Cllr Georgia Gould, the relatively new leader of Camden Council, was out and about in West Hampstead this week. She’s visiting each ward across the borough specifically to meet the groups that make Camden tick.
She was in our ‘hood with Cllr Phil Rosenberg visiting the Sherriff Centre, which impressed her. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like quite like it before,” she said. She also met with the Friends of West Hampstead Library, the Maygrove & Iverson Road residents assocation, Sidings Community centre, the NDF and WHAT (to jointly discuss step-free access at the tube station), JW3 and West Hampstead Life.
Cllr Gould grew up in Kentish Town and now lives in Regent’s Park – so she’s Camden through and through – but she confessed she didn’t actually know West Hampstead that well although “by virtue of it being a marginal ward I’ve done a lot of door knocking!”
Keith Moffitt, co-chair of the NDF and himself a former leader of the council, already knows Georgia and was encouraged by her interest in the tube station, adding that “she has a young friendly manner, but is highly competent”. This was echoed by Sue Measures from Sidings who said “she seems very genuine,” and enjoyed having the opportunity to openly discuss some issues affecting Sidings.
Over at that Library, Jennie Cohen, FoWHL secretary, said that “in all the years that the Friends group has existed – we’re celebrating their 20th anniversary next year – we have never before been visited by a leader of Camden Council, so it gave us all a real boost.” Monica Regli, chair of MILAM was also impressed; “It felt like she was listening, was interested – and took notes(!)’.
Regarding the proposals for the tube station, which needs expanding, Georgia said that “Residents had some very interesting ideas about step-free access at West Hampstead tube station so that’s a lobbying thing for me to help on. We want to have a discussion with TfL about that.”
Of course the issue of rubbish has been the biggest concern for many residents over recent months – and could be a stumbling block for Labour locally in May’s council elections. The contract with Veolia is six months old and most people would agree that it isn’t running 100% smoothly yet. In response to some specific examples of local problems, Georgia said, “we kept our resources in-house to monitor the contract and educate. I appreciate it’s about behavour change; it will take time but we have resources to work with people”. She is still asking people to let them council know where there are issues. Which it seems is all some people who live in the worst-affected areas ever do.
“There are still individual properties where we need to act,” said Phil, to which Georgia added, “You have to be proactive. There were clearly issues when it first was introduced, things have got better but there is still a way to go”.
Although a lot of groups in the area cover both Fortune Green and West Hampstead (and sometimes the boundary between them is a bit unclear) Cllr Gould will be returning to look specifically at Fortune Green in the company of Camden’s only Lib Dem councillor, Flick Rea.