Pastor David Wise of Greenford Baptist Church should perhaps stand as a councillor as he obviously fancies himself as a bit of a politician. Last night he presented a 700 name petition to the council in favour of the second phase of the Northala Fields project.
As I went into the council chamber the good pastor was directing his minibus full of congregation up to the gallery and urging them to line the rail of the gallery. The minibus full showed their appreciation of the pastor after his sermon and supported Councillor Mahfouz and the Labour group in their defence of the big vision thing over Councillor Stacey’s down to earth approach.
The pastor has put his speech, including recordings from the council chamber, up on his church’s website so you can decide for yourself by following the link.
Jason Stacey, the leader of Ealing council, responded to the petition and started off by asking the pastor to read out the actual petition (also on the church’s website). This went a long way to bursting the pastor’s balloon:
- The council is going to complete the park, not downgrade it.
- The council is going to spend the park’s surplus on the park, not reallocate it.
- The funding for Phase 2 does not exist in anyone’s budget, certainly not the previous Labour administration’s.
- There will be no loss of amenities unless you count visitor’s centres as essentials rather than nice-to-haves.
The council’s discussion of this subject went all the way to the guillotine and indeed beyond it. I had the chance to make my maiden speech and made the last speech on the subject. I had prepared something but decided to wing it.
The thrust of my contribution was to point out that although Phase 1 has been a great success and is a credit to all involved it is entirely different from Phase 2. Phase 1 was a straight business proposition. You can dump waste on our site, we will charge you and build a park. This was a great trick but one that can’t be repeated once the site is landscaped.
Phase 2 is totally different. To achieve this someone needs to go cap in hand to various “funders”. These people all have small allocations and strict criteria. Rustling up the odd £5 million will be very hard and in any case most funders would expect matching funding from the council, money that is simply not available if we are to complete higher priority projects such as Northolt Swimarama. Trying to compete for these funds in the run up to the London Olympics is probably futile in any case.
The thrust of the pastor/Labour’s argument was that Phase 1 was a success, trust the team to deliver Phase 2 or we will we will lose amenities. The reality is that the two phases are completely different. The menu of amenities does look like a list of bells and whistles if you compare it with something tangible like a swimming pool. Our council can only have so many priorities so visitor’s centres do not make the list.
Northala Fields is a great project. Now is the time to complete it. I am sure that the pastor’s flock seen above will enjoy it. They will also enjoy living in clean, safe, VFM Ealing too.