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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Thames Water Leaks

If you want to report a burst main, which judging from the four burst mains I have come across in the ward during January, Kensal Green residents may well do, you can call Thames Water on 0800 714 614. To be fair, they have always been fairly quick in sending someone to inspect the site of the leaks I report.

Hastings Banda in Harlesden

It was recently suggested to me that Hastings Banda should be commerated with a blue plaque in Kensal Green. The reason is that he was a GP in this area during the 1950s. I have been told that he lived in either Bramston Road or Ridley Road.

However, as you can see from the Wikipedia link, Hastings Banda was not an entirely attractive figure. Does this matter in terms of having a blue plaque, or should we just acknowledge that whatever his faults he is a significant historical figure?

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Lib Dem Solution to Carbon Emissions

I have blogged before on Brent Liberal Democrats lack of ambition in cutting the Council's carbon emissions, for example here and here and here. Brent Council has signed up to the 10:10 pledge, but it turns out that they have a rather odd way of meeting the pledge.

Council documents reveal that Brent Council expects to cut its emissions by 3% during 2010. That is, if you count emissions from all the Council. Roughly half of the 6,000 people employed by the Council are employed by schools. Brent Liberal Democrats have decided that they will meet the 10% target by only counting non-school emissions. Since the schools have seen emissions rising fast over the past few years, ignoring them makes it much easier to "cut" Council carbon emissions.

Of course, one could extend this logic further. Brent Liberal Democrats could probably get an even bigger cut by excluding bits of the non-school parts of the Council. Brent Liberal Democrats could further improve the Council's carbon emissions to exclude both school and non-school emissions. Since this would take out all the Council's operations, this would mean that Brent Council could become the UK's first zero emissions authority.

Of course, many members of the public might have a less imaginative view of emissions than the Lib Dems. They might think that excluding the bits of the Council that had the fastest growing emissions, and claiming that this showed a "cut" in emissions was a complete con.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Liberal Democrats Losing Here

A (hopefully) final sidelight from the Liberal Democrat accounts. According to their accounts, their Brent membership was 299 in January 2005. By December 2007, it had fallen to 230, and the 2008 accounts discretely omitted mention of the subject. In other words their membership across the whold of Brent is much smaller than the Labour Party membership in Brent Central alone.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Primary School Funding

As well as the Building Schools for the Future funding that the government announced for schools like Cardinal Hinsley, Copland School, Queens Park Community School and Alperton Community School, Brent is also being given almost £15 million for primary schools in the Borough. I am currently trying to get hold of a list of these as I think Furness Primary School should be among them, as it is certainly in a dreadful state.

I will post when I know more.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Liberal Democrats' European Earner

Incidentally, whatever the facts about Sarah Teather's use of allowances there is another small item in the Brent Liberal Democrat accounts about the European Parliament. Their 2004 accounts state "for the first time we have recieved remittances from the EU by including items submitted by the London MEP in our literature distributed within Brent East."

Does anyone know whether that is allowed under EU rules?

Some Parties do 'ave 'em

The BBC report here that Camden's Liberal Democrat Mayor, Cllr Ansari, has been arrested over allegations of fraud. The Camden New Journal has a report here. The Liberal Democrats really don't seem to be very good at vetting their candidates. You can read about their record in Camden on Theo Blackwell's site. In Brent, they had Cllr Vijay Shah elected for Wembley Central, and (unlike Cllr Ansari) actually convicted of fraud. They had Cllr Pawan Gupta in Dudden Hill, who turned out not to be legally qualified to stand. They almost had the late Rocky Fernandez as a candidate in Queens Park, even though he had previously been convicted of defrauding Brent Council.

They do pick 'em , don't they?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Is Sarah Teather Ripping the Taxpayer Off?

There have been rumours going round for the past fortnight that Sarah Teather is likely to be asked to pay back some of her parliamentary allowances because of abusing the system. Given the way she has been posing as a saint on the issue, I suppose this is bound to add to her reputation as a shameless hypocrite if it happens.

