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Friday, 20 December 2013

High Court sees off Councillor Dennehy's challenge

Some good pre-Christmas news to report...

Councillor Benjamin Dennehy has been refused permission to proceed with his judicial review challenge of the Standards Committee decision, by the High Court, which found he had breached Ealing Council's Code of Conduct for Councillors and had not treated others with respect.

Myself happy with the High Court's decision
My complaint stemmed from a blog post that Councillor Benjamin Dennehy wrote where he wrote comments about Indians and those living in Southall. Councillor Dennehy referred to Southall being the “home to the worst concentration of illegal immigrants in the UK”. Councillor Dennehy then referred to gambling, drinking, drug, prostitution and crime issues “unlike many other parts of London” and asserted that it is “a largely Indian community who say they deplore this behavior but yet it is that very community that harbors and exploits their own people in squalid third world living conditions”.

Part of the documentation read: "There appears to me to be no justification for such a sweeping statement, which would be likely to cause legitimate indignation and serious offence to those members of the group referred to who have no involvement with illegal immigration or any other form of criminality. Furthermore, I find it hard to accept that any reasonable Councillor could have believed that such a sweeping statement was justified."

Another section of the legal documentation read: "…I am satisfied that the tone, style and choice of wording in the post was written in such a way that it did cause offence to some residents and councillor Dennehy could reasonably have expected that to be the case had he reflected on the particular way in which he chose to raise the issues.”

In this type of litigation case the loser is likely to pay the costs and this will be worked out in the future.

Thank you to all those who have given me the support to take up the initial case against Councillor Dennehy.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Success at last for the Piccadilly Line to stop at Turnham Green

The Mayor of London announced some good news earler today (at the Mayor’s Question Time) that Piccadilly line trains will stop properly at Turnham Green once modernisation work is complete. Although this may be a number of years off, he did make a commitment that tubes will stop all night when the Piccadilly line becomes part of the “Night Tube” in 2015.

Lib Dems back in 2010 at a demonstration
The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for ten years to get this good news for residents. It may not be happening straight away but we will be counting down until the tubes stop all day at Turnham Green station. Thank you to all the residents who completed the consultation forms on this subject or filled in our petitions. A nice end to the year!

So much work has been done by Caroline Pidgeon over the last number of years. We thank her very much. She has been in attendance for many meetings either at City Hall or more locally, where these issues have been discussed.

Some comments on Twitter I read gave thanks for the hard work that the team has spend over many years, some behind the scenes in meetings with Transport for London officials showing them the many reasons why this service will improve things for residents in Chiswick, Acton and the neighbouring areas.

“Well done to @CllrGaryMalcolm, who campaigned for the pic line trains to stop at Turnham Green all-day.”

“Pic Line to stop all day at Turnham Green tube station once line is upgraded. Well done to local campaigners especially @CllrGaryMalcolm”

As mentioned, the campaign has gone on for about ten years. Lots of residents have helped the campaign. Recently others have joined our growing band waggon. Thank you to all who have helped the campaign.

Monday, 9 December 2013

With Christmas approaching how you can avoid being the victim of crime

Over the Christmas period it will be a great time for many residents and their children, when they open their presents.

But this is also a time when many criminals plan how to relieve us of some of our new belongings.
Liberal Democrats know that there will be many vulnerable residents who might not be visited as often over the festive period.

So if you know of someone who might be vulnerable give them a knock over Christmas to check they are okay. December is a time when a lot of boilers break down so better to be safe and sorry.

Over this period I also like to practice my baking and cooking and drop by some food based Christmas presents – including scones, biscuits and fruit breads.

Liaising with the local police over the past ten years or so, I have learned a lot of what I call “Top tips” in reducing being a victim of crime over the New Year period.

  • In the run up to Christmas make sure you do not leave any bills or banking documents in your waste. Shred them so criminals are less able to commit identity theft.
  • When you have unwrapped valuable items like plasma TVs remember not to leave the box easily visible to those walking by. It will highlight you have some items that a criminal could break in and steal.
  • If you have cash which you are to take with you to pay for Christmas presents, ensure it is in a safe or out of reach of anyone peering in through your windows or letter box.
  • When you leave your vehicle ensure you have not left any items in the car. This is because a jumper on the back seat may encourage a villain to break in and will cause you hassle even if they do not steal the jumper.
  • Recently a lot of people are reporting callers allegedly collecting for charities. If you are unsure then do not open the door and ask they to leave a leaflet so you can research the charity later.
  • Lastly if you are shopping in the January sales then make sure your bag or handbags are zipped shut. Anyone in a busy clothes shop could be walking around to steal a purse or wallet, and is not interested in clothing.

I hope all of us in Ealing are going to have a fun and safe festive period, away from work and spending time with family and friends. If you have any crime tips please let me know them by emailing me at gary.malcolm@ealing.gov.uk


The Mayor needs to check his rise in travelcards

We get annoyed at this time of the year when Transport for London, run by Mayor Boris, puts up the price of many travel tickets.

It was good to see Caroline Pidgeon AM, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, welcoming the news that from January 2014 the average regulated train fare will now go up by only 3.1% instead of the planned 4.1%. Certainly Caroline Pigeon and the Liberal Democrats have campaigned for prices to be held down when other household bills are rising.

Councillor Andrew Steed campaigning for better services
For many years London residents who rely on train services, along with many commuters from outer London, have faced incredibly painful  fare rises. At a time when people’s finances are under so much pressure even a rise by the rate of inflation is still hard for people to deal with, but it is at least a step in the right direction.

After this check on regulated train fares the Mayor must now explain why he is boasting about ‘freezing’ fares when in reality on Tuesday he pushed up the price of travelcards by inflation plus 1 per cent from next year. This is disingenuous.

Following Coalition Government intervention, Boris Johnson must now bring down Travelcard fare rises to no more than inflation!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

When Ealing Council Does not clean our streets...

The Southfield Liberal Democrats have never been impressed by Ealing Council and their contractor Enterprise.

I was joined by Councillor Andrew Steed and Gary Busuttil to help clean up some of Speldhurst Road when the Council has failed to do so!

One resident thought that Andrew was an actual street sweeper (his bright jacket gives that impression). Taking turns, we collected bags of swept leaves, which because we had no car, we took back to our homes.

Sadly Ealing Council has not, so far, had the gumption to get the huge amount of compensation that Enterprise owes Ealing Council for the many missed collections, unswept and uncleansed streets.

You can see two videos of us cleaning up Speldhurst Road.

Many residents on Speldhurst Road were complementary of the Liberal Democrat attitute of taking action. Action is much better than words.

This road is like most of Southfield ward. Unswept.

Quite clearly this lack of street sweeping will become more serious if it rained or becomes icy. Any residents who fall down will be able to take legal action against Ealing Council.

So Ealing Council, get the money that Enterprise owes you. Be tough. Not weak.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Andrew Stunnell MP visits Ealing

We were lucky to have Liberal Democrat MP, Andrew Stunnell at our 2013 AGM.

