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Friday, 25 July 2014

Poverty in Newham

Here is an examination of problems of poverty in Newham.  Many of these issues apply just as strongly in Brent as in East London. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Brent Council Planning Consultation

There is still time for anyone who wants to to respond to Brent Council's consultation on its development policies.  The document and a consultation form are here.  The documents wound there way through the Council bureaucracy some time ago.  All this may seem quite remote, but it actually concerns a very wide range of things that directly impact on people.

Willesden Junction Rezoning?

I see that Stratford station is to be rezoned to 2 by TfL.  Willesden Junction was also once in zone 2 and thus Harlesden Town Centre benefited from the lower fares.  Boris Johnson has of course ramped up London fares to some of the highest in Europe.  If both Willesden Junction and Stratford were in zone 2, it would help create an affordable rail route across North London, helping to divert more people out of their cars.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Skateboards in Roundwood Park

I am delighted to see Cllr Lesley Jones is close to success in her long held ambition to get a skate board park in Roundwood Park. I know she has been aiming at this for years.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Localism Act Confusing Procurement in Lincolnshire

A second part of the Lincolnshire Library judgement that I find interesting is the procurement aspect.  This was a big concern for us in the Brent judgement, and one of the litigants' many points of attack in that case.  The Lincolnshire judgement indicates that the Localism Act may have made life much more complicated for Local Authorities.

The basic principle of procurement law is that you declare transparently what you want, and then have a level playing field for bodies to bid for it.  This is particularly important in the EU where a contract may be open to international interest, as the future of Lincolnshire libraries appear to be.

These principles seem to make a "Big Society" approach much harder, since the kind of small scale organisations that David Cameron seems to imply should bid are unlikely to have much procurement experience.  I noted before that in one example in Warwickshire there seemed to be shock at the amount of information that a Pre Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) asked for. Indeed, my own conversations with some would be Big Society operators led me to believe that they almost expected the Council to write their bids for them. 

The interesting thing about the Lincolnshire judgement is that a successful ground of challenge has been the swift rejection of Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL).  GLL are quite a big business.  They still have a fairly limited presence in libraries, but they are one of the biggest sports centre managers in London and the South East.  They are therefore well used to procurement.

The judge ruled that they should be considered a "relevant body" under the Localism Act.  In doing this he argued that they were a "charitable" body, which I don't think is really true.  I think they are a non-profit making company, which makes them a kind of Co-operative.  As a member of the Co-operative Party, I am all in favour of that, but it is different from a charity.

The difficulty for the procuring authority is that it creates a grey area between the kind of small scale organisation I think was envisaged under the Localism Act, and a full scale commercial procurement where companies like LSSI might be involved.  Since companies treated unfairly in a procurement can sue the procuring authority for profits foregone, that could be a real headache.

Monday, 21 July 2014

What Happens When the Money Runs Out?

There are some interesting thoughts on a Council running out of money here.  Setting an illegal budget was raised in 2011 by a few people, but I think generally dismissed as a loony left option.  The main conclusion of the Localgovernmentlawyer piece is that Eric Pickles may find himself taking over Councils as they fall apart.  If so, he may come to regret driving local government into the ground, as it far harder to put back together a collapsed organisation than to keep a functioning going.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Education in Brent

I have been thinking more about the recent Brent Education Commission report, which was swiftly rubber stamped last June.  It covers a wide range of issues, with a particular emphasis on improving educational quality in the later stages of primary school.  It also states that these aspirations need to be addressed from within current resources.  I think realistically they may need to be addressed with less than current resources.  If so, I wonder where in the current budget will be squeezed?