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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Sign our Ealing Broadway petition...

As many Ealing residents know, Ealing Broadway station is no longer fit for purpose. The rebuilding of the station for Crossrail is a once in lifetime opportunity to make it a proper transport interchange we can be proud of, like at Hammersmith.  Successive Tory and Labour administrations have failed to show leadership on this issue so I am launching a petition demanding a full integrated transport interchange at Ealing Broadway.

I spoke about this issue to the Ealing Gazette recently: read the article about Ealing Broadway station

After more inaction from Ealing Council the Liberal Democrats have set up a petition. It reads:
"We demand that the plans to rebuild Ealing Broadway station for Crossrail must provide a fully integrated Public Transport Interchange. It must have improved access and escalator links between buses, cycles, taxis and trains similar to Hammersmith."

Please sign here: Ealing Broadway petition

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A boisterous Southfield ward forum tonight...

At the Southfield ward forum there was a lot of items on the agenda. It was the first time in a year where we over-ran - but very few people left so the extra items were well worth taking.

The first main item was a chance to hear from the founder of, and children from, Chiswick's W4 Youth, an organsiation who the ward gave about £10,000 to fund enquipment so local teens could get together and have fun. The feedback was amazing and tey have come on leaps and bounds from when we first gave them the money. It personally (and everyone in the room) must be the best £10,000 the Council has ever spent.

Next we discussed some items we are to spend some of the ward's budget on such items as a feasibility study into a crossing on Southfield Road near the Rec. Lots of people had lots to say especially about how to spend £20,000 we won due to an increased rate. My party want to see some of it used to further increase recycling rates. Any ideas please email me on or tweet me @CllrGaryMalcolm

The third main item was when the meeting got rather loud and boisterous. We had invited a council officer responsible for trees to explain why the trees were recently severely cut leaving pretty much the trunk (with no branches or leaves). We managed to get the officer who patiently answered a lot of tricky questions to give a committment that Southfield ward would not have their trees pruned in Spring again (given the problems we have this Spring as well as 6 years ago as well).

Lastly the important issue of the user groups (playgroups etc) of the Priory Community Centre who appear to be getting the boot from the Priory Centre with no real chance for them to be suitably re-housed in Acton whilst the work that might take place to provide for a primary school takes place. The lady who raised the issue has set up an online petition. Please fill it in:

I signed the paper versiom after the meeting had elapsed.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Special Council Meeting on Libraries and Cuts Affecting the Vulnerable

Today's meeting was a long one. I left to prepare for another meeting tomorrow night but the two main items discussed were on libraries and about cuts to the Council's Taxi-card service which allows many vulnerable residents cheaper taxi fare to get around.

In the libraries debate there was a discussion where the Labour councillor in charge of libraries appeared to say that four libraries were saved (in the short term) but maybe not in the future. There was a lot of talk about some being run not by paid staff but by residents doing it as a voluntary service. This sounds nice but very rarely does it ever work.

Next there was the item where the Council wanted to intitute a lot of cuts in the Taxi-card service. This would affect many disabled, elderly and vulnerable residents. The council are simply pushing up the cost that they pay which will mean many will not be able to go out as often. The item was added to the agenda as the Liberal Democrats "called in" the decision which means a committee would discuss it and make recommendations. Sadly the committee voted along party lines - so Labour rejected the proposals from myself and agreed to make the cuts. The amount of money the cuts would save is not that much and so when vulnerable people's life experiences are at stake sometimes you have to vote with your concience. Shame on Labour.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

BBQ by the Southfield Park Triangle Residents' Association

This afternoon was a great day. Good weather and a local residents' association held a great BBQ with a raffle at the end.

There was a face-painting event but I refused to have mine done - perhaps I should have done so. Maybe next time!

At the event was the local police seargent and a PCSO as well as fellow ward Councillor Andrew Steed. We chatted about a local ward meeting we have this coming Wednesday.

The food was great. The combination of hotdogs / beef-burgers and a choice of cakes was very nice. Washed down with wine or beer. The table of cakes was amazing. So many residents donated cakes to the stall and there was about twenty different types of cakes. Being diabetic I only had one slice of one cake, but my eyes wanted some of each cake.

