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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.”