Sunday, October 30, 2005
Residents-only Parking Scheme Agreed after Local Campaign
We’ve persuaded the Council to agree to make the Gypsy Corner area a residents-only parking zone. This follows a large number of complaints that we received as your local Councillors about commuters and other non-residents causing parking problems in local roads.
A consultation showed a clear majority for the residents-only policy on the following roads which will now be included in the controlled parking zone —
York Road area : York Road, Rosebank Way, Leamington Park and Horn Lane ;
Leamington Park Estate : Seacole Close, Garrett Close, Lister Close and Jenner Avenue ;
Wales Farm Road area : Wales Farm Road, Acorn Gardens, Conway Grove and Victoria Road ; Playing Fields area : Noel Road, Balfour Road, Cecil Road, Cloister Road and Park View.
Cllr Philip Portwood says : “We have campaigned for this with great support from local residents, and I’m delighted that it’s been agreed by the Council. There should be no more of the problems caused by double parking and commuter blocking of parking places. This shows that local Councillors and local residents campaigning together really can make a difference.”
The residents-only parking scheme will start in the new year. "
Other articles include ones by Atallah Said on new street lighting, Kate Crawford on a new pedestrian crossing in Horn Lane, and Paul Woodgate on his scrutiny of flooding and water pressure.
If you live in one of the roads above in the area, and don't get a copy of the newsletter delivered today, please e-mail me on email@example.com and I'll make sure that one gets to you.
Keeping in touch with residents through 'East Acton Labour News'
Sunday, October 23, 2005
I visited Steyne House – a block of old Council housing where the flats are currently getting new kitchens and bathrooms thanks to the Government’s ‘decent homes’ funding. Residents seemed very pleased with this work – but were less pleased about the number of police deployed locally, particularly to deal with street drinkers. I gave them the good news that next year Acton Central will be getting six police officers dedicated to their ward – as East Acton has had to great benefit over the last year. There were other housing issues raised, which John Delaney has volunteered to take up as one of the Acton Central Councillors.
Excellent pints in the Kings Head afterwards. And now it’s half term, when there are no planned Council meetings, and I should get the chance to get away.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
The day was opened by Andy Slaughter, our MP in Ealing, Acton and Shepherds Bush, who talked about the interesting comparisons and contrasts between our Borough and LB Hammersmith and Fulham – which Andy used to lead. The rest of the day was spent in workshops looking at issues like the street environment, education and young people, services for older people, finance, and community cohesion. A useful day, providing a chance to sit back from the immediate pressures of local government and think about the longer term.
Phil and Andy Slaughter in their mayoral robes when they were both Millennium Mayors
One particularly interesting statistic came out of the day – that we’ve managed to stop 40,000 pieces of chewing gum being tread in to the pavement. For the last year or so, we’ve been experimenting in Acton town centre with a unique approach in London to gum. Paper boards have been attached to lampposts, and people are encouraged to put their gum on these – rather than on the streets – by having fun quizzes and opinion polls on them. Some of the old fogies were against this experiment but we thought it was worth trying. Well, it’s achieved beyond our best hopes – those 40,000 bits of gum would have cost a lot to clean from the pavement, even when you can clean it off without leaving a mark. Mind you, I don't envy the person whose job is counting all this.
Friday, October 21, 2005
In just the first year of the EDF contract, East Acton ward is having more roads receive new street lighting than any other ward in Acton. The following roads in our ward will get the new lights :
East Acton Lane
East Churchfield Road
Park Royal Road
Park Royale (Service) Road
Replaced street lighting tubes ready for recycling
This follows some major improvements over the last three years – most notably the total replacement of the outdated street lights on the East Acton Estate, and new lighting for the Valetta Road area off Acton Vale.
The new EDF depot is a formerly decrepit and empty warehouse that has now been totally modernised by EDF to provide offices, a meeting room, and warehousing and storage for new fittings, equipment and parts. This should mean none of the ‘we’re waiting for the parts’ delays of the past. They’ve also created a design office with CAD printers, which means that design work can be undertaken in-house and directly informed by local knowledge. Overall, 24 EDF jobs are now based at Dukes Road.
They have impressive new computer software – mirrored at the Council – which can call up and map the condition and situation of every street light and illuminated sign in the Borough. This produces daily summary reports which show progress on repairs, maintenance and installation, and which form the basis of payments and/or penalties to EDF. The Borough is divided into 18 “scouting” zones for inspection purposes – given our size East Acton ward covers all of zone N and parts of zones 0 and P - and contrary to the urban myth, these inspections are made at night rather than during the day.
