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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Harlesden Town Centre Progresses

It is good to see that the Harlesden Town Centre remodelling is now well advanced in its final furlong.  Having been there at the start, it is good to see such a project through.  Once the physical rebuild is complete, I suspect the next biggest problem will be the installation of time banded collections

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Queensbury and Pub Protection

I see that Save The Queensbury campaign is advocating a pub protection policy to be included in Brent's new local Plan.  This may be a good idea, but I don't think it would have had much of an application to the Fairview appeal.  Fairview's proposal was to retain the same amount of pub space, and the same amount of community space, as part of their development.  That is why it was not cited as a reason for refusal.  Of course, the problem of the sheer scale of such a development in the Mapesbury Conservation Area, and without any similarly sized buildings nearby, remains.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Sikhs in World War One

I recommend the Sikhs in World War One exhibition at SOAS.  Among other things, it has interesting footage of the UK's first Asian RAF (RFC) pilot.  It also has some interesting insights into the wider politics of race in that era, which could be more nuanced than one might suppose. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Lord Adonis and Tri Borough

Lord Adonis is launching a review into the Triborough project.  I have long suspected that this is more of a triumph of spin than one of substance.  It will be interesting to see whether Lord Adonis thinks the claimed gains are genuine.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Income Generation in Libraries

Some of the complexities of income generation in Libraries are set out in this report.  My impression is that many of the well meaning suggestions made about both Council run and Community managed libraries just don't understand what a minefield this can be, especially if you run into litigious partners.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Language of Priorities and Brent Budgets

As Brent's councillors start to grapple with the prospect of setting budgets for the next four years, they might do worse than take on board the analysis of Flip Chart Fairy Tales.  My own experience of debates in Brent chimes with his view that there is "an air of unreality".  Very often I have seen people confronted with appalling figures of how the income of Brent Council is being reduced, and then plunge into a discussion of how they are going to spend more money on this or that.  This year's budget was one such example.  As he says, the LGA figures he quotes are actually fairly optimistic, and assume some increases in charges and efficiency as a given. 

I fear that Brent Council is just going to float along without proper planning, until suddenly the money simply isn't there and panic cuts have to be implemented.  When that happens, councillors cease to exercise any sense of priorities and simply try to balance this year's books, until they go through an even more difficult exercise next year.

Nye Bevan famously said that "The language of priorities is the religion of socialism."  It is also really the basis of all serious politics.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Poverty in Newham

Here is an examination of problems of poverty in Newham.  Many of these issues apply just as strongly in Brent as in East London. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Brent Council Planning Consultation

There is still time for anyone who wants to to respond to Brent Council's consultation on its development policies.  The document and a consultation form are here.  The documents wound there way through the Council bureaucracy some time ago.  All this may seem quite remote, but it actually concerns a very wide range of things that directly impact on people.

Willesden Junction Rezoning?

I see that Stratford station is to be rezoned to 2 by TfL.  Willesden Junction was also once in zone 2 and thus Harlesden Town Centre benefited from the lower fares.  Boris Johnson has of course ramped up London fares to some of the highest in Europe.  If both Willesden Junction and Stratford were in zone 2, it would help create an affordable rail route across North London, helping to divert more people out of their cars.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Skateboards in Roundwood Park

I am delighted to see Cllr Lesley Jones is close to success in her long held ambition to get a skate board park in Roundwood Park. I know she has been aiming at this for years.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Localism Act Confusing Procurement in Lincolnshire

A second part of the Lincolnshire Library judgement that I find interesting is the procurement aspect.  This was a big concern for us in the Brent judgement, and one of the litigants' many points of attack in that case.  The Lincolnshire judgement indicates that the Localism Act may have made life much more complicated for Local Authorities.

The basic principle of procurement law is that you declare transparently what you want, and then have a level playing field for bodies to bid for it.  This is particularly important in the EU where a contract may be open to international interest, as the future of Lincolnshire libraries appear to be.

These principles seem to make a "Big Society" approach much harder, since the kind of small scale organisations that David Cameron seems to imply should bid are unlikely to have much procurement experience.  I noted before that in one example in Warwickshire there seemed to be shock at the amount of information that a Pre Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) asked for. Indeed, my own conversations with some would be Big Society operators led me to believe that they almost expected the Council to write their bids for them. 

