appreciated Carville Hall Park (South side) which is looking quite lovely, bar a dead lion near the playground and a coke can some idiot has thrown into the centre of the pond. I’d still love for somebody to form a friends group for Carville Hall park(s).
In the afternoon we have the Network Board with Hounslow Highways – their senior management and our senior officers to update on performance, plans etc. My role here is Mr Grumpy and my particular complaint at present is about weeds: I’m pleased they have stopped using weedkiller but they really need to dedicate more resource to this to meet the output specification in their contract. I also have a bit of a go about the Boston Manor cycle lane extension still not being finished. To be fair, I know they are having to contend with skill shortages – these are a fact of life in anything to do with construction as Brexit looms (Yes, I know that it’s already happened, but thus far only in a limited and specific, if oven-ready and world-beating way).
Straight from that into our traffic update. The various schemes are progressing, though an element of the Chiswick low traffic neighbourhood implementation was delayed on Monday because a few protestors including some Tory councillors had an un-Swampy moment. We are still a little frustrated that contractors are slow in completing jobs (EG, planters without plants are not the most attractive feature of the landscape) but the schemes are getting there.
It’s a rather congested afternoon because next thing is a Ballymore update organised by Brentford Voice. They give us a presentation on progress and commence answering questions, whereupon I have to leave for a Labour party event (I would prefer to have stayed!). Anyway, I was taken with this bird’s eye view of the site, and much of Brentford. Apologies to the Dock for the intrusion into their private property.
Cleaner Greener Hounslow community reference group later, then an update on the transfer of leisure services to lampton360 and the council. Toodle-oo
Cllr Guy Lambert
September 18, 2020