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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Lib Dems and Tuition Fees

Left Foot Forward has more on Liberal Democrat twisting on tuition fees here.  Vince Cable's admission that he only made the promise because he never expected to be in government strikes me as especially absurd.  How can he expect anyone to trust him?

Gritting the Roads

All the major road network has been gritted to cope with the snow, and the gritters will be out again this afternoon as freezing temperatures continue.

Teather Charges the Kiddies

Sarah Teather's pledge for increased charging families using Sure Start has not had the attention it deserves.  As usual, making parents pay more was not an objective she proclaimed before the election, but I was also struck at the anti-localism element.  Whilst claiming to promote local decision making, Teather wants more "payment by results".  Money would be witheld from Councils or other organisations that cannot demonstrate that they have turned the lives of children around.  That sounds awfully like the invention of a centralised bureaucratic testing regime of the kind that this Con Dem government claims to be against.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Emissions Based Parking Permits: an Islington Comparison

Following the Liberal Democrat u-turn on emission based parking permits, I thought it would be interesting to compare our proposals to the system introduced in Liberal Democrat run Islington in 2007. Islington is also an authority that retained free collection for bulky items at a time when our Liberal Democrats introduced the £25 charge.

The Islington charge levels can be found here. Like us, they have a seven band structure based on DVLA criteria with electric vehicles free and top rate polluters paying £200. Exactly what the Liberal Democrats here are now protesting so hard against.

I notice that the Islington Liberal Democrats have in the past also boasted about the effectiveness of their car club offer. One of the key strands in our proposals is to promote car clubs by allowing them to park in CPZ areas.

Perhaps we could persuade the Islington Lib Dems to do a house swap with their Brent counterparts, and get a cross party consensus on the issue?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Waste Down in West London

Household waste in West London continues to go down.  This is beneficial financially, but I would feel happier if I understood the reasons behind it.  Partly, it is linked to the poor economic performance of the UK, which leads to less waste being produced.  However, it would be good if we could track better whether any of our reducing waste projects are actually having a measurable effect.

Call Ins by the Lib Dems

There has been a slight delay to several of the reports at the previous Executive covering: Libraries, waste management, street cleaning, building round Elms Garden and the Taxicard scheme.  This is because five of the Liberal Democrat councillors signed a "call in".  This delays the report until a Scrutiny Committee has a chance to look at it.  I noticed for the first time that the Lib Dems appear to have developed a pro forma form for call ins, so their members don't even have to write them.  That is perhaps as well since they seemed badly demoralised at the Council meeting on Monday.  Only nine of their seventeen councillors managed to stay to the end of the meeting.  What puzzles me is why they continue to tolerate the egregious Paul Lorber, when he has led them into this hole.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Catalyst Development at Harrow Road NW10

I didn't report any more on the flats and studios at Plough Close on the Harrow Road that I visited some time ago.

The site is on the boundary of Brent and Hammersmith & Fulham, so that the Borough boundary actually runs along the back garden fence of the block facing Harrow Road. This meant that the same development had to apply for permission from both Brent and Hammersmith & Fulham. To make matters worse, Catalyst (the Housing Association that led the development) bought the land in 2005. In 2006, the administration in both Boroughs changed, with the HF side changing their planning policy quite drastically from one which only accepted the loss of employment land in return for 100% affordable housing to one that insisted on shared ownership for affordable housing. This was a particularly bad time for shared ownership as the housing market tanked so it has ended up being 100% affordable rented housing after all.

Firstly, it strikes me as remarkable that the development happened at all. It illustrates the unnecessary difficulties created by our illogical Borough boundaries that I have blogged on in the past. Secondly, there is quite a contrast with the Tories in Hammersmith, who appear to have bent their planning policy for ideological reasons, and our own Tories, who disagreed with most of our planning policy, but lacked the intellectual wherewithal to change it.

