Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert

A spot check on the Watermans Arms and the Gunnersbury School fence issue

Lara and Guy, your Brentford West councillors



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In which I succeed in avoiding both going around and up poles

Saying goodbye to an old friend too soon and hello to a new cafe not soon enough

Similar job, new title, Orchard Road and a net gain of pubs

Greetings from the new representative for Brentford West

Observing mayhem at the Windmill Road/A4 traffic lights

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The ‘Key Partners’ event was helpful in updating a variety of partners the council works with and was followed on Monday with a session about ‘Working in partnership’. I’m not sure the partners in that were any less key but the ‘Key’ ones spring to mind more obviously – Police, Fire Brigade, NHS etc.

The ‘Workers in Partnership’ session was nevertheless very informative. The partners here include Citizens Advice – a service we often use for people with acute needs, whether financial or other, (and to which the council provides core funding) and the statistics of how many they help are impressive. Aiman Elal, their CEO, inspires confidence.

We also had a really exciting presentation from Director Liz Power, from our very own Museum of Water and Steam. Over the last few years it’s been great to see this small and rather precarious – especially in a lockdown when they couldn’t open or generate any ‘gate’ income - charity really getting stuck in to partnering with the local community, with their café run by Our Barn, much work with Speak Out and a fantastic relationship with the Brentford Towers Residents Association. Liz was really reaching out, pointing out that have lots of space inside and out, big steam engines, two trains and lots of nice things, and they love to hear from people with ideas or problems!

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because that was Monday and you have not yet heard of the excitements Friday had on offer.

First of all, I had a Zooting© with ‘my’ exec director, Victoria, where she introduced me (not that I was completely unaware of them) to two services that have come into my area of influence. One of these is really familiar, being what’s known as Community Enforcement, which covers enforcement of most things the council controls (though not, for example, parking or planning). The other is one I have had little engagement with previously – vehicle fleet management. The council has a lot of vehicles, ranging from bin lorries through school minibuses to small vans, and major challenges in supporting our move to net zero – not much of a problem for a small van operating locally but very difficult for a heavy lorry.

Another Zooting© was with somebody new in the council’s communications department who will be working closely with my area, including on matters like Recycle Week, which is next week!

Later in the afternoon I was up to Avenue Road, to inspect it with local resident Salman Shaheen following the cleaning day which had taken place on Thursday. We walked Avenue and I extended my review around a number of different roads in the ward. As ever, litter is fairly minimal on most residential roads, but I’m unhappy with the state of gutters, which are not well cleaned where there are parked cars.

On Saturday, my new cabinet assistant Aqsa Ahmed had invited me to visit Fern Lane in her own ward, Heston East. There I was greeted by a posse of councillors, Aqsa herself and experienced colleagues Amrit Mann and Gurmail Lal. We spent an hour touring Fern lane and adjacent roads, including the one where Amrit lives. As Amrit points out, this is really Norwood Green rather than Heston and is on the border with Ealing. Various problems and concerns were pointed up – pavement issues, trees felled and not replaced, some new trees in danger of failing, excessive weeds. I will be following all of these up.

In the evening I attended Watermans to see the film ‘Hostile’ which is about the ‘Hostile Environment’ the country offers to migrants. I was joined here by Katherine Dunne – Marina Sharma was unwell and didn’t make it. Very informative and quite depressing, not least because this hostility, announced by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary and turbocharged by Priti Patel, has its roots much earlier and was not greatly improved when we had a Labour government. There were a number of intertwined stories – about a man from the Windrush generation who had come here aged 9 and sent back to Jamaica aged about 70; about a man who had worked here for 20 years in the NHS but was likely to deported to Pakistan with his wife and two British-born children, having repeatedly failed to secure right to remain. And about a free meal service in the East end, which has spent much of the pandemic supporting overseas students who suddenly had no access to work (as baristas, waiters, cleaners, shop staff etc) to support themselves and had always had ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’. This is the scandalous arrangement introduced in 2012 whereby people who work and pay taxes in the UK have no access to the NHS or any state benefits. It needs to be repealed or at least extensively reformed. I didn’t actually like the film much, but I learned plenty.

After the film we were joined by new councillor Dan Bowring for a drink at the Watermans Arms. We have had complaints of excessive noise and licence breaches from a nearby establishment and, whilst we did not hear any appreciable noise there did seem to be some breaches of licence and or planning conditions. Dan has a splendid electric bicycle which is definitely in the territory of the Harley Davidson of electric bikes. Not sure if this is the exact model but pictures of it in use have been banned by the censor.

On Monday morning I had a couple of brief Zootings© about Lampton, one about financial controls from the council’s point of view – we are very mindful that some Local Authority companies have run into trouble and, whilst we are perfectly sure Lampton is safe, we want to make certain we have processes in place to make sure it stays that way – and one about the potential MD appointment.

In the afternoon I had been invited by residents in Clitherow Road to join them in a meeting with the chair of governors of Gunnersbury Catholic School. It seems to be accepted the ‘something must be done’ about safeguarding, given that currently Clitherow residents have a fairly uninterrupted view into the school playground and scholars have a fairly uninterrupted view into neighbouring houses and gardens, with unfortunate results, at least in the latter case. Trouble is, the changes to the school seem to have been made by a (no doubt very holy) alliance between the diocese and the Department for Education with the school having insufficient say in the matter, at least as far as the boundary fence goes (they are very happy with their new building, apparently). There seems to be a tussle to provide additional funding to deal with the acknowledged problems, as the school itself is not in a financial position to fix things (and it is not its role, it seems). Whatever, it was good finally to establish a constructive dialogue, and I am trying to engage our planners to make sure we are pulling all available levers.

Well, that’s sort of the end of my scheduled activities for this week. I have a house guest over from Austria and I’m trying to limit my work time to respect him, so unfortunately I missed the Freedom of the Borough ceremony on Tuesday evening and Green by Design training yesterday.

Lara is busy working up ideas for a local ‘Library of Things’ with Brentford Voice – whether we can find an answer for that remains to be established – and that will fit well with work I’m doing to try and revitalise our upcycling potential across Hounslow and the other West London Waste members.

Enjoy the sunshine. It may be a bit too hot for a delicate flower like me, but I’ll do my best.

Cllr Guy Lambert

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June 16, 2022

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