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Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Council causing harm with its decision making process

Liberal Democrats say that Ealing Council keeps on following the same process which is causing great harm and distress for many carers and users.

Their process has been to rush through to make quick decisions despite carers and users having lots of valid complaints and questions, only to see the decisions are the wrong ones, then the Council has to make U-turn after U-turn.

In some cases, pride has led them not to reverse a bad decision but plough on with a successful outcome not being achieved. This was the case with Chiswick’s Carlton Road Day Centre which had happily provided severely disabled users with a great careering service.

Then the Council chopped it, forcing users to find alternative arrangements, some paying much more for a worse level of care. What is also gutting for residents is that the site has not been used. They should have kept the centre open longer or had proper, acceptable plans for the site.

Other controversial and more recent decisions were to close the Solace Day Centre which provides a much needed mental health care facility. After a huge campaign, the Council agreed to look at the plans again and then found the money to save the well-loved service.

Heller House – although not in Chiswick - is a residential children's home which provides a short break for the young as well as parents and carers. The Council rushed to close the centre despite a huge borough wide petition.

Then last week agreed to create a new replacement respite centre for up to 12 users at one time. Again Ealing Council initially ignored carers views, who said there was a real need for an in-borough respite service, before making the U-turn.

This shows that Ealing Council is failing residents and users by not thinking through its plans fully. They have caused much distress in the process.

Crime – Prevention is better than allowing crimes to occur

Clearly any crime committed is one too many but in the past few years there has been a move away from preventing more common crimes such as burglary and theft.

We have been left in a situation where too many people have their bikes stolen or cars broken into. Many crimes are either avoidable or severely reduced by a proactive input from both residents and local safer neighbourhood teams in Ealing borough.

Southfield Police team
Liberal Democrats say that part of this was due to the Mayor of London reducing the number of local police, meaning that there are fewer police who are dedicated to a local area. These teams played a vital role of liaising with residents’ associations and residents to gather intelligence and to sort out the problems affecting a particular ward or borough.

Now with smaller police teams, it means that less proactive advice is given for residents to reduce crime.

In the ward where I live, the local Southfield police team do a magnificent job. But this is only possible because groups of residents work together with the police to engage residents to pass on crime reduction advice. Some of the initiatives include:

  • Promoting the take up of SmartWater which is used to mark valuables to both reduce burglary and if items are taken, they are more likely to be traced by the police.
  • Having the largest Safer Neighbourhood Watch active schemes in the borough which means that police advice about local crimes or how to reduce crime is spread amongst residents more quickly.
  • Free property surveys by the local police team. I had one of these when I moved into the area and the police gave lots of free advice on how I can easily reduce being a victim of crime.

Liberal Democrats say that cuts to the local police are bad and in many areas have led to increases in many types of crime. Ensuring we have enough local police is vital if we are to reduce many of the more easily preventable crimes.

I am proud that crime in Southfield is the lowest in the area. It would be wonderful if other areas of Ealing repeat what is working in Southfield so we can all have lower crime rates.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

More Council spending should be done at a local level

It is wonderful when residents attend Council meetings to give their views on how their Council taxes are being spent.

What is sad though is that there are too few people attending meetings because the process seems to not want people to have their say. The Liberal Democrats are the only party in Ealing Borough to be proactive to want views and act up on them, raising these matters in Council meetings.

A great example of this is where the Labour party cut the number of local ward meetings (where local issues are discussed) from 4 to 2. The Southfield Liberal Democrats made a commitment to fund two additional meetings so we still have four meetings a year. In fact, we are the only party who have done this in our borough!

Some of the successes that we have shared and developed with residents include:

  • New lighting across over half the ward.
  • Stopped cuts to the local police team.
  • Additional play equipment in local parks to encourage more children and adults to exercise and not put on weight.
  • Working with local residents' groups and the police team to make the area safer and more attractive.
  • Many initiatives to help support cyclists.
  • Lighting across well used parks to reduce the attacks and the fear of crime particularly reported from women.
  • 20 mph traffic scheme to reduce accidents to pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers.

One of the problems we face is that Labour-run Ealing Council has made cuts so that people are not consulted in a way that is acceptable to many. This is especially true of planning matters where many residents have not been informed apart from a notice on a lamppost away from where they live.

Liberal Democrats want to see more decisions taken locally at a ward level or clusters of wards. To do this, it would not require any more money, but simply the decision making powers are taken at a more appropriate level which means more residents can be involved in the decision making process.

