Friday, May 10, 2013

All Tory and Labour MPs at Transport Committee meeting back Heathrow expansion - only Lib Dem votes no

Only Lib Dem MP Adrian Sanders voted against yesterday's Transport Select Committee report which supported expanding Heathrow airport with a third and even potentially a fourth runway.  This would of course lead to even more noise and air pollution along the flightpaths, including for areas in the south of Ealing borough which are not on the current flightpaths.

The MPs who voted for the report were Conservatives Steve Baker, Kwasi Kwarteng, Karen Lumley, Karl McCartney and Iain Stewart and the only Labour MP who turned up Graham Stringer.  There were no abstentions.

Well done to Adrian Sanders for being consistent with longstanding Liberal Democrat policy against any airport expansion in the South East.  The existing London airports have sufficient capacity to meet future needs if we shift passengers from domestic air travel to rail, including by the construction of HS2.  This will free up slots for international flights to more destinations with no need for additional runways or terminals.

Here in Ealing, the Conservatives in particular often grandstand on their supposed opposition to Heathrow expansion.  They would be better advised to spend their time persuading their party colleagues to vote the right way.

Campaigning against Heathrow expansion with
Lib Dem South East European Parliament candidate Dinti Batstone

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ealing Labour reject Lib Dem budget plan to save Day Centres and provide £1m extra for pavements & roads

Now that Council Tax bills have landed on doormats across the Borough, here's a reminder of the bad choices Ealing's Labour administration made in this year's budget.

Labour's budget proposals included the axing of the Learning Curve and Stirling Road day centres relied on by vulnerable people with learning disabilities but at the same time they included wasting £5m on an unnecessary additional Southall car park.

Ealing's Liberal Democrat Group put forward a fully costed amendment which would have saved the day centres and provided an extra million pounds for much-needed repairs to Ealing's pavements and roads, while still freezing Council Tax by cancelling the Southall car park and cutting councillors' allowances and the salaries of the highest paid staff.

All Labour and Conservatives councillors voted against the Lib Dem amendment.  The sole UKIP member was absent.  Labour's budget that combined cuts to the vulnerable with wasteful spending on pet projects was therefore confirmed.

The speech I made in the council chamber prior to the vote was as follows:

I rise to address issues of urgent local concern to Ealing Common residents in this budget.

Residents regularly raise with me the state of the pavements both in the central part of my ward close to the town centre and also around Popes Lane. In many places, pavements are in such a poor state that they are simply unsafe. One elderly resident of Marlborough Road who I spoke with recently told me she has fallen twice while walking in the local area - on both occasions due to uneven pavements. This is simply unacceptable.

Residents also raise the similarly poor state of our local roads, exacerbated by the recent freezing weather. I am sure I am not the only member here tonight who has been contacted by residents whose cars have been damaged by huge potholes in Ealing’s roads.

It is clear that the existing provision in the budget for footway and road resurfacing is inadequate and I am pleased that Cllr Steed’s [Liberal Democrat Finance Spokesman] amendment makes a prudent step in the right direction by allocating over a million pounds of extra capital for pavement and highway repairs across the Borough.

At the same time, many of my ward residents are concerned at the miserly move by Cllr Mahfouz [Labour portfolio holder for Transport & Environment] and the administration to charge £2 a day for parking on the Warwick Road extension across Ealing Common .

It is outrageous that the administration has ignored the views of residents and pushed through their parking bay plan. Single yellow lines in operation a couple of hours a day would solve the problems of commuter parking and caravans, while allowing residents to park for free in order to enjoy the Common.

Residents attending the ward forum unanimously agreed with all three local councillors that single yellow lines were the correct solution. But, typically, Cllr Mahfouz thinks he knows better than the ward councillors. He thinks he knows better than the ward residents. The Labour administration is more interested in generating a very small amount of revenue than implementing sensible proposals that benefit local residents.

Mrs Clements, the carer who asked Cllr Anand [Labour portfolio holder for Health & Adult Services] searching questions about the proposed closure of the Learning Curve and Stirling Road Centre earlier tonight, is a resident of my ward. To properly meet the needs of services users in my ward and others, who have clearly not been properly consulted, our amendment would keep these vital day centres open.

