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Thursday, 31 May 2012

20mph Zone in Kensal Green

There is a consultation currently underway for a 20mph zone from Wrottesley Road extending northward past the Capital City Academy, Donnington Primary and Willesden Sports Centre right into the Dobree estate.  The road safety benefits of 20mph zones are well proven so I hope it gets through.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Caddy Liners in Brent

Brent Council will be distributing caddy liners for food waste as part of our efforts to improve the take up of the recycling services still more.  Recycling food waste not only lowers the cost of disposal, it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions from landfill, helping to limit climate change.

Infrastructure Investment

Not the Treasury View has what sounds like a sensible way to boost infrastructure investment while the construction industry is in the doldrums.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Former Kensal Rise Library

In the early hours of this morning, Council officers removed the contents of the former Kensal Rise library.  This is the last of the six libraries to be emptied.  The books and other equipment will be redistributed to Brent's six seven day a week libraries for use by Brent library users.

I notice that it is still being alleged that this affects the reverter.  In fact both Brent Council and All Souls College accept that the reverter was triggered some time ago.  This is an irreversible process that cannot be "frozen" or otherwise stayed.  The removal of the contents of the building has no bearing on the legal position.  This has been made clear to various campaigners repeatedly.  The action this morning was therefore simply the last stage in a process set in train by the Executive decision of April last year.

Cleared Land

I notice that what was overgrown land, and an attraction to flytippers, at the bottom of Robson Avenue has been cleared, but I am not sure what is being done with it.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Cameron's Failed Austerity

More on the Conservative's government's failed economic policy can be found here.  Of course, as well as creating a completely failed and actively counterproductive policy, neither the Conservative or the Liberal Democrats had any electoral mandate for it.

School Investment

I am glad to see that Alperton and Copland schools have been awarded money for much needed rebuilding.  Both of these were going to be part of the Building Schools for the Future programme, which was cancelled as part of the deal to give Sarah Teather ministerial office.  Unfortunately, Newman Catholic College and Queens Park Community School do not benefit from the award.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Arts Council and the Future of Libraries

Some days ago, I went to a Conference on the future of libraries.  Held in Swiss Cottage, it was part of a wider consultation by the Arts Council including comments on this blog.  I don't know whether that authors vision will hold true, but anyone interested in libraries should pay attention to this conversation.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Community Asset Transfer

Some of the complexities of transferring community assets have been studied by the LGiU, although the post is very short on detail around the procurement issues involved.

Green Man Given Planning Permission

The Green Man pub on Harlesden High Street was given planning permission for its restoration at the Planning Committee on Tuesday.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Beecroft Report

A fairly scathing attack on the Beecroft report can be found here.  That scrapping red tape is the government's only answer to the UK's economic woes is a testament to the Conservative Party's ideological rigidity.

More By elections?

My colleague Krupesh Hirani speculates that there may be a by election in Dudden Hill soon.  Cllr David Clues moved out of Brent some time ago but currently continues to retain his seat, presumably for the sake of keeping the allowance.  I have heard rumours another Liberal Democrat councillor, Cllr Simon Green, has also moved out of the Borough.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Exercise in Parks

There is funding to introduce exercise equipment in Brent Parks of the kind I mentioned a few days ago.  From the comments, I have since learnt about similar equipment at Pinemartin Close in Dollis Hill.  The new sites will still be subject to planning permission, but the identified new sites are:

Roe Green
Gladstone Park
King Edward VII Park, Wembley
Gibbons Recreation Ground
Tiverton Green

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Library Interim Arrangements

During last night's Executive, I mentioned the new interim arrangements for both the Kilburn and Willesden Green Library rebuilds. 

The nature of the interim arrangements at Willesden were a major concern at an earlier stage of the process. We are sticking to our view that location is of prime importance in terms of attracting people to the library.  Hence, we had already announced that we would be using the Grange Road office literally across the road.  We can now make public that we will also be using the Lewinson Centre, which is on Willesden High Road.  This should allow Willesden to have an interim service far superior to the one Harlesden Library had during its rebuild.

Of course, Willesden is also a short bus ride on the 206 from Kilburn Library.  Thus, Kilburn Library will be able to take people during the Willesden construction period, and Willesden will be able to accomodate former Kilburn users during the Kilburn refurbishment.  For study space, we will also be using the Granville Centre in South Kilburn during the Kilburn Library refurbishment.  This ties in well with our objective of reaching out to South Kilburn, which was one of the key justifications for choosing the Kilburn Library over the former libraries at Neasden and Preston.  Less conventionally, the Libraries team have organised a number of outreach events in the Salusbury Road area.  It will be interesting to see how effective they are.

