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Monday, 18 September 2017

Labour hiding the facts: our streets will get even dirtier in Chiswick

After some investigation by Southfield Liberal Democrat Councillor, Andrew Steed, we have seen the plans by Labour-run Ealing Council to reduce street cleansing again!

This time the frequency of deep cleansing could be further reduced from six to twelve weekly intervals. Currently I receive a lot of calls and emails on this topic; this change will just increase the number of dirty streets locally.

Pretty soon, I think the Council will be asking us to both pay Council tax and sweep our own streets!
Perhaps the worst part of this scheme is that here has been no announcement so it appears that this is another example of Labour moving the goal posts and not informing residents about changes.

Previously we have seen examples when the Council made secret the:

  • Lists of parks that were due to be cleaned less often.
  • Areas where cleaning was due to be stopped totally.
  • Streets where the frequency of street cleaning was to be reduced.

Further to this, the Liberal Democrats have seen many examples of where the streets have not been cleaned and even when photos showing waste (including vermin) the Council have said the streets were clean.

When I have asked for some details of the contract that the Council and its contractor (Amey) signed a number of years ago I have been told that I cannot be show it because it is “confidential”.

Sadly, it appears the Council are happy to see dirty streets in Chiswick. The Liberal Democrats will continue to report examples of missed collections and dirty streets but we would have thought it was better to get the contractor to clean them to a better standard in the first place!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Police need to continue to bond with teens and other community groups

Over the past number of years, the Met have had flash points with different groups, some of which have led to issues in how they are perceived negatively by residents in London.

Locally, in Chiswick, the police have been and are continuing to take a more proactive approach which is welcoming to see.

The Liberal Democrats know that if the police are to be trusted they need to not just stop crimes from happening, catch criminals but socialise with people from all backgrounds in life. If they are seen out and about where people meet then it is likely that people will trust them or speak to them if they have concerns.

At a meeting recently where the police were present they talked about initiatives where the local police team would drop in (to a drop ins) where lots of teenagers socialise. Just being present meant people saw the police as people having fun, playing table tennis and ready, if needed, to answer questions if anyone had matters they wanted to discuss.

At other times, the Southfield ward Forum, run by the Liberal Democrats in Southfield, have members of the local police team to update residents on crime in the area and what they have been doing to deal with and reduce crime. Their presence has allowed many residents a chance to ask questions of their local police team.

Southfield has a lower crime than neighbouring areas. Whilst crime is rising generally, in Southfield it is falling. Part of this is that we have a strong culture of local volunteering:

· The Police and residents monitoring speeding traffic ensuring that drivers speeding get warned to reduce the chance of future incidents of speeding.

· Southfield has a great set of neighbourhood watch volunteers who make use of information about local crime from the police to inform residents, so they can reduce the chances they become a victim of crime.

· We are luck to have an effective group to monitor the police’s actions and when feedback is given the police change some of their activities to help address information issues in Southfield. Being a part of the group shows how crucial it is for residents to support the police.

Myself and the other Southfield Liberal Democrat Councillors thank active members of the public and the police, for being proactive, working together to reduce crime.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Area Committees and why it is sad Labour appear to want to get rid of them

At a Council meeting recently the Labour Leader of Ealing Council made a comment that was more than a suggestion that he wants to stop all ward fora meetings.
He said that Councillors should speak to the residents of their wards one to one. Well, a message for Councillor Bell is that the Liberal Democrats in Southfield ward, Chiswick, is that we do both.

We have four ward fora meetings each year (almost all of the others have only 2, some three) plus we speak to people at both our Councillors’ advice sessions and by knocking of residents’ doors to survey them about what issues are things they want fixing.

Then we fix people’s problems. Recently when visiting one street in Chiswick we logged a number of issues and within a couple of days the street had the dumped waste and litter removed as well as a new litter bin installed (to reduce the litter that Acton Lane suffers from).

We run four ward meetings as we feel that it is crucial that Councillors can meet residents more regularly than only twice a year, to answer questions and to ask residents what topics they think are important in their area.

We often invite the local police team which is great as they give a face to some of the crime stories they read about in the media. They can ask advice about local crimes (the level of crime in Liberal Democrat Southfield is very low) to see how they can help themselves or neighbours suffering from car crime, burglary or other types of crime.

Any politician who refuses to want ward forum meetings from taking place, should be sacked! 

Our masters (the voters) deserve a way to ask about their elected Councillors questions and why they have taken the actions they have taken.

In Southfield the Liberal Democrat councillors love ward forum meetings as we hear how things really are.

That is why we have funded two additional meetings, when other political parties want to see ward forum meetings cancelled.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

No one believes Council's figures on street cleanliness

One of the large volume of topics that residents raise with me, in my councillor’s post bag, is the large numbers of missed collections of kitchen waste.

In Southfield, residents saw, when the wheelie bins rolled in - like Daleks – dirty streets and a huge number of missed collections of their household waste. Since then kitchen waste has not been collected as often as it should be.

Sometimes the same person has missed their collection for many consecutive weeks. Other times whole streets are missed.

From a resident who comments recently the contractor said they did not collect the waste because the resident’s gate was closed (not locked, just closed!) Given the Council is allowing the contractor to get away with such a poor level of service a positive future is not likely.