The interesting thing about the Lincolnshire judgement is that a successful ground of challenge has been the swift rejection of Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL).  GLL are quite a big business.  They still have a fairly limited presence in libraries, but they are one of the biggest sports centre managers in London and the South East.  They are therefore well used to procurement.

The judge ruled that they should be considered a "relevant body" under the Localism Act.  In doing this he argued that they were a "charitable" body, which I don't think is really true.  I think they are a non-profit making company, which makes them a kind of Co-operative.  As a member of the Co-operative Party, I am all in favour of that, but it is different from a charity.

The difficulty for the procuring authority is that it creates a grey area between the kind of small scale organisation I think was envisaged under the Localism Act, and a full scale commercial procurement where companies like LSSI might be involved.  Since companies treated unfairly in a procurement can sue the procuring authority for profits foregone, that could be a real headache.

Monday, 21 July 2014

What Happens When the Money Runs Out?

There are some interesting thoughts on a Council running out of money here.  Setting an illegal budget was raised in 2011 by a few people, but I think generally dismissed as a loony left option.  The main conclusion of the Localgovernmentlawyer piece is that Eric Pickles may find himself taking over Councils as they fall apart.  If so, he may come to regret driving local government into the ground, as it far harder to put back together a collapsed organisation than to keep a functioning going.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Education in Brent

I have been thinking more about the recent Brent Education Commission report, which was swiftly rubber stamped last June.  It covers a wide range of issues, with a particular emphasis on improving educational quality in the later stages of primary school.  It also states that these aspirations need to be addressed from within current resources.  I think realistically they may need to be addressed with less than current resources.  If so, I wonder where in the current budget will be squeezed?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

IT Defined as Part of the Statutory Library Duty

I have now had a chance to look at the Lincolnshire judgement on libraries, and I think it moves the debate about statutory definition on significantly. 

The conventional view of many professional librarians, and of the DCMS, is that computers and IT do not form part of the definition.  You can see this in the letter from the SoS confirming there would be no enquiry into Brent's s7 duty, which said:

"The total number of public access PCs is not a relevant matter under the 1964 Act, but in any event is mitigated by improved Wifi provision. It does not appear that there are an insufficient number of computers available."

Contrary to the SoS letter, the Lincolnshire judgement confirms the earlier remarks of the Judge in the Bailey case that in fact IT provision is in some sense part of the s7 duty.  The paragraph (4 in the Lincolnshire judgement) is worth quoting in full:

"It is apparent that library services were even in 1964 not limited to books or other literary material. We are now in the computer age and computer facilities are provided. They are used for the purposes of research and access to what is available and so are to a great extent an obvious "other material‟ which would fall within s.7(2)(a). But they are also made available to those seeking work or benefits since the systems now in place require in a number of respects internet access. Since such people are unlikely to possess their own facilities because they are likely to be too poor, a library provides them with such access and, incidentally, encourages them to use the other facilities available in accordance with s.7(2)(b). Thus it seems to me that all the computer services now provided by the defendant‟s libraries can properly be regarded as part of a library service within the meaning of s.7(1) of the 1964 Act. However, I do not think that an authority is bound to provide this particular service but, if it does it must continue to do so as part of its service."

This backs up the remarks of the judge in the Brent case in paragraph 116 of that judgement.  Basically, computers are part of the modern world and most of us can't imagine libraries without them. 

The last sentence of the Lincolnshire quote does, however, puzzle me.  I don't see the logic of it.  If the authority is "not bound to provide" IT services how can they fall under the statutory definition?  If they are part of the statutory definition, why would the authority not be bound to provide them?  Above all, is it possible using this definition, to charge for ebook lending, PC access, WiFi and so on?

These questions seem to me to be ones that the Secretary of State should be asked.

The importance of asking them is that authorities are throughout the country looking to limit their activities to the legal minimum.  Lincolnshire has gone further in this than any other authority, and the judgement confirms the legitimacy of that approach.  Thus, if (say) ebook or audiobook provision does not fall under the statutory definition there is a real danger they may get removed in many authorities.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Street Cleaning in Kilburn

The recent story about the improved cleaning of Kilburn High Road is actually linked to the Public Realm Contract.  This allowed a more flexible need based approach to street cleaning rather than an old fashioned frequency based approach.  It also incorporates a greater focus on Veolia staff reporting flytips in a proactive way.

