Thursday, 31 July 2008

Doing what we do best

Hounslow's six community councillors spend a tremendous amount of their time attending meetings and working for residents of the borough in ways which might not always be understood or recognised.

Amongst our number we have a Mayor, a Deputy Mayor, two Executive members, a Hounslow Homes Board Member, an Area Committee Chair, an Area Committee Vice Chair, Scrutiny Panel Chair and four Trustees of a local housing charity (yes, that does entail some doubling-up!).

It is not unknown for me to attend five, six, sometimes even seven meetings back-to-back with nary a break in-between for a bite to eat.

But none of this would be to any avail if we failed to remember why it was that the good people of Isleworth and Syon wards elected us to office in the first place.

The ICG has a proud history of militant activity on behalf of local residents. From the Worton Green campaign to Geco, the fight against Post Office closures, our campaigning on the Woodlands, the Holiday Inn demo, the successful work we did to improve the 267 bus service, the protests against New Labour's callous closure of the John Aird House residential care home and of course our ongoing work with residents over the odour and mosquito problems inflicted on us by Thames Water's Mogden plant, the ICG has consistently led the way.

So when Councillor Caroline Andrews (above left), my wife and one of the three elected members for Syon ward, called a meeting of residents from Smallberry Avenue to try to get some action over the ongoing issue of the fencing (or lack of it) at the rear of their properties, some of us felt a warming sense of deja vu.

Rather than book a hall, Caroline figured that with the nice weather we could probably get away with calling residents out into the cul-de-sac for a street meeting. The police were advised lest we be confronted by hordes of angry demonstrators. The offending developer, Bellway Homes, was also invited, as was a planning officer from the London Borough of Hounslow. Neither attended, but more on that at a later date.

The meeting had been called for 6.30 pm. At 6.32, Caroline and I were standing like two spare parts on the corner of the street, watching doors and windows for any sign of life. Then two residents' representatives from Primrose Place arrived to join us, and the four of us embarked upon another five minutes or so of nervous curtain-watching. Was this really such a big issue to local residents? Had we been wasting our time?

And then the weirdest thing happened. About half a dozen front doors opened more or less simultaneously, and the residents who had evidently been lurking behind them emerged as one onto the street. Then another half dozen, then more. The residents instinctively walked in small groups of two, three and four down towards to alley at the bottom of the road. What had looked like a ghost town only two or three minutes earlier now resembled a march. In all, nearly thirty residents from this small street gathered under the watchful eye of three local police officers, who joined in with the banter and fun.

Those present quickly agreed on a proposed solution to their problems, and an ad-hoc committee of representatives was formed to engage with local councillors and the developer. We assured residents that a more proactive and supportive attitude from our planners would be forthcoming, and that we were confident of achieving our objectives through one means or through another. Everybody went home relatively happy, and Caroline and I politely declined more than one invitation to join residents at their homes for a cup of tea or something stronger, although on another occasion I'm sure we'll have more time.

This little activity, for me, served to remind me of why I decided to involve myself in local community politics in the first place. Street activism, working constructively and as one with our people at the grass roots. It's what we've always done best.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So our overstretched boys in blue were overseeing your cosy little street party were they ?
Blimey, no wonder I couldn't get hold them to open my stubborn pickle jar that evening.

(Flatulent, 22 stone pickle-eater)