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Thursday, 31 December 2009

Bramston Road Street Surgery

Bramston Road will be getting a street surgery on Saturday 9th January from 12.30. This is where the Police give advice on how to avoid burglaries, of which there have been a spate on the roads off Wrottesley Road until recently.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Conservatives in Brent Central

I have been puzzled by the ongoing absence of Cllr Sachin Rajput, the Tory candidate for Brent Central, from Brent. Not the Barnet Times suggests that he is too taken up with his new Council Executive responsibilities in Barnet. Along with the continuing failure by the Tories to select a candidate in Brent North, it suggests that their performance in the Borough as a whole is likely to be dismal.

Boris Johnson's New Year Cheer

Boris Johnson is reported by the New Statesman here to be overseeing a bold act of redistribution from the poor to the rich, courtesy of his hikes in transport fares.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Thomas Becket

Today is the feast of St Thomas Becket, as well as being the anniversary of his martyrdom.

It reminds me of my earlier posting on Thomas A Becket Close. This was a proposal that we turned down against officer recommendation. The developer appealed, asking for costs. After losing the appeal, the developer has come back with a new proposal that met the previous reasons for objection (excessive scale, privacy problems over distances between balconies and windows). It seems a good case where you can see Planning as a rational evidence based process.

Incidentally, Frank Barlow, in his definitive life of the Saint remarks that “Thomas A Becket” was a name St Thomas would have never used, and he should always be referred to as simply Thomas Becket.

Monday, 28 December 2009

New Safer Neighbourhood Team Base on Station Road, NW10

In January, the Police will finally be opening their new Safer Neighbourhood base in Station Road (on the corner with Ranelagh Road. This will be the base for the Harlesden SNT, the Kensal Green SNT, and the Harlesden Town Centre Police Team.
This should be a big help to the Kensal Green Team, who are currently based in Harlesden Police Station. Having a base actually in the ward, will lead to them being much more visible. I suspect the drug dealers rumoured to use Ranelagh Road will be less evident as a result.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Burglary Down in Kensal Green

I understand from the Police that burglary has dropped dramtically in Kensal Green during December. Partly no doubt because the thieves find it as hard to get about in this weather as the rest of us, but also because the Safer Neighbourhood Team have specifically targeted burglary recently.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

St Stephen's Day

I dare say many people will be spending part of today stoned with alcohol, which is perhaps appropriate on the Feast of St Stephen, but I intend to be rather more abstemious.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Blog

In August I decided that would make a least one entry per day on this blog, and I am glad that I have so far succeeded, but I intend to ignore that rule tomorrow and probably indulge in the sin of gluttony.

Street Furniture

Below is a photograph I took of a Keep Left bollard in Longstone Avenue that I took recently.



As you can see these bollards are easily knocked over. They are also an unecessary use of electricity. Many Boroughs (e.g. Barnet) use reflective signs that are more robust and use no electricity at all. There is no reason why Brent can't do this, and it would provide better signage at lower cost. It doesn't happen because Brent Council is crippled by inertia.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Stop the Tower

I have heard rumours that the Stop the Tower group is becoming active again, after three years of silence. I posted before that I thought this group was really an astroturf organisation trying to help the Liberal Democrats in an underhand way, and strange to say they are reforming shortly before the local elections. I wonder what their purpose could be?

Fantastic Mr Fox

Yesterday morning I was stunned to see a fox trotting along the pavement in Harlesden Gardens at 10am.

Street Gritting in Kensal Green

Getting loads of complaints from constituents about the lack of gritting. The main roads seem to be more or less clear, but the pavements are largely covered in ice still. I have been out doing various deliveries and almost fallen over times too numerous to mention.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Lib Dems: The Party of the Rich?

At the last Planning Committee of the year, on Wednesday, I was startled to hear one of the Liberal Democrat councillors argue that the residents of a particular road should be shown special consideration because they lived in a “nice road” where they had spent “a lot of money for their houses.” Even the Conservative Chair baulked at that, and reminded everyone that you can’t show people special consideration for being rich. Still, it shows that the Liberal Democrats are not quite the left wing alternative to Labour that some people would have us believe.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Will Boris Johnson Stand Again?

There seems to have been a sudden burst of speculation about either Lord Mandelson or Boris Johnson standing as London Mayor in 2012. The Mandelson stuff seems quite plausible to me, certainly more so than David Lammy. Johnson standing again also seems unavoidable for him unless he wants a reputation as a diletante quitter. However, I can't think of any reason why he couldn't win a second term as Mayor, and then serve consecutively as a MP for a Tory seat in London, as French politicians seem to.

Sustainable Communities Act & Brent Council

In the Summer, Brent Labour Group used the Scrutiny process to embarrass our Tory / Lib Dem administration into taking notice of the Sustainable Communities Act. As a result of our efforts, the Liberal Democrats felt forced to put forward a motion committing the Council to using the Act. That was back in July (on Bastille Day as it happens). The officer group set up to work out how the Council was to do this did not even meet until October. This means that Brent Council has missed the next round of activity.

Once again Brent Liberal Democrats appear to be bidding for beacon status for sloth.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Lib Dems Get Confused

Looking through the Full Council questions from October, I notice the rather confused response given to my Harlesden Labour colleague Cllr Lincoln Beswick. Back in July, the Liberal Democrats were pushed into a motion as a result of political pressure to adopt the Sustainable Communities Act (explained here). With his usual lack of clarity, Paul Lorber dragged in a reference to the London Local Authorities Bill. Since this Bill is too far advanced to be changed, it seems rather pointless for Paul Lorber to have raised it.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Cllr Pawan Gupta: The Phantom Councillor

One of the curiosities of Brent’s Planning Committees is the presence of Cllr Pawan Gupta, the Liberal Democrat councillor for Dudden Hill. He has taken to standing at the back of the room during each meeting, but never comments on an application. Last time this seemed especially strange, since there was a controversial application in his ward (at Dudden Hill Parade). He remained in the meeting from 7pm to 11pm (when it ended) without commenting. In fact the only time that I can recall him saying anything in any form of Council meeting was when he announced that he never spoke to his local police team.

Krupesh Hirani

Krupesh Hirani has a post on the shocking state of services for disadvantaged children in Brent here.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Harlesden High Street Service Station

The application to build 23 flats on the old service station site on Harlesden High Street was rejected on Wednesday. This application was, in my opinion, worse than the previous one of about 18 months ago with a higher building, a less interesting facade facing Rucklidge Avenue, and a poorer frontage to High Street Harlesden.

Greenhouse Application Rejected

Incidentally, the application for a new housing development at the Greenhouse site in Welsh Harp was rejected on Wednesday. It really was a pretty terrible application, trying to build a housing estate in the middle of a nature reserve. Planning officers said that they thought Barnet Council would be likely to reject the parallel proposal on the Cool Oak lane side as well.

Boris Johnson Cuts Police Numbers

Tory Troll reports that Boris Johnson is cutting Police numbers in London. Although according to the report, he does not seem to be aware that his own budget proposals say "Over the three years to 2012-13, the number of Police Officers is forecast to decrease by 455, while PCSOs remain the same and Special Constables increase by 2,690."

Street Gritting

I keep being told by people that Brent's roads were inadequately gritted today. After the fiasco of the cancelled buses last year, I would have thought that Brent Council had learnt its lesson.

Brent Council and Flooding

People have been asking me about flooding and whether Brent Council can do anything about it. Unfortunately, only a limited amount is possible.

The Council has no direct powers. It can plead with Thames Water, but it can't force Thames Water to do anything. It can't even put properties that have been flooded on the Thames Water database. Because in the past people have been afraid of seeing their insurance premiums go up or the value of their property damaged if it is labelled as being at risk of flood, only the property owner can register.

The Council has minor incremental powers through Building Control (enforcing standards) and through the Planning system. Planning can obviously refuse planning permission in an area liable to flooding. It also normally enforces conditions to slow the rate at which water hits the streets (rainwater harvesting and Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDs). In Kensal Green, we have had a programme of systematic gully cleaning which the rest of Brent could benefit from, but all these measures are really just ameliorating effects.

Pavement Encroachment

Harlesden Town Centre often gives rise to complaints about pavement encroachment by traders putting their goods on the pavements. This seems to have got worse since the Liberal Democrats abolished Town Centre Wardens. The decision to reduce the number of Streetcare office from 21 to 14 can't have helped either. I know this is also a problem sometimes in Harrow Road NW10 (at the Kensal Rise end of the ward), and a Conservative councillor recently complained of problems in Queensbury. It is part of the gradual erosion of standards in Council services.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Stupidity of the £25 Charge

I recently had a piece of casework illustrating the foolishness of the Liberal Democrats’ £25 charge for special collections. The constituent was a pensioner. The Liberal Democrats claim pensioners are exempt from the charge. When he tried to get the Council to take his items away, he was told he was allowed only one collection free per year. The old system gave up to three collections free each year. Now he is left with rubbish in his front garden until the turn of the year.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Cutting Carbon Emissions?