The 2008 accounts for Brent Liberal Democrats certainly suggest that her "joint tenancy" arrangements with her local party are rather odd. They state:

"The office at 1 High Road is the principal responsibility of Sarah Teather who utilises her parliamentary allowances to pay a large percentage of the operating expenses. We have agreed to pay certain expences of up to £5,000 per year to supplement those allowances and this is achieved by paying the business rates."

Hmm... "principal responsibility" doesn't sound like a very equal joint tenancy arrangement. And not more than £5,000 a year doesn't sound like a high proportion of the cost of a prime commercial site on Willesden High Road.

The 2008 accounts also state that they employ a Borough Organiser with £20,817.50 being paid by Brent Liberal Democrats, and £4,768.08 by Sarah Teather (presumably out of her personal income).

Brent Liberal Democrats' Disappearing Phone Bill

A blog site called Political Scrapbook has been alleging that Brent Liberal Democrats do not pay a phone bill, and that instead it is paid through Sarah Teather's parliamentary expenses. In fact, the story seems slighter odder.

The Liberal Democrat accounts lodged with the Electoral Commission show an item "Telephone." The figures for this item each year are: £500 (2004), £673.62 (2005), £300 (2006), blank (2007), blank (2008). The accounts for 2007 and 2008 don't seem to give any explanation as to why the Liberal Democrat phone bills disappear.

Meanwhile, the Political Scrapbook graph, which I assume is collated from Parliamentary invoices, shows a quarterly bill of several hundred pounds being paid by the taxpayer from July 2004 into 2008 (The last year for which there are accounts).

Why do Sarah Teather's parliamentary duties entail a phone bill so much higher than her party's, and why did the party cease using the phone after 2006?

If you look at the Brent Liberal Democrat accounts you can find even more interesting questions, which I will cover in a later post.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Queens Park Tower

The Willesden & Brent Times is reporting the passing of the recent Marshall House application by Brent's Planning Committee as "Yes to the Queens Park Tower". From the story I susepect this is a case of Paul Lorber, the Liberal Democrat Leader of Brent Council, having his spin backfire on him.

Back in 2006, the Liberal Democrats ran a shamefully dishonest campaign alleging a Labour plot to build a tower block just by Queens Park Tube. Unfortunately, the lies were successful in getting Liberal Democrat councillors elected in the area. The site of the supposed Tower application has remained untouched. He now seems to have tried to use the Marshall House application to argue that the Liberal Democrats have installed a positive alternative on the site, although the Marshall House application is for a rather different site in South Kilburn.

No doubt the local residents who supported the Liberal Democrats because they thought they would ban tall buildings feel ratgher disappointed that permission for an eleven storey block has been given.

The Constitution Club, Chamberlayne Road

I posted a few days ago about the newish arthouse cinema in Chamberlayne Road, the Lexi Cinema. It reminded me of when I last heard of that building, which was as the site for a political rally by David Gauke. David Gauke has now gone on to higher things as MP for South West Herefordshire, but back in 2001 he was the Conservative Party candidate for Brent East. I picked up a flyer for a Tory Party rally at the time at 194 Chamberlayne Road which included the advice that no one in jeans or trainers would be admitted.

The kind of image Mr Cameron is desparately trying to drop.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

New David Cameron Poster

Following yesterday's post, here is my suggestion to help that nice Mr Cameron improve standards in public life.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Friday, 22 January 2010

Improving Scrutiny

The Local Government Chronicle has an article about the future of scrutiny here. It quotes John Denham arguing that Councils show scrutinise all bodies spending public money in their area, not just the NHS. If that came into force, it would be a major advance in making the Council more effective in partnerships. It also makes the suggestion that Councils should have specialist scrutiny departments. That might be attractive, but I think it would take a real committment to the importance of Scrutiny that at present simply isn't there.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Station Approach: Who Owns it?

As part of my efforts to get Station Approach fixed, I contacted Hammersmith and Fulham Council to see if they owned it. They insist it is privately owned, but don't know by who. Network Rail continue to fail to have any reponse and TfL deny ownership. How is it possible for a road which is used by large numbers of vehicles and pedestrians each day to have no clear owner?

