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Monday, 31 December 2018

Sir Ivan Lewis on Brexit

Everything has been dominated by Brexit this year so perhaps it might be wise to mull over nine lessons offered by Sir Ivan Lewis at a recent talk in Liverpool.  Sir Ivan used to be our top diplomat in the European Union and he obviously knows what he is talking about. 

Sunday, 30 December 2018

What Does The Community Say?

One often finds campaigns of various kinds claiming to speak for "the community" as if it was monolithic.  Of course any given area of reasonable size will have a variety of opinion, especially in an area as diverse as Brent.  Here is some recent research on each ward in Brent

The surveys certainly threw up some surprises for me.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Volunteer Libraries Get Another round of Cuts

Bexley is apparently cutting its grants to volunteer libraries.  This is not surprising. I have always been dubious as to whether such volunteer libraries actually give value for money.  It is hard to answer that since the value is seldom measured.  It is really just a way for councillors to attempt to deflect controversy.  The danger of course is that the groups will, having kicked up a fuss to get the grant before pursue the same tactic to defend more grants sucking more and more of the limited Council budget their own way, a danegeld arrangement in other words.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Types of Rent

One of the controversies about rents and planning in Brent is what is meant by such terms as "affordable", which can often mean the opposite.  Red Brick blog has a good analysis explaining the background of the policy.  It tries to explain Sadiq Khan's attempts to navigate what has become a seriously muddled system. 

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Designing Female Safety Into Cities

A long and interesting think piece on designing womens safety into urban space in the Guardian.  Many of the points made are already standard in the UK in urban design, but seldom specifically highlighted. 

Monday, 24 December 2018

The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle

I was reading recently one of the most impressive science fiction books I have come across for a long time, although it actually dates from 1957.  It is the Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle, the noted cosmologist.  While not without flaws, it really impresses me in two ways.

The first is it is very successful in portraying working scientists, which is quite rare in film and fiction.  The only really successful portrayal I can recall in film is the old Dambusters film (I hope Peter Jackson's turns out as good).  Arthur C Clarke can also be convincing in the regard, and certainly was amazingly prescient.  Novels that tackle the interchange of ideas are quite difficult to pull off as Aldous Huxley.  I suppose my favourites in that line would be Thomas Love Peacock's, although some might find that too close to a set of caricatures. 

The second is its imagining of an alien life form, which I find convincing as something entirely different from us yet still conceivable as an intelligence.  The edition I have has an afterword by Richard Dawkins, who although a general admirer was a critic of the supposed origin of the creature.  Hoyle supposes it gradually forming out of a cloud, which does not strike me as absurd, and I think might be seen as a form of evolution.  However, I find it harder to imagine Hoyle's ideas of many such creatures roaming about and I am not sure that they would have any interest in procreation. 

Sunday, 23 December 2018

British Museum Under Threat

The British Museum seems to be increasingly under threat of gradual dismantlement as this or that group come along to claim that objects should be returned to their countries of origin.  I dislike this whole line of approach.

Firstly many objects do not have a single national origin.  Others such as the Gweagal shield are as much a part of one country's history as another's (In that case British history as well as Australian).  Still others, like the Parthenon marbles, were created by cultures that are now only tenuously related to the modern versions that now exist in the same place.  Of course, there is an important sense in which modern Greeks descend from fifth century Athens, but there is also an important sense that all Europeans descend from Fifth century Athens.  These factors make the whole concept of a simple "return" problematic.

There is also a more important sense in which dismantling the British Museum is a bad idea.  It is a museum of interconnectedness, not just a "national museum".  The interconnectedness is the subject matter.  Something important would be lost if that went.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

The Kiln Theatre Name Change

I understand that the Kiln Theatre board have now confirmed that they have no intention of reversing the name change.


As the campaign against the Kiln Theatre name change slowly peters out, the Guardian has a piece on artistic succession which is of interest.  As it points out, changing a theatre name is quite common.  It also contains the detail that White Teeth is apparently the Theatre fastest selling and highest grossing production, which is good news, although completely unsurprising.  A production based on a book by such a well known author and such a local setting was always likely to be a good drawer. 

As I have argued before, the Theatre remake is actually a really fantastic achievement in a tough environment.  It was a brave step to take, and contrary to what has been said was widely consulted on before going ahead.

UPDATE

The Our Tricycle, Not Your Kiln group has posted that it has received a "national award" from The Stage Magazine.  The citation of this award reads:

"Among several genuinely concerning controversies this year, That Bloke Who Tried to Burn an EU Flag Award for Most Pointless Protest goes to those folk who resolutely stand outside Kilburn’s Kiln Theatre, making a fuss about its perfectly fine name change and completely missing the point that a) they are needlessly harassing one of theatre’s few female, BAME artistic directors, b) they look like complete tools, and c) there are far more important things to worry about."

Do people just not read what they post or what?

Friday, 21 December 2018

YouGov Surprise on UKIP

YouGov have a poll on dislike for political parties that shows that UKIP are the most disliked of the parties tested


UKIP come just ahead of Sinn Fein, which is a party widely associated with a thirty year terrorist campaign that murdered large numbers of people in the British Isles. 


UPDATE


In a separate poll Peter Kellner, formerly President of YouGov, is arguing that there is now a big majority for retaining EU membership in preference to Theresa May's deal. 

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Small Potatoes at Brent Council

Brent Council has been praising itself for funding small scale community projects through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).  In one sense that is all very well.  I am sure that these projects all do good things, but it does rather ignore the more important big spend stuff that only a Council can provide such as funding the big adult social care services, the child protection care, transport spending, the environmental services and so on.  These are where the vast majority of Council residents benefit from the Council, so why ignore them?

It also seem strange to single one particular tax, the Community Infrastructure Levy, out of all the ways the Council is funded.  It is all very well, but it does not compensate for the vast cuts the Council continues to suffer in terms of central government grant.  Is it because some people seem to feel that the CIL is in some sense not really taxpayers' money

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Avoiding Materialism at Christmas

If you are feeling anti-capitalist in the run up to Christmas, the Guardian has a helpful round up of ways to avoid too much materialism.  Although I am surprised to see the omission of the Coop from the ethical shopping options as well as other non-shareholder propositions such as the Nationwide.  Well done on the shout out for allotments and libraries though. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Active Borrowers and Brent Libraries

Surprisingly, given the damaging closure of Willesden Library Centre in July, the number of active borrowers seems quite close to target at 35, 176.  There were 36,421 active borrowers last year.  It remains to be seen whether the actual number of loans goes down, as I suspect it will. 

Monday, 17 December 2018

Brexit Dissolves the Government

Ministers appear to be simply ignoring the Prime Minister in her opposition to free votes.  They now want to involve MPs in the decision.  Of course plenty of people were telling them that right from the start, but they not only tried to ram everything through with a minimum of discussion, they even misled with false information.  Theresa May was complicit in all this.

