Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Carry on Brent - new arrangements for the continuation of Brent Council business during Covid-19 crisis

Annoucement from the Brent Council website

New regulations to relax some rules around local authority meetings until 7 May 2021 have now come into force.

Under the changes, which are part of the Coronavirus Act 2020, the requirement for Brent Council to hold an annual meeting, which was scheduled for May, has been removed.

Where replacement appointments would have been made at that meeting - including who will be Mayor – existing appointments will automatically be continued until the next annual meeting, although the new rules allow the council to change this at a Full Council meeting before then if it chooses.

The new rules also remove the need for councillors to be in one room, face-to-face, when making decisions.

This will allow for meetings to be held remotely and the council will be putting new protocols and a suitable video conferencing system in place later this month, enabling members of the press and the public to attend and where they have a right to do so, take part.

All papers for these meetings will be available online, and there is no longer a requirement to make printed copies available.

Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council, said:
At a time when there is so much disruption to all our lives, councils like Brent have been asking for these changes and I am sure that they will help us to continue to keep the show on the road and carry out more of the council’s business as usual, in a way that is safe for everyone.

We’re putting in place a video conferencing facility and protocols that will continue to ensure a robust decision-making process with appropriate public participation to avoid delays on important decisions being taken.

Ensuring that decisions can still be made is something to be welcomed, as this will help ease any delays to projects, schemes and the wider impact on our local economy as we come out on the other side of the pandemic.
Changes to upcoming meetings:

15 April – Planning Committee – rescheduled to 6 May
20 April - Audit and Standards Advisory Committee – rescheduled to 5 May
21 April – Resources & Public Realm Scrutiny Committee - cancelled
22 April – Community & Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee - cancelled
27 April – Health & Wellbeing Board – cancelled    

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Now online! The Bobby Moore Bridge tile murals at Wembley Park

1. The Olympic torch relay mural.

Guest post by Philip Grant, in a personal capacity.
If you have been a regular reader of “Wembley Matters” over the past year, you will know that these tile murals, celebrating Wembley Park’s sports and entertainment heritage, are a subject close to my heart. I have recently been putting together a detailed document about them, for the “local history articles” collection at Brent Archives, and this is now available for anyone to access online. If you are interested, you can find it here.

After a brief introduction about the origin of the tile murals, the article goes on to provide information and photographs of nearly all of the mural scenes included in this important public artwork. There are just a few, on the west wall of the subway, which I have not been able to find any good photographs of.

The illustrations show many scenes, like the one above, which you are not able to see at the moment. They also include the photograph below, of one of the original scenes, most of which has sadly been “lost”.

                                2. The full Stadium Pop Concerts mural scene, before 2006.

My article then gives details of how the murals have been covered up since 2013, apart from one put back on public display in 2019, and three displayed for a short time at the beginning of this year. 

It concludes with some encouraging words from Brent Council and Quintain at the temporary "reveal" of three mural scenes in January, which are evidence that they now acknowledge the importance of the tile murals. That gives some grounds for hope that their previous disregard for this heritage asset may be a thing of the past. At least they cannot pretend, when decisions about the Bobby Moore Bridge have to be made in future, that they did not realise the murals were there!

To bring us up to date below are scenes at Wembley in support of the NHS during the Coronavirus crisis. 

Philip Grant

3. Bobby Moore Bridge Says 'Thank you NHS' (Credit: Wembley Park)

 4. Bobby Moore Bridge supporting 'London Together' (Credit: Amanda Rose)

UPDATED: Support Unite's call for PPE for bus drivers

I spoke to two bus drivers at the nearby terminus today to express sympathy for the death of their colleagues from Covid-19 - they too are front-line workers who get other front-line workers to work. I support the call for drivers to have personal protective equipment (PPE).

Commentating on the tragic news that five London bus workers have now died of the coronavirus.  Unite regional secretary, Peter Kavanagh said:

Each of these deaths is a terrible tragedy and the thoughts of everyone at Unite goes to the families of the bus workers who have died of coronavirus.

Unite will assist the families of our members in every possible way during this terrible time.

