Sunday, 31 January 2010
However, as you can see from the Wikipedia link, Hastings Banda was not an entirely attractive figure. Does this matter in terms of having a blue plaque, or should we just acknowledge that whatever his faults he is a significant historical figure?
Saturday, 30 January 2010
Council documents reveal that Brent Council expects to cut its emissions by 3% during 2010. That is, if you count emissions from all the Council. Roughly half of the 6,000 people employed by the Council are employed by schools. Brent Liberal Democrats have decided that they will meet the 10% target by only counting non-school emissions. Since the schools have seen emissions rising fast over the past few years, ignoring them makes it much easier to "cut" Council carbon emissions.
Of course, one could extend this logic further. Brent Liberal Democrats could probably get an even bigger cut by excluding bits of the non-school parts of the Council. Brent Liberal Democrats could further improve the Council's carbon emissions to exclude both school and non-school emissions. Since this would take out all the Council's operations, this would mean that Brent Council could become the UK's first zero emissions authority.
Of course, many members of the public might have a less imaginative view of emissions than the Lib Dems. They might think that excluding the bits of the Council that had the fastest growing emissions, and claiming that this showed a "cut" in emissions was a complete con.
Friday, 29 January 2010
Thursday, 28 January 2010
I will post when I know more.
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Does anyone know whether that is allowed under EU rules?
They do pick 'em , don't they?
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
The 2008 accounts for Brent Liberal Democrats certainly suggest that her "joint tenancy" arrangements with her local party are rather odd. They state:
"The office at 1 High Road is the principal responsibility of Sarah Teather who utilises her parliamentary allowances to pay a large percentage of the operating expenses. We have agreed to pay certain expences of up to £5,000 per year to supplement those allowances and this is achieved by paying the business rates."
Hmm... "principal responsibility" doesn't sound like a very equal joint tenancy arrangement. And not more than £5,000 a year doesn't sound like a high proportion of the cost of a prime commercial site on Willesden High Road.
The 2008 accounts also state that they employ a Borough Organiser with £20,817.50 being paid by Brent Liberal Democrats, and £4,768.08 by Sarah Teather (presumably out of her personal income).
The Liberal Democrat accounts lodged with the Electoral Commission show an item "Telephone." The figures for this item each year are: £500 (2004), £673.62 (2005), £300 (2006), blank (2007), blank (2008). The accounts for 2007 and 2008 don't seem to give any explanation as to why the Liberal Democrat phone bills disappear.
Meanwhile, the Political Scrapbook graph, which I assume is collated from Parliamentary invoices, shows a quarterly bill of several hundred pounds being paid by the taxpayer from July 2004 into 2008 (The last year for which there are accounts).
Why do Sarah Teather's parliamentary duties entail a phone bill so much higher than her party's, and why did the party cease using the phone after 2006?
If you look at the Brent Liberal Democrat accounts you can find even more interesting questions, which I will cover in a later post.
Monday, 25 January 2010
Back in 2006, the Liberal Democrats ran a shamefully dishonest campaign alleging a Labour plot to build a tower block just by Queens Park Tube. Unfortunately, the lies were successful in getting Liberal Democrat councillors elected in the area. The site of the supposed Tower application has remained untouched. He now seems to have tried to use the Marshall House application to argue that the Liberal Democrats have installed a positive alternative on the site, although the Marshall House application is for a rather different site in South Kilburn.
No doubt the local residents who supported the Liberal Democrats because they thought they would ban tall buildings feel ratgher disappointed that permission for an eleven storey block has been given.
The kind of image Mr Cameron is desparately trying to drop.
Sunday, 24 January 2010
Saturday, 23 January 2010
Friday, 22 January 2010
Thursday, 21 January 2010
However, as you can see from this photo taken yesterday, no one appears to be repairing the mains, so goodness knows how long this will continue.
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
The Highways Committee is chaired by Cllr Daniel Brown, who is the worst chair I have ever seen. He created a totally unnecessary conflict with the residents who had turned up by refusing to let them speak without prior notice. He had obviously come primed to fob everyone off with nothing. Fortunately, the Assistant Director of Transport intervened with a recommendation that the problems of the road be seen to more or less along the lines we suggested. Whereupon, the Committee rubberstamped his recommendation.
However, neither the Liberal Democrats or the Tories who make up Brent's Highways Committee seem to have any capacity for independent thought. The whole half hour meeting was just a charade, and we could have have just asked the Transport officers to announce what they had decided without bothering with drongoes like Cllr Daniel Brown.
