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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Have Brent Volunteer Libraries Reached a Dead End?

I was involved in a twitter exchange about Brent libraries with some one who thinks that Brent has three volunteer libraries actually operating.  This is not so.

There are four groups that want to operate libraries in Brent.  The one closest to doing so is the so called "Barham Library", which is operated by former councillor Paul Lorber and other Liberal Democrat sympathisers.  It is not clear whether it is actually lending books or selling them.  If you sell books, in my opinion you are a bookshop, not a library.  The stated aim of the group is to take over the former Council building in Barham, but as this has now been leased for 15 years to ACAVA, this seems unlikely.

The other three groups are linked to sites in Kensal, Cricklewood and Preston.  The former Kensal Rise library is now in private ownership.  The owner is trying to sell it, leaving the site in limbo until is becomes clear who the new owner is and what they want to do with it.  The Cricklewood site is also in private ownership, and has planning permission to convert to housing combined with a community space.  It is not clear what the community space might be or when a conversion might occur.  Again the owner has put the building on the market, so the eventual outcome depends on the will of the new owner.

This leaves the former Preston building.  I have pointed out that there are a number of obstacles to developing this building as a library.  It is not clear whether these include asset of community value status

All this is to my mind something of a distraction from the successes of the Brent Libraries Transformation Project.  The last stage in this will be the opening of the new Willesden Library Centre in the Summer.  Hopefully Willesden Library will become as great a success as Wembley Library now is.  That would be the crowning glory of the strategy. 

Would Volunteer Libraries Help?
Those who are still hoping to form community managed or volunteer libraries really just never accepted the strategy in the first place.  I recall one member of one of the campaign groups even claiming that the judge had decided against the Council even though the published Judgement shows that is nonsense. 

The danger is that such groups could seek to persuade the Council to rewrite its winning formula to suit their own desires for voluntary libraries.  It is not commonly appreciated that these may actually have extra costs.  One example would be in technology and book stock.  But there are various other ways in which extra voluntary libraries, far from adding to a service, actually drain resources from it in terms of management expertise, training and so on.  So I hope that if the Council tries that route it is mindful not to damage the existing Brent Library service in the process.  After all, by now Brent Libraries are probably some of the most improved in the country.


There have been a couple of comments to this which I have not published as they are both libellous and personally offensive.  That is my usual practice.  If you don't like it, feel free to go elsewhere.

Monday, 30 March 2015

SNP Holding Feet to the Fire

It seems to me that the SNP's suggestion of holding Labour's feet to the fire is unravelling.  The most recent pledge to back Labour's plans on Income Tax implies it is the other way around.  The SNP, a party with little or no commitment to social justice judging by its record at Holyrood is finding itself adopting Labour policies.

It is rather different from the "King maker" role Alex Salmond envisaged.  The basic reason is that having ruled out a deal with the Tories, the SNP have nowhere else to go other than supporting Labour.  All very strange.  

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Brent Central Liberal Democrat Candidate Admires David Cameron

I see that the Liberal Democrats have announced their Brent Central candidate as Lauren Keith, who was defeated in Mapesbury last year.  Entering the campaign so late means that she is really just a paper candidate, as I imagine she would have been in Barking where she was due to stand before Ibrahim Taguri was forced to drop out.  Sarah Teather MP has endorsed her just as she did Ibrahim Taguri.  I wonder whether Mr Taguri still plans to stand as an independent.

Ms Keith's political take seems to a bit different to the way Sarah Teather has usually pitched herself.  Here is Ms Keith:

"I am not a Liberal Democrat who is going to apologise on the doorstep for the Coalition. I think it was the best situation that could have transpired.
The Conservatives are not the party they were in the 1980s; they have a leader who is clearly much more in the centre-ground of politics, and his and Nick’s personal chemistry certainly attest to a political dovetailing as well. You need look no further than the disquiet about Cameron and the coalition coming from the traditional right-wing elements of the party, and the brewing arguments over defence spending to see that Cameron’s Conservatives are a different breed.
Our parties share the same ideas about Localism and Civil Liberties, and I am sure that this Parliament will see new and revolutionary action being taken on these issues and that this will prove to be the major legacy of the next five years.

