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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Vince Cable Clarification

Vince Cable has apparently now offered a "clarification" on child benefit according to the Times, claiming that it was all a slip of the tongue. Given that both Nick Clegg and Vince Cable were putting it forward as a policy option last year, I suspect it is something they would like to consider but they are scared of the electoral consequences.

Potholes and Broken Pavements

As I pointed out before, Brent Liberal Democrats didn't vote to spend more on repairing broken pavements and roads when Labour proposed Brent Council should divert the money from consultants to this rather more worthwhile objective. Unsurprisingly, they have not welcomed the extra funding announced by Alastair Darling for pothole repairs. Barry Gardiner and two of the Labour candidates in Alperton can be seen here surveying the results in Alperton of Liberal Democrat policy below:

One of the councillors in Alperton is the delightful Cllr Daniel Brown. He collects a special responsibility allowance for taking a lead on Highways and Transportation. You know, things like ... broken pavements.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Vince Cable Means Testing Child Benefit

Iain Dale has an excellent post on the Liberal Democrats' policy of means testing child benefit. As he says, neither Darling nor Osborne would have been allowed to get away with this sort of inconsistency. Much of Cable's reputation is built on nor having to withstand proper scrutiny.

Chancellor Debate

I see the Conservatives are already deploying the George W Bush defence for George Osborne's unimpressive performance in the Chancellor debate last night. This goes along the lines of "Our guy is so incredibly useless, he wins just by not getting slaughtered". This doesn't seem like a very good argument to me, but it helped George Bush win the Presidency twice, and look how well that turned out. What George Bush did to the world, George Osborne can do to the British economy.

Dawn Butler and the Sickle Cell Society

Here is Dawn Butler at a Sickle Cell Society event. the Sickle Cell Society is based on Station Road, NW10 (just outside the ward boundary of Kensal Green ward).

Monday, 29 March 2010

Tory Posters Get Instant Rebuttal

It seems that the Tories' latest poster campaign has faced an instant rebuttal campaign. Very old fashioned of David Cameron to resort to negative campaigning as his poll lead slips away.

UPDATE: Btw, I should have given the orgiinal source of the poster here.

Another Bertha Joseph Complaint

Adam Bienkov at Tory Troll relates that another complaint has been made against Bertha Joseph.

Dawn Butler and the NUS

Here is a picture of Dawn Butler at her first engagement as the newly elected MP for Brent South, a NUS Conference for black students.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Lib Dems and Homeopathy

Professor David Colquhoun has highlighted a recent EDM defending homeopathy. Liberal Democrat MPs are the group with the second highest proportion of MPs signing. Curiously, Sarah Teather has not signed this one, although the Liberal Democrats seem open to supporting homeopathy services, judging by this posting on Liberal Democrat Voice. The original policy called for NICE research its efficacy. It was withdrawn within five hours, and so we remain in ignorance of the Liberal Democrats' beliefs on this as on so many other things.

Dawn Butler and the Not Another Drop March

Here is a photo of Dawn Butler laying a wreath at the Harlesden Jubilee Clock during the 2006 Not Another Drop March. She is accompanied by Cllr Ann John and Cllr Colum Moloney.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Ernest Trobridge Exhibition

The Brent Musuem is holding a major exhibition on Ernest Trobridge between Febraury and September. Trobridge was a remarkable suburban architect and Swedenborgian, who produced many of the most distinctive properties in the Fryent / Queensbury area. Well worth a look. It is at the Willesden Library Centre.

Dawn Butler on Walkabout in Harlesden

The final pre-election photo of Dawn I intend to post is this one during one of her first walkabouts as a candidate. This took place in Harlesden High Street, near the Jubilee Clock. Next to Dawn is Paul Boateng, her immediate predecessor as MP for Brent South.

Friday, 26 March 2010

John Healey on Housing

John Healey has made an announcement on public sector housing that I am still trying to get my head round. The most important part from Brent's point of view is an apparent promise that Council Housing here will no longer have to send money either to other areas or to central government.

