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Friday, 31 December 2010

A New Year Message

The year has brought many positive things for our area – no increase in Heathrow expansion as well as a guarantee that Crossrail will be here to put investment into our wonderful diverse borough helping to bring investment to Acton and Ealing.

Liberal Democrats hope that the coming year sees investment into Gunnersbury Park so that it is an open space full of culture making visitors proud of West London. We have been campaigning for improvements for many years.

Acton, Southall and Ealing need transport improvements so that people are encouraged to walk more and use more public transport. Ealing Broadway needs to proper interchange and not just a simple reorganisation of the buses! Liberal Democrats believe that anything less will be a missed opportunity.

The Council needs to trust residents more by giving more influence to their community representatives in their so that they can bring what is required – whether that be better parks, road safety schemes or better recycling. Involving residents in decision-making is crucial. A good Council does this often without thinking about it.

In union, politicians and our residents, can really ensure that the Council will improve Ealing.

I think it is very appropriate in these times where people feels less safe because of the dark nights that we thank the local police force as well as our other vital services such as hospitals, doctors, nurses, teachers and those who bravely fight fires.

But sometimes in difficult times this is when we come together and help each other out. Perhaps a group that are often not recognised are those who care and look after others. You are also our community heros who deserve much praise.

I wish you a successful 2011.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Currently stuck on a tube

It is v sad that after years of investmestment that our tubes are still in such a poor state.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Ealing Council's Budget Cuts

On Tuesday Ealing Council agreed to cut about £55 million pounds from their budgets. Despite the Council leader stating this all the coalition government's fault only about 20 of the huge £55 million pounds figure is actual cuts. The rest a combination of efficiency savings or contractual changes to reduce the cost of the council pays companies.

Some areas are of concern:

I have some notes of what was agreed in terms of the budget cut and what it means: 

Councillor’s allowances - there are some special allowance cuts mentioned but no details. Apparently it means that a number of scrutiny committees will be cut leading to a less democratic Ealing Council. It means Ealing residents and opposition Councillors are less likely to be able to scrutinise what the Labour administration are doing or what mistakes they are making. The Lib Dem suggestion is to cut ALL the special councillor allowance by the same amount meaning no committees are lost but just the chairs (who get the allowance) get less. 
Park Ranger cuts – the cuts to the rangers are very severe (at over 50% of them losing their jobs). Liberal Democrats believe that these cuts (labelled as efficiency savings) will mean that our parks are left uncared for and in a poor state of repair which may lead to a future need for more costly spending on maintenance and upgrading. It is said that the police will patrol the (current) rangers’ areas but the police have not been asked so far as I understand. They would not wish to do the rangers’ job given they are stretched as well. In these cuts some areas cannot avoid cuts but these are very harsh.
Police & Community Safety matters – There are a number of PCSO cuts with a number of new PCs. This may appear to be helpful but it seems to contradict with the Council’s current pledge of Safer Communities. What are the implications of this cut on our parks and streets?
Given that many ward (SNT) teams are being moved to assist other wards (against the rules when they were set up) doing nationally related crime tasks Liberal Democrats believe more discussion is needed so that the police, enviro-crime officers and the police all know what each other will do so that things do not fall through the gaps.
I think a number of these cuts will hurt residents and so the policing ones need to be looked at in more detail with related areas of council so that we can be assured things will not turn out badly for residents. The administration didn't seem to want to discuss these later. They want to make the cuts now and hope things turn out okay. Not what most would call a useful approach.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

A Mayoral charity event in Hounslow

Last night I attended a fund-raising event which the Mayor of Ealing, Councillor Rajinder Mann, was hosting in Hounslow.

The event started at 7pm and finished midnight! The recipients of the money raised (through ticket sales and the raffle) are to go to Age Concern Ealing and Ealing Association for the Blind. It was a great night where the (Indian) food was wonderful. There were bollywood dancers, singing and some speeches (an event with politicians usually means a speech or two!).

I was lucky enough to be on the table with Denyse Whillier, the Chief Exec of Age Concern Ealing who spoke about the great work their organisation do. In times where our country has been in financial turmoil, I think we all should try to help, even in a small way, others who are in more need than ourselves.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Ealing Council has no leadership on reducing waste

I attended Ealing Council's cabinet meeting tonight and two interesting things occured...