Full article here.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Business Fears Over the SNP

I have just seen the lead story in the Financial Times this morning.  A survey of chairmen and chief executives of FTSE100 companies reveals that the fear a Labour/SNP government.  The only specific policy objection comes from someone who thinks SNP involvement would lead to a rise in Corporation Tax.  Should we not be worried that senior Executives are so ignorant that they don't realise that cutting Corporation Tax is the only tax policy the SNP have?  The SNP is a really quite right wing party more interested in cosy corporate deals that any sort of social reform.

George Osborne's Housing Disaster

As usual, Red Brick Blog does an excellent takedown of George Osborne's irresponsibility in housing policy.  Essentially the Tory Party refuses to understand that the housing market does not build in response to demand or to house prices going up.  In pumping up the housing bubble, he simply unbalances the economy still further.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Police Investigate Ibrahim Taguri

Some more details on Ibrahim Taguri have emerged despite the Liberal Democrats ongoing silence.  According to Matthew Holehouse of the Daily Telegraph, police are investigating "potential evasion of restrictions on donations" after the Electoral Commission asked them to.

Parking and Benefits

The Guardian recently gave some examples of the kind of petty reasons that can trigger benefit sanctions.  Many of them appear trivial, and some outside the ability of the person sanctioned to control.  The effect of cutting someone's benefits when they have very limited financial resources can involve real hardship including hunger, and one would think a humane society would be less strict.  It would not be hard, even in those cases where someone has done something wrong, to have some sort of warning system.  Instead, the whole system seems to set out to be as harsh and demeaning as possible.

I am struck by the efforts of ministers to relax parking enforcement.  I suspect the reason for the contrasting attitudes is simply class hatred.  Minister genuinely hate people on benefits, regarding them as an American style underclass (even those most work on low pay); in contrast getting a parking ticket is something they can imagine people like themselves getting. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Library Technology and Volunteer Libraries

There are some details on the use of RFID technology in libraries here, which I find curiously interesting.  One of the things that supporters of volunteer libraries don't always seem to appreciate is that combining a non-Council library with Council libraries would mean integrating with the Council technology.  That would mean tagging all the books in the volunteer library before they became compatible with either the self service machines or the management system (for using the catalogue for example). 

That would be a considerable cost to the Council, in addition to whatever technology support was provided.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Queensbury Development Rejected

The proposal to redevelop The Queensbury in Willesden has been rejected.  The Inspector's report is here

The Planning Committee originally gave three reasons for refusal: the sheer size of the building, the lack of onsite affordable housing and the failure to agree "planning gain".  This last was a technical reason that is generally added to any refusal like this.  The affordable housing objection appears to have been more or less settled by the time the matter got to the Inspector.  The main thrust of his report therefore is on the scale/character reason.

He emphasises the importance of the building in historical terms at some length.  Firstly, he sees it as a cornerstone of the Mapesbury Conservation Area.  He concludes that: "the building makes a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.  The preservation of this contribution would be desirable."  Interestingly, he also argues that the 110 Walm Lane building also helps mark a transition from the more commercial Willesden Conservation Area to the residential Mapesbury area.  Finally, he regards it as having a good relationship with the listed Willesden Green station.

He also argues that the designation of the area for secondary shopping makes this level of development appropriate, compared to a denser development.  This may be an important factor in future applications. 

He also comes down rather hard on the "tower" element, which was the main element I criticised when refusing it at Committee. 

The main grounds of refusal is therefore the effect on the historical character of the Conservation Areas and the station.

This is important as Fairview is likely now either to make another application, or possibly to sell it to another developer, who would presumably want to submit their own scheme.  If such a scheme could be made in a way that met the Inspector's historical concerns, it would be likely to be granted either by the Committee or on Appeal.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Air Quality and Traffic Policy

Paris has felt forced to introduce emergency traffic measures to combat poor air quality.  Essentially, they all aim to reduce car use.  This could all be done much more conveniently if it were done gradually.  I have pointed out before that improving air quality can be done through policy that promotes sustainable transport.

