Monday, 23 April 2012

Whitton's St George's Day

Once again Whitton put on a fantastic show with our St George's Day parade over the weekend.

With a fantastic procession and all manner of shops and stands this was a great event for all the community. In particular I would like to thank the Whitton Business Association for all their hard work pulling this event together and of course all the volunteers without which events such as these would be impossible.

This year I had the pleasure of being in the procession with the Whitton Lions Rugby Club which has grown from strength to strength since its inception last August. Open to all if you are interesting in playing or supporting please go to www.whittonlions.co.uk.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Nominate your footpaths and roads for repair


Residents concerned about the state of the footpaths and roads in their local area can now nominate them for repair until the 21 May, thanks to a new £490,000 community fund.

In the All in One survey, residents highlighted the condition of pavements and footpaths among their top concerns. In response, the Council set aside £35,000 for each of the village areas, to pay specifically for community nominated improvements. This is in addition to the very significant annual increase for normal footpath and roadway works, which trebled in the last budget.

Cllr Elliott, Whitton Ward Councillor said: "The state of paving is a recurring issue for Whitton's residents so it is great news to hear that this Council has once again prioritised this issue. I urge all residents to pro-actively nominate their roads and paving where they are in need of repair."

Cllr Chris Harrison, Richmond Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Street Scene, said:
“We have set up specific funds for each of our 14 villages which means that repairs can now be decided on at a localised level. The most frequently mentioned suggestions for each area will be evaluated to ensure they are practical and do not form part of planned work. The final decisions will be published in early June.”

Cllr Pamela Fleming, Richmond Council’s Cabinet Member for Community, Business and Culture, said:
“I’m delighted that the nomination process for fund allocation is now open. We understand that good quality roads and pavements are a very important issue for local residents, and we want people to be involved in the decision making process over where the funding goes.”
Residents can submit suggestions by either completing an online form, or collecting a paper copy from their local library. Residents can also suggest other small improvements they would like to make in their area, for example, installing new hanging baskets.

Please find a breakdown of the different repairs and improvements that can be made using the fund:

For further information or to nominate how the money should be spend in your local area go to: http://www.richmond.gov.uk/fund

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Councillor Gareth Elliott: A bigger private sector would do more for poorer children



Article written for Conservative Home


The privatisation of national assets has always been a highly politically charged topic. Harold Macmillan famously likened Margaret Thatcher’s programme to “selling off the family silver”. Yet for all the scaremongering, the result has generally been a huge success. The UK’s car industry has gone from basket case to one of the most efficient in the world. Nobody today would seriously call for the renationalisation of BT, which is spending over £2bn on super-fast broadband, whilst our flag carrier, BA, is still a national champion; in fact, it is one of the most successful airlines in the world. The experience of privatisation is therefore one of success.

Yet there are still areas where private enterprise cannot tread, and not because it couldn’t succeed, but because it is politically unpalatable. Education is one such example, yet it is potentially an area where the private sector could really make a difference.

The Free Schools movement has shown that there is an appetite to break free from the chains of state control. Later this year, 79 new free schools will open their doors for the first time. These schools are funded on a comparable basis to other state-funded schools but possess a number of freedoms, including the ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff, freedom from following the National Curriculum, greater control of their budget, freedom to change the length of terms and school days, and freedom from local authority control. Yet for the private sector to really make a difference, we must ask ourselves whether we are prepared for companies to be able to profit from their services?

This was the question asked at a recent round table, chaired by Graham Stuart MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, and attended by a cross section private education providers, on whether private companies should be able to make a profit from running schools.
What struck me was the willingness of the private companies around the table to get stuck in, and not, as many will claim, with the cream of the educational spectrum, but starting from the bottom. This is significant. Schools can only open where there is demand and presently the greatest requirement for additional capacity is in the inner cities where educational standards are lower. This means that the schools must be inclusive and open to all. It doesn’t make sense to go niche as this limits intake.

Investment is also long term. Private companies will only prosper through economies of scale, that is, they must take over or open not one or two schools but many schools. The number talked of by individual companies in the seminar was the opening of 30 schools or more. This is exactly the kind of investment that our schools need.

