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Friday, 29 July 2011

Liberal Democrats Quiz Empire’s Chief Exec Over Ealing Cinema

At Thursday’s Ealing Council scrutiny meeting, Lib Dem councillor Jon Ball, quizzed Empire Boss Justin Ribbons about the reasons for Empire’s prolonged delay in rebuilding Ealing Cinema. Mr Ribbons said he was committed to building the cinema and blamed the Council’s planners for the delays. Planning officers said Empire had been slow to respond at every stage.

Lib Dem Jon Ball said: “What matters is looking to the future and not the past. Mr Ribbons needs to make good his pledge to proceed with the cinema, which is what everyone in Ealing wants.”

I think actions speak louder than words - so let's see some action Empire. And let's see the Council and Empire work together and not like children.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Liberal Democrats Slam Ealing Council’s Priory Centre Decision

At last night’s Council Scrutiny meeting Liberal Democrat Councillor Andrew Steed presented the case for Ealing Council to review its decision to force the user groups of the Priory Centre from where they have been for decades.

Councillor Andrew Steed said that the 60 or more community groups need to be guaranteed community space in Acton before they move from the Priory Centre whilst the new primary school is built.

The meeting discovered that the Liberal Democrat idea of renting the Magistrate’s Court in the short term had not been investigated. This would allow the current Priory User groups to have an Acton location to move to whilst renovation works occur.

It was also suggested that the Council look at whether it is possible to renovate the Priory Centre into a school whilst some of the building is used for community groups’ activity. The Labour councillors voted not to investigate this possible option.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor Andrew Steed said: “The Council have backtracked on a previous promise and so they need to show the Priory Centre User groups that they are serious about not causing them future inconvenience. Liberal Democrats believe that it would make sense to delay the overall project so that the school can be built in the short term whilst the current users are housed in Acton Town Hall. If this means that the developments takes a bit longer then so be it – the Priory Centre user groups have given so much to Acton.”

Transparency at The Met is Long Overdue

Dee Doocey, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly policing spokesperson and member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, has commented today on the statement from Tim Godwin, Acting Commissioner for the Met at today's MPA Full Authority meeting,  that in future the Met will adopt a similar scheme for recording gifts and hospitality as which currently operates for the Mayor of London and London Assembly members said:
“Currently the Met's online register of gifts and hospitality for senior police officers and staff has more holes than a sieve and is often months, if not years out of date.”
"I therefore welcome the very clear statement by the Acting Commissioner that a new open and transparent system for recording all meetings and hospitality within the Met will be put in place in the very near future and will be available online.  This is long overdue."
Dee is totally correct. All public servants should have to declare gifts if they might give rise to concerns about their integrity.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Cuts to Vulnerable Services, Council Finances and the Council’s New Household Waste Contract

At last night's Cabinet meeting a number of topics were discussed. The main items which have relevance to us all are:

1/ Financial Update Report:
The Council are increasing, not reducing, a number of their reserve accounts. This means they are saving money (for rainy day) instead of using it now to reduce the amount of cuts in areas that affect vulnerable people.

Relating to the economy probably most of us realise that it IS raining and we have our umbrellas out. This might be a Labour-minded strategy to save money now for a project later on in this electoral cycle or again trot out the line that the national government are forcing these cuts, so Ealing will have to make these cuts - and then they blame the Government.

Ealing Council as each council across the country needs to stop blaming others and get on with focusing its attention on protecting services for the vulnerable and keep as many front-line roles as is possible. This Council has not done this.

2/ Contract re-tender for collecting of household waste, recyclables and maintaining our parks:

Over the past year Ealing Council has been re-tendering its largest contract which covers many areas which we see each day – collecting our household waste, cleaning our streets and parks. The main details of the contract will be:

It was won by Enterprise Managed Services Ltd who have a record it appears to be doing similar contracts with many other local authorities
The contract will be a 15 year deal with a 7 year clause which would allow it to be ended if things are not going very well.
I asked a question about the new targets for street cleansing and other areas and the lead Labour councillor said that they have a target of 100% for roads being swept adequately and waste collected correctly.
The roads will be swept the same day (but after) as the waste is collected
The white plastics recycling bags will go but more or larger green boxes will appear.
Interestingly it may be that Labour now want to have a fortnightly collection of household waste. In the report it stated that this is something they may wish to implement. I do recall the Liberal Democrats and the other two Ealing political parties all said they were not happy with a fortnightly collection system. Perhaps Labour have changed their policy?

3/ Supporting People Update
In this item, which relates to housing related budgets that would allow and support vulnerable or socially excluded residents to maintain a tenancy and live independently.

Labour-run Ealing Council agreed to cut this budget by 47% This is far more than the average budget savings needed across the Council. Is this another example of where Labour here are cutting some of the services that are used by our most vulnerable?