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
The Freedom Pass is funded by London Boroughs in conjunction with TfL. The Mayor of London was given the power to overide the objections of the Boroughs in the case of a dispute. The issue of how much money the Freedom Pass should cost became a political football when Ken Livingstone was Mayor, and the Conservative Boroughs resented him using his powers to make them support the Freedom Pass. According to Navin, Conservative Council Leader Cllr Daniel Moylan of Kensington & Chelsea accused Ken Livingstone of using the Freedom Pass as a "stealth tax."
The Boroughs subsequently agreed changes to the funding arrangements with the new Mayor. As I blogged earlier, this will greatly disadvantage Brent. However, TfL's contribution will be capped until 2015. This means that any rise in cost, such as the extension of a 24 hour Freedom Pass, will have to be borne by the Boroughs.
The one significant change that Boris has made to his powers is to pass his reserve power to overide the Boroughs to an independent arbiters. Of course, he cannot change the Parliamentary Act so I guess he is pledging a kind of self-denying ordinance to follow what the arbiter says.
The problem with all this is that it seems to create greater scope for disputes. Boris can extend the Freedom Pass and expect the Boroughs to pick up the tab. Apart from the changes to the formula for paying for it, which greatly disadvantages Brent, there is likely to be a long term increase in the cost as the population ages. Hence, a major political mess is quietly being built up.
Monday, 18 January 2010
For the moment, I'll just note that the proposed Plan drops a specific target for the amount of waste processed within London. That is no doubt supposed to be typical of Boris Johnson's less bureaucratic approach, since there may be suitable facilities just outside Greater London. However, it may also be used to send rubbish further afield, perhaps costing less to recycle in cash but more in terms of emissions.
Sunday, 17 January 2010
Cllr Chavda has previously claimed that he was sidelined by his party colleagues out of racial bias.
Saturday, 16 January 2010
Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have been very dismissive of the idea, with the Lead Member (Bob Wharton) claiming there are no available models. He clearly has not heard of this pilot in Redditch using a Peugeot electric minibus; nor of this John Lewis pilot in far away Oxford Street; or of this scheme in Cambridge; or this scheme in Copenhagen; or these electric buses in Florence.
Manufacturers include Finmeccanica, Smith Electric Vehicles, and Iveco.
Brent Council is not interested in this, just as it is not interested in possible government help with low carbon vehicles.
You can also get a fuel cell bus powered by hydrogen from Iveco.
This the water leak in Park Parade I reported a few days ago. The water is still coming through, and despite Boris Johnson's pledges, the road area has been cordoned off and left empty of workmen.
Friday, 15 January 2010
What he fails to mention is that Brent Council has no intention of making a 10% cut in carbon emissions despite having pledged to do so. Had he read my previous posting, he would know this. Perhaps he does.
Brent Council managed a cut of more than 7% in 2006/7 as a result of already implemented projects feeding through into actual emissions cuts. After that, carbon emissions started going up again. In 2010, Brent Council's carbon emissions are intended to be 3% lower than in 2005/6. This is because the post 2007 growth has yet to obiliterate the big fall in 2006/7.
Officers have told me that this target was recently changed to a less ambitious one because we were struggling to meet our targets.
This is the reality behind the Liberal Democrat greenwash.
Meanwhile, I notice that Liberal Democrat councillor Gavin Sneddon has been so embarressed by the snow and ice outside Willesden Library Centre that he has felt forced to clear it himself.
Thursday, 14 January 2010
My impression is that many authorities have bought too little grit as an economy measure and are now being surprised by an unusually bad winter. This is certainly the case in Brent where the Liberal Democrats cut the gritting budget by £38,000 in 2007 against Labour protests. They got away with that for a couple of years, but the inevitable cold snap has caught up with them.
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
This leads to the conclusion that "20 mph zones are effective measures for reducing road injuries and deaths".
This is something which is directly under the control of local authorities like Brent Council. Are there any suggestions for particularly dangerous parts of Kensal Green or Brent that would significantly benefit from a new 20mph zone?
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
- Single bus journey by Oyster up by 20% to £1.20
- A weekly Oyster pass up by 20% to£16.60
- Most Oyster pay as you go fares up by 20 pence per trip
- Overall tube fares up by 3.9%, and overall bus fares up by 12.7%
Kind of puts the Precept freeze in perspective.
Monday, 11 January 2010
Hopefully, I will eventually be able to get some answers through use of the Scrutiny system. Brent Council should have the ability to demand answers from any body spending public money in its area. As Network Rail is now nationalised that should include them.
