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Ealing and Northfield

Independent nastiness

Back in June West Ealing Neighbours (WEN) Vice Chair, Eric Leach, told us through the comments on this blog that he intended to stand as an independent candidate at the local elections due in May. At the same time he promised to announce where he was standing in September. I haven’t heard where he is standing so I guess that is his first broken promise up on the board. WEN seem quite happy to give Eric a platform on their newsletters and website. For how long I wonder?

Since the summer Eric’s public pronouncements have got more and more mean-minded. He seems particularly venomous about the Council’s plans to improve social housing in West Ealing. He opens the November newsletter from WEN with this diatribe:

Fiddling While Rome Burns?

‘National Debt stands at an unprecedented £824.8 billion (ONS*).
National Government borrowings for the first six months of this financial year to the end of September 2009 were £77.8 billion – the highest mid-year deficit in UK history (ONS*).
1 million UK homes are empty (TEHA**)
Green Man Lane Estate redevelopment by A2Dominion will cost £137 million (www.greenmanlane.co.uk).
A2Dominion is funded by National Government to the tune of £150 million/year.

HOW CAN WE ALL AFFORD TO BORROW THE MONEY TO BUILD THESE 738 NEW HOMES AND BUILD SUPPORTING SCHOOLS, HEALTH CENTRE AND POLICE STATION?

When Eric has done his homework he will find that the council is not allowed to have a current account deficit and is strictly limited by what borrowing it can do. Although the Council is heavily constrained both by the law and by its finances we don’t despair. We are actively working with social landlords to improve the social housing in West Ealing. Apparently Eric doesn’t like it. Talking about the Ealing Dean Estate on Wednesday Eric said:

Ealing Council Cabinet on 10th November 2009 agreed another chapter in its social cleansing of parts of the borough. Sherwood Close housing estate (known by the Council as Dean Gardens Estate) is to be demolished and the public land sold off to a property developer. The 209 flats (68% one bedroom) will be replaced by an increased number of bigger flats, some of which will be commercial for-sale properties. 49 of the existing flats are owned (leasehold) by residents.

Consultation so far had been very low key and confined to the existing estate tenants. The Council’s press release states that it will start consulting with local stakeholders in December 2009.

A bit of political advice for Eric: you usually ask the people affected directly first before you talk to other people about their futures. Eric’s phrase “social cleansing” seems rather unpleasant. It is hard to tie down what Eric means by it but I don’t think it conveys respect for his neighbours.

The Council is working hard to bring 1,000 high quality new homes to West Ealing, the majority of which will be socially rented, many of which will be larger family homes, and Eric is giving us earache. I can’t imagine that this is a good basis on which to stand in the West Ealing area – you need these people to vote for you. Doh!

14 replies on “Independent nastiness”

Phil,

Thanks for this.

If I didn’t announce that I was going to stand as a Councillor in September it probably means that I’m not going to stand. As it happens I had more pressing domestic, local planning and Ealing Lawn Tennis Club issues to deal with over the last few months.

Also I had hoped to persuade a few other local residents to stand as Independent Councillors but this has, as yet, not transpired. The thought of them having to work with a vast majority of Councillors all from the same political party has possibly put them off.

Of course I don’t oppose the creation of social housing or the offering of a wide range of tenures. I’m an ex-Chairman of Bloomsbury Housing Society so I do have experience in the housing arena. 18% of homes in Sweden are provided by co-operatives and in Holland legislation has encouraged housing co-operatives to take over empty properties. Since 1979 in the UK all tenure types except ownership have been run down, especially social housing. Successive governments have failed to build social housing. Inadequate planning policies and laws have allowed Registered Social Landlords (RSL) to emerge from their charitable and voluntary roots and morph into private developers with millions of pounds in reserve. The government’s preferred mechanism for housing poor people is within the completely unregulated private rented sector.

So, I dislike the mechanisms in place which deal with housing poor people. I also object to the secrecy and lack of early consultation by Ealing Council with the West Ealing community when public land is to be sold; demolition of council flats is involved; and social engineering is on the cards.

