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Friday, 31 December 2010

Brent Cemetaries

This rural field is in Brent, sort of.  It is actually part of the Carpenders Park Cemetary in Hertfordshire, which is our main open cemetary.  We will be developing a long term cemetaries strategy during the second half of next year.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Gladstone Park Allotments

Brent Council have no capital allocation for creating allotments so planning gain is probably the only realistic route for an expansion of allotment places.  The only possible site on the horizon at the moment is in Gladstone Park, close to Campbell Gordon Way.

The site in Gladstone Park is currently some derelict sports facilities. They originally belonged to a school, but the school was closed twenty years ago, back when projections suggested that London's population was falling. The sports facilities were kept but not maintained. Hence, the abandoned cricket nets disfiguring that part of Gladstone Park, as well as the astroturf pitch too close to housing to be used.

Allotments would make much better sense.


Responding to David below. The stroturf pitch has been extensively vandalised, and is too near to housing to be useable at night (according to modern standards).  I understand no one has used the pitch for at least eight years.  It is being turned back into grass.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Boris on the Buses

Tory Troll explains Boris Johnson's continued war on bus passengers here.  What is curious is that Johnson still retains an image of being vaguely green at the same time as favouring the growth of motoring, the most unsustainable form of transport possible.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Harlesden Town Centre Makeover

I understand that Brent Council have now had Transport for London funding confirmed for the makeover of Harlesden Town Centre.  The total amount will be something like £3 million for the redisgning of the public realm including possible traffic measures.  Well done to the officers of Brent Transport Department for having gained such a sum at a time when most budgets are being cut back.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Con Dem Government Weakness

I see that our Con Dem government has pulled back from abolishing the Bookstart programme, only a short time after pulling back on proposed cuts to school sports. 

In itself good news, but it does suggest that Philip Pullman is right in saying that the government is making proposals that are ill considered to begin with, and that it doesn't have the courage to back those proposals against serious opposition.  Such an approach guarentees maximum embarressment, rather like John Major's appraoch to defending Cabinet Ministers who were being pressed to resign.  He would back them for months only to see them resign eventually. The media started to doubt his credibility and therefore subjected each minister to a prolonged campaign on the grounds that it would eventually get him.  The present Con Dem government risks a similar lack of respect.  Not least because the Telegraph has been publishing these stories that even government minister (e.g. Vince Cable) don't believe in their own government.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Fabric of a Nation

Finally got to see the Fabric of a Nation exhibition at the Willesden Green Library Centre, and I recommend it, particularly if you are not Ghanian.  I doubt whether the Grange Musuem is open today, but the exhibition still has some time to run.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Osborne on Ireland

Via Paul Krugman, I notice this article by George Osborne arguing that his economic policy will make us more like Ireland.  It was originally published in early 2006, but the prediction of an Irish Future seems to be getting closer every day.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Tubbs Road Park Opening

This rather splendid cake comes from the opening of Tubbs Road Park in its revivified form.  The cake disappeared during the afternoon, but the park remains.  In the Spring there will be additional planting, and a higher fence will be installed at the front.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA)

Seema Malhotra has unearthed some interesting stuff about the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) here. Quoting the IFS, she suggests it particularly helps ethnic minorities from poor backgrounds.  As far as I can see the Con Dem government is proposing to abolish it without replacement, which gives you an idea of how far improving educational attainment comes on their list of priorities.  The only alternative that I have seen Michael Gove suggest is that individual schools set up a hardship fund paid for out of their core funding.  This doesn't sound like an adequate substitute.  It also sounds like a way to divert "pupil premium" from funding education directly to other uses, casting doubt on whether Sarah Teather's claims to be increasing funding are in fact true.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A Coalition of Choice

Steve Richards suggests here that the alliance between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives was not quite the forced arrangement the likes of Sarah Teather would have us believe.  He thinks that the "Orange Book" liberals took over the negotiations and that the resulting combination, mad attack on public services and all, is their ideological choice.

Monday, 20 December 2010

No Post in the Post Box

Here is a post box I saw recently. Why would someone set up a post box with that message on it. Is it post modern art?

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Tyres and Pollution

Environmental Protection UK has an interesting report on the use of tyres to reduce pollution and noise in government car fleets. Something that any organisation with a large vehicle fleet should think about.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Well London

I am sorry that the Well London project will be winding up in March. It has done a lot for the Kensal Green area, especially the Tubbs Road Pocket Park. What is wasteful about these temporary projects is the whole temporary, bidding process involved. It takes a long time to get to know an area like this, and now that Well London have gotten to know it all that painfully acquired knowledge is going to be dispersed.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Blogs and Libel

Sense about Science has a guide for bloggers who face legal threats here.  I had an issue of this sort with Atiq Malik, although I don't believe his threat of legal action was a serious one.  When I started this blog I also had a problem with a number of comments posted anonymously carrying what I took to be libelous or sometimes just nasty remarks about individuals.  Although they claimed to be from several different authors, I suspect they were actually posted by two rather sad individuals.  Happily, both of them have ceased to post, but that is the reason that I always moderate the comments rather than allow instant publication.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Blue Mountain Display

One of the issues that has come up around Harlesden Town Centre is pavement displays.  Brent's licensing people are keen for better demarcation, as currently some of the displays spill on to the pavement, often with litter problems.  This could be done by painting the edges of the private forecourts, or (in the longer term) useing pavement studs. 

However, there is an argument that shops spilling on to the pavements can be good.  For instance, the fruit and veg display outside Blue Mountain in Craven Park Road could be said to add to the feel of the place.  A similar argument could be made for the little shopping parade outside the Gracelands Cafe opposite the Island pub. 

What do people think?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Buggies Off the Bus

I understand that the problem I predicted with buggies in the new double deckers on the Number 18 is coming to pass. What makes it worse is when a bus stops part way along the route. The mother concerned has to wait for several more buses because the only buggy space is occupied. Thanks Boris.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Ireland and Brent

The Irish turmoil is obviously a tragedy for the Irish people, but will it also have an impact in Brent?  When I first moved here in the late nineties, there was still a substantial Irish population of people who had come to London for work.  The Celtic Tiger years saw those people disappear as more work was to be found in Dublin.  I assume the unemployment in Ireland will see many more people come over here, looking for jobs and housing and we will need to cope with the influx.  It may also affect the funding of the Brent Irish Advice Service, which partly comes from Dublin.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Ward Working and St Marks

The Kensal Green councillors have agreed to use seven thousand pounds of their ward working money to contribute to the redevelopment of St Mark's Church Hall.  Most of the funding comes from the Church and its own fund raising, but this should allow the work to begin after Christmas.  Full details can be found on the St Mark's Church website.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Library Call In

The call in of the library report turned out to be something of a damp squib on Thursday.  With the exception of Paul Lorber, none of the people who signed the call in turned up to ask anything about.  The main points that he made were already in the strategy, so it really was not a good use of time.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Lib Dem Hypocrisy

A Liberal Democrat MP told me that he didn't want to sign the tuition fees pledge, but the party headquarters actively pressured him to do so, so he did.  I thought this an extraordinary confession.  Even though Nick Clegg had doubts about the policy, he pushed all his MPs and himself to sign the pledge.  He then made it one of the central planks of his campaign to oppose a rise in tuition fees.  The other feature of his campaign was the importance of trust and not breaking your promises.  He gets into office and does precisely that.  It really makes you wonder about his honesty, but also his political competence.  How could he not foresee the kind of difficulty he would get into?

Policing the Protest

Here is a photo of the police in Parliament Square that I took before the violence got underway.  What kind of a government needs this kind of military  operation to protect itself from its own voters?

Tubbs Road Pocket Park Officially Opened

Today, Tubbs Road Pocket Park is having its official opening, from about 2pm to 4pm in the park itself.  I am immensely relived that this project got through despite Sarah Teather cancelling the rest of the PlayBuilder programme that part paid for it.

Friday, 10 December 2010

ACME Studios Open Day

Tomorrow the ACME studios development on Harrow Road is having an open afternoon to be followed by a similar event on Sunday.  I will be going to the official opening of Tubbs Road pocket park, but I am sure the artists would welcome as many poeople as possible.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Roundwood Youth Centre

It looks as if Roundwood Youthb Centre will have the last Labour government's grant unfrozen and therefore be able to go ahead with the planned rebuild.  However, I am not yet sure whether the full grant will be given, or whether the details will show a cut.

