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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 >

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 >