Where is our Assembly member when we need him?
Lib Dems have been campaigning for years for improvements to the crossings and lights at the corner of the Hook Centre. It has been a huge struggle because the Hook Road is managed by Transport for London, not by Kingston Council, so the local councillors have no direct influence. And it has not been helped by the complete lack of action by the person who represents us on the London Assembly.
To start with the problem - well, two problems, actually.
When the traffic lights were installed at the junction of Elm Road with Hook Road, they did not include pedestrian lights, which means that at no time is there a pause to allow pedestrians to cross Elm Road. Now this is on a busy walking route between the shops on the one side, and the Hook Centre and St Paul's school on the other.
The route across Elm Road was made even more dangerous in a way that is not really obvious until you try to cross it. There are dropped kerbs and a central refuge which indicate where you should cross, but if you stand waiting you cannot see any of the actual traffic lights in any direction. So you do not know what colour they are. You simply have to look at the traffic and try to guess what is about to move next.
When I was a councillor I brought this up regularly with Kingston's traffic engineers, and they did their best to persuade TfL to look at it, but it was always dismissed as a minor problem. And why was it considered a minor problem? Well, because no-one had been killed or seriously injured there.
I'm afraid it took a fatality to get them to listen to our concerns.
But I now need to explain the second problem. The Hook Road is, of course, much busier than Elm Road. The traffic lights in Hook Road at the Hook Road/Elm Road junction were designed to make it safe for vehicles turning in or out of Elm Road. The main pedestrian crossing across Hook Road is just 50 yards away so I do understand why they did not install another pedestrian crossing across Hook Road at this point.
But for years people have taking the risk and crossing the Hook Road between the Hook Centre and the Lucky Rover. I have seen elderly folk walking very slowly across after the lights have changed and two lanes of traffic are ready to move. There have been accidents, but the worst one resulted in the death of Mike Cowley, a local man known to many of us.
That tragic accident happened four years ago. I was Chair of the Neighbourhood then so I made sure that TfL were contacted immediately. Eventually, we persuaded them to carry out a feasibility study of the junction, which they did. But nothing followed for ages.
Now at last, after persistent questioning from the councillors, TfL have promised that they will carry out the improvements. Proper pedestrian crossings will be installed across both Hook and Elm Roads.
But why has it taken so long? Haven't we got an elected member of the London Assembly who should be acting on our behalf?
Yes, we do, but you could be forgiven for not knowing who he is. His name is Tony Arbour and he has been the London Assembly member for SW London for 12 years. I have never seen him around here, except at election time. He never makes contact with the local councillors, who are the people who know what is going on.
You might think that representing a constituency that covers the boroughs of Kingston, Richmond and Hounslow would be a full-time job. But Tony Arbour is also a councillor in Richmond, where he is a Cabinet member. Indeed, for four of those 12 years he was Leader of the Council.
Now when I was a Cabinet member (known as an Executive member in Kingston) I reckoned it took around 50 hours a week to do the job properly. It's no wonder he doesn't have the time to work for the residents of Chessington and Hook.
London Assembly members are each paid £53,439.
In Richmond in 2010-11, the Leader of the Council received an allowance of £33,515. Cabinet members received £17,648.