Brent FoE and Emissions Based Parking

An anonymous commenter, who sounds as if they are from Brent Friends of the Earth, claims I was selective in quoting from their response to the Council consultation on emissions based based parking permits, so perhaps I should go through it in greater detail.

The Brent FoE response conceeds the principle of the scheme is good, but proceeds to make various objections that are politically and financially unrealistic and would effectively debar the Council from implementing the scheme at all.

The statement that really stands out is: "It is also the case that the scheme will have no effect whatsoever in the large proportion of the borough not covered by Controlled Parking Zones, as it only applies to CPZ schemes."  Obviously, the Council cannot not ask for a CPZ fee in areas that have not asked for a CPZ.  CPZs have always only been implemented with the consent of residents in Brent.  Areas which have them have opted to pay a fee in return for residents being given privileged parking rights over people from outside.  To impose fees on the whole Borough would destroy public consent by charging people who don't regard themselves as getting a commensurate beenfit in exchange. 

They also complain that it applies only to on street parking.  Indeed so, but the Council has no legal (or many would say moral) rights to charge people a fee for parking on their own properties.  Councils can restrict parking rights for private property through the control of crossover permissions, and in fact Brent has tightened its policies in this regard, but Brent Friends of the Earth seem to be demanding that the Council do something outside its legal powers.

Brent FoE also suggest that it is "unfair that only householders who presently have cars will be rewarded, rather than those who already use only public transport or bicycles."  I find it hard to work out what is envisaged here.  The Council offer is to people who give up their permits for a set period.  How would you extend the offer to people without permits to give up?  Is it being suggested that a payment be made to everyone?  If so, in what way does it incentivise behaviour. 

They are also objecting to the speed of implementation, and want a longer consultation period.  The proposals were decided by the Executive in August 2010, and, if passed, should come into effect in April 2011.  That is the best part of a year.   Personally, I am quite frustrated that things take so long to implement.  The FoE response also makes the entirely incorrect point that "Bringing the new scheme in very quickly (implementation next April), means that very few people are likely to be influenced by the incentives it puts forward." Surely, the longer you delay the introduction of the policy, the longer it will be before anyone can claim a benefit, and therefore the more you delay any influence it has.  As far as I can work out, whoever wrote the FoE response thinks that you can only claim the incentive in the run up to implementation (say 1 April) and not thereafter.  In fact, you would be able to claim the incentive on the day of implementation or at any time thereafter.

There is also some stuff about buying and selling cars, suggesting that buying newer, less polluting cars is has a higher lifecycle cost.  I don't believe that there is any evidence for that, but in any case the parking permit is a very small component in the cost of motoring.  The effect of the policy is likely to be more on people buying a car anyway, especially a highly polluting second hand car.

Finally, Brent FoE have the chutzpah to suggest that the scheme should be part of "an overall plan which makes it much easier to use other forms of transport," as if it were not already.  Of course, Brent Council, like every other local authority, has a range of policies and schemes in place to manage traffic issues.  These including pro active measures like cycle training, planning policies and fees and charges.  The fact that Brent FoE fail to understand this further diminishes their already dwindling credibility as an environmentalist group.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


Yesterday, I went to the Inns of Court for the launch of a book of cartoons on planning issues called Plandemonium.  I recommend it to anyone who likes jokes about Local Development Frameworks. 

Sarah Teather on Her Way Out

Sarah Teather was door stepped by Sky TV about tuition fees.  She refused to answer questions about tuition fees.  Asked why she wouldn't answer she explained: "I'm on my way out."


Furness Road Water Leak

There is a water leak on Furness Road just outside the pocket park, particularly bad in this time of freezing weather.  I reported it yesterday, only to find someone had been ahead of me;  reporting it at 2.05am.  I am intrigued to know what this civic minded person was doing at 2.05am.

St Mungos in Pound Lane

A while ago I went to an event in the St Mungos facility in Pound Lane.  Everyone was very gloomy about the forthcoming disaster caused by the Con Dem government's changes to housing benefit.  The changes have been sold by using atypical examples of unemployed families in central London claiming large sums, but most of the people hit by the cuts will be low paid workers claiming much more modest amounts.

However, touring the actual facility in Pound Lane was inspiring.  It cost more than £9 million, and arranges a gradual progression for homeless people towards independent living.  the idea is to reverse the kind of "revolving door" that emergency only support gives.  It is of course probably more cost effective in the long run, but also just the kind of thing the present government is likely to cut.

The centre at 115 Pound Lane is open to the public.  They have a cafe, meeting rooms and a computer room so it is worth going in just to have a look.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

BFOE and Emissions Based Parking

Brent Friends of the Earth continue their decidly peculiar brand of environmental campaigning with a submission on our Emissions Based Parking Permit proposals.  For a supposedly environmental group, it is staggerly lukewarm and grudging.  It states that "we are not opposed to the principle of emissions based parking permits."

Not exactly leading the charge on Climate Change, are they?

I think I will do a further post on their ill considered and unrealistic objections at a later date.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Teather's Broken Manifesto Promise on Schools

When Sarah Teather and her boss Michael Gove decided to abolish the Building Schools for the Future programme, they defended by saying there was not enough money to pay for the new schools. The promises put out in the run up to the election were a little different.
What the Brent Liberal Democrats said in their 2010 manifesto was:

"Brent has now been admitted to the Building Schools for the Future scheme (something the previous Labour administration failed to achieve). This will fund major works at Queens Park Community, Alperton, Copland and Cardinal Hinsley schools."

Did the Brent Liberal Democrats not consult their MP before publishing the manifesto? Did she care so little about education in her constituency that she didn't bother to ask them what their plans were? Or is this yet another case of a broken Liberal Democrat promise?


Responding to the anonymous commenter below.  Sarah Teather Con Dem coalition have cancelled £85 million of Building Schools for the Future money that had been allocated to Brent.  She now claims that money was not there, even though it was promised in the Brent Liberal Democrat manifesto.  The Crest Academies bid was well under way when Labour lost power.  The only thing we have to be grateful towards Sarah Teather when it comes to the Crest Academies is that she managed NOT to close that programme.  Not closing even secondary school building programme in Brent (only some of them) is not much of a boast.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Public Sector Waste

Patrick Butler has an excellent rejoinder to all those "waste" stories about public services.  These stories are promulgated by (a) journalists looking for a quick and easy story, and (b) rightwing ideologues trying to vilify any form of public spending by pretending it does nothing.  This then sets up an atmosphere where massive cuts can be pushed through to shrink the state.  Brent Liberal Democrats have been playing this game for years, and will no doubt continue to do so, but is it not odd that the private bankers whose incompetence and greed almost destroyed the world economy are allowed to get away without scrutiny?

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Harlesden City Challenge Grottiness

This is the kind of grottiness, I hope Harlesden Town Centre will be able to avoid in future. The peculiar design of the street has led to it being poorly maintained. Indeed, I understand that it is often used as an exemplar of what not to do in urban design.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Carbon Tax

One of the hidden charges to local government is a new carbon tax of £12 for each ton of carbon dioxide emissions. For Brent this adds up to almost half a million pounds. The anomaly is that it is charged to those authorities that monitor their carbon emissions, i.e. those who are keener on reducing emissions.

Times Article

I gather I have had an article published in The Times on compulsory recycling, although as they have a paywall I can't link to it.  Still, one can always buy a copy.

Kensal Rise Library

I went to the Friends of Kensal Rise Library yesterday.  The numbers present certainly demonstrated the level of concern.

It was decided to form a committee to see how the library could be kept open.  I have already told Mr Butcher that I am happy for officers to meet with them to go through the practicalities of any scheme.  I think that a successful solution would need:

a) The permission of All Souls.  As they have a covenant giving the library back to them if it ceased to be a library, their permission would be crucial.
b) A clear concept of what the building is for.  I am a little worried that many of the people there want to continue with a standard library, which I don't think will work.  Inm my opinion, there needs to be maximum flexibility in how to uise the space in order to draw in partners.
c) Funding, both capital and revenue.

