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Friday, 31 December 2010

Brent Cemetaries

This rural field is in Brent, sort of.  It is actually part of the Carpenders Park Cemetary in Hertfordshire, which is our main open cemetary.  We will be developing a long term cemetaries strategy during the second half of next year.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Gladstone Park Allotments

Brent Council have no capital allocation for creating allotments so planning gain is probably the only realistic route for an expansion of allotment places.  The only possible site on the horizon at the moment is in Gladstone Park, close to Campbell Gordon Way.

The site in Gladstone Park is currently some derelict sports facilities. They originally belonged to a school, but the school was closed twenty years ago, back when projections suggested that London's population was falling. The sports facilities were kept but not maintained. Hence, the abandoned cricket nets disfiguring that part of Gladstone Park, as well as the astroturf pitch too close to housing to be used.

Allotments would make much better sense.


Responding to David below. The stroturf pitch has been extensively vandalised, and is too near to housing to be useable at night (according to modern standards).  I understand no one has used the pitch for at least eight years.  It is being turned back into grass.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Boris on the Buses

Tory Troll explains Boris Johnson's continued war on bus passengers here.  What is curious is that Johnson still retains an image of being vaguely green at the same time as favouring the growth of motoring, the most unsustainable form of transport possible.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Harlesden Town Centre Makeover

I understand that Brent Council have now had Transport for London funding confirmed for the makeover of Harlesden Town Centre.  The total amount will be something like £3 million for the redisgning of the public realm including possible traffic measures.  Well done to the officers of Brent Transport Department for having gained such a sum at a time when most budgets are being cut back.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Con Dem Government Weakness

I see that our Con Dem government has pulled back from abolishing the Bookstart programme, only a short time after pulling back on proposed cuts to school sports. 

In itself good news, but it does suggest that Philip Pullman is right in saying that the government is making proposals that are ill considered to begin with, and that it doesn't have the courage to back those proposals against serious opposition.  Such an approach guarentees maximum embarressment, rather like John Major's appraoch to defending Cabinet Ministers who were being pressed to resign.  He would back them for months only to see them resign eventually. The media started to doubt his credibility and therefore subjected each minister to a prolonged campaign on the grounds that it would eventually get him.  The present Con Dem government risks a similar lack of respect.  Not least because the Telegraph has been publishing these stories that even government minister (e.g. Vince Cable) don't believe in their own government.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Fabric of a Nation

Finally got to see the Fabric of a Nation exhibition at the Willesden Green Library Centre, and I recommend it, particularly if you are not Ghanian.  I doubt whether the Grange Musuem is open today, but the exhibition still has some time to run.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Osborne on Ireland

Via Paul Krugman, I notice this article by George Osborne arguing that his economic policy will make us more like Ireland.  It was originally published in early 2006, but the prediction of an Irish Future seems to be getting closer every day.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Tubbs Road Park Opening

This rather splendid cake comes from the opening of Tubbs Road Park in its revivified form.  The cake disappeared during the afternoon, but the park remains.  In the Spring there will be additional planting, and a higher fence will be installed at the front.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA)

Seema Malhotra has unearthed some interesting stuff about the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) here. Quoting the IFS, she suggests it particularly helps ethnic minorities from poor backgrounds.  As far as I can see the Con Dem government is proposing to abolish it without replacement, which gives you an idea of how far improving educational attainment comes on their list of priorities.  The only alternative that I have seen Michael Gove suggest is that individual schools set up a hardship fund paid for out of their core funding.  This doesn't sound like an adequate substitute.  It also sounds like a way to divert "pupil premium" from funding education directly to other uses, casting doubt on whether Sarah Teather's claims to be increasing funding are in fact true.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A Coalition of Choice

Steve Richards suggests here that the alliance between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives was not quite the forced arrangement the likes of Sarah Teather would have us believe.  He thinks that the "Orange Book" liberals took over the negotiations and that the resulting combination, mad attack on public services and all, is their ideological choice.

Monday, 20 December 2010

No Post in the Post Box

Here is a post box I saw recently. Why would someone set up a post box with that message on it. Is it post modern art?

