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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

My feedback on the National Panel's Report About Last August's Riots

Today saw the official launch of the National Panel's report into the riots that hit London and other parts of the country in August.

As someone who was caught up in the riots, in Ealing Common, I welcome the report. Like all reports it is a large document  with many findings, which we mostly agree with. It still seems like yesterday when we lost one of Ealing's residents, Richard Mannington Bowes, in the riots. I am glad his killer admitted his mistakes recently.

With my Liberal Democrat Leader's hat on, the panel is correct to state there were many factors that led to the riots and there is not one silver bullet that would stop another riot from happening again. I think it is crucial to firstly state that anyone who stole or caused damage to property or people, they had no excuse.

Anyone found guilty needed the legal system to show them and society at large that sort of behaviour was totally immoral and wrong.

Speaking to the owners of businesses in Central Ealing they are still feeling the problems - the glass and physically damage to their shops may have been repaired but some have not received any insurance. And others do not feel as safe as they had done so before.

There are certainly many actions which need to be taken by the Government, councils, schools, the police and parents to both increase opportunities for the unemployed, prevent re-offending, improve parenting and react quicker when problems arise. I will be asking Ealing Council what it is planning to do in reaction to the Panel’s conclusions as each institution needs to play their part.

Only if the police become more reactive with an ability to get out extra police on the streets quickly, when the usual 9 to 5 day has ended can we be really ready if another riot occurred. The council does a lot of good work with young people and so this needs to be supported - we need to look at each recommendation and see which ones relate to Ealing Council and then make changes to improve things. Schools and parents need to ensure that kids and teenagers are brought up with a clear knowledge of what is wrong and right. I am sure in most cases this does happen but when this does not occur I do not feel that schools should be fined. I think the panel were wrong on this point.

Instead it is better for schools with government working more closely to identify those who appear to be having, or more likely to more likely to be having, issues - so they can get help.

The current Government and the previous one, had strategies to help what are termed as "Troubled Families". Expanding this may indeed help things a lot but as the report says it is not a simple matter.  The idea of young offenders being mentored when they finish their prison sentences makes total sense as reoffending is a blight on our prison regime which has failed as long as I have lived.

I hope the report is widely read and that all the institutions in it do what they need to, to improve things in our community.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Ealing Charity Event Raised nearly £2000

Tonight I attended a fun event where we had a meal and placed bets on fictitious horses (a Race Night) to raise money for three of charities that the Mayor of Ealing is supporting this year.

The three charities are the Chiswick Lifeboat Station, Epilepsy Action and CAPE (an independent outreach and day service for individuals who experience Mental Health Problems some of whom are considered 'hard to engage').

The event raised just short of £2000 and all those attending the event in Hanger Hill, Ealing had a great time. This was an event where people from all political parties actually get on and chat! Of the six bets I put on I won one which I think was about par for the course. The food was nice and it was good to see local groups who help residents, some who have big problems, get the help they need to enable them to have a better life.

I say well done to all those who helped cook the food, organise the event and make it a worthwhile event. And well done to Mayor for turning up when it was his birthday (we sang him happy birthday!)

Not quite the £50 million that Sport Relief raised but in its own way events like this are very important.

Friday, 23 March 2012

£220 back in pockets of London’s workers

Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government this week cut taxes for London’s workers by raising the point at which they start paying tax to £9,200. This means £220 back in pockets of low and middle earners on top of tax cuts of £200 last year and £130 coming in next month.

The move is a key step towards securing the key Liberal Democrat policy of raising the Personal Allowance to £10,000. This was on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto and was secured by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in the Coalition Agreement.

Today’s announcement is the single biggest increase in the Personal Allowance ever and follows pressure from Nick Clegg for the Coalition to deliver the tax cut ‘further and faster’ than planned.

I am proud that Liberal Democrats are cutting taxes for working Londoners further and faster than originally planned. With huge fare rises and flat-lining wages, I know the strain Londoners are under.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Acton Green Residents Association AGM 2012 Report

At the AGRA meeting tonight a number of interesting local issues were discussed:

1. Firstly the crime figures for 2011 were discussed. They showed that crime had gone down by about a third compared to 2010. However in the first month of the year it appeared that motor vehicle crime had gone up. The advice given was from people not to leave items on view on the passenger seat or the back seat. Also it was said that March and October are times when cutting your hedge was more vital (as they allow burglars to hide from people passing by).