Unfortunately in London where we have similar problems, we seem to be going in the wrong direction.  Boris Johnson has been intent on making public transport more and more expensive compared to car use.  Early on in his administration he resisted air quality measures.  Eric Pickles joins with the same populist car dependency agenda by seeking to restrict parking enforcement in various ways (which in some ways can be to the detriment of car drivers as well as adding to poor air quality). 

In Brent, the Borough's strong support for air quality has been knocked back through various tinkerings with parking charges.  The recent Budget was passed with provision for changes to parking charges, but they seemed to me to lack coherence.  Certainly, they did not strike me as aiming to increase sustainability.  Some suggestions, like the increase in visitor fees in CPZs, seemed so high as to jeopardise public acceptance of CPZs at all. 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Voter Registration

There is still time to register to vote in the forthcoming elections.  Every election I meet people who have left it too late.  Don't miss out.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Liberal Democrats Ridiculed

Danny Alexander's Alternative Liberal Democrat budget seems to have earned him widespread ridicule.  This is no doubt deserved.  Signing off a budget you co-wrote and promising that you and your party will vote for it sits unconvincingly with presenting an alternative budget.  Especially when you look like you are holding a child's lunch box. 

Yet it doesn't seem that uncommon now to ignore your actual commitments and believe in something entirely different.  The SNP, for example, seem quite unfazed by the collapse in oil revenues to a thirteenth of what they expected during the indyref.  Had Scotland voted yes, it would now be in utter crisis. 

It is as if these debates were simply a work of fiction without any effect on people's lives. 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Brent Liberal Democrat Silence

Brent Liberal Democrats seem to have fallen silent following Ibrahim Taguri's suspension from the party.  As far as I can see any new Liberal Democrat candidate would be lucky to save his/her deposit.  Perhaps they won't select and Mr Taguri will be able to escape expulsion if he stands as an Independent?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Brent Garden Waste Collections

The Kilburn Times is carrying a hostile story on Brent Council's garden waste collections. Paul Lorber gives a lengthy comment which entirely ignores the fact that the Council is having its budget slashed by the Liberal democrats in government.

The main point of attack is the cost of bin disposal.  This subject deserved greater scrutiny than it got last year.   It seems the take up of the new garden service is very low, and therefore a large number of the old bins will be taken in.  Those that are not needed can presumably be melted down, which potentially will yield a profit for someone.  A number are to be retained on the assumption that the service expands over time, in which case the Council will have to go through the cost and process of cleaning them before using them again. 

Another point is the design of rounds, which will be more complicated in streets where only a few households are covered.  In the present collections, it is normal for the crew to walk ahead of the vehicle, putting the bins out ready to be loaded.  With a very low take up, I would assume this would not be possible, and some probably more cumbersome method will have to be devised. 

What a pity that all this was not talked through when the decision was being made.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Democracy and Economic Ignorance

I see the Guardian is arguing that many voters don't understand basic economics concepts, and that this undermines democracy.  It is hard to argue with this.  It also affects Council consultations such as the recent one on the budget.  If you are not especially interested in local government, there is no reason for you to know what a small proportion of a Council's income comes from Council Tax, or what the effect of various back office cuts are, which tends to undermine the effectiveness of consultation.

Monday, 16 March 2015

How Long will Grant Shapps Last?

Grant Shapps has been forced to admit he carried on his dubious web business whilst an MP.  This despite having forced a constituent to post an apology for suggesting that he did.  Although he does not mention it on his Wikipedia entry, I believe he once stood for Brent Council in the then St Andrews ward.  I don't see how he can survive this latest scrape.  As Chair of the Conservative Party he is supposed to sell their message, and I would have thought his credibility is fatally damaged.  I wonder if he will still be Chair by the end of the day?

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Local Government Finance Not Fit for Purpose

The most recent LGiU survey on local government finance found that 93% of respondents thought local government finance was "not fit for purpose".  A further 54% of them thought that their authorities were in danger of not being able to fund statutory services.

Most intend to partly meet this situation by raising Council Tax and increasing fees and charges.  This debate seems to have pretty much passed Brent by.  In Brent we have an odd situation where the Council has increased charges for poorer people _ for example by raising rents for social housing, adopting a 20% minimum for Council Tax Support, having a policy of generally increasing fees and charges by at least the rate of inflation _ but clinging to profligacy on certain symbolic issues.

