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Friday, 27 March 2015

Police Investigate Ibrahim Taguri

Some more details on Ibrahim Taguri have emerged despite the Liberal Democrats ongoing silence.  According to Matthew Holehouse of the Daily Telegraph, police are investigating "potential evasion of restrictions on donations" after the Electoral Commission asked them to.

Parking and Benefits

The Guardian recently gave some examples of the kind of petty reasons that can trigger benefit sanctions.  Many of them appear trivial, and some outside the ability of the person sanctioned to control.  The effect of cutting someone's benefits when they have very limited financial resources can involve real hardship including hunger, and one would think a humane society would be less strict.  It would not be hard, even in those cases where someone has done something wrong, to have some sort of warning system.  Instead, the whole system seems to set out to be as harsh and demeaning as possible.

I am struck by the efforts of ministers to relax parking enforcement.  I suspect the reason for the contrasting attitudes is simply class hatred.  Minister genuinely hate people on benefits, regarding them as an American style underclass (even those most work on low pay); in contrast getting a parking ticket is something they can imagine people like themselves getting. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Library Technology and Volunteer Libraries

There are some details on the use of RFID technology in libraries here, which I find curiously interesting.  One of the things that supporters of volunteer libraries don't always seem to appreciate is that combining a non-Council library with Council libraries would mean integrating with the Council technology.  That would mean tagging all the books in the volunteer library before they became compatible with either the self service machines or the management system (for using the catalogue for example). 

That would be a considerable cost to the Council, in addition to whatever technology support was provided.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Queensbury Development Rejected

The proposal to redevelop The Queensbury in Willesden has been rejected.  The Inspector's report is here

The Planning Committee originally gave three reasons for refusal: the sheer size of the building, the lack of onsite affordable housing and the failure to agree "planning gain".  This last was a technical reason that is generally added to any refusal like this.  The affordable housing objection appears to have been more or less settled by the time the matter got to the Inspector.  The main thrust of his report therefore is on the scale/character reason.

He emphasises the importance of the building in historical terms at some length.  Firstly, he sees it as a cornerstone of the Mapesbury Conservation Area.  He concludes that: "the building makes a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.  The preservation of this contribution would be desirable."  Interestingly, he also argues that the 110 Walm Lane building also helps mark a transition from the more commercial Willesden Conservation Area to the residential Mapesbury area.  Finally, he regards it as having a good relationship with the listed Willesden Green station.

He also argues that the designation of the area for secondary shopping makes this level of development appropriate, compared to a denser development.  This may be an important factor in future applications. 

He also comes down rather hard on the "tower" element, which was the main element I criticised when refusing it at Committee. 

The main grounds of refusal is therefore the effect on the historical character of the Conservation Areas and the station.

This is important as Fairview is likely now either to make another application, or possibly to sell it to another developer, who would presumably want to submit their own scheme.  If such a scheme could be made in a way that met the Inspector's historical concerns, it would be likely to be granted either by the Committee or on Appeal.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Air Quality and Traffic Policy

Paris has felt forced to introduce emergency traffic measures to combat poor air quality.  Essentially, they all aim to reduce car use.  This could all be done much more conveniently if it were done gradually.  I have pointed out before that improving air quality can be done through policy that promotes sustainable transport.

Unfortunately in London where we have similar problems, we seem to be going in the wrong direction.  Boris Johnson has been intent on making public transport more and more expensive compared to car use.  Early on in his administration he resisted air quality measures.  Eric Pickles joins with the same populist car dependency agenda by seeking to restrict parking enforcement in various ways (which in some ways can be to the detriment of car drivers as well as adding to poor air quality). 

In Brent, the Borough's strong support for air quality has been knocked back through various tinkerings with parking charges.  The recent Budget was passed with provision for changes to parking charges, but they seemed to me to lack coherence.  Certainly, they did not strike me as aiming to increase sustainability.  Some suggestions, like the increase in visitor fees in CPZs, seemed so high as to jeopardise public acceptance of CPZs at all. 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Voter Registration

There is still time to register to vote in the forthcoming elections.  Every election I meet people who have left it too late.  Don't miss out.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Liberal Democrats Ridiculed

Danny Alexander's Alternative Liberal Democrat budget seems to have earned him widespread ridicule.  This is no doubt deserved.  Signing off a budget you co-wrote and promising that you and your party will vote for it sits unconvincingly with presenting an alternative budget.  Especially when you look like you are holding a child's lunch box. 

Yet it doesn't seem that uncommon now to ignore your actual commitments and believe in something entirely different.  The SNP, for example, seem quite unfazed by the collapse in oil revenues to a thirteenth of what they expected during the indyref.  Had Scotland voted yes, it would now be in utter crisis. 

It is as if these debates were simply a work of fiction without any effect on people's lives.