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Monday, 6 October 2014

Ealing needs democracy not a one party state

With the local elections behind us in Ealing and the Scottish Referendum now decided, it has shown us that to get people can be interested in politics they need to feel their vote will mean something.

In Ealing the percentage who turned out to vote was about half that of Scotland. The approach from the Liberal Democrats is always to engage and involve residents and interested groups, in both the formation of policies and the feedback process about how Council services are being managed.

Gary Malcolm speaking up for our health service
At my local ward forum meeting, covering part of Chiswick and Acton, three Liberal Democrat councillors are involved, and the attendance is very often higher than the average for the borough.

We tailor the meeting agenda and structure so that residents can be informed of local matters as well as asking for their views. Engaging and consulting residents is a great way to generate ideas that the Council did not think of. This in my area has led to many open spaces being improved so more people use their parks and are proud to live where they do.

Labour in Ealing have 53 of the 69 Councillors, which is 77% of the total seats. This Labour one party state in Ealing is planning to ensure that opposition parties like the Liberal Democrats will not be allowed to properly question and scrutinise them about their decisions, their failures and future plans.

A recent proposal was for just the Labour and the Conservative parties to select what topics will be discussed at Council meetings rather than allow all political parties to decide on topics.

Initially I was surprised that the Conservatives in Ealing have agreed to this but the attendance of Conservatives at many Cabinet meetings this year has shown they show little regard to democracy in Ealing. Another plan from Labour is to scrap a Council meeting which will further dilute the chance for residents and opposition Councillors to scrutinise the administration.

The function of opposition parties is to scrutinise the administration. The Liberal Democrats are against any proposals which seek to stop residents, interest groups and opposition parties from giving their views on how Ealing should be run.

Only the Liberal Democrats trust residents and at ward forum meetings we would love the responsibility to manage the currently central powers, of which streets get repaired, where trees should be planted and where lighting should be improved. Residents and ward Councillors know their area better than others and so should be allowed to make decisions on their behalf.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

My local perspective on Robin Williams' death

Recent reports about the death of Robin Williams and depression and suicide do not make comfortable reading. His death raises questions about whether mental health is given the same priority as many physical disorders.

Lib Dem Councillor Gary Malcolm
The death reminded me of my best friend at school, who sadly ended his own life by jumping from a viaduct. Why would someone intelligent and personable end their own life without feeling able to discuss troubles with family or friends? There was no note left, and many of the questions were never answered.

Looking at the wider picture, suicide rates in England have been in steady decline over the last decade, we are not immune in Ealing. Our mortality rate is higher than for London and England, with Ealing Broadway and Southall being classed as “suicide hot spots”.
When we look at the types of people who are more likely to end their own lives we can see how perhaps more can be done to prevent deaths.

  • Those with mental health conditions 
  • People having relationship problems
  • Carers  
  • People who are unemployed or have financial problems
  • Residents who a lonely, especially among the over 64s
  • People who have long term conditions involving pain or cancer

Ealing Council, especially now that it has more responsibility for health matters, is in a position to use its relationships with other health providers in Ealing to reduce incidents of suicide. Liberal Democrats believe Council related bodies need to keep an eye on this important issue so fewer people end their own lives.

Our general practitioners, more than ever, ask patients who have chronic conditions like diabetes whether the patients have had any feelings of being unhappy. I assume that many patients would feel surprised and not say that have had any periods of unhappiness.

However difficult we do need to encourage more communication with those who need medical or psychiatric advice and this should include victims of crime and those coming out of prison. Predicting future mental illness is very difficult but we do need to find better ways to communicate with the groups of people who are more likely to take their own life.

Locally in Southfield, the campaign to retain the Carlton Road Centre has received a phenomenal response. It is obvious that many people are aware of problems such as Councils shutting day centres, either through family or acquaintance, which can lead to people being left isolated.

Given the problem is present in many pensioners, Liberal Democrat councillors were more than happy to help fund a club for elderly members living in Chiswick and Acton. We cannot know whether this will reduce suicide rates but we know that residents can more regularly meet and have a better life. That is what politics is about.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Southfield ward forum update - 25th July

Yesterday was the first Southfield ward forum since the local elections where the Liberal Democrats were re-elected.

The meeting took place in the Acton Green church hall, on Cunnington Street. New councillor, Gary Busuttil, was present and re-elected Councillor Andrew Steed chaired the meeting. A range of interesting topics were discussed...
Councillor Gary Busuttil

St. Albans Church
Since the campaign to stop the site being converted into ten flats, local Liberal Democrats have been working with residents and church authorities to make use of the chuch.

