|South Acton Councillors' February Report|
Acton High Street, Berrymede school and hospital closures
Welcome to the latest update on what has been happening over the last month from South Acton’s three Labour councillors, it’s been another busy four weeks with John as mayor continuing to represent the borough from one end of Ealing to the other, while Yvonne keeps an eye on council finances and I keep my ear to the ground which I did by holding the regular Ruskin Hall surgery in mid January. Again we continue to see an increased number of visitors, with housing remaining a key issue as well as access to council services and support.
On 19 January John and I were joined by Acton Central Labour councillors Dan Crawford and Abdullah Gulaid at Ealing Town Hall as we looked to get more information on the proposed transport changes to Acton high street. There are a number of proposals being put forward and we have argued that pedestrian safety remains paramount, but there also needs to be a focus on improving traffic flow and limiting congestion as well as mitigating any chance for local disruption. We are awaiting the final outlines, but work on acceptable changes can be scheduled to go ahead at the eastern end of the high street in the shorter term, while further work on more significant issues may not be expected until the autumn; we are looking at finalising proposals to limit any impact on the residential roads at the Gunnersbury Lane end of the changes.
Still on the subject of transport and one of the other developments has been the government’s go ahead for HS2. Although this is likely to have a lesser impact on South Acton ward as a council we have adopted a position of ‘objectors in principle’ and we received a detailed update last month; it was an issue that came up at full council; more of which later.
The end of January was quite packed, Yvonne had two cabinet meetings this month (on 10 and 24 Jan). The main news out of the first cabinet in terms of South Acton was the agreement to expand the number of school places at Berrymede Infant and Junior Schools which is going ahead to deal with the shortage of places in the area. As a governor at both schools I welcome this move which - with the transformation of the Priory back into a school – will help to deal with the pressures faced by parents in the area. The news from the second meeting was the updated budget strategy moving to identifying more of the £85 million of cuts that the council must make, it is hard but the cabinet, council officers but Labour is working hard to look at all avenues for savings while minimising job losses and protecting front line services and the most vulnerable in the borough.
The day after Yvonne was at the second cabinet I chaired the latest audit committee (25 Jan); Ealing has had a good report from its external auditors and continues to be meeting the demands for deep cuts under difficult circumstances; a factor noted by the auditors who praised the work by members and officers. There has also been some good news in that it looks like some £2 million of funds invested with Iceland’s Glitnir, which had been thought lost due to the financial crisis, will be returned to the council, and the auditors also noted the positive effects of the return of Ealing Homes in house praising the transfer process, risk management and keeping tenants informed. The transfer in house should save Ealing council some £5.5 million in all.
In what was a busy week the next day (26 Jan) I joined a number of Ealing councillors for a scrutiny panel meeting with Sir Merrick Cockell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea council. The latest Ealing scrutiny committee which takes place tonight (9 Feb) is looking at shared services and this was a fact finding mission to see how K&C, along with Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster have been trying to deliver savings via shared services. The project was announced with a fanfare and planned savings of £100 million, that has now dropped to £33 million, although we were informed that just over £3 million has so far been identified as savings. The leader of K&C was an interesting character, not what I necessarily expected, and he answered a wide range of questions in detail; I even managed to get the final question in. It was a worthwhile visit that will help to inform my contributions at tonight’s meeting. The scrutiny team should be commended for arranging it.
On the community front the plans for the new town hall complex, swimming pool and library have been on view in the (current) local library over recent weeks, and in terms of housing and regeneration Acton Gardens held another masterplan event at the end of January (John was in attendance) as well as the regular board meeting (with John and Yvonne). The next phase of housebuilding south of Bollo Bridge Road is progressing.
The other main event was full council last week (31 Jan). It was another boisterous occasion, again well chaired by John who helped to maintain order. It was a long night with debates on HS2 where a clear message was sent to the government that Ealing must be treated fairly. The main Labour motion was on the threat to local hospitals; the Labour group made sure that Ealing voted to back Central Middlesex hospital remaining a general hospital. The Tories pushed a motion on what the mayor of London had done to support families, interestingly in all their interventions they just talked about what Ken Livingstone had done or was proposing, either the Tories think Ken is still mayor, or Tory Boris has no achievements to talk about. Ken’s fare deal is going down well, he has pledged to cut fares by seven per cent on 7 October, and this week he also pledged to add to police numbers that would restore a police sergeant to the South Acton safer neighbourhood team, after the cut seen last month.
The next council meeting is at the end of this month (28 Feb), we will be setting the budget for the coming year. The good news is Ealing Labour has once again pledged to freeze the council tax even though the government’s support in financial terms means Ealing will take an extra hit next year. I generally try to liveblog council on the night, so if you are on Twitter follow me @miksabiers for the latest updates.
And that’s about it for now, after yesterday’s surgery at the Oak Tree centre on Saturday week (18 Feb) I’ll be at Ruskin Hall from 11:00-12:00 for the regular surgery if anyone has any issues they would like us to look into. Other than that any queries just drop us a line.
John, Yvonne and Mik
John Gallagher – firstname.lastname@example.org – 020 8993 0017
12th February 2011