The areas of decision making could be some of the following:

  • Street lighting
  • Pavement repairs 
  • Road resurfacing
  • Tree planting sites
  • Improvements to parks
  • Road safety schemes

This would lead to a greater openness. Many council decisions are taken in meetings that are either not public or not publicised. It would be great to open up Council meetings having a live feed for important meetings. Advertising should be looked at to see if this is feasible. Many local companies would pay if they knew a controversial debate was taking place about a planning issue or concerning a possible new Controlled Parking Zone scheme.

Liberal Democrats are proud that we constantly want to know what is important to residents and then act to improve our local area.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Good politicians empower residents and lead the way

It is common for politicians to think only they can fix problems.

It is my belief that good politicians both empower residents by both not just solving a residents' issue when the Council has let them down - but to show how the problem was fixed. The latter can be done by keeping the resident involved in the communication throughout the whole process so the residents knows you are working to both help them but not afraid to give the details of the person who will actually solve the problem.

Also it is important to lead and show the way. This might be when a difficult matter takes place such as the riots in Ealing. Leaders will get out there to say what was done was wrong and helped as part of the clean up.

As the Liberal Democrat leader in Ealing I think it is important to show that despite not all of us being either in work or paid much, there are people elsewhere in the world who are in great need. This could be Syria or countries where earthquakes or famines have taken place.

I love trekking and have set upon a sixteen day trek to the Mount Everest Base camp in Nepal to raise money for DEC (Disaster Emergency Committee) who help around the world when earthquakes, famines and tsunamis arrive.

Many parts of Nepal are still suffering after the earthquakes hit in 2015 and I knew one of the mountaineers who was on Mount Everest when the earthquakes struck. He survived but many villages and thousands of people lost their lives. Even more people lost their homes and shelter.

If you are able to contribute that would be wonderful and the link to use is:

When I come back from Nepal I hope that I will be able to share stories of how charitable monies have helped the people of Nepal.

I finish by saying we all should look to help others. This could be a neighbour who is vulnerable or a friend who has been burgled. Both may need your help. Any one day you may need their help.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Residents deserve more respect when they contact their elected representatives

Although I do not get many handwritten letters from constituents nowadays (mainly emails or phone calls), one I received made me very sad to read.

It was written by a very elderly lady who, in her own words, cannot get about easily. The block she is in, is not rated very highly by her or fellow residents. Getting around in her wheelchair is not going to be comfortable as we see so clearly with many of the life stories of the athletes in the Paralympics.

She wrote to her three Labour Councillors, and when ignored, then wrote to her MP. All four appear to have let her down.

Sometimes the most important thing a politician can do is listen and then return that phone call or speak to them so a complex problem can be simplified and hopefully solved.

Just because an issue that a resident raised might not be easy to solve, it does not mean it should be ignored. Sometimes all that is required is to give the correct advice so they resident can be helped or they know who to contact so they can be empowered to help themselves.

One of the important reasons why day centres serving many elderly and other vulnerable users, are crucial, is that they allowed them to get the care they needed in the company of others. Friends who they saw each day or a few times a week. This allowed them to be happier as well as each other helping each other out.

Now, since Labour-run Ealing Council, have closed nearly all of the day centres, many users have been left paying more for less. The evidence is that users left without access to groups are more likely to become depressed which is hardly going to help many users who can be very vulnerable, some without many visits from family members.

There are many areas in the past few years where Ealing Council's housing activity does not seem to have measured up well in providing a good service:
Benefit claims are taking too long to be processed.
There were far too many (and it has been increasing sharply) people living in bed and breakfast accommodation.
Relatively recently, many tenants were not satisfied with the quality of repairs.
People are still waiting a long time to speak to a member of Council staff either on the phone or when visiting the Council in person.

Liberal Democrats believe we should be not just building enough housing, but crucially making sure our existing management of our housing stock and estates is done to a high level of quality, treating all residents (regardless of their income status) with more dignity.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Since Sadiq Khan has been elected...

It is only recently since the London Mayoral and Greater London Assembly (GLA) elections but one u-turn, one untruth and one borrowed policy have taken place!

We saw Sadiq Khan elected, but within days we saw him announce that it was going to be difficult to deliver the number of new affordable homes he promised. Being the Mayor of London is a privilege and was never to be easy, but to give up on possibly the most important policy area so soon is very sad for many residents who live in Ealing.

Sadiq Khan then reneged on his fares promise. He said: “Londoners won’t pay a penny more for their travel in 2020 than they do today.” But the truth of his policy has been uncovered recently when it appeared that he will only freeze part of the transport fares, excluding many commuters using travelcards. In the election Liberal Democrats said it was not possible to freeze the fares and so it is obvious that many Londoners have been fobbed off with a policy helping only some of those who were given the impression everyone would benefit.

