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Interview: Cllr Joanna Dabrowska at Ealing Council

Fri 15th May 2015, 3:42 pm

The Sitematch London team catches up with Councillor Joanna Dabrowska from Ealing Council.

Councillor Joanna Dabrowska

Which projects are you most proud of being involved in? 

Professionally, the best and most awesome project I've been involved with is Terminal 5 – [to see] how nothing has turned into one of the finer aviation terminals in the world. However, working as a councillor, helping people and communities is great. Small things have changed the environment where we live, work and in which we play.

What developments or enhancements would most benefit the borough?

More amenity space and home space when devising new residential areas. Don't just go for the minimum that is layer – put in the London Plan and planning guidance.

When developing new homes, [to] create communities, not just bricks and mortar, [but] shops, community facilities for all ages and green spaces. [Also] PV panels, although I prefer the built in solar roof tiles. [This] should be a minimum. Also, get developers to be community friendly instead of profit hungry corporates. Additionally, [to] make designs more appealing, not pastiche, but inspirational to leave a design legacy for future generations.

Which three developments outside the borough do you most admire and why?

Unfortunately, this is a tough one as developers have not been creative or inspirational enough to offer us something to be admired and respected. The most exciting redevelopment I believe has been St Pancras station.

Engineering-wise, Crossrail has been a fascinating development, maintaining the beautiful and sensitive architecture London has.

What was your first impression of the borough when you started out working there?

I was brought up here and, therefore, I know every nook and cranny of my ward and beyond. But what I did find is three roads that newly appeared in recent years that were not initially on Google Maps.

What things have surprised you about working in the borough?

Would you call being a councillor 'work'? It is a civic duty. It is the passion to give one's time to help people.

What makes developers good partners?

Be open and transparent in their workings with council officers, liaise effectively (not pay lip service) with residents, resident associations, local councillors and any affected parties. Additionally, listen to these groups.

When people find out you work in the borough, what are the most common things they ask?

Issues vary from transport/highway problems, benefits, housing planning, as I am the Conservative lead. Residents want you to be a councillor, politician, social worker, lawyer, friend, or generally an agony aunt.

As the only known Polish-speaking councillor in the country (allegedly) I get an audience from both my ward residents, borough residents (usually for planning matters) as well as Polish residents from all over the country.

If you could change one thing about working in the borough, what would it be?

I would take out the bureaucracy out of the public sector. Also, we need good information to be available to the public so that the lay person understands the rules that the public sector has to work with. To make the council more accessible to the people it serves. For the public sector to take best practice from the private sector and work efficiently. I don't think 'that's how it always has been done' is an acceptable answer.

Which three people have inspired you the most – either at work or in your personal life?

Three people. Politically, Margaret Thatcher. Hard work pays off. That's been my ethos throughout my life, although there needs to be time for some R&R. [In my] personal life, I would have to say an ex of mine who put confidence in me and my skills to go freelance.  [The] third person has to be a plural – the people collectively whom I'm surrounded by – friends and family.

If you could visit any country in the world, where would you go and why?

I have always wanted to visit Antarctica and see the penguins. Of course, one needs to fly via Buenos Aires to get there, so I would stop over to learn to dance the tango and taste Argentina's finest steak! My bags are packed!

Which book, film, piece of music or sporting occasion has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

Sounds like Desert Island Discs! The most motivational and inspirational music of my life is Vangelis' 1492 - Conquest of Paradise. If you want something, if you believe in it, it's worth fighting for.

When did your most memorable meeting take place and what made it so special?

This is a tough one. I've met in some wonderful places, from the top of the City Hall with amazing views, to old vintage wine cellar establishments in the City, respecting the centuries old architecture.

Ultimately, it is not the location; it is how productive the meeting is. The most wonderful location will never compensate for a useless and unproductive meeting, wasting everyone's time and money.

What is your favourite gadget and why?

The most useful and purposeful gadget is the duo I have with me all the time: my iPad and iPhone. Since they are linked up, I can communicate with everyone: from my family down the road to my best friend in New York. I can liaise with my residents, and council colleagues and officers. It is also a tool to find work as I am self-employed. However, my iPhone and iPad are also my controllers to my music system, so I can relax to some classical music after a hard day or catch up with a BBC Radio 4 podcast on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

What is your biggest professional achievement?

My biggest professional achievement might be nothing if it doesn't impact others positively. Some of the smallest achievements have had the biggest impact on others and changed their lives for the better. I think my proudest (not necessarily the biggest) moment is when I took a summer job before my university days and I was immediately promoted to an acting manager role on an important project for a higher end retailer.

Some of the staff working for me who were on the production line in a factory were 20-something males (older than me at the time) who left school without any qualifications or aspirations. During my relatively short stint managing these chaps, I managed to motivate them to either go to night school or study at a vocational college to carve out a career for themselves. The pleasure it gave me to hear from them a year or so later to say that they've passed their exams or they've managed to change jobs for the better: you can't buy that. 

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