I asked the EDF project manager Richard Austen about two particular problems that we’ve faced with street lighting modernisation in East Acton – delays caused by the electricity monopoly connector (“jointing”), and Borough border roads getting missed out of schemes. Richard told me that they have a local contact and regular meetings with Southern & Scottish as the ‘jointers’ - and the contract gives EDF a strong incentive to chase them because payments are based on lampposts successfully installed rather than removed. The borders issue – which occurs because of the way highway authority responsibility is shared between Boroughs – is one that EDF and the Council will need to discuss further, but I’ll keep chasing. East Acton has the longest border of any ward, and it’s been really annoying that parts of roads like Old Oak Common Lane and Jeddo Road have lost out in the past because of this legal loophole.
EDF are undertaking a wholly new survey of the condition of street lighting in the Borough, and then this will be combined with police reported crime data to establish a new priority list for the five year programme. If you live in East Acton ward, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you think a case can be made for a your road to be a high priority.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
On in the evening with former Cllr Steve Donnelly and Nigel Williams to the regular quiz night at St Gabriels Church in the ward in North Acton. We formed a team together with churchwarden Gill Brunstrom for this enjoyable event. Local minister Rev Keith Robus had a difficult job when he arrived at St Gabriels in following the much-loved former minister James Alcock – but has done superbly. The quiz nights are part of a very warm church community, and congregation attendances are I understand rising steadily.
St Gabriels is a much larger building than you’d expect for a church built in what was then suburbia between 1929 and 1931. The architect was Ernest Shearman who designed some interesting inter-war London churches. The website of Shearman’s St Silas’ Church in Kentish Town includes an article on St Gabriels of which the most interesting section says “The most unique items are the two fine low-relief terracotta panels by George Tinworth, which are placed on either side of the chancel / nave arch and were given to the church in 1930. They were exhibited in the Paris Exhibition of 1878 and were formerly in Sandringham Church, Norfolk. This church is truly fortunate to have two of his works.” The article also repeats the rumour that I’ve previously heard from local worshipers that the St Gabriels font was originally in Westminster Abbey. The website is at http://www.saintsilas.org.uk/section/107.
We came second in the quiz to the reigning champions – a team from the neighbouring Parish of the Ascension, led by their energetic minister Simon Reed. In 2002, the Ascension was the first church to be awarded a plaque for its environmental efforts, given by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland to recognise “the efforts made by the congregation to preserve their environment and save wastage.” I was honoured that they asked me to unveil the plaque at their Spring Festival in 2002. You can read more about their work on the Ascension website at. http://www.churchoftheascension.org.uk/
The quiz included fish and chips from the best chippie in Acton – Tony’s, just round the corner on Elm Park Parade in Horn Lane - and we followed it with a couple of pints of well-served Guinness at the Leamington pub . Now, that’s what I call a balanced diet.
Friday, October 14, 2005
For the first time since I got my knee fixed in July, I cycled into central London. Fifty minutes door to door to the Kings Fund in Cavendish Square pleased me a lot - only about five minutes more than by foot and tube.
The Kings Fund is a major health charity which runs a very useful ‘Board Leadership’ programme that provides training and development for NHS trust board directors. Today’s session was on the implications of Foundation Hospitals, and particularly the Government’s intention that all acute hospitals will be in Foundation Trusts by 2008. The speaker at the seminar was Richard Lewis who has just completed a study of one of the early Foundation Trusts – the Homerton Hospital in Hackney. Having heard the evidence, I think it’s fair to say that most of us still felt “the jury was out” on the claimed benefits of foundation status. Richard’s report on Homerton can be downloaded from the Kings Fund website at http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/resources/publications/putting_health_1.html
Came back to the Borough for a meeting of the Council’s Constitution Review Group – better known as “the anoraks working party”. And yes, it is true that the group meeting would have been incredibly boring to anyone other than those of us who are sad enough to spend an afternoon looking at the Council’s constitution and procedures. However, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t important – an up to date democratic constitution is a key to ensuring that we Councillors can effectively represent local people and their interests.
I ended the night at the West London Trade Union Club (WLTUC), for one of our regular nationally themed evening. Tonight was a Macedonian evening, organised by one of the Club’s Committee members who comes from the former Yugoslavian republic. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised that I was more interested in the macedonian beer than the arts and culture presentations.
Beers from Skopje (front) and Oxfordshire at the WLTUC
Got home to discover that the leaflets have now been delivered confirming the change of day for collection of the green boxes for recycling (see my post on 7th October). Unfortunately this was too late for a number of residents who had put their boxes out mistakenly this morning – but hopefully this is now the last week this will happen.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Elvis Costello worked in the mid 1970s at the then Elizabeth Arden factory in Wales Farm Road, as a computer operator under his real name of Declan McManus. The story goes that he was the only operator on his shift, and therefore could use much of the time to practice the guitar, write songs, and work on this music career. Supposedly, Elvis lived at the time in Wells House Road, also in East Acton ward, although I’ve never been able to prove this.
