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Friday, 11 August 2017

Councillors Paying Council Tax

Brent Labour Party has now selected all its Council candidates for next year's elections.  I imagine the other parties are in the process of doing the same.  Among other things, they may wish to consider the rules on disclosing non-payment of Council Tax.  Essentially, councillors do not have the privacy a member of the public might expect, which may come as a shock to some.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Community Land Trusts

Following the news that Wembley appears to be subjected entirely to market forces, forces that have demonstrably failed to meet housing needs in the UK over decades, I though it might be useful to look at an example of a community land trust here.  The details of this scheme may not readily translate to Brent, but it is the sort of thing a progressive Council might be expected to promote.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Grade II listing for Willesden Jewish Cemetery

Buildings in the Willesden Jewish Cemetery have been given grade II listing in the 150th year of the United Synagogue.  It follows an earlier grant for the cemetery.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Brent Conservatives Renew Controversial Endorsement

Martin Francis tells us that Bertha Joseph is selected as a Conservative candidate in Brondesbury.  Presumably he has good sources in the Tory Party.

Bertha Joseph was elected as a member of the Brent Labour Group in 2006, but defected to the Tories in 2007 on the grounds that she had not been invited to the Queen's Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.  She subsequently found herself accused of misdirecting charitable donations to a children's hospice to her own use, a view that was upheld first by Brent's Standards Committee and then by an appeal Tribunal.  The Tribunal's comments struck me at the time as pretty damning.  The complaint was made by the late Rocky Fernandez, a convicted fraudster with whom she had a close association which subsequently turned sour.

She was elevated by Boris Johnson to an important post on the London and Emergency Fire Planning Authority (LFEPA) in order to vote through cuts to the London Fire Service.  Shortly after voting through the cuts, she resigned.  Subsequently, the Tories withdrew their endorsement of her in the 2010 election.  Her candidature as an independent in that election proved unsuccessful.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Pushing Brent Residents Away

Martin Francis has picked up on a government grant for build for rent properties in Wembley.  None of the units appear to be "affordable", let alone socially rented.  The Conservative minister Alok Sharma is quoted as approving this scheme.  Cllr Muhammed Butt, normally keen on publicity, does not seem to appear in the coverage I have seen.

Of course, now that the Council has delivered planning permission to the developers as well as money for substantial public realm improvements, Brent Council has no real leverage in trying to get anything else.  The Council appears to have consigned itself to irrelevance.

The minister and the developer meanwhile are looking forward to a massive expansion in car parking in the Wembley area.  This threatens to reverse the gains made in recent years in air quality, worsen traffic congestion which is increasing anyway because of Spurs and return the area to the failed car dependent model that made the area require regeneration in the first place.

When the Stadium was first up for rebuilding, Brent Council (under Paul Daisley's leadership) successfully argued for more than £100 million of public transport improvements to deliver a public transport venue.  It appears his successor has failed even to get a seat at the table.

Meanwhile Polly Toynbee suggests that Brent loses £178 per week for each family in B&B.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Willesden Junction Expansion

One possible development worth keeping an eye is a possible expansion of Willesden Junction Station.  I have argued the importance of this for years.  However, one shouldn't get too carried away with the present study as these kind of proposals take many years before anything gets built, if indeed they go forward at all.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Leaseholder Bills from Brent Council

I am concerned at the political gesture of the overhasty decision to spend £10 million on fire safety at Brent housing properties without securing any money from the government, or even knowing what the money will go towards.  In the end it will come from the pockets of the tenants and one other group of people.

The other group are the leaseholders.  These will be people who have either bought through the Right to Buy or the open market.  Many of them may well be of modest means, but be about to be hit with a substantial bill with very little warning.  Although the government does warn of these sort of dangers, not everyone is always aware of them, and Brent's current splurge will have come completely out of the blue.  I hope the Council arranges a generous payment plan for those who struggle to meet such an unexpected cost.

Incidentally, I have been told that when full Council voted this spend through only one Councillor declared a close relationship with anyone living in a block.  That is not as bad as the Leader of Kensington and Chelsea, but it does suggest to me that the councillors probably need some education about how Brent housing works. 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

A Close Run Thing

This morning there is a meeting of the Alcohol and Licensing Committee.  This will give Cllr Sabina Khan, a new appointee to that committee, a chance to attend.  This is fortunate as it will be her first official attendance of a Council event since 14 February, which brings her perilously close to being absent from any events for six months.  Any Councillor who does not attend a Council event in their official capacity for six months automatically forfeits their seat and forces a by election (which costs the taxpayer about £20k to £25k).

Brent has come too close for comfort on this in more than one case.  While it is certainly true that councillors should be, and I am sure are, doing many things outside these "official" duties it is not a good sign that several councillors have come so close to the wire without any special reason. 

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

EU Negotiation

The sheer indiscipline of the Cabinet over the past couple of weeks shows how dysfunctional our "strong and stable" government has become.  How on earth are the UK negotiators, whether male or female, supposed to negotiate when they don't even know what outcome they are trying to negotiate?  The government surely needs to decide what its objectives before any meaningful progress can be made.

Manor Park Road Again

The Manor Park Road development has returned I see.  I regretted the withdrawal of the former proposal.  While the principle of developing this site remains good, it is disappointing to find the affordability of the units reduced.