Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert

Hounslow definitely isn't boring despite what the psephologists say

Helping clean up Cranford
Helping clean up Cranford



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Life has moved at pace this week. On Thursday lunchtime I had a Zooting© with Catalyst Housing association. They are busy merging with Peabody to become a very big Housing Association indeed but this session was to understand (and complain about) the way they are managing various properties in Brentford, and try to broker some solutions to problems with specific tenants. It was a constructive meeting but the proof of the pudding…. When I was a boy the most exciting part of a pudding was looking for the threepenny bits my mother had embedded therein (plus of course the brandy fire). Other people got sixpences. Was my mother a cheapskate?

In the evening we had the Ward Panel, held in St Paul’s Church. We had the best turnout of residents I can remember, and the meeting was expertly chaired by the resident who volunteered to run this meeting a while ago. There has been a marked improvement in both attendance and content since I succeeded in sacking myself as chair, which may not be a coincidence. I made the point also that we have a most engaged and responsive Safer Neighbourhood Team (local rozzers to you) and this seems to be working very well at present, though of course we’re far from having eradicated crime or ASB!

I took a complete break on Friday and Saturday, as I had friends visiting. They had things to do on Saturday daytime and I managed to get something done that I’ve been meaning to do for many months – give a bit of support to the incredibly industrious Cranford Action Group. So I cycled out to the wild area at the M4/A312 junction and joined the team on the closed for the weekend slip road for about an hour and a half.

There were a lot more of them than that, but they were lurking in the bushes, like Boris Johnson avoiding questions where no fridges are available. I also had a session in Kew Gardens where one of my friends managed to crash a mobility scooter into a sign, and I managed to bump in to one friend from Brentford and one from Chiswick. It’s not a place to do secret assignations, not that I do that anyway. The Orchids were cool, or more accurately, warm and damp.

mobility scooter crash

On Sunday afternoon I went out to Feltham Assembly Hall to assist with the selection meetings for Labour candidates. There are clearly a lot of party members in some of the wards we were selecting so we were kept busy checking credentials and marshalling them.

On Monday morning I had a Zooting© with the CEO of Lampton Group. I have been challenging Value for Money for some time and they have recently provided some evidence, but the accountant in me wants to see it presented more clearly. I have seen the evidence that our waste service, which performs much better than comparable services in terms both of missed collections and quality issues is the third cheapest of 11 comparable London boroughs despite our commitment to pay London Living Wage as a minimum, so seeking chapter and verse on that and some other VFM metrics.

In the afternoon a Lampton Group Finance meeting – nothing much to report – then in the evening the selection meetings for the Brentford wards and for Isleworth, down at Isleworth Public Hall.

Isleworth was first, and there were a lot of members present so I spent some time getting extra chairs. Was surprised and delighted to see my African drumming teacher who I met in Greece in the summer taking part in a bit of Labour party democracy. A strong field of candidates, and strong candidates were elected.

Then it was Brentford East – roughly East of Ealing Road – which is a 2-person ward and in Labour at least one has to be a woman. Brentford girl Marina Sharma was elected (amazingly, she was delighted to meet her favourite teacher from Brentford School for Girls amongst the small electorate. At least, she told him he was her favourite teacher ). So the other slot was contested between The Melvinator and Rhys Williams – I had decided to go for Brentford West – and I was very sorry to see Mel losing the contest. This is not to denigrate Rhys, who will be an excellent councillor and will bring youthful energy to bear. Of course, Mel may be selected for another seat, but his heart is in Brentford and he’ll be much missed. I have worked alongside Mel for 7 years and we’ve had nary a cross word between us. We don’t always agree but have had (I think) great mutual respect and have always worked as a team.

Then it was my turn, in Brentford West (ie the bit of East Brentford which is less Easterly than Brentford East). I was up against a bunch of women – the only bloke in the room – and was delighted when Lara, from Brazil via Chiswick, and full of enthusiasm for social justice, was selected. And delighted when I was selected for the other seat. So now the hard bit begins – to convince you residents (and the others who sensibly don’t read this) that we are the best candidates to represent you.

On Tuesday I had lunch with some old colleagues out in the sticks of Rickmansworth so the ridiculous car got an outing. Later it got another one as I ran out of time to get to our Labour group meeting before Borough Council by bike, and change out of sensible water resistant cycling clothes into a suit and dress shoes, all posh before the Mayor and the Deputy Lieutenant.

You may have read something about Borough Council somewhere. To call it a lively meeting would be an understatement, starting with the bombshell that Steve Curran has decided to stand down for health reasons. Nasty people have been cynical about this, but I can assure them Steve is standing down for that reason and that reason alone. I was disgusted with the contribution of Theo Dennison in the meeting. Someone with whom I have worked closely and had very cordial relations over several years but whose relationship with Steve has soured for reasons about which I can only speculate. Certainly, much of what he said in Borough Council seems to me to be palpably untrue. Whatever, it was unworthy and has left a very bad taste in my mouth.

So I’ll say a few words about Steve. Yes, he’s a controversial character: a powerful personality with a strong commitment to his vision, which was focused on delivering our manifesto at the 2018 election – a manifesto masterminded by Theo Dennison – and one which we have delivered in virtually every respect. He was narrowly elected as leader, comfortably survived a vote of confidence a year or two ago, and presided over an administration that achieved huge successes – best roads and footways in London (independently assessed), third best parks in London (independently assessed) and to cap it all, Council of the Year 2021 (independently judged). Did I agree with everything Steve did? No, and we had robust exchanges on several occasions. But he listened to what I had to say and sometimes changed his approach – or my mind! We will miss him, though there is something to be said for a change of emphasis after 8 years.

The opposition complained about Council tax having gone up by 20%+ since 2010. Sounds a big number until you set against it that general inflation has gone up by about 38% in the same period so I reckon council tax has come down at least 8% in real terms, despite the fact we have to worry about a potentially rocketing rate of inflation in the next financial year. (Oh, and central government grant support has been radically cut – I’m told by £170M pa). There’s a rather odd story on the TW8 front page about £1M being allocated to buying bins – this is normal replacement and works out a little over a tenner a household over 3 years – try getting a pint of bitter a year out of that in Brentford!

After all that excitement, I had quite a free Wednesday. My only meeting was a Zooting© with the excellent On London to which I subscribe. This was a nerdy psephologist’s webinar about what’s likely to happen in the London elections. They describe Hounslow as a boring borough (to which I suppose I should take exception) on the basis they think it is likely to stay Labour. But when they go through all the boroughs they expect few if any will change. Except perhaps Croydon, where they have an inkling that it may be a Tory mayor and a Labour council, which might be fun.

Gosh this is long, but some things probably had to be said. To calm your nerves (and mine, I suppose) here’s a pretty picture of our lovely town.

Brentford Blue Dusk

Cllr Guy Lambert

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March 4, 2022

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