This is obviously a big task, but it might be doable.

There were also some misconceptions that need to be cleared up:

i)  The Council does not have an enormous pot of money to be made available after agitation.  Central government have cut Brent's grant to a greater extent than at any time in the past.
ii)  It was suggested that Brent was the only Borough in London proposing library closures.  In fact a number of closures are mooted in Camden, Lewisham and I believe elsewhere.
iii) It was suggested that reducing library opening hours by 40% would allow all twelve to be retained.  Whereas cutting hours by 40% would save a similar level of revenue, it would not generate any capital receipt for improvements.  It would lead to a much larger number of redundancies among staff, a massive fall in book borrowing and a massive fall in visitors.  In other words, it would make all our libraries unsuccessful.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Are we in this together?

The Guardian carries the story that the government cuts have been skewed to hit the most deprived (generally Labour) authorities hardest, and the more prosperous (generally Tory) less.  It is even suggested that some authorities, like Tunbridge Wells, will be given substantial rises at the same time as others are struggling to balance their budgets.

Kensal Green Tube

In the Summer, I mentioned the terrible looking state of the "green" space by Kensal Green Tube Station.  This is not actually a public park but an area of land owned by Network Rail.  The land was desolated after contractor put heavy machinery and materials on it whilst they were working on the bridge over the rail line.  The contractor is obilged to put it back into its prior state at their own expense.  Currently they seem to have compacted the earth and put so much gravel in that the plants cannot grow, but I understand we are still chasing them to get the area landscaped properly.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Harlesden High Street Bottle Bank

I am glad to see that the bringbank outside 139 High Street Harlesden has finally been cleared after weeks of overflowing.  Hopefully, the glitch in it being collected will not recur, and (if there is contamination) it will be emptied in due time.

Brent Library Consultation Launched

Brent Council has now officially launched its library consultation.  You can access it here.  Note that the first consultation meeting is tonight at the Willesden Green Library Centre, although there will be plenty of other opportunities at the Area Consultative Forums.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Lib Dems and Tuition Fees

Left Foot Forward has more on Liberal Democrat twisting on tuition fees here.  Vince Cable's admission that he only made the promise because he never expected to be in government strikes me as especially absurd.  How can he expect anyone to trust him?

Gritting the Roads

All the major road network has been gritted to cope with the snow, and the gritters will be out again this afternoon as freezing temperatures continue.

Teather Charges the Kiddies

Sarah Teather's pledge for increased charging families using Sure Start has not had the attention it deserves.  As usual, making parents pay more was not an objective she proclaimed before the election, but I was also struck at the anti-localism element.  Whilst claiming to promote local decision making, Teather wants more "payment by results".  Money would be witheld from Councils or other organisations that cannot demonstrate that they have turned the lives of children around.  That sounds awfully like the invention of a centralised bureaucratic testing regime of the kind that this Con Dem government claims to be against.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Emissions Based Parking Permits: an Islington Comparison

Following the Liberal Democrat u-turn on emission based parking permits, I thought it would be interesting to compare our proposals to the system introduced in Liberal Democrat run Islington in 2007. Islington is also an authority that retained free collection for bulky items at a time when our Liberal Democrats introduced the £25 charge.

The Islington charge levels can be found here. Like us, they have a seven band structure based on DVLA criteria with electric vehicles free and top rate polluters paying £200. Exactly what the Liberal Democrats here are now protesting so hard against.

I notice that the Islington Liberal Democrats have in the past also boasted about the effectiveness of their car club offer. One of the key strands in our proposals is to promote car clubs by allowing them to park in CPZ areas.

Perhaps we could persuade the Islington Lib Dems to do a house swap with their Brent counterparts, and get a cross party consensus on the issue?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Waste Down in West London

Household waste in West London continues to go down.  This is beneficial financially, but I would feel happier if I understood the reasons behind it.  Partly, it is linked to the poor economic performance of the UK, which leads to less waste being produced.  However, it would be good if we could track better whether any of our reducing waste projects are actually having a measurable effect.

Call Ins by the Lib Dems

There has been a slight delay to several of the reports at the previous Executive covering: Libraries, waste management, street cleaning, building round Elms Garden and the Taxicard scheme.  This is because five of the Liberal Democrat councillors signed a "call in".  This delays the report until a Scrutiny Committee has a chance to look at it.  I noticed for the first time that the Lib Dems appear to have developed a pro forma form for call ins, so their members don't even have to write them.  That is perhaps as well since they seemed badly demoralised at the Council meeting on Monday.  Only nine of their seventeen councillors managed to stay to the end of the meeting.  What puzzles me is why they continue to tolerate the egregious Paul Lorber, when he has led them into this hole.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Catalyst Development at Harrow Road NW10

I didn't report any more on the flats and studios at Plough Close on the Harrow Road that I visited some time ago.

The site is on the boundary of Brent and Hammersmith & Fulham, so that the Borough boundary actually runs along the back garden fence of the block facing Harrow Road. This meant that the same development had to apply for permission from both Brent and Hammersmith & Fulham. To make matters worse, Catalyst (the Housing Association that led the development) bought the land in 2005. In 2006, the administration in both Boroughs changed, with the HF side changing their planning policy quite drastically from one which only accepted the loss of employment land in return for 100% affordable housing to one that insisted on shared ownership for affordable housing. This was a particularly bad time for shared ownership as the housing market tanked so it has ended up being 100% affordable rented housing after all.

Firstly, it strikes me as remarkable that the development happened at all. It illustrates the unnecessary difficulties created by our illogical Borough boundaries that I have blogged on in the past. Secondly, there is quite a contrast with the Tories in Hammersmith, who appear to have bent their planning policy for ideological reasons, and our own Tories, who disagreed with most of our planning policy, but lacked the intellectual wherewithal to change it.

Bus Stops in High Street Harlesden

One of the many issues that came up in the Town Team visit to Walworth Road was bus stops. Generally bus stops are in lay bys, but the Walworth Road scheme has them flush with the street forcing cars behind to wait whilst people get off and on. Not sure how popular that would be in Harlesden Town Centre, but possibly more so than the current arrangement (pictured) at the Park Parade bus stop in High Street Harlesdeen. There is actually a build out into the road for the bus stop.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Walworth Road Reservation

One of the features of Walworth Road that I am less keen on copying in Harlesden is the reservation above. The idea behind it is to help make the street feel safer for pedestrians to cross. I don't think it would work in Harlesden High Street as our street is much narrower.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Wendover Road Car Park

I occasionally get asked about the possibility of turning the Wendover Road car Park (by the Post Office) into a multi-storey car park. I am not sure where this notion originated, but it seems unlikely to me. Aside from any other planning issues, such as the likely increase in traffic congestion, the existing car park has a very small area. By the time you had constructed a ramp in and a ramp out with associated turning space, you would have very little room for the cars to park in.

Refuse Markers

Visiting The Cut, I saw that they had markers in the pavement like the one above. The idea is that people put there waste in that specific spot for collection, giving a tidier appearence than the current ad hoc arrangements that we have in Harlesden High Street. I think this could be a very good idea for those residents of the High Street who livew above the shops.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Reckless Management

I notice that one of the Conservative MPs offering George Osbourne advice in the recent Commons debate on the Irish bail out was one Mark Reckless.  Let us hope he does not live up to his name.  He was previously noted for voting through the Budget whilst drunk.

Ireland, Iceland and Osborne

Paul Krugman makes a comparison between Ireland and Iceland that should give George Osborne food for thought.

What will Brent Council Collect for Free?

Now that the Liberal Democrats' £25 charge has been abolished, I thought it would be good to flag up what you can get collected. It is all listed on the Brent Council web site here. Basically, any sort of bulky household items. If you leave items out in the rain, it is best to cover them so that their potential for re-use is maximised.

Drainage in Harlesden High Street

One of the things that could be improved in Harlesden Town Centre is the drainage. Among other things, the current build outs trap rainwater in the loading bays. They were not designed to do this as they have drain pipes. Unfortunately, the design of the drain pipes is very hard to clean, and therefore they have become blocked up over time.

