Working Like a Duracell Bunny and the Mystery of the Council of the Year

Chiswick Riverside ward councillor Sam Hearn reports back on his week

Cllr Sam Hearn
Cllr Sam Hearn

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A week in the life of Cllr Sam Hearn …

Friday – 25th March: We have congratulated Hounslow Council for being awarded the accolade of council of the year 2021 by the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) and have asked for our role as the constructive opposition to be acknowledged. However, doubts have always lingered and bemused residents have found the award difficult to square with the Hounslow Council that they know: Phones calls unanswered, emails not responded to, and road and pavement repairs left untouched but marked with small blobs of white paint.

Suffice to say that it appears Hounslow will not be repeating its success this year. It is not even shortlisted by the LGC for any of the 21 award categories in 2022. A strange lack of consistency. Perhaps there is a simple explanation?

Saturday 26th March: It was my turn to run the councillor surgery at Chiswick Library. I had only one customer but the resident’s problems related to street lighting and were complicated. When I was sure that I understood the problem, I called Cllr Ron Mushiso in whose ward the resident lived and passed the matter over to him. Technically we are not meant to deal with problems that do not relate to our own wards but in practice Chiswick Cllrs try to act as a team and provide a seamless service.

From the Library I joined in a canvassing session. We have been walking the streets and pressing door-bells since the new year. The longer days, better weather and the imminent prospect of the 5th May Local Election have provided us with a new impetus. This of course is your opportunity to put candidates on the spot and probe their knowledge of our community. How will we deliver a cleaner safer borough? How will we make our council more accountable to you?

Sunday – 27th March: Spent most of the day in leafy Buckinghamshire attending a Mothering Sunday Service at Great Hampden and chairing the AGM of my history group. The meeting was primarily face-to-face. Most attendees had not met in the flesh up for over two years. Several people joined in via Zoom including five North Americans who had risen early and taken the change to British Summer Time in their stride. As with LBH the near universal adoption of virtual meetings has transformed much of what this history group does.

Monday – 28th March: I have for many years been calling for the council to publish the casework statistics of individual councillors. This is surely one of the measures that all residents, but particularly undecided voters, might expect to find on the council website. Labour run Hounslow have consistently refused to do this. Technical difficulties are cited but this is just not an acceptable answer.

I requested the borough-wide casework information for the forty-four months to the end of calendar year 2021. Leaving aside the councillors elected at by-elections, and Leader of the Council and the two term Mayor who have had the benefit of full-time paid assistants, the figures are quite striking. The average number of casework items dealt with by a Conservative Councillor is 465 while the comparative figure for Labour Councillors is 372. It is the Conservative Councillors who are the Duracell Bunnies – handling 20% more cases, on average, than their Labour counterparts.

I know that the casework handled by my colleagues Cllr Gabriella Giles and Cllr Mike Denniss and myself is considerably greater than that recorded on LBH’s casework system. We have received a huge volume of email correspondence from residents complaining about the blight on their lives caused by the local low traffic neighbourhood schemes. Neither of us have recorded much of this as casework – it would have taken far too long.

Tuesday – 29th March: Canvassing in Park Road I took a long hard look at the permanent diagonal barrier that is nearing completion at the junction of Park and Staveley Roads. It has cost the public purse over £100k. I am still none the wiser as to what purpose it serves. With the introduction of the new restrictions on Staveley Road (East) and Burlington Lane it surely serves no purpose at all. What it does do is interfere with the free movement of residents. A senior officer has told me that the barrier will “prevent traffic chaos after 7pm in the evening”. I hate to be critical of officers but really? Where is the evidence? Should we in all honesty have spent over £100k of public money in this random way? The officer does not live in the borough and did not know the street before the temporary barrier was installed. My colleagues would of course be happy to support measures that make our roads safer for all road users including cyclists but this barrier is just pointless.

Why did Hounslow refuse take advantage of the new restrictions, mentioned above, to remove the temporary Park and Staveley Road barrier and assess the impact on traffic movements? If traffic calming measures are required on Staveley Road then why not use some of the millions of fines collected on Hartington Road to pay for them?

Wednesday – 30th March: In my role as chair of the Hounslow Pension Board I attended the Pension Investment Fund Panel meeting chaired by the Deputy Chair Cllr John Todd. The actual chair of the panel has not attended a meeting of the Panel for over a year but has continued to collect the special responsibility allowance. This is unacceptable. All those serving on this body perform an incredibly important role. All panel members have received extensive external training before they are allowed to participate in the decision making.