Little Progress on Park Parade

The water leak in Park Parade remains cordoned off. Contrary to what the Brent Council web site says, the road is not blocked off. There are temporary traffic lights allowing one lane to be used each way alternately.

However, as you can see from this photo taken yesterday, no one appears to be repairing the mains, so goodness knows how long this will continue.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

London Pollution

The Evening Standard reports here that London's pollution is so bad it breaks the entire EU emissions target for Nitrogen dioxide. Does Boris finally regret not going ahead with the Low Emissions Zone?

The Ongoing Silence of Sarah Teather

Sarah Teather remains tight lipped about the accusations being published about her on MPs expenses here and in the Daily Mirror. A parliamentary source tells me that she has been scarcely evident in Parliament since the New Year began. Now that it has got in the Mirror, I suspect the stories will get much wider circulation.

Tubbs Road at the Highways Committee

I attended Brent Council's Highways Committee as it was discussing my Councillor Call for Action on Tubbs Road last night. The actual result was good, but the process was farcical.

The Highways Committee is chaired by Cllr Daniel Brown, who is the worst chair I have ever seen. He created a totally unnecessary conflict with the residents who had turned up by refusing to let them speak without prior notice. He had obviously come primed to fob everyone off with nothing. Fortunately, the Assistant Director of Transport intervened with a recommendation that the problems of the road be seen to more or less along the lines we suggested. Whereupon, the Committee rubberstamped his recommendation.

However, neither the Liberal Democrats or the Tories who make up Brent's Highways Committee seem to have any capacity for independent thought. The whole half hour meeting was just a charade, and we could have have just asked the Transport officers to announce what they had decided without bothering with drongoes like Cllr Daniel Brown.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Sarah Teather's Less than Saintly Expenses

Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East, is facing questions over her use of taxpayers' money here. The allegation is that she has allowed the taxpayer to subsidise Brent Liberal Democrat campaigning. If true, that would be embarressing and possibly politically fatal for someone with her record of unctious sanctimony.

Freedom Pass

I have had some queries about the Freedom Pass, which has been subjected to a lot of scaremongering by the Conservatives. Navin Shah, our London Assembly member, has sent me some information, which I paraphrase.

The Freedom Pass is funded by London Boroughs in conjunction with TfL. The Mayor of London was given the power to overide the objections of the Boroughs in the case of a dispute. The issue of how much money the Freedom Pass should cost became a political football when Ken Livingstone was Mayor, and the Conservative Boroughs resented him using his powers to make them support the Freedom Pass. According to Navin, Conservative Council Leader Cllr Daniel Moylan of Kensington & Chelsea accused Ken Livingstone of using the Freedom Pass as a "stealth tax."

The Boroughs subsequently agreed changes to the funding arrangements with the new Mayor. As I blogged earlier, this will greatly disadvantage Brent. However, TfL's contribution will be capped until 2015. This means that any rise in cost, such as the extension of a 24 hour Freedom Pass, will have to be borne by the Boroughs.

The one significant change that Boris has made to his powers is to pass his reserve power to overide the Boroughs to an independent arbiters. Of course, he cannot change the Parliamentary Act so I guess he is pledging a kind of self-denying ordinance to follow what the arbiter says.

The problem with all this is that it seems to create greater scope for disputes. Boris can extend the Freedom Pass and expect the Boroughs to pick up the tab. Apart from the changes to the formula for paying for it, which greatly disadvantages Brent, there is likely to be a long term increase in the cost as the population ages. Hence, a major political mess is quietly being built up.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Boris Johnson's Cunning Plan

Well actually its not a very cunning plan. The London Plan that is, more a rather a combination of update and increased vagueness on Ken Livingstone's London Plan. Brent's Executive are due to rubberstamp officers' comments this evening so I thought I would do a post on it. However, there are so many potential issues that I might end up with a number of postings.

