Nigel Bakhai's Newsletter
The new Elthorne ward Lib Dem councillor writes
Training – Adult Social Services
On Thursday 10th, I attended a council briefing on Adult Social Services, where we were told about the current pressures on the council, for example in dealing with the increasing demands of an ageing population. The highlight of the briefing, though, was a talk by a service user who explained how he now had more independence by managing his care and controlling his own budget so he was able to do more things like shopping on his own that he never thought possible before.
I had my first council advice surgery on Saturday 12th. I have already had a great deal of casework brought to me since my election including amongst other things potholes, broken fences, planning matters, social services, fly-tipping and streetlights not working. Although I am always available by email or telephone for residents to contact me with their issues, like most elected politicians I also have an advice surgery when constituents can meet me face to face. I have arranged one surgery per month, and my plan is to hold them on the first Saturday in the month at St. Mellitus Church Hall in Church Road, but the church hall was already booked in November so I will be going to the William Hobbayne Centre instead, and in December I have had to book the second Saturday in the month at St.Mellitus Church hall.
This month's council meeting included a debate welcoming the new Coalition Government's decision to scrap plans for a third runway at Heathrow, and a Lib Dem motion on creating a Customer Charter for Ealing Council where my Lib Dem colleague Cllr Andrew Steed made his maiden speech. I submitted a motion in support of a number of Lib Dem manifesto commitments which had been adopted by the new Government that I believe will benefit Ealing residents, including measures which will give patients and local people a greater say over the healthcare provision in the borough that will hopefully safeguard the future of the Accident & Emergency at Ealing Hospital, but unfortunately the meeting ran out of time and we were not able to debate it.
Training – Housing & Regeneration
I had a council briefing on Housing and Regeneration strategy on Thursday 17th where we were told that there are currently around 11,000 households on the housing waiting list in Ealing which is why Ealing Council is embarking on a plan to redevelop eight of its existing estates like Green Man Lane along with new schemes like Dickens Yard and the controversial plans for the Southall Gas Works site. The council's planning department is one of the busiest in London, receiving around 5,000 planning applications (of which about 80% are decided on time within an eight week period) and dealing with 1,000 planning enforcement cases annually. I asked a question about the council's strategy to fill empty shops and was told that the council doesn't own shops and it is working on improving the streetscape in our town centres as well as working on regenerating the housing estates and transport links like Crossrail that will hopefully improve the footfall in the borough's shopping parades.
On Saturday 19th I attended the Hanwell Carnival. This year is the 50th consecutive carnival since it restarted in 1961 and I would like to praise Colin Chalmers and the Carnival committee for the fantastic effort they put into making it such a great success. This year's procession was one of the best in years with amongst others, a number of past Carnival Queens in vintage cars, pupils from Mayfield School in hippie outfits, not to mention the “Red Barrows” with a musical accompaniment of a marching band, steel band and Indian dhol drummers. The highlight of the parade for me, though, which made me laugh the most was a man dressed in a Dominos Pizza costume with colleagues in cardboard cartons all waving their special offer signs.
Training – Data Protection and Freedom of Information
As Councillors we handle a great deal of sensitive data and we were given advice about the need to protect ourselves and the Council in the way that data is dealt with. We were also told about the Council’s responsibility for dealing with Freedom of Information requests from members of the public, businesses, voluntary organisations, or the press. These FOI requests have tripled in the last five years and the Council has a duty to respond within 20 working days under the Freedom of Information Act.
Although I didn’t attend Cabinet, as a Councillor we receive copies of all the Cabinet papers which are weighty in terms of volume and material concerned. This month’s Cabinet had a report on the financial status of the council and formed the basis of the Labour group’s decision to try to find around £21 million in savings this year and £50 million over the next four years in order to freeze council tax. As a responsible opposition, the Lib Dem group and I plan to hold them to account for making these savings without damaging frontline services.
We also had the first meeting of the new Elthorne ward forum at the end of June. Cllr Yoel Gordon is going to chair the first year but as Elthorne is a split ward we will share the responsibility between the three Councillors so Cllr Anita Kapoor and I will have the opportunity to chair the next two years. As there are three meetings every year, the final year can be shared fairly so each of us will have an equal turn to chair the ward forum. With a new committee administrator as well as three new Councillors, it was a case of each of us trying to find our feet and the meeting generally passed off smoothly although the hot topic for this month’s meeting was definitely the future of the skate park proposed for Elthorne Park following the public announcement by the new council Leader of his plans to review the decision by the previous administration.
Councillor Nigel Bakhai
contact: 51 Azalea Court
July 15, 2010