My first six months as councillor for Chiswick Homefields ward

Images above: Jack Emsley shaking hands with Chiswick Calendar reporter Matt Smith on election night; Jack on Council business via Zoom while on holiday in Sweden

Guest blog by Cllr Jack Emsley

It is just over six months since the local elections in May. Chiswick elected two first time councillors – one Labour and one Conservative. We asked them both to write a guest blog for The Chiswick Calendar about how their first six months had gone.

Here is Jack Emsley’s piece – Conservative councillor for Chiswick Homefields.

It’s almost six months to the day since I was elected as a councillor for Chiswick Homefields. The Chiswick Calendar’s editor reminded me a few days ago that on election night (a bleary-eyed affair as the count stretched into the small hours of the morning – see the headline picture!) I promised to write a guest blog on what it’s like being a newly elected, first-time councillor. So, from casework to council meetings, and markets to community groups, what have I been up to since May?

Casework and surgeries

Perhaps the most recognisable job of a councillor is to advocate for local residents and raise issues through casework. In my first six months, casework has been varied, with the two most common issues being, perhaps unsurprisingly, housing and transport related. Some issues we can fix right away (helping residents connect with the right member of the housing team, for example, or working with residents to deliver new bike hangars for local streets) whilst others require larger structural or policy changes from the council.

On housing, these structural changes revolve around the way in which the council maintains local authority owned homes, and the speed at which it turns around empty council properties. On both counts the council is currently falling short (nearly 4% of council owned properties are currently empty in Hounslow – over double the national average!)

I’ve been getting stuck in as a member of the Housing Scrutiny Panel to investigate these failings and make recommendations for improvements – as part of our investigation, the panel is asking local residents across the borough to let us know how the council has handled maintenance where they live – if you’ve been affected by poor maintenance of a council owned property, please do get in touch with me as any and all examples will be useful in compiling our report.

On traffic and transport, meanwhile, I’m sure some of the big challenges require no introduction to regular readers of the Chiswick Calendar! In my first six months I have been able to work together with colleagues across the political divide to secure changes to the council’s poorly implemented traffic schemes in South Chiswick – more needs to be done, but there have been positive steps forward.

Outside of the council’s South Chiswick schemes, I’ve also been working on more localised traffic issues, from working with colleague John Todd to help residents on Ennismore Avenue secure an enhanced Controlled Parking Zone, to lobbying TfL alongside our brilliant GLA member Nick Rogers to install pedestrian crossing lights on the dangerous Hartington Road/A316 junction just before Chiswick Bridge (no permanent solution yet, although some promising first steps to making this junction safer for cyclists and pedestrians).

Image above: Chiswick Flower Market director Ollie Saunders speaking at a public meeting about the future of the market space last month

Backing Chiswick’s Markets

One of the best parts of representing Chiswick is being able to support our brilliant local markets, from the Sunday High Road markets to the Dukes Meadows Food Market.

Markets are good for local businesses, good for the local community and good for putting our area on the map and attracting visitors from right across London. I was enjoying our local Chiswick markets long before I was elected but, as a local representative, it’s exciting to be able to support more practically these fantastic and committed community groups who are making Chiswick even better.

I was able to join other local councillors at a recent public meeting on the future of the High Road and our local markets at the George IV pub, organised by the brilliant team behind the Flower Market, to hear proposals to transform the current car park outside the old police station and the area around the William Hogarth Statue into a rain garden.

It’s fantastic to see local groups like the Flower Market team coming up with innovative ways to make Chiswick even better, and as a councillor I’m here to help facilitate a wider conversation across Chiswick about the future of our town centre.

Image above: Jack with a Chiswick Gators training session earlier this year

Supporting Community Groups

If the markets are the heart of the Chiswick community, then our brilliant local community groups are its backbone. From the fantastic sports clubs that offer local kids a place to go during weekday evenings to the environmental groups supporting Chiswick’s biodiversity and green spaces, we’re lucky to have so many people who are working hard to improve our local area – being able to support these groups is what being a councillor should be all about.

My work supporting these community groups has been varied over the past six months: I’ve worked with the Dukes Meadows Trust in support of their visionary project to transform the area between Edensor Gardens and Alexandra Gardens; I’ve drilled Hedgehog Holes with WildChiswick to protect our local wildlife (the Grove Park area is home to one of the largest hedgehog populations in the country!)

I have also attended my first ever basketball matches to watch our brilliant local team, the Chiswick Gators, based at Chiswick School – much more than just a sports team, the Chiswick Gators have recently set up a new charity, the Coach Ali Foundation, in memory of Ali Abucar Ali, a former player and coach at the club who was tragically killed last year.

The foundation will aim to widen access to the sport to young people from all backgrounds, a continuation of Ali’s legacy as a much-loved coach at the club.

It’s been an exciting, and incredibly rewarding, first six months as your local councillor in Chiswick Homefields: helping to solve local challenges through casework, supporting our brilliant community groups and advocating for Chiswick in council meetings has kept me busy since May, and it’s been tough to condense it all into this article.

Hopefully, though, this has given you an insight into what it’s like being a newly elected councillor, and how privileged I feel to be able to represent our local area.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: My first six months as a councillor for Chiswick Riverside ward – Guest blog by Councillor Amy Croft

See also: The Chiswick Area Forum discusses transport, traffic and parking

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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