The Brent only approach is something of a disappointment, however, following warm words about Brent/Camden cross working.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Lincolnshire JR Verdict

I see that the Court has quashed Lincolnshire County Council's decision on its library service.  It is not entirely clear yet what the basis of the decision is.  It does not appear to be on the "comprehensive and efficient" grounds, but I shall be interested if it can illuminate on the scope of the definition that I raised before

The Collapse of Scrutiny in Brent

Martin Francis has a lengthy post about local democracy in Brent.  I think it fair to say that democracy in Brent is sliding backwards, and one example of this is the effective abolition of the scrutiny function just as Ed Miliband comes out for more scrutiny.

The previous system of scrutiny, which certainly had plenty of inadequacies, has been abolished and replaced with a single committee.  The Council's own web site informs us that:

"The Scrutiny Committee sets its work programme for the year, usually at its first meeting of the year. It is important that the committee has a focused work programme that makes best use of the resources available to it."

This seems particularly important if it is going to have a series of task groups devoted to specific investigations.  As yet, it doesn't seem to have met, have any work programme or even had any kind of debate on what members think should be investigated.

In many ways, I suspect that this committee may mimic the failings of the old Forward Plan Committee, where I was a member.  This could in principle examine any subject on the forward plan, which sounds a significant power.  In practice it became a reactive committee that jumped from subject to subject without really pursuing anything for long.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

More on Waste and Recycling

The Executive meeting on 21 July has the recycling proposals I referred to previously.  I am not sure it entirely answers the questions I asked before.  This is in fact just the kind of issue where a pre meeting of a scrutiny committee might have been useful.  While I know that the recycling officers at Brent have great expertise, their estimates and opinions should not simply be taken on trust.

With regard to green waste, for example, we are told that 35% of green waste will "not be produced," not counting the 43% diverted to home composting.  I don't see the mechanism for such a large reduction.  A key driver for garden waste is simply weather and season, so I don't see how it can be predicted.

I also doubt that flytipping will be reduced, as much of this is bulky items not covered by the normal blue top bin collection.

The report does not address my suggestion of separate glass collections to offset the higher carbon emissions, or explain the rationale in diverting dry recycling when the landfill bins can be expected to contain only a limited proportion.  Nor does it address potential problems for the West London Waste Authority

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Former Kensal Rise Library Planning Permission

The former Kensal Rise Library building is finally coming up for planning permission on Wednesday, having been deferred from a previous meeting.  The lawyers have come back essentially repeating their previous advice, which I find unsurprising.  However, I am surprised at one aspect, which is the reference to the Council being given "first refusal".  I thought that even if this condition is lawful in the first place, the building's status as an "asset of community value" means that it has to be made available to any group or groups that want to bid for it.  Thus, I would have thought the "first refusal" condition unlawful.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Blaming Officers

There are some interesting parallels between the this post on the relationship of civil servants and politicians, and the relationship between officers and councillors in local government.  Essentiallly, the author argues that political appointees complain about civil servants because of their own inadequacy.  I would say the same is true of councillors.  I posted earlier on the Barham Park example, but it it true in general.

What surprises me is how people fall for councillors claiming that they are frustrated by officers, when the constitutional position is well known.  Why does no one pick up these councillors on how their blaming officers implies their own sloth, ineptitude and inability?

Changing Roles of Local Authorities and Schools

Here is an article about the changing role of local authorities and schools.  I am not convinced that either this or the measures suggested for dealings between the authority and schools in Brent really deal with the task effectively.  The level of resources and the ongoing hostility to local authority involvement inevitably diminish the local authority role.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Plastic Bags in Harlesden

I was in the Harlesden Tesco earlier this week to find that the disposable plastic bags had been removed, and that a lady was offering shoppers a free reusable bag.  I think this is a good thing although I accept George Monbiot's point about it being a tiny step. 

What was interesting was the reaction of the shoppers whilst I there.  They were refusing the offered reusable bag, and asking for free plastic bags.  The only way I can see to turn that attitude around is to introduce a small charge for plastic bags.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Ebook Lending in Brent more than Doubles

I notice that Newcastle Libraries are reported to have great success with its ebook loans.  Newcastle is one of four authorities that were selected to pilot ebook lending.  Newcastle has seen its loans up by 78% in one year.

I thought it would be a good idea to compare this to Brent.  As part of the Libraries Transformation Project, Brent invested in a wider range of ebook titles, which is also a key part of the Newcastle scheme.  This seems to have paid off.  The figures below show a rise of 36.4% between 2011/12 and the following year.  Loans go up by a further 138.3% in the year after that (or by 224.9% over the two years).  Admittedly, the figures are still fairly low _ less than 12,000 loans out of almost a million in 2013/14.  It does however confirm that a good range of titles encourages usage.  That has always seemed pretty intuitive to me, but some people act as if they don't believe it.