Finally, it is clear that local residents remain concerned about the failures by Enterprise. While the wider issue of whether Enterprise should be stripped of their contract remains open, the least the administration can do is to withhold significant monies from Enterprise due to their failure to carry out the services they have been contracted to do to a decent standard. Our amendment proposes that this money could be spent on additional initiatives to boost recycling rates as residents’ confidence in the recycling service has been badly dented by comingling of waste and continuing missed collections.

I commend our balanced and reasonable amendment to the chamber.

Friday, August 26, 2011

My speech about the Ealing Riot

A couple of people have suggested that the speech I made at last week's special meeting of Ealing Council should be made available to a wider audience, so here it is.  Since then, the business of repairing the damage caused by the riots has continued.  Few physical signs of damage now remain, outside the couple of buildings severely damaged by fire, but many psychological scars remain for those who were involved.

The text of my speech follows:

It was unbelievable driving and walking around Ealing last Monday night.  To see our familiar quiet leafy streets descend into complete lawless was both terrifying and bewildering.

I witnessed local police in The Mall bravely holding the line while clearly completely outnumbered.  I had no idea until I heard from the Borough Commander tonight just how outnumbered they were.  Just forty-one officers with limited equipment holding back an angry mob of three hundred rioters throwing bottles at them shows a level of bravery which it is difficult to imagine.

I witnessed gangs of marauding masked rioters roaming who had come up the South Ealing Road from the Brentford direction roaming around Ealing Green throwing missiles, torching cars and destroying a bus, until I retreated when a bottle hit my car to what I thought would be the safety of the residential streets of my ward, but there I saw more cars on fire and small groups of rioters roaming at will. 

Later, I saw flames shooting from the roof of the building comprising the former Budgens supermarket and flats above despite firefighters spraying thousands of gallons of water from close proximity at great personal risk.  The latter incident was the most worrying for me personally as I know a resident of the building, who was forced to flee for her life and was made homeless with almost all her possessions destroyed.  The reason the fire took such a firm hold is no doubt that fire engines waiting on St Mary’s Road could sadly not reach the site until the police were able to clear the rioters enough for access to be possible.

Meanwhile, hundreds of local businesses in Ealing Common, Ealing Broadway, Walpole and other wards were smashed into and looted.  Polka Rastocvic, who has run Crispins Wine Bar at the bottom of High Street for 30 years heard rioters smash her windows and half the bottles and steel the other half as she hid at the back of the bar in fear for her life.

I didn’t venture to Haven Green but understand that the picture there was similarly horrifying to Ealing Green with the tragic addition of the fatal attack on Richard Mannington Bowes for simply acting as a concerned citizen.

I did not see Police reinforcements in large numbers with armoured riot vans until after midnight and it was not until the early hours that Ealing and West Ealing were calm.  Many residents of my ward were deeply disappointed that the police had not been able to assist them when they dialled 999 and were intensely fearful of a repeat of the violence the next night, which thankfully did not come to pass.

I understand from what I saw on the Mall that the reason the police could not attend burning cars and break-ins to homes and businesses in my ward was that they were so outnumbered and not due to any lack of bravery or failure of local tactics.  However, I think questions can legitimately be asked at the London-wide level about the overall level of the Met Police’s resources and their ability to reallocate officers dynamically between boroughs in reaction to rapidly evolving intelligence of threats at multiple locations.

The highest responsibility of society is to protect its citizens.  We cannot again allow parts of our Borough to descend into violent chaos and if this requires more police resources, we as a society must be willing to pay for that.

On a positive note, it was fabulous that there was such a positive response just a few hours later from around two hundred residents who came out with their brooms to help to clean up Ealing.  It is worth noting that social media was a force for evil in attracting rioters from outside the area but also a force for good in helping people to learn what was happening and get together to help their fellow residents out.

The Ealing community has come together since the riot and has become even stronger in the face of adversity.  Ealing can be attacked but Ealing residents will always be resilient and stand firm against whatever is thrown at us.