The most obvious of these is the so called freeze on Council Tax, which was manoeuvred through the Labour Group.  However, it also applies to the various tinkerings with parking charges.  One wonders whether there is any logical principle involved here? 

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Does Brent Council Still have Principles for Academies?

Martin Francis reports that the Gateway School is finally giving up on Brent.  It was always one of the major flaws of Michael Gove's push for free schools that he underestimated the difficulties around building and expanding schools. 

As we found with the extended search for a new secondary that eventually resulted in the ARK Academy, appropriate sites for new schools are not easy to find in built up areas.   Perhaps the critics of the Planning Committee in the ARK application might think about that.  Perhaps Michael Gove might reflect on whether abolishing Building Schools for the Future was a good idea.  Or quite probably they won't, since critical self examination does not appear to be their thing.

It should, however, lead politicians to reappraise the drive for free schools.  David Cameron at the moment appears to be heading in exactly the wrong direction.  Brent Council was trying to steer a direction which preserved important aspects, such as qualified teachers, but still obeyed central government diktats in order to fund the school places that are so desperately needed.  These were list at the time (on page 91 in this link) as:

1. An absolute commitment to the ethos and values of inclusive education for all Brent’s children and recognition of the positive role schools should play in the wider community.

2. A commitment to a close working relationship with the local authority in order to maintain an appropriate focus on borough-wide priorities, including local authority nomination of a member of the governing body and a commitment to sharing performance information.

3. The ability to deliver school improvement in an urban context.

4. That the establishment of the proposed education provision would be supported by demonstrable parental demand and with a genuine commitment to providing school places for local children.

5. Appropriate staffing arrangements to ensure high quality teaching and learning from qualified staff and good employment practices, including in relation to support and contracted staff.

6. A commitment to meeting the needs of Brent’s diverse community.

7. A commitment to ensuring the future employability of young people (in particular in secondary and 16 to 19) through links with business, industry and higher education.

8. A commitment to community access and use of facilities through agreed extended opening and lettings policy.

9. A commitment to good pupil nutrition and healthy eating.

10. A commitment to inclusive practice and fair access to the school for all pupils  as governed by the Admission Code of Practice and the Authority’s Fair Access Protocols

To my mind this looks even more sensible than it did in 2012, yet it is not clear to me that Brent Council are still adhering to these principles.  Certainly, they don't appear in any of the debates we have seen about forced academisation.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Scrutiny and Sustainability

The Forward Plan for Scrutiny has a report for its April meeting which I think illustrates the problem I have complained of in the past. A single report, as part of a bigger meeting, encompasses the "Sustainability" Agenda.  This is defined as recycling, air quality, cycling and carbon emissions.  Any one of those could, on its own, make a substantial report, but they are all being packed into a single meeting

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Brent Central Liberal Democrats in Crisis

A report in the Daily Telegraph has plunged the Brent Central Liberal Democrat election campaign into crisis.  Ibrahim Taguri, who was formerly the Liberal Democrats' chief fund raiser, is accused of seeking to get round the rules on reporting political donations.  He denies any wrong doing.  As a result of the sting, it was announced this morning that he will not be standing as a Liberal Democrat in Brent Central, although he was reported on the BBC this morning as wanting to stand as an Independent.  This has been confirmed elsewhere.

Listening to the Today programme interview with Lord Ashdown this morning, I thought Ashdown did everything he could to distance the Liberal Democrats from "Mr Taguri".  He also opined that the Liberal Democrats would be likely to stand a replacement candidate in Brent Central. 

That sounds like a disaster for Brent Central Liberal Democrats to me.  They are already short of activists, and their campaigning seems pretty thin.  As well as their decline in national standing, they have lost whatever personal support Sarah Teather attracted.  Splitting their few remaining supporters between their former candidate and a new candidate dropped in a few weeks before polling day sounds like the best way they could finally write themselves off.  However, since Lord Ashdown is their General Election Campaign Chair, I take it he is an authoritative source.


The most recent specific information I can find on Brent Central is this Ashcroft poll.  I would imagine that the demise of the Liberal Democrat campaign will make the Labour majority even bigger. 