Friday, 11 July 2014

DCMS Library Comparison

The DCMS has published its survey of library usage, starting on page 22 in this LINK.  The picture is one of continued decline.  Whereas there are problems in making comparisons between different kinds of statistics, I am struck with the contrast with improving numbers in Brent's library usage. 

Another common misapprehension is that libraries are disproportionately used by the poor.  In fact the DCMS figures show that higher socio-economic groups are more likely to frequent public libraries.


The figures I am referring to are national figures, not Brent specific.  I would imagine that the proportion of deprived people using Brent libraries has probably increased since the six Brent libraries are specifically sited with areas of deprivation in mind.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Recycling Changes and West London Waste

Another aspect of the recycling changes in Brent that I forgot to mention is its effect on the West London Waste Authority.  My last meeting as a member of that Authority involved approving a major new procurement for the disposal of waste.  This awarded a contract to Sita to build a power plant in the West Country to dispose of West London's waste by power generation rather than landfill.

An important issue for Sita was the quality of the waste, particularly its "calorific value" as fuel.  Rather depressingly, their financial modelling was based on a lot of food waste continuing.  However, another aspect was that they hoped to get some residual recycling from the waste they collect.  Obviously, the more waste Brent and the other West London Boroughs recycle, the less will be available for Sita.  I don't think there are contractual obligations for the Boroughs, but there may be complications for the WLWA if the waste composition is different from that expected.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

How Good Are the Sources of Martin Francis?

To the irritation of many Labour Party members, Martin Francis has long enjoyed access to briefings from sources in the Labour Group.  In at least one case he was given access to the Council Leader's presentation to a Labour Party meeting before any of the Labour Councillors or members.  This has continued more recently with Martin posting a report of the new Executive members on the same evening as the Labour Group AGM, which was punctuated by the Chair repeatedly reminding people that it was a private meeting which should not be reported to outsiders.  He also seems to be personally briefed on changes to the Constitution and to Labour Standing Orders before people in the Labour Party itself.

Such care to keep a long standing opponent of Labour who stood against the Party as recently as May 2014 informed may strike many as strange.

However, his sources do not seem to tell him everything.

In his extensive report of the Labour Group meeting, Martin alludes to the proposal to do away with the traditional annual elections for leader.  He cites the justification that annual elections force the Leader to constantly look over his/her shoulder.  While this was certainly true when Ann John was challenged, it has not been generally the case.  The Labour Group Leaders have personally known are: Dorman Long (1987-1994), Paul Daisley (1994-2001), Ann John (2001-1012) and Muhammed Butt (2012 to the present).  The only one defeated in a Group challenge was Ann John by her then deputy Muhammed Butt.  That hardly strikes me a picture of chronic instability.

The Group is again returning with a slightly modified version of the plan in a few days.  The renewed proposal is once again to abolish annual elections for the Leader.  There is a safeguard, which I understand was incorporated after the Regional Director objected to the earlier version, that a third of Labour Councillors can trigger an election by writing to the Secretary.  That still seems a fairly high threshold.  The proposed change also stipulates that their identity remain anonymous, which I take it is intended as a safeguard against them being threatened or intimidated by anyone who does not want an election.  I must say I don't have much confidence in that safeguard as my experience of how Groups work is that the names of people quickly leak out.

Together with the changes to the Council Constitution, Brent is suddenly acquiring a governance model based on a directly elected Mayor, like Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets.  The difference is that there is no election involved.  I still hold by my previous views that this is leading to a significant diminishment in both democracy and the quality of decision making in Brent.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Lincolnshire Libraries Judicial Review

I see that a hearing into the judicial review of Lincolnshire's library service happens today.  At the same time, there is a demand that the DCMS order a Charteris type enquiry in the County.  I have seen it reported that this is the first time that an authority has been challenged in Court on the s7 "comprehensive and efficient" duty, although in fact this is not the case.  Brent was challenged on that ground and the challenge was rejected.  The litigants in our case also asked the SoS to intervene, again unsuccessfully.

