The recent years of no or very low increases to Council Tax are over. Residents in the Borough are now seeing bills land on their doormats for increases of around 3.5% as Council budgets come under pressure from cuts to the funding received from central government. With bills frozen from 2009 to 2015 and with a modest increase last year, the new charges mark a big change. Our Dear Leaders at El Brute have said that cuts in these government grants mean that savings of £31m need to be found to cover the shortfall in order to maintain vital services but increasing Council Tax forms part of the plan too. For a Band D property the hike will average out at 3.55%, comprising 3.99% for Richmond’s own council tax and 1.46% towards the Greater London Authority.
A Council Tax pictured recently
LBRuT Deputy Leader, Big Sam (that’s Geoffrey Samuel not Sam Allardyce btw), said “With unprecedented Government cuts to our funding, and increased pressure on social care, it simply isn’t feasible to freeze the tax any more. We now need to find a new way to deliver future services, working more collaboratively with our residents and partners. This will take time. The only way we can cover the costs of vital services for the next year is to raise Council Tax and the adult social care precept”. Some of the savings will continue to flow from the merger of Richmond and Wandsworth Councils’ operations functions, others are no doubt ‘tbc’.
The seat of El Brute power
The rise comes at a time when business rates continue to cause concern for many local traders and when newly announced National Insurance increases for the self-employed will add financial pressure to many already feeling the pinch.
So, are you happy that El Brute says it is raising Council Tax to protect important services or hacked off that you’re facing an above inflation rise after years of stable bills? Err, or both at the same time maybe?
* LBRuT Press Release
* LBRuT Council Tax Page
If you thought you’d had your fill of chances to ‘have your say’ on the expansion of Heathrow then you’d be wrong. If you thought that as a local resident your views would count for very little when stacked up against those of politicians and business, then you’d be right. Hey ho, that’s the way it goes but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have your say yet again in a brand new exercise. There are even things you can turn up to in Twickenham and other local towns.
This time it’s a Government consultation on their ‘approved’ option for a new third runway to the north west of the current two. It was launched recently and runs until 25th May and so there’s plenty of time for your views to be discounted. In launching the consultation, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling referenced leaving the EU as a reason why building airport capacity at Heathrow is ‘crucial’ for UK growth and thus the endless years of debate about Heathrow have become Brexitified. With Gatwick beaten into second place, expansion at Heathrow looks certain to happen, unless of course it takes so long to reach a final, final, final agreement that Star Trek style teleporting technology supersedes cramming people into giant metal tubes with engines tacked on the sides. The current thinking seems to be that a new north west runway could be delivered by 2026, so let’s call that 2032 to be on the safe side. It might even be finished before the new Twickenham station!
Plane landing at Heathrow
Richmond Council, aka El Brute, are running a series of engagement sessions around Twickenham and Strawberry Hill to get your views on the state of the world in God’s Own Outer London Suburb (GOOLS). The sessions take different formats ranging from a Leader’s Question Time, with no less a personage than Lord True, the Blue Baron himself, via drop-in sessions and all the way through to ‘walkabouts’ where you can roam the streets pointing out all the things you don’t like, and maybe some that you do.
It’s part of LBRuT’s grand scheme of ‘village plans’. These are all about trying to shape how your local area will develop and what the key issues, priorities and opportunities are. El Brute say these will help inform their work on improving the villages (Editor: And towns please! Twickenham is a town!) across the borough. Previous Question Time sessions have taken place in the last couple of years at various locations, including East Twickenham, St Margarets and Whitton. Lord True’s state carriage will be travelling to Strawberry Hill and to The Stoop in Twickenham.
What’s hot? Parking, pot holes, traffic, schools, planning, noise, empty shops and dare we say the word ‘Riverside’?
Will you be having your say?