I did also wonder about the use of permable paving to help drain the area more quickly. The kind of thing I am thinking of is often used where a parking space has been created in front of a house. I imagine it is more expensive than ordinary paving, but it might be effective. Does anyone know of any public schemes that use it?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Service Station Planning Appeal

The long running saga of the old service station site in Harlesden High Street continues.  The Appeal Inspector has upheld the Council's decision to refuse permission to build flats there.  Reasons for refusal relate the effect on residents of Rucklidge Avenue, 139 High Street Harlesden and the poor amenity space for the intended residents.

More on Lib Dem Hypocrisy

This is the not very impressive leaflet the Liberal Democrats have been putting out about our emissions based parking permit proposals. Despite having advocated a similar scheme themselves, they have come out against ours (rather shredding their environmentalist credentials in the process).

The photo shows the roll of dishonour of Liberal Democrats opposing our proposals as: (left to right) Cllr Paul Lorber, Cllr Barry Cheeseman, Cllr Jack Beck, Cllr Daniel Brown, former councillor Emily Lawson-Tancred, Cllr James Allee, former councillor Bob Wharton, and Cllr Mark Cummins.

Incidentally, the photo in the bottom half shows two of my opponents from May continuing as Liberal Democrat supporters, although Robin Pagnamenta seema to have quietly dropped out.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Gladstone Park Cycling

I was asked some time ago why the bylaw against cycling in Gladstone Park does not apply in the morning. The exceedingly strange reason is apparently that in the 1940s there was a munitions factory at the bottom of the park and the workers were encouraged to cycle down to it, but expected to walk back in the afternoon. How very odd.

Streetwatchers Conference

Just been to the Brent Streetwatchers' Conference where I did a Q&A.  Lots of questions covering Streetcare, bin collections and planning but all very positive.

Free Swimming at Willesden Sports Centre

It is worth flagging up that some free swimming continues at Willesden Sports Centre despite central government cuts over the past few months. The surviving free swimming service is detailed here.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Street Furniture in Harlesden Town Centre

One of the lacks in Harlesden Town Centre is in street furniture, which is particularly important for older people. Above is a fairly good example of a bench that I photographed in The Cut. I understand that Harlesden Town Centre lost a lot of its street furniture because it was used by ne'erdowells. The above bench is obviously designed to discourage this.

Census Takers

I have been asked to publicise the recruitment of Census Collectors, who are the people who will go door-to-door to households who have not submitted their Census forms yet to offer assistance.  They are essential to an accurate census, and the census data is essential to securing funding for local services.  Most public services, including the Council and the NHS, use Census data as the basis for funding allocation from Central government.

Brent has had a long standing problem getting its population estimated accurately because of a high level of transience and diversity.  The best way to ensure that Brent gets an accurate count, with all the positive funding and planning implications that brings, is to do everything we can to fill the workforce with local knowledge, cultural sensitivity and diverse language skills. The only way we can influence this in the recruitment process is to encourage as many of our residents from all our various communities to apply for the roles.

There are roughly 190 posts available in Brent (the number recruited will depend on the overall mix of weekly hours that applicants request) and Capita are looking for 12 applicants to every post and will extend the deadline for those areas where numbers are short. This means they are looking for something of the order of 2200 applications across the Borough – no small task!

If we can fill these positions with individuals with good links with local communities, who have knowledge and understanding of some of the cultural barriers that may be present to filling in the Census, then we stand a much better chance of getting an accurate count of our population and their characteristics.

There is a short job description at the end of this post; further information can be found at

Census Collectors, Brent

Fixed Term Temporary, approximately 37, 25, or 15 Hours/Week

£10.42 p/hour plus completion bonus

There around 190 full-time equivalent Census Collectors are required across Brent. The role mainly requires going door-to-door to encourage households that have not yet submitted a completed 2011 Census form to do so, offering help as required, so knowledge of local communities and experience of working with them will be an asset. Getting your community counted in the Census will give them a stronger voice in the future.

The period of employment starts on either 21 March or 6 April 2011 and ends on 6 May 2011. Mostly the work will be when people are expected to be at home: 2pm to 9pm weekdays and 10am to 9pm at weekends, and at least 60% of you time must be worked at evenings and weekends.

Although you will apply to a role in a fairly localised area during the Census you may be required to work outside this area and do hours outside the normal times above as the operation requires, however you should not be asked to work outside of the Borough. For full details and information on these and other roles please go to

All application for these posts must be made online at Click on “Apply now” and then select “London” as a Region and “Brent” as an Area to bring up all the roles available in Brent; each Collector role has between 12 and 15 full-time equivalent positions to be filled.

Closing Date 13/12/2010

Saturday, 20 November 2010

New West London Waste Web Site

The West London Waste Authority has a new, much more user friendly, website launched today to coincide with the start of European Waste Reduction Week. 

Grey Corduroy Paving

One of the more controversal issues around the shared surface concept is the use of corduroy paving. Guide Dogs for the Blind actually sued Kensington and Chelsea over their use of this material in Exhibition Road. Various disabled groups are afraid that the lack of definition of the pavvement may damage road safety.
I took the above picture in Walworth Road, where you can see the corduroy paving borders the carriageway. Standing on it, I think it had a distinctive feel, so I would have thought a blind person would be able to work out what it was.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Cut: Bollards

The Cut had a kind of bollard that I haven't seen elsewhere (pictured above). I am not sure whether I prefer it to our more traditional bollards, but it would allow people to sit, which is one of the ways in which the High Street can be made friendlier for pedestrians.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Waste Management Milestone

In my annoyance at Cllr Lorber, I got distracted from reporting on the major milestone of the last Council Executive. The main one is the decision to go ahead with our new waste management arrangements to increase recycling across the Borough. This allows us to go ahead with the procurement of new bins and collection vehicles in order for a roll out later next year.

Liberal Democrat Hypocrisy on Brent Cross

Brent Liberal Democrats have shown characteristic chutzpah on the Brent Cross development. They attack Barnet Council for approving the development, and try to imply that Labour have not opposed it, despite Navin Shah's extensive campaigning on the issue.

In calling for cross party support, Cllr Jack Beck makes a curious omission _ Sarah Teather. Before the elction, Sarah Teather was happy to criticise everyone else for not opposing the scheme vigorously enough. As soon as the election was over, she lapsed into silence as Eric Pickles waived the scheme through without a second glance.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Library Transformation

I have had a lot of emails, especially about Kensal Rise Library, following a blog posting here. I think some people didn't understand that Monday's Executive decision was simply to put the proposals out for public consultation rather than to make the substantive decision. The consultation lasts until April, when the Executive will decide on what to do with the Library service. As with waste management, I will be going round the Area Consultative Forums, as well as three special library specific meetings in different parts of the Borough.

Harlesden Town Centre: Colour Scheme

Another consideration in Harlesden Town Centre's design is the colour scheme of the materials. At the moment this can appear to be rather ad hoc. I guess no one has really taken responsibility for it as a place, and therefore things have been replaced bit by bit. Above is an example I took of Walworth Road where the surfaces and street furniture are all on a grey/silver theme. In Brent, that kind of blister paving is usually beige, which doesn't seem particularly attractive.

Loading Bays in Harlesden High Street

This is a picture of a loading bay in Walworth Road. The concept is one of "shared surface". The bay is virtually flush with the road and the kerb is similarly sharply reduced. When the loading bay is in use, it is part of the carriageway effectively. When a vehicle is not using it, it becomes part of the pavement for pedestrian use. It was suggested on the site visit that for this approach to work in Harlesden, we would have to drastically improve traffic enforcement.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Harlesden Town Centre Build Outs

Both the schemes, I visited last Saturday had broadened their pavements to take up part of the carriageway. It looked to me as if that didn't do much for traffic flow in the case of Walworth Road, but Harlesden High Street is slightly different.
Here we have build outs like the above. I really can't think of much use for them as they are. If we took them away, we could either widen the road for more traffic, or widen the pavement to give more space to pedestrians.

