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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Explosives report confirms the utter folly of ‘Boris Island’ plans

In recent weeks I have read many Conservatives stating that they want either Heathrow expanded or new airports built. Crazy. Our area of the country suffers from enough noise and air pollution thank you!

And then today I was reading Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, commenting on the Department of Transport’s report into the survey carried out on the SS Richard Montgomery ship which was wrecked with 1,400 tons of TNT explosives inside it, and is located near to where the proposed ‘Boris Island’ airport would be situated.

Caroline said: "The threat of this cargo ship being blown sky high by any construction work needed for an airport in this location is a risk not worth taking.  The devastation and chaos caused by an explosion would be immense. This report confirms the utter folly of Boris Johnson’s proposed Thames Estuary airport."

It is certainly time that Boris Johnson drops his proposals and instead concentrated on the transport issues that he is actually responsible for like getting the buses and tubes working more efficiently.

Please see the MCA Survey Report here.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Lib Dems to call in the Ealing non collection of waste at Cabinet earlier

At Ealing Council's Cabinet meeting tonight, a lot of topics were raised and one stuck out like a sore thumb for the Labour leadership. That of April and the weeks of missed collections of household waste, recyclables, kitchen waste and the dirty streets.

This cabinet meeting was what Labour thought would be a suitable chance to discuss the problems that occurred in April and some streets are still having issues. The view of my party, the Liberal Democrats, is that there should be a full, open, public debate about the causes of the problems so that we can avoid this type of issue never affecting Ealing again. At a council meeting last month the Labour party decided a full investigation was not required.

After quite a large number of questions that were fielded at the Leader of the Council, the Labour councillor in charge of missed collections of household waste and senior Council staff, the Leader of the council indicated he would not disagree with a meeting to discuss the issue more. Quite right. That was why my party have said that open and public scrutiny is needed. And why we collected a large number of signatures to get a proper scrutiny of the reasons why so many residents in Ealing suffered.

From questions I asked it appears that somewhere between £5,000 and £10,000 of cost has been taken on board at the time when the non collection problems arose.

Another question seemed to indicate that at the start of the contract Enterprise had all the correct vehicles needed to do their job effectively. But other Council published fact shows that extra vehicles are not to arrive in Ealing until the middle of June. And then another councillor stated that it would be the end of July!!! Meetings should answer questions in a way where clarity comes from chaos but tonight more questions were raised than were answered.

The contractor, Enterprise, had staff in the meeting but they were not invited to speak. Why? The issues suffered by residents has come from the combined effect of the contractor and Ealing Council not managing the contractor effectively.

The Liberal Democrat are to call in (for review) this topic and so we hope to get answers as to why what occurred actually occurred and crucially changes of policy so that the same saga can never occur again.

Earlier in the meeting two subjects were raised:

1. The council's review of art provision:

  • It appears the Council is not being proactive and instead is happy to only look at reviewing the use of Ealing Town Hall and not being active in ensuring it could identify where certain arts needs are not being met.
  • Most of the Council's recommendations are current council policies and so it seems the group of Councillors reviewing arts provision have not collectively stretched themselves to look what art could look link in Ealing in the next five or ten years.

2. Southall Car Park

  • I again mentioned the Liberal Democrats opposition to spending £5 million on a car park where there is no business case.
  • Figures from the Council showed that the new car park (once they know where it will be!) is almost certain to lose money. So we spend £5 million on a car park that there is little need for when Council money could be better spent on helping vulnerable members of society. Crazy.

Lastly there was an item of cycling which I have a passion for. My group and the Labour-run Council both support and promote activities to encourage cycling. I am someone who says when a councillor or party has made the right decision even it is not my party. And on cycling the Labour council has been making positive plans to improve road safety for cyclists so I am more than happy to work with them to promote initiatives that reduce the number of accidents on our roads. Sometimes politicians can work together!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Topics that Ealing Council might scrutinise this year

Myself, a number of Liberal Democrat councillors as well as others discussed topics (some from residents) that Ealing Council might scrutinise in the coming year.

