Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert

"It would be a good idea for new councillors to know what they’re doing"


Guy Lambertguy.lambert@hounslow.gov.uk

tel 07804 284948

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So Thursday was planning, as predicted. Also as predicted, three awkward decisions. We had to rearrange the agenda because a late submission of ‘new evidence’ about the Chiswick Pier/Pissarro’s application, so we started with a block of flats in a car park at Chiswick Village. The committee was closely split and as a novice in the chair I rather forgot to vote. I would have voted in favour and as it came out 6-5 in favour I was able to abstain without upsetting any applecarts. Change of use from a mother and baby support home  in Chiswick to a home for young people exiting care was less contoversial, but the main event was redevelopment of the former Pissarro’s café/restaurant at Corney Reach into a block of flats.
Residents and their lawyers were adamant that the original planning permission for the estate precluded such a change whereas the planners thought otherwise. That was one issue, hard for laymen to be definitive about, though we have every faith in our award-winning planning team. But there were issues with the proposed building itself – in particular it seemed far too close to some of the existing homes – and in the end we rejected it by a comfortable majority. A few other items went through without much discussion.

On Friday the Melvinator and I met with our new colleague/candidate Corinna Smart (nickname still under development) to discuss our plans to annoy residents over the coming months in the hope they will vote for us come May 3rd. A suitable plot was hatched and readers have been warned so don’t come crying to me.

On Saturday we had the first ever surgery for residents of Ferry Quays. Most of us who live here really love this place. Speaking for myself, having examined all the flats in Brentford (well, the ones on the market at the time) twice I couldn’t find any that compare to this place for layout, tranquility, access to what will shortly (fingers crossed) be our vibrant new town centre and the quality of the development itself.  But people who live here have various grumbles and want reassurance that their service charges (half what they are in some broadly comparable developments!) are good value and that we’re taking care of what we need to, and it’s always good to talk. I think it was well received by the people who attended.
Monday morning I’m down to the Watermans to meet with a woman, one of her sons, who is severely disabled, and her mother. Without going into details, some people you meet in this job have been dealt a really unlucky hand, and your heart goes out to them. Three generations of lovely people facing challenges such as most of us will never have to deal with and having to face them as best they can. All I can do as a councillor is to try to help them. Whether this will be anything like enough, time will tell but I’ll be pulling every lever I can find.

In the evening we have a www.thamesbank.org board with a load of new directors – well qualified and eager to make a difference - and a really optimistic feel. We all commit to four hours per month of individual (or small team) activity outside the board meetings to try and push things forward so I’m hoping we’ll become better known around and about over the next few months.

On Tuesday afternoon I meet with a resident down at Costa Coffee and run through a number of issues down Kew Bridge Road. There are new pavements outside the new developments and the older ones look a bit sad by comparison so we’ll get H Highways working on the defective bits.

In the evening we have Licensing Committee. This is mainly about licences for massage places, nail bars, piercing studios etc where we are obliged by legal changes to alter the way we charge for licences. Not terribly contentious but our job is to provide a bit of challenge, which task we duly carry out! We also discuss the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign which is being rolled out around pubs etc. The idea is to provide support for women who are on a date or encounter which is causing worry to have a simple way of communicating that to bar staff so they can be taken somewhere safe. Seems a very sensible idea, which I had only heard of this week. It’s being rolled out amongst Hounslow pubs via Pubwatch groups etc but will take a while, what with training etc.

On Wednesday afternoon we meet with Mary Harpley, the Hounslow Chief Exec, to discuss the proposed induction programme for new councillors. Apparently Mary seems to think it would be a good idea for new councillors to know what they’re doing, probably so the rest of us (if re-elected) are exposed as the idiots some of them are. Note the subtle change of pronoun in that sentence. Like most organisations, what goes on in the London Borough of Hounslow is bleedin’ obvious to those who have worked there for years but a mystery to people who have just arrived and of course a councillor doesn’t spend the first week being shown the ropes by her boss – she doesn’t have one! Of course it was worse for me because I came in at a by-election (though fortunately I had excellent guidance from Her Worshipfulness and His Melvinosity) but others struggled even though there was an induction programme in 2014. For me, one of the mysteries was when people talked about 'Scrutiny' or 'the OSC'. It turns out that they were talking about the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of which I am now a member, and which has powers to call in decisions made by the cabinet or cabinet members for specific review - a pretty important role, but it probably took me 18 months to work that one out. It’s good that we are being consulted and I think we have enriched the plans, including ensuring that there will actually be a Councillor’s Handbook to help people in doubt.

I segue from that straight into the OSC (see above :-)) where we are discussing various issues, notably the aftermath of Grenfell. Hounslow officers made a huge contribution in Kensigton in the days after the tragedy – something we must not forget – and the Housing team acted very swiftly to strip and subsequently reclad the one tower we had that used the same sort of cladding as Grenfell, and continue to improve the fire safety regime across their estates. It still seems unclear whether sprinklers in tower blocks are a good idea – some firefighters seem to think they are, many do not, so at present we are not progressing that – but we are making a lot of other investments in safety.

The main topic was air quality, and our officer/expert had researched widely with other councils and expert bodies to come up with about 60 propositions for things we should consider doing to improve it. The majority of these ideas are about reducing emissions at source – less energy use, less polluting equipment – with some others about mitigating the effects – more planting etc. There are far too many ideas for all to be progressed by the council so we were invited to vote against the ones that we thought less useful or practical so that we could ask our excellent officer to develop a manageable list of proposals for further action.

Glad to hear from Myra that the improvements to Carville Hall Park (North) have already increased use of the park markedly even though there are still a lot of works to do. These doggists don’t half get around the place.

Today, Thursday, I helped the Melvinator with some formal paperwork he has to fill in as a candidate. I was to meet someone who needs help in an immigration related matter but she postponed the meeting. This evening we have a meeting with leader Steve Curran where we will be learning some more about various plans, especially for our Lampton360 subsidiaries.

Councillor Guy Lambert

January 19, 2018

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