4/ Property Strategy – the Cinema
I spoke up to state that the current plans to implement a CPO (compulsory purchase order) so that the Council can buy the land opposite the Town Hall. The current owners have not built the cinema they said they would (and having the planning permission to do so).

The Liberal Democrat view is that we want Empire (the owners of the land) to either build a cinema or to sell to someone else who will build a cinema. The council should have taken this compulsory purchase order approach earlier as it takes a long time to progress. We have an all-party support for action but it is a shame Labour has dragged their feet for a number of months.

Piccadilly Line meeting at City Hall

Yesterday morning I attended a meeting about tube issues at Turnham Green station in Chiswick, with Transport for London representatives and Caroline Pidgeon, the London Lib Dem Leader.

Part of the meeting was not so good as TfL continue to block ideas to have the Picadilly Line tubes stopping all day or on Sunday. They showed figures which indicate that more people (further West or East) benefit from the tube not stopping at Turnham Green than those at Turnham Green even if the total time saved or lost to journey times is used.

However despite this, three positives came from the meeting. Your Liberal Democrat Councillors got the following commitments from London Transport:

  • To monitor the number of customers at Turnham Green station and local planning applications to review whether there is now a case for the Piccadilly Line to stop more frequently at Turnham Green.
  • To ensure that when passengers are travelling from Central London the driver makes an announcement to state if the tube will or will not be stopping at Turnham Green when it is the late evening or early morning. If you find examples of this please let us know the date and time at:
  • Lastly and potentially most promising there will be extra District line trains in the evening peak from December. This should help reduce the wait for passengers.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Actions Not Words - Ealing's Cinema

I am not talking about the cinema in Park Royal but the one opposite Ealing Town Hall. What a shame so much time has elapsed since the we thought we would have a new improved cinema.

The Ealing Liberal Democrats believe that a new cinema could help to bring trade into the area especially if the land the Council bought a few months ago can be incorporated into the design.

Empire have treated the project with so much disrespect. They have essentially stuck up their finger to the residents of Ealing who quite simply want a cinema that was promised to them.

At last the Council is to take serious action (via a compulsory purchase order) to get Empire to deliver a new cinema. We support the Council in their recently announced action to get Empire to do what is needed. But like everything on this matter we can only wait (and hope).

Ealing Broadway Interchange Back On the Map?

After a successful Liberal Democrat campaign where we have pressed Ealing Council to take action, they are starting to move in the right direction.

They have not gone the full way they need to, to ensure that Ealing Broadway has a train station and transport interchange as it deserves. The current plans now include installing a lift earlier than they had previously wanted. The original plans, however, encompassed two escalators and four lifts and a pedestian footbridge.

Liberal Democrats who have been handing out petition leaflets over the past few weeks as well as lobbying politicians in Ealing over the past year hope the Council aim higher. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity which would breath life back into Ealing Broadway which has been flagging over recent years. There have been a lot of shops that have closed because the area is more run down.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Why High Speed 2 (HS2) Is Vital To Us

Many people love to criticise initiatives such as High Speed 2 (HS2) which will improve the rail infrastucture to those in London and in other areas of the Country.

When Ealing Council said it was objecting to the scheme it was endangering the jobs to our area. Clearly in the short term infrastucture schemes like HS2 or Crossrail can give new jobs whilst the scheme is being built and also when the schemes are completed.

For Ealing I can see that by Ealing saying no and trying to pretend to like large rail schemes, it will possibly stop the whole thing in its tracks. It is crucial while we are in a consultation phase to raise relevant objections but to have no real vision is a departure from sensibility.

There will always be groups against these schemes but interestingly we see Local Government Association and London Councils in favour of HS2.

I think that those who are saying no in the way Ealing is are pretty much wanting to see a worsening transport system as well as a loss of jobs.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Rumours of child abductions in the area. What the police told me today.

I got an email from one of the local police team covering the Ealing part of Chiswick. And following some rumours of child abductions in the area, the local Police launched this new website to provide a focal point of all factual updates and reduce fear generated by well intended but factually incorrect communications.

The website will be updated with any new and relevant information as and when it becomes available by Police and other relevant agencies.

In summary there was an alleged attempted abduction in the Barnes area of an 8 year old boy on 3rd July. The boy was playing in the grounds of the Vicarage with friends. The allegation is that the boy was picked up by an adult male who he (the boy) managed to kick approximately 20 times in the shin. The suspect then made off. The suspect has not been seen by any other witness other than the victim.

This is being investigated by the police who are keeping an open mind about this allegation and conducting a thorough investigation to establish the facts. We have already taken all witness statements, conducted house to house enquiries, viewed CCTV and submitted items for forensic examination. Police request any additional witnesses, not yet spoken to, to come forward and contact them on 020 8247 7032 or ring Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

This is the only alleged abduction currently being investigated by Richmond Police. No other allegations have been made to Police.

