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Sunday, 28 February 2010

St Mark's Church Expansion

My post yesterday about All Souls Church reminds me that there is also a planning application in about St Mark's, the church opposite the Law Medical Group Practice. After a fund raising drive, they more or less have the money to expand the Church Hall with a bigger kitchen and a disabled toilet. They also want to turn the car park area at the front into a garden, with just enough space for dropping people off.

Here is a picture of Dawn Butler MP with two St Mark's supporters at the launch of the fund raising.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Vince Cable and VAT

The Evening Standard carries a story that the UK began to recover at the ned of 2009 at a much stronger rate than previously thought. I was interested in the quote by Vince Cable towards the end, where he says the economy may slip back as a result of the reinstatement of the full rate of VAT. The reinstatement may well have caused people to bring spending forward, but I seem to remember St Vince saying a year ago that he didn't regard the VAT cut as being a significant stimulus to the economy. Now he seems to think reinstating the full rate will knock the economy back. Sounds a little inconsistent to me.

All Souls Church, Harlesden

The Harlesden Town Centre design project, which meets on 1 March, is encouraging us to think how we could make the town centre a beautiful place. I think the frontages in the Harlesden Town Centre Conservation Area already are beautiful, and All Souls Church is as beautiful a church as you can find anywhere. I particularly like the way All Souls has been refurbished in a modern style without destroying the qualities of the Victorian original.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Bertha Joseph Reported to the Police

Bertha Joseph, the suspended Conservative councillor in Kensal Green, has now been reported to the Police for collecting money for two charities and then spending it on herself. I believe the two charities that should have benefited from the fundraising were the Down's Syndrome Association and the Shooting Stars Children's Hospice. Incidentally, Brent Conservatives have announced that Bertha Joseph will stand for them in Kensal Green in May, although how that squares with the Conservatives' professed desire to clean up politics is hard to see.


Brian Coleman has got to go asks who has reported her? The answer is Cllr Ann John, Leader of the Labour Group in Brent.

Atiq Malik Statement

Atiq Malik has finally sent an email stating his objection to my post of 7 January. I print it in full:

Dear Cllr Powney,
Thanks for your email. I never stated that British women or men should be subject to Sharia Law.


Thursday, 25 February 2010

Broken Promises on Council Tax

I see both the Brent Tories and the Brent Liberal Democrats have been claiming to have kept their promises on Council Tax levels. Rubbish.

As you can see here, the Liberal Democrats promised to freeze the Council Tax four years ago. Since that time they have raised Band D Council Tax in Brent by more than one hundred pounds.

The Future of the Route 18

Dave Hill has commentary on a debendified route. Route 18 is losing its bendy buses in November, so you can see the future and it doesn't look like it is going to work.


As I understand it there have to be more buses trundling along in order to match the capacity of the bendies. However, as the route is usually bursting anyway there is probably a case for increasing capacity on top of that.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Park Parade Boards

Here is an example of the kind of poor signage left by estate agents that my colleague Lesley Jones has blogged on. This example is on Park Parade, just off High Street Harlesden.


I have blogged previously on the exploding waiting list for allotment sites in Brent. The list has trebled in the last three years, and I think we need to review how they are managed and how we can get some new ones.

I am a bit worried about how effectively they are managed because I know of a case where someone worked an allotment for three years before it was realised that he didn't have a formal contract to do it. Looking round, for example at the Longstone Avenue allotments, some of the sites do not appear well cultivated. I wonder if Brent Council are as pro-active as they might be in following when peoples' circumstances change? I suspect that there are cases where people move away from the area, but retain ownership of an allotment that they are unlikely to use. I don't want to hurry people off, but perhaps we can do better in encouraging people to use their sites or perhaps sub-dividing them if they get get to be too large.

