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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.