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Saturday, 30 April 2016

An Equalities Apology from Cllr Muhammed Butt

After yesterday's post on Ken Livingstone, I have been shown a story where Cllr Muhammed Butt is now being forced to make an apology.  Cllr Butt has been involved in a number of issues which indicate that he has insufficient understanding of equalities issues, notably in dealing with racist bullying at Brent Council, but also controversies with a specifically Jewish dimension, such as the BDS demands over the Veolia contract and the Tricycle Theatre.

As I said yesterday, the time has come for my party to stop simply shrugging these controversies off. Cllr Butt's ignorance and lack of thought are all the more deplorable as he is lead for equalities on London Councils.


In answer to the comment below, my complaint about Cllr Butt's behaviour on the Veolia contract is that he followed his standard practice of stringing people along.  In this case he gave the campaigners on that issue the impression that there was some way in which the Council could simply not award the contract because of a dislike of Israel, when such a decision would have been simply unlawful.  

I have subsequently had two more comments on the subject from (I think) the same anonymous commentator.  It doesn't appear to have occurred to him (her?) that the week of the London Mayoral election might be a bit busy for anyone involved in politics.  The second of these comments, which I am not going to publish, reminds me of the jilted woman's letter in Nicholas Nickleby which ends "I despice you, and pity your ignorance" (although the language is less polite).  

Friday, 29 April 2016

Ken Livingstone and the NEC

Ken Livingstone's suspension from the Labour Party is hopefully a sign that Labour is finally going to crack down on anti-Semitism.  Like many party members I am embarrassed to be in the same party as the rag bag of nasties who have been exposed over the past few months.

What is particularly bad about Ken Livingstone is that he is actually a member of the National Executive, the very body supposed to deal with the problem.  I assume that his suspension, and probably soon to come expulsion, will mean he will not be on the ballot for election.

I wonder whether the other members of the Grassroots slate will be making any statements on what they think of the scandal.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Forced academisation

The Tory government's central justification for forced academisation, raising school standards, appear to have been blown out of the water by research by the Local Government Association.  I rather doubt that Nicky Morgan will take any notice, but there may be a set of difficulty political battles ahead.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Periodicals at Willesden Green Library

I am glad to see that The Library at Willesden Green finally has a stand for its periodicals.  This might seem a small point but during the consultation for the Libraries Transformation Project, hald the respondents said they visited the library to read periodicals.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Sicily Exhibition at the British Museum

I thoroughly recommend the new Sicily exhibition just opened at the British Museum.  Going round it, and seeing how the island functioned as a multicultural melting pot during the Norman period I thought I had heard this story before.  It is similar to that of southern Spain before the Reconquest, but with Christian rulers rather than Muslim ones.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Scandinavia: A Celebration of the Nordic Province

Another art exhibition has opened in the gallery in Willesden Library.  I really do think it is marvellous how much stuff Brent Arts stuff achieve on a shoestring.

Friday, 22 April 2016

The Councillor Suspension Mystery

I have sought some clarity on the mystery suspension of a Brent Councillor I alluded to recently.  Apparently an application for a suspension was made, and a junior Labour Party official is said to have approved it.  Shortly afterward, Brent Labour Group was written more formally by the Labour Party and told there was no valid grounds for suspension.  therefore the councillor was restored as a member of the Group he should never have been removed from.

What is more interesting is why Cllr Muhammed Butt is engaging in such distractions during Sadiq Khan's campaign.  Barbara Pitruzzella is an excellent candidate and I would be shocked if the Kilburn by election turns out to be anything other than a solid win for Labour.  Although Sadiq Khan is leading in the polls, I am less certain of his winning.  The Tories smear tactics are desperate but there would be no point in sinking that low unless they thought they had a prospect of success.

It is odd for the Labour Leader of Brent Council to be trying to stir up problems in the Labour Group in the run up to such an important vote.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Brent Libraries Bucking National Decline

Some time ago, I was challenged about the performance of Brent libraries relative to other authorities.  That is a reasonable test.  Unfortunately the annual CIPFA reports come out too late to give a current picture, but we do have enough information to form some impression of performance relative to the rest of the UK since the decision was taken to go ahead with the Libraries Transformation Project in April 2011.

The graph below shows the performance in visits with Brent as the red line and the entire country as the black line.  Each line shows the change relative to the 2011/12 figures (when Brent still had twelve libraries).