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Tyres and Pollution

Environmental Protection UK has an interesting report on the use of tyres to reduce pollution and noise in government car fleets. Something that any organisation with a large vehicle fleet should think about.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Well London

I am sorry that the Well London project will be winding up in March. It has done a lot for the Kensal Green area, especially the Tubbs Road Pocket Park. What is wasteful about these temporary projects is the whole temporary, bidding process involved. It takes a long time to get to know an area like this, and now that Well London have gotten to know it all that painfully acquired knowledge is going to be dispersed.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Blogs and Libel

Sense about Science has a guide for bloggers who face legal threats here.  I had an issue of this sort with Atiq Malik, although I don't believe his threat of legal action was a serious one.  When I started this blog I also had a problem with a number of comments posted anonymously carrying what I took to be libelous or sometimes just nasty remarks about individuals.  Although they claimed to be from several different authors, I suspect they were actually posted by two rather sad individuals.  Happily, both of them have ceased to post, but that is the reason that I always moderate the comments rather than allow instant publication.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Blue Mountain Display

One of the issues that has come up around Harlesden Town Centre is pavement displays.  Brent's licensing people are keen for better demarcation, as currently some of the displays spill on to the pavement, often with litter problems.  This could be done by painting the edges of the private forecourts, or (in the longer term) useing pavement studs. 

However, there is an argument that shops spilling on to the pavements can be good.  For instance, the fruit and veg display outside Blue Mountain in Craven Park Road could be said to add to the feel of the place.  A similar argument could be made for the little shopping parade outside the Gracelands Cafe opposite the Island pub. 

What do people think?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Buggies Off the Bus

I understand that the problem I predicted with buggies in the new double deckers on the Number 18 is coming to pass. What makes it worse is when a bus stops part way along the route. The mother concerned has to wait for several more buses because the only buggy space is occupied. Thanks Boris.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Ireland and Brent

The Irish turmoil is obviously a tragedy for the Irish people, but will it also have an impact in Brent?  When I first moved here in the late nineties, there was still a substantial Irish population of people who had come to London for work.  The Celtic Tiger years saw those people disappear as more work was to be found in Dublin.  I assume the unemployment in Ireland will see many more people come over here, looking for jobs and housing and we will need to cope with the influx.  It may also affect the funding of the Brent Irish Advice Service, which partly comes from Dublin.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Ward Working and St Marks

The Kensal Green councillors have agreed to use seven thousand pounds of their ward working money to contribute to the redevelopment of St Mark's Church Hall.  Most of the funding comes from the Church and its own fund raising, but this should allow the work to begin after Christmas.  Full details can be found on the St Mark's Church website.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Library Call In

The call in of the library report turned out to be something of a damp squib on Thursday.  With the exception of Paul Lorber, none of the people who signed the call in turned up to ask anything about.  The main points that he made were already in the strategy, so it really was not a good use of time.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Lib Dem Hypocrisy

A Liberal Democrat MP told me that he didn't want to sign the tuition fees pledge, but the party headquarters actively pressured him to do so, so he did.  I thought this an extraordinary confession.  Even though Nick Clegg had doubts about the policy, he pushed all his MPs and himself to sign the pledge.  He then made it one of the central planks of his campaign to oppose a rise in tuition fees.  The other feature of his campaign was the importance of trust and not breaking your promises.  He gets into office and does precisely that.  It really makes you wonder about his honesty, but also his political competence.  How could he not foresee the kind of difficulty he would get into?

Policing the Protest

Here is a photo of the police in Parliament Square that I took before the violence got underway.  What kind of a government needs this kind of military  operation to protect itself from its own voters?

Tubbs Road Pocket Park Officially Opened

Today, Tubbs Road Pocket Park is having its official opening, from about 2pm to 4pm in the park itself.  I am immensely relived that this project got through despite Sarah Teather cancelling the rest of the PlayBuilder programme that part paid for it.

Friday, 10 December 2010

ACME Studios Open Day

Tomorrow the ACME studios development on Harrow Road is having an open afternoon to be followed by a similar event on Sunday.  I will be going to the official opening of Tubbs Road pocket park, but I am sure the artists would welcome as many poeople as possible.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Roundwood Youth Centre

It looks as if Roundwood Youthb Centre will have the last Labour government's grant unfrozen and therefore be able to go ahead with the planned rebuild.  However, I am not yet sure whether the full grant will be given, or whether the details will show a cut.

Brent FoE and Emissions Based Parking

An anonymous commenter, who sounds as if they are from Brent Friends of the Earth, claims I was selective in quoting from their response to the Council consultation on emissions based based parking permits, so perhaps I should go through it in greater detail.

The Brent FoE response conceeds the principle of the scheme is good, but proceeds to make various objections that are politically and financially unrealistic and would effectively debar the Council from implementing the scheme at all.

The statement that really stands out is: "It is also the case that the scheme will have no effect whatsoever in the large proportion of the borough not covered by Controlled Parking Zones, as it only applies to CPZ schemes."  Obviously, the Council cannot not ask for a CPZ fee in areas that have not asked for a CPZ.  CPZs have always only been implemented with the consent of residents in Brent.  Areas which have them have opted to pay a fee in return for residents being given privileged parking rights over people from outside.  To impose fees on the whole Borough would destroy public consent by charging people who don't regard themselves as getting a commensurate beenfit in exchange. 