The Elizabeth Arden factory has now been developed in to the very impressive and appropriately named ‘Perfume Factory’ – unfortunately Elvis didn’t take up their invitation to open it. The owners of the Perfume Factory, Sapcote, have proved to be very community minded – for example, funding high quality play equipment for the local John Perryn Primary School
Histories of perhaps the greatest of the punk bands – The Clash – usually talk about their being founded in a squat in West London. Well, that squat was at 22 Davis Road off Acton Vale in East Acton ward. Joe Strummer was playing in the 101s band, when he visited Davis Road, met Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, and created the Clash. Indeed there are punk fans who argue that Davis Road was the spiritual home of British punk, given that others who stayed there at some time included Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten of the Pistols..
Around 25 years later, Joe Strummer came back to Acton, where he played what proved to be his last gig before his early death at Acton Town Hall. This charity concert on 15th November 2002 marked the first time that Joe and Mick Jones had been on a stage together for many years. The Clash were a huge part of my student days - I’ll never forget listening to the Clash’s seminal ‘London’s Burning’ album in late 1979 – as a total rejection that all that the then newly elected Thatcher Government was planning for the country.
Went in the evening to the monthly Acton Labour Party all-members meeting. I particularly reported on current East Acton planning, licensing and environmental issues, and answered questions on Ken Livingstone’s proposed additional powers and some of the local failings of train companies.
However, it was particularly interesting to hear reports from four of our new prospective Councillors about some of the work that they had been doing. Theresa Byrne (Acton Central) talked about street lighting and ways to influence and support the Council's big new modernisation programme ; Attalah Said (East Acton) outlined fundraising plans and activities ; John Gallagher (South Acton) talked about current housing issues on the South Acton Estate ; and Abdullah Gulaid (Southfield) reported on heath issues, particularly in the Somali community.
Theresa Byrne (Acton Central)
London Pride flowed in the Kings Head afterwards, and we arranged quiz teams for two forthcoming social events.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
A couple of years ago, Acton Councillors agreed that the Council should bid for money from the Government’s Liveability Fund. This Fund is designed to : “test new approaches for tackling public space and local liveability issues that focus on and link service improvement, investment in innovative new parks and public spaces, and the sharing of good practice throughout the process”. We won £2.9 million for Acton from the fund – the only part of the Borough to get such funding. Although most of this money was for improving the street environment in and around Acton Town Centre, East Acton ward has got £200,000 funding for Acton Park and its pavilion. We’ve also benefited from using mainstream monies released by Liveability funding, on projects like the refurbishment of the North Acton Playing Fields pavilion (see 24th September post).
Today I went to an ALG Conference called ‘Liveable London 2005” which aimed to share information and ideas on liveability. The ALG (http://www.alg.gov.uk/) is the Association of London Government – and is the body which represents the London Boroughs as part lobbyist, part think tank and part provider of joint services for the Boroughs. The opening speaker was Cllr Mike Cartwright – the Chair of the ALG’s Transport and Environment Committee – and an old friend. Mike made some very important points about the public’s perceptions of these issues – everyone cares about the street environment because we all experience it, whereas only a minority of the population is using education or social services at any one time
The ALG Conference in the impressive Glaziers Hall at London Bridge
Over a break, I took the chance to talk to the ALG TEC Director Nick Lester - who is very much a key national expert on these issues. I asked about the future funding for ‘Operation Scrap It’ – the ALG’s Government-funded scheme which has delivered a massive reduction in abandoned and untaxed vehicles and the time they spent on our roads. The funding for this runs out next March, and will not be replaced until the responsibility passing to the car producers until 2007. Nick assured me that the ALG are very much on to the potential funding gap that this might represent – and indeed are meeting Government ministers again next week to lobby about it. The ALG really does punch above its’ weight.
I’ve not got space here to outline the four sessions and twelve speakers that were packed into a very full day. However, I’m writing a report for the Council on the Conference which I should finish over the weekend. I’ll try to find a way put this report on-line when I’ve finished.
Back to the Borough in the evening to chair a Licensing Sub-Committee meeting - considering the applications from the North Star and All Bar One in central Ealing for longer opening hours. We refused both applications, because they were incompatible with the Council’s special area policy for the central Ealing zone, in not demonstrating that they wouldn’t worsen the current cumulative impact of licensed premises in the area (see earlier posts for more details of this policy).
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
The meeting culminated in pantomime-style scenes when a Tory Cllr shouted “you’re abusive” at a Labour Cllr who replied “no, you’re abusive”, and so on and on. I expected Widow Twanky to get up on a point of order at any minute. The Tories then tried to shout down a Labour Cllr, a past Mayor tried to move the expulsion of a Cllr (or Cllrs ?), and general farce ensued. This was part of a “debate” (using the term very loosely) on traffic in one road – when, against stereotypes, a Tory Cllr argued for more speed cameras and a Labour Cllr defended the role of road freight in the economy.
