Residents telling us how it is: The post bag and E mail traffic is now about consultations on street space and the continuing hassle and danger caused by the TfL controlled Hounslow instituted Cycle Super Highway which temporarily runs down Chiswick High Road. The dangers are not just to the physical well-being of residents, shoppers and cyclists but the continuous congestion of traffic, the interruption of bus timetables and the operational turning round of buses before they get to Chiswick because they would merely add to the congestion.
The post is now also full of technical articles about pollution levels rising, about journey times being difficult to forecast or people turning round and going home, about emergency services tearing their hair out and about bus drivers complaining to their union and to the wider public about the danger of the bus stops to the safety of dismounting passengers and those trying to board a bus. Traffic on the afternoon of Friday 23rd April was locked solid from Acton Lane along South Parade to Turnham Green Station. The Chiswick High Road was never wholly empty of standing traffic during the day from Goldhawk Road to Acton Lane according to retailers. The pollution levels make a warm day unpleasant.
Councillor Sam Hearn, (Riverside Ward Chiswick) Conservative sub-committee chairman of Traffic and Transport for the whole Borough of Hounslow has been making the strongest representations to the administration in Hounslow and to other authorities. Replies come back repeating all the stuff about emergency and settling down and consultation but the lack of response, the lack of decision-making and the lack of remedial action is hard for residents in Chiswick to take. His archive has grown, recording all the responses from residents, electors and taxpayers enabling prompt communication back to a widening audience. The administrations of Hounslow and Ealing are generally embarrassed, lethargic and confused about what to do next.
Councillor Jo Biddolph (Turnham Green Ward) has received a further range of responses in terms of the retail economic environment and the lack of safe pavements for pedestrians with silent scooters and cyclists not using the spaces reserved for them through these schemes. Her archive supporting the Chiswick Shops Task Force has grown considerably as more and more people put pen to paper or open their PC to find out more information. The independent One Chiswick movement wishes to bring all four Chiswick Wards (Homefields, Riverside, Southfields, Turnham Green) to challenge what is going on in our beautiful area, and has established a mass response to the limited consultations currently on offer to the population, (who are having to put up with this complete lack of care). Councillor Biddolph has been talking to retailers across the area to gauge the temperature. Many are still showing the protest poster issued last year by One Chiswick in their windows. Meanwhile the High Road and other shopping streets are facing a difficult time with a greater number of empty properties and premises than anyone can remember.
In the background we are in the middle of a series of political campaigns with all the Conservative councillors acting in teams to support candidates for the election to Mayor and for London South West, who are both frequent visitors to Chiswick and Hounslow, and for two by-elections for returning new councillors to Hounslow Borough Council
Councillor Ron Mushiso (Turnham Green Ward) Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group has been very active in campaigns such as collecting computers and tablets for school children and students, litter picking support for Chiswick open spaces. He is now using his boundless energy to spread messages not just in Chiswick but across Hounslow, alongside all our colleagues who are heavily involved in spreading the message of concerns that we have all received during the campaigns.
We are turning listening into campaigning for the issues important to the people of Chiswick
More Problems with the Administration
In recent messages the Conservative group has pointed out the huge rise in Council Tax caused by the administration, our alternative budget (Fully verified by the Councils own Finance team) would have avoided an increase of 4.99% in the demands made by the Borough. Those who were interested in the budget outcome would also be aware that the council administration (against Conservative Opposition) voted huge increases for Councillors and for their extra duties. The net cost was £400,000 plus, but the insult was to backdate these payments by a year on the flimsy pretext that they began work? on this last April!
So now we have more pay, but the administration is in fact doing less work and rewarding itself substantially. The Leader and Cabinet should be consumed with shame, not consuming our taxes.
Cancelled meetings are now the norm. There is a proposal for a Ceremonial meeting on May 4th 2021 to elect a new mayor and re-instate all councillors in committees etc. The normal business, reports, questions, debates, will not take place at this meeting.
There is now going to be a gap of eight weeks until June 29th before a substantive Borough Council meeting will be held. (The last one was actually held on March 30th 2021 so nothing in April!)
Where does responsive democracy and lawful debate and challenge appear in this administrations culture and why do officers take the lead in Policy? Is it because the Cabinet is poorly led?
Meanwhile the Overview and Policy Scrutiny meeting has been rearranged and the opposition finds that the chaotic nature of the current administration is extending to committees across the range.
Not much chance there then for listening to residents
Visiting and Listening
On the other hand and with a personal note, my thanks to the trustees of the Central Hounslow Mosque and the Heathrow Cranford Mosque for their hospitality and goodwill on Friday 23rd during Ramadan and allowing our attendance during Friday Prayers. Listening to the congregation and having worthwhile discussions afterwards gives everybody a chance to grow in knowledge and develop understanding.
All the Conservative councillors in Chiswick have been active across the Borough. Apart from those already mentioned your local representatives are doing their best to promote Conservative victories across the Borough.
Great Work has been done By Cllr Ranjit Gill (Turnham Green) in Feltham and Heston where he has been building relationships and listening to residents. (He is getting lots of complaints about Council Tax rises way above inflation)
Cllr Giles does a lot of work on social media and her responses to LTNs in Chiswick Riverside are well known. She avidly posts great interactive photos of streetscapes including traffic congestion. She has been out assisting the two candidates Shaun Bailey for Mayor and Nick Rogers for London South West and supporting our by-election council candidates
Cllr John Todd (Homefields) maintains a strong grip on case work and provides consistent advice to residents, very useful in listening to concerns and responding with his experience to hand during the campaigning sessions.
Cllr Patrick Barr (Homefields) is heavily engaged with the NHS management of Covid 19, even so he has been out and about campaigning when he is available even after a twelve hour shift.
Cllr Michael Denniss (Riverside) is heavily engaged in his professional role in the Civil Service where Covid 19 has impacted heavily (as with Cllr Barr) on space and time to provide support (He is also the Group Chief Whip) but again across Chiswick, Brentford and in the West of the Borough he is representing the Conservative campaign well.
All in all a great team effort.
Gerald McGregor (Homefields Ward)
Leader of the Opposition, London Borough of Hounslow