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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.


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

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


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.