The Lincolnshire case is quite different, particularly in terms of the transport difficulties of a big rural county compared to a North London Borough.  It is also different in the amount of weight that Lincolnshire attach to the word efficient, which they seem to think means "bare minimum".  Lastly, Lincolnshire are heavily reliant on using community managed libraries.  I shall be interested in seeing what evidence that these work, and what happens to Lincolnshire's s7 duty if they don't.

Well London Back in Brent

I am glad to see that Well London is back in Brent.  It is now in Chalkhill.  It was instrumental in improving the Tubbs Road Pocket Park and other projects.  I notice I am quoted on the Well London web site as supporting them.  I also put them in touch with Brent's regeneration department, so I may have played a part in getting the second phase activity for Chalkhill.  I hope the Chalkhill scheme goes as well as Kensal Green did.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Ed Miliband Support for Council Scrutiny

Ed Miliband has come out in favour of Councils beefing up their Scrutiny arrangements, which makes the spectacle of Labour dominated Brent Council virtually abolishing its scrutiny function even more peculiar.  Of the three functions I suggested in earlier postings, the one Ed concentrates on is scrutinising the Council's own spending.  This is an important role, but I would also make a plea for scrutinising the role of partners spending public money in Brent.  I have always felt there is a real opportunity here for Councils to have an important influencing power, if they can be persuaded to use it.

It is disappointing that what should be a serious function of the Council should be treated in such a bumbling and inept fashion.  It augers ill for the new concentration of power in the hands of the Council Leader.

A Note on Trolls

A quick note on Trolls:

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Process of Recycling Changes in Brent

Having done a few posts on the substance of the proposed changes to Brent's waste collections in the past few days, I thought I would now comment on the process.

First off I notice that the Kilburn Times article I have linked to above contains extensive quotes from an officer, but not from the Lead Member.  I think that really isn't fair on the officer, who is required to be non party political.  I think some of his statements could easily be seen as contentious, and this is an area that is routinely part of party political debate.  One only had to look at the literature produced by all parties in the recent elections to notice that.

Secondly, I think that Lead Members should be able to explain the rationale of their decisions and answers questions on them.  That is essential to accountability.  It also helps you to understand your portfolio.  For instance when I introduced the recycling changes in 2010 and 2011 I presented them at the Executive, and at Scrutiny Committees.  I toured the Area Forums speaking to the public (although I must admit I think I was the first Brent Executive member to do that), and I responded in various other contexts such as this blog and talking to the media.  That helped me to get a thorough understanding of the subject, and I think it would help current members of the Brent Executive if they adopted a similar approach.  It might also improve the policy and add to the public's acceptance of it.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Charging for Green Waste in Brent

The most controversial aspect of the waste proposals being contemplated by Brent at the moment is the idea of charging for green waste.
Although common enough in many local authorities, including some with very high recycling rates, it would be a change for many Brent households.  About 60,000 of the just over 100,000 households in the Borough have a free collection for garden waste.  The benefits are:
  • It encourages recycling of green waste
  • It is a system in situ, that people are used to.
  • It is probably fairly popular.
  • Replacing it with a new system would be likely to have a number of one off costs (e.g. taking in old bins and giving out new ones)
  • Not collecting garden waste for free may divert it to landfill (again contrary to the waste hierarchy) or lead to more flytipping. 
 The disbenefits I can see are:
  • It could be seen as reducing the incentive to waste reduction, which is contrary to the waste hierarchy concept.
  • Home composting would be a more environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative than the Council collecting the waste.
  • It is fairly expensive for the Council, as the Council has to pay to dispose of the waste, despite collecting it for free.
  • It can be seen as unfair that non garden owners are effectively subsidising garden owners.
Incidentally, it also illustrates the importance of legal definitions, which I have emphasised in the Library context.  Charging for landfill and dry recycling is not possible since those are defined as part of a local authority's legal duties.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Waste Collection and Climate Change

Yesterday, I promised to return to the topic of waste collections in Brent where important changes are mooted.  One of the less noticed aspects of our 2011 proposals was that they dramatically reduced Brent's production of green house gases from waste.

An increase of collection frequency raises the spectre of greater emissions, which would be unfortunate.  This is not necessarily the case, as if there is less waste in the bin for a weekly collection (as there should be), it may be possible to redesign the rounds with fewer vehicles (and crews).  I simply don't know.  Again it would be good for evidence to be published.

