Search This Blog

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Ealing Council Freezes Its Council Tax But Cuts Will Hurt The Vulnerable

Last night was the most important night of the year - it is when the Council sets it Council Tax. The night for me and others was very sad, certainly at the beginning of the meeting, as I said a few words in memory of somebody who had passed away over the weekend. I knew the person very well and it is always difficult to be as composed as you would like when talking about someone who is no longer with us, in person. No words seem fully appropriate.

In the meeting Ealing Council agreed to freeze its level of Council Tax. This happened in part because of about £3 million pounds of money given by the Coalition government.

For the second year running the Liberal Democrat Group put forward an amendment to Labour’s proposals. A summary of the main changes was as follows:
Cancel the proposed car park in Southall that would cost over £5 million
Reduce by 10% the money that Councillors receive
Reduce the salaries of the highest paid council officers
Reinstating the Short Breaks Carers Restbite service
Giving a discount to Council Tax for Special Constables volunteers (who are not paid for their community activities)
Reversing the cuts Labour proposed affecting Sheltered Accommodation
Ensuring no one has to pay for the Garden Waste collections (the Garden Tax)
Halving the budget used to set up Controlled Parking Zones
Having future monies (the interest on loans) by not borrowing more money

Our budget was financially approved by Council officers and it was fully costed and realistic.

When it came to the vote sadly Labour chose not to accept the amendment despite it helping a lot of vulnerable people such as the elderly or carers.

Liberal Democrats believe that when a Council makes cuts it needs to avoid adding to the hard that that many vulnerable residents are suffering whether it be due to health or age related problems. The Labour budget will do little to help many vulnerable people.

In contrast the Liberal Democrats have looked hard through the thousands of pages of financial documents about the Council and its operations to cut out items of spend that are not needed in the short term.

We then have focused on more crucial spending, to either help the Council become more efficient or provide services that residents really need or want. For example Liberal Democrats want to see more people recycling more types of household items. This is why we ensured that no one would pay to have their garden waste collected. Labour are to charge you £40 for this! The stats in Ealing show that when you charge for recycling people are likely to be involved in recycling household goods.

I cannot finish without talking about the unnecessary car park in Southall. It is such a waste of £5 million. By cancelling this we would have been able to reverse Labour’s cuts as well as providing a reduction in Council Tax to those residents who are Special Police Constables. Their voluntary work needs to be rewarded.

The Liberal Democrats are saddened that the Labour party chose to turn down proposals, that the Council officers said were feasible, to reduce cuts that will now cause harm to vulnerable residents. It was also very poor that the so-called official opposition party, the Conservatives, did not put in the hard graft to put forward an alternative budget. It is clear that the Liberal Democrats are the only opposition party who have a vision to help residents.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Southfield Park Triangle Residents' Association General Meeting - Feb 2012

Yesterday morning I attended a local residents' association meeting. It was held in the Scout Hut on Rugby Road and a number of issues were raised:

Lighting up Southfield Recreational Grounds: the ward panel agreed to add lighting for two paths across the Rec. More details can be found here. There were many residents who felt nervous about using the Rec when it was dark. There also was a serious attack in the Rec a few months ago. Lighting will be helpful to get more people using the tennis courts or getting to and from work. Before the lighting can be installed the Leader of the Council needs to sign off the decision.

Police Advice: One of the local police team spoke at the meeting and gave some clear advice - do not leave items on view whether that be your car or through the windows of your home. One resident as said by the police to have left the car door open, with the keys in the ignition, whilst having a cup of tea at a neighbours home! Crazy or what.

CPZ consultation: it is likely that in a few weeks Ealing Council will be consulting the current CPZs. The idea will be to see whether people are happy with the Controlled Parking Zone or not, whether the days or operation should be reduced or lengthened and whether the hours of operation should be changed. If you want us to let you know when the consultation is posted to residents, then pop me an email to

Crime good news: the police also mentioned that a couple of teenagers were arrested as they are suspected to being involved in stealing other teenagers' mobile phones in and around Acton Green. Well done to the police.

If you want to see more about the residents' association please click here.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Report: Last Council Cabinet Meeting Before the Council Tax Is Set

Yesterday was a strange night. Although there were lots of important items to discuss perhaps the most important was discussed less than you would have expected. The Financial Budget reports and the many appendices will be discussed this coming Tuesday, when the level of Council Tax is agreed (decided). There is not always agreement but it will be a freeze.

I spoke on the following items:

1. There was a plan last year to save over £300,000 on reducing the number of day centres around the borough. We disagreed with their plans as they were putting money before vulnerable residents. This Council report indicated that it had changed its mind and, although still wanting to save about £340,000, appears willing to review their previously poor decision. In six months a new plan will appear. Many users were worried about the extra travel time they would need, and to a new location. We will be waiting until September this year for an update.