Here is an excerpt from a letter I sent to the Willesden and Brent Times, which I thought I would post here in case they don't publish it.

"Brent Liberal Democrats have signed the pledge but they have also made it clear that they are not going to keep it. Instead of a 10% cut in carbon emissions in 2010, a recent Brent Council Scrutiny report admits: “If current trends continue we will also face difficulty in meeting the Local Area Agreement target of a 3% CO2 reduction by 2010 or a 6% reduction by 2010/11.”

It goes on to say the failure to meet even a 3% target is down to “lack of resources and conflicting priorities.” In other words, the Liberal Democrats will fail to meet anything like the 10% target because they did not regard it as important enough.

Incidentally, the target under Labour was for a 20% cut by 2011 compared to 1990 levels. A couple of months ago, the Liberal Democrats lowered Labour’s 20% target to 6% (compared to 2005/6 emissions) because they realised they no longer had any prospect of meeting it.

In fact the Liberal Democrat performance is even worse than it seems. The 3% figure uses 2005/6 emissions as a baseline i.e. emissions will be 3% lower than in 2005/6. The Liberal Democrats inherited a number of initiatives from the previous Labour administration in Brent. These led to a 7.3% cut in carbon emissions in 2006/7. Because the Lib Dems saw the green agenda as a low priority, they allowed emissions to start rising (by 2.8% in 2007/8). The only reason that there is any reduction at all is because Labour managed such a big drop in 2006/7.

Putting climate change first requires action, not just more of the Liberal Democrats’ broken promises."

Barham Park

I don’t think my occasional series on Brent Liberal Democrats’ broken promises has yet touched on the Barham Park Estate in Sudbury. This is a social housing estate near Barham Park, in the Liberal Democrat Council Leader’s own ward.

Before the 2006 elections, the Liberal Democrats started a shameless scaremongering campaign implying that respected social landlord Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT) was a rapacious private developer who wanted to build on Barham Park.

On gaining office they, as usual, had no idea what to do so they just dithered for three years. Various Labour councillors put questions on the subject to try to chivvy them along. Now the government, which is desperate to get more house building underway as part of the fiscal stimulus, has pushed the project into actual construction.

Still it’s a shame that the tenants on the estate had to spend three years in crumbling, poorly insulated resiform flats simply because the Liberal Democrats couldn’t get their act together.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Brent Council Inactivity

Brent Council always winds down in December, but I think this year is becoming even more torpid than usual. The reason is that the coming elections are causing anything controversial to be deferred (although that has always been a fault of the current Lib Dem / Tory administration; look at the ARK Academy fiasco).

One of the environmental areas where this effect is particularly serious is waste management. Irwin Van Colle, nominally in charge, admitted to me that the Council might not meet its next target for reducing the proportion that goes to landfill. Yet, all decisions on this crucial subject will be taken after the election.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Fairtrade Hypocrisy from the Liberal Democrats

It has been pointed out to me that Brent's failure to achieve Fairtrade status is yet another example of Brent Liberal Democrats saying one thing and doing another. Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East, calls for the 2012 Olympics to be Fairtrade here. As so often when the Liberal Democrats "call" for something, it is not something they have any ability to do. Where they could do something is in getting Fairtrade status for Brent. The two necessary changes are engaging more schools and getting some more cafes to offer Fairtrade products. Perfectly doable one might think. Instead progress is stalled.

Lib Dem Confusion over Schools

I see the Liberal Democrats are getting confused about the extra money for Brent schools. The Wembley Central Liberal Democrat councillors have written to the Willesden & Brent Times claiming that the extra money is the result of their lobbying. Meanwhile the Lib Dem Lead Member for Children & Families has written to the Willesden Observer claiming that the money is just an illusion, and in fact Brent probably won't get it. Readers may recall that was also his view of the money allocated for rebuilding the Crest Academies. It shows that the Liberal Democrats really had nothing very much to do with the new investment. The Wembley Liberal Democrats are simply trying to claim credit for something that had nothing to do with them. Credit is free but the facts are dispensible.

Brent's Fairtrade Failure

Brent Council has failed to achieve Fairtrade status largely because of lack of engagement by Brent Schools. The attempt to get Brent Council to sign up to Fairtrade dates back almost a decade _ to when my Kensal Green predecessor Peter Lemmon was Mayor. It is one of those policies that the Tories in particular hate but don't have the guts to get rid of explicitly. Hopefully, the new elections will enable a renewal of energy so that Brent can limp in as one of the last Boroughs to attain Fairtrade status.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

More Hythe Road Photos

For some reason, I couldn't fit this photo into the last post. It shows the littering that covers the railway bridge. Incidentally, the railway bridge also has no public lighting whatever, making it an extremely threatening place to walk in winter.


Hythe Road Footpath Again

I have blogged before about the Hythe Road public footpath. I recently went round there to take some photos that I can show to the Scrutiny task group (if one is ever created).

This shows the signagae isn't exactly prominent (It is opposite the main ticket office).



Here is the unappealing vehicular entrance (no pavement to walk on).


Here is the badly lit pedestrian entrance.



This gives you a fine view of the graffiti that lines the route.

Another Councillor Call for Action

I have put together another Councillor Call for Action; this time for the area around Willesden Junction. Essentially I am asking for Brent and Hammersmith & Fulham to set up a joint task group to improve:

  • The environmental health problems round the Station
  • The signage
  • Hythe Road footpath
  • Harrow Road footpath
  • Station Approach

I don't know if this will succeed but you have to try.

Planning and Kilmuir Rules

An article in The Times some weeks ago discussed possible changes in the Kilmuir Rules. I first heard of these when Judge James Pickles was making a fool of himself in the early 1990s. Basically, a late 1950s Lord Chancellor, Lord Kilmuir, issued guidance that Judges shouldn't comment on cases that they had tried as it might damage the reputation of the judicary. This understanding is under greater pressure as a result of political and media comment on the cases.

It seems to me that there is a parallel issue with local authority planning. Controversial planning applications frequently become part of political debate, yet members of the Planning Committee can't really comment on them for fear of appearing biased. This creates a gap for their opponents to portray them as in favour of anything controversial without rebuttal. Sometimes, as in the case of the Liberal Democrats and the Copland School application, unscrupulous people can suggest a party line in favour of a controversial development.

Apparently, the Danish judicary employ a "media judge" to discuss cases with the media, which would throw the Kilmuir Rules out the window.

I can't imagine that working with our planning system, but the whole area lessens confidence in the planning system, political parties and local government in general. It is another case of political parties, here in Brent the Liberal Democrats in particular, damaging the reputation of politics in the hope of short term gain.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Tubbs Road Pocket Park

More progress on Tubbs Road Pocket Park. A sketch plan has been drafted and is now being consulted on. Among the ideas is a project to involve Furness school kids in designing signs to discourage dog fouling, which I know is a hot issue in both the Tubbs park and also Furness Pocket Park just to the north.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Liberal Democrats Offer FREE Bulky Waste Collection

Liberal Democrats Offer FREE Bulky Waste Collection, but sadly not in Brent. One of the policies that the Liberal Democrats implied they would retain in at least one of their leaflets in 2006 was Labour's policy of offering up to three collections of up to five items to each household in the Borough. They introduced a £25 charge for such collections in July 2007. Brent Council has now admitted that this led to a massive fall in collections. The Tory spokesman claimed to be speaking for both himself and the Liberal Democrats. However over in Liberal Democrat run Islington they continue to offer the Labour policy. If it is good enough for the people of Islington, why is it not good enough for people in Brent?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Boundaries Revisited

Just to revisit my previous post on Kensal Green's inconvenient boundaries, I understand that the Electoral Commission are blowing cold over rectifying the ward boundaries despite requests from both Hammersmith & Fulham and Brent Council. The problem can only get worse as new building (like Plough Close) comes on stream.

Incidentally, in a recent Planning agenda I noticed that South Kilburn has a similar problem with the Borough boundary apparently running through the gardens of people in areas like Saltram Crescent.

Brunel Court: More Dumping

A recent visit to Brunel Court, opposite Scrubs Lane, confirms that they are still having massive problems with dumping. In particular, I saw several dumped vehicles, such as this one.


And this one (note the smashed window)


And this one, which is full of old TVs, so is apparently being used more as a shed than a vehicle.


I suspect the only way to stop this is to gate the area off completely.









Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Oneplace.direct.gov.uk Launched

The government has launched a new local authority comparison site. So far, it strikes me as being agonisingly slow and not very easy to navigate, but perhaps it will develop.

