Blogs

Cllr Ron Mushiso compares 2007 and 2019 election campaigns

ron  mushiso election

It has been an interesting few weeks since the General Election was triggered at the end of October. In that time, I got myself on to the shortlist as a Conservative candidate in one of the Ealing seats close to where I work. Although I was unsuccessful, it was a great honour and privilege to share the platform with three brilliant colleagues who are now contesting Feltham and Heston, Ealing North and Ealing Southall constituencies.

I returned to Brentford and Isleworth constituent to give my full support to our candidate, Seena Shah, who is running a brilliant campaigned. One of her first actions was to call for all candidates in Brentford and Isleworth to sign a clean campaign pledge ensuring that all candidates and their teams conduct themselves with an appropriate and respectful tone towards one another. This would encourage debate amongst the parties whilst upholding our shared values of courtesy and tolerance towards those we may disagree with politically. Congratulations Seena for taking the lead.

Campaign trail comparisons

A lot has been written about the rarity of a winter election but, in fact, some Chiswick riverside residents will recall a winter by-election in 2007 that saw Cllr Sam Hearn elected for the first time following the passing of Cllr Robert Kinghorn.

Much has changed since 2007 but the basics are still the same. We still gather at an agreed location for a planned canvassing route. Local and national issues are intertwined where you could be talking to one resident about a local services issue and another about the NHS, having conversations, delivering our message and seeking their support at the ballot box. For councillors in particular, it is a key opportunity to listen to concerns in the community whether at a local or at a national level and that is what we have been doing here in Chiswick.

Technology is another major difference between the two elections. In 2007, the Apple IPhone had just been launched but we were out with pens and paper canvassing sheets. Fast forward to 2019 and I am in possession of a smartphone with maps, apps and all the gadgets at my fingertips. This year’s campaign is fast-paced and extremely demanding on our time as councillors. We must, of course, still attend to council meetings and carry out our casework, taking up residents’ concerns and issues, with campaigning taking up the rest of our time so something has to give.

Rugby on the back burner

For me, it has meant putting my rugby-coaching role at London Irish Academy on hold for six weeks. I was excited about coaching rugby in Chiswick, the first time here. In my previous stint as an Academy Coach for London Irish, I was stationed in Harrow. Chiswick is definitely a nicer place to spend an evening coaching rugby than Harrow though I am biased, I know!

Chiswick Area Forum

This week we took a short break from campaigning to carry out our duties as Chiswick councillors to hold our area forum at Chiswick Town Hall. We heard a very detailed and praiseworthy police report illustrating the hard work that our ward officers have done over the past four months to make us feel safe. There is a marked difference between now and 12 months ago. I have nothing but praise for our police officers.

We also welcomed an update on the green wall around St Mary’s primary school from local resident, and St Mary’s parent, Andrea Carnevali. Since its launch in June 2019, the project has grown and additional measures have been taken to tackle air pollution around and in the school. These include a pilot study for an air purification system that has produced truly remarkable results and a new paint job in the main hall with air purifying technology that prevents bacteria and reduces pollutants such as NOx, SOx, NH3, and CO2. St Mary’s Primary School can be proud to have Andrea as its champion. He has a busy day job but has been taking his project to other schools, spreading the word about what can be done and how.

Laura Ellener, head of Chiswick School, was listening attentively and making notes. She, too, made a presentation to the area forum about Chiswick School and the significant changes made since she took up her role championing the school and all it offers.

Community champions clean up Chiswick

Speaking of community champions, last week I met with council officers to discuss the next chapter of the Chiswick Clean Up initiative. Several volunteers are now wishing to take this initiative to their roads and their local green spaces. Council officers are aware that they have a responsibility to make better use of their resources to keep our streets and parks clean. However, they have also welcomed our Chiswick Clean Up Community Champion idea in principle where local residents take the initiative, if necessary, when they identify an area in need of gent attention due to littering and other forms of antisocial behaviour. Council officers will then work closely with a small group of residents, or an individual, to resolve the matter. We agreed that this would give an excellent opportunity, especially to our young people, to learn about how residents can contribute positively in their local community. We are still in the planning stages and have agreed to meet again after the general election to discuss it further. In the meantime, we will not be holding a Chiswick Clean up until Sunday, 26th January 2020 for obvious reasons. If you would like more details about the initiative, or would like to volunteer for our next outing, please get in touch using the contact details below.

24 November 2019

 

Councillor Patrick Barr, Chiswick Homefields ward, writes about a happy ending to a lengthy battle by a local gym

clean up chiswick
Patrick (2nd from left) with volunteers in the recent clean up Chiswick day

We have watched parliament in painful paralysis for weeks with opposition parties trying to thwart what this country voted for. What do we want? A second referendum (a people’s vote) or to remain in the European Union? It’s a highly contentious and emotionally charged issue that has spilt this country, political parties, families and friends.

When opposition party leaders speak on Brexit, I detect enormous insincerity. Jeremy Corbyn (a leaver throughout his political career) was neutral on Brexit and now leads the party that wants a people’s vote. The Liberal Democrats initially said they would back whatever this country voted for. They now
want to stop Brexit. What is going on?

Recent events have seen the Benn Act passed when the Prime Minister was forced to request a delay to ensure a no-deal was taken off the table or a deal could be reached. A brief ray of light was the backing of the Brexit deal at a second reading in parliament when it appeared we were finally united. However, the timetable to pass it was voted down. A General Election has been called for 12th December. No matter how you voted in the 2016 referendum it is so important we now come together.

We have a fantastic Conservative parliamentary candidate – Seena Shah. She is a true representative of the area we live in – aspirational and multicultural with a strong voice. I am also on the parliamentary candidates’ list and will be sent somewhere to fight the General
Election. Despite this, the residents of Chiswick will remain at the forefront of my mind. I will still be dealing with casework, attending local residents’ group meetings and taking the councillor surgery on 30th November at 09:30 in Chiswick Library.

Championing residents – a slow process
A notable recent triumph was that the Combat Temple, (a martial arts and boxing gym under the arches by Stamford Brook Tube station) will not only stay open but is due to move to a newer, larger plot a few arches down. The gym is an integral part of the local community: a place for all warriors, young and old. Combat Temple is led by Reza Khodai and his inspirational team. Reza stopped paying rent in 2012 when his lease ended (as did other businesses under the arches) due to not being able to make contact with TFL, despite numerous attempts. This went on for 42 months until a new lease was signed in 2016. Reza was paying the back rent from 2012 as well as the rent for the new lease. He had wanted to occupy the second floor of this plot; however he was unable to afford the extra £8,000 per year.

Following a call from Reza, I visited him at his gym in June 2018 when he highlighted all TfL's failings and the financial implications on him, his family and his business as result of TFL’s neglect. He further spoke about his aspirations for his gym and to move his business next door due to increased demand from the local community. I contacted Tony Arbour, the London Assembly member for South West London, who probed TFL to respond to countless requests for help from Combat Temple. I then facilitated a meeting in September 2018 at Combat Temple with Reza, a consultant for TFL and a property surveyor for TFL aiming to come to a resolution to Reza’s ongoing issues with TFL. I am so delighted for him that, nearly 18 months later, works have started on the new premises. Reza is a truly inspirational person with a selfless vision for local residents. Exercise is a good medicine for us all, both mentally and physically. I’m glad I could help.

Casework is a constant
Casework remains constant. Amongst all the cases residents have brought to me, I have picked out three, each of them raised by several residents demonstrating how much of an issue each on is. I’ve recently been addressing uneven/cracked pavements and the covering of unswept leaves that seem to have been present most of the summer along various Chiswick paths in Chiswick Homefields ward. I have recently sought an update from TFL following their promise of traffic mitigation in Chiswick as a result of the closure for Hammersmith Bridge. Finally, I am supporting the Chiswick Dental Practice based in Chiswick Health Centre which is under threat as it has not been included in the plans for the new Health Centre on Fishers Lane. I am working closely with the practice and hope to, with them, find a solution soon.

Another successful community clean up
I recently supported the regular monthly Chiswick Clean Up with a group of committed local residents led by Cllr Ron Mushiso. We got under bushes, behind fences, anywhere we could fit, collecting bags and bags of rubbish. It was a display of community at its finest and I really felt we were making a difference. It was also a great opportunity to meet many tireless people who contribute to keeping Chiswick looking spectacular.

 

3rd November 2019

 

Councillor Michael Denniss, Chiswick Riverside ward, asks can a pub survive in Chiswick without a kitchen?

 

Since my previous blog I have attended local residents' group meetings, heard applications at Hounslow (LBH)'s planning committee and taken part in the selection of the new Conservative Party parliamentary candidate for Brentford and Isleworth, Seena Shah.

Public meetings to listen to locals' views

The local Chiswick councillors Patrick Barr, Joanna Biddolph, Gabriella Giles, John Todd, Ranjit Gill, Sam Hearn, Gerald McGregor, Ron Mushiso and I are keen to hear residents' views on local issues for Chiswick including policing, Heathrow's third runway and the Cycle Superhighway C9.

