Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert

Transport in most of its forms

Beautiful Brentford


Guy Lambertguy.lambert@hounslow.gov.uk

tel 07804 284948

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On Friday it’s the day of my annual pilgrimage to Race Retro, specially laid on for nerds like me who revel in motor racing from a different era. This year there’s a stand from the Jim Clark Trust. Some kids had Pele as their ultimate hero, little Tories had William Hague but for me it was always Jim Clark. When I was 15, he died in a still unexplained accident in the trees at Hockenheim in Germany, and the world stood still for a moment, mine for quite a spell. Anyway, one day I must go to the museum that commemorates him, in a fittingly modest way, in the village of Duns where Jim grew up and tended his sheep, on the Scottish border. I content myself with the T-shirt, which I will be able to get into when I lose 50 Kg. The ridiculous car is getting temperamental so on the way back I visit a specialist garage in Berkhamsted which I have spotted, with the idea of getting it fixed or part-exchanging it for a slightly newer one. He tells me brutally that it’s not worth fixing, nor is it worth anything as a part-exchange. It will return to its spiritual home, Capital Motors in Chiswick, where the car doctors I absolutely trust will give me a second opinion of the true diagnosis.

Anyway, enough already of this polluting monster. I spend the weekend whizzing hither and thither on the bike, and having a whale of a time on it. Somewhere between Hammersmith and Fulham the towpath is congested and I drive into a hedge, and half a mile later I notice red liquids on my arm. On Sunday various people ask me if I’ve acquired a cat. Most anti-social to put thorns in a hedge. I am really enjoying this absurd weather while it lasts, and so glad I have discovered cycling as both a means of transport, exercise and recreation, though you can’t help but worry what 19 degrees in February really portends.

Anyway, Monday I’m back in the real world and a meeting with TfL and our traffic people for me and the Melvinator. Appropriately enough this is about our new cycle lane to Hammersmith. The revised design is a great improvement around Kew Bridge but still involves some compromises. Notably the westbound lane will run through Watermans Park and we’re keen for this to be near the back wall to minimise disruption to the park. The other main concern I have is moving the Eastbound bus stop outside Morrisons quite a way East. I’m still hoping that a different solution can be found as and when a redevelopment of the Morrisons site happens (of which more anon).

I meet a former neighbour from Oxford Road South in Chiswick for lunch. He has written in response to the consultation, unhappy about Stile Hall Gardens and Wellesley Road being closed to through traffic, though of course the people in those roads have a different view. Anyway, he is mollified by the application of beer.

In the evening we have a short meeting about our submission to the Boundary Commission about rearranging the wards in Hounslow. Major changes are needed because the ward sizes have got out of sync, with Brentford ward on course to have nearly twice as many voters as any of the Chiswick wards. Our proposal is to have two Brentford wards, East and West, with some adjustment to the boundaries at each end, but who knows what the Commission will decide. Nothing practical happens until 2022 anyway. After that, it’s Labour group preparatory to Borough Council on Tuesday. This is almost entirely about the budget, where we agree that we have to put council tax up by the maximum allowed. The stresses of continued cuts in central funding leave us with no alternative. We are having to deal with a lot of fall out from the government’s agenda to bear down on poor people, which manifests in many different ways which are a tragedy for our country and a real problem for councils. A specific pressure we discuss is rapidly growing numbers of children with special educational needs – a hidden consequence of the doubling of child poverty.

Tuesday I attend the Air Quality Summit at our friendly local Holiday Inn. They serve an excellent buffet lunch and both John ‘Treasure’ Todd and I are most taken with the large mounds of sweet potato fries provided, whilst some councillors from other parts of the Borough just like to tuck in to a free lunch in general (who doesn’t, actually). Anyway, it wasn’t really about lunch, but about the challenges of London’s Air Quality. The event was chaired by Katherine Dunne and there were a number of speakers including Ruth Cadbury MP and various people from the GLA, academia and Heathrow, some more credible than others :-). I was struck by the general level of ambition – absolutely necessary to address the issues and reduce unnecessary disease and death – and the work needed across many different priorities: more walking, cycling and public transport, less car use; better provision for electric cars; more trees and greenery; more planes flying overhead and taxis taking people to and from the airport. Oh.

Beat the Streets

One surprising statistic I noticed was that the Beat the Street initiative – aimed mainly at children – reduced cars arriving at schools by no less than 27%. We need so much more of that, because aside from the fact that the school run poisons people it also puts really bad stress on those who live near schools who feel under siege every morning and afternoon during termtime.

In the evening we gather first for the annual Council photograph. Sympathy for the photographer: if you thought herding cats was difficult you haven’t seen anybody herding councillors.

Then it’s our evening of ritual combat known as the Budget Setting Meeting. The leader of the Tory group, Sam Hearn, announces in his rather understated way that they are going to abstain as they haven’t got any better ideas as to how we should set the budget, but they’ll have a pop at us anyway. Ron Mushiso, who I suspect is apprenticed to Gerald McGregor, tells us austerity is over as he is now able to buy a house. John Todd has his habitual pop at Lampton 360 and all who sail in her and Sam demonstrates for the third time that he doesn’t understand the Pothole Pledge, nor that the Labour group delivers its manifesto commitments! Anyway, I have the opportunity to put Sam straight and to point out to John that we are busily – via Lampton – buying up properties previously flogged off under ‘Right to buy’ and until recently in the hands of buy to let landlords: they are now back under council control and providing decent homes at truly affordable rent levels for residents who previously had to put up with the precarious and inadequate private rental sector. Not surprisingly, at the end our budget is passed comfortably with our Conservative chums abstaining. The only dissenter is the Horror of Homefields, Gerald McGregor, who would probably vote to privatise air if he had the chance and is dead against anything suggested by us wicked socialists.

Wednesday morning we have a constructive meeting with the Heston Action Group, Hounslow Highways, TfL and various Hounslow officers. This is focused on improving maintenance of the A4 around Heston (though naturally I widen the discussion to include other bits of the A4). We can make real progress here, I think, with cooperation between the various authorities and local people, all of whom are seeking the same outcome.

Later I meet the head of Hounslow Highways for our regular update. I had a sizeable grumble about last weekend, where I saw a lot of bins overflowing and green bags uncollected, reversing the progress we have seen in recent weeks. He says he will look into it. He will find himself staring at a lot of rubbish.

Round to Thursday again and I’m doing this early as I have a variety of meetings today, about which you will no doubt hear next week!

Cllr Guy Lambert

February 28, 2019

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