Climate Change Steering Group

Yesterday saw the first meeting of Brent Council's new Climate Change Steering Group. This is a group of vartious businesses, public sector organisations and voluntary groups in the Borough. It is chaired by me and serviced by Brent Council officers. The idea is to help steer the Borough as a whole to meet the challenges around climate change, both in terms of reducing carbon emissions and in mitigating the effects.

Paul Lorber: An Extraordinary Performance

Another extraordinary performance from Paul Lorber at last night's Executive. Having approved a scheme to dedesignate a derelict allotment site in Sudbury in order to build decant housing from the Barham development in May 2009, he turned up claiming to oppose his own decision. He also suggested that the housing could be built on a former service station by Thomas A Beckett Close instead.

I remember dealing with the planning application to build flats on this site in 2009. Among those opposing building on the site was local Sudbury Councillor, Paul Lorber.

He really doesn't seem to have any interest in consistency or relating what he says to the facts. Later in the Executive, he claimed that he had attended the consultation on our new waste management plans and that the plans for alternate weekly collections had not been mentioned. As the person who gave that presentation I had to flatly contradict him. But given he was there, and certainly most of the councillors in the room also attended these consulations and therefore knew that they described alternate weekly collections, what was the purpose of him claiming otherwise?

What mystifies me is why his fellow Liberal democrat councillors continue to want to be led by someone so devoid of credibility.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Underwater Photographs

Remarkable underwater photographs to be found here. Nothing particular to add about them. Just thought they looked extraordinary.

Rose Garden

I see that the Salaam restaurant in Harlesden High Street opposite Tubbs Road, which had a bailiff's notice on it recently is now trading as the Rose Garden. I wonder what is going on.

Transforming Harlesden Town Centre

On Saturday, I went on an interesting visit to Walworth Road and The Cut in South London, organised by the Harlesden Town Team. The idea was to get some suggestions for how Harlesden Town Centre could be changed over the next three years. Despite the current climate, we have a good chance of getting some money to do up Harlesden Town Centre in a way it hasn't been since the Harlesden City Challenge of almost twenty years ago.

One obvious question is whether we should have distinctive street furniture as we do at the moment. The two South London schemes certainly did, but the experience with the Harlesden City Challenge has been unhappy. The railings and streetlights are more expensive to maintain, and as a result they have not been looked after properly. There is also the issue of where does the Town Centre begin and end. Having distinctive street furniture only works if you can define the area properly, and at the moment Harlesden Town Centre is ill defined. For instance, we have distinctive streetlights etc. around the Jubilee Clock, but as soon as you go on to Wendover Road you get Brent's standard streetlights.

I will do a series of posts on this theme over the next few days.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Tubbs Road Pocket Park

Delighted to see that Tubbs Road Pocket Park is shaping up so well. Here is a photo I took yesterday. Unfortunately you can't see the wooden sculptures too well, but the overall shape of the park is emerging.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Emissions and Cardiac Arrest

Another link here about transport emissions and health problems. In this case particulates causing heart attacks. Local authorities have only very limited powers on this kind of thing, but I don't think that makes it a bad idea to pursue the emissions based parking permit policy that we have proposed

Bendies Off the Route 18

Today, the bendy buses get taken off the route 18 and replaced by double deckers at great expense. Let's hope there aren't lots of delays as well as extra expense.

Friday, 12 November 2010

CCTV in Brent

I went to the control room for Brent Council's CCTV in Brent House a few weeks ago. The technology is certainly impressive, and the staff very committed. The supervisor told me about an attempted rape that had been filmed. The attacker got away, but she thought that he looked like someone who knew the route. She watched more than 12 hours of footage and eventually identified someone who was subsequently convicted and jailed. Even a small number of reults like that are worth the expense in my opinion.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

New Primary School Places

I see Martin Francis continues to try to block investment in new primary school places in Brent. I really don't understand why. There is a pressing need for new places across the Borough, and not having a place for your child is a terrible position for both the parents and the child to be in. At the moment we have almost £15 million granted by the last government to provide new places. If we don't spend it by August 2011 it will be taken away by the Lib Dem / Tory coalition, and goodness knows if we will see any replacement for it. What on earth is the point of trying to wreck this desparately needed investment?


Martin Francis gives more detail on his position here.

Teather Clear as Mud on Tuition Fees

Sarah Teather is reported as being unclear on the tuition fees issue here. Her spokesperson is reported to have said that s/he had "no idea" what her position was. A bit of a change from her previous clarity on the subject.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Smashing Windows

I have heard a rumour that some of the students on the protest march today have smashed windows in the Conservative Party HQ. I am not clear whether this is part of the protest or merely an application to join the Bullingdon Club.

Seb Coe at Chalkhill Community Centre

Just been to an Inspiring Brent event with Seb Coe at the Chalkhill Community Centre. He went round some of the projects that are linked in with the Olympics, met the Young Ambassadors and then had questions from a number of children from Brent Schools. Earlier he went to see the temporary swimming pool at Chalkhill Primary School.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Why Emission Based Permits?

A commenter on a previous post asks for a rationale for the policy, so here it is.

Firstly, the environmental case. By linking CPZ payments to emssions levels, we are sending a signal to people to think about their emissions. Hopefully, this will help to reduce pollution. When we were discussing this pledge before the election, I think we were thinking mainly of carbon emissions, but the public consultation has drawn up a lot of concern on health grounds as well. High carbon emissions are a good proxy for other kinds of harmful emissions, like particulates, so the policy would be similar wherever you lay the emphasis, but the original intention was certainly about climate change.

The second aspect is why this level of charges? The level of charges was based on comparison with neighbouring authorities. Since, the vast majority of Brent's CPZs are in the east and south of the Borough, it made sense to compare with the authorities immediately neighbouring them. In doing so it is important to emphasise that most Brent drivers fall into bands 3, 4 and 5 (between £75 and £125 per annum). Camden currently charges between £84 and £164. Westminster has a few small cars paying £85, but most pay £125. Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea have a £99 flat rate, so the figures for the m,ost comparable authorities are fairly similar to us (although we don't know how long they will stay at that level).

Monday, 8 November 2010

Brent Council and the CSR: The Council Budget

Brent Council's budget is cut by 7.1% every year for the next four years in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). That is a total of about £65 million, the worst spending settlement for decades. At the moment, we still don't have precise figures but we can estimate headline numbers.

It looks like cuts in every department, including across environment and neighbourhood services. Capital spend in the Council as a whole goes down by about £66 million (a 45% cut). Transport spending, which is heavily reliant on TfL, is likely to see severe reductions. Non-statutory spending is likely to be hardest hit.

We are also likely to be forced to look again at ways to limit demand, although the effects of recession are likely to see increasing need in terms of homelessness, family breakdown and so on.

What is so depressing is that I suspect that this suffering is not only unecessary, but actively damaging. By taking an Irish style approach of cutting as much as possible as fast as possible, The Con Dem government is likely to damage economic growth and make the deficit worse.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Willesden Hippodrome

I have always been puzzled as to how the Job Centre on Harlesden High Street, and the DWP offices, above it got planning permission. Five stories is certainly out of scale with the rest of the street. I now think I know the answer. The site used to house the Willesden Hippodrome, a music hall erected in 1907 and destroyed by bomb damage in 1940. Still, I wish the block that replaced it had been rather less brutalist in construction.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Environment Retrospective

As it is now six months since the local elections, I thought I would look back on what has been achieved in the Environment portfolio. I would divide things into stuff that has happened as a result of Labour winning the election, stuff that would have happened anyway, and problems that needed to be sorted that the Lib Dems and Tories were ignoring.

The two big projects that are now underway are the waste management strategy and the emissions based parking permits. The Tories have shown complete hostility to the alternate weekly collections that are at the heart of the policy. The Liberal Democrats adopted the legal minimum target of 40% and made no effort during their time in office to raise the recycling rate beyond the current 28%. We are aiming at 60%, so I think that is a pretty big gap between the parties. This is a much bigger deal than our support for free bulky waste collections, and the Liberal Democrats' extraordinary support for keeping the £25 charge, although that got far more attention in the campaign. The emissions based parking permits are something the Liberal Democrats spoke about, but did not have the courage to deliver. Had they been re-elected, I suspect that would have continued being in favour in theory but not in practice. Now, of course, they are simply throwing rocks at a policy that most of them probably believe in. I also believe that the new administration has a much greater committment to becoming a FairTrade Borough, as 17 other London Boroughs already are. I hope shortly, that we will have another big project in further reducing carbon emissions.

