Friday 1 st May: In many respects councillor work outside of meetings continues much as normal, at least on the surface. I follow up with a council tenant who has been without her boiler since the beginning of the month. She is overjoyed that a new boiler has just been installed and at last she has hot water and heating. However, other Covid-19 problems drift into my in-tray. A lady not familiar with the system has twice requested food parcels and is now receiving two! She wants to know how to return the unwanted parcel and to stop further over deliveries. A man with a disabled wife wants to know how to apply for a Blue Badge now that Hounslow House is shut – the answer is to email the documents to firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday 2 nd May: Joined the first online Saturday Social organised by St Paul’s Grove Park. Peter Capell gave an interesting talk about his involvement with the Weir-Archer Academy and the training of wheel chair athletes up to and including the Para-Olympics. See the St Paul’s website for details of future events.
Relaxing in the evening when I receive a desperate phone call from a resident in a council property. Water from her upstairs neighbour’s washing machine is cascading out of her kitchen sink and flooding her house with foul water. There is apparently a longstanding problem and regular maintenance work has not been carried out.
Sunday 3 rd May: Participate in the Zoom church service at St Paul’s Grove Park that my wife coordinates. Each week the process seems a little less strange and a new etiquette emerges. I find myself recalling the ‘leper windows’ built into the chancel walls of medieval churches so that unclean parishioners could watch the Mass. There is a head of steam building to open-up churches for some activities e.g. funerals. As always councillors must think of the impact across the Borough and how any changes would affect temples, mosques and gurdwaras.
In the evening I enjoy a regular Sunday night pint with a few friends. This is now a Zoom event and we are finding it hard to adjust to drinking alone together. One of our number has been struck down by the virus and still feels too weak to join in. You can survive the virus if you are over 70 but it will knock you for six.
Monday 4 th May: I am still working onour group’s response to the council’s climate emergency action plan. We submitted our formal response in the survey format required but there is still much left to be said. The pandemic and our corporate responses to it have, despite the additional government grants, torpedoed the council’s finances. How can Hounslow pay for its ambitious climate emergency plans? Surely, we must first focus on protecting all our residents, but particularly the most vulnerable, from the impact of unpredictable climate change?
Tuesday 5 th May: We have settled into a routine of holding a weekly virtual meeting with the officers leading the council’s response, the so-called Gold team. To get the most out of this meeting we hold a pre-meeting on Zoom the day before and run through questions that need to be asked and issues that should be raised. We try hard to deal with generic and strategic matters – but specific problems cannot be ignored. Cllr Gerald McGregor has formulated four questions seeking clarity from the finance team on key issues such as the expected impact on budgeted revenue and expenses. Our questions go to Gold in advance so that they have time to prepare.
The Staveley Blossom Day event has been cancelled. But the winning haiku from the associated children’s poetry competition was submitted by Skyla (Year 9) a pupil at Chiswick School.
First buds spring to life
Opening to the bright sun
A pink explosion
Wednesday 6 th May: The Gold meeting reports good progress on a number of issues. Discharges from hospitals are exceeding new admissions. There is some trepidation about what the easing of the lockdown will mean. Ideally officers would like some forewarning so that they can prepare. We are now housing twice the number of rough sleepers in hotels than were identified in the council’s annual survey.
Following the virtual meeting with Gold we settle in for own post Zoom meeting. From this our political assistant produces a summary and action plan. Predictably this half hour meeting lasts over an hour. Numb-bum, numb-brain syndrome sets in.
Thursday 7 th May: Joined the St Paul’s Grove Park weekly virtual poetry and readings session. The selections can be found posted as anthologies lodged on www.stpaulsgrovepark.com . L ots of nonsense verse to leaven out the Shakespeare and George Herbert. Very personal and great fun.
I had a long conversation with Mark Frost, Hounslow’s head of traffic management, about what the council calls “changes coming to a street near you” under the Liveable Neighbourhoods Scheme. But first there will be a detailed public consultation on the options. A real chance for all of us to shape our neighbourhood’s future. However financial constraints on TfL will mean that some of the big-ticket items will be delayed.
Another late evening call. A resident has tracked down the classic car stolen from outside his house in 2016 and wants the police to take action before it is sold on yet again. Yes, I know this is not a problem for councillors. Yet somehow it is.
Councillor Sam Hearn