Deputy Leader's Gazette Column - July 2012
There is a saying that the one constant thing in life is change, and though change is something that we often complain about on reflection it can be a good thing. I moved to Hillingdon to start my first job in 1997 and looking at how things have changed in that time, we have much better shopping areas, more pleasant parks, and better roads to name a few very visible changes. These things are not all about the Council – our lives are more influenced by our jobs, families and home life than what our elected representatives get up to – but the pace of change challenges us all.
Preparing young people for the changes their future holds is one of the biggest responsibilities of all, and with Hillingdon the sixth largest knowledge economy in England, the opportunities are enormous if we support our young people to make the most of them. Visiting Uxbridge College recently – once again the top performing college in London – I was struck by the courses in computer game programming. An industry in its infancy fifteen years ago, this offers young people – who may not chose an academic start in life – the opportunity of an enjoyable, fulfilling and highly paid job with great prospects for the future, doing work that was not even invented when I left college! The way in which education happens in the borough is changing quickly, with many of our local schools taking on even more responsibility for their own affairs than before, and for Hillingdon as a community, it is vital that we continue to support, and challenge our schools to make sure our young residents get the skills and qualifications to make the most of the opportunities here.
One change that we certainly do not welcome is the renewed lobbying for a third runway at Heathrow. At our recent council meeting I was pleased to reassure ward councillor David Benson, and now Gazette readers, that the council remains unwavering in its support for our residents whose lives would be blighted should another runway be given permission by government. Along with other councils we are working to remake the case against R3, which like HS2, would damage the quality of life of Hillingdon residents without bringing any significant benefits that would make them worthwhile. Even now, the HS1 line through the channel tunnel is not even close to carrying its predicted number of passengers, and aircraft are regularly leaving Heathrow half empty due to a lack of bookings. The economic argument simply does not stack up and we will do whatever is within our power as a council, from legal challenges, to lobbying in Brussels, via financial and practical support to local campaigners, to ensure these unwanted and unnecessary proposals are deservedly defeated. Our Prime Minister showed good sense and judgement in agreeing with us over the third runway campaign when in opposition, and now we are calling on him to apply the same good sense and judgement and ditch HS2.