This followed earlier scenes when the usually forensic debater Tory Cllr Tony Young made unsubstantiated allegations, and found even fellow opposition members nodding when he was described as a “fool or a liar”. His one supporter on the Tory benches – Cllr Barbara Yerolemou – was then revealed not to have been at the meeting whose events were being disputed, blowing the credibility of her solitary defence of Cllr Young. Oddly, a Tory then sought to compare this issue their infamous ‘sweetheart’ contract in 1994 with BRETS/Cardinal (Kellogg Brown and Root – Dick Cheney’s company) when they sold them virtually all of the Council’s Technical Services. This is something that the more tactically astute Tories have assiduously avoided raising since, given that the contracts’ unpopularity is seen as one of the reasons for Labour’s big win in the 1994 local elections and since.
The BRETS and Young irrelevance was part of discussion on the major item on the agenda – a Scrutiny Committee’s report on their examination of the actions of the former Chief Executive (Gillian Guy), in taking expensive legal action against the Audit Commission without informing Councillors. This is a complicated issue, but raises important questions about accountability, transparency, and decision-making procedures. By common consent, the best speech came from Cllr Ranjit Dheer whose calm summary gently upbraided Cllr Young, stating : “it was right for opposition Cllrs to raise this issue initially, and we need to learn the lessons shown in the Scrutiny report … but there is nowhere else for this issue to go other than we move on and make any changes required”.
Other notable speeches were made by Cllr John Cudmore (the former Leader of the Council) who had been the only Cllr informed by Gillian Guy of her unsuccessful legal action ; former Tory leader Ian Green who stressed that “I do not doubt Cllr Cudmore’s integrity” whilst disagreeing on a political basis with the legal action ; and Lib Dem Leader Harvey Rose who gave his views from the unique perspective of the only Cllr present with legal training. However, the islands of reasonable debate were too often drowned out by rambling and abusive contributions.
It’s probably a good thing that there was only a notional attendance in the public gallery to see this meeting. There’s a new Council Chamber seating plan, which has put me and my old mate Cllr Steve Sears together in prime ‘heckling seats’ in the back row. I have to admit that when the nonsense broke out, Steve and I increasingly resembled the two old hecklers in the Muppets (Waldorf and Statler), grumbling, complaining and heckling the perpetrators of the worst moments.
Statler, Waldorf, Portwood and Sears
I did get the chance earlier to ask my question about cricket development and promotion in the Borough, which was answered by Leo Thomson as Leader, who outlined much of the information in my post of 7th October. In my supplementary question, I stressed the role that cricket (and sport in general) can play in community cohesion - “breaking down boundaries as well as scoring them”. I was helpfully supported by Tory Cllr Ian Gibb, whose consensual supplementary question gave Leo the opportunity to particularly stress the work being undertaken in schools in the Borough to promote cricket.
Monday, October 10, 2005
Labour Group meeting night, and the early part of the meeting was taken up with discussing the agenda for tomorrow’s full Council meeting. I was pleased that my colleagues agreed to support giving priority to my question on cricket development and promotion, so that it is certain to be taken for verbal rather than written answer.
However, most of the meeting was spent in discussion of reports from by Cabinet Members on their current work.
Cllr Liz Brookes (Regeneration) talked particularly about the good news that an external inspection of the Council’s housing management had been very positive – awarding a good “two star” rating with “promising prospects for improvement”. This means that LB Ealing is entitled to £207 million over the next few years to undertake major improvements – bringing all Council homes up to the Government’s new “decent homes standard”. We agreed to support a motion that Liz is putting to the Council tomorrow praising the work of Council staff in achieving such an impressive inspection result.
Cllr Ranjit Dheer (Deputy Leader) gave a very thoughtful report on ‘Community Cohesion” – a concept much talked about at the moment, but less frequently understood or acted upon. Ranjit’s key point was perhaps that “we need to keep in mind that our claims to equality are founded on the certainty of our common citizenship – on what we have in common, not our differences.” He was widely supported by Group members.
We also considered reports from Cllrs Karen Hunte (Independent Living), Sonika Nirwal (Children and Young People) and Ray Wall (Transport and Planning Policy). I went on afterwards to join Lou Kenton and some of his old friends in the pub, where I was able to give him the good news about cricket in the Borough.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Steve told us about an interesting case on which he’d recently won a victory. Residents of the Costons Lane area in the neighboring Greenford Broadway ward had complained to Steve that there was no postbox in the area. Steve took this up with the post office, and was told there was no pavement site in the area that could accommodate the large underground part of a post box. Apparently post boxes are like icebergs, and need a lot of space below.
