Monday, 15 April 2013

Here We Go Again!

At its most recent meeting the managing Committee of the Independent Community Group (ICG) expressed its great concern that the Group of 15 residents' associations, of which the ICG is a member, would appear to be being given the run-around by the Labour administration at the London Borough of Hounslow in connection with its contribution to the forthcoming and long-awaited Statement of Community Involvement (SCI).

A number of amendments submitted by residents to the original draft SCI were formally adopted by the Planning Committee under the chair of Councillor Theo Dennison back in December 2012. At the time we were advised that the proposed amendments, now with the Planning Committee's official endorsement, would be taken to Cabinet and thereafter to Borough Council in January. January became March and now, as we approach the latter half of April 2013, residents have been advised in a one-liner from Lead Member Ruth Cadbury that the proposed report has been pulled from agenda of the April Cabinet meeting too (with characteristic chutzpah Councillor Cadbury tried to sell this as some kind of good news story for the community on the grounds that "we have more time"!).

Attempts to seek clarification of the position from Councillor Cadbury have, at the time of writing, proved unsuccessful.

The ICG has never been convinced that the Cabinet would be happy to accept the community's lead on this process and it is our view that the process is being dragged out with a view to losing it in the confusion that invariably accompanies the approach of the local elections. Whether this exercise in obfuscation is being led by officers or by the political management of the present administration is really of little import. Both parties have an interest in fending off the residents.

As an activist residents' movement the ICG is committed to the process of empowering our community and we intend to increase the pressure on this administration to adopt an SCI in which G15's expressed concerns retain pride of place. Whether we do this as an active participant in next year's local elections or as a pressure group taking advantage of that event remains to be decided, but either way the present administration needs to understand that this is an issue that is not just going to conveniently disappear from the local agenda.

Friday, 12 April 2013

John Murphy

It was with deep regret that I learned of the passing of former Feltham councillor John Murphy, who sadly lost his battle with cancer on Tuesday morning.

A one-time Labour Party member, John was elected to the London Borough of Hounslow at the local elections of 1998 as the sole Liberal Democrat member for Feltham South. He and his fellow Lib Dems refused to join in with the shrill cackle of indignation which followed my election as a community councillor the same year and we became friends, often enjoying a beer at a local venue in the company of his wife Pat and, sometimes, my own wife Caroline. From very early on it was clear that he was uncomfortable as a party politician and we often discussed the logistics of him becoming an independent without me really believing that he would ever actually go for it.

And then, one day, he did just that. Elected members arriving at a Borough Council meeting one evening were each greeted by a printed statement from John and myself announcing the formation of a new independent political group - the first in the history of the borough. Truth be told it created a slightly uneasy atmosphere for a while between myself and the Lib Dems, with whom I had got on well, but it was John's decision alone and of course I was pleased to have him as a comrade.

In 2002 John, Pat and another candidate contested the local elections on behalf of their newly-created West Hanworth Independent Group (the WHIGs) but were unsuccessful. But they continued to support us in the ICG in our work and were almost ever-presents at our regular pre-election Friday night drinks in Isleworth, Brentford and Hounslow. Even after illness had compelled John to renounce the demon liquor he, along with Pat, would still make the journey over and take part in the deep converations that abounded in every corner, satisfied (apparently) by his J2O.

John's specialist subject was undoubtedly health, and he could talk interestingly for hours about the pros and cons of our local health provision. He was also involved in some interesting issues around his parish, which made for more than a few amusing conversations.

John was an eccentric in the best tradition - persistent when he had a point to make, always humorous, deeply dedicated, sometimes awkward. He was one of those characters who loom large in their surrounds and who change the dynamic of any meeting they attend just by being present. Already his commitment, character and campaigning skills have been acknowledged by former councillors from across the spectrum. He would have been pleased by that.

My condolences go out to Pat and to all his family, friends and loved ones.