The Telegraph has a live update page on the allegations here

Shared Mortuary Services with Barnet

I am intrigued to see a note for the next Brent Council Cabinet agenda that seems to argue for a shared mortuary service with Barnet.  This idea has been floating around for years.  However I thought it had been rejected by Barnet.  It now appears not.

The logic is that the number of deaths in London is declining so falling demand makes this a good area for more shared services.  It would be interesting to learn if Barnet will be making a capital contribution to upgrading the mortuary facilities in Northwick Park, since I assume Barnet will get a capital receipt from the sale of the old mortuary building.  It is a shame that the Brent web site does not give more detail.


The Brent Council site has now been updated.  The situation is as I suggested.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Road Safety and Traffic Reduction

Sustainable transport policies are often reported in terms of reducing pollution, which is fair enough.  Yet a recent Guardian report suggests that there may also be advantages in terms of road safety.  It argues that the advent of the congestion charge greatly reduced road casualties in central London and the surrounding areas (including southern Brent, I would assume). 

The same logic should apply to other measures that reduce the number of vehicles, such as the planning limits on parking spaces, the reduction in traffic from the creation of controlled parking zones and so on.  This may well have contributed to Brent's success in reducing road accidents, which led to a National Transport Award back in 2011

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A Return to Automatic Library Cards

I had a conversation recently about Brent's automatic Library cards scheme.  Brent was one of the 22 authorities that piloted the idea.  The idea was to give school children a library card automatically to encourage them to use the service. 

We were doing this back in 2012.  It turned out to be harder than I had imagined.  In many cases the cards are issued but then apparently lost as they are never used.  For this reason the teachers are now also issued with a card so that they can borrow books for the class. While this doesn't get the children into the library outside school hours, it does help familiarity with the concept.  Automatic library cards are now being pursued in Wales, Scotland and increasingly in England.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Brent's Depressing Housing Market

Wednesday's Scrutiny Committee has a housing report confirming that Brent is subject to similar trends as the rest of London.  These are:
  • Population is going up.
  • The proportion of the population living in private rented accommodation is going up markedly (from 17% in 2001 to 28.8% in 2011)
  • Social housing is static as house building does not compensate for losses from the Right to Buy, which the Tory/Lib Dem government has now expanded. 
  • Brent has more households in temporary accommodation than any other authority(3,400); the majority have been there since before November 2012.
Altogether, very little is being accomplished to turn around the dire housing situation we have at the moment.  Even the election of a Labour Government will take years to make an impact.

Perhaps, one of the most devastating comments regards affordability.  According to the report:

"Gross annual earnings in Brent are £28,111 (London £32800), giving an average price to income ratio of 14.7, while the London Housing Strategy states that eighty per cent of new market housing is affordable to only twenty per cent of working households. Median private sector rents are £1250 a month, just below the London average of £1300."

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Institute of Fiscal Studies and Local Government Cuts

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed what many already knew: cuts to local government have been deliberately targeted at the poorest areas.  Less appreciated perhaps is that London Boroughs have been the worse hit part of the UK, with a cut of more than 31% .   My guess is that this cannot carry on for much longer as authorities may simply start to collapse.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

More Brent Library Figures

I see that Brent has updated the library figures on its web site.  For a while they stopped doing this, which is a pity as Brent Library Service is a real success for the Council.

The pattern of the latest figures is not dramatically different from the half year figures I published before.  Visits in the third quarter again show good growth on the same period in the previous year (28.8%).  Loan figures don't have that level of growth, which might confirm those who believe that book loans are becoming less central to libraries as IT becomes more important.

Once again, the new Wembley Library shows remarkable growth, which makes me glad that we resisted pressure to downgrade it when the Libraries Transformation Project was being developed. 

Kenton By Election

Thursday's by election in Kenton had few surprises.  The Tories won, as they have every election in Kenton.  Labour got a slightly improved share of the vote compared to its performance in the 2011 by election.  The Liberal Democrats confirmed their collapse, garnering only 70 votes (just over 3% of the vote).

Friday, 6 March 2015

In Praise of Brent Libraries

Around the UK, library services are under constant threat, with even decisions to "save" them regarded as temporary and partial.  In many cases, the decisions strike me as being made on grounds of political expediency rather than with a coherent idea of how the services should be developed over the next few years.

