Complaints about dangerous un-swept pavements and roads dismissed as “shameless electioneering” and “playing politics” by council leader Steve Curran


Resident trips with small son in pushchair who is injured

Complaints about long drifts of leaves were given short shrift when last week the leader of the council, Cllr Steve Curran, accused the leader of the Conservative group, Cllr Joanna Biddolph, of “shameless electioneering”.  Yet the complaints had been made by residents annoyed at their roads and pavements being made dangerous by neglect during peak leaf fall. 

The risks were clear to residents – many of whom had resorted to walking down the middle of some roads to avoid slipping on wet leaves or tripping on invisible uneven pavement slabs.  Yet Cllr Curran dismissed Cllr Biddolph’s second request for urgent action as “playing politics”.

Then the inevitable happened. 

On Wednesday, 20th November, a mother, pushing her young son in a pushchair, took a short cut from Turnham Green Terrace down Thornton Avenue to get to her destination.  As she crossed the road she tripped and fell over the pushchair which, in turn, tipped over.  Her son sustained a head injury.  The reason?  Leaf build up obscured the edge of the kerb.  The mother complained to Cllr Patrick Barr who reported the incident to Cllr Steve Curran.  Receiving an email with photos of drifts of leaves, obscured kerbs and a small boy with a cut on his forehead elicited a more measured response. 

“I’m pleased to say that the head injury the young boy sustained was mild and both the mum and her son are well.  However, this shouldn’t have happened in the first place.  It’s autumn.  Leaves fall in autumn.  Risks are real,” said Cllr Patrick Barr.  “In some boroughs leaves are swept daily mitigating the risk of these preventable accidents and making the surroundings aesthetically more pleasing.  In Chiswick leaf fall occurs, it’s left, it then rains, the leaves turn to sludge, more leaf fall occurs causing an even more dangerous surface to walk on.  In this case, having not been swept for so long, leaf fall continued to build up to such an extent that it obscured the kerb.  I report un-swept leaves in Chiswick all year round.  The reports are rarely addressed.  My fellow councillors, and residents, frequently report leaf coverage.  Despite this, roads and pavements continue to be neglected.

“The same Chiswick mum also reported to me that her young daughter repeatedly falls off her scooter on Brackley Road due to the hazardous uneven pavements but, thankfully, sustaining less severe injuries but still injuring herself,” Cllr Barr explained.

As many residents will know, understanding the ins and outs of the contract Hounslow Highways has with Hounslow council is not easy.  What is deemed an uneven enough paving stone that means it has met the criteria to be re-set or replaced?  Or when is a pothole deep enough to have met the criteria to be filled?  Or how heavily littered does an area need to be before they will put out litter bins?  We now know the answer to the latest question, how widespread and deep do the leaves need to be on a road and its pavement for Hounslow council to take notice?  So bad that a mother and her baby fall, causing injury to both.

“This is unacceptable and drastic action needs to be taken.  The Hounslow Highways contract and the subsequent detail are failing Chiswick, said Cllr Patrick Barr.

He explained that, as per normal procedure, he reported the leaf coverage on Thornton Avenue, and the uneven pavement slabs on Brackley Road, via Hounslow’s “Fix my Street” app.  However, in this instance, he did not feel this standard action was enough, nor did he feel urgent action would be taken to mitigate any further risk.  So he emailed Hounslow Highways, Cllr Steve Curran as leader of the council, and Cllr Guy Lambert as cabinet member for highways, recycling and companies, calling for urgent action to be taken in the short term and to source a fit for purpose solution for the long term.  

“We know that Hounslow Highways' staff have to make decisions on the spot about how much of a road to do, and how many roads to do, because there are limits based on the size of their carts and their litter bags,” Cllr Joanna Biddolph said.  “And we know certain criteria must be met before an uneven pavement slab can be straightened.  These restrictions need urgent review.  They are leading to residents having an extremely poor service.  I am also concerned that staff might not be working to schedule and have asked that this issue is investigated.  Too many roads – in all three of Hounslow’s Chiswick wards – are repeatedly missed or neglected. 

“So, let's have no more false accusations of “shameless electioneering” or “playing politics”, Cllr Joanna Biddolph said.  “Let's have some action in these repeatedly neglected roads and get them properly swept throughout autumn-winter leaf fall.  Of course we are grateful to the people who turn out in all weathers to address the mess on our streets.  The fact is there are not enough of them doing the task – and the equipment and tools they have aren't appropriate for the job.  It's peak time, it requires more attention not less – and some roads are being repeatedly missed.  

“We need action, not headline grabbing.  This isn’t “shameless electioneering” or “playing politics”.  It’s common sense,” she concluded.