Bus Stops in High Street Harlesden

One of the many issues that came up in the Town Team visit to Walworth Road was bus stops. Generally bus stops are in lay bys, but the Walworth Road scheme has them flush with the street forcing cars behind to wait whilst people get off and on. Not sure how popular that would be in Harlesden Town Centre, but possibly more so than the current arrangement (pictured) at the Park Parade bus stop in High Street Harlesdeen. There is actually a build out into the road for the bus stop.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Walworth Road Reservation

One of the features of Walworth Road that I am less keen on copying in Harlesden is the reservation above. The idea behind it is to help make the street feel safer for pedestrians to cross. I don't think it would work in Harlesden High Street as our street is much narrower.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Wendover Road Car Park

I occasionally get asked about the possibility of turning the Wendover Road car Park (by the Post Office) into a multi-storey car park. I am not sure where this notion originated, but it seems unlikely to me. Aside from any other planning issues, such as the likely increase in traffic congestion, the existing car park has a very small area. By the time you had constructed a ramp in and a ramp out with associated turning space, you would have very little room for the cars to park in.

Refuse Markers

Visiting The Cut, I saw that they had markers in the pavement like the one above. The idea is that people put there waste in that specific spot for collection, giving a tidier appearence than the current ad hoc arrangements that we have in Harlesden High Street. I think this could be a very good idea for those residents of the High Street who livew above the shops.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Reckless Management

I notice that one of the Conservative MPs offering George Osbourne advice in the recent Commons debate on the Irish bail out was one Mark Reckless.  Let us hope he does not live up to his name.  He was previously noted for voting through the Budget whilst drunk.

Ireland, Iceland and Osborne

Paul Krugman makes a comparison between Ireland and Iceland that should give George Osborne food for thought.

What will Brent Council Collect for Free?

Now that the Liberal Democrats' £25 charge has been abolished, I thought it would be good to flag up what you can get collected. It is all listed on the Brent Council web site here. Basically, any sort of bulky household items. If you leave items out in the rain, it is best to cover them so that their potential for re-use is maximised.

Drainage in Harlesden High Street

One of the things that could be improved in Harlesden Town Centre is the drainage. Among other things, the current build outs trap rainwater in the loading bays. They were not designed to do this as they have drain pipes. Unfortunately, the design of the drain pipes is very hard to clean, and therefore they have become blocked up over time.

I did also wonder about the use of permable paving to help drain the area more quickly. The kind of thing I am thinking of is often used where a parking space has been created in front of a house. I imagine it is more expensive than ordinary paving, but it might be effective. Does anyone know of any public schemes that use it?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Service Station Planning Appeal

The long running saga of the old service station site in Harlesden High Street continues.  The Appeal Inspector has upheld the Council's decision to refuse permission to build flats there.  Reasons for refusal relate the effect on residents of Rucklidge Avenue, 139 High Street Harlesden and the poor amenity space for the intended residents.

More on Lib Dem Hypocrisy

This is the not very impressive leaflet the Liberal Democrats have been putting out about our emissions based parking permit proposals. Despite having advocated a similar scheme themselves, they have come out against ours (rather shredding their environmentalist credentials in the process).

The photo shows the roll of dishonour of Liberal Democrats opposing our proposals as: (left to right) Cllr Paul Lorber, Cllr Barry Cheeseman, Cllr Jack Beck, Cllr Daniel Brown, former councillor Emily Lawson-Tancred, Cllr James Allee, former councillor Bob Wharton, and Cllr Mark Cummins.

Incidentally, the photo in the bottom half shows two of my opponents from May continuing as Liberal Democrat supporters, although Robin Pagnamenta seema to have quietly dropped out.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Gladstone Park Cycling

I was asked some time ago why the bylaw against cycling in Gladstone Park does not apply in the morning. The exceedingly strange reason is apparently that in the 1940s there was a munitions factory at the bottom of the park and the workers were encouraged to cycle down to it, but expected to walk back in the afternoon. How very odd.

Streetwatchers Conference

Just been to the Brent Streetwatchers' Conference where I did a Q&A.  Lots of questions covering Streetcare, bin collections and planning but all very positive.

Free Swimming at Willesden Sports Centre

It is worth flagging up that some free swimming continues at Willesden Sports Centre despite central government cuts over the past few months. The surviving free swimming service is detailed here.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Street Furniture in Harlesden Town Centre

One of the lacks in Harlesden Town Centre is in street furniture, which is particularly important for older people. Above is a fairly good example of a bench that I photographed in The Cut. I understand that Harlesden Town Centre lost a lot of its street furniture because it was used by ne'erdowells. The above bench is obviously designed to discourage this.

