Images above: LB Hounslow Chief Executive Niall Bolger; Cllr Gerald McGregor
The new leader of the Conservative group of councillors on Hounslow council has said the council has done “great job” of handling the Covid pandemic.
“The council’s officers have been doing splendid work on that front” Cllr Gerald McGregor told The Chiswick Calendar.
When the pandemic started to take hold in March and the country went in to lockdown, LB Hounslow set up a Community Hub, to match the army of people locally who were willing to do something to help with the most isolated and vulnerable individuals who needed support.
“Social care was run extremely efficiently by council officers in coordination with councillors at a high level” said Cllr McGregor. “I have already sent the director my thanks and a letter of commendation. The Chief Executive Niall Bolger has shown exceptional leadership.
“Senior council officers gave the Conservative group weekly briefings which were very valuable in explaining how they were managing things”.
His effusive praise is perhaps a deliberate marker to show a change of approach in the leadership of Hounslow Conservative Party. Former leader Cllr Joanna Biddolph, who was replaced as leader at the councillors’ AGM on Wedneday 29 July, was known for her abrasive style, not least with council officers.
“I want the officers to feel we are engaged and supportive” said Cllr McGregor.
Cllr McGregor, who has represented Chiswick on the council since 2004, also praised the work of the local churches during the coronavirus outbreak.
“St Michael & All Angels, St Michael’s, Our Lady of Grace, Christchurch – all the churches worked hard to support people”.
Cllr McGregor is married to the Reverend Eileen McGregor, Associate vicar at St Nicholas Church.
“The abandonment of church services led to a huge amount of innovation” and the resulting live-streamed or recorded services played their part in people “feeling peaceful” during the crisis, he said, despite the very sad losses some people were facing.
The main issue now he feels, for the Chiswick’s councillors to tackle, is to protect people. His strategy for the Conservative group is to “protect, engage and advance”.
“People’s lives have been seriously disrupted, their businesses damaged and in some cases destroyed. As things move on there is huge uncertainty. We need a consensual approach to protecting residents, their employment and our environment.
“As local councillors we need to support people and to show leadership. Because I am the leader of the group, I have to deliver the views of the whole group and build a consensus about delivering policy. We have to be mindful and understand what other people think and feel”.
He is quite apprehensive about some of the impacts of the traffic management measures introduced in June and July, aimed at dissuading people from using their cars and encouraging ‘active travel’ instead (walking and cycling). But for now his main watchword, repeated several times in our conversation is “consensus”.
Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar
See also: Chiswick councillors elect new leader