Calls for Joanna Biddolph to apologise for “inaccurate and insulting” comments

Image above: Cllr Joanna Biddolph, Cllr Hanif Khan

Labour have called on Turnham Green ward councillor Joanna Biddolph to apologise for her “factually inaccurate” and “insulting” comments about residents living in the west of Hounslow borough.

The row erupted over comments in Cllr Biddolph’s column on ChiswickW4 website. Cllr Biddolph claimed residents in the west of Hounslow “don’t routinely report everyday issues” such as fly tipping, graffiti and out of control waste and lived in “very different circumstances” compared to people in Chiswick.

Cllr Biddolph wrote:

“I never forget that here in Chiswick, where residents are very engaged in their area, the arguments are significantly different from those in the west of the borough where, along many roads, residents don’t routinely report everyday issues (fly tipping, graffiti, dumped or out of control waste) and therefore live in very different circumstances. As I repeatedly say, I want better for everyone; I do not want the same for all if it means lower standards for some.”

Her comments have angered community organisers in Hounslow and Labour councillors, including her Chiswick Gunnersbury rival candidate Hanif Khan. Cllr Khan, who represented Hanworth Park ward before standing in Chiswick Gunnersbury, has called on Cllr Biddolph to apologise, while one community organiser accused her of dogwhistle racism, as the west of the borough has a significantly higher Asian population.

Images above: Richard Clarke, Bridge House Pond in Feltham

“There’s a big group of people who care”

Like Chiswick, the rest of Hounslow is home to various environmentally conscious ‘Friends of’ community groups, dedicated to the upkeep and maintenance of their local environment. These groups are largely independent charities or volunteer groups set up by local people hoping to keep their parks and communities clean and tidy.

Some, such as the Friends of the River Crane Environment, hold community engagement projects which include programmes of education with local schools, community learning of traditional conservation skills, walks and talks. Others, such as Friends of Bridge House Pond exist to ‘improve and celebrate the heritage of the area’ and they organise regular clear ups, planting days and other activities.

Responding to Cllr Biddolph’s comments, organiser for Friends of Bridge House Pond, (a large pond in a park in Feltham, fenced off with benches overlooking it) Richard Clarke, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“There’s a big group of people who care, I’ve been organising litter picks and working around the Hanworth Park area for the last two years and the numbers involved in litter picks have continued to increase. Whether it’s people reporting it or picking it out themselves, people see it as a simple thing they can do to make a difference.”

He added:

“The first time I organised a litter pick in Feltham in 2014, we had our councillors, we had our local MP here. I’ve organised a number of stuff and we’ve had Labour councillors come and join.  We’ve only got one conservative councillor at this end of the borough and I haven’t seen her at any.”

Image above: CB Hounslow FC

“She’s just trying to cause segregation” CB Hounslow FC coach

Vijay Tiger, known locally as Tiger VJ, is a football coach and community organiser at CB Hounslow FC, where he manages the under 15s. Teams at CB Hounslow often take part in community organising, including working in food banks to feed the homeless or less fortunate. 

Tiger VJ said he was “shocked” at Cllr Biddolph’s “hurtful” assumptions. He said her comments segregated Hounslow between affluent white people and poorer people of colour. He told The Chiswick Calendar:

“She’s trying to create a divide – which we already have in the community. We fight day in day out to fight to keep the community together and when you get comments like this from a posh white woman, she’s just trying to cause segregation between everybody. Why is Chiswick more affluent than this side of the borough?…

“It’s one of them ones, you can’t say it out loud but everyone’s thinking it… Basically it’s because there’s more white people in that area than there are down here. I’m a disabled man, I’m in a wheelchair, I look at [councillors] with respect because I genuinely think what they do is pretty good. But what I’ve seen from this lady, all I can think is why would you do that? Why segregate? People from this area are gonna think they’re no good and the people in Chiswick will think they’re too good.”

“Her comments have just not helped anybody, it’s absolutely shocking that somebody that high up would just even dare to say something like that.”

Image above: map taken from FixMyStreet showing all recently reported local issues, including fly tipping & graffiti, across Hounslow (Wednesday 20 April)

Labour say Cllr Biddolph is “woefully out of touch”

Labour said there were 11 open cases of fly tipping, offensive graffiti and non-offensive graffiti in the three Chiswick wards compared with 64 open cases in the Hounslow wards west of Chiswick on Tuesday (19 April). They said this showed there was no difference between the average number of cases reported in Chiswick and the rest of the borough.

After citing data from FixMyStreet, a website which allows residents to report, view, or discuss local problems such as fly tipping, Cllr Hanif Khan responded to Cllr Biddolph’s comments:

“After spending eight years as a councillor in the west of the Borough, growing up in Hounslow, and spending more than two years working with residents in Chiswick and other ward councillors, I am astonished to read such ill-informed comments from Councillor Biddolph.

“East or west, north or south, wherever people live in the Borough, they deserve and expect streets free of refuse. When we receive reports of fly tipping or graffiti, we take action, and those reports come in from across the Borough. To imply that residents in the west of the Borough are willing to put up with filthy streets is factually inaccurate and insulting, and Councillor Biddolph should apologise.”

Feltham West Councillor Alan Mitchell added:

“Her casual comments would be greeted with anger and dismay by residents and community groups who are proud of Feltham and do so much to enrich it. Residents in Feltham and all across Hounslow are deeply engaged in their local communities. As Labour councillors, we hear from our constituents in the west area every day.

“They care about their streets and pavements every bit as much as residents in Chiswick. They are passionate about their local areas and want to work with us for a cleaner and greener borough. And yet sadly we see comments such as those from Cllr Biddolph which are woefully out of touch.”

Cllr Biddolph in turn has replied:

“If the Hounslow Labour Party genuinely believes that the issues affecting Chiswick are the same as the issues affecting residents in the west of Hounslow, then that is further proof that their councillors simply do not understand our borough.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Cllr Joanna Biddolph apologises for abusing her position and leaking confidential security information

See also: LB Hounslow gives homeless camp on Turnham Green five days to disperse

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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