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Friday, 25 March 2011

LibDem Response to Ealing Council’s plans to redevelop Acton Town Hall

I think we all agree that the regeneration of Acton is needed, as do many areas within the borough. The comments relate to the recent policies published by Ealing Council and those that have come to Cabinet.

Town Hall site
Like the pool it is crucial that the heritage aspects of the building are retained. It would be helpful to have a balance of retail space, plus housing to raise some funds but we need to ensure that the community space is of a varied range of sizes to accommodate a range of activities whether that be of a sporting, educational or  community type.

For example there is a shortage of space for particular sports, such as basketball, which are popular elsewhere. Outdoor sports is indeed a need. Maybe space could be offered as play area for a school on the Priory Centre, which could also use the magistrate’s court building. 

The Council needs to make far more of the fact that if the plans go ahead as is proposed, Acton will lose its public performance space. The reduced amount of space in the Kings Rooms (when compared to the area in the Priory) will mean, in the Council’s words “more intensive use” (i.e. more sharing).  Will the various users be able to operate satisfactorily in this more confined area? Local organisations should not be forced to travel into central Ealing for such facilities.

There needs to be proactively to see what can be done to enable arts groups to be involved in using community space.

Given what appear to be very low (an underestimate of) property valuations this is driving more of the building to be sold off for housing that does not add to the community aspect of the Acton regeneration project.

There are a number of public houses in Acton and it would be better to avoid attracting more public houses.

Priory Community Centre
It is clear that this is much more than just a building; it is a diverse set of community associations who provide a number of important services to residents whether they are parents’ groups, children’s services or cultural groups, and they all contribute greatly to the social fabric of Acton.

Our view is that the Priory Centre is not the right location for housing. It should be renovated and kept as a community centre that is more accessible or converted into a joint Primary school (in the day) and a community centre (evening). Multi-use is a better way to use buildings and this site is one where this is realistic.

Within the current plans to move the community space to Acton Town Hall, this brings a number of issues – a smaller space for some large community activities; possibly pricing community groups out of the area; some groups may not exist if they have to wait until the Town Hall is converted. Therefore there needs to be a way to temporarily allow current Priory users to use a building in the area such as a Magistrates Court (the Council must be proactive on this) as well as offering a priority booking system given the long nature of their existence.

How is the Council going to honour the undertakings to the present occupants of the Priory Centre that they would not be moved out until the new space for them was available? So far there is little confidence in Ealing Council as they do not seem to be willing to make any guarantees to the current user groups.

Swimming Pool
We think it would be better to retain a 33 metre however if the space can be used to ensure that a greater number of facilities can be installed then the proposed 25m pool plus trainer pool might be workable.

It is crucial to however ensure that the heritage aspects of the pool are retained as you cannot bring back aspects of a building, once destroyed.

The current library is not adequate but a new library needs to be guaranteed as part of the proposal given the recent consultation on libraries. A new library on the Town Hall site needs to really be used as a magnet to attract its use. This is more than just having a good level of computers and related IT but offers other services that can raise footfall.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Regeneration Projects in Ealing Borough

Myself and other Liberal Democrat councillors met the manager at Ealing Council who is responsible for the developments in Ealing. The items discussed were:

  • The need to ensure that when the Acton Town Hall redevelopment occurs that current users of the Priory Community Centre are not forced to move out with no guarantee of future secure bookings as well as not being charged a fortune for hiring community space. Also the heritage of the buildings need to be maintained or else Acton's culture will be destroyed.
  • Crossrail and an Ealing Broadway Transport Interchange - I maintained that the Council need to "aim high" so that we can work to ensure we get a proper interchange given the huge number of residents and commuters who use the station. The council appear to be happy to accept a second best approach. Let's hope and fight for something more than just rearranging the bus stops around Haven Green
  • It appears that the court case to decide the lease of Hanwell Community Centre will take place in September. Usually an agreement occurs in the coridoors of the courts between the lawyers but this time it appears that both sides cannot find a suitable middle ground. Sad that lawyers are making all this money when perhaps some of it is ultimately diverted from community projects.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Acton Green Residents Association AGM

I have just come back from an AGRA AGM.

Good to hear and summarise some of the years' local events. Many issues were raised:

  • The local 94 bus service which had a lot of new and quieter buses introduced seem to be working. This showed that listening to the consultation viewpoints was the right choice. People seem to be happy about this issue.
  • People happy no Heathrow expansion (a good coalition policy)
  • There appeared to be a shocked silence when I mentioned that about 80% of the Council budget reductions were efficiency savings. So only 20% were actual cuts. I mentioned that the Lib Dems fought with some success to reduce the full cuts to the Park Ranger services.
  • Trees - money spent by the local ward committee I chair yeilded about 50 new trees. Most people wanted them and are happy. Not everyone though. Basically the new trees are smaller and do not tend to cause any issues. The older trees are the ones which cause structural problems with walls and buildings.
  • A Council Tax freeze.
  • I mentioned a review which will take place in the next 12 months concerning Controlled Parking Zones. My party were against the huge increase in parking permit and visitors voucher permits. We wanted a system where any increase would be inflationary.
That's enough ed. Time to watch some World Cup cricket.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Update from Ealing Council's cabinet meeting tonight...‏

At tonight's meeting the Conservative leader wasn't present and his two colleagues did not give any explanation. Since he is giving his Leadership up, in about a months' time, he might be fed up with attending important meetings?

The items which I spoke to or were interesting are as follows:

1/    I welcomed the Council's plans to invest in Information Technology - this is something the Tories are against!

