Archive for September, 2011

Boundaries Review

September 21, 2011

I have previously posted about the proposals and my previous posting commented on my response to the Labour plea for a Council response to them.

My first posting on this indicated that the proposal as it stands is not perfect but not everything in life is.  I have stood twice in Feltham & Heston and care deeply for the entire constituency and its various distinct parts.  A number of Labour Councillors have expressed their own concerns.  Here is one from Ruth Cadbury.

She says:

“…Feltham and Heston disappears altogether.  Its ten wards will be split 3-ways with the 3 Heston wards, Cranford and Hounslow West going to Ealing Southall; Feltham North and West and Bedfont wards go to a new Feltham and Hayes constituency; and finally Hanworth and Hanworth Park go into a new Teddington and Hanworth constiuency, where Hounslow Heath will also go.

This means that Hounslow will be represented by four MPs instead of the current two.  What’s more, 3 of them will face outwards to the borough where the majority of their voters live, ie Ealing, Hillingdon or Richmond upon Thames.  Hounslow’s residents will therefore be poorly served by their MPs, as the Council will now need to brief and work with 4 MPs, not two, made more difficult when 3 of the MPs have their majority interests in other boroughs.  This obsession with equally-sized constituencies ends the assumption that there is co-terminosity of constituencies with local authority areas, and weakens democratic accountability.”

I do not dismiss entirely her reference to co-terminosity of constituencies with local authority areas but:

  1. She appears to have little faith in whoever the MPs for these new constituencies could be.
  2. As for briefing and working with more MPs, lets not overplay that one or assume that more is a bad thing.  More the merrier?  More MPs batting for the Borough?
  3. I expect whoever the MPs to be to care for their entire constituency.  I do not agree with her claims.  Maybe I have more faith?  Even if I am being naive, the concept of being accountable in the form of elections is a good way of preventing an MP ignoring three or four wards because they happen to be in a different Borough.

If the Labour Party is getting upset about these proposals, imagine what we can expect when the proposals for Scotland and the Principality come out?

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Borough Council last night

September 21, 2011

Here is the agenda from last night.  A long meeting that finished at around 11pm.

It was one of those meetings where I was hugely proud of my Group and its performance last night.  Easily won the debate on agenda item 5 (Adult Social Care Consultation Outcome) but did not have the numbers and lost the vote.  The amount of work, research and thought that John Todd, Liz Mammatt & Pam Fisher have put into this has been astonishing and it all showed last night.  Some Labour Members, including Colin Ellar, made considered and non-partisan contributions.  The contributions from the Ed Mayne & Sachin Gupta were unfortunate for their inaccuracy, lack of objectivity coupled with an excessive partisan approach.  Shame that there is no webcast after debates such as these.

John Todd & Adrian Lee tabled the following motion to agenda item 5:

Proposed by Councillor John Todd
Seconded by Councillor Adrian Lee
 
“This Council believes that the process adopted to implement the proposed closure of Chiswick Day Centre (CDC) has been consistently flawed and materially misleading for the following reasons:

* The LBH Public ‘Budget Consultation 2011’ Document  (CS 13/15) did not mention ‘Closure’ but ‘reconfiguration of day care services”   Residents were materially misled;

* Initial Consultation with users/carers at the Chiswick Day Centre did not mention ‘closure’ either. This caused much distress and confusion to users and carers;  Dementia sufferers and others with diverse medical conditions were not provided with counselling and guidance or the offer of advocacy

* Attendance figures at CDC have been quoted in various LBH documents, namely December 2010 and May 2011, yet no vetting process for new users has been in operation since September 2010. Since March 2011, residents from Greenrod  LBH sheltered housing were prevented from attending CDC

And in addition

* Council agreed in March to increase the charges by up to 3000% for those attending the CDC and other Centres; CDC Users accept these increases which when implemented would materially decrease the financial obligation of LBH to the CDC costs.  However the Consultation process on these new increased charges have yet to commence.

* Suggested alternative proposed LBH options are not viable or considered  to be  appropriate by the Alzheimer’s Society and others.

* Two subsequent  petitions have confirmed that the Public does not want closure;  National Charities including  the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, Carers UK and Chiswick based GP’sand  District nurses are opposed to closure too  as are the Hounslow Deanery Synod..

Council therefore agrees that the suggestion to close Chiswick Day Centre does not proceed.”

The above motion was also lost.

Other items from last night:

Announcements (agenda item 2)
A provision for cabinet members that is not always used within the spirit of the provision, namely to make informative announcements about their portfolios rather than complaining about central government.  Last night Theo Dennison used it to talk about the Boundaries Review.  He asked for cross-party support for the Council expressing a view.  He will not get that as the Labour Party, and any other party, can make submissions.  Individuals can too.  But using Council resources is not appropriate in my view.

Petitions (agenda item 4)
One of the petitions related to Feltham Arena.  I wanted to speak after the presentation but was not allowed to do so.  I followed 90% of what the Lead Member, Theo Dennison, said.  It was the 10% that I did not.  Overall, I do not think he was closing the door on the current tenants.  I hope that he does not and gives an opportunity for things to get moving again.
I would have expressed concerns about some of the wording of the petition and the Lead Member, with whom I have not discussed this, appeared to share these.

Annual Review of the Council’s Complaints Procedures
The Conservative Group were happy to support but I did not speak, as planned, because it was late and the report was not contentious.  I was merely going to welcome the report and acknowledge that the Complaints Panel has been a massive success.  I was thinking of reminding the Chamber that Colin Ellar once said the Complaints Panel would be legally challenged.  It has not been.

Hounslow’s response to the Government’s consultation on their ‘Aviation Scoping document’
Supported cross party.