Unite has been working continuously with Transport for London (TfL) and the operators to ensure the safety of drivers and others in the industry who are performing a heroic job in getting NHS and care workers to their places of work.

These measures include deep cleaning of buses, additional cleaning of touch points, the sealing of screens around the driver, the provision of hand sanitizer for all and placing the passenger seating closest to the driver out of bounds.

I have been in direct contact with the mayor of London who shares our view that bus drivers must be fully protected.

My officers are holding daily meetings with TfL, exploring further safety improvements and we are absolutely committed to doing everything in our power to make the driving of buses safe during this unprecedented crisis. 

We are also calling on the government to make provisions for transport workers in terms of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

 If any driver has safety concerns, then it is imperative that they inform their employer and Unite representative immediately. The union will immediately act on all such concerns.

TfL is piloting a new method of boarding buses to protect drivers. Passengers will board through the middle doors.  LINK

NEU: Combination of current Covid-19 measures, including school closures, should remain in place


7 April 2020

School Closure Policies

Throughout the current crisis, the NEU has called for policy decisions to be based on the findings of research and scientific enquiry. It welcomes the systematic review by Professor Viner and his colleagues of the effectiveness of school closure policies in dealing with coronavirus outbreaks, including Covid-19.

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the NEU, said:
This is an important study, to which those who work in education will give the most careful consideration. We note that it provides no evidence on which to move back from the current strategy adopted by the UK. The review indicates that school closures are effective as part of a combination of tactics of social distancing and testing. This is the evidence from China, from Hong Kong, and from a modelling study carried out in the UK.

In relation to the findings of two Chinese studies, the review notes that both pieces of research conclude that the overall package of quarantine and social distancing, including school closure, was effective in reducing the epidemic in mainland China.

Summarising two further studies of Covid-19 in Hong Kong, the review notes that school closures were implemented at the same time as a number of other stringent social distancing measures. Collectively, these measures to held to have controlled the spread of the outbreak.

Finally, the review reports the findings of a UK research study, that a combination of measures, again including school closures, would be the most effective.

Everyone wants schools to be re-opened as soon as is safely possible. This can only happen on the basis of sound scientific reasoning that school closure is no longer necessary for the suppression of Covid-19. We are a long way from this point. The combination of measures that the government has introduced must remain in place.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Barry Gardiner out of Shadow Cabinet

Barry Gardiner MP for Brent North has just tweeted that he is out of the new Shadow Cabinet:
Just received a courteous phone call from Keir Starmer standing me down from Shadow Cabinet. I wished him and his new team well. I will continue to do all I can to serve the party and ensure a Labour victory at the next General Election.
Yesterday  Gardiner welcomed the election of Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner:
Principled and united, Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner will lead our party forward to create a better future for our country. Warmest congratulations to them both.

Tributes pour in for Indro Sen - great CNWL lecturer and trade unionist

Former secondary maths teacher, primary school governor,  College of North West London lecturer,  and most importantly trade unionist, Indro Sen has died shortly before his 68th birthday.

In 2016-17 Indro was involved in a dispute at CNWL over his allegations of corruption in an apprenticeship scheme and I worked closely with him on publicising the issue here on Wembley Matters. (Links below) He was suspended from his job allegedly because of his support at an emeployment  tribunal for a sacked colleague and his opposition to the CNWL's merger with Westminster College.

At the time Peter Murry, Trade Union Liaison officer for the London Federation of Green Parties and for Brent Green Party  supported Sen and said,   'Both of these are actions are entirely proper for a University and College Union Branch Secretary to carry out. If Indro Sen’s suspension is a result of his performing the legitimate duties of a UCU Officer, then he himself seems to be threatened with unfair treatment and victimisation.'

His son Shenin said on Twitter:
On Wednesday we lost my father Indro Sen. Being unaware of his underlying health issues, this has been a complete shock for me & my family, which is where my full focus is right now.

