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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Christmas and New Year message 2017

Over the past year we have seen a number of incidences where the outlook for many residents in our area is getting worse not better.

Brexit is affecting London and certainly the boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow. Many banks and financial companies are moving jobs from London to France and Germany meaning that Chiswick residents are losing their jobs.

Liberal Democrats have observed that continued government cuts have resulted is a greater number of people being displaced from their housing and some being homeless. The truer level of homelessness is much higher as there are a large set of residents who move from the homes of friend to friend, staying for a few days or a week before moving to another temporary home. There needs to be more investment in providing shelters and the services so that those who are homeless can have a better chance of getting a job or into education.

In May 2018 there will be the local elections. I hope, despite many people’s views of politicians, that everyone will reflect on which political party or councillors have been the most active in their area to make improvements. The Liberal Democrats have been fighting to get the council to keep the streets clean from fly-tips, litter and leaves. We also want to see the police continue their hard work to keep crime low and to catch drivers who speed.

I would like to end my putting on record, a big thank you to the many thousands of residents who take part in volunteering to raise money for good caused, care for family members or vulnerable residents. You all have improved the lives of many people. In addition there are many residents who have helped to set up or maintain residents’ bodies. These groups make a positive difference in Chiswick.

I wish everyone a great festive period.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Ealing needs action not words to reduce cycling deaths

Many of us who are cyclists see junctions which are hot spots for injuries often involving cyclists and lorries, due to the blind spots.

Recently I went on a rally to show Ealing Council that they need to do more to reduce fatalities on our roads, following the death of ex-police officer and cyclist Claudia Manera in West Ealing. As Ealing’s Council Leader spoke he was barracked by cyclists demanding action not words. Too right.

The Liberal Democrats believe that the Council and Transport for London (TFL) should make a commitment to action the recommendations of the review relating to Claudia Manera’s death, that is being carried out so that future lives are not lost.

Ealing, like many areas, has an increased number of people cycling, but we are failing against the main Council target, as to the share of residents who cycle in Ealing is lower than planned.

Liberal Democrats believe there should be an action plan (not a strategy) for both pedestrians and cyclists. We need TFL and Ealing to spend more on preventing accidents. What is the cost of a death of a cyclist or pedestrian? Too much!

We need to see the approaches to major and more dangerous junctions made safer so that new cyclists can be encouraged as well as ensuring that existing cyclists can move from their homes to where they need to go more quickly.

Activities that Liberal Democrats’ ward forum have funded and implemented include:

  • Expanded cycle racks and hangers so residents without a garden can store their bikes safely.
  • Cycle training for children and adults across the area.
  • Introduced a 20 mph zone and other measures to reduce the traffic speed at some key junctions where cyclists and pedestrians have accidents.

A cycling equivalent to Park Runs was suggested at a meeting this week. This should be organised and promoted to encourage new cyclists as well as holding events for younger cyclists so a range of cyclists can be motivated.

We need those who block bus and cycle lanes to be fined! On Acton Vale and Acton High Street this happens too often.

More money has been available for road repairs so let’s make sure Ealing receives its share!

I have suggested that all of Ealing’s cycling shops be encouraged to help promote training which Ealing Council offers. One in my area said they would.

We just need to be more ambitious.

Liberal Democrats would strengthen ward fora

Over the past couple of years Ealing Council have made lots of small changes which have led to ward fora meetings being less effective or relevant to residents.

Liberal Democrats believe that to get more people involved in the Council decision making process, the Council needs to be proactive and make ward forum meetings more likely to encourage residents to attend.

I remember when ward forum meetings hosted some interesting debates about wheelie bins, the possible closure of the 94-bus terminus, whether or not to light Southfield Rec and discussing Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs).
Instead the Labour party have reduced the publicity so fewer people know about the meetings. 

They have reduced the budgets so fewer schemes can be introduced.

In Southfield we are the ONLY ward in the 23 in Ealing borough, who have four ward meetings a year. All but two only have two meetings a year! How last is that?

We also make a great effort to involve residents’ associations, the police and other bodies who attend to speak to residents as well as give some useful ideas for projects that we can fund. 

Over our time these have included:
·         New lights for half of Southfield.
·         Planting of a huge number of trees spread across the area.
·         Improvements to all our parks and playgrounds.
·         Cycle hangers to help residents store their cycles safely to avoid being robbed.

Another perverse change is that minutes will not be taken and instead only action points. This may seem sensible but if there are missing action points, how can they be verified without more detailed minutes!

