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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Brent Musuem in Willesden Opening Soon

When the Brent Museum re-opens in Willesden this Summer, we are promised an exhibition on Britain's relationship with Gujarat.  This is partly funded by Arts Council England, and follows on from other successful exhibitions in Brent in the past.  Having the Museum co-located with the new library helps attract visitors to both.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Brent Libraries Under Ambitious?

I have been looking at Brent's Corporate Plan for 2015 to 2016.  My general experience of such documents is that they are not massively useful unless the people writing them really think it through.  However the library targets are worth commenting on.  They are:

"an increase in library visits to 2,205,179 visits a year" 


"an increase in issues to 1,124,383 a year."

The first surprise is the precision of those figures, which I assume have been generated by some mechanistic formula. 

The second is the low ambition, compared to the most recent completed year figures.   2,205,179 visits is scarcely up form the 2014/15 figure of 2,112,149.  Unless the new Willesden Library is a disaster (which I am sure it will not be) that is amazingly modest growth.  The issue figures also seem low, although given difficulties with increasing issues in the past, that caution is more understandable.

Is something going to happen in Brent Libraries to overturn the success of the last few years?


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Air Quality Action Plan?

I notice that Brent Council's corporate plan has an aim of agreeing a successor Air Quality Management Plan by June 2015.  I wonder when it is going to happen, and what will be in it?

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

School Places in Wembley

I see that the next Brent Cabinet, is making emergency provision to have temporary school places at Elsley Primary School in Wembley.  Of course, the rise in school places is a problem afflicting most London authorities.  However, it does seem odd that Brent Council have recently emptied temporary classes in the former Preston Library, also in the Wembley area, whilst rushing through an expensive conversion of school premises fairly close by. 

Why not just use the classrooms that were already kitted out for primary school children in a building that the Council owns?

Monday, 22 June 2015

Gordon Brown Outdoor Education Centre

I see that the next Brent Cabinet is considering investing in refurbishing part of the Gordon Brown Outdoor Education Centre.  The situation for Brent Youth services is not quite as bleak as it appeared at one time, but they are still likely to be cut back dramatically.  The report points out the benefit that children gain from using the centre in outdoor activities and improving environmental awareness.  It occurs to me that very similar arguments could be made for the Welsh Harp Environemental Education Centre, which has now been put out to tender.  

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Political Importance of Air Quality

John Vidal has a long piece on air quality in the Guardian.  This seems to be getting more of a profile after years in which it was seen as a fairly minor issue.  I recall raising it with some London Councils colleagues only for it to be seen as a fringe concern.

Brent actually has quite a reasonable record on improving air quality.  There is, of course, the ongoing blight of poor air quality in Neasden Goods Yard.  The trouble here is that the Environment Agency is extremely reluctant to take action.  Boris Johnson until recently had no interest in air quality at all, and only seems to have woken up to the seriousness of the situation in the last few months. 

Aside from that specific area, London Boroughs main contribution to better air quality is by reducing traffic pollution.

This was one aim behind the introduction of emissions based parking charges in Brent.  Although most of the publicity behind this concentrated on carbon emissions, those are also a good proxy for other pollutants, such as PM2.5 and NOx. 

Councils can also use planning policy to limit car use and encourage other forms of transport as Brent generally does.  This is also the justification behind most of the Council's policies on parking charges.

However, I suspect progress on these issues is likely to be stymied by a reluctance of decision makers to accept that political decisions can have a good outcome in one direction but not in another.  I get that sense from some of the comments in the Vidal piece.  It also seems to happen locally here in Brent, where the Council has tinkered with parking charges in a way that seems to encourage car use at the same time as having other policies to discourage car use.  That really doesn't make much sense.