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Monday, 31 May 2010

Black History Month

There are opportunities to organise a Black History Month event in Brent. You need to return the form by 14 June.

Willesden Junction Task Group

Here is an excellent map showing why Willesden junction is such a problem. before the election, I tried to get Brent and hammersmith Councils to agree to put a joint task group together to examine the issue. As I am now on the Executive, I won't be able to join it but hopefully it will go ahead.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Big Lunch?

Last year, there was a lot of interest in Big Lunch events. In practice, these turn out to be far harder to organise than you might think. In particular closing a street is a legal/financial nightmare. I will be asking advice from officers on whether we can include this in the review of Brent's Cultural strategyover the longer term, with a view to making it simpler for people to hold Big Lunch events.

But in the meantime I would be interested in hearing from anyone interested in having a Big Lunch in Kensal Green.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Incredible Edible

After a recent visit to a Transition Town food growing project at Mapes House in Queens Park, they directed me to Todmorden's ambitious local food growing programme. This certainly sounds like it is a project Brent could learn from, although it would take a long time to reach a similar level of developemnt. With my Environment Lead hat on, I would welcome similar ideas.

Friday, 28 May 2010


Here is a picture of some weeds I took in Furness Road a little while ago. They are due to be sprayed but apparently have to reach a minimum height for the spray to be effective. Originally, the Liberal Democrats didn't want any weedkiller to be sprayed. Instead, they expected a team of five people to physically dig out the weeds. Since the Borough has about 1,000km of pavement, this would be beyond the most Stakenhovite team.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

New Surgery Time

Following the election, we have decided a new time for our surgeries. We now do it on the first Saturday of the month at St Marks on All Souls Avenue from 10.30am to noon. This is to free up more time for doorknocking.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

AGM Part I

By tradition, Brent Council splits its Council AGM into two parts. The first of which was on Monday during the England / Mexico game. I came to the Town Hall that evening by Tube, and would be glad not to share a train with quite so many sweaty football fans for a while. The AGM itself is quite nice though, with a series of Community Awards to people who have done voluntary work for an extraordinary range of organisations in the Borough. The diversity of people and organisations has to be seen to be graped.

You can get an idea of the range of backgrounds from the names of the awardees, which are: Alia Coleman, Ami Udeshi, Hajrudin Sistek, Bhavinbhai Patel, Nedim Mujcinovic, Jasvinder Sawhney, Jennie Doble, Meena Patel, Minakshi Patel, Ramesh Devani, Samia El-Ali, Sharon Bennett, Alfred "Teacher Freddie" Totesaut, Sylvia Wiseman, Zamira Ruspi, Urmila Parbhu, Rajnikant Somabhai Patel, Dr. Peter Moore, Josie Warshaw, Ezra Cohen, Fatima Khalil, Christina Connolly and Cassandra Cheng.

The organisations on represented by the Awardees on Monday were (in no oparticular order) St Michael’s Youth Project, Alperton Community School, Brent Victim Support, Brent Irish Advisory Service, Brent CAB, Brent Parent Partnership, Afghan Association Paiwand, St Johns Ambulance, St Lukes Hospice, Brent Youth Parliament, School Stationery Shop, Friends of River Brent, Brent Heart of Gold Support Group, Claremont High School, Brent Multi-Faith Forum, Preston Manor High School, Stonebridge Amateur Boxing Club, Brent Carers Centre, Lyon Park Infant School, Mother Teresa Albanian Union, Federation of Patidar Associations, Brent Indian Association, Harlesden Environmental Action Residents and Traders (HEART), Neasden Gateway Club, North West London Jewish Day School, Brent Fairtrade Network, Brent Indian Community Centre, Kingsbury High School, Bosnia and Herzegovina Community Advice Centre, Brent Eleven Street Residents Association and Cycletastic.

