Thursday, 29 July 2010

LBH Watch: Postscript

Following on from yesterday's blog article on the launch of LBH Watch I have been taken to task on a local community internet forum for referring to the group as "cross party". It is argued that by using this term I am attempting to imply that LBH Watch has the formal support of all the political parties, when what I actually meant was that its founder members are from across the political spectrum. I am happy to provide clarification.

What is more revealing though is the anger that the formation of the group seems to have invoked from forum users with a political axe to grind. My two critics hail from supposedly "opposite" ends of the political spectrum, one being a former Labour councillor and the other having Conservative leanings.

In the case of the Labour critic it would appear LBH Watch is opposed simply because it intends to identify bad practice whilst the Tory just seems generally pissed that ICG members are still active, lending some credence to my theory that the main objective of the recent Conservative election campaign (incredibly, over and above the desire to actually retain office and keep Labour out) was the sidelining of the ICG by means of a pincer movement involving both of the major parties.

I can confirm that LBH Watch will be just the first of many initiatives through which to compensate the community for the democratic deficit that the reversion to two-party hegemony must inevitably bring in its wake.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

LATEST NEWS: Residents launch LBH Watch

A powerful new resident-led monitoring body has been launched with a view to highlighting and addressing some of the major flaws in the Civic Centre bureaucracy that came to be identified during the last days of the previous council administration.

Endless battles at IBAC (Isleworth & Brentford Area Committee) between elected councillors and intransigent and belligerent Chief Officers revealed some very fundamental deficiencies in the member-officer relationship in Hounslow. ICG councillors in particular encountered a metaphorical brick wall when attempting to open up the process of local government and to introduce more accountability and openness.

Delivering its launch statement, LBH Watch Chair Ian Speed emphasised that the new body enjoyed cross-party support, and its current members were drawn from all across the local political spectrum.

The full statement reads:

"Following the local elections at which all community and third party representation on Hounslow council was wiped out and replaced with a classic two party system only, a group of concerned residents have formed to address any democratic or performance deficits the London Borough of Hounslow may have in administering or delivering its services in your area. The issue that has caught the imagination of most members of the group is Planning, as administered by the Environment & Planning Department and the local Area and council wide Strategic Development Committees. However, we would be very happy to hear from any citizen who has concerns about the way LB Hounslow delivers or administers its services

"We are in the process of designing a website with the following key elements:

  • A High level section for borough wide issues such as Customer Service standards.
  • The key contentious isssues for each of the Area Committees (mainly planning issues and traffic management).
  • A self-help section giving residents a guide as to whom to write to or complain to if they are not happy about the way a service is being delivered or administered.

"We would be interested in hearing from any member of the Hounslow Borough Community who would like to contribute concerns via email or attend one of our meetings. The next meeting is on the evening of Monday 2nd August.

"We have created an email address at Please email us or text/leave a message on 07835 379595 if you wish to attend a meeting".

LBH Watch has also published a list of six Aims and Objectives, which are as follows:

  • We believe Hounslow council services should be run according to best practice within the law.
  • We believe council officers, however senior, should be fully answerable to councillors and local residents and taxpayers.
  • We believe in greater democratic leadership and outward accountability for decision-making to local people.
  • We believe that council staff and members should respond to residents' concerns in a prompt, honest and comprehensive manner and act with impeccable integrity at all times.
  • We believe Hounslow council services should be delivered as transparently and cost-effectively as possible.
  • We encourage members and officers to adhere to the spirit of the Motion on Community Empowerment as approved unanimously by the previous council."

The range of talents and expertise that LBH Watch is already able to call upon is quite simply vast. It will use every means available to highlight bad practice and to bring answerability and transparency to our local government.

I envisage LBH Watch playing a seminal role in ensuring that the concerns of the community are heard during the four years of the current council administration and maybe beyond. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you think you may be able to help.

A week away in Bournemouth

Last week my family and I spent a few nights on the south coast at Bournemouth, the first time we had been away en famille since we visited the Isle of Wight just before Christmas last.

That we were able to do so was purely a result of Caroline's diligence in collecting her Tesco Clubcard points. Unbeknown to me (until a few weeks ago) these can be exchanged for four times their face value on certain services and products, as a consequence of which we were able to spend four nights at the Britannia Hotel, an unpretentious but very pleasant three-star abode a few yards from the top of the scenic East Cliff, at no additional cost.

Bournemouth has one of the cleanest and, in my view, one of the most pleasant seafronts around. The town itself is unspectacular, and it is clear that the local authority invests most heavily in its attractions around the coastline. Although ordinarily I am not into flashy cocktail joints, being more of a traditional pub man, I do recommend the Aruba bar at the entrance to the pier - whether you are looking for a beer, some light food or something more exotic.

During the daytimes we tended to spend most of our time around the beach, where I became very sunburned (including on my scalp thanks to my severe new, "accidental" haircut) and each evening, after a swim, we spent an hour or two in the hotel bar with some light entertainment and several very cold glasses of Bulmers.

When it was time to leave we took a slight detour through the New Forest, where we stopped off at Burley for a cream tea and a close up view of the horses, which my animal-loving daughter Rosie particularly enjoyed.

Much though I love my home town of Isleworth and its very special people I do feel the need to get away at times.
I think we'll visit Bournemouth, and the Britannia, again.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Read only if you are not squeamish...

For me the recent local elections were a bloodbath in more ways than one. On polling day I had to try to marshall the campaign from our makeshift HQ in St. John's whilst negotiating the peculiar phenomenon of a finger on my left hand which, for no obvious reason, periodically presented an upstoppable gush of blood with a velocity that rendered conventional sticking plasters singularly useless.

Over the next several weeks the small wound that this curiously gratuitous activity had generated expanded, first steadily and later rapidly, until a red, raw growth the shape of a mushroom but more resembling a small piece of finest steak burst throught the skin of my finger and took residence in such a position that made it impossible to clench my hand or to grasp objects without very considerable pain.

Having long taken the view that doctors are for wusses, I ignored the pain and inconvenience and put up with it for some time, assuming that the alien presence would tire of bothering me and disappear of its own accord. When it finally became obvious to me that it wouldn't I relented, but the locum at my local surgery had no idea what to make of it, and despatched me to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

My initial visit to SW10 took longer than it might usually have done, as the specialist whom I was eventually to see was for some time preoccupied attending to the victim of a shooting, whilst a dozen or more heavy armed police officers surrounded the hospital building to ensure that the perpetrator of the incident didn't arrive to complete his work. Then when I was seen I was told within minutes that my mystery injury, rather than being some manner of stigmata sent to confer divine recognition of my organisational talent, was in fact a pyogenic granuloma, which medical anoraks or the just plain curious can read all about here.

I was given an appointment for an operation less than 48 hours later, which I had been told would be done under general anaesthetic but was eventually performed under local anaesthetic. Before this could happen my wedding ring needed to be cut off as my finger would swell to almost twice its normal circumference during the operation, and the doctor delegated an underling seemingly trained at Dewhurst to perform the task with maximum brutality.

Since undergoing that minor ordeal I have been trying to protect several stitches which, whenever I've presented them for removal, have invariably not been quite ready. I'm due another visit to my doctor tomorrow at which I'm hoping the dirty deed will finally be done.