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Thursday, 16 February 2017

Lib Dems say Protect our hospitals and give us a better mental health service

Whilst the government says that the NHS will become a seven-day service, we know that many areas do operate seven days a week service for many health services.

Given the underinvestment from the Conservative government we have staff, nurses and doctors who are demotivated. The Liberal Democrats say to ensure we can cope with increasing some of the services such as Accident and Emergency care this will cost more money since there are not enough staff at the moment.

The waiting times in our hospitals are getting worse and many ill patients are left in corridors suffering unnecessarily.

Ealing Hospital which serves some of Acton’s residents, has had its maternity unit closed meaning that mothers and relatives are travelling longer to give birth and then being asked to visit Ealing Hospital for an out-patients’ appointment, where they can see the closed maternity unit not being used!

With a greater birth rate over the past few years and expected in the future it seems strange that we are reducing the number of beds, as well as forcing more mothers-to-be to travel greater distances to give birth.

Many government PR statements label the plans to change Charing Cross hospital into a local hospital as a positive thing. It is only positive if you are the Chancellor of the Exchequer; patients are the losers here.

When consulted people did not want this as a local hospital, Charing Cross would be downgraded meaning many ill residents in the area having to be taken in ambulances to other hospitals further afield – perhaps Hillingdon.

We have seen other services like the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) service being moved from Ealing Hospital to others in the area. This may seem a small change but it will mean a lot of disruption of many patients having to travel to different hospitals, which are sometimes not on a single bus route.

One important area of heath care that has been mainly ignored, apart from the Liberal Democrats, is that of mental health. Most of us with either suffer from a mental health issue in our lives or know someone who has done so. Many people will not have had the confidence to tell others and may have suffered in silence.

We need to ensure that government does not shun those with mental illnesses. They need our help and support. Lib Dem Norman Lamb MP is a magnificent example of a campaigner for greater mental health services.

In summary, the plans appear to mean more people are travelling longer to either receive healthcare or visit a friend or relative. This cannot be good.

As a Liberal Democrat, I know that making cuts now will lead to more expensive treatment later on down the line.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Council causing harm with its decision making process

Liberal Democrats say that Ealing Council keeps on following the same process which is causing great harm and distress for many carers and users.

Their process has been to rush through to make quick decisions despite carers and users having lots of valid complaints and questions, only to see the decisions are the wrong ones, then the Council has to make U-turn after U-turn.

In some cases, pride has led them not to reverse a bad decision but plough on with a successful outcome not being achieved. This was the case with Chiswick’s Carlton Road Day Centre which had happily provided severely disabled users with a great careering service.

Then the Council chopped it, forcing users to find alternative arrangements, some paying much more for a worse level of care. What is also gutting for residents is that the site has not been used. They should have kept the centre open longer or had proper, acceptable plans for the site.

Other controversial and more recent decisions were to close the Solace Day Centre which provides a much needed mental health care facility. After a huge campaign, the Council agreed to look at the plans again and then found the money to save the well-loved service.

Heller House – although not in Chiswick - is a residential children's home which provides a short break for the young as well as parents and carers. The Council rushed to close the centre despite a huge borough wide petition.

Then last week agreed to create a new replacement respite centre for up to 12 users at one time. Again Ealing Council initially ignored carers views, who said there was a real need for an in-borough respite service, before making the U-turn.

This shows that Ealing Council is failing residents and users by not thinking through its plans fully. They have caused much distress in the process.

Crime – Prevention is better than allowing crimes to occur

Clearly any crime committed is one too many but in the past few years there has been a move away from preventing more common crimes such as burglary and theft.

We have been left in a situation where too many people have their bikes stolen or cars broken into. Many crimes are either avoidable or severely reduced by a proactive input from both residents and local safer neighbourhood teams in Ealing borough.

Southfield Police team
Liberal Democrats say that part of this was due to the Mayor of London reducing the number of local police, meaning that there are fewer police who are dedicated to a local area. These teams played a vital role of liaising with residents’ associations and residents to gather intelligence and to sort out the problems affecting a particular ward or borough.