Whilst we had to do some construction work at Kilburn in any case, the work in the Summer will be more extensive than cited in the report last April.  It includes replacing the electrics (allowing for more PCs), a new boiler (reducing carbon emissions), new flooring, and a complete redesign of the library area.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Animal Welfare in Brent

Tonight, we will be deciding on a report on dangerous animals on parks to give Brent Council a clearer policy on the subject.  Although this may seem somewhat obscure, it will give the Council an opportunity to make an explicit commitment to the principles of the 2006 Animal Welfare Act for the first time. The five freedoms in the Act are:

Freedom from thirst and hunger
Freedom from discomfort
Freedom from pain, injury and disease
Freedom from fear and distress
Freedom to behave normally

Leaflet Call In

The Thursday Call in on leafleting regulatins turned out to be something of a damp squib.  A number of people seemed to remain unaware that we have had similar rules since 1994, and that in some ways the new rules are a liberalisation (e.g. the new rules exempt "political purposes" not just "political parties").  The other key issue is enforcement.  Everyone agrees this has to be proportionate.  As there has been so little awareness of these rules over the past twenty years, I think it unlikely that we will suddenly get overzealous enforcement now.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Green Man Planning Application

From the site visit at the Green Man yesterday, I get a feeling that the various issues have now been resolved, and the application is likely to get approval.  This should contribute to improving the state of that end of Rucklidge Avenue.

Wrottesley Road Resurfacing

Between 30 May and the middle of June, Wrottesley Road will have some resurfacing work being done on the carriageway, which certainly needs it.  This is part of Brent Council's regular spend on maintaining the Boroughs roads and pavements.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Exercise Equipment in Parks

Passing by Swiss Cottage Library recently, I noticed this outdoor exercise equipment.  It is possible that Brent might be able to get funding for similar equipment in future.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Cllr Paul Lorber and his Standards Complaint

The report clearing Cllr Ann John of the charge of trying to fix a planning decision has now been published.  It could not be clearer that there was no wrongdoing.  However, the actions of Cllr Paul Lorber are worth commenting on.  He instigated a complaint, but when the investigator asked for further details of the email he decided not to respond.  To make a complaint and then fail to co-operate with its investigation is curious behaviour.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Call In Tonight

Tonight we are having a call in on the rather minor changes that we put forward at the last Executive to the rules for governing leaflet distribution.  Extraordinary what people make a fuss about.

Housing Crisis

A new report further lays out the extent of the UK's housing crisis.  This applies not just to "affordable" housing (which the government is phasing out of existence), but across virtually the entire gamut. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Recycling Televisions

The digital switchover is likely to lead to a bulge in the numbers of televisions collected, either by Brent's bulky item service or down at the Abbey Road site.  This is in fact a nationwide problem, as you can read here.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Boris Airport Again

Boriswatch points out that the newly elected London Mayor is still peddling his vanity project for an Estuary airport in preference to Heathrow.  I do wonder whether Mr Johnson even tries to make what he says relate to reality.  Heathrow employs about 75,000 people.  Does he really imagine he can transfer them to the other side of the Capital?

Monday, 14 May 2012

Green Man, Harlesden High Street

Following my request for a site visit, the planning application for redeveloping the Green Man in Harlesden High Street has been knocked back.  The sute visit is happening next Saturday morning, and the details of the application can be found here.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Next Brent Council Executive

Brent Council's next Executive meeting is on Monday 21 May, and I will be covering three reports _ on Air Quality Management, Animals in parks and an information item on the Libraries Transformation Project.  The air quality report covers not just our notorious hotspot at Neasden Goods Yard, but also air quality across the Borough.

Willesden Green Cultural Centre Plans

Galliford Try have put in their planning proposal for the Willesden Green Library redevelopment.  Full details are here.  The plans have changed somewhast from the original.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Fairtrade This Morning

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend the Fairtrade event outside Harlesden Methodist Church this morning as the Labour Group is holding its AGM in Brent Town Hall.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Edward Harvist Trust

People may be interested in the Edward Harvist Trust Fund.  This is a somewhat obscure source of one off grants of up to 5,000 pounds for community purposes.  The deadline for application is 24 May. 

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Free Bulky Waste Collection Online

Brent Council now allows you to order its free bulky waste collection service online.  Abolishing the charge for this service (introduced by the Tories and Liberal Democrats in 2007) was one of our key election pledges in 2010.  Allowing people to access the service via the Internet is an essential part of trying to modernise the Council.  The Council we have inherited from the Tories and Liberal Democrats had only 1% of its interactions with residents.  Increasing the number of online interactions cuts costs, shortens queues for those who really need face to face or telephone contact and is the preferred method of contact for many people in any case.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


A quick reminder of the need for a local government standards code here.  I am something of an outlier on this subject, as I think the Standards System was finally working effectively when the new Tory government decided to abolish it.  The main issues in the early years were vexatious and trivial complaints, which have been reduced by no longer having a duty of complaint, and a failure to presume that complaints should be dealt with first at a local level (as with the Ombudsman).  The abolition of the Standards Board merely means that there is hardly any remedy for a councillor abusing his or her powers.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Euro Break Up?