Finally, what motivated young people to loot and riot?  I have been on many political demonstrations.  It was abundantly clear to me on Monday that this was nothing of the sort.  The youths came from many ethnic groups – it was not a race riot.  For many of the people involved, it was as Sally Hitchiner said, about getting for free.  For others, the motivation was to be able to destroy property with impunity. But I think there are wider issues for society about why a small minority but nonetheless a significant number of young people – not all from deprived backgrounds – feel so disconnected from society that they can carry out these acts on our streets with wilful disregard for life and property.  Addressing these root causes is a difficult problem for politicians at all levels to wrestle with over the months and years ahead. 

Friday, May 07, 2010

Thank you for a record Lib Dem vote

I would like to thank the people of Ealing Central & Acton for giving me 13,041 votes in yesterday's General Election.  I believe that this is the largest vote tally ever achieved by a Liberal Democrat in Ealing in a parliamentary election and I am humbled by this.

Unfortunately it was not enough to win the seat, but my campaigning on vital local issues like saving our local A&E units from closure, fighting overdevelopment in central Ealing and saving the heart of acton will continue nontheless.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Observer says vote Lib Dem in Ealing Central & Acton to keep Tories out

Following the endorsement by The Guardian and The Observer of the Liberal Democrats nationally, yesterday's Observer published it's "guide to Britain's key battleground seats," which says:

"When the Tories’ target list of 130 seats held by Labour was drawn up months ago, those requiring a swing of 5% and less were thought ‘in the bag’, and the ‘battleground seats’ needed between 5% and 9%. Now many could be ‘in play’ and vulnerable to a Lib Dem assault. We have identified two which on today’s standing of the parties would be expected to go to the Liberal Democrats - Ealing Central & Acton and Northampton North."

This is further evidence that I can win here in our constituency if everyone who does not want to see a Conservative victory here unites behind me.

The final sentence of the Observer's leader column gives a clear call to action:

"There is only one party on the ballot paper that, by its record in the old parliament, its manifesto for the new one and its leader's performance in the campaign, can claim to represent an agenda for radical, positive change in politics. That party is the Liberal Democrats. There is only one way clearly to endorse that message and that is to vote Liberal Democrat."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Save our A & E!

My stance on the threats to close our local Accident and Emergency units is straightforward. I completely oppose their closure and I have been campaigning on this issue since the week that the plans were originally leaked to the press.

I've recently seen a leaflet from my Conservative opponent about the threatened closure of the local A & E departments at Ealing Hospital and Central Middlesex Hospital. I welcome that she, like me, recognises that this is a key issue in Ealing Central & Acton. However, I read on to see that she says, "Of course in time, new patterns of patient care may be developed, but it would be extraordinarily misguided to close these A&E departments before new services have been developed and people get used to them."

I think that the people of Ealing and Acton need to be secure in the knowledge that if they get ill, there is somewhere nearby that they can go to or by taken to by ambulance. It needs to be local because of the state of near-gridlock on many of our local roads. We all know that rapidly covering long distances in West London is difficult - even in an ambulance on a blue light. Also, if they need to stay in hospital overnight local people want to be treated somewhere that relatives and friends can easily visit.

I don't want our vital local health facilities to be sacrificed on the altar of "new patterns of patient care". The reason I oppose A&E closures is because they are wrong; not merely because the timing is wrong. It is crazy to contemplate a situation in which a borough the size of Ealing would have no A&E facility in it or on its boundaries. I stand up wholeheartedly for local hospital services. Sadly, my Conservative opponent's position is less clear.

If you support my campaign, please join my 'Save Ealing Hospital and Central Middlesex Hospital A & E Units' Facebook group.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"The Lib-Dems would win ... Ealing Central & Acton" - Evening Standard Poll

Today's Evening Standard reports a local YouGov poll predicting that I am set to win Ealing Central & Acton.

Under the headline, "Cleggmania sweeps across London with Lib-Dems set to take seats from Labour" the Standard today reports that "if YouGov's figures are echoed in actual voting on May 6 then out will go Labour's Glenda Jackson at Hampstead & Kilburn and Emily Thornberry, defending Islington South. The Lib-Dems would win both constituencies, along with Labour-held Ealing Central & Acton."