2. The Chair mentioned a number of improvements that were to happen, some coming from the Southfield ward forum which I chair. These included: new park benches, a road safety scheme for Bollo Lane, a consultation into a possible road safety scheme for Cunnington Street and new recycling bins near Chiswick Park tube station.

3. I spoke up about the planning application which is taking place concerning a possible 120 or so new flats on 2 Colonial Drive, which is adjacent to Bollo Lane. Residents spoke up about the negatives such as parking issues, the overlook from tall buildings and the effects on wildlife who are present on the Gunnersbury Triangle.

Click to see AGRA's website.

They are looking for someone to update the text on the website. If you live in Acton Green, Chiswick let me know or contact AGRA. It is run by volunteers and they are a great bunch of residents.

Offensive: Councillor Benjamin Dennehy and his blog

A lot has been said on the internet about Cllr Benjamin Dennehy and his blog. Certainly one way to increase visitors to your blog is to make a statement that many members of the online community have found offensive, racist or both. Sadly I think his motivation was not rooted in increasing website traffic but something else.

The blog post was taken down and cached copies have also been removed so in one sense you are lucky not to have to read it. Cllr Benjamin Dennehy has been suspended pending some sort of internal investigation. I understand that he does not want to speak to the press. Will we ever see an public apology?

My party, the Liberal Democrats, believe that racism is wrong. And to many this sort of material is hugely offensive. After gaining the viewpoints of friends elsewhere in the country their conclusion was that it was offensive and some (mild mannered friends) used the R word.

The actions I have taken is that I have put in an official complaint to Ealing Council as Cllr Benjamin Dennehy appears to have broken two rules that relate to how Councillors should act. A Council committee which includes non Councillors will adjudicate the case. Not sure whether it will take weeks or months to come to conclusion.

I have also taken legal advice about whether he has broken the law. It appears that he may have breached  section 19 of the Public Order Act 1986 which concerns stirring up racial hatred. Anyone who is of an Indian origin is likely to be offended by his words.

Again we await a full public apology from current Councillor Benjamin Dennehy.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Every Londoner now owed £8 by embassies that dodge paying the Congestion Charge

Figures announced today by Caroline Pidgeon showed that the amount of unpaid Congestion Charge and penalty charge notices owed by embassies and diplomatic missions that evade paying the Congestion Charge is now more than £60 million.

Shocking is the only words that can be used. That means that every single Londoner is owed more than £8 by non paying embassies and diplomatic missions. Perhaps I shall visit each embassy and get my £8 this weekend?

Two months ago Transport for London admitted that the total unpaid bill had reached £58.1 million by the end of December 2011 (see page 14 of the enclosed report).  With the unpaid bill rising by almost £1 million a month, the total bill has now broken through the £60 million figure.

There are too many overseas embassies are insulting Londoners by evading a charge which everyone else - including  the Queen -  has to pay if they wish to drive in central London.

As expected under Boris Johnson the total amount owed by the embassies and diplomatic missions has tripled and every Londoner is now owed eight pounds. Instead of making excuses and making his hair nice and fluffy the Mayor must take real action to tackle this huge loss of revenue and stop this evasion of the Congestion Charge.

Back at the end of 2009 the London Assembly called on Boris Johnson to write to every head of state which had an embassy in London that didn't pay the Congestion Charge and told the Mayor to publish online the responses he received.  Boris Johnson rejected this plan and has instead allowed the unpaid Congestion Charge bill to soar.

I am sure Boris has enough money to pay us all £8 so perhaps I should pop along to City Hall and get my £8 from Boris personally.

Monday, 12 March 2012

I am glad the Richard Mannington Bowes Killer Admits his Guilt in Court

In the relation to the sad death of Richard Mannington Bowes, during the Ealing Riots last year, I was glad to hear the 17 year old who was charged has admitted guilt.

Richard's family and Ealing as a whole want to see all those who have committed crimes punished. A long drawn out trial gives no respect to the family. There is now a chance that people can move on once sentencing  has occurred.

What motivates someone to punch an elderly man, and knock him to the ground. How sad can some people's mindset be. I hope the guilty plea will bring a chance to show that most people are not interesting in violence against property or other people. Since the riots I have seen and worked with lots of young people putting their time to good work either in a sporting capacity or other community minded projects.