On the stuff that would have happened anyway, the Local Development Framework Core Strategy has been passed. That unexciting sentence conceals the importance of getting it passed. The strategy significantly improves things like the environmental performance of new housing so it is very important in influencing the environmental performance of the Borough as a whole. I would also highlight the forthcoming Placemaking guide (formerly called the Urban Design Guide). I also suspect that, had they formed a majority, the Liberal Democrats would probably have voted through the Moving Traffic Offences that they supported in principle in 2009, but again did not have the courage to implement.

What I think of problems that need to be dealt with includes several planning matters that are coming up. The imminent demise of Dollis Hill House may be sad, but it will cease a drain on the Council in terms of both officer times and money. It will also end the blight on the "pleasure grounds" part of Gladstone Park. Forthcoming changes to the Planning Committee procedures should cut costs slightly, but also improve the amount of time given to genuinely strategic issues rather than lots of domestic extensions. Finally, I am hoping to agree some changes in planning enforcement to prevent overload which was a potential threat even before the new Con Dem government imposed its cuts, but which the previous administration ducked.

Of course, we have been doing all this at the same time as dealing with the Tory / Lib Dem government's in-year cuts and preparing for the worse local government settlement anyone can remember.

All in all, I think it is fair to say that there has been more progress over the past six months than during the whole of the previous Tory / Lib Dem administration.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Emissions Based Parking Permits

Brent Liberal Democrats continue their opposition to our proposals for emission based parking permits here. Personally, I think that Daniel Brown is leading Brent Liberal Democrat councillors out on a limb here and they will come to regret it. Not only are the Liberal Democrat councillors going back on their previous policy, they are also out of line with their colleagues elsewhere (like Richmond).

However, it is interesting that Sarah Teather herself is maintaining silence on the issue. Normally quick to jump on any populist bandwagon, she seems to be leaving this one well alone. Perhaps she has a better grasp of public opinion that Brent Lib Dems' Transport spokesman?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Re Use at Abbey Road

The tip at Abbey Road (The only one Brent has following Tory sell offs in the 1990s) has been started up as a re-use for furniture in the past few weeks. Such re-use sites are common in other parts of London, but the North West has always lagged behind. The idea is that a lot of furniture that people want to get rid of is still useable, and re-using them diverts them from landfill saving on disposal costs.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Paradox of Parking

Thinking back to my tour of Brent Council's Area Consultative Forums (ACFs), it was striking that there was more opposition to our emissions based parking permit proposals in the Wembley and Kingsbury Forums than in the south of the Borough. While I was presenting on the waste management strategy, someone else was doing a presentation on the parking stuff so I listened to it in each case. I guess people in the South are just more used to the whole idea of Controlled Parking Zones, and can see the benefits, whereas people in the North are still used to "free" parking.

What was also striking about it was the level of resentment towards any policy designed to curb car usage, combined with even more resentment of the high traffic levels in Brent. People were extremely critical of the likely traffic generation of the proposed new primary school at Preston Manor, or the existing parking problems caused by parents dropping off kids at the new ARK Academy, but just didn't seem to connect that with the idea of a need to find a way to discourage car use.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Direction in Transport Policy

Christian Wolmar has a lucid piece explaining the need for active promotion of sustainable transport here. Something of a rebuke to the philosophy behind the Brent Cross development.

Brent Council and the CSR: Education

I promised a series of posts on the CSR and Brent, and here is one on education.

Under the CSR we lose the Education Maintenance Allowance, which gives support to young people from poor families to help them stay in education. This will be cut. I gather there are about 4,000 Brent youngsters who will lose up to £1,100 a year. Despite Sarah Teather's promises, SureStart funding will be frozen for four years, i.e. a real terms cut.

Schools will see a 0.1% rise in funding each year, according to the government. The effect of Ms Teather's vaunted pupil premium is as yet unclear, but it is likely to lead to some kind of redistribution within the sector. It may also disguise some real cuts. For instance, the headteacher of Alperton Community School is quoted in the Willesden Times saying that she will be required to divert part of her "pupil premium" to create a "hardship fund" to replace the Education Maintenance Allowance, so even the 0.1% figure may not be a real rise.

Readers of previous entries will know that I have been particularly worried by the replacement to Building Schools for the Future which Teather & co. abolished earlier this year. Ms Teather promised that we could apply for a new Building Fund to replacethe money we had been awarded, but which she decided to take away from us. The CSR cuts education capital spend by 60%, so it looks as if any new fund won't have sufficent funding to replace the old one.

Non school funding is also being cut (by about 12%). This likely to affect things like support for disabled pupils, school meals and early years learning.

Finally adult learning gets a 25% cut. THis will probably lead to BACES charging people more for courses and greater diffculty in adults retraining for work e.g. help with English skills.

I do not recall Ms Teather setting out this agenda during the election campaign.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Junction Association award

Congratulations to the Junction Association on their award from the London Health Commission here.

Sarah Teather and Tuition Fees

I wonder how Sarah Teather is feeling about tuition fees these days. In her maiden speech back in 2003, she claimed to be firmly against. Her opposition continued in 2004. It was shared by her mentor Charles Kennedy that year, who she was subsequently to help oust from the Liberal Democrat leadership. She repeated the message before the General Election in 2005. As late as February this year, she was still giving people the impression that she opposed tuition fees.

I have contemplated putting together a list of the Liberal Democrat U-turns and broken promises in the same way I did for the Brent Liberal Democrats, but I am just not sure I could keep pace with their changes in policy.

More on Trip Hazards

As I frequently ask people to report broken paving and other trip hazards, I thought it might be useful to explain the intervention levels (i.e. when the Borough's engineers will repiar the problem).

Whether they do depends on the size/depth of the defect. They will repair 20mm or more defects shopping area footways, but 25mm or more elsewhere. Roadway potholes have to be at least 40mm before intervention.

The contractor should repair defects within 28 days in most cases, but has a 5 to 7 day period where the location makes them dangerous, and same day repair if it is a very dangerous case.

You can report defects on 89375050 or to An engineer should then confirm the reported defect within eight hours and issue an instruction to the contractor.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Brent Council and the CSR: Housing

I have been asked how Brent Council will be affected by the Comprehensive Spending Review, and the answer is pretty grim. I thought I would cover these in a series of posts: the first on housing.

In housing, the social housing budget is being cut back severely, meaning fewer houses. At the same time, the Con Dem government wants to push up rents for social housing, cut housing benefit in London and cut jobs in the public sector. Unless you share David Cameron's optimism about the private sector generating jobs (and how can the public sector be "crowding out" private sector jobs during a deep recession?), that looks like a recipe for increased homelessness. As the authority responsible for homelessness, Brent Council will be forced to pick up the pieces.

From April 2013, the Con Dem government is also wanting to cut Council Tax benefit. The only good thing I can see is that interest rates look as if they will continue to be low, meaning that people will be able to keep up with their mortgages despite falling house prices i.e. not as many repossessions as in the Lamont years.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Barnet and the Big Society

Barnet Council seems to have got into problems with its easyCouncil/Big Society approach failing to deliver savings. If the Barnet Tories didn't have such a rigid ideology insisting that no one in the public sector contributes anything, they might have realised that getting public involvement actually costs money rather than saves it. That doesn't necessarily mean that it is a bad thing to do, just that it is not a route to major cost savings.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Artists Studios in Kensal Green

This morning I am going to an event sponsored by ACME Studios down at the white flats on Harrow Road, NW10. This is a London wide charity that promotes studio space at affordable prices as part of the "planning gain." As it happens I sat on the Planning Committee that made that particular application (on what had been a Travis Perkins Builder's Yard).

Harrow road NW10 really has become quite trendy in the past few years, with the revamp of the Masons Arms, the Behesht restaurant and the various Brazilian/Portuguese places. It also has a series of interesting outlets like Retrouvius, Ammonite and Habibi. Long may the area's renaissance continue.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Harlesden Road Development

I am glad to see this morning that work has started on what used to be Elmwood House at the bottom of Harlesaden Road. Long overdue.

