Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert
Anfield and the Isleworth and Brentford Area forum suffering from lack of fans
The IBAF went ahead on Thursday evening. My beloved Liverpool have commenced losing games at Fortress Anfield and obviously this has to do with the lack of fans, and there’s no doubt an Area Forum loses its magic without the presence of real warm humans (and of course the magnificent setting of Brentford Free Church or wherever).
Any road up, we had an update from our inestimable head of Public Health, Kelly O’Neill supported by Hounslow GP Dr Mahmud who filled us in on vaccinations. Stefania Horne presented the allotment strategy which has been worked up through extensive consultation but is inevitably controversial. There was also some discussion about the renewed attempts of our friendly neighbourhood Duke to build on his Park Road allotments. This is beginning to be a factor in my postbag and I need to get around to engaging properly with what’s proposed and what the council’s realistic options are. Not much more to say – no idea how many were watching but if you were, hope you enjoyed the show.
On Friday I had an update with the MD of Lampton Development. Herrings Hall Close opposite Brent Lea will be completing in the spring and will bring some much needed new council houses to Brentford but this was mainly about the proposed development on the ‘New Road Triangle’ site in Feltham. This is quite a large site and will provide a lot of homes for social rent. Whilst some will not like it because it’s a tall building we’re determined to make it an exceptional development in terms of design, living space and sustainability. Our new MD has already made a big impact here and from what I’ve seen so far this is something which will improve the town centre area of Feltham considerably.
Monday was a fairly long day of interviews for the board of Lampton Leisure, with 5 strong candidates. It has impressed me enormously the standard of candidates that have been attracted, with national and sometimes international profile attracted to come and work for li’l old Hounslow. In truth, we would have been proud to appoint at least 4 of the 5 we interviewed and this is a most heartening state of affairs. I was thinking we were coming to the end of this but there are a couple of more sessions coming up. I started off saying the day was gruelling but in fact quite inspiring: clever, interesting people with impressive stories, just hard to find time for a cup of tea.
At the end of the day a traffic scheme update. The most pressing matter for me is Swyncombe Avenue where the consultation phase is completed but officers are still drawing conclusions and preparing a report, warmly awaited!
Tuesday morning it’s West London Waste. Again, nothing too ground-breaking with other boroughs now getting their services back on track following some problems in the lockdown. There are a lot of strategic challenges but at the bottom of it what we actually have to do above all else is reduce the amount of waste we all generate. Recycling is well and good, and important, but the most important goal by far is to reduce the amount of waste we send to our energy from waste facility because, whilst it’s the most economical solution for unrecyclable waste, both for the planet and the council tax bill, it is still quite a burden on both of these!
Later on Tuesday I meet officers to talk about our recycling destinations. The market is very volatile and via our brokers we ‘follow the money’. I’ve recently been perturbed about some of our recycling being shipped overseas and wanted to reassure myself that this was acceptable practice – I hate the idea of it ending up in the sea or a third world dump somewhere. There are reassurances: we only sell to recyclers who have been approved by the Environment Agency; more cogently to my mind, we only sell to recyclers who pay us for our stuff rather than the other way around. I’m a great believer in people’s desire to make a quid, and buying cardboard for £60 per tonne and dumping it in the ocean makes no business sense! Nevertheless I want to explore with our officers, West London Waste and others whether there is sense in looking to invest in facilities in the UK: good for jobs, the economy and ecology if it can be made financially viable, and we’ll do some investigation.
In the afternoon the ‘shareholder board’ for the companies where the related councillors, officers and company officers come together to discuss progress and clarify the way forward. This is a very important one for me and embarrassing to be late following a diary malfunction. When I was a child my sister taught me the mantra “I used to be conceited, but I got over that. Now, I’m perfect’. Normally this is of course true of me but even those who are perfect are obliged to slip up now and then, pour encourager les autres. There is anyway not much to report, though every one of the companies faces some special challenges during lockdown, as I suppose we all do.
In the evening it is cabinet. Not a particularly big agenda and a mere 285 pages of papers to master. The main thing is the budget, and our plan to raise council tax by 4.99%. This is something that is really inevitable because of the extra financial problems from COVID, far from fully compensated by central government as they originally promised. I’m pleased that as well as battening down the hatches a little more in places where they were already quite battened down, we are still finding modest sums to invest in improvements across a lot of different services. We have a really excellent set of council officers and it’s great to work in a place that is ambitious and with a real focus on improvement. This is well set out in the other major paper at cabinet – the Corporate Plan which you can find in draft from page 206 of this document. If you have a week to spare you can read the budget papers as well on the same link!
Wednesday was fairly free, with just an update on COVID in the late afternoon. There was as ever a lot of great information but what struck me was the impact that vaccination already seems to be making. The over-80s and over-90s who have often featured as each having 4 or 5% of the infections are both now down to 1% each of the infections in the borough, which is really good news because they, of course, are the ones who are most likely to get severely ill. We have done more than 40,000 vaccinations in the borough out of the 45830 target by Feb 15 th, so we seem to be well on track to immunise the 4 categories – over 70s and Clinically Extremely Vulnerable – in line with the goal. We are also busily dealing with vaccinations for rough sleepers, asylum seekers and all those fringe groups, so in the main it’s going very well.
A couple of extra take aways: there has been media speculation about the effectiveness of the AZ vaccine particularly in the elderly, but the Public Health story is clear. Even if it’s not completely effective in defeating the disease entirely (and it might be, just not proven) it is for certain sure effective at reducing the severity of attacks, so jump at it if it’s offered. And, whilst vaccine scepticism is gradually being overcome there are particular demographics that are still suspicious of partaking. This is especially the case in Afro-Caribbean communities over 70 and Pakistanis/ Pakistani heritage over 75 so we are redoubling efforts to encourage these groups in particular to participate.
As I’m sure I mentioned I was Pfizered nearly two weeks ago now. I have had zero side effects and, whilst I haven’t altered my behaviour at all – if anything I’m even more careful – it’s a good feeling to have some defences erected where there were none before.
In the evening the delights of a labour branch AGM, which is pioneering work doing secret ballots under Zoom. Impeccably handled by our officers and the IT glitches and unclear rules were all ironed out without too much difficulty, though such meetings are never short!
Waterman’s Park update this afternoon (Thursday). My little mind has been looking forward to a walk in the park but my little mind has taken a severe wigging now and told to repeat seventeen times “It is lockdown. Meetings take place via Microsoft Teams. Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives”. You can’t stop me going out on my bike for an hour’s exercise after though can you? Yah Boo and Sucks.
And perhaps I will meet a group of seagulls like this and point out that they are definitely not 2M apart and will be liable to a fine of 1 herring or 100 chips apiece.
Cllr Guy Lambert
February 11, 2021