For the moment, I'll just note that the proposed Plan drops a specific target for the amount of waste processed within London. That is no doubt supposed to be typical of Boris Johnson's less bureaucratic approach, since there may be suitable facilities just outside Greater London. However, it may also be used to send rubbish further afield, perhaps costing less to recycle in cash but more in terms of emissions.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Lib Dem Candidates in Selection Trouble

Brent Liberal Democrats appear to be having problems getting candidates selected in their key seats. Brent Labour Party has all its candidates in place for the 2010 elections, but there seems to be a delay for the Lib Dems in Wembley Central (which they currently hold). According to this post by the admittedly erratic Atiq Malik, Cllr Chuni Chavda is not standing again in Alperton, another Liberal Democrat held seat.

Cllr Chavda has previously claimed that he was sidelined by his party colleagues out of racial bias.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Liberal Democrats Failing on Carbon Emissions

For some months, I have been trying to get Brent Council to consider the use of electric vehicles in its minibus fleet. With 143 vehicles, switching to a green alternative could significantly improve Brent Council's dreadful carbon emissions record. At the moment I don't whether such a switch is feasible, but I think it is appalling that Brent Liberal Democrats are refusing even to consider the idea.

Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have been very dismissive of the idea, with the Lead Member (Bob Wharton) claiming there are no available models. He clearly has not heard of this pilot in Redditch using a Peugeot electric minibus; nor of this John Lewis pilot in far away Oxford Street; or of this scheme in Cambridge; or this scheme in Copenhagen; or these electric buses in Florence.

Manufacturers include Finmeccanica, Smith Electric Vehicles, and Iveco.

Brent Council is not interested in this, just as it is not interested in possible government help with low carbon vehicles.

You can also get a fuel cell bus powered by hydrogen from Iveco.

A Hole in the Ground

Whereas other blog sites give you images of Kelly Brooks, Jerry Hall or simply an assortment of half naked women, I give you this exciting picture of a hole in the ground.

This the water leak in Park Parade I reported a few days ago. The water is still coming through, and despite Boris Johnson's pledges, the road area has been cordoned off and left empty of workmen.

Friday, 15 January 2010

The Lexi Cinema

I have been remiss in not adding a link to our local cinema (actually in Brondesbury Park ward, but near enough) until now. You can learn more of the background to it here.

Liberal Democrats Fail the 10:10 Campaign

Whilst we are on Cllr Gavin Sneddon (the only active Liberal Democrat councillor for Willesden Green as Cllr Anwar is generally absent), I notice he has posted that Brent Council has signed up to the 10:10 campaign.

What he fails to mention is that Brent Council has no intention of making a 10% cut in carbon emissions despite having pledged to do so. Had he read my previous posting, he would know this. Perhaps he does.

Brent Council managed a cut of more than 7% in 2006/7 as a result of already implemented projects feeding through into actual emissions cuts. After that, carbon emissions started going up again. In 2010, Brent Council's carbon emissions are intended to be 3% lower than in 2005/6. This is because the post 2007 growth has yet to obiliterate the big fall in 2006/7.

Officers have told me that this target was recently changed to a less ambitious one because we were struggling to meet our targets.

This is the reality behind the Liberal Democrat greenwash.

Snow Problem Again

Just to show how bad the snow problems got, here is a photo I took of Leghorn Road, NW10 a couple of days ago.

Meanwhile, I notice that Liberal Democrat councillor Gavin Sneddon has been so embarressed by the snow and ice outside Willesden Library Centre that he has felt forced to clear it himself.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Brent Council is Running out of Grit

Brent Council is reducing the numbers of roads it is gritting because the amount of salt available is "critical". At the same time, rubbish collection has been suspended although it resumes today, and is due to catch up by Saturday.

My impression is that many authorities have bought too little grit as an economy measure and are now being surprised by an unusually bad winter. This is certainly the case in Brent where the Liberal Democrats cut the gritting budget by £38,000 in 2007 against Labour protests. They got away with that for a couple of years, but the inevitable cold snap has caught up with them.