The most famous post box in Greenford
Steve went back to the post office and pointed out that, elsewhere in his constituency, there was a postbox attached to a lamp post which avoided this problem. He showed them an old stump of a lamp post in Costons Lane in an ideal position. This worked, and he showed us the resulting post box – although I think local people thought we were mad, standing in the street celebrating and photographing a post box.
This is a really good idea for getting a public service where one wouldn’t otherwise be provided. If you live in East Acton ward, and do not have a nearby post box, please contact me on email@example.com and I'll put this to the post office quoting Steve Pound’s work as an example
Saturday, October 08, 2005
I started off cycling down to Southall through the cycle paths in the Brent River Park – a lovely rural part of the Borough only a few hundred metres from both the Western Avenue and Uxbridge Road. Reminded of John Betjeman’s poem ‘Middlesex’ which local MP Steve Pound quotes on every occasion he can :
“Gentle Brent, I used to know you
Wandering Wembley-wards at will …
Parish of enormous hayfields
Perivale stood all alone,
And from Greenford scent of mayfields
Most enticingly was blown”
The Mayor gets to play engine driver
I’d been invited to the open day at the GWR railway society in Southall, where I joined the Mayor and Mayoress – Cllrs Mike Elliott and Julie Clements-Elliott – and Deputy leader Cllr Ranjit Dheer. The GWR are the only operation of their kind in Greater London, and were providing short train rides and displaying much of their stock and memorabilia. The engine providing the rides was a former AEC diesel shunter, which operated at the AEC factory in Southall next door to GWR (and upon part of which the PCT headquarters now stands). This is apparently a unique vehicle, built in 1938, and used in the past by the GWR to haul steam trains on the branch time from Southall to Brentford.
John Beeston, a leading member of the society, approached Ranjit Dheer and I with an interesting idea. Next year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel on 9th April 1806. Particularly as the Chief Engineer of the Great Western Railway, Brunel has had a major impact on the history and built environment of this Borough - the Wharncliffe viaduct in Hanwell and his famous Three Bridges in Southall remain as impressive monuments to his work. Ranjit and I agreed to see what the Council is planning to recognise the bi-centenary, and what more could be done.
“IKB” is recognised in East Acton ward in the naming of Brunel Road off Old Oak Common Lane. However, Brunel Road’s most prominent role was probably playing the exterior of ‘Sunshine Desserts” – Reginald Perrin’s workplace in the great comedy series.
I cycled through Brunel’s Three Bridges, and down the Canal towpath to Brentford, then through Syon Park to Isleworth, and along the Thames and through Old Deer Park to Richmond. Wonderful ride.
The Thames at low tide at Isleworth
I ended up at the Triple Crown pub in Richmond to meet mates before Ealing Rugby Club’s biggest game of the season – away at Richmond. Our informal ‘civic delegation' was me, former Acton Cllr Steve Donnelly, and Nigel Williams who is Chair of Governors at East Acton Primary School. Sadly Ealing lost, all be it to a Richmond team playing with two South African international players. I’m starting to feel like a jinx, having now watched three losing local sides in the last couple of weeks. We drowned our sorrows talking with Ealing supporters over pints of Deuchars in the Richmond clubhouse. We came up with the idea for a mayoral and civic visit to one of the big home games – probably London Scottish in January
Friday, October 07, 2005
Received an e-mail from Paul Hyman (Head of Active Ealing) with some more details about cricket development in the Borough, following up our phone conversation on Tuesday (4th October post) after Lou Kenton raised the issue with me.
This is really good news :
“New cricket pitches are being laid at :
* Shepherds Bush Cricket Club in East Acton
The Council are part-funding a new pavilion which will enable the club to start developing and growing. We see this club as important partners for local development of the game. It was as part of the negotiations with Virgin Active that this club was given a new home on the site and a new cricket pitch - the first to be laid in London for many decades
* The ex Liverpool Victoria sports ground near Acton Town tube station
This was formerly a private ground - but will now be a public pitch with pavilion. There is interest in using it from 4 or 5 teams including Gunnersbury ladies and Shepherds Bush Cricket Club (2nd team and juniors). This could be a major site for cricket development.
* A new Cricket Pitch at Elthorne Park in Hanwell
A new pitch is being laid in this park. This will be an outfield mainly for use by the Elthorne Park High School. It should be laid within 18 months.
In addition :
* Cricket Forum – The Council set this up and encouraging its development. The Middlesex Cricket Board (MCB) regard it as an example of good practice by local authorities and clubs.
* The new Southall sports centre is providing new indoor cricket nets - it’s currently used by the Ramgharia club.
* Local primary schools will be able use the new outdoor sports facilities at Dairy Meadow Primary School in Swift Road for cricket training.
