Ealing - A Council in Crisis

Southfield ward councillor Gary Busuttil accuses administration of complacency

Liberal Democrat councillor Gary Busuttil

It has been a tumultuous time for councils and local government over the past decade, with cuts to local government funding and then the pandemic. Many hard choices have had to be made about how to keep council services going with less money.

Back in 2010, councils, including Ealing, trimmed the fat where it could without much impact on local services. As time went on decisions on cuts became more difficult, and more contentious. As opposition Councillors, Liberal Democrats fully understand the constrains of cuts to local government funding, and it is not our duty to block every decision the Labour run Ealing Council makes, however it is our duty to scrutinise the rationale of those decisions, so the best outcome for residents can be achieved.

Liberal Democrats have said over the last couple of years, the money which Ealing Council receives from central government has actually gone up. The council has also had its pandemic spending pretty much fulfilled with extra funding. Though cuts to local government funding have been one of the main causes of the worsening state of local services, that isn’t the whole story. So, if this the case why has local service evolved into its current degenerate state? The arrogance and complacency amongst the Labour administration is also to blame, and it is causing ruptures within communities in our borough.

Success at the ballot box in local elections has given Labour three successive majority administrations on the mantra of “defending our community”, but that success hasn’t transpired into better more engaged communities. For instance, for nearly two years I have been trying to find out what is happening with our Ward Forums. They’re an important part of local democracy, and Ward Forum budgets fund community projects led by people in our communities to improve our local areas. After numerous emails, questions to the council, and complaints to the CEO, the administration still has no idea what it wants to do with Ward Forums, leaving funding for community projects in limbo.

On planning, the bare statutory minimum is done to let people know of developments happening nearby. In the past, affect residents were sent a letter, now only a notice on a lamppost is consider satisfactory consultation, in the hope that people won’t notice. The ferociousness of opposition to many developments in the borough over the last couple of years, highlights the frustration of residents nor do they feel they’re listened to.

On other matters, for all the talk of being a Living Wage borough, earlier this year Unison secured a 21% pay increase for school catering staff, because it paid them below the London Living Wage, despite Labour run Ealing Council boasting it being a London Living Wage employer.

In terms of refuse collection and street sweeping, a couple of years ago these services came back in-house to the newly formed Greener Ealing Limited (GEL) to much fanfare, after the disastrous tenure of AMEY who were responsible for refuse collection and street sweeping. More than a year on from there operational launch, streets are still filthy and recycling rates have gone down. Liberal Democrats say this shows how bad Labour have been at managing contractors and services that it is in charge of.

But what epitomises the current state of the administration is the continuing debacle over LTN’s. The cack-handed approach to which they were implemented, with no regard to the impact to residents, has led to a brand so toxic that it’s divided communities, caused tremendous upheaval and bitterness on the streets and online, and a council leader to be ousted. Even their MPs have called for LTNs to be scrapped. Consultations are being ridden roughshod, and community engagement is disappearing. The failure to learn from the Hastings road “LTN” shows the arrogance and complacency of the current administration.

A recent meeting discussing the sale of Victoria Hall, that was reportedly held in secret (which can be read here) where the only agenda item was “matters to be considered in private” shows that Labour in Ealing have run out of steam, are bereft of ideas, and uninspiring.

That same meeting a member of the public in a public meeting about a public asset was escorted out of the meeting, which goes to show that this administration is now not here to serve the public, but only to serve themselves.

It’s now time for change, and a new approach in the way the council carry out local services, an approach that has residents in mind and has the buy-in of our communities.

Cllr Gary Busuttil – Liberal Democrat councillor for Southfield ward

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October 11, 2021