The sheer euphoria of Sunday’s result at the Oval has slightly distracted me from blogging, but now that the permagrin is fading let’s look again at a post I made a week or so ago, about the proposed closure of the brick-built toilets in Cobham.
I have now been assured by the head of leisure services at Elmbridge that there is no date fixed for closure of the Cobham toilet at the moment. Notice will plainly have to be given to the cleaners so I think we can safely say that the original threat has been deferred, to which I can only say thanks and well done to all concerned.
However as yet it appears that no local business has offered the use of their toilets, so the eventual threat may not have gone away. But, since no reader of this blog has expressed any dissatisfaction with the proposal since I invited them to do so, I wonder whether there is no great opposition to it? If so I do worry that, if the facility were withdrawn, we would be inundated with people vociferously objecting. And at that stage it may be too late to do anything about it.
The last test match of the season always brings with it connotations of the end of the summer and the approaching Autumn term. When I was a little boy my mother and I would head for a little village outside Grimsby and listen to the test commentary on the car radio whilst eating the most glorious home-made ice cream. Today, the football season has started, the leaves are beginning to turn but for the next 5 days there’s still the Ashes to be won or lost.
At the Oval this is the last hurrah for “Freddie” Flintoff and a debut for Jonathan Trott. Ian Bell, the batsmen subbed in for Kevin Pietersen is fighting for his place. The Aussies have had the massive boost of trouncing us at Headngley, but overall the series is fairly balanced – they had the best of Cardiff and Leeds, we were on top at Lord’s and Edgbaston. As I write we have won the toss and started well. All fingers and all toes crossed. Am I going to get any work done this week?
Unless the decision is postponed, the public toilets behind the British Legion building in Cobham will be closed at the end of the month.
This cost-saving exercise was part of the Elmbridge Borough Council budget for 2009-2010, and I supported it because we were all assured, in public, that no public toilet would be closed unless (i) suitable alternative provision had been promised by local businesses and (ii) all local councillors had been consulted about the closure. The practice of approaching local businesses to make their toilets available has been successfully implemented in Richmond.
My colleagues and I were told of the decision to close the Cobham toilets on 20th July and we were invited to a meeting with the relevant officers to be held on 27th July. This was inconvenient for 3 of us as it clashed with a meeting of the “Local Committee” (where Elmbridge and Surrey County councillors meet to discuss matters of local importance) and was inconvenient for me as I was abroad that day. Further, when I asked how many businesses in Cobham had offered the use of their toilets to the general public, my inquiry went unanswered.
We have now learned that it has been assumed that the automatic toilet opposite Waitrose by the bus stop is an adequate alternative. I disagree. It costs 20p to use, whereas the brick-built toilets are free. There is one stall, whereas in the brick-built toilets there are male and female cubicles. Next, some people are concerned that the door of the automatic toilet might open automatically at the wrong time and cause embarrassment / hilarity depending on your position.
Inevitably the closure will lead to alleyways and garages being used as public urinals. Anyone concerned should add a comment to this post and I will forward all such comments to the powers that be at Elmbridge.
I was Chairman of the Hammersmith & Fulham Conservatives from 2001-2004. It was a difficult time for our party. The New Labour government was popular and the Conservatives elected two leaders in a row, William Hague and Iain Duncan-Smith who were incapable of appealing to the British public. Locally in Hammersmith & Fulham we lost the Parliamentary seat in 1997 and failed to re-take it in 2001. The local council (a unitary authority as are all London borough councils) had been in the hands of the Labour party since 1986 and they were to hold it for 20 years.
Antony Lillis was a few months older than me and had been a councillor since 1990. It cannot have been an easy job, knowing that any contested vote would be lost and that any influence had to be obtained by way of negotiation and persuasion, not by force of numbers. For about 15 years he was the opposition spokesman on education and children’s services and on the voluntary sector. He threw himself into this task with enthusiasm. He was one of those very few politicians who was able to maintain and develop friendships across the political boundary. Always cheerful and jolly even in the most depressing political circumstances, he was a great help to me. Whatever his private views, he was always publicly supportive of the Party and those charged with the task of leading it.
In 2006 he was finally rewarded – the Conservatives took power and he was given the Cabinet role which he had shadowed for so long. It was not going to be an easy job since the state schools in the borough are mediocre, with the exception of the Oratory (reserved to Catholics – the Blair children went there) and Lady Margaret (Church of England girls only). As with Surrey, most people who can afford to educate their children privately, do so. Antony was well on his way to revolutionising the provision of education in Hammersmith & Fulham when he fell ill in June. I returned from holiday to find that he had passed away. You can read his obituary and the many heartfelt tributes to him here: http://www.lbhf.gov.uk/Directory/News/Cllr_Lillis_loses_battle_with_cancer.asp
Any councillor would be proud of Antony’s achievements. He will be missed.
I’ve decided to try a little experiment and put some colour into this blog. It was looking a little boring in plain blue. One day I might work out how to upload my own pictures but for the moment here is a pile of books. I’ve always enjoyed poking around second-hand bookshops so this header appealed instantly!
I’ve just come back after 10 relaxing days in the south west of France with my family. We took the train there, changing in Paris. It takes a bit longer than flying, but is more relaxing with small children.
British trains are very often contrasted with the French system, and the French rarely come out second best. Indeed their system is often described as the best in Europe, and there’s no doubt that it is extremely fast, very punctual and reasonably priced. But it isn’t all perfect. Certainly not if you want to eat in a French train or go to the loo. On a 5 hour journey with two small girls you end up doing a lot of both.
Let’s start with the loos. They smell. Not just at the end of the journey, but right at the beginning and the get progressively worse. French male railway travellers have a very poor aim. Next, the paper is almost impossible to extract from its dispenser. At one stage I found myself on my knees before my bemused 2 year old daughter, swearing (in French) at the dispenser as I tried to get enough paper out for her to wipe her drips.
Next the buffet car. You might expect, this being France, that you’d enjoy a superior dining experience to that available this side of the Channel. But no. The ham and cheese sandwich contained a slice of tasteless factory ham and a slice of rubbery processed gruyere cheese. Then there was the feta wrap which I presented to my wife. She took one bite and refused any more. She is not squeamish about food, quite the reverse in fact. It was a slightly worrying shade of orange and what was inside appeared to have been scooped from something Cow & Gate might have made. I was hungry so I ate it but I wouldn’t buy another. Finally there was the cost. Three sandwiches, 4 yoghurts and 4 drinks came to over £30.
Still, the weather was lovely.
As a local councillor the vast majority of issues in my postbag (actually these days it’s my email inbox) concern planning matters. The most important recent application was of course the Sainsburys application which was resolved on Monday 27th July in what seems to me a satisfactory manner.
Elmbridge BC has set up an automatic notification system which members of the public can sign up to in order to receive information about local planning applications. Here’s the link: http://www.elmbridge.gov.uk/planningalert.htm
I receive notifications by virtue of my role as a councillor, now members of the public will have the same resource. I’d be grateful for any feedback as to whether the system works properly.