* Schools cricket is being developed in partnership - the MCB work closely with both Featherstone Sports College and West London Academy to develop cricket in primary schools across Ealing. They have set up programmes that will involve primary school coaching, indoor leagues and outdoor mini-festivals. Inset Training for teaching staff will also be built into the programmes. Active Ealing's role is to support this partnership by continuing its work with local clubs through the Cricket Forum in order to provide exit routes for young cricketers in Ealing.
* Southall Cricket Club is working with the MCB as part of a national "grassroots"initiative based around the Community Club Development Fund – this combines facility development with junior cricket development at identified clubs.”
I’ve decided that I’ll ask a question about this work for cricket at the Council Meeting next week – in order to hopefully ensure that I can get all Councillors to support it.
Off to ASDA in Park Royal. I met Tammy, the new Events Co-ordinator, to set up my next advice surgery there . This will be from 11.00 to 12.00 on Friday 4th November, and I then intend to hold them at the same time on every first Friday in the month.
Clive Soley, as our MP until May, had originally set up these advice surgeries held in the Foyer of ASDA, and invited me and other local Councillors along - as many people had Council issues rather than just ones dealt with by MPs. This proved particularly useful for us in East Acton, as ASDA is in our ward and many of the local residents shop there. I’d previously held some advice surgeries in Park Royal at the Wesley Estate Community Estate and upstairs at the Fishermans Arms, but neither of these venues are now available. ASDA is now confirmed as our sixth monthly advice surgery held every month in East Acton – more venues than any other ward in the Borough.
Ended the day with a meeting with some residents of Wales Farm Road at the Castle. They were keen to ensure that the Gypsy Corner Residents Parking Zone would definitely go ahead to address the parking problems that they currently experience. I confirmed that the Acton Area Committee had agreed this, and that the final approval would be given by Cllr Ray Wall (Cabinet Member for Transport) on 18th October. They were well pleased, and I promised to urge Ray and his officers to implement the zone as fast as possible
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Again a day dominated by licensing.
I heard in the morning that the Council have given planning permission to convert the former night club at the Park Royale leisure complex into a health and fitness centre. This should be good news – the former night club had a history of noise and other nuisance to those around it. I just hope that the health and fitness centre is a better neighbour than Virgin (see earlier posts), but then that wouldn’t be difficult.
I was invited in the afternoon to attend and speak at the Acton Pubwatch meeting at the Kings Arms, together with police officers from East Acton and Acton Central. This is part of a national scheme that encourages pub and club landlords to work together to solve common problems. The Acton Pubwatch has been recently reinvigorated by Colin Daniels – the energetic landlord of the Kings Arms in East Acton ward – and many of the pubs in Acton were represented. Colin has an impressive range of five real ales from Fullers on sale, and I had my first (tasty) pints of the year of their seasonal ale ‘Mr Harry’s’.
The statue in the back bar of the Kings Arms
It was encouraging to hear the landlords praise the work that the police and the Council have done to make Acton Park and Churchfield Road (East and west) safer. A dispersal zone has been introduced in Acton Park, and the police have stepped up their work in Churchfield Road – one landlord said “it’s been fantastic – Churchfield Road has been quieter”. However, most of the discussion at the meeting will have to remain confidential because it involved sharing intelligence on problem customers and incidents. There was a general welcome to the announcement that Acton Central ward would have a six-person ‘safer neighbourhoods’ police team from next April – matching those already operating in East Acton and South Acton wards.
In the evening we had compulsory training for Councillors on the Licensing Committee. Much of the discussion focused on the lessons to be learnt from the first panel meeting that had been held in the previous week (see my post for 4th October). For the next meetings, we decided to have a large notice on display listing the four legal licensing objectives - so that all who speak focus better on how their comments relate to these objectives, rather than wandering off to make wider and irrelevant points. Councillors on the Committee are now all devising their own acronyms to remember the objectives – preventing crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance, and the protection of children from harm.
After the training, I rang Sheela Selvajothy of the West Acton Residents Association (WARA) to check on what had been raised at their meeting this evening, given that I was required to attend the licensing training rather than be with them.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Time was when you could go into the Castle pub next door to the rehearsal rooms, and regularly see the stars of BBC filmed programmes having lengthy liquid lunches. My favourite memory of the Castle in the 1980s is of a very drunk Les Dawson telling never-ending jokes, whilst he and Paul ‘Hi-di-Hi’ Shane bought drinks for most of us in the pub.
BBC memorabilia in the Castle
I cycled up there tonight to have a look at the latest changes. In the Council’s development plans, Gypsy Corner was identified as a preferred location for hotel development, given its excellent public transport links – opposite North Acton tube station, with five bus routes passing by, and an equidistant ten minute or so walk from Willesden Junction and Acton Main Line stations. This policy has drawn in two new hotels – a Ramada Encore (http://www.encorelondonwest.co.uk/) and a Holiday Inn (http://www.encorelondonwest.co.uk/). Sadly no real ale in either, but I had some stout in each and chatted to some of the staff. They seem to be doing reasonably well, and the noodle bar at the Ramada is apparently well recommended. This was followed by some excellent pints of Fullers Discovery in the Castle.