The second issue is increasing the supply. I don't whether reconfiguring the sites would yield more plots, but we should also look to use planning powers to address the shortage we have at the moment. Even quite a small number of plots can be viable, and we need to be more imaginative in we meet the growing need.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Overview and Scrutiny Bill

At the start of February, John Denham announced governement support for a Private Members' Bill called the Overview and Scrutiny Bill. This bill is intended to allow Councils to compel responsible organisations to attend Scrutiny meeting where they explain things like "like dug up roads, poor facilities at train stations, or threatened local bus routes". It sounds as if it would be tailor made for the problems we get all the time in Kensal Green, like the consatant digging up of Palermo Road by one company after another, or the dreadful state of Willesden Junction.

The problem will be if, given the very small amount of parliamentary time left in this Parliament, it gets talked out. Even worse is the fact that the MP sponsoring it is David Chaytor, who is being charged with false accounting offences, something of a distraction from shepherding a bill through.

Wrottesley Road Resurfacing

Resurfacing has finally begun on the site of the burst main on Wrottesley Road (see this picture from this morning), so hopefully the traffic lights will be taken away soon.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Harlesden Library Finally Re-opens

Harlesden Library is due to re-open in March. At least that is when they intend to hold the opening ceremony. The project has had a number of issues. It certainly wasn't supposed to take 19 months to refurbish the place. The closure of one of the Borough's main libraries during that period must have seen quite a downturn in usage.

The second big problem has been the shifting of the BACES operations across the road. People using BACES regard Harlesden Library as inferior as there is less space and no room for a creche. I have been told that the creche at BACES was underused, but the Council does have plans to replace it at a new site at Challenge House. Challenge House (opposite Harlesden Methodist Church) isn't ideal as the site for a creche, but they need to sell the existing BACES building on Craven Park Road to pay for the Harlesden Library refurbishment, so the loss of that building is irreversible.

There is no doubt that the Library Service in Brent is struggling at the moment, with Willesden Green Library Centre in trouble as well. It has lost its Cafe and now the Belle Vue cinema has closed, threatening the whole concept of using the Library Centre as a community hub, not just a stand alone library. Willesden is supposed to be our flagship library so its sorry state makes you wonder about the rest of the fleet.

Cricklewood Library, which has one of the lowest usage rates, was put forward as a combined library and Children's Centre. Again, this ties in with the "hub" concept. You group more than one attraction in the same place, and some of the footfall going to the Centre would rub off on the Library. However, this has hit a legal obstacle. The building was originally gifted by All Souls College in Oxford with a condition that it be used as a library. The College lawyers have queried whether combining a Children Centre and a library would break that condition. I understand that the Brent Council lawyers think it would be fine, but the two sets of lawyers need to agree a basis for going forward before progress can be made.

Wrottesley Road Still Blocked

Despite my kind words about them, Thames Water have yet to take away the barriers where the water main burst recently. Possibly this is because the spot is on the traffic calming hump at the junction with Furness Road. This used to cause an awful amount of noise every time a lorry passed over it as the contents of the lorry jumped and then crashed down. People on Ancona Road used to complain about it, not just the Wrottesley Road residents. This was largely solved by some clever redesigning, and it may be that Thames Water need some sort of specialist help in sorting it out. I will ask Streeetcare to find out.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Bertha Joseph: The Judgement

I have been reading the judgement given against Bertha Joseph and I am struck by the strength of the Judge’s language in criticising her. He refers to her “recklessness as to the propriety of her behaviour” and her “repeated lack of credibility”.

The appeal was based on the idea that the sanction against her was too severe, so there is little discussion of the facts, as they were admitted, just any mitigating factors.

In comments to the Harrow Times, Bertha Joseph has attempted to suggest that the judgement against her was some sort of political conspiracy. That really doesn’t wash. The Borough Solicitor appointed a senior Council officer who specialised in financial investigations for the initial report, and a solicitor independent of the Council for a second report. None of these people can be regarded as party political. The Standards Committee itself has two independent members, a Tory, a Liberal Democrat and a Labour person. The independent Tribunal has now confirmed their decision as “entirely appropriate”. That Bertha Joseph still refuses to accept this says more about her than about anyone else.