 You can see Brent's figures are surprisingly unaffected by the closure of six libraries in October 2011.  The seven day opening hours and other changes offset any fall, and subsequently visit numbers took off in a really remarkable way, bringing Brent to the highest point for which I have a record.  The black line shows the national falling off which has been going on since at least 2005.  It is shorter as the 2015/16 figures have not been collated yet.

Turning to book loans, there is a similar picture.  The Brent rise is much less marked, but the national decline is similar.

The national figures for these graphs are taken from the recent House of Commons Library report

Monday, 18 April 2016

House of Commons Public Libraries Report

Those who follow public libraries issues as closely as me may be interested that the House of Commons Library has published a new report on libraries.  This strikes me as a much more thorough job than in a previous case.  It includes some figures at the back) that give a full, if depressing, picture of public libraries in the UK.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Ignorance is Bliss

Martin Francis is continuing his interest in the internal workings of Brent Labour Group.  As Martin is self-confessedly a strongly anti-Labour man, his comments always need to be taken with a hefty dose of salt. 

Nonetheless, I was struck by his suggestion that: "Muhammed Butt is disclaiming any knowledge of what is going on and referred any concerned colleagues to London region" with reference to the suspension of a Labour councillor in the run up to the May AGM.  One might ask whether a Group Leader who is unaware that a member of his group has been suspended is in any sense leading his group.

The suggestion that Cllr Butt is unaware is obviously untrue since the suspension will have been triggered by a request from the Group Leadership for a suspension of the councillor concerned.  In other words, Cllr Butt will have made the request that he now claims to have no knowledge of.

What surprises me is that he has got away with this line on many previous occasions _ disclaiming any knowledge of sacking a former Chief Executive, closing Kensal Rise Library, closing the Stonebridge Adventure Playground, and many others.  It seems to be his default response whenever asked to defend a position.  We shall see if Labour councillors are content to continue putting up with this.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Wembley Library Visits

Looking at the Brent Library figures I notice that Wembley Library managed to increase its visits to 1,381,032, which is actually higher than Manchester Central Library (the most visited Library in the UK achieved in 2014/15.

The full rise of visit numbers in Wembley can be seen in the graph below.  the figures for before June 2013 are for the old Brent Town Hall Library.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

CIPFA on Brent Libraries

CIPFA have published their latest report on Brent libraries.  You can follow the link here.  "Latest" is something of a misnomer, as they always publish their reports a year out of date.  If you want the most recent figures you can find them here

If you haven't seen them before, each report analyses a group of Boroughs that CIPFA regard as compatible.  In the case of Brent that is a series of outer London Boroughs.

Brent is now in the top quartile for physical visits, and in the middle in terms of book issues.  I was surprised to find that book stock is towards the lower end of the group, although the books are borrowed more frequently than average.  I don't know how they reconcile Brent's access to the rest of the London Lending Consortium book stock.  Perhaps the most worrying factor is the low proportion of active borrowers relative to population

Monday, 11 April 2016

Success of the New Library at Willesden Green

The visit and loan figures for Willesden Library since its opening on 27 July confirm its success.  Here is a graph showing visits since July 2015, with the previous year shown for comparison. 

Here is the corresponding graph for loans:

Willesden Library Visit Figures

                                             Last Year                                                  This Year % Change

July                                         20,347                                                    21,143              3.9%
August                                    19,293                                                    31,003            60.7%
September                              19,698                                                    38,496            95.4%
October                                  20,254                                                    39,492            95.0%
November                              17,692                                                    35,776          102.2%
December                              15,215                                                    27,229            79.0%
January                                  16,540                                                     34,666          109.6%
February                                 17,416                                                    38,940          123.6%
March                                    18,325                                                     38,705          111.2%

Willesden Library Loan Figures

Last Year                           This Year                  % Change

July                                        9,066                         10,972                                       21.0%
August                                   8,158                         17,181                                    110.6%
September                             8,651                         18,219                                    110.6%
October                                 8,499                         17,260                                    103.1%
November                             7,615                         17,722                                    132.7%
December                              7,056                         15,999                                    126.7%
January                                   8,088                         19,023                                    135.2%
February                                8,270                         17,075                                    106.5%
March                                    8,413                         18,290                                    117.4%