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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!