CIP meeting provides "a very depressing picture"

The Director of CIP who met with a group of Chiswick residents recently is praised for his frankness but offered little prospect of improvement to local services

Who are CIP?

CIP are a not for profit company set up by Hounslow Council to take over the role of the leisure services division

Amongst other things they are responsible for:

  • Chiswick Library
  • Allotments
  • Approximately 54,000 trees
  • Cemeteries
  • Major outdoor festivals, theatre, and community events
  • Heritage, museums and historic houses
  • Parks and green spaces grounds maintenance including Chiswick House Grounds
  • Sport & Recreation including Brentford Leisure Centre, Chiswick New Pool and the Back Common tennis courts
  • Playgrounds

Around 30 residents turned up to hear Julian Knott Director of Services at CIP answer a series of questions about their services in the Chiswick area.

Mr. Knott gave an honest but not particularly encouraging view point on the current situation with the central theme being that there was not sufficient funding to give people the kind of provision they expect. One resident described it as "a very depressing picture" although after the meeting most attending described it as very constructive. Mr Knott said that he "admired the passion of Chiswick". The budget that CIP has received has been cut every year since its inception. Due to a half million pound overspend in previous years CIP will be making further cut-backs or "right-sizing" the company in the near future with 28 jobs to go.

Most of the discussion on the evening centred on the state of Chiswick House Grounds. It was revealed that the annual budget for the maintenance of the grounds was £155,000 which it was admitted was woefully inadequate. Gunnersbury Park receives more than twice this amount because it is jointly funded by Hounslow and Ealing Council. There is some prospect of the grounds receiving funding from the National Lottery but without this further decline is not ruled out. Measures have been taken to improve park security and stem the tide of vandalism but the cost of regular security patrols has proven to be prohibitive. The toilets in the grounds remain in their present state because the borough-wide budget for public conveniences is £8000.

On the subject of tree maintenance it was pointed out that an original tree maintenance schedule of once every two years had been scaled back to every seven due to budget cuts. In the Bedford Park area this contrasts with the trees in Ealing borough which are maintained on a "as needed" basis. CIP pointed out that they were capable of offering a similar level of service given the necessary level of funding.

There was better news on Chiswick Back Common tennis courts on which the meeting was told that the Secretary of State had received a letter on the change of designation of the site and a positive response was expected soon. New courts could be up and running by the spring.

CIP are aiming to supplement the amount of money they receive by increasing income from work in the private sector. Revenue from this can be ploughed back into exisiting services.

Peter Eversden, who is a member of various local amenity groups, praised Mr Knott for his frankness and said, "It cost LB Hounslow over £3 million in 1991 to provide the services that CIP have to provide and manage now. One would think the cost would have risen to more than £5 million after eleven years but Hounslow Council has decided to provide a grant to CIP to do the work of just £2.4 million."

The conclusion of many at the meeting was that CIP had been taking the brunt of criticism for the failing standard of service when they themselves were victims of continuous budget cutting. However, with Education and Social Services taking up the largest part of the budget there was little prospect of major increases in funding for CIP.

November 9, 2002

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