Teather Silent on Housing Misery

One of the issues that will affect Brent badly over the next year is the Tory / Lib Dem cap on housing benefit. This is likely to force very large numbers of people out of their homes. That could create pressures on the Council as we are legally obilged to help people, but I haven't seen any comment on it from Sarah Teather. In the past she has been eager to highlight Brent's housing problems. For example, here and here and here.

How one's priorities can change once one becomes a minister.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Make a Difference

Just thought I should flag up the "Make a Difference" Day on 30 October, which is having a session up at Brent River Park.

Teather Betrays 16 Year Olds

Another broken promise from Sarah Teather: this time on votes for sixteen year olds. Back in 2004, she was all in favour. Left Foot Forward contains more details on the broken promises of Srah Teather and other prominent Liberal Democrats here.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Doorknocking and Sarah Teather

Out doorknocking in the streets north of Wrottesley Road on Sunday. Found the usual streetcare concerns _ broken paving and so on. There was some apprehension about the Tory/Lib Dem cuts programme, although it still seems to abstract for people to get worked up. Nobody mentioned the Lib Dem campaigns on emissions based parking permits or their opposition to alternate weekly collections.

However, it was striking how many people felt let down by Sarah Teather. Looking through the returns, they are full of "I voted Liberal Democrat but ....." type comments. Not so much on specific issues like the VAT increase, but just general dismay. If I were Sarah Teather I weould be far more worried by this general sense that she has betrayed people's trust than I would by opposition on specific issues, not least because I would expect it to be much harder to turn it around.

Leader's Question Time

My recent tour of Brent Council's ACFs makes me reflect on Jack Beck's recent call for a Leader's Question Time in Brent. The way he raised it was clearly just a point scoring gimmick. It was one of Brent Liberal Democrats' extremely slight election pledges, one which they could quite easily have set up during any point in their coalition.

However, in fronting the Waste Management consultation over the past few weeks, I have effectively been fulfilling his demand. Admittedly, I was talking on a specific topic but personally I think that is better as it gives a more focused discussion. The other advantage of using the established ACFs rather than a special format is greater efficiency. We don't have to increase the consultation budget (as the Tory/Liberal Democrat government cuts our grant), and by including it in a regular series of events we are more likely to attract an audience.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Emissions Based Parking Permits Online

Brent Council has finally got its stuff together on putting the emissions based parking permit proposals online. Take a look and give your views.

Dollis Hill House Redux

I understand that English Heritage have decided not to object to the abolition of Dollis Hill House. This is very unusual, and confirms that every conceivable scheme has been attempted to restore the building without success. Assuming that the Secretary of State allows the demolition, it will cost Brent Council about £150,000, although it will also save the Council about £30,000 in the running costs of keeping it as a derelict building.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Waste Consultation

The consultation on Brent's new Waste Strategy has closed, although the results are still being collated, but I thought I would blog on what I picked up whilst doing the rounds of the Area Consultative Forums (ACFs).

Interestingly, alternate weekly collections do not seem to worry people very much. Once they realise that food and garden waste continue to be collected once a week, they seem quite happy about grey bins and dry recyclables on alternate weeks. Similarly, I expected our no side waste policy for grey bins to be a popular objection, but most people seem accepting.

What did seem to concern people was finding space for the new bins in their front gardens, and often the aesthetics of the street, especially in Conservation Areas. Officers are likely to strengthen the Strategy on these areas.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Another Government Cut

One of the the Con Dem government cuts that won't hit the headlines but which will affect us is to waste management infrastructure. Although it doesn't mention West London directly, it is quite possible we would have used some of the facilities that will no longer be built. Certainly, reducing the waste management capaicity may increase our costs, showing the new "austerity" ethos at its most counterproductive.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Caravan Site

A problem I hadn't expected... The old Willesden Social club has had a caravan put on it. This is somewhat worrying as it may become a target for arson. Yesterday, I went with a Council officer to see if anyone was living there. No one was home when we tried, but they may simply have been out. Brent Council will try to contact the owners of the land to alert them to the problem as, it being private land, we have no powers over it.

Johann Hari

Johann Hari also has a good piece here. I particularly like the quote from David Cameron that his wife is unconventional because she went to a day school.

Krugman on Osborne

Paul Krugman describes the foolishness of the current UK government's economic policy here. What he doesn't mention is that, whereas the Tories are folling their ideological preconceptions, the Liberal Democrats were arguing a much more Keynesian line before taking office. If economic growth does go down, the government deficit may well worsen, and then the Tories and Lib Dems will be faced with a double or quits option: make further government cuts (possibly giving us an even worse economic growth rate and deficit), or reverse the policy with a fiscal stimulus.

Tubbs Road Column Now Removed

The defunct light column at Tubbs Road is now removed. You can compare how it used to look here.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Light Columns in Tubbs Road

This is a picture of the corner of Tubbs Road and Station Road. It shows how close the new lamp column (right) is to the defunct one (left). There has been a delay in getting the new column connected and the old one removed although I am not sure why. However, the old column should be gone by tomorrow.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Fabric of a Nation

The Fabric of a Nation Exhibition is being launched in the Willesden Library Centre this evening as part of Brent's celebration of Black History Month. Unfortunately, I can't go as I am doing the last of the Waste Management presentations at the Wembley Area Consultative Forum, but the exhibition looks really good so I will drop in at a later date.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Kensal Green Planning Appeals

There are two outstanding Planning Appeals in Kensal Green, which I thought I would update on.

The first is the appeal on the old service station site on High Street Harlesden, but backing on to Rucklidge Avenue. Submissions were over in August, but a decision is not expected until about four weeks from now. There is no way of telling what it will be until it is given.

The second is an appeal on the old ice cream place next to Furness Road pocket park. That is going to a public hearing on 25 October, although a decision is only likely to come some time after.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Tory Bureaucracy

One of the ideas promoted by the new Con Dem government is that all public sector bodies publish invoices for spending of more than £500. I think they probably got this idea from the crowdsourcing audits that papers like the Guardian did on MPs' expenses.

Some local authorities have stated to do this, and I understand it is beginning to cause problems with attempted fraud. The reason is that all sorts of information is posted _ like invoice numbers, internal references, VAT registration and so on _ that make someone sound very convincing when they phone up and say they are a contractor who has not been paid. Of course, someone can be employed to redact a lot of this kind of stuff, but that is immensely time consuming.

Whatever the solutions found, it sounds as if the new scheme is leading to an increase in red tape, and possibly fraud. Let us hope that some of this "citizens' auditing" delivers saving to compensate.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Bottle Bank

By the way, I have reported that the bring bank at Victor Road has lost its glass bin. This may be the reason for the bottle bank in High Street Harlesden being full to overflowing (as it is now the nearest). However, I am mystified as to why someone took the Victor Road bin in the first place. What are they using it for?

Water Leak in Tubbs Road

The minor water leak by the emergency access gate in Tubbs Road is finally being repaired, which I think means that there are currently no visible leaks in the ward.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night is being moved to Saturday 6 November this year. The reason is that it coincides with Diwali, and it was felt to be logistically very difficult to manage both events at once. Of course, this will also allow people to go to both.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Brent FoE Campaign

One of the commenters on this post asks about the green zones and the deletion of two Environmental posts. Why were they cut earlier this year? It is a fair question.

The two environmental posts were earmarked as a result of the "Improvement and Efficiency Plan" set in motion under the previous administration, which of course set this year's budget. This was a scheme to get rid of a tenth of Council employees, with a preference for deleting vacant posts, encouraging early retirement and so on. The work of those posts has now been reassigned within the same unit.

However, as I emphasised to Brent FoE when I visited on Tuesday, there are large numbers of Council employees promoting environmental policies even though they are not called "environmental". For instance, all our transport policies are geared to increasing sustainability. Our planning department promotes renewable energy, better insulation and so on through the Planning process. However, it can also affect less obvious sectors like IT, or the Children & Families department.