I notice Brent is doing pretty badly in terms of providing new housing units, both affordable and generally. I am somewhat more surprised that we are going backwards in terms of childhood obesity, which could obviously lead to a build up of health problems in future. It doesn't go into much detail about other areas where I think the current Liberal Democrat / Tory administration is failing, like the slippage on carbon emissions, the postponement of a proper waste management strategy and the stalling of service improvement.

Tubbs Road at Overview & Scrutiny

My Councillor Call for Action on Tubbs Road finally got considered at the Overview & Scrutiny Committee last night. Unfortunately that meant I missed the meeting of Odessa and Palemro Road RA which occured at the same time.

Reading the report beforehand, I was concerned that it seemed fairly negative, but as it turned out we got some reasonable recommendations through. I assume that these will go to the Highways Committee in January.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Paul Lorber Loses His Reserve

Brent Liberal Democrats are apparently contemplating massively reducing the Council's reserves in the run up to the Local Elections in 2010.

Brent Council, like most large organisations, maintains reserves to cope with unforeseen eventualities (e.g. the recent surge in demand for children to be taken into care). For some years there have been kept at £7.5 million. That may sound like a lot but Brent Council's total budget is £927 million so it is less than 1% of the Council's total spending. Paul Lorber, the Liberal Democrat Leader of Brent Council, is now hoping to raid this reserve. He apparently told the Budget Panel it should go down to £3.5 million.

In terms of financial prudence, that makes little sense. The Council currently has more uncertainity over its income and expenditure than at any time for years, with the possibility of a new government, the likelihood of severe cutbacks in public spending and a whole range of possible new demands on Council services. Indeed, I understand that the financial department has told Lorber precisely that, but he wants to cut the reserves anyway.

The only explanation I can think of is that he wants to delay cuts in services until after the election in order to limit Liberal Democrat losses at the 2010 election. But surely that would be a very cynical thought.

Tubbs Road Emergency Gate

This is the emergency gate of Tubbs Road swinging open. I don't wish to sound like an obsessive, but this gate really could benefit from being replaced by bollards, in a similar way to the scheme currently proposed for Leghorn Road. It could probably be designed in a way to make it less likely to have the bollards and the keep left signs bashed over as well.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Willesden Junction Station Approach Again

Further to my post on Willesden Junction's Station Approach a couple of days ago, I forgot to post another photo that shows just how badly worn down the Station Approach road surface is.



Remember this road regularly gets double decker buses passing over it. There really is no option other than to repair it.

Vending Machines in Libraries

Cllr Lesley Jones has reminded me about the problems of vending machines in libraries. These have been introduced as a revenue raising measure and to add a new attraction. I must admit that the constant atttempts to add new activities to libraries (such as Harlesden library which is supposed to be opening in February next year) does seem to me to be in danger of going too far sometimes. We should remember that they have a core function of providing access to knowledge, primarily still through books, and that a quiet area for children to do homework in can be particularly important in a Borough where so many children live in overcrowded conditions.

The complaints about vending machines fall into two areas. The first is the noise. Some of our libraries are very small and a vending machine can be a distraction. Secondly, they often sell unhealthy food. That may be attractive commercially, but it does not help the Council combat obesity, which should surely be on of the Council's main priorities.

Avenue Road, NW10

Doorknocking on Ranelagh Road recently I was told that Thames Water contractors had removed a bollard from Avenue Road during the recent utility works. I went down there with our Streetcare officer and found this is true. According to the constituent, the bollard had originally been put in because armed robbers were using the route as a getaway from after robbing banks in the High Street. Anyway, the bollard is now being replaced.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Lack of Scrutiny in Brent

I have recently come back from a two day course in Council scrutiny solutions given by the Local Government Centre at Warwick Business School in their rather impressive Scarman Conference Centre.

Immediately on getting back to London, I went to a meeting of the Forward Plan Scrutiny Committee in Brent Town Hall. I doubt whether anyone would consider Brent Council’s scrutiny committees as a model of how scrutiny committees should work.

Once again, Brent’s Lead Member for Adult Social Services (Cllr Reg Colwill) simply failed to turn up. That really isn’t good enough. He is supposed to be democratically accountable for adult social services. A number of members of the public attended this meeting. He chose to leave all explanations to the Director. That is a failure of democratic accountability pure and simple.

However, I must say that two of the Liberal Democrat members were little better, leaving as soon as the most controversial item on the agenda was over. At least this time they managed to ask some questions, although not very expert ones. Indeed one of the Liberal Democrat councillors misunderstood the Director when he started talking about stars. She seemed to think having a "first" (i.e. one) star was better than "third" (i.e. three) stars. That shows a truly extraordinary level of ignorance about local government.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Boris Johnson's Housing Failure

Dave Hill seems to be unduly lenient on Boris Johnson's failure to hit affordable housing target HERE. Surely it was always obvious that the lack of binding targets would undermine the achievement of new affordable housing, recession or not?

More Money for Brent Schools

Labour is investing almost £100 million in our schools here in Brent, mainly as a result of Building Schools for the Future (BSF).

Local secondary schools will get £80 million. Primary schools will get almost £15 million extra as well.

Cardinal Hinsley School is among the first in the list of priorities. Other Brent schools to benefit early include Alperton Community School, Queen's Park Community School in Aylestone Avenue, and Copland Community School in Cecil Avenue, Wembley.

As well as the investment in buildings, Labour have been giving Brent some of the highest budget increases for running the schools for the past several years.

The Labour investment is quite a contrast with the Liberal Democrat calls for “savage cuts” following a series of bungles that have left taxpayers money frozen in Iceland, wasted on bureaucracy and frittered away on “irrational” payments.

Dumped Rubbish in Wembley

Lest anyone think that only Kensal Green suffers from the consequences of the Liberal Democrats' £25 charge for collecting bulky items, here is a photo of a flytip I took yesterday in Wembley Central (a Liberal Democrat held ward).


Friday, 4 December 2009

Tubbs Road Traffic

Yesterday, I went to a meeting of the Junction Associaition (which has been trying to improve the traffic situation on Tubbs Road). The residents were very unhappy about the report going to Overview & Scrutiny, and having now read it I can see now. The item is on the Scrutiny agenda as a result of my Councillor Call for Action, but officer recommendation seems to be to call for inaction. The meeting is on the eighth, and, unless the committee overrules the officers, I suspect the residents will be very angry.

Saunas at Willesden Sports Centre

I see that Cllr Carol Shaw, Liberal Democrat councillor for Brondesbury, has written to the Willesden & Brent Times complaining that old age pensioners can no longer get free saunas at the Willesden Sports Centre. I would like to reassure Cllr Carol Shaw and any other concerned old age pensioners that I will be writing to Brent’s Liberal Democrat led Council to ask why the concession has been withdrawn.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Willesden Junction Station Approach

As a result of this blog I got contacted about the shoddy state of Station Approach (the road leading to the main ticket office at Willesden Junction station).

The original concern was the large puddle that forms on the Harlesden side of the road. This can be about four foot wide and covers the width of the pavement, forcing people to step into the road or get their feet soaked.



However, going down Station Approach last Sunday, I glanced at the other side of the road. I had long noticed that the road surface was peeling, but there was also a virtual lake of rainwater covering half the road.


The pavement on that side of Station Approach is also badly torn up, creating a trip hazard.



There is also general disrepair as you can see from these weeds growing on the kerb. Remember Willesden Junction is supposed to be the eastern gateway of the Park Royal estate and is also a major approach to Harlesden Town Centre. Surely it doesn’t need to look this shoddy?


As I have mentioned before (e.g. over the Hythe Road public footpath), the problem is that the various boundaries make it very hard to hold the owner of the road to account. I have been told that it is Network Rail, and I am currently trying to get this confirmed.

Leak near Park Parade and Manor Park Road

I am glad to say that the leak near the junction of Park Parade and Manor Park Road appears to be in the process of being sorted (before someone slips over and does themselves a serious injury). Well done Streetcare for getting on the case so quickly!


Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Somalis and khat in Brent

A few days ago I went to a meeting with Somali activists who were very concerned about khat use in Brent.

Back in Somalia, khat is used fairly seldom, at events like weddings for example. However, over here it has become widely used. The activists there were all in favour of it being made illegal in the same way as other European countries (I think only the Netherlands and the UK allow it to be legal in EU). Cllr Paul Lorber, who was also present, voiced the standard Lib Dem line against making it illegal. I wondered what other people thought?

Park Parade Leak

Recently, I asked Streetcare to sort out the water leaking out on to the pavement near the butcher’s at the bottom of Park Parade. Given the cold weather it could easily turn into a trip hazard and that part of High Street Harlesden is well used by pedestrians. However, you don’t have to be a councillor to do this, you can just call 020 8937 5050 or email streetcare@brent.gov.uk.