This backs up what we are finding on the ground: that there is a great groundswell of support right across Ealing and Acton backing the Lib Dem policies of fairness and our campaigning on local issues like the threat to close Ealing Hospital A & E.

But to make this historic victory into a reality on May 6th, we need more volunteers delivering more leaflets and knocking on doors and more people display posters to show to voters throughout the constituency - including those areas that have not been as strong for the Lib Dems in the past - that this time there can be change that works for the people of Ealing and Acton. If you can help me win, you can email me directly on, call my campaign office on 020 8752 1247 or DM me on twitter @jonball.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Making the surge to Nick work locally

Last nght's canvassing was fantastic. So many people said they'd seen Nick's performance on the debate and were going to vote for me because of it. They love our message of tax fairness and they agree with Nick!

On the opinion poll ratings we are now achieving, Ealing Central and Acton is one of the seats that is coloured gold on the swingomoter display behind Jeremy Vine's flailing arms. What we need to do to make that a reality is to get our message across to all those local people who didn't watch the debate. And that means continuing to deliver the message through local doors.

If you can help, please get in touch. The weather is lovely today for delivering leaflets. The current national surge to the Liberal Democrats represents a historic opportunity for us here in Ealing and Acton.  Let's seize it.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Arcadia scheme killed!

The hugely controversial 26-storey plan for the Arcadia site opposite Ealing Broadway station has finally been rejected.

I'm delighted by this decision. It's fantastic news for Ealing and a body blow to the Conservative Council.

The hugely unpopular scheme was pushed through against strong local opposition showing how out of touch the Tories have become with local residents. The Conservative Council spent £100,000 to defend it at the Public Inquiry.

The planning inspector has considered all the evidence and has now firmly rejected it. The Secretary of State confirmed the planning inspector's view. The documents aren't yet up on the official website so I've uploaded the 166-page planning inspector's report and the rather more manageable 9-page decision letter.

The Council should now lead the development of the station site with a full bus/ rail interchange. And Glenkerrin should come back with a scheme that reflects community needs rather than just maximising profit. We need a real attraction for people to come to the town centre. We don't need to overdevelop the area beyond what local transport, schools and health facilities can support.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gunnersbury Park has been saved!

The concerted campaign by local Lib Dems and residents to save the whole of Gunnersbury Park has been rewarded with a fabulous victory in the last 72 hours.  At this week's meeting of Ealing Council, I seconded a motion against building on Gunnersbury Park and all parties on the Council unanimously voted for an amended version including the words, "This Council is committed to improving Gunnersbury Park but rules out selling parts of the park to developers to help pay for it."

When I spoke to the Leader and Portfolio Holder subsequently, both confirmed that this meant that the administration has agreed to carry out the much-needed works to the historic buildings in Gunnersbury Park, but without following the scheme Ealing and Hounslow councils consulted on of building houses and flats on part of the Park to raise the money.  Neither were willing to be drawn on where the money would come from instead, but they indicated that Ealing's share of the funding was secure.  Now we just need Hounslow to find a way of coming up with its half!

I would like to thank everyone who expressed their concerns about this issue.  Whether at a public meeting, through Save the Trees in Gunnersbury, by signing our petition or by responding directly to the consultation document, everyone played their part.  It just shows what is possible when local people get together and draw a line in the sand (or grass in this case!) beyond which the Council leadership fear to tread.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Exclusive: Ealing Chief Exec Darra Singh to Quit

I've heard a rumour from a usually reliable source that Ealing Council's Chief Executive, Darra Singh, is resigning to take up a new post running Job Centre Plus.

Darra has been a very effective Chief Executive. Everyone agrees that he represented a vast improvement on his predecessor. It makes sense that a high flyer like Darra would get a high profile national job like this.

This will be a blow for Ealing's Tory administration as they will find it difficult to find someone else with Darra's skills.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Labour Government threaten Ealing Homes cash

Within the last 24 hours, I've learned that the Government is threaten to withdraw some of the 'Decent Homes' funding it gives Council's Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) to bring former Council housing up to scratch. The Council's under threat are those with ALMOs that failed to get more than 1 star in their latest inspection, which includes Ealing's ALMO, Ealing Homes.