Census Takers

I have been asked to publicise the recruitment of Census Collectors, who are the people who will go door-to-door to households who have not submitted their Census forms yet to offer assistance.  They are essential to an accurate census, and the census data is essential to securing funding for local services.  Most public services, including the Council and the NHS, use Census data as the basis for funding allocation from Central government.

Brent has had a long standing problem getting its population estimated accurately because of a high level of transience and diversity.  The best way to ensure that Brent gets an accurate count, with all the positive funding and planning implications that brings, is to do everything we can to fill the workforce with local knowledge, cultural sensitivity and diverse language skills. The only way we can influence this in the recruitment process is to encourage as many of our residents from all our various communities to apply for the roles.

There are roughly 190 posts available in Brent (the number recruited will depend on the overall mix of weekly hours that applicants request) and Capita are looking for 12 applicants to every post and will extend the deadline for those areas where numbers are short. This means they are looking for something of the order of 2200 applications across the Borough – no small task!

If we can fill these positions with individuals with good links with local communities, who have knowledge and understanding of some of the cultural barriers that may be present to filling in the Census, then we stand a much better chance of getting an accurate count of our population and their characteristics.

There is a short job description at the end of this post; further information can be found at

Census Collectors, Brent

Fixed Term Temporary, approximately 37, 25, or 15 Hours/Week

£10.42 p/hour plus completion bonus

There around 190 full-time equivalent Census Collectors are required across Brent. The role mainly requires going door-to-door to encourage households that have not yet submitted a completed 2011 Census form to do so, offering help as required, so knowledge of local communities and experience of working with them will be an asset. Getting your community counted in the Census will give them a stronger voice in the future.

The period of employment starts on either 21 March or 6 April 2011 and ends on 6 May 2011. Mostly the work will be when people are expected to be at home: 2pm to 9pm weekdays and 10am to 9pm at weekends, and at least 60% of you time must be worked at evenings and weekends.

Although you will apply to a role in a fairly localised area during the Census you may be required to work outside this area and do hours outside the normal times above as the operation requires, however you should not be asked to work outside of the Borough. For full details and information on these and other roles please go to

All application for these posts must be made online at Click on “Apply now” and then select “London” as a Region and “Brent” as an Area to bring up all the roles available in Brent; each Collector role has between 12 and 15 full-time equivalent positions to be filled.

Closing Date 13/12/2010

Saturday, 20 November 2010

New West London Waste Web Site

The West London Waste Authority has a new, much more user friendly, website launched today to coincide with the start of European Waste Reduction Week. 

Grey Corduroy Paving

One of the more controversal issues around the shared surface concept is the use of corduroy paving. Guide Dogs for the Blind actually sued Kensington and Chelsea over their use of this material in Exhibition Road. Various disabled groups are afraid that the lack of definition of the pavvement may damage road safety.
I took the above picture in Walworth Road, where you can see the corduroy paving borders the carriageway. Standing on it, I think it had a distinctive feel, so I would have thought a blind person would be able to work out what it was.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Cut: Bollards

The Cut had a kind of bollard that I haven't seen elsewhere (pictured above). I am not sure whether I prefer it to our more traditional bollards, but it would allow people to sit, which is one of the ways in which the High Street can be made friendlier for pedestrians.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Waste Management Milestone

In my annoyance at Cllr Lorber, I got distracted from reporting on the major milestone of the last Council Executive. The main one is the decision to go ahead with our new waste management arrangements to increase recycling across the Borough. This allows us to go ahead with the procurement of new bins and collection vehicles in order for a roll out later next year.

Liberal Democrat Hypocrisy on Brent Cross

Brent Liberal Democrats have shown characteristic chutzpah on the Brent Cross development. They attack Barnet Council for approving the development, and try to imply that Labour have not opposed it, despite Navin Shah's extensive campaigning on the issue.

