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Monday, 26 December 2011

My Christmas Message...

I hope everyone in Ealing had a happy Christmas. I am hoping for some snow as well. When shopping for some of my Christmas presents, the queues seemed as long as usual. Christmas tends to bring out the positive side of ourselves.

Last week at my company, everyone had the chance to bring in their children for an afternoon party. I think all the kids and parents had a great time (especially eating the cake!). Christmas is a time to have fun and take a break from work but we must never forget those whose lives are more difficult at this time.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Ealing Council's Cabinet Meeting - Tonight (20th December)

When I attended tonight's last cabinet meeting of the year I was hoping when it was finished to have the chance to listen to the end of a meeting, also in Ealing Town Hall, relating to the Ealing riots. Sadly they both finished at the same time.

I have noted some of the items from the Cabinet:
  • 2011 OFSTED reports - these showed in most areas Ealing Council and the schools have done okay in the last year. There are some areas where action is needed but far more good points than bad. Well done to staff and teachers.
  • Primary School places in Acton - with a growing population school places are needed. It was decided by the cabinet to expand  West Acton school, Noel Road, but there will be a final decision to be made in February concerning what happens to the users of the related Community Centre. Expanding Derwentwater school was not seen as needed at this time - but the Cabinet wanted to keep this option open for later if that is needed (more people having children).
  • Anti-bribery and corruption policy - the Government introduced this legislation which means companies  and Council need to be more organised about preventing fraud and bribery by a range of actions such as ensuring staff know what they need to do in different situations. When Councils across the country award multi-million pound contracts to firms there is sometimes publicity as to whether the company who won the contract, was the best choice or had called in favours with Council staff.
  • Quarterly Performance Figures - Ealing Council is failing in a number of areas especially when dealing with residents who telephone the Council with issues. Some of the figures showed that the time waiting for their calls to be answered had risen by 50%
That's all Ed!

Temporary Ealing bus service changes for the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games

I have just heard from Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of Greater London Assembly's Transport Committee, that a number of bus routes are to be either diverted, have an altered frequency, capacity or be curtailed, during the Olympics and Paralympic Games.

At present, changes are proposed to Routes 7/N7 and 92 which serve the Borough of Ealing. And some bus stops will be relocated.

Routes 7 and N7 – Russell Square to East Acton (7) / Northolt (N7):
Due to the part-closure of Russell Square, will be curtailed at a temporary terminus on Bedford Place.
From Montague St, buses will run directly into Russell Square and then Bedford Place. Required while Russell Square is a media hub.

Route 92 – Ealing Hospital to St Raphael’s North:
The route will be diverted due to the closure of Engineers Way: Eastbound via Empire Way, Wembley Park Drive and Fulton Road Westbound via Fulton Road and Empire Way. Required while Wembley is a venue.

If you want the document containing maps and more details please email me at or tweet me at @CllrGaryMalcolm

Monday, 19 December 2011

Meeting with the Ealing Police Borough Commander Andy Rowell

It is always good to meet Andy as he is more open to discussion of policing matters in Ealing.

Myself and two fellow Liberal Democrat councillors, Nigel Bakhai and Jon Ball, met with him so he can update us on policing matters in Ealing and also those of a London-wide nature. We also asked him some questions as well. The main points to note are:

1/ Crime is lower than expected in Ealing although there are spikes in certain geographic areas.

2/ Snatch victims commonly have iPhones taken so watch out when you leave the tube or rail station. Someone might be watching you, ready to grab your phone.

3/ About 250 people in Ealing have been arrested and of those about 170 have been charged / convicted of crimes relating to the riot.

4/ There continues to be a good career path from bring a Special Constable or a PCSO, into a Police Constable. Clearly being a Special or a PCSO means you have a lot of the training you need for being a PC. I wish people would stop having a go at PCSOs as many do an absolutely great job.

5/ The new Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe seems to have a good plan of action from what I hear. He is doing what the police should be doing - disrupting crime - there is a large cross over between criminals of many types of more serious crimes who also commit car related crimes (e.g. no insurance). So he has run a number of operations across London to catch them by using technology such as AMPR. Also he is now looking to crack down on the stealing of metals such as copper and lead which can make a lot of money for criminals given the increase in price when selling it to scrap merchants (some who are less fussy as to who they buy metal from).

6/ We asked about the possibility of cracking down on some pubs or off licences who in Hanwell appear to be leading to some anti-social behaviour.

Overall a very useful meeting.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Mayor must do more to address shortage of affordable housing

I think we all know about the issue about the lack of quality housing for many groups of people in London. There needs to be more efforts to bring disused buildings back into life.

On a related subject this week, Mike Tuffrey, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly housing spokesperson, challenged the Mayor over figures released in the latest version of the Mayor's revised Housing Strategy which show a planned increase in the number of affordable homes to be delivered between 2011 and 2015 of just 0.6% per annum.

Over the same period, London’s population is expected to increase by over 200,000 people. Commenting on the Mayor’s latest plans Mike said: “London is growing, with approaching a million more people expected to be living here by 2030; demand is already high, with over 800,000 people now waiting for social and affordable housing in London; and over 230,000 households are overcrowded, the highest rate in the country.