Unwanted Christmas Trees

In Furness Road recently I saw three dumped Christmas trees. Leaving aside the usual homily about the £25 charge, please get rid of unwanted Christmas trees properly.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

BMJ: How to Get Safer Streets

The British Medical Journal has published research on road safety indicating that 20mph zones can have a tremendous effect in reducing the number of accidents. The report's abstract says "The introduction of 20 mph zones was associated with a 41.9% (95% confidence interval 36.0% to 47.8%) reduction in road casualties, after adjustment for underlying time trends. The percentage reduction was greatest in younger children and greater for the category of killed or seriously injured casualties than for minor injuries. There was no evidence of casualty migration to areas adjacent to 20 mph zones, where casualties also fell slightly by an average of 8.0% (4.4% to 11.5%)."

This leads to the conclusion that "20 mph zones are effective measures for reducing road injuries and deaths".

This is something which is directly under the control of local authorities like Brent Council. Are there any suggestions for particularly dangerous parts of Kensal Green or Brent that would significantly benefit from a new 20mph zone?

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Boris Johnson's Fare Increases

Here is a quick summary of some of Boris Johnson's fare hikes, that we have all been paying since January began.

  • Single bus journey by Oyster up by 20% to £1.20
  • A weekly Oyster pass up by 20% to£16.60
  • Most Oyster pay as you go fares up by 20 pence per trip
  • Overall tube fares up by 3.9%, and overall bus fares up by 12.7%

Kind of puts the Precept freeze in perspective.

Yet Another Kensal Green Water Leak

I reported yet another water leak today. This was on Park Parade, close to the junction with Sellons Avenue. A five inch water main had burst and was leaking all over the road. If you see any water leaks you can report them to Thames Water on freephone 0800 714614.


A few days ago, I saw a huge pothole in Wrottesley Road. You can report these to Streetcare at, and Brent Council have to repair them. I imagine the freezing weather will have cracked open roads all of the Borough, which lets face aren't in a good state to begin with.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Network Rail are Useless

I am still having difficulty in getting any kind of response from Network Rail about the various problems of Willesden Junction train station. I suspect that simply not responding to communications is one of their main ways of fobbing people off.

Hopefully, I will eventually be able to get some answers through use of the Scrutiny system. Brent Council should have the ability to demand answers from any body spending public money in its area. As Network Rail is now nationalised that should include them.

Do You Rent Your Drive?

I recently stumbled across this site offering parking spaces to rent. These are largely in peoples' front drives. I had no idea that such a system existed.

Can You Apply for Boiler Scrappage?

More details about whether you can apply for the Labour government's new Boiler Scrappage Scheme can be found here. I notice that it is at present an England only scheme. I wonder if Mr Salmond will consider expanding it to Scotland?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Willesden Junction and How Not to Sell Train Tickets

I feel like having another moan about train operations at Willesden Junction. Before Christmas, I went down there to buy a ticket on the mistaken assumption that it would be easier to talk to a person than buy the ticket over the Internet. There were three ticket clerks there. One was selling the tickets, and the other two appeared to be employed to look at her selling tickets. When I enquired about my journey, I was told that the staff at Willesden Junction do not have access to information about all the possible journeys and I might be better off just buying a ticket on the day. How is it possible that the train operators don’t give their staff access to such basic information?

Burst Water Mains

I came across the third burst water main in Kensal Green since January yesterday, on Harrow Road NW10. We have also had burst mains in Wrottesley Road and Longstone Avenue. If nothing else, it indicates that the annoying way that Thames Water has been digging up all the roads to repair the mains is actually necessary.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The British Museum

The Guardian’s recent interview with Neil McGregor, now heading the British Museum, struck me as an interesting attempt to rehabilitate the Museum as an international rather than a post-Imperial institution.

Lots of its collections are the result of colonialist plunder, the Elgin Marbles being the famous example, although I prefer the bronzes of Benin. If the British Museum wants to hold together as an institution, it needs to come up with a justification for having all these under one roof, and I thought Neil McGregor did a fairly good job of that.

Of course, I am somewhat sceptical about trying to label cultural artifacts as national treasures in the first place. I went to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh recently. A prominent painting there portrays the founder of the Clan McKenzie saving King Alexander III during a hunt. It was painted at the request of the Clan Chief in the eighteenth century, who had got involved with the Jacobites and wanted to reingratiate himself by emphasising his ancestor's loyalty. It is undoubtedly a very Scottish subject, but it is painted by the American Benjamin West (the same who did the death of Wolfe at Quebec), so is it an American or a Scottish artifact?

