It is not under normal circumstances the done thing to be discussing in public the internal business of the coalition which manages the London Borough of Hounslow. However when a magazine arrives through the letter-boxes of scores of thousands of residents that contains a story of major import with which this coalition partner would take fundamental issue it is rather too late to be having the discussion behind closed doors.
The article to which I refer was, of course, the full-page apologia in the local authority's house magazine Hounslow Matters for the policy of our coalition partners towards the proposed expansion by Thames Water of Mogden Sewage Works in Isleworth. That policy, as we know, is to give Thames Water carte blanche to turn an already mismanaged site into a larger mismanaged site, with all the potential for increased mismanagement which that must inevitably entail. Despite a lot of unconvincing and frankly half-hearted twaddle about the approval giving the local authority "more control" over Thames Water's activities (control which it already had, but has hitherto declined to use), the primary rationale for permission being granted was clearly a cost-driven reluctance to take on Thames Water at any possible appeal hearing. Having been unprepared to incur the displeasure of Thames Water, the resultant displeasure of the residents who are to be the victims of the decision then had also to be addressed. Hence the article.
As Leader of the Community Group, the problem with the article for me is that attempting to sell residents our partners' side of the story can only possibly be done by implying that our own take on the subject, which is completely different, must ipso facto be in some way or another erroneous. That the local authority's Communications team was willing to do this has effectively served notice on us that it considers itself to be working for one party to the coalition only.
Worse still, the article quite deviously attempted to associate the Community Group itself with the decision to grant approval to the expansion plans by only quoting the (ICG) Lead Member, and in such a way as to imply that he supported this quite appalling decision.
As a consequence of this latest development Community Group postholders will henceforth increasingly be liaising with the local media through our own channels of communication. And on the particular subject of Mogden we will be liaising with residents in the way that we have always done best.
It is my personal view that we in the Community Group have enjoyed a good relationship with our coalition partners and one which has flourished in an atmosphere of goodwill and trust. I see no reason why this should not continue. However we are increasingly of the view that there are some within the organisation who are taking us for fools and who feel they are doing our partners some kind of service by provoking us in an ever more brazen and obvious way as we head towards next year's local elections. Like everyone who has crossed our paths over the years, they will have cause to reconsider.