Dawn Butler Before Election

This is a picture of Dawn Butler with the then Bermudan Prime Minister which she gave me before she had been selected as Labour's candidate. Unfortunately, we never found any plausible way to use it despite it being such a nice picture.

London Mayors Association

A quick note on Bertha Joseph. She apparently remains as a member of the Executive of the London Mayors Association, as you can see from the list here. That is despite the First Tier Tribunal's decision that “She surely cannot expect again to serve as Mayor given the disrepute that she has caused to the office.”

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Dawn Butler: The Photo Album

I thought that in the run up to the General Election, I would post some images of Dawn Butler, the Labour choice to be Brent Central's next MP, from the past five years.

This is Dawn during the 2005 election campaign (You can just recognise the picture of Yasmin Qureshi in the bus window behind her).

Maple Walk School

Now that Bertha Joseph has finally been removed from the Fire Authority as unfit, it made me wonder about her other posts. For example, she managed to get herself made a governor of Maple Walk School on Crownhill Road. I wonder if the governors of that school still think it a good idea given that she has been found to have solicited donations for charity and then spent the money on herself.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Bertha Joseph's Resignation Letter

Just caught up with the remarkably self serving letter that Bertha Joseph wrote to Boris Johnson immediately prior to her ditching from LFEPA. Ross Lydall has posted it on his blog. If she actually believes the content of the letter, she has an extraordinary capacity for self deception. More likely, she is still trying to fool others into thinking that the Appeals Tribunal, Brent's Standards Committee and the local government officers who investigated her are somehow involve in a giant plot together.

It is amazing that such people persist in defiance of any plausibility to their claims.

Mike Romanov

Wikipedia provides more on the colourful Mike Romanov (or is it Romanoff?) here.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Cllr Bob Blackman Standing Down

The Wembley Observer reports that Cllr Bob Blackman is standing down. The report quotes his Conservative colleague John Detre as saying:

"Bob is a Parliamentary candidate and he is expecting to get elected. Out of respect for the people of Preston, he doesn't want to stand and make promises he can't keep. The leadership is something the group will decide after the election, there are only two people who will be candidates and frankly I will be one of them.”

I find that quote fascinating. What does it imply about the Tories' Brent North candidate, Harshi Patel? Harshi is currently also a Brent councillor for Preston, and has not announced that he is standing down as a councilloor. Is John Detre saying that Harshi does not expect to get elected as a MP? Or is he saying that Harshi might get elected and doesn't mind that he will "make promises he can't keep?"

Alternatively, does John Detre view Harshi as a potential rival for whatever is left of the Conservative Group after the election, and is attempting to pressure him to stand down in order to remove a possible rival?

The Romanov Meme

Someone told me a story about Mariaska Romanov recently. Years ago they met her and, as she claimed to be a Russian countess, they asked whether she spoke Russian. "Oh no, we only ever spoke French at court." came the reply.

It reminded me of reading David Niven's memoirs years ago. Apparently, someone calling himself "Mike Romanov" ran a bar in Hollywood. Mike Romanov claimed to be a member of the famous dynasty. A Russian emigre who was somewhat sceptical of his identity one day addressed him in fluent Russian. He walked away, complaining about the vulgarity of that man using that language: "We only ever spoke French at Court."

By coincidence, I read a book by Richard Dawkins recently where he talks about the idea of memes, coherent packages of information that can be passed on in a similar way to genes. The example he gives is some origami instructions to make a Chinese junk that his father taught him and that he passed on to his school fellows. The advantage of origami instructions is that presumably they would not be suspectible to change (You would get a sadly misshapen junk), whereas the Romanov idea is much more suspectible to alteration.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Primary School Cash

It has taken me a while to find out about the new cash for primary school. The Labour government has given Brent 14.7 million pounds to spend providing extra school places in the Borough. The extra money has to be spent on new places, and by no later than August 2011. So far possible sites near Kensal Green inclde Newfields primary and a possible primary at the City Academy. Unfortunately, anywhere with a constricted site (like Furness Road primary school) is unlikely to get the money because the planning objections have to be overcome as quickly as possible.