Further into the Gallery, you can see Canova's Three Graces. I remember this caused a huge fuss when the owner wanted to sell it abroad. There was a massive fund raising campaign to save it for the nation, which I am glad of, since it allows me to see it. However, why is a sculpture by an Italian of a classical subject such an important part of "our" heritage?

Boiler Scrappage Scheme

I am surprised that the new boiler scrappage scheme has not had more publicity. This allows you to claim a grant if your old boiler is clapped out and useless.

It should tick lots of good boxes. More efficent boilers should cut carbon emissions. They should also reduce fuel poverty. As many of them are made in the UK, it should also help the fiscal stimulus.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Brent Council's Lack of Grit

From correspondence with Council officers, I understand that there is a real danger that Brent is going to run out of street grit. I have been told that grit stocks are "at a very low level" and that "other areas of the UK have a very strong claim on whatever stock is available." Most worryingly, I am being told that "We may even need to limit our priority routes still further if the weather deteriorates." I take it that means that even some of the "priority" roads may cease to be gritted if the snow and ice persist.

Gritting Danger

The bus skidding off the road in Chamberlayne Road certainly demonstrates the dangers of the current weather. It is also worrying that the accident happened on a road that is supposed to be a priority for street gritting. Council officers are now supposed to be gritting as many pavements as possible, although this is too late for my colleague Cllr Janice Long who fell over and broke her wrist on Monday.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Cllr Atiq Malik and Sharia Law

Some time ago Cllr Atiq Malik whipped up a storm by suggesting that British Muslim women should be subject to Sharia Law, including the death penalty. He made these comments on the back of a ConservativeHome blog discussing Rowan Williams view that incorporation of Sharia Law into UK Law was inevitable. He took quite a beating for his views and, as with the Archbishop's original comments, the debate generated more heat than light.

I bring it up again not to carry on flogging a dead subject, or to attack Cllr Malik, whose last hopes of a career in the Tory Party were probably finished by the outcry, but because it is worth thinking about how Muslims could be accommodated.

It is worth remembering that we have lots of quasi-judicial tribunals outside formal legal structures anyway. Lots of people mentioned the Beth Dins, although the Roman Catholics also have a well developed system of canon law. But one shouldn't just recall the religious courts, large companies generally have internal processes to sort out HR problems for example; there are industrial tribunals, and of course professional associations have tribunals with quite draconian powers. For instance the General Medical Council can stop someone practising as a Doctor.

All these bodies (with arguable exceptions in the religious organisations) accept rules of natural justice, and only impose penalties within English Law.

One insurmountable objection to Cllr Malik's proposal to introduce his view of Muslim Law is that he wants to have the death penalty and corporal punishment. In other words powers that established courts cannot themselves use and that many people find revolting.

A second insurmountable objection, as I see it, is that his preferred system denies natural justice to women. Their testimony apparently carries less weight. They are also apparently subject to much more severe penalties than men. We would hardly allow the GMC to strike a doctor off if she were a woman, but to allow a doctor in a similar case to continue practising if he were a man.

A third problem with his vision would be duality. Cllr Malik is arguing for Muslims to be subject to a separate legal system to everyone else. That would set up all sorts of problems of who is a Muslim, what to do with cases involving both sets of people and so on. You can also argue it would be an anti-Muslim policy since Muslims would be subject to more severe penalties than non-Muslims. If the penalties were lighter, you could again object that two sets of people were being treated differently, violating the principle of equality before the law.

However, I don't see why one couldn't have religious courts to rule on things like whether something halel, matters of religious ritual, divorce proceedings and so on.

I think the reason this raises such powerful emotions is that it is seen as a way for the likes of Cllr Malik to seek to control people, and maintain a kind of cultural stronghold. All communities are subject to change and Cllr Malik seems to want to use oppressive methods in a doomed effort to prevent this. Ultimately, he will have to accept that his very narrow views are not the only way to interpret one of the world's great religions.


