How can we improve our local democracy?

Local campaign groups need to support each other in the run up to the local council elections

There is a lot of frustration in Hounslow about the way that the council is run and the way that decisions are reached.

It is undoubtedly to the council’s credit that council workers are all paid the London Living Wage and, unlike other boroughs, we have not closed any of our local libraries.

brentfordstadiumflatsHowever, we clearly have enough high-rise luxury flats being constructed all over the borough. These are not going to address the housing crisis as even the ‘affordable’ units are beyond the means of anyone earning less than £40,000 a year.

There is a lack of joined-up thinking on education and health too.

There is a shortage of school places and, as well as a highly controversial faith school being given planning permission in the heart of leafy Osterley, we are seeing a glut of new schools proposed for a half-mile square area around Gillette Corner. It seems as if no thought has been put into the logistics of this.

The council is also supporting Jeremy Hunt’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) that further threaten the future of Ealing and Charing Cross Hospitals. While these hospitals are not in the borough of Hounslow, they are both used by residents here so it is bizarre that we are not supporting Hammersmith & Fulham and Ealling councils in opposing STPs.

Road closure

Local ‘consultations’ also leave a lot to be desired.

For example, the ‘trial’ road closure in Church Street, Isleworth, has caused a massive roadblock from Syon Lane down to South Street (adding 20 to 30 minutes to commuters’ journeys). This ‘trial’ has now become permanent and has upset many local residents.

Heathrow expansionThe local council’s position on Heathrow expansion has also been muted. Council officials as well as the council leader set up an event at the MIPIM (real estate) conference in Cannes last year in which they discussed post-Heathrow expansion opportunities. It may be the case that the government will try to impose a third runway on Heathrow, but should we take it lying down? How many local residents with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will die as a result of air pollution?

The council could take on these issues and put up a fight against central government cuts and reforms to the NHS. Instead we are just seeing empty slogans like a ‘Better not Bigger Heathrow’ and passive support for Hammersmith & Fulham and Ealing councils in their opposition to STPs. The council is also using the same language as central government to justify the construction of high-rise luxury flats (boasting of the creation of ‘affordable’ – but unaffordable – homes when only 300 council properties have been built).

The run up to the next local election in 2018 is the best time to influence council policy, so we are urging all local campaigners to contribute to Momentum Hounslow’s campaign to bring straightforward, honest politics to our community.

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