More Lib Dem Dumping

My colleague, Cllr Lesley Jones, has a sorry tale of the ineffectiveness of the Lib Dems' £25 charge here. As well as costing more the charged service takes much longer than the old free pick up system.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Lodge, Harlesden High Street

The Lodge, in Harlesden High Street has been attracting attention over accusatuions of anti-social behaviour. There has been a long standing noise nuisance problem there, but more recently it has been linked to anti-social behaviour as well. It is also, of course, close to the Jet Set Night Club where violent incidents have taken place.

Sarah Teather MP's Broken Promises

A quick round up of the broken promises of Brent Liberal Democrats and Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East from a recent Labour Party leaflet. As the Liberal Democrats' top representative in Brent, Sarah Teather has:
  • promised to FREEZE Council Tax. Raised it by more than £100.
  • promised Free Car Parking Zone permits. Kept the £50 charge.
  • promised to stop Post Office closures. Four Brent Post Office branches have closed since the Lib Dems took over Brent Council.
  • promised to cut Council spending on publicity. INCREASED Spending on publicity by £883,000 in 2008
  • promised FREE Personal care for the Elderly. INCREASED charges for the elderly by 200%.
  • promised to refurbish Dollis Hill House. Now she is sending in the Bulldozers.
  • promised extra land to rebuild the Crest Academies (John Kelly Schools). Abandoned this promise in July 2009.
  • promised to lead the fight against climate change. Reduced the targets for cutting carbon emissions at the Lib Dem run Brent Council.
  • promised to stop tall buildings being built. Since taking power they have approved several new tall buildings around Brent.

Monday, 30 November 2009

More Dumping in Kensal Green

Another load of rubbish recently dumped in Kensal Green, this time on Longstone Avenue, thanks to Brent Liberal Democrats. Surely it is the Liberal Democrats who deserve to be carpeted.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Dumped Rubbish In Kensal Green

On Thursday morning I walked the short walk it takes me to get to Kensal Green Tube station, and passed no fewer than four flytips in about five minutes.

In Lushington Road:
In Lushington Road again:
In Victor Road:
In Hazel Road:


Yet the Liberal Democrats on Brent Council would have us believe that flytipping is actually going down since they introduced their £25 charge for collecting bulky items like these!





Saturday, 28 November 2009

First Reading

I understand that the so-called First Reading debate last Monday, which was the first Full Council meeting I have not attended since election in 2006, was largely meaningless. At the previous Full Council we put forward a motion suggesting various changes to Full Council, including the abolition of First Reading debates.

First Reading debates were originally supposed to provide an opportunity for backbench (now called “frontline”) councillors to suggest items for inclusion in the Council Budget. These might be related to a ward, or of a more general nature. For example, I think it would be a good idea for a section of the Youth Services budget to be top sliced and linked to anti-social behaviour projects. This would certainly simplify efforts to tackle anti social behaviour.

The subject has been on my mind as a result of all the problems in the Hazel Road area. Incidentally, the sole Tory councillor for Kensal Green apparently quoted local residents as saying that “It was better under a Labour Council”. I agree, but I am surprised to find a Tory saying so, as it does seem an admittance of failure.

One of the issues in getting a comprehensive solution to the Hazel Road issues was funding youth work, which was eventually done through Neighbourhood Working. If there were a dedicated fund instead it would make the whole thing much more speedy and easier to organise.

However, there is not much point in raising such an issue under the current Lib Dem / Tory administration as in the almost four years I have been a councillor, they have not adopted any issue raised at First Reading by any councillor, Labour, Tory or Liberal Democrat. Perhaps that explains why, this time round, not a single non-Executive councillor spoke at the meeting.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Dawn Butler MP at the LEAP Centre in Hazel Road

Along with Cllr Bobby Thomas, I went to the residents meeting about the anti-social behaviour in Hazel Road on Wednesday. Although it went on a bit too long, I thought it was fairly productive, and certainly seemed calmer than the event I remember going to in 2006.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Width Limit in Tubbs Road

One of the issues that came up in the Tubbs Road site visit the other day was the width restriction part way down the road. The Council could reasonably make the signage clearer, which might limit the number of lorries finding themselves caught out and forced into a three point turn. Hopefully, it might also limit damage like that in the photo below.



Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Brian Coleman's U Turn

Barneteye reveals that Brent Liberal Democrats are not the only politicians to reverse their positions without explanation, as can be seen from Brian Coleman's comments here.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Site Visit to Tubbs Road

We had a site visit to Tubbs Road with the head of transportation and people from the Overview & Scrutiny Committee this morning. Incidentally, I passed members of the Parks Service working on Furness Pocket Park on my way there, work which is paid for out of Neighbourhood Working money.


There were several suggestions, although the problem remains intractable. Hopefully, there will be some solutions at the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on 8 December.


Monday, 23 November 2009

Lib Dems Admit Breaking Promises

I notice that the Liberal Democrats' own figures show that they have raised the amount spent on Council publicity by 8% during their administration. That is a long way from the Tax Payers Alliance figure, but also very different from their repeated promises to reduce publicity spend. The question facing Paul Lorber, as we come up to the vote next year, is if he has broken so many of his pledges in the past, why should we trust him now?

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Wrottesley Road Traffic Lights (Again)

I have now had some feedback on the new traffic lights at the Wrottesley Road / Harrow Road junction. Readers may recall that I organised a petition for these lights.

Most of the people I have spoken to, both car drivers and pedestrians, have welcomed the new lights, although there has been some concern about slowing up the traffic. Unfortunately, slowing the traffic is part of the price to be paid for making it safer for pedestrians, such as the kids going to Kenmont Primary School.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Ask No Questions

Incidentally, looking at the Council records of who asks questions, I am struck that the Liberal Democrats in Brent almost never do. Brent Council rules allow each non-Executive councillor to ask a formal question at every Council meeting (with a couple of exceptions). The Tory and Labour councillors make full use of this, but the Liberal Democrats seldom do. For instance, the July 2009 meeting saw the Liberal Democrats ask only five questions when they could have asked a total of 21. Why should there be such a big gap between the parties?

Friday, 20 November 2009

Efficiency Drive

I understand that Brent Council's efficiency programme, designed to increase value for money by among other things reducing the number of managers, is being implemented by a team of 31 staff. 15 of them are workers, and the other 16 are managers, giving a manager:worker ratio of worse than one to one. Another efficiency triumph from Brent Liberal Democrats.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Tubbs Road Site Visit

There will be a site visit to Tubbs Road by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 24 November at 8.30am. It will start outside Open Door Ministries and go down the road. I will be there and any residents who want to explain about the avarious issues are welcome.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Liberal Democrats and the Mayor

Want another example of Brent Liberal Democrats being useless? What about the post of Mayor?

Back in 2003, Paul Lorber, the Lib Dem "Leader" had a very clear view. Brent Liberal Democrats said they wanted "to free up money for improving services in the borough by abolishing the post of Deputy Mayor, cutting the cost of the Mayor's Office by ending the many trips outside of Brent and the "Gravy train" of Mayors attending each other's events, and deleting the new extra assistant for the Mayor."

Since the Liberal Democrats have done none of these things, I assume that they are no longer interested in "improving services in the borough."

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Liberal Democrats Losing Here

Brent Liberal Democrats have a remarkable tendency to claim that they are the biggest party. They are still putting out the 2005 Brent East result all over the Borough. In fact, in Brent they came third in terms of the popular vote in 2006, the GLA elections in 2008, and the European elections in 2009.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Liberal Democrats and Guns

Clearing out recently, I came across a Liberal Democrat leaflet from the 2008 GLA Elections. It states that his top priority would be to take knives and guns off the streets. Could this be the same Liberal Democrat Party that voted against mandated tough sentences for the possession of firearms?

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Work Starts on Furness Road Pocket Park

Here is a picture I took about an hour ago of Community Payback people working on Furness Road Pocket Park.



The original grant for upgrading the park last year under the Neighbourhood Working scheme. However, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the project was not progressed.

Cllr Bobby Thomas and I have now reviewed the scheme, and come up with something more ambitious (although the improvements will still be modest). The new grant will be combined with the old and implemented over the next few weeks by the Brent Parks Service. They will:

· Plant shrubs by the fence next to Di Sottos, hopefully discouraging any future graffiti on the fence.
· Plant a couple of new cherry trees
· Plant some flowers (probably daffodils)
· Remove some dead vegetation
· Create a wild area at the bottom of the slope of the park, to enhance biodiversity.
· Improve the fencing of the park.

