Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert

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Guy Lambertguy.lambert@hounslow.gov.uk

tel 07804 284948

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I spent most of Thursday in a conference centre near Victoria about ‘Viability’ in planning applications. This is a financial calculation whereby developers argue against providing subsidised housing (etc.) because they allege they can’t afford it.

Hounslow was one of the first local authorities to insist these viability assessments were published, and the council routinely employs its own consultant to validate (or not) what the developers say. Trouble is, viability is tightly linked to land value and – guess what – as soon as land is zoned in a local plan for development, the value goes up. Then it goes up again if planning permission is granted, so the poor developers can only afford to make 25% net profit and pay their CEOs £50M pa bonus ‘because they’re worth it’. The government are consulting on a change in the rules which will tip things very gently back into the direction of the rest of us, and there is great debate whether it will make enough difference (and I’m an old cynic when it comes to a Tory government, big business, and the rest of us. Even the bankers and estate agents agree with me, mostly). The apologists always say making a profit from construction is really difficult and risky and compare it to ‘making widgets’ as if GSK and Jaguar LandRover and BP are putting stuff together for assured markets in a shed at the bottom of the garden. The worst housing crisis in living memory had prices going down 13% - I’d say their market is ‘safe as houses’.

Enough, already. Staying on the housing theme, a directors meeting about our lovely Ferry Quays in the evening. Planning some repairs and improvements over the coming year.

Friday morning I meet a resident of Wicksteed House, one of our towers, and he takes me through various issues, mainly minor but very irritating, that he is trying to get resolved. We go and have a long chat to the concierge of the Brentford Towers estate, which gives me a number of new insights. Thence to the Haverfield estate, where the chicanes we put in to deter moped delivery drivers avoiding the Ealing Road traffic lights are a bit excessive. We’ll consult on a revised scheme.

In the evening, up to Lionel Road for some door knocking. I have my tin hat on because there are a couple of big things going on – changes in Gunnersbury Park including big commercial festivals, and consultations about a CPZ. As is so often the case, most – but certainly not all - people seem quite relaxed; whoever is ward councillor when these things come off will need to be very vigilant to limit the impact on residents.

Saturday I was going to go canvassing in Chiswick but I wake up exceedingly rough in the stomach department so decide to have a lazy day. It turns out Sunday is lazy as well, because our canvass up Boston Manor way is called off: both my fellow candidates are unwell – must be something in the water – it’s raining, and I refuse to do it on my own, so there.

On Monday I spend some time in the Labour office trying to make the envelope-stuffing machine work, and in the evening a www.thamesbank.org board meeting at the Isleworth Public Hall. Great team we have!

Tuesday I spend the day partly delivering leaflets to our leafletting volunteers and partly leafletting myself. As ever, when a councillor walks around the ward he bumps into people, some with a beef, some just to have a chat, and ‘stuff’. I have no idea what councillors did before smartphones because I spend my life taking pictures of graffiti and potholes and overfull bins and what have you for the delectation of Hounslow Highways, or Housing, or Greenspace 360, or somebody.

In the evening we canvass up in Avenue Road, Enfield Road etc. Practically everyone in Avenue seems to be a Labour supporter but in Enfield Road lurk a number of Tories, some of whom don’t seem very pleased to see us. Funny the way these things go, according to no obvious pattern.

Wednesday morning I’m up at Brentford station to support Transport for All who are campaigning against the proposed removal of guards from South Western Railway. Apart from safety issues, lack of guards will make it exceedingly difficult for disabled people to access the trains, despite all the huge investment made (and still being made, and still needs more) to make platforms accessible. But it seems that helping First Group and the Hong Kong Railway Company increase their profits is more important than maximising the value of public investment or helping disabled people.

Guy's birth

I can’t stay long because I’m meeting my sisters for lunch in darkest Kimbolton (yeah, I didn’t know where it was either). Nice to see them flourishing  and they have with them my Grandma’s diary from the year I was born. I know you’ll think that was about 1980 given my youthful good looks, but actually it was 1952 and the entry for that fateful day reads “Val [my mum] started breakfast time. Baby boy was born about 5.30. Vicki sick in night”. I take the opportunity to give my sister a hard time about giving me such a ‘welcome’ to the world.

In the evening I’m invited to an event put on by Momentum about ‘Municipal Socialism’. I’m not a Momentum member but I’m always interested in ideas. It’s a very interesting evening with one of the main themes being about engaging with the community and campaigning against things that are just wrong. Labour councils are  a bit cowed by having a Tory government and we spend too much energy trying to make the impossible work. We work against a background of fairly open hostility to Local Government and vicious cuts to funding, and the speaker believes councils should do more to campaign and protest against the resulting injustices. I think he’s right, and if I’m still here I’ll be redoubling efforts to work with community groups, Trade Unions and the like after May.

Back to Thursday and I’m spending a bit of my hard-earned (or ill-gotten gains, according to taste) on having new blinds fitted. The chap who comes round to measure up used to be an accountant working for EY and, after a spell working in Ghana (from where he originates) he gave that all up to earn a lot less money running a franchise for blinds, etc. Now he is his own boss and gets to see his children, one of whom is disabled. I think later generations than mine have a much healthier relationship with money than we did. Providing of course, they have some. Far too many are ‘Just About’ or ‘Not’ managing because of this cruel government.

Councillor Guy Lambert

April 20, 2018

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