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Thursday, 27 July 2017

Employment Tribunal Victory

Yesterday's victory for Unison on Employment Tribunal Fees is a huge victory in preventing victimisation of people.  Amidst so much gloom it provides welcome relief to everyone except unscrupulous employers.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Returning to Controlled Parking Zones

I mentioned a hardy perennial policy proposal up at the last Brent Cabinet meeting, but not an equally hoary example, controlled parking zones.  These have been effectively frozen for several years, but the new report recommends either changing the existing CPZs or reintroducing new ones.

Significantly no one seems to advocate their abolition. 

More CPZs are likely to spread across the Borough over the next few years.  Partly, this will be incremental, partly down to new developments particularly in Brent Cross and Colindale, and partly down to what I would say was a seriously misjudged decision to expand operating hours at Wembley Stadium

Monday, 24 July 2017

Gap in the HRA

Tonight Brent Council's Cabinet meets and discusses future financial planning.  Among the concerns are the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), which is essentially the money related to Council properties.  Income is likely to go down as the government has prescribed a rent reduction and the number of properties is dwindling. 

As far as I can see the document pays no attention to the planned enormous increase in fire safety spending (up by 400%).  Given the limit on rents, this increase is going to force a reduction in general repairs, and or any new build and this should be acknowledged in forward planning.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

SME Task Group

Brent Scrutiny has a task group report on encouraging small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).  I fear it is pretty short of positive policy proposals. Although limited, there are a number of things that Councils can do to encourage business such as: improve the public realm in High Streets to attract shoppers, use procurement in a way that is friendly to SMEs and helps "train them up" for contract bidding, hosting a variety of information and support functions including those available in public libraries, using meanwhile uses to keep footfall in Town centres, using intelligent planning and licencing powers to ensure a good mix of uses in High Streets, encourage life long learning in different forms in both schools and public libraries, and considering business needs when setting charges for things like parking controls.

It is a pity that the Task Group did not take the opportunity to make any specific recommendations on these.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Returning to a Zombie Proposal, Bulky Item Collections

Monday's Cabinet papers included a real old stager under the "New Options" appendix. This was charging for bulky waste collection.  The free collection policy was established under the 1998-2006 Labour administration, abolished by the Tory Lib Dem coalition of 2006-2010, and reinstated by the incoming Labour administration in 2010.  Introducing charging was considered by Labour in 2014/15 but again rejected. 

Officers are estimated the income at £250 thousand, although nothing like this has ever been obtained in the past.  When the charges were last introduced in 2007, the revenue was only £53k, and it went down subsequently.  Given that experience, there really is no excuse for Council officers to put forward an estimated income of £250k now. 

Mary Turner

I was sad to learn of the passing away of Mary Turner, long time President of the GMB and also a fixture in Brent politics for as long as I can remember.  Although she was unsuccessful in her bid to become MP for Brent East in 2001 she served more than sixty years as a trade unionist, including twenty years as GMB President.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Getting it Badly Wrong

I have been speculating about the election results, but perhaps a more important issue for the next six months is what is going to happen to the economy.

My view is that it has been drastically mismanaged since George Osborne embarked on his failed austerity project in 2010.  Conventional economists predicted this failure back in 2010, and it always seemed clear that either Osborne didn't understand conventional economics or he was putting his ideological belief in a smaller state ahead of sensible economic policy.

The result was that the UK undertook a sharp fiscal tightening at the same time as maintaining a very loose monetary policy.  The timing of this meant that growth was very poor, tax revenues declined and budget deficit worsened; the opposite of what Osborne set out as his objectives.

Several years later the political authority for yet more austerity is crumbling, as even the Tories are beginning to admit.  Indeed the scrabble among the hitherto defenders of austerity in the Cabinet to back pay rises for the public sector workers they so despise is one of the most striking aspects of the post election landscape.  This collapse was probably inevitable as it was clear that austerity could not continue forever.

Over the last several years a demand for better wages has been building up and is now turning into a recruitment and retention crisis for key workers.  At the same time institutions such as local government have been cut back to the point where they have difficulty functioning at all (as Kensington has graphically illustrated).  This looks like public services going toward catastrophic break down, which force ministers to spend more money at just the moment when that would be most damaging for the economy as it will fuel a surge in inflation _ the opposite of the Keynesian approach.