The first was that the Conservative party didn't attend. It wasn't obvious whether they forgot or went out to watch the football in the pub, but certainly the Labour party had a laugh at their expense.

The more inportant point was that when I asked a question about how Ealing Council was to reduce the amount of waste (household waste) that is created so less landfill is needed, the portfolio holder Bassam Mahfouz seemed to show little leadership or ideas.

It is good to recycle waste but better to stop waste being created in the first place. The Liberal Democrats believe more emphasis should occur in this area working with local businesses and other industry in the area to reduce waste like plastics and cardboard. They need to work on this area for sure.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Go and see comedian Mark Thomas

If you like comedians who not only make you laugh, but have a real ethical set of principles then Mark Thomas is for you.

I have been lucky to see him live over the years but tonight the gig took place in a tiny, dark location in Camden. However it made the event even better. The topic was about a ramble in the Middle East where he walked the entire length of the Israeli Separation Barrier crossing, between the Israeli and the Palestinian side. As Mark said: "It is a story of 300 000 settlers; a 750 km wall; six arrests, one stoning; too much humuus and a simple question...can you ever get away from it all with a good walk?"

It is wonderful to see a comedian making you laugh at what is a complex political issue. Comedy is about the funny things we do or say and he gets across a serious, important message while making you laugh about events along a journey.

Free up an evening and make a visit to see him. Check out:

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Lib Dems have successes at important Council meeting

At the main council meeting where Ealing's Councillors meeting every 6 weeks to discuss important issues a number of items were agreed that you might want to know about:

  • I gained some committments from the Council Leader about the Priory Community Centre in Acton that holds many community and local events each week. The Council wants to sell off the centre and move it elsewhere in Acton. I gained a committment that in the meantime important repairs for the toilets would be done; and if the Priory was moved the users would only pay hiring frees that are "reasonable" (the Council Leader said). Sadly Labour did not make a committment to ensure that if there was a move to other premises the user groups would get priority over room bookings given their history in the area.
  • The Labour party voted to shut the Albert Dane Community Centre (in Southall) which even the Council state provide a vital service for users in Ealing.

  • Both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative parties voted for a reduction in Councillors' allowances. Labour disagreed! Shame on them in these tough difficult times for the Council. The savings in this move would have saved the Albert Dane Community Centre.
  • Liberal Democrats gained a U-turn in the Council so that their LDF (Local Development Framework) consultation will be extended to the end of November. This means there will be more time for the Council to gain the views of residents, businesses and local community groups about what types of developments will be allowed in the area (eg tall buildings).
  • In reaction to the Council ramping up their CPZ charges I suggested that the Council introduce a vistors permit for carers and medical staff so that those in most need (those who have illnesses or need carers to visit them) could do so without being charged a fortune. Labour voted against the Lib Dem plan.
  • Lastly a surprised Council meeting heard the Tory Leader make a statement relating to that someone in his own politial party had fraudulently gained signitures for an important petition about Council housing. The Tory leader stated that the police were investigating the eledged offences.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

What's the big's the Big Issue of course!

I was reading a copy of the Big Issue that I bought a few days earlier and as always it was a good read. A pinch of political cynicism with a lot of interesting articles.

The article that took my eye was one about how students could save money by doing a lot of simple things (that we should all be doing - not just students) such as turning off electrical items when they are not being used; using more energy efficient light bulbs; sewing holes in your clothes instead of throwing them away and buying a replacement etc etc. All simple idea we should be doing.

The more interesting however was something called a "swishing" party. Sounds mysterious but it is where you bring an item of clothing you no longer wear with the other 5-15 people. Then you have 30 minutes to try them on and when the host says so, you can take one item for free and hopefully you each get a free item that normally would have gone to landfill.

So when you see a Big Issue vendor on a street corner, pay them the £1.70 and have a good read on the bus or the tube home.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Ealing Council exposed over Freedom of Information failures

I was not shocked when I heard a day or so ago that Ealing Council has been named on a list of organisations that appear to be flouting Freedom of Information rules.

The Information Commissioner's Office said the organisations were taking too long to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests and would now be monitored for three months. Only a few months ago a resident who lives near me said she had asked Ealing Council for some information that she was entitled to see. She waited and waited and waited. She grew impatient and contacted me.

I then asked a few questions of the manager of the relevant department and they admitted that a relatively small proportion of applications for freedom of information requests has been made within the legal time limit. Very sad.