Quite a celebration of diversity in one of Europe's most varied muncipal authorities.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Flower Boxes

One of the ideas that was suggested from Neighbourhood Working last year was the provision of extra flower boxes. The ones in this picture are in Wembley High Road rather than High Street Harlesden. The flowers are real, and some people think they brighten the centre up. the cost is quite low. Is it an idea worth pursuing?

Monday, 24 May 2010

Trobridge Exhibition

Finally got to the Ernest Trobridge exhibition in the Grange Museum at Willesden Library Centre. Very good. I didn't realise that Trobridge moved with the times so much that had plans to construct a combined garage and air raid shelter in 1938.

Mayor Making

We will shortly install Cllr Hari Singh as Brent's first Sikh Mayor. Hari has managed to break the jinx of the previous election years in 2002 and 2006, when the Deputy Mayors lost their seats in the election. By convention, the Deputy Mayor serves for a year before being automatically selected as Mayor. It is nice to see that this time Hari got through.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Brent's Library Service

I went down to Willesden Library Centre a few days ago and found it a demoralising experience. I remember Willesden Library Centre as a significant hub for the area. Now the cinema is closed; the Cafe is closed; there is a childrens centre closed for "health and safety" reasons. The idea of having lots of things together was to attract footfall from one into the others. The non activity around the closed facilities presumably has a negative impact on the Library, the Brent Musuem and the Willesden bookshop. I will be raising it with officers to see what we can do about it.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Whatever Happened to Willesden Social Club?

Another Kensal Green issue which I am hoping to progress on over the next four years is the old Willesden Social Club on the corner of Rucklidge Avenue and Park Parade. This was something I campaigned on after I first got elected in 2006. There is a housing associaition interested in buying thre land for a housing development, but it appears to be stalled at present because they can't agree a price. While it is not as bad as it was, it is still being used by rough sleepers and is a possible focus for anti-social behaviour.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Willesden Junction Issues

I suppose my big objective in the ward over the next four years will be to sort out some of the problems around Willesden Junction station. I have blogged before about the various issues of Willesden Junction. With the election out of the way, I hope we can get together joint working with other Boroughs to speed up the rate of progress.

I would like to see more than just occasional clean ups. We also need to do something about the terrible state of Station Approach (a private road owned by Network Rail). There is also the missed opportunity of the Hythe Road public footpath, and the unappealing nature of the Harrow Road footpath. The Harlesden Town Team were also keen to improve the approach up Station Road, which is a fairly dreary introduction to a vibrant Town Centre. We could also make progress on less difficult problems like the signage of the station.

My hope is that the changed majority on Brent Council will finally give some real impetus to this process.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Rapid Reaction Force

Caught up with this BBC report on the election in Kensal Green. Alatortsev is quoted about the Lib Dem plans for a "rapid reaction force," which I have blogged on before. He wrongly states it would be made up of police officers, and does not mention any liasion with the police. It sounds like just the kind of specious promise that the Liberal Democrats put forward in 2006 and then broke on attaining office. Thank goodness they won't have the chance of a repeat performance.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

New Lead Members

It seems premature, as Brent Council has yet to hold its AGM, but the Labour nominees to form the Executive have been announced by Brent Council as "New Lead Members". Note that I have been given the Environment portfolio.

Harlesden Road Planning Application

Now that I am off the Planning Committee,I have got more freedom to comment on applications in the ward. As it happens, Network Housing are putting forward an interesting application at the bottom of Harlesden Road.

Brent Council has a detailed set of information on each planning application in an easily searchable database. You can find out about the Network Housing application here, although this database is not as well known as it should be since the Planning Department's consultation letters don't flag the online facility. Now that we have a new administration, perhaps we can change that.

Anyway, I certainly welcome a development on this site, which has been vacant for ages. I did at one stage hope that they could do a land swap with Roundwood Youth Club, which lies just behind. That would give the Youth Club a much more prominent street frontage, whcih might make it better used. During the election, I found people even on the immediately surrounding streets like Drayton Road, Sellons Avenue, Radcliffe Avenue and so on who were not clear on where it was. However, I now doubt whether that will be possible.

