Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert

Redrawing boundaries between Brentford and Chiswick


Guy Lambertguy.lambert@hounslow.gov.uk

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I met with my chief officer and her new sidekick who is dedicated to improving the street scene: his background covers recycling, waste, litter management and environmental enforcement and he’s just come from Hackney, having previously worked for Westminster. I think our team needed reinforcement with specific experience and I think he’s just the man – already active in Hounslow High Street at crack of dawn. We have a joint agenda with a lot of issues to progress, all aimed at improving our streets and/or our recycling rate and I’ll be tracking progress over the coming year.

In the evening it’s Planning Committee – two highly contentious applications in Chiswick and two uncontroversial ones out West. Impassioned pleas from a neighbour and a ward councillor against a plan by a charity to rebuild a derelict Victorian B&B in the heart of Chiswick. This is to provide short term housing for young people under a quite strict regime supervised by a caretaker family living on site. I asked opponents why they said it was the wrong place at the wrong time and they said they thought somewhere else would be better. They are concerned about vulnerable young people being exposed to danger in this notorious crime hotspot. I bet the estate agents always give out a warning about how dodgy Chiswick is to live in. Anyway, most of us think this is a splendid initiative and the permission was granted. The other contentious one was withdrawn so we had a relatively easy night.

On Friday I was due to meet the leader but he had a fraught day so we postponed. I ran an errand for my daughter, who had asked me to take her passport renewal into the Passport Office – not in Petty France any more, but in an efficient new building in Victoria. For various reasons my afternoon and evening got frenetic and I ended up making my first acquaintance with Herr Uber. I have resisted Uber because I think their business model is almost as scary as Amazon (who I continue to boycott) but I have to confess that the system works. My chauffeur used to have an Indian restaurant on Hayling Island. He’s retired now but is bored, so he Ubers every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It reminds me of when I came out of West Middlesex a few years ago minus my burst appendix: the taxi driver had an enormous S-class Mercedes. I observed this seemed ill suited to the taxi trade but he said he was a retired banker and this was his hobby. Each to his own.

Monday morning it's our ward walkabout with CEO Niall Bolger. A series of missed communications mean that initially I’m on my own with him. I drive him up to Boston Manor station so he can look wistfully over the border into Ealing (and admire our lovely cycle lane) then we stop at Boston Manor Park and have a brief walk. Unfortunately Niall finds a depression in the footpath and almost comes a cropper. He stays upright but there’s a certain amount of hobbling going on thereafter. We pick up The Melvinator (we managed to miss Corinna at Brentford Station and then miss various phone calls either way so she doesn’t join us) and wander through the Haverfield estate, Towers, Green Dragon Lane etc. Then I drive again to give him an idea of the football stadium, Capital Interchange Way,  Clayponds Estate etc. Over the weekend I have been having a battle with Housing about putting up temporary signs on the Towers as at present you can’t see which is which. In one of those scenes that you could not possibly have planned, a lady approaches us as she recognises me and wishes to have a moan about the lack of signs. Signs were erected later that day :-)

Fraser House

In the evening we have Labour Group meeting. The main topic is our submission to the Boundaries Commission about rearranging the council wards. Not everybody is happy about the compromises that have been thrashed out but we agree to go with them, though of course anybody including individual councillors can make a submission (until 18th March) http://www.lgbce.org.uk/all-reviews/greater-london/greater-london/hounslow We propose to split Brentford into 2 wards – East and West, and have 5 councillors covering the patch rather than the current three. Of course the Commission may take a quite different view.

Proposed boundaries

Tuesday lunchtime we have arranged a visit to a mess hotspot in Heath Road so a recycling officer, our CCTV man and Enforcement people attend. I detest umbrellas but I needed something to protect us from the cats and dogs which hurtled towards our heads. We made a sorry-looking crew, huddled together against a large bin, cold and drenched. I was pleased to hear that the CCTV had picked up a number of villains including a BMW whose driver calmly removed 9 black bags and dumped them around our bin. His calm may have been disturbed when he read of the £400 fine his antics had attracted.

Then it’s in to the civic for a finance update – not much has changed. Services are over budget and we need to get on an even keel for next year with achievable budgets and more active financial monitoring. Then the members task group on recycling, covering similar things I discuss with the chief officer but gaining extra perspectives from members, and so to Borough Council.

We discuss the mostly positive residents’ survey. The Tories try to pull out some negatives, with Tiggerish (and very engaging) Ronnie Mushiso explaining that the poor people of Chiswick are afeared to leave their mansions to brave the marauding hordes on the mean streets. It feels a bit cruel when I point out to him that no less than 98% of them feel safe going out during the day and an equally impressive 80% feel safe after dark. 

They don’t like the submission to the electoral commission (they would prefer to pretend chunks of Brentford are in Chiswick as it’s their only realistic hope of hanging on to 9 seats – though based on their performance the electorate may have other ideas!) and they don’t like the decision to increase basic allowances for councillors by 2% in line with paid staff, as we agreed we would do last year. It reminds me of when I worked for Ford Motor Co back in the 1970s. Us white collar workers (remember them?) would tut tut at the blue collar workers going on strike and eventually getting a 15% rise (we had REAL inflation back then) but when we got our 17.5% rise to maintain differentials we were not minded to refuse it, thinking it was in fact meagre reward for our all-round excellence.

Only one meeting on Wednesday, the inaugural steering group meeting for Brentford Together, the initiative run by London Sustainability Exchange together with the Friends of Cathja, Cultivate London  and Hen Corner to improve people’s health by non-medical means. This is new to me and most of the people there were NHS. We need to make sure it dovetails with what the council, NHS and voluntary groups already do and my own ambition is that it encourages people outside ‘the usual suspects’ to get engaged with community activities and help bring, well, the diverse communities of Brentford Together.

I see a letter from Mel declining an invitation to a meeting of the Boston Manor Residents Association on the grounds he will be celebrating his wife’s 645th birthday. I have met Jackie and I’d say if she’s really 645 she wears it very well: I suspect Mel, who is henceforth to be Mel-thuselah, is confusing Jackie’s age with his own.

Cllr Guy Lambert

March 14, 2019

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