Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert

Why does a rich country like ours need foodbanks?


Guy Lambertguy.lambert@hounslow.gov.uk

tel 07804 284948

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The IBAF meeting was my fourth evening in a row listening to (and occasionally making) speeches and I was finding it a touch wearing. Not that I don’t value these interactions – I know they are important – but I was happy to escape around 10pm and whiz off to The Gunnersbury for a bit of R&R with Hounslow Cycling.  Mind you, as soon as I got there they started drawing up chairs in a circle and announced it was the AGM. At 10.30 pm after 3 ½ hours in a pub? Well, it was all jolly convivial and over in a few minutes. Good to see Cllr Bandna ‘Laura Kenny’ Chopra there too though I had missed Ruth Cadbury and deputy mayor Sohan Sumra.

On Friday Ruth was hosting a delegation of MPs (or whatever they are called in Sierra Leone) from the Commonwealth at the FoodBox and for lunch at Isleworth and Syon School. I went along to both (free lunch always welcome) and met MPs from Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Canada and the Cayman Islands. All very articulate and intelligent and all a bit perplexed as to why a rich country like ours needs foodbanks (except the Canadian – it’s the same there). I hadn’t been to Isleworth and Syon before and was impressed, especially by the young man (about 13) who picked me up at reception and escorted me to the room. No bike racks for visitors to be seen though.

Isleworth and Syon

On Saturday morning I met one of the people trying to get a footbridge built to Kew Gardens. He introduced me to a local who is trying to generate interest in Municipal Green Bonds. I agreed to discuss with our lead member for finance: it’s one of those things where there seems to be an opportunity but a) it’s complicated to get it going,  b) there are probably catches that I haven’t spotted yet and c) it’s nothing much to do with me, but I’m a busybody.

On Monday afternoon I take part in a disciplinary appeal hearing for someone who the council sacked for misconduct. I made the mistake of being the second of the 3 councillors to arrive: this more or less obliges you to take the middle seat which is more or less conclusive when we come to ‘electing’ a chair. I am pleased the council has this process and we listen respectfully to both sides of the story before a clear consensus emerges. Following this I have a brief meeting with the head of the property arm of Lampton 360. He has two tasks – buying properties in the market that will be capable of taking people out of temporary accommodation, and developing new builds on council land. The first is now beginning to really motor along after a slow start whilst the second is also moving forward but everything to do with development seems to take ages.

I have to rush off from that to a meeting of the Trustees of Hounslow Arts Trust aka the Watermans Centre. The meeting is mainly routine matters – finances and policy updates – but there is also the matter of the proposed new building, where no final decision has been made. We discuss this for a bit then I am sent packing because there is obviously a potential conflict of interest and the board need to discuss things without the landlord present!

On Tuesday I’m out to Southall Lane for the Lampton 360 board. Nothing momentous to report from that. Everybody’s keen to hear what angle LBH’s new chief exec takes when he arrives later in the month as he has some experience with local authority companies. In the meantime each part of the business has its challenges but all are getting on with it and making visible progress.

In the evening we have a cabinet briefing, where we discuss progress on various matters with senior officers. There’s plenty of change going on, though not so much that relates to my portfolio just yet. Working as a councillor can be quite frustrating for someone who’s spent most of his working life in the commercial world: things often take a frustratingly long time because of legal frameworks or the necessity to consult. However I am often struck by the diligence and sheer competence of council officers – not all of them, but the vast majority. Their worth is far higher than their reputation allows.

On Wednesday morning I mosey along to Brent Lea, where they are planting trees and plants etc. I managed to miss the tree planting in the park on Green Dragon Lane on Saturday – by the time I’d finished talking about Green Bonds, Greenspace 360 and various local Green Fingers had done their work – but this time I arrive whilst there is plenty going on. It is great to see the progress made by the Friends over the 3 or 4 years they have been going. This little park is a lovely enclave and restoring it to its historic role as an orchard, interspersed with some bee-friendly and hopefully beautiful shrubs and flowers, will only improve matters further. An excellent example of the community and council pulling together.

Brent Lea

Then I’m up to the Paragon site – the flats on the A4 next to the University. These have the same sort of dodgy cladding as Grenfell and the landlords are in the process of making the buildings safe. A resident has contacted me to say her flat has largely been in darkness since August because of the protective cocoon they have put round her building. The covering was supposed to come off about now, but they have just decided to leave it on until February. It’s pretty horrible in her flat, which feels rather like a windowless cell, so I’m urging the landlords to sort it – it cannot be good for anybody’s mental or even physical health to live like that.

In the evening I accompany the local constabulary to the dungeon known as Trimmer Walk Depot. I think it please Police Officers to have us dodgy locals confined underground but anyway, it’s the police Ward Panel, now with a serious upgrade of Chair. I ask Andy Ward (the new chair) if he has considered changing his name to Andrew Ward-Pannell. It will sound so much more distinguished when he gets his knighthood. The first knight I ever met (met? – he was the chief executive of Ford and I, a humble 17 year old, had to take up some papers to his office) was called Bill Batty – Sir William sounded a lot better after he was gonged.

Thursday is a longish day at the Civic Centre – meetings with various people topped off with the Planning Committee this evening  – nothing in Brentford but I need to mug up on the others.

Oh, did I mention?  I have an ambition, before the Civic Centre closes around March next year, to be able to get through a certain gap without scratching my belt buckle. So I have been making regular visits to my gym at the other end of Chiswick (I dare not change gyms, it’s hard enough even going to a familiar one!). This week they have been filming something with the provisional title of Peacock. They ask me to sign a waiver as I may be in shot whilst I do a bit of indoor cross-country skiing. I notice there’s a box which says ‘fee’ so I write TBD. If this thing ever sees the light of day and you see a fat sweaty old bloke, let me know. I’ll cut you 10% of the extortionate fee I will demand!


Cllr Guy Lambert

December 6, 2018

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