Welcome to the January update, my first of 2014. This month’s report is longer as it looks at what’s being going on at council (including before the December Christmas break) and what’s happening/coming up in the ward.
Acton Xmas Market
Even though December is usually a quieter month, it ended up being busy even with some of the extremes of weather. Fortunately this year the Acton Christmas market was not snowed in and I managed to brave the cold along with council leader Julian Bell and Cllr Abdullah Gulaid and Cllr Patricia Walker from Acton Central. I presented a number of prizes for those that completed the treasure hunt and there were also awards the best dressed window competition, congratulations to the winners and all that took part.
December Full Council Meeting
The last full council of 2013 was held on 10 December. It started sombrely as the council rose to pay Ealing’s respect to Nelson Mandela with a minute’s silence preceded by tributes from all three party leaders and other councillors celebrating the remarkable achievements of this truly remarkable man. He will be missed.
The main debates focused around two issues, the Tories moved a motion called ‘Plan A is working’, it was somewhat ironic as it was the day that a poll reported that “Most people have felt no benefits from economic recovery” (Guardian report here: http://tinyurl.com/k9gc9ku), 70 per cent said they had seen no benefit, sadly I did not get to make my speech, but wanted to highlight that the recovery needs to benefit all and not just the few, we know that times remain hard that is why we’ve frozen the council tax for our whole term and continue to support our local communities. The main Labour motion was on the continued campaign to save our local A&Es. Surprisingly, the Tories argued that our local A&Es are now safe, but Julian Bell condemned the opposition as closet supporters of the 'Shaping a healthier future' plans which will see our local A&Es close. Even worse, the Tories actually voted against the Labour motion; that shows our local NHS is only safe in Labour’s hands.
At the Town Hall
The week before Christmas Yvonne attended cabinet and I chaired the final Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) of the year. Cabinet looked at regeneration, the Ealing Arts & Cultural strategy as well as the council’s performance report. The main business at OSC was a presentation from the company that has taken over our waste and cleaning contractor Enterprise. Senior executives from Amey attended the meeting and gave a detailed presentation on a range of improvements to the waste and recycling contract that will be rolled out over the next couple of months. While we recognise there have been problems with the contract, the revised approach will be based on local neighbourhoods with a dedicated contact charged with ensuring any issues are cleaned up quickly, so to speak. These team leaders are in the process of being appointed, and with the addition of vehicles, an improved call centre and further annual investment from Amey of some £1.2 million, we should hope to iron out the remaining problems. The service is improving, and members walked away from that meeting with a strong understanding of the next steps to deliver the council’s stated aim of improving our waste collection as well as raising our recycling rates. That meeting brought the year to a close.
2014 started early for me, with my first meeting on 2 January, thankfully it was a short scrutiny one and apart from John holding the regular Oak Tree surgery, early January enabled us to recharge our batteries as we move towards the end of the term and the local elections on 22 May.
Overview and Scrutiny Committee
My first major meeting of the year was OSC last Thursday (16 Jan) which saw a call in on the planned recycling rewards scheme, we rejected the call in and will allow the scheme to go ahead which will offer residents rewards for improving recycling and other actions across the borough. OSC also saw a detailed report on how the council performs when dealing with complaints about children’s services (the council is doing very well and the team were praised at the meeting) as well as a look at the dual proposals on housing covering housing and homelessness on one hand and the private sector on the other. It was a very interesting meeting, the last four years have seen major changes ranging from funding for affordable housing, less central government emphasis on social rented homes, new legislation changing the tenancy regulations and changes in homelessness legislation and welfare reform for starters. Ealing has also developed a separate private sector strategy with a focus on the rental sector as that sector is now bigger than for social renting The consultation is only open for a couple more days (until 26 Jan), and you can download all the documents from the council website: http://tinyurl.com/k9fm9cl if you want to add your views, they’re very welcome.
On Tuesday 21 January the first cabinet meeting of the year was held looking at the west London waste plan and the overall budget strategy and the continued pressures the council faces. Despite this, there was some good news too as both Ealing and Hounslow have agreed more funds to help refurbish the mansions and revitalise the park, we have secured an additional investment from Hounslow council which has effectively matched Ealing’s contribution to ensure that the park gets the investment it needs and we are able to deliver the improvements that we promised. Download full details of cabinet reports here: http://tinyurl.com/mzqd84h.