The Liberal Democrats have a more proactive approach to ward fora meetings. We believe that a much higher share of the environmental budget can be allocated to each ward in Ealing borough. This will mean that Councillors and ward forum meetings can allocate budgets on a combination of demand and the priorities of each ward.

This approach is more devolved and democratic and it would give each councillor a greater responsibility. Residents would see who the hardworking and effective Councillors are.

It is regrettable that Labour-run Ealing Council are allowing many ward fora to rot so they can make their cuts without taking the blame. The Liberal Democrats approach is to keep on fighting and linking in with residents who want to see improvements in Acton and Chiswick.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Labour hiding the facts: our streets will get even dirtier in Chiswick

After some investigation by Southfield Liberal Democrat Councillor, Andrew Steed, we have seen the plans by Labour-run Ealing Council to reduce street cleansing again!

This time the frequency of deep cleansing could be further reduced from six to twelve weekly intervals. Currently I receive a lot of calls and emails on this topic; this change will just increase the number of dirty streets locally.

Pretty soon, I think the Council will be asking us to both pay Council tax and sweep our own streets!
Perhaps the worst part of this scheme is that here has been no announcement so it appears that this is another example of Labour moving the goal posts and not informing residents about changes.

Previously we have seen examples when the Council made secret the:

  • Lists of parks that were due to be cleaned less often.
  • Areas where cleaning was due to be stopped totally.
  • Streets where the frequency of street cleaning was to be reduced.

Further to this, the Liberal Democrats have seen many examples of where the streets have not been cleaned and even when photos showing waste (including vermin) the Council have said the streets were clean.

When I have asked for some details of the contract that the Council and its contractor (Amey) signed a number of years ago I have been told that I cannot be show it because it is “confidential”.

Sadly, it appears the Council are happy to see dirty streets in Chiswick. The Liberal Democrats will continue to report examples of missed collections and dirty streets but we would have thought it was better to get the contractor to clean them to a better standard in the first place!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Police need to continue to bond with teens and other community groups

Over the past number of years, the Met have had flash points with different groups, some of which have led to issues in how they are perceived negatively by residents in London.

Locally, in Chiswick, the police have been and are continuing to take a more proactive approach which is welcoming to see.

The Liberal Democrats know that if the police are to be trusted they need to not just stop crimes from happening, catch criminals but socialise with people from all backgrounds in life. If they are seen out and about where people meet then it is likely that people will trust them or speak to them if they have concerns.

At a meeting recently where the police were present they talked about initiatives where the local police team would drop in (to a drop ins) where lots of teenagers socialise. Just being present meant people saw the police as people having fun, playing table tennis and ready, if needed, to answer questions if anyone had matters they wanted to discuss.

At other times, the Southfield ward Forum, run by the Liberal Democrats in Southfield, have members of the local police team to update residents on crime in the area and what they have been doing to deal with and reduce crime. Their presence has allowed many residents a chance to ask questions of their local police team.

Southfield has a lower crime than neighbouring areas. Whilst crime is rising generally, in Southfield it is falling. Part of this is that we have a strong culture of local volunteering:

· The Police and residents monitoring speeding traffic ensuring that drivers speeding get warned to reduce the chance of future incidents of speeding.

· Southfield has a great set of neighbourhood watch volunteers who make use of information about local crime from the police to inform residents, so they can reduce the chances they become a victim of crime.

· We are luck to have an effective group to monitor the police’s actions and when feedback is given the police change some of their activities to help address information issues in Southfield. Being a part of the group shows how crucial it is for residents to support the police.

Myself and the other Southfield Liberal Democrat Councillors thank active members of the public and the police, for being proactive, working together to reduce crime.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Area Committees and why it is sad Labour appear to want to get rid of them

At a Council meeting recently the Labour Leader of Ealing Council made a comment that was more than a suggestion that he wants to stop all ward fora meetings.
He said that Councillors should speak to the residents of their wards one to one. Well, a message for Councillor Bell is that the Liberal Democrats in Southfield ward, Chiswick, is that we do both.

We have four ward fora meetings each year (almost all of the others have only 2, some three) plus we speak to people at both our Councillors’ advice sessions and by knocking of residents’ doors to survey them about what issues are things they want fixing.

Then we fix people’s problems. Recently when visiting one street in Chiswick we logged a number of issues and within a couple of days the street had the dumped waste and litter removed as well as a new litter bin installed (to reduce the litter that Acton Lane suffers from).

