Guest blog by Gary Busuttil
Back in December Liberal Democrat Councillors in Ealing uncovered plans to cut the funding for Ward Forums as part of the councils budget strategy for 2019/2020.
It seems inconceivable to do away with Ward Forums at a time when there is a crisis in democracy. Many residents believe they’re not adequately consulted on issues that affect their communities such as planning, nor do they feel listened to.
Ealing Council’s increasing digitalisation of services has further distanced residents from the council. Emails are sometimes not answered to standard time scales, sometimes not at all. Residents are rarely able to call anyone in Ealing Council to resolve problems. There is a general sense of feeling that communication with the council has been made intentionally difficult.
I have worked in customer service for over 20 years, and I find face-to-face communication the most effective way of communicating with people, this is why Ward Forums have become an ever more important line of communication. Residents are able to approach their Councillors, and Councillors get to engage with residents, and its an effective way of providing information to one another. Furthermore it facilitates community engagement.
For Councillors, particularly opposition Councillors, Ward Forums and the budget allocated to them, enable Councillors to make improvements to the ward, generally on residents’ recommendations, and support community projects and activities.
So what have Ward Forums ever done for us?
Helped fund the refurbishment of the Rugby Road Scouts Hut, providing the Scouts with a much better facility,
Funded lighting in Southfield Recreation Ground, making the park safer to walk through during dark winter evenings,
Funded lighting in the children’s area in Acton Green Common so children can play in the playground later in the winter months,
Funded the removal of the wall jutting out on Acton Lane providing a wider and safer pavement for pedestrians,
Funded the installation of cycle hoops around the ward encouraging people to use bicycles,
Funded the planting of trees around the ward, and now Southfield is the greenest ward in the borough,
Funded the organisation “Move into Wellbeing” that provided exercise classes for elderly residents,
Ward Forum funds contributed to the Chiswick Timeline at Turnham Green Station improving the aesthetics of the area.
Despite Ward Forums being reduced over the years from 4 to 3 a year, then from 3 to 2 a year in many other wards in the borough, The Liberal Democrats in Southfield have maintained four Ward Forums a year as we believe in strong engagement with our community. We will continue to fight for our Ward Forums, and as always fight for our community.
Gary Busuttil is a Liberal Democrat councillor for Ealing Southfield ward