Back to the Grindstone in Earnest After the Holidays

Brentford West councillor Guy Lambert reports back

Cllr Guy Lambert
Cllr Guy Lambert

January 12, 2024


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Well now, we are properly into a new year and people are skulking back to work, either happy to have escaped from their fractious family, or daunted by being back at the job. I must say for many council workers it’s a very thankless job, particularly if they are involved with trying to find new homes for people who don’t have one. I have a few people on my books, who are looking for a new home (or usually, any home) and I find this quite heartbreaking.

Yesterday I was at Hounslow House and walking out I saw 3 children on the pavement in the freezing late afternoon with a stack of cases, which I imagine contain all the contents of their previous home. I don’t know their story, and didn’t stop to ask but there are often people with no home talking to housing officers, usually on the day they have been made homeless, (because they will only be dealt with then, because evictions don’t always happen when expected) often by a landlord who has decided they can make more money from a new tenant, or a Home in Multiple Occupation, or from Airb’n’b.

On my back burner is an idea to try and encourage people with homes too big for their requirements to think about making space available. I find starting this a bit daunting, but if I lose sleep as a councillor it is about people made homeless, usually with no fault attached to them, and the council at their wits end trying to find a solution – true across London and much of the country in these cruel times. Any volunteers to give up a spare room for a period or to help on moving this idea forward?

Talking of which (well something pretty unconnected, in truth) I had a lovely message this week from a reader. I sit here each Thursday (usually) thinking up things to write about and other than a few ‘likes’ and some people who I see in the street I rarely get much feedback. I quite enjoy creating this message but I wonder whether anyone reads it apart from me, so it’s very nice to hear some feedback (even bad reviews) – thanks to those who do.

Enough of this. The world is continuing to circle the sun (or the opposite, if you’re really old fashioned) and the meetings are beginning to ramp up again after sleeping on the job for a couple of weeks. Mind you, a call out to Hounslow Highways, who never sleep, even if some of their staff do. They are up early and late to deal (recently) with all extremes of weather (except a heat wave): floods, frost, gales and fallen trees and branches, a few on cars and houses but fortunately no humans as far as I know. I grumble about them a lot, but they are brilliant at dealing with these things and mostly we don’t even notice.

Back to the grumble, there are things we (or a few of us) do notice but they are not brilliant at dealing with this. This gorgeous site is on the cycle lane/footpath on the A4 when it is hidden by trees in Carville Park on one side and the ramps from the M4 on the other. I have been moaning about this for years and just had another moan. I have always been a fan of those plastic ‘barriers’ which fall over in the wind if someone suffering from flatulence walks past. They are not confined to Hounslow Highways or even to the UK. They are conforming to the International Standards Organisation standard for useless and are used around the world.

My first meeting was on Monday and was my regular update about health and social services integration. Well, there was very little to update (everybody busy dismembering mince pies) but for me was an opportunity to rant about the Big 4 consultants, which I hold in low esteem but with whom we have a modest contract at present. One of the rare things in my previous career in which I take pride was securing a refund of over £1M from one of these shysters after I persuaded them they had failed to deliver a load of things which they claimed to have delivered (to a council client, as it happened).

On Tuesday I had a meeting in my diary about this very topic – health integration - but it was good to have had a detailed reason why this event had been cancelled. This detailed explanation, as I said: it had been cancelled for ‘unforeseen reasons’. Nice to know the full story, the kind of thing I hear from time to time from service deliverers such as a British airway I won’t name, from whom I await a response to my small claims court to recompense me for their incompetence. I could ring them and get an update but I’m pretty clear that if I try that they will be experiencing an unusual – nay unforeseen and unprecedented – volume of calls at present and I should try again in 2076.

I headed out to Chiswick to look (amongst other things) at Fishers Lane where there is a persistent flood which neither Hounslow Highways (despite they try) and Thames Water (no comment) are unable to fix. People cannot get to their homes without wellies and that is really not acceptable, especially as (you’ve guessed it) later this week it froze and I understand a young lad fell over on it.

On the way home I visited Whitestile Road, where idiots keep trying to drive past the road barrage, sometimes moving them to facilitate it, and on another occasion somebody took a chunk out of the concrete (and I imagine a chunk out of his car) and then demolished one of this lovely telecom cabinets which these days grace our pavements.

On Tuesday I had a Teams meeting which actually happened (!) with TfL and our traffic team. This is about the extension of Cycleway9 which will soon commence to continue from Alexandra Road to the centre of Hounslow. A second round of consultation will start soon (next month I think) having had a first go a couple of years ago – I remember reviewing it. I of course took the opportunity to grumble about various things in the current works, probably wasting my breath but makes me feel better.

Later I had a trustee meeting with Hounslow Community Foodbox. The service continued running successfully over the holidays (and through 2023 in general) so thanks as always to our astounding volunteers who run it, and the individuals and sponsoring companies (including the council) which make sure there are the funds we need to provide the service.

In the evening I was supposed to be at a rather important cabinet discussion about the budget for next year but somebody had said it was cancelled at some point and I was too dozy to notice it was going ahead. I have read the papers though, and I can see it is by some way the most difficult year to make the ends meet – more people, very high inflation and no help from the government. Fortunately, Hounslow has always been a careful council and there is no danger of us going bust, though we are expecting to see probably dozens of councils across the UK in that state. In any case, our finances are under pressure and we’ll be working very carefully to try and defend services.

On Wednesday afternoon I had to go into Hounslow House to meet a councillor from another part of London about a breach of confidentiality which had been detected a while ago. It was nothing very severe but it upset some of us councillors and some council officers and was rightly taken very seriously (I was innocent, honest).

Earlier I had visited Twickenham for a bit of bicycle R&R; I don’t think these geese were having R&R because they were in the current and the speed it was going they would be in Margate by lunchtime.

Today I started with my regular teleconference with the CEO of Lampton Group. There’s quite a lot going on, all of which is pretty positive, but still a few things to be sorted out between Lampton and the council which we’ll all be working on over the coming weeks.

Then I was off to Charing Cross for a regular update at the Fracture Clinic. I have to drape this infernal machine over my shoulder every day for 20 minutes with some funny goo on it.

The main work of the consultant this morning was to position the target on my shoulder because it’s pretty difficult for me to do. Bernie, the bolt.

Lovely day for a cycle to and from Fulham Road (albeit monkeys’ temperature) along the Thames. Later I’ll be back in Cheesewick for the Chiswick Calendar annual party. Hope it doesn’t freeze too early for us intrepid bike worriers.

Councillor Guy Lambert


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