The Creative Mile, Footpaths, Children's Services and More Weeds

Brentford West councillor Guy Lambert reports back on his week

Lara and Guy check out the Creative Mile
Lara and Guy check out the Creative Mile


Having a Grand Time as Zombies Descend on Hounslow

Orchard Road, Church Walk, Bond House and Other Bollards

Fewer Than 1,000 Emails to Read on My Return

Failure To Evict Dead Pigeons But Success on Other Issues

Committed to Dressing Up as a Sausage Roll for His Constituents

Should the borough's parched parks be getting Brown Flag Awards?

Taking advice on tides from a possibly fake Captain Pugwash

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Thursday evening as anticipated we had the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Overview and Scrutiny is a committee comprised of backbench councillors, including representatives from the opposition (not Her Majesty’s Opposition, I suppose His Worshipfulness the Mayor’s Opposition) and is intended as an independent check and balance on the progress of the administration – sometimes described it as a critical friend and I hope it will work like that – heaven knows we will not get everything right and some independent input is always welcome.

It is good to see my friends and close colleagues Lara, Marina and Dan Bowring on the committee. They have fresh perspective, energy and creativity and are not at all afraid to challenge. For the opposition, Cllrs Tak and especially Jo Biddolph are always challenging. My main problem at present is weeds, which we and our contractors – principally Hounslow Highways – are having great difficulty controlling, following our commitment not to use poisons. Various members challenged our performance with this (though everybody accepts our commitment not to use weedkillers) and I can only say we are throwing everything we have (including quite a lot of things – and people - we didn’t have two months ago) at the problem. We are making progress, but still much to do. It was good of Cllr Biddolph to praise a couple of our recent innovations – the bin cleaning service whereby we swap out used communal food waste bins and replace each week with clean ones, and our embryonic commercial waste service. We only launched this in July but it has picked up a number of customers and is very well received.

Afterwards we had a meeting of the cabinet – I say that to distinguish it from a Cabinet Meeting, which is a public event - where we ran through our proposals for improving equalities in the borough.

On Friday I cycled down to Hanworth at the other end of the borough to meet a posse of residents who wanted to talk footpaths. Shantanu the Leader was in attendance as were two local councillors and someone from Hounslow Highways. This was a little about weeds and cleaning but it was mainly about the age and state of the footpath. People believe that these should be replaced periodically, a perception with which I sympathise but it’s not something that we can afford. We are lucky to have the only arrangement in London where a private contractor is responsible for the state of our roads and pavements and must keep them up to a defined standard at all times. The standard was agreed by the Department for Transport some years ago and we do get some government funding specifically to support this, with the result that our roads and pavements are regularly assessed as the best in London. In the last administration we recognised that some roads met the defined standard but not residents’ expectations so we created the Pothole Pledge and spent an additional £4M fixing roads that people nominated. This time we have the Pavement Pledge which is the same thing - albeit with £2M committed - for pavements and we’ll be announcing how this will work soon.

On Saturday it was time for me to walk (or cycle – sorry to be predictable) the Creative Mile. I love this event, both for what I see on my perambulations and the people I meet, and for what it says about our community. There is such a diverse range of talent on display from metalworkers to sculptors to mosaic makers to cushion coverers to fine artists and it is good for the soul to see all these showing their wares. I am contemplating one of these to attract the birds to my balcony (you’ll find the maker at the Steam Museum) but I decided I didn’t want to be lugging it around all afternoon.

There was lots of lovely art in the Musical Museum though all the player pianos and cylinder gramophones etc were a great distraction. Having visited the Watermans centre and the lovely people in Studio Flox I ended up in the Blue Road and the inevitable picture with Lara (see above).

On Johnson’s Island I was taken with this picture of flowers by Angela Chan and saw it (or similar) was printed on a tote bag for Ukraine – so I bought one, whereupon I was most generously given a framed print free gratis and for nothing. It now has pride of place in my flat – feeling very lucky!

On Monday I travelled in to Hounslow House for a policy update on children’s services given very comprehensively by our executive director. It’s quite a challenge keeping up with children’s services, because there are more and more children with special needs, more in care, and not proportionate funds to support them from central government. Because of geography we also have a disproportionate number of unaccompanied asylum seekers’ children. They have often had a particularly traumatising time, perhaps losing their parents, sometimes in gruesome ways, and arrive unaccompanied in a country thousands of miles away, where they don’t speak the language or have any contacts. These are supposed to be dispersed around the country to share the challenge, but it doesn’t always work that way – we heard of a county council with a million inhabitants responsible for 4 of these young people whilst Hounslow with under 300,000 is responsible for nearly 100. I’m proud of what we do as a borough and this very difficult and very costly work is largely invisible to our residents.

On Tuesday I was bought a nice lunch in La Rosetta by the council leader, Shantanu, with the Chair of Lampton360 Group, Martin Cresswell who Shantanu had not previously met. A very positive discussion about the progress of the Lampton Group, how things that have been problematic have improved – and continue to – and how the relationship with the council works – generally well but with room for improvement in some areas.

Later we had a sort of summit meeting with Hounslow Highways involving the council leader and their group senior management, mainly about cleaning and weeds and how we will improve matters going forward. In the evening, cabinet: the local plan review, quite a chunk of Lampton, the launch of our ‘Parklets’ offer and budget monitoring. We are nervous as an enterprise about how the cost of living crisis will hit us, as well as how it will hit our residents. We are roughly on track so far but there are enormous risks. Fortunately as a council we have resisted pressures to spend our reserves so we are financially resilient, but we may need to be to keep going effectively through the next couple of years.

On Wednesday I had an unexpected free morning as the thing that was in my diary turned out to be an illusion wrapped in a mirage inside a fantasy. My first engagement therefore was in the afternoon, shortlisting our latest attempt to find a new non exec director for our Lampton Homes company. Then, hop on the bike up to Osterley to see the Mayor’s majestic marauders marmalise the outclassed overwhelmed officers in the Mayor’s charity Cricket match. It’s important to inject a bit of needle into such encounters. Anyway, after a beer and a sandwich it was on to a meeting of the Heston Residents Association where I presented the council’s plans for the next four years and took questions (inevitably) about weeds, flytipping and the ULEZ.

So we’re round to Thursday. I assumed I was going to have to drive to Feltham to join the coach tour of councillors and other interested parties organised by Lampton Community Services but the morning was unexpectedly sunny so I rode old smokey down to the Ashmead road depot. We visited Bedfont Lakes Country Park (you should go if you haven’t been – one of the Heston Residents remarked how wonderful it is – something I heartily endorse) the Materials Recycling Facility at Southall Lane and somebody’s little house where we had just taken out a bath and put in a walk in shower/bath thingy. Fortunately there was nobody home, still less in the bath. Naturally the rain storms had decided to visit the area when I was on my way back so I got suitably soaked.

This evening I’ve been invited to the anniversary party for Chiswick Flower Market so I’ll stop now, just remarking that Lara and I are planning to do a bit of door knocking on Saturday, followed by a litter pick (meet outside the Black Dog at 2pm). We also have our collective surgery on Sunday morning – 11 to 12.30 at the Digital Dock.

Councillor Guy Lambert

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September 9, 2022

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