The Tribunal certainly didn’t accept her relaxed view. It said: “Quite clearly she solicited gifts from more than one person and failed to account properly for them. Attempting to plead mitigation in that way does not help her cause. Nor does the submission that her actions took place in the context of organising an event to benefit her chosen charities. There is more than a possibility that a greater financial effect would have been achieved had she not chosen to spend the cash she received in the way that she did.” I think that is pretty damning.

Interestingly, the Tribunal didn’t see any need to determine whether Bertha Joseph had sought to blame officers. That surprises me, as I thought that was quite an important issue. They simply say: “But officers cannot be expected to account for money paid in cash to the Mayor and not handed over to them. Her claim to have relied on others to record sponsorship simply lacks any credibility.”

The comment that I think that Boris Johnson and the Tories need to think about is: “She surely cannot expect again to serve as Mayor given the disrepute that she has caused to the office.” Doesn’t that logic also apply to her membership of the London Fire Authority? And does it not also apply to whether the Tories put her forward as one of their candidates in the local elections in May?

You can read the full judgement on

Who Runs Brent Council?

I was interested to see this blog post from Brondesbury Park's Conservatives. It feature a broken street sign on Milverton Road close to the South Hampstead Cricket Club, and suggests that Brent Council is pretty useless in looking after such things. Don't they realise that the person in charge of repairing street signs is Conservative councillor Irwin Van Colle? Doesn't it say something of the poverty of the Conservative offer that they campaign against the Council they (and the Liberal Democrats) control?

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Vitamin D

Tom Watson has an interesting piece about vitamin D. The stories he reports sound like the sort of thing Ben Goldacre writes about. What he doesn't mention is the diversity issue that attaches to vitamin D deficiency. Not only do people in the North of the UK suffer more because the cold deters them from going outside, but certain ethnic minorities may suffer as well.

Lib Dems Fail on the Sustainable Communities Act.

My colleague Cllr Janice Long uncovered a striking example of how useless Brent Council's current Liberal Democrat / Conservative administration is. I have blogged before about the difficulty of getting the Council to consider this. To avoid the political flak, Cllr Lorber put forward a motion for the Council to develop a mechanism for submitting proposals under the Act. Several dozen authorities have already managed this, but Brent Council wasn't up to the job.

The motion was passed unaminously, before the first deadline for receiving suggestions. The administration leapt into action by forming a working group which had its first meeting in ..... October.

The answer given to Janice by the Liberal Democrat Lead Member for these things in January this year explains that they only started to think about a mechanism in October. By this stage, it was too late to submit any proposals, so they gave up.

What is the point of Brent Council voting for a motion at Full Council without a single vote against if the passed motion is then ignored by the very Liberal Democrat councillors who voted for it? Why did Paul Lorber put the motion forward if he is happy to see it come to nothing?

Friday, 19 February 2010

Brent Council's Savage Cuts

Brent Council's Chief Executive recently circulated a letter saying that he wanted the Council to lose 250 posts by September this year. Given that the Council has a total of 3,000 employees, that is a pretty severe cut. It is tempting to see it as Brent Liberal Democrats implementing Nick Clegg's call for "savage cuts" in public services. If job losses on this scale do not lead to poorer quality services for Brent residents, then the Council must be seriously inefficent in its use of Council Taxpayers' money.

One of the things that always puzzles me about cost cuttting on Brent Council is that every time it happens we get told that the Council will get rid of agency staff. That makes sense as you have to pay extra to employ someone from an agency, and you don't have to pay so much to get rid of them. How then do we still have so many agency staff? The Chief Executive says we have about 500. How can this be if they are the first people we cut?

Elmwood Tennis Club

By the way, I have added a link on "Kensal Green Links" to Elmwood Tennis Club. I had not realised it was such a venerable institution. Their web site says that that triangle of land between Buchanan Gardens and Holland Road has been used for tennis since the reign of Queen Victoria.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Trees in Furness Road Pocket Park

Two trees have been planted in Furness Road Pocket Park. These were paid for as part of the Neighbourhood Working initiative (which is money agreed by myself and Cllr Bobby Thomas for small projects in Kensal Green).