2/    The Council plan to have about 60 of their [current] staff wear florescent tops which apparently now means they will be uniformed officers. This gimmik means that Labour will meet one of their local election pledges. On this item I used some basic maths to show that 1+9+9+60 does not equal 90 (numbers of council officers and police in the council reports). The Labour councillor then squirmed as he juggled some figures not in the report show that the report was accurate. In the end it would have been easier if the report was accurate, avoiding the Labour councillor from having to explain himself in a defensive manner. A suggestion I took from Councillor Jon Ball that Special Constables should get a discount in Council Tax to encourage more people to become Special Officers, was not accepted by the Labour Councillors sadly. The Council plan is that they are reducing the number of PCSOs and replacing with a few PCs. They are also altering the structure of how the council staff and police officers work together.

3/    It was agreed to set up a Consultation Panel to discuss borough Planning items. This has been something we have pressed the Council to do for about 6 months. It was confirmed that each political party will be represented - it is likely that Jon Ball will be our representative on the panel. The Panel will select at its first meeting a number of community representatives.

4/    On a transport related item I raised the issue of the proposed Transport Interchange at Ealing Broadway. The budgeted sum of £100,000 will be spent on a combination of a cycle hub and work to plan for what is needed for tranport improvements at Ealing Broadway station. I said this wasn't bold enough and what Ealing needed was to have a station that is fully accessible and not money wasted on re-arranging the bus stops. We await what the money actually is spent on as it might just be spent on doing what Transport for London want to do (which will give us little improvement on this matter). I added that the monies for improving cycling and increasing car clubs usage was helpful to a better transport system.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Why Ealing should vote yes to AV

The LibDems in Ealing are supporting the YES campaign as part of the voting reform referendum which takes place on Thursday 5th May 2011.

The YES campaign is a collection of those from many political parties - Labour, Liberal Democrats, the Greens, UKIP, a number of Conservatives, as well as those who don't support any particular party. For example one Conservative MP, John Strafford, has been very out-spoken in favour of AV. AV is currently used to elect the Mayor of London so you may be familiar with the system.

The referendum will ask people in the UK whether they want to elect their Members of Parliament (MPs) via the current system (First Past the Post) or via a fairer system called Alternative Vote (AV).
AV works by electing one MP for each constituency after voters select the candidates in their preferred order (1,2,3 etc). Anyone getting more than 50% in the first round is elected, otherwise the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their backers' second choices allocated to those remaining. This simple process continues until a winner emerges.

The current system is a dinosaur of an electoral system. It locks in safe seats so if you are unfortunate to live in one of the eighty percent of constituencies in this country that for generations have been represented by only one political party (such as Ealing Southall) that you don’t support, then tough! Your vote won’t count.
What happens if you like more than one candidate and would like to express this at the ballot box? Tough!

Using Ealing Central & Acton as an example, AV is a system that would encourage candidates and parties to campaign across the whole constituency. If a party concentrated on just Central Ealing then those residents in Acton and Chiswick would probably not support that candidate. A party who worked the whole area would be more likely to win the support of local residents.

If we look at recent opinion polls the YES campaign is ahead, but there are a large number of Ealing residents who are undecided. That is why I wrote this article so more people can get information about the referendum. A representative from the polling company, YouGov, said: "Momentum seems to have shifted in the Yes campaign’s direction."

Please take a look at the website:

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Lib Dem Councillor Attends a Borough Neighbourhood Watch meeting

I attended an event organised by the Ealing Police to thank volunteers who are neighbourhood watch co-ordinators. The event covered a lot of neighbourhood watch co-ordinators from around the borough of Ealing. There was a lot from Southfield which made me feel proud. The police in my ward were credited as being in the top two of most active wards!

At the evening event, police gave some great advice about:

1. Reducing fraud and other scams

2. How to get legitimate Olympic Games tickets - only via

3. What the Licencing police team do - they inspect a huge number of venues to ensure that food and drink sold is not contaminated or counterfit. Some advise was that many cheap vodkas sold in corner shops contain bleached anti-freeze!

4. The local Southfield ward team led by Sergeant Helene Holloway acted out scenes to show how you can avoid being caught out by what is called a distraction crime (a person tricks their way into a property and then steals small items while the owner is upstairs). Often the tricksters pretend to be gas or water inspectors. Always fasten your chain if you have one on your door and demand to see their ID - then call the company using the phone number in your phone book (and not the one on their ID as that is often an associate of the villain).

If you get a leaflet through the door about  Neighbourhood Watch or from the police then make sure you read it as it might contain a lot of great and simple ways to reduce crime in your area.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

LibDems Put Front-line Council Jobs & Libraries Ahead of a Car Park

The Ealing Liberal Democrats at tonight’s Council Tax meeting put forward proposals to save 6 Park Rangers, 4 Enviro-crime officers, Libraries in Hanwell and Perivale as well as spend money on improving our pavements and roads, instead of spending £5.5 million on a car park in Southall that seems unlikely to be used frequently.

The Labour-run Council turned down the proposal and so we will now see library closures, Park Ranger cuts and Enviro-crime officer cuts.

We put forward an amendment to protect front-line jobs that the Labour party decided to cut. The Park Rangers and Enviro-crime Officers will help ensure that our parks and streets are cleaner and safer. The Liberal Democrat amendment would also mean that we would reduce our long-term debt. Quite simply it is a question of whether you want a car park that no-one seems to want to use, or Park Rangers that really look after our parks.