We run four ward meetings as we feel that it is crucial that Councillors can meet residents more regularly than only twice a year, to answer questions and to ask residents what topics they think are important in their area.

We often invite the local police team which is great as they give a face to some of the crime stories they read about in the media. They can ask advice about local crimes (the level of crime in Liberal Democrat Southfield is very low) to see how they can help themselves or neighbours suffering from car crime, burglary or other types of crime.

Any politician who refuses to want ward forum meetings from taking place, should be sacked! 

Our masters (the voters) deserve a way to ask about their elected Councillors questions and why they have taken the actions they have taken.

In Southfield the Liberal Democrat councillors love ward forum meetings as we hear how things really are.

That is why we have funded two additional meetings, when other political parties want to see ward forum meetings cancelled.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

No one believes Council's figures on street cleanliness

One of the large volume of topics that residents raise with me, in my councillor’s post bag, is the large numbers of missed collections of kitchen waste.

In Southfield, residents saw, when the wheelie bins rolled in - like Daleks – dirty streets and a huge number of missed collections of their household waste. Since then kitchen waste has not been collected as often as it should be.

Sometimes the same person has missed their collection for many consecutive weeks. Other times whole streets are missed.

From a resident who comments recently the contractor said they did not collect the waste because the resident’s gate was closed (not locked, just closed!) Given the Council is allowing the contractor to get away with such a poor level of service a positive future is not likely.

Liberal Democrats believe that how clean our streets are and how the contractor is performing should be more transparent. The facts published by Ealing Council often are always a positive gloss on the reality of what is happening in our streets.

One weekend the Southfield Liberal Democrats found over 400 environmental faults and issues. At a similar time the Council said things were fine!

Given this I am challenging the Council’s portfolio holder, responsible for rubbish issues, to visit Southfield ward and see for himself. Cynically I expect him to prime the contractors first (so they can buck their ideas up in the short term) but let’s hope he and the contractors learn a few lessons about the need to keep our streets clean.

Liberal Democrats say that if the portfolio holder refuses an invitation for a visit, then nobody can really respect him. I say that he should clean all 100 or so streets in Southfield until residents are satisfied!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Improving our borough's parks

For many years in Southfield ward the Liberal Democrat councillor have been working with many groups including Council staff and residents’ associations to see what residents most wanted from their parks.
Gary Malcolm at bike storage rack on Acton Green

Relatively recently the three main open spaces in Southfield were granted Green Flag status. This came in the backdrop of years of spending to make lots of small positive changes for the area when Ealing Council sadly cut about half of the park ranger staff.

Some of the areas where improvements have been made include:

  • More litter bins and park benches.
  • Cycling facilities so people can park their bikes safely.
  • Lighting paths so that residents can more safely get to and from work in the early mornings or later evenings.
  • Installation of gym equipment, so allowing residents to exercise without paying large gym costs!
  • Planting meadows to brighten up less busy patches of grass.
  • Installation of flower beds to brighten the place up.
  • New pathways which had become worn out.

Much of the last ten years before gaining the Green Flag status came from funding at a ward level where Liberal Democrat Councillors created or agreed to proposals from residents to improve our area.

Some of these proposals helped road safety in the area and others related to improving our parks and open spaces.

Liberal Democrats believe that the model we have created should be followed in other areas. To work it is crucial that the local Councillors regularly involve all the residents’ associations in the area so that lots of ideas area created. It is also integral that residents are consulted and that Council officers are asked their views.

This way you get more good ideas and in the end the ones that can be introduced to give benefits to a range of residents.

So many Ealing residents should have the right to stay

Each week the thought of a Brexit is causing great concern to residents in Ealing.
Much of this concern is two-fold: firstly there are a large number of EU nationals who live in Ealing who contribute to businesses in Ealing and London. Many contribute to a range of community events, volunteering their time to help those who are more in need including those who are homeless.