Cllr Atiq Malik has now sent me a statement on this subject which I publish here.

Street Gritting in Brent

Brent Council has sent an assurance out deisgned to show that they are trying to grit the roads. They always concentrate on "proirity" routes, which means bus routes and major roads. They say that they are going to concentrate on Town Centres today. I have just been down High Street Harlesden which seemed fairly clear of ice, so hopefully they can pass on to the sside roads soon. Roads like Rucklidge Avenue, Leghorn Road and Bathurst Gardens are like ice rinks at the moment.

Just to bring extra joy, rubbish collections are cancelled so the staff can go gritting. People are being advised to leave their bins and the Council will collect them when they can.

Amazing what a couple of days of snow can do.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Brent Council's Scrutiny Committees

Tonight the Forward Plan Scrutiny Committee is meeting, the first committee meeting of the year. I went on a training course in Scrutiny before Christmas, and it led me to conclude that Brent’s Scrutiny arrangements need a complete overhaul.

One of the first things we had to do was explain what the arrangements were in each authority. As I described Brent’s arrangements, I thought to myself how strange they were. Essentially, they were drawn up in an Executive-focused culture, and don’t really get into the spirit of the legislation. Many councillors dislike the new arrangements, but I don’t see any prospect of them changing so we have to make the best of Scrutiny as it stands.

What I think Scrutiny should be aiming at is more engagement with partners, greater transparency and more scope to engage with the public. To do that, I think we probably need to completely remodel our Scrutiny Committees, perhaps along the lines of the Corporate Themes.
I suspect that there is little chance of any reform until after the local elections, however.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Harlesden town Centre Redesign

Harlesden Town Centre has been (almost) allocated £3 million by TfL to imrove it. Before anyone gets too excited, the money is only likely to be spent in 2012 (TfL won't be doing much work in central London that year because it would disrput the Olympics). However, consultation on what to do is starting now, and you can find out about it here.

Frozen Fountains in Trafalgar Square

Dave Hill has an interesting picture of frozen fountains in Trafalgar Square here. If it snows, Boris will have even less excuse than last time for his lack of grit.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Fire Service Struggles

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) have a press release here about Betty Evans-Jacas, a former Labour councillor who defected to the Tories and who they blame for setting up a massive confrontation in the Fire Service. Most of what they say about Evans-Jacas is also true of Bertha Joseph.

Evans -Jacas was elected as Labour in a seat that rejected the Tories comprehensively. Evans-Jacas refused to stand in a by election for her new party. Evans-Jacas complained of not getting enough in allowances. All these things are also true of Bertha Joseph.

Still at least Evans-Jacas was not suspended as a councillor for misconduct.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Route 18 Bus

I understand that the route 18 will be debendified in November 2010. I expect this will turn out as a disaster, as the replacement buses will simply not be able to cope with the numbers involved. Certainly other routes that have lost their bendy buses have had numerous problems as a result. It also puts paid to the longstanding pleas from the Liberal Democrats to extend the route northwards to Northwick Park Hospital because (a) Transport for London will not want two major changes at once and (b) cash payments mean that the buses will take longer at each stop. This condition accumulates during the length of the route, and the longer the route the worse the delay and "bunching" of the buses.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Sarah Teather MP's Hypocrisy on Carbon Emissions

Start the year as you mean to go on, which in my case means posting about broken promises from Sarah Teather and Brent Liberal Democrats. Here you can see an example of Sarah Teather posing as a champion against climate change in signing up to the 10:10 campaign. Unmentioned is the fact that, although Brent Council has signed the 10:10 pledge, carbon emissions targets were changed last year to have only a 3% cut in carbon emissions in 2010. Brent Council officers have admitted that even that target may not be met.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Kensal Green Labour Action Team

Labour have selected Claudia Hector, myself and Cllr Bobby Thomas to stand as the Labour candidates for Kensal Green in the local elections, so I thought it is about time I posted a photo of us (taken outside St Mark's Church, opposite the Law Medical Practice some time ago).