Below is a commentary of last night's cabinet meeting that took place in Ealing Town Hall. I was joined by fellow Liberal Democrat Councillor Andrew Steed. Cabinet is a strange type of meeting which involves all the important decisions that Ealing Council has to make but there is no discussion allowed!
The three main topics raised were:
1. Council Budget for the next three years -
The council is to upgrade street lighting to an LED system which is apparently 40% cheaper to run. This means the Council will spend money on the upgrade and then in future years will save money. It looks like it will take about ten years break even. But after this (expected) ten years the Council will make money and so we support this initiatives. Other Councils such as Westminster are dimming their lights which will save half the money Ealing will - but they are making the place less safe.
After a meeting earlier in the week with some of the senior Finance officers it appears that the Council is taking a new look at what activities occur in Ealing Town Hall. In recent times the Council has only done the bare minimum of repainting or repairing some of the rooms. Liberal Democrats believe that there are many rooms not used that could be used by community groups for a range of purposed including possibly an art centre. The review that will take place will be conducted within the scrutiny process and we hope involves councillors and relevant community bodies. We also need to be assured that the review will not have any projects it wants to agree from the start or else that will bias any outcome. We wait and see.
2. Libraries -
It was proposed that Ealing Council shares some of the services with Brent and Harrow Councils. This should reduce the cost. After a comment from me stating that sharing services is good but only if standards of the service do not drop, the Council Leader agreed with me. It turned out that since the report was published that Brent do not wish to be a part of any shared service arrangement.
I then asked some questions relating to the volunteering that is scheduled to start this May. It appears there are about 60 residents who are will to volunteer their time working in a number of libraries. It will be crucial to ensure that they use best practice (lots of best practice has been understood in the past 6 months from other local Councils). Ealing council is sadly only looking to discover best practice, now, when other London Councils have learned what to do and what not to do over the past year.
Lastly I asked a question about the investment of WiFi in libraries from May. The last figure I saw was very high for what is a relatively simple investment. It appears the Council has put this on the back burner for a while. Libraries need WiFi but it should not cost the earth.
3. Arcadia redevelopment -
With the developer Glenkerrin (who proposed a development including a 27 storey building) going into administration the Council have been approached by the Administrator to seek some assurances from Ealing Council. The Council has put together a report that details some of the actions the Council may or may not take if any future developer buys the land
and proposes an application. It is sadly silent though on a number of points which are crucial to enabling Ealing Town Centre being successful such as ensuring that there is a good circulation of transport in the centre.
Although the document was put together quickly there was sadly little consultation apart from one Residents' Body.