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Saturday, 20 January 2018

More on Carillion and Public Libraries

The Guardian has an update on the Carillion library situation in Ealing and Harrow.  It might go out of date at any moment.  However, the figures given for an in house and an outsourced service strike me as rather dubious.  I wonder whether they are counting avoided business rates as part of the "cost"?  If so, I have argued before that is rather artificial

Friday, 19 January 2018

DIY Waste

The Times carried a story a few days ago about authorities having to accept DIY waste at their civic amenity sites without charge.  If ministers are going to issue such an instruction to the WLWA and others, they need to explain how to spot the difference between a commercial builder and a DIY enthusiast. 

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Willesden Baptist Church

I see that last night's planning committee was considering an application to add some housing to the Baptist Church on Willesden High Road whilst preserving the facade.  Preserving the face, perhaps with some alteration, seems to have become something of a trend following the Spotted Dog and Willesden Library developments. 

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Grayling Survives Carillion Mess

The more I think of the Carillion collapse, the more I think it needs an inquiry.  Even a very basic procurement exercise should have thrown up sufficient warning to ministers that this was an unreliable company to be given major contracts.  Yet Chris Grayling put taxpayers' money at risk anyway.  Following from the East Cost Main line debacle, his position really should be in question, but as Theresa May's former campaign manager and a hard brexiteer it probably won't be.  After all we have sen how even a total incompetent like David Davis has survived the impact assessment deception.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Railings on Furness Road

To answer Michael's comment of some time ago, Brent Council may have removed the railings at the junction of Furness and Wrottesley Roads to actually enhance safety. 

There are two ways this could be true.  There is evidence now that when a cyclist gets brushed by a vehicle, such railings are more likely to lead to a fatality since the cyclist gets squashed between the vehicle and the railing.  The lack of a railing would send the cyclist sprawling, but cause less damage.  The other possibility is that it causes pedestrians to walk into the middle of the road as they tend to prefer the most direct route, which is certainly my own experience of that junction.  This was the reason I campaigned for similar railings to be removed on Station Approach

Monday, 15 January 2018

Carillion and Public Library Privatisation

This morning's news that Carillion has gone into liquidation causes me to reflection what a close shave Brent has had with its library service.  Brent Council considered and rejected the option of privatising Brent Libraries when I was lead member.  The option came up again later, and was actually included provisionally in the budget only to be withdrawn.

Ealing and Harrow are now considering whether to carry on with the contract for another five years.  They are likely to do so, if only because they would have to pay the contractor off if they terminate the contract.  Incidentally, I wonder whether Hounslow had to give a pay out to Carillion when Hounslow libraries went back in house.

The Harrow and Ealing reports predate this morning's news, but I suspect because of the termination payment the contract will be renewed and then perhaps terminated by mutual agreement subsequently.  I say that as there is bound to be a huge restructuring at all the businesses that Carillion is involved in.  As libraries are fairly marginal, that activity may be terminated altogether and just handed back to the Councils.  That would at least be likely to safeguard those peoples' jobs.

I take it the government felt unable to do a bail out because of the controversy from Chris Grayling decision to waste vast amount of taxpayers' money on the East Coast Main line.   There was no longer sufficent political cover to nationalise losses and privatise profits.  Hopefully, this will lead to a further reflection over whether certain kinds of services can ever be operated privately without an implicit taxpayers' guarantee. 

Moving back to libraries, London is left with a series of mainly publicly run services.  The main exceptions are those run by Greenwich Leisure, and the one Borough (Redbridge) run by a mutual.  In other words, the once fashionable idea of privatising library services as a means of cost saving seems to have come to naught.  This doesn't bother me as the supposed benefits of libraries privation listed in the Harrow report (paragraph 2.6) strike me as similar to those already implement in Brent under its Libraries Transformation

That leaves community managed library services as the final form of library privatisation open to Brent Council.  This is such a slow motion and piecemeal affair that it may not strike many people as privatisation at all.  So far, the biggest dollop of taxpayers' money is apparently a "one off" grant of £75k to FKRL preceded  by a few smaller grants.  The "Preston Library" group is still hoping to hit the jackpot by being effectively given the building for nothing, although I think any councillors signing such a deal off would expose themselves charges of corruption. 

UPDATE 16.01.18
I see that Croydon has taken its libraries back in house leaving Carillion with just Harrow and Ealing.