York House: The seat of El Brute power
* Wed 11th Jan 6.30 to 8.30pm. Strawberry Hill – Leader’s Question Time at Strawberry Hill Golf Club
* Wed 18th Jan 6.30 to 8.30pm. Twickenham – Leader’s Question Time at The Stoop (Harlequins Rugby Club)
* Sat 25th Feb 10am to 4pm. Strawberry Hill and Twickenham – Drop in consultation at the Emmanuel Centre, St James Church, Popes Grove
* Sun 26th Feb 10.30am to 12.30pm. Strawberry Hill Walkabout – Meet at Emmanuel Centre, St James Church
* More details and more dates in March via the link below
* LBRuT Village Plan events
Last week El Brute published the feedback from its most recent exercise to listen to residents’ views on its ideas for Twickenham Riverside. After getting roundly lambasted, damned, slated and panned after their initial publication, Richmond Council had another go at doing some listening to the locals (by which we mean trying to find support for continuing with their preferred course of action).
Water Lane car park – Twickenham riverside
What do we know so far? The Council’s chosen firm of architects was Q&F Terry. Now that young Francis has separated from his father’s firm, the Council’s preferred architect is Master F Terry. Same but different? Dunno. What we do know is that just about everybody in Twickenham wants to see better use of the riverside site and that very few liked the original Terry design proposals – ill-suited architecture, too much residential development, large scale, no clear town square, too much parking by the river (or perhaps not enough depending on your point of view and where you live) were just some of the complaints. Cue more Council ‘listening’ but not much sign of any intention to go back to the drawing board for a wider ‘taking stock’.
To paraphrase former plucky-Brit-cum-war-boss Winston Churchill, we cannot forecast the actions of Richmond Council when it comes to Twickenham Riverside. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. Wise words Winston! But what is that key? Is the key to understanding it the Council’s desire to just get something built and move on so that they can say, “At least we did something?”. Is it about building a fancy-dan lasting legacy to something or other? Or is it to provide ‘new heart for Twickenham’ as their most recent consultation push suggested? Dunno.
Extract of design from LBRuT website
But what we do know is that the original regency themed design concept complete with colonnade and amphitheatre proved unpopular with a significant majority. Yes, there will always be naysayers, nimbys, blockers and haters but the lack of public support for a redevelopment that is desperately needed was quite telling. Telling too was the Council’s second big consultation on the subject which took place over the summer and which barely mentioned the original scheme despite a clear intention to stick with the same principles and the same architects.
Public meeting about Twickenham Riverside
REVISED: This item is an updated and re-vamped version of the one published on 12th July.
Twickenham riverside site from Embankment
Folks, for months we had been expecting the big reveal, the grand unveiling, or, if you will, the presentation to end all presentations! We are of course talking about the revised plans for the Twickenham Riverside development. Remember that old thing? How could you not? It’s big. Well, after trailing the pop-up shop to review the revised designs, we’re now told we’ll have a wait a while yet as more consultation is required. Apparently.
As you full well know, and do not pretend that you don’t, when El Brute presented their regency inspired ‘design concept’ for the site last year it was met with views that ranged from mild disappointment all the way to downright anger. OK, so there was indifference too and even a small smattering of delight but for the most part the ideas presented fell quite a way short of what most residents were hoping for. Be honest, have you actually met anyone who really liked the design? The much discussed town square seemed to be missing, the opening up of the King Street shops to the river via Water Lane hadn’t happened and the prospect of a regency inspired amphitheatre with up to 40 flats on top didn’t really compute with the brief of making best use of this prime riverside location. The colonnade of shops didn’t go down well either, although the creation of garden space in front of the Diamond Jubilee Gardens was generally popular… except with people who currently park their cars there. So far, so meh! For others, the fact that the plans were not a new lido also presented a major obstacle.