The land is there, much of it in public ownership and coming under the direct control of the Mayor of London. Yet there’s still no strategy to link public sector land with private sector money."

The 12 week public consultation period runs until 6 March 2012. If you wish to comment on the Strategy please email Mike at

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Report of last night's Full Council meeting in Ealing Town Hall

Here is an update of a meeting that went on longer than most do. The key points to note are as follows:

I asked the Council Leader what proportion of the Priory Centre user groups have found replacement accomodation in Acton or the borough. He declined to answer the question so we have to assume that zero or almost none of the groups have found accommodation. Most priority must be given to help the groups.

There was a petiton handed in relating to the possible (likely) closure of Ealing Hospital. Lib Dem Councillor excellently spoke up for patients and residents about the need to keep Ealing Hospital open and offering the full range of services. Cllr Bakhai also suggested that all three Ealing party Leaders sign a letter he has written to show Ealing Council's cross party campaign to save Ealing council. Positive action on this. Let's keep fighting.

There was a second petition relating to the Labour Garden Tax which they are to introduce early next year. I spoke up to register my disagreement to this barmy idea. Recycling must be free. Anything else and we are sending a signal that we want residents to either not recycle different forms of waste - or worse it might encourage lots of extra fly-tipping.

After the petition was handed in (it contained about 5000 signatures) there was a vote as to whether the Council should look at the Garden Tax plans again. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives voted for this extra scrutiny but Labour voted to push ahead with its plans. Very sad.

There was a motion later that discussed Ealing Council and the cuts it has been making in particular the parts of the budget that are to affect vulnerable residents in a bad way. The council needs to revisit some of these decisions. Councillors Jon Ball and Harvey Rose spoke up about different service areas that will be affected.

The next debate was on the issue of the Government's Pupil Premium. This is bringing £5 million to schools in Ealing to help those children who are most disadvantaged. The debate was led by Liberal Democrat Councillor Andrew Steed who welcomed the Pupil Premium.

At this point Labour decided it was a good idea to be louder than roudy. In fact them and the Conservative spent the rest of the meeting shouting at each other rather than debating the issues. So from the vote it seems clear that the Labour party are against the Pupil Premium. I am sure the schools across Ealing will not welcome that sort of approach from the Labour party.

There was motion (not debated) which it became apparent that the Liberal Democrats and Labour both welcome solar power to reduce the costs of providing energy for residents. Solar cells are now profitable. With the rise in oil, gas and electricity prices we need to do more to reduce our demand on foreign oil supplies which are costly and worse for the environment. Shame the Ealing Tories do not see this...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Thursday's Acton Regeneration meeting in Acton Library

Tonight there was an interesting meeting about the future of Acton - the Pool, the Priory Centre, the Town Hall to name a few parts of the regeneration.

Of course we need to improve Acton to lead the way so that we can reverse the trend of people not shopping in Acton High street. It is v sad to see shops where a company has gone broke. This has been happening more so over the past few years.

The overall scheme will improve Acton but there are concerns:
  • Less community space
  • The Pool being closed earlier than many residents think reasonable before a planning application has been lodged
  •  Many user groups of the Priory Community Centre look like they may not get any suitable accommodation in Acton and so will either have to shut down their activities or find space potentially a long way away (which is not suitable for many types of groups) 
  • There will not be a cafe. It appears to save money they are removing the cafe from the plans as well as reducing the office space for Council staff and the size of the gym by about 20%.
  • There is a reference to the current library (which will be replaced by a new library of the same size) being used as a restaurant or a pub! There are a lot of pubs in Acton already. Another one makes no sense.
Towards the end of the meeting a number of residents were able to ask the Council officers questions and two issues seemed to consistently rattle residents - 1) user groups being left with nowhere to go and 2) whether the rents for space or gym use will be too pricey.

As with most projects of this type the details are crucial. The Council needs to re-double its efforts to ensure the Priory Community Centre users are found suitable accommodation.

347 pedestrian crossings across London unfit for blind Londoners

Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, has quite rightfully said it is “A total disgrace“ about that the huge number of pedestrian crossings in London which have no facilities for blind and partially sighted people.

Research undertaken by Caroline Pidgeon revealed that there are currently 347 Transport for London (TfL) pedestrian crossings which have no facilities to assist blind and partially sighted people to safely cross the road. This is despite there being long standing national accessibility standards to ensure every pedestrian crossing has either an audible sound and/or a rotating cone to assist blind and partially sighted people.
In addition to widespread poor access for blind and partially sighted people Caroline Pidgeon has also discovered that there are 113 pedestrian crossings which also fail national safety standards by not providing the minimum amount of time for pedestrians to safely cross the road.

What Caroline Pidgeon said:
“It is a total disgrace that London has so many pedestrian crossings which are inaccessible for blind and partially sighted people or fail to give enough time for pedestrians to safely cross the road. It says everything about the low priority given to pedestrians by the Mayor of London that such basic safety standards are still not being met at so many pedestrian crossings across the capital.

The Mayor has had plenty of time to make sure every TfL pedestrian crossing in London is safe and accessible, but he has completely failed to do so.