Then at the end there was a raffle. I missed out on the top 3 prizes but did win a bottle of vodka. So can't complain.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Liberal Democrats Warn Of Another Tram Plan For West London

You may be interested to learn that Ken Livingstone has pledged to return to the question of a new tram line to Ealing, if elected as Mayor next year.

The Tottenham & Wood Green Journal reported that Ken wants a new tram scheme for North and West London. He is reported as saying “trams could stretch from Wembley and Ealing to Wood Green, so commuters are no longer forced to travel into London and out again.”

No mention was made in the report of whether there was any reference to the north and west London light rail scheme, about which Ealing Council passed a supportive resolution originally moved by Liberal Democrat Councillor Jon Ball on 21st April 2010, or to the West London orbital underground plan.

Ealing Liberal Democrats vigorously opposed Ken Livingstone’s plan for a west London tram when he was Mayor, because it would have caused massive disruption to much of Ealing and failed to provide any net new transport capacity on the busy Uxbridge Road corridor.  We have noted his new comments and would again oppose any similar plan.

We do however urge the Mayor of London – and Ealing Council – to give priority to developing Ealing Broadway station as a serious transport hub for Ealing, with a genuine integrated rail/bus/tube interchange and orbital links such as could be provided by the North & West London light rail scheme, or the West London orbital underground proposal.

I say that Ealing badly needs a transport strategy that will serve the needs of the borough and its residents, and avoid the risk that Crossrail, when it comes, will merely turn the town centre into a massive dormitory for City workers. Ealing Broadway has to be the heart of the borough, and the station its gateway. This is now the time to bring forward a plan to achieve this.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Mayor urged to take immediate action to tackle the vile trade of children being trafficked into London via St Pancras International

Dee Doocey has been hard at work here. At Mayor’s Question Time Dee Doocey highlighted how lax the current checks were for young children being brought into London via St Pancras International.

You can watch Dee Doocey question the Mayor here.

Dee Doocey commented: “We need to close down each and every loophole that allow the vile trade of child trafficking to operate. I welcome the Mayor’s commitment to look at this issue and he must now act to ensure the Met’s excellent specialist team which tackles child trafficking at Heathrow will now have a permanent base at St Pancras International.”

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Art on the Underground - how about some trains?

I am reliably informed that man doth not live by bread alone and I'm all for some public subsidy of the arts, but...if Transport for London is cash-strapped, does it really now have several thousand pounds to spend on art on the Central Line? I'm sure it's all marvellous, but what budget is this coming from?

At a time when London Underground can't say where it will find the money to fund the Piccadilly Line upgrade, how come they can say where they will find the money for this new art project? We do have to make hard choices when it comes to what we spend public money on, and I question whether this should be the top priority for London Underground at present.

We've previously had Philosophy on the Underground, which I am not making up and which was surely nothing more than noise pollution, and now this latest Art on the Underground - could I propose that such things might now "be subject to a short delay to even out gaps in the service"?

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Confirmation that Four of Ealing Libraries Are to be Saved‏

At the main Council meeting last night after a lot of pressure from residents' groups and ourselves, the Labour council reversed its decisions to close Perivale, Hanwell, Northfields and Northolt libraries. They will be shutting the mobile library. This is a significant victory for all of us and we need to tell people how we played our part in it. On this night Councillor Nigel Bakhai made a speech welcoming the U-turn on libraries.

Earlier on in the evening Councillor Andrew Steed asked a question about the Thames Tunnel project which will improve the water quality in London (by reducing sewage in the Thames). The problem in Acton and Chiswick is that the council have appeared to accept one proposed site (near Acton Vale) which would probably mean some compulsary purchasing of homes. Andrew invited the Labour councillor and officer to attend a local meeting so they can hear the issues.

A large petition from a resident prompted Councillor Harvey Rose to make a speech about a building in Acton next to Springbridge Park which might be knocked down for flats. The issue is whether the Council should enforce a so-called covenant (used to protect land from being used in certain ways eg to keep land for parkland). The council declined to make a decision so we await a swift action from the Leader of the Council who promised to ensure that a decision would be made (to enforce the covenent or amend it to allow some development).