The Community Payback workers have been convicted of petty offences and are required to do community service as part of their sentence.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Liberal Democrat Collapse in Glasgow

The Liberal Democrats have come sixth in the Glasgow North East By election. What happened there? Okay they have the SNP in Scotland, but for the Lib Dems to come behind the BNP and lose their deposit is extraordinary. I am sure that they won't be putting that on any of their leaflets in a hurry.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Hazel Road Public Meeting

There will be a public meeting about the anti-social behaviour in the Hazel Road area on 25 November at 7.30pm. The meeting will be held in the LEAP Centre on Hazel Road. Brent Council's anti-social behaviour team will be there as well as a senior police officer.

Bendy buses on the Route 18

The Tory Troll reminds us, for example HERE, that the bendy buses have more space than double deckers or standard single buses. Boris Johnson originally justified this on the grounds that the bendies have led to cyclists getting killed. Post-election he admitted this wasn't actually the case. However, Bungle is still intent on phasing them out. His efforts so far are recorded by boriswatch HERE.

So what does that mean for the route 18? Firstly, we will have even more congestion if the system converts to single deckers (and let's face it, its not exactly wonderful at the moment). Second, we can expect more delays and probably more anti-social behaviour as a result of the congestion. Third, Brent Liberal Democrats' demand that the 18 buses extend their route to Northwick Park is even less likely to be acceded. With delays on the route 18 already worsening, London Transport are hardly likely to make the route even longer as that would make the delays even worse.



Why aren't Brent Liberal Democrats pursuing this issue?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Carbon Emissions and Brent's Civic Centre

A further note on Brent Council's retreat on carbon emissions concerns recent changes to the plans for the Civic Centre. This 80 million pound project was supposed to be a leader in @gree@ technology. Indeed officers (who have to defend the Council's record as the Liberal Democrat / Tory Executive seem incapable of doing so) have argued that one of its key advantages is in cutting carbon emissions.

It may still reduce heating costs, but the Executive have slipped in conditions designed to increase the number of parking spaces at the new site. Discouraging people from driving cars to work was supposed to be one of the main ways in which the Council could cut its emissions. The changes to the Civic Centre brief are effectively a confession that the Council is no longer interesting in cutting carbon emissions beyond a bare mimimum imposed by central government.

Lots of people driving to a Civic Centre next to Wembley Stadium probably won't be wonderful for traffic congestion either, especially on event days.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Bertha Joseph Appeals

I just got told today that Bertha Joseph is appealing her suspension as a councillor, which unfortunately means that her suspension is lifted while the Adjudication Board considers it. Hopefully they will be swift inconfirming the original punishment. As I understand it, she is not appealing the facts of the case. She has admitted that she solicited money which she then spent on herself rather than using it to benefit a Downs Syndrome Charity and Hospice for terminally ill children. Instead she is arguing that suspending her for six months is too harsh a penalty. Personally, I think it is pretty light.

Because of the shenanigans on the LFEPA, she has actually ended up being paid more since she was found guilty of taking the money than she was before. Quite how rewarding someone who uses their office to enrich themselves and then seeks to cast the blame on Council officers ties in with the supposed Tory plans to clean up the reputation of politics is beyond me.

Lib Dem Failure on Allotments

A question from my Tokyngton colleague Cllr Joyce Bacchus shows that the waiting list for allotments has increased, is increasing and shows no sign of being diminished. When the Liberal Democrats and Tories took over Brent Council in 2006, 219 people were waiting for allotments. The 2009/10 figure is 620, an increase of 183%

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Sun and Gordon Brown

The Sun has acquired a transcript of a phone call by Gordon Brown with the mother of Jamie Janes, a soldier killed in October. I presume that they obtained this with the knowledge and consent of Mrs Janes.

Given that Mr Brown made the original mistake of sending the badly written letter, he was surely right to phone Mrs Janes to apologise. What was the reason for recording the conversation, presumably without Mr Brown’s knowledge? The only reason that I can think of is the hope that he would say something that might be used afterward to embarrass him.

Mrs Janes, who has just lost her son, is presumably motivated by anger and grief. I think the Sun has two objectives. The first is to sell newspapers, which they are doing in this case by creating a controversy through clandestine means. The second is political: to damage the current government. This is partly because the Murdoch Empire always wants the government of the day to owe it favours (and they have decided the next government will be Mr Cameron’s), and the Tories will benefit Sky by restricting the BBC.

It strikes me that in secretly recording Mr Brown’s call, the Sun used underhand tactics for completely cynical motives.

Unaccountable

Boris Johnson is getting slated for not allowing himself to be held to account by Mayorwatch, Helen Mulholland and Dave Hill at the Guardian. Fair Enough. However, I can't help but notice that another London politican gets away without being properly questioned, as I have pointed out here and here and here and on several dozen occasions. You can find them by looking for Sarah Teather in the search engine by the side. When the truth catch up with her?

Monday, 9 November 2009

Hazel Road Anti-Social Behaviour

Just thought I would update on the anti-social behaviour on Hazel Road and what is being done to tackle it

Fireworks
Recently, there have been incidents involving the use of fireworks. To tackle this, a “Specialist Fireworks Order” is proposed. This would last two weeks and would allow the Police to ban individuals who do not live locally from the area for 24 hours. The order will operate from the afternoon through to midnight.

Enforcement Actions
The Police have been gathering information for some time now. If you have any information, even if it seems to be trivial, please pass it to the Police. The information so far has enabled the Police and other agencies to:

· Pro-actively intervene at properties where they have been noise complaints in the past to warn the occupants of sanctions if abuse occurs in future.
· Contact Social landlords in the area to crack down on anti-social behavior, by eviction if necessary.
· Make physical changes to “design out” opportunities for crime.

Youth Work
As local councillors Bobby Thomas and I agreed to fund specialized youth work based at the LEAP Centre. This has been an important part of the process in other cases in Brent. The idea is to turn some of the more peripheral members of group away from destructive behavior in order to focus on the ring leaders. We should remember that most people are not bad at heart, and where they are doing things wrong they can change their behavior.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

How Far Does Nepotism Extend Beyond Copland?

The scandal at Copland School continues. Sir Alan Davies and the HR head have stepped down rather than appear at a disciplinary hearing. Deputy Head Richard Evans (and former Tory parliamentary candidate in Hendon) has been dismissed. Given the size of the amounts involved, how did they get away with it for so long?

One reason might be that no one at Brent Council was desparately keen to investigate them. For twenty years there has been a trend towards making schools more independent, and having fewer and fewer checks by the local authority. But I also get the impression that the Lib Dem / Tory Executive on Brent Council aren't interested in safeguarding money in schools.

Back in July, Labour put forward a motion at Full Council because we were worried that some of the stuff that has happened in Copland may be going on at other schools. In particular, there are rumours of nepotism elsewhere in the Borough. The Tories and Liberal Democrats combined to voted against it. I have appended the full text below. Can anyone see anything objectionable?

I suspect that the reason they voted it down is that they know that there is malpractice, and they don't want it to come out before the local elections. That would also explain the release of the news at 17.27 on Wednesday evening, well past the deadline for this week's local newspapers.

After all, the Copland scandal makes most of the MP's expenses misdoings look trivial. If similar scandals are going on across Brent during the Liberal Democrats' watch, what does that say about their competence or value for money?


The Full Text of the Labour Motion

Standards in Brent schools
This Council resolves to conduct an investigation into all primary and secondary schools and children’s centres in Brent, to discover:

1. Whether any of them use special bonus payments to reward staff and, if so, the level of remuneration and criteria for judgement;

2. Whether any school or children centre employees are related to senior staff;

3. Whether any senior school staff members have family or other close relationships linking them to companies that have contracts with the school.

We further resolve to survey all primary and secondary schools and children’s centres to detail their mechanisms for financial scrutiny by the governors, as well as mechanisms for governors and school employees involved in financial decisions to disclose any financial or related party interests.
We also resolve that the investigation should outline what arrangements the Children and Families Department has for scrutinising school and children centres expenditure to ensure that it is appropriate and value for money.
Finally, we resolve that all of the above information should be made available to the public in a report to be published by 15 September 2009.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Sarah Teather's Hypocrisy on Carbon Emissions

I notice here that Sarah Teather is posing as a champion of the fight against climate change. At the same time her Liberal Democrat colleagues on Brent Council are scaling back Brent Council's carbon emissions reduction target from 20% to the legal minimum of 6%.

I bet I won't be seeing that in any Liberal Democrat press releases any time soon.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Carbon Emissions: A Step Back

The Liberal Democrat / Tory Executive running Brent Council took another retrograde step by changing Brent Council's Carbion emission target last month. Whereas the previous Labour administration wanted to cut emissions by 20% by 2011, the new target is only 6%. The 2050 target remains the same.

When I asked about this I was told the change was because it was felt Brent Council would not be able to meet the original target. Since the Council effectively suffers a financial penalty for such a failure it was judged best to lower the target.

