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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.

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.