Later in the evening there was a speech on what the Council calls its Corporate Plan. It is a "motherhood and apple-pie" document where I gave an appraisal of Labour's last year in power (in the form of a head-teacher). I creditted them for some actions but attacked them for some of their budget savings (cuts). Councillor Jon Ball followed up with a more detailed criticism of the Council for not supporting a borough Arts Centre, leading the charge for a proper Transport Interchange and giving about 90 members of Council staff florescent uniforms (and then saying they have more uniformed staff!)

Saturday, 11 June 2011

London Conservatives try to explain their GLA walk-out

Yesterday I wrote about plans to debate air pollution and cycling safety in London were axed at the London Assembly after Conservative members walked out.

Since then, however, the Conservatives Assembly members have been at sixes and sevens over why they walked out. Andrew Boff claimed it was in protest at the Conservatives not being allocated any committee chairs.

There are only two problems with this.

First, his colleague Richard Tracey in fact gave a completely different explanation - saying they walked out because they didn't get their way on an earlier motion on a different topic.

And second, it's not true the Conservatives don't have any committee chairs. Meet Roger Evans and Victoria Borwick.

Nothing quite like an explanation that ignores two of your colleagues and is contradicted by a third is there?

The Concervative's behaviour here remind me of a day about two years ago in Ealing where the Labour party walked out before an important debate about large redevelopment in Acton. It had implications about a local and well-used community centre. We had the debate but Labour were no where to be seen. Shame on them.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Conservative walk-out axes debates on air pollution and cycling safety

Next time you hear any Conservatives talk about clean air or road safety, please don't assume that they actually have any interest in those things - not if their latest behaviour at the London Assembly is anything to go by. As the Standard reports, the Assembly's Tory members yesterday walked out of a meeting before motions on these things could be debated, meaning that the meeting was inquorate, so no debate could take place. How is that democratic? I could understand if the Tories wanted to debate these matters, disagree with others, and then vote against the motions at the end, although I support the motions myself - that's democracy. But walking out, to prevent a debate taking place - that's just childish and deeply undemocratic. And asCaroline Pidgeon has written at Lib Dem Voice, the Tories sadly have a history of this behaviour at the London Assembly.

But then, we've seen similar shenanigans in my own London Borough of Barnet (where the Tories have sadly been elected to run the council) over the years. How often, over the years, have I seen the Tories start a Barnet council meeting by voting to alter the order in which items are listed on the pre-arranged agenda, so that opposition motions don't get debated after all? It stinks. People vote Tory on auto-pilot and then complain about how the council is run, without seeming to notice the connection: if you elect these Tories, then you get these Tories, and if you don't like what they are doing, then you should vote for somebody else.

My Lib Dem colleague Mark Pack has also written interestingly about this.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Last night's cabinet meeting

Last night was the Council's cabinet meeting where the Labour administration make the official decisions. Myself and the Conservative party as opposition have the right to ask questions about their decisions. The main items that came up in the meeting were:

1/ Acton Town Hall redevelopment - I asked about why the Council in the report in one section are open to having a school and a community centre and in another section indicates it wants to sell the Priory for housing! The Leader of the Council indicated (without giving a proper answer to my first questions) that in the July meeting they will make a firm decision. Based upon that decision we can decide whether we are happy with the Council's plans.

2/ Taxicard Consultation and recommendations - this relates to a service Transport for London and the Council fund (80% by TfL) to provide taxi for those who tend not to have access to lifts or public transport because of disabilities. The Council consulted and now wish to make more cuts to this service. Given the overall budget is relatively small (in terms of the overall Council budget) it means that the Council should have the control to find money to avoid these types of cuts that affect vulnerable individuals.
3/ Council's financial strategy - it appears that whilst stating all the Council's cuts are due to the government, they themselves (The Council) are adding to the burden by estimating that we need more cuts than are needed. The estimate from the officer was that over the next 3 years between 24 and 32 million pounds is needed to 'break even'. Labour have decided to make cuts to the level of £30 million and so are cutting by 6 million pounds more than they need to!

4/ Energy procurement - I spoke up to congratulate the council on an initiative where the Council will spend £1.5 million pounds in conjunction with another organisation to reduce energy bills by installing devices or altering patterns of use in 6 of the largest Council buildings. The company will guarantee (legally) that over 8 years the 1.5 million will be saved. If not they pay the excess.

