Posts Tagged ‘Borough Council’

Hounslow Council AGM

May 16, 2012

A lot longer than it should have been.  It felt strange not having to do lots of preparation in advance e.g. what to say and respond to requests for nominations to various committees.  The new Mayor, Councillor Pritam Grewal, said some very nice words about me, which I had not expected.  I did not vote for him as Mayor last night but he is a very nice man and has always been very courteous with me.  If he does half as well as his predecessor, Councillor Amrit Mann, I think that the Borough will do well.

There are new faces on the Cabinet.  Councillor Sharma, unlike last year, tried to explain some of the changes, albeit without mentioning any names.  He also gave the impression that the decisions were his.  My understanding of Labour rules is that the entire Labour Group decide.  If I am right, this is at odds with the principle of the Strong Leader Model (introduced by the previous Labour Government).  I will not pretend to be particularly excited about the changes.  I only hope that they remember that answering questions in the Chamber is important.

The new Leader of the Conservative Group is Peter Thompson.  I had the privilege of being his Deputy for six years and wish him all the best over the next couple of years.

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!

Special Borough Meeting Requested

September 7, 2010

I am pretty clear that one of the most serious things that has happened locally since the elections has been the attack on local democracy.  Here is my most recent column in the Chronicle.  Probably a good idea to let people know more about the nature of our request.  Here is what we sent to the Mayor:

In accordance with Council Procedure Rule 3.2, we the five undersigned Members formally request a Special Meeting of the Borough Council, to be held at least 7 working day’s after today’s date, with the following agenda:

1. Apologies for Absence, Other Announcements and Declarations of Interest from Members

2. In Year Savings 2010/11 (report that went to Executive on 27 July – we understand that the recommendation will be to note the report)

3. Question from Members
Question from Councillor Pam Fisher to Councillor Jagdish Sharma
On 16 July, Councillors were informed of the calendar of meetings for the forthcoming year.  I have noticed a major decrease in the amount of Borough Council Meetings and with that a major decrease in the amount of opportunities for non-executive Councillors to table questions to Lead Members.  Would the Leader make a statement outlining why this decision has been taken?

Question from Councillor Mark Bowen to Councillor Jagdish Sharma
On 24 November 2009, Members were asked at Borough Council to note a report and approve consultation with scrutiny and other key stakeholders on the service spending plans for 2010/11 designed to deliver zero % rise in council tax and continued efficiency gains.
By when will the current administration produce a similar report pertaining to 2011/12?

Question from Councillor Gillian Hutchison to Councillor Ruth Cadbury
The Hounslow Chronicle has referred to you having conceded that the administration may have to re-evaluate another of its five key election pledges, namely providing 2,500 new affordable homes by 2014.  How many, and of why type, are now deemed a realistic target?

4. Motions

Proposed by: Councillor Mark Bowen
Seconded by: Councillor Bradley Fisher

This Council notes:

Councillor Cadbury has publicly stated:

“We have instructed Council officers to fully market the Lampton Park Conference Centre (attached to the Civic Centre) for outside functions in order to maximise its full potential for generating income.”

In a report presented by Officers to the Executive on 27 July, amongst the comments made were:

“There is currently no budget provision to meet this [preparation of a business plan and the initial promotion of the Conference Centre as a venue] cost in 2010-11.”

“In order to put this proposal of a proper long term footing, it will be essential to prepare an up to date business case,”

“The report indicates that these costs may exceed the extra income generated. It will therefore be essential for the Council to identify savings in other 2010-12 budgets to offset this initial cost.”

“…members will need to consider very carefully the costs and benefits of alternative options before reaching a final conclusion on this issue. At this stage, the report does not provide detailed information about this.”

“The costs of the new post are unfunded.”

Despite the above, amongst the Executive decisions were:

“Immediately agree to promote the use of Lampton Park Conference Centre as a venue available for community and private lettings, for social events, conferences and exhibitions, at weekends and evenings, in addition to its present use for Council business.

“Agrees that a proper venue management regime will be put in place and agrees the appointment of a venue/events manager to promote/manage this business opportunity, reporting to the Assistant Director (Corporate Property & Project Coordination) in the Environment Department.”

