Thursday, 31 December 2009
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
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
Sunday, 27 December 2009
Saturday, 26 December 2009
Thursday, 24 December 2009
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
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Monday, 21 December 2009
Once again Brent Liberal Democrats appear to be bidding for beacon status for sloth.
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Saturday, 19 December 2009
Friday, 18 December 2009
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.
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
"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."
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
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
Sunday, 13 December 2009
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.
- 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.
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
Friday, 11 December 2009
Thursday, 10 December 2009
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.
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.
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
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.
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
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.
Monday, 7 December 2009
Remember this road regularly gets double decker buses passing over it. There really is no option other than to repair it.
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.
Sunday, 6 December 2009
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
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.
Friday, 4 December 2009
Thursday, 3 December 2009
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.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
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?
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
- 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.