Now with smaller police teams, it means that less proactive advice is given for residents to reduce crime.

In the ward where I live, the local Southfield police team do a magnificent job. But this is only possible because groups of residents work together with the police to engage residents to pass on crime reduction advice. Some of the initiatives include:

  • Promoting the take up of SmartWater which is used to mark valuables to both reduce burglary and if items are taken, they are more likely to be traced by the police.
  • Having the largest Safer Neighbourhood Watch active schemes in the borough which means that police advice about local crimes or how to reduce crime is spread amongst residents more quickly.
  • Free property surveys by the local police team. I had one of these when I moved into the area and the police gave lots of free advice on how I can easily reduce being a victim of crime.

Liberal Democrats say that cuts to the local police are bad and in many areas have led to increases in many types of crime. Ensuring we have enough local police is vital if we are to reduce many of the more easily preventable crimes.

I am proud that crime in Southfield is the lowest in the area. It would be wonderful if other areas of Ealing repeat what is working in Southfield so we can all have lower crime rates.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

More Council spending should be done at a local level

It is wonderful when residents attend Council meetings to give their views on how their Council taxes are being spent.

What is sad though is that there are too few people attending meetings because the process seems to not want people to have their say. The Liberal Democrats are the only party in Ealing Borough to be proactive to want views and act up on them, raising these matters in Council meetings.

A great example of this is where the Labour party cut the number of local ward meetings (where local issues are discussed) from 4 to 2. The Southfield Liberal Democrats made a commitment to fund two additional meetings so we still have four meetings a year. In fact, we are the only party who have done this in our borough!

Some of the successes that we have shared and developed with residents include:

  • New lighting across over half the ward.
  • Stopped cuts to the local police team.
  • Additional play equipment in local parks to encourage more children and adults to exercise and not put on weight.
  • Working with local residents' groups and the police team to make the area safer and more attractive.
  • Many initiatives to help support cyclists.
  • Lighting across well used parks to reduce the attacks and the fear of crime particularly reported from women.
  • 20 mph traffic scheme to reduce accidents to pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers.

One of the problems we face is that Labour-run Ealing Council has made cuts so that people are not consulted in a way that is acceptable to many. This is especially true of planning matters where many residents have not been informed apart from a notice on a lamppost away from where they live.

Liberal Democrats want to see more decisions taken locally at a ward level or clusters of wards. To do this, it would not require any more money, but simply the decision making powers are taken at a more appropriate level which means more residents can be involved in the decision making process.

The areas of decision making could be some of the following:

  • Street lighting
  • Pavement repairs 
  • Road resurfacing
  • Tree planting sites
  • Improvements to parks
  • Road safety schemes

This would lead to a greater openness. Many council decisions are taken in meetings that are either not public or not publicised. It would be great to open up Council meetings having a live feed for important meetings. Advertising should be looked at to see if this is feasible. Many local companies would pay if they knew a controversial debate was taking place about a planning issue or concerning a possible new Controlled Parking Zone scheme.

Liberal Democrats are proud that we constantly want to know what is important to residents and then act to improve our local area.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Good politicians empower residents and lead the way

It is common for politicians to think only they can fix problems.

It is my belief that good politicians both empower residents by both not just solving a residents' issue when the Council has let them down - but to show how the problem was fixed. The latter can be done by keeping the resident involved in the communication throughout the whole process so the residents knows you are working to both help them but not afraid to give the details of the person who will actually solve the problem.

Also it is important to lead and show the way. This might be when a difficult matter takes place such as the riots in Ealing. Leaders will get out there to say what was done was wrong and helped as part of the clean up.

As the Liberal Democrat leader in Ealing I think it is important to show that despite not all of us being either in work or paid much, there are people elsewhere in the world who are in great need. This could be Syria or countries where earthquakes or famines have taken place.

I love trekking and have set upon a sixteen day trek to the Mount Everest Base camp in Nepal to raise money for DEC (Disaster Emergency Committee) who help around the world when earthquakes, famines and tsunamis arrive.

Many parts of Nepal are still suffering after the earthquakes hit in 2015 and I knew one of the mountaineers who was on Mount Everest when the earthquakes struck. He survived but many villages and thousands of people lost their lives. Even more people lost their homes and shelter.

