Following news that free travel for under 18s will stop after a deal done by Transport for London and the Government, Ealing Liberal Democrats put forward a motion last night to gain support for keeping free travel for the under 18s.
By supporting the Liberal Democrat motion, local Labour and Conservative parties have both disagreed with their national parties – about taking away free travel away from under 18s, which has been shown to be cost effective, promotes social inclusion and reduces road collisions.
Bollo Lane scheme may be unstoppable but residents' views must be heard
Local residents in Southfield ward will be well aware of the new proposals for new housing on Bollo Lane. The site is actually in South Acton ward, to the north, but the size of the development will mean its impact is felt far wider - 800 new units will increase pressures on local amenities and the skyline will alter for residents in Brentford, Chiswick, Gunnersbury and Ealing.
However, our part of the world is not alone in having to face the prospect of 18, 22 or 25 storey skyscrapers. I am on a mailing list called The London Week which is a weekly round-up of planning news from the GLA and London boroughs. It is clear that across the capital developments of equivalent size and bigger are planned. An article in last weeks’ Observer by Rowan Moore reported that there are 525 buildings of 20 storeys or more in the pipeline across the city.
It begs the question do we really need these skyscrapers? Liberal Democrats agree that there is a housing crisis, but are these developments the answer? Almost certainly no: new developments may tick a planning application box marked affordable housing provision, but most properties are still well beyond the means of those most in need. Consider also, the regeneration of the South Acton Estate, which has proved very successful, this has resulted in a significant increase in the number of residents but with no new building more than ten storeys high.
You do not need 25 storey skyscrapers to solve a housing crisis.
As local councillors we can oppose the development and point out some of the more absurd claims of the prospectus. The local planning authority is Ealing, this particular application (ref: 201379) should go to the Planning Committee. It may well be refused, but the developer can appeal.
Liberal Democrats say there are various ways developers can get round planning guidelines. These large developments can be referred up to the Mayor of London, and ultimately the Secretary of State can adjudicate contentious applications. Both the Mayor and the Secretary of State tend to push through these big applications despite local opposition from residents and the local planning authorities.
Sadly, it is likely that in some shape or form the proposals are likely to be granted permission. The views of local residents and the locally elected representatives will ultimately be ignored.
For local government to work Liberal Democrats believe that planning decisions must be taken locally but the process must be fair, transparent and involve all the residents and groups who might be affected by a development. This just doesn’t happen and so many decisions leave residents feeling that their views have been ignored.
Councillor Andrew Steed
Southfield ward councillor for the Liberal Democrats
For over twenty years, Liberal Democrats have campaigned with local residents in Chiswick for the Piccadilly line to stop at Turnham Green station during the day.
In the past couple of years Liberal Democrats have achieved two key developments by Transport for London (TfL):
- With immense Liberal Democrat pressure, TfL conducted an official consultation which showed that people strongly wanted Piccadilly line tubes to stop at Turnham Green during the day.
- This resulted in TfL agreeing that it is a priority to upgrade the signalling at Turnham Green to make this possible.
In the past month, a deal done between Labour’s Mayor of London and the Conservative Government has meant the much needed signalling upgrade is delayed indefinitely. This means they made a political choice to sacrifice the needs of Chiswick’s residents.
Southfield Councillor Andrew Steed said: "Only the Liberal Democrats have been on the side of residents in Chiswick on this important local issue for over twenty years – it is not the time to give up now."
Most media reports now drip feed us information of an impending deep recession, after 10 years of austerity that has had an adverse effect on society, this will be further major blow to peoples livelihoods, that will likely affect all of us.
A few years ago I went around the borough of Ealing with volunteers from St. Mungo’s, a homeless charity, and was shocked at how many people were sleeping rough on our streets, all with different reasons for being there, some were hungry and embarrassed to receive our help. The scale of this problem also prompted the three Southfield Liberal Democrat Councillors to donate £2500 of Ward Forum funds to Acton Homeless Concern to help fund good causes. To see people sleeping out on the streets is soul destroying, but to see people go hungry is unacceptable.