Policy borrowed: Liberal Democrats welcome the announcement from Transport for London, that a one-hour bus ticket will come into effect in September. Though Sadiq Khan is happy lapping up the glory for the one-hour ticket, it was not his idea. Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon campaigned on the policy since 2009.

Liberal Democrats want to see transport policies that make it easier for people to travel and cheaper for those who work on lower than average wages such as cleaners who have early starts before many of us have woken up.

It was great to see Caroline Pidgeon taking over as Chair of the Transport Committee. She is the most experienced GLA member and she has taken a great interest and solved many local issues in Ealing borough.

London Liberal Democrats will be pushing for more openness in City Hall, where the Mayor works. We have seen that the previous Mayor chose to hide a report which demonstrated that over 400 schools in London are located in areas that exceed EU limits for nitrogen dioxide. The Mayor and the Greater London Assemby need to make sure that they and Ealing Council take action to improve our air quality. Anything else and we are harming our children and the lives of 7 million residents.

Ealing Council needs to listen to residents

In recent times Ealing Council has a reputation for closing vital services like day centres for the mentally ill, elderly residents and those who are severely disabled.

On top of this, Labour-run Ealing Council, has a record of allowing large developments to be built when the borough is left with not enough social or affordable housing to be built. Many have said that converting the Town Hall into a hotel is selling off the family silver like reducing the size of the main library in Ealing.

Liberal Democrats believe that to improve an area you need to consult, inform and listen to residents.

Ealing Council has a poor record of enabling residents to give their views and ensure that they actually can change a plan for the better. Liberal Democrats know that unless you actively involve residents the outcome will not be as good.

In a scheme in Acton and Chiswick listening to suggestion from residents meant that a large park is more accessible, safer and used by a greater range of residents to keep fit.

When Labour-run Ealing Council decided to force wheelie bins on us, the possibility of the dirtier streets became a reality.

Whilst on a Council committee that discussed planning matters we heard stories of where people’s views were not listened to, were ignored and information was not available when it should have been. The Council takes too long to answer the phones or emails and often people say that when issues are reported nothing happens. People are left with no faith in Ealing Council and so do not always report problems.

As vice chair of a committee on the Council’s digital approach and its website, I am looking to hear Ealing residents’ views on what they think of the Council’s website. What works and what does not? What services should the Council and its website offer? How should Ealing Council serve residents who are not experienced with using IT?

Please email me at

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Do you want to be a part of the Neigbourhood Watch (NHW) scheme?

In Southfield there are lots of Neighbourhood Watch schemes covering a lot of streets. However not every street is covered and it would be great to have more volunteers.

Neighbourhood Watch coordinators tend to inform neighbours of any recent crimes to residents in their street. Some hold meetings with the police and ward Councillors to pass on tips about reducing crimes such as theft from motor cars and burglary.

Smart Water!
Quite simply they are the eyes and ears of the street which can help the police gain information of when potential criminals might be planning a crime (such as viewing inside cars to see if they should break into a car). Or reporting broken glass - a sign that cars have been broken into (but are often not reported due to insurance excesses.

Some look after a number of streets, but most often a coordinator will look after a section of a road.

Many people become a Neighbourhood Watch coordinator when the have suffered a crime, want their local area to feel or actually be safer.

As part of the NHW scheme large numbers of smart water kits have been distributed. Smart Water allows you to uniquely mark your property so if it does get stolen it can be more easily brought back to you. It can also deter criminals as they know that if they enter a property marked with Smart Water they can be marked with the unique substance which would link them to entering a property illegally.

The Southfield Park Triangle Residents Association (SPTRA) have done a magnificent job in promoting Smart Water to residents in their area.

If you would like to hear more about becoming a Neighbourhood Watch coordinator in Southfield please let me know via

Gary Malcolm with the local police team in Southfield
Especially if you are new to the area, you might wish to contact the local police team? The local team (which has additional officers who also patrol the area) is made up of Inspector Graham Durn, Acting Sergeant Carl Massey, PC Simon Cole and PCSO Stuart Honey.

Their main phone number is 020 8721 2946.

If you see a crime happening please call 999. If you are not sure how important something is which you spotted, please either call 999 so they can prioritise, or 101 which will mean your observations will be passed to the local Southfield team. They may then contact you if they require more information.