Andrew Stunnell MP
In his address, he spoke about a number of areas of local and national government including:
  • How Labour, in government, allowed a reduction in affordable or rented housing to occur. The Liberal Democrats in the coalition government have so far increased the number of affordable and social housing!
  • When the coalition government was being negotiated, the Labour party team appeared very disorganised and had not made preparations. Andrew Stunnell sadly got none of the limelight he deserved. I see him as a fifth Beatle.
  • In government we have raised the tax threshold, so many people who were paying tax are now not doing so. In addition, many millions of those paying some tax before now pay a lot less.
  • We introduced the Lib Dem idea of a Pupil premium which has added many millions to schools in Ealing so those most in need children will get a better outcome.
  • The coaltion re-linking the basic state pension to earnings to give pensioners a fairer deal.
  • 'Right to Buy' has been altered so that affordable homes will need to be built for each home bought.
  • In summary Andrew stated. "To deliver a fairer society, we need a stronger economy."
Councillor Gary Malcolm
I then went on to talk about how the Ealing Liberal Democrats, aims to stop the Council continuing their closures of day centres, which is affecting many vulnerable and disabled residents. Ealing Council has turned down millions of pounds of money from the coalition government which could have been used to stop these cuts. People talk of the 'nasty tories' but in Ealing many are saying that it is Labour who are being nasty.

Liberal Democrats believe that recycling should be free so that residents are not turned off from doing the right thing. Increasing recycling rates is about persuasion and targeting effort to those who are more likely to want to recycle.

Clearly Labour-run Ealing Council has managed so badly in trying to get its waste contractor to do the job they are paid to do (about £20 million a year). I think my dad would do a better job than Enterprise. They continue, week after week, to let thousands of residents down by missing collections and leaving litter to fly around in the wind.

A Liberal Democrat Council would be as firm as hell again contractors like this. We pay them money, if they do the job. If they fail they get no money. Simple.

I went on to talk about the recent bad news about Ealing Hospital and the other local hopsitals in the area. Clearly if a hospital does not have proper A&E and maternity wards then the are not what people I know would call a hospital.


Andrew Stunnell MP with Gary Busuttil (right)
Jon Ball, the Liberal Democrat Ealing Central & Acton parliamentary candidate is right when he said we welcomes the stay of execution for the A&E departments at Ealing and Charing Cross that Jeremy Hunt has announced, following the huge campaign from local residents and politicians.

However, in addition to the disappointment about the downgrades at Central Middlesex and Hammersmith, this announcement raises more questions than it answers.

Jeremy Hunt needs to spell out what the 'changes to the services' he mentioned in his statement are and the length of his commitment that the A&E departments will remain open before there will be any champagne corks popping in Ealing.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Only a stay of execution for the A&E departments at Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals?

Earlier today the Secretary of state for Health, Jeremy Hunt, made an announcement about the changes in provision at many local hospitals including Ealing, Charing Cross, Central Middlesex and Hammersmith.

Central Middlesex and Hammersmith will no longer have A&E services. Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals would remain open but the A&E wards would stay in the short term with changes to the 'size and shape' of services. There is a period of time where the current arrangements are to be reviewed but the details of this review were not mentioned.

Jon Ball (right) unimpressed with Jeremy Hunt
Councillor Jon Ball, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, said earlier: “I welcome the stay of execution for the A&E departments at Ealing and Charing Cross that Jeremy Hunt has announced today following a huge campaign from local residents and politicians of all parties. However, in addition to the disappointment about the downgrades at Central Middlesex and Hammersmith, this announcement raises more questions than it answers."

Jon Ball added: "Jeremy Hunt needs to spell out what the 'changes to the services' he mentioned in his statement are and the length of his commitment that the A&E departments will remain open before there will be any champagne corks popping in Ealing."

To me, the announcement may appear good but beneath the water potentially lies a shark waiting to attack us. For example with no maternity unit and a growing birth rate it means that people will be travelling further not just to give birth but to visit family and friends.

We also do not know what might happen after this future review. It could mean that they are closed or stay in a form that is not an A&E that any of us would recognise.

It was great for the campaign to be supported by so many tens of thousands of residents who either signed the petition or attended rallies. I said a long time ago that it would have been sensible for the Council, the Secretary of State, doctors and patients' respresentatives to all sit down and discuss things. What we have not is more uncertainty and tax payers money not being spent on providing for our health service.

This campaign needs to go on...

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Mayor of London clearly does not want to help out part-time workers

At the Mayor’s Question Time last week, he refused to further consider the merits of a travelcard for part-time workers. This would allow many workers to have more flexibility in their jobs and for many to take up part time work when currently this is not possible due to Boris's high fare increases.

Following questioning from Caroline Pidgeon, the Mayor, who is also the chair of Transport for London, gave a clear cut reply that he had ruled out any further consideration of the proposal.  His stance led to criticisms even from Conservative Assembly Members.

The Mayor's statement that he will not consider further introducing a travel card to cover part-time workers is deeply disappointing.

Caroline Pidgeon working to improve London's transport
Already 900,000 people in London work part-time and the figure is rapidly increasing.

Daily caps on Oyster simply don't provide the same good deal for the many people who need to get to an office three days a week.  Ultimately the whole travel card system is centred around the old fashioned idea of everyone working a five day week in an office environment.  That simply isn't the real working experience anymore for many people.

The Mayor, as chair of Transport for London, should stop making excuses and instead ensure that people who work part-time or regularly work from home are given a fair deal.

Friday, 25 October 2013

How Lib Dems in government are helping Ealing

Since the formation of the Coalition a number of policies have led to improvements for those living in Ealing.

The Liberal Democrat part of the coalition government has had an impact by ensuring fairness whilst turning around the economy from what we were left in 2010.

To help redress some of the inequalities in our society the Liberal Democrat idea of a Pupil Premium was introduced. This gives schools extra money if pupils’ families are most in need of assistance. For the 2013/14 year, Ealing benefits by £12.4 million. This will give our local schools a great chance to provide additional educational services for those who are most in need. The Southfield Primary School gained about £145,000 and this was welcomed.

Speaking at a rally about local hospitals
Many residents I have spoken to in Acton have said the last couple of years have been difficult with the state of the economy, but they welcome the raising of the tax threshold so that thousands of residents in Ealing no longer have to pay income tax. This Liberal Democrat policy (from our 2010 manifesto) is something we are very proud of.

This policy puts cash directly into working people's pockets, and benefits all lower income people.

In Acton and Southall we have seen the proliferation of betting shops. Fellow Liberal Democrat Councillor Jon Ball spoke about this problem at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Glasgow recently. He has called for changes in the law to allow the numbers of new betting shops to be better controlled and is hopeful that the coalition government will now legislate to give Councils like Ealing these powers.

Since 2010, over a million people have started apprenticeships, with thousands created in Ealing alone. Not everyone wishes to pursue a university education and so the positive work on increasing apprenticeships since 2010 needs to be continued.

Apprenticeships for those under 25 has given work experience and improves their prospects of getting a job. There will help our younger members of society in Ealing develop their potential.