The rest of the month will continue to be filled up with our regular surgeries and canvassing (I’m on duty at Ruskin Hall on Church Road this Saturday, and we’ll be out knocking on doors in the ward again – as we have been for the past year). Say hi if you see us around.
The other main meeting is full council next Tuesday 28 January. You can check out the full agenda here - http://tinyurl.com/lopubm7 - but in the main we’ll be looking at supporting our neighbourhood police teams and challenging energy price rises. As usual, if I get the chance I will try and live blog from council on my twitter feed, follow me via @miksabiers.
Around South Acton
And from council business to what is happening across the ward. If you have been down the high street you can’t have failed to see the changes between Morrisons, the Aeronaut pub and the site of the original Waitrose (or roughly where Babylon Pizza is now based). The new roundabout is nearing completion – some trees need to be planted and some final work sorted – and then the next stage of Transport for London’s update of transport on the high street will start in earnest. This will see a new three way pedestrian crossing installed at the top of Gunnersbury Lane with the junction of Uxbridge Road. A much needed crossing allowing pedestrians to safely cross the high street as well as Gunnersbury Lane will be installed over the next couple of months. Although there is bound to be some disruption the end result should be easier and much safer crossing for pedestrians as well as an improved flow of traffic. Drop me a line if you want to know more.
From all change on the high street to all change on the estate and the next steps in the regeneration of South Acton continue. We are now at phase 3 which will see permission to demolish the now vacant Woolf & Wodehouse Courts which are right by South Acton station. Phase 4 covers Chesterton Court and Graham Tower which we hope to ensure are vacant by the end of February at the latest. The building work is also continuing apace with much more to be done, but new properties (and roads even) will be springing up as the regeneration continues. The fact that this happens in concert with the expansion and rebuilding of Berrymede infants school shows that we are meeting the demands of the rising population in the borough (up 10% in the past decade), there’s more work to do, but all is progressing well.
Acton station improvements
And it’s not just housing that is improving in South Acton, there are also plans to enhance South Acton station (and Acton Central too) as Transport for London looks to expand the London Overground service. I’ve just received an update on the latest plans to add another carriage to the Overground trains, but this will mean that the platforms at South Acton and Acton Central need to be extended which will see some disruption. Work is provisionally scheduled from February through to July 2014 although the details have yet to be fully finalised. The Overground has improved substantially over the last 10 years so it is good to see this extra investment which should hopefully improve links for residents in the south of the ward.
Acton Town Hall Development
And finally the Acton town hall project is also continuing to schedule. This means a bit of chop and change on the high street as the old library closes to be replaced by a new one in the brand new town hall complex. The old library is now up for sale (the funds from which help pay for the completion of the town hall project) and there are already expressions of interest, including from one group wanting to convert it into an arts centre.
The new town hall complex is also nearing competition. Anyone walking down the high street will have been able to see that the roof is going on and the building is being finalised. The end result will be an eight lane swimming pool plus a separate training pool on the ground floor, a new glass fronted (and subsidised) gym on the first floor, plus fitness and dance class studios, the new library and IT training suite (located in the old Assembly Hall) and council offices and space for daycare services and more on the second floor. I’m really looking forward to the completion of this project and being able to swim in the heart of Acton (as well as borrow books from the library), it’s a worthwhile investment that will make a fundamental and positive change to Acton, all the local Acton councillors have worked hard to make sure the project has progressed to schedule and matched resident expectations. You can find out more details from www.everyoneactive.com. I look forward to visiting the renewed town hall and pool and hope as many people as possible join in too…
And that’s all for now. As ever any questions just ask, remember we’re out and about in the ward every week.
John, Yvonne and Mik
John Gallagher – firstname.lastname@example.org – 020 8993 0017
Yvonne Johnson – email@example.com – 020 8993 4166
Mik Sabiers – firstname.lastname@example.org – 020 8992 5014 / 07867 538 646/updates on twitter: @miksabiers