Turnham Green ward councillor Jo Biddolph on her week
Councillor Jo Biddolph
There is some sense that councillor lives are getting back to normal. Certainly, the usual bitterness expressed towards Conservatives by the Labour group has most definitely been restored.
Borough council bitterness
Those of us who are on the overview and scrutiny committee (OSC) – three Conservatives (Cllr Ron Mushiso and I from Turnham Green ward and Cllr Kuldeep Tak from Feltham North ward) and seven Labour councillors – are currently subjected, before the meeting starts, to a long and bossy lecture on appropriate behaviour and language. It's a guilty until proven innocent approach. I counted four, perhaps five, versions of the same thing at the most recent OSC meeting, as if we might not have understood the first time and that, as is necessary for some young children, repetition was essential for us to grasp the point. It sets an extremely uncomfortable tone for what is meant to be a cross-party committee of members with the same intent: overviewing and scrutinising policy and its implementation. Labour doesn't like being scrutinised; it wants to tell us what to do and how to do it and any comments, suggestions or objections are treated with disdain, at best, or, more often, ridicule and personal attack. In Graham's hierarchy of disagreement , name-calling and ad hominem attacks are the very worst ways to disagree. Although this is typical on Twitter and other social media (including sometimes the CW4 forum) it ought not to dominate in the council chamber or committee rooms.
Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, cabinet member for finance and corporate services, was unable to resist his party's tradition during the borough council meeting on 21st September when he criticised comments, made by Cllr Mushiso and I, about the evouchers scheme. There were several teething problems with the scheme, which I reported and which were corrected very swiftly. Commenting in council meetings on the scheme's shortcomings, or the fact that it is funded by the government not the council, is not allowed, apparently. I am, as I've often said, an opposition councillor. My role is not to acquiesce.
It's clear, too, that the overly-whipped Labour group has also been whipped to attack some of us specifically. Going back to the OSC, one member screws up his face whenever a Tory talks then attacks the person, not the argument. In borough council, it's clear there is a pattern behind who attacks whom. It's extremely immature, unworthy of a decision-making body that should be working with the interests of residents and business rate-payers at its heart, and is best ignored.
Chiswick Area Forum
Just as council meetings are now held in public, so are area forums back as normal, more or less. Social distancing means we councillors are more spread out, as are the chairs for those attending, limiting numbers, but our first meeting, on 14th September, went well and was well-supported. Its new format appeared to go down well, too.
Instead of the usual municipally-driven agenda that had become oh-so-tired, as evidenced by dwindling attendance, the new format I'm trialling as this year's chairman seems to have been well-received. The date emerged at short notice so drawing together my ideal agenda proved impossible. Hoping for three local voluntary organisations to take up sessions in the Chiswick Community Matters section, two very kindly agreed (bringing their dates forward, for which very many thanks from me). My ambition for two sessions in the Chiswick Future section had to be reduced to one. Regardless, we still had to suspend standing orders (a local authority device to allow meetings to go beyond their allotted time) because all sessions, including the public forum, generated many questions and comments. So, it seems that two plus one and the public forum works. Our second meeting (on 12th October) will provide another useful test.
The meeting wasn't broadcast live; nor was it filmed for later viewing. However, a resident very kindly recorded it (though LBH is dragging its feet with its decision about whether it can be uploaded to its YouTube channel). You can listen here to the two thought-provoking and informative sessions with Age Concern and the Hogarth Community Centre; to the Qs&As during the public forum; and to Nicholas Rogers, GLA member for South West London, whose insightful and knowledgeable presentation on the future of public transport in Chiswick generated intense interest. There was much in Nick's thoughtful session including that Chiswick is the worst spot on the tube and train map for accessibility; that the answer to public transport needs is "buses, buses and more buses"; and that, responding to a resident who asked, after 40 years of campaigning for the Piccadilly Line to stop at Turnham Green tube station, how much longer will we have to keep it up, the fact is it will take "as long as it takes".
I'm not giving up. Are you?
From buses, tubes and trains to … roads Fishers Lane
After the successful call-in of the ridiculous Grove Park road restrictions, described in detail by Cllr John Todd in his recent blog, Conservative councillors in Ealing, supported by the Southfield ward Lib Dems, have called-in their cabinet's decision to make permanent the Fisher's Lane scheme. The call-in was not straightforward as the cabinet's decision also included the removal of seven deeply unpopular and damaging Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). Negotiations took place and agreement was reached: the cabinet paper could be split in two, separating the LTNs from Fisher's Lane, enabling the former to be removed and the latter to be reviewed. The call-in will be heard on 21st October.
The e-vouchers scheme
Some very interesting facts have emerged about how the e-vouchers scheme is going including the fact that of the 415 traders who are participating in the four retail areas in the borough, 153 are in Chiswick (Turnham Green ward: 81; Chiswick Homefields ward: 52; Chiswick Riverside ward: 20), and 2,470 transactions have taken place (Turnham Green ward: 1,552; Chiswick Homefields ward: 601; Chiswick Riverside ward: 317).
Not spent yours, yet? See the chart below for how much has been spent where. Please do use the voucher; the aim is to boost our retail/hospitality/health/well-being/other businesses. There's £2.3m of government money to be spent!
Elections are coming … boundaries are changing
We are out on the campaign trail again and leaflets should have landed, or soon will be landing, on your doormats for the local elections to be held on 5th May 2022. The boundaries of all three wards will change, each one moving westwards, to meet the requirements on number of electors. Turnham Green ward will take in the whole of Gunnersbury Park, residents and shops on the south side of Popes Lane up to and including The Pavement, and the residents of Lionel Road North. The ward will be renamed Chiswick Gunnersbury to reflect not just its new profile – much of Gunnersbury is already in the ward.
I hope to meet Turnham Green ward residents face-to-face on the doorstep, soon. It's been far too long ...
Councillor Joanna Biddolph
Turnham Green ward
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
Most council meetings are now taking place in person at Hounslow House though a few, such as licensing panel meetings, continue to be held virtually. Even if they are held in person, you can watch them live (or later) on the council's YouTube channel . Please check for each committee by looking at the agenda reports pack for each committee.
The key council meetings coming up are:
• 12th October: Chiswick Area Forum
• 14th October: Planning Committee
• 19th October: Cabinet
• 21st October: Ealing Overview and Scrutiny Committee call-in of Fishers Lane
• 9th November: Overview and Scrutiny Committee
• 11th November: Planning Committee
• 16th November: Cabinet
• 30th November: Borough Council
• 31st November: Planning Committee
SURGERIES ARE BACK!
We are now holding face-to-face surgeries again and, as before, will be available in Chiswick and in Gunnersbury. Chiswick: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick Library (the nine Conservative councillors take this surgery in turn). Gunnersbury: First Saturday of the month from 10am to 11am at The Gunnersbury Triangle Club, Triangle Way, off The Ridgeway, W3 8LU (at least one of the Turnham Green ward councillors will take this surgery).
Chiswick Homefields ward
Cllr Patrick Barr
Cllr Gerald McGregor
Cllr John Todd
Chiswick Riverside ward
Cllr Michael Denniss
Cllr Gabriella Giles
Cllr Sam Hearn
Turnham Green ward
Cllr Joanna Biddolph
Cllr Ranjit Gill
Cllr Ron Mushiso
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October 3, 2021