Some top tips to reduce crime include:

  • Even in Summer try not to leave the windows open as burglars may use these (even small ones) to get access your home.
  • Do not leave loose change in your car as it will attract people who may think other items are stored.
  • Leave the glove department open and empty so they can see that nothing is in the glove department.

Haw you any crime tips...if you please tweet @cllrgarymalcolm

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Ealing is better if we stay in the European Union

Liberal Democrats are proud of the European Union and are fighting for us to stay IN Europe when the referendum takes place on 23rd June.

I come from a position where it is better to discuss differences with others, rather than isolate ourselves. Reforms are certainly needed within the European Union but we NEED to be at the table to influence any reforms.

Councillor Gary Malcolm
Groups like the EU, NATO and the United Nations – can deal with shared issues better. Only the EU with others can make changes to significantly reduce the effects of Global warming.

And through agreed EU standards, our rivers and beaches are cleaner. Good for Britain and as a tourist destination.

In a previous job, I was a workplace union representative. There are key sets of Health and Safety legislation which protect staff and make the workplace safer.

Over 3 million British jobs are directly linked to British membership of the European Union’s single market. That’s 1 in 10 British jobs. You also get the additional jobs, indirectly through supply chains.

Exports & investment - The EU buys over 50 per cent of UK exports (54 per cent of goods, 40 per cent of services). Over 300,000 British companies and 74 per cent of British exporters operate in other EU markets. American and Asian EU firms build factories in Britain because we are in the single market.

International mobile phone charges were reduced because of the European Union and Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder.

The European Arrest Warrant replaced long extradition procedures and enables the UK to extradite criminals wanted in other EU countries.

Research funding - The UK is the second largest beneficiary of EU medical research funds.

Freedom to work, study and travel abroad – 1.4 million British people live abroad in the EU. More than 14,500 UK students took part in the European Union’s Erasmus student exchange scheme in 2012-13. Driving licences issued in the UK are valid throughout the EU.

I prefer the CERTAINTY of staying in the EU vs the UNCERTAINTY of leaving the EU.

The EU benefits the UK, London and Ealing – directly and indirectly.

If you would like to know more please visit the Stronger In website!

Let us vote to stay IN Europe.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Ealing’s Wheelie bin madness

In early June, Ealing will see most of borough covered with wheelie bins. Many rural boroughs make use of wheelie bins. Many urban places do not, and for a number of good reasons.

The main reason is the lack of space. When questioned, Labour-run Ealing Council, stated that only 2% of people would be exempt from having wheelie bins but in many wards, including Southfield, the figure is over 10%

Wheelie bins: eyesores
The Council is wrong in its basic assumptions.

When Councils want to make controversial changes, they should consult. Sutton Council did this and people accepted the result as the Council was up-front and honest – even if the decision is not what some residents wanted.

Previously, Ealing Council did consult, and most wards did not want wheelie bins. People were happy because the ones who wanted bins got them, and those that didn’t, did not.

Liberal Democrats say residents should have been consulted, but the Labour party arrogantly think they know best!

In 2014 all the political parties in Ealing were against them. But as soon as the election took place they moved to change their policy. It gives a very poor view of Labour who keep making u-turn after u-turn.

No wonder people distrust politicians.

We now know more about the details of what people will be forced to accept:

  • The cost of the wheelie bin will be over £3 million!
  • Too many homes have too small a front garden or area to house the two wheelie bins. Many people will not be able to store their garden waste bag and kitchen waste bin.
  • Many residents have told me to they will have to pavement over their garden as those collecting the bins will stamp on their flower bed.
  • One resident said he will need to sell his child’s bike and get rid of a small shed!
  • The smaller bin is the same height as the larger one which means they will still cause an eyesore.
  • Some people want a smaller recyclables bin but the Council will not allow this.
  • Your old bins will not be taken away by the Council.
  • When people challenge the decision they arrogantly get an auto reply email essentially saying ‘tough luck’!

In summary Labour-run Ealing Council is not listening to its residents. They are arrogant and our borough will be worse off.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Easter rubbish and recycling collection changes

Ealing Council is reminding residents that rubbish and recycling collections will be carried out a day later than usual from Monday 28th March until Saturday 2nd April.

Councillor Gary Malcolm recycling
Collections will take place as normal on Good Friday (25 March).

Usual collection day          Revised collection day
Mon 28th March                  Tues 29th March
Wed 30th March                 Thurs 31st March
Fri 1st April                         Tues 29th March
Wed 30th March                 Thurs 31st March
Fri 1st April                          Sat 2nd April

Collections will return to normal on Monday 4th April.

We have been told that rubbish and recycling should be left at the front of the property (not on the pavement) by 7am on the collection day.