2. IT investment - This is an area where the Ealing Conservatives did not invest properly to ensure that the computing infrastructure was at a good level. People were using such an old version of Windows that m,any staff had problems doing their job as effectively as they should have been. The Liberal Democrats support the improvement of the Council's IT. One good move is to replace servers at regular intervals so that they do not all "konk" out at the same time.

3. Short Breaks Restbite Service (Hanwell) - the Council had wanted to run down the service and had plans to sell the building. I noticed that in one report and one Council website they still are stating they are to sell the building. I asked whether the report was accurate and whether the Council Officer, who made a statement to a Liberal Democrat Councillor a few months ago that the site would not be sold, was being truthful. Thankfully the report was inaccurate. This was about the tenth times buildings have appeared on Council reports recently stating they will be sold when apparently they are not. The cynical amongst us will not be sure. We await any future plans. But the Council needs to look after the vulnerable with a greater priority.

4. Controlling Pests - The council is altering its charges for dealing with pests in Ealing. I stated that the wider issue was whether the Council is offering advice (either via the phone or on its website) so residents know what services are available and what they will cost. My points were accepted and the Leader of the Council said the Council should look to improve this area.

I did notice in the report that people living in houses with Tropical Ants can call the council and get them to fix the problem. Strangely squirrels were also considered a pest - most people I think they are cute!

The meeting closed after about two and a half hours.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Ealing police will be a changin'

I attended the Southfield ward panel on Monday evening where residents, ward Councillors and the police review recent crime trends and set plans to avoid likely criminal actions.

The local ward Sergeant Darren Gray spoke about the high level of crime in Southfield ward compared to the same month last year (and there is still another week or more to add to the crime stats). He did reassure us that these apparently high crime levels were low compared to areas in the opposite end of the borough.

He did mention that a lot of the crime was people leaving items on show (in their cars or homes) such as purses or laptops. Quite simply anything you leave in the car will encourage them to break in. Take items out and even leave your glove box open so they can see nothing in present and worth nicking!

Then he went on to potentially a large change in the Met which will affect Ealing hopefully in a good way. Basically when you call the police using a 999 call the current situation means that all police cars are contacted and often many rush to the scene of the crime. Sounds great but you often have too many cars present doing nothing. Then they rush off to the next one and again potentially too many cars. Not very effective.

The new Met commissioner wants to alter this. Apparently it will mean that the police will be more tied to local areas and so one level will deal with the main priority calls and another level below will go to the important but not urgent calls (and most of them will be on foot) and the third group will be the current Safer Neighbourhood Team who are looking to be more proactive in their ward often trying to prevent crime than just dealing with the aftermath.

It does sound like more police will not be wasting time. We await to see more on this. You heard it here first.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

10 million tube users missing out on Transport for London refunds

It was revealed that more than ten million tube users missed out last year on refunds that they were entitled to following severe tube delays. The new figures were obtained by Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group.

Sadly in practice only about 4 percent (412,713 people) claimed what they were entitled to. A few years ago it was common place for me to get monies for the poor service but more recently it has been made more difficult to claim for entitlements. Why I should fill in the same form twice - that is just cheeky and the Mayor of London wanting people to give up. The very low completion rate says it all.

Give us the money Boris! We are entitled to it. In a week where many people have already faced huge delays on the tube I would urge everyone to start claiming what they are entitled to.

Perhaps the only way is for all monthly or annual Oyster Card holders to get a refund?

Friday, 10 February 2012

Round One: Brian Paddick vs. Johnson & Livingstone

Many residents I speak to in my ward want their local politicians to improve things but not claim they will change the world if they can't.

That's what the Liberal Democrats in Ealing do. If we disagree with the Labour administration then we will say so clearly explaining why. But just campaigning against something is not enough. You need to have some positive vision for a plan, for an area.

This is the same for Brian Paddick who is the Liberal Democrat London Mayoral candidate. He has decades of experience working from the bottom to the top of the Met. He knows how to reduce crime and wants to make policing in London more local.

Looking at his two rivals for the post of London Mayor we can see that both of them have made a multitude of statements that clearly do not stand up when you compare to the facts of whether their plans measure up financially.

Mark Pack has excellently compiled a dossier concerning both Johnson & Livingstone. As it states, the public will vote in May about whether one of them should become Mayor (and run the Met police) or will residents vote for Brian Paddick who clearly is not a conventional politician - he has had a real job which shows he is someone who makes the right decisions on the important matters - like crime.

I will be voting to Brian in May. Each time I see him I am more impressed than the last time.

But this is round one. It will go all the way to the final bell.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Let there be light!

Last night at the Southfield ward forum myself and my two fellow ward Councillors discussed a number of proposals which the ward might fund.