To this end Sam Hearn, Gabriella Giles and I hosted a public meeting in Chiswick Riverside ward at St Paul's Church on 8th October. Over 40 residents came. Of particularly concern was the proposed planning application to change The Station House pub from its current form into a site with new flats and a smaller pub. There were some revelations. The current plan does not allow for a kitchen, and a resident with experience in managing pubs doubted the economic viability of a smaller pub. The application does go some way to address housing needs, albeit at the cost of a beloved local pub, and I will need to consider all factors when it comes before the planning committee. The planning committee is considered to be quasi judicial and members are required to keep an open mind and not to express an opinion until all evidence has been heard at the meeting.

There wasn't such an impressive turnout at Hounslow';s Cabinet Question Time on 16th October at St Michael's Church, Elmwood Road. About nine residents came not including local resident Andrew Murray who chaired the event. Nevertheless, there were some tough questions on CS9, unanimously approved by cabinet on 3rd September despite a well-researched and argued case against it. There had been enormous local resistance to CS9, particularly with regard to safety and the practical difficulties for businesses and other organisations working on Chiswick High Road. A petition led by the Chiswick councillors at the start of the campaign prompted Transport for London to alter its plans which partially mitigated concerns about rat running and traffic gridlock.

Other issues raised at the meeting included a new controlled parking zone, which was largely popular, although there were concerns about the large number of related signs and requests for the council to look into that point. Other points raised included the continuing effect on Chiswick of the closure to traffic of Hammersmith Bridge. The event was recorded and audio should be available on the council website.

A shift in planning rules puts more weight on housing provision

I have continued to attend the planning committee meetings where I have a vote on planning applications that have been called in – a process that allows for a review of applications on which a likely decision has been recommended by officers. A councillor in the relevant ward calls in the application which is then heard either at an area forum or the full planning committee, depending on which comes first. These call ins can range from small residential extensions to the construction of large blocks of flats.

At the most recent meeting, held on 10th October, we considered the extension of a house in a road in Chiswick Riverside ward which would mean its side wall significantly closed the gap between that house and its neighbour. A key consideration in this application was the symmetry of the houses in the road, which would be considerably changed by this alteration, and the view of the sky between the houses, enjoyed by so many residents and a key feature of the street. The application was narrowly passed and I feel that it sets a worrying precedent for properties not only in that street but across the borough. The planning rules, which the committee has to follow in making decisions, have recently changed so that we must give more weight to the provision of housing when making decisions. Consequently there have been cases which the officers now recommend which they would not have recommended previously.

One application for a block of flats was passed, albeit with the slimmest of margins, despite the application using incorrect measurements! However there have also been applications for genuinely exciting and innovative designs across the borough and I look forward to seeing these when they are completed. In all the applications I am impressed by the professionalism of the council officers and their knowledge of planning matters.

On 24th September local Conservative Party members selected Seena Shah as the party's parliamentary candidate for the Brentford and Isleworth constituency. Seena comes from a marketing background and has experience in digital communications and working with social media. You may have met or read about her already – she's been going around the borough meeting local groups and gaining a first hand understanding of local issues while we have been delivering leaflets through doors introducing her to local residents. I had the chance to meet her properly at an event celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. Friendly, sincere and with a shared interest in history – which may come from her degree in international relations – she struck me as just the sort of candidate who would appeal to a wide range of people and represent the constituency well.

27th October 2019

 

Councillor Ranjit Gill blogs on crime, roadworks and celebrating Diwali

Turnham Green's Councillors - Ron Mushiso, Joanna Biddolph and Ranjit Gill

Turnham Green's Councillors - Ron Mushiso, Joanna Biddolph and Ranjit Gill

ASKING PROBING QUESTIONS WHEN AUDITING THE COUNCIL’S ACCOUNTS
The audit and governance committee, of which I am a member, met in September to discuss the council’s audited accounts. They were presented to the committee by the auditors Mazars, together with Mazars’ findings. Mazars highlighted some weak areas and these were mostly resolved by the council staff.

The report was approved after my continuous probing questions, though I remain unhappy that the full accounts of the subsidiaries, or management accounts of the Lampton Group of Companies, were unavailable or not made available to the team. I have requested copies and no doubt this will form part of the discussions at the next committee meeting. I am pleased to report that the lead member of committee is also an auditor so Mazars has a lot to cope with from having two auditors in the audit and governance team.

Incidentally, if you are not aware of it, Mazars is also the auditor for Donald Trump - the President of
The United States!

BOUNDARY COMMISSION
As I was writing this blog, news came in about the boundary commission. The final recommendations are due out on 29th October. The Draft Order will then be put before Parliament for 40 days. After this, the final order will be made and the new ward boundaries will come into effect at the next local
elections. We all want to know if our strong representation to retain nine councillors in Chiswick has been successful.

CRIME AND POLICING
I have some good news on our third public meeting about the future of policing in Chiswick. It will now go ahead so residents will have a chance to put their pressing questions on crime and other issues to the representatives of the Tri-Borough Commander.

The safety and security of all our residents, young and old, is our greatest responsibility. We all need to know that we are safe. With the increase in knife crime, even in leafy suburbs, as described in the news recently, it is even more important that we know how the police are working to make our schools, public areas, homes and businesses safe. We need to convey to our young people that knife crime is not the way forward and consider their interests and how to keep them occupied. Parents email me worried about their kids and we need to reassure them we are doing all we can to look after everyone. Our shops have also recently been targets with break-ins by people stealing small high-value goods which are easy to sell. There is a lot to discuss.

Details about this much-anticipated third meeting will be announced soon. As before, please make sure you secure your place by booking on Eventbrite. Tickets, also as before, will be free; booking is to manage numbers.

CASE WORK
I am always busy with case work and am happy to deal with as many cases as come my way as we were elected to represent the residents of this borough. I usually respond the same or next day. Besides the weekly surgeries in Chiswick Library, Cllr Joanna Biddolph and I do an additional surgery once a month in the Gunnersbury Park Garden Estate, an often forgotten part of Turnham Green ward. Details of all our surgeries are listed below.

MOBIKES
A docking scheme by-law will be in place by next summer, according to a council officer. This will put an end to the careless discarding of Mobikes, and Lime-E bikes from Ealing, on our pavements and verges. Residents are unhappy with the current situation and this has been communicated on several occasions to the council by my fellow councillors and me. Of course, whenever a council officer passes by there are no clusters of bikes anywhere in Chiswick but miraculously they appear on pavements when residents are around. Let’s hope the new scheme will end this abuse.

ROAD WORKS
We have all had our fair share of road works recently. If you haven’t, then they will be with you soon or perhaps you are just the lucky ones. Road works or no road works, Barrowgate Road and Sutton Court Road are always log jammed at peak times and weekends.

Manor Gardens in W3 has had continued disruption caused by road works in that area. Re-surfacing is still pending. Night works are scheduled for 21st and 22nd October. According to letters to residents in the area, residents can contact Hounslow Highways on its website and by phone. After various options, the phone call goes to a recorded message suggesting visiting the website. This is not a good system for rate-paying residents.

According to a resident who emailed me, Hounslow Highways states that “the recommended noise levels for roadworks in residential areas is 55 decibels during the day and 35 decibels at night.” Does anyone record this? If so, what action is taken? No doubt, these noise levels have repeatedly been breached during the works carried out in recent months along the North Circular.

Residents have had to endure sleepless nights. A reply from the council is awaited and I hope it arrives before the next scheduled works.

AUTUMN LEAVES
Another persistent complaint from residents is that our roads have not been swept recently. Leaf fall happens year round but, now that autumn is here, leafage is all over the place in drifts. I have recently reported Dukes Avenue on behalf of a resident stating that the road has not been swept for some time.

HOUSES IN MULTIPLE OCCUPATION (HMOs)
There has been a constant problem with HMOs over several years in the Gunnersbury Park Garden Estate. Despite years of complaints, there are no records of noise or anti-social behaviour reports submitted to the council. Residents here are back to square one and I would urge all residents to report noise nuisances, and general public disorder, to the council so that there is a history and a paper trail. Details about how to report a noise nuisance, and a noise nuisance information pack, are on the council’s website.

I am continuing to press for intervention in the appalling case in Gunnersbury. I hope it will be resolved soon so that neighbours near the HMOs can have a good night’s sleep. We all need it for a healthy living.

HUSTINGS AT THE HOUNSLOW GURDWARA
My fellow councillors and I recently attended a General Election hustings at the Alice Way Gurdwara – a Sikh temple – to support our Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate, Seena Shah. It was a good start to the general election that everyone is expecting. As we were early for the debate, I invited my fellow councillors Patrick Barr and Joanna Biddolph to the langar hall. The langar concept is a symbol of equality and a charitable act which was introduced by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, around 1500. The langar, a community kitchen, is run by volunteers and is a very old Indian tradition of feeding. Langar, a vegetarian meal, is served to all visitors irrespective of religion, gender, caste, economic status or ethnicity and it’s free of charge.