They also complain that it applies only to on street parking.  Indeed so, but the Council has no legal (or many would say moral) rights to charge people a fee for parking on their own properties.  Councils can restrict parking rights for private property through the control of crossover permissions, and in fact Brent has tightened its policies in this regard, but Brent Friends of the Earth seem to be demanding that the Council do something outside its legal powers.

Brent FoE also suggest that it is "unfair that only householders who presently have cars will be rewarded, rather than those who already use only public transport or bicycles."  I find it hard to work out what is envisaged here.  The Council offer is to people who give up their permits for a set period.  How would you extend the offer to people without permits to give up?  Is it being suggested that a payment be made to everyone?  If so, in what way does it incentivise behaviour. 

They are also objecting to the speed of implementation, and want a longer consultation period.  The proposals were decided by the Executive in August 2010, and, if passed, should come into effect in April 2011.  That is the best part of a year.   Personally, I am quite frustrated that things take so long to implement.  The FoE response also makes the entirely incorrect point that "Bringing the new scheme in very quickly (implementation next April), means that very few people are likely to be influenced by the incentives it puts forward." Surely, the longer you delay the introduction of the policy, the longer it will be before anyone can claim a benefit, and therefore the more you delay any influence it has.  As far as I can work out, whoever wrote the FoE response thinks that you can only claim the incentive in the run up to implementation (say 1 April) and not thereafter.  In fact, you would be able to claim the incentive on the day of implementation or at any time thereafter.

There is also some stuff about buying and selling cars, suggesting that buying newer, less polluting cars is has a higher lifecycle cost.  I don't believe that there is any evidence for that, but in any case the parking permit is a very small component in the cost of motoring.  The effect of the policy is likely to be more on people buying a car anyway, especially a highly polluting second hand car.

Finally, Brent FoE have the chutzpah to suggest that the scheme should be part of "an overall plan which makes it much easier to use other forms of transport," as if it were not already.  Of course, Brent Council, like every other local authority, has a range of policies and schemes in place to manage traffic issues.  These including pro active measures like cycle training, planning policies and fees and charges.  The fact that Brent FoE fail to understand this further diminishes their already dwindling credibility as an environmentalist group.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


Yesterday, I went to the Inns of Court for the launch of a book of cartoons on planning issues called Plandemonium.  I recommend it to anyone who likes jokes about Local Development Frameworks. 

Sarah Teather on Her Way Out

Sarah Teather was door stepped by Sky TV about tuition fees.  She refused to answer questions about tuition fees.  Asked why she wouldn't answer she explained: "I'm on my way out."


Furness Road Water Leak

There is a water leak on Furness Road just outside the pocket park, particularly bad in this time of freezing weather.  I reported it yesterday, only to find someone had been ahead of me;  reporting it at 2.05am.  I am intrigued to know what this civic minded person was doing at 2.05am.

St Mungos in Pound Lane

A while ago I went to an event in the St Mungos facility in Pound Lane.  Everyone was very gloomy about the forthcoming disaster caused by the Con Dem government's changes to housing benefit.  The changes have been sold by using atypical examples of unemployed families in central London claiming large sums, but most of the people hit by the cuts will be low paid workers claiming much more modest amounts.

However, touring the actual facility in Pound Lane was inspiring.  It cost more than £9 million, and arranges a gradual progression for homeless people towards independent living.  the idea is to reverse the kind of "revolving door" that emergency only support gives.  It is of course probably more cost effective in the long run, but also just the kind of thing the present government is likely to cut.

The centre at 115 Pound Lane is open to the public.  They have a cafe, meeting rooms and a computer room so it is worth going in just to have a look.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

BFOE and Emissions Based Parking

Brent Friends of the Earth continue their decidly peculiar brand of environmental campaigning with a submission on our Emissions Based Parking Permit proposals.  For a supposedly environmental group, it is staggerly lukewarm and grudging.  It states that "we are not opposed to the principle of emissions based parking permits."

Not exactly leading the charge on Climate Change, are they?

I think I will do a further post on their ill considered and unrealistic objections at a later date.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Teather's Broken Manifesto Promise on Schools

When Sarah Teather and her boss Michael Gove decided to abolish the Building Schools for the Future programme, they defended by saying there was not enough money to pay for the new schools. The promises put out in the run up to the election were a little different.
What the Brent Liberal Democrats said in their 2010 manifesto was:

"Brent has now been admitted to the Building Schools for the Future scheme (something the previous Labour administration failed to achieve). This will fund major works at Queens Park Community, Alperton, Copland and Cardinal Hinsley schools."