I am happy that the Information Commissioner is to look into this. Democracy is about free speech but about being able to find out what the council or the government are doing.

The ICO deputy commissioner Graham Smith said: "This is a perfect opportunity for the authorities named to get their houses in order and demonstrate that they take freedom of information requests seriously. In the five years since the Freedom of Information Act was brought into force, a significant number of the complaints we receive are about organisations that take too long to respond to information requests."

He added: "We will monitor the authorities named today for three months, but may take action during this timeframe if an authority's standard of compliance is revealed to be particularly poor, or if it is unwilling to make the improvements necessary."

I am to ask some public questions about this matter so Ealing Council cannot squirm out of the issue.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Good to get a break

I have just come back from a (short) break in Malta. I have not had a holiday for two years now. The last time I went to Malta was about 7 years ago and the place still looks like the buildings are half finished. The island is a real mix of cultural buildings and more modern (less nice) homes.

The holiday was for fun and to play cricket. I like playing cricket in different european countries with the London-based team I play for. We played three matches - two 20-20 matches and one 40 overs-a-side match.

Sadly we only drew one and lost the other two (against a Malta IX side who are always tough to beat). The hot sun beating down made playing cricket even more tiring but I did get a wicket with my first ball! And also finished on a high being unbeaten with the bat (I am a bowler) and walking off with the club captain we were clapped, as we came close (ish) to a victory. But the Malta IX deserved to win.

The high point was when one team mate stated boldly that he has never in 20 years playing cricket been 'out' to a women bowler. But ten minutes later a women called Lucy got him and another team mate out! It made us all very happy as the three women in that team were playing for another UK team travelling to Malta at the same time. We will remind the two team mates to keep their mouths buttoned to avoid embarassing themselves.

And now I am back home, it is time to get back to trawling through the endless spam emails!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Ealing Council hikes up parking charges

Many residents have seen that Ealing Council wants to put up parking fees. Labour-run Ealing Council have not been quite as upfront as they could have been; it appears they mainly wish to change of parking policy to bring in more revenue than in previous years.

It is true that Ealing's CPZ permit fees are currently cheaper than Brent, Hounslow and Hammersmith. If the proposals come into affect then we will be on par with them but the Council is using this as a smoke-screen to hide other parking changes that will badly affect some residents such as visitors.

Liberal Democrats believe that any future increases are capped by inflation to show residents we are not using parking as a revenue goldmine. If they then claim at there will be no 'profit' from these price changes then we demand that any surplus from the changes must be ploughed into sustainable transport methods like cycling.

I think the issue of visitor permits is a very important part of this because the price increase will cause a lot more grief as many visitors are not used to a local area where they often do not live. Not just the increase but that carers will find it more difficult as some are family (non-paid) carers. The Council should either: a) avoid an increase of this amount; or b) delay an increase over a number of years so residents can better prepare. Liberal Democrats also believe we need to have a scheme for carers or medical staff permits like Hammersmith or Hounslow do.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Southfield police AGM meeting update

This evening I attended the annual general meeting of the local Southfield Ward police Panel. This is the body made up of up to 15 elected residents, the local police team, local councillors plus the local park ranger and other Council staff.

The meeting gave a chance for residents to ask questions of the police about what they have been doing in the past year and what their priorities might be for the coming year (currently they focus on burglary, anti-social behaviour and car crime).

The police informed residents that burglary rates were down in the area compared to neighbouring areas and last years figures. However they said many crimes such as burglary and stolen items from vehicles can be reduced by being more careful. This could be removing items from cars or not leaving car keys within reach of the letter box (where some criminals use a magnet on a stick!). To reduce burglary it is always sensible to check you haven’t left a door ajar. Sounds obvious but don't give the criminals an easy ride.

The group has set up a website where you can find information about the Southfield Neighbourhood Watch activities:

The funding for this came from a local Council committee where myself, Councillors Harvey Rose and Andrew Steed decide on the fund of local projects. This Wednesday (29th) the meeting will be held to discuss the funding of other local projects. It takes place from 7.30pm at Acton Green Church Hall, Cunnington Street, W4. All welcome.

At the end of the evening about 12 residents were elected on to the panel so there will be space for another three residents who want to get involved in reducing crime in the area. If you want to hear more about how you can get involved do contact me using

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Did Labour make the right choice today?