The re-use and recycling centres at Stirling Road, Acton will stay open as usual throughout the bank holiday period.

Junior Doctors, Mental Health and Cannabis

Ealing has seen a reduction in the provision of healthcare locally over the past few years.

We have lost the Accident and Emergency service we had and the maternity ward. This has meant that patients, mothers and family members are having to travel much further to get vital health care.
The Liberal Democrats campaigned against these changes but Conservative Health Minister Jeremy Hunt made the decision to axe some of these important services.

Junior Doctors striking
The recent strike by junior doctors is a worrying event. Doctors rarely go on strike and the changes that the government proposed have been attacked by many. The morale of many nurses and doctors is at an all time low.

It is right that we should be looking to have an urgent healthcare system that operates seven days a week but many services do operate seven days a week. If we do, doctors and nursing staff need to be given a fair deal in terms of their working conditions.

If doctors, nurses and other staff are working over the weekend this needs to be done in a way that makes use of those who wish to work at weekends or pay more for the inconvenience that many will suffer.

So how can we settle the uncertainty that the Health Minister has caused? Firstly more money might be needed to make improvements to our health service. Some of this could come from the legalising of cannabis.

The evidence is pretty clear that legalising cannabis for personal use only, would help both ease the pain of many patients with terminal illnesses as well as generate addition tax income for the government which could be spent on health services.

The Economist recently published a paper called “Regulating Cannabis - the right way to do drugs”. It showed that outlawing cannabis use is not a gateway to harder drugs and in some cases people reduce their drug usage.

By legalising the cultivation, the sale and the consumption of cannabis the regulations would generate a safer outcome as well as generating income for the state. You would also take out the cartels who illegally smuggle and trade drugs.

Another area that needs real improvement is that of mental health. When the Liberal Democrats were in government we ensured that more money was given to this vital area. We need to be better at identifying those who have mental health issues and help treat them. The Conservative government has gone back on some of its pledges which is a sad state of affairs.

So in Ealing and across the country we need to improve our healthcare – I have shown how this could be achieved.

Clearly in the short term the Liberal Democrats believe our doctors and nurses should be supported. The current government appears not to want to give some doctors are fair settlement.

A fairer settlement would mean a more motivated workforce.

That is what Ealing needs.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Ealing Council needs to support its most vulnerable

Over the past couple of years Ealing Council has made a number of decisions which have or will harm some of our most vulnerable residents.

Although Ealing Council has been given less money by the government in the past few years it still has control over hundreds of millions of pounds. So, Ealing Council can still make choices to protect both our front line services and those that are used by the disabled, those who are ill, the elderly and others in need.
Gary Malcolm being handed a
Council Tax Support petition 

Initially there were closures of a number of key day centres affecting many elderly users. Ealing Council tried to close the Solace Centre that helps users with mental health issues. Luckily for the users, the Council made a rare U-turn when a large borough wide campaign was set up to save the Solace Centre. The Liberal Democrats help to support the Solace Centre.

However at the same time the Carlton Road Day Centre was closed. The Day Centre was used by profoundly disabled and those users had to find alternative help which will either cost more, provide a lesser quality service or both. Shame on Labour for closing this day centre.

The latest problem that Labour-run Ealing Council is causing some residents is when they again reduced the Council Tax Support payments. Council Tax Support is a discount that helps people on low income to pay their council tax. The amount of support you get will depend on your circumstances and how much council tax you pay.

Currently there are about 26,000 claimants, and figures show that over 5000 claimants are in arrears already and over 3000 residents have summons against their name.

So Ealing Council know that these individuals are in financial difficulties but they are to not only make it worse for them, but also add many more residents who will need to pay. Not only is this mean and vicious but asking for additional money from someone who cannot pay is likely to yield little compared to what they anticipate the changes will bring.

But it gets worse than: Ealing Council will now be able to reduce the discount by another 5% in April 2017.

The Liberal Democrats in Ealing have been fighting to protect the services that the most needy in Ealing require, to have a satisfactory life. It is wrong of Labour-run Ealing Council to make these cuts which will leave the most deprived residents even deeper into poverty.

I thank the London based organisation Z2K, who supports vulnerable benefit claimants. They produced two joint reports with the Child Poverty Action Group which examined the impact of localised Council Tax Support in London. Their findings are stark and claimants in Ealing will become much more vulnerable in the future.

Hardship will become more common. This is a stain on Ealing Council’s reputation and a ‘kick in the teeth’ to some of our most vulnerable residents.

I had hoped that 2016 would have begun with better news, but sadly not.