A spooky moment at The Magpie with Harmonica Lewinsky
On Thursday evening I first of all had the “Tackling Inequalities” session. This is mainly about race inequality and grew out of the unhappy, though sadly not unexpected, fact that people from minority backgrounds have been hit disproportionately hard by COVID.
It is a complex subject and we were presented with a variety of data. The topic that caught my eye was debt. If you exclude mortgages – which are often offset against significant assets – there are strong links between high debt and deprivation (and ethnicity). Again this is not really a surprise and in a recent previous life I spent a number of years involved with the credit union movement, which tries to offer a better form of borrowing for those with little income than the heavily advertised payday lenders and ‘rent to buy’ stores. Happily Wonga (from the first category) and BrightHouse (from the second) no longer trade but there are plenty of other sharks snapping at poor people’s incomes. Our local Credit Union is an antidote to dodgy lenders and Fair For You the antidote to rent to buy outfits.
Then we had a private cabinet meeting to run through the items that will be coming to the formal meeting on 15 June. Quite a long agenda and my main bit was the trading companies’ performance report for Q4, which is a pretty easy sell.
On Friday morning I booked a COVID test, partly because we are encouraging people to get tested and I thought I should try it, and partly because I was visiting people over the weekend and didn’t want to take risks with their health. I was tested at Isleworth Library, like my previous test, but this time the system worked and I got an all clear a few minutes after.
Back for an update on the Brentford Arts Trail preparations, followed by one to discuss improving litter etc around Feltham Station. Great local volunteers driving that and we’ll do our bit to Make Feltham Finer.
In the afternoon a Hounslow’s Promise trustee meeting. Reports back on our mentoring programme for sixth formers which seems to have been very successful, and we decide that we want to extend the programme to 18-24 year olds who are having trouble getting their life going. We will be seeking funding to support that from a variety of funders but before we get going we will need a bank account of our own, which is quite a tortuous activity for a charity, so Seema Malhotra and I agree to have a serious crack at this on Wednesday.
That’s the week over, and a Bank Holiday weekend ahead. In the evening I decide to go to the Magpie and take in Harmonica Lewinsky, accompanied by my boat-dwelling neighbour, Simon.
I am slightly spooked by the picture behind them. It is the spitting image of my friend Paula who decamped to Brighton 30 odd years ago and who invited me to her birthday party which happens to take place this very Saturday.
This was my first live music session since the slightly weird one at the Brewery Tap last March, where I ended up being the only customer for the last song as we were all starting to get spooked about COVID. That’s my excuse for becoming slightly intoxicated. Anyway, the beer was fine, the music finer and the company excellent and I managed to get home safe.
Saturday I had agreed to take my bike on the train with a friend for a magical mystery tour, which turned out to be around Windsor and Eton. Gorgeous day and lots of gentle cycling by field and river - what a nice way to start a long weekend. Perhaps it was a slight hangover that stopped me taking any pictures.
Oh, and of course when I got back I heard of a rather momentous event in the story of our friendly little town: our friendly little footy club have hit the big time, defying all the sceptics (mainly, in my experience, Brentford fans who keep their glasses determinedly half-empty to avoid disappointment). I was hoping to catch a glimpse of The Melvinator in the stands and although I didn’t see him I was happy to spot a few local deadbeats looking rather pleased with themselves. Well, I didn’t get any pictures of my day but Mel sent me these dazzlingly green and red ones from Wembley. I was impressed they had painted the seats red in the Bees’ honour.
Sunday I cycled to Victoria, then back on a train down to Beckenham for a garden picnic. Another lovely day and so nice to be able to get out a bit and this garden deserves to win a prize
It’s always tempting to use Bank Holidays to catch up with email etc, especially after two idyllic summer days, but I decided I was going to have a proper day off and only do leisure activities like bike rides and even walks and reading. Oh, and a very Black Dog and rather splendid chicken burger thing with a friend of mine.
Tuesday, back to the West London Waste grind. Well, it’s hardly a big grind but it does mean getting up and at it for 9.30, We are quite pleased that the government (DEFRA) seems genuinely to be consulting about how to improve the way recycling and waste is organised – at present policies are terribly unhelpful and some things like the labelling regime might have been specifically designed to confuse and obfuscate – but of course local authorities have been here before and a bit like a dog with a cruel master we fear that no matter how faithfully we serve we will end up getting a good kicking in the end.
