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Thursday, 26 November 2015

The "NO 3rd Runway" debate in Chiswick - 25th November 2015

Last night there was a wonderful debate about the possible expansion of Heathrow which took place in St Michael & All Angels Church, Bedford Park.

There was a wonderful attendance over roughly 300 residents from the area, including some who live in the homes in Hillingdon that would be knocked down if the runway was expanded.

Gary Malcolm speaking to a packed church hall
The event was chaired by Torin Douglas, the ex-BBC journalist and John Stewart, from HACAN, spoke listing many reasons why expanding Heathrow would be a bad idea.

I also spoke and gave a number of local aspects to Heathrow:

  • In a survey conducted by the Liberal Democrats, 65% of Southfield residents were against Heathrow expansion, 10% were undecided and 25% were in favour of expanding Heathrow.
  • I referred to an example of where I visited some schools in Hounslow where the kids could not go outside because of the frequent flights and noise they suffered. We should not treat our kids like that. 
  • We already fail EU air quality regulations. Any expansion would just add to the number of unnecessary deaths. It appears likely that the EU would not allow Heathrow to expand due to the current and likely future poor quality of air.
  • Sadly Ealing Labour Councillors have sat on the fence. They used to be against expansion and I suspect they want to come out in favour but are afraid of the back lack! How a political party can be in favour of Heathrow given the additional noise and air pollution it would cause.

Hundreds holding up anti-expansion posters
Towards the end of my speech I mentioned that an inspiration to me in the campaign against Heathrow expansion, came from the now late, local Chiswick BBC comedy actor Richard Briers (from "The Good Life"). When I visited his house he often had placed a wonderful "anti Heathrow expansion" poster in his window. 

Seeing that gave others a reason to keep fighting. So we all should put posters in our windows.

Well done to the Bedford Park Residents Association who arranged the meeting.

Finally in the next few days before the government make a decision on whether to expand Heathrow or not, please make sure you write a handwritten letter to:

David Cameron, The Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, London. SW1A 2AA. 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Why Ealing needs the UK to stay in Europe

Recently stories keep appearing about whether we should stay in the European Union or leave.

In the referendum, which is likely to take place next year, the Liberal Democrats are clear that the UK should not only stay in but that Europe should be reformed.

One in every ten British jobs, many in London and plenty in Ealing rely on our membership of the European Union’s single market. The EU buys over half of the UK exports. Lots of American and Asian firms build factories in our country because it is in the single market.

The EU is our biggest trading partner, accounting for 52% of our trade. This rakes us in about £400bn per year, which far outstrips the estimated £12bn we spend (net) on the EU each year.

Gary Malcolm, a proud European
I was speaking to a resident recently, who lives in Acton. I was proud to remind her that we enjoy lower mobile phone roaming charges, lower credit card fees, cheaper flights and proper compensation when flights are delayed or cancelled because of European rules and actions.

We should enjoy the freedom to work and study abroad and we should allow others that same right. Nearly 1.5 million British people live abroad in the EU. About 15,000 UK students took part in the European Union’s Erasmus student exchange scheme.

If we left the EU we'd need to pay more for visas, unless we created our own agreements with different countries. The facts show that when Europeans move to the UK, they are more likely to work and pay taxes as well as not requiring benefits.

The European Arrest Warrant replaced long extradition procedures and enables the UK to extradite criminals wanted in other EU countries, and bring to justice criminals wanted in the UK who are hiding in other EU countries.

By leaving the EU we would lose our seat at the decision-making table but still pay the bills. It would be like paying a season ticket at QPR, Brentford or other local team and then not be allowed to watch any of the matches!

There are still many things that the Liberal Democrats want to see improved about the EU. These include:

  • Reforming the EU budget – Liberal Democrats will continue to cut wasteful spending in the EU budget while increasing funding for job creating policies such as cross border infrastructure projects, the digital economy, small business funding and cutting-edge research and development.
  • Cutting waste - Liberal Democrats will campaign to bring an end to the European Parliament's monthly travel between Brussels and Strasbourg. This will save £150m and almost 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
  • Reforming small business rules - we will support the ‘Think Small First’ principle to reduce unnecessary European Union regulatory costs and exempt smaller businesses from legislation where appropriate.

In summary Ealing, London and our country would be better off IN EUROPE.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Conference time – a pointer for the future of Ealing

Autumn time is when most political parties hold their main conference to debate what their views are on some of the major areas that effect of our lives. Housing and education made a lot of coverage during the week, as did Tim Farron - in his new role as Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

This comes as the new government is about to make further cuts to many of the services we need.
An example of this which will affect many in Ealing is where the Conservatives look likely to cut free meals for infant school pupils. This policy was introduced by Nick Clegg in 2014. If free hot school meals for schoolchildren are taken away, then it is very likely that the health of our children will worsen.

