Posts Tagged ‘Phil Andrews’

Back from a week away

June 5, 2011

Whilst I mostly kept on top of my emails whilst away, I did not update the blog as I had intended, especially regarding the Council’s Annual General Meeting.  Here was the agenda for the meeting that took place on 24 May. 

The Election of Mayor and Appointment of the Deputy Mayor

My Group supported the Labour nomination of Cllr Amrit Mann for Mayor and his choice of Deputy, Cllr Ajmer Grewal. I spoke on behalf of the Group and do believe that this is a good choice.

Future of Area Planning Committees

There were some very strong feelings about the above report. It was very clear that both the Labour and Conservative Groups have differing opinions on the report. My Group did not have a Group Position on the matter, instead all Members were given a free vote. The Labour Group supported the recommendations in the report. A minority of Conservative Group Members, including me, also supported the report. A majority of the Conservative Group Members opposed it. It was a very interesting debate with some excellent contributions, especially from Liz Mammatt who spoke against. My feelings on Area Committees are pretty well known and I believe that the report is a sensible compromise between my position and that of the majority of other Councillors who believe and value the Area Committee component.

Phil Andrews has commented on this decision on the chiswickw4 forum. His views on Area Committees have always differed to mine but I do agree with the following comment he made:

“I would have been more reassured had the Report been presented to Borough Council in the name of the Lead Member whose responsibility it is, rather than of the chief officer”

I have attacked the Labour decision to remove the name of the relevant Lead Member from reports. Amongst my reasons for supporting the report were:

  1. I was supportive of what was written in the report bar some minor clumsy remarks, which did not alter what the report was trying to achieve;
  2. One of the hardest things to explain to constituents is the quasi-judicial nature of planning. It is reasonable for residents to assume that Councillors have been elected to represent opinion in their ward. With Planning & Licensing, local representation (which I am as passionate about as anyone else) is over-riden by the legal requirements placed on Councillors. Were planning decisions not to be quasi-judicial or Councillors were allowed to have pre-determined views about planning applications then the case for more planning applications being determined at an area level becomes stronger than at present;
  3. Some Councillors enjoy and are more able when it comes to certain areas, in this case planning. This enables the planning enthusiasts to run with the decisions that require Member approval;
  4. The financial consideration cannot be ignored. I find it difficult to justify the structure (that does not exist elsewhere in London) when services are being cut elsewhere.

An inaccurate remark made in response to the previous posting epitomise the difficulty with planning, a difficulty which will still continue to a lesser exent without Area Planning Committees, namely the difficulty that local representatives have when it comes to Planning. I know that there were decisions taken (rightly in my view) by the West Area Committee in recent years to over-turn certain recommendations. Residents were pleased with those deciions but the planning inspector overturned each one. Hardly a good outcome for anyone.

I concluded my remarks by stating that I went into the meeting as a strong supporter of the report but became less enthusiastic by a very bad decision from the Labour Group to remove Cllr John Cooper as Chair of SDC. He was very important in such a transition and I know he has looked at this objectively. Cllr Cadbury considered the removal of Cllr Cooper to be irrelevant to these changes. She is wrong. I expect some feedback on the above.

Establishment of Formal Council Bodies 2011/12

I do have concerns about some of the Labour Group decisions but the worst one of all was the removal of Cllr Cooper. Planning is a quasi-judicial matter and he had the respect of both Groups and others.

Notification of the Appointment of the Executive

I was not given the opportunity to ask questions about some of the changes but some would have been:

  1. Why has Housing been removed from Cllr Cadbury’s portfolio?
  2. What has Cllr Gupta been taken away from Education?
  3. Isn’t the portfolio given to the new Lead Member, Cllr Curran, too large for one person? Why does he have Corporate HR also?
  4. Why has Budget Strategy Responsibility been taken from Cllr Dennison and given to the Leader?

But a well natured meeting.  One of those where I could say that it was unfortunate we no longer have webcasting of the Borough Council meetings.

Ray Ferguson RIP

August 9, 2010

On Friday, I was informed that my friend, Ray Ferguson, had passed away peacefully at West Middlesex Hospital.  Ray is very well known in Feltham.  Phil Andrews has written a very nice and interesting piece about him.  None of the content comes as a surprise.

As Phil says, Ray was closest to the Conservative Party of all the national parties and was a member of it in the 80s and early 90s.  I first met Ray in early 2001 and one of our first conversations was about my intention to stand in Feltham North at the Local Elections in 2002.  He took the view that it would be very difficult for me but he was happy to give advice.  More important to Ray than his own beliefs was his passion for the need for opposition and it bothered him that the Borough was pretty much a one party state.  One of Ray’s ideals back then would have been to see the back of party politics in Local Government.

Ray was the first person to reassure me about Phil Andrews, who has also gone on to become a good friend.  He was clear about two things at the time – (i) the need for opposition in the Borough and more importantly (ii) that Phil no longer held the type of views that would cause me and most people concern.