Some may have seen on TV that the Labour party selected a new Leader in Ed Miliband. From my perhaps biased point of view the whole three or four month campaign seemed rather boring with no exciting comments from the candidates, bar a few moments from Diane Abbott.

New leaders tend to get an easy first few months while people work out what policies they might wish to change. But one thing is clear that whoever was to become the new leader of the Labour party seemed to have no appologies for the financial mess they left our country in.

And since the new coalition government took charge the Labour party in opposition have blamed everything on everyone else without wanting to accept any responsibility.

A leader in opposition needs not to against everything but should be proactive and create positive policy, offering new possibilities on how an administration should run its affairs. The Liberal Democrats in Ealing do that and since the local elections this May we have put forward many positive ideas - two of which have been accepted and so we look to see how they introduce these ideas (treating residents like customers via a Council Customer Charter and to invest in better IT so that the council can both save money and run many services more reliably).

We wait to see whether Labour nationally take their heads out of the sand like the proverbial ostrich.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Cricket anyone?

I just heard the last cricket match of the season for the team I play for was cancelled today due to lack of numbers. Sad news.

I was looking forward to playing another game before the end of season break. In the game last weekend I played quite well (I am never the best cricketer in the team) and got a wicket as well as hitting my first 6 for the team. It made a quick 12 before being clean bowled. I did at least raise the run rate and it allowed the next batsman to play in a less risky fashion before we won the close game.

Even the fast bowler shook my hand when I had hit the ball over the rope. I amazed myself - and my team mates. I get quite a few fours but have never got a six for my team. I smiled before I soon lost my wicket.

I shall look forward to the pre-season training in 6 months' time.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Do you think Ealing Council cares about what you think! Really?

Many residents, over many years, have complained that Ealing Council has either ignored their views or never asked what they think about important issues.
The Council is currently in the middle of a process where it will create a policy called a Local Development Framework (LDF). This will be the guide for what will be allowed or not when developers or others want to alter our borough. It will cover issues such as whether we want to see lots of large buildings or whether the Council might wish to see more housing instead of parks.
This is the most important set of documents Ealing Council will adopt for decades, as they will affect Ealing up to and beyond 2026. The Council has arranged to start what it calls a consultation process over the next few months. In reality though it is a few meetings where a handful of people will attend to discuss questions where the Council have already decided what the answers are.
There are only eight meetings, with only one about transport and none about the provision of heath or education services in Ealing. Very few people know about them (hence me using this opportunity to raise the profile of the meetings), which makes the process a charade. For more information please see the link:
The Liberal Democrats believe the Council should be far more proactive and consult residents and local businesses properly, in a way to really find what they want from our different town centres whether it be Greenford in the north of borough, to Southall in west, or Acton in the East.
A more proactive method would be to consult using a wider range of methods such as ward Forums; face-to-face surveys at residents’ homes; telephone surveys; street or shopping centre ‘intercepts’ and citizens’ juries.
The previous Conservative administration set up a scrutiny committee relating to the LDF. However, they decided they didn’t want any residents’ or other local groups to be formally involved, such as the Ealing Civic Society, Southall Community Alliance, or the Park Royal Partnership. That is arrogance and this “I know best” attitude will not do.
The Council recently pledged to set up an advisory body to guide the process.  Liberal Democrats have pressed and are waiting for this to be formed by the Labour-run Ealing Council.  If one is not set up soon, it is further evidence the Council does not want to hear views from its tax-payers.
Unless the Council addresses the shortcomings of the LDF consultation process, it will be seen as being fatally flawed. Without open discussion on these issues there must be serious doubt on whether Ealing is complying with the requirements of the legislation.
Ealing Council’s “Statement of Community Involvement” seems fine, but it is never followed through with the consultation that will yield a proper understanding of what Ealing needs and wants. Only the Liberal Democrats believe this is crucial.  Let us see some action now!

Ealing Council's Council cashback not seen as being successful

At a Council meeting last night which I attended, the "Value for Money" committee heard evidence from a number of politicians and council staff. After the evidence it was agreed that the Conservative Council's £50 cashback scheme was not seen as being successful.

Some said the cashback was a bribe on the electorate before the local elections and many residents wanted to see local parks and buildings to be improved like Gunnersbury Park or the Priory Community Centre.

The evidence indicated that the Council did not fully explore some of these options. The committee agreed that there was no proper measurements to determine whether the cashback was a success or not. As a school teacher would say - a D-plus grade!