Most gurdwaras serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Morning and afternoon tea is also served. In fact, we had afternoon tea with pakoras and chutney plus some jalebis, a syrup-soaked sweet.

So next time you are close to a gurdwara, please do pop in. In fact, you may have seen on BBC news that it was Langar Week last week and Sikhs served free food in many city centres in the UK.

550 YEARS OF CELEBRATIONS
This year, in November, we also celebrate 550 years of the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, our founder and the first guru of ten. Guru Nanak was born in 1469 in Rai Bhoi Ki Talwandi, currently known as Nankana Sahib in Pakistan. Celebrations will take place all over the world and I have accepted an invitation from the Indian High Commission to celebrate this occasion.

DIWALI
Prior to the Guru Nanak festivities is Diwali, an Indian festival celebrated worldwide by all Indians – Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. Diwali, or Deepavali as it is known in the south of India, is a four to five-day festival of lights (Diya). All Indians decorate their homes, shop for fabulous colourful clothes, use fireworks, perform puja (prayers), offer gifts, feast, and eat sweets. It is also the start of the Hindu New Year and all Indians have an open house on this day.

Rangoli is a popular Diwali tradition where beautiful patterns are made using colourful powders and flowers on the floor at the entrance of homes to welcome the gods and to bring good luck to the family. This year Diwali is on Sunday, 27 October 2019 and I am lucky that, after nearly 40 years here in the UK, I have the opportunity to celebrate Diwali with my sister’s and brothers’ families in Malaysia where I was born. I will be there as my niece, a doctor, is getting married on 1st November to another doctor.

Wishing everyone a Happy Diwali and enjoy the Gurba (a Guajarati dance during Navratri) if you get to attend one.

20 October 2019 

 

Councillor Jo Biddolph blogs about environmental concerns and local issues

councillor jo biddolph

With climate change dominating the news this week, the council’s Cleaner Greener Hounslow workshop on Wednesday was unexpectedly well-timed. Guided by independent consultancy Eunomia, our role was to consider ways in which the council and we could reduce our environmental impact.

As a committed (for which read obsessive) recycler. I’ve long said that our aim should be to reduce, not increase, the amount we recycle by producing less waste overall. I’m currently in despair about the volume of single use plastics in my red box; it has shot up thanks to my lodgers’ ready meal suppers.

We discuss ways of reaching our transient residents who, it often seems, appear less aware of the need to recycle. Is language a barrier to creating a cultural shift? Why do some people ditch their recycling habits when under pressure such as before going away? What can be done to make
recycling routine for all?

Having attended a celebration of Indian independence in a large field in Ealing a couple of weekends ago, at which all but one food stall served home-made samosas, curries and gulab jamun in plastic tubs or on polystyrene plates, my view is that every event held on or in Hounslow property – including our open spaces – should be required to be plastic-free.

Imagine my disappointment when, at a meeting with visitors at Hounslow House today (Friday), two days after the climate change workshop, a trolley was wheeled in offering coffee, tea and half a dozen plastic bottles of water. Two Labour councillors reached for plastic bottles. I reached for the jug of tap water in front of us on the table. It takes time to change minds but time is running out on climate change.

An image flashed into my mind of my too long ago visit to India where not to drink plastic-bottled water means dysentery or, at best, Delhi belly. The efforts we residents make here in Hounslow – with a population of around 260,000 – can seem pointless in a global context but that’s no reason to give up.

A nip to the ladies loo – where the dilemma was to dry hands on throw-away paper towels or under a heated hand dryer – left me wanting to know which option has the greater environmental impact, taking into account every step each goes through: sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, freighting, installing, using, recycling/throwing away. Drinking water was served in glass jugs and glasses – but what is the environmental cost of glass that needs to be washed, rinsed, dried (in a dishwasher or by hand using a couple of cloths) and that can’t be recycled if broken? We need a price list, or a green-amber-red identifier, to guide us through the climate change moral maze.

Yes, of course we considered the impact of cars (at our table, councillors and council officers had a surprising number of car drivers who said they would find it very hard to be car-free – I suggested they provide their colleagues in traffic/transport with a reality check). Which to do – a few hours’ journey by car to a remote part of Wales to spend a weekend with elderly parents, improving their quality of life, or taking longer to travel less impactfully and turning round to come home very soon after arriving leaving very little time for social interaction?

Climate change is a deadly serious subject. Should it ever be balanced against a socially beneficial action such as, for example, air-freighting fruit, the international sales of which mean jobs and incomes for the least well-off in the developing world or should it always be considered in isolation? We left scratching our heads.

No such puzzlement for Labour councillors asked for their views on the Extinction Rebellion activism a few miles away. All those interviewed would join in wholeheartedly and applauded the activists’ actions, however extreme, to highlight the climate emergency. As a former lobbyist, I support and defend the right to protest to give people and causes a voice. I don’t support disruption to individuals, businesses and services. We have a long history of peaceful protest in London, by marching to and demonstrating at Trafalgar Square. There are effective ways of highlighting even the most worrying of issues without disruption.

The workshop had started with a climate emergency temperature gauge. We were asked to raise an arm high if we were hopeful of the future, hover it somewhere in the middle if we weren’t sure, or hold it low down if fearful. At the end of the day temperature gauge, the half a dozen arms held high had disappeared; our mood was significantly more fearful about our ability to act fast enough.

Making the most of and from our allotments

Climate change was inevitably raised at Thursday’s seminar and workshop on allotments. There are seven allotment sites in Chiswick’s three wards and 21 in the 13 wards in the rest of the borough. Lucky us! Growing fruit, veg and flowers to cut, provides obvious benefits to health and wellbeing; supports education; encourages sustainability and biodiversity; and provides airmile-free food. It’s not so good when the maintenance service is so slow that a water tap at one site was left on full for six months while waiting for repair. Theft, flytipping, people living in sheds, providing water, the need for loos, managing the waiting list and allocating allotments that have been empty for years … the problems and requests came in as thick as a pea-souper. Everyone agreed more staff are needed, as is a much greater level of awareness of what having an allotment entails – it requires more effort than turning up for a couple of hours over a weekend, with a book and a G&T, to sit in the sunshine.

No sitting still with a general election in the offing

There’s no time for slouching when Seena Shah, our newly selected Parliamentary candidate, comes to town. We are off at a fast pace introducing her to residents. There is no door knocking without picking up work and Cllr Ranjit Gill and I went home with several issues to follow up including the unswept state of our roads, dangerous out-of-true paving stones and partially-filled potholes. Attempted burglaries and policing concerns gave us the chance to say that Ranjit has succeeded in persuading our borough police team to reinstate the third public meeting we were promised but which was withdrawn. We should next week have a date to announce.

Subjects raised with me this week

A house of multiple occupation (HMO) where over 100 people party for nights on end keeping
neighbours awake, strewing waste, urine and worse in the garden and over a neighbour’s fence. The house has its own Facebook page and YouTube video encouraging visitors to its debauched way of life. Neighbours complained for over 15 years but gave up relatively recently, resolving to move. The council has no trace of those complaints which means starting from scratch, keeping incident/noise records of anti-social behaviour before action can be taken. A festering fly tip between two shops and unfortunately on private land so it’s not for Hounslow Highways to remove.

Other issues raised : Begging on Chiswick High Road; An illegal car repairing business affecting residents’ quiet enjoyment of their homes; Business rates and rents and competition from street stalls.

DATES FOR DIARIES

• Borough council: Tuesday, 29th October at 7.30pm at Hounslow House
• Chiswick Area Forum: postponed and a new date to be confirmed
• The future of policing in Chiswick: date to be announced soon
Surgeries
• Chiswick: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick Library, upstairs in the private
room.
• Gunnersbury: First Saturday of the month from 10am to 11am at The Triangle Club, The
Ridgeway, W3 8LN, usually a group discussion but privacy can be arranged.

October 11, 2019

 

Councillor Sam Hearn's blog on matters of local interest

7th October 2019

 

Friday, 27th October: To Strand on the Green Junior School for an 8.00am meeting of the governing body’s pay committee. Always an opportunity for a quick catch up about other school matters. On, by bike, to Brentford for a business meeting. Ready by the early afternoon to head off to Oxford for an overnight stay and to meet up with old friends for a meal. The Ashmolean Museum stays open till 8.00pm on a Friday evening so we went and gawped at the amazing Pompei exhibition (open until 12th January).

Saturday, 28th September: We stayed at the Head of the River Hotel, a beautifully situated and fitted out Fuller’s Hotel. I won a voucher for a one-night stay in a Tory Raffle but don’t tell my wife. We visited the quirky Oxford Castle and prison and went for a stroll along the Thames before heading for home.