Ealing Homes has been bungling the Decent Homes programme from the outset, to the extent that the scheme had to be suspended and restarted, but withdrawal of the programme would be a huge blow for Ealing Homes' tenants, who had been expecting much-needed works to be carried out to many estates soon.

I will campaign vigorously for the government to reverse its decision. The management of Ealing Homes and the Council's supervision of them has been poor, but this is not the fault of council tenants. Hard-pressed tenants must not be punished for the failures of bureaucrats and politicians.

The one sliver of silver lining in the cloud is that many Ealing leaseholders, on the Village Park estate in South Ealing for instance, are currently being fleeced for huge amounts for works to their properties under Ealing Homes' decent homes programme, and presumably this would stop if the work ceased!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Giving the Gurkha's what they deserve

picture I took of Joanna Lumley and a Gurkha veteran campaigning outside Parliament
picture I took of Joanna Lumley campaigning for Gurkha Rights outside Parliament
I still can't quite believe that the Lib Dem motion on giving fair rights to the Gurkhas defeated the Government this week. A government defeat on an Opposition motion is big enough news whatever the issue - this is the first time this has happened since the dying days of "Sunny Jim" Callaghan's hapless Labour Government in 1978! But the issue in question is more important than the politics - if Gurkhas were prepared to die for this country, we have a moral duty to let them live here. The Government cannot ignore this clear signal and I am delighted that the Gurkhas will now be treated properly.

The issue is especially relevant in Ealing as we have a significant local Gurkha community, and at last week's Full Council meeting, councillors of all three Parties united to pass a motion, which concluded:

This Council believes that, given the exceptional service they have given to the United Kingdom, Gurkhas and their families should be given fast track eligibility for either the right to remain or citizenship.

This Council urges Ealing’s three MPs to support the campaign for Gurkha rights.

At the start of the debate, councillors gave a standing ovation for a group of local Gurkhas who were in the public gallery. This reminded me of when I was present at the Liberal Democrat Conference when a large numbers of Gurkhas attended in uniform and received a spontaneous and heartfelt standing ovation from everyone present. Fifty Gurkhas handed their medals to Nick Clegg in protest at the Government's shameful failure to extend British Citizenship to all Gurkha soldiers and their families - not just those who served in the last decade.

These are men who have risked their lives and fought bravely for our country, earning an unchallenged record of distinguised conduct. If someone is prepared to die for this country, they should have the right to live in this country.

Party politics aside, Steve Pound, the MP for Ealing North, did the decent thing by rebelling against the Government on this issue, but I sadly cannot say the same about the other two Labour MPs representing our Borough - Virendra Sharma and Andy Slaughter.

The position of Virendra Sharma is especially worrying. He has remained a Councillor despite being elected as MP for Ealing Southall in the by-election. There is nothing wrong with that. After all, I will be in the same position if elected to represent the new Ealing Central and Acton seat at the next election. But two things are wrong. One is that his Council attendence record has been dreadful since he became an MP - prior to last Tuesday he had not attended a Full Council meeting and had only avoided being kicked off the Council for non-attendence by attending occaisional meetings of an obscure sub-committee - but even more seriously, this week his stance in the Council chamber and his stance in Parliament have been diametrically opposed to one another.

Cllr Virendra Sharma, who due to the vaguries of the Council's seating plan sits in the seat next to me, spoke for the motion at the Council meeting, explained that the Government would sort this out shortly. He then voted for the Council motion above, which urges Ealing's MPs to support Ghurka rights. In my speech I specifically made reference to the fact that this included the MP sitting next to me!

A week later, Virendra Sharma MP shamefully voted against the Liberal Democrat motion supporting Ghurka rights.