From my perspective many, many Tory Councillors will get re-elected in May 2010 because Ealing Labour Party is largely invisible and Ealing Liberals somewhat ineffectual. Also ‘Gordon is a Moron’ is a pretty universal opinion.

Social cleansing (coined by Anna Minton in her ‘Ground Control’ book) conveys disrespect to Ealing Council and national planning policy makers. Why would I want Ealing Council to vote for me? It doesn’t have a vote.

There is no meaningful imperative to sell off public land to developers. It didn’t happen in the 1960s/70s and it needn’t happen now. The privatisation of public space is not for the public good and people must realise that it has to stop.

So I’m mean minded am I? And nasty, and giving everybody earache? And in need of political advice and doing my homework.

So why am you so interested in my opinions, my writings and my plans?

Are you standing as a Councillor again?

Two comments. Which Conservative councillors are standing for election in May 2010? This is more important to me than whether Eric stands or not.
Letters I have sent have gone unanswered and reports unacknowledged.
Do you know what it is like to feel unrepresented?

You say,”You usually ask the people affected first before you talk to other people about their future”. So who were the council talking to in Cannes at the Mipim property fair this spring where LBE took an expensive stand? And what did you try to sell there? Whenever I mention this the regeneration team and its leader go very quiet. No I couldn’t find it in the jungle that is the council website and no I’m not going to ask through FoI request because last time I did that I was abused by a silly reply that was “out of time”. No it is not commercially sensitive and yes it affects us first before those “other people” the property developers.

Eric and Arthur,

You asked about who is standing for the Conservatives in May. I can tell you that the existing Northfield councillors are standing again and that in Elthorne Amit Kapoor is standing again and we have two very good new candidates, Teresa Mullins and Robert Kirkwood.

Eric,

The Council is dealing with the world as it is. It is your perogative to rail at the way things are. The Council has to provide real homes for real people. I personally don’t think that it is right for the Council to grimly hold on to all of its assets if there are other organisations that can run them better – which is what we are doing by involving RSLs in our housing estates. By all means slag RSLs off but the reality is that they have the capital to do the job and the Council does not. The Council is interested in solutions not unattainable principles that we simply cannot afford. Your approach would mean leaving people in rubbish homes for decades waiting for a promised land that would probably never come. Politics is the art of the possible after all.

Arthur,

If you ever met anyone half way you might get a better response from councillors. Most people who have come across you quickly conclude that it is better to ignore you than engage with you because whatever response you get will never be enough to satisfy you.

The proof of the effectiveness of Ealing Council’s and National Government’s housing policies is plain for anybody to see if they take the time and trouble to look for it. It’s a mess and changes need to be made both bottom up and top down.

‘Real homes for real people’?
This really is gibberish.

‘Unattainable principles’?
Don’t you believe in any fundamental truths Phil? What is your ‘promised land’? Is expediency everything to you?

We all appreciate people becoming Councillors, which in many ways is a thankless task. But when you stand for office and get elected you then take on a whole raft of responsibilities.

You, for example. must take the responsibility for the 100s/1,000s of complaints about Ealing Council’s car parking policies. You must also take responsibility for the venom felt by Community Amateur Sports Clubs for removing their rate rebates. You along with your other Cabinet colleagues must take reponsibility for the shameful £50 ‘Cash Back’ bribe to Ealing resident voters.

As for your comments about Arthur Breens I don’t really know where to start. Your comments are offensive and one day you will regret making them. Most people conclude that Arthur is a kind, caring, intelligent and generous person who is always trying to contribute to the public good. He’s already done more ‘good’ in his life than you will almost certainly ever do.

Being prudent and judicious is also part of politics.

Eric said
” You along with your other Cabinet colleagues must take reponsibility for the shameful £50 ‘Cash Back’ bribe to Ealing resident voters.”

You really are a character. Small government is one of the fundamental truths that we conservatives believe in. Clearly you don’t agree with us.