 

Ron Mushiso updates us on his week as a local councillor 

4th August 2019

I hope you have all been enjoying the weekly blogs and have found them to be insightful and illustrative of the diverse nature of our work as councillors. Since May 2018 it’s been an honour and a privilege to serve our residents in Chiswick in this great team of nine Conservative councillors. They all do a great job championing Chiswick and the interests of its residents. Here is a snippet of my past week as a councillor.

Sunday 28th July : BBC Radio London Interview with Dotun Adebayo

I was chuffed to learn that BBC Radio London wanted to hear my views on the new prime minister Boris Johnson and his new cabinet. I felt that our party had made a brilliant choice in electing a prime minister who has made it his priority to deliver a democratic mandate of getting Brexit done by the 31st October doing so, while sensibly making contingency plans in case of a No Deal Brexit.

As a teacher, I welcomed his pledge to level up per pupil spending in primary and secondary schools across the country. I told Duton Adebayo that one of our priorities in Turnham Green, and Chiswick, is crime. Our hard-working ward police officers do a great job already but the additional 20,000 police officers on our streets, as promised by our new prime minister, will have a massive impact.

On Tuesday we gathered as a cross-party group at Hounslow House to agree our priorities as an overview and scrutiny committee for the current municipal year. The scrutiny committee is one of the most important bodies in the council as it monitors local governance and spending. Its task is to review the performance of the council, investigate the effectiveness of its departments, help to develop new working policies and hold the cabinet to account. Of the 41 topics raised by residents, interest groups and councillors, there were 10 high impact subjects that we could take on. They have been divided between the three scrutiny panels – children and young people, health and adults care, and housing and environment – and the main committee. Here is a flavour of three that we all agreed on and the evidence behind our decisions.

Waste and Recycling

To consider the performance of this service and assist in the early stages of the implementation of the council’s new Cleaner Greener Strategy. The background data includes:

• The recycle refresh programme and fortnightly black bin collection is working for low-rise collections with a 51.2% recycling rate.

• High-rise flats recycling levels are only at 7%.

• The household waste recovery rate is 68% (incinerated waste converted to energy)

• In 2018/19, 92% of roads inspected across the borough passed the expected standard of cleanliness. This is up from last year’s figure of 86%.

Social Isolation

Social isolation is an increasing problem across the UK. A scrutiny review could consider how social isolation manifests in Hounslow and make recommendations for action for one or several affected groups. The background data includes:

• 45% of people in Hounslow are single, divorced, separated or widowed. In London the rate is 49% and in England it’s and 41% in Hounslow which is ranked in the top quartile in Age UK’s loneliness index.

• 35% of people in care had as much social contact as they desired. The London average is 40%

• 62% of households are not living in a couple, compared with 55% in England.

Tri-Borough Policing

Scrutiny might assess the tri-borough basic command unit (BCU) model and its impact on community policing, safety and crime one year on. It lends itself to a one-off meeting where stakeholders are invited to present evidence. Hounslow background data on includes:

• Incidences of reported crime increased by over 3,000 from 2015 to 2017.

• In the 2018 resident’s survey, 92% of residents said they feel safe during the day (this is lower than in 2016) and 65% reported feeling safe after dark (this is higher than in 2016).

• With the move to BCUs, the number of staff remained similar at 1,439. The number of PCSOs reduced from 65 in the three boroughs (16 in Hounslow) to 63 across the three boroughs.

• Response times before and after the introduction of the BCU model remain similar.

Wednesday 31st July: Eve of the Ashes and I get run out by a council officer!

With the ashes starting this week it was fitting that we set things off with the Mayor of Hounslow’s annual councillors and officers charity cricket match. It was my first appearance at this event although, as a PE teacher, I was somewhat on familiar grounds. Cllr Vickram Grewal (Labour) was on my team and he is decent cricketer (he doesn’t mind saying so himself) but we came up short chasing 154 against a team with Cllrs Tom Bruce, Mohammed Umair and Khulique Malik. I got run out without facing a single ball, so we will never know! I

n the end, cricket was the real winner and of course we raised money for the mayor’s two chosen charities. Our Barn which runs community-based activities providing learning, life skills and social interactions for young people with learning disabilities, and Hounslow Seniors Trust which works with local partnership groups to organise the Hounslow Older People’s Festival.

Edensor Gardens Community Fun Day on Sunday 4th August 1pm -6pm

Things went from bad to worse when I returned home and checked my emails only to discover that I will not able to start off with rest of the group at the Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle this Saturday (it starts at Market Place in Brentford at 9:30am and finishes at Green Park). I have contacted the organisers to say that it clashes with our surgery at Chiswick Library and it’s my turn this week.

Nonetheless I hope to catch up with the tail end of the peloton after my duties but certainly I will be amongst it on the return trip from Green Park in the afternoon. I manged to touch base with Janet Omondi from the Riana Development Network after missing each other’s phone calls on several occasions. Janet is an ever-present member of our Chiswick Clean initiative. Her and her husband Rodgers are organising the 2nd annual Edensor Gardens Family Fun Day this Sunday from 1pm-6pm.

Last year the event was a resounding success and from our discussions, this one promises to be a belter! The supporting cast includes Hounslow Council, the Metropolitan Police, Brentford FC, Dr Bike, Hounslow Housing and the Road Safety Unit. Not to mention all the food stalls and music that will add to the atmosphere.

Thursday 1st August: Shortage of Foster Homes for Looked After Children and my visit to the Ride

Fostering is one of the kindest things any person or family can do for neglected or displaced young person without a family or a home. A foster parent may be that last opportunity for that child to transform his or her future. As a former looked after child myself, taken into care by Hounslow Social Services at an early age, I know full well the importance of this altruistic act by from a member of our communities. Fostering is a subject very close to all of us as councillors because we are known as corporate parents to over 300 looked after children in Hounslow. We have a duty of care to them just as a parent would to their child.

Nearly 300 Looked After Children in Hounslow!

The London Borough of Hounslow has nearly 300 looked after children. Hounslow is at a critical point. In 2018 only 36% of Looked After Children were in foster homes. Between April 2018 and March 2019, the fostering team registered just five foster carers.

The chief executive of the Fostering Network said in his report this year that, “We are facing a continued increase in the number of children coming into care at a time when financial pressures and reduced budgets mean that local authorities are increasingly cash-strapped”. It means that most looked after children have either been placed in temporary accommodation outside the borough or, worse, outside London in some cases. You can only imagine the impact this might have on the child who is in the process of dealing with hardship and uncertainty.

The Ride

I visited The Ride, a very well managed residential home for looked after children based in a quiet residential part of Brentford. I spoke with the team of social workers who have done a brilliant job in making the place look and feel like any other family home. The Ride is one measure that relieves some the pressures of demand for more foster homes. But at full capacity already, with a full complement of six young people aged between 12-16 years, you can understand the urgency of the situation. I spoke at length with the senior residential support worker Eliramson Saro who has worked there for nearly 10 years. We discussed ways in which we could try to create more of an awareness of this crisis not just in Hounslow but more specifically in Chiswick.

We agreed that potential foster parents may not be aware of the following: Did you know

… 1. Short term fostering : a potential foster parent could foster on a temporary or short-term basis from an overnight stay to anything up to a year. There are several cases in the borough where looked after children are being fostered on a short term basis. It gives a bit of time for social services to match children to potential foster parents in a carefully considered manner. In some cases, it gives social services the time and opportunities to rebuild bridges and plan for the child’s return home.

2. Long term fostering : an extensive matching process considering the needs of the child and the capacity of the foster parent to meet those needs. For some children a permanent home will make all the difference.

3. Parent and baby foster carers : this is a particularly specialised area. Often in these cases, the young mother and child are in need of a safe and nurturing family environment where they can be supported in developing their parenting skills.

Would you consider becoming a foster parent? If you have any questions or would like more information about fostering, please get in touch with me or the fostering team on 0800 731 8558 or fostering@hounslow.gov.uk

Dates for diaries ;

● LBH Cabinet meeting: at which we expect the CS9 decision will be made: 3 rd September at 7pm at Hounslow House

● Borough council: Tuesday, 10th September at 7.30pm at Hounslow House
● Chiswick Area Forum: Tuesday, 17th September at 7.00pm in Chiswick Town Hall
● Chiswick surgeries: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick library, upstairs in the private room
● Gunnersbury surgeries: First Saturday of the month from 10am to 11am at The Triangle Club, The Ridgeway, W3 8LN, usually a group discussion but privacy can be arranged.

Cllr Ron Mushiso 

Email: ron.mushiso@hounslow.gov.uk

Phone: 07976 702887

Twitter: @RonnieMushiso

 

 

 

Sam Hearn updates us on his week as a local councillor

July 25th 2019

Chiswick Riverside councillors; Sam Hearn, Gabriella Giles and Mike Denniss

Friday 19th July: As the day dawns I find myself listening to the honeyed words of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Apparently a new Labour government would pass a law forcing local authorities to bring all their services in house. He cites the Carillion debacle as the reason why this makes sense. He quietly ignores the decades of inefficiency, restrictive practices and corruption in council-run services across the country. In Hounslow we experienced at first hand an in-house refuse collection service that struggled to reach a 17% recycling rate. Under a Conservative-led administration, a private contractor was within three years delivering a 34% recycling rate. The service was brought back in house by Labour and Hounslow now struggles to achieve a 31% recycling rate in its new purpose-built facility.