The police said that the aim of this factual update is to address concerns, rumour and inaccuracy currently being communicated. This will be updated if there are significant developments.

Bus Countdown news!

Many of you will know that “Countdown” is to deliver real time bus information (RTI) for every 19,000 bus stops and 700 routes in London via the internet and text messaging on mobile phones. This will be complemented by 2,500 new on-street Countdown signs.
Caroline Pidgeon and the London Liberal Democrats have pressed Transport for London on this and related transport matters. Following a review by the Mayor, the bus stops planned to receive new on-street Countdown signs have been revised to ensure that no stop that currently has a Countdown sign will lose the facility.
All boroughs will continue to receive the same overall number of on-street signs that has previously been agreed with TfL, but the location of these signs will now change in line with the change of Mayoral policy.
Boroughs receiving additional signs will continue to have these placed in the previously agreed locations that provide the most benefit to the greatest number of passengers.
For boroughs with no increase in signs above their current allocation the list shows the new signs replacing existing ones in their current locations.
As a result of these changes, Transport for London expect to be able to provide bus RTI via mobile phone text message and the internet by October this year. The rollout of the new generation on-street Countdown signs is now expected to commence towards the end of 2011.
There are two installation teams that will install signs working across London in postcode order. Looking at the list I can see that the W postcodes will be done third out of nine areas. The UB postcodes will be done sixth and NW postcodes will be done fourth.
For so long Countdown has been a bain for us all. I do hope this will improve things.

Update about Ealing Council matters

I thought I would update you on the main council meeting last night where a lot topical matters were discussed.

At the start of the meeting I asked a question about allotment rents which are expected to rise. Because a lot of plot holders are retired and on fixed incomes any rental system should mean smaller plots attract lower increases and those larger plots might be charged at a higher rate. This would be a fairer system than we have now. The Labour councillor responsible for allotments doesn’t seem to know much about allotments (head in the soil approach) and thought a cheap comical joke was suitable. The issue of allotment rents is very important for lots of residents.

In the opening motion myself and fellow Liberal Democrat Councillor Andrew Steed raised a lot of Ealing related financial matters and decisions. I said that we need to ensure that the Council continues to invest in good IT so that we can save money by automating some types of activity. This will also help to ensure that residents get a better service as it will be quicker to report items and get things fixed.

I also mentioned the issue that the Council needs to be more focused at helping our vulnerable people and protecting our front line services. The Labour-run Ealing Council seem so often to just blame the Government. 

That sort of attitude just takes away from actually serving residents. There has not been an apology when Labour decided to spend over 6 million pounds on a car park which will only help a few people. Six million pounds could have been used in so many more ways – or to reduce any future cuts.

On a discussion regarding Ealing Hospital (concerning the possibility of merging and whether this would mean services might disappear from it) and despite some political point-scoring, all three political parties voted for a motion to ensure that we work cross party on this vital matter to ensure that Ealing Hospital isn’t closed and keeps its services. I am a diabetic and know many others living in Southall are diabetic – they need a local hospital, not one many miles away. The Liberal Democrat Councillors who spoke were Nigel Bakhai and Jon Ball who made a lot of relevant and useful points.

Later in the evening there was sadly no time for discussion on High Speed 2 (a high speed rail service which would link London to Birmingham and beyond. The Liberal Democrat view is that we should support the scheme even though all of the details are not known about the route or any problems caused when building starts. We believe this country needs better transport. Both the local Tories and Labour parties believe it makes the most sense to oppose the scheme whilst saying they are in favour of HS2. Trying to look two ways, me thinks!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Local Southfield Police Event

After the rain stopped me from going earlier glad to see others braved the rain. Spoke to an Ealing police inspector who was encouraging locals to become police Specials (police who work a few days a month). There are now about 160. Target of about 210 for the Olympic Games next year.

A few good ideas of reducing time in Chiswick mentioned. Great to meet up with fellow ward Liberal Democrat Councillor Andrew Steed. He reminded me why High Speed 2 (HS2) was a good idea for London and the country at large, like Crossrail.

If you have any ideas on what you might like any local money spent on then don't hold back!

Tell me what you want money spent on in Chiswick and Acton to help reduce crime via @CllrGaryMalcolm

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Mike Tuffrey launches campaign for London Mayor, with an ambitious housing plan

London Assembly member Mike Tuffrey launched his campaign to win the 2012 Liberal Democrat nomination for Mayor of London, with an ambitious plan to build enough new homes to house a quarter of a million Londoners.