This Council believes the Executive should review this decision and only proceed with it when:

I. An up to date Business Case is complete;
II. There is a clear forecast of when the break-even point will occur;
III. It is clear that this makes financial sense.

Recent Urgent Borough Council Question tabled by Councillor Pam Fisher

July 29, 2010

On 16 July, Councillors were informed of the calendar of meetings for the forthcoming year.  I have noticed a major decrease in the amount of Borough Council Meetings and with that a major decrease in the amount of opportunities for non-executive Councillors to table questions to Lead Members.  Would the Leader make an urgent statement outlining why this decision has been taken?

The above was not accepted, not deemed urgent and it was not announced that the question had been received.

Recent Urgent Borough Council Question tabled by Councillor Paul Jabbal

July 29, 2010

In his column posted on the Hounslow Chronicle website on 14 July, Councillor Sharma said:

“We now know that this year we will receive £5 million less than expected from the Government. This means the budget agreed in March has to be reviewed.”

Will the Leader make an urgent statement regarding what the review will entail and the timetable for this review taking place?

The above was not accepted, not deemed urgent and it was not announced at Borough Council that the question had been received.

Recent Borough Council Meeting

November 1, 2009

Last Tuesday was the Borough Council Meeting.  Here is the agenda.  At the beginning, I made an announcement about a very major project at the Council, namely to safeguard the IT Operation at the Council by building a new Data Centre.  This is not the type of success that would be well known outside of the walls of the Civic Centre but I can place my hand on heart and say how proud I am of what has been achieved – it was a crucial piece of work.  It has been well managed and hugely reduces what was a major risk to the Council.  The Interim Head of ICT has received a mention in the Press recently.  I know that I, as Lead Member for Corporate Services at the Council, have a lot to thank Tony Glew for.  A tremendous Leader who has contributed in a major way towards turning things around.  I will probably say more on this once the Data Centre Project is closed.

Item 5 was a report in my name and one that I am very proud of.  Yet another example of how this administration has turned things around since we became the administration in 2006.

The key feature of the report was the very clear indication that the Stage 3 Members Panel, established at my recommendation, has been a big success in terms of making sure that the Council resolves more complaints that it receives much earlier than previous.

I began to think that this was a good idea not long after I was elected in 2002, having seen how a constituent of mine was treated in one case.  The matter was formally discussed in 2005.  The then Labour Administration had no interest and produced rubbish arguments for why it would not work.

Now that this has been proven to be a big success, does anyone think that the Labour Group said anything on the lines of, “we are pleased to acknowledge that our previous opposition to this idea was not well founded”?  Quickest ways to form an opinion are either to listen to the Council’s webcast or just judge on past experiences.

Clear as Night is Day

November 26, 2008

A gaffe of mine at Borough Council last night.  Apart from that, it went well.

Can’t believe that it has been two weeks since I last posted.  Did have a period of being unwell but since than have started deliverying in Feltham West.  Any residents from there, please feel free to say what you thought of the leaflet.

Yesterday’s Borough Council

June 25, 2008

My particular interest in this agenda was in relation to agenda item 17.  It took quite a while to get there and I do not think that the entire meeting finished until 11:15pm when considering the second agenda.

Any prospect of regret or withdrawal of the original allegation about Institutional Racism did not materialise.  I recommend the webcast for anyone interested in this matter.  Clearly a majority of the Labour Group do not understand just how absurd the allegations are!  Apart from anything else, by not disassociating themselves from what was said by their Leader, they must associate themselves with those who are on the receiving end of his allegation.  At the same time, a minority of the Labour Group are embarrassed with this episode and they will understand the damage that this will cause Labour in the Borough.

Councillor Sharma and his colleagues failed to provide any evidence to substantiate any of their allegations, including the one that some Councillors are putting pressure on Officers to go after people.

All of the Labour Councillors present abstained on the motion.  It is now time for some exposure because residents, including Labour supporters, are just not prepared to put up Councillors making an issue out of race in this way.

Last night’s Borough Council

April 23, 2008

Not a long agenda last night.

The answers to the questions tabled (items 8 & 9) were very revealing.  I proposed an amendment to agenda item 10.  I agreed with the spirit but just wanted to iron this out to make sure we get something to be proud and that truly builds on the brilliant record of Cllrs Morgan-Watts & Barwood.