Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Signs of our times on the West Ham doorstep

On Saturday morning I went door knocking in my ward with local West Ham Labour branch comrades (and Council candidates in 2014) Julianne Marriot and John Whitworth. Julianne had been up early that day to be interviewed by various BBC channels in her role as a supporter of "Don't Judge my Family" campaign against Tory plans to penalise families who don't want to be told that they have to get "married" - or else.

She was pretty talked out and was facing more interviews later that day so she did the paperwork and the two John's did most of the door knocking and the talking.

I said hello to members of the Abbey Gardens Community Garden who were setting up their "Food Glorious Food Festival" for that afternoon. I gave my apologies for not being able to attend due to another commitment but my colleague Cllr Freda Bourne did attend.

Anti-social behaviour was a key theme of this street surgery. Residents were pleased that the local Metropolitan Police Safer Neighbourhood team were moving to nearby Newham Council Abbey Road depot. I am still more than a little fed up with London Mayor, Boris Johnson's failure to live up to his manifesto promises to keep up Police numbers in London. He has tried to hide this reduction in numbers by merging our local safer neighbourhood teams. But everyone needs to know that due to Boris there is less Police out on our streets to look after us.

An interesting sign of our times was that I knocked on one door and spoke to a resident who told me she had a complaint about our council bulk rubbish service. She went and got her IPAD and showed me within seconds a record she had made of a long list of people she had spoken to (and times) at the  Council arrange collection of her bulk rubbish, which for whatever reason never happened. She agreed to send me this information so I can try and find out what had went wrong.  I was surprised since the bulk rubbish service in Newham is my experience pretty good and I get few complaints and many compliments.  

I knocked on another door and a resident who I have never met before spoke to me about an email he had sent to me recently. I apologised that I hadn't yet seen that email but he said that he understood since he followed me on Facebook and knew I had been busy and away last week at Labour Party conference!

My best "door knock" of the day was speaking to a resident who so pleased that I had called at his home to speak to him that when I got home, I saw he had emailed me to thank me even though we had a somewhat difficult conversation about what I could (and could not) do about his rehousing application. He and his family lived in a overcrowded and small flat.

What I really liked is when I next knocked on the door of one of his neighbours, an elderly and  fragile man answered the door, looked at me in surprise and said he had only opened the door because he thought it was that same neighbour checking up on him that he was ok, because his wife had recently gone into a nursing home.

So the lesson is some things in the East End do change, but other things don't. We have IPADs, email and Facebook but as long as we still have neighbours looking out after neighbours, one of the really important East End values will live on.

(picture of Abbey Gardens festival with Freda judging) 
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