Manor Lane Regeneration Scheme – Compulsory Purchase Order
The wheels of local government move slowly but we welcomed this and agree with the points John Cooper made about CPO being the last resort.

Confirmation of Establishment of an Alcohol Free ‘Designated Public Place’ Report on Public Consultation
A majority of members supported this.

Civil Enforcement of Moving Traffic Contraventions
The Conservative Group had a Free Vote on the matter.  I was inclined to support it but changed to an abstention as I have concerns about both the partisan response from the Leader, Ed Mayne, and, more importantly that a very moderate motion of mine was rejected by him and the Labour Group.  It illustrates why it changed my vote from supporting the provisions to abstaining on them:

“Proposer: Councillor Mark Bowen
Seconder: Councillor John Todd
 
Learning a lesson from the implementation of the ‘Civil Enforcement of Moving Traffic Contraventions’ report that was agreed by Borough Council on 24 January 2006, and further to the provision outlined in section 3.8, this Council agrees that the following recommendations should be added to this report:
 
* 2.4 That Members be given, in advance, the relevant details of the deployment of CCTV in their wards.

* 2.5 That Area Committees be given the opportunity to offer suggested areas for CCTV deployment.”

The answers to the first two tabled questions were not controversial, indeed the first was helpful and I did not use the supplementary question because of it, but the answer to the third should be headline news.  The question was:

“For how long can the Lead Member guarantee a weekly collection of residual waste in the London Borough of Hounslow?”

The Lead Member could not give any guarantee.  She referred to wanting to increase recycling (as we all do) but I do not think that scrapping the above is the fairest option.  She will know, as I do, that most residents want weekly collections of residual waste.  In her response to the supplementary question, she said it was the previous administration who scrapped weekly collections.  She is not correct when it comes to residual waste.

Well done to all of my colleagues!

Path off Dick Turpin Way

September 15, 2011

The following requires attention.  Now very overgrown and difficult to use the path:

Will report shortly.

Comments update

September 14, 2011

For the past number of months, this blog has automatically closed comments on articles older than 14 days.  I have just changed this to 28.

Constituency Boundary Proposals

September 13, 2011

One of the pledges from the Conservative Party at the previous General Election, and since adopted by the coalition Government, was to reduce the amount of constituencies in the UK.

Here is a link to the proposals published yesterday.  A minority of constituencies are unchanged.  Some have minor changes.  Others are major and the current Feltham & Heston constituency is carved up in a major way, even greater than I expected.

In summary, here are the local changes proposed:

Brentford & Isleworth
* Hounslow Heath ward will move to the constituency of Teddington and Hanworth

Feltham & Heston
* Bedfont, Feltham North and Feltham West will be included within the Feltham and Hayes constituency
* Cranford, Heston Central, Heston East, Heston West and Hounslow West will be included within the Southall and Heston constituency
* Hanworth and Hanworth Park will be included within the Teddington and Hanworth constituency

I am not surprised at the proposal to split the Heston, Cranford & Hounslow West wards from the West Area (Bedfont, Feltham & Hanworth) ones.  Aside from being in different Boroughs, Heston is arguably a better fit with Southall than it is with Feltham e.g. there is no direct bus service from Feltham to Heston and some residents in Heston East ward put Southall down as their address.   There are arguably many more synergies between Southall & Heston than between Feltham & Heston.

However, the break up of the West Area is a big surprise because it is an identifiable area and one that has always made sense to me (the local Area Committee has always been called, ‘The West Area’).  The inevitable difficulty with very complicated tasks such as these is that there will be constituencies that will be carved up at a much greater extent than others.  I know Hayes well and have taken the number 90 many times over the years.  Like others, I will mull over the proposals and come to a considered view.

There will be a statutory 12 week consultation exercise, with public hearings in each region.  This consultation will continue until 5 December 2011.  Here is a link to the relevant page for anyone who wishes to have their say on the proposals.

Finally, I would stress that this has no bearing on the current configuration of Local Authorities and the London Borough of Hounslow will remain as is.

Feltham Park Benches

September 12, 2011

I have been contacted by residents regarding the removal of benches in Feltham Park.

Whilst I have not made requests for the bench – close to the Helen Avenue entrance – to be removed, I have been very aware that it has been the location where most of the drinking has been taking place.

However, in response to concerns from residents, I made an enquiry and received the following response:

“I’m replying to your recent enquiry concerning the removal of two benches in Feltham Park.

The bench near the entrance from Helen Avenue was removed at the request of the Client Manager for Grounds Maintenance. It has been kept in storage. It’s removal was prompted initially by the Neighbourhood Community Safety Co-ordinator, following complaint from several of the residents whose properties back onto that area of the park. The bench was a popular congregating point for people drinking in the park.

You’ve mentioned the removal of another bench nearer to the children’s play area – but we’ve not removed anything else since December last year.”

It was back in 2002/03 when I sent out questionnaires to residents about the benches at the Hounslow Road entrance (opposite the junction with Park Way). I recall a very strong desire from residents for these to be removed as the large amounts of people congregating in that area was deterring others from entering the park (or atleast making it a less pleasant experience). There was also a minority who did not want those benches removed because they believed – quite reasonably – that the benches served a legitimate purpose for the decent majority. My position – and that of the police at the time – was to support removal and I believe that the removal was a success in that the ASB problems at that location pretty much went away. As for the bench by Helen Avenue, I was never made aware of any of those drinking being abusive to others. 

But I understand, and share, the discomfort with people drinking alcohol in the park.  At the same time, I remain sympathetic to those who do not support its removal.  I do not feel as strongly about this bench as I did with the other benches I have mentioned.

Interested in what others think!