We were lucky to have Reverend Richard Moy and Rev Mike Tufnell present at the ward forum who also answered questions from residents. From what Reverend Moy said, it was clear it will not be quick for the church to take full ownership and management of the site but that they have lots of activities that will be run at the church including a theatre show in Autumn and a ward forum meeting next February.

So much progress has been made and where the community come together pretty much anything is possible. Well done to all those who helped get this project this far.

Councillor Gary Malcolm helping to clean up dumped waste
around St Albans church
Prevention of Crime
One of Ealing Council's Safer Community officers, Joseph Lazone, spoke about crime in the area. The good news was that generally crime in Southfield is lower than all of the local areas and most of the borough. He did say that in January through March this year that the number of burglaries had been higher than average. A campaign by the police has since reduced them after a number of arrests.

He also mentioned that a number of crimes could have been easily prevented including people who had left items in view on car seats and those who had left expensive looking tablets on view through their windows.

Ward budget update
The ward forum has about £45,000 to spend on local projects. During the meeting a number of possible spends were mentioned including:

  • Cycle racks outside Lavelli's Bakery, St. Albans Avenue
  • Trees for The Vale, Seymour Road, Valetta Road and Cunnington Street
  • Recycling bins for Acton Green to help reduce litter and improve recycling rates
  • Literature to promote the ward forum
  • Improvements to the small grassy area near to the 94 bus terminus and the Beaconsfield estate
  • Improvements to the area near adjacent to the path to Hounslow via Hardwicke Road

If you have any other suggestions please get in touch or suggest an idea on this blog.

Other topics discussed

  1. CPZ (zone R): It was announced that the changes to the times of operation to the CPZ (zone R) would come into effect on 1st September. Councillor Andrew Steed said that notices had gone out to residents recently. The changes will mean a cheaper annual permit fee, the need for fewer visitor's vouchers.
  2. Southfield 20 mph zone update: It was announced that the signs for the 20 mph zone would be installed in September / October this year. Other good news was that Council officers were planning to move the position of the centre lines of the following streets: Southfield Road, The Avenue, Acton Lane, South Parade and Beaconsfield Road.
  3. Planning Application: It was mentioned that a planning application had been lodged for two towers (seven and eight stories high) sited at Empire House (near Sainsbury's). It is likely that these proposals if agreed by Hounslow's Planning Committee would overshadow properties in Southfield.

Future meetings
The remaining three Southfield ward forum meetings take place at 7.30 on:

  • Thursday 11th September at the Carlton Road Day Centre, Carlton Road, W4
  • Thursday 13th November at the Scout Hut, off Rugby Road, W4
  • Thursday 19th February at St Albans Church, South Parade, W4.

If you have an item you would like to have added to the agenda please let us know by emailing

Everyone is welcome to the meeting!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Apprenticeships give young people a chance to shine

I had the privilege of attending an Apprenticeship Dinner organised by Ealing Council recently. The event was attended by a mixture of current and past apprentices and employers who are thinking of taking on apprentices.

Quite simply an apprenticeship gives a young person the chance to shine whilst working for Ealing Council or many other companies based in and around the borough. As part of the apprenticeships, which last two years, training is given ‘on the job’ as well as some employers giving time off so apprentices can take up academic qualifications which will help them in their chosen field.

Lib Dem Gary Malcolm: supporting apprenticeships
The range of jobs that Ealing’s apprenticeships take up is very diverse. Some are office based. Others are in the building sector and some in local engineering firms.

On average, apprentices earn £100,000 more over their career than less qualified workers. They also help businesses. Over 80% of businesses who employ apprentices agree they make their workforce more productive.

Liberal Democrats have been at the fore-front of promoting apprenticeships, locally and nationally. We have helped create 1.8 million apprenticeships since the election in 2010. There are now more apprentices than ever before and 86% more than under Labour.

We are giving 40,000 businesses grants of £1,500 for each young unemployed person they take on as an apprentice and awarding £550m to colleges to improve their facilities for apprentices.

Employers have access to funding to cover training costs for apprentices. This is paid directly to the organisation that provides and supports the apprenticeship - in most cases the learning provider. Employers must make sure they pay apprentices at least the current minimum wage rate.

If an apprentice is 19 or over, and have completed their first year, they are entitled to the worker rate for their age. Over the past few years I have seen a number of apprentices who have gone on to do some wonderful work. Most are very hard working and really put in 100% Listening to their stories is very inspirational.

Ealing Council with the help of the coalition government is making a positive impact on giving young people more opportunities for them to do well in the work place so they can better themselves in life generally.