Kilburn Bookshop Closing

Sadly, Kilburn Bookshop in Kilburn High Road is closing by the end of the week. However, they are selling all remaining stock half price for anyone who wants to pay a last visit.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Roundwood Lodge Cafe

At the Urban design meeting yesterday, I spoke to one of the Roundwood Cafe supporters about the Cafe. Now that the trial of Countess Mariaska Romanov is over, it should be possible to sort out the long term future of the Cafe more effectively. I am not quite sure of the position as she was the leaseholder of the original lease, and I had always understood her to be the owner of the business, but the Parks Service definitely want the Cafe to remain open as it obviously enhances Roundwood Park.

Run Down Alperton

Just to show that it is not just Kensal Green that suffers from street scene neglect. Here are some photos collected by my Labour colleagues in Alperton.

Tree route damage in Alperton

Broken pavement in Alperton:

This sort of damage is the responsibility of the Lead Member for Highways, Cllr Daniel Brown. Cllr Daniel Brown is also a ward councillor for ..... Alperton. If he can't sort out problems in his own ward, it is no surprise that he can't do it anywhere else.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Conservation Area Windows

Some time ago Brent's Planning Committee had two contrasting cases of window replacement in a Conservation Area, that is dealt with in radically different ways.

Windows in conservation areas have been a hot topic in the past couple of years. Traditionally, Brent insisted on wooden replacements in areas like Queens Park, Mapesbury and Barnhill. Some people didn't like this because wooden windows tend to be more expensive than uPVC. In some cases at least, uPVC can be virtually indistinguishable from wooden. The policy has therefore been relaxed over the past year to allow some uPVC windows.

However, my view is that a recent decision in Barn Way relaxes it so much as to make enforcement in the Barnhill Conservation Area virtually impossible. Officers were recommending refusal for a house with some very poorly desiggned windows with grossly uneven sightlines. The Committee overturned their recommendation (although all three Labour members supported the officers' view).

Strangely we subsequently had an extremely lengthy discussion of wooden windows in Keyes Road in the Mapesbury Conservation Area where the Planning Committee seemed quite happy to impose stringent conditions on a Housing Association.

The Mapesbury Residents Association (MAPRA) will be pleased with the result they got, but I wonder what the Barnhill residents will think about the Committee making their Conservation Area into virtually a dead letter. I suspect that the effective result of that night will be that officers redirect their limited enforcement resource to areas and subject where the Committee will uphold their actions, which will not include the Barnhill Conservation Area.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Another Kensal Green Scandal

This is obviously a week for scandals. After Mariaska Romanov we have Bertha Joseph finally letting go her limpit like hold on Fire Authority allowances. It is covered by Dave Hill, Tory Troll and Boriswatch. I think Boriswatch's questions are particularly pertinent.

Romanov Sentenced

According to the Willesden and Brent Times, Mariaska Romanov has now been sentenced to four and a half years.

Hastings Banda Plaque

Following on from the previous suggestion of a plaque to Hastings Banda, I found out a little more to do with blue plaques. Provided a specific property can be identified, it seems to me that he qualifies in terms of importance. Does anyone have any comments?

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Romanov Trial

Mariaska Romanov's remarkable trial is covered by the Wembley Observer here.

Stranger than Fiction.

Bertha Joseph's Moral Squalor Continues

The squalid tale of Boris Johnson's support for suspended councillor Bertha Joseph continues. Dave Hill reports that she is needed to vote through the LFEPA budget today, just before her fourteen days notice are up. It explains why Boris has prevaricated over removing her for so long.

Liberal Democrats Means Test Child Benefit

Curiosity prompts me to ask why Nick Clegg's call for "savage cuts" did not get more publicity. If most voters knew that the Liberal Democrats want to means test child benefit, cut tax credits, freeze public sector pay and reduce public sector pensions would the Liberal Democrats have quite the cuddly image that they do at the moment?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Cllr Bob Blackman and Sarah Teather MP

I have been asked why Cllr Bob Blackman appears on my page on Liberal Democrat dishonesty. After all, he is a Conservative.

