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Sunday, 28 February 2010
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
Friday, 26 February 2010
Brian Coleman has got to go asks who has reported her? The answer is Cllr Ann John, Leader of the Labour Group in Brent.
Thursday, 25 February 2010
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.
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
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
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.
Monday, 22 February 2010
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.
Sunday, 21 February 2010
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 http://www.adjudicationpanel.tribunals.gov.uk/
Saturday, 20 February 2010
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
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?
Thursday, 18 February 2010
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
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.
Monday, 15 February 2010
Sunday, 14 February 2010
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.
Saturday, 13 February 2010
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
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Not quite what Boris was promising in May 2008.
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
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
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?
Monday, 8 February 2010
Sunday, 7 February 2010
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
Friday, 5 February 2010
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.
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
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
Monday, 1 February 2010
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.