Well, we now know for certain what everybody had already assumed - that the general election will be held on the same day as this year's local elections, on Thursday, 6th May.
Naturally this will complicate things a little, not only because it is likely to induce a higher turnout in the locals as those attending the polling station are likely, once they are there, to use their other vote, but also because voters will by May 6th have been inundated by the national media with big party politics and the challenge for us therefore is to keep them thinking local.
The ICG will not be taking part in the general election. Our leadership has made it clear that we would like to see the back of the incumbent MP Ann Keen as we feel it is important that borough residents have Members of Parliament who are prepared to work with the local authority regardless of which party or parties happen to be in office at the Civic Centre. However now it is upon us my view is that we will not be devoting too much attention to the shortcomings of our MP, but rather will be concentrating our efforts on getting our own people elected onto the council.
The ICG is fielding a total of nine candidates - Councillor Phil Andrews, Councillor Paul Fisher and Andy Sibley in Isleworth; Councillor Caroline Andrews, Councillor Shirley Fisher and Councillor Jon Hardy in Syon; and Tricia Doran, Cheryl-Ann Khan and Martin Murphy in Hounslow South.
Our policy platform is fairly simple - we wish to empower our community. Whilst recognising that the local authority has an obligation to provide for those who cannot speak out for themselves and who need help and assistance we will not use this as an excuse, as the previous Labour administration did, for exercising political control over the rest of the community. We want to see active, vibrant and independent civic societies, associations and amenity groups operating throughout the community, even if sometimes it means them challenging us as elected members. The Community Group does not consider it has anything to fear from an engaged community.
Whilst our Conservative coalition partners supported our Empowerment aspirations throughout the last four years, we feel their primary interest is low tax and that in the event of an all-out Conservative administration the community agenda is likely to be sidelined. Whilst we support the drive for low tax, we in the ICG see it as a means to an end rather than the end itself. Thus it is our view that the best result for our community at the local elections on May 6th would be once again for the ICG to hold the balance of power on an authority that is under No Overall Control.
ICG councillors will continue to put their own constituents and wards first and will fight for any resources that become available. We will not relent in identifying Section 106 and other funding for local projects, cohesion initiatives and general improvements for those we represent.
We are not satisfied that the new administration which assumed office in 2006 and of which we have been part has completely succeeded in changing the culture within the council bureaucracy. We believe the PIP process, whilst very welcome, was primarily cost driven and that the co-operation of chief officers with this project and with general budget setting has led our partners to look away while our own Empowerment agenda has been frustrated and obstructed by elements within the senior management. Some substantial rectification of this situation is likely for us to be an essential precondition of any future coalition agreement.
Lastly (for the time being) we will continue to provide a voice for the community on such vitally important local issues as Mogden. The campaign against the nefarious activities of Thames Water has demonstrated the value of elected members throwing their weight behind a successful organic initiative by residents.
At the time of writing we have less than thirty days to underscore all the valuable work that we have currently done to open up the process of our local government still further. ICG activists will be unrelenting in our efforts to secure four more years in which to implement our objectives.