What about standards? Will private companies ensure a high level of education? Of course, it is in the interests of the company to set a clear standard across its estate, and a high standard at that. These schools will be there to attract pupils and their parents, and that won’t be possible with a defective product. No parent would willingly send their child to a bad school.
And this is the point. Private companies will be selling a service and that service will have to be consistent to back up and enhance the company’s reputation and brand across all its schools. It will not work if a company has a bad school and a good school because only the bad school will be talked about. Private companies will therefore invest considerable sums to ensure that their schools follow a standardised and high quality format. And with several companies operating in education there will finally be real parental choice. The incentive for companies to provide high quality education is in the simple fact that parents will be able to take their children elsewhere.

And finally, the schools will be set up by companies that must look to the long term to ensure a justifiable return on their investment. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. However, Free Schools have been built upon the enthusiasm of the parents who want a better future for their children. What happens when those children have passed through the school? Will the parents still be as interested? Evidence from the continent shows a peak of interest followed by sharp falls. If we are to achieve the sort of critical mass we have witnessed with academies we must look at the profit motive. In Sweden true success was only achieved once the schools could make a profit. If we want our education system to prosper and receive the investment it so needs maybe we should allow the companies themselves to prosper too.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Whitton Village is on the Map


As the finishing touches to the first round of the Whitton Uplift strategy are completed it was exciting to see the new Whitton Village signs go up in the High Street. With Whitton Village now back on the map, literally, these signs provide a directory of the High Street’s shop’s and services and a wayfinder to Whitton’s attractions. Have a look and I am sure that you will be surprised at the wealth of activities available within only a few minutes walk from the town centre.

Here are a couple of pictures if you haven’t yet seen them:



Monday, 2 April 2012

Whitton Uplift: Phase One Almost Complete


A £360,000 project to improve Whitton High Street Phase One has now been completed. Improvements include new lamp columns, shop fronts, information boards, signage for parking, a community art project and new local website.
Uplift is the Council’s programme designed to rejuvenate Whitton, Hampton North, Barnes, Mortlake and Ham.
Over the past six months a series of physical improvements, cultural, online and business-led projects have been carried out in Whitton High Street.
Local Whitton residents are now benefiting from thirty two 1930’s-style lamp columns, replacing the old outdated posts. Fifteen shops have benefited either from total face lifts or improvements to awnings and signage. Two new information boards have been installed for shoppers and visitors, additional parking signage, a community art project and a new local website have also been finalised.
Planning work for Phase Two of the project is now being drawn up.
Cllr Gareth Elliott, Whitton Ward Councillor, said:
"After the strong response from the All-in-One we were set very clear objectives from Whitton's residents about what they would like to see from the High Street. At the top of the list was a desire to see the look and feel of the High Street updated to attract shoppers and to encourage a more varied shopping experience. With the new lamp columns and the upgraded shopping frontages Whitton is looking fantastic. Interest in the High Street is growing and we now see shops opening rather than closing. With the news of the granting of planning permission at the car showroom site Whitton is definitely on the up!"
Cllr Virginia Morris, Richmond Council Cabinet Member for the Environment, said:
“Over 1,000 people in Whitton told us in the All in One survey that they wanted the High Street to be made more attractive and more needed to be done to improve parking and encourage shoppers. This work demonstrates that we have really listened to them.
“By replacing the older street lights in favour of these new striking ones, we hope to create a better atmosphere along the street. Officers worked hard researching the style of the original lamp and found an old photograph that showed Whitton High Street with ornate lighting. We have looked to recreate that glamour so to give Whitton what it deserves. Together with the improvements to the shop fronts, it should lead to the High Street becoming a more enjoyable place to shop for residents, which means better trade for the businesses themselves.”
Cllr Pamela Fleming, Cabinet Member for Communities, Business and Culture, added:
“The All in One gave us a strong idea of what people actually wanted for Whitton, and where we can, we have acted on what they said.
“The Community Art project was a very important part of the Uplift programme. Two artists worked with the community to create work that was inspired by local memories, hopes and aspirations.
“The website and new information signage will also provide a guide to both residents and businesses, as to what is available along the High Street – encouraging more shoppers to the area and a focal point for local events and activities.
“None of this work would have been possible without the support from the local Business Association and local traders. I would like to thank them all for their hard work on this project and I am sure that they are already seeing the benefits.”