Of course, a more ambitious idea would have been to improve the Council's performance to meet the old target.

A second interesting aspect of this is that, as later targets remain the same, they are loading the burden of cutting carbon emissions on to future administrations, just as they have over school places.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Brent Council Confesses

A response to my Labour colleague Cllr Jim Moher has revealed that the Liberal Democrat / Tory coalition running Brent Council have finally admitted that their introduction of a £25 charge led to a fall in special collections around the Borough. Asked why there was a decline in July 2007, Cllr Irwin Van Colle admitted:

"The reason for the decline is the introduction of the charge for special collections."

The immediate decline was 67% from June to July. The first three quarters of 2009 (5,358 collections show a 75% decline compared to the first three quarters of 2006 (21,537 collections). Where do all these items now go now that the Council has stopped collecting them?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Dumped Rubbish

Here is a picture I took yesterday of dumped rubbish outside Tubbs Road Pocket Park. The park is proposed for a major redevelopment as part of the Well London project, costing £40,000, with more possibly coming in from the government's Playbuilder funds. What is the point of spending all this money if the Liberal Democrats continue to encourage people to dump rubbish at the site with their £25 charge?


Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Appeal?

I still haven't heard whether Bertha Joseph, following her suspension as a councillor for ethical misconduct, is going to appeal. If she is, she will have to put the appeal by early November, if she has not already. In the meantime, her suspension has made things a lot easier for everyone else on Brent Council.

One of the key areas she caused problems was over Neighbourhood Working, the scheme that allows local councillors in each ward a small budget for community projects. Unfortunately, this was set up with a requirement that the three councillors agree everything. Fine if they are reasonable people, but a lot harder if one of them is Bertha Joseph. Bertha constantly vetoed projects for no reason, refused to participate in meetings, tried to get decisions overturned, and essentially tried to wreck the whole process. I am delighted to know that she won't be able to do that again before she loses in May.

The second way in which Bertha's absence if going to make everything better is in shortening events. Bertha is incredibly verbose, and can, single-handed, double the time of a meeting by endlessly talking about herself. This has made the Harlesden Area Consultative Forums especially dreary, but applies to any other meeting she attends.

To paraphrase Clement Attlee, a period of silence on her part will be welcome.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Stop Unwanted Lib Dem Phone Calls

Following yesterday's post about the Mail Preference Service, I thought I should also make people aware of the telephone equivalent here. I first signed up to this when Toucan Telecom managed to called me up three times in the space of an hour. However, despite signing up I still got a robocall from Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg, so the system is not perfect.

Congratulations Dawn Butler MP

Congratulation to Dawn Butler, the Labour MP for Brent South and soon Brent Central. I went to her coffee morning at the Hub in All Souls Church on Friday. She had to leave early to be told that she is now a Cabinet Office Minister. She becomes Minister for Young Citizens & Youth Engagement, although she also retains some Whip responsibilities.

Not in My Neighbourhood

I went to the Not in My Neighbourhood event in Harlesden High Street today. It seemed to consist of a very large number of police officers chatting to each other, several Council officers chatting to each other, and a large empty bus.

Here is a photo of Cllr Janice Long wondering what it is all about.


Sunday, 1 November 2009

Mail Preference Service

One of the main problems in Kensal Green is the sheer quantity of junk mail that comes through the door. Indeed Kensal Green resident Mark Craig even did a film about it for Channel 4, Junk Mail Britain. There is a partial solution, however, called the mail preference service. You can register for it here.

Liberal Democrat Party Donations

Michael Crick has an interesting post about Liberal Democrat party donations here. He implies that the Liberal Democrats are being given special treatment by the Electoral Commission, since they have not being asked to return a £2.4 million donation they got from someone who did not trade in the UK and was not registered to vote here. Of course, if the Liberal Democrats were forced to repay the money that would probably be bad news for Sarah Teather, as most of Brent Liberal Democrats funding comes from their national party.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Harrow Road Footpath

I have written to LOROL, the train operator at Willesden Junction station, asking whether an electronic noticeboard can be put at the top of the steps on Harrow Road (where you access the footpath). This might save people the trouble of going down to the ticket office only to find the trains cancelled, as has happened to me occasionally

Friday, 30 October 2009

Newspaper Silence

Bertha Joseph's elevation on the London Fire Authority (LFEPA) hasn't attracted the notice it deserves.

There is some mention on blogs. Brian Coleman (aka Mr Toad) reports on it here. Tory Troll has a piece here. However, the press at large don't seem to have covered it. Even the Evening Standard haven't reported the actual result of the meeting. It demonstrates how threadbare newspaper coverage of local politics is. Given Boris Johnson's monstering of Ken Livingstone over sleaze, his support for these disgraced appointees is an outstanding act of hypocrisy which I would have thought any good journalist would want to cover.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Going Green in Kensal Green?

In the Summer Bobby Thomas persuaded Louis Theroux to help us advertise some “Going Green in Kensal Green” recyclable bags. This was another proposal under Neighbourhood Working. The idea was to encourage people to stop using plastic carrier bags as well as to encourage the use of local shops in Harlesden Town Centre.


It is certainly a popular idea. Everyone I explain it to likes it. However, I don’t see too many of the bags themselves in use. Now, we are having to decide whether or not to go ahead with a second stage, distributing them on a much bigger scale. Was the small scale of the pilot the problem, or is it just the kind of idea people like in theory but not so much in practice?

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Harlesden Town Centre Update

Yesterday I went to a meeting of the Harlesden Town Centre Partnership, chaired by my Harlesden Labour colleague Cllr Janice Long.

It appears that Brent Council is likely to get some money to consult on finding ways to moderate the traffic problems in Harlesden. The actual works would not take place until 2012, so it is going to be one of those long drawn out things. The sort of ideas that might be considered might include removing the Harlesden City Challenge Buildouts, removing railings, greater uniformity in street furniture and improvements to the pavements.

One of the more radical ideas that might be considered would be shared surfaces. This means removing the distinction between pavements and roads entirely, and relying on drivers to make eye contact with pedestrians and deferring to them. I am not sure that would work in a Harlesden context. Shared surfaces have also drawn a lot of criticism from various disabled groups who are concerned about safety.

One other minor improvement is that apparently the ATM "privacy boxes" are going to be repainted, which should reduce robbery.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Liberal Democrat Neglect

Krupesh Hirani, who is standing in Dudden Hill ward for Labour, comments on Liberal Democrat neglect in the Church End area here. Not by coincidence, one of the Lib Dem councillors is Cllr Pawan Gupta, who I heard saying at a recent meeting that he had only tried to contact the Dudden Hill Safer Neighbourhood Team twice in three years, without success.

Navin Shah on Buses

Navin Shah, the London Assembly member for Brent & Harrow, is asking for people to write to him if they spot worsening bus services anywhere in the Borough. This follows Boris Johnson plans to cut bus journeys in London by 26 million kilometres and reduce funding by 37%. This while ramping up fares.

Navin can be written to at Navin Shah, City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London, SE1 2AA, called at 020 7983 4377 or emailed at navin.shah@london.gov.uk

Kensal Green Tube Alterations

I have been asked about the building works at Kensal Green Tube (i.e. the Bakerloo station, not the Overground at Kensal Rise). The contractors are strengthening the overrail bridge. They will not be installing disabled access, and the green space they currently occupy will be restored once they finish.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Hazel Road Open Space

Yesterday's post about Gladstone Park has reminded me about a rumour I heard a while ago that Hazel Road Open Space was going to be built on. If anyone still believes this, don't. There is no application. Any effort to build on public green space would cause mass opposition. Finally, the park is located immediately above two tunnels carrying the Bakerloo and DC lines from Kensal Green Tube station. The cost of strengthening the tunnels would put any project out of the running.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Boris' Dynamic Team

Conservative Home has a rather different perspective to mine on the recent coup in the London Fire Authority HERE. Among other things it says:

"As part of Boris' dynamic team Brian is determined to ensure that this opportunity is used to progress crucial modernisation programmes, some of which have fallen foul of political wrecking tactics by the Lib-Lab pact in recent months. London Fire was the first fire authority to secure an emergency cover contract after government abolished army support and the Green Goddesses, and as the first fire chairman to advocate a pay freeze for members and officers Brian and London Fire were ahead of the curve when David Cameron proposed the same at the recent party conference. Other programmes, such as the modernisation of shift patterns, are now able to be progressed."

There are so many issues here that is it is hard to know where to begin. There is no mention of Bertha Joseph's suspension as a councillor, or her venial character. The stuff about "political wrecking tactics" seems pretty rich coming from a party exploiting a defector and two suspended councillors to maintain a one vote majority. The description of Brian Coleman as "the first fire chairman to advocate a pay freeze for members and officers" made me laugh out loud given his record of expense claims, but best of all was the description of the said Brian Coleman as "part of Boris' dynamic team."