In calling for cross party support, Cllr Jack Beck makes a curious omission _ Sarah Teather. Before the elction, Sarah Teather was happy to criticise everyone else for not opposing the scheme vigorously enough. As soon as the election was over, she lapsed into silence as Eric Pickles waived the scheme through without a second glance.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Library Transformation

I have had a lot of emails, especially about Kensal Rise Library, following a blog posting here. I think some people didn't understand that Monday's Executive decision was simply to put the proposals out for public consultation rather than to make the substantive decision. The consultation lasts until April, when the Executive will decide on what to do with the Library service. As with waste management, I will be going round the Area Consultative Forums, as well as three special library specific meetings in different parts of the Borough.

Harlesden Town Centre: Colour Scheme

Another consideration in Harlesden Town Centre's design is the colour scheme of the materials. At the moment this can appear to be rather ad hoc. I guess no one has really taken responsibility for it as a place, and therefore things have been replaced bit by bit. Above is an example I took of Walworth Road where the surfaces and street furniture are all on a grey/silver theme. In Brent, that kind of blister paving is usually beige, which doesn't seem particularly attractive.

Loading Bays in Harlesden High Street

This is a picture of a loading bay in Walworth Road. The concept is one of "shared surface". The bay is virtually flush with the road and the kerb is similarly sharply reduced. When the loading bay is in use, it is part of the carriageway effectively. When a vehicle is not using it, it becomes part of the pavement for pedestrian use. It was suggested on the site visit that for this approach to work in Harlesden, we would have to drastically improve traffic enforcement.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Harlesden Town Centre Build Outs

Both the schemes, I visited last Saturday had broadened their pavements to take up part of the carriageway. It looked to me as if that didn't do much for traffic flow in the case of Walworth Road, but Harlesden High Street is slightly different.
Here we have build outs like the above. I really can't think of much use for them as they are. If we took them away, we could either widen the road for more traffic, or widen the pavement to give more space to pedestrians.

Climate Change Steering Group

Yesterday saw the first meeting of Brent Council's new Climate Change Steering Group. This is a group of vartious businesses, public sector organisations and voluntary groups in the Borough. It is chaired by me and serviced by Brent Council officers. The idea is to help steer the Borough as a whole to meet the challenges around climate change, both in terms of reducing carbon emissions and in mitigating the effects.

Paul Lorber: An Extraordinary Performance

Another extraordinary performance from Paul Lorber at last night's Executive. Having approved a scheme to dedesignate a derelict allotment site in Sudbury in order to build decant housing from the Barham development in May 2009, he turned up claiming to oppose his own decision. He also suggested that the housing could be built on a former service station by Thomas A Beckett Close instead.

I remember dealing with the planning application to build flats on this site in 2009. Among those opposing building on the site was local Sudbury Councillor, Paul Lorber.

He really doesn't seem to have any interest in consistency or relating what he says to the facts. Later in the Executive, he claimed that he had attended the consultation on our new waste management plans and that the plans for alternate weekly collections had not been mentioned. As the person who gave that presentation I had to flatly contradict him. But given he was there, and certainly most of the councillors in the room also attended these consulations and therefore knew that they described alternate weekly collections, what was the purpose of him claiming otherwise?

What mystifies me is why his fellow Liberal democrat councillors continue to want to be led by someone so devoid of credibility.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Underwater Photographs

Remarkable underwater photographs to be found here. Nothing particular to add about them. Just thought they looked extraordinary.

Rose Garden

I see that the Salaam restaurant in Harlesden High Street opposite Tubbs Road, which had a bailiff's notice on it recently is now trading as the Rose Garden. I wonder what is going on.

Transforming Harlesden Town Centre

On Saturday, I went on an interesting visit to Walworth Road and The Cut in South London, organised by the Harlesden Town Team. The idea was to get some suggestions for how Harlesden Town Centre could be changed over the next three years. Despite the current climate, we have a good chance of getting some money to do up Harlesden Town Centre in a way it hasn't been since the Harlesden City Challenge of almost twenty years ago.