Mike said: “It’s time for serious solutions to the big challenges we face if London is to remain a great city to live, work and raise a family in over the next decade” said Mike Tuffrey, who has served as an Assembly member since 2002. “With new powers coming from central government, we need a GLA – mayor and assembly – that is ambitious for London, like the GLC of old.”

Mike issued a personal five point action plan, pledging to consult Londoners on their priorities:
  • more, better and cheaper housing
  • investment in transport to keep London moving
  • action for jobs and a challenge to big business to pay fair wages
  • protect neighbourhood policing and promote youth opportunities
  • clean air and healthy London
Mike Tuffrey was first elected to London government in 1985, just before the GLC was abolished, and during the 1990s he took the Liberal Democrats on Lambeth from just four councillors to run the Council. At City Hall, he’s led the Liberal Democrat group during the mayoralties of both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Met’s cosy relationship with News of the World goes to the heart of the problem over phone hacking allegations

Lib Dem Dee Doocey, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly policing spokesperson and member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, commenting on the latest developments over phone hacking said:

"We know that during the time the then Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman was investigating alleged criminal allegations against the News of the World he had lunches and dinners with News of the World executives."

She added: "And during the time that John Yates was re-investigating the alleged criminal allegations against the News of the World he too had lunches and dinners with News of the World and executives of News International. Such a cosy relationship between the News of the World, News International and senior Met police officers who were leading an inquiry into the News of the World  phone hacking allegations goes to the very heart of the problems that have arisen."

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Many residents have approached myself and fellow Southfield ward councillors Andrew Steed and Harvey Rose about a proposal to redevelop St. Albans church on St Albans Avenue.
The plans show the proposals involve converting building / site into ten flats, a detached house and a two-storey children’s nursery.

A number of residents have stated the following reasons as to why they dont like the decision:

1.       Overdevelopment of a small site
2.       Parking – they say their isn’t enough parking which would affect existing permit holders
3.       Traffic access – located on a dangerous corner
4.       Community/Social use – a reduced community use post introduction

The plan [Labour-run Ealing Council] was to have it dealt with under so called "delegated powers" and not as an open planning committee. But after a number of complaints and action from Liberal Democrat Councillors Anddrew Steed it appears the Council has said it will be discussed at an open planning committee. We do not know for sure but that is what we have privately been informed.

To ensure this is the case more comments to the Council's planners would be useful.

Their email address is:

And the planning address and reference to quote is: Ref: P/2010/5108 St Albans Church, South Parade, Chiswick W4 5LG

Do tell the Council your views. And also email your views to your three Southfield ward Councillors to:

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Priory Community Centre to be a school

At tonight's Cabinet meeting a number of important and controversial matters were raised...

Libraries: -
I welcomed the reversal to close the four libraries and the upgrade some of the libraries’ IT facilities. Although the document we discussed was a strategy document it lacked any real back bone of actions and timescales. I questioned the reduction in opening hours as this is counter intuitive, if the aim is to get more use out of our libraries.

Also there is a current lack of initiative on whether existing libraries will be upgraded – this could come from monies that developers pay the Council (legitimately) when larger applications occur to offset negative affects such as more traffic.

Budget proposals (savings): -

I had a chance to ask about two items. The first was whether the money (about £200,000) that the council will gain by shutting down and selling off a civic amenity site on Adelaide Road, Southall. The Labour councillors said that the money would go down as a saving instead of a reallocation to improving recycling in Southall (where the rates are very low compared to many areas in the borough).

I saw that the Council is making proposals to reduce the number of staff answering phone calls in the Parking Services Team (due to more people using the internet). No details were given about the actual number of staff at risk from losing their jobs.

Priory Community Centre to be a school:-

The Liberal Democrats for a long time have said a joint school and refurbished community centre is the best option. The plan currently is to close the Priory and move the user groups away (no commitment made about where they would have to use as buildings to provide their community activities) while a primary school is built.

But over the past year we have asked a number of questions in the Council chamber and at Cabinet meetings to establish rights for the current Priory users; more specifically in terms of where they will be housed; priority in booking rooms in a new community space; and pricing. No ‘copper-bottomed’ guarantees were given by Labour.

I said that the Liberal Democrat party would “call in” the decision (which means it can be discussed at a future meeting where changes might be made.

After that a resident who is chair of a group of Priory Centre user groups made a very passionate speech to the Labour councillors demanding that they were going back on previous promises.


Monday, 4 July 2011

High Speed 2 - it will improve our transport

My party, the Liberal Democrats feel that the benefits of HS2 far outweigh the negatives raised, that often relate to local circumstances. Despite there being a lack of detail we feel that projects like this, which will greatly improve transport, should be supported.

It is always easier to just go against a plan if it causes some negatively. My party believe Councils and the Government need to look to the future whether that be transport or other areas of life.
There is currently a public consultation which ends on July 29. To have your say visit: