Vaccination milestones and pride in our NHS
On Monday, 15th February we reached a milestone with over 15m vaccinations administered in less than 10 weeks to people in the four priority groups: older care home residents and relevant care staff; people aged 80-plus and frontline health and care staff; those aged 75 and over; and those aged 70 and over and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable .
The government's Vaccine Taskforce has secured access to 407m doses of seven of the most promising vaccines – Pfizer, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur, Novavax, Janssen and Valneva. The government has invested over £300m into manufacturing vaccines to enable a rapid roll out. We can all be proud of our NHS and everyone who helped to achieve this milestone.
If you are aged 65 or over and have not yet been called, please call the NHS on 119, or your doctor's surgery – or book a vaccination online.
I encourage everyone to get vaccinated to protect not just yourself but also those you love and all of us. I recently lost a friend to Covid, a mother in her early 50s with two kids. It really hurts and breaks up a family when you need one the most. I have had my first Pfizer vaccine.
Many in the BAME community are not taking up the vaccine, as they have reservations from listening to incorrect information. The uptake among the Indian community is relatively good with over 80% having had their first dose but, amongst the Pakistani and black communities, the uptake is low. We need to encourage everyone to be vaccinated so that this pandemic can just turn out in the long run to be like flu, with an annual vaccine. If you have reservations, especially in the BAME community, please talk to my fellow councillor Ron Mushiso or me or, of course, your GP – and do watch the special video featuring well known people in the BAME community.
Today, Tuesday, 300 young people are taking part in a new trial to examine whether the vaccine produces a strong response in the younger generation.
From the Chiswick Curve to Holly House
Starbones, the developer that threatened us with the 32-storey Chiswick Curve, has come up with a new proposal: a 21-storey tower block incorporating three floors for commercial use, 18 floors of residential units and a roof garden. With this new incarnation, intriguingly named Holly House, Starbones says it has learned lessons from past proposals. Has it?
Streetspace, LTNs and C9 – compare and contrast
While other councils have been busy dismantling LTNs following a successful court case brought by the black cab industry against TfL's scheme in Bishopsgate in the City of London (read a summary of the case from the lawyers who represented the black taxis), Hounslow Council continues to pursue its extreme position (it's not clear whether it is on the extreme left, or the extreme right, of the political spectrum) and is not for turning. When it finally does turn (we are not turning from our campaign to make it turn) will it apologise? Will anyone be BIG enough to admit that they made a mistake?
The signs are not good. As I write this, Hounslow council has published yet another consultation – stringing us along in another desperate bid to draw out the answers it wants, not the answers the Chiswick people have delivered time after time. This time it is setting out its vision for the town centres in the borough, eking out its masterplan step-by-step like the slow torture of a dripping tap. Linking it to the analysis it has produced of the future of our town centres survey that closed on 8th November last year, it's a lesson in spin. Here's its analysis and here's the accurate analysis, produced by OneChiswick (clue: residents don't want what Hounslow council wants). I invite you to compare and contrast.
Its own Labour members called-in its proposal to smother the borough with LTNs. Will this bring even more discord in its own ranks? How will this waiting game unfold, especially as we await the outcome of the judicial review of C9, to be held in June?
New parking charges
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse during this pandemic, Hounslow council has launched its new parking charges in an attempt to make us switch to electric cars or, better still from its perspective, out of our cars completely. Yet again the council hits the pocket of the less well-off. Oh yes, Chiswick drivers are being targeted for being the best cash cows in the borough. Read more about the new charges here.
On Sunday, 14th February, Valentine’s Day, cupid struck Hammersmith Bridge and it was lit up in red! It was arranged by a group of residents bringing to our attention the fact that decisions have still not made. In an update from Baroness Vere, parliamentary under-secretary of state for transport, we have learned that Hammersmith council (LBH&F) has still not shared with the government the full engineering report done by Mott Macdonald, nor any proposals for funding including the LBH&F suggestion of putting a toll on the bridge. The project plan is also missing (though this is currently held up because of the need to understand how the Fosters proposals will work).
Tony Devenish AM, the GLA member for west central which includes Hammersmith and the bridge, reminded us that LBH&F leader Cllr Cowan has had 22 months to get to grips with this, and that "national news this week showed LBH&F is more interested in misrepresenting a viking ship in the council's crest as an alleged slave ship, to woo the hard left, than work with the government task force to fix the bridge before schools go back". He called for Cllr Cowan to resign. That reminds me of our motion of no confidence in Cllr Curran.
Mayoral and GLA elections
Shaun Bailey AM, the Conservative candidate for Mayor for London, has called for a fresh start. He wants to make our streets safer by hiring 8,000 more police officers. He will hire 4,000 youth workers; open 32 new youth centres; and will help young people get on the housing ladder by building 100,000 homes to be sold for £100,000 each. Cleaner air is high on his agenda, too – pledging an electric bus fleet by 2025 and providing interest-free loans to help black cabbies go electric. He'll reverse the congestion charge hike and save each London household £307 a year by reversing Sadiq Khan's 10% council tax increase. There's more about his fresh start for London here.
Here in the GLA south west London seat, our long-standing – and outstanding – GLA member Tony Arbour AM is standing down. The nine of us will miss his energy, campaigning skills and willingness to intervene, particularly with TfL issues. However, the new Conservative candidate, Nicholas Rogers has not only settled in with our team but also been extremely active. He's a career railway worker, currently an incident controller for Network Rail, and has been extremely active here in Chiswick including by campaigning for the Piccadilly Line to stop at Turnham Green tube station.
Meting the income tax return deadline
January is always a busy time for accountants. This year was no exception – made worse by the pandemic, though not necessarily if you didn't complete your online self-assessment tax return by Sunday, 31 January! Due to an HMRC extension, you won't be fined the usual £100 penalty – as long as you file online by 28th February.
Penalties will, however, still be levied if you don't pay your tax bill on time. Tax should have been paid by 31st January or you will be charged 2.6% interest. Remember to pay all outstanding tax bills by 28th February or you will automatically be charged the 5% penalty.
You may be able to file your tax return after this deadline and avoid fines if you're delayed due to a coronavirus-related problem . HMRC have not indicated the circumstances.
Another tax that is due as result of changes is capital gains tax (CGT) which is due within 30 days of a sale. Most people forget this and wait till the tax return is due. Please don’t get caught out.
In these unprecedented times Loneliness can be extremely difficult for anyone especially older people, the vulnerable and people who live alone. So, spare a thought for a neighbour or a friend. Give them a call. Don’t wait to be asked to make the call. Make someone happy.
Personally, I have found it very difficult living on my own after 40 years together with my partner who had to go into a care home last July. Luckily, I have very good close family members and friends who regularly telephone me. But most caring of all are the takeaways or food parcels sent to me via courier to my door. That’s a true blessing in traditional Indian style, the quantity received can last me three days instead of just the one meal it was intended for. I don’t really know what I would have done if I didn’t have the support of my family and friends making sure I am looking after myself. Thank you very much! It does not take long to make a call, but it sure does bring joy and happiness and the interaction with a fellow human being. Luckily, too, some of my fellow councillors call me daily or at regular intervals for a chat. So, thank you.
Never be afraid to share your loneliness or talk about anything that troubles you. If you don’t it will fester inside and make things worse. It helps to share and seek help – as they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.
Enjoy your week ahead.
Cllr Ranjit Gill
Councillor for Turnham Green ward