Perhaps even more despicable are those like David Davis and Boris Johnson at the centre of the process who resigned late on and then pretend to have had no say.  At any rate we seem to have ended up with a mess that can only be really solved with a new General Election or a new Referendum.  I suspect the former is still unlikely, and only a new referendum offers the chance of getting out of this mad hall of mirrors. 

Until then I expect the government to stagger on a chaotic diodarchy without collective responsibility and ministers making random interventions in their departments while the real problems of the country are ignored.  Of course, if the voters voted to continue the Brexit process we will get more of the same for years and years and years. 

The Strange Fate of "The Establishment"

There was a time when "The Establishment" meant something as a term.  It was coined in the 1950s by Henry Fairlie to refer to a group of men generally Anglican and fairly wealthy who sat at the apex of traditional institutions such as the Law, the Church of England, Big Business, Politics and so on who shared a common upbringing through a small group of schools and universities and a fairly narrow bond of shared experience.

I am not sure that that kind of Establishment actually exists any more.

Not least it is hard to find anyone who admits to being part of it.  As Nick Cohen has pointed out, many of the right wingers who used to qualify actually see themselves as being in opposition to it.  Leftwing critics who also believe themselves critical outsiders seem to think it gangs up on people such a former Tory Chief Whip, who would have undoubtedly have been part of it in a past era.

I suspect what we have now are kind of "silo Establishments" where people within certain narrow groups form tightly knit groups, conspiracies against the public if you will, within sharply defined institutions such as the Police, Armed Forces etc.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Ethnic Minority Disadvantage

Ethnic minority candidates tend to get fewer votes than white candidates, according to Cowley and Kavanagh.  The article features among other Tulip Siddiq MP.

It would be interesting to learn whether particular ethnic minorities are affected more than others, and whether it is based solely on names or whether studies have been down that bring factors such as appearance into consideration. 

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Universal Credit in Islington

The New Statesman has a piece on the roll out of universal credit in Islington, where as elsewhere it appears to be inflicting real damage at the lowest income people.  Islington's approach is call for the system to be entirely scrapped, whereas Brent is implementing it, and seems to have offered no view as to whether it should be paused or scrapped.  Navin Shah is an exception to this since has called for universal credit to be paused.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Plastics Reduction in Wembley

There is an interesting example of plastics waste reduction underway in Wembley.  Waste reduction is really the next major step for waste handling in West London.  Landfill is now very limited thanks to the new power plant that takes most non-recycled waste.  Although West London Waste Authority (WLWA) has had a budget for waste reduction for several years progress in reducing food waste and textile waste has been limited.  Hopefully, this plastics scheme will help start the long shift away from waste generation

Thursday, 13 December 2018

The Spread of Racism in Britain

Those who deny the increasingly widespread and unchallenged nature of anti-Semitism might look at the response to Luciana Berger MP's position on another EU referendum.  She is posting a decision about something that has nothing to do with Israel but is a key issue for people in Liverpool and the UK.  She is in fact simply affirming the Co-operative Party's official position (She is a Labour and Co-operative MP) and she gets a mass of tweets with the standard racist tropes of dual loyalty, Israeli pay et c.

This is a disgusting way for any one to be treated, and the Labour Party should be clear that it condemns it.

National Decline of Libraries as Brent Libraries Grow.

The Guardian has noted again the sick state of public libraries in the UK.  It acknowledges that Wembley Library is the third most visited, although it fails to note the enormous growth this represents, and how it has been achieved over several years.  The contrast with the national picture of libraries now attaining 233 million visits (2017/18) compared to 276 million visits as recently as 2010 demonstrate the rapidity of decline.  A sector with a more than 18% decline in usage is in serious trouble.  The latest Guardian report also fails to not how Brent has bucked that trend as a result of the Libraries Transformation Project.

By the way, here is another reminder about the national petition against library cuts

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Pseudo-Democracy

There is a fundamentally accurate tweet thread about the undemocratic nature of the nature of tonight's confidence motion in the sitting Prime Minister.  Many of the points made are similar to the ones I made about the attempted changes to Labour Party arrangements

Harlesden Town Centre as a Centre of a Ward

Both the Labour Party and the Co-operative Party have suggested that Brent needs to change one of its wards to a new ward focused more on Harlesden as a Town Centre as part of the Borough's ongoing review of ward boundaries.  To quote from the Labour submission:

"Harlesden is an area with a strong sense of community that was formerly united but was split by the 2000 Boundary Review.  This strong identity focuses on the Town Centre and around the symbol of the recently refurbished Jubilee Clock which currently stands on the periphery of the existing Harlesden ward roughly opposite the junction between the High Street and Wendover Road.  Many of the Town Centre’s landmarks are actually in Kensal Green ward at the moment.

This includes almost all of Harlesden High Street, Harlesden Post Office, All Souls CofE Church Harlesden (the area’s only listed building), the Harlesden Salvation Army building on Manor Park Road, the Royal Oak, Willesden Junction station and the Convent of Jesus and Mary Girls School, Harlesden.  These markers would be re-united to the landmarks in the existing Harlesden ward including Harlesden Library and Harlesden Methodist Church (the longest established Church in the area)."

That list of landmarks is not exhaustive.  The area would also include Harlesden Police Station for instance.  However it makes a lot of sense in that an area with a great many problems of ASB, pollution, licensing and so would benefit from a more joined up approach.  Incidentally, I came across a report claiming Harlesden High Street is among London's least healthy here

I don't think it entirely fair in its negativity.  I think it is also worth pointing out the strengths of the area.  You can find a quite bewildering variety of foods on Harlesden High Street for example, and it is one of the few such streets left to have quite such a distinctive sense of place that I think is key to a shopping area's future success.  Yet I think uniting the area bureaucratically would help solve the problems in a way that is not really being done at present.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Income Raising at Brent Council

As well as a number of other things, the Brent Council Cabinet papers had a number related to income raising.  The most serious deficit was in raising more than £3 million in extra Council Tax, which the paper argues is not likely to happen (page 13, appendix A).  Registration and Nationality by contrast is ahead of target despite that entailing a quadrupling.  I take it that Brexit is terrifying people into getting their citizenship status sorted out. 

Monday, 10 December 2018

EU Vote Delay

The government appears to have delayed Parliament's "meaningful vote" yet again.  If the Government were deliberately trying make this process a complete mess they really would not have to change their behaviour at all. 

It also humiliates the new Brexit Secretary who only yesterday told Andrew Marr that the government would go ahead with the vote.

New Secondary School in Brent

A new secondary school is planned for the Chancel House site in Church End, which is also an area where the Council has for years identified as an area of population growth.  Indeed I remember suggesting this site in the past, only to be told it was too expensive.