Although we have fewer MP’s than the Conservatives at Westminster, we are pursuing our liberal beliefs and are able to curb some of the more extreme conservative ideas. It is not easy in a coalition, but it does demonstrate that coalition governments can work and bring real benefits to our area.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Let's keep fighting to keep our local hospitals intact

Today during the wind and the heavy rain Liberal Democrat councillors and supporters spent time at the rally opposite Ealing Hospital.

I made a short speech, as those in attendance covered themselves with umbrellas. I talked about the fact that despite Ealing Council losing the court case recently the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, will make a key decision on the Independant Panel's report which he received a couple of weeks ago.

A rain sodden speech
I see our position using a footballing analogy. We are one nil down at half time but we have time (next week) to score not just an equaliser but a couple of goals to win 2-1 and save Ealing from having our hospitals downgraded.

We all hope that Jeremy Hunt makes the right decision for Ealing, Acton. Chiswick and the surrounding area. We need our hospitals to have maternity units as well as A&E's! If patients travel further to hospital then quite simply more people will die.

We have a growing community as people live longer and locally birth rates have increased over the past few years.

At the rally it was good to see lots of campaigners from all parties but good to speak to those who travelled from Acton and Chiswick (Councillor Andrew Steed and Gary Busuttil) as well as Nigel Bakhai the Lib Dem health spokesperson, who has spent the last 18 months with others standing up for the residents of Hanwell and the wider Ealing area.

Jon Ball (right) and other Lib Dems at the rally
Jon Ball, the Lib Dem parliamentary canididate for Ealing Central & Acton, was present with the Liberal Democrat banner, showing that we are firmly against these mad plans to downgrade our hospitals.

Whatever decision is taken next week we will continue to fight for a better local health service.



Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Ealing residents should not be treated like a problem by Ealing Council

Over the past couple of months my Council colleagues and I, have noticed a large increase in the number of vulnerable residents calling to ask for help with matters that relate to services which Ealing Council provide.

Activities such as renewing parking permits and buying visitors’ vouchers, for some, have become impossible. If they go to Ealing Town Hall they are turned away. If they phone up they are not given assistance. When they write they do not get a letter or a call from Ealing Council.

Many elderly or vulnerable residents do not find it easy to access the Council’s internet forms to gain the services they are entitled to. It has come to something when I have to print out forms for residents when Ealing Council would not send them to residents! Ealing Council should be providing a better and more accessible service to these residents.

Three years ago Ealing Liberal Democrats persuaded Ealing Council to adopt a Customer Care Charter so their residents can get a better service. Since then, the number of residents reporting customer service problems has increased massively. Last night, one resident recounted an example of where an Ealing Council member of staff hung up the phone.

The Council assumes everyone can do everything on line! Clearly this is not the case. The Council has paid lip service to their own charter. By giving vulnerable residents a ‘bad deal’ they are being treated with no respect.

By all means encourage residents to use additional on line methods but we should not be stopping methods, whether they be face-to-face or via the telephone, which many residents need from the Council.
In the run up to the local elections which take place in 2014 the Liberal Democrats will continue to press Ealing Council to make improvements for residents including:

  • Answering telephone calls more quickly. Currently many people hang up due to the long wait
  • Ensuring that services offered to vulnerable residents are not reduced further
  • When residents call Ealing Council they are offered help and advice instead of being told they must use an internet based services

Sadly we have seen Labour-run Ealing Council shut many and about to close more day centres. This will have a negative effect on many vulnerable, whether they are elderly or disabled.

Liberal Democrats will not treat the vulnerable as a difficulty. They have every right to a good customer service from Ealing Council and a Liberal Democrat run Ealing Council will provide a good customer experience for them.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Write-up of the Southfield Ward Forum meeting (11th Sept)

At today's meeting in the Carlton Road Day Centre a number of important local matters were discussed including the Piccadilly Line at Turnham Green consultation and a range of items funded by the ward forum's budget.

I chaired the meeting alongside Liberal Democrat councillors Andrew Steed and Harvey Rose. First of all I indicated that residents who wanted Piccadilly line tubes to stop at Turnham Green should fill in the two minute consultation which can be found here.

Also the police have a ward wide AGM that takes place on 25th September at the Carlton Road Day centre from 6.30pm. At the meeting you will have a chance to see the police showing a Taser gun (used to essentially stun people the police are after). Come along to hear the latest crime figures for our part of Chiswick and Acton and a chance to ask the local police team questions.

Following a site visit I announced a number of improvements that will be made to the railway bridge from Chiswick to South Acton. These should make the area safer, as it currently is not very inviting for residents to go between Chiswick and South Acton.

These include new lights in Acton and Chiswick around the bridge, paint which will brighten the area across the bridge, the trimming of trees so that people can see across the bridge seeing the other side of the bridge, the domed mirror has been repaired, police on both sides of the bridge to patrol more often!

Later we agreed to spend some of the ward funds on the following items:
  • Yellow lines on Multiway to ensure that emergency vehicles can gain access (currently ambulances are stopped by parked vehicles)
  • Street signage for Evershed Walk, W4
  • New lighting for Fishers Lane
  • Landscape improvements for the Southfield Recreation Grounds to encourage dog owners to walk around the areas where the children at Southfield Primary School play each week.
  • Install two new items of gym equipment on Southfield Rec (Triple pull ups & Sit up benches)
  • Wildflower seeding on the triangle area adjacent to the 94 bus terminus, Acton Green to make the area look prettier
  • Agreement of works to convert the Larden Road area into a 20 mph scheme
  • Two additional bins for Acton Green to reduce the litter

If you have any ideas about how to improve the Southfield area of Chiswick let me know via email at: southfield@ealinglibdems.org.uk

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Turnham Green consultation has begun - a "how to" guide...

It has finally happened. When we recieved confirmation a year ago we have patiently been pressing Transport for London and the Mayor of London to get a move on!

A lot of hard work took place since the campaign was taken up by the Southfield Liberal Democrats but here is a "how to" guide so you can get to the consultation and know what the key questions are.
  • Questions 1 to 6 - these are to ask for your current use of the transport system include the tube
  • Question 7 - a key question asking "Would you like the Piccadilly line to stop at Turnham Green?" I put YES unsurprisingly. I hope you do too.
  • Question 8 - this is a very important question but it is a loaded one, stressing the negatives (which are not necessarily true) without giving the positive aspects. I put YES for this one.
  • Question 9 - this is an open ended question about what you want to see improved about Turnham Green station. I talked about the need for better access for those who are disabled as well as the need for the Piccadilly line to stop there!

The Southfield Tunham Green contingent at City Hall
So to get to the survey click this link here!

It is crucial to get as many people as possible to complete the short two minute survey, as TfL might ignore the results saying not enough people were interested.

If you have any questions feel free to email me at > southfield@ealinglibdems.org.uk

Friday, 16 August 2013

Turnham Green consultation will begin on 27th August

For many years local residents in Chiswick have campaigned for the Piccadilly line to stop at Turnham Green station on a regular basis. The Liberal Democrats are the only party to campaign for this, year in, year out. Like a terrier we will not give up until residents get what they deserve. The other parties tend to only raise the matter in and around elections.

