Saturday, 31 October 2009
Friday, 30 October 2009
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
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
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
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 email@example.com
Monday, 26 October 2009
Sunday, 25 October 2009
Saturday, 24 October 2009
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
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?
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.
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
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
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
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.
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 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
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
Thursday, 15 October 2009
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
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
Monday, 12 October 2009
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.
Sunday, 11 October 2009
Restore Housing Budget
Increase in Freedom Pass funding
More School Places
Jubilee Line Refund
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
Friday, 9 October 2009
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.
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
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
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
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
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.
Saturday, 3 October 2009
The petition says: "We the undersigned call on Transport for London to refund local people for not providing a 7-day Jubilee line service. We also call for the Metropolitan line to be allowed to stop at Willesden Green and Neasden stations and for more information to be provided to the public in advance of closures."
Who are the "local people" in this context? I use the Jubilee line sometimes, although my nearest Tube is the Bakerloo. Would I be sufficently local? What about people who live near the Jubilee line, but seldom use it? To qualify for a refund, would you need to produce an oystercard, or have recorded a certain number of trips using Jubilee line stations over a given period?
How much money will I get out of my refund? Sarah Teather says it is because users are paying for a seven day Tube, but only getting a five day service, so I assume that means a per diem figure of some sort. How much is it, and do I have to prove that I use the Jubilee Line on the weekend?
Sarah Teather says that 8 miles of the line were laid with the wrong kind of cable. She then goes on to say: "How on earth did they manage to lay nearly half the length of the Jubilee line with the wrong type of cable without anybody noticing?" Is the Jubilee line really only 16 miles? Does she want refunds from Stratford to Stanmore, or is she only asking for refunds along part of its length?
Finally, there is the point about reopening Willesden Green for the Met line as suggested some time ago by Simon Fletcher HERE. Well done Sarah for catching up. When Cllr David Clues raised this in Council, he was told that the platforms were not maintained at a sufficent quality to be useable, which I assume means that they are accessed for engineering, but there are health & safety or other reasons for the public not to get access. Still it may be worth pursuing.
Perhaps, Sarah Teather should actually use her position to pursue it with TfL like a proper MP, rather than just putting out leaflets making promises that she has no interest in costing or implementing.
Friday, 2 October 2009
PWC were commissioned, at a cost of about £100K, to examine services across the Council. They say that 62% of Brent's performance indicators are below average and 38% in the bottom quartile. The proportion of Brent Council's own targets met has fallen from 52% in 2007/8 (the first year when the Lib Dem / Tory coalition could set their own budget to 46% in 2008/9. 57% of Local Area Agreement priorities are below average, with 39% in the lowest quartile. All this seems to indicate an organisation that has reversed its progress under Labour and gone into decline.
One mechanism that Councils should use to arrest such decline should be the scrutiny process. In particular the Performance and Finance Committee is supposed to track progress. Unfortunately, this is chaired by the egregious Cllr Anthony Dunn, who prefers to take it down eccentric by ways whilst ignoring major strategic issues.
The first thing I notice is that this transforming strategy is being promoted across the Council without having been in front of the Liberal Democrat and Tory councillors. In other words the local government officers are being forced to provide Brent Council with political leadership because the Tory / Lib Dem Executive members are simply not up to the task.
Secondly, the Chief Executive comments that there are “significant savings and efficiencies to be made.” That sounds like an admission that the Council has been wasting money under the Liberal Democrat / Conservative administration.
Gareth identifies two major areas of waste. He admits that the Council has too many managers, sometimes managing only one person. This is a criticism that Labour has been making for some time: that the Council is top heavy with highly paid managers and doesn’t spend enough on the people who actually deliver Council services. He also suggests the need to shed a number of jobs with a suggested number of about 300 jobs, about 10% of the total.
This must be a considerable embarrassment for the Lead Member for Resources, Bob Blackman. Even worse, the Chief Executive also identifies the need to be “One Council” as the key theme. This reverses the fragmentation approach that Bob Blackman adopted when he was leading Brent Council back in the 1990s.
Finally, the Chief Executive identifies the need to work with other partners, especially the NHS, closely. That implies an admission that the vicious confrontation over “cost shunting” that Liberal Democrat Leader Paul Lorber engaged in three years ago was a costly error.
Thursday, 1 October 2009
The police have engaged in a lot of pro-active activities, including extensive use of stop and search to gather intelligence on who precisely the perpetrators are. The hedge at the side of Hazel Road Open Space has been trimmed to improve visibility. It is possible that there will be other physical alterations to discourage loitering as well as police action.
What I am keenest on is improving the Youth Centre. LEAP currently operate the Youth Centre as a standalone unit out of their own pockets. Brent Council Youth Services have been in touch and we are hoping that there will be lots of opportunities for joint working. As part of Neighbourhood Working, the Kensal Green councillors have agreed a very substantial investment to divert young people into more purposive activities.
This seems to me to be a more rounded response than the kneejerk dispersal zone that some people have wanted. Firstly, the previous dispersal zone in Hazel Road did not solve the problem. That is why we are still talking about it. Secondly, the Courts have tightened up the use of dispersal zones that unless you engage with these wider activities such as youth work, they don’t grant you a dispersal zone.
I am sorry that all this has taken so long to bring about, and it is undoubtedly true that mistakes have been made, but I believe the situation is on the way to being turned around for good.