It will be interesting to see if this gives rise to the kind of controversy we saw over the ARK Academy.  That led to a very odd set of people combine to try to stop the scheme going forward, a reversal of policy by the then Liberal Democrat coalition at the time and all sorts of conspiracy theories that happily did not spill out so much as social media was less developed. 

I shall also be interested to if any of Brent's ten principles for new schools survives in Council policy. 

Sunday, 9 December 2018

The Left and Leaving the European Union

Tom Kibasi has a good piece on the fallacies of "leftist" thinking that welcomes leaving the European Union on the basis that it is a "neoliberal" project.  I put "neoliberal" in inverted commas since those who use it seem to have no idea what it means.  Rather like the word "Zionist".

A word that puts together Thatcher, Cameron, Gordon Brown and Blair just doesn't really make sense.  In particular, to suggest that the last Labour government was keen on reducing the size of the state (as Cameron and Thatcher certainly were) ignores that Labour under Blair persistently increased spending.  This spectacularly applies to the NHS where Blair's 6% growth per year in budget was the highest level the NHS has ever had.  Labour's fetishization of better management, strong commitment to equalities and faith in constitutional reform also don't really sit well in right wing traditions.

Kibasi's points can be summarised as:
  • The EU is dominated by a distinctively Social Democrat/Christian Democrat ethos that tends to value social bonds and demonstrably has greater social equality than the Anglo-Saxon model.  The whole Brexit project is predicated on the idea that stripping away government is the real way to thrive.
  • The "Left's" view of a sudden transformation completely changing society in a few years is historically unrealistic.  Certainly if one takes the Attlee government which is the most plausible model I can think of (although many leftists at the time denounced it and many are hostile to its achievements even now), it was the product of literally decades of work and reform as well as years of preparation through the war years.
  • A belief that rules against "state aid" preclude "left wing solutions such as nationalisation, which flies in the face of the widespread nationalisation and use of subsidy that is easily observable across the EU.
  • A failure to understand the value of the rule of law.  
  • An apparent lingering view in parts of the Left that nationalisation without compensation is either possible or desirable.
  • The belief that the UK is inevitably sidelined in Europe whereas it is precisely the influence of London which often makes for some of the "rightwing" approaches that the "Left" decry.
  • The blaming of the EU for migrants coming in to undercut local wages which is actually a feature of our own Anglo-Saxon approach rather than the EU.  
  • The belief that the EU is a protectionist entity that keeps non-European people out, whereas by defintiion the EU is not an ethno-centralist form of government and leaving it would (and I would argue demonstrably is) leading to a particularly small minded ethno-polity that values keeping out the other and sidelining ethnic minorities.
  • A failure to understand the importance of international co-operation in the modern world.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Brent4Europe

A Brent4Europe group was formed as part of the European Movement earlier today.  It is campaigning for a People's Vote on the terms of the final deal. 

District Heating in South Kilburn (Again)

The next Brent Council Cabinet will be discussing a District Heating scheme for South Kilburn.  This was originally mooted many years ago.  It is only now being actually implemented, which shows how long the lead times on these things can be.  The report also explains some of the pitfalls of different kinds of procurement, and the approaches of other Councils around the UK.

Some arrangement of this kind is also part of the Wembley Masterplan

UPDATE from 2019

I have responded to the comment below here.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Harlesden Post Office Under Threat

Having downgraded Willesden Post Office several years ago, the government is now seeking to further downgrade 74 more Post Offices across the Country.  One of these is Harlesden Post Office in Wendover Road.  The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has started a petition against this.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Bridge Park in Stonebridge

Brent Council may be the subject of another judicial review soon, if a community group in Stonebridge has its way.  At issue is the Bridge Park complex.  The group appears to have decided Brent's plans are awful, whereas I think they might be or they might not.  It all depends on how the Centre is redeveloped and for what purposes.

The long history of the centre is actually part of the current exhibition at the Brent Museum.  

Here is an opportunity for Brent Council to genuinely engage with the community in designing a neighbourhood.  Obviously, confidence will have been dented by the way in which the Stonebridge Adventure Playground came to be demolished without any effort at replacement.  I hope that ends up as the route taken rather than a legal action which even if it succeeds will not improve the area. 

UPDATE 10.12.18

A video of the 9 December community meeting on this issue can be found on Youtube

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Government Micromanagement

The campaign against the Kiln Theatre's new name appears to be still staggering on.  It seems to be attempting to drag in various outside bodies on its behalf. The DCMS is mentioned.  This is another case where people seem to be making representations in inappropriate quarters, which I just find odd. 

I don't whether the DCMS has any actual powers in this case.  I suspect not, but I really don't think the government should be encouraged to go round micro-managing everyone else as I suspect they wouldn't be any good at it.

UPDATE 09.12.18

I gather that the Kiln Theatre apparently decided to terminate the dialogue shortly after 23 November.  I can't say I blame them as the issue seems to me to a entirely dead one.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Campos Sánchez-Bordona Says UK can withdraw the Article 50 Declaration

Campos Sánchez-Bordona, the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice issued a legal opinion this morning that the UK can unilaterally withdraw its Article 50 declaration.  He also recommends that the ECJ can consider the matter (contrary to the UK government's argument).  His opinion states:

"Article 50 TEU allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU, until such time as the withdrawal agreement is formally concluded, provided that the revocation has been decided upon in accordance with the Member State’s constitutional requirements, is formally notified to the European Council and does not involve an abusive practice."
 
That makes a delay while the government either seeks further renegotiation or for Parliament to legislate for a referendum on the final terms much more likely. 

The Guardian covers the story here.  Jolyon Maugham QC has also commented.  On a separate point, what is going on with the peculiar gurning of Nigel Evans MP in this clip?

Tory Government Killing Local Services

Richard Vize has a Cri de Coeur on the demise of local government as a result of government stupidity. As he points out, stripping funding from local government forces Councils more and more into the role of simple crisis management which leads to more problems later on. 

The problem I think it that Whitehall has lost its own sense of deliverability.  Ministers seem to think that the effective implementation of a policy ends with the press release.  They also seem to have no real sense of the agenda that supposedly should shape services, that users and practitioners (i.e. a local community) should help shape the policy.  This is despite the well known failures of trying to govern everything from the centre. 

Monday, 3 December 2018

Disability and Services

Well done the Kilburn Times on picking up on the denial of services to disabled people.  This still happens too often despite repeated legislation.  Service providers need to work out solutions, not try to block people out.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Rough Sleeping Initiative

I am glad to see that Brent Council have been given funding to tackle rough sleeping in Willesden.  The sad thing is that this was something that the previous Labour Government massively reduced, but which has now returned on a massive scale, beyond even what I can recall under Thatcher.  Universal Credit is almost certainly making it far, far worse.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Abject Failure in Northamptonshire

Northamptonshire County Council has been given a bailout through the mechanism of using the capital from the sale of its newly built Town Hall to fund the gap in its services until it is formally abolished.  That is quite contrary to normal practice, but I suppose that now the County is no longer going to exist, there is no point having a Town Hall.  This all follows its effective declaration of bankruptcy earlier in the year. 