Councillors Andrew Steed and Gary Malcolm with
 Caroline Pidgeon at a TG demo
This morning, we have received confirmation that the consultation will start on 27th August. Those to be consulted will include Piccadilly line customers, Turnham Green station customers, residents, businesses and commuters.

There will be an online link which we will inform residents of nearer the time. If you want to be updated about this please email us at   southfield@ealinglibdems.org.uk

For many years we have been supported by Caroline Pidgeon, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats on the Greater London Assembly (GLA). She has been magnificent and with her assistance we have held meetings with Transport for London, who have not adequately explained why the wishes of Ealing and Hounslow residents have been ignored.

Councillors Rose and me petitioning
I have included some photos of the demonstrations we have held and the petition sessions organised to raise awareness of this important local matter.

The reasons for having the Piccadilly line stopping at Turnham Green are too many for a blog post but here are some:

  • There have been a large number of developments (including the Chiswick Business Park and a lot of new housing) in this part of West London within twenty minutes walking distance, as well as housing developments that have been agreed by Ealing Council to proceed.
  • It is too long to wait until the Piccadilly Line's major upgrade, given the state of the PPP review, to schedule new trains and new signaling. 
At City Hall with Caroline Pidgeon
And a few more reasons!
  • The requirement to change trains for Piccadilly line users using Turnham Green means an increased journey time of up to 15 minutes. Many Chiswick residents drive to work because the journey time is quicker. The reduced journey time would make many leave their cars at home and use the tube. Public transport should have priority over cars given the need to reduce pollution.
  • There are at least 6 million people who use Turnham Green station (Transport for London figures). This makes it one of the most used stations in the tube network outside Zone 1. Also many users of the Piccadilly line are tourists and whilst their needs should not be ignored, they should not take priority over workers in London.
And another set of reasons.....
At City Hall again, handing
 in our large petition
  • Turnham Green has a narrow platform and forcing people to use the District line leads to serious congestion at rush-hour. 
  • Late at night the lack of clarity as to when the Piccadilly line does stop at Turnham Green and drivers failure to make the appropriate announcements means that passengers sometime accidentally travel to Acton Town or Hammersmith.

Let's get the consultation started and ensure local residents' views are heard.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Barclays Bikes: Boris is running with a puncture!

Throughout the last year one in five bike hire docking stations were empty for at least three hours each day, according to new figures released by the Mayor of London following probing questions from Caroline Pidgeon AM, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group.

Between 1st July 2012 to the 30th June 2013 the level of empty bike hire docking stations included:

  • 107 docking stations empty for 3 hours or more each day
  • 76 docking stations empty for 4 hours or more each day
  • 54 docking stations empty for 5 hours or more each day
  • 29 docking stations empty for 6 hours or more each day
  • 9 docking stations empty for 7 hours or more each day

 The worst performing docking station was Portugal Street in Holborn, which over the last year was empty for nearly 9 hours each day.
Lib Dems improving Chiswick's cycle provision

It is as clear as the day that the poor distribution of bikes across the docking stations also includes some being completely full, creating problems for bike hire users attempting to return a hired bike.  Over the last year 41 docking stations were completely full for at least two hours each day.

Caroline Pidgeon has been extremely vocal on this important issue. The more people who use bikes in London the less of a need there is for car usage. They should expand the scheme to more sections of London. Most of West London doesn't get to hire these bikes.

The poor distribution of bikes across the docking stations is the number one complaint made by users of the scheme.  The complete absence of any bikes at so many docking stations, for such long periods of time every day, is also a huge deterrent to encouraging people to start using the scheme.  It is ultimately hard to hire a bike when none exist!

The Mayor of London is running with a puncture!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Let's stop criminals getting access to the home of vulnerable residents

I was speaking to the local police team in Southfield, which covers some of Acton and the Ealing section of Chiswick.

I thought you might like to see and circulate advice about being on the lookout for individuals knocking on doors posing as employees of gas, electricity and water companies asking to read meters. On gaining entry there is a concern that items in peoples homes have been going missing. I understand that gas, electricity and water companies by law must check meters every two years to ensure that they are working correctly so they must be allowed access into your home at some point but it does not necessarily have to be there and then if you are suspicious or have concerns.

As a general guide, the police advise residents of Southfield to be vigilant and do the following >

1) Always ask to see ID. They will have to have photo ID. Check that the photograph resembles the individual in front of you and check that it isn't a passport photograph just taped onto or over a card. If it doesn’t look genuine you have two options.

(a) either refuse them entry.
Me with the local police team on Southfield Rec
(b) or ask for their name and a number for the company they work for and telephone to verify that the individual is a genuine employee. Ask the caller to wait outside and close the door whilst you check to see if they are genuine. A genuine caller will not mind you doing this. Remember as well not to call the phone number on their ID card as that may be a colleague of a criminal (so phone the number by looking in the telephone book or on the internet).

2) A person attending to obtain a meter reading will normally have a large electronic device to record the readings. This is normally the type of device that you would use to sign for a delivery rather than simply a phone or a tablet. If the individual calling has paperwork only they are unlikely to be genuine.

3) Never leave an individual unsupervised in your home. Get to know where all your meters are and how to access them. Take callers to where the meters are ONLY. Observe them record the reading and then escort them out. It takes 30 seconds to read a meter and so the genuine callers will not mind at all that you wait with them. It is very unlikely that a genuine meter reader will ask to use the toilet or ask for a drink. Please do not be afraid to be vigilant and say no to such requests.

4) Callers attending to read a meter will not normally attend in pairs. If two individuals attend it is best to not allow them entry. Best to be safe than become a victim of a crime.

5) If you are elderly or particularly vulnerable contact your supplier and ask for appointments to be sent in writing prior to an individual attending to read your meter. You may not get a specific time given but you may get a general time e.g. 'morning' of 2nd September. At least that way you are expecting an individual to call round.

Do contact the local police team if you see anyone you think is trying to gain access using false identities.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Liberal Democrats give evidence to Independent Hospital Reconfiguration Panel

As many of you are aware it is possible that four local hospitals may have their A&E and their maternity wards shut. The hospitals at risk are Ealing, Charing Cross, Hammersmith and Central Middlesex.

Ealing Council with the support of the Liberal Democrat Group arranged for an independent review to take place so that our hospitals can be protected. Hanwell's Liberal Democrat Councillor, Nigel Bakhai, spoke up at the meeting which took place on 8th July in Ealing Town Hall.

I attended this crucial meeting where the independent panel will take evidence on why the current plans will leave Ealing's heathcare in tatters. Councillors from all three of Ealing political parties spoke including Nigel Bakhai, councillor for Elthorne.

Me speaking a hospital rally
It appears that their report will be written by 13th September and then a month later the Secretary of State will make a decision on the Panel's recommendations. The team giving evidence also included a member of the public.

There was no meaningful engagement of the proposals by the NHS North West group during the process. The consultation did not actively look to involve the diverse range of languages and community groups. The consultation form was so long that it made War and Peace look like a short story. The changes have been foisted upon us as a fait accompli.

