Bulletin from Councillor Matt Harmer

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* New recycling procedures *
Like me, you may have been surprised to find a number of new recycling containers left outside your front door. Whilst the new plastics service is welcome, I worry that the number of different containers, all for different products, may actually deter some people from recycling. Added to this is the need to remember which week it is Ė plastics week or garden waste week. And some roads, such as Mafeking Avenue, are telling me that they havenít all received the various bags and containers.

The old Ďgreen boxí system worked because it was simple. The items to be recycled all went in the box and it was sorted by the kerb. The scheme became a victim of its own success sometimes, with collections delayed because the collecting van had to return to base because it was full.

Another problem has emerged for some Hounslow Homes properties, where the number of collections has fallen from twice weekly to once a week under a new contractual arrangement. This has led to overflowing bins and is absolutely unacceptable.

Your experiences of the new system will be very interesting Ė please let me know if it is working for you.

*Hounslow Language Service and the council budget*
Earlier this month the Labour group, of which Iím a member, put forward an alternative council budget that proposed a cut in council tax whilst avoiding cuts to various youth services including the Hounslow Language Service, a nationally-recognised service that provides English lessons and other support to children who donít have English as a first language.

The budget cut to this service was announced with very little consultation and no assessment into its likely impact. Iím not sure that councillors have ever received the number of letters and petitions that we received in regard to this case. Cllr Ruth Cadbury and I received over 200 from Brentford ward alone.

We also suggested some new services. The councilís Money Advice Unit now can no longer guarantee personal interviews to people struggling with debt and so we proposed expanding the benefit/housing advice on offer. We know that our town centres are struggling and so we suggested that the council bring in a Town Centres manager to bring in more investment.

As many of you have emailed and called about increases in fly-tipping, we suggested a new team we called ĎGrotbustersí, a mobile team to clear dumped rubbish and large items from households. Finally, we proposed re-introducing Park Rangers to major parks.

We showed that all this could be done whilst still cutting council tax by 1%. However, the Conservatives werenít interested, the cuts are going ahead and the benefits wonít happen. If any readers have ideas for services that should be introduced please do let me know Ė contact details are below. I also want to know if any of the cutbacks are affecting you, your family, neighbours and friends.

* A4 update *
Thanks to everyone who signed our paper or electronic petition regarding the campaign to improve the A4 crossings. I have now been told that Transport for London is including the Windmill Road junction in their plans for the next financial year. This is good news, though it will be some while before the effects are seen. I arranged a site visit for TfL engineers who were rather taken aback at how traffic behaves.

There are still some things that can be done in the near future. I am still speaking with council officers about increasing the parking spaces down Windmill Road. Parked cars slow traffic down (and help residents park their cars). I have also been asked to help with putting in yellow zig zag markings outside Our Lady and St John school to deal with some of the inconsiderate parking that happens there, and Hounslow traffic officers are progressing this.

* Boat moorings at Watermans Park *
Many of you will know that Watermans Park has been greatly improved over recent years. If you havenít been down there, itís worth a visit, especially now that the weatherís improving. Some of the unlicensed moorings are a bit of an eyesore and along with other local councillors Iím keen to see what we can do.

Properly managed waterside moorings are not only good to look at but they reduce the opportunity for bad behaviour in the park. There are a number of hurdles to overcome but the outcome is worth it.

* One ward, two parks, lots of work *
There can be few complaints about the quality of the parks in Brentford, with both Gunnersbury and Boston Manor parks having loads to offer. But when they both include historic listed buildings there are particular challenges. In the past fortnight Iíve attended presentations on how Gunnersbury can repair and renew the historic buildings and how those repairs can be paid for, and Iíve also helped progress a similar initiative that will examine how to deal with the challenges facing the Jacobean Boston Manor House and the park that sits behind it. The latter will be guided by the excellent work of the Friends of Boston Manor, who continue to impress us with their dedication.

Once again, your suggestions for Boston Manor and Gunnersbury Parks are very welcome.

*Anything to report?*
As a councillor, my first task is to try and assist residents with problems. Please get in touch if you think I can help, either by emailing me at matt.harmer@hounslow.gov.uk or calling 020 8560 7033. You can also take a look at www.mattharmer.com. Many of you have contacted me concerning the new regime of service charges for Hounslow Homes tenants and I am continuing to investigate this

Councillor Matt Harmer
Brentford ward Labour councillor
London Borough of Hounslow

contact: 153 Ealing Rd
Brentford, Middlesex TW8 0LF
telephone: 020 8560 7033

March 10, 2009