The redevelopment has included building a new Remploy factory. Remploy are the country’s largest employer of people with disabilities, and have had a factory in and around Gypsy Corner for almost all the sixty years since the company was set up, initially to provide employment for people injured in the Second World War. It now employs a significant number of local people, and one of their latest contracts is for the assembly of bikes for the excellent and prize-winning ‘Oybike’ scheme in our neigbouring Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (http://www.oybike.com/). The Queen opened their new factory last year, in the first official royal visit to East Acton ward since I greeted Princess Anne to open another factory in Park Royal in 1999.
Oh, and my favourite Two Ronnies joke is “And in news just in from the English Channel, a ship carrying red paint collided with a ship carrying purple paint. It is believed that both crews have been marooned”.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
The key issue that we considered for both pubs was the implications of their applications on our agreed special area zone policy on cumulative impact, which applies to the particular ‘problem areas’ at the core of central Ealing (see my post on 6th September). This policy means that there is a general presumption against any new or extended licences in this area, unless it can be shown that they would not worsen the problems already being experienced locally with drinking and entertainment. We’re publishing our full decision in the next few days.
This is probably one of the first cases in the country where a council has refused applications for extended hours in an area with such a cumulative impact policy. Next week, I’m chairing a Sub-Committee meeting deciding upon two further applications for longer hours for pubs in the zone – the North Star and All Bar One.
Had a fascinating afternoon before hand talking to Lou Kenton – the senior Labour Party member in Acton (see my post on 22nd September). Lou is now 97, and I and John Delaney talked with him today mainly about sport. Lou is keen that the Council builds on the Ashes success to promote cricket in the Borough, and I agreed to talk to the Council’s Head of ‘Active Ealing’ (the sports development team) about what is happening. When I rang him (Paul Hyman) later on, he told me the good news that three new cricket squares are being created in the Borough this year – one in each of East Acton, Ealing and Hanwell.
John, Phil and Lou
Lou’s sporting experience covers an incredible range of 20th Century events. He was at the famous ‘white horse’ Cup Final in 1923 (the first to be held at Wembley) ; saw the great Jack Hobbs play cricket for Surrey as part of his 29 year first class career (the best cricketer Lou has ever seen) ; and took Emil Zatopek on his tour of Britain around the 1948 London Olympics. Zatopek won the 10,000 metres at London and then achieved his never-bettered ‘Zatopek triple' at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics – in my book, the greatest athletic achievement of the post war years. See more on Zatopek at http://www.runningpast.com/emil_zatopek.htm
We also talked football, and Lou recounted his experience of playing in a trade union tournament in Germany in 1932. Lou was playing for the British Workers Sports Federation, and their final game in Essen drew a crowd of 30,000. Lou and the other British players had to be protected from Nazis who invaded the crowd to disrupt the game. In the same period Lou played football in the Stepney Sunday Football League, which was chaired by the local MP for Limehouse Clement Attlee – later Britain’s greatest peacetime Prime Minister.
Beat that for a sporting lifetime.
Clement Attlee (left) with his predecessor as Labour Leader, George Lansbury - who my mum tells me was a friend of my great-grandfather John Phillips, when they both lived in Bow in the 1890s.
Monday, October 03, 2005
My green box in my (overgrown) garden
The green box scheme has been one of the great success stories of the local Council since Labour introduced it in 1994. One of the original pilot areas was the East Acton Estate, and I must admit that I was a bit cynical about whether it would work in a mainly working class area like this. However, in practice, East Acton’s beer bottles matched Acton Green’s chardonnay bottles, and Hanger Hill’s champagne bottles. Whilst there is a variation in take-up of the scheme across the Borough, and East Acton ward has one of the lower usages, affluent Ealing Common is a worse performer than us. The Borough now has a recycling rate of around 20%, compared to virtually zero before the scheme started from 1994.
The scheme was basically devised and managed by ECTR – a local social enterprise (the ‘E’ is for Ealing). It was their first contract in the recycling field, although they have subsequently grown to a multi-million pound operation. As I reported in my post on 8th September, ECRT now have the Borough-wide integrated ‘clean and green’ contract for street cleaning, refuse collection and recycling, and are also tomorrow starting the new food waste recycling scheme to our neighbours in Acton Central ward. The food waste recycling scheme is being rolled out ward by ward, so will get to East Acton in time.
ECTR’s website is http://www.ectgroup.co.uk/index.php?sa=2&sg=1&m_about=true
Unusually no meetings tonight, so I took the rare chance to catch the evening game at QPR. We lost 3 : 1 to Crystal Palace, with some defending as poor as a Tory election campaign – blue, leaky and disunited. I’ve also got a ticket for the Plymouth game in a couple of weeks, so I’ll save posting about the QPR-East Acton connection until then, when I’m hopefully in a better mood after a better result.