We heard evidence about the huge numbers of residents who took part in two local marches, the tens of thousand people who filled in petitions. I was lucky enough to speak on Ealing Common to the crowd of residents who want their NHS services protected not downgraded.

Councillor Nigel Bakhai spoke about the lack of support from doctors and consultants for the plans to shut local maternity and Accident & Emergency services. Nigel added that surveys of local GPs did not agree with the proposals - which was a critical test set by Secretary of State.

The Ealing area is so diverse, with lots of people with diabetes (like myself). The high demand for A&E services during this hot weather showed that we need our A&E services kept local. We have a large increase in the birth rate and so the planned maternity closures do not make sense.

Travelling further for treatment will mean people become more ill or will die. We heard one person give evidence about a 37% increase in death due to extra travelling.

People travelling to the hospital for treatment are likely to need at least two buses plus a walk. The estimates for a small 10% increase in journey time assumes that people all drive! I have said many times that part of a good treatment is to have your family or friends with you so you can recover more quickly. If I had to wait for visitors getting two buses and a long walk then I think most people would not be able to visit as often.

With Nigel Bakhai campaigning in Hanwell
We saw that the authors of the NHS proposals used different sources of data when it was clear that some examples gave some strange outcomes...

...for Hammersmith hospital it stated that 7 patients would use each bed, each day! How can we trust the data never mind their projections based upon quicksand.

Since the news that Ealing Hospital was due to be downgraded they were forced to advertise to state they were "open for business"!

Part of their plans also involve huge number of patients having treatments from their GPs who cannot currently cope with their numbers. No plans have been arrange to assist any changeover to a new way of working and so quite simply the plans are unsafe.

To sum it up the plans are unsafe. At the same time the Government is reviewing health care such as hospitals and so the plans to shut our maternity and Accident & Emergency wards should be shelved until the Government review has been concluded.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Jon Ball elected as Liberal Democrat candidate and is challenging Angie Bray

At a packed meeting in Ealing last Friday, Councillor Jon Ball, was selected by local party members to fight the Ealing Central and Acton parliamentary constituency for the Liberal Democrats.

After his selection, Jon Ball issued a challenge to the incumbent Conservative MP for the seat Angie Bray, saying, "What, if anything, has Angie Bray actually achieved for local residents 3 years in to a 5 year term? She has a busy diary but does not seem to get beyond meetings to delivering results."

Jon Ball secured the highest ever Liberal Democrat vote in Ealing in 2010, securing 13,041 votes in the marginal Ealing Central & Acton seat.

Jon Ball at under-threat Ealing Hospital  
Earlier, in a wide-ranging speech, Jon commented on the state of the three parties, saying:
"A Labour Party standing against austerity would be a tough opponent. But Ed Milliband’s Labour is not that party. He announced last weekend that any future Labour government would stick to the coalition’s spending targets and would cap welfare spending. What would be the point of voting for austerity in a red rosette?

Jon Ball added: "The Tories are tacking further right to ward off challenges from UKIP. Here in Ealing, that is especially acute as we have our own swivel-eyed loon, UKIP Councillor Benjamin Dennehy, a rampant self-publicist, who appeals to right wing voters. In 2015 he proposes to stand for UKIP here in Ealing Central & Acton and Angie Bray is nervously looking over her shoulder.

Liberal Democrats are implementing policies in Government such as:
  • bringing the lowest paid out of tax,
  • the Pupil Premium to help disadvantaged children,
  • and new green jobs.


These have all gone straight from the front cover of the manifesto Jon Ball fought on, in 2010, into legislation.

Jon Ball added: "When I talk to people on the doorsteps, I hear people who like our message of working hard on local issues, and I also hear people who are receptive to our national message of creating a stronger economy in a fairer society. Regardless of opinion poll ratings or negative stories in the national press, what has always been true remains true: where we work, we win."

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Boris, why do you allow TfL to treat people so badly? [open letter]

Dear Boris,

Yesterday on buses from Shepherds Bush tube station (the 207 / 607 route) towards Acton it went a different route. A diversion. There was no notices at the bus stop where people got on, nor did the bus driver inform people as they were getting on and also there was no announcement over the bus tannoy.

So as the bus went via its diversion, one lady with 3 children had to make a much longer walk than she was both expecting or should have had to make, given what looked like a walking difficulty that she had.

Today a similar thing happened, via strangely a second diversionary route! Again no announcements or posters telling us of the diversion. And like yesterday the bus driver did not communicate with passengers about the diversion.

This is an absolute disgrace and I hope that you both apologise to myself and the hundreds of commuters you delayed unneccesarilty without explaining that there was a diversion.

People on the buses did not to know what was going on. Do you expect passengers to have ESP? You might be able to afford swish taxis, but most can't! 

I hope you will be decent and reply to us all quickly with a full explanation and apology.

Regards,
Gary Malcolm

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Let's hope Ealing is not heading the way of Python's Dead Parrot

At Ealing Council's full council meeting last night we discussed the last year of the Council's performance and highlighted problems that will hit residents in the future...

The first speech of the night came from Councillor Julian Bell who spoke at great length about the many herons he has seen in the borough recently. So this photo is for you Julian.

Julian's favourite grey heron
After welcoming the new Mayor to his first main Council meeting I surprisingly welcomed a couple of areas where Ealing Council has taken the right decisions such as becoming a Living Wage employer and the promotion of cycling.

Most politicians just "have a go" at other political parties. The Liberal Democrats looks to welcome good decisions from where ever they came from but sternly criticise Labour when they make mistakes. Read on...

So where has Ealing Council gone wrong in the past year or so? Well, in its selection of contractors and management of contracts. >
  • Enterprise - where is the fine money residents are owed?
  • Keirs and Morrison - for performing poorly on Housing Repairs
I have not seen any changes to the process of how future contractors will be chosen. Three failures in such a short space of time. That isn’t just bad luck.


It's Customer Services is not what it states. Ealing does not like to admit the negatives but only mentioned its successes. A proper review should talk about the problems and what will be done to improve things. A lot of nice words but it does not fully give much acceptance of problems our residents are suffering from…

  • People still wait too long - on the phone or in person at Perceval House
  • There are more online forms but some areas of IT are not as reliable as they should be – the planning department pages are an example where documents regularly are reported as being missing.
  • Yesterday a friend from Ealing Common said the Pay-by-Phone system is confusing and unfriendly.
  • And buying the correct permits and vouchers on line was not possible when certain vouchers were not present in the IT system. Hardly a first class system!

Monty Python's Dead Parrot
Other areas where improvements are needed...

  • There are still too many empty homes that could be used by those many residents on the long waiting list – Government powers for a decade have not been used at all or only in a limited number of cases.
  • Keeping Council Tax Frozen – when you increase parking fees hugely and have introduced a garden waste charge people rightly wonder whether the Council is playing a straight bat.
  • Closing Day Centres [the Learning curve & Stirling Road are prime examples] may bring short term savings but will lead to medium and long term issues for users and residents.
  • Everyone knows that recycling should be free. To really boost our recycling rates and possibly save money we need to be more proactive and show people why they need to recycle and how easy it is. 

