New leader of Hounslow Conservatives explains his decision to return
Cllr Thompson (centre) with two of his colleagues
As the 2018 local elections loomed I made the decision that, after 20 years on Hounslow Council, it was time to call it a day. I had worked hard for my community, as representative, caseworker, provider of scrutiny, Council Leader, and in countless other ways. Getting the work/life balance right as a teacher, husband, parent and councillor had always been a challenge. It was time to let someone else have a go, pursue other interests, develop some new skills and have a bit of time for reflection. Like most people I didn’t give Hounslow Council too much thought – the bins were collected, the streets around me were usually clean and it was good to know that someone was making sure that our restaurants adhere to the correct health and hygiene standards and that social care was going to those in need. I was conscious of and thankful for the vital role council staff were playing in helping defend our society from Covid-19 as they, like many of these of us who are key workers, stepped up to the plate. But, unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, I never thought “I'll be back!”
So why did I decide to stand again for election to Hounslow Council? The main reason was the decision by the London Borough of Hounslow to implement a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in South Chiswick despite huge opposition from those of us who live here. I was staggered by how residents and Ward Councillors were poorly consulted and their views were simply ignored. The Council’s reputation locally was in tatters. We saw in action a ‘Hounslow-knows-best’ approach, where decisions were taken in Hounslow and not in the communities that are being impacted by these schemes. The entire ongoing saga could surely be a case study for some future research on “how not to make a council decision!” During the local election campaign, virtually everyone I spoke to had their own story of how the scheme was not working for them. And for the record, these were not climate change deniers, anti-cycling lobby members, aggrieved 4 X 4 drivers who have shares in fossil fuels! They are normal folks who want a greener world for their future and cannot see how having to make extended car journeys helps to achieve this. I am not so cocky as to think that I can single-handedly sort this one out – but I do hope that my background and experience with the schemes can bring some common sense to bear.
With this in mind, I am looking forward to seeing Cllr Shantanu's plans to improve how the Council engages and consults. Residents need to feel that their conversations with the Council will have a real impact and that their voices will be heard – something which certainly has not been happening in recent years. One step in the right direction was Cllr. Shantanu’s invitation to me to join his cabinet meetings. Residents were clear during last month's election that they want a council that listens to communities and that works together to make things better across the borough. We are committed to acting as constructive opposition, and I am looking forward to now being able to also play that role within cabinet meetings. Having someone whose job it is to ask uncomfortable questions; to make sure that information is in the public domain, and to give a voice to those who might have been shut out of decision-making can only lead to better local government.
If a week is a long time in politics what has changed at Hounslow Council over the past 4 years. Well, firstly I am trying hard to stop talking about the “Civic Centre” as that has been demolished and we are now based in “a modern comfortable, ergonomic work environment that supports modern ways of working and staff wellbeing” that is "Hounslow House". I will take some getting used to the new flexible Council chamber space which lacks the solemnity of the previous chamber. However the excellent energy-efficient, and therefore significantly reduced running costs of the new building, means that I will learn to put up with this! At both an officer and councillor level there are loads of new faces for me to struggle to remember. Cllr Guy Lambert has done a good job in trying to confuse me by growing his hair long in what must be a tribute to the 60s and 70s counterculture? (Sorry Guy it’s the jealously of the follicly challenged talking here!)
What hasn’t changed are the issues that are already coming my way – residents in overcrowded housing, potholes, fly-tipping. So I am back, refreshed after a break, motivated by the one thing that unites all Councillors regardless of their party politics - the desire to improve local people’s quality of lives.
Cllr Peter Thompson
Chiswick Riverside ward
SURGERIES IN CHISWICK AND GUNNERSBURY
We are back to our usual routine of holding face-to-face surgeries in Chiswick and in Gunnersbury. Chiswick: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick Library (the eight 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 Chiswick Gunnersbury ward councillors take this surgery).
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
Tuesday, 14th June at 7pm: Borough Council (special meeting to confer the Freedom of the Borough on two people)
Thursday, 16th June at 7pm: Planning committee
Tuesday, 5th July at 7pm: Cabinet
Tuesday, 19th July at 7pm: Borough Council
Tuesday, 1st September at 7pm: Overview and scrutiny committee
Tuesday, 13th September at 7pm: Chiswick Area Forum
Chiswick Homefields ward
Cllr Jack Emsley firstname.lastname@example.org 07977 396017
Cllr Gerald McGregor email@example.com 07866 784821
Cllr John Todd firstname.lastname@example.org 07866 784651
Chiswick Riverside ward
Cllr Peter Thompson email@example.com
Cllr Gabriella Giles firstname.lastname@example.org 07966 270823
Chiswick Gunnersbury (was Turnham Green) ward
Cllr Joanna Biddolph email@example.com 07976 703446
Cllr Ranjit Gill firstname.lastname@example.org 07976 702956
Cllr Ron Mushiso email@example.com 07976 702887
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June 13, 2022