Yesterday I attended the Council's cabinet meeting. The following items are snippets:
1/ School Meals - The council is about to tender to gain a supplier for cooking school meals for 60 schools in Ealing. I asked a question that surprised the Cabinet member for Education. Quote simply I asked whether they would ensure that initatives, by Jamie Oliver, to improve the diet in schools. She seemed interested that someone was interested in this subject. I was given a committment from her that the contract when agreed would include elements to ensure a more healthy school diet.
2/ Green Spaces Strategy - The council is to consult on an updated strategy relating to parks in Ealing. In reply to my questions the Council stated it is still committed to improving Gunnersbury Park despite the 118 page report only mentioning Gunnersbury a few times. The list of consultees was reasonably extensive but they did miss some groups I identified. In relation to volunteering the report said nothing but the Council Leader said it was something of a priority quoting two parks! They agreed to ensure that the strategy document was looked at again to encompass volunteering given it has a lot of potential for educating and training children and young people. Only time will tell.
3/ New Recycling Contract - The Labour council agreed sadly to implement a plan to charge residents £40 per year for a garden waste collection service (that is currently free) using wheelie bins or via biodegradable sacks (£20 for 25 sacks). The report had little detailed financial information When questioned they stated that residents could decide whether they wanted wheelie bins or biodegradable sacks.
That might sound nice (apart from the extra cost) however there will be extra costs of having to collect two types of garden waste vessels. When asked about whether they are planning to introduce a fortnightly black bag waste scheme the administration said they were not. The Leader of the Council will be trying to state that the Council needs to do one or the other. But don't listen to that argument as I have quoted ways to save money elsewhere.
4/ Customer Service Performance - Public figures showed that residents were having to wait a lot longer than normal on the phone and when visiting the Town Hall to get information they needed. I asked the question about whether the customer Service Strategy was wrong or not being implemented correctly. The answer given by the officer, was that more recent figures show a big improvement. Why did they not update the meeting with these figures using a simple one-page printed update?
5/ Mayor's Riot Relief Fund - So far about £100,000 has been given out to local, independent businesses who suffered in the Ealing riots. So the Mayor and all three party leaders will have oversee about who is to receive funds from the Mayoral Fund.
6/ Acton's Priory Centre - This related to a Liberal Democrat call-in (to review a previous Council decision) about the impact to move out about 60 community groups from the Priory Centre when they have no alternative locations to go to. The only good news on this matter is that the original plan was to turf out (my term not the Council's) the community groups in April 2012 may be altered to see if they can stay where they are until July 2012. Not what I call real positive news but the Council seems to be trying to make some accommodation.