Do Cllr Virendra Sharma and Virendra Sharma MP ever talk to each other? Sharma referred extensively to the Whips in his speech. Perhaps the simplest answer is that he blindly obeys the Labour Council Group whip when voting in Ealing's Council Chamber and the Labour Parliamentary whip when voting in Parliament, without giving any thought to the issue at hand. If that is the case, Ealing residents deserve better.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Crossrail benefits justify Interchange

A new study by Crossrail this week shows how much the economic benefit of the Crossrail line will be for each area. They reckon the Borough of Ealing will benefit to the tune of nearly £57 million.

The report shows the enormous benefits that will flow to our Borough from Crossrail, with stations at Southall, Hanwell, West Ealing, Ealing Broadway and Acton Main Line and I am keen to ensure it goes ahead. There will be a very large increase in the number of passengers using all these stations, and Ealing Broadway in particular is already one of the busiest stations in the country. These additional trips will have to be catered for. If we are to cut the number of cars on the roads, people will have to use buses and other means of getting to and from the station.

This highlights the urgent need for a fully integrated bus/rail/tube interchange over the underground tracks at Ealing Broadway. The total cost of this could be saved in a single year, if set against the benefits to the Borough as a whole. The Council should be pressing for immediate discussions to include this in the plans being developed by Crossrail and Transport for London, and should take the lead by appointing an independent consultant to examine how the whole of the station complex, including the empty Villiers House, should be developed as part of a comprehensive redesign of central Ealing.

Arcadia Call-in Latest

As many of you know, the lamentable decision by Ealing's planning committee to approve the appalling Arcadia scheme has been called in by the Secretary of State. This was fantastic - although unexpected - news!

A Public Inquiry will now be held in Ealing to finally decide the matter.

This post is to fill in some of the background.

Council officers are currently sorting out procedures with the Government Office for London and the Planning Inspectorate.

Once this have been completed, the formal notification of the call-in will be sent out to anyone who commented on the application. I understand that this will involve 7,000 letters as it will include all the local people who signed the Lib Dem petition I collected against the Glenkerrin scheme!

The Council's statement of case would be due for submission in the middle of March 2009. No date has yet been set for the Local Inquiry, but the Council anticipate that this would be June or July.

The Planning Inspector will be able to look at all aspects of the case during the Inquiry. The final decision will probably come out in late Autumn. The whole scheme is on hold until then.

The Public Inquiry will give residents a final chance to defeat this awful scheme that would wreck Ealing's town centre, so we must seize this opportunity with open arms and make the strongest possible case.

By contrast, the Secretary of State has announced that she isn't going to call in the Dicken's Yard scheme. So the only thing standing in the way of that other awful scheme getting permission is a decision by Boris, who in turn is waiting for revised documents from developers St George who seem to be dragging their feet rather. Unfortunately, I'm no more optimistic of Boris stepping in on Dickens Yard than I was of him intervening on Arcadia! Saying "no" to a Tory Council isn't his style.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Boris has failed Ealing

The decision letter signed by Boris yesterday has just winged its way into by inbox. Despite massive local objections, he has failed to use his powers to direct refusal of the Arcadia development.

I can't say I'm surprised. As I said at the Save Ealing Centre meeting on Tuesday,"The efforts to lobby the Mayor to say 'no' are worthwhile, but I am afraid that my faith in the likelihood of him interceding is limited. We can't just leave it to Boris!"

But I am disappointed. Earlier this week the Mayor flexed his planning muscles by refusing a central London scheme on the grounds that the developers didn't make a contribution to Crossrail. Why couldn't he have used those same powers to save Ealing from the utterly inappropriate development by Glenkerrin which is right across the road from Ealing Broadway station, which will be a Crossrail station?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Riding on the ghost bus...

I've been riding on the ghost bus today. It was rather a pleasant journey, meandering through the backroads of west and south London accompanied by friends, fellow Lib Dems, public transport exports and the world's press. The clerk in the ticket office at Ealing Broadway station was amazed that Wandsworth Road became one of the most popular destinations for a few minutes this morning.

But not one person on the bus was actually trying to get from Ealing Broadway to Wandsworth Road. We were all there in our various ways to draw attention to how absurd this once-a-week coach is, and how the sole reason for it is for Labour to avoid embarrassing publicity.