Secondly they are providing services and expertise, which many local companies would suffer, if they were not able to work for those Ealing companies.
Many French, Polish, Italian, Spanish and other EU citizens contribute to the Ealing economy should not be forced to live under a cloud of uncertainty. Liberal Democrats are the only party that has consistently championed Britain’s membership of the European Union, because we believe that Britain’s best chance to succeed is within the EU.
How can any EU national feel comfortable in staying in our country when the government appears to be trying their best to make anyone not born in the UK, feel bad?
But the future status of these residents is not clear beyond any Brexit renegotiation period, leading to uncertainty.
The Liberal Democrats are clear that those EU nationals who are currently resident in the UK should be allowed to live here indefinitely.
The party is has committed to standing in the next election on the platform of securing Britain’s place in the EU.
To Europeans whose lives are now rooted in the UK my message is simple – the Liberal Democrats stand with you, and will speak for you. To the French family raising their children in Hanwell, to the Polish mother working to pay her mortgage in central Ealing, to the German graduate starting his business venture in Acton - the Liberal Democrats value you, we will stand by you and we will champion your future here in Britain.

Liberal Democrats say EU citizens must have right to stay in Britain. Simple.

Planning must be done properly

As planning is decided using particular types of legal rules I am speaking here personally about a local example of a proposal for planning, known as 100 Bollo Lane.

At the time of writing this, the decision has not been made, and some lessons can be learned about the process of how Ealing Council consults residents as well as what it considers important when it makes planning decisions.

Of course we need more housing but the location needs to be planned so that we do not create sets of huge towers in one area meaning that many people in traditional two storey homes, feel enclosed and are overlooked. Better to have more less tall building so that the good look of an area is not destroyed.

With regard to 100 Bollo Lane application Ealing Council did not consult as many people as they should have. Liberal Democrats believe that enough people should be consulted and not by notices on lampposts. I personally have had complaints about the scheme from at least ten streets which is more than the Council appeared to have contacted.

I am personally against the 100 Bollo Lane application because the current use of light industrial was agreed to be appropriate relatively recently by both the Mayor of London and Ealing Council, so it is wrong to change the use for housing when the site has not been marketed for other light industrial uses.

It appears to be an excuse from the land owners and the developers to sell the land for a high value without the Council wanting to get the best value for the land.

Other issues that will come with a tall set of buildings have been seen at the southern end of Bollo Lane including flooding due to a loss of green area and excess railway noise which according to Transport for London is bouncing off some of the newer developments towards homes on Bollo Lane.

Repeating a development at the north of Bollo Lane seems very likely to cause issues for existing residents on other sections of Bollo Lane.

As a Liberal Democrat, I know that quickly agreeing to a scheme that is not good for the area will leave long lasting negative outcomes. Better to wait and allow for time to discuss a more appropriate scheme for the area. That is what Chiswick deserves.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Lib Dems say Protect our hospitals and give us a better mental health service

Whilst the government says that the NHS will become a seven-day service, we know that many areas do operate seven days a week service for many health services.

Given the underinvestment from the Conservative government we have staff, nurses and doctors who are demotivated. The Liberal Democrats say to ensure we can cope with increasing some of the services such as Accident and Emergency care this will cost more money since there are not enough staff at the moment.

The waiting times in our hospitals are getting worse and many ill patients are left in corridors suffering unnecessarily.

Ealing Hospital which serves some of Acton’s residents, has had its maternity unit closed meaning that mothers and relatives are travelling longer to give birth and then being asked to visit Ealing Hospital for an out-patients’ appointment, where they can see the closed maternity unit not being used!

With a greater birth rate over the past few years and expected in the future it seems strange that we are reducing the number of beds, as well as forcing more mothers-to-be to travel greater distances to give birth.

Many government PR statements label the plans to change Charing Cross hospital into a local hospital as a positive thing. It is only positive if you are the Chancellor of the Exchequer; patients are the losers here.

When consulted people did not want this as a local hospital, Charing Cross would be downgraded meaning many ill residents in the area having to be taken in ambulances to other hospitals further afield – perhaps Hillingdon.

We have seen other services like the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) service being moved from Ealing Hospital to others in the area. This may seem a small change but it will mean a lot of disruption of many patients having to travel to different hospitals, which are sometimes not on a single bus route.

One important area of heath care that has been mainly ignored, apart from the Liberal Democrats, is that of mental health. Most of us with either suffer from a mental health issue in our lives or know someone who has done so. Many people will not have had the confidence to tell others and may have suffered in silence.

We need to ensure that government does not shun those with mental illnesses. They need our help and support. Lib Dem Norman Lamb MP is a magnificent example of a campaigner for greater mental health services.

In summary, the plans appear to mean more people are travelling longer to either receive healthcare or visit a friend or relative. This cannot be good.

As a Liberal Democrat, I know that making cuts now will lead to more expensive treatment later on down the line.