The reason for the green zones cut was linked to the way green zones were funded. Green Zones were funded from the Performance Reward grant, which was one of those the new government decided to cut part way through the year. In year cuts, which have not happened since the bad old days of the 1990s as far as I know, force the Council to make immediate savings. Since they generally apply to staff costs, they usually involve redundancy costs and other items that take time to implement. In fact, Brent Council had already spent the money which the government had allocated to us, since it was assumed to be reliable. We are currently looking at a possible £5.5 million overspend which has been signficantly increased by the sudden withdrawal of £5.3 million in central government funding that we thought we could rely on. Hence the current clampdown on Council spending.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Tubbs Road Pocket Park

Work has started on the Tubbs Road Pocket Park, as you can see from the photo (above) I took the other day. I am immensely relieved that, unlike Bramshill Open Space, this park has gone ahead despite Sarah Teather's abolition of the Playbuilder fund.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Homelessness and Migration

The economist has a piece here about homelessness and migration in Slough. This is also an issue that effects Brent, although in our case it is likely to be made even worse once the cuts in Housing Benefit come into force in April. Brent will be losing about £9 million, making us one of the worse effected Authorities in the UK.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Brent Friends of the Earth

I am going to Brent Friends of the Earth this evening, which is in the Labour office at 375 Willesden High Road. I am not sure what is on the agenda, but possibly the waste management proposals may figure.

I think it is fair to say that Labour is the only party to commit to really increasing Brent's recycling rate. At the last Council meeting, the Tories explicitly moved that we not introduce alternate weekly collections, which is really the cornerstone of the policy and the main mechanism for increased recycling across all the UK's best recycling authorities. Brent Liberal Democrats sat on their hands. I am sure that many of the Liberal Democrats claim to sympathise with the green agenda, but if they are not prepared to vote for it ,what is their sympathy worth?

Personally I would have more respect with outright opposition like the Tories, than the Lib Dems' rather cowardly hypocrisy.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Powerday at Willesden Junction

Some residents think that there is a smell problem coming from the Powerday recycling site at Willesden Junction. I haven't noticed this myself, and I have checked that Brent Council have not logged any complaints. If they did, I am not sure what could be done beyond exhortation. The Powerday site has planning permission from Hammersmith and Fulham, and I don't know if there is a technical fix, or even if it really is the Powerday site causing the problem.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Route 18 Bendy Buses

Boris Johnson's abolition of bendy buses is due to reach the Route 18 in November. Apparently, 52 double deckers have been bought (to allow for four off the road) at who knows what expense. Everyone knows that these buses will take longer to load and offload, causing delays and overcrowding on a route that isn't exactly free of them anyway. However, I only recently learnt that the new double deckers will have space for only one buggy. Anyone who uses the 18 route knows that there is frequently more than one buggy on the bus. Are mothers just going to be forced to wait until a free bus comes along? I suspect that some of them may be forced into alternative transport (i.e. cars) instead.

All this inferiour service at an exceptionally high price because London Transport are buying out the Bendies before the lease arrangements are up, and paying for the new vehicles. It is a lot to pay for helping Boris Johnson's "routemaster" vanity project.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Transport Costs

Paul Krugman has a typically sensible view on transport subsidies here. The Liberal Democrats are rather desparately trying to attack our plans for emissions based parking permits as a tax on motorists. I would be interested to hear them tackle the point that the road network is actually a vast subsidy to motorists, let alone the costs of congestion and pollution.

Friday, 8 October 2010


Brent Housing Users Group, which is a homeless charity based in Harlesden, has started up a blog site on a Big Society Theme. I hope they succeed despite all the Con Dem cuts.

Comprehensive Spending Review

Left Foot Forward explains why the hairshirt approach isn't working in Ireland. I can understand why George Osborne is so committed to early and swingeing cuts in spending. It is part and parcel of his anti-state ideology, but I do find it hard to get why the Liberal Democrats are going the same way. If Liberal Democrats like Vince Cable and Chris Huhne believe in what they said during the election campaign, they must be expecting the sheer size of the cuts to drive us back into recession, and make the deficit worse not better. Then they will be faced with a double or quits option: make even more cuts to balance the Budget a la Philip Snowden, or attempt a much bigger stimulus than they would have needed if they were taking a gentler approach to deficit reduction now.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Tubbs Park Work Starts

I am glad to hear that work will start on Tubbs Road Pocket Park on Monday 11 October. Fortunately, the project was sufficently advanced that Sarah Teather's cuts to PlayBuilder funding (whioch partly funds it) don't apply. However, Sarah Teather has succeeded in cutting the scheduled work to Bramshill Park a short walk away. I hope that the electorate make their gratitude clear to her at the next election.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Big Society Deflates

According to the Guardian, the Tories have had to abandon a series of meetings to promote the "Big Society". Apparently, the first one they had was dominated by people complaining about all the spending cuts the new government has imposed. I can't feel very much sympathy for the Tories or their Liberal Democrat sidekicks here. They are really the victims of their own ideology that the public sector plays no useful role, whereas if they paid attention to how things work, they would know that actually the voluntary sector is often underpinned by all kinds of support from the public sector.

Ironically, the "Big Society Network" that the Con Dem government has set up appears to be an example of this. Five of its staff are civil servants on secondment, and they appear to use Department resources for communication. If the government resources are cut by 25%, that will feed into the supposedly separate voluntary groups, and David Cameron will end up undermining his own campaign.

High Speed Link Through Old Oak Common

It looks as if the Tories are accepting both the need for the high speed rail link to Birmingham and the route using Old Oak Common. If so, that could mean a major regeneration opportunity for the area around Willesden Junction, including Harlesden Town Centre.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Made in Dagenham

Germaine Greer has a somewhat grumpy piece in the Guardian on Saturday about the Made in Dagenham film. Made in Dagenham covers the story of a strike for equal pay by women at the Ford plant in 1968. I wonder whether there will ever be a film about Brent's Grunwick Strike. This was a strike by mostly Asian women in protest against their sweatshop conditions, and was a cause celebre at the time as Union support came in from all over the country. The site of the old factory is up by Dollis Hill Tube, and has now been redeveloped for housing.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Harlesden Town Team Tonight

The Harlesden Town Team are meeting this evening at the Salvation Army place in Manor Park Road. Unfortunately, I cannot go because I am presenting on Brent Council's new waste management proposals in South Kilburn this evening, but I hope anyone who is free makes it.

Child Benefit Means Tested: A Lib Dem Victory

George Osborne has pledged to introduce means testing for child benefit. This idea was floated by Nick Clegg in his "Savage Cuts" interview before the election, although he subsequently back tracked. Sarah Teather also has form in this area of course. However, I suspect that the cuts in child benefit will not feature in many of Sarah Teather's leaflets to the voters of Brent Central.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Ward Working

I have blogged before about Neighbourhood Working, which is now changing back to its old name of Ward Working. Lots of people used to get confused between Neighbourhood Working and Neighbourhood Watch. This is the scheme where ward councillors are allowed a small fund to spend on community projects in their ward. We still have some money so if you have any ideas let me know.

Incidentally this is another example of a Paul Lorber U-turn. In opposition, the Brent Liberal Democrat leader declared "Scaling down ward working is not enough; it must be scrapped." Once the Liberal Democrats and Tories formed an administration in 2006, he cut the budget for each ward to 20,000 pounds and changed the name to Neighbourhood Working, but allowed the project to continue across all wards in Brent. It is almost as if he felt honour bound not to do whatever he promised the voters he would.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Health and Climate Change

A European report has been published reminding us that improving pollution is not just about climate change but also public health. In fact, the savings from reduced medical spending are likely to cover a significant proportion of the cost of the pollution reduction.

Friday, 1 October 2010

The End of the £25 Charge

Today is the day that Brent Council ceases to charge £25 for bulky waste collections. We are going back to the old (pre Liberal Democrat) system of up to three collections each year, each collecting up to five items.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Brent: Fairtrade Borough?

I hope that we will soon have a firm timetable for Brent to become a Fairtrade Borough. We have been trying to this for ages, since Peter Lemmon was Mayor, but (as with so much else) progressed slowed to a crawl under the Lib dem / Tory administration.

The most difficult parts are likely to be getting more schools to register an interest, getting a wide range of religious organisations on board, and finding at least one big employer to sign up.