On Wednesday 22nd April 2020 a virtual Southfield Ward Forum took place, with 21 residents attending, which was held using the free meeting app Zoom. This is the first virtual ward forum in Ealing. Issues raised by residents included Coronavirus, food parcels for the vulnerable, recycling, rubbish collection, planning, air quality, trees and electric vehicle charging points.
Southfield Ward Forum Chair, Councillor Gary Busuttil said: "There were so many questions that residents asked in advance and the feedback from residents who attended was very positive. Liberal Democrats commit to running some virtual meetings even after the Coronavirus lockdown is reversed as some people said they would not be able to attend face to face ward meetings because of child or family responsibilities."
Last week the Liberal Democrats in Ealing put a budget amendment to ensure that the Ward Forum meetings which Labour planned to scrap, would not be axed. In the build up to the meeting Ealing Labour party reversed its total cut of the ward forums by delaying the moment they will be cut by one year. This gives a chance for residents and Liberal Democrat councillors to continue our campaign to save ward forum meetings.
Liberal Democrats would:
1 - Guarantee that ward forums would continue with budgets forever.
2 - Enable online local referenda like many other countries do to help Ealing Council spend money on projects that people want and need.
3 - Engage more formally with Residents Associations who often are ignored by the Council.
4 - Allow councillors to have the power to decide how a much greater share of the Council’s environmental budgets would be spent on their area with greater involvement from residents and businesses.
After an inspection which took place at the end of 2019, OFSTED rated Ealing Council’s children’s’ services as “requires improvement to be good”.
The report included processes and treatment of vulnerable children including 'looked after' children and care leavers. There were 6 areas where Labour-run Ealing Council have been told to improve, including three most damning areas:
1) Quality of response to those at risk of being homeless and children who might be taken in care:
Children and young adults, often from abusive home environments, should always be treated as a priority to be housed as they are the most vulnerable group with the biggest risk of safety.
2) How responses to referrals and child protection enquiries are dealt with:
The lack of a consistent response to many referrals or tip offs is a reason that Labour-run Ealing Council may be putting children who are possibly living in an abusive environment, or suffering from domestic violence, at risk of danger.
3) Lack of accommodation for care leavers:
Those freshly out of care often require more support to re-integrate into everyday lives, yet they are let down by the Labour-run Ealing Council where the report indicates they have failed to consistently provide the suitable accommodation essential for them to be able to lead independent lives and become contributing members of our society.
An Ealing Council report showed that Labour-run Ealing Council have been issuing many more fines than two years ago. Many residents have experienced many examples of where they have been fined in error and recieved a refund, often after having to make a formal complaint against the Council.
Last summer residents were not informed by the Council that their parking permit was due to expire, residents also received many parking fines. After residents complained, the Council initially said they could not be refunded despite the failures of the Council's own IT system. Councillor Andrew Steed took up the issue, asking questions and contacting the Chief Executive.
Since Freshways were first established on Eastman Road, Acton there have been issues relating to noise nuisance and additional traffic. Over the years Ealing Council have successfully taken the Dairy to court, most recently this month when the Directors were fined over Planning Enforcement issues. An on-going concern is the parking of large milk container trucks parked on The Vale. It is now a regular occurrence that up to six trucks are parked at any one time, particularly late afternoon and evening.
After a period of speculation it has been confirmed that the budgets have been cut for all Ward Forums in Ealing. The last Southfield Ward Forum will be on 1st April 2020 in St Albans Church, South Parade at 7.30 pm.
In the ten years that they have been in existence they have provided an important means for residents to meet their elected representatives and the local police team, to raise issues and be updated on events in their area. In addition, having a local budget has enabled local ideas and suggestions to be implemented: be it the lighting on Acton Green and Southfield Rec, funding local charities which helped many children and the elderly, to contributing to the murals at Turnham Green, and the planting of hundreds of trees across the ward.