The reason is that it demonstrates the hypocrisy of Sarah Teather and the Liberal Democrats. They play to the Left when they want votes in Brent because most of the southern part of the Borough is naturally Labour leaning. But when they get into power they put a Conservative like Bob Blackman in charge of finances, and he then uses the position to do things like bankrupt people for very small amounts of Council Tax arrears, which the Liberal Democrats publicly claim to oppose.

If there is a hung Parliament after the next General Election, it would not surprise me at all if we see the Liberal Democrats jumping into bed with the Tories.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Cleaning Up Willesden Junction

Thanks to the help of Cllr Wesley Harcourt, there has been some progress in cleaning up the area around Willesden Junction, but I think it still needs a permanent solution ie. some sort of monitoring body between the Boroughs of Brent and Hammersmith & Fulham.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The Entrance to the Crest Academies

Here is a photo showing why the Liberal Democrat plans for the Crest Academies are so crazy. This is the only vehicular access to the Crest Academy site. Each day it has to cope with all the deliveries and rubbish collection of the two schools, all the vehicles of staff and parents dropping off pupils, as well as functioning as the main pedestrian access into the school. To my mind, it is unacceptably clogged up now. What would it look like with all the construction traffic over the four year building period the Lib Dems want?

Urban Design Project

There will be a drop in session of the Harlesden Town Centre Urban Design project at the Salvation Army place in Manor Park Road, NW10 on Friday (10am to 5pm) and Saturday (10am to 4pm). There has already been a lot of impetus to this project and the implication of the Old Oak Common announcement may give it more, so I hope lots of people will turn up.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The Slowness of the Standards Process

The Judge in the Bertha Joseph case said it was "extraordinary" that Brent Council had taken so long to come to a decision over the accusations against her. In fact it was almost two years from the initial accusation to the Brent Standards Committee making its judgement, and more than that for the First Tier Tribunal's judgement. Partly, this can be attributed to the complexity of the accusations, but it really should have been done quicker. Perhaps Councils need to band together to provide investigators in a reciprocal arrangement?

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Harlesden Library

Tonight Harlesden Library finally re-opens after months of delay and some controversy. I hope that after so much time and expense it turns out to be worth it.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Old Oak Common

Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis has announced that the new high speed rail link will have a station at Old Oak Common on its way to the West Midlands. That will have huge implications for Kensal Green and Harlesden in terms of regeneration and transport links. It should also give a massive boost to the Park Royal estate.

Speaking at Planning Committees

There seems to be a growing trend for members from other authorities to want to speak at Brent Council planning hearings.

This was true of the meeting I chaired a couple of weeks ago where the Carlton Vale roundabout development was discussed. We had two councillors from Westminster turn up, one of whom spoke. The other one wanted to speak, but I refused him permission, because you have to draw the line somewhere. The legal advisor was of the view that only Brent members should be allowed to speak, but as the Cllr Moss of Maida Vale had already been told that he would be allowed to speak when he attended the site visit, I don't think it would have been fair to refuse him on the night.

There is also the point that we did allow councillors from Camden to speak on the Gaumont State Cinema application on Kilburn High Road.

However, I think it would be a good idea about exactly when we allow people to do this as, at the moment, we don't seem to have a clearly formulated rule, and the practice is becoming more common.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Boris and Donations

Tory Troll has a good post on Boris Johnson's views on donations and charity here. Boris seems to be getting into a muddle over whether he knows who the doners are, and what the money is for.

Given the difficulties that Bertha Joseph has been getting into over donations, you would think a competent administration would be more careful. But then this one is headed by Boris Johnson.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Nick Clegg's Getting Desperate

Nick Clegg has apparently visited Brent and promised us 16 million for our schools. Quite how he is providing this, as he is not in government and is never likely to be is not made clear.

A typical Liberal Democrat pledge in fact.

However, it does sound as if Sarah Teather must be getting rattled by the public response to the government's promise of 80-85 million pounds for secondary schools and a further 14.7 million pounds for primary schools in Brent. Certainly the Kensal Green residents I have been speaking to have been impressed by the scale of the investment.