Did the Brent Liberal Democrats not consult their MP before publishing the manifesto? Did she care so little about education in her constituency that she didn't bother to ask them what their plans were? Or is this yet another case of a broken Liberal Democrat promise?


Responding to the anonymous commenter below.  Sarah Teather Con Dem coalition have cancelled £85 million of Building Schools for the Future money that had been allocated to Brent.  She now claims that money was not there, even though it was promised in the Brent Liberal Democrat manifesto.  The Crest Academies bid was well under way when Labour lost power.  The only thing we have to be grateful towards Sarah Teather when it comes to the Crest Academies is that she managed NOT to close that programme.  Not closing even secondary school building programme in Brent (only some of them) is not much of a boast.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Public Sector Waste

Patrick Butler has an excellent rejoinder to all those "waste" stories about public services.  These stories are promulgated by (a) journalists looking for a quick and easy story, and (b) rightwing ideologues trying to vilify any form of public spending by pretending it does nothing.  This then sets up an atmosphere where massive cuts can be pushed through to shrink the state.  Brent Liberal Democrats have been playing this game for years, and will no doubt continue to do so, but is it not odd that the private bankers whose incompetence and greed almost destroyed the world economy are allowed to get away without scrutiny?

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Harlesden City Challenge Grottiness

This is the kind of grottiness, I hope Harlesden Town Centre will be able to avoid in future. The peculiar design of the street has led to it being poorly maintained. Indeed, I understand that it is often used as an exemplar of what not to do in urban design.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Carbon Tax

One of the hidden charges to local government is a new carbon tax of £12 for each ton of carbon dioxide emissions. For Brent this adds up to almost half a million pounds. The anomaly is that it is charged to those authorities that monitor their carbon emissions, i.e. those who are keener on reducing emissions.

Times Article

I gather I have had an article published in The Times on compulsory recycling, although as they have a paywall I can't link to it.  Still, one can always buy a copy.

Kensal Rise Library

I went to the Friends of Kensal Rise Library yesterday.  The numbers present certainly demonstrated the level of concern.

It was decided to form a committee to see how the library could be kept open.  I have already told Mr Butcher that I am happy for officers to meet with them to go through the practicalities of any scheme.  I think that a successful solution would need:

a) The permission of All Souls.  As they have a covenant giving the library back to them if it ceased to be a library, their permission would be crucial.
b) A clear concept of what the building is for.  I am a little worried that many of the people there want to continue with a standard library, which I don't think will work.  Inm my opinion, there needs to be maximum flexibility in how to uise the space in order to draw in partners.
c) Funding, both capital and revenue.

This is obviously a big task, but it might be doable.

There were also some misconceptions that need to be cleared up:

i)  The Council does not have an enormous pot of money to be made available after agitation.  Central government have cut Brent's grant to a greater extent than at any time in the past.
ii)  It was suggested that Brent was the only Borough in London proposing library closures.  In fact a number of closures are mooted in Camden, Lewisham and I believe elsewhere.
iii) It was suggested that reducing library opening hours by 40% would allow all twelve to be retained.  Whereas cutting hours by 40% would save a similar level of revenue, it would not generate any capital receipt for improvements.  It would lead to a much larger number of redundancies among staff, a massive fall in book borrowing and a massive fall in visitors.  In other words, it would make all our libraries unsuccessful.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Are we in this together?

The Guardian carries the story that the government cuts have been skewed to hit the most deprived (generally Labour) authorities hardest, and the more prosperous (generally Tory) less.  It is even suggested that some authorities, like Tunbridge Wells, will be given substantial rises at the same time as others are struggling to balance their budgets.

Kensal Green Tube

In the Summer, I mentioned the terrible looking state of the "green" space by Kensal Green Tube Station.  This is not actually a public park but an area of land owned by Network Rail.  The land was desolated after contractor put heavy machinery and materials on it whilst they were working on the bridge over the rail line.  The contractor is obilged to put it back into its prior state at their own expense.  Currently they seem to have compacted the earth and put so much gravel in that the plants cannot grow, but I understand we are still chasing them to get the area landscaped properly.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Harlesden High Street Bottle Bank

I am glad to see that the bringbank outside 139 High Street Harlesden has finally been cleared after weeks of overflowing.  Hopefully, the glitch in it being collected will not recur, and (if there is contamination) it will be emptied in due time.

Brent Library Consultation Launched

Brent Council has now officially launched its library consultation.  You can access it here.  Note that the first consultation meeting is tonight at the Willesden Green Library Centre, although there will be plenty of other opportunities at the Area Consultative Forums.