Ealing Council has four committees that will be focusing on a range of topics. Today was a chance to add new ideas and come up with a more concise list which will be agreed in the next couple of weeks. Ideas that were discussed and generally thought to be useful were as follows:

1) Environment and Transport
  • Customer experience (mystery shopping) including people phoning the council, obtaining CPZ permits and vouchers, problems finding information on the Council website
  • Car clubs
  • Road & pavement repairs
  • The Police possibly closing Ealing police station
  • How to encourage more residents to recycle more often

2) Housing
  • Review of Ealing Homes ALMO being brought back in house
  • Beds and sheds / Overcrowding
  • Review of High Street Regeneration - e.g. Hanwell
  • Alcohol - use and social effects

3) Education / Children & Young People
  • Youth unemployment and apprenticeships
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Adult education
  • Sports and other extra-curricular activities

4) Health
  • Treatment and care for those with Cancer, Diabetes or TB

Although only about a quarter of these might be selected hopefully working on these committees can help the Council improve areas that it manages. Let me know if there is any other topics you feel should be added to the list....

Boris Johnson’s job figures don’t add up

The Mayor of London has failed to defend his claims to be creating 200,000 new jobs over the next four years when challenged at City Hall today by the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member Stephen Knight.

Boris Johnson was elected on a 9 point plan, with his third pledge to Londoners, being the creation of 200,000 new jobs over the next four years. At the first Mayor's Question Time session since his re-election Boris Johnson was unable to defend or explain how the pledge to deliver the promised new jobs would be delivered.

Stephen Knight spoke about the issue after today's Mayor Question Time: "When you examine the figures it is clear that Boris Johnson is claiming 104,000 of these new jobs would be created through his housing programme, however in reality there will be only about 25,000 people employed each year. In order to claim this as 100,000 new jobs the Mayor has counted each person employed per year as a new job. This is as daft as saying the Mayor of London himself will be holding four jobs over the next four years.”

Stephen added: “The claims about new jobs also fall apart as it is clear that the Mayor will hardly deliver any more new homes than have been built over the last four years of his Mayorality.   The Mayor’s housing programme will deliver less than 200 additional jobs in the next 4 years, with the programme largely maintaining existing jobs. Not long ago, the Mayor claimed ‘public trust in statistics is critically important in a democracy’.  It is time the Mayor practiced what he preached and stopped peddling dishonest statistics.”

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Write up of the the Southfield Safer Neighbourhood Police Panel

On Monday night I attended the Southfield Safer Neighbourhood Police Panel meeting which is a chance for residents and the police to discuss current and recent local crimes trends. Myself and fellow ward Councillor Andrew Steed attended.

I updated the meeting with the recent confirmation that Southfield Rec will get lighting for two of the commonly used pathways. The lighting will be scheduled to be on for a few hours in the morning and a few in the evening so that people can get to and from work more safely.

It was announced that during the Olympics the ward would still be patrolled as the Met officers ware working more overtime shifts to ensure they cover their own local shifts while some officers are drafted to help out in central London.

Of the recent crimes the local Sergeant said that many of them could have been easily avoided - by taking belongings out of your cars, making sure you keep your doors and windows shut when you leave the house. Also when you leave the tube or rail stations do not be tempted to get your phone or your iPod out as some criminals wait for this then pounce. They will have the surprise element. Be aware.

A couple of local crimes were discussed. One relates to drug issues on a road coming from Acton Vale. Later the issue of a brothel near to Southfield Road was mentioned. If you know anything about this topic then you should report it as the police have a new system for prioritising calls.

The system is called "Grip and Pace" and it works by giving points for calls about a a particular person or a crime. When a number of people report the same person in relation to a crime or that a crime is happening then the crime is prioritised higher than it currently does. Often many people do not report crimes due to the fact that  they assume someone else has done so. This system gives more attention to crimes reported by more people. Although the system is new it sounds as if it might help the police to give more attention to the crimes that residents often see. My advice is to report anything dodgy you see and give as good a description of criminals as you can as this will help give the police more intelligence to solve crimes.