Sunday, 10 January 2010
Saturday, 9 January 2010
Lots of its collections are the result of colonialist plunder, the Elgin Marbles being the famous example, although I prefer the bronzes of Benin. If the British Museum wants to hold together as an institution, it needs to come up with a justification for having all these under one roof, and I thought Neil McGregor did a fairly good job of that.
Of course, I am somewhat sceptical about trying to label cultural artifacts as national treasures in the first place. I went to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh recently. A prominent painting there portrays the founder of the Clan McKenzie saving King Alexander III during a hunt. It was painted at the request of the Clan Chief in the eighteenth century, who had got involved with the Jacobites and wanted to reingratiate himself by emphasising his ancestor's loyalty. It is undoubtedly a very Scottish subject, but it is painted by the American Benjamin West (the same who did the death of Wolfe at Quebec), so is it an American or a Scottish artifact?
Further into the Gallery, you can see Canova's Three Graces. I remember this caused a huge fuss when the owner wanted to sell it abroad. There was a massive fund raising campaign to save it for the nation, which I am glad of, since it allows me to see it. However, why is a sculpture by an Italian of a classical subject such an important part of "our" heritage?
It should tick lots of good boxes. More efficent boilers should cut carbon emissions. They should also reduce fuel poverty. As many of them are made in the UK, it should also help the fiscal stimulus.
Friday, 8 January 2010
Thursday, 7 January 2010
I bring it up again not to carry on flogging a dead subject, or to attack Cllr Malik, whose last hopes of a career in the Tory Party were probably finished by the outcry, but because it is worth thinking about how Muslims could be accommodated.
It is worth remembering that we have lots of quasi-judicial tribunals outside formal legal structures anyway. Lots of people mentioned the Beth Dins, although the Roman Catholics also have a well developed system of canon law. But one shouldn't just recall the religious courts, large companies generally have internal processes to sort out HR problems for example; there are industrial tribunals, and of course professional associations have tribunals with quite draconian powers. For instance the General Medical Council can stop someone practising as a Doctor.
All these bodies (with arguable exceptions in the religious organisations) accept rules of natural justice, and only impose penalties within English Law.
One insurmountable objection to Cllr Malik's proposal to introduce his view of Muslim Law is that he wants to have the death penalty and corporal punishment. In other words powers that established courts cannot themselves use and that many people find revolting.
A second insurmountable objection, as I see it, is that his preferred system denies natural justice to women. Their testimony apparently carries less weight. They are also apparently subject to much more severe penalties than men. We would hardly allow the GMC to strike a doctor off if she were a woman, but to allow a doctor in a similar case to continue practising if he were a man.
A third problem with his vision would be duality. Cllr Malik is arguing for Muslims to be subject to a separate legal system to everyone else. That would set up all sorts of problems of who is a Muslim, what to do with cases involving both sets of people and so on. You can also argue it would be an anti-Muslim policy since Muslims would be subject to more severe penalties than non-Muslims. If the penalties were lighter, you could again object that two sets of people were being treated differently, violating the principle of equality before the law.
However, I don't see why one couldn't have religious courts to rule on things like whether something halel, matters of religious ritual, divorce proceedings and so on.
I think the reason this raises such powerful emotions is that it is seen as a way for the likes of Cllr Malik to seek to control people, and maintain a kind of cultural stronghold. All communities are subject to change and Cllr Malik seems to want to use oppressive methods in a doomed effort to prevent this. Ultimately, he will have to accept that his very narrow views are not the only way to interpret one of the world's great religions.
Cllr Atiq Malik has now sent me a statement on this subject which I publish here.
Just to bring extra joy, rubbish collections are cancelled so the staff can go gritting. People are being advised to leave their bins and the Council will collect them when they can.
Amazing what a couple of days of snow can do.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
One of the first things we had to do was explain what the arrangements were in each authority. As I described Brent’s arrangements, I thought to myself how strange they were. Essentially, they were drawn up in an Executive-focused culture, and don’t really get into the spirit of the legislation. Many councillors dislike the new arrangements, but I don’t see any prospect of them changing so we have to make the best of Scrutiny as it stands.
What I think Scrutiny should be aiming at is more engagement with partners, greater transparency and more scope to engage with the public. To do that, I think we probably need to completely remodel our Scrutiny Committees, perhaps along the lines of the Corporate Themes.
I suspect that there is little chance of any reform until after the local elections, however.
Tuesday, 5 January 2010
Monday, 4 January 2010
Evans -Jacas was elected as Labour in a seat that rejected the Tories comprehensively. Evans-Jacas refused to stand in a by election for her new party. Evans-Jacas complained of not getting enough in allowances. All these things are also true of Bertha Joseph.
Still at least Evans-Jacas was not suspended as a councillor for misconduct.