Extract of design from LBRuT website
El Brute sought feedback and the result was a resounding ‘no thanks’ from the hundreds who took the time to reply. Of the 754 consultation responses received just 93 said the plans met the needs of the local community. Ouch! A local Riverside Action Group was formed to try to persuade Richmond Council to re-think the whole process but the Council pressed on, telling you lot that it would listen to your views and make amendments to the designs that had been created by its chosen architects, Q&F Terry (esteemed “designers of new classical buildings”) who had won El Brute’s ‘competition’. Continue reading
The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death seems like an apposite time for an update on the Twickenham Riverside development. Why? Well, we’ve got comedy, tragedy, a cast of memorable characters, history repeating itself and bitter power struggles. Add to that the option for referencing this saga to the titles of Shakespeare’s plays (e.g. The Comedy of Errors or As True Likes It, etc, etc, add your own versions at the end) and then top it off with the possibility that we might get an amphitheatre on which we’ll be able to see it all acted out one day. Bostin’ as they say in the Midlands although whether they say it as far south as Stratford-upon-Avon is a mystery (to us).
You’ll recall that after having listened to local residents across several consultations over several years, the Council went away, did some mulling and cogitating, worked with big name architects Q&F Terry and then unveiled designs for the riverside which nobody particularly seemed to like. Oh dear. LBRuT (pron: El Brute) then announced that it would work on revisions which would take account of residents’ feedback and, possibly, just possibly, make the scheme do the things that it was originally supposed to do, namely create a useful town square and open up central Twickenham to the river.
Twickenham riverside site from Embankment
Richmond Council has stepped up its campaign to secure royal status for the borough. It’s no secret that leading Councillors are keen to add the ‘royal’ moniker to the borough’s name and to secure all the prestige and pageantry that goes with it. It would be a major coup for LBRuT if they can pull it off.
York House: Home to El Brute
As part of its £2m ‘Project Royal’ campaign the Council is planning to splash the cash on a ‘Royalty Festival’ and street parties to celebrate the Borough’s connections with the monarchy. The festival will take place in Marble Hill Park in June at a time when many people will be holding street parties to celebrate the Queen’s 90th Birthday. The Marble Hill event will feature a giant, free street party for anyone who wants to attend. Planning is already well underway and Council Leader Lord True, aka The Blue Baron, has gone on the record to say: “The 90th birthday of our monarch should be a glorious occasion for us all to get together and celebrate her reign and the service she has given to our nation. I am thrilled to be able to host an event in one of the Borough’s most beautiful open spaces and have been working closely with the Parks Department on the plans. The Parks team have already adopted some of my exciting ‘lawn art’ ideas for making the grounds look suitably regal. Furthermore, I and several other Councillors will be leading a royal parade by way of entertainment”. Continue reading
Plane landing at Heathrow
The lobby groups have lobbied, the Davies Commission has deliberated, a recommendation has been made and a decision to proceed taken by the Government. All of those things are true except the last one. It had been expected that a ruling on whether to go ahead with the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport would be taken this month. That is no longer going to happen after the Government announced that the decision would be put back to next summer to allow for further work on the environmental impact. Air quality and pollution remain real concerns.
Business types reacted with disappointment to the news whilst environmentalists and residents were broadly positive. For many, whichever side of the Heathrow debate they sit on, it just means more months of uncertainty and a chance for yet more lobbying.
The news also means the decision will take place after May’s elections for London Mayor in which the staunch anti-expansionist Mr Zac Goldsmith MP is the Conservative candidate. A funny co-incidence if there ever was one. David “no ifs, no buts” Cameron is caught in a tricky spot when it comes to biting the bullet on the third runway decision. The business lobby is campaigning hard for it but many influential London MPs and their constituents are vehemently opposed. The deferral could be regarded as giving a glimmer of light for the opposition groups although on the face of it, it feels much more like a convenient political fudge. And we haven’t even got near the judicial reviews yet. This one could run and run.
* BBC News
* Teddington Action Group – local opposition group
* Richmond Council – opposed to Heathrow expansion
* Back Heathrow – pro 3rd runway