It’s been a whirlwind month since my last update with two full council meetings, scrutiny aplenty and lots of walking around the ward and talking to residents and local firms. All three of your local Labour councillors have had a busy time dealing with council and community business.
At the Town Hall
On the council front, the end of January council was somewhat frustrating after the Tories put forward a rather spurious motion on how the Con-Dem coalition is supposedly ‘helping’ residents with the cost of living. OK, that may not have been the precise wording but we were left to listen to a list of what I could only say were ‘suspect’ reasons as to why the Tories think that everyone is feeling the recovery and we’re all doing fine. As if. The Tories key arguments were over such things as low mortgage rates and lower energy bills, not sure what planet they were on, although the leader of the Tories did make the whole council convulse with laughter when he claimed: “Labour in power would mean the end of the world as we know it”, this is the best they can manage.
After the Tory motion was defeated council moved on to Labour’s motion on backing our local police teams, John gave a good speech outlining how local policing on the ground makes a real difference, praising former South Acton Sgt Danny Williams for delivering significant improvements across South Acton. All three councillors and the council as a whole work closely with police teams and local residents to set priorities and continue to focus on keeping our borough safe, it’s never easy, and all should be praised for their hard work and dedication and the good news is that crime levels are down yet again in South Acton.
In contrast to the cost of living in January, February was focused on the council’s budget and spending plans with Overview & Scrutiny looking at the details (there was a long meeting chaired by myself and addressed by Yvonne in her capacity as cabinet member for finance) where we looked into the fine print, cabinet then passed the budget the following week before full council on Tuesday (26 February) debated the details in full.
The main message is that we are being prudent with the council’s finances. Despite central government cuts of some £87 million from our budget (and more to come in future) we have focused on protecting frontline services by keeping our sure start centres and libraries open as an example, by trying to minimise job cuts and by maximising efficiency savings. The council’s senior finance team have done a strong job, as have the employees supporting services and residents and businesses in the face of the cuts. Yvonne moved the budget motion with a good speech on how we are making a difference, managing our resources but also that we recognise times are tough. That was why Ealing’s Labour budget proposed a freeze in the council tax for the fourth year in a row; that means on average a family in the borough has saved over £370.
It was a boisterous meeting with lots of barracking from the Tories, and when I rose to speak I reminded all of the respect we need to afford to the mayor who chairs full council meetings. I also condemned the Tories for failed opposition, their financial spokesman proposed an alternate budget that was all of 11 words long, in contrast the actual budget paper was 146 pages, that goes to show how seriously the Tories take looking after finances, uncosted, not thought through and not worth the paper they were printed on was my summation of the Tories’ so-called proposals. Suffice to say the Tory and Lib Dem proposals were rejected and Ealing council backed Labour’s freeze in council tax for another year. On top of that, we have pledged to once again freeze the council tax for another year if Ealing’s Labour council is re-elected in the local elections on Thursday 22 May, so if you want another council tax freeze, your services supported then it’s important to get out and vote Labour on Thursday 22 May.
After this week’s full council the next one is not until 15 April, but Yvonne and I are back on financial business with Ealing’s pension fund panel (on 27 February), I’ve got Audit Committee (in March) as well and a heavy Overview & Scrutiny meeting coming up (on 13 March) with call-ins from the opposition over changes to the waste contract (again), we’re also hoping to have a look at proposals for the Crossrail Station at Ealing Broadway, the agenda is still be finalised as I write, but it should be an interesting night.
The other meeting worth mentioning was the Boundaries Panel (last week), for which I also ended up in the chair. As the elections approach we agreed a few adjustments to polling stations in the hope of improving accessibility and maximising turnout. One of the changes was for South Acton, and we agreed to shift the polling station that was located at Acton Hill Church on the High Street to the Armenian Centre at 105 Mill Hill Road (W3 8JF) as it is more central to the polling district and has better parking facilities.
Around South Acton
And that brings me to what’s going on in South Acton. As ever we’ve all been out talking to people across the ward with regular canvassing sessions where John, Yvonne and I are joined by Josh Blacker Labour’s new candidate for South Acton ward who will hope to step into John’s considerable shoes. Josh lives right in the centre of the ward, down the road from the Armenian Centre. On the doors people are interested in the changes on the high street, from traffic changes to the redevelopment of Acton Town Hall and more. And there’s been a good response to how Labour is running Ealing and the council tax freeze also goes down well.
The changes on the high street are progressing, there has been some disruption over the half term week with more road resurfacing being done as the new crossing goes in on the junction of Gunnersbury Lane and the high street, but after some snarl ups it seems the traffic flow is improving. The work is still ongoing.
Still on transport and there is likely to be weekend disruption on London Overground stations as TfL looks to extend the platforms at South Acton (and Acton Central) as the plan is to introduce a fifth carriage, work started earlier this month and should last through to July, although the full five carriage train service is not expected to start until December of this year.
Acton Town Hall
There’s also the near completion of the new pool at the Acton town hall. The pool and facilities should open within the next month and will include a 100-station state of the art gym with traditional equipment complemented with cycles, crosstrainers, rowers, dumbbells, powerplates plus the centre will house the new library, dance studios plus not only a teaching swimming pool but the new 25 metre swimming pool. Having learned to swim in the old pool, I’m looking forward to dipping my toes in the new one.
And finally it’s back to the Armenian Centre and the next South Acton ward forum which will be held on Wednesday 5 March from 19:00. There will be further updates on the traffic changes, the town hall and some of the other issues around the ward, and it will also be John’s last one as he is standing down in May. Do come along and join us as we outline what has changed in the past four years and we look forward to the next four. As well as that we’re out canvassing on a weekly basis, say hi if you see us and we also hold the regular surgeries at Labour’s Ruskin Hall on Church Road every Saturday from 11 to noon and I’ll be doing the Oak Tree Community Centre one on Wednesday 12 March from 18:30-19:30.
And that’s all for now. As ever any questions just ask.
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