At our group meeting we bring together our ideas about next week’s borough council meeting. We remain unhappy about Labour’s response to the Boundary Commission’s draft proposals. On purely practical grounds we disagree with the idea that residents are ever better served by the creation of two-member rather than three-member wards when this can so easily be avoided.

Saturday 20th July: On Chiswick High Road with colleagues seeking signatures for the petition to Hounslow Council asking them not to support TfL’s proposal to construct a cycle super-highway (sorry a two lane cycleway) along Chiswick High Road. As usual our request for support is generally well received. Residents queue up to sign. It is interesting how well the campaign message is getting through. Again and again I hear people saying “I am a cyclist but I realise the damage CS9 would do and I want to sign your petition”. You can sign by clicking on this link.

In the evening to the new premises of the Grasshoppers Rugby Club on Syon Lane, Isleworth, for the new Mayor’s inaugural dinner and dance. The building is a little austere on the outside but the large function room with its airy balcony were a revelation. As always, this was an ostensibly non-political fundraising event showcasing the two local charities that the mayor has chosen to support in the year: The Hounslow Elders Trust and Our Barn Community. It was good to hear on the grapevine that the Chiswick Curve project has been vetoed by the secretary of state.

Sunday 21st July: A chance to catch up on casework, particularly the responses received from Hounslow Highways. It was sad to see that resurfacing work on Grove Park Terrace, that will precede the introduction of a new CPZ, will be delayed by essential remedial works by the gas utlility company. Nothing in life is ever simple.

I decide on impulse to make a quick trip out of London in the heat of the afternoon to idyllic Stonor Park. The house has been in the same family for 850 years; they suffered centuries of persecution for their steadfast adherence to the Catholic faith. Made me reflect on the Labour Group’s motion about how our country’s heritage has been shaped by diversity.

Monday 22nd: To the Hounslow Civic Centre for a meeting of the Community Investment Advisory Panel, one of those bodies that most residents have never heard of. Many small voluntary groups in the borough are not aware of the grants that they can apply for. Funds are not unlimited but it would still be worth checking out the following two links:

  • The Community Information Guide is here
  • The findings of the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise Survey (VCSE) is online on the LBH website

On my way home I drop in at a well-attended Conservative social event in Osterley. Our hostess, a long-time supporter and originally from Iraq, had laid on a magnificent banquet. Good to see our GLA Member Tony Arbour and his wife Caroline again and our candidate to replace him at next year’s London-wide elections Nick Rogers. Maneesh Singh and Cynthia Torto, two of our candidates for the ward in last year’s local election, were much in evidence. Mary Macleod delivered an amusing and reflective speech. I am used to being the butt of her jokes.

Tuesday 23rd July: A bit of a dull borough council meeting: a discussion of the annual report of the overview and scrutiny committee was deferred because of the absence of the committee’s chairman, Cllr John Chatt, due to illness. The Labour motion on hate crime was pulled, ostensibly to work on a revised motion that we could all support. Finally, Labour refused our request to extend the meeting for 10 minutes to discuss the motion proposed by Cllr Joanna Biddolph and seconded by Cllr Patrick Barr seeking pledges from the council to set up a cross-party group to lobby TfL to find a long term solution to the closure of Hammersmith Bridge and to provide residents with a quarterly update on progress.

No one in the room seemed overjoyed by the draft proposals from the Local Government Boundary Commission for the new ward boundaries. It was also clear that Labour’s response to the proposals did not command overwhelming support from their side, and the Conservative Group was unable to support it despite some serious cross-party discussions.

Cross-party agreement briefly broke out when I accepted the Labour amendment to my motion calling for some immediate practical action to begin the process of delivering a carbon neutral council by 2030. It is, however, hard to accept the genuineness of Labour’s commitment when they fail actively to support the campaign against Heathrow’s third runway. It is also hard to understand why Labour continues to support CS9/CW9 when TfL itself acknowledges that it will do nothing to reduce air pollution on Chiswick High Road.

Wednesday 24th July: Hounslow Highways has responded to my request for information about the culling and replanting of street trees across the borough over the last three years. It is encouraging to see that, despite year-on-year fluctuations, more trees are planted than are culled. However, we will have to seriously step up our tree planting if the borough is to be carbon-neutral by 2030.

I was disappointed (not really) when a lady who had asked me to get the council to deal with her wasp infestation rang to say that the wasps had left of their own accord.

Thursday 25th July: Papers for theplanning committee meeting on 1 st August have been published. The committee will consider the application by the Quentin Trust to construct a new access road off Hartington Road to run parallel to Ibis Lane, and to intensify the use of its rugby pitches and enlarge the rowing club. I will be unable to attend this meeting but interested members of the public can. It is sad that such an important decision has been scheduled for what is traditionally the start of the holiday month.

Dates for diaries

● LBH Cabinet meeting: at which we expect the CS9 decision will be made: 3 rd September at 7pm at Hounslow House

● Borough council: Tuesday, 10 th September at 7.30pm at Hounslow House
● Chiswick Area Forum: Tuesday, 17th September at 7.00pm in Chiswick Town Hall
● Chiswick surgeries: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick library, upstairs in the private room
● Gunnersbury surgeries: First Saturday of the month from 10am to 11am at The Triangle Club, The Ridgeway, W3 8LN, usually a group discussion but privacy can be arranged.

Councillor Sam Hearn
Chiswick Riverside ward

Email: sam.hearn@hounslow.gov.uk
Phone: 07833 376222
Twitter: @samhearn53

 

 

Ranjit Gill updates us on his week as a local councillor

21st July 2019

Turnham Green's Councillors - Ron Mushiso, Joanna Biddolph and Ranjit GillTurnham Green's Councillors - Ron Mushiso, Joanna Biddolph and Ranjit Gill

I’ve just returned from a holiday in amazing Alaska where my council phone did not work. Nothing to do with signals in remote areas, it was the usual IT problems we’ve all encountered – it needed a new password. You’d think it would be a simple task but no. The council takes security of information seriously, and rightly so, but the restrictions are sometimes rather too complicated. The result? I was unable to communicate with residents and deal with casework. As soon as I got home I reset the password and guess what? The system didn’t recognise it and … well, that’s another long story with me pulling my hair out and various phone calls to the IT department who couldn’t hear me, but I could hear them. I’d managed to need help with my mobile on the day there were problems with the overall system at Hounslow House. Bad timing.

After more calls, the password was reset and I thought all would be fine. But, no. The problem did not stop there. No new emails were turning up on the phone. IT had to guide me through deleting the email account and reinstating it. What a waste of nearly two hours – their time, too, not just mine. Let’s not even start on the problems with my laptop … I must add, though, that it’s the system that is at fault, not the IT staff who are very helpful and always extremely patient.

Back up and running, I managed to send emails about a resident who had been waiting nine weeks for six rooms to be painted, a small window to be replaced and a new worktop to be installed – while also waiting to move in. The emails did the trick. Sometimes things happen due to no fault of any individual. It just needs a little nudge. We do quite a lot of nudging.

Audit and governance

We are all members of committees. As an accountant, being on the audit and governance committee was an obvious choice for me but the committee’s work, as its name indicates, goes far beyond number-crunching. We monitor the council’s whistleblowing policy to make sure it’s fit for purpose and easy to use. And we review the council’s risk register which covers issues such as safeguarding children, cyber security and Heathrow’s third runway. Two subjects have high-risk scores – the council’s medium term financial strategy and exiting the EU. The council’s budget for this year was set with an overspend and the overspends are increasing and thus this is a major concern which needs constant monitoring. The Labour council has failed to understand that you must have a better grip on budgetary control. It needs to learn lessons from Margaret Thatcher. And it needs to put its house in order. On exiting the EU, potential impacts include the loss of EU funding, a possible fall in demand for places in schools, and increased border checks affecting just in time deliveries.

Boundaries

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) is slowly moving through all 31 London boroughs, reviewing internal ward boundaries. The progress of the review of Hounslow is nearing its end but some disagreements remain. The LGBCE has recommended an increase to 61 councillors but a reduction from nine to eight in Chiswick. We are continuing to put up a spirited fight to retain Chiswick’s level of representation and believe that the borough deserves 62 councillors. I’m one of just three councillors overseeing this review, supported by expert and immensely helpful officers who know how to work LGBCE’s clunky map that makes the elector calculations on which this numbers game exercise is based. Each councillor should represent 3,636 residents so wards must be drawn with electoral equality uppermost in mind, while also respecting natural boundaries or communities. We have argued, as has the West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society, that a new community will emerge from the blocks of flats being built along Capital Interchange Way and that its natural home will be Chiswick. That would bring in residents to make up the numbers needed for three councillors. The LGBCE disagrees, as does the majority party. The council will put in its official final report. We will submit our own proposal.