If you are able to contribute that would be wonderful and the link to use is:

When I come back from Nepal I hope that I will be able to share stories of how charitable monies have helped the people of Nepal.

I finish by saying we all should look to help others. This could be a neighbour who is vulnerable or a friend who has been burgled. Both may need your help. Any one day you may need their help.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Residents deserve more respect when they contact their elected representatives

Although I do not get many handwritten letters from constituents nowadays (mainly emails or phone calls), one I received made me very sad to read.

It was written by a very elderly lady who, in her own words, cannot get about easily. The block she is in, is not rated very highly by her or fellow residents. Getting around in her wheelchair is not going to be comfortable as we see so clearly with many of the life stories of the athletes in the Paralympics.

She wrote to her three Labour Councillors, and when ignored, then wrote to her MP. All four appear to have let her down.

Sometimes the most important thing a politician can do is listen and then return that phone call or speak to them so a complex problem can be simplified and hopefully solved.

Just because an issue that a resident raised might not be easy to solve, it does not mean it should be ignored. Sometimes all that is required is to give the correct advice so they resident can be helped or they know who to contact so they can be empowered to help themselves.

One of the important reasons why day centres serving many elderly and other vulnerable users, are crucial, is that they allowed them to get the care they needed in the company of others. Friends who they saw each day or a few times a week. This allowed them to be happier as well as each other helping each other out.

Now, since Labour-run Ealing Council, have closed nearly all of the day centres, many users have been left paying more for less. The evidence is that users left without access to groups are more likely to become depressed which is hardly going to help many users who can be very vulnerable, some without many visits from family members.

There are many areas in the past few years where Ealing Council's housing activity does not seem to have measured up well in providing a good service:
Benefit claims are taking too long to be processed.
There were far too many (and it has been increasing sharply) people living in bed and breakfast accommodation.
Relatively recently, many tenants were not satisfied with the quality of repairs.
People are still waiting a long time to speak to a member of Council staff either on the phone or when visiting the Council in person.

Liberal Democrats believe we should be not just building enough housing, but crucially making sure our existing management of our housing stock and estates is done to a high level of quality, treating all residents (regardless of their income status) with more dignity.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Since Sadiq Khan has been elected...

It is only recently since the London Mayoral and Greater London Assembly (GLA) elections but one u-turn, one untruth and one borrowed policy have taken place!

We saw Sadiq Khan elected, but within days we saw him announce that it was going to be difficult to deliver the number of new affordable homes he promised. Being the Mayor of London is a privilege and was never to be easy, but to give up on possibly the most important policy area so soon is very sad for many residents who live in Ealing.

Sadiq Khan then reneged on his fares promise. He said: “Londoners won’t pay a penny more for their travel in 2020 than they do today.” But the truth of his policy has been uncovered recently when it appeared that he will only freeze part of the transport fares, excluding many commuters using travelcards. In the election Liberal Democrats said it was not possible to freeze the fares and so it is obvious that many Londoners have been fobbed off with a policy helping only some of those who were given the impression everyone would benefit.

Policy borrowed: Liberal Democrats welcome the announcement from Transport for London, that a one-hour bus ticket will come into effect in September. Though Sadiq Khan is happy lapping up the glory for the one-hour ticket, it was not his idea. Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon campaigned on the policy since 2009.

Liberal Democrats want to see transport policies that make it easier for people to travel and cheaper for those who work on lower than average wages such as cleaners who have early starts before many of us have woken up.

It was great to see Caroline Pidgeon taking over as Chair of the Transport Committee. She is the most experienced GLA member and she has taken a great interest and solved many local issues in Ealing borough.

London Liberal Democrats will be pushing for more openness in City Hall, where the Mayor works. We have seen that the previous Mayor chose to hide a report which demonstrated that over 400 schools in London are located in areas that exceed EU limits for nitrogen dioxide. The Mayor and the Greater London Assemby need to make sure that they and Ealing Council take action to improve our air quality. Anything else and we are harming our children and the lives of 7 million residents.