I attach a picture of the dynamic one below.


Steve Reed on the London Fire Authority

Steve Reed, the Labour Leader of Lambeth Council, has posted on the London Fire Authority shenanigans here.

Gladstone Park Town Green

A few weeks ago, Brent Council finally responded to a 2007 request to make Gladstone Park into a Town Green. A Town Green is exempt from being built on. Happily no one is planning to build on Gladstone Park, unless you count any minor works required in an upgrade of Dollis Hill House. What surprised me was the grounds of refusal. To create a Town Green, you need to prove that the area has been used for sports and recreation for at least twenty years. I hadn't realised that the permission of the landowner was important. The Council refused the Town Green request on the ground that Brent Council had given permission for recreation and sports in Gladstone Park ever since the Park was opened in 1900.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Liberal Democrat Publicity Bills

To relieve the gloom of those worried by Brent Council sliding down the league tables under its Liberal Democrat "leadership", I decided to link to another Taxpayers Alliance story here. No doubt that Cllr Paul Lorber will be proud that he has put Brent Council fourth in the whole country for the rate at which the local authority he leads is increasing the rate of spending on publicity. It is all a bit of a change from when the Liberal Democrats were in opposition, as you can see from this (rather crumpled) Lib Dem leaflet from 2005/6.



Featuring the late Rocky Fernandez, who at the time appeared slated as a Liberal Democrat candidate in Queens Park, it implies that cutting back on Council publicity will lead to more money being spent on clearing up dumped rubbish. I take it that means that the Liberal Democrats' decision to increase Council publicity is leading to more flytipping and dumped rubbish in the Borough.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Council / Police Co-operation

As mentioned earlier, I went to a Council / Police Co-operation meeting last night. The most surprising aspect of this was when a Liberal Democrat councillor annonced that in his three years as a councillor, he had twice phoned the local Safer Neighbourhood Team and they had not responded.

How on earth can he have been a councillor for three years without talking to his Safer Neighbourhood Team? I am constantly talking to the Kensal Green Safer Neighbourhood Team _ about problems in Hazel Road and Bramston Road, street drinking, needles on Avenue Road, problems around school kids on Park Parade, and so on. I see them at the ward panels, residents' meetings, the Area Consultative Forums, street surgeries and walkabouts.

What does he do as a councillor that he can contrive to avoid them?

Sleaze at the London Fire Authority

Boris Johnson's cronies at the London Fire Authority (LFEPA) get ever more unedifying. A Labour defector and two suspended Tory councillors (including Brent's Bertha Joseph) have used their votes to give the Tories a one vote majority.

Brian Coleman, who is possibly even more revolting than Bertha Joseph, will use this majority to push through various controversial measures in defiance of workforce opposition. This includes changing shift patterns, removing beds in fire stations, removing diversity officers, and installing a new private entrance at the LFEPA headquarters at I don't know what expense. Only yesterday, I went to a meeting with the police where they emphasised the necessity of understanding diversity issues when dealing with a community like Brent.

Bertha's payoff in all this is get appointed Deputy Chair, where she will will recieve an enhanced allowance to partly make up for what Brent is no longer paying her following her suspension.

Tubbs Road Allotments

I have come across a potentially big problem with the proposed food growing project between Tubbs Road and Willesden Junction. The Well London project was intending to use the land for a series of grow bags. Unfortunately a soil test has shown heavy metal contamination. I am still trying to find out whether this is fixable. There are lots of sites in London with previous industrial or railway uses, so it is not out of the question. The other problems with the Council taking over the site are mainly legal and money based, although apparently there is also some Japanese knotweed there.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Bertha Joseph and the LFEPA

The Evening Standard covers the continuing membership of the London Fire Authority here. It is obviously all about raw politics of a knife edge majority. After all if Bertha Joseph is judged unsuitable to exercise the office of Borough councillor, how can she be an appropriate person to be on the London Fire Authority?

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Liberal Democrat Council Tax U-turn

The Taxpayers Alliance has an interesting view on the Liberal Democrat led Brent Council HERE. Apologies for the elderliness of the link, but it still holds interest. Normally, I would be reluctant to quote from this organisation which I suspect is a Tory front, but the story is based on the Evening Standard story HERE.

Since the Council Tax is one of the few parts of their income that Councils actually control, there are plenty of good reasons why any sensible Council Leader would want to retain flexibility. Indeed the Tories' decision to more or less impose a freeze makes David Cameron's professed belief in localism meaningless.

Nevertheless, not so long ago Cllr Paul Lorber and other Brent Liberal Democrats embraced a different attitude to freezing the Council Tax as you can see from this piece of 2006 election literature.


Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Tubbs Road: Some Sort of Answer

The answers to questions at Brent's Full Council meeting back in July have finally been put on the web site. Among them is a question covering Tubbs Road.

Unfortunately, the answer suggests that Tubbs Road is used "mainly by local traffic" and that the width restriction is widely known about. I think both these convictions are wrong. I think a lot of the traffic is going through to get to the A40. I also have been told be residents that heavy lorries routinely get stuck at the width restriction, as they don't realise it is there. Possibly downgrading the road from an A road to a B road might get it off peoples' GPS systems (apparently it is incorrectly identified as a through route without any width restriction.

Still, it is heartening to learn that the Harlesden Town Centre traffic scheme is being put in for next year. I will be interested to see the details.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Brent Council Drifting

I often complain that the Liberal Democrat / Tory coalition running Brent Council suffers from a sense of drift. One example of this is recycling. When the Liberal Democrats tried to form a coalition in 2006, they circulated a proposal that prioritised waste minimisation. That policy was quietly forgotten.

The officers decided to introduce compulsory recycling instead. The compulsory element is something of a red herring, as the most effective part of the policy is the doorknocking to educate people on what and how to recycle. The very high turnover of the population in Brent implies that this education programme will have to be regularly renewed, although the Lib Dems and Tories don’t seem to have acknowledged this yet.

A second thing that I only recently heard Cllr Irwin Van Colle (The Tory in charge of Environment policy) admit was that Brent Council might very well fail to meet its 40% target for recycling next year. He seemed quite unconcerned that this might happen, and had no plan to avoid it. All that I could get was a promise from one of the officers to come up with some options by the middle of next year (i.e. after the local elections). It looks awfully like just loading problems on to your successors, in the same way the Lib Dems are with the Crest Academies.

Comments Policy

Following the furious comments left about disgraced councillor Bertha Joseph, I have restored the ability to comment on each post. At least for the moment, I am going to moderate the comments before publication to make sure nothing libellous or grossly offensive gets published. Essentially, I will be like the Editor of a newspaper letters page. I won't necessarily agree with comments that are posted but I will block anything that is grossly offensive.

Also, it would be rather more courageous of the individuals (or individual?) posting to sign with a name rather than just "anonymous".

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Royal Oak Harlesden NW10

Just thought I would share the obscure sense of irritation I always get when I view the sign of the Royal Oak on Harlesden High Street.

The sign shows Charles I, who was executed after the world's first war crimes trial. The title "Royal Oak" refers to his son, Charles II. After losing the battle of Worcester in 1650, Charles junior had to go on the run. The story is that he spent some time hiding up an oak tree. Together with the other connotations of Oaks in England, especially association with the Royal Navy, this led to the name becoming a symbol of patroitism.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Bertha Joseph Comments

Unfortunately, I have had to temporarily disable the comments on some of these posts as they were becoming libellous. If you want to leave a comment please try to keep within civilised bounds.

Action for Tubbs Road

My Councillor Call for Action over Tubbs Road went to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday. This is the first such call in Brent since the legislation is fairly new. Beatrice Barleon of the Junction Association and Cllr Bobby Thomas also spoke, and I think we are finally getting some progress on the area's traffic problems.

Prior to another meeting in December, the transport department will survey the traffic flows and come up with suggestions. Personally, I am still attracted to having a no left turn at the Station Road junction.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Buzzword Bingo

Tired of Bertha Joseph? Then you may want to relax with David Cameron's Buzzword Bingo.

Bertha Joseph: Sock Puppet?

The Evening Standard web story on Cllr Bertha Joseph, the now suspended Conservative Councillor for Kensal Green, is getting some rather curious comments posted HERE. There are two Council officers mentioned by name, which is odd since most people don't even know who their councillors are, let alone Council officers. There is also an obsession with Cllr Ann John running through the posts, including the eccentric idea that Ann John is running the Council despite being in opposition. Could Bertha Joseph be taking a line out of her erstwhile friend Rocky Fernandez's book, and be posting all these comments herself?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Bertha Joseph: What will Boris do?

Bertha Joseph's suspension has been covered by the Evening Standard HERE and in Paul Waugh's blog HERE.