This weekend is called Very Important Pedestrian Weekend as Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street are closed to traffic. The reality is that for the rest of the year, across the whole of London, pedestrians are too often ignored.”

Brian Paddick Listens to Ealing Residents

Last night Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat Mayoral candidate attended a public meeting to speak about why people in London should vote for him in the 2012 mayoral contest. He then answered questions from Ealing residents - and one from Hillingdon (who had travelled to hear Brian speak)!

Bridget Fox, who is a Liberal Democrat candidate for the Greater London Assembly, was also present and spoke on a number of issues and showed her excellent knowledge on air pollution and other environmental matters.

The main points from the evening were:

  • Brian Paddick has a track record of success. He started off as a police constable and ended up as one the Met's highest ranked officers. He knows how to reduce crime and has given some very productive advice on why the riots started and how we can avoid them in the future.
  • Ken Livingstone is a man of the past; Boris now has a track record (and not a very good one, given his poor judgement in spending our money)
  • Talking about bus fare he said it was very easy for Ken to promise to reduce them but it isn't sustainable. Ken promised the same before and then they rose and rose AFTER the election! Brian thinks the key is to reduce spending on non-priority items (such as the £9 wasted by Boris on 6 Routemaster buses or the expensive cable car across the Thames) and then ensure that fares are fair. Fair's Fare.
  • An example of a fairer bus fare would be to introduce a one-hour ticket. This would mean that those who use two buses in the same hour would only pay once. The proposal would not cost that much and would help those on low and fixed incomes.
  • About hospital closes Brian said that he is totally against merging hospitals' Accident and Emergency and Maternity services. These should be local and are needed so that friends and families can visit those who are sick or have had children.
  • There was a need to create more affordable housing. One suggestion was to both protect green spaces but building one brownfield sites such as those which Transport for London owns. They could lease them and some of the money could come from banking organisations who many feel owe us all something.
  • Bridget Fox said she wanted to see Youth Workers attached to each local police team. This would cost money at the beginning but would help a lot of teenagers and would probably reduce future spending on issues that could have been avoided.
  • With the Olympics nearing us it was mentioned that more needs to be done to ensure that the new stadiums and facilities are not left dormant after the Olympics. Brian also said that he wanted to see lots of children able to take part in sports after the Olympics have occurred. Quote right.  

It was a great night and it is good to see politicians travelling around London to hear what people want and what they things about how things are now.

If you want to contact Brian or Bridget why not use their twitter accounts: @brianpaddick and @BridgetFox

Friday, 2 December 2011

Mayor has been saved from himself over fare rises

Transport for London this week confirmed that fare rises in 2012 will now be lower than the fare rise package first proposed by Boris Johnson a few weeks ago.

Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon has been very active on this issues making a lot of great points about why our fares are too high. If we want more people to use public transport and not use their cars as often we need lower and fairer fares.

Caroline Pidgeon said: “It is the Coalition Government, not the Mayor who has ensured that fare rises have been reduced. Left to his own devices Londoners would have faced far higher fare rises under Boris Johnson.   The Mayor has been saved from himself."

Caroline added: “What is now necessary are further measures to help low income Londoners. A one hour bus ticket and real action in tackling Oyster overcharging are desperately needed.”

Ealing Scrutinises Itself! Then delays instead of taking proactive actions

Tonight I was invited to give my views in relation to how Ealing Council conducts itself when the administration puts forwards its proposals and plans.

Normally opposition political parties attend Cabinet meetings and are allowed to give their opinions on these plans. I do this as Leader of the Liberal Democrat party and either state my party's viewpoints or ask questions to get information to help determine whether a plan is one that will help the residents of Ealing.

If my party or the other opposition party disagree with the Labour administration (perhaps some of their cuts which affect the elderly or vulnerable residents) then we can "call in" a decision. This means at a separate meeting the item will be discussed by a committee who have councillors from all political parties.

Sometimes that committee agrees that the original decision was correct; in about 20% of cases the original decision was thought to be either wrong or needs amending.

In my statement I made a suggestion that opposition political parties should be able to put down amendments at the Cabinet meetings so that some of the details can be improved. Often it is the details that make a report acceptable.

Another idea was raised to suggest the the Cabinet committee (which is made up completely 100% of Labour councillors!) should be converted into a debating body - than the current rubber stamping exercise which it is.

After an hour or more of discussion it was agreed that the Chair of the scrutiny panel would look at this issue and report back to the committee at its next meeting. Sadly this is a less than proactive measure. I think there is scope to make improvements so that members of the public can get the chance to overturn bad or poorly thought out decisions. We have to wait it seems to get movement on this one.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Public meeting in Ealing with Brian Paddick

On Wednesday Dec 7th, at 7.30pm, in the Haven Green Baptist Church Hall there is a public meeting where Brian Paddick (Liberal Democrat GLA Mayoral candidate) will be speaking and listening to residents about what the are concerned about.

They want to hear about your concerns about London so come and ask your questions. Indeed as it is a public meeting so everyone is welcome.

Contact me at or @CllrGaryMalcolm and let me know any questions you have for Brian Paddick