Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert

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Guy Lambertguy.lambert@hounslow.gov.uk

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There really is very little to say in my normal diary format for this week. We have been out every day somewhere in Brentford knocking ondoors. If you haven’t seen us it’s probably because you live in a big block where we’re not encouraged to go in, or you were out when we knocked. Some of the big new blocks (I’m talking about you, Pump House Crescent, for one) won’t let us go in, won’t let us leaflet and won’t leaflet on our behalf. Democracy in action.

A word about the Labour manifesto. It came out late, but it’s out now.

The key pledges have been out there for some time and have been on all our leaflets and ‘out cards’ (the ones we leave when we door knock) but the Labour party is a very democratic beast and now has thousands of members in the borough – well over 250 in Brentford alone – and, whilst some are silent, many want to have their say. We have trawled through hundreds of ideas sent in from across the membership – Momentum members and Blairites alike - and had lengthy debates about what we want to do and what we can practically deliver. We have ended up with 5 key pledges and 140 smaller pledges that we are unanimously committed to deliver. If we win, it will be up to the councillors and the public to challenge on every one of these 145 points and make sure we deliver. (Note: we delivered every one of our key pledges last time).

Reflecting on 3 years as a councillor. I have worked a lot harder at this than I expected and I have learned oceans of new things in all sorts of areas. I have met many people, almost universally a pleasure to deal with, and tried to help them where they have asked. I really wanted to communicate what was going on, and I hope and believe – from what people have kindly said – that this blog has helped people to understand. Once or twice I have got myself into hot water by being a bit too open but I don’t consider that too heinous a crime.

Some things are very frustrating: housing in particular is sometimes heartbreaking as we are trying to solve crucial issues which really affect people’s lives with both hands tied behind our back. Not enough social housing; not allowed to borrow to build; forced to sell a lot of what we have, especially family homes; developers pleading poverty and being backed by the Planning Inspectorate. During the next administration we at least will have 19 new houses on Acton Lodge site and 92 in Ballymore but until we have a change of government we’ll just be trying to fill a leaky bucket.

We had the sobering experience of Grenfell: I was very proud of the council’s response to this. We had only one block (out in the West of the Borough) with dodgy cladding, and stripped this off within days. We took a quick decision to reclad safely and the speedy action meant we could actually get the material, which became impossible to buy for a period due to demand ramping up. We had a stormy meeting with the Brentford Towers residents. We cancelled the plan to clad them, sent the Director of housing to spend time in every one of the towers and agreed a new refurbishment plan which will kick off in a matter of days. This spawned a fantastic new residents association https://btra.org.uk and handsome new fire doors for every flat (still one or two outstanding last week!).

If I’m still here after the weekend I will be redoubling efforts to improve our council estates, of which we have three large ones in Brentford, also the general street scene. It has been heartening to see the emergence of Friends of St Paul’s Rec and Air Quality Brentford during my time as a councillor, and it looks like we may have a friends of Watermans Park on the way, also more Neighbourhood Watch activity. I would like to see more and more of this: it’s good for the community when people get engaged and it helps us councillors when others take responsibility. There’s a management mantra that I learned years ago about picking where to lead, follow, or stand aside. It’s a pleasure to be able to follow and support (at times) or just keep out of the way (at others).

The next four years will be a time of great change to our town centre. By 2022 I expect the Ballymore scheme to be more or less complete, a new arts centre in the town centre, perhaps a new marina by Watermans Park and a controversial ‘new Morrisons’ and accompanying flats. Outside the centre we should have a shiny new stadium and more new accommodation and I hope we’ll have a segregated cycle path from here to Hammersmith – improved from TfL’s initial proposal. Oh, and a level riverside walk all the way from the centre of Brentford to the other end of Strand-on-the-Green.

I hope everybody votes/d on Thursday, and I hope plenty votes/d for their Labour candidates.

I will sorely miss Myra, as an excellent councillor and as a friend, but she will still be here in Brentford and involved in the community, for now at least. Corinna Smart, if elected, will be an outstanding replacement, loads of experience and energy to make this place better. And of course, I treasure my friend The Melvinator. He has a deep understanding of a lot of issues born of both personal and long professional experience and works so hard for the Borough in ways that people rarely see, serving on London bodies for Road Safety and Healthcare as well as churning through the casework locally.

Somebody (they know who they are) suggested that my comment last week that this week’s might be the last blog, represented the best argument yet for voting Conservative. I can only agree with that: after all, it’s pretty difficult to think of any other reasons, especially if you’ve read their fantasy sheet called a manifesto!

Councillor Guy Lambert

May 2, 2018

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