Housing Strategy – In need of a rethink?

Another week, and more confused messages in Hillingdon regarding housing. 

Recently, West Drayton and South Hayes were designated as ‘The Heathrow Opportunity Area’ by Hillingdon Council, enabling the building of offices and hotels with minimum requirements for planning permission to be sought, leading to fears of West Drayton High Street becoming a carbon copy of the A4 Bath Road. 

I have pointed out before that this is a flawed strategy – After all, we have an abundance of empty office space in the Borough, but affordable housing is at a premium due to the combination of an increased birth rate and mass immigration. 

However, if we take this on face value, and the Council strategy is to build up industry in West Drayton, then surely some of that excess office space in Uxbridge could be converted to residential use? Not according to the planners at Hillingdon Council, who have thrown out a plan to convert disused office space in Rockingham Road to flats, despite it having been empty for years and unlikely to be filled due to increased competition from newer office ‘parks’ on the Oxford Road.

Apparently, the planning committee felt that this would be an unacceptable loss of employment land, that it is mainly an industrial area, and that there were not enough local amenities for children.

With both Fassnidge Park and Rockingham Recreation Ground a short walk away, and substantial housing estates within a stones throw, it begs the question – Do they really know the area? 

Now we have the revelation that there are plans to loosen the laws governing houses of multiple occupation (HMO’s), encouraging small investors to buy up the remaining 3 and 4 bed housing stock on the market and then converting it to flats to make the maximum profit. This again decreases the amount of family orientated properties available, and encourages overcrowding and the breakdown of community ties. 

For once, I am in complete agreement with Hayes & Harlington MP John McDonnell, who has challenged this decision in The House of Commons, and called for the retention of the laws that mean planning permission must be sought before conversion of housing stock to HMO’s. 

So, what is the answer to our housing problems in the Borough? With straightened finances and cuts looming, I would at least suggest suspending mass immigration for now, with any new arrivals having to prove that they already have housing and employment arranged, and the means to support themselves. 

With new developments then coming on stream at the old NATS site in Porters Way, and the Hayes & Yeading football ground in Church Road, we really need to look at how ‘affordable’ housing is allocated to those on the waiting lists – The system has been abused for years, with hard working families penalised in favour of the feckless who play the system to get housed on ‘need’. 

Do the planners have the drive, direction and clarity of purpose to solve the problems? I hope so, but current events do not back up such optimism.

Guest speakers announced for The National Conference

With forty eight hours to go until our national conference at Nottingham, Operations Officer Steve Uncles has announced the list of guest speakers for Saturday.

Jon Gaunt – Outspoken talk show host and author, Jon has received several Sony awards for his radio shows.

Never one to shy away from controversy, his forthright style has earned a legion of fans who have followed him from BBC Local Radio, through national radio station Talksport and on line broadcaster SunTalk.

Currently commenting on the news on Sky, Jon has also been a regular columnist with The Sun and is a best selling author. His autobiography, Undaunted, is a moving account of triumph over adversity.

Professor Colin Copus – Professor of Local Politics at De Montfort University, Dr Copus is a leading authority on English national identity and English policy issues.

Published books include Leading the Localities – Executive Mayors in English Local Governance, and Party Politics and Local Government.

 

Nikki Sinclaire MEP – Member of European Parliament for the West Midlands, Nikki is an outspoken critic of the EU, and campaigns for more power for local people in her constituency.

Peter Davies – The Mayor of Doncaster, and that most unusual of people – A straight talking politician! Peter is the English Democrats first directly elected executive mayor.

It is not too late to book for the conference – Please contact 2010Conf@engdem.org

Say Non to the French Market!

Uxbridge Town Centre has undergone an expensive refurbishment recently, with the council putting in nearly a quarter of a million pounds of taxpayers money.

Now it would appear that this refit is to be ruined with the arrival of a ‘French Market’ for 3 days a week starting from Thursday.

Local traders in the Pavilions Market place have already seen trade drop since the opening of The Chimes, which has diverted customers from the older shopping mall. Now they will have to compete with more traders in prime position in front of their plots.

I spoke with a friend of mine who runs a stall in the Pavilions on Friday, and he was absolutely livid about the decision. He told me that the existing traders pay their rent to the council, are fully licensed, and subject to regular inspections – Many have been on their stalls for over ten years. Now they are having to compete with traders who are operating under the auspices of a private contractor,  and whose license terms are not known. I was told that many of the traders, who have to pay their council rents whether they are on site or not, are concerned that these new traders will be able to pick and choose when they open, selecting the best days and not turning up to offer choice for the consumer whenever it suits them. There also seemed to be anger that this market is opening in the run up to Christmas, a real make or break time for these local traders who have suffered so much in the downturn.

We all want to see our town centres being vibrant and successful, but if this new market puts the established traders out of business and then moves on itself, surely that is to the detriment of our community?

Council Spending – Value for money?

I have not been very impressed with the new coalition government so far, but one thing I do applaud them for is the new legislation that states that the local council has to declare to the public what they are spending our money on.

I spent some time this afternoon going through the August list for Hillingdon on the website, www.hillingdon.gov.uk/over500

There is some interesting information on here – Such as a £7000 payment to Starbucks (UK) Ltd, and a payment of £5859.34 to The GMB union and another £12890.41 payment to UNISON.

£7000 on coffee? I know that it aids alertness (Especially in the mornings), but that kind of spending would wake up Rip Van Winkle! As for paying nearly £18000 to trade unions – I thought that the brothers paid for their membership , not the taxpayer?

Massive amounts are also spent on residential care for the elderly – This I do applaud the council for, as our senior citizens have paid their dues and deserve the best care that can be afforded for them. However, in Scotland this expense is paid for by central rather than local government, out of  taxation funded by the English via ‘The Barnett Formula’.

