The Wider World
The news at the end of the week gave everybody pause for thought.
The death of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh marks an era passing for the whole of the United Kingdom. The Conservative Group on Hounslow Council has sent a message of condolence and support to the Royal Family, reflecting on the life-time service and strength of character shown by the Duke, who acted so well to mobilise support for his wide and non-political concerns.
His interests in science and technology helped to bring about a more modern Britain. He was someone who acted by bringing society together, by supporting causes such as the protection of wildlife and the wider environment, by his support for the Charity Aid Foundation and the enabling gift aid schemes that have raised tens of millions of extra funds for good causes, and his close relationship with long standing institutions and the armed forces which he used to the good as an influencer and thinker.
The work on bringing young people into social and leadership roles through the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme was a huge achievement, copied across the Commonwealth and the wider world.
There is still so much to say in tribute to this loyal and hardworking man but all of us know what we will be missing in the future.
Our heart goes out to Her Majesty the Queen and all the Royal Family.
Covid-19 and Council Tax
Destroying Trade and Commerce
The council tax bills have arrived on peoples’ doorsteps and there is a huge degree of shock being expressed to your councillors in Chiswick about the rises imposed on residents of both parts of Chiswick. Ealing and Hounslow Council Administrations have shown no mercy on hard pressed council tax-payers even during a period when incomes have been hit by the impact of Public Health preventative lock downs and business suspensions.
The New Financial Year
The Opposition parties led by Greg Stafford in Ealing, and by myself in Hounslow, tried very hard to get their respective Council administrations to avoid an increase in tax. The Mayor of London has put his precept up by a shade under 10% and the administration in Hounslow raised their demand by a shade under 5% (taking advantage of the legal limit being changed). In Hounslow our Conservative alternative budget at the beginning of March would have provided for no increase in the Borough council tax, without damaging or reducing budget expenditure plans. It is not rocket science, just good management!
Putting People Last!
I became Leader of the Opposition on Hounslow Council at the end of July last year. During the last eight months all the neighbourhoods in Hounslow have been facing a continuing series of issues. The range of different concerns about health and unemployment, about the retail and hospitality sector economic recovery and about travel and transport to name some of the key features raised by residents. Our internet traffic and post bag as councillors looking after the three Chiswick wards in Hounslow reflects this to a great extent. But a new source of concern: The council tax hike is just too much for many of them.
The Need for Feedback and Listening to our Residents
The Conservative group in opposition have tried very hard to help in setting agendas at the Council, supporting our council public health team, maintaining a dialogue with the senior management team at the council and working hard with colleagues and fellow supporters in different neighbourhoods in Hounslow. The difficulty for the public is that when watching Ealing and Hounslow councils in action they get no sense of any feedback mechanism or any real listening to the population that they are meant to administer.
Virtual meetings have been dogged by poor technical capacity and where the public should engage (for example on Planning or Licensing concerns or on Housing issues) their voice has literally disappeared). Please contact your local councillor team in Chiswick, if you are getting no satisfaction from direct contact with the administration.
The Opposition has an absolute certainty that in future we can do better than this.
The only way to run proper local government is to listen with respect and learn what people need, and what residents care for, provide moderate and progressive responses and make the necessary changes that have broad popular support after proper consultation.
Gerald McGregor Councillor