Of course running a Council is not easy, and in these difficult times, but it is crucial to truly protect the poorest – this Council is not doing that.

It is in severe risk of being a dead parrot like in the Monty Python sketch.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Southfield Ward Forum - Wednesday 12th June

The next Southfield Ward Forum meeting take place on Wednesday 12th June in Acton Green Church Hall, Cunnington Street, W4 5ER at 7.30 pm.

The ward forum, meets four times a year so that residents can discuss local matter with the three local Councillors, Council officers and the local police team. The ward forum also has an annual budget of approximately £40,000 which can be used to to make improvements to our area including parks and pavements.

Myself, chair of the Southfield ward forum
The agenda is below:

  • Welcome and Introductions 7.30pm
  • Request for ‘Any Other Business’ items
  • Handing in of local Council related petitions
  • Southfield Police Team
  • Minutes of the last ward forum held on 5th February 2013
  • Neighbourhood & Corridor transport scheme (a possible 20mph scheme for Southfield)
  • Proposed Larden Road, W3 traffic calming scheme
  • Southfield ward budget
  • Any Other Business

In the meeting there will be a chance to discuss other local matters which are not on the agenda. Please come along and have your say on some of the local issues in Chiswick and Acton.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Ealing Council Finds Councillor Dennehy Guilty as Charged For Offensive Blog

Ealing Council’s Standards Committee has upheld the complaint by myself about the offensive nature of Councillor Dennehy’s blog which made a number of unfounded assertions relating to both Indians and residents of Southall. So, Benjamin Dennehy is guilty as charged.

In the meeting Councillor Gary Malcolm spoke about why he made the complaint and read out comments made by residents who stated that his blog was racist, emotive and not based on facts. It was noted that Councillor Dennehy did not attend the meeting, and also ensured a previous meeting to decide this matter was postponed.

I am glad that the Standards Committee came to the viewpoint that Councillor Dennehy was guilty. In my view he should resign his post as Councillor and apologise publically for his offensive actions. To smear Indians and residents of Southall with such accusations is totally wrong. He has embarrassed himself and Ealing.

During the process which has lasted for more than a year Councillor Dennehy’s delaying actions have meant that Ealing Council has spent approximately £5000 in terms of external legal advice and officer time. Perhaps he should pay this back to Ealing Council or make a donation to a local Ealing based charity?

Monday, 20 May 2013

Ealing Council Bank Holiday Changes to Refuse and Recycling


A lot of the refuse and recycling collections will take place a day later than normal due to the Spring bank holiday on Monday 27th May.

Speaking to Ealing Council they told me that the items of refuse and recyclables should be left at the front of the property, or in a place which does not block the pavement, by 7 am on the collection day.

The Stirling Road refuse and recycling centre in Acton will be open, as usual, over the bank holiday. Collections will return to normal on Monday, 3 June

Please see the details below:

Usual collection day       Revised collection day

Mon 27th May               Tues 28th May
Tues 28th May              Wed 29th May
Wed 29th May              Thur 30th May
Thur 30th May              Fri 31st May
Fri 31st May                 Sat 1st June

Please let me know if any of your waste is not collected by emailing me using gary.malcolm@ealing.gov.uk or via Twitter @CllrGaryMalcolm

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Read why the Mayor of London's plan to close fire stations is bonkers


In Acton, Chiswick and Ealing we heard some good news recently that our fire stations were not due to be closed but the Mayor of London's plan to close fire stations elsewhere. London Liberal Democrats inlcuding Caroline Pidgeon are clear in their opposition to these 'bonkers' plans.

At the London Assembly Caroline Pidgeon proposed an alternative budget that would have avoided the need for these cuts, paid for by cancelling trivial council tax cuts. Effective opposition.

Me with the local fire bridgade
I believe that Londoners would prefer to see their fire safety cover retained and improved in preference to tax cuts amounting to no more than 7p a week per household in 2013/14. The closure of 12 fire stations and the loss of 18 fire engines is an unacceptable deterioration in overall capacity of the brigade. It would lead to average first fire engine response times in some London boroughs increasing by nearly a minute  and average second fire engine response times increasing by as much as 1 minute and 20 seconds.

We have also expressed concern that the community safety and fire prevention work undertaken by the brigade will be cut back if 520 fire-fighters’ jobs are to go. Their contribution to reducing fires and deaths due to fire in London has been commendable and should be accelerated rather than reduced.

Let's hope Boris puts his thinking hat on agreed to the common sense view that we need our fire stations. Lives are clearly at risk!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Saturday's Anti hospital downgrade rally on Ealing Common

Saturday's rally started off very lively at Acton Park where I marched with the many anti  hospital downgrade protesters (friendly ones that is). With me was a number of the Liberal Democrats from Southfield, Acton and the area including Councillors Andrew Steed and Jon Ball. It was noted by one person present that there were no Conservatives present at Acton. I guess people can make up their mind as to why that was.
Me at the front of the rally in Acton
We marched to Ealing Common where we met with the sister march that had come the longer distance from Southall. So many people, all wanting to protect our health services in Ealing.

At the rally meet up point, on Ealing Common, there was the lovely sound of Reggae music and the sight of many banners.

Myself and about ten other representatives were given the chance to make speeches about why they thought that our local hospitals should not be closed.

Before the rally speeches started Councillor Andrew Steed gave a Vox pop to YouTube.

I spoke about the fact the Liberal Democrats supported the tough actions that are needed, some of them via a Judicial Review, to get the Secretary of State to understand why with growing birth rates, to ensure that our hospitals are improved and not downgraded.

Liberal Democrats against hospital downgrades

Councillor Nigel Bakhai in Southall
In my speech I also thanked the many people who had traveled from different parts of London who also are possibly going to suffer their local hospitals being downgraded. I also thanked those nurses and doctors at Charing Cross hospital who helped me out when I attended the hospital a few months ago.

Lastly, I would say that those hospitals which are not be downgraded will have to take on a large number of extra patients and the plans do not show that this will work out. The Secretary of State should hold his hands up and drop these proposals.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

HS2 Good News, Hospital Judicial Review & Carlton Road Day Centre

Yesterday was when the meeting took place in Ealing where Ealing Council makes its big decisions. A lot of interesting topics were discussed including the possibility of Ealing Council making a Judicial Review to stop the closure of Ealing Hospital's A&E and maternity wards was discussed.

Good News on High Speed 2 (HS2)
With the recent news that High Speed 2 (HS2) will now not result in the knocking down of a very large number of bridges, Ealing borough will have a tunnel to avoid noise and other problems as part of HS2.

A tunneled High Speed Two train!
The decision on a tunnel for HS2 going through Ealing shows that local people and other campaigners including the Liberal Democrats can make a difference. The Liberal Democrats have said that HS2 is good for the country but tunnels are needed in some locations including Ealing. The tunnel for Ealing can mitigate some of the adverse effects and worries for residents. The two other political parties in Ealing have said on many occasions that HS2 is a waste of money despite the benefits to business due to people being able to travel the country a lot faster.