This backfired spectacularly today, as I was interviewed by the BBC, ITV London and even TF1 from France plus reporters from the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail, and used each opportunity to condemn government spinelessness on this issue. There is absolutely no way this much publicity would have been generated if the government had either retained the rail service or just taken the honest route of consulting over its closure. As Sir Walter Scott put it, "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ealing Broadway's Ghost Bus

The Times (not the sadly demised Ealing Times) has this amazing story. My reactions are twofold...

How dare Labour remove the cross-London service between Birmingham and Brighton? The direction we should be moving in is having *more* train services that pass smoothly and conveniently through London for people travelling between the North and the South without disgorging their passengers onto the heaving tube network.

How dare Labour waste our money on this unused coach because they don't have the guts to consult people about axing this rail service? Ministers' efforts to avoid political embarrassment know no bounds.

Toran suggested a trip on the ghost bus from Ealing Broadway next Tuesday, which may not be a bad idea!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Glenkerrin in rent-a-mob swoop on Town Hall

I heard just before 4pm that there were already people queuing up for tickets to the public gallery for tonight's controversial planning application to plonk a totally out of place 26-storey skyscraper opposite Ealing Broadway station.

I thought that queuing up 3 hours before the meeting starts didn't sound like the laid back Ealing style and my suspicions were proved right... it turns out that these early birds are employees of consultants paid by the developers behind the scheme, Glenkerrin. Packing the public gallery with paid stooges is a very clever tactic - albeit somewhat underhand - but it does rather prove the point that the only people that will be cheering the Glenkerrin speakers tonight will be the people they pay to do so!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Toeing the thin blue line

Earlier this week, everyone was asking me why I've been hobbling around on crutches, so I thought I'd better tell you as well, dear reader...

Last Sunday was the birthday of a friend of mine. I'd been in Lambeth with her and some of her other friends for a Thai meal and a film. After a couple of drinks in the pub, I got peckish again and we headed for a late-night McDonalds. It was quite late now, so the inside was shut, but the drive-through was open, so we ordered on foot at the drive-through window.

A woman driving a car (which we hadn't noticed) in the queue then got irate and started shouting at us, accusing us of queue jumping. I was apologetic, but the birthday girl was rather less so. The woman in the car then got out, ran over to my friend and proceeded to viciously punch and kick her. I pulled the assailant off. Her boyfriend then got out and pulled me off. So far so bad, but no great harm done.

The couple got back in the car and I got out my mobile and called 999 to report the assault on my friend, while I stood in front of their car to stop the culprit getting away until the police arrived. Unfortunately, when I read her number plate out to the 999 operator, the woman reacted by driving straight into me and knocking me over resulting in 1 broken toe, loads of bruising to the rest of my foot, a small graze to the elbow and a cut finger.

She then drove off. The police haven't caught her yet - they went to the registered address of the car later but she was lying low elsewhere. However, the police are taking the incident very seriously, so much so that the case has now been transferred to the GBH unit of Lambeth police, so I'm confident that she'll be arrested in due course.

Since Thursday, I'm now off the crutches and am walking again - with a special shoe for the next couple of weeks.

I'll close with three random thoughts relating to this week's events. The first is that combining this and being mugged just a few weeks ago, there is a large and growing mismatch between my personal experience of crime in London and the reassuring statistics. Overall, I've been the victim of three violent incidents in the last couple of years. And many people I speak to around London also have similarly sad tales to tell. How can the statistics show crime falling while Londoners' experience is of crime - especially violent crime - getting worse and worse?

Secondly, the few days I spent non-weight-bearing on the injured foot, that is hopping with the aid of crutches, gave me renewed insight into the difficulties people with disabilities face all year round. Making my way up the steps of Ealing Broadway station, for instance, was agony. I'd been aware of the complete lack of disabled access at Ealing Broadway for years - and indeed wrote a letter about it to the Chief Executive of First Great Western at that point, resulting in a very disappointing reply that nothing would be done until the new Crossrail station is built! Briefly feeling the physical pain of the current situation, just underlines to me how pathetic that response is.

My final thought is that everybody says McDonalds is bad for your health... I guess I've now learnt that lesson!