The number of flats, 38, sounds fairly high, especially as some of them are three bedroom, but perhaps the details of the application will make it turn out okay.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Lexi Cinema in Roundwood Park

There will be an open air screening in Roundwood Park, thanks to the Lexi Cinema and Brent Council working together. Sounds a good idea. You can vote on which film gets screened here.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Poetry Workshops

I have had details of some Free Creative Poetry workshops. These are part of the Well London project, so I thought I would advertise them. they are:

At The Hub at All Souls: And at Harlesden Library Plus:

Women’s Poetry Group Poetry and Empowerment
Every 3rd Wednesday at 7 pm. Every 1st Friday at 4 pm.

21st April 2nd July
19th May 6th August
16th June 3rd September
21st July 1st October
18th August 5th November
15th September 3rd December
20th October
17th November
15th December

Some workshops have guest speakers and artists, look out for ads in the library. Plus summer festival participation at Pocket Park in Tubbs Road in August and winter bazaar and performance on the 15. December group

workshops facilitated by award-winning poet Ursula Troche
plus guest workshops tbc

for more information contact Ursula:
on 07896 366 485

New Links

Have added two new links. One is Harlesden Gallery. This is a link to promote artists in the NW10 area. The second is Harlesden Life, a link between everybody around Harlesden Town Centre.

Why Does Sarah Teather have Short Coatails?

Looking at the three MPs elected in brent, I see that there seems to be an important difference between the Labour ones and Sarah Teather. Both Barry Gardiner and Glenda Jackson managed to bring victory to Labour Council candidates standing on the same day. Sarah Teather did not.

Why is that? I can think of two possible explanations. One is that the Liberal Democrats do not have an image as a party in the same way as the Labour Party does. People who voted for Barry or Glenda saw them as being on the same team as the Council candidates, so the Council candidates got some of the reflected glory or the MPs. Sarah Teather image has always been more about promoting Sarah Teather as a person.

Alternatively, it might be a deliberate choice by Sarah Teather. Whereas Barry and Glenda appeared alongside their party colleagues, reference to the Liberal Democrat councillors in Teather's literature was extremely muted. Probably she didn't want to be tarnished by their record in control of the Council. The end result was probabl;y that they ended up working hard to get votes for her, whilst she avoided supporting them beyond the minimum.

No woman hath greater love than this: that she should lay down her friends for her life.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Kensal Green Election Result

Looking over the election results in Kensal Green, they still seem pretty random. Even the counting staff on the night remarked how strange some of the split voting seemed. Along with many other wards, the results in Kensal Green showed more voters splitting their votes than voted for a straight ticket for any single party. The full Kensal Green result is here.

I am struck at how scattered our result was as Labour candidates, with Claudia 448 votes ahead of Bobby. I can't think of any reason for this except our place in the alphabet. The Liberal Democrats had a different pattern with Deborah Sutherland, last in the alphabet but the only one to actually live in the ward, topping their ticket 154 votes ahead of their bottom candidate Robin Pagnamenta.

However, the Tories had the strangest results. Nana Green was top with 760 votes, 244 votes ahead of Peter Osuhon, their bottom candidate. Nana's gap with Peter is equivalent to a third of her total vote. It may be that, like Deborah, she lives in the ward. again, it may be that she comes first alphabetically. I even think that her surname may have confused some voters into voting for her because they thought she was the Green candidate.

It is even odder as I have seen a Tory leaflet that mentioned Peter Osuhon, but made no reference to anyone else. Strange for the Tory party to sanction a leaflet without mentioning the other two, especially as the Tory Agent was Nana's mother! Perhaps the more the voters hear about you, the less they are likely to vote for you.