The Hounslow Pension Fund controls over £1.2 billion pounds worth of assets. Deciding how these resources are invested is the single most important way in which Hounslow Council can mitigate the impact of global climate change. In accordance with the current investment strategy the council’s officers, investment advisers and fund managers have made great strides in addressing the environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues facing the pension fund. However, more needs to be done. For example, new high-quality funds are emerging that would allow the pension scheme to not only reduce the carbon-foot print of its existing assets but actively promote new clean energy sources and sustainable technologies.

Most unusually the meeting received a petition. It was signed by seventeen individuals and requested that Hounslow Pension Fund (HPF) adopt an ethical investment policy to address the climate emergency and prevent investments in fossil fuels, nuclear weapons, the arms trade and companies that violate animal and human rights. The lead petitioner presented the case and an officer from the finance team spoke to a report addressing the petition.

The pension fund’s investment strategy is due to be reviewed and revised at the start of the new administration. It is important that the mandates given to the fund managers are as explicit as possible. Ultimately the fund must take a long-term view and protect the pensions of past, present and future employees. But to speak bluntly if the impact of climate change cannot be mitigated all bets are off.

Thursday 31st March: Back to handling casework. Councillors learn the hard way that canvassing generates casework. I am still regularly receiving complaints about the Chiswick Riverside low traffic neighbourhood and the fines being incurred by unwary travellers. One anguished individual tells me that he is contesting three recently received PCNs for infringements that occurred in March 2021 …. You really could not make up the level of administrative incompetence being displayed by our “listening” council. We do deserve better.

A canvassing first for me in Chiswick: I knock on the door of a man who identifies himself as an ex-miner and a life-long Labour voter. I am not brave enough to tell him that Harold Wilson closed far more pits than Margaret Thatcher. He hates the council-imposed traffic schemes. We part on amicable terms having shared reminiscences of the wonderful Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

Friday 1st April: Well and truly spoofed by a message from someone called Haneef Kan purporting to be ‘mandating’ the changes to the Chiswick Riverside, road schemes that we have been campaigning for. Not sure where my sense of humour is. I am sure that I left it on my desk somewhere.

Sam Hearn – Chiswick Riverside Ward Councillor
07833 376222


Most council meetings are now taking place in person at Hounslow House though a few, such as licensing panel meetings, continue to be held virtually. Even if they are held in person, you can watch them live (or later) on   the council's YouTube channel   . Please check for each meeting by looking at the agenda reports pack for each committee.

The key council meetings coming up are:     

  • 5th April – 7.00pm Licensing panel 
  • 19th April– 7.00pm   Cabinet
  • 31 st May – 7.00pm Annual Meeting of the Borough Council

Key Local Election Dates

Last day to register to vote – 14th April

Deadline for receipt of postal vote applications – 19th April

Deadline for receiving new proxy voting form – 26th April

Polling Day 7am – 10pm Thursday 5th May

Counting of votes – from 10pm Thursday 5th May

More information here

Boundary Commission – changes to the parliamentary constituency

The second stage of the consultations ends on the 4th April but you can review the details here.


Most council meetings are now taking place in person at Hounslow House though a few, such as licensing panel meetings, continue to be held virtually. Even if they are held in person, you can watch them live (or later) on  the council's YouTube channel. Please check for each meeting by looking at the  agenda reports pack for each committee.

The key council meetings coming up are:     

  • 28th March – 5.00pm Audit and governance 
  • 5th April – 7.00pm Licensing panel 
  • 19th April– 7.00pm   Cabinet


We are now able to hold face-to-face surgeries again and, as before, will be available in Chiswick and in Gunnersbury. Chiswick: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick Library (the nine Conservative councillors take this surgery in turn). Gunnersbury: First Saturday of the month from 10am to 11am at The Gunnersbury Triangle Club, Triangle Way, off The Ridgeway, W3 8LU (at least one of the Turnham Green ward councillors will take this surgery).

Chiswick Homefields ward

Cllr Patrick Barr
07976 703263

Cllr Gerald McGregor
07866 784821

Cllr John Todd
07866 784651

Chiswick Riverside ward

Cllr Michael Denniss
07976 703274

Cllr Gabriella Giles
07966 270823

Cllr Sam Hearn
07833 376222

Turnham Green ward

Cllr Joanna Biddolph
07976 703446

Cllr Ranjit Gill
07976 702956

Cllr Ron Mushiso
07976 702887

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April 5, 2022