I have been asked to speak at the next round of Brent Connects in Wembley, which is the new name for the Area Consultative forums. The subject is the entire Environment and Neighbourhood Services portfolio, which sounds like rather too much for one night. It occurs to me that if they are not too clear on the extent the portfolio is, other people may also be unclear so I thought I would summarise the main blocks:
Waste and Recycling
Waste and recycling is probably the most obvious part of the portfolio. This covers the collection and disposal of municipal waste from more than 100,000 households in Brent. It also tends to cross over into street cleaning and dumped rubbish. This means that I am also Brent's representative on the West London Waste Authority.
Parks and Trees
I also cover sports, parks and cemeteries. Brent has about 85 parks from the really big ones like Fryent Country Park to small spaces like Tubbs Pocket Park. We also have four cemeteries, and two Church of England cemeteries that we look after at St Johns Sudbury and St Mary's Church End. We also oversee the Borough's sports centres and organise various sporting events in the parks. I also cover the grass verges and street trees, as well as having a somewhat nebulous responsibility for the public realm.
Green Charter Issues
This term is a bit of a catch all for all kinds of environmental issues. They include water sustainability, Fairtrade, biodiversity, animal welfare and other things that tend to struggle for political attention.
The most high profile part of this agenda is the climate change bit. We are trying to cut carbon emissions, but also mitigate against climate change already built into the system. This tends to be a cross cutting area that covers a wide range of other concerns, such as street lighting for instance.
Libraries, Arts and Heritage
Libraries are an area where we have adopted a high profile transformation policy which is finally starting to bear fruit. It has certainly absorbed a huge amount of political attention. We also have a musuem in Willesden, and an archive service. A small but significant part of the budget is devoted to arts, which covers all kinds of things from the Tricycle Theatre to Brent Dance Month to artist in residence schemes.
This is a catch all for all kinds of services that tend to keep a low profile until your lasagne turns out to be full of horsemeat. It also includes trading standards, noise nuisance, health and safety, licensing, the mortuary service and environmental health (which covers the increasingly high profile area of air quality).
Anyway, covering all that lot in one evening is going to be a tall order. The department also has a separate spokesman for highways and transport, which covers a range of other activities that I tend to cross into from time to time, and of course all Executive members take an interest in the broad sweep of policies across the piece.
I should also mention two areas covered that don't fit into the main themes. My portfolio covers Brent Transport services, that delivers people in special need either to schools or day care centres. I also have a kind of nebulous championship of the Welsh Harp Education Centre.