Borough’s Victorian infrastructure is getting quite an overhaul

I read recently that a cinema in Bournemouth was set to show Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 35 years after the local council prevented the film being screened in the town.  Controversial and funny it provided some comedy gold, including the famous ‘What did the Romans ever do for us’ line which prompted the response: “Apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?” Continue reading

Gentrification can sometimes be a very good thing

For me, cereal is the breakfast you have when you’ve forgotten to buy any bread. The mere idea of going to a cereal café and forking out three or four quid for a bowl of dried corn bits is well, loopy and goes totally against the wholegrain. But each to his or her own I say.

If Golden Grahams or Frosted Cheerios are your breakfast bag, who am I to judge? So it was with red-faced apoplexy that I read in the newspapers that a mob of 200, many of them masked, recently attacked the Cereal Killer Café in Shoreditch. Continue reading

Reaching and engaging with growing groups of older residents

Have you ever had that moment when you look in the mirror and see your father looking back at you? Only it’s not, it’s you. And along with the realisation that ‘yes you do look like the old fellow’, you twig that crikey this means you’re getting older and how did that happen?

I’ve celebrated enough birthdays so I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m not getting any younger and that inevitably, within this decade, I will join the 6.8 million men aged 60 years and over.

In fact, within 15 years, it is forecast that there will be 9.6 million men aged over 60 in the UK, according to a report from the International Longevity Centre UK and Independent Age.

The issue facing charities and councils like this one are how to reach and engage with this growing group of older men, especially those at risk of loneliness and isolation. Continue reading

Concerns over possible loss of another local post office

earls court post office 4Post Office branches in the Royal Borough have not had a good innings in recent years. Since 2004 we have seen nine closures across the borough, in spite of concerted campaigns by residents and Councillors to keep them open.

Last March I wrote to Post Office boss Paula Vennells to protest at the closure of Kings Walk Post Office. The lease on the building had expired. I explained that it was an enormous loss to Chelsea residents, many of whom are elderly, do not own a car and are dependent on their local office and asked if it was possible to look for alternative locations or talk with Cadogan Estate to see if another site could be found.

The solicitous reply, acknowledged that the closure would create difficulties for some customers, but offered no hope that it would find another site.

Now it seems there is another closure on the cards, this time it is the Earls Court branch at 185 Earl’s Court Road. Continue reading

Breathing new life into neglected spaces

Golborne Road BridgeWay back in 2006, when I was Cabinet Member for Regeneration and the Environment, we set up the North Kensington Environment Project to tackle what some people called ‘grot spots’.

The term referred to areas, varying in size, character and ownership, that were underused or neglected and because of a lack of care had become a magnet for litter, graffiti, fly-posting – all of which cast a gloomy shadow over the surrounding areas.

On the face of it, the term ‘grot spot’ was a rather unfortunate one for the people who lived in the area. But there was nothing ill-judged about the project’s ambitions to enhance and improve neighbourhoods.   Continue reading

Supercars clampdown and a good night’s sleep

Our clampdown on supercars in Knightsbridge has been very widely reported over the last few days, with press calls coming in from all over the place, including the Gulf.  It makes a change I suppose from enquiries from Local Government Computing Monthly which is more the sort of publicity I’m used to.

So what’s it all about?  Well, the Council isn’t joining the fight against globalisation and the international super-rich. It’s much more straightforward that that: it’s about a good night’s sleep for our residents. Continue reading

Closing over 100 miles of road does have quite an impact.

A few years back I’d have been hard put to name a professional cyclist, let alone a British one and now the names seem to trip off the tongue – Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish to name but two.  And these two stellar performers will be seen in the borough in a matter of weeks and they won’t be alone.

Both will be part of a 150-strong field of professional cyclists taking part in the Prudential RideLondon Classic on Sunday 2 August.  If that’s not enough to whet the appetite there will also be the small matter of over 25,000 amateur cyclists riding in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 on the same day, and along the same route, as the professionals.

It’s the third year running that these intrepid amateurs and top-flight pros have come through the borough and while both events provide excitement and spectacle, and the amateurs raise literally millions of pounds for good causes, there will be major disruption to traffic and public transport.

Put simply, you can’t close over 100 miles of road from east London out to Box Hill in Surrey without it having quite an impact. Continue reading