Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert
This week I will be mainly talking bollards
Cabinet Briefing is mainly to discuss the budget. The headline is the need to increase council tax by 2.99%, which is hotly debated but inevitable if we are to carry on providing and trying to improve services. We actually cut the council tax when we took over from the Tories (if I remember correctly, though I was not a councillor at the start of the last administration) and definitely held it frozen for several years. But inflation doesn’t go away and is going through the roof this year. In addition, we have an ageing population (tell me about it) and older people need more social care support. Also it seems children increasingly need social care intervention. I don’t know whether his is because more of them are troubled – which would be worrying but perhaps not surprising given the pandemic – or we are just getting better at picking up the issues. Whatever, social services are by far the biggest call on council funds and we have all that pressure plus a 1.25% increase in employer’s National Insurance to find.
There are pages and pages of council charges – everything from licences for dangerous wild animals (this does not include councillors, even Conservative ones, though having attended Overview and Scrutiny, sometimes I wonder) – to car park charges and as we go through them we find a few we want to change, mainly because we feel they give the wrong message.
On Friday my regular catchup with senior officers in my portfolio. I do the usual carping about various matters that I want to see improved, but I’m pleased with the progress we’re making on most fronts and I get a sneak preview of the latest recycling rate figures. They have yet to be checked and finalised but looks like we have another sharp uptick – well done to our fab recycling team and of course to our fab residents for doing the right thing.
In the afternoon the Lampton Development and Investment board. They’ve had some really constructive meetings with the housing team recently and it feels like we’re going into a new, even more positive phase. They have also just purchased a whole block of flats – the first time they have done this – in the heart of the borough, which can only be good news for those on the waiting list or who are in temporary accommodation.
The weekend comes and as we’re not doing anything on the doors in Brentford I decided to spend a couple of hours with our deprived neighbours in Chiswick. Deprived? – well they don’t yet have a single Labour councillor to represent their interests. After May I’m confident this will change and there will be much more constructive representation for all strata of society there, and believe me, there are plenty of people in Chiswick who are far from wealthy.
A bit of a panic Zooting© on Sunday to finalise our annual report for Hounslow’s Promise to make sure we meet the Charity Commission deadline, then my regular update Zooting© with the Good Consumer trustees (or the ones who will be trustees if the Charity Commission ever Commissions anything!)
On Monday we have the Lampton Group board, and a long discussion about the new business plan which will be going to cabinet soon and to Borough Council shortly thereafter. There are a lot of good stories here, and being parochial I’m delighted to hear they have completed a benchmark of the cost of our waste and recycling service amongst 11 comparable London boroughs and we’ve come out second least expensive, despite having excellent scores for customer satisfaction, missed collections, complaints etc, and having maintained 100% service throughout the pandemic.
Then a short session in The Griffin with Brentford Voice, putting the world to rights (or at least our corner of it) over rather more beers than my waistline deserves.
On Tuesday morning I’m in the Labour Party local HQ in Chiswick discussing our manifesto for the forthcoming elections. We’re bursting with ideas, having had a lot of feedback from the public following our leafletting in the summer/autumn, plus thoughts form councillors and party members. We will be distilling all that into a clear plan over the next few weeks.
In the early evening I attend an appeal from someone who was turned down from standing as a councillor at his independent interview, carried out by Labour party members from outside the borough. I have volunteered to present the reasons that the original independent panel gave for turning this individual down to the (also independent) appeals panel. This is over quite quickly and I then attend the Overview and Scrutiny Zooting©. I get the tail end of a discussion about planning which I wish I’d heard in full – perhaps there will be a recording – then the main event, which is scrutiny of the budget. The wild beasts referred to earlier are in evidence and I am asked to say a few words about waste and recycling. I mention the grit bins we have been rolling out to contain waste from flats above shops and Cllr Biddolph remarks that they don’t reduce the amount of waste and I’m too slow to make the observation that comes to me a little later – that neither are they very good at boiling eggs or communicating bus timetables. It may have been lost on her anyway.
On Wednesday afternoon I meet with a local resident who is trying to get her over 60’s travel card thingy. She doesn’t do digital so this is a bit daunting for her so I will try to help. This will be a voyage of discovery for me too: you’ll be very surprised to hear that I’m old enough to have had one of these myself, even more so that I’m old enough not to remember anything about applying for one. I want to understand the barriers that inhibit people who are not digitally engaged so that I can help not just this individual but others who will follow her.
Then I attend another appeal panel – this one much longer, with witnesses – and end up at a late dinner with my friend and comrade Tony Louki. It’s nice to be able to get around par bicyclette again, even though London Road is a bit scary at midnight with E8s and 237s screaming past on deserted streets.
This morning, my catchup with the chair of Lampton. He now has a really good grasp of the businesses and is looking to engage more with local stakeholders, such as big business, to take matters to a new level. Exciting stuff. This evening we have Planning Committee so I need to swot up for that, but I cant leave you without mentioning The Strange Case Of The Bollard And The Foxes.
A few days ago I noticed that the bollard which once blocked the end of Wellesley Road had disappeared, and further, that its former ‘ole wot it ad' stood in had been filled with tarmac. I found this a bit mysterious so took a picture (note designer footwear. Just not a very good designer)
I did not have a photofit of the bollard in question in my possession but nevertheless when I came upon this suspicious looking character hanging around Watermans Park I thought there was a distinct resemblance.
I started asking questions and suggested that Hounslow Highways should take this escapee into protective custody, which they have done. A large white cross has appeared on the site of the former bollard and I now have confirmation that our friends in Hounslow Highways will be replacing it shortly. I’m not sure whether it will be electronically tagged in case it seeks to abscond again. If anybody knows what happened here they are not telling me, so it remains a mystery.
All this has caused some mild excitement on Twitter with one person suggesting this is the work of the Chiswick foxes, who have grown bored of eating all the traffic counters and seek a bigger thrill.
Cllr Guy Lambert
February 4, 2022