This week I returned to Ealing from the Labour Party Conference for a day to attend the funeral service of riot victim and local pensioner Richard Mannington Bowes.
It was a dignified and moving service where both family members and friends joined with local politicians of all parties and members of the public to pay their respects to a brave man who took the first step to reclaim our community from the thugs who attacked its very heart.
We heard a very warm personal tribute from Mr Mannington Bowes’ cousin and felt the personal nature of this tragic death that almost unbelievably occurred in our town centre as those evil events of that August night unfolded. As we later laid flowers at the spot where Mr Mannington Bowes was attacked I was able to speak with his sister about the gratitude she felt for all the support she and her husband had received from the people of Ealing and the Council.
We also shared our thoughts about the thick silver lining of the increased community spirit that these crimes had brought about and the positive use that the Council would make of the generous donations made by local people to the Mayor’s relief fund in memory of her brother. It was a touching moment.
For me and others in attendance the funeral brought some closure to the terrible events of August. The recovery work from day one has been superb and I would like to once again pay tribute to all local residents, businesses and community organisations that helped the Council and the Police in getting our community back to normal so quickly.
The shop, eat and drink local campaign has been enthusiastically supported by local people and I would urge everyone to continue to back our local traders. Businesses have welcomed the free weekend parking the Council was able to provide in September and the business rate relief recently given by the Council has also been gratefully received.
As we move forward we begin the task of trying to learn the lessons of the riots and also refocus on the ongoing task of trying to protect vital frontline Council services in the face of £85m of government cuts. The Council has set up a local enquiry into the riots and this will run in parallel with the national investigation being chaired by former Ealing Council Chief Executive Darra Singh. There will be a public session in October that will give members of the public the opportunity to give evidence and have their say.
I will also give my input to the enquiry but my predominant focus over the next months will be shaping the Council’s budgets and services for the next three years as they are savaged by £85m of government cuts. The riots will have bearing on these decisions. I will continue to do all I can to protect our youth service from the cuts and we will also review our community safety budgets and look to find some capital investment for more CCTV.
The scale of these budget cuts makes protecting the most vulnerable ever challenging and the need to prioritise community safety and young people’s services an enormous task but I am determined to succeed. The recent opening of the skate park at Gurnell where I witnessed hundreds of enthusiastic young people enjoying this new Council facility fills me with hope and pride that what we are doing is making a real difference and that we are on the right track.
Ealing is a great Borough and we have all worked together to recover from the riots and that same spirit will ensure that we build a stronger and safer community and make Ealing an even better place to live despite the financial challenges we face.