Lastly there was some good news about a change of local policing structures. What it means quite simply is that   in the near future each section of Ealing (e.g. Acton including Chiswick) will have a dedicated set of detectives who work with the local police team to help investigate those local crimes. This appears to be a positive step from the Met. Hopefully it will mean that the many sections of the local police teams will speak to each other and be more proactive in preventing and solving crimes.

If you want to know more information about the local police team and how to contact them please email me. My email address is:

Friday, 18 May 2012

Who is telling the truth - Dennehy or Millican?

It was revealed this week that Ealing Councillor (ex Conservative) Benjamin Dennehy has publicly attacked Conservative Leader David Millican over the blog that he wrote making claims about Southall and its residents.

My take on the blog was that Councillor Dennehy had clearly overstepped his mark and said things that were very offensive to both Indians and residents in Southall. After taking feedback from friends, some in Ealing and others not in London, I made an official complaint against Councillor Dennehy.

This case is still in the process of being heard. I also wrote to David Cameron (yes, the Prime Minister, demanding that he expel Councillor Dennehy from the Conservative party).

Through the online websites and both the Conservative Leader and the ex Conservative councillor essentially makes claims which both cannot be true. Who is telling the truth? Dennehy? Millican? Or neither?

The differences come down to whether Councillor Dennehy is expelled or suspended. Also it is claimed that the Conservative leader approved the blog. Again is this true? Did the Conservative Leader see the blog after it was posted and then believe it was okay?

Have a read of the Ealing Today's article on this matter. Then read the story in the Ealing Gazette. I normally would not promote someone else's blog but why not then read  Councillor Dennehy's blog!

Lots of questions and few answers. But one thing is clear the Conservatives are ripping themselves apart on this issue. Why did it take so long for Councillor Dennehy to make an apology?

If I had made such negative claims about Southall and the Indian community I would have thought that an apology should have been made within days not weeks or months. You judge for yourself...

Transport for London are still in denial over Oyster overcharging

You may not know about the new proposals from Transport for London to allow Oyster card users to check their accounts online and to allow Oyster customers to submit refund applications online.

Sounds good but these improvements are welcome and very much long overdue. Last year alone passengers using Oyster Pay As You Go were wrongly charged maximum fares totaling over £66 million.

Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, spoke about this recently: "The fact remains that Transport for London are still in denial over the real problems behind Oyster overcharging.  They continue to portray Oyster overcharging as being solely the fault of passengers when in reality a huge part of the problem is how the technology actually works."

Caroline added: “Even with these changes there still remains much that needs to be done to ensure that honest passengers are not overcharged when using Oyster Pay as You Go.”

Caroline is right. Blaming passengers is wrong. Transport for London could solve these issues but they do not want to because they like the extra money they get.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Colonial Drive Planning Meeting – the outcome‏

Earlier today (well Wednesday night) I attended the Ealing Council planning committee where the Colonial Drive application was discussed.

Let me thank all of the residents who attended the site visit last weekend or the planning committee meeting a few hours ago.

In the meeting, residents Malcolm Haxby and Jan Hewlett as well as Southfield ward Councillor Harvey Rose, spoke up against the developer’s planning application. They listed the many reasons why the set of 100 or more flats would be bad for both the skyline and the nature reserve, as well as the likely parking issues that the development will cause.

Sadly, Ealing Council’s planning committee voted 7 to 6 to approve the plan. This means that it is highly likely that the 100 or more flats will be built on Colonial Drive, next door to the currently tranquil Gunnersbury Triangle Nature Reserve.

It was totally wrong for Ealing Council to allow such a large development next to the Gunnersbury Triangle Wildlife Reserve. The 100 or more flats will cause parking problems and will harm the flora and fauna in the reserve. The development is too high and too near to the reserve. Well over 1500 residents in the area signed petitions to show their disgust at the idea of this development that is an over development. Ealing Council has made a grave mistake for the sake of £1.9 million given by the developer.

Given Ealing Council’s decision tonight your ward councillors and others will be looking to any legal avenues where the decision could be challenged (perhaps via the Mayor of London). This may not be possible but we will be looking in the near future to see what might be possible.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Decision Day for the Gunnersbury Triangle Planning Application

Today (Wednesday 16th May) Ealing Council's planning committee will decide whether to allow a set of over 100 flats, rising to 8 stories high, to be built adjacent to the tranquil place of Gunnersbury Triangle.

