Annual Borough Council on Tuesday night saw some major changes - for us in the ICG anyway - in the team to be fielded by the administration for its final year in office before the 2010 local elections.
First and foremost came the change of Mayor. It doesn't seem like a month, let alone a year, since our own Councillor Dr. Genevieve Hibbs assumed the honour of becoming the borough's first citizen, but last night she was replaced by Conservative Chiswick Riverside councillor Paul Lynch. Likewise her Deputy Councillor Shirley Fisher was succeeded by Councillor Barbara Harris. Both will, I have no doubt, prove to be inspired appointments.
Both Genevieve and Shirley have done the ICG proud. The ICG duo imposed their own personalities on the office and enhanced the reputation of our Group throughout the borough and outside of it. Anybody who might have felt that their appointments last year were a less than serious sop to a needed coalition partner will have found themselves surprised. Genevieve held pride of place amongst the short but growing line of "characters" who have held the office of Mayor since the formation of the new administration in 2006.
More personal to me, of course, was my decision to stand down as Lead Member for Housing and Community Safety and as a member of the Executive.
In what has been almost three years of office I have done too much and made too many good friends to be able to do it all justice here. I can only say that I have worked with some first class officers and partners and that I wish every one of them all the very best of luck for the year ahead and for the future.
In Housing my first task when assuming my role in 2006 was the Hounslow Homes Management Review, which became a battleground for two conflicting sets of ideals. My mission, indeed it had been my only mission when the ICG was first launched in 1994, was a simple one - to create a level playing field on our estates which would enable all residents to become involved in the process of estate management if they so wished irrespective of their politics. That I managed to achieve this at the end of an almighty battle was due in no small part to the tenaciously loyal service that I received during that struggle in particular from Susanna White (now moved on to pastures new), Sue Witherspoon, Barbara Perry and Yvonne Birch, and from other officers who were part of their team.
In the field of Community Safety and in the associated areas of Equalities and Community Cohesion there are so many officers who have given me their total, and sometimes very vocal backing that I am frightened to try to list them in case I leave anybody out, but they all know who they are and I shall miss the terrible accents (Amolak) and the even more terrible haircuts (Emmanuel) that I encountered so frequently as I strolled through the pavilion.
It would be wrong not to give special mention to the Head of Community Safety, Kirti Sisodia, who manages the department so well, as well as Uttam Gujral, Joan Conlon, Celia Golden, Sabin Malik (cruelly taken from us by Whitehall), Kate Tomkinson, Kathy Riley, Permjit, Adrian, Moushami, Aine .... I thought I wasn't going to mention names! Seriously, every last one of them did me really, really proud.
The sense of sadness that comes with stepping down however is tempered by the knowledge that the Group will be represented on the Executive by two huge and growing talents in Councillor Paul Fisher (Isleworth) and Councillor Jon Hardy (Syon). Between the three of us we've enjoyed much debate over the last couple of years about who should play what role at the top table, but Paul had demonstrated such a command of his portfolio over the past year and Jon suggests so much promise that I'm not in the slightest doubt that me standing down was the right thing for me to do at this particular time.
Having shuffled the pack, Paul now passes Service Improvement to Jon who is also Lead Member for Housing. In turn Paul inherits Community Safety to add to his Community Engagement and (bizarrely) Parking portfolios. Paul will handle the Executive side of my responsibilities to Brentford Football Club, whilst to the likely delight of some Jon assumes responsibility for managing our relations with Thames Water over Mogden.
It's not exactly retirement, alas. As well as remaining Leader of the Community Group on the local authority I have also been nominated to the Board of Hounslow Homes, an interesting progression from having been Lead Member. Last night (Wednesday), less than 24 hours after having been confirmed as a Board Member, I sat at St. Catherine's House in the company of Alf, Mohammed, Gillian, Bernadette, David and Jill - all people I had worked with so closely (and I like to think so well) in my previous incarnation - making decisions as part of the management team that will have to be considered by the new Lead Member.
Looking at one or two comments on other threads it would appear that there is already some speculation as to the reasons behind my decision. Nobody suspects altruism in the world of politics. But, like a successful football manager, my brief is to play the right players in the right positions during the right match.
I believe I have got that decision right.