His whole life was dedicated to helping others, I couldn’t have asked for a better role model.
Sen's novel approach to maths teaching in the 70s or 80s
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the NEU said:
So sorry to hear of the loss this week of Indro Sen. Long time NUT and then UCU militant.
Long time school rep at Kingsland secondary school. Successful fights against victimisation.
Highly regarded Maths teacher.Brilliant ally in fights as a parent, and governor, at Benthal Primary school. 
Many condolences to all the family. Rage against the dying of the light. Rest in Peace Sen.
Bernard Regan, long time member of the NUT, Summed up Indro Sen, the person:
A great comrade and campaigner. At the centre of fighting many injustices. I will remember him for his strength of character and gentleness of being. I will remember his laugh with fondness. His hat which he wore all the time - his eye for detail and passionate commitment to fighting injustices including those inflicted on him..We will remember him.
Wembley Matters postings on Indro Sen and his struggle at the College of North West London:

Saturday, 4 April 2020

The Fryent Country Park Story - Part 2

The second of a series of guest posts by Wembley History Society member, Philip Grant.

Welcome to Part 2 of this weekly journey through the story of our local country park. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

1. An autumn view across the fields to Gotfords Hill, with Kingsbury beyond.

We had reached the late 16th century, and the map of Kingsbury made for All Souls College in 1597. The extract below marks Hill Farm, on Salmon Street, and shows the trackway separating Harrow from Kingsbury near the top, Kingsbury Road winding its way down the righthand side, and Church Lane (with “Fryarne f. Howse”, or Fryent Farm) at the bottom. You can see the fields as they were at that time, edged green for meadows and brown for ploughed fields where the farmers grew crops, as well as the wooded areas.

2. Part of the 1597 Hovenden Map of Kingsbury.  (© The Warden and Fellows of All Souls College, Oxford)

A number of scattered fields on the map show “Mr Skidmore” as the tenant. Thomas Scudamore, who lived at Kingsbury Green, was another interesting character remembered at Old St Andrew’s Church. [Click on the link to discover more about its fascinating history.]

“Wid. Lion” was the tenant of a group of fields at the top right corner of the map. John Lyon of Preston was a wealthy farmer who had died in 1592, leaving money in trust for the maintenance of local roads, and to provide free grammar schooling for boys in Harrow. The school has become famous, as he allowed the trustees to charge fees, to educate “foreigners” from outside the parish. He had land in Harrow, including on Preston Eastfield, as well as 116 acres in Kingsbury, which his widow, Joan, continued to farm until her death in 1608.

On the Harrow side of Eldestrete in the 1590s, there were troubled times at Uxendon Manor Farm, the home of the Bellamy family. They had remained Roman Catholics, despite this branch of Christianity being outlawed in England under Queen Elizabeth I. Some members of the family had already been fined, imprisoned or executed for hiding Catholic priests  before Robert Southwell was arrested in their house in 1592. Richard Bellamy and his family spent time in prison, and the cost of the fines meant them giving up Uxendon Manor to the Page family.

 3. Robert Southwell, in a print from a 1630 book.

Southwell’s fate was worse. He was held in the Tower of London for three years, and tortured to try and force a confession for plotting against the Queen, before he was executed for treason, simply for being a Catholic priest. Who would have imagined then, that four centuries later he would have been declared a saint, with a school named after him on the other side of what would become Fryent Country Park? 

Richard Page of Uxendon also found himself in the middle of conflict in the 1640s. He was an officer in the Royalist army during the English Civil War, and was knighted by King Charles I after his efforts at the second Battle of Newbury in 1644. After the King was executed, Sir Richard went into exile, and was married at The Hague in 1651, where the future Charles II had his court at the time. After the Restoration, Uxendon Manor remained in the Page family.

We have details of the farms in Kingsbury around 1730, from a document produced for the Duke of Chandos, which is now in the London Metropolitan Archives. Chandos was a politician and landowner, who had made a fortune from the public offices he held, and spent huge amounts on his home at Canons in Stanmore. He held some tenancies, under another of his titles, Lord Carnarvon, and may have been looking for the chance to add more!