I am still surprised by the way in which some people don't understand why using capital receipts to prop up your revenue spending is a bad idea.  It is because although they plug the gap next year, unless they cut their budget more the next year they will face the same problem and their capital receipt will have been used up.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Trump and Russia

The Economist has a shocking suggestion on Donald Trump's strange affection for Russia.  Essentially the piece is arguing that the President's continuing business dealings in Russia have caused him to soft pedal on US policy and that this has been the subject of a cover up. 

What can Brent Council Do about Universal Credit?

Universal Credit has finally come to Brent, and we can expect some deeply harrowing stories as a result.  I have seen the disastrous effects elsewhere in London including talking to a person I thought was near suicidal.

Central government has made a bad system worse by reducing funding, but it was always going to be awful because the people concerned tend to have very little financial resilience and are part of the "gig economy".  The system is really based on the assumption that people have infrequent periods of unemployment and that they get reasonable pay when they are in work.  For many people that is just not true.  The only people who can really solve this problem are central government, and only a change in government is likely to lead to that sort of change.

In the meantime, although it is something of a sticking plaster only, I think Brent Council should review how its local welfare schemes are designed and advertised.  This will only have limited impact, but is at least something that the Council could be doing.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

What is the Ancient Order of Foresters?

Part of the current Brent Museum exhibition is an element on the Ancient Order of Foresters, which had a long established base at what is now the Kiln Theatre in Kilburn, first established there in 1929 according to the date on the front of the building. 

It was one of many clubs that sprang up during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries aimed at self help and a limited kind of welfare provision.  Such organisations were very common and tended to combine monthly contribution, a social element such as a drinking club, payouts for uncommon events such as funeral costs and (often) customs and various other flummery.  Other examples include Freemasons and a lot of the early Druids movement that morphed into the Eisteddfods.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Islamic Art at the British Museum

It is well worth going to see the Islamic Art exhibition at the British Museum.  This kind of thing would be impossible to mount if the increasingly fashionable demands to return items to their countries of origin are actually implemented.  Such an approach would make the British Museum impossible and, I would argue, destroy the very multi-culturalism that some think it celebrates.  Indeed, I would question whether you can name one definable home for many objects

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Kiln Theatre Community Day

The Kiln Theatre have shared some numbers from its "Community Day" a few days ago. Quite impressive in my opinion.


Incidentally I saw a forlorn "Our Tricycle, Your Kiln" stall a little way short of the Farmers' market on Sunday.  I have never really understood why having a different name strikes some people as so important, but I would have though that having made the change, there really is no possibility of the Theatre changing back. 

Monday, 26 November 2018

The Future of Roundwood Youth Centre

Tonight's full Council meeting in Brent refers to Roundwood Youth Centre detailing what sounds like a further cut.  It says:

"There are proposals to change the use of the Roundwood Youth Centre that will build on the current arrangements. If agreed, the site would be used during school term time for an Alternative Provision school setting, with evening and weekend youth activities being provided by the voluntary sector. This will help meet the need in the borough for local places and preventing permanent school exclusions. Currently a number of young people temporarily excluded from their secondary school setting attend alternative provision out of borough and this will be one solution to this issue.
We are working with the voluntary sector through the Young Brent Foundation to make sure that services to young people continue from the Roundwood site and also that the broader Youth Offer across the borough is comprehensive, updated and secures charitable funding."
 
In other words, the Borough's only remaining youth centre will be turned over to the education service.  This would conflict with the Labour Party's national stance.  I am also not sure whether this would be compatible with the conditions of the grant that built the new Roundwood Centre, which was difficult to obtain.  Those stated that if it changed its purpose, the grant would be paid back.  I am not sure if this suggested change would indeed be such a change in purpose.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

No Clean Water, really?

I know this is from the Mail on Sunday, which is not my preferred paper of record, but since it has generally been a pro-Brexit paper I don't suppose it can be part of the supposed "Project Fear".  If there are major interruptions to our import/export arrangements we might not have clean drinking water any more

I don't recall that pledge on the side of anyone's bus. 

Growing Support for an EU referendum

I was leafleting for another European referendum outside the Queens Park Farmers' market this morning.  As always people were very friendly.  I really think opinion is shifting now that a definite deal is on the tble and people can see how far it is from what they were promised during the campaign.  Cllr Neil Nerva, who was also there, will be moving a motion tomorrow to back the new referendum on the terms of the deal.

I understand the feelings of people who just want the whole thing to be over, but the truth is accepting Theresa May's deal would just move us into another phase of the same thing.  We would go into another time limited transition period except amazingly this one can only be ended by a joint UK/EU decision.  The clock would be ticking and Brussels could once again force concessions whether over more payments, Gibraltar, fisheries or anything else that EU members decided to throw in the pot.

The only way to extract ourselves from an endless negotiations over the terms of Brexit is to stop the process by remaining as an EU member.  Leaving in any form will take years just as joining took years and the slow dissolution of Commonwealth bonds took years.

That is simply reality.

More Traffic Lights

I gether there is a scheme to add to the traffic lights at the junction of Wrottesley Road and Harrow Road as you turn right from Wrottesley Road towards Scrubs Lane.  The indicative plan is below.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Derelict Land Turned to Housing

Passing there a few days ago, I notice that this patch of formerly derelict land is now having housing built on it.  It was the last part of the rebuilding of Willesden Library.  It was originally touted as the first part intended for redevelopment, ahead of what is now Newman Close, but has now become the last. 

New housing is surely a better use than an area of weather beaten tarmac covered in weeds. 

Friday, 23 November 2018

Size of Housing

Some time ago, the Guardian reported on a proposal in Westminster to ban larger housing in an effort to keep that Borough' super rich out.  I doubt whether it is actually going to be an enforceable "ban" since that would fetter discretion, but I can see the intent.

Brent actually does the opposite, not to placate the super rich but to provide for larger families.

The market itself does not cater to such people because developers can make more money though building rabbit hutches than family housing.  As a result, practically the only family housing being built is that where Brent has demanded it as part of the planning process, something to consider when you next hear about the number of "affordable" units in a development. 

