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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Scrutiny Improvement at Brent Council

The forthcoming Full Council meeting has a short review of Scrutiny arrangements as part of its business.  I dare say this will be widely overlooked as the Budget is debated the same night.  The conclusion appears to be that the new dual committee structure will be rather more effective than the single committee structure rammed through by Cllr Butt in 2014.  However, the short review available doesn't seem able to find any examples where the Scrutiny process has actually produced better outcomes. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

ARK Academy Award

Good to see that the Ark Academy in Wembley is getting an award for acting as a sports venue for the local community.  Not enough schools act in this way, in some ways for understandable reasons.  Aside from the sheer bother of managing a sports venue for hire, there is the issue of who bears the costs.

In the case of ARK, as I recall availability to the local community was part of the planning permission back in 2009.  It is also an outcome of that process in the sense that at the time the site was merely a muddy field, with a tendency to become water logged in winter.  Building the school upgraded the facilities to the ones described by the Kilburn Times as:

"On site facilities at the academy include a high-quality 3G astroturf pitch set against the backdrop of the famous Wembley Stadium.  There is an outdoor 11a side pitch and a 5a side pitch and during the colder months, visitors can book the indoor 5a side area.  The Football Association partly funded the project to create an excellent grassroots venue for Londoners to book online."

The application, and hence the facilities available to the wider community, were bitterly opposed by the Conservative Party and the Tory Party at the time, as Martin Francis' contemporaneous account recalls.  Incidentally, Martin was highly critical of me in that for voting in favour of the planning permission.  He seems to have regarded disagreeing with him as being an inherently unprincipled thing to do, which it is not.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Brexit Comes Home

Brent Council's Equalities Committee should congratulated for its work on European Union minorities in the Borough.  In a report tonight, the Committee is trying to get to grips with the scale of the problem.  Unfortunately, this is an area where even trying to work out many people are affected by Brexit is quite hard. 

Nor do we have any real control over whether such people want to stay or leave the UK.  The present Tory government, led by a woman who has followed a pretty nasty anti immigrant policy for several years as Home Secretary, seems to want to make their life as nasty as possible

All this strikes as really a very illiberal and unpleasant approach that most people in our Borough will find deeply disturbing and conducive to poor community relations. 

At least Brent is trying to quantify the problem, which is the first step to doing something about the issues involved.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Polish Businessman Mysteriously Disappears

I came across a curious reflection of Brent Council's use of photographs recently.  In looking at a short story on the West London Business awards covered by getwestlondon, we see an image of people from The Polish Bakery based in Park Royal. 

The image shows three employees of The Polish Bakery, which won an award, and Konnie Huq (who was the presenter at the ceremony).  I am sure that everyone will be pleased at their success as Company of the Year.

A similar photo appears on the Brent Council web site, which covered the same story.  Can anyone spot the difference?


Saturday, 18 February 2017

London School Cuts

Truly grim figures are being produced for schools across London in terms of funding cuts.  Brent seems to sit roughly in the middle of the London distribution.  These cuts are likely to reverse one of the really big achievements of the last Labour government in London, a vast improvement in educational standards in the late 1990s and early in this century.  I know other parts of London are protesting to the Secretary of State, but little seems to be happening in Brent.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Bulky Items Yet Again

Another option I see in the Brent Council budget papers is the return of charging for the bulky item collections.  This has been brought up many times, and I simply don't believe the officer estimates of income are credible.  Indeed there are a number of reasons why I think such a policy does not make sense

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Public Realm Improvement

I was interested to read in the Brent Council Budget papers from Monday that:

"However, these changes are specifically intended to improve environmental standards overall.  They will ensure the most persistent and most noticeable problem areas are eliminated once and for all." (page 71)

That is a pretty bold claim.  I hope it turns out to be true.  If so it would be a vindication of the amount of work that went into the new contract. However, the same report plans to save £900k from envionmental operations so I would like to the "improvements" before deciding how credible they are.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Progress at Moberly Sports Centre

Moberly Sports Centre is well under way, with works clearly visible above ground.  Brent residents will be able to access the Sports Centre at the same rates as Westminster residents once it opens in May 2018, which demonstrates the importance of paying attention to planning permission at the right time.  I hope that pay similar attention to other developments. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Allocation

One report at today's Brent Council cabinet meeting should attract attention but hasn't.  The proposals for a new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) allocation mechanism had the potential to make the allocation of planning gain monies far more transparent and obvious.  /since the document proposes delegating the powers to the Lead member and the Director (and whichever individuals those two choose to talk to), the effect is the opposite.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Keniston Press Site

Tucked away at the very back of tomorrow's Brent Council Cabinet papers are the latest plans for the Falcon/Keniston Press site in South Kilburn/Queens Park.  The site was earmarked for housing years ago, but development was blocked in case the site was needed for HS2.  The Council now plans to start building on it in 2017.  This really should be the subject of debate by local people, especially given previous controversies there.  At the moment, I see no signs of such a debate.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Bleak News for Local Government Budgets

The continuing cuts to local government are now reaching the point where local authorities are in danger of becoming insolvent.  This was predicted at the time of the graph of doom debate long ago, and has been predicted since.

It is now affecting all areas of Council services, of which parks are merely the latest example.

What surprises me is that not only did Ministers literally plan the break down in local government, but even now they seem to be devoting more time to avoiding blame for it than staving it off.  The well publicised Surrey buy out shows that the Tories continue to favour the areas where Cabinet Minister sits, but will do nothing for the wider local government crisis