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Corporate Plan Update 2013-14

by Nigel Bakhai on 11 June, 2013

Please find below a copy of my speech to the June 2013 council meeting relating to the council’s corporate plan:

Thank you Mr Mayor. First of all, I would like to thank the Chief Executive and his officers for their efforts over the last 3 years in difficult economic circumstances. We all knew after the elections in May 2010 that no matter who was running the country or this borough, the council faced a difficult task maintaining or improving standards when money is tight. By and large officers have managed to do so with only a few bumps along the road- unless of course you’ve been cycling on the Uxbridge Road recently.

The foreword to the corporate plan extolls the virtues of the fact that the council has not closed any libraries but, Mr Mayor, we all know that they had to back down from plans to close 4 libraries under pressure from residents, and while I welcome the investment in Hanwell library which is due to re-open soon, this is being funded by the return of the money invested in the Icelandic bank and they have cut the minimum number of hours that it will be open. Ask users of Stirling Road & Learning Curve and their carers if the council is living up to its priority of protecting the most vulnerable members of our society and if they think that the council is “making the best better” and I think  they would probably laugh at you if they weren’t so angry. The council has frozen council tax which is of benefit to our residents who are facing a strain on their household budgets but many of the poorest residents in the borough will now have to pay more council tax this year after this administration decided to withdraw their council tax support.

Nevertheless, there are items in the corporate plan which the Lib Dem group have supported such as the investment in regenerating our housing estates like Green Man Lane in my ward and in our schools. In particular, I would like to mention the plans to rebuild St John’s Primary School as part of the Green Man Lane estate redevelopment. The corporate plan describes these as “imaginative” and while no-one would disagree with the principle of rebuilding the school to meet the increased need for school places, many of my residents in Felix Road and Alexandria Road would describe the proposal for a three storey school with 2 extra storeys of residential housing on top as “barmy” and out of keeping with their 2 storey Victorian cottages. I fully expect those imaginative plans will be dropped by the time that they go back to Cabinet for approval later this year and that we will probably see the same plans that Rydon proposed several years ago which the council turned down at the time.

Nevertheless I have to take issue with the council’s stated achievements in Making Ealing Cleaner where it claims the council has “worked constructively to deliver high performing refuse, recycling, cleaning and ground maintenance” and improved “street cleanliness”. The start of the Enterprise contract last April was an unmitigated disaster and there are still on-going problems more than a year later. As an example, I received the following email from a frustrated resident in St Marks Road today complaining about the continuing performance issues relating to Enterprise in Olde Hanwell:

“Since Enterprise have taken over the rubbish collection ‘service’ (and I use that term loosely) has been appalling.  Despite me putting out my rubbish (along with my neighbours) after 7am on collection day it is still not collected…. and this isn’t the first time either.  I have had to request an additional pick up of my rubbish and my recycling on several occasions (at additional cost to the council no doubt!) I have emailed through a request to the council on how I lodge a formal complaint but would like to know  if you too could raise my concerns within the council.”

In addition, I have personally tried using the Grimebusters hotline. The phone call was efficiently handled and I have absolutely no problem with the council wanting to offer a 24 hour service for residents to report their emergency street cleansing issues but what is the point if the fly-tipping is not removed within 24 hours and the rubbish is left to sit on the pavement. Furthermore, the streets of Hanwell have not been washed for two years despite the fact that it is stipulated in the contract with Enterprise that they should be done every 6 months. I was told in an answer to one of my council questions last October that the streets would be washed by the end of March. Well, it is June and we are all still waiting. The council should really have taken Enterprise to task and fined them for their poor performance and now really needs to get a grip of their new owners Amey.

There is very little in this corporate plan to identify it as being from a Labour council, even if the council leader would have residents believe in his leader’s column in the Gazette that all the council’s recent achievements are solely down to the Labour group. It is a sign of how well the officers run the council that the Leader can afford to change portfolio holders with a year to go before the elections and it makes absolutely no difference to the way the council is run – he could probably have replaced the whole cabinet and no-one would have noticed. In reality, we all know this is very much an officer led administration and officers should be commended for steering this ship through choppy waters.

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