Tim Farron, Lib Dem Leader
One policy area that is talked about in many social settings is housing. Locally it is absolutely crucial that Ealing Council is more proactive in bringing back more empty homes into use. Each time we walk to the tube station or to work, we see homes that are empty. Not only is this a blot on the landscape but it is easier (and cheaper) to repair an unused home than build a new one from scratch!

Ealing Council needs to be tougher to prevent developers from getting out of providing the affordable housing that they're supposed to. It is Ealing's young people who suffer the most from Labour’s ‘Any development is probably okay’ approach. Most large redevelopments in Ealing seem to have few affordable or social homes that younger members of society can rent or buy.

It is not just the Labour party who are failing to do their part on housing but the Conservatives are now allowing housing associations to flog off their homes. What will happen will be simple – homes will be sold to third party companies, taking a large fee, leaving the Council will fewer and fewer homes to house our most vulnerable residents.

Liberal Democrats in Ealing have a clear three point plan to improve the housing situation in Ealing and across London.

  1. Introduce a “rent to own” scheme to help first time buyers into home ownership.
  2. Double the delivery of affordable homes through increased City Hall investment and use of publicly owned brownfield land.
  3. Bring 20,000 long term empty homes back into use as family homes.

More Liberal Democrats
Housing is such an important factor as poor housing often leads to less fruitful outcomes in our lives affecting our health, job security and general well-being.

The Liberal Democrats are a party that believes that the role of Government is to help us to be the best that we can be, no matter who we are or what our background. We believe that being proactive in consulting residents generates a better relationship. When Labour chose not to consult on whether we should have wheelie bins, this is a mistake. It will lead people to mistrust Ealing Council.

On a positive note since May’s General Election, nearly 20,000 people have joined the Liberal Democrats and hopefully Ealing will become more liberal as a consequence.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Transport unions are shooting themselves in the foot

The recent two tube strikes and the two planned strikes are forcing many millions to use different methods of transport, to be massively delayed or feel obliged to take holidays to avoid the stress of a strike days.

The scenes at many of our rail stations shows that we both have a good and varied transport network but when the railways are loaded they understandably cannot fully cope. The loss to businesses in Ealing and London wide is very large because of strikes.

Many tourists who have visited Ealing and London for a short break will not return.

Chiswick Park tube station
I am a great supporter of unions, as history shows without unions many workers would have a poorer level of health and safety in their workplace. Many accidents have been averted and incidents of bullying, because of unions.

In a company I worked for previously, I was a Workplace Representative and a First-aider. My approach was not to be argumentative but raise issues that fellow employees had concerns about so that management could consider them and hopefully accept sensible ideas after discussion.

We have seen for many years that unions have worked with management effectively but in the transport sector there is a different situation. We often see those unions using language that is aggressive, calling for strikes using reasons that are not by many, seen as being fair.

General Secretaries seem to act as if they are in the playground shouting at Transport for London ‘teachers’. Calling each other names, refusing to talk despite what appears to be a fair deal for many workers who get paid much more than many teachers, bus drivers and other public workers.

No job should always be regarded as sacred. Companies and their employees need to adapt to what the world needs and what technologies exist. So the introduction of a night service is good initiative and the workplace needs to adapt. They appear to have been given a reasonable deal.

Caroline Pidgeon at Ealing Broadway station
I have twice been made redundant. I did not give up and complain, but adapted and successfully found work. Change can be unsettling but what is needed in all disputes is a grown up discussion.

Reforms are needed and some of this needs to take place to take the financial link between political parties and MPs with unions. Political parties’ policies should arise because it will solve the problems of the day and not because a union paid the political party like the Labour party millions of pounds.

I am not, however, in favour of there being a minimum requirement for the share of employees voting in a strike ballot. I think it is crucial that employees retain the right to strike but the key is to ensure that the union management do not strike for reasons that most would state as being unnecessary or unwarranted.

Some of the unnecessary transport strikes are essentially the unions shooting themselves into the foot. Like somebody ‘crying wolf’. When the next dispute takes place, which may deal with some very important matters, no one will care. People are turning against transport unions as they appear to only cause negativity to London.

