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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

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:

Restore Housing Budget
£225 million
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


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.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Sarah Teather and the Jubilee Line Refund

I see Sarah Teather MP is pursuing a populist campaign for a refund for Jubilee Line users. First thought of everyone is: "Money back? Great" but how would it actually work?

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.

Not Another Drop March

Along with many others I walked the 2009 Not Another Drop March last Saturday. Below you can see the candles lit by the Jubilee Clock in Harlesden High Street in memory of murder victims in Brent. There are more than 70 of them. The photographs are of Toni-Ann Byfield, the youngest.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Harrow Road NW10 Congestion

Apparently, the congestion on Harrow Road NW10 is caused by emergency works to the electricity supply. It is due to be completed by 9 October.

Brent Council's Diminishing Returns

As an addendum to the last post about the failure of Liberal Democrat leadership on Brent Council, it is worth looking at what PriceWaterhouseCoopers say about the poor quality of Council services in the Borough.

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.

Brent Council's Poor Use of Council Tax

Brent Council’s Chief Executive has launched a new plan to reduce costs across Brent Council.

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

Cafe Vive Iterum

Here is a quick photo from last night's party for Labour candidates at Cafe Vive Iterum in Hamilton Road (just off Dollis Hill Tube).

Left to right are Anita (who runs the Cafe), Dawn Butler MP, and Krupesh Hirani who is standing in Dudden Hill, and whose blog can be found HERE.

Hazel Road Update

By now people in the streets round Hazel Road (near Kensal Green Tube Station) should have received a letter about some of the activities that have been going on down there to counteract anti-social behaviour. Unfortunately, all sorts of rumours have been going around; in some cases being spread by people who should know better.

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.