You can see three pictures taken at the recent site visit by the planning committee on Saturday. I was informed that there were over 100 people attending the site visit and that this is the second highest number of residents attending this type of event:

The planning committee meets from 7pm in Ealing Town Hall and the public gallery is likely to be packed given the controversial nature of the application.

For those who are nor aware of the location and reasons why people are against it read on. It is located across the road from Chiswick Park tube station and a large number of residents and the well known botanist David Bellamy are against the plan as it will cause a lot of problems such as parking problems and harm to wildlife in the Triangle.

The development will be sited with almost no gap between the wall and the Triangle meaning there will be a lot of light taken away from the triangle grounds.

More than 1600 people have now signed the petition calling for rejection of the present application in favour of more sensitive development of this site and one which respects the special quality of the nature reserve.

If you would like to know the outcome of the planning committee meeting please email me at:

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Tonight's Ealing Council Meeting About the Non Collection of Rubbish

Tonight's meeting about why Ealing Council and its contractor, Enterprise, had a full public gallery (not the norm).

I handed in a large petition from residents all across Ealing who were totally annoyed that the service the Council provides, was not for many weeks in April. I reported that one road had not had its waste collected for three weeks. It was only collected when I contacted the Council's CEO - he then arranged for the waste to be collected the next day, a Sunday! It should not have taken the CEO to be involved.

My party demanded that both Ealing Council and Enterprise should be scrutinised at a public council meeting. What the Labour-run administration stated, was a half-baked alternative - to have a report presented at the next Cabinet meeting which almost no discussion is allowed - was acceptable. Clearly this is not acceptable. Essentially this will be a rubber stamping exercise.

The strange logic that the Labour Council Leader and his environmental side kick, Cllr Bassam Mahfouz, was that it was okay  to attack the contractor 100% for failing and then apologising for the mistakes made. If the contractor was totally to blame then surely the Ealing Council Leader should not be apologising?

During the meeting it became apparent that the new contractor would not have bought the correct number of vehicles in time for when the contract started. If I had been the top Council officer I would have been more sceptical and really challenged Enterprise to prove they would be able to collect Ealing's waste from day one.

Another matter that I raised was that when the fiasco (the term was accepted and repeated by the Labour party) began residents were not communicated to properly. Most residents do not read Ealing Council's twitter feed or their web site. But I suggested that the Council should have emailed Residents Association chairs and Street-watchers who might be able to spread news about the issue and what the Council was advising residents to do. It did not do this and so clearly left itself open to people guessing and spreading comment.

Also I am awaiting to see how much time was wasted by Ealing Council staff dealing with this fiasco. I have asked for details of what actions and meetings occurred before the contact started to get more of a picture of how much effort Ealing spent in trying to ensure the new contractor could fulfil its pledges.

Later in the debate Cllr Bassam Mahfouz the Councillor in charge of recycling and waste collection said he was a "solutions man". Many in the Council meeting laughed as it was a claim that appears to have been made when still many streets in West Ealing are not having their waste collected on time. Offering solutions that do not work is the same as failing.

Our amendment to have a full and public review attracted the support of the Conservative party but the Labour administration put their head in the sand and voted down the proposal. A sad day. When a Council makes a mistakes it should look to review what it did (or not did) so to ensure this cannot happen again. Without a review this event might well happen again.

The new contractor started on April 1st, and since then Ealing has been made to look like fools!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Southfield Park Triangle Residents' Association AGM

Despite the cold weather this morning I attended the Southfield Park Triangle Residents' Association AGM this morning. Once in the local scout hut there was coffee which was welcomed by the residents who had already arrived.

Their meetings are never boring and procedural. They chat about local matters and often have the police and ward councillors, including myself, in attendance to answer questions about some of the current topics of interest.

One issue that was raised was a social summer party in June. Last year it was great - they have face painting for the children, a BBQ, a Pimms bar, a baking table and refreshments plus music were readily available. It aims to break even or raise a little money. The atmosphere was great and I look forward to this event next month!