I remember how pleased Ray was when I pulled off a surprise in 2002, especially as he became a constituent.  Ray was always very kind to my wife and I.  She is terribly upset that Ray has gone.  Only last year, my family attended his 80th birthday party.

A number of older constituents have told me about the times when they worked with or for Ray.  All commented on how firm but very fair he was.

Ray and I tended to agree on most things.  I was closer to Ray than to Phil on the issue of single group funding for example.  But even when Ray and I disagreed, he was always – as Phil points out – unfailingly courteous and polite.  I consider this a big loss to me and to the Borough as all areas need people like Ray.

In accordance with Ray’s wishes, there is no funeral.

Local election results

May 11, 2010

As I have said on a previous posting, the big surprise in London was that the Labour vote did not collapse despite many predicting that it would.

One of the outcomes of this, and the Local Elections being held the same day as the General, is that Labour did very well in London Local Government.  They now have control of Hounslow, Ealing, Harrow and Brent amongst others.  In Hounslow, Conservatives did not lose a single seat – in 2006 there were 23 Conservative Councillors returned and this figure increased to 25 last week.  However, every single other Independent and Lib Dem lost their seats and were taken by Labour.

I am thrilled that we have added Liz Mammatt and Colin Botterill to our Group.  Liz is simply one of the best people I have ever met.  Genuine, very hardworking and kind.  Colin is keen as mustard and I predict a big impression in both Feltham West and on the Council.

The Council lost some very good and intelligent people such as Peter Hills, Linda Nakamura, Phil Andrews, Paul Fisher, Genevieve Hibbs, Jon Hardy, Shirley Fisher, Caroline Andrews & John Connelly.  All except Genevieve lost their seats at the election (she stood down before and looked really well last Thursday, which was great to see as she has had health problems).  Every single one of these people worked so hard for their residents and on the Council and I will miss them.  Andrew Dakers, John Howliston & Drew Morgan-Watts are no longer Councillors.  The latter two stood down.  Drew is a very nice guy and John made a big impression in Bedfont and clearly had a personal following.  Andrew Dakers, like me, stood in both elections.  I was able to win in one and he was not so fortunate.  Again his conduct was so impressive and he can rest for a period in the knowledge that he made an impressive mark at the Council.

One of the less pleasant features of politics is that you sometimes see people you like losing their seats, not necessarily from the same Group or Party.  The six who lost in Isleworth and Syon were especially gracious in defeat.  They will always have my respect, reinforced by such dignified behaviour in what are difficult circumstances.  Former Councillors, Shivcharn Gill and Sukhbir Dhaliwal (who stood in Feltham North) were always very courteous to me and I wish them the best for the future.  I would like to thank my three Labour opponents in Feltham North for standing on the platform for the formal declaration of the results.  This was my third election in Feltham North and the first time I have experienced the Labour candidates standing on the platform for the declaration.  I wish them all the best.

A number of people have contacted me expressing surprise at the local election results, especially considering the performance regarding Council Tax, improved local parks and massive removal of graffiti.  Naturally, I am really sad that we cannot continue the work that we started, as we never promised we would crack everything in four years.  Peter Thompson was simply a superb Leader of the Council and so well suited to the position.  It was a privilege to have been his Deputy in administration for four years and for two years in opposition before that.

Some have expressed concerns that the days of Council Tax increases will return.  But we should all take comfort in promises made in most wards by Labour at the election.  They will deliver:

  1. Action on crime with 100 uniformed officers on the streets in this area and CCT in crime hotspots.
  2. Extra cash for local schools to improve standards and new school places to give parents a better choice.
  3. A new business partnership with local businesses and housing associations and build 2,500 affordable homes to rent or buy.
  4. A 24/7 team of Grime busters to tackle graffiti, litter and dumped rubbish-and a direct dial telephone number for immediate action.
  5. A fresh war on waste and a council tax cut for all residents.

If they deliver all the above, and do not compromise recent improvements or front line services at the same time, I think that we can all be very pleased.  There are people who say that some of the above are impossible to deliver.  My view is that the promises have been made so Labour deserves the chance to deliver.  I congratulate Labour and wish them well in delivering the above.  When I get some spare time, I will scan the web to see if any other new administration has made such exciting promises?