I spend the day with those darned emails – I see I sent 57 and it was one of those days that no matter how hard I went at it there were always 30 unread in my council inbox. Everything from the local amateur football club, leaks on the road and in somebody’s flat, fly tipping, missed bins, proposed parties in the square by Kew Bridge, ah, and Chiswick’s pesky foxes. The editor of the Chiswick Calendar had phoned me whilst I stalked the aisles of Chiswick M&S on Monday to ask for an on the record comment about vandalism against the traffic counters our officers had installed in South Chiswick. I said it was a diabolical liberty, or words to that effect, but one of my Conservative colleagues in Turnham Green demanded I apologise because it wasn’t vandalism at all, merely playful Chiswick fox cubs who had managed to rip up umpteen of these. Well, far be it from me to judge, and the Chiswick Calendar has commented upon this dispute far more eloquently than I could manage. I’m not sure, but I understand our traffic team are making this a police matter in which case here’s an artist’s impression of what comes next.
I have seen a comment on ChiswickW4 “Point of order. I've only examined the rubber tubing in my street but it looks like no crowbar was involved, just a sharp blade; the bolts were still in the road. I can also report that no teeth appear to have been used.” I think Reynard might call this as evidence in his defence, the crafty beggar.
Oh, back to serious stuff. On Tuesday afternoon I attend a licensing panel about an online grocer which has started operating from the Brook Lane North industrial estate and now wants to add alcohol to the offering. For me, that of itself is not contentious but we have secured some concessions in terms of hours of operation and a help line. They dealt quite harshly with a delivery driver who a resident reported driving his electric scooter on the pavement – this person was fired – which is reassuring. The Melvinator was on the call as were a number of residents who are unhappy about this development as deliveries inevitably go through residential streets. I’m afraid I’m the villain of the piece, because I thought the application was OK, whilst Mel was arguing against it. Residents would have preferred it refused I think, but I couldn’t see it would really make much difference to their problem as the grocer could carry on selling and delivering groceries. In the end it was approved, with some extra conditions.
In the evening we had member training on Safeguarding. As councillors we have duties to look out for people, particularly children, who may be endangered and as you can imagine this is not a straightforward matter. I must say that in my 6 years as a councillor I have yet to encounter a safeguarding case that needed my intervention but it’s really important to know a bit about how it works and even more importantly who to talk to if you do suspect problems. I think you could spend 30 years as a councillor and still have heaps to learn.
On Wednesday morning I visited a resident in her home (yes, real visits to real people, albeit masked and distanced) to investigate a series of issues with plumbing and damp. I ended up adding a lot of data to casework that my colleague Corinna Smart had already raised. I hope we can bring this to a satisfactory conclusion, and quickly.
Then it was a conference call with Seema Malhotra whilst we jointly tried to complete the application for a charity current account. After I had recorded my name, address, date of birth, inside leg measurement, first pet’s name etc they said ‘Ah, this is a charity account – you cannot carry on online, please ring this number’. Yes, you’ve guessed it, ‘we are experiencing astonishingly high demand today so you’ll have to wait’. ‘Your call is extremely important to us and with luck you’ll get bored and give up’. Anyway, eventually a charming Scottish lady answered, did a security check involving the name of my first pet etc etc then said ‘ah, this is a charity account, I’ll have to put you on hold and speak to somebody’ then ‘ah, sorry, I can’t deal with this but somebody will call you back. Sometime. Maybe’. We’ll get there. It may be 2027, but we’ll get there in the end.
In the evening a Lampton Leisure board meeting. It’s a slightly tense time because today (1 st June) is when the first direct debits from members are collected and until they’ve gone through that cycle they won’t really know where they are, though the signs have been very promising and people who visit the centres are very positive. Fingers crossed.
This morning, Thursday, I’m out in Cranford meeting local councillors and a large posse of residents about various concerns and wish lists. In the afternoon, a COVID update. Across the borough our numbers are stable or actually going down a bit, but we’re still quite high compared with other areas. Even Brentford ward is quite affected, though when you dig the 14 people identified with the ‘Variant of Concern’ here are all linked to a single social event. Food for thought, and I ask for (and I think we’ll get) surge testing locally. Meanwhile if you’re over 30 you can now book a vaccination. Delighted my daughter (who Is 31) got herself Pfizered today 😊
Late Thursday evening now and time for bed. Be safe, get yourself jabbed ASAP and get yourself tested whether jabbed or not. It matters.
Cllr Guy Lambert
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June 4, 2021