Tonight saw the Northfield councillors experimenting. We called a Ward Forum. The idea was to get neighbourhood groups together to briefly inform them about the council’s priorities but, more importantly, to find out what their priorities and issues were. We had a good turnout with 17 representatives of residents groups, 5 officers, 2 councillors and our Safer Neighbourhood Team Sergeant, Cliff Elam. David Millican chaired the event and I spoke about the council’s priorities. Mark Reen was busy chairing the Health, Housing and Adult Social Services Panel which I would have been at if this had not got into my diary first. We had West Ealing Neighbours, Boston Manor RA, EFRA, NABTA, representatives from ECC and the South Ealing Mission and a couple of our Street Watchers. Susan Wyatt from the council explained that although Northfield only had 3 Streetwatchers now there were 24 people who had expressed an interest in being one. There would be a kick off meeting for these people in September.
Eric Leach for WEN outlined their core issue of wanting to promote West Ealing as a town centre in its own right and the issues of parking and heritage lamp posts. Mike Jordan for Boston Manor RA observed that “graffiti has been cracked” and praised our envirocirme officer, Ricky Wright, and Cliff Elam. This has been very much a joint effort of residents, council and Police. BMRA will continue to press for safety improvements on Boston Road and a CPZ around the tube station. We were able to clarify that the small CPZ around the station is going ahead. Sharon Grant from ECC was made aware of residents concerns about parking pressure on Sundays. EFRA have specific problems with parking in Blondin and Niagara Avenues. They are keen to promote a road safety scheme in Windmill Lane and get fed up with not being formally consulted about local schemes. They don’t want to be consulted about loft conversions they want to be consulted about the big stuff! It seems there is a specific problem with the transport planners not including residents associations in their consultation process. The Northfield businesses and traders have quickly recruited 61 out of 200 businesses to their association and they are holding an event on Saturday.
Throughout the meeting we kept being reminded about what a great place Northfield is to live in. Northfield is the safest, cleanest and healthiest ward in Ealing. It is no coincidence that it also has a lot of active citizens. It was a real pleasure to host such a constructive group of people. The idea of a ward forum was welcomed and we promised to organise another one in four months time.
There was some speculation at the meeting that this meeting was a prototype for ward forums across Ealing. The idea of ward forums has been explored by the Neighbourhood Governance scrutiny panel over the last year or so. I am sure that some councillors feel that ward forums, perhaps with some cash to spend, organised for them by the council, will help them do their job better. The Northfield councillors have proved that you can just get on with it. The cash spent by the area committees is so tiny that the idea of dividing it even further does not seem very practical. Furthermore, the idea of ward councillors holding a budget would, in my view, put them in the awkward position of having to say no a 100 times for every time they said yes and people questioning them as to their probity every five minutes. No fun!