Paul Lorber and Barham Park

I see Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North has started a campaign to stop the Liberal Democrats building on Barham Park. Paul Lorber wants to erect some flats inside the green space. What is striking about this is that not only does it follow on from the defeat of the "Greenhouse" application to build flats inside Welsh Harp open space, but in the past the Liberal Democrats themselves opposed building on Barham Park. Now Cllr Paul Lorber (Brent's Liberal Democrat Leader) seems to have turned their position around.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Fire Authority Cuts

Tory Troll blogs on the kind of Fire Service cuts that the Tories need Bertha Joseph to vote through. Station closures ar not ruled out. Other measures considered are reducing the fire engine teams, reducing the number of engines and doing away with some of the existing posts altogether.


Paul Krugman gives his take on the calls for immediate austerity in UK public spending here. Clegg and Cameron seem to have been rather quieter on this then they were last year.

Town Market in Harlesden?

There has been some interest in starting a market in Harlesden on the Keep Harlesden Clean facebook page. Officers have suggested to me that Craven Park Road moght have sufficent space for a small market. Do people think this would be a good idea?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Sad Fate of Party Defectors

I have been pondering on the sad fate of party defectors. Brent has seen a number of these over the years. Kensal Green's own Bertha Joseph follows in the footsteps of previous luminaries Poline Nyaga and Nkechi Amalu-Johnson. The common pattern is that they join their new party with a fanfare, often being given some extra appointment or money (or both in the case of Bertha Joseph), and then start a long slide into obscurity.

The first defector on Brent Council for some years was Cllr Carol Shaw. She was first elected as a Conservative councillor in Cricklewood. After falling out with her Tory colleagues she leapt into the arms of Sarah Teather during the Brent East by-election. I expect she hoped to be rewarded with office if the Liberal Democrats gained power in Brent. By 2006, however, most of her usefullness was over, and she remains an isolated figure in the Lib Dem group, when she attends any Council meetings at all.

The second was Bertha Joseph, whose departure from the Labour Group I found a great relief. The sheer eccentricity of her demands to be invited to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party were just embarrassing. I dare say that many of her new Tory colleagues felt similar embarrassment when she used the first Full Council meeting after her departure to refer to herself as a "black witch" and promised that she would "cast spells over you". Of course, Boris Johnson now needs her vote to control the London Fire Authority, so she will have a short while left in the limelight. However, I notice that the Conservative Party does not seem to be giving her any support in Kensal Green, not even a single leaflet since immediately after her defection. The Tories certainly don't seemed to be much bothered whether she survives as a councillor.

Saddest of all is Francis Eniola, who defected most recently, but has disappeared more completely than of the others.

Given that this is the pattern for all these defectors, it makes me wonder why they do it in the first place.

Front Desk Police Service

I have now been told that there will be a front desk police service at the Safer Neighbourhood Base on Station Road eventually. The intention is to use it for crime prevention issues, but I don't see how they can avoid having people come in to report crimes. It is not as if you can turn people away to Harlesden Police Station.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Road Resurfacing on Holland Road NW10

Holland Road was being resurfaced this morning. Along with Buchanan Gardens, Holland Road is a Road I have often told Transport offficers was in need of resurfacing. Whether this actually carries any weight in their timetable of works I don't know.

Wrottesley Road Burst Main

As I blogged previously, I thought Thames Water were very quick in sorting out the burst water main in Wrottesley Road. Here is how it looked at 7.40am:

At 11.21am, it looked like this:

This morning it looked like this:

Estate Agent Boards

My colleague Cllr Lesley Jones has a piece on estate agent boards here. One of the problems of tackling this sort of thing through enforcement action is picked up by a commentator to Lesley's post; how do the enforcement officers know when the property is let or sold? A second issue is overstretch among Brent Council's Planning enforcement team. This has already led to some relaxing of enforcement over more minor issues. Possibly it might make sense to approach the estate agents directly and agree a Code of Practice, rather than dealing with it on a case by case basis.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Willesden Junction Task Group

My visit to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee last Tuesday night was not as successful as I hoped. We are so close to the next local elections that no one wants to decide to do anything given that the composition of the Committee may be about to change dramatically. However, the Committee did agree to make an approach to Hammersmith & Fulham to find out if they had any interest in some sort of joint approach.

