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Thursday, 26 January 2017

Brent Council Cabinet Resignations

I suppose one should congratulate Cllr Mili Patel on joining the Brent Cabinet as the Lead member for Children & Families, but she might well wonder what she is getting herself into as this is the third resignation since the Executive were elected by the Labour Group in May. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Libraries and Mental Health

Just catching up with this Guardian piece on the importance of libraries to young peoples' mental health.  Nick Poole seems to have vastly improved CILIP's lobbying by moving beyond a just say no to change approach to demonstrating the value of public libraries to various fields.  Libraries can be used in a huge number of different ways, and if they are kept in-house, the Council can retain flexibility as to whether they are focusing on public health, digital literacy, reassuring minorities, promoting the arts, general community space or (indeed) straightforward library services.  Something that might be lost if they were spun off.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Brent's First Romanian Book Collection

On Saturday I went to the opening of Brent Libraries first Romanian book collection at Willesden Green Library (also in Romanian).  Cllr Tom Miller made an excellent speech emphasizing Brent's diversity and our continuing welcome to Romanian people despite the Brexit vote.

Some parts of the countries have seen a rise in xenophobic prejudice as a result of the Brexit referendum, and Romanians have been particularly targeted by the likes of Nigel Farage.  Having a Romanian book collection is a practical symbol of how these are not our values.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Comments on Manor Park Road Development

I must say the sheer number of comments on the new Manor Park Road development surprises me.  At the time of writing more than 200 comments have been made.  The number and the similarity of the comments makes me wonder if they have all been made by different people. 

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Harlesden Post Office Closure

I am surprised that this Post Office closure story has not had more attention.  In the past, Post Office closures have been a hot topic, with the Liberal Democrats and Labour both campaigning on the issue.  Although I recall the Liberal Democrats confessing their ineffectual nature, and the Tories actually welcoming closure.

Unless the services are relocated nearby, the closure could have a negative impact on Harlesden Town Centre, which is already suffering from the Royal Oak closure.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Bridge Park Sports Centre Redevelopment

The next Brent Council cabinet meeting on Monday has, buried at the back, an update on the redevelopment of Bridge Park Sports Centre.  The partner companies for this are based in Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands, which seems unfortunate, as the only reason I can think for them to be based there is aggressive tax avoidance.  Reading the reports, it sounds as if it makes enforcing the contracts much more complicated.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Camden Libraries Adopt Open Plus

Camden libraries are going to use Open Plus technology at five of their branches from tomorrow, as well as ending Sunday opening at Swiss Cottage Library.  I am afraid I have to regard that as a retrograde step, which I imagine is driven by budget needs and a desire to keep branches "open".

Casual Library Use

The problem, as I see it, is that what might call passing trade will be excluded.  People will have to be signed up users of Camden libraries before they can enter.  That is likely to deter many users, who may be reluctant to sign up or simply not have their card with them.  Over time, I suspect it might have quite a broad effect in putting people off since I imagine that Camden like Brent has a fairly high churn of residents.  The result would be falling usage for a service that is already seeing visits and loans on a downward trend.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

New Manor Park Road Development in Harlesden Town Centre

Following from the negative news that the Royal Oak has closed, some potentially good news of a new development has emerged.  The site behind the Salvation Army site on Manor Park Road is proposed for development

Affordable Housing

The proposal is for housing, in line with Brent's planning documents.  At 51 units, the proposal is denser than the suggested figure in the guidance (30), and the type of housing suggested is 15 "intermediate" units which probably means some sort of shared ownership.  The  market units, to pay for the overall scheme, amount to 34, which would mean an affordable element of roughly a third, although no rented.  Both market and affordable units are mainly one or two beds.  There are only three three bedroom units, all intermediate.  I suspect that the mix of units will be one of the main bones of contention.

Car Free Development

The proposal is for a "car free" development, which makes sense given the Town Centre's public transport access.  Two new spaces are proposed, presumably for disabled people. 

What it Means for Harlesden Town Centre

I have noticed that one of the Kensal Green councillors has already attacked the proposal, although she is basing her criticism on objection to any new housing and an unfounded belief that there will be significant new traffic generation. 

I think in principle it would be good for this long derelict site to be developed as I did with the Park House site, the former Willesden Social Club and the alterations to the Green Man.  It should help increase the foot fall in the area which will make local shops and whatever replaces the Royal Oak more viable. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Royal Oak Closure

The closure of the Royal Oak in Harlesden comes as a nasty shock.  It has been a key part of regenerating Harlesden Town Centre over the past several years, but the Town Centre is still moving forward and hopefully the Royal Oak will be revived as one of the Town Centre's iconic buildings..

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Action or Inaction

(Cllr Muhammed Butt in a previous "Week of Action" courtesy of Martin Francis.)

What, I wonder, happened to the "Week of Action" idea? Many may have forgotten what these were.  A group of agencies from the Council and sometimes outside would gather in an area and seek to engage with the public.  Not in itself a bad idea, although I think it became discredited as no actual action seemed to follow.

However, I can't recall the last time any of these occurred.  Does anyone know?

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Katherine Birbalsingh Defends Herself

Katherine Birbalsingh of the Michaela School in Wembley defends herself in the Guardian recently.  Personally, I find the idea of pupils moving silently in single file between classes like something out of A Handmaid's Tale, but she seems to be proud of it.