Chiswick Champion, Group Whip, Crime

I am extremely honoured to have been selected by Cllr John Todd, chairman of the Chiswick Area Forum, to be his deputy chairman. The role comes with an additional title – Chiswick Champion which doesn’t say what it does on the tin. It is not about championing Chiswick but about championing the area forum, developing its agenda to encourage residents to attend and participate. We are working on several ideas …

I am also delighted to have been re-selected as the group whip for another year and to work as a team with my eight colleagues tackling issues of concern in Chiswick – and throughout Hounslow – which brings me to the subject on which I lead for the group: crime. Having organised two public meetings, for residents to hear from and question our borough command unit (BCU) and the Chiswick police team, a third is due in September. There have been some improvements, but smash and grab thefts at our shops are now also on the agenda.

Life as a councillor is never dull. Apart from repeated IT irritations.

Cllr Ranjit Gill

 

 

Gabriella Giles updates us on her life as a local councillor

 7th July 2019

This week, it’s my turn to update you on the life of a local Councillor, so I’m going to try to summarise some of the activities I have undertaken in my first year and hope to show the breadth of what we do, or at least an insight. As you will see, this past year has indeed been eventful, full of challenges, learning opportunities and firsts.

gabriella giles

In representing Chiswick Riverside ward on Hounslow Council, one of the first things I learned was that you need to ask the obvious questions. Often there is a presumption that fundamental questions such as who, what, when, where, why and how have all been asked and answered. As I quickly discovered, most of the time the answers to these questions can prove to be really hard to find. As a first time councillor, and project manager in my 9-5 life, I have found this extremely interesting as the council is a machine for change management. Time and time again, simple principles seem to be missed so change is imposed upon us, based on a supposedly extensive consultation where it is praised if there is a 25 per cent response rate from residents. At any given time, the council is conducting some sort of consultation, whether it be on CPZs, proposed council strategies, or transport developments (not including the TfL consultations on bus routes or blinking CS9/CW9). You can check out the current consultations here.

Much of my professional life has been connecting people and ideas to come up with practical solutions. It has been frustrating at times that what may appear to be an obvious and simple solution, has not been considered – but the point is that each councillor brings different skills and viewpoints. Everyone, whether they be residents, council officers, councillors, associated local and council organisations such as Hounslow Highways or the local police, or voluntary organisations where I represent the council, wants to be sure that, as far as possible, what some may say are the obvious questions often go unasked and unanswered.

With that in mind, I have loved seeing the number of groups that we have in the area that do fantastic things locally, but we don’t necessarily hear of as local residents. Although I grew up in Chiswick Riverside ward, I had never heard of the Thames Landscape Strategy, an organisation that was set up 25 years ago to conserve, promote and enhance for the future, one of the world’s great river landscapes between Weybridge, Hampton and Kew. I have taken over former Councillor Paul Lynch’s seat on the strategy executive review board of this group. Here I was amazed to find out that, despite the best will of all involved, they were struggling with a structured fundraising and marketing strategy. As a former charity trustee I was able to bring that experience to TLS, working with its director Jason Debney, to develop a plan to put a tiered fundraising and corporate partnership approach into place. I was delighted to hear, at the beginning of June during its anniversary celebrations( pictured below, with Patron Sir David Attenborough), that they have secured their most recent corporate partnership. The TLS does some fantastic work, having raised £25m over the past 25 years, and with the help of volunteers, coordinated a phenomenal 350,000 conservation hours along the river on projects such as river litter picks, the mapping of the Thames Towpath and encouraging community engagement through a fostering and ownership programme. This is just one example of the extended roles that your councillors undertake in addition to their core responsibilities of attending council meetings, surgeries, meeting and speaking with local residents and raising issues via casework.


Gabriella on left with David Attenborough

I mentioned earlier that this year was a year of firsts – but by no means lasts. From being elected, and signing the oath of office, to the first time speaking in the council chamber, chairing a Chiswick Area Forum back in February, and inspecting the streets with Hounslow Highways on our regular quarterly wardabouts, the variety is extraordinary. Then there was coordinating a litter pick on Strand-on-the-Green (where I found out that there is a diligent team of local residents who go out regularly to tidy up the slipway by the blue pier), attending the Riverside ward police meeting (getting an opportunity to hear about the great work from Chiswick School), going out with the local Community RoadWatch (where we clocked an idiot driving 44mph in a 20mph zone on Sutton Court Road), and, most notably, proposing my first motion to the Council on climate change in June.

Unfortunately, this motion was stopped by the council’s bureaucratic process (only 30 minutes allowed for three motions) which meant that it was talked out; this is typical behaviour. If you ever have a spare couple of hours on a Tuesday evening on a full borough council meeting night, I suggest you come to the new Hounslow House to observe the council in action. I believe you would be amazed to see what happens – the fact that only a small number of Labour councillors speak, and that any proactive suggestions made by our group to work with existing campaigns or organisations are immediately shot down.

As I have quickly learned, these meetings are not the most important item on our agenda. Being available to residents, and listening to their needs, are vital aspects of our role. And on that point, I’ve taken up a number of issues from housing requirements, benefit allowance calculations, council tax issues, planning, electric vehicle charging points, bins, and of course potholes!

litter picking team

Litter picking with Sam Hearn

On Clean Air Day this June, along with Cllrs Joanna Biddolph, Patrick Barr, Michael Denniss and Sam Hearn, we were out on Sutton Court Road and Stilehall Gardens asking drivers to turn off their engines when stationary for a minute or more. It was extremely important for me to do this on Stilehall Gardens as we have heard time and time again from residents about how this road is used. During clear hours, drivers rush through (despite the 20mph speed limit) as if trying to beat some invisible race round Chiswick roundabout. During rush hour, cars are running, engines idling in those times when they are not slowly edging their way closer to Kew Bridge. This has only been exacerbated by the closure of Hammersmith Bridge.

I know there are some who argue that all of this will be avoided by the development of CS9/CW9 but, as those of us who have lived in the area for a while know, the junction at the bottom of Kew Bridge has been a nightmare for years. The revised plans for CS9/CW9 have done very little to rectify this and will only mean that the bumper-to-bumper traffic that we are currently experiencing in the area around Stilehall Gardens, Brooks Road, Regent Street, Wellesley Road, Oxford Road South will become the norm. The only access to these roads – Cambridge Road South, Oxford Gardens and Chiswick Village – by car will then be down a very narrow Brooks Road. Talk about using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. We’re renewing our campaign against this plan, so keep an eye out for our leaflets through doors and sign our petition. We will be out in person on Chiswick High Road but you can also sign online.

I understand that we need a modal shift on how we get around. Personally, I use my bike for 90 per cent of my journeys (I’ve done the maths) and do indeed find my journey times quicker than those in cars, especially at the moment. We need to ensure that the roads are safe for all users: pedestrians young and old, wheelchair users, parents with prams, blind or partially sighted people, cyclists, drivers, and even electric scooters (when legal to use on public roads) but putting it on the pavement, at the expense of walking, is wrong for residents and it’s wrong for the shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants on the south side of the High Road. That is why it is so vital that we have a plan that works for everyone, not just for a minority.

So there you are, a brief insight to the first year of a local councillor. It has indeed been eventful, fascinating and challenging. I am very much looking forward to building on what I have learned and making sure that this isn’t my last year as a councillor for Chiswick Riverside ward.

Dates for diaries

Borough Council: Tuesday, 23rd July at 730pm in Hounslow House
Chiswick Area Forum: Tuesday, 17th September at 7.00pm at Chiswick Town Hall

Chiswick surgeries: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick library, upstairs in the private room
Gunnersbury surgeries: First Saturday of the month from 10am to 11am at The Triangle Club, The Ridgeway, W3 8LN, usually a group discussion but privacy can be arranged.

Cllr Gabriella Giles
Chiswick Riverside Ward
Email: gabriella.giles@hounslow.gov.uk
Phone: 07976 704129
Twitter: @GabriellaSG

 

 

Clllr Gerald McGregor's blog criticises proposed 60% CIL increase

1st July 2019


Cllr Gerald McGregor on right, with fellow councillors

One long term issue, about expenditure on a road improvement near Turnham Green station, has achieved no result whatsoever at an enormous cost to the taxpayer. Drivers of the wonderful 94 bus find it very difficult to swing round the mini-roundabout at the junction of Bath Road and the top of Turnham Green Terrace. Our request for a change to the layout resulted in the wrong side of the junction being changed. I raised this at the Chiswick Area Forum on Tuesday, deploring the wasted expenditure and asking for the correct action to be taken. It remains on the issue tracking list – a system by which we can keep important items on the agenda so they don’t slip through the net.