Wrottesley Road Water Main

If you live on Wrottesley Road or one of the streets off it (Odessa, Palermo, Leghorn etc.), you may have had problems with your water supply recently. This is because of another water main burst. This time just by the traffic island at the junction of Furness Road and Wrottesley Road.

Although I have moaned about thames Water in the past, they were very quick off the mark this time. I reported the burst as I came out my front door at about 7.40am. I was just in time to see the Thames Water van driving off when I returned at 9.30am. They have done a temporary patch to reduce the flow, and I assume they will be back for a more permanent solution later.

Tombstone Poster Parodies

Fans of the David Cameron spoof posters may like to know that the Tory Tombstone poster has been a similar inspiration.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Harlesden Tesco

I have heard back about the water leakage behind the Harlesden Tesco. Apparently it is coming from a freshwater drain, which is the responsibility of Thames Water. Had it been a foulwater outlet it could have been a number of different owners. However, as the owner is identified, it will hopefully be put right quickly.

Town Centre Design

On Tuesday I went to the Harlesden Town Centre design event, which I thought was a great success. More than 50 people attended, which I thought was exceptional given the cold weather and the slightly out of centre location.

We had a long discussion led by Alan Simpson. His web site gives you some idea of the stuff he spoke about. But we also had a lot of ideas from the other people present. This is just as well since the consultants are supposed to be faciliatating a "town team" of local people. Some of the ideas went beyond the likely funding, but the ideas I found most useful were:

The importance of independent shops in creating the Centre's character
The importance of ethnic diversity in creating the fell of Harlesden
The detrimental effect of the shabby approach from Willesden Junction up Station Road
The importance of having a performance space for the centre
The centrality of traffic and parking problems in Harlesden Town Centre.

You can find a full record of the comments made here.

There are two major future events which anyone can turn up to. The big one will be a design workshop on 19 and 20 March, which will be an all day drop in centre. Before that, there is likely to be an evening session on 1 March, probably again at the Unity Centre at 103 Church Road.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Front Desk Service at Police Base

Chris Garvey has a sound point in complaining about the lack of a front desk service at the new Safer Neighbourhood Team base on Ranelagh Road. I thought that one of the main points of such bases was supposed to be bringing the police officers closer to the community. With three teams based there, it should be possible to open for at least some hours, I would have thought. I shall try to find out more.

Park Parade Resurfacing

I was glad to see last Saturday that the area of Park Parade that had the water leak was finally resurfaced. But why was it so long after the leak was repaired?

Brent Liberal Democrat Dishonesty Summarised

Do you ever feel the need to have a quick summary of the dishonesty and broken promises of Sarah Teather and Brent Liberal Democrats? If so, I have created this page for you. I think I need to add to it a bit more, but here is the first version.

BBC Interview Navin Shah on Bertha Joseph

The BBC have interviewed Navin Shah on Bertha Joseph and her role on the London Fire Authority (LFEPA) here.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Boris Cutting Police Numbers

Boris Johnson is cutting police numbers by 455 officers in his current budget proposals. He loses nine this coming financial year, 273 the year after, and 173 the year after that. This is forced by the £16.4 million cut in the Police budget this year, which follows a small cut in the previous year.

Not quite what Boris was promising in May 2008.

Station Approach

It appears that Network Rail, the road owner that dares not speak its name, has finally realised the dangerous state of Station Approach. I say this as I assume that it is they who have cordoned it off (below). When will they get round to actually doing something to improve it?

Ice Patch by Tesco

I have reported the icy patch at the crossover into the back iof the Harlesden Tesco, which was a real hazard last night as the water froze. Anyone can report trip hazards to or on 020 8937 5050.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Why We Should Abolish the £25 Charge

Another example of why we should abolish the £25 charge. I took this in Furness Road this morning.