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Looking Further

Sometimes it is good to look outside your immediate area to take a fresh look at issues and Leith Walk is an example of that.  Most of the issues raised will be familiar to people who have experience of regeneration in Kilburn and other places.  While the issue of overmuch short term letting is not such an issue in London, most of the other matters ("social cleansing", affordable housing, the demolition of older buildings, above all what the planning priorities are and who should decide them) all are.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Brexit and Brent

Brent's next full Council has a paper on the impact of Brexit on Brent which could be substantial.  This is not least because Brent has the second highest number of EU citizens in London (22%) In terms of the electorate registered it ranges from about 10% in Kenton to a whopping 23% of Alperton.  Issues that the paper refers include:
  • The effect of potential new customs barriers on imports and exports.
  • The effect of barriers to labour movement on public services, especially the NHS.  Apparently around 10% of Council employees are originally from the EU.
  • A possible fall in house prices, affecting the viability of regeneration projects.
  • Possible changes to funding as economic growth will be more restricted.
  • Changes in the law following Brexit.
Whereas the impact on the Council payroll seems limited, some of the contractors have very high levels of EU employees.  For instance, Veolia has more than half its employees as EU nationals, and agency staff are about 70% EU.  The construction industry in Brent is quoted as about 27% EU.  Funding for schools is decided on pupil rolls and these may go down if the EU population leaves. 

Over time there may be delays in accessing certain goods, e.g. medicines, which are certified later outside the EU then in it and may be affected by border controls.  The paper also refers to possible food shortages, assuring us that this will be dealt with by central government.  Given the government's manifest incompetence, I can't say I find that reassuring.  I hope that the current Brexit Secretary at least realises that we live on an island.

So far, that is all well known.

There is also a reference that "It has been reported in the press that voting rights will be extendedfor EU citizens living in the UK allowing them to vote in general elections and referendums as well." (3.48).  If that is true, it could easily help change the result in any future referendum. 
 
As far as I can see, the report lists absolutely no advantages to Brent in leaving the European Union. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Sian Berry Gets Co-operative on Housing

It seems that Sian Berry has been looking at ideas that make me think that she should consider joining the Co-operative Party.  I am not sure that this particular proposal will fly.  Two major problems would be forcing private owners to sell at a loss, which is bound to be unattractive to them, and the obvious danger that as they approach the "cliff edge" where such a right came into force they would be incentivised to throw their tenant out.

The positions of housing associations and Councils is not really comparable as they have no choice but to implement a scheme as imposed by Parliament.  In the case of Councils "Right to Buy" has simply led Councils to no longer build housing which is of course part of the failure of the current housing market. 

Sian Berry, and anyone else, can learn more about Co-operative policies to help with the housing crisis and private renters by consulting Standing Up for Private Renters

Monday, 19 November 2018

Negativity Around Public Libraries

I still see a large number of tweets reflecting on public library services and reflecting how they are being cut, mutualised, privatised etc.  The tone is summed by articles like this, which is written by some one who fiercely opposed Brent's own public libraries transformation.  Part of the problem is that the campaigners in these cases always seem to be relentlessly negative to all sorts of change.  In the aforehand example even self service machines are attacked. 

To mount a successful defence of a public service, you need to show that it is doing a good job and providing value for taxpayer's money.  Simply opposing all change, and not demonstrating how the service is delivering benefits to the public plays into the hands of your opponents.

I don't think that there is any difficulty in demonstrating that Libraries such as Brent's are indeed value for money .  Brent achieves this through precisely the kind of Council pay roll, publicly owned and fully staffed model that Alan Wylie (the author above) says he wants to see.

Adequate Food Supplies Will Be Maintained

Warehousing space for food is apparently running out according to the Guardian.  This is the kind of thing that normally only happens to a country with a major natural disaster, a war or complete economic meltdown.  Another Brexit triumph.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Brexit Going Round the Bend

It is always interesting reading right wing papers like the Telegraph just because they have such a (to me) weird take on the world.  In today's Telegraph Suella Braverman is claiming that the civil servants have imposed their own view and that ministers were powerless to resist.  Robert Tombs is even stranger in suggesting that the May deal is the Remainers' choice rather than that of a government of leavers.

It was after all drawn up with ministers such as Boris Johnson, David Davis et al negotiating over the past two years.  The fact is that none of these people ever gave any thought to what Brexit would mean in practice.  They just thought that some one else would sort out the mess.

The offer on the table is the one they put together, if they don't want to accept it why shy should people who wanted to stay in the EU?

The Caseworks in Kensal Green

I gather that the Coop is making a licensing application at The Caseworks in Kensal Green which would add to the retail diversity of Harrow Road NW10.  So shortly after their acquisition of NISA I am surprised at the speed with which that chain is expanding.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Copland School Disaster

This is one of the truly dreadful Brent stories of the past few years.  The abuse of position at Copland School not only removed large amounts of money from the school but also did so at a time when the very fabric was crumbling away.  It also led to years of difficulty making the school work as a community and to uphold educational standards there

People who turn a blind eye to the removal of public monies should reflect not just on the amounts stolen, but also this wider damage.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Another European Referendum

The disarray of the Tory government over Theresa May's Brexit deal seems to have pretty much killed it.  I would think that there is little prospect of a General Election since, despite their lead in the polls, there is too much chance of the Tories losing.  That means that the only way out is the increasingly popular one of another European referendum which requires an extension of the Article 50 period.  Humiliating as that would be for Theresa May, it seems to be the last option left.

Universal Credit in Brent from 21 November 2018

Universal Credit will start being implemented in Brent from 21 November 2018, we are told.  The policy is already widely recognised as a disaster, even by the Tory politicians who voted it through.  It massively increases poverty partly because George Osborne ensured it was a vehicle for cutting spending, and partly because the inherent design of the scheme is based on a paradigm of a monthly salary and regular employment that may have been familiar to the designers, but is simply not familiar to lots of people on the receiving end who exist more in the world of in work poverty and the gig economy. 

Universal Credit just doesn't really fit the reality of many peoples' live even had the budget for it been more generous.  This is also something that those in favour of universal basic incomes should think about.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

New LED Streetlighting

These there is little to see in Brent Council that is not gloomy so the new street lighting arrangements should be welcomed.  I advocated this a while ago.  A programme is underway to provide more modern white lighting across the Borough starting with residential streets and ending up with the Town Centres such as Harlesden. 

This supersedes the twenty year PFI that began under Paul Daisley in 1998, and was primarily geared to reducing the street crime fears of that time.

The new lighting should be better directed on the pavements, have less yellow "sodium glare" light and help to reduce carbon emissions

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

What Will Happen Next with the Brent Local Government Boundary Review?

I have been asked what will happen next with the Brent Borough boundary review.  Brent Council, unusually, did not make a submission although it passed on the correspondence it received and some other paperwork.  The Commission will use this and any other ideas put forward to construct a scheme.

As far as I am aware the only two political parties to have put a scheme forward are Brent and Harrow Cooperative Party and Brent Labour Party.  Both those schemes regarded the North Circular Road as the cardinal divide in Brent. 