Helping a constituent

Another long-term issue, supporting a Chiswick resident who is trying to get justice (or at least a satisfactory answer) concerning an NHS medical malpractice, and who has been waiting at length to have a meeting/interview with a local MP to discuss the case.

Housing Matters

How long does it take to transfer a property under leaseholder enfranchisement legislation? I am now dealing with one group trying to buy out a freehold from Hounslow Housing and another applicant waiting in the wings. The legal team acting for Hounslow Housing (Hounslow Council by another name) appears to be delaying every element of agreement with the leaseholders despite high-level acceptance of the proposal. Perhaps they have never done a conveyance?

Other Chiswick leaseholders are now getting no change from the same organisation with regard to improvements to the common parts of a property, including enhanced security and sound-proofing. I am now advising them to buy out the council freehold to ensure their interests are protected.

Local politics

The financial record of the current tired bunch of has-beens and never got theres who make up the Labour administration in their new £65 million headquarters in Hounslow centre is sickening. Budget targets missed, deficits at the end of the last financial year carried forward despite promises in February not to do so … it looks like Venezuela-on-Thames. The council reserves look very sick.

What will happen after Hounslow council’s proposed hike in the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)? It will create more housing cost inflation in the borough – and especially in Chiswick. This levy is applied to developers of large properties specifically to fund the operation, maintenance, improvement or provision of local infrastructure. The council proposes to increase CIL, priced per square metre, from £70 to £75 in Zone 3 (the west of the borough); from £110 to £160 in Zone 2 (the central area) and from £200 to £320 in Zone 3 (Chiswick and Brentford). That’s a hike of 60% here in Chiswick. This will undoubtedly push up prices of homes making it even more difficult for people to get on the housing ladder – and will price the less well-off out of Chiswick. Ours is rightly a mixed community and should remain so. This change is wrong and I urge you to make your views known and respond to the current consultation.

National politics

The last round of the selection of the new leader of the Conservative Party has provided what, for me, is a clear-cut choice. Locals may disagree but I believe we have a choice between two great candidates both with a broad big-picture vision and strong records of public service. This is democracy at its best with a mandate to serve the nation and the people at the end of the process. A chance to end dispute and heal division is in sight.

Back to Hounslow

Meanwhile, as a councillor of 14 years’ standing, delivering solutions and providing support continue in casework of various types involving, as examples, housing need, parking issues and retailers needing relief just to stay in business. So, while Labour maladministers a borough – a picture repeated from the ill-managing London Mayor downwards into local councils across London promising a socialist ideology rather than answering to the needs of local people - it’s more business as usual for me.

Cllr Gerald McGregor

 

This week Councillor Michael Denniss writes about his work in the community

16th June 2019

It’s been a year since I was first elected councillor for Chiswick Riverside ward. Since the election I’ve been familiarising myself with new responsibilities and challenges and meeting residents and community groups. Hounslow council’s induction course introduced new councillors to its key structures and procedures and informed my work as a councillor.

 

michael denniss

I have spoken several times at meetings of the borough council. For instance I endorsed and voiced my support for the council’s acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s interpretation of anti-semitism (all nine of us supported it, of course). After several residents raised concerns about the complicated language in the council’s annual budget I asked the council’s cabinet to consider simplifying the language and to produce an accompanying document that summarised the key points. I do feel that, at all levels of government, transparency such as this provides legitimacy in a democracy.

I’ve have taken on several roles outside the council, on groups on which there is formal council representation. One of these is the board at Mortlake Crematorium which oversees how the crematorium is governed, how it manages its financial arrangements and how it forecasts future risks. It’s also a chance to ensure that the crematorium serves residents effectively. The Grade II-listed building is beside the Thames and is a stunning Art Deco design. The atmosphere there is entirely tranquil and provides enormous comfort after a long day in the office!

Measuring potholes

This year I’ve taken on new roles and am now a member of the housing scrutiny panel. This role will allow me to study and contribute towards the council’s plans for housing, ensuring that they are being run soundly and that they deliver value for money.

Another of my new tasks in the Conservative group is to keep abreast of and promote online petitions that affect residents in Chiswick. This is so that residents don’t miss out on adding their voice on matters that they care about. One of these is the current petition to oppose Transport For London’s proposed Cycle Superhighway 9 (CS9) which the council will vote on perhaps as soon as September or October. Last weekend I promoted the petition on Chiswick High Road at a stall with Shaun Bailey and Nicholas Rogers, the Conservative candidates for Mayor of London and the Greater London Assembly respectively. The petition is live until 3rd September and you can sign it here: http://petitions.hounslow.gov.uk/Stop-cs9/. The system only allows for one name for each email address so if you share an email address and would like a paper copies to complete, please let me know.

I’ve also attended meetings of local community groups such as the Grove Park Group Residents Association and the Strand on the Green Association. This is a chance for me to find out what these groups are planning and what their common concerns are. It’s really encouraging for me to see residents getting together and taking action on issues that matter, such as the Grove Park Piazza, local crime and rubbish collections. It’s great to have this focused understanding of the key topics and also to catch up with residents. The Conservative group recently hosted two large meetings with local and borough police in Chiswick which drew large numbers of residents. The other councillors and I met attendees and collected formal feedback on concerns about crime and how safe they feel in Chiswick.

Another key activity is regularly to walk around Chiswick Riverside ward, either on my own or with your other Riverside councillors, Gabriella Giles and Sam Hearn. These have the dual effects of learning about or better understanding existing problems and developments in the ward, and raising our profile amongst residents. We recognise the issues that residents have raised with us, for instance the number of cars driven to and left near Chiswick Station on a work day and the number of potholes, especially on Grove Park Gardens. We take different routes so that we cover the whole ward. I particularly enjoy the walk along the river between Kew Bridge and Strand. Chiswick Riverside is a lovely place to live in and I am lucky to have grown up in such an area.

If you have any comments about any of the issues that I have raised then please do get in touch.

Dates for diaries

• Hounslow Borough Council: Tuesday, 18 June at Hounslow House (papers are online now).
• Chiswick Area Forum: Tuesday, 25 June (papers will be published a week before)
• Chiswick surgeries: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick library, upstairs in a private room.
• Gunnersbury surgeries: First Saturday of the month from 10am to 11am at The Triangle Club, The Ridgeway, W3 8LN, usually a group discussion but privacy can be arranged.

Cllr Michael Denniss

Email: michael.denniss@hounslow.gov.uk
Phone: 07976 703274

 

This time it's the turn of Patrick Barr to write about his week

9th June 2019

You’ve heard the news by now, Cllr Joanna Biddolph is our group leader and I was appointed her deputy, an absolute pleasure. We’ve had a year to settle in and are now raring to go. It's early days in our new roles, however three words spring to mind; change, fresh and innovative. We have hit the ground running thanks to the support from a superb team.

This week started differently. My husband and I flew back from Venice last Sunday, after a short break. We were waiting for the vaporetto (similar to the Thames Clipper from Westminster to Greenwich) to take us from St Mark's Square to San Marco airport, not aware of what had just happened - the collision between a cruise liner and a small boat. It was only when we received messages from friends and family asking if we were ok that we realised, relieved to learn that it could have been a lot worse and that there were no serious injuries. Friends and relatives who know you’re abroad always assume you were directly involved when an incident occurs. “I know you and Richard are away, there’s a hurricane in the Pacific Ocean. Are you all right?” I find it very amusing.

A shock on Monday morning as I returned to work. I like my job, however, I do leave promptly to get back to what I really enjoy: being a Chiswick councillor. I start replying to emails walking to the car, making and receiving phone calls on my way home to catch up on the day's events. My husband and I are, at times like ships passing in the night. Once home, we chat about our day over a coffee. I absolutely treasure these moments; love, married life, bliss.

On Monday evening I started to prepare a health question for borough council. I have been doing a lot of work as shadow spokesperson for adult health and social care over the past few months (attending meetings as a member of the Adult Health and Social Care Scrutiny Panel, other regular meetings including Healthwatch Hounslow, an observer on the Health and Wellbeing Board and the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny committee meetings, meeting with heads of health and social care as well as doing my own research). The fruit of the hard work is starting to come to fruition. I had a conversation with my four year old nephew and asked him what he wants to be when he grows up. He said he wants to be a nurse, I got a tad emotional in the moment as he would make a super nurse as he’s such an intuitive little lad, but I know his career choice will change several times before he decides what he wants to be.

On Tuesday evening I attended Whittingham Court for the Parochial Charities trustees meeting, I arrived to find it was cancelled due to too many trustees being unable to attend. I take real pride in my work as a trustee for this cause. For those of you who don’t know, Chiswick Parochial Charities consists of The Lying-In Charity, offering an annual grant to assist pregnant women in the London Borough of Hounslow, and the Educational Charities. It supports older/elderly people to prevent or relieve poverty through accommodation/housing. Whittingham Court, based in Chiswick Homefields Ward, is an almshouse for people aged 55-75 at the time of application who are in financial need. I am about to start my second year as trustee. I have had the pleasure of meeting most of the residents, all of whom have a story to tell. Although I mostly attend just for trustee meetings, it has an incredible warmth which comes from the staff and the residents.

