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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.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

My Christmas and New Year message

Christmas is a time where we all reflect about our lives; that of our family, our friends and others around the world.

At this time I think of those injured or have lost a family member in the sadly frequent terrorist events. One of my friends was shot in the Paris Bacalan music venue but left hospital recently. If you spot any of your friends who are not as happy as they usually are, please make sure you speak to them as this can be a time when people's mental health suffers to check they are okay.

Looking specifically to Ealing, next year will have seen Ealing Council close days centres and they still look to introduce policies which will cause problems to our most vulnerable residents.

Our biggest danger will be threat of expanding Heathrow, given the recent decision to pause for six months, so the government will make its decision in June. I hope you will join the Liberal Democrats in the campaign to improve the levels of air pollution across London.

I hope you all have a great vacation over this time.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Check to see Ealing's Christmas rubbish and recycling collection days

Don't dump trees - recycle them
Collection days for recycling and rubbish will change over the festive period. Ealing Council also runs a free Christmas tree recycling service.

Refuse and recycling collections will change from Christmas Day and return to normal service on Monday 11th January.

Usual collection day                                   Revised collection day 
Monday 21 December                                Monday 21 December
Tuesday 22 December                                Tuesday 22 December
Wednesday 23 December                         Wednesday 23 December
Thursday 24 December                              Thursday 24 December
Friday 25 December                                    Monday 28 December
Monday 28 December                                Tuesday 29 December
Tuesday 29 December                                Wednesday 30 December
Wednesday 30 December                         Thursday 31 December
Thursday 31 December                              Saturday 2 January
Friday 1 January                                          Monday 4 January
Monday 4 January                                      Tuesday 5 January
Tuesday 5 January                                      Wednesday 6 January
Wednesday 6 January                                Thursday 7 January
Thursday 7 January                                    Friday 8 January
Friday 8 January                                          Saturday 9 January
Monday 11 January                                   Collections return to normal
To help people dispose of real Christmas trees, a free collection service will be provided from 4th to 29th January. Trees will be collected on the same day as the refuse and recycling collection day.

Residents can also take real Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes to a number of drop-off points across the borough during the months of January and February. Once again, trees must have all decorations removed. The Christmas tree drop-off points are:

  • Acton Green Common
  • Acton Park
  • Berkeley Fields (Berkeley Avenue)
  • Churchfields, Hanwell (car park)
  • Cleveland Park
  • Ealing Central Sports Ground (Horsenden Lane South)
  • Ealing Common (Junction of Grange Road and The Common)
  • Elthorne Park (Boston Road)
  • Islip Manor Park (Eastcote Lane car park)
  • North Acton playing fields
  • Perivale Park (Cowgate Road)
  • Pitshanger Park
  • Ravenor Park (Oldfield Lane South and Ruislip Road)
  • Rectory Park (Parkfield Drive)
  • Southall Park (Green Drive)
  • Southfields Park
  • Spikes Bridge Park (West Avenue)
  • Springfield Gardens (Rosemont Road)
  • Walpole Park (Lammas Park Gardens)

Have a merry Christmas period!

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.