One obvious question is whether we should have distinctive street furniture as we do at the moment. The two South London schemes certainly did, but the experience with the Harlesden City Challenge has been unhappy. The railings and streetlights are more expensive to maintain, and as a result they have not been looked after properly. There is also the issue of where does the Town Centre begin and end. Having distinctive street furniture only works if you can define the area properly, and at the moment Harlesden Town Centre is ill defined. For instance, we have distinctive streetlights etc. around the Jubilee Clock, but as soon as you go on to Wendover Road you get Brent's standard streetlights.

I will do a series of posts on this theme over the next few days.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Tubbs Road Pocket Park

Delighted to see that Tubbs Road Pocket Park is shaping up so well. Here is a photo I took yesterday. Unfortunately you can't see the wooden sculptures too well, but the overall shape of the park is emerging.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Emissions and Cardiac Arrest

Another link here about transport emissions and health problems. In this case particulates causing heart attacks. Local authorities have only very limited powers on this kind of thing, but I don't think that makes it a bad idea to pursue the emissions based parking permit policy that we have proposed

Bendies Off the Route 18

Today, the bendy buses get taken off the route 18 and replaced by double deckers at great expense. Let's hope there aren't lots of delays as well as extra expense.

Friday, 12 November 2010

CCTV in Brent

I went to the control room for Brent Council's CCTV in Brent House a few weeks ago. The technology is certainly impressive, and the staff very committed. The supervisor told me about an attempted rape that had been filmed. The attacker got away, but she thought that he looked like someone who knew the route. She watched more than 12 hours of footage and eventually identified someone who was subsequently convicted and jailed. Even a small number of reults like that are worth the expense in my opinion.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

New Primary School Places

I see Martin Francis continues to try to block investment in new primary school places in Brent. I really don't understand why. There is a pressing need for new places across the Borough, and not having a place for your child is a terrible position for both the parents and the child to be in. At the moment we have almost £15 million granted by the last government to provide new places. If we don't spend it by August 2011 it will be taken away by the Lib Dem / Tory coalition, and goodness knows if we will see any replacement for it. What on earth is the point of trying to wreck this desparately needed investment?


Martin Francis gives more detail on his position here.

Teather Clear as Mud on Tuition Fees

Sarah Teather is reported as being unclear on the tuition fees issue here. Her spokesperson is reported to have said that s/he had "no idea" what her position was. A bit of a change from her previous clarity on the subject.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Smashing Windows

I have heard a rumour that some of the students on the protest march today have smashed windows in the Conservative Party HQ. I am not clear whether this is part of the protest or merely an application to join the Bullingdon Club.

Seb Coe at Chalkhill Community Centre

Just been to an Inspiring Brent event with Seb Coe at the Chalkhill Community Centre. He went round some of the projects that are linked in with the Olympics, met the Young Ambassadors and then had questions from a number of children from Brent Schools. Earlier he went to see the temporary swimming pool at Chalkhill Primary School.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Why Emission Based Permits?

A commenter on a previous post asks for a rationale for the policy, so here it is.

Firstly, the environmental case. By linking CPZ payments to emssions levels, we are sending a signal to people to think about their emissions. Hopefully, this will help to reduce pollution. When we were discussing this pledge before the election, I think we were thinking mainly of carbon emissions, but the public consultation has drawn up a lot of concern on health grounds as well. High carbon emissions are a good proxy for other kinds of harmful emissions, like particulates, so the policy would be similar wherever you lay the emphasis, but the original intention was certainly about climate change.

The second aspect is why this level of charges? The level of charges was based on comparison with neighbouring authorities. Since, the vast majority of Brent's CPZs are in the east and south of the Borough, it made sense to compare with the authorities immediately neighbouring them. In doing so it is important to emphasise that most Brent drivers fall into bands 3, 4 and 5 (between £75 and £125 per annum). Camden currently charges between £84 and £164. Westminster has a few small cars paying £85, but most pay £125. Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea have a £99 flat rate, so the figures for the m,ost comparable authorities are fairly similar to us (although we don't know how long they will stay at that level).

Monday, 8 November 2010

Brent Council and the CSR: The Council Budget

Brent Council's budget is cut by 7.1% every year for the next four years in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). That is a total of about £65 million, the worst spending settlement for decades. At the moment, we still don't have precise figures but we can estimate headline numbers.