We also believe that the individual knows best how to spend their own money and what is best for them.

That’s why we are giving back people their own money and why we haven’t put up council tax since we took control of the ocuncil. Again, it looks like you are in the Gordon Brown camp on that one, remember, the one you called a moron

If a party ‘gives’ away money just 3-4 months before an election, and it is not a scandalous bribe, then you have to ask yourself why politicians are held in such low esteem? Please do not insult us further with dogma.

And if you think that there is going to be a Tory landslide why is it so necessary to attack Eric? He makes some extremely good points and if that weedy organisation called the Ealing Labour party is so spineless, then it is better to have scrutiny from independent thinking people like Arthur, rather than contemptuous silence behind gritted teeth. Me thinks that some of you are afraid, not that you will admit to it.

George,

Actions speak louder than words. This Council has consistently put value for money at the centre of its programme making it one of our three main priorities which we have focussed on relentlessly. In our first two budgets we held rises down to 1.9% at a time when most other London councils were much higher. This year most councils will probably put in no rise but we did this already last year. Under twelve years of Labour we had the second highest council tax rise in London. Under the first three years of this administration we had the 28th highest rise out of 33. Or 6th lowest!

The purpose of the cash back, which was facilitated by a windfall, is to underline what our priorities are. It is quite simply the clearest way of communicating with people. We think people know best how to spend their own money. Too many Labour and LibDem people think they should decide for people how to spend their cash. I am happy to let the public choose.

I was having a go at Eric for being negative about our work to improve social housing. If he keeps talking rubbish I will keep calling him to account.

Phil

Excuse me, but I did not get the choice.

As you know I want Ealing to invest in a NEW capital asset so that we have a long lasting new legacy (of which the Tories can be proud!). Arts Centre (stage 1 before you tell me that this will be expensive).

Why also is MiPim such a taboo subject? I dare you to comment.

Thank you

Mipim is taboo and taboo is Mipim. George no one dare comment. I am searching my brain to try to work out why a London borough should spend £120,000 for a week- long exhibition in the South of France in early spring of this year. Does the borough make something that needs selling?

George,

Vote Tory in May if you like our focus on VFM or vote for someone else if you don’t. That is the choice you have.

Maybe we will get around to an arts centre after we have delivered the new swimming pool, rebuilt Pitzhanger Manor, Hanwell CC and Gunnersbury Park, thought about how to rebuild the other 6 of our 12 libraries we haven’t yet rebuilt, built a skate park and a host of other facilities for young people, regenerated our town centres, built a new secondary school in the borough and renewed the rest, spent £50 million on expanding our primary schools with good quality buildings rather than Portacabins. I could go on.

Progress will be faster towards an arts centre if someone can demonstrate some demand/user groups. It is easy to justify building pools because Ealing Swimming Club can deliver 1,750 well organised users and there is a whole lot of demand beyond that. With the arts I see lots of users enthusiastically filling up churches to hear music so I question the logic of additional provision that undermines churches’ incomes.

We would much rather give people their money back rather than build a white elephant that suits the taste of a few aesthetes who don’t want to start any discussion about demand.

If you want to know why we attend MIPIM, the details of which are not known to me or Colm, look at the list above. We cannot do all of these projects without working relationships with construction companies and developers. If MIPIM happened in Birmingham it would not be controversial that we shared a stand with the GLA and a bunch of other boroughs. It takes place in Cannes. A plane ticket costs about £200. Get over it!

“Fiddling While Rome Burns” is an interesting analogy. In fact, Nero was known as a philantropist with regard to the burning of Rome who opened up the royal and public gardens in Rome to give shelter to the homeless and dispossessed when Rome was destroyed by a fire. The is no historical record of him having fiddled while it burned. Unfortunately, Victorian academics got this badly wrong and it is only more recent scholarship that has revealed the historical truths behind this. The choice of this headline for Eric Leach seems to indicate some deeper “Freudian” reverse meaning perhaps?
Honey.

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