Some Changes to My Role But Still the Minister of Mess

Brentford West councillor Guy Lambert reports back

Cllr Guy Lambert
Cllr Guy Lambert

May 26, 2023


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Friday dawned, which was not very original of the day, but I’m afraid that’s something that days seem unable to resist every morning. Occasionally I have completely unintelligible ‘appointments’ in my diary, and there was one at 9am, described as Az. No idea what it was and I apologise to anybody that I disappointed. Not too much as I heard nothing about it. If someone is crying in a gutter somewhere, I’m really not worth it.

So Lara and I converged upon the Spire café in St Paul’s church where we were having our regular(ish) ward walk with people from the Community bit of the Hounslow staff. Very interesting hearing from volunteers about all the things happening in and around the church, which stresses that a lot of this is not exclusive but welcomes anybody who is local and interested in the activities. One thing is the repair shop where local volunteers take on recycling activities – today it was clothes but other things are available.

Round the back there’s a small garden area, full of the kind of plants that are approved by the National Association of Bees – the winged ones rather than the footballing ones – beautifully arranged and tended with love. Reminded me of me, small but perfectly formed.


Spire cafe repair shop
Spire cafe repair shop

Small garden at Holly House
Small garden behind St. Paul's Church

We carried on, walking up to the A4 where we find Holly House, a small council block in need of that tending with love. We have it on the radar of the Housing department and I hope and expect it will be greatly improved over the next few months.

Then I’m home, for a Teams meeting with the Deputy CEO who has taken over many of the Officer responsibilities related to Lampton, so we could compare knowledge and plan how we will work together over the months to come.

Then it’s Saturday (another of those pesky dawns) and I’m off to Heston for the AGM of the Heston Action Group, one of our fantastic groups who work to improve their local area – very successfully because they work so hard at it. The chief HAG, one of the male variety, is also chair of the London Park City movement. I suppose lovely people like this meet in church halls all over the country but not too many areas are blessed with such good groups as we have in places in Hounslow.

Heston Action Group meeting

I had to rush off before the end because I had arrange to have a coffee with one of the leading lights of the volunteers who keep the Hounslow FoodBox going, and as a trustee I like to get a perspective from volunteers from time to time (not as frequently as I probably should!)

On Monday I have an appointment with a physio at Charing Cross Hospital. We don’t do as much as usual as there have been developments with my troublesome right shoulder which have got the doctors more interested so we mostly chat and look at X-rays.

I cycle home via the scenic route, around Dukes Meadows which is a special favourite of mine. Down at the path next to the river it is gorgeous at the moment. Everything is growing very fast because of favourable weather, and the people who look after it are only mowing and reducing plants sufficiently to protect useability. Anyway it is good for my soul to cycle through it when it’s like this. In case you’re worried, that is neither a ghost nor a zombie, but the shadow formed by a small but perfectly formed cyclist throwing a shadow.

cycling thru dukes meadows

To be fair, the beauty of Dukes Meadows is not enhanced by some of the impromptu addition of random objects, presumably by people who have a surplus trailer and a lot of other things they want to offer to the community. Thank you for this contribution, but to be honest, it does not improve the area.

dumped trailer dukes meadows

Next call is Watermans Park, where spring flowers are abundant (as are local people enjoying the park) and it is even more pleasing to my eyes and soul than even Dukes Meadow. What a difference we have made to this park, led by a dedicated group of volunteers, supported by the Parks team at the council and our contractors.

Anyway, I get back to Shangri La also known as my shoebox flat/luxury home as described on social media and another of them thar Teams meetings, this one about how we improve street cleaning.

In the evening I’m off to Hounslow House, for a meeting before the Annual Meeting of the Council (which is tomorrow) when we meet the leader to discuss what the arrangements and ambitions are for the next 12 months. There are some adjustments to what I will be responsible for which needed a conservation before I got used to the changes. I remain the Minister of Mess (Hounslow Highways and Waste and Recycling) but I will now work under the leader on my responsibilities for Lampton, which makes sense as the companies are getting more central to our mission. I am also picking up a new responsibility, for Health Integration ICB and ICP. This is rather new for me (though I have done my apprenticeship in NHS over the last couple of years!) but this is the really urgent matter of helping the NHS and the Care system to work better together. Gulp – that will need some work.

Tuesday is rather quiet until the evening when we have the Annual Meeting of the Council. This is where various jobs are handed out, most notably the new Mayor for the year ahead. Contrary to what you might read in the on line local tabloid, the choice of the Mayor was not acrimonious, though it was a change in our habit of electing mayors each year. It is allowed in the Hounslow constitution (not unusual I believe) for the leader to select and appoint a mayor without an election amongst us comrades. It’s a popular role and a few people were keen to have a crack at it but we are very happy with Afzaal Kiani and will be giving him plenty of support. The rest of the agenda was short and there was consensus on every item. We were sad to say goodbye to Raghwinder Siddhu, a thoroughly friendly and cheerful man but that’s the fate of every Mayor (except Tony Louki, who appeared in the middle of a pandemic and didn’t have No 10 or Chequers to invite his pals, but got a year’s extension.

Wednesday morning we had the quarterly formal meeting with Hounslow Highways, on Teams. We review their performance and plans, and focused a lot on the management of weeds. We (and Hounslow Highways) are learning lessons about how to manage weeds without poison. It didn’t work very well last year and this year there is a lot more resource, an early start, and new machines and techniques. I can see the improvement this year but it’s a very difficult task.

Then Lara and I met at the Digital Dock with a developer who has bought the site on the corner of Ealing Road and the A4 which has been unused for several years (except for a brief interregnum involving Travellers). The site is better maintained now but I personally find it rather disappointing that their proposal is for a self-storage facility, with some workshops attached. They tell us they have met a number of neighbours who seem happy to see something happening there (including some potential tenants for workshops!) so we’ll see when the planning application arrives later in the summer.

After that I was home for a Teams meeting with Lampton Leisure – their business is doing well in a very difficult market – and the number of members is now up above what it was before the pandemic – over 18000 compared with around 3000 when Lampton started the contract.

Thursday was a big day out, when I went with Tom Bruce, the lead member for Planning and the Lampton Group Chair Martin Cresswell, across to Barking. They have taken a very radical approach to how to deal with their regeneration, giving pretty well all the responsibility of that to their Council-owned company called BeFirst. We met their Leader and the MD and head of regeneration and we had a fascinating tour around the centre of Barking. Lots of new buildings, some private, some council and a dramatic change to the town. Very interesting for us – with a more modest ambition in regeneration, thinking of what we could learn from BeFirst. I spotted as we walked around there was a church called BeChurch. I asked if this was a division of BeFirst but they denied it

They have a new green area in the middle of town (they say it was a bit horrible before) but they have (another) church just there where not only Captain James Cook but also a very distinguished local, Harry Redknapp, both got married (not to each other)

Home via a very delayed (by a signal failure, how did you guess?) District Line to a Teams meeting board meeting for Lampton Homes and then a trip to Hounslow for an informal cabinet meeting.

All that and a blog. I’d better go and have a lie down.

Councillor Guy Lambert

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