It looks like cuts in every department, including across environment and neighbourhood services. Capital spend in the Council as a whole goes down by about £66 million (a 45% cut). Transport spending, which is heavily reliant on TfL, is likely to see severe reductions. Non-statutory spending is likely to be hardest hit.

We are also likely to be forced to look again at ways to limit demand, although the effects of recession are likely to see increasing need in terms of homelessness, family breakdown and so on.

What is so depressing is that I suspect that this suffering is not only unecessary, but actively damaging. By taking an Irish style approach of cutting as much as possible as fast as possible, The Con Dem government is likely to damage economic growth and make the deficit worse.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Willesden Hippodrome

I have always been puzzled as to how the Job Centre on Harlesden High Street, and the DWP offices, above it got planning permission. Five stories is certainly out of scale with the rest of the street. I now think I know the answer. The site used to house the Willesden Hippodrome, a music hall erected in 1907 and destroyed by bomb damage in 1940. Still, I wish the block that replaced it had been rather less brutalist in construction.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Environment Retrospective

As it is now six months since the local elections, I thought I would look back on what has been achieved in the Environment portfolio. I would divide things into stuff that has happened as a result of Labour winning the election, stuff that would have happened anyway, and problems that needed to be sorted that the Lib Dems and Tories were ignoring.

The two big projects that are now underway are the waste management strategy and the emissions based parking permits. The Tories have shown complete hostility to the alternate weekly collections that are at the heart of the policy. The Liberal Democrats adopted the legal minimum target of 40% and made no effort during their time in office to raise the recycling rate beyond the current 28%. We are aiming at 60%, so I think that is a pretty big gap between the parties. This is a much bigger deal than our support for free bulky waste collections, and the Liberal Democrats' extraordinary support for keeping the £25 charge, although that got far more attention in the campaign. The emissions based parking permits are something the Liberal Democrats spoke about, but did not have the courage to deliver. Had they been re-elected, I suspect that would have continued being in favour in theory but not in practice. Now, of course, they are simply throwing rocks at a policy that most of them probably believe in. I also believe that the new administration has a much greater committment to becoming a FairTrade Borough, as 17 other London Boroughs already are. I hope shortly, that we will have another big project in further reducing carbon emissions.

On the stuff that would have happened anyway, the Local Development Framework Core Strategy has been passed. That unexciting sentence conceals the importance of getting it passed. The strategy significantly improves things like the environmental performance of new housing so it is very important in influencing the environmental performance of the Borough as a whole. I would also highlight the forthcoming Placemaking guide (formerly called the Urban Design Guide). I also suspect that, had they formed a majority, the Liberal Democrats would probably have voted through the Moving Traffic Offences that they supported in principle in 2009, but again did not have the courage to implement.

What I think of problems that need to be dealt with includes several planning matters that are coming up. The imminent demise of Dollis Hill House may be sad, but it will cease a drain on the Council in terms of both officer times and money. It will also end the blight on the "pleasure grounds" part of Gladstone Park. Forthcoming changes to the Planning Committee procedures should cut costs slightly, but also improve the amount of time given to genuinely strategic issues rather than lots of domestic extensions. Finally, I am hoping to agree some changes in planning enforcement to prevent overload which was a potential threat even before the new Con Dem government imposed its cuts, but which the previous administration ducked.

Of course, we have been doing all this at the same time as dealing with the Tory / Lib Dem government's in-year cuts and preparing for the worse local government settlement anyone can remember.

All in all, I think it is fair to say that there has been more progress over the past six months than during the whole of the previous Tory / Lib Dem administration.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Emissions Based Parking Permits

Brent Liberal Democrats continue their opposition to our proposals for emission based parking permits here. Personally, I think that Daniel Brown is leading Brent Liberal Democrat councillors out on a limb here and they will come to regret it. Not only are the Liberal Democrat councillors going back on their previous policy, they are also out of line with their colleagues elsewhere (like Richmond).