Political Balance and Bertha Joseph

It occurred to me quite late last night that Bertha Joseph's renewed suspension means that we to rebalance Brent Council's committee membership. Every Local Authority is required by law to appoint each committee to reflect the total membership of the Council. Bertha Joseph's removal as a councillor means that we will have to reappoint to all the committees again, despite having just rejigged them at the last Council meeting in January.

Navin Shah on Bertha Joseph and LFEPA

Tory Troll has a statement by Navin Shah on the Bertha Joseph appeal decision. Navin is calling on Boris Johnson to throw her off the London Fire Authority, quite rightly in my view. What will Boris do?

Brent Liberal Democrats and Tall Buildings

I haven't posted on Brent Liberal Democrats' broken promises for a while, so I just thought I would mention their "no tall buildings" promise. That is what they say at election times. Both in 2006, and in the more recent Wembley Central by election they claimed that they would stop tall buildings being built inBrent.

However, the last Planning Committee voted through a series of tower blocks ranging from fourteen to eight stories on the old B & Q site in Alperton without any protest from the three Liberal Democrat councillors who represent Alperton. What happened to their promise?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Bertha Joseph Verdict

The verdict on Bertha Joseph has been formally announced. The original decision by Brent's Standards Committee is confirmed, and the six month suspension reimposed. The suspension runs for the rest of her term of office.

The questions for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives now are: Will Boris retain this discredited individual on the Fire Authority, given he has made such play over cleaning up local government? Will the Conservatives support a candidate who has been judged by both Brent's own Standards Committee and the Tribunal to have committed such a serious breach?

Keep Harlesden Clean

At the Town Team meeting in the Unity Centre last night, I met someone who has started a facebook page to Keep Harlesden Clean. The theme of the group is fairly obvious. I have also added it as a link under Kensal Green links.

Barham Park Redevelopment

Last week's Planning Committee passed something of a landmark decision by voting through planning permission on the Barham Park development. As I have explained before, this proposal has been around for years, and I and other Labour councillors have been urging the Liberal Democrats to get on with it since my election in 2006. Possibly as a result of central government giving extra pressure for housing to boost the fiscal stimulus, it looks like the residents will finally get the housing they deserve.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Snow Again

I notice it was snowing again today. The good news is that Brent Council has replaced some of the grit it used up in the last cold snap. It now has about 400 tons. The bad news is that is roughly the amount that would be used up in three days of bad weather.

Supporting Scrutiny

I read a paper on Scrutiny in Local Government by Steve Leach recently. One of the key issues in Scrutiny is that there is not enough knowledge to back up any investigation. Where Scrutiny Committees have dedicated staff, they are too few and/or inexperienced to offer necessary expertise. The Committees tend to rely on officers in each directorate i.e. the people whose position they may be criticising. He suggests a fund dedicated to buying in Scrutiny advice, or even a reciprocal arrangement between two authorities (as Blackburn and Salford apparently have). If a number of Boroughs had a specialised Scrutiny fund, why not use it to buy support from units like the LGiU, LGA or London Councils?

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Progress on Tubbs Road

It looks like my Councillor Call for Action on Tubbs Road has finally got the breakthrough that I was hoping for, despite the unhelpful attitude of Cllr Daniel Brown at the last Highways meeting. The two elements that could get enacted fairly soon are a review of the signage to clarify the width restriction and the alternative route down Scrubs Lane, and also contacting the SatNav companies to ensure that their software is clearer.

According to what they told us at the meeting of the Junction Associaition I attended last Thursday, Brent's Transport Department will do some scoping around the other suggestions on left turns out of Furness Road and Tubbs Road to assess the impact on traffic flows.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The Price of Tax Cuts

Recently saw this scary story from America about local authority cuts in Colorado Springs. This might gladden someone like Mike Freer, but it reminds me of Oliver Wendall Holmes: "Taxation is the price we pay for living in a civilised society."