If Ray Puddifoot and his cabinet really do mean what they say when they claim to be getting the best value for our money, then they should challenge the coalition to release central funds for English pensioners in the way that they do for their Scottish counterparts – Along with establishing a ‘kitty’ for the employees to pay for their own coffee and union subscriptions!

Anti-Social behaviour – Is it really in decline?

According to page 23 of Pravda (Sorry, I mean the Council’s glossy magazine,Hillingdon People), ‘Levels of anti-social behaviour are falling in Hillingdon’. This assertion is based on ‘research undertaken with residents in the borough’

This begs the question – With whom, and where in the Borough, was this research carried out? A six month dispersal order was recently imposed in Yeading between Willow Tree Lane and Maple Road, and in September 8th’s Gazette, another dispersal order was reported for Hayes Town. Now, in today’s Gazette, it is reported that yet another dispersal order is to come in to effect in Columbia Avenue, between Eastcote and Ruislip Manor.

This hardly seems to tally  with the council’s official line – After all, if anti-social behaviour is in decline, why the need for so many new dispersal areas? Indeed, as some members of the local community have commented to me, the dispersal area’s don’t actually achieve anything, as the behaviour is just shunted further down the road to the next area.

So what is the solution? Blatantly obvious, I would have thought – More uniformed Police Officers back on the beat, rather than in the station filling in paperwork,and more activities for our young people to participate in thus taking them off the streets.

Whether our council will adopt this common sense attitude, especially with the anticipated cuts in public spending coming up, remains to be seen.

Local History to be proud of

Seventy years ago this week, The Battle of Britain reached it’s height. On 15th September 1940, in one last attempt to break the resistance of the RAF in the fight against the might of the German Luftwaffe (Air Force), massive formations of German bombers launched a huge aerial attack against targets in London.

They found the valiant Spitfires and Hurricanes waiting for them in numbers, and Hitler’s plans for invasion were scrapped.

Key to the victory was the famous planning room, where women from the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) pushed counters around a board to show the positions of enemy formations coming in, based on information from the radar stations on the coast and reports from the Observer Corps. Watching the board from above were the commanders of the RAF, Air Chief Marshall Dowding and commander 11 group, Keith Park – Plus, on 15th September, Churchill himself, as immortalised in the film ‘Battle of Britain’. Strategies were hatched, squadrons guided to target, and the campaign won from this room, housed at RAF Uxbridge in the centre of the borough.

On the 15th, I will be lighting a candle and raising a glass to all those who worked and protected our liberty at the centre at Uxbridge, and also to the valiant airmen from our local RAF base at Northolt from No 609,257,303 (Polish),43, 1 and 401 (RCAF) squadrons.

We owe them all a great debt .

Hillingdon council – Is this democracy?

I like to keep up with what my local council are doing. Much was made recently of some of the council spending post election on TV’s for offices and murals at the Civic Centre, which got me to thinking about who gets to authorise all this. If you check the council website, and also as published lately in Hillingdon People Magazine, there are 65 councillors in the Borough, of whom 46 are Conservative and until recently 19 were Labour (Now 18 whilst one of their number is on suspension from the party). The council is run by a cabinet of 10, all of whom are Conservative, and none of whom were elected by voters in the South of the Borough. Surely, if there are 10 cabinet members, and the stat’s above represent voting patterns across the Borough, then at least 3 should be Labour to represent the spread of public opinion? Yet this does not happen, and what is more, it leaves a section of the borough disenfranchised.The leader of the council is elected not by the people, but by other politicians, and can only be removed by other politicians so long as he retains his councillor status in what is effectively a ‘safe’ seat.
So how can this situation be rectified, and how can democracy be served for ALL of the people of Hillingdon?
A little known statute from 2000 allows for the election of an Executive Mayor, who has similar powers to the leader of the council and can select his own cabinet, but is voted in to office by the people. So, if you don’t agree with certain spending or policy, you can vote him out of office in the same way that you can remove your councillor or MP.
Some councils already have an Executive mayor (Including our neighbours in Watford), and so have a much bigger say in how their area is run.

I am organising a petition to call for a referendum on an elected Mayor for Hillingdon – For more information, please contact me via email

An English Success story

Amidst all the bad news, an English success story… The Ridgeview winery in Sussex has beaten the French to the coveted Decanter International Trophy for Sparkling wine. Do you think we should tell the professional footballers who spend £500 per bottle on posh Champagne that they are better off spending £21.95 on a bottle of English Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs 2006?
You can support the English wine industry at http://www.ridgeview.co.uk/home.asp

Jobs to go at Hillingdon Council?

Much has been made in the local press about the possibility of job losses at the Civic Centre, but no-one seems to know what is happening. Will there be job losses? Will they be on the front line, or will they be where in my opinion they should be, in the back office administration? How much money does Hillingdon council need to save, and how are they going to save it?

One thing is for certain – We won’t get a straight answer from the current leader of Hillingdon council. I wrote in to the local Gazette this week, who kindly printed my letter, asking Councillor Puddifoot to come clean over what the council plan in terms of job losses. He has consistently stated in interviews that there will be no need for wholesale cuts due to the council being prudent with our tax money, most recently in the Gazette on 4th August when he said that rumours of mass redundancies were ‘nonsense’. Yet in the same paper on 18th August, one of the director’s has been made redundant and it has been confirmed by the Unison union that 57 staff were being consulted about their futures as their roles have been ‘scrapped’.

So, what is really going on Councillor Puddifoot? Will our local services stay intact as you have promised, or is this just more rhetoric in the way that the ‘nonsense’ of staff redundancies appears to be?

The people of Hillingdon pay your wages, now is the time to be truthful with us – If the reality is that cuts are coming, please have the courtesy to tell us.