Moves within the Executive

June 20, 2008

The Leader of the Council has reshuffled some of the portfolios on the Executive.  Until a couple of weeks ago, my email signature outlined my portfolio as follows:

“Councillor Mark Bowen
Feltham North Councillor and Deputy Leader of Hounslow Council
Lead Member responsibility for Complaints Management, Customer Services, ICT, Housing Strategy, Housing Allocation & Private Sector Housing”

My signature now reads:

“Councillor Mark Bowen
Feltham North Councillor and Deputy Leader of Hounslow Council
Lead Member responsibility for Corporate Services including Complaints Management, Customer Services, ICT, Emergency Planning, Legal Services, Democratic Services & Human Resources”

This is a major change for me.  Obviously, I will miss not having the Housing Responsibilities as Housing casework has formed a large proportion of my ward duties since I became a Councillor in 2002.  This, in part, probably explains why I am so interested in that area.  However, Housing remains in good hands, with an excellent Officer team at the Council and of course all housing matters will now come under my good friend and colleague, Phil Andrews.  He is passionate about Housing and will more than build on his impressive record thus far – he showed real and decisive leadership and vision during the review of Hounslow Homes.  I will continue to be a member of the Tenants and Leaseholder Consultative Committee and the Affordable Housing Panel so I will still play a part in future improvements.

I have had a think about what has been achieved in Housing during the past couple of years, along with what remains to be done.  I would list some of the achievements as follows:

  • Amended the Council’s allocation policy giving existing overcrowded tenants a better chance of family housing (3 bedroom plus) than was previously the case.
  • Major Investments in Council Owned Housing that sit within the General Fund and not the Housing Revenue Account.  I recall Robert Kinghorn, who is sadly no longer with us, having a frustrating time campaigning on this when we were in opposition.
  • We have brought other empty Council-owned dwellings back into use as high quality housing for local families.  Eleven of these are in Isleworth.
  • Good use of housing grants.  I spent one Friday shadowing members of the Private Sector Housing team and I saw for myself the huge difference that these investments made in the lives of some of our residents.  This is quite often a win-win situation because it enables more people to remain in their home.
  • Increase in the profile of Enforcement and Prosecution.  As is the case, with the planning enforcement area, prosecutions are a last resort.  But we have shown that we do mean business when we say we want high standards in housing.  Last year, we made clear what our enforcement policy is.  I have announced a number of prosecutions in the Chamber.
  • Generally, we have given the private sector a higher profile than ever before.  I see the private sector as part of the solution and various reports have demonstrated that.  We launched a Private Sector Strategy.
  • The London Borough of Hounslow is a Council others will be watching in the future in respect of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).  A report has been approved on applying for additional licensing in five ward, including Feltham North, and we await a decision from the Government.  The issue is much higher up on the political agenda than it was in the past.
  • We had the first Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO) in London, which went down very well with residents in Sunningdale Avenue, Hanworth as it removed an eyesore and brought a much needed family dwelling back into use.
  • We have approved a £1 million investment to extend existing Council Housing in order to assist families who are overcrowded but are settled in a particular area.  Implementation will begin later this year and it is big news for twenty families in the Borough and it will make a real difference for them.
    We have made some very good progress in reducing the amount of people living within our Temporary Accommodation portfolio.  The target to reduce this by 50% by 2010 is very challenging but we are working hard towards it.
  • We held a Low-cost Home Ownership event last year which was attended by around 700 households.  It was a moving occasion for me as I met so many decent and aspiration people who want to succeed.  I really wish these people all the best and hope that their dreams become reality.
  • We are in a much stronger postion at a sub-regional (West London) level than we were previously.  We have been at the table making a difference.  We got a much better deal for Hounslow in the allocation of new build housing that is funded in West London by the Housing Corporation.  We do not import as many households from other Borough as we once did.

Section 3 of the recent Annual Report of the Affordable Housing Panel refers to some of the above and makes it clear that there is still much to be done.  I have not included information about every piece of work but wanted to pen down some highlights.

It has not been without difficult decisions e.g. rent increases for those working families living with Temporary Accommodation but big progress has been made in this area.

Certainly my work was not complete in seeing through the work on HMOs or in persuading enough working families within Temporary Accommodation to go into Low Cost Home Ownership but the foundations are laid and the whole area is in very good hands.

This change in portfolio is the right thing to do.  We have gained a lot in having two Lead Members for Housing but now is the time for one person to run with it.

I am now responsible for the new Corporate Services Directorate.  One of the key deliverables of this area is to build, and take to the next level, the work that has been done during the Performance Improvement Programme.  Not in a Generation should there be a need for a programme of this size at the Council again.  We must continue to embed strong business-like processes across the Council that will truly deliver service improvement and value for money.

I continue with Information Technology (IT), Complaints and Customer Services.  IT is crucial to any organisation and we need to get the best of out of technology in the future.  There has been a massive turnaround in Complaints Management and I am confident that we will build on that in the next year.  There is no reason why we cannot end up with the best and most effective Complaints Management record in London in the future.

Other areas are new to me and will be a real challenge, particularly Human Resources, Legal Services and Emergency Planning.  I have a meeting with the latter first thing this morning.

I am really proud to be part of this Executive and about what has been achieved during the past couple of years.

Another blog in Hounslow

May 11, 2008

My good friend, and Executive colleague, Phil Andrews has launched his blog.  Great to hear that this is catching on and I look forward to seeing updates about Isleworth & his Housing Portfolio.