More strikingly, the Council might consider separate glass collections.  This was the best option in terms of climate change emissions in the modelling that was done for our 2011 plans.  We didn't go for it partly because it would give less recycling tonnage (at a financial cost) and partly because of public concern about the sheer number of bins they would have to accommodate.  I would have thought that the second of these concerns would be less likely now that the public have seen the blue bins in actions and realised that some of the scare stories were untrue. 

The advantage of glass only collections is that the quality of the recyclate is much higher.  This should lead to a higher price for the waste, but also means that the purer waste can be recycled back into glass, creating much lower carbon emissions.  The current co-mingled collections mash all the waste together, and the glass is only suitable for aggregates, which do not yield the same carbon emission benefits.  Again, I just don't know the answers on this so it would be good to have clear evidence made public.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

A Return to Weekly Dry Recycling Collections?

Brent Council has trailed in the press some radical ideas around changing the waste collection, including charging for garden waste and introducing weekly recycling.  They are the most dramatic change to be proposed to Brent waste collection since I advocated the introduction of the blue top bins, which led to an immediate improvement in recycling

These new ideas merit more than one post, so for the moment I will just concentrate on the dry recycling collections.

The key success of the 2011 changes was to get people to take waste from their landfill bins and put it in their new recycling bins.  We did this first of all by having much bigger bins.  The old green boxes contained only 44 litres;  the blue top bins could carry 240 litres.  The blue top bins were also covered, so stuff was less likely to blow out, or be dropped.  We also extended the range of materials collected to include mixed plastics and tetrapaks. As a result there was a big jump in recycling tonnage.

What concerns me about the new proposals is how much dry recycling is now left in the landfill bins?  It must be a much smaller proportion than in 2011.  Will doubling the collection rate lead to an increase if most of the dry recycling is now going in the blue top bins anyway?  I suspect that anyone not putting dry recycling in their blue top bin will be very hard to engage, so even if they have a lot of stuff going to landfill that shouldn't simply increasing their collection frequency may not be the best way to increase the recycling tonnage. 

West London Waste has done a certain amount of research in the composition of landfill waste in Brent bins, and I hope officers are drawing on this.  Similarly sources like WRAP may help.  It would be good if such evidence could be made publicly available in the report when published.

I will return to another aspect of all this tomorrow.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Addendum on Wembley Library Figures

I have been asked for the actual Wembley Library Figures.  They are below.  2013/14 shows the figure for Wembley Library.  The 2012/13 column shows the performance of the old Brent Town Hall Library in the previous year.  % Change shows the difference between the two.

Visits 2013/14 2012/13 % Change
July          49,769           20,689 140.6%
August          54,222           21,028 157.9%
September          42,376           17,539 141.6%
October          62,674           17,327 261.7%
November          56,149           13,809 306.6%
December          54,712           12,328 343.8%
January          87,463           14,918 486.3%
February          88,152           12,796 588.9%
March          94,099           14,312 557.5%
Total        589,616         144,746 307.3%

I also have the loan figures, which are:

Loans 2013/14 2012/2013 % Change
July          16,549             9,489 74.4%
August          20,205           10,652 89.7%
September          15,262             8,466 80.3%
October          16,861           10,147 66.2%
November          14,288             8,151 75.3%
December          13,115             7,590 72.8%
January          14,433             7,791 85.3%
February          14,596             7,982 82.9%
March          15,856             8,230 92.7%
Total        141,165           78,498 79.8%

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Now Eric Pickles U-Turns on CCTV Ban

After declaring he was to ban the use of CCTV for parking enforcement, Eric Pickles has now quietly dropped the idea as people told him it was unpopular.  I thought it was also seriously unworkable and illogical.  It is not the first time Eric Pickles has tried to grab headlines only to retreat ignominiously.  Remember the weekly bin collection debacle?

This latest display of inept policy making follows the ongoing car crash of Iain Duncan Smith's Universal Credit failure

By the way, does anyone believe George Osborne's suggestion that he will merge national insurance and income tax after witnessing the abject failure of Duncan Smith to get any kind of grip on the benefits system?

I get the impression that government ministers don't even care if their proposals are credible.  That is one way in which the present government is even worse than Thatcher.  At least she believed that where the government was doing something, it should do it competently.

George Osborne in Brent

I hear via Twitter that George Osborne is coming to Brent today.  This comes just as London Councils unveil a report on the effects of cutting local welfare provision.  I have pointed out before the sheer cynicism of the Conservatives in designing the failure of this policy.  Still I doubt whether George will care.


Dave Hill has a good piece detailing the importance of Local Welfare Provision here