We asked Conservative, Labour and Lib Dems for their views on key local matters
Have you decided yet who you will vote for on May 6th? To help you make up your mind, we asked Angie Bray (Conservative), Bassam Mahfouz (Labour) and Jon Ball (Liberal Democrat) to tell us their thoughts on three key local issues - taken from a list of suggestions given by the candidates themselves. The topics chosen are: Regeneration of Acton Town Centre, the Health Service and Policing.
Regeneration of Town Centre and South Acton Estate
Angie Bray: While May 6th finally gives Acton residents the chance to vote for a change of direction for our country, it also gives them the opportunity to re-elect a Conservative-led Council. This is vital if the much needed investment and improvements that the Council has made across Acton, the Town Centre and the South Acton Estate are to continue. It has invested £12m into Town Centre improvement projects and identified a developer, acceptable to residents, for the South Acton Estate – work is now underway.
I have supported residents and local Councillors in their campaign to re-zone the old industrial area on Horn Lane for office and residential purposes. The arrival of Crossrail will provide the perfect opportunity for a new mixed development policy and improve one of the most polluted roads in London.
Bassam Mahfouz: Rightly the mad-cap proposals the Conservative council had for ‘regeneration’ which would have ripped out the heart of our Town Hall and got rid of our unique pool were vehemently rejected at the public meetings I attended.
Regeneration proposals need real consultations and a master plan to support local businesses and encourage others to set up here. The work of Action Acton with the market cannot be underestimated. The South Acton estate regeneration project must deliver the original government vision of decent homes for every resident and provide amenities as well as better housing at an improved pace.
Jon Ball: The Council's schemes to demolish the popular, vibrant Priory Centre to replace it with flats, downgrade Acton Baths and turn Acton Library over to commercial use were rightly unpopular with residents. I campaigned with them to successfully force the Council to go back to the drawing board and save the heart of Acton. We need to retain and improve Acton Town Centre and its community facilities, and we should not require all new developments to be funded by new residential blocks. Acton often feels like a neglected part of the Borough, especially under the current Conservative administration.
Only £500,000 have been spent on Acton Town Centre regeneration schemes compared to £4.5m on Greenford Town Centre, where the leader of the Council's ward is. South Acton estate regeneration has been far too slow, far too late and badly managed. The conditions on the estate have been shaming under both Labour and Conservative administrations, both in terms of the fabric of the buildings and also the crime and drug issues.
NHS Services (are our A&E departments under threat?)
Angie Bray: The Conservative Party has put the NHS at the heart of its election manifesto. The NHS is a fantastic institution, but there is room for improvement. We have pledged to increase NHS funding year on year above inflation. I have been campaigning locally against the threatened closure of A&E departments at both Ealing and Central Middlesex hospitals and organised a street stall and petition in protest.
I was staggered by the number of people who rushed to sign the petition and express their concern at the closure plans. Of course, in time, new patterns of patient care may be developed, but it would be extraordinarily misguided to close these A&E departments before new services have been developed and people get used to accessing them.
Bassam Mahfouz: Firstly and most importantly I must point out that the Health Minister said recently in Parliament responding to the proposals from civil servants that “There are no proposals to close the A&E department at Ealing … or at Hammersmith”.
Having trebled spending on the NHS from the days of its chronic underinvestment we will not stand and watch vital NHS services diminish. That’s why we’re empowering Acton GPs to be able to make fast referrals for their patients to guarantee diagnosis of cancer within 1 week, operations within 18 weeks as well as earlier detection through annual health checks for 40-74 year olds and expanding the ages at which we scan for cancers.
Jon Ball: Ever since secret plans to close the Accident & Emergency units at Ealing Hospital and Central Middlesex hospital were leaked, I have been campaigning to get these life-threatening threats to our local A&E services lifted.
Acton needs local A&E facilities that we can get to quickly in an emergency. Local traffic is so bad that even an ambulance can get stuck, and Acton would suffer doubly as both Ealing Hospital to the west and Central Middlesex to the north are threatened.
I set up a Facebook group on this issue, which now has over 450 members, have made a series of freedom of information requests to the NHS and attended the recent campaign meeting in Acton.
The Labour government is ultimately responsible for these cuts and we all know we can't trust the Tories on the NHS.
Policing in Acton
Angie Bray: I fully support Conservative Leader of Ealing Council, Jason Stacey’s campaign for more fully-trained police officers on our streets. While the Council have funded an extra 50 PSCOs, we still need a bigger police presence to keep our streets safe, particularly in Acton Town Centre where street drinking is a real concern.
Boris is already leading the way by handing desk jobs to civilians, freeing up police for the beat. Despite what others say, this is not about job cuts. It is about maximising the police presence on the streets, where they’re needed. Conservatives are tough on crime. We will deliver a more visible police presence, tougher sentences and more prison spaces.
Bassam Mahfouz: We’ve seen police numbers increase across Ealing and where you might have had one police officer covering two wards; you now have a team of at least six in each ward.
Extra police are brought in to respond to specific issues and we see on weekend nights increased police presence in our town centre to deal with potential anti-social behaviour. Knife crime has recently re-emerged – the response is surely to protect police spending as I am promising and cutting on paperwork, whilst Boris plans to cut police numbers by 455 across London, which has already had an effect in Ealing with less patrols by new recruits to catch out dangerous drivers without tax or insurance.
Jon Ball: Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson announced in his recent budget that he will cut 455 police officers across London. The cuts will be spread across the Boroughs, so undoubtedly this will reduce much-needed police numbers in Acton.
The Lib Dems on the London Assembly proposed an alternative budget that would have increased police numbers overall and in particular provided funding for an extra police officer in every ward in the boroughs with the highest levels of knife and gun crime, which would have been of direct benefit to Acton. The decision by Boris to reject the Lib Dem amendment was a slap in the face for local residents.
April 15, 2010