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Friday, 21 November 2014

Sunderland Library Success

Sunderland is reported to consider its libraries service a success despite widespread closures.  As in Brent, Sunderland closed nine buildings without going down the community managed libraries route.  Frustratingly, I can't find a link to the original scrutiny report so details are short.

Sunderland's main measurement of success appears to be book loans, which (as in Brent) have gone up. Like Brent, they seem to have greatly expanded outreach services.  Some of the press reports seem to suggest that some residents actually find outreach easier.  However, there is less mention of ebooks, improved online service or new buildings than in Brent. 

It would be good to find more detail to see what the differences between Brent and Sunderland might be. 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Local Government Failures and Eric Pickles

The National Audit Office has highlighted the financial weakness of many local authorities, and the DCLG's almost incredible lack of preparation for the collapse of local government functions.  The scale of government cuts, and their politically motivated concentration in the areas of greatest need, make collapse in at least some areas inevitable.  As with failing schools, once a local authority gets past a certain point putting it back together is likely to far harder than saving a going concern. 

Eric Pickles seems to have made no effort to prepare for this, just waiting for things to fall apart.  When the crisis hits I suspect his previous tactic of simply blaming the local council won't work and people will be blaming the failures of his own department (who I dare say will be as overwhelmed as the Education Department in handling failing free schools. 

Sadly, it will be the people in the relevant areas who will suffer the consequences.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Planning Permission for the Former Cricklewood Library

I understand from Cllr Lia Colacicco that a satisfactory development has been given planning permission at the former Cricklewood Library.  I am glad that this has finally got through, although it seems to have taken a long time.  Hopefully, the new development will add to the animation at the southern end of Gladstone Park.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Louis Wain Cat in Willesden

Well done to the Willesden Town Team for installing a Louis Wain style cat outside Willesden Green station.  Louis Wain lived just round the corner on Brondesbury Park.  The artist who managed the project, Debra Collis, is the same that managed the very successful mosaic in Furness Pocket Park

St Margaret of Scotland

I was looking at a Clerk of Oxenford's take on St Margaret of Scotland the other day.  If you haven't consulted this blog, it has some fascinating pieces on medieval history.  St Margaret's mixture of Continental, English and Scottish connections might give the more simplistic Indyref campaigners some food for thought in their interpretation of Scots history. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Brent Council and Public Health

Last Monday, Brent Council Cabinet considered a report on public health in Brent.  It was a disappointing read.  It dutifully goes through various facts and figures about public health and the good work being done, but there is little sense of an organisation grasping new opportunities. 

I think this is a great disappointment as public health is an area that has come back to local government with a ringfenced budget and there should be plenty of opportunities to rethink public health delivery in terms of synergies with other local government functions.  Brent has developed strategies in food growing, promotion of sports, regulation of unwelcome activities such as shisha or fast food that should have numerous implications for health.  An imaginative approach should be able to find new ways of tackling thesae issues that the NHS or the Council alone have not previously attempted.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Local Government Perspective

I have been reading a book recently on Edinburgh history called Capital of the Mind.  It cites a conversation of the many times Lord Provost of Edinburgh George Drummond in 1763.  In it he explained to his interlocutor that the area to the north of the city would be built on (what is now called the New Town) and that he had first envisaged this in 1725.  Local government just doesn't have that kind of perspective these days.