I have been asked to do the BBQ so given I like cooking this should be a nice afternoon. Hopefully the weather will be nice. Fingers crossed. I was lucky in last year's raffle so might buy a few tickets this year. Again, fingers crossed. If I lose then any monies raised by the event is ploughed back into the future social events so residents can have more fun.

The serious issue of the proposed Thames Tunnel was then raised. A meeting has been organised with representatives from Ealing Council, Thames Water so that residents can ask questions and see Thames Water's current proposals about the tunnel. A website with more information is here.

If you want to see more about what the Southfield Park Triangle Residents' Association are up to check out their website.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A Visit to Kent to See Where Some of Ealing's Waste is Sorted

This morning I was invited by Ealing Council to go to a MRF (Materials Recovery Facility) in Kent. This is where some of Ealing's waste is being sorted. After all of the bad press Ealing Council has had it made sense to try to get a positive spin on the tonnes of waste that Ealing Council gets recycled.

One of the points raised was that recyclable items such as plastics and paper were being landfilled. Due to issues with the new contractor in the short term some roads are having their green boxes and plastics all dumped together - which obviously has meant many residents have wasted lots of their time they have spent sorting it out themselves.

The value of pre-sorted waste (by residents) is that the contractor can sell this pre-sorted recyclables to other companies for a higher value (and profit). If as it is, as it is, for many residents, mixed up by Enterprise then it goes to the Kent MRF where I sent today, and the outputted plastics, metals, paper etc are worth less than the pre-sorted methods. This short term arrangement does not cost the Council any money but it has lost them its reputation in high-ish levels of recycling.

I have visited a MRF plan a number of years ago. This one was larger and sorted more items. At the end of it you get bales of plastics, paper, card with glass and metals separated. These are then sold to be re-used by other manufacturers.

The plant looks a mess but it is as the plan manager described "organised chaos". Lots of dust, noise and vehicles moving around. Have a look at a couple of the photos and videos I took giving you an idea of what the place is like:
  • Van arriving to dump its load of waste.
  • A super little terrier vehicle sorting some waste dropped from the van.
  • On this conveyor belt the paper is blown away leaving glass to be dumped in a separate container.
  • Lots of wires separated.
  • Here is some of the huge numbers of baled paper and plastics.
Certainly being here reminded me of when I worked in a factory in my teens to earn some spending cash (pay my rent to my dad!) One of the vehicles, the small nippy one, was excellent at taking the waste from the floor after the container had been emptied, to the first conveyor belt. I think I would have paid some cash to have a go for ten minutes. Looked like fun. Since I don't drive I think that I would have crashed it - never been good at racing car games!

Overall I was impressed with the operation here. There appears to be little contamination in the bales that are at the end of the chain of events. Clearly you can get more bang for the buck by separating it out on the kerbside as the sell on value is higher but a MRF plant like this can really help to sort mixed waste collected.

I think that the area that Ealing Council needs to work on is how it encourages residents who do not recycle to do so.

Liberal Democrats: a Zero Waste London

The very idea of rubbish being thrown away should be a thing of the past. A great city like London cannot afford to waste its waste. We must set a long term goal of a ‘closed loop’ approach, whereby use of materials is reduced, re-used where possible and recycled for further use. Working with the boroughs and the London Waste and Recycling Board, we will:

  • Set tough targets for reducing the amount of waste produced by individuals and businesses in the capital and for reuse and recycling by boroughs and disposal authorities.
  • Introduce food waste collections in every borough as a step towards a comprehensive system of separate wet and dry collections.
  • Support moves by manufacturers to minimise packaging and simplifying the mix of plastics entering the waste stream.
  • Improve recycling rates from flats - currently only around 10% - and challenge branded goods companies to fund ‘on the go’ recycling collections so people can recycle their waste when out-and-about.
  • Introduce a plastic bag levy, as Wales and soon Northern Ireland have done, by agreement if possible, by securing legislation.
  • Promote a London-wide on-line swap-shop, modelled on the Freecycle scheme, so Londoners can more easily offer their unwanted goods for reuse, not waste.