Southall Green Ward is home to over twenty places of worship, making it one of the largest concentration of religious congregations in Ealing; a busy Mosque, over three Hindu temples, a Roman Catholic church, a Protestant church, a Pentecostal church, several Christian organisations using premises in the ward for prayer meetings on Sundays, and over five places of Sikh worship (including Europe’s largest Sikh Temple). We now even have a Somali Centre, a room above a cafe on The Green that is being used as a Prayer room (which will no doubt be converted to a Mosque in the not too distant future).
Despite hailing from different backgrounds, the ordinary hard-working family people of Southall generally all live and work together in harmony with very little help from the local council. Over the years, under both the Labour and Conservative administration, Ealing council has systematically ignored the needs of the town whilst using the town as a ‘dumping’ ground for increasing numbers of immigrants. Southall councillors have also failed to make any effective representation on resident’s behalf either through lack of ability or because they got elected for the wrong reasons (promotion of self-interests is cited by many).
As a result of the failure of Southall councillors, council officers have long been accustomed to the idea of marginalising Southall and of treating Southall residents as buffoons. There is no shortage of cases that can be quoted where it has taken numerous letters, emails, and even petitions to get officers to respond to quite legitimate complaints by the people of Southall. Go and speak to activists in the Southall Green ward and they will tell you of the many documented cases where they have had to expend an inordinate amount of time to get the very simplest of issues resolved.
Whilst David Cameron talks of a “Broken Britain” here in Ealing mind games are played by our politicians in trying to score points at the expense of the local community, leading to a ‘Broken Southall’, so much so that the town, or at least this ward is now on the brink of breakdown.
Promoting Gambling and Betting Shops
Southall Green ward already has a heavy concentration gambling shops within yards of schools and places of worship. In the evenings women and children no longer feel safe to walk on the streets of this densely overcrowded ward. Such is the fear that family members have to collect their wives and daughters from the railway station in the evenings.
In recent months the council has granted at least two new betting licences in Southall Green ward, despite fierce opposition by the local community. Local people feel badly let down by their councillors, Southall Regeneration, and ‘Safer Communities’. These different departments were either unable or unwilling to stop the continued degeneration of Southall, and took no interest in taking preventative measures with reference to increasing crime and anti-social behaviour resulting from the proliferation of betting shops; even a petition of over 350 signatures opposing the new gambling shops fell on deaf ears.
Successive administrations of Ealing Council have taken the stance that, never mind, let’s continue to encourage the residents and children in this ward to gamble, drink, and take drugs. After all, Southall people can always visit one of the numerous places of worship to absolve their sins, or to partake in ‘langar’ (free food) if they are unlucky enough to make a loss at the bookies.
Sharma, MP for Southall has shown zero interest in representing residents on this issue. And the current state of affairs is a sad reflection of the inability of Southall councillors to unite to fight for a common cause. Tribal politics and fighting for their own patch (if indeed they are capable of fighting) seems to be their style.
Turning a Blind Eye to Drug Dealing and Drug-Related Crime
It may sound like the stuff of fiction, but several years ago when the Southall Green Focus Group raised the issue of drugs misuse, drug trafficking and drug-related crime on The Green, Southall politicians, community leaders, council officers and even the Police all colluded in denying that such a problem existed. It took the shooting on The Green in June 2007 for the authorities to acknowledge that there was indeed a problem. At that time Charles Ghillican (then chair of ECPCG) made a public statement saying “I have reliable sources who tell me that 20 years ago Southall was the cheapest place in England to buy heroin. 20 years on and this hasn’t changed”. At the same meeting he went on to criticise the traffic congestion during Diwali and Eid, two festivals that inject enormous wealth to the local economy. None of the Southall councillors present at that meeting challenged Mr Ghillican on his stance.
It is common knowledge that the vast majority of burglaries are committed by people who are desperate to feed their drug habit. Southall is a haven for these people – ask any young people (including school children) in Southall and they will be able to put you in touch with dealers within yards of where you are standing. The problem has escalated to such an extent that now Friday evenings and the weekends are far more lucrative for drug dealers than for the ordinary businesses in Southall. People travel long distances to buy drugs in Southall at cheap prices, no wonder Southall is branded as the ‘Tesco for Drugs’.
This long-standing and growing problem of drug misuse and drug-related crime has plagued Southall for years, but Southall community leaders and politicians have failed miserably to bring up, let alone address this grave issue. No elected representative has ever asked the question that why does Ealing not have a dedicated drug squad (as do Haringey and Hammersmith)? This long-standing problem of drugs has been at the heart of the continued decline of Southall, attacking the very fabric of society, culture and family values
It is scandalous that much of the drug-related crime and anti-social behaviour has been’ tolerated’ for so long; it is time that our councillors recognise the seriousness of this problem and put pressure on the Borough Commander on this matter. We must ensure that the sufficient resources are allocated to tackling drug crime and campaign to have a permanent drug squad to be based in Ealing. When Sharma comes knocking at your door (with or without his Dhol players) ask him what he has done to address the issue of drug-related crime. If you still have the energy you might also like pose the same question to Gurcharan. Or we could save you the trouble and tell you that as far as we are aware they have done bugger all.
This article was submitted by members of the Southall Green Focus group