An End to the Lib Dems £25 Charge

If you haven't seen this photo, you will do soon. It is on a colour leaflet that Brent Labour Party is currently putting out pledging to end the £25 charge for special rubbish collections if we get a majority in May. Barry Gardiner and Dawn Butler can be seen posing next to a truly appalling flytip in Dawn's home ward of Tokyngton.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Harlesden Town Centre Meeting

There will be a meeting on the Harlesden Public Realm Design Project on Monday 8 February at the Unity Centre, 103 Church Road , Harlesden (Where the white flats used to be).

This is a project I posted on last year and in the New Year. Brent Council want to create a "town team" to come up with ideas about how to reshape Harlesden Town Centre. The initial stages concentrate on Manor Park Road, Craven Park Road and Harlesden High Street. However, especially later on, it might also involve ideas about the surrounding streets as well.

Cllr Atiq Malik's Legal Threat

Back on 7 January, I published this post, commenting on Cllr Atiq Malik and Sharia Law. A few days later, Cllr Malik sent me a curiously worded email that threatened legal action, although it wasn't clear to me on what grounds. I wrote back to him suggesting that he either post a comment, or send a fuller explanation so that I could either amend the post or do a new one. So far, I haven't heard back from him, but I thought I may as well tell everyone that he has some sort of objection to the 7 January story.

UPDATE: Cllr Atiq Malik has posted a comment below, claiming not to have my response of 12 January. However, I still don't understand what your objection is Atiq. Could explain in more detail?

ANOTHER UPDATE: I have now been sent a statement on this matter from Atiq Malik, which I publish here.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Crest Academies Financial Problems

The Willesden and Brent Times reports that the Boys Crest Academy in Dollis Hill is having to cut staff to make ends meet (No link, their web site is a bit rubbish). The problem is that fewer pupils are going into the school, and school funding follows pupil numbers. This is likely to get worse if the Liberal Democrats follow through on their broken promise on buying the adjoining land. The failure to buy the land will mean the rebuild taking four years rather than two, a big chunk of most pupils' school life. Many parents won't want to have their children educated on a building site. Fewer pupils will mean less money and more redundencies. In other words, a disaster delivered to you by the Liberal Democrats.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Willesden High Road

Last Sunday I was in Willesden High Road, and came across this mess:

It completely blocked the way for pedestrians, forcing them out into the road. As you can see no one is doing anything there.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Tory Support Slipping

I am heartened to see that the Conservative opinion pokll lead appears to be slipping. That may be the explanation behind David Cameron's back pedalling on cuts recently. I wonsder whether Nick "Call me Dave" Clegg will follow suit over his call for "Savage Cuts".

Bertha Joseph's Appeal

Those wondering what happened to Bertha Joseph's appeal against her suspension may want to know that it was delayed yet again, but is due to be heard as soon as possible after 5 Febuary. After being scheduled for 14 January, it was delayed to later in January, and now this third delay. The original complaint was made in January 2008, so it has already taken more than two years to resolve. With this kind of delays, one would imagine that it was all organised by a privatised train operator.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Sarah Teather MP on Empty Homes

A few days ago, I saw Nick Clegg claiming that his party was at the forefront of reducing the number of empty homes. Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brent East frequently makes this claim.

For example, here we see her in 2005 quoting figures from a parliamentary answer to suggest that the number of empty homes has gone up. If you look at her figures, going up or down seems to depend on the baseline, with annual changes being quite large.

Ms Teather has chosen to use 1997 as a baseline, giving a 6.5% increase in empty properties to 2004 (her final year). Had she chosen the year of her election, 2003, she could have demonstrated a 0.2% fall. Choosing 2002 as a baseline would show a 10% fall, and so on. Her use of figures remind me of her Brent Council colleagues efforts with carbon emissions.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that housing is a huge problem in Brent and elsewhere. That is why it is so disappointing that Sarah Teather and the Liberal Democrats in charge of Brent Council (led on housing issues by Cllr James Allie, who hopes to join Teather in Parliament representing Brent North), have downgraded empty homes as a policy priority.