It raises an interesting point about the LFEPA, where Bertha Joseph remains as a member. The LFEPA is currently on a knife edge Tory majority, following a Labour defection. Will Boris Johnson choose to keep Bertha Joseph, or will he stick to his campaign promises to clean up cronyism at City Hall by removing her?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Cllr Bertha Joseph Suspended

I have just heard that Cllr Bertha Joseph, the conservative councillor in Kensal Green, has been suspended for six months by the Brent Standards Committee. This is the maximum penalty a Local Authority Standards Committee can impose, and the first time Brent's Standards Committee has ever imposed such a penalty.

UPDATE: I suppose if she is suspended as a councillor, I should probably not refer to her by the title Cllr, so just plain old "Bertha Joseph has been suspended."

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Leghorn Road Changes

Brent Council have suggested changing the emergency vehicles exit at the junction of Leghorn Road and Park Parade to allow cyclists through (via a bollard instead of a gate). That seems a good idea to me. What do you think?

Boris Johnson: Another Tax Rise

Dave Hill of the Guardian reports HERE that Boris Johnson is about to announce another rise in Tube fares well above the rate of inflation. If so, how threadbare is his Council Tax precept freeze going to appear?

Tubbs Road Update 2

Tonight, there is a follow up meeting on my Councillor Call for Action on Tubbs Road. Unfortunately, Brent's Planning meeting meets at the same time so I may have trouble going to both, but I hope it will finally lead to some progress.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Liberal Democrats: The Policies that Dare not Speak their Name

If I were an ardent believer in Brent Liberal Democrats, I would find the current lot running Brent Council a big disappointment as far as crime goes. That is because they are not really implementing any of the policies that they trumpet as radical; they just allow things to continue implementing Labour's policies. Supposedly, Brent Council leads the Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership, but I haven't seen any signs of the Liberal Democrats trying to influence it to adopt some of their key ideas.

Let's take a look at some of those radical Liberal Democrat Ideas:

  • Replace prison sentences of less than 3 months with community service (Lib Dem Conference resolution March 2007). NO ACTION
  • Never lock up a young person who breaches an ASBO (Lib Dem Policy Paper August 2008). NO ACTION, although Brent Liberal Democrats do dish out ASBOs.
  • Non prosecution for possession, cultivation and social supply of illegal drugs (Lib Dem Policy Paper, March 2005). NO ACTION
  • Ending "high visibility community punishment" as a gimmick. (Lib Dem spokesman, 6 May 2009) Lib Dem led Brent Council continues to do this.
What is the point of the Liberal Democrats developing these policies if they make no effort to promote them. Indeed, aside from the promotion of Sarah Teather's political career, what is the point of Brent Liberal Democrats?

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Sarah Teather MP's Fiscal Incontinance

Vince Cable and Nick Clegg have tried hard to convince people of their hard headed austerity floating means tests for child benefit, cuts in child tax credits, an end to the Child Trust Fund, public sector pay restraint, reductions in public sector pensions and so on. Unfortunately, Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East, is busily making new spending committments all over the place. Here are the schemes press released on her web site just in the month of August:

03.08.09
Restore Housing Budget
£225 million
17.08.09
Increase in Freedom Pass funding
Uncosted
20.08.09
More School Places
Uncosted
24.08.09
Jubilee Line Refund
Uncosted

If the Liberal Democrats want to be treated as a serious party, they are going to have to start exercising some collective discipline.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Pubs

I see that the William IV pub in Kensal Rise is being renamed as King William 4th, which seems a bit unnecessary. When the Island was renamed, after formerly been known as the Buccaneer, it was a piece of rebranding. It had formerly been one of the grottiest pubs in London, and is now much improved. The new owner of the William IV also owns the Black Lion and the Brondes Age in Kilburn, which are reasonably similar to the William IV, so I don't suppose there will be major changes.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Dawn Butler MP and Barack Obama

The total irrationality of a lot of political debate deeply worries me. We have seen the debate in the USA over healthcare seems to have been seriously divorced from reality: with all this stuff about death panels, the forced euthansia of Stephen Hawking and numerous accusations of Nazism.

Over here, we had a small example of a similar conspiracy theory when Dawn Butler MP met Barack Obama and grabbed his autograph in Downing Street. Several bloggers tried to make out that he had never met her, which as you can see from the photo below he did.


At least most people would see that he did, but some of the people who maintain political blogs apparently would see evidence of a forged image of a meeting that never happened. In the case of Dawn and the President, there aren't any serious consequences, but sometimes this can get serious.
The Liberal Democrats are famed for raising these baseless accusations about non-existent tower block applications, healthcare and police closures, threats to the Freedom Pass and so on. They have as much credibility as Sarah Teather's election promises or the rightwing nutters in America claiming that Obama wasn't born there.
The trouble is, how do combat this kind of thing when political discourse so often doesn't report the facts at all? Reported the horse race is easier than reporting the policy. Reporting personal details about who claimed for what makes better copy than the dry administrative details. Journalists these days often interpret "impartiality" as meaning "he said this, she said that", even where it means "he said the Earth goes round the Sun; she said the Earth is flat." Too often, the actual facts don't get reported at all.
Maybe it has to do with the rise of relativism, but the effect is corrosive on democracy. In local government, there used to be one remaining bulwark against Teather-style irresponsibility, and that was taking power. If you formed an administration and failed to implement your promises, you could get hammered at the next election. However, these days fewer and fewer people know how local government woorks and the Liberal Democrats have become adept at pretending they are campaigning against their own administration.
I don't know what the answer to all this is, but the system is seriously broken.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Graffiti at Brent Town Hall


Above is a picture of Cllr Ann John next to some graffiti actually in Brent Town Hall within a few yards of the Council Chamber. I first photogrphed it in December last year, and it is still there. If the Liberal Democrats and Tories can't be bothered with cleaning graffiti in their place of work, is it any surprise that there are so many compalints right across Brent?

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Cllr Bertha Joseph: Formal Hearing

I understand the formal hearing into Cllr Bertha Joseph over her alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct will be held on 13 October.

Masons Arms Beer Garden

The Masons Arms beer garden is the key to its improvement over the past three years, and it also touches on a tricky area of enforcement in planning policy.

I recall the Masons Arms before the beer garden. The area was a disused car park, whose main distinction was being the site of a poster for Guy Ritchie's Revolver that sparked a controversy. There is no doubt that the change in use makes the pub much better, but the site has an advantage in terms of noise in that the neighbours are all fairly far away. Behind the beer garden is the dead area of Kensal Green Cemetary, and in front Hazel Road Open Space.

Another site on Neasden Lane is more typical. It is a cafe near residential housing, where the owner is trying to have an outside area for smoking purposes. Given that his cafe has hookah smoking as a key part of his business model, he is unlikely to accept the Planning Service's attempts to stop him from using the area. On the other hand residents strongly object to the noise.

At the moment therefore, the Planning Service are making efforts to close down the outside area, but the cafe owner is likely to keep on re-opening it to serve his business. How can such a dilemma be resolved?

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Liberal Democrat U-turn on School Finance

I was interested to read in the press recently that the Liberal Democrats have now decided that an audit of Brent schools is needed. I strongly agree, and spoke in favour of a motion asking for precisely that at Brent Council's July meeting. You can see the minutes HERE.

You can also see that the Liberal Democrat Lead Member Bob Wharton spoke against, saying the idea was impractical. The Tories joined the Liberal Democrats in voting the proposal down. Now only a couple of months later, he is saying he is all in favour. What has changed?

Monday, 5 October 2009

Brent Council and Vaccination

After my earlier post on immunisation, it occurred to me that many people may not understand what local government has to do with the subject. There are countries, such as Finland, where local government has direct executive responsibility over health.

In the UK, we have a scrutiny function but no direct powers. The meeting I attended was a meeting of a scrutiny task group on the subject, formed because Brent has a very low rate of vaccination even by London standards. The fact that the NHS records are so poor means that that task group is likely to have great difficulty in coming up with recommendations.

The second function the Borough has is in emergency planning. This can mean all sorts of things from maintaining IT systems, to coping with the tornado that ripped through part of Kensal Rise, to trying to keep everything going even if there is a widespread outbreak of swineflu.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

More Lib Dem Rubbish

More rubbish from the Lib Dems. I just came across this dumped mattress in Wendover Road, no doubt left by someone who did not want to pay Brent Liberal Democrats £25 charge for heavy items.


As chance would have it I passed Cllr Daniel Brown spreading another kind of rubbish, Sarah Teather's latest propaganda leaflet. He is supposed to be the Lead Member for Streetcare issues such as dumped rubbish, but he showed no interest in reporting this eyesore. Just walked straight past it. He and his Lib Dem colleagues simply don't give a damn about anyone in Kensal Green or probably Brent as a whole.