The teen who admitted killing Richard Mannington Bowes has also pleaded guilty to violent disorder, after having previously burgled the William Hill, Tesco Express, Blockbusters and Fatboys Thai restaurant on August 8th 2011.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

£55 million currently left on Oystercards that are no longer being used‏!

There are many people who have a few quid on their oyster cards. Perhaps relatives who visited you and didn't use up all the credit or those who have misplaced their card and bought a second one.

Figures show there are about 17 million (YES million!) cards out there that have not been used for at least 12 months with a combined balance of an eye-watering £55 million.

The London Liberal Democrat team, obtained the figures using a Freedom of Information request, say it is not easy to get the money back from unused cards.

Hard-working Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group said recently that Transport for London is sitting on a cash pile of £55m which should be returned to passengers. Quite right Caroline. Plain common sense.

Transport for London claim people can easily reclaim their money from dormant Oyster cards but the evidence suggests otherwise. If it really was simple for passengers to reclaim their money, why has the amount left on dormant Oyster cards doubled in the last two years?

I have never seen an publicity about how to reclaim money. I am sure my brother and dad have money on their Oyster. Give my dad his money back!!!

Let me know at @CllrGaryMalcolm what your experience is about getting YOUR money back.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Visited Gunnersbury Triangle This Morning

This morning I visited Gunnersbury Triangle which is a wonderful place near to Chiswick Park tube station. A green patch of land surrounded by roads and buildings.

Once inside I saw a group of young ex-offenders making good the worn pathways. They appeared to be having fun whilst paying back for some crimes they had done previously.

The weather was a tad rainy but being surrounded by wildlife and seeing the pond with the two Mallards swimming cheered me up.

A developer has put in a planning application recently which will overlook the wildlife sanctuary. The buildings will also be very close to the boundary of the Triangle meaning that the place people go to get away from built up London will not be the same. Local schools visit the Triangle to see the wildlife and have fun whilst learning about nature.

If you want to know more of the planning application see this link.

It is clear to me that this application is not going to be good for the area. We do need housing but it needs to be less tall and built away from the boundary so the wildlife can be protected.

If you want to see a campaign that I am supporting about this matter check this out.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Mayor Johnson Lies Again About the Olympics

It has been repeatedly said that under the Get Set Scheme 125,000 free tickets would be allocated to London school children,  and that would be one in eight school children in London. These figures are quoted in a number of Mayoral press releases and there is even a video of the Mayor saying that!

However, it turns out that in practice just 95,761 tickets will be allocated to London school children.

For the Mayor's office to now be claiming that despite always saying "125,000 children"  or "125,000 pupils" they actually meant school kids and teachers is a bit rich to put it mildly.    Also, why when the scheme is restricted to children aged from 10 to 18 years is there a necessity for so many teachers to supervise the children - a ratio of one adult to every three children (many of which are actually young adults) seems very odd?  The fact that the Mayor's office are also talking about allocating some of the tickets to sports clubs is again not what was promised.

Time and time again the Mayor has promised that 125,000 London school children will get free tickets to this year's Games under the Get Set Scheme. It seems the Mayor is now using smoke and mirrors to disguise the  fact that he is now including adults in the total figure of 125,000.

Boris Johnson should come clean and let us know whether his long standing promise to London school children will be met, or whether he will be disappointing some 30,000 school children who won't now be getting tickets to the Games.

Mayor Closing London Fire Brigade Museum is "economics of the madhouse"

Well done to Mike Tuffrey, Lib Dem London Assembly Member, who asked a series of detailed questions putting the strong case for keeping the London Fire Brigade Museum open.

Mike who is also a member of the London Fire Emergency and Planning Authority, uncovered that since 2005/06  the annual attendance to the museum has tripled. The real cost to the taxpayer of keeping the museum open is just £81,000 a year, but the cost of the cost of closing the museum and storing the collection is estimated to be more than three times higher, at £276,000.

The London Fire Brigade Museum is growing in popularity and is remarkably cheap to run. The idea of closing it down and spending a fortune on putting the collection in storage is simply economic madness. The facts speak for themselves that this museum should be protected.

The approach being taken by Boris and the Conservative leadership of the London Fire Emergency and Planning Authority (LFEPA) is to rush ahead with closing the London Fire Brigage Museum.

This type of approach is the economics of the madhouse both in terms of public money and in protecting London's heritage.