The Commission's proposals will be published in February next year and make as much or as little use of the correspondence they received as they like. A further consultation runs until 15 April, which in principle could overturn the Commission proposal although I would be very surprised if it did. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

New History Exhibition in Willesden

Brent has recently opened a major new local history exhibition at the Brent Museum in Willesden Library Centre.  It covers a wide range of grassroots projects in the Borough including the Ancient Order of Foresters, the Stonebridge Bus Depot Project (that eventually became Bridge Park), the Grunwick Strike and lots of local NHS facilities.  Some of it was certainly new to me and it is well worth a visit for anyone interested in local history.

It looks as if it is partly grown out of the refurbishment of the Kiln Theatre whose lottery grant was partly dependent on demonstrating community involvemnt.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Poppy Ride in Parliament


This is a picture of the IPT Poppy Ride this year at the stall where more than a hundred MPs and parliamentarians took part.  The IPT Poppy Ride 2018, in association with The Royal British Legion, sets out to raise funds and awareness for the Poppy Appeal in Parliament.  Each of the participants spends time and energy going round on a stationary bicycle as far as they can whilst not actually going anywhere.

It is not intended as a metaphor for Brexit.

For Dominic Raab's Information

The Institute for Government has come out with an infographic illustrating UK trade.  This will no doubt be helpful in the education of Dominic Raab.


Sunday, 11 November 2018

Changing Your Age

There is Court case to allow people to change their self description of age to whatever time they choose.  I find this latest manifestation of the denial of reality completely beyond parody, and I do hope the Court has enough sense to throw the whole thing out.  The argument is that age is simply a measure of your physical well being.  Of course, the idea that younger people are healthier on the whole than older people is well known, but does that mean that younger people who are unhealthy will then be described as older than they are?  Aside from well being, isn't age also about the amount and the kind of lived experience you have.  For instance, it is often argued that younger people are automatically "digital natives" in a way older people are not.  Finally, you can identify some one's age in a way that you can't simply identify their religion (by their date of birth).

This whole idea of taking people as simple reflections of a particular aspect of their identity (being black say) and putting all sorts of assumptions and baggage on top of that seems to me to have started creating more problems than it solves.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Lessons of Versailles Almost a Century Ago

I saw that Margaret Macmillan has a lengthy piece in the New Statesman on the poor decision making of 1919.  What is even sadder to reflect on is the way that today's politicians don't seem to get the reason Versailles was such a failure.  The punishing of the German economy on a massive scale stalled economic growth throughout Europe and since trade is reciprocal and mutually beneficial it was to the disadvantage of the Germans and everyone else.  Exactly the same zero sum approach is being taken today to the Brexit negotiations. 

Friday, 9 November 2018

Kiln Theatre Agreement

Just a reminder to the Our Tricycle, Your Kiln campaign that I regard as so quixotic: here from 2016 is Indhu Rubasingham explaining her thinking on the refurbishment of the Theatre.  I genuinely believe that she didn't mention the naming issue that so exercises them because she didn't see it as a major point.  Judging from the points that they raise in the comments, I think most of their supporters actually agree with what she is trying to do.

Perhaps they should attend the community open day on 17 November rather than standing outside the Theatre complaining about it. 

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Environmental Costs of Brexit

Mary Creagh MP has published correspondence from Michael Gove confessing that Brexit does indeed damage environmental standards.  In this case it is because the staff enforcing those standards are being taken off that duty to work on Brexit.  Although he has sometimes argued the opposite, it is also because many of Michael Gove's colleagues want to use the demise of European regulations to strip away the environmental standards that they regard as "bureaucracy". 

For instance we could go back to Blackpool as it was in the 1980s will sewage washing up on the beach.  This might not advantage even economically as such a beach probably would not appeal to holiday makers, and in any case the direction of travel seems to be that we need more (or more effective) regulation rather than less. 

I have yet to discover any way in which Brexit actually makes the UK better.

Cooperation in Practice

The New Statesman has discovered Preston and touted it as an example of Labour in practice.  I fact a lot of this is related circulating in the Cooperative Party and the Cooperative network of Councils, of which Preston is a member.  Some people actually welcome Brexit in the belief that the kind of procurement policies followed in Preston will be easier, although of course everything that is going on in Preston at the moment is compliant with European Union rules which are a lot more flexible than some people seem to realise.

Brexit, and the extended stagflation that seems likely to follow, will actually limit the scope for imaginative local government as it will hit economic growth and hence UK finances as a whole.  It will therefore push the UK's procurement more in the direction of the Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) of the 1980s and 1990s and away from more modern values based approaches.  For some of the hard right supporters of Brexit, this is the main attraction, that it will force the UK into stripping away the regulations that they believe hold the economy back, but which many of us value.   

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Another Boundary Review

As part of looking at Brent's current electoral boundary review, I discovered that there is scope for a process changing the boundaries of local authorities.  This is a problem in Kensal Green and to some extent other parts of the Borough, such as the southern edge of Kilburn, where properties bisect the Borough boundary. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Casual Brexit

I am astonished at the continuing casualness with which government ministers deal with Brexit.  I doubt whether anyone has any real idea of what the consequences of this decision are going to be, but a serious period of stagflation, possible civil unrest and the break up of the UK all appear to be on the cards.  Yet ministers appear to be unable to agree things even among themselves let alone with anyone else.

Just as a reminder how close to the wire we now are here is Robert Peston's explanation

UPDATE

This morning a Survation poll saying that the public are now 54%/46% against Brexit.  Unless it is an outlier, that raises the interesting prospect of Theresa May taking us off the cliff into Brexit against the wishes of the majority and with disastrous consequences.  In which case, it might well finish the Conservative Party for good.

Monday, 5 November 2018

No Fireworks at the Kiln Theatre for 5 November

I see that the group protesting the Kiln Theatre's name change is organising a quiet candlelit vigil outside the Theatre tonight.  I really can't imagine why they don't just go in and watch the play, which I thought very good.  Among other things they might discover that it name checks parts of Brent more than any other production I have seen there.

The proposed "quiet" nature of the protest is apparently out of respect for "our" local author Zadie Smith.

As well as the concept of finding the name change so discombobulating, I also frankly don't recognise some of the comments I see posted on their site.  For instance one refers to: "Irish, Caribbean, African, Women’s theatre, LGBT theatre, reflected the changes that were re-defining the country".  Apart from the LGBT bit, that is pretty much a summary of what the current White Teeth production is about. 

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Changing Brent's Boundaries

Tomorrow is the last day for suggesting new ward boundaries in Brent to the Local Government Commission for Boundaries in England (LGCBE).  This is quite different to the parliamentary process and relates only to local government wards.  It is triggered by the population growth which has now made the Borough seriously uneven in electoral equality.

Back in July, without perhaps realising quite what they were doing, the councillors agreed that the Borough should have no more than 57 councillors to represent it.  Only in the last couple of weeks have some councillors apparently realised that this whole process is guaranteed to drastically change all the wards in Brent.  There has therefore been a flurry of interest ending in the GP Committee on Wednesday deciding not make a submission as the matter was too controversal.