Striking should be the last resort. I hope we can see everyone get around the table when the next Mayor of London is elected.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb visits Southfield

We were lucky to have the Lib Dem MP, Norman Lamb, drop my recently. We were knocking on doors asking residents in Chiswick about their views on some national matters including Heathrow, the Human Rights Act and Europe.

Norman Lamb in Southfield
Of course people were still raising the issue of the impending wheelie bins which we are still fighting to stop. Such a waste of money that could be spent on vital services.

Labour seem happy to close our day centres whilst the fail to keep our streets clean.

Norman Lamb MP has a great history in government and since the general election of raising the profile of mental health.

Norman commented very openly about legalising assisted dying... "For many years, I opposed attempts to legalise assisted dying. I had concerns, shared by many, that the risk to the most vulnerable individuals outweighed the benefits.

Norman talking to a resident in Ramillies Road
Equally, I respect those with deeply held religious concerns. But my views have been challenged in recent years. As an MP and in my role in the last Parliament as a health minister, I have spoken to many terminally ill patients, and the families of those who suffered slow deaths in great pain.
So many of them were convinced, when someone is suffering intolerably, and when they are reaching the end of their life, they should be allowed to end their suffering with dignity, and with the support of those closest to them.

These testimonies have forced me to think again. Would I want the right to decide for myself, when faced with terminal illness, when I wished to die? And would I want it for loved ones? The answer is unequivocally, yes.

Every few months, we hear about a case where someone who is terminally ill is faced with an impossible dilemma.  Either they must accept a slow and painful deterioration and death, or they must endure the indignity of travelling to another country to end their life – risking criminalisation of the relatives or friends who support them. And they only have this option if they can afford it, which many simply cannot. The current legal situation is not just a messy compromise; it is cruel, and it is wrong."

Photos were taken by Suzanne Tanswell, so thank you for the time spent snapping away.

Monday, 13 July 2015

A great success: the Beaumont Road PlayStreet‏

Last weekend myself and Councillor Gary Busuttil were able to attend a lively street party in Beaumont Road.

The event, where resident have their street closed off from traffic for a few hours, usually on a Sunday, was organised by Jill Ward and Vanessa Folley.

Photo taken by Jill Ward
It gave people a chance to meet each other, many of whom did not either know or commonly speak to their neighbours. There was a great atmosphere with lots of children playing games whilst the adults tucked into the homemade cupcakes!

PlayStreet joint organiser, Jill Ward, said: "We were thrilled to have over 40 people come to our first PlayStreet. We met neighbours we had never even seen! It gave our road a real sense of community & people have been thanking me all week.

The work to set it up was minimal with the letters & survey were all prepared by the Council. We can now run a PlayStreet once a month & following its successful start several neighbouring streets are planning to start their own!"

Three top tips the Beaumont Road PlayStreet organisers gave were:

  • Talk to a couple of neighbours before you start to see if there is interest
  • Agree a time for a PlayStreet with them so you have support
  • Ask a couple of people to help with stewarding in advance

Last year the Southfield ward Liberal Democrat Councillors persuaded Ealing Council to not charge residents for these types of events as they bring people together.

If you would like to start up a street party then please check out Playing Out, Ealing Council's website or let us know and we can help you out!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Ealing does not need Heathrow to be expanded

Howard Davies's Airports Commission recently delivered a massive blow to residents in Ealing and West London, when it gave the go ahead to expand Heathrow.

Only the Liberal Democrats have been resolutely against expanding Heathrow, locally, regionally and nationally, as we see our quality of life worsening if there is an increase in air traffic. The additional air and noise pollution will make our lives worse.

I recall visiting a school in Hounslow where the pupils could not play outside due to the planes that there already are. Anymore and we will be causing problems for not just how our children can be educated but their enjoyment of their time at school.

Time at school should be fun and a chance to socialise whilst learning, not avoiding the noise of large planes going over head.

Some residents have mentioned the proposed cap on night flights but I think we know that any expansion will lead to an increased number of people in Acton and Chiswick suffering from flight noise in the short term, to a u-turn and more night flights.

I am also very cynical about whether the airline industry will fund triple glazing or investing in planes that will be much quieter and much more fuel efficient.

By encouraging flights without altering the tax system we are missing the point. We need to both invest in more environmentally friendly methods of transport whilst ensuring that more polluting methods of transport such as airlines pay the correct taxes to pay for the increased environmental damage they cause.

Both the Tories and the Labour parties have said they will accept the commission’s report which was published after the general election to avoid embarrassment to them. Sadly only the Liberal Democrats will be standing up to fight for the residents of Ealing.

I fear that future generations of our children will suffer for the short term greed of our country.