As is the same with most evenings, on Wednesday I had time to follow up on nitty gritty casework, the most important part of being a councillor. Recently it's been dominated by housing issues, both local authority and housing association complaints. Although we are unable to obtain a case number for housing association issues, taking up all these cases is essential. The meetings we attend, the residents we meet, the time we spend on casework provide some evidence of the amount of work we do but those simple figures don't cover everything we do. I would also ask that you bear in mind that some of us have full time jobs, unlike some of our colleagues who are retired, don’t work, or work from home and can dip in and out of council related work in the working week. This is reflected in the casework stats that you will see from time to time.

On Thursday evening Jo and I attended a public meeting about the closure of Hammersmith Bridge. The meeting, arranged by by Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, took place in St Mary’s Church, Barnes, so Transport for London could provide an update on the closure of the bridge and for the public to ask questions and express their concerns. We went to on behalf of Chiswick residents to understand what has been put in place to alleviate the gridlock traffic at peak times and the increased number of rat runs in Chiswick. You will hear more from us on this very current and important issue effecting us all.

Friday is a day I don’t go to work and use the time to focus on council work that needs more delving into, a chance to meet with residents whose casework isn’t as simple as just an email, and to go round Homefields ward looking for any obvious issues that need to be addressed. Friday is also a day I use to arrange meetings with heads of Hounslow Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), heads of social care, visits to nursing homes, GP practices, anything I was unable to do in the week.

I'm very much looking forward to Green Days; I hope to see many of you there. My next surgery is on 22nd June 2019 at the Chiswick Library at 09.30-10.30 am. As always, please come along and say hi, I'm really looking forward to seeing you.

Dates for diaries
• Community litter pick, A4 underpasses: Sunday, 9 June at 5pm (note time change, meet St Mary's School, Duke Road, contact Cllr Ron Mushiso)
• Chiswick Area Forum:Tuesday, 25 June (papers will be published a week before )
• Chiswick surgeries: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick library, upstairs in a private room.
• Gunnersbury surgeries: First Saturday of the month from 10am to 11am at The Triangle Club, The Ridgeway, W3 8LN, usually a group discussion but privacy can be arranged.

For casework please email me at patrick.barr@hounslow.gov.uk or call me on 07976 703263

Cllr Patrick Barr

 

 

Local Conservative Party group leader Joanna Biddolph writes about her new role 

2nd June 2019

It’s a year since the nine of us were elected – three of us re-elected, six of us brand new – and what a year it’s been. I tell everyone who asks that I don’t think anyone could have described it in words that would have meant anything.

Overwhelming is one but understanding what it means in practice would have been impossible. Interesting? Of course. Busy? Unimaginably so. Worthwhile? Without doubt.

Jo Biddolph

Residents and others don’t always know that being a councillor is not meant to be a full time job. It can take up as much time as being employed but it’s supposed to be fitted in around work. And the majority of us do work. An analysis by First, one of many local government related magazines that flop onto our actual or digital doormats, recently revealed that councillors spend, on average, 22 hours a week on council business the largest chunk of which (eight hours) is on council meetings. Some of us do more than that in an interesting interpretation of work-life balance. There isn’t much balance.

I’ve now come off the planning committee, only partly because it meets so frequently and can involve two days of scrutinising applications and visiting sites, not to mention long meetings. The record meeting end time this year was 23.47 and how lucky am I to live on the Piccadilly Line which runs till well after midnight midweek. We don’t all have such convenient journeys home from Hounslow House, the council’s shiny new office.

Hounslow House

Being on the overview and scrutiny committee is illuminating. It’s totally free of political combat – we are all on it to hold the council to account, to ask critical friend questions and dig deep to see where weaknesses are, or which needs aren’t being met, and to break through PR puffery, as I call it. Having said that, all the new councillors on this important committee have said it’s taken us time to find our investigative streaks while getting to know and trust each other, and to understand the process and the effects of various options open to us. This is despite excellent training from the national external specialist Centre for Public Scrutiny.

This year, I’ve sat on task and finish groups (a term I struggle with – it’s incomprehensible local authority gobbledygook, isn’t it?) interrogating the council’s record on fly tipping (Turnham Green ward is host to the borough’s second worst fly tip and thanks go to Hounslow Highways for meeting its commitment to remove fly tipping within 24 hours of it being reported) and the council’s approach to contract management.

Cllr Patrick Barr, on the health and adults care scrutiny panel, has considered A&E targets, health integration and the role voluntary groups can play in prevention and early intervention. Cllr Ron Mushiso, on the children and young people’s scrutiny panel, has looked at knife carrying, increasing apprenticeships and enhancing provision for looked after children. Watch out for the committee’s official recommendations on these and other issues. If you think any aspect of the council’s work should be scrutinised, please let me know. We meet soon to discuss priorities.

It’s too early to know if every municipal year is the same but our first started with fewer committee meetings (evenings filled instead by an onerous and intensive training course) building to a crescendo with my diary full of council-related meetings every midweek evening, and visiting residents or following up their enquiries over the weekend, for several weeks in a row.

Now, at the start of our second year, the pace has slowed but I’m expecting it to build to a sprint. New commitments include councillor development training. I hope we’ll be asked for ideas of what is needed. If we aren’t, I’ll be offering suggestions. To be Rumsfeldian, we now know the known unknowns we wished had been uncovered when we were new – and we expect more unknown unknowns to come. All thanks to residents for raising issues that keep us inquisitive and enquiring. It has been surprising, and pleasing, discovering how much happens in Chiswick that enables us to contribute to discussions, about issues affecting other parts of the borough, with knowledge and first-hand experience.

Some wards are entirely residential without the extraordinary mix we have, here in Chiswick, of big international business, light industrial, retail, education, health, adult and child care, housing, poverty, leisure, open spaces, the threat of big development as well as the standard planning stuff of extensions, pollution, litter, recycling, waste, conservation areas, the river, major transport routes, rat runs and CS9. The list is exhausting, if not exhaustive.

Invitations flow in. We can’t accept them all and there will always be clashes with committees and allowing time for having a life outside the Hounslow bubble. Seven faiths or denominations are represented in Turnham Green ward and we are all aware that, although we were elected here in Chiswick, we have a wider responsibility to speak up for residents throughout Hounslow whatever their faith or none. Attending a community iftar last week, sharing the daily celebration of breaking the fast during Ramadan, was a first for me and deeply impressive. The welcome at the Hounslow Jamia Masjid was warm, inclusive, embracing, generous, kind and inspired. I kept my speech very short which suited everyone. My only regret … the choice of scarf to wear on my head. I learned it’s essential to wear one with texture; slithery will slither, as mine did repeatedly.

hounslow councillors visit local mosque

Left to right: Hounslow councillors Komal Chaudri, Javed Akhunzada, Afzaal Kiani, Sam Hearn, Hina Mir, Joanna Biddolph and Khulique Malik.

And now I have added another time-eater as leader of the Conservative group (the cake I baked for our first group meeting, held in the afternoon, went down well, the houmous made for the second, an evening meeting, not so much; everyone loves the Indian nibbles Cllr Ranjit Gill brings).

One immediate change is to this blog which will not be written every week by the same councillor. Instead the nine of us will take it in turns, exposing the full range of what we do. Divvying up our workload in other ways is crucial, too. If your instinct is to turn to long-standing councillors can I ask that you give new councillors a chance to shine? We are all here to provide a public service.

Subjects on my desk and at my finger tips this week
Traffic gridlock made worse by the closure of Hammersmith Bridge. Working with our ward police tackling shoplifting. Mitigation plans to reduce the impact on residents and businesses of Lovebox/Citadel in Gunnersbury Park. Offensive graffiti (four words, collectively best described as paying homage to the EU) it was removed very swiftly (thanks Hounslow Highways). A contentious planning application (I am now free to help, no longer constrained by being on the committee). Warning businesses of the risks of their land being used for fly tipping. Deterring drug dealing. A dangerous road junction. Alleged illegal trading. Parking infringements and enforcement. Visiting a resident foxed by conservation area guidelines. Nuisance neighbours. Supporting independent traders and continuing the work of the Chiswick Shops Task Force.

Dates for diaries
• Community litter pick, A4 underpasses: Sunday, 9th June at 2pm (contact Cllr Ron Mushiso)
• Chiswick Area Forum: Tuesday, 25th June 2019 (papers will be published a week before here)
• Chiswick surgeries: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick library, upstairs in a private room.
• Gunnersbury surgeries: First Saturday of the month from 10am to 11am at The Triangle Club, The Ridgeway, W3 8LN, usually a group discussion but privacy can be arranged.

Cllr Joanna Biddolph
Email: joanna.biddolph@hounslow.gov.uk
Phone: 07976 703446
Twitter: @JoannaBiddolph