That makes Brent an unusual Borough.

The political parties, and anyone else, can still make their own contributions of course.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Petition Against Libraries Cuts

There is currently a petition against library cuts gathering signatures rapidly.  I have some reservations about this as I don't like ringfencing, that can easily lead to problems in other areas.  However, signing this petition would help to raise the profile of public libraries as a service that is being cut often savagely despite the many benefits that libraries such as Brent deliver

Friday, 2 November 2018

White Teeth at the Kiln Theatre

I went to see White Teeth at the Kiln Theatre on Wednesday and I thought it thoroughly vindicates the new auditorium.  I was seated right at the back, but the properly tiered seating allowed me as good as a view as anywhere in the Theatre.  Of course, the very high production standards are something that audiences at the venue have begun to take for granted.  This even includes the music which is not always at its strongest in theatrical productions.  The tone is quite fast paced and much more generally upbeat than the somewhat dark Holysh!t that preceded it, and a very strong emphasis on the local Kilburn setting. 

Altogether, if you can still get a ticket, to be recommended.




Thursday, 1 November 2018

Fire Alert at Wembley Library

Quite recently, I was in Wembley Library when a fire alert was announced.  Although I go there quite often, this was the first time it had happened and reminded me of one of the more desperate arguments for denying the improved performance of Brent Library service

I also notice that there some work men rolling up the enormous poster that disfigures one side of the building.  I assume that this is necessary to do in order to help contain fires.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Osborne's Errors

George Osborne has made a rare admission of a mistake or two.  These include totally unrealistic immigration targets, a total failure to do anything other than slag off the European Union and a failure to defend any upside to immigration.  That is quite a collection of whoopsies.

He doesn't however apologise for his latest disaster the ongoing failure that is universal credit

That Corbyn Apartheid Meme



That Corbyn Apartheid meme that is so commonly circulated on twitter is somewhat undermined by the stories covered in the Telegraph and here

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Gaumont State Cinema

I haven't posted any local history for a while so I thought I would explain some of the history of the enormous Gaumont State Cinema in Kilburn.  The earlier history is already summarised on the web.  Pictures are also available

It is now occupied by Ruach Ministries as a church, something I played a small part in as a member of the Planning Committee at the time.  So far it has not had the impact on the surrounding area we were hoping for at the time.  No doubt running a 4,000 seater church is a considerable challenge. 

Monday, 29 October 2018

Local Authorities and Commercial Revenue

CIFPA has issued a warning to local authorities about commercial lending, which I also warned about a few days ago.    Happily, Brent's vulnerability to commercial lending is limited.  However, the effort to generate revenue from advertising may well be subject to similar pressures in the event of an economic slowdown.  Companies tend to cut back on advertising as sales fall, so a slowdown might lead to falling revenue.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

New Rules for Standing

An interesting proposal working through the system is to tighten up the rules for local councillors to serve.  Currently, any Councillor with a prison record of more than three months is ineligible. The proposal currently under consideration is for any councillor "any person who is subject to an Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction, a Criminal Behaviour Order, a Sexual Risk Order or who is on the Sex Offenders’ Register, would no longer be able to stand for elected office in their community".

This would presumably affect serving councillors at the time that such a rule came into force, possibly leading to by elections.  It is unclear how far back these restrictions would go. In the case of Police Commissioners there is no limit, as Bob Ashford of Somerset discovered.  I thought he was given a hard time, so I do hope that whatever emerges from this proposal is carefully considered.

I always think it notable that people on other public authorities are often subject to greater restrictions than Members of Parliament invent for themselves.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

The Folly of Illegal Budgets

A further note for those who gleefully propose that Councils should take measures, such as setting illegal budgets, that encourage the Government to send in Commissioners comes from Tower Hamlets, which has just emerged from a period of almost four years of commissioner authority

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Tory Cabinet and Sheer Ignorance

We are told the Cabinet expressed "disbelief" over the blocks that would fall on trade without a Brexit Deal.  How is it possible for these Cabinet Ministers not be aware of what has been common currency for months? Still I suppose in a government where the Northern Ireland Secretary was unaware that Protestants and Catholics in that part of the world vote differently anything is possible.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Plastic Waste in Brent

China's decision to close its borders to the West's waste is making life harder for Councils as the UK waste industry has only limited capacity for recycling.  Naturally, this is one of many problems that will be made worse by Brexit. 

However, it should be eminently solvable.  Waste can be reduced from its current levels through a reduction in packaging and a reduction in food waste.  These should certainly be considered before doing something as drastic as cutting back plastic collections.  In West London, including Brent, potentially waste can be used for fuel in WLWA's Energy from Waste plant.  This now happens to all the waste that formerly went to landfill. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Photos of Ealing Road Library 2018



I mentioned a while ago the upgrade of Ealing Road Library.  Above is a photo showing the actual forecourt and below a more full on image of the front.


These are relatively minor compared to the changes in Willesden Library, Kilburn Library and Wembley Library but they are still a significant improvement.

Monday, 22 October 2018

John Harris Retrospective on the Town Problem

John Harris has done a retrospective on Labour's Town Problem.  It is a reminder that Labour victory at the next General Election is by no means as obvious as some in the Labour Party like to assume.  As he points out the Labour vote has been threatened or overturned in traditional Labour areas such as Walsall, and the Party needs to overturn the Tory vote in no fewer than 64 seats even if it holds on to all the existing Labour seats.

Whereas he is right to talk about the feeling of neglect, it is not as complete as he tends to paint it.  These towns after all also benefited from the last Labour Government's record investments in education and Health.  He is also right to say that some towns, he mentions Stoke on Trent, do have genuine signs of hope. 

Sunday, 21 October 2018

A Missed Opportunity for Labour

Yesterday's March for a new referendum seems to have been the second biggest demonstration of the last hundred years.  As such you would expect politicians to be falling over themselves to address it. However, despite his general love of such occasions Jeremy Corbyn didn't attend. In doing so he and the Labour Party are missing a crucial opportunity to seize the initiative, largely because of his own hostility to the EU.

The Liberal Democrats and the Co-operative Party are currently the only parties committed to a referendum, but it seems to be the only way to resolve what kind of Brexit if any people want.  The arguments and positions put forward by the Leave campaign and the government are so self-contradictory that the way out is to go back to the voters and ask what the priorities are.