The Liberal Democrats support getting more apprenticeships started. Lots of employers have already provided apprenticeships. If you are an employer or you would like to become an apprentice see how you can started...

  • Ealing Council is looking for business owners and managers who can offer apprenticeships to 16-24 year olds.
  • If you are 16-24 years old and you do not have a degree or level 4 qualifications, you can apply to become an apprentice.

I hope you can see that becoming an apprentice would be beneficial to your future prospects as well as the local economy. If you can provide an apprenticeship then please do so. Everyone will benefit!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Why we should be concerned about the rise in betting shops

Wherever you are in Ealing the large number of betting shops can be seen in our seven town centres.

Many areas in the borough have not just a high density of betting shops but many of the anti-social problems that appear to come with these establishments. Residents are concerned about the effects that a cluster of betting shops can have on our high streets and local shopping parades.

Some of the reported problems include street muggings, drug dealing, vandalism, littering, harassment and intimidation from customers outside on the street, underage gambling and street drinking. Then there is the issue that gambling in many cases makes poorer people, poorer. More and more betting shops have opened due to a loophole in the law that allowed the big bookmaking chains to open branches in many locations without planning permission.

Lib Dem Jon Ball
Ealing Central and Acton Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate Jon Ball spotted the loophole in action when Ladbrokes opened a betting shop in the former Sitar Restaurant in South Ealing Road - a short distance away from the existing Corals and Paddy Power betting shops.

Jon Ball succeeded in persuading the government to make it harder for betting shops to open on our high street. He initially raised the issue at a Liberal Democrat national conference which agreed with his proposals. He then successfully lobbied coalition government ministers to introduce new powers to crack down on the large increase in betting shops. Now bookmakers will have to make a planning application which local councils will be able to refuse if they are worried about the numbers of shops in the area.

Across the country many people are concerned about the explosion in the number of betting shops in high streets. Liberal Democrats in Government are determined to build a stronger economy and a fairer society with healthy and diverse high streets that aren’t dominated by betting shops. This is why we are now giving councils tough new powers to prevent the proliferation of betting shops in their area.

This is a powerful example of a Liberal Democrat campaigner championing a local issue which will have a positive impact across London and the whole country. This is why Ealing needs a Liberal Democrat MP.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Liberal Democrats remain intact after tough local election campaign

It was certainly a tough local election campaign. So many leaflets delivered, so many people spoken to and so many roads walked on. And pairs of shoes (and legs) worn out!

Me with new Councillor Gary Busuttil and Andrew Steed
Thankfully the Southfield and Ealing Common ward Liberal Democrat Councillors retained their seats as the Tories were punished. The number of Conservative councillors was halved.

Gary Busuttil topped the poll in his first election in Southfield! Well done Gary as you have been a great local campaigner. So many people agreed with the campaign you led to stop the Council from closing day centres.

In Southfield ward three Liberal Democrat councillors were returned with an increased share of the vote compared to four years ago.

Further west in Ealing Common, Councillor Jon Ball was re-elected and there was nearly a second Liberal Democrat councillor elected, but Jenni Hollis missed out narrowly. They worked so hard and with all elections some great people miss out.

Ealing Council's CEO announcing the Southfield result
The only Lib Dem loss was in Elthorne where the energetic and hardworking Councillor, Nigel Bakhai, lost his seat to Labour as voters across Ealing turned their anger mainly on the Ealing Conservative party.

The Conservatives lost 12 councillors and their leader has since stepped down.

The Liberal Democrats locally have avoided what some said would be a wipe-out because we work locally and have policies that will help the residents of Ealing. Protecting vulnerable residents from the impact of any cuts is one of our top priorities, for instance protecting the vulnerable users of Carlton Road Day Centre.

The next four years will be interesting and difficult but the 69 Councillors who were elected (30 new ones) only a few days ago, need to get on and do the job to help their resdients.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Lib Dems against Council selling the Carlton Road Day Centre

Gary Busuttil and the Southfield Liberal Democrats are against the Council selling the Carlton Road Day Centre in Chiswick.

The Council papers that the the Southfield Liberal Democrats have seen show that the Labour-run Ealing Council want to see the Carlton Road day centre, which would leave many profoundly disabled users, with nowhere to receive care.

Gary Busuttil
Labour-run Ealing Council has voted to close three day centres despite opposition from vulnerable users and their carers. They now plan to close even more day centres.

Read the article about this as seen on

The Liberal Democrats believe Ealing Council should treat the most vulnerable users with more respect.

Southfield candidate Gary Busuttil has been busy collecting signatures to show Ealing Council they should not sell of the Carlton Road day centre.

Please sign the petiton.