Again, there may have been something odd going on with Bertha Joseph. She is reported to still be a member of the Conservative Party despite standing against three Conservative candidates. If a Labour Party member stands against a Labour candidate, they aren't quite put in a hollow square to have all their buttons snipped off, but they do get expelled for five years. Perhaps there is some deep rift within the Conservative Party in Brent. Or perhaps not. I don't know, and I don't much care.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Election Disappointments

I saw the front page of the Camden New Journal had a photo of the Hampstead and Kilburn candidates. I don't envy either Ed Fordham or Chris Philp their positions. To lose out so narrowly must be gut wrenching. Particularly for Ed I imagine.

He first moved to Camden shortly before the 2005 election, and since then has dedicated himself to getting a political position. As Glenda's election Agent, I had a hand in keeping him in third place in the 2005 result, and he had more disappointment when he lost the Council seat of Hampstead Town. Now after years of dedicated grind, he finds himself once again in third place.

Like some of the Brent Liberal Democrat Council candidates, he must be wondering if Sarah Teather had pulled in less resource from his campaign into hers, would he have been elected? We shall never know, but the CNJ photograph showed his feelings well enough.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Lib Dem Posters

Here is a Liberal Democrat board from the election, which I found in Herbert Gardens in Kensal Green. If you look, you will see they have simply attached it to an existing estate agent's stake. I have come across a number of cases where the people living at properities deny knowledge of who gave the Lib Dems permission to erect stakes there. Don't always assume that the people who a Liberal Democrat garden stake actually support the Liberal Democrats.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Remapping Brent Politics

My colleague Cllr Krupesh Hirani points out how dramatically the political map of Brent has now changed. You can see the new map here.

SNT Base on Station Road

Went to the official opening of the Station Road SNT Base in Station Road. Yes the one that actually opened back in January. It has got an extraordinary number of stairs inside, as well as both the Kensal Green and Harlesden Safer Neighbourhood Teams. It also has a front desk in place, even though it is not open. I asked the Borough Commander about whether this would be opened. he seemed quite non-commital. I suspect that the police want to minimise the use of the front desk, so that they can maximise the use of officers on the streets. However, there is no doubt that many members of the public would like to be able to walk in and speak to a police officer.

Oddly, the Harlesden Town Centre Team is still based over in Craven Park Road at the old Police Station.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Diversity in Parliament

Ztoical says we should disregard race, sex etc. entirely when looking at Parliamanet. I can't entirely agree. Surely it shows something wrong with our political system if women and ethnic minorities are so poorly represented in the House of Commons? As I am sure no one thinks it is down to lack of ability, there must be informal barriers which are denying talanted people a place in the Commons.

The Labour Party has long taken that view. More recently, the Tories have been catching up thanks to couragous advocacy by among others John Major. The Lib Dems do not have a single non-white MP out of 57, and here in Brent they have only four non white councillors out of seventeen. Surely a progressive party would be looking long and hard at itself as to what is wrong, rather than just denying a problem?

Lib Dem / Tory Coalition

The forming of a Lib Dem / Tory administration at Westminster will come as a tremendous shock despite its being predicted by myself and many others. On the doorstep, I have again and again come across people saying something like "I'll either vote Lib Dem or Labour. The one thing I don't want is the Tories." Now we find the Lib Dems putting the Tories into power, and even sitting alongside them in the Cabinet. How can our local Lib Dems face people after this?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Black MPs

Incidentally, isn't it sad that Dawn Butler's defeat means that Brent no longer has a black MP for the first time in more than twenty years?

Diversity in Brent Labour Group

I have been looking over the results of the election last Thursday, and one result is that Brent Labour Group is now 57% ethnic minority, which probably makes it the first political group in the country to have a non-white majority. It also has 40% women members, which isn't proportional but is certainly better than some places _ like the House of Commons for example.