Drowned my sorrows afterwards in the West London Trade Union Club. I had some excellent pints of Wadsworth 6X – not normally one of my favourite beers – but my wine-drinking colleagues raved about the Fair Trade Cape Cabernet Sauvignon that they drank.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Given the size of the East Acton ward, it’s not surprising that we have a wide variety of places of worship – including two Anglican churches (St Dunstans and St Gabriels) , St Aidans Catholic, Old Oak Methodist (of which I'm a member), East Acton Baptist (Network), and a number of evangelical churches who hold their Sunday services in schools or warehouses. I try to attend each of them at least annually to keep in touch with the Christian community. In addition, I obviously also visit the local mosque, synagogue, gurdwara and mandir – although none of these are actually located in East Acton ward.
St Dunstans is the Anglican church covering the East Acton part of the ward, and a few years ago also merged with St Thomas’ which was the Acton Vale Anglican church. This morning was the Harvest Festival, and local minister Rev James Blandford-Baker turned it into a service inspired by the work of the WaterAid charity. An appropriate bible reading (Isaiah 41.17-20 - “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none”) was accompanied by a water-themed slide show , and the church was decorated with cardboard water droplets and a man-made river flowing over the pulpit. James talked about some of the stark facts upon which WaterAid campaign – such as that 1 in 5 of the world’s population lack access to a safe water supply, whilst Mozambique uses less than a tenth of the water per day of that consumed in England. An excellent service, which matched faith and community in proper measure.
We also hold a monthly East Acton Councillors advice surgery after the service at St Dunstans, which today as usual was taken by my colleague (and Anglican) Cllr Kate Crawford, while I had useful chats with James and his curate Rev Maggie Davidge-Smith about local issues. St Dunstans was one of the first churches locally with its own website, which can be seen at www.stdunstanschurch.org.uk
Spent the afternoon in a Labour Party fund-raising social at my friends’ Amanda and Roger’s, and ended the day with a couple of good pints of Fullers Discovery in the Kings Arms in The Vale
Saturday, October 01, 2005
The good news is that two of these issues were raised as praise for action that I’ve managed to get from the Council. One was a longstanding case where black bags were not being collected weekly from a house but now are being.
More significantly, I was told that the perennial problem of rats in and around Western Avenue is now under control, thanks to vigorous action from the Council’s pest control team. A couple of years ago, I had responsibility for overseeing the work of the Council’s Environmental Health officers, and we organised a ‘Rats Summit’ to look at why the rat population was increasing and what could be done about it. Some old fogies at the Council sneered at the ‘Summit’ approach, but it was covered positively by the BBC, and the new approaches, action and investment that came out of it now seem to be making a difference. That said there is a big ‘painting the Forth Bridge’ element to rat control, and as long as people chuck their fast food on the street with abandon, the rats are going to return to Western Avenue.
You can find out more about rats and their control at the local environmental health site at http://www.ealing.gov.uk/services/environment/pests+and+nuisance/25b9ad6c-4d02-4fda-9e75-dfeeee23c77d.asp
Went on to the big cup game against Hertford at Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club. I’ve been associated with Ealing RFC since my Millennium Mayoralty, when I worked with them to achieve planning permission for their excellent new clubhouse – which I subsequently opened .
Ealing is one of the oldest rugby clubs in the world – founded in 1871. The story goes that the only reason that they weren’t founder members of the Rugby Union is that their delegate went to the wrong pub and missed the key meeting. For many years Ealing punched below their weight and history. That all changed with the arrival of Mike Gooley – the founder and chair of theTrailfinders travel company. Mike is a passionate rugby fan, and has brought money and enterprise into the club that has transformed it.
Phil's namecheck in the clubhouse (the pint of Ealing bitter is out of shot)
Ealing is now a thriving club, with sides for all ages and both genders, and large youth operation who regularly run big overseas tours. They are now based at the former GWR Sports Ground at Vallis Way in West Ealing – saved from housing development by my mate Cllr Steve Sears when he chaired the Council’s Environment Committee. The appeal of the rugby is added to in the clubhouse by the excellent ‘Ealing bitter’ brewed only for them by the Skinners brewery. Last season the first team were promoted into the London 1 league, and will now play some big name teams such as Richmond and London Scottish. Their website is at http://www.ealingrugby.co.uk/
An excellent afternoon spoiled only by the fact that Ealing lost 16-28. Nevertheless, they put up a creditable performance against a team in a national league, and for most of the game were only a converted try behind. Next week I’m going with a few mates to the big game of the season so far – away at Richmond, who Ealing beat in the last round of the cup.
Ealing (in the green and white) defend the line