5/ Borough Bus review - I raised a number of bus matters amongst the detailed report about lots of chnages to the borough's bus routes. I also raised the matter of how the Council does not seem to interact with residents when discussing new or altered routes. However there is an unofficial (not publicised) committee called the Bus Liaison Group. This was said to involve the Council, TfL, and residents. It therefore needs its profile raised.

6/ Local Implementation Plan - This is the Council's transport plan which is funded by the Mayor of London. I congratulated the Council on its plans for an Ealing Broadway cycle hub but laid into the Council for its weak / tame approach to an Ealing B'way Transport Interchange. The Labour councillor said he was knocking heads together on this (there is no evidence of this).

Friday, 3 June 2011

Council must take the initiative over Ealing Broadway Station

The chance to improve Ealing Broadway station is back in play, after two recent developments.

The first is the collapse of property developers Glenkerrin last month. They owned the lease on Villiers House, the long-vacant building over the station, and the shops and forecourt together with the former BBC car park at the south of Haven Green. These properties have been taken over and will now be sold by Grant Thornton, the administrators. The station site will probably be separated from the Arcadia area also owned by Glenkerrin.

Second, the government has confirmed that Crossrail station improvements are being scaled back. The Transport Minister has told the House of Commons that “the plans for their redevelopment are less ambitious than they were”. This means that the original design for Ealing Broadway, with a new footbridge and escalators to all platforms, has been scrapped.

Is this the end of ambitions to make Ealing Broadway station a transport interchange fit for the 21st Century, and a prestige gateway for a rejuvenated town centre? Significantly, the Minister also said that “Crossrail and the Department for Transport remain happy to work with local authorities to facilitate extra improvements that local authorities might want to fund and deliver to regenerate the surrounding area.”

So the ball is firmly back with Ealing Council. It must quickly produce a regeneration plan for the whole of Ealing town centre in which it takes the initiative, rather than leaving it to speculative developers. Any plan must include a comprehensive redevelopment of the station site. This should cover office and retail opportunities and a properly integrated interchange for easy pedestrian and cycle access between rail, tube, bus and taxi services, reviving the whole area between the railway and Ealing Broadway, while protecting the valuable “lung” of Haven Green.

This opportunity has come about because of pressure from the present national economic situation. But this will not last for ever. We should not expect to be in the same financial difficulties in five years’ time, let alone in 2018 when Crossrail is due to open, or in 2026, the year when Ealing is meant to be delivering on its new Local Development Framework.

So let us have some far-sighted and visionary planning from our Council, looking beyond the next local elections to provide us and future generations with an Ealing worthy of the name of Queen of the Suburbs!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Dodgy statistics on bus crime once again from Boris Johnson

I have seen that Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, has challenged the Mayor of London’s claim about bus crime statistics, accusing him once again of using misleading figures.
In newspapers being distributed by the Mayor's re-election campaign across London, Boris Johnson has put his name to claims that bus crime has significantly fallen over the last three years and that “across London crime on buses has fallen by 30%” and buses are some of the “safest in Europe”.
An examination of the most recent crime statistics published by Transport for London actually reveals that:
·       In more than one third of London Boroughs (11 out of 32) crime on buses actually rose in the last year  (April 2010 to March 2011)
·       Some boroughs have seen significant increases in bus crime, including Barking and Dagenham (17.8%), Tower Hamlets (11.5%) Merton (9%), Hammersmith and Fulham (8%), Southwark (5.2%) and Greenwich (4.2%).
Commenting on the figures Caroline Pidgeon said:
“Just three months ago the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority warned Boris Johnson that the way the Mayor of London was using the bus crime data could ‘be damaging to public trust in the statistics’.
“Sadly the Mayor has totally ignored this warning and is up to his old tricks of using misleading figures.   It is simply wrong to suggest that bus crime is falling across the whole of London, when in fact in more than one third of boroughs it is increasing - and in some boroughs significantly.”
“Even where there has been some fall in the figures there should be no grounds for complacency about the level of crime on London’s buses.  Bus crime is a problem everywhere , and in far too many places it is a growing problem.
“The Mayor must stop spinning dubious claims and get on with the job of making Londoners safer on public transport throughout London".
I think given Boris' lack of management skills in what must be one the most important jobs in the UK he should give it up and let someone with more ability take charge.