However, it is interesting that Sarah Teather herself is maintaining silence on the issue. Normally quick to jump on any populist bandwagon, she seems to be leaving this one well alone. Perhaps she has a better grasp of public opinion that Brent Lib Dems' Transport spokesman?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Re Use at Abbey Road

The tip at Abbey Road (The only one Brent has following Tory sell offs in the 1990s) has been started up as a re-use for furniture in the past few weeks. Such re-use sites are common in other parts of London, but the North West has always lagged behind. The idea is that a lot of furniture that people want to get rid of is still useable, and re-using them diverts them from landfill saving on disposal costs.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Paradox of Parking

Thinking back to my tour of Brent Council's Area Consultative Forums (ACFs), it was striking that there was more opposition to our emissions based parking permit proposals in the Wembley and Kingsbury Forums than in the south of the Borough. While I was presenting on the waste management strategy, someone else was doing a presentation on the parking stuff so I listened to it in each case. I guess people in the South are just more used to the whole idea of Controlled Parking Zones, and can see the benefits, whereas people in the North are still used to "free" parking.

What was also striking about it was the level of resentment towards any policy designed to curb car usage, combined with even more resentment of the high traffic levels in Brent. People were extremely critical of the likely traffic generation of the proposed new primary school at Preston Manor, or the existing parking problems caused by parents dropping off kids at the new ARK Academy, but just didn't seem to connect that with the idea of a need to find a way to discourage car use.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Direction in Transport Policy

Christian Wolmar has a lucid piece explaining the need for active promotion of sustainable transport here. Something of a rebuke to the philosophy behind the Brent Cross development.

Brent Council and the CSR: Education

I promised a series of posts on the CSR and Brent, and here is one on education.

Under the CSR we lose the Education Maintenance Allowance, which gives support to young people from poor families to help them stay in education. This will be cut. I gather there are about 4,000 Brent youngsters who will lose up to £1,100 a year. Despite Sarah Teather's promises, SureStart funding will be frozen for four years, i.e. a real terms cut.

Schools will see a 0.1% rise in funding each year, according to the government. The effect of Ms Teather's vaunted pupil premium is as yet unclear, but it is likely to lead to some kind of redistribution within the sector. It may also disguise some real cuts. For instance, the headteacher of Alperton Community School is quoted in the Willesden Times saying that she will be required to divert part of her "pupil premium" to create a "hardship fund" to replace the Education Maintenance Allowance, so even the 0.1% figure may not be a real rise.

Readers of previous entries will know that I have been particularly worried by the replacement to Building Schools for the Future which Teather & co. abolished earlier this year. Ms Teather promised that we could apply for a new Building Fund to replacethe money we had been awarded, but which she decided to take away from us. The CSR cuts education capital spend by 60%, so it looks as if any new fund won't have sufficent funding to replace the old one.

Non school funding is also being cut (by about 12%). This likely to affect things like support for disabled pupils, school meals and early years learning.

Finally adult learning gets a 25% cut. THis will probably lead to BACES charging people more for courses and greater diffculty in adults retraining for work e.g. help with English skills.

I do not recall Ms Teather setting out this agenda during the election campaign.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Junction Association award

Congratulations to the Junction Association on their award from the London Health Commission here.

Sarah Teather and Tuition Fees

I wonder how Sarah Teather is feeling about tuition fees these days. In her maiden speech back in 2003, she claimed to be firmly against. Her opposition continued in 2004. It was shared by her mentor Charles Kennedy that year, who she was subsequently to help oust from the Liberal Democrat leadership. She repeated the message before the General Election in 2005. As late as February this year, she was still giving people the impression that she opposed tuition fees.

I have contemplated putting together a list of the Liberal Democrat U-turns and broken promises in the same way I did for the Brent Liberal Democrats, but I am just not sure I could keep pace with their changes in policy.

More on Trip Hazards

As I frequently ask people to report broken paving and other trip hazards, I thought it might be useful to explain the intervention levels (i.e. when the Borough's engineers will repiar the problem).

Whether they do depends on the size/depth of the defect. They will repair 20mm or more defects shopping area footways, but 25mm or more elsewhere. Roadway potholes have to be at least 40mm before intervention.

The contractor should repair defects within 28 days in most cases, but has a 5 to 7 day period where the location makes them dangerous, and same day repair if it is a very dangerous case.

You can report defects on 89375050 or to An engineer should then confirm the reported defect within eight hours and issue an instruction to the contractor.