Community Skips

Martin Francis has picked up on a new community skip initiative in northern Brent.  These have been tried in the past, but it looks to me that the officers may be trialling them more systematically this time, albeit only in the North of the Borough.  The first I was aware of were the Welsh Harp ones (I think) in circa 2005/6, and there was a very successful one in Kensal Green round Tubbs Road


I wonder whether the trial of this is designed as an alternative to running the tip in Abbey Road at the southern end of the Borough, which is one of the suggested budget savings currently before the Council.  I also wonder whether it might also be an excuse for getting rid of the bulky items policy which some Council officers have wanted to abolish for years, and which I reinstated as lead member in 2010

Saturday, 20 October 2018

A New Co-op in South Kilburn?

As London gears up for what will hopefully be a big pro-European March I just thought I would share this from the newsletter of Karen Buck MP, our neighbour south of the border:

"Work has finally started on the Chippenham pub building, which we expect to open as a shop (possibly as a Co-Op). It is obviously a relief that this has happened as the building was both an eye-sore and dangerous (with window glass actually falling out onto the street at one point).

The reconstruction of the Carlton Tavern (owned by the same company!) is also finally underway, after it was illegally part-demolished in 2015, just days before English Heritage were going to list it as a historic building.

Whilst not every pub can, or should, be saved for its original purpose owners and developers cannot be allowed to get away with leaving buildings neglected and run down, or as happened acting illegally in the case of the Carlton."

I would certainly welcome a Co-op in the vicinity of South Kilburn, which is the bit of the Borough that most resembles a food desert.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Wembley Stadium Sale Falls Through

The proposed sale of Wembley Stadium has fallen through, which is probably for the best.  The are certainly doesn't need any more disruption than it has already.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Some Reason to be Thankful Despite Ongoing Budget Cuts

Whereas Theresa May has promised that austerity has ended, I doubt whether this will be apparent to most people.  The whole failed policy has left the public sector demoralised and denuded of capacity to deal with future problems.  The more so if, as seems quite possible, we are about to see another economic downturn for both Brexit and cyclical reasons. 

Indeed some of the local government trends may actually have made things worse.

Happily Brent has avoided getting into the commercial property market as some other councils have.  Thus, it will not run the risk of a fall in property values wiping out assets, or the departure of tenants suddenly leaving empty buildings as a drain on resources.  Instead, the Council perhaps more by luck than judgement, retains what income streams it has despite the poor state of the UK Economy.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Foreigners and the UK

A book I have been reading recently includes an anecdote of a new junior minister being appointed to the Foreign Office in the 1950s.  He said:"Prime Minister I think there has been a mistake.  I don't speak any foreign languages. I have never been to a foreign country except in time of war, and I don't like foreigners." To which Churchill replied: "Young man these are all advantages."

It seems to me at times that attitudes in our current government are not dissimilar to Churchill's.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Co-operative Party Backs Referendum on Terms of the Final Brexit Deal



I am recently back from the Co-operative Party Conference where Cllr Janice Long signed the Charter against Modern Slavery on behalf of Brent Council.  The Conference also committed the Co-operative Party to a referendum on the final Brexit deal.  Since the Co-operative Party is the third largest party in the House of commons, that should be a significant piece of news. 

As I write this, it still looks questionable whether any deal can in fact be reached as a result of the Northern Ireland position.  Dublin won't accept a harder border.  The DUP won't accept a divide between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and the only way to reconcile those positions is to for the whole of the UK to remain in the Customs Union, and probably the Single Market (which is also a position that the Co-operative Party is now committed to).  That is a position which appears to be unacceptable to at least a minority of Tory MPs despite their 2015 manifesto) and I imagine a large percentage of their membership. 


Monday, 15 October 2018

Corporate Plan for Brent

An item on today's Brent Council Cabinet agenda is the latest Corporate Plan.  Other than helping with some officer's infographic skills, it seems of very little use.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Reflections on Harlesden Town Centre

Current planning guidance envisages four obvious areas for redevelopment in Harlesden/Kensal Green.  They are Harlesden Plaza, the Manor Park Road development, the former ambulance station close to the main gate to Roundwood Park) and somewhere near Willesden Junction where (ominously) tall buildings will be allowed.  All this is part of trying to accommodate the huge increase in population between 2001 and 2011.

So far, I really don't get a sense that there is any real awareness about this in the community at large.

Of course, the ambulance station has been vacant for years.  I think more than a decade.  The Manor Park Road was subject to a development proposal opposed by some local councillors.  Willesden Junction may well have a broad range of difficulties due to legal title, working near railway lines and so on.

The most interesting is Harlesden Plaza.  I recall that during the Harlesden Town Charter process it was generally agreed that the Plaza would be the obvious choice as a central focus for Harlesden.  Any development there would probably take a lot of effort and imagination, not to mention the kind of fortitude needed whenever any major projects needs to be carried through.  One aspect that miught not occur to many people is that it really should be made as compatible as possible with the Harlesden Conservation Area.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

A Failure of Understanding

The Labour Party has continually shot itself in the foot over antisemitism, and I have been reflecting why that is so.  The arguments that there is a vital "free speech" argument doesn't convince me the adoption of the IHRA definition was rapidly followed by the Conference motion on Palestine where no one appears to have been constrained by definition that the Labour Party had finally adopted.

I think the real difficulty lies in people who consider themselves as anti-racism campaigners as a key part of their identity having to come to terms with accusations that they are in fact articulating racist ideas in the shape of antisemitic tropes.

Part of this problem is the question of whether a binary choice of racist/non-racist is actually appropriate.

I would certainly argue that racism, and other forms of prejudice, tend to be on a spectrum.  Very few people will be entirely obsessed with hating a group of people, and very few people will be entirely free from any prejudice or assumptions whatsoever.  This contrasts with an idea which seems quite common among leftwing activists that there is a group of virtuous campaigners (themselves) and a group of KKK types, and no one in between.

Debate under that model becomes not an act of persuasion to suggest to some one that they a (perhaps unconscious) bias and that they need to correct it, but more an attempt to pin a label on them and then excommunicate them as a result.  The consequence tends to gladitorial combat rather than reasoned debate.

It also tends to emphasize intentionality with surprisingly little attention paid to institutionalised prejudice.

I can recall when the Macpherson Report first came out, and the difficulty many police found with the whole idea of institutionised racism.  They didn't intend to be racist and they found it hard to accept that the way the Met operated might be inherently biased against certain groups through the procedures it had or unconscious bias.  I suspect come Labour activists are going through a similar difficulty.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Black History Month

Black History Month is now in full swing, and celebrated in Brent primarily through Brent Libraries.  Other authorities, such as Tory held Wandsworth, have rebranded this event as "Diversity Month" attracting a number of critical comments.  Personally, I would have thought the whole concept of Black History Month is really quite broad already since it encompasses the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and black communities outside those core areas.  There is still probably a lingering idea as in Trevor -Roper's notorious quote that Africans have no history.  Indeed, such attitudes underlay the controversies over who built the ruins of Zimbabwe or shaped the famous Benin bronzes.  I think it would be quite complacent to imagine that such views have entirely disappeared.