The tunnel means the HS2 project can be delivered 15 months quicker, and as a result of these changes, it is very good news. We believe that investment in high speed rail is long overdue and offers huge benefits in terms of reduced journey times, greater opportunities for access to employment opportunities, as well as a potential alternative to airport expansion if the route is also allowed to go direct through Heathrow.

Liberal Democrats Support the Legal Fight to Protect Hospitals

At the cabinet meeting last night I asked about the chance of success, for Ealing, if they applied for a Judicial Review to stop the downgrading of hospital services.

Me with Craig O'Donnell and Jenni Hollis at Hospital Rally
After hearing the legal advice (which was of a confidential nature) I said that because of the high cost of the Judicial Review (up to £250,000) it would be crucial to try to get the court to delay their activities until the Secretary of State can make a decision on the same matter.

If the Secretary of State agrees with Ealing Council then there may not be a need for a full length legal challenge which would cost a lot of money.

Liberal Democrats believe that making a Judicial Review is needed to give us more options to stop the plans to downgrade our hospitals. The evidence that downgrading our local hospitals will be a good move is discredited by many doctors and professionals. More background to this story can be read here and also here!

Remember on Saturday 27th April there will large number of anti hospital downgrade protesters marching from either Southall at 11.30am or Acton from 12 noon - both converging for the main rally on Ealing Common at 2pm. Come along to show you are against the downgrades.

Carlton Road Day Centre Update 
After myself and Southfield ward councillors heard some good news recently (that the Carlton Road Day Centre) it appears that the gloss has been rubbed off.

The statement last night indicated that the Day Centre building would be sold off (like so many under Labour over the past two or three years) but the users would need to use the facilities when they are built in Acton Town Hall. I am not sure if you can call the day centre, the "Carlton Road Day Centre", if it is not in Carlton Road. Seems like Ealing Council are selling off our family silver (buildings) and not thinking whether this will result in a better outcome for the current users.

Council's Procurement Procedures Need Updating  
Ealing Council has not updated its procurement policies since 2004! Is this why Ealing Council has had four large contracts go 'pear shaped' in the past year?

First, Enterprise (who are meant to sweep our streets and collect our waste), then two housing repair companies (Keirs and Morrison) and more recently Interserve, the facilities management company. All in different ways have failed or are failing.

I stated that when reviewing the current procedures Ealing Council needs to take account of the following:

  • A review to take place after a contract has failed to establish whether the Council has given too much value to the contractor's bid rather than the quality they offer.
  • Whether the Council should bring 'in house' some services that are currently out sourced
  • Ensuring that there are sufficient tough clauses in the contacts so that failing contractors (like  Enterprise) do not get away with an absolutely poor service
  • That break clauses are added to more contracts in case we need to ditch poor quality contractors
  • Whether it is better to offer contacts to more local and smaller companies than one large company.

In the coming months our local hospitals is a topic that we will come back to. Let's hope it is a topic that sees better hospitals and no downgrading of our medical services.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Write up of Ealing's main Council meeting last night...

The Council meeting last night was jam packed. Here are some of the highlights...

Ealing Council awards the Army's 562 Transport Squadron Freedom of Entry

Freedom of Entry is a way for a town or city to give prominence to the locally based armed forces. They now can march through Ealing's streets with fixed bayonets playing their drums. As a drummer, I will look forward to when this moment will happen.

I made a short speech about the importance of this squadron especially in their peacekeeping roles. Logistics in the army is crucial and I recalled about when I visited Cyprus with my cricket team. We played against the army - and lost! The logistics we were offered was a nice post match meal.


The Non One Minute's Silence
At the start of the meeting the Conservative group made another request for a one minute's silence in relation to the late Margaret Thatcher.

At this point Liberal Democrat Councillor Jon Ball stood up and spoke to the Council chamber: "Mayor, the three political parties have discussed this last week and there was no consensus to hold a one minute's silence, so we should not. I got into politics to stop the type of politics that Margaret Thatcher stood for. If we hold a one minutes' silence I will walk out of the council chamber."

Margaret Thatcher had no local connection with Ealing and after the deaths of previous Prime Ministers there were no one minute's silences. The Mayor correctly confirmed that there would not be a one minute's silence.


Ealing Common Pavement Petition
Members of the public can hand in petition and Jennifer Hollis handed in a petition containing about 180 signatures from residents who wanted their pavements repaired. Jennifer mentioned about the people who had said they had fallen and hurt themselves.

In response to the petition Jennifer Hollis (@JenniferHollis) was told that because of her petition a number of the pavements have now been repaired. Well done. Jenni.


Ealing Council Finally Says Sorry Over Fostering and Adoption Leaflet

Many of you may remember a few weeks ago that Labour-run Ealing Council produced a leaflet asking for residents to become foster parents so they can avoid a cut to their benefits. Clearly many councils struggle to recruit enough foster parents but to attempt to yield foster parents in this way is immortal and offensive.

I asked a number of questions about this matter and initially the Councillor responsible for this topic did not want to accept there was anything wrong. Subsequently Labour admitted they were sorry for the leaflet and the offence that had been caused.


Council's High CPZ Charges Are Not It's Only Problems
After a long debate many problems were highlighted:
  • The frequent and high increases to parking and CPZ charges.
  • No proper guarantee of future CPZ fees being fair.
  • The very high visitor permit price means that carers are suffering as they use many visitors permits each week. With an aging population this will get worse.
  • Residents not being informed when their annual permits are due to expire.
  • IT issues when residents are requesting permit.
When I raised the matter of how in Hounslow they have a Visitors Permit which apparently works well and supports those who need that service, the responsible Councillor said he would look into this. I expect him to look into this properly as parking should serve people not the bank balance of Ealing Council at the expense of residents.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Ealing Town Hall Flag Should Not Fly at Half Mast Regarding Thatcher Death


A request was made for Ealing Council to hold a minutes silence and to lower the flag at Ealing Town Hall with regard to Margaret Thatcher who passed away this week.

My statement reads:

“My compassion goes to the family and friends of Lady Thatcher. Clearly, Lady Thatcher’s legacy is seen by some as being positive and others not so. The legacy left by Baroness Thatcher, with respect to housing stock within the local government sector, is still being felt today.

Lowering the town hall flag or having a minutes silence at the next Council meeting would not be appropriate given the lack of local connection with Ealing. Also previous ex-Prime ministers have not been honoured when they have passed away. I think that the nationally publicised funeral would be the more appropriate method for people to reflect on her death.”

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Policing is going back to the bad old days...


Yesterday the Mayor of London announced some important changes to the Met Police service which will have a huge, and in many ways, a bad impact on policing across London and the borough of Ealing.

We do know that Acton police station will stay open 24 hours a day, the Ealing front counter services will transfer to Perceval House and Southall will be downgraded to a standard front counter service. If you want to check out the full report click here.

This raises questions about how an Ealing police station in Perceval House will operate. It is more than possible if the Council and police want to, to have a Perceval House police station open 24 hours a day. Also the front counter at Greenford Police station will be downgraded to a contact point, and three new contact points set up at Northolt Leisure Centre, Ashbourne Parade (Hanger Lane) and South Ealing Road which will be open for just one hour on three days of the week.
The Southfield local police team

With a growing population in Ealing police facilities should hardly be reduced. Across London many other places will suffer due to Conservative Boris's plans. Any Ealing being the centre of the activity in the borough (with all the transport links to central Ealing) it seems a bizarre decision to downgrade Ealing.