Lord Carnarvon had an interest in a house and orchard, probably Bush Farm house. The unnamed adjoining farm of 47 acres is listed as a separate letting to Elizabeth Sarsbury, for ’21 years from Lady day 1722’. 34 acres of this were meadow, comprising Great Oldfield (‘with a barn in itt’), Little Oldfield, Great and Little Faytes, Great Cherrylands and Honey Slough. Two other fields, Little Cherrylands and Gaffers (Gotfords) Hill, totalling 13 acres, are described as ‘arrable’.

 4. Looking across Faytes and Cherrylands fields. (A Barn Hill Conservation Group postcard from the 1980s)

In and around the fields of this small farm were 19 acres of hedges and woods, including ‘one parcel almost round Honey Slough – 3 acres, 3 roods and 22 perchs’ (almost four acres). This was part of 55 acres of woodland in Kingsbury let separately to John Haley, the tenant of Hill Farm. His large farm had 107 acres of fields, 79 acres of meadow and 28 acres of ploughed land, in addition to the house, barnyard, garden and orchards.

The agricultural revolution of the late 18th century saw the invention of new farm machinery. Kingsbury’s heavy clay soil was not suitable for these modern arable methods, and even more of the fields became pasture land. Most of these meadows were used for growing hay. Long grass was cut in the summer, then dried and stored in large stacks, for sale as animal feed throughout the year. London, the rapidly growing capital only a few miles away, was home to thousands of horses, both for riding and for pulling carriages and carts. Kingsbury’s farmers sent their wagons up to the Hay Market, near Piccadilly, with food for the city’s horses, and came back with loads of dung from the stables to fertilise their fields.

 5. Hay wagons at Pipers Field, 1930. (Photo by Stanley Holliday, from the W.H.S. Collection, Brent Archives)

Hay continued to be the main farming crop in Kingsbury well into the twentieth century, as the photograph above shows. But that is jumping forward - I will take up our country park’s story, from the late 1700s, next weekend. As before, if you want to ask any questions, or add some information, please leave a comment below.

Philip Grant

Friday, 3 April 2020

Brent Council issues urgent call for more volunteers to help residents during Covid-19 pandemic

Bridge Park Food Delivery Hub (Photo: Brent Council)

As readers will know there are now Covid-19 Mutual Aid groups in most Brent wards that were set up more than two weeks ago  LINK  Brent Council yesetrday lauched a campaign to recruit more volunteers and said that they would like to hear from community groups that are already 'up and running.'

This is the appeal that was made on the Council website yesterday.
We know lots of you want to volunteer and help in this crisis - so here’s your chance.

We need even more exceptional people to step forward and help with the borough’s efforts to provide a safety net for our vulnerable residents during this pandemic.

We’ve already got plenty of eager volunteers signed up to help their neighbours as well community groups to provide support to those who need it most – but we need more.

We’re working in close partnership with the voluntary sector, and through the CVS, who will help match your strengths, skills and attributes with the jobs that need doing now.

Volunteers can sign-up now on the Council’s web pages at: Just fill out the Volunteering sign up form;
We would also like to hear from community groups who are already up-and-running. Would you like to receive our help and support just like our partners in our mutual aid group? Then sign-up to volunteer at: Community Group form.

Anyone who volunteers will be appropriately matched to roles that have been identified as really important as we fight this disease.

And don’t be put off if you haven’t got a current DBS check. Even if you don’t have a current DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) we can apply for one for you.

Councillor Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council, said:
We have already reinforced the safety net in Brent by redeploying council staff into different roles. For example, we’ve transformed Bridge Park Leisure Centre into a new food delivery hub, staffed by teams from across the Council, which is delivering much-needed supplies to the most vulnerable, receiving things like pasta, cereal, fruit, tea bags and toilet rolls.

But more community support would be very welcome and I urge anyone who feels they could give their time and energy over the coming weeks, or even months, to register their details on our website as soon as possible.

 Working with our partners, the faster we act now, the more lives we can save.

Your help could make such a huge difference to the lives of so many people in Brent and from the bottom of my heart, we thank those that are already signed up, for making such a difference already.