Controversial as it was, I am glad that Brent's Libraries Transformation Project took a different path. Getting the pain of restructuring and library closures out of the way in 2011/2012 paved the way for Brent Libraries success subsequently.  It also allowed the service to reroute resources to a more coherent vision of what a public library service should look like.

Visiting Kilburn Library recently, I was struck by a leaflet describing the activities in Brent Libraries.  They include: IT for beginners, English Conversation, Story & rhyme time, Homework Clubs, Children's Arts & Crafts, reading groups, knitting clubs, Writers' groups, the University of the Third Age, Dance and exercise groups, Chatterbooks, Connexions and other advice services and even Scrabble groups.  All that is happening in Brent libraries seven days a week.  As well as all this there are other regular or one off initiatives such as Black History Month, the Summer Reading Challenge, the Six Book Challenge, Brent Dance Month, Artist in residence schemes and so on.

That is on top of the regular business of lending about a million books a year, giving access to periodicals, free Wifi, numerous computer terminals and so on.

All this is under threat in other authorities which didn't take a strategic approach, but simply tried to keep buildings "open" until they close bit by bit. 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Standards Committee of Brent Council

It is a sad reflection of the decline of the Standards system that Brent Council's Standards Committee has met just once since the local elections in May 2014.  This is part of a pattern of down grading that has seen Scrutiny reduced, guards against member corruption emasculated and a lowering in the quality of decision making (typified by the rushing through of various decisions). 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Eric Pickles and Government Corruption

One of the more dire manifestations of the Big Society idea is the abolition of the Audit Commission. 

Eric Pickles argued that "armchair auditors" could do the job previously done by professional accountants.  Anyone who actually thought about this would know that local government finance is simply far too complicated for that to be an effective mainstay of properly monitoring public spending.

Instead we have a situation where the professional auditors are the same firms that advise on tax avoidance and offer "consultancy" of often dubious value.  Of course, the activities are supposed to be separate, but given recent scandals in financial services, how many of us would trust to that?  Simultaneously, the barriers to corruption in local government have been systematically weakened.  This is not just a matter of formal rules, but also a weakening press.

In Brent, we appear to have gone even further in this direction than we had to.  Brent Scrutiny has effectively been abolished in changes rushed through after the elections.  The Standards system, which genuinely held former councillor Bertha Joseph to account, has now become meaningless.  That episode reminds me of the importance of political will.  Bertha Joseph was effectively shielded from punishment by Boris Johnson because he wanted her political support on the Fire Authority.  If gross misconduct, for example racist bullying, is deliberately ignored by elected politicians, it is no wonder that public faith in democracy diminishes. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

False Accusations of Misconduct

I notice that Martin Francis is, perhaps unwisely, hosting a debate about the Brent Council local government election count in 2014 on his blog.  It seems to be entirely generated by a defeated Liberal Democrat election candidate who is seeking to imply some kind of misconduct on the part of the counting staff.

I was present throughout the count and I saw nothing out of the ordinary.  The dramatic collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote is not out of line with the results in other Boroughs.  If anyone has any evidence of wrong doing, they should have taken it to the police a long time ago.  They might also have considered the possibility of an election petition.  Since neither of these appear to have been done, I suspect that the complainant is simply having difficulty accepting defeat, rather like many Yessers in the Scottish Indyref.  Those complaints amounted to nothing and I don't think these will.

However, circulating baseless accusations has two deleterious effects.  Firstly, it damages the reputation of the people organising the Count for no good reason.  Secondly, it means that when genuine accusations of wrong doing come forward they are more likely to be dismissed without proper investigation. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

Brent Budget and Equalities

As Brent Council meets to set its Budget this evening, a Guardian column reminds us all of the realities of local government.  One of the points made is the importance of equalities.  Given the recent controversy in Brent on this matter, perhaps Councillors should be more mindful of this. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Limited Victory on Local Welfare Provision

Patrick Butler has a rather gloomy look at the government's partial reversal of cuts to local welfare provision.  I fear he is right.  The victory, such as it is, is very limited.  In particular, the budget can still be raided for other purposes.