Search This Blog

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Labour Council Cuts Park Rangers & Enviro-crime Officers

I attended the Council's cabinet meeting last night and a number of important decisions were made. Some good things occured but the second half of the meeting was spoilt due to a meague back-track on the previously touted 50% cut to both Park Rangers and the enviro-crime officers.

These front-line members of staff do so much to keep our borough safer and ensuring our parks are in a better position. There was a back-track where 2 park ranger roles will be retained so the cut is more like 35% than 50% but the enviro-crime officers are halved in number meaning incidences of fly-tipping might be expected to rise. Liberal Democrats believe that front-line roles should be retained and savings found elsewhere like slashing a Council internal magazine.

Other policy announcements included:

  • The voluntary grants budget is to be cut by 30% and not the 35% as detailed in the reports. I welcomed the move but said the movement should be more given the nature and vulnerability of those who often need grants;
  • The Council will raise council rents by 4.7% (a freeze in real terms) - all the parties present agreed to this. The coalition government recommended we increase by 6% (1.3% above inflation) but this is a bad move in the current climate.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Comment on local Tory Leader stepping down...‏

You might not expect politicians from rival political parties saying something nice about them.

However I wish Jason [Stacey] well with his future activities. Jason is a competent politician and served Ealing well as Leader of the Council for four years. I think it will be interesting times for the local Conservatives when they choose a new Leader as they tend to begrudge being in opposition.

The Liberal Democrats see opposition or running Ealing Council as a chance to put forward positive ideas and since May have successfully managed to get more investment into the Council's IT system and for the introduction of a Customer Care Charter.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Ealing set to expand a number of schools and an Acton Town consultation

I attended an important council meeting where two important issueswere raised:

The first is that the Council is to increase a number of schools to cover some of the capacity needed due to the recent higher birth rates in Ealing. Even though the area around each school has local issues I spoke to the meeting about the issue of how children currently get to school as well as when there are more parents taking their kids to larger schools.

There needs to be more effort from both the Council, schools and parents to see how more pupils can get to schools without using cars given the current congestion levels around many schools. Liberal Democrats want to see more "walk to school" initiatives and more buses running to serve particular schools.

The second issue affecting all of those in Acton and many areas of Chiswick. This is the Council plan to redevelop Acton Town.

I raised some issues about the need for the council to clarify what it will cover in the consultation that will occur in the next 6 weeks. The Council wants to either sell off the Priory Community Centre for housing or to convert into a primary school (a Liberal Democrat idea). Other parts of the plan are to turn parts of the Town Hall into a gym, cafe, office and community space. The Labour councillor responsible for this (Leader of the council) area seemed not to be too interesting in ensuring that there was a clear aim for the consultation.

Presumably the administration wish to consult the wide set of groups they will but with a biased or a limited set of options for residents or groups who may want to state their views. He did state that the consultation which he conceded should be done also using local websites would allow residents to give their views on all matters howevever they may rule out non planning related comments. We shall look to see. The consultation will last 6 weeks starting in a week or so's time.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Let’s walk not talk

As we start a new year and the snow has melted away we need to have a proper vision of how we can improve our transport network in Ealing.

Following the May elections, the new Coalition Government brought us welcome news that we will not have the blight of a larger Heathrow airport, saving us of much air pollution and extra noise disturbance.

We also saw that funding for Crossrail has been assured, bringing better transport connections to our borough as well as investment. But we need to capitalise on this opportunity and ensure we have a transport interchange at Ealing Broadway which will cope with the resulting large increase in passengers.

The current plans from Ealing Council are totally inadequate. Liberal Democrats believe that we need to aim high and look to see where the money can be found for a proper solution, before agreeing to something that is little more than shuffling a few buses around Haven Green.

The first step would be to deal with the problem of poor access to stations, especially for the disabled. We believe that this and all other Crossrail stations in the borough should have suitable step-free interchanges. Only by linking up different types of public transport can we really encourage others to use cars less.

The Council should more proactively encourage more walking around the borough, through the planning and provision of traffic free areas and more frequent and safer crossings.

Cyclists are suffering at the moment with roads that have so many potholes or uneven surfaces that it make it dangerous going even a relatively short distance. Cycling is cheap to encourage, helps people live healthy lives and at the same time reduces traffic levels on our congested roads.

In my ward, covering Acton and Chiswick, we have funded many cycling improvements. Liberal Democrats want to see Ealing Council match-funding more such projects via ward fora. The Council should ensure that more cycling infrastructure is joined up and in places that make cycling safer not just pretty. We welcome some of Ealing’s recent announcements regarding cycling but we need to see action not just press releases.

However because so much transport relies on finance from the London Mayor, we need to assess what he has done in the past two years:
·         Only one new orbital bus route. Outer London needs more orbital routes to encourage regeneration in Ealing
·         Cancelled the escalator at Greenford station
·         Tube station ticket office closures – a loss of over 7000 hours per week
·         No improved North - South routes to link Greenford and Northolt into Ealing’s town centre
·         The cycling initiatives are central London focussed, very expensive and have not yielded the expected uptake in cycling.

So my party wants to see Ealing Council join the Mayor in making a New Year’s resolution: plan a wonderful new transport interchange for Ealing Broadway, with action to provide better access NOW.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Well done to England in winning the Ashes!

It was a great day (or night) seeing England win the Ashes. Many late evenings and drinks of coffee staying up through the night to see us move from an acadmeic chance of victory to the actual win.

Well done to England captain Andrew Strauss on his and the team's success.

When we had won I emailed my cricket team (includes those who did play and now live back in their native countries) - not a single Australian replied.