Of course, if I took Nick Clegg seriously I would wonder how splurging on Brent education tied in with his earlier promises of "savage cuts." Incidentally why are the Liberal Democrats not making similar pledges elsewhere? Could they be making a desperate bid to buy Brent votes with a spurious promise?

Willesden Junction Scrutiny

Brent has heard back from Hammersmith & Fulham about my suggested task group for Willesden Junction. I think it counts as a cautious welcome, although they don't want to pursue any joint work until after the election when they expect to be revamping their scrutiny operations, so still a long way to go, but some sort of progress.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Kensal Green Cemetary Wall

I see the Kensal Green Cemetary wall is reported in the Willesden & Brent Times to finally be getting repaired. I wonder whether the headline writer knew that the wall was originally intended to keep out resurrection men who, in those days, used to dig up bodies to sell them for dissection?

Monday, 8 March 2010

Station Road SNT Base

My Labour colleague Navin Shah has been moved to ask Boris Johnson about the unstaffed Safer Neighbourhood Team base in Station Road. Boris has now answered, somewhat later than he is supposed to, but anyway.

According to Boris, the base is not supposed to have a front desk at any point, which is contrary to what my colleague Cllr Bobby Thomas was told. He states, somewhat boldly, that residents don't like to have officers sitting in the bases, which is not what residents have said to me. He also lists a number of sites in other parts of London where front desk services are being considered or in place, which makes his attitude to Station Road seem rather inconsistent.

Width Restriction on College Road

I have been asked about the width restriction at ther bottom of College Road, just off Kensal Green Tube Station. The gate is currently open. I gather it had to be taken down because TfL needed to get a crane through when they were strengthening the bridge in the Tube Station. However, it is due to go back up.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Brent Council Cuts Youth Spending

As part of its programme of "savage cuts" the Liberal Democrat administration running Brent Council decided to cut the "Positive Activities for Young People" programme, which strikes me as a step backward. Activities for teenagers are routinely cited as one of the main priorities for improvement by Brent residents. Somehow I don't think the Liberal Democrats will be putting their latest cuts to youth services on any of their leaflets.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Broken Pavements Cost Brent More

Hidden away in the Brent Council budget papers is the news that the cost of claims against the Council for poorly managed pavements and potholes has gone up by 30%. Certainly I can think of plenty of loose and broken paving stones in Kensal Green. To report these you can call Streetcare on 8937 5050.

The Willesden and Brent Times had a front page yesterday about how bad things are on Kilburn Lane, even though it is a major bus route. Yet the Lib Dems voted down our proposal to spend an extra £1.5 million on roads and pavements at the last budget meeting.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Brent North Tories Finally Select A Candidate

Brent North Conservatives have finally got someone to stand at the General Election, Harshi Patel. Selecting a candidate on 4th March for an election most people assume will be in May seems pretty mad. I suspect poor Harshi is going to have an unrewarding campaign against Barry Gardiner.

Willesden Junction and Network Rail

Network Rail have finally admitted to owning Station Aproach and said they are going to repair it. About time too. We really do need a body that can regularly monitor Willesden Junction rather than have this exhausting ad hoc approach. Station Approach and the litter are just one of several problems that include the poor signage, the delapidated state of the Hythe Road public footpath, the shabby state of the Harrow Road public footpath and the amount of derelict materials left lying about.

Bertha Joseph: The End Game

Bertha Joseph is credibly reported to be on her way out. Boris Johnson has apparently written to her giving her fourteen days to explain her behaviour or face dismissal from the Fire Authority. My guess is that Joseph will string it out as much as possible, partly for the extra few hundred pounds and partly to make herself the centre of attention for as long as possible.

Boris really has made a shocking mess of the whole thing. Firstly promoting her after the Brent Standards Committee had condemned her means that he had no excuse for regarding her as innocent. It was just a shabby political manoevre designed to give the Tories a temporary majority on LFEPA. It destroys his credibility as a sleazebuster, which was already looking tatty thanks to Ian Clement et al.

Even after the judge gave his damning verdict, Boris tried to keep Joseph in place. Being forced to dump her now makes him look weak as well as cynical, rather like John Major being forced to dump his cabinet ministers.

Brent Council Winding Down

Brent Council has always had a problem with the inertia of its political leadership since the Tories and Lib Dems formed their coalition, but it is now getting really disfunctional. The next Planning Committee has been cancelled because of "lack of business," and several of the other committees seem to have very light agendas.

My view is that the Council has been allowed to drift for far too long because of a lack of political direction.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Brent Council Tax and the Bailiffs

Barry Gardiner has a sad story of Brent Council's aggressive pursuit of Council Tax bills here. I have blogged before that Brent is one of the most aggressive authorities in the UK when it comes to bankruptcy proceedings, despite the Liberal Democrats' public position opposing the use of bankruptcy proceedings wherever possible. At the Budget meeting on Monday Bob Blackman got up to boast about the very aggressive stance that the Liberal Democrats claim to oppose.

Barry Gardiner MP's New Web Site

Barry Gardiner MP has revamped his web site at Among other features, it allows you to sign the petition against Paul Lorber's plan to build on Barham Park.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Lib Dems Confirm Building on Barham Park

The Brent Budget meeting saw Labour put forward an amendment to stop Brent Council from building on Barham Park, but the Liberal Democrats voted it down. Cllr Bob Wharton said that it was essential to build in Barham Park in order to finance the redevelopment of the resiform housing near the park, but I don't believe. Certainly, at least one other decant site was dropped after public protests (at Thomas A Becket Close), and I don't see why building on public green space should be so essential.

Bertha Joseph's Excessive Expenses

The LFEPA expense claims page reveals that Bertha Joseph claimed £85 for taxi fares on 14 January 2010. This was to go to an LFEPA awards ceremony in Southwark. Why couldn't she use the Tube like normal people, and does a taxi from Kensal Green to Southwark really cost £85?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Other Taxpayers Alliance

A more leftwing version of the Taxpayers alliance has some interesting posts (this one on mutualism here.

Bertha Joseph Sliding into Obscurity

Bertha Joseph still seems to be trying to brazen it out, but I think her position on the London Fire Authority (and with it the Tory majority) is becoming more insecure by the day.

Boris’ initial position of stout denial had weakened by the time of Question Time, if the Guardian report is anything to go by. The coverage in Brent’s local papers has also been interesting. Cllr Bob Blackman, who recruited Joseph to the Tory Group, remains silent. Instead, Cllr John Detre is quoted in the Wembley Observer making a distinctly non-committal defence full of “Ms Joseph sees this as…” and “[Joseph] … believes it to be an attempt to ‘politicise justice’”; nothing much about whether he agrees with her. I sensed a similar distancing among members of the Tory group at the Budget making last night.

It seems to me that Boris has little to thank Bob Blackman for in adding yet another dubious appointment to the roll call of Ian Clement, Wadley and so on. Politically, the question for him is now will he look worse sacking Bertha Joseph after defending her to start with, or letting her hang on the bitter end in May. Will the Tories in Brent allow her to stand under their name and risk being discredited by association?

Monday, 1 March 2010


I understand that BIAS (the Brent Irish Advisory Service) is having its Brent Council grant cut by £37k. That actually means a lot more because the Irish government gives like for like match funding. The result will be serious cuts.

Fortunately, they will have some help fundraising, as Cllr Jim O'Sullivan, the current Tory Mayor in Brent, has chosen them as a Mayoral charity. Giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

I wonder whether he will vote for the cut at the Council budget meeting tonight?

Bertha Joseph in the Evening Standard

The Evening Standard has covered the Bertha Joseph story here. I think they have got slightly muddled towards the end of the piece. They quote a Met spokeswoman saying that the matter had been looked at last year. I think that was a seperate allegation from a member of her Charity Committee that money had gone missing. The Police decided not to pursue it.

The new report is about the £900 "sponsorship" that Bertha Joseph used to buy ballgowns.

Douglas Alexander at the Stonebridge Hub

Dawn Butler, our local Labour MP, has organised a Question Time session with Douglas Alexander in Stonebridge on 4 March. Douglas Alexander is the International Development Secretary, so that will be the theme. It will be held at the Stonebridge Hub on Hillside between 6pm and 7pm