The main items were:
  • Traffic Calming on The Vale and Larden Road
  • Cunnington Street Road Safety study
  • Crossing on Southfield Road near to the Recreational Grounds
  • Lighting of paths on Southfield Recreational Ground

A traffic speed study was comissioned by the ward forum to investigate the speed and frequency of the traffic at the junction of  The Vale and Larden Road. The officers showed the speeds were not higher than average and so we agreed that no actions should be taken.

Councillor Andrew Steed gave an update that the road safety study to look into solving problems with a blind corner at the junction near Cunnington Street and Wolseley Road, would be done in the next month or so.

In December the Council conducted a consultation to determine whether a crossing on Southfield Road near to the Recreational Grounds was wanted and what residents views on the matter were. A large proportion of the respondents (about 85%) were in favour but residents were concerned at a loss of parking spaces and the location of the proposed crossing. We agreed that this should not go ahead but if suitable changes are made, in the future the issue could potentially come back to the meeting.

Perhaps of all the major projects we could have spent money on, lighting some of the pathways on Southfield Rec is the most controversial. Residents reported that they were fearful of using the Rec when dark (there was a very serious attack a few months ago). The police said that lighting a park may increase the number of homeless people coming to the park and the Council's park department said lighting the Rec in the night will harm wildlife.

After much consideration we agreed that parts of the Recreation Ground should have lighting (the pathway from Southfield Road to Mansell Road plus the pathway going from the playground to Hatfield Road).

Southfield Recreation Ground is a great local amenity, and we want people to use it as often as possible. It is also used by many people as a travel route: many Chiswick residents access The Vale for on-going travel and many Acton residents walk to Turnham Green Station. The consultation paper attempted to measure the impact of lighting, would it encourage people to use the Park more, either for recreational use or as part of a journey to and from work? There was a perception, and this was apparent in the responses the council received, that the area was not safe when dark, and people went out of their way to avoid it.

There were concern about the impact of lighting, on local wildlife, and as part of a greater concern for the environment. We will work with the Council to ensure that the lighting pollution is minimal by taking up the suggestion of using timers to provide seasonal flexibility. This was an excellent idea which came from the consultation process.

This recommendation now goes forward to be approved by the Leader of the Council, who 'signs off' all ward forum decisions across the Borough. Hopefully the Council Leader will implement this decision as soon as possible and we can all get extended use of the Recreation Ground.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Do you play or want to play social cricket?

I play a lot of social cricket in the Summer (when it is meant to be warm!). Our home pitch is in North London but we play all over London and outside London to get away from the streets paved with gold.

The club (Washington Cricket Club) plays to a medium standard and we often have new players who haven't played for a number of years. If you would like to play then there are no tests - you just turn up, meet the lads and have some fun. We win some, we lost some.

Follow @WashCricketClub or visit our website at:

Last weekend we had our annual awards which is a chance for players in the club to socialise with players and partners. It ended in a karaoke this time! I was lucky this year (I have played for ten years and never been nominated for any award) and was nominated for two awards. I managed to pick up one which was the Most Improved Player of 2011.

Check out this photo: Gary Malcolm winning something for his then empty trophy cabinet

The club is great and I appreciate the main players for choosing me. It has motivated me to try even harder this year to get more wickets and win an award this year.

So if you would like to play social cricket and have fun then check us out at:

Council Meeting: High Speed 2, Local Hospitals and Mayor of London

Last night the main Council meeting took place. It started off with a number of announcements by the Mayor relating to people who had passed away over the Christmas period. Council held a one minutes silence.

The main item of the meeting was to discuss two motions (one put forward by the Liberal Democrat group and another by the Conservatives) about High Speed 2. My party are in favour of High Speed 2 rail as our transport system needs improving to reduce congestion, increase reliability as well as speeding up the time to get from London to Birmingham and further North.

The opposition are only looking at the negatives that might occur in Ealing. The Government need to reduce as many of these as is possible but the country will benefit hugely from High Speed 2. It will also create a large number of jobs, locally and nationally, as well as making business more successful (especially those out of London).

During the speeches the common thread was that both the Tories and the Labour party were using it to be rather party political whilst saying this was a cross party issue - it certainly is not that. Very few Tory or Labour councillors dealt with the issues and the need for investment. It is a fact that all of the three major parties support this nationally.

After this debate there was a discussion about the forthcoming election for the Mayor of London. It was obvious from the comments that both Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone have lied about their plans knowing some of them are not possible financially or for other reasons. On this Ken has certainly always promised to cut bus fares and then after being elected they go up and up and up.

The Liberal Democrat party have not made so wild claims. We want the bus, rail and tube network to be fairer. This can happen if you introduce a Part Time travel card, a One Hour Bus ticket and an Early Bird travel card to reward those who travel earlier to help reduce the congestion. Check out for more details.

We then went on to discuss a motion about Central Middlesex Hospital and its possible closure. This is an issue that has been relatively non party political. Let us hope the decision-makers make the right decision and not close a hospital that is helping lots of local residents.