Paul Krugman argues that either German has have a higher rate of inflation or the Euro will break up with severe short term economic consequences.  Given that he has a pretty good record of economic prediction, it is a sobering thought for Francois Hollande as he takes office.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Planning Web Site

I often encounter people who find the planning process confusing or intimidating.  Such people might want to try out this new site designed to explain it in a simpler way.  Although it is branded as for councillors, it may be useful for members of the public interested in a particular application.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Reviewing the Past Half Year

At around this time,  like to review the achievements of the past six months.  I guess the biggest thing has been the successful launch of our new recycling system.  Looking over at Ealing, it is impressive that Brent had so few problems in comparison _ a tribute to the careful planning involved.  As a result, our recycling rate has seen a step change.  We now need to drive this further, and sort out the continuing disengagement by some households.

The second big achievement was our acquisition of Fairtrade Status.  This was originally an all party commitment, but the previous Tory / Lib Dem administration had rather given up on it.  It represents the culmination of years of effort to become a Fairtrade Borough.

Most time consuming has been going through the various legal processes around the Library service.  I think our success in Court demonstrates that Brent is thorough and careful in its decision making.  Most Boroughs have ducked the issue and will see their services decline, either through gradually fading "volunteer" services, or through hollowing out their traditional services with cuts in the books budget and opening hours.   I understand our approach has been controversial but I believe that by 2014/15 we will have more visitors and book loans than we had under the old system.  We can now move into the positive agenda that anyone who believes in libraries should welcome, including: seven day opening, the refurbishment of Kilburn Library, the refurbishment of Ealing Road Library, a new Wembley Library, a rebuilt Willesden Library (amazingly some of the "save the Library" campaigners actually wanted Willesden Library to be closed permanently), a stronger relationship with schools and many other outside bodies, more events and an improved online service.

We have also had successes in less noticed fields, such as our Arts Strategy, a new planting regime in parks and in pursuing the climate change agenda.

In the ward, I believe that the applications at the Green Man and Willesden Social Club offer a chance to sort out the long standing problems at that end of Rucklidge Avenue.  We will shortly see the opening of the new Roundwood Youth Centre (which was only just saved from government cuts).  I have also been pushing on the street cleaning issues in parts of the ward around Harlesden High Street.  This is a long haul problem without any quick solutions, but I think it is getting more attention than at any time in the past.

Saturday, 5 May 2012


I have had a few comments on my post on Fryent Country Park.  My point was that people seem to take the most outlandish suggestions and believe them without giving any thought to their plausibility. Martin Francis suggests that this is because of the Labour Party, which tends to be his default position on anything he thinks bad.  The example I gave of Hazel Road Open Space predates Labour taking over the Council.  I think it is rather a generalised paranoia about any manifestation of authority, and Councils tend to be in the firing line precisely because they are much more local and accessible than many other authorities _ private companies, the NHS, even government ministers.

I would also suggest that every time I see a newspaper report on a local government issue, the local Council is always blamed even if it appears not to have anything to do with it, or even if it is the only agency actually engaged in sorting the problem out.  The policy of government ministers like Eric Pickles to attack local government can't help. 

All this helps to create an atmosphere where anything that a Council officer or councillor says is disbelieved.  I have had this many times over the libraries issue, when I have pointed out that an assertion is not true, only to be told that it must be, and to have my interlocuter refuse to believe me even when I refer to documentary proof.  For instance, I frequently get told that Brent Council rejected proposals in April 2011 to allow various libraries to be volunteer run when they were at no cost to the Council.  This claim continues to be repeated when it is simply wrong, and proof is easily available to that effect.  There seems to be a point when people have repeated a point to each other so many times that they can no longer accept that it might not be true.

This is damaging to democracy, but also to any kind of rational decision making.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Caught Yellow Handed

Fans of Liberal Democrat hypocrisy may be interested in Caught Yellow Handed, a complilation of Liberal Democrat hypocrisy from around the country.  Of course, Brent's very own Sarah Teather plays a starring role.

Standards Report

The Harrow Times correctly reports that Ann John has been cleared of an allegation of misconduct in relation to planning.  I don't believe that the actual report is available on the Brent Council web site yet, but it is an extraordinary document and well worth reading by anyone interested in such matters.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Social Media and Local Government

I am not sure how far the suggestions in this post are a brilliant and far reaching look into the future of local democracy and social media, and how far it is just nuts, but it is worth a read.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

More Borrowing

A remarkable sidelight on how negative the supposed library campaign has become can be found here.  The writer complains that Brent Council is offering to sign school children up to libraries as this is "an attempt to boost the visits and borrowing figures".  Well, you could say that the entire library service is an attempt to boost visits and borrowing.  That is rather the point of a public library service.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Kilburn Library Refurbishment

Kilburn Library will be refurbished as part of our Libraries Transformation Project.  I think it is fairly to say that Kilburn has been unfairly neglected, so it it is good that it is finally getting some attention.  During the refurbishment period, the officers will be organising various kinds of outreach in the local area.  Of course, Kilburn has already benefited from having its opening hours extended from five days a week to seven.

Flood Alert

I understand that the Environment Agency has declared a flood Alert for the River Brent as a result of the recent rains.

Storm Damage

The storms at the weekend did a lot of damage.  This fairly sybstantial tree was in Nightingale Road.  I also saw a tree down in Longstone Avenue.  The Council contractor has cleared both, but may take some time to clear all the damaged trees in the Borough, so I hope people are patient.