Many residents, will have nowhere locally to go, to visit a station and report crimes. Any many areas of Southall and Acton do not have internet access so is this a plan to reduce the number of crimes being reported? Potentially you might get a lot more 999 calls.

As part of these changes the size of Ealing's police force will rise 717 from 637. There will also be a reorganisation of the Safer Neighbourhood Teams which operate in each ward in the borough. Over recent years, the numbers of officers allocated to these teams have been eroded with some wards like Southfield  sharing a sergeant.

This new local policing model will mean that each ward will have a sergeant although these may still be shared with another ward, a PC and a PCSO. Then there will be a pool of officers who will be deployed across each of the four clusters (Ealing, Acton, Southall and Greenford & Northolt)

So this means that most areas will lose dedicated PC and PCSOs and then have to figher each other to get a fair share of the cluster PCs. This plan is a return to the bad old days of policing where the Mayor will decimate the Safer Neighbourhood Teams and return to ‘sector’ policing which failed so many communities across London.

Policing is now going back to the bad old days making our system of policing LESS local.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Liberal Democrat response to the Shaping a Healthier Future misguided proposals

At the Health Scrutiny meeting earlier in the week fellow Liberal Democrat Councillor Nigel Bakhai spoke about the issue and the devastating effects the closure of A&E and maternity wards would have on local residents.

An extract of what Nigel said to the committee is below...

"Thank you Chair for giving me a brief opportunity to speak on behalf of the Lib Dem group in response to the Shaping a Healthier Future plans. We have consistently opposed the proposals to close 4 A&Es across our region including Ealing. Liberal Democrat members have been willing and active participants in the cross party campaign against these hospital closures and we have grave concerns about these plans.

Firstly, we believe the consultation was flawed in that it was designed to favour the preferred option, with only limited alternatives provided. The consultation also failed in terms of equality impact assessment in terms of its impact for many residents in Ealing who do not have English as their first language with a lack of translated materials available making it difficult for them to engage in the process.

Myself with Cllr Bakhai at Downing Steet
Secondly, it is clear from everyone you meet on the doorsteps since this consultation began that there is widespread public opposition to these proposals in Ealing as demonstrated by the 25,000 signatures on the council’s petition and the 1000's who attended other health events in the borough. There is no clinical support with a majority of GPs in Ealing supporting Option C which retains Ealing Hospital. The preferred option is not supported by Ealing Hospital Trust or the Ealing Commissioning Group who have developed alternative proposals with more services being offered on the Ealing Hospital site.

Thirdly, we question the clinical evidence for the proposals. To begin with, there is concern about the ability of primary care and community services to meet increased demand as a result of these changes. Ealing has a growing and aging population with high demands in terms of health needs particularly in relation to diabetes, cardio vascular disease and TB. The out of hospital arrangements are not expected to be in place until 2015 but the proposals begin the hospital transition this year. We believe that by announcing hospital closures before putting the community services in place, Shaping a Healthier Future have effectively put the cart before the horse and risk reducing hospital capacity before alternatives are in place.

Furthermore, there is no evidence to support the plans for a standalone Urgent Care Centre without a co-located A&E, and there will be risks involved for patients turning up at Ealing and then being redirected to an A&E out of the borough. We also worry how the 4 remaining A&Es will cope with increased demand placed upon them.

We are concerned about distances travelled and travel times, not just for patients and their relatives visiting them in hospital who will be greatly inconvenienced due to lack of public transport but also for ambulances in the event of traffic congestion. There is no information to suggest that the ambulance service have been engaged as to how they will they will cope in the event of these changes.

We are concerned that the proposals as they stand do not meet the 4 tests used by the Health Secretary –namely, support from GP commissioners, strengthened patient/public engagement , clarity on clinical evidence and offering patient choice. Instead of patient choice and offering care closer to home, the Shaping a healthier future proposals offer patients in Ealing no choice but to go outside the borough for their care and delays may cause great risks in the event of an emergency.  We believe these proposals are potentially deeply damaging to the future of healthcare in Ealing. There is no mandate for these changes and, in the interests of our residents, we must oppose these proposals and believe they should be referred back to the Health Secretary for reconsideration."

The fight goes on. We are glad to see this decision referred back to the Minister who will need to re-consider this matter. We await developments.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

I went homeless for 12 hours yesterday...

Yesterday evening I took part in an event outside Christ the Saviour Church, Ealing Broadway, where myself and about 20 people were given a cardboard box by the West London YMCA as part of their “Sleep Easy” event.

We were outside at the mercy of the weather for 12 hours. Although it was only for 12 hours and we had a cardboard box it gave me a sense of what it might be like if I was made homeless. So many people have negative opinions of those who are homeless but when I did this it gave me, perhaps in only a small way, a chance to try to understand the problems that occur when homeless.

Me in my cardbaord box
At the event were a number of other people from a range of backgrounds. One was an estate agent, another a teacher and one a social worker. There was a couple of people from the YMCA who do so much to help those who are homeless and they really do make a real [positive] difference for so many. To show support there was someone who was genuinely homeless. Fellow Councillor Jon Ball and Alex Nieora was also present.

The event was opened by Ealing's Mayor. When I usually see the Mayor, I am often dressed quite smart in a suit; but not last night. He spoke to us each and listened to why some of us were taking part in this initiative. For many it was to raise awareness, raise money for the cause and to see what it is like if you were made homeless.

If you can donate any money that would be very appreciated >
http://www.justgiving.com/Gary-Malcolm

When we settled down to sleep at around 11pm the reality hit that you had no comfy bed or in many ways privacy. It was very noisy and difficult to sleep.

Here are some of the things I recall as I tried to sleep (it took me at least two hours to fall asleep) > Traffic, people playing football nearby, the wind, the coldness, police sirens, people's voices, the church bells and the fear of crime.

If I were not in a group then clearly I would be totally uneasy at having to sleep somewhere, where someone might attack you or steal something from you - even if a bottle of water. So you would hide away away from where people might see you. The fear of crime is certainly something that would be a real factor when trying to sleep.

When I woke up I felt achy, stiff and tired. I had slept in bursts of an hour here, and an hour there. All we had to drink was coffee, tea or water but it felt strangely like I had a hangover.

In the morning we got up and were luckily enough to have a sandwich. If I was properly homeless then when would I get my next meal? I reflected wondering what it would have been like if the weather had turned worse (it was about 2 degrees) - but if it was snowing or worse raining. I think that would have been hell.

If you have never took part in an initiative like this, you should do so. I think then you would have more of a perspective of how good our lives are now and that for many in Ealing their lives are not so good. When I go to bed tonight I will be remembering my Friday night experience.

I thank the West London YMCA for the chance to do this. They are an amazing organisation and help so many people in West London. Check out their website > http://www.westlondonymca.org/