Liberal Democrats believe that how clean our streets are and how the contractor is performing should be more transparent. The facts published by Ealing Council often are always a positive gloss on the reality of what is happening in our streets.

One weekend the Southfield Liberal Democrats found over 400 environmental faults and issues. At a similar time the Council said things were fine!

Given this I am challenging the Council’s portfolio holder, responsible for rubbish issues, to visit Southfield ward and see for himself. Cynically I expect him to prime the contractors first (so they can buck their ideas up in the short term) but let’s hope he and the contractors learn a few lessons about the need to keep our streets clean.

Liberal Democrats say that if the portfolio holder refuses an invitation for a visit, then nobody can really respect him. I say that he should clean all 100 or so streets in Southfield until residents are satisfied!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Improving our borough's parks

For many years in Southfield ward the Liberal Democrat councillor have been working with many groups including Council staff and residents’ associations to see what residents most wanted from their parks.
Gary Malcolm at bike storage rack on Acton Green

Relatively recently the three main open spaces in Southfield were granted Green Flag status. This came in the backdrop of years of spending to make lots of small positive changes for the area when Ealing Council sadly cut about half of the park ranger staff.

Some of the areas where improvements have been made include:

  • More litter bins and park benches.
  • Cycling facilities so people can park their bikes safely.
  • Lighting paths so that residents can more safely get to and from work in the early mornings or later evenings.
  • Installation of gym equipment, so allowing residents to exercise without paying large gym costs!
  • Planting meadows to brighten up less busy patches of grass.
  • Installation of flower beds to brighten the place up.
  • New pathways which had become worn out.

Much of the last ten years before gaining the Green Flag status came from funding at a ward level where Liberal Democrat Councillors created or agreed to proposals from residents to improve our area.

Some of these proposals helped road safety in the area and others related to improving our parks and open spaces.

Liberal Democrats believe that the model we have created should be followed in other areas. To work it is crucial that the local Councillors regularly involve all the residents’ associations in the area so that lots of ideas area created. It is also integral that residents are consulted and that Council officers are asked their views.

This way you get more good ideas and in the end the ones that can be introduced to give benefits to a range of residents.

So many Ealing residents should have the right to stay

Each week the thought of a Brexit is causing great concern to residents in Ealing.
Much of this concern is two-fold: firstly there are a large number of EU nationals who live in Ealing who contribute to businesses in Ealing and London. Many contribute to a range of community events, volunteering their time to help those who are more in need including those who are homeless.

Secondly they are providing services and expertise, which many local companies would suffer, if they were not able to work for those Ealing companies.
Many French, Polish, Italian, Spanish and other EU citizens contribute to the Ealing economy should not be forced to live under a cloud of uncertainty. Liberal Democrats are the only party that has consistently championed Britain’s membership of the European Union, because we believe that Britain’s best chance to succeed is within the EU.
How can any EU national feel comfortable in staying in our country when the government appears to be trying their best to make anyone not born in the UK, feel bad?
But the future status of these residents is not clear beyond any Brexit renegotiation period, leading to uncertainty.
The Liberal Democrats are clear that those EU nationals who are currently resident in the UK should be allowed to live here indefinitely.
The party is has committed to standing in the next election on the platform of securing Britain’s place in the EU.
To Europeans whose lives are now rooted in the UK my message is simple – the Liberal Democrats stand with you, and will speak for you. To the French family raising their children in Hanwell, to the Polish mother working to pay her mortgage in central Ealing, to the German graduate starting his business venture in Acton - the Liberal Democrats value you, we will stand by you and we will champion your future here in Britain.

Liberal Democrats say EU citizens must have right to stay in Britain. Simple.

Planning must be done properly

As planning is decided using particular types of legal rules I am speaking here personally about a local example of a proposal for planning, known as 100 Bollo Lane.

At the time of writing this, the decision has not been made, and some lessons can be learned about the process of how Ealing Council consults residents as well as what it considers important when it makes planning decisions.

Of course we need more housing but the location needs to be planned so that we do not create sets of huge towers in one area meaning that many people in traditional two storey homes, feel enclosed and are overlooked. Better to have more less tall building so that the good look of an area is not destroyed.

With regard to 100 Bollo Lane application Ealing Council did not consult as many people as they should have. Liberal Democrats believe that enough people should be consulted and not by notices on lampposts. I personally have had complaints about the scheme from at least ten streets which is more than the Council appeared to have contacted.

I am personally against the 100 Bollo Lane application because the current use of light industrial was agreed to be appropriate relatively recently by both the Mayor of London and Ealing Council, so it is wrong to change the use for housing when the site has not been marketed for other light industrial uses.

It appears to be an excuse from the land owners and the developers to sell the land for a high value without the Council wanting to get the best value for the land.

Other issues that will come with a tall set of buildings have been seen at the southern end of Bollo Lane including flooding due to a loss of green area and excess railway noise which according to Transport for London is bouncing off some of the newer developments towards homes on Bollo Lane.

Repeating a development at the north of Bollo Lane seems very likely to cause issues for existing residents on other sections of Bollo Lane.

As a Liberal Democrat, I know that quickly agreeing to a scheme that is not good for the area will leave long lasting negative outcomes. Better to wait and allow for time to discuss a more appropriate scheme for the area. That is what Chiswick deserves.