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Sunday, 14 August 2016

Improving Harlesden Town Centre

Noting my post a couple of days ago, some one suggested to me that the block of flats on the corner of Rucklidge Avenue and Park Parade ( the old Willesden Social Club site) is not especially beautiful.  I agree it is not, although it is a lot better than when it was derelict land, and still doesn't look too bad to me.  Here is the front:

Here is a view from the back:

It tapers down toward the properties on Rucklidge avenue for privacy reasons.  The more important thing about the development is that it improves that part of Harlesden Town Centre.  Removing the derelict land designs out an area of anti-social behavior.  The planning enforcement at the Green Man helps with some of the activity associated with that building, and the natural overlooking of Design Works by the people in the new flats will help limit complaints of misbehaviour there.  All of this contributes, albeit incrementally, to the improvement of the Town Centre.

As the planning powers of local authorities are limited, and the resources available for strategic planning slide downward, taking advantage of small incremental improvements becomes ever more important. 

Friday, 12 August 2016

Flats Completing

Passing by recently, I noticed that the flats on the old Willesden Social Club site are virtually complete.  I first started to campaign for that site to be built on in late 2005.  I little thought it would take a decade to get there.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Libraries are Changing

Public Libraries News has an interesting link to the changing uses of technology in libraries.  I get the impression there is very little understanding of how public libraries are changing rapidly.  The rise of WiFi is one, important example of this.  Too often, though, the discussion on public libraries is held as if they had all remained the same since the 1940s.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Owen Jones and Jeremy Corbyn

Even Owen Jones has stopped supporting Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Leadership election.  This adds to the vast majority of Labour MPs, former economic advisers, all the living former Leaders of the Labour Party and many others.  If Jeremy is re-elected how can he continue without the support of all these people?

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Lord Loves a Sinner Come to his Understanding

Martin Francis quotes a local resident on Brent's bulky waste service.  It turns out to be none other than former Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Lorber, who is dissatisified with the way the service now works. 

This is ironic as Paul Lorber, when Leader of the Council, introduced charging for what had up to then been a free service.  This was despite their promising prior to the 2006 elections that they would keep the service free.  This was one of a large number of broken Liberal Democrat promises.  After they introduced fees in 2007, the rate of collections fell through the floor.  When Labour came to power in 2010, the free service was restored.  Neither Martin or Paul found time to mention this history.

However, I welcome the interest in how the Public Realm Contract is put together.  I always argued that the time to concentrate on specification was before the contract was awarded, when the bidders were under maximum pressure to give the Council the best possible deal.  Unfortunately, Martin and others were too busy whipping up noise about Israel to pay attention to what the contract was actually about

Still it is good that they have become interested now.

Martin appears to be objecting to the practice of self monitoring, although this is common in such contracts.   The argument is that getting the contractor to sort out the problems as a first resort is the quickest way to sort things out, and I think that is true.  Martin may not be aware that modern technology allows a much greater degree of tracking that previously.  Provided that the Council is diligently practising open book accounting for the contract, it should have at least as much control as previously. 

He, and his commentator, also seems to be a bit confused about the enforcement against litter.  This has ben awarded to a separate company to Veolia, so it doesn't seem to be particularly sensible to bundle them together.  I am not sure if the proposed, punitive, approach will work.  I suspect at this point it is too early to say. 

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Why Butt in Now?

Brent Council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt has made a little remarked u-turn regarding BDS and Israel here.  The most remarkable statement in it is:

"So when boycotters wanted Brent to cancel its contracts with vendors who do business in Israel, the decision to say no was one of the quickest and easiest I have had to make."

This is a reference to the awarding  of Brent's Public Realm contract, a topis in which Cllr Butt actually showed very little interest.  When the BDS campaign, very late in the day, started to object to the new contract being potentially awarded to Veolia, Cllr Butt actually dithered for an inordinate amount of time before following the legal advice that had been available from the start that ruling the company out of the competition was out of the question.

Similarly, there had also been an Israel centred controversy over the Tricycle Theatre's attitude to the Jewish Film Festival.  Although Cllr Butt sits on the board of the theatre, he made no comments on the matter either way. 

Why then is Cllr Butt writing his article now?  I take it that whoever is instructing him has decided that he needs to rehabilitate himself following his resignation as London Councils' Equalities lead.  This was linked to the rows over anti-semitism at the time.  If Cllr Butt wants to fully restore his reputation in such matters, he should look at his record in the Rosemary Clarke case.