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Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Gloucester House

Out door knocking for Barbara Pitruzzella on Sunday one of the places we went was Gloucester House in South Kilburn.  It is almost entirely empty pending its demolition, which gives it a truly eerie feeling. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Growing Poverty as the State Shrinks

Patrick Butler points out that grants to people in terrible need appear to be going down despite poverty increasing.  He suggests the paradox is down to referring agencies dropping out of business.  I suspect that as far as Councils are concerned, there is also a certain amount of gatekeeping going on.  Councils are making harder for people to apply in order to keep a limit on their budgets.  This all helps create more poverty.

It also is a sign that the public sector and the third sector are not strictly separate, as David Cameron seems to believe, but interdependent.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Wembley Youth Centre

Saddened to see the Kilburn Times story on Wembley Youth Centre.  It is another case of Brent Council mismanaging cuts in services through a failure in democratic accountability.

I am sure that there is a reasonable case for the Council's decisions, as there was in the case of the Stonebridge Adventure Playground, but the current leadership is simply failing to make it.  The case in favour of the Council's decision relates to both revenue and capital spend.  In terms of revenue spend, the Council has chosen to deal with the enormous cuts to its budgets by withdrawing from youth service provision aside from the Roundwood Youth Centre, where there are special circumstances.  That is a tough and unwelcome call, but so a lot of the other cuts being made.  The case is one of dire necessity.  I will come back to how I think it could have been handled better below.

The redevelopment of the site for housing is easier to defend.  I don't know the details of the scheme but everyone knows London has a housing crisis.  Temporary accommodation will be allocated to those in dire need by definition, so that may all make sense as a way of using the site. 

Better Handling
What angers me about this all is that the group concerned seems not to have been given proper explanations of what is going on.  This has become a hallmark of the way things are done under Cllr Muhammed Butt's leadership.  Rather than saying to people, this is why things are being done, and changing the way things are done if necessary.  People are just left with silence and a denial of responsibility by elected members.  That feeds cynicism about local democracy.

This is a contrast with what happened to the same youth centre back in 2011.  Back then, it was once again proposed for cutting.  I recall attending the Wembley Area Forum in January 2011.  A large number of young people turned up to press the then Council Leader for the Centre to be kept.  That meeting and a subsequent meeting specifically on the issue led to a change in the policy and the life of the Centre was prolonged. 

Still further cuts after that time have now led to the demise of the Centre's Council grant.  A more imaginative approach would have been to proactively help the centre apply for money outside the Council.  Similarly, the Council has the resources to at least try to help the Centre relocate.  That is what an imaginative leadership would do.  I don't pretend that it would necessarily succeed, but it does not appear to have been attempted. 

Cllr Muhammed Butt has borrowed his immediate predecessor's rhetoric of a "dented shield" to protect local people (which originally came from Neil Kinnock), but he has signally failed to show the same activism in actually doing anything.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

An Equalities Apology from Cllr Muhammed Butt

After yesterday's post on Ken Livingstone, I have been shown a story where Cllr Muhammed Butt is now being forced to make an apology.  Cllr Butt has been involved in a number of issues which indicate that he has insufficient understanding of equalities issues, notably in dealing with racist bullying at Brent Council, but also controversies with a specifically Jewish dimension, such as the BDS demands over the Veolia contract and the Tricycle Theatre.

As I said yesterday, the time has come for my party to stop simply shrugging these controversies off. Cllr Butt's ignorance and lack of thought are all the more deplorable as he is lead for equalities on London Councils.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Ken Livingstone and the NEC

Ken Livingstone's suspension from the Labour Party is hopefully a sign that Labour is finally going to crack down on anti-Semitism.  Like many party members I am embarrassed to be in the same party as the rag bag of nasties who have been exposed over the past few months.

What is particularly bad about Ken Livingstone is that he is actually a member of the National Executive, the very body supposed to deal with the problem.  I assume that his suspension, and probably soon to come expulsion, will mean he will not be on the ballot for election.

I wonder whether the other members of the Grassroots slate will be making any statements on what they think of the scandal.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Forced academisation

The Tory government's central justification for forced academisation, raising school standards, appear to have been blown out of the water by research by the Local Government Association.  I rather doubt that Nicky Morgan will take any notice, but there may be a set of difficulty political battles ahead.