There is quite a contrast with the other groups. The Tories, who have been reduced to six, have no female members at all. The Liberal Democrats have only four ethnic minority members, and only three women out of a group of seventeen.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Labour's London Triumph

Dave Hill reports on Labour's triumph across a range of London Boroughs last Thursday. I am still a bit discombobulated by it all, but it certainly seems as if there might be all to play for if there is an early General Election.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

BNP Beaten

Tory Troll points out the depth of the BNP humilation on Thursday here. It couldn't happen to a nastier party.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Post Election Blog

I got back home from the election count at midnight last night. Hence the lack of posts. Obviously, the defeat of Dawn Butler was pretty gut wrenching, and we now have the uncertainities of a hung Parliament. However, here in Brent we have taken back control of the Council, so I am excited about Labour forming a new administration, drawing up a new Corporate Strategy and so on. Hopefully we can inject a new dynamism in a Council that has lacked political leadership for so long.

The full Brent Council election results are on the Brent Council website.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Polling Day Blogging

Blogging here is likely to be extremely light over the next couple of days for obvious reasons. Hopefully, I being able to resume activities over the weekend.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Dawn Butler in Keir Hardie House

One last photo on the campaign before polling day tomorrow. Dawn Butler blitzing in Keir Hardie House in Harlesden. Never seen Sarah Teather there.

Polling Station Change

Only a day to go. If you live at the top of College Road (odd number side) you might want to note that your polling station is now St Mark's Church, not the Scout Hut. Still only a few minites walk though.

Dawn Butler Launching the Labour Friends of the Caribbean

Dawn Butler launching the Labour Friends of the Caribbean at the House of Commons. Last Dawn Butler photo before the election.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Dawn Butler at Jesus and Mary Girls School

Dawn Butler talking to girls at the Jesus and Mary School on Crownhill Road. In terms of local government boundaries, Jesus and Mary is actually in Kensal Green, not in Harlesden (Crownhill Road is the boundary).

Monday, 3 May 2010

Dawn Butler's Safer Stations Campaign

Safer Stations was one of Dawn's earliest campaigns. This is her presenting the petition at Downing Street. As a result of the campaign, Ken Livingstone gave a guarantee that all stations would be staffed and some extra Transport police teams were put on the London rail network.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Gordon Brown Keeping the UK Out of the Euro

Paul Krugman has an interesting commentary on the UK Economy here. It essentially argues that keeping the UK out of the Euro has crucially prevented us from being far more severely effected than we are.

A useful corrective to the criticisms of Gordon Brown's economic record.

Dawn Butler Promoting Neighbourhood Watch

Here is an image of Dawn Butler promoting Neighbourhood Watch in Harlesden High Street (which is mostly in my Kensal Green ward).

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Labour March

Just been through Wembley and Tokyngton on a pro-Labour march led by Dawn Butler, Barry Gardiner and the increasingly ubiquitious Paul Boateng. Good weather thank goodness and all very jolly.

Top Labour Pledges

A few days to go before the election, and here are some of Labour's topline pledges for Brent Council:

Repeal the £25 charge for bulky refuse collection.
Keep Council Tax levels at or below the London average and introduce a discount for those over 75 who are eligible
Introduce free parking for the first hour in council car parks to encourage local shopping for local people.
Rebuild our secondary schools and ensure that school facilities are fully available to the wider community, especially young people
Crack down on crime and anti social behavior
Introduce a Green Charter in consultation with local residents and other stakeholders

As well as:

Introducing 20 mph speed restrictions in areas where residents' want them.
Introducing fairer care charges for elderly and disabled people.
Making Brent a Fairtrade borough.
Provide a multi use games area in every suitable open space.
Provide a safer environment for our young people.
Work with other local authorities and central government to change legislation to allow the Council to restrict the growth of betting shops in town centres and fast food outlets near schools

With Gordon Brown

Here is a picture of me with Gordon Brown when he was still Chancellor. I remember this being taken at a standard photo op with a long line of MPs waiting for